Author Guest Post: “Lights, Camera, Action! (How Movies Can Engage Students in English Class)” by Sarah S. Reida, Author of Monsterville: A Lissa Black Production


Lights, Camera, Action! (How Movies Can Engage the Students in English Class)

I’ve been lucky enough to spend the last week in my hometown of Millstadt, Illinois, where I’ve presented to four local schools about my journey to MONSTERVILLE’S creation. Most recently, I spoke at an assembly at Millstadt Consolidated School, my alma matter (for K-9), and I was touched and humbled that both teachers I credited in my Acknowledgements came for the presentation.

While home, my parents and I watched a DVD (converted from VHS) of my brother and I opening Christmas presents. He was five, and I was nine. During that video, I screamed (with joy) while opening a huge box of books. Meanwhile, my brother Bryan never looked up from his assembly of a toy gun. He couldn’t have cared less that there were no books in his pile of presents.

Watching that video highlighted for me something we as educators, writers, book enthusiasts, etc., cannot ignore – not everyone is a reader. My brother is a very smart person – he is now a computer programmer and can do all sorts of “tekkie” things I have no grasp of – but Bryan would never scream with joy over meeting Stephen King. (That is beyond my comprehension).

I watched that video prior to my assembly at MCS. When it was done, I was scratching my head – what would I do to make the Bryans of the audience care about a presentation celebrating books?

My solution was to make the assembly not just about books, but creative expression. I’ve always been visual – I’m very much interested in film-making, so when I write, I think of how the scene would unfold in live action. And I would say I love movies almost as much as I love books. So I focused my presentation on the creative process generally – how books and movies are structured similarly (as evidenced by Blake Snyder’s wonderful SAVE THE CAT – this is a book that discusses the “beats” a screenplay must follow for solid structure, and almost all of his advice translates to writing), and where ideas come from (like how Ransom Riggs’ Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children came to be because his editor suggested that he take the strange photos he’d collected and use them to “cast” for the story that was waiting there). All the kids – not just the readers – seemed completely engaged by this approach. By discussing movies and books as creative outlets, I had them hooked.

To that end, here are some exercises meant to interest the “non-readers.” These are gleaned from MONSTERVILLE, as my main character, Lissa Black, is fascinated by the world of film and sees her world through the lens of a camera. To her, each component of every day is a movie scene and a chance to be creative, even though she’s not really a reader. She’s more visual.

First, as an exercise, have kids read a book that has been made into a movie. It can be anything. Don’t make them answer any specific questions about the book. Instead, have them do a report about why they preferred one over the other, with examples (maybe the book was better in the sense that the movie didn’t do justice to one particular character, and maybe the movie was better because it cut a plot line that bogged down the main story). This exercise will give kids a sense of how a work is structured to be engaging and have emotional impact, and they’ll learn about what works to that end and what doesn’t.

Second, have kids take an ordinary conversation they’ve participated in or witnessed and turn it into a dialogue or a scene. (I do this in MONSTERVILLE- Lissa’s friend’s brother Scott is obsessed with Call of Duty, and that’s how Lissa gets the idea for the play she writes. It’s an exaggerated, funny version of how she perceives Scott). This will show kids how they can make ordinary scenes funny or interesting, which helps in writing stories (and makes the process more fun).

Third, have kids watch a movie and write down how it follows the beats to Blake Snyder’s SAVE THE CAT. (I can’t stress enough what a wonderful – and fun – writing tool that is for young writers). Here is a table I’ve compiled, which lists the sixteen beats and has a space where the student can fill in where it happens in a movie. This is fun because kids will realize that no matter the type of movie (action, comedy, drama), it follows the same structure. Books have a similar structure, too – I now use SAVE THE CAT for all my projects!


Fourth, for a writing project, require the outline to have more pictures than words. This will force kids to really visualize how their story will play out, as well as prevent them from getting bogged down in too much detail. Want an example? Here’s what I used to write MONSTERVILLE! (This is the board game the kids use to navigate the world of Down Below once Lissa’s sister is taken).

Not every kid wants to spend their weekend reading books. Sometimes, there needs to be a hook, or maybe something visual to engage them. Movies – and the process of film-making – can be that tool. If you think outside the box, students will, too!


Monsterville: A Lissa Black Production
Author: Sarah S. Reida
Published September 20th, 2016 by Sky Pony Press

Summary: Beware what lurks beneath your bed. . . . It could lead to a monstrous adventure.

Thirteen-year-old Lissa Black is miserable when her parents force her to move from New York City (the perfect home for an aspiring writer/director/actress) to Freeburg, Pennsylvania, nowhere capital of the world. There’s nothing to do there, except play her little sister Haylie’s favorite new game, Monsterville, and hang out with her new neighbor Adam.

But when a walk in the woods lands her face-to-face with a swamp monster hungry for brains and then a Sasquatch that moos, even Lissa can’t call her new home totally boring. With Adam’s help, she catches the culprit behind the drama: a shape-shifting goblin who’s fled from the monster world of Down Below.

And what do you do with a creature that can be literally anything? Make monster movies, of course! Lissa is convinced that Blue will be the secret to her big break.

But when Haylie goes missing on Halloween, Lissa, Adam, and the monster must venture Down Below to stage a rescue—and face the real Monsterville, which is anything but a game.

Monsterville is a fusion of The Boxtrolls, Jumanji, and Candyland, weaving together friendship, family, and monsters into a funny fantasy-horror brimming with heart from a great new middle grade voice.


Visit Sarah S. Reida’s website (which includes movie trivia, tips and resources for teachers, and film-making information) at: Her debut middle grade book, MONSTERVILLE: A LISSA BLACK PRODUCTION, can be found on both and

Thank you Sarah for this activity to bring film into the classroom!

Kellee Signature andRickiSig

Strange, Unusual, Gross, and Cool Animals by Charles Ghigna



Nonfiction Wednesday

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book).
Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!


Strange, Unusual, Gross, and Cool Animals
Author: Charles Ghigna
Published October 11th, 2016 by Animal Planet

Summary: Animal Planet presents the ickiest, stickiest, blobbiest, and oddest animals in the world!

Did you know that an archerfish can spit water up to 16 feet? Or that the giant weta is the world’s largest and heaviest insect? Animal Planet’s fascinating exploration of animal oddities introduces young animal lovers to some of the most astonishing, gorgeous, and obscure animals in the world-including some brand new discoveries! Packed with more than 200 vibrant photographs and fun facts about animals with unusual behaviors, strange appearances, and remarkable stats, this deluxe gift book is perfect for reluctant readers or anyone who loves totally gross and amazing animals.

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of books in the Animal Bites series benefits the principal partners of R.O.A.R. (Reach Out. Act. Respond.), Animal Planet’s initiative dedicated to improving the lives of animals in our communities and in the wild.


Review: I love learning about weird animals because it is so amazing to see what mother nature has made out there! This book shares with the reader some of the weirdest! Trent and I love to sit and look through the pages and look at the cool animals! 

What I really like about Animal Planet texts is that they have a variety of spreads throughout the text and include really interesting information but also beautiful photographs. This text has four types of spreads: Gallery, a spread that explores a theme; Featured Creature, a spread that focuses on one animal; Creature Collection, a spread that compares and contrasts a group of animals; and Macroview, a spread that shows tiny details of small animals.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: In addition to being an amazing text to have in classroom and school libraries, this text is a wonderful way to begin inquiry projects. When I teach my central idea unit, for my final assessment I ask my students to write their own nonfiction text with a clear central idea and supporting details. Many students choose animals for their nonfiction text, but it is usually the same offenders: dolphins, cheetahs, and dogs, so it would be really nice to have this text to jump start the brainstorming process.

Discussion Questions: What type of features do some animals have the help them protect themselves from predators?; Which animal did you think was the oddest looking?; Which animal do you think is not that odd looking?; Which animal would you like to learn more about?

Flagged Passages: 


Read This If You Loved: Pink is for Blobfish by Jess Keating and other nonfiction picture books about animals, Animal Planet & National Geographic nonfiction such as Real or Fake?, Ocean Animals, Awesome 8, Animal Atlas, or the Animal Bites series    

Recommended For:

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Kellee Signature

**Thank you Charles Ghigna and Animal Planet for providing a copy for review!**

Blog Tour with Author Guest Post and Giveaway!: Ornaments of Love by Sharlin Craig


I’m sure I’m not alone when I say Christmas is my favorite time of the year. And when it comes to kids, the majority of them probably agree. Sure, the kids are excited because Santa comes and brings them presents, but also because there’s a festive feel in the air. People tend to be happier and smile more during the holiday season. Fun activities abound during the season between Thanksgiving and Christmas such as parties, baking cookies, decorating the tree, reading favorite Christmas books, singing Christmas carols and so much more.

I was inspired by my own happy family experiences growing up and also by my husband and now 9-year-old daughter to write my debut children’s book titled, “Ornaments of Love”.  It’s a story about a mom and dad who get too busy over the Christmas season to find the time to decorate the tree with their 10 year-old-daughter, Ayana.  As the story evolves, the family is pulled together by an unexpected, serendipitous event.

As a teacher, why not integrate some of the fun and excitement of the holidays into the classroom setting? Below are some ways of utilizing the “Ornaments of Love” story with this purpose in mind:

English Language Arts: Poetry related to family theme or holiday-(Can be about Christmas or a different holiday if the child doesn’t celebrate Christmas i.e. Hanukah/Ramadan/Chinese New Year, etc)


Christmas (2 syllables)
Family time (4 syllables)
Presents, Decorations (6 syllables)
Laughter, Smiles, Cookies, Music (8 syllables)
Happy (2 syllables)


I love Christmas time (5 syllables)
Believe, Joy, Hope, Love, Faith, Peace (7 syllables)
Celebration time (5 syllables)

I am Poem

I am (two special characteristics) (happy and excited)
I wonder (something you are actually curious about) (when we’ll decorate the tree?)
I hear (an imaginary sound) (Rosie bark)
I see (an imaginary sight) (a bare Christmas tree)
I want (an actual desire) (to decorate the tree with my family)
I am (the first line of the poem restated) (happy and excited)
I pretend (something you actually pretend to do) (that they’re decorating the tree right now)
I feel (a feeling about something imaginary) (lonely)
I touch (an imaginary touch) (an ornament)
I worry (something that really bothers you) (that it will be this way each year from now on)
I cry (something that makes you very sad) (because I want to do this with them)
I am (the first line of the poem repeated) (happy and excited)
I understand (something you know is true) (that they’re busy)
I say (something you believe in)  (that I want to spend time with them)
I dream (something you actually dream about) (of many happy Christmases)
I try (something you really make an effort about) (to decorate this tree by myself)
I hope (something you actually hope for) (that they’ll come help me soon)
I am (the first line of the poem repeated) (happy and excited)

Acrostic-(A poem, word puzzle, or other composition in which certain letters in each line form a word or words.)

O ld
R egal
N ew
A nimals
M e as a baby
E nchanting
N ativity
T welve days of Christmas

Character analysis-Open Mind Portrait

Students considers the thoughts that each character in the story is having.

Student creates a portrait surrounded by characters’ thoughts in thought bubbles.

Writing Prompts– Here are some creative writing prompts and journal ideas teachers can use during the month of December:

-A wonderful Christmas or Holiday memory
-If I owned a toy store
-What does ‘Peace on Earth’ mean to you?
-A letter to Santa about a friend who has been very good this year
-Why we should have the Christmas spirit all year long
-What I want to do over the winter holiday
-My vacation at the North Pole
-If I could give a gift to the world, what would it be?

Ornament Hunt Game-For homeschoolers or teachers who have Christmas trees set up in the classroom, teachers can have students write a description down for each ornament that will be going on the tree. While the children aren’t in the room, the teacher can hang the ornaments on the tree and when the students return, they can play a game finding each ornament and checking  them off their lists.

Social Studies: Celebrating Christmas around the world: “Ornaments of Love” can be used as one example of how Christmas is celebrated in the United States. This provides a gateway for learning about how other cultures around the world celebrate Christmas. This can also open a discussion about cultures that don’t celebrate Christmas and what holidays they do celebrate.

Science: Investigating Christmas trees

-Have students look at a real, mini Christmas tree and describe the color and branches. Discuss how the tree’s leaves stay green in the winter because Evergreens are adapted to survive the cold weather, how most Evergreen trees do not have regular leaves, how they are needles or really hard leaves, with a thick-skin, and how they have an ‘antifreeze’ chemical in the leaf to keep it from freezing.

-Explain how they produce chlorophyll year round, which helps with photosynthesis and therefore keeps the Evergreens green all year long.

– Have the children smell the tree, feel it and describe the texture. Show them the roots and talk about how the roots absorb the water. Have them measure the tree: the height, width, length of the branches and width of the leaves. Older children can produce a graph of the data. Look at the leaves through a magnifying glass and discuss what they find.

Visual Arts:

-Students can design and create ornaments out of various materials available in the classroom.

-Students can create an original cover for “Ornaments of Love” with the cover including the title of the book and the author.

-Coloring Pages: The teacher can copy coloring pages from the “Ornaments of Love Coloring Book” and have the students color them. Colored pencils or crayons can be used and students can practice the art of shading darks and lights within the pictures.

Performing Arts:

-Students may break into groups of 3-4 (Ayana, Mom, Dad and Rosie) and select a portion of the book to reenact.

-Students may select class members to represent characters in the story and interview them.


Ornaments of Love Description: A touching Christmas story with glowing illustrations, Ornaments of Love is a story to cherish for years to come. A beautiful tale of Ayana, an endearing ten-year-old who excitedly anticipates that special time of year when the entire family joins together to decorate and admire the Christmas tree.

But sadly this year is different. Ayana realizes that her mom and dad are far too busy with everything else to enjoy the tree with Ayana. Then, something unexpected happens and the family is brought together with tenderness and joy.

Filled to the brim and overflowing with charming moments, gentle humor, and timeless illustrations, this beautiful story is a wonderful reminder of what’s important not only during the Christmas season, but every day of our lives. Ornaments of Love is destined to become one of your favorite holiday stories. One that will remain in your heart forever.


Ornaments of Love Coloring Book Description: This beautifully designed coloring book is a companion or stand-alone book to the original Ornaments of Love picture book. It contains not only the complete story of Ornaments of Love, but also provides 21 full-size coloring pages for artists of all ages. The Ornaments of Love coloring book was created to bring families together at Christmas time. It provides families a perfect way to reduce holiday stress by spending quiet time coloring pages that showcase angels, bells, stars and much more.

Coloring pages range from easy to difficult, perfect for all family members!

Additional complimentary coloring pages are available to print online with the purchase of the coloring book.

Make this a special gift for your loved ones by also purchasing the original Ornaments of Love picture book with full color illustrations.

Three coloring pages are available on Sharlin’s website for preview:



About the Author: Sharlin Craig, a Detroit native who now resides in southern California with her husband and daughter, is dedicated to writing inspirational children’s books that touch the spirit of her readers. A graduate of Oakland University, she’s taught music to children for several years while also writing music and lyrics. She’s combined her love for children and writing into authoring her debut children’s Christmas picture book, Ornaments of Love.

Sharlin believes that with the right surroundings and daily encouragement, children are boundless. She’s passionate about helping children feel understood and empowered through her books and hopes that her stories make them smile.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Don’t miss out on other blog tour stops!

Thursday, Oct. 27th: This Mom’s Delight (Review)
Tuesday, Nov. 1st: K&A’s Childrens’ Book Reviews (Review & Giveaway)
Thursday, Nov. 3rd: Amanda’s Books and More (Review & Giveaway)
Friday, Nov. 4th: Mamitales (Review & Giveaway)
Saturday, Nov. 5th: Christy’s Cozy Corners (Review, Guest Post-‘My Favorite Ornament Memories’ & Giveaway)
Sunday, November 6th:: Unleashing Readers (Guest Post-‘Integrating Ornaments of Love into the Classroom Setting’ & Giveaway)
Monday, November 7th: The Write Chris (Author Interview & Giveaway)
Wednesday, November 9th: This Mom’s Delight (Guest Post-‘Affirm Your Child’s Worth by Spending Time with Them’ & Giveaway)
Friday, November 11th: All Done Monkey (Post-‘10 Ways to Make the Holidays Special’, Review & Giveaway)
Monday, November 14th: Connie M. Huddleston (Monday Morning Indie: Review & Interview)

 Thank you so much Sharlin for the guest post that will definitely be useful to many teachers coming this winter!

Kellee Signature andRickiSig

#TrueFriends with Kirby Larson, Augusta Scattergood, Barbara O’Connor, and Susan Hill Long



Four authors.
Four friends.
Four books.
All about friendship.

Friendship is the key to happiness, especially during the middle-grade years when kids are facing so much. It is so important to have novels within our classrooms, libraries, and homes that promote positive, true friendships to help our readers find their way through these years. Join Kirby Larson, Susan Hill Long, August Scattergood, and Barbara O’Connor to explore true friendship using their newest novels!

Below each author will introduce their book, discuss the importance of friendship within, then end with a writing prompt.

jkt_9780545840569.pdf Kirby Larson

Audacity Jones to the Rescue by Kirby Larson
Published January 26th, 2016 by Scholastic Press

magic-mirror susan-hill-long-author-photo_5-12-16-_credit-jeanne-birdsall

The Magic Mirror: Concerning a Lonely Princess, a Foundling Girl, a Scheming King, and a Pickpocket Squirrel by Susan Hill Long
Published May 10th, 2016 by Knopf Books for Young Readers

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Making Friends with Billy Wong by August Scattergood
Published August 30th, 2016 by Scholastic Press

wish-cover barbara-oconnor-photo

Wish by Barbara O’Connor
Published August 30th, 2016 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Activity Kit

The activity kit can also be accessed at HERE.


Fifteen lucky winners will receive a set of the four #TrueFriends books: AUDACITY JONES TO THE RESCUE, THE MAGIC MIRROR, MAKING FRIENDS WITH BILLY WONG, and WISH. In addition, four Grand Prize winners will win a set of the books PLUS a 30-40 minute Skype visit for their school, classroom, or library with one of the #TrueFriends authors: Kirby Larson, Susan Hill Long, Augusta Scattergood, and Barbara O’Connor.


And don’t miss out on any #TrueFriends information! Make sure to visit their You Tube Channel!

Thank you to the #TrueFriends authors and Blue Slip Media for having us be part of this celebration of friendship!

Kellee Signature andRickiSig

Dear Dragon by Josh Funk


dear dragon

Dear Dragon
Author: Josh Funk
Illustrator: Rodolfo Montalvo
Anticipated Publication: September 6, 2016 by Viking Books for Young Readers

Goodreads Summary: A sweet and clever friendship story in rhyme, about looking past physical differences to appreciate the person (or dragon) underneath.

George and Blaise are pen pals, and they write letters to each other about everything: their pets, birthdays, favorite sports, and science fair projects. There’s just one thing that the two friends don’t know: George is a human, while Blaise is a dragon! What will happen when these pen pals finally meet face-to-face?

Ricki’s Review: I simply adored this book. It was quite clever and imaginative! I imagine it took a lot of thought to try to show how different George and Blaise’s lives might be and how they might misinterpret the descriptions of simple daily life events. I am a huge fan of Josh Funk’s writing and recommend all of his books. They all are witty and humorous, and my son and I always giggle while we read them. Each of his books teaches a life lesson that has been very useful for me as a mom, and I know they are equally useful for elementary school teachers. For Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast, I have been able to constantly refer to the variety of foods in the text in order to help my son with his picky eating habits. With this book, Dear Dragon, I have been able to talk with my son about differences and how we might work to understand how others might lead different daily lives than ours. I am really looking forward to Josh’s next book, Pirasaurs!. Based on his other books, I know it will be a good one!

Kellee’s Review: The books I find myself gravitating towards and recommending the most are the books that I not only love as a mother but can also definitely see the application of the book in all levels of classrooms. Dear Dragon fits into this category because it is such an amusing and fun book that is just a blast to read and discuss; however, it also has so many ways that I can see myself and other teachers using it in the classroom: for a mentor text, for a pen pal unit, for a read aloud. Dear Dragon also is an amazing set up to discuss first impressions and differences between people in safe place (since, you know, Blaise is a dragon). I also loved the quirky, colorful, detailed illustrations that accompany George and Blaise’s letters. The silly conversations just from these will make for a wonderful conversation.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Ricki fondly remembers her elementary school experiences with pen pals. Her fourth class wrote to a class in Germany. It was so interesting to learn about all of the differences between our lives. This book would make for a great jumpstart to a pen pal project. It would be neat to connect to a class in another country or even across our own country. Students would learn a lot about how we are both similar and different from others—and how this is a good thing, indeed!

In addition to being a ton of fun, Dear Dragon will also be a perfect mentor text for a variety of reading skills and standards. The letters are a perfect opportunity to discuss point of view, voice, letter writing, and rhyming. The book also has a wonderful theme, the illustrations and letters could be compared/contrasted, and the entire text structure could be analyzed.

Discussion Questions: What are the similarities and differences between George and Blaise? How do they build their friendship across letters?; How do they each misinterpret the other’s letters in ways that are funny and enlightening? How do the illustrations reflect these misinterpretations?; This book is a fantasy, but how might you compare this book to real life?

Flagged Spread: 


Read This If You Loved: Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast by Josh Funk; Same, Same but Different by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw; Whose Story is This, Anyway? by Mike Flaherty; Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin; Have You Seen my Dragon? by Steve Light; Tony Baloney: Pen Pal by Pam Muñoz Ryan; Dear Mrs. Larue series by Mark Teague

Recommended For: 

readaloudbuttonsmall classroomlibrarybuttonsmall closereadinganalysisbuttonsmall


Author Guest Post!: “How an Author Deals with Not Writing Something New” by Jordan Elizabeth, Author of The Escape from Witchwood Hollow


“How an Author Deals with Not Writing Something New”

I started telling stories as an infant.  My maternal grandmother recorded them for me on cassettes and would later write them down.  This went on until junior high (I had horrible handwriting) when I got my first computer.  After that, no one could stop my writing flow.  I whipped out stories like it was nobody’s business.

Short stories.  Novels.  The words flowed off my fingertips into the keyboard, messy handwriting thrown to the wind.

After high school, I set myself a goal.  Every night, I would write at least one chapter.  It is thanks to that goal that I now have 27 completed manuscripts and 9 published works.  Nothing could stop my writing streak.  I would lock myself into my bedroom and not come out – and not talk to anyone either – until I had completed that day’s chapter.

Okay, so nothing could stop my writing…except a pregnancy.  Not having the energy to write, losing that writing zone, was a blow.  I’d been sick before, but I’d always pushed myself to do at least a paragraph (it usually turned into my chapter).  Suddenly, I had no will to write.

It wasn’t a lack of motivation exactly.  It seemed to be a lot of things.  Stress, fear, exhaustion.  I would sit down at the computer, and when I pushed myself to do one paragraph, that’s all I got.  One paragraph.  One really crappy paragraph.

My characters reminded me of the characters in another of my books.  The setting was like the setting in yet another book.  I didn’t know where to take the story.  Such roadblocks had never happened before, and of course that just added onto my already huge array of negative emotions.

A writer has to write.


Wrong.  A writer has to be involved in books, but not necessarily writing.  I became depressed, feeling as if my writing career was crumbling, and I took that proverbial step back to reflect.  It sounds cliché, but it worked.  For me, at this point in time, writing wasn’t working, but I had to stay involved.  Since I wasn’t turning out new work, I could take a look at the old.

I called up one of my old manuscripts and gave it a fresh edit.  It wasn’t as tiring as writing something new and I could fully immerse myself in the fantasy world.  Pleased with this new edit, I let the story go into the world, and wouldn’t you know it found a home with a publisher?  The book is KISTISHI ISLAND, due to be released October 27, 2016 from Clean Reads.

I am now in the middle of editing another work.  Before, I would finish one and dive right into the next.  It feels great to explore these old worlds and beloved old friends without the guilt of not writing something new.  Yes, I am totally guilt free now about not writing and that is one less negative emotion on my plate.

People have told me being pregnant means I can eat anything I want without feeling guilty.  I have no urge to pig out yet (maybe that comes later?).  I’m changing that idea around into, “Being pregnant means I can edit all I want and not write without feeling guilty.”  I’ll get back into writing later.  For now, I have old manuscripts to keep me company.


About the Author: Jordan Elizabeth, formally Jordan Elizabeth Mierek, writes down her nightmares in order to live her dreams. With an eclectic job history behind her, she is now diving into the world of author. It happens to be her most favorite one yet. When she’s not creating art or searching for lost history in the woods, she’s updating her blog, Kissed by Literature.  Her published works include ESCAPE FROM WITCHWOOD HOLLOW, TREASURE DARKLY, BORN OF TREASURE, COGLING, RUNNERS & RIDERS, VICTORIAN, GOAT CHILDREN, and KISTISHI ISLAND.

Escape from Witchwood

About the Book: Everyone in Arnn – a small farming town with more legends than residents – knows the story of Witchwood Hollow: if you venture into the whispering forest, the witch will trap your soul among the shadowed trees.

After losing her parents in a horrific terrorist attack on the Twin Towers, fifteen-year-old Honoria and her older brother escape New York City to Arnn. In the lure of that perpetual darkness, Honoria finds hope, when she should be afraid.

Perhaps the witch can reunite her with her lost parents. Awakening the witch, however, brings more than salvation from mourning, for Honoria discovers a past of missing children and broken promises.

To save the citizens of Arnn from becoming the witch’s next victims, she must find the truth behind the woman’s madness.

How deep into Witchwood Hollow does Honoria dare venture?

Thank you Jordan for the reminder that writing isn’t only writing something new!

Kellee Signature andRickiSig

The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles by Michelle Cuevas


uncorker of bottles

The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles
Author: Michelle Cuevas
Illustrator: Erin E. Stead
Published August 23rd, 2016 by Dial Books

Summary: The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles, who lives alone atop a hill, has a job of the utmost importance. It is his task to open any bottles found at sea and make sure that the messages are delivered. He loves his job, though he has always wished that, someday, one of the letters would be addressed to him. One day he opens a party invitation—but there’s no name attached. As he devotes himself to the mystery of the intended recipient, he ends up finding something even more special: the possibility of new friends.

Kellee’s Review: I love the premise of an Uncorker of Ocean Bottles even existing! There are so many notes (notes in a bottle, notes to Santa, etc.) that are out there floating around, so it is so much fun to imagine what happens to them. But the story is really about the Uncorker himself. What is it like to have a very important job yet be alone all the time? No matter how much you love what you do, is being alone ever going to be easy?  

Erin Stead’s art always makes me want to pick up a book! Her use of woodblock prints, oil pastels, and pencil give a perfect feel for this story of a man who didn’t even know he was lonely. The illustrations give a wistful feel that fits Cuevas’s hopeful story. 

Ricki’s Review: This is a book that readers will never forget. Years from now, I will sit in the sand on a beach and think of the Uncorker and all of his gentleness as a human being. His loneliness emanated from the pages, and I longed to go to him, to stay with him, and to become his friend. This would be a great book to discuss relationships and friendships with kids, and it also would be an excellent way to talk about loneliness. All people—kids included—feel loneliness, so a book like this will open up wonderful conversations about this emotion that is not discussed often. 

The illustrations make this book stand out. I felt as if they were freshly drawn for my eyes only. I have a print hanging up in my son’s nursery, and I love looking at it every morning.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: As a read aloud in a classroom, The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles would be a perfect discussion starter on many levels. At the beginning of the book, students can guess what they think some of the bottle say when all they are told is that they are “dipped in sadness” or “very old” or “made people quite happy.” The conversation can continue about how they would feel living alone, even if they were doing something important and something they loved. Then they can make predictions about the message that is revealed then analyze how it changes the Uncorkers life.

Discussion Questions: What do you think the messages say?; What would you write as a message in a bottle if you were going to write one?; What do you think the Uncorker is going to do with the unaddressed message?; Would you like living alone?

Flagged Passages: “While the Uncorker of Ocean Bottles loved his job, he couldn’t help but wonder if he would ever receive a letter. Truth be told, each time he opened a bottle, a part of him hoped to see his own name winking from the top of the page.

But then he remembered that this was about as likely as finding a mermaid’s toenail on the beach. For he had no name. He had no friends. He stank of seaweed and salt and fishermen’s feet. No one would ever write him a letter.”

Read This If You Loved: Little Tree by Loren LongLenny & Lucy by Philip C. Stead, The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

Recommended For:

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Kellee Signatureand RickiSig