Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Review: What Good Is God? by Philip Yancey

Synopsis:

Journalist and spiritual seeker Philip Yancey has always struggled with the most basic questions of the Christian faith. The question he tackles in WHAT GOOD IS GOD? concerns the practical value of belief in God. His search for the answer to this question took him to some amazing settings around the world: Mumbai, India when the firing started during the terrorist attacks; at the motel where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated; on the Virginia Tech campus soon after the massacre; an AA convention; and even to a conference for women in prostitution. At each of the 10 places he visited, his preparation for the visit and exactly what he said to the people he met each provided evidence that faith really does work when what we believe is severely tested. WHAT GOOD IS GOD? tells the story of Philips journey--the background, the preparation, the presentations themselves. Here is a story of grace for armchair travelers, spiritual seekers, and those in desperate need of assurance that their faith really matters.

The Elliott Review:

In this book (out today), Philip Yancey presents his ideas about spirituality in an extremely realistic and practical way. He examines the concept of God's goodness and the value of faith in the troubled times we live in and does not mince words or give pithy pat answers. He honestly looks at some disturbing issues with a view to discovering if God is actually good in that specific situation. He is comfortable enough with ambiguity to avoid generalizing and giving advice not based on truth. As a committed Christian, there are doubts and concerns that are ever-present in my mind that a simple, "Christian" answer doesn't quite satisfy, and this book does address some of them. I love that Yancey challenges the way Christians think about the world without discounting the value of faith.

The format of the book follows some tough places that Yancey has been asked to give a talk. As he goes along, Yancey paints a picture of the place or event the difficulties it might present for someone looking for evidences of the goodness of God. He then includes the actual speech given at each place. It's powerful to think about Yancey having to address the various groups of people in each location - for example addressing students at Virginia Tech shortly after the shooting, a group of sex workers in various stages of getting out of the business, recovering alcoholics, and groups offering aid to the destitute in Africa (to name a few issues).

This book is a must-read for Christians looking for insight, spiritual seekers, or even individuals who are curious about the the tenets of the Christian faith. Yancey's style makes everything very understandable without being condescending or trite.

Thanks to the Hachette Book Group for providing this book for a fair review. I was not required to write a positive review.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Review: Mrs. Pinkelmeyer and Moopus McGlinden Burn the Rrrrump Rrrroast by Jennifer Kelman

Synopsis:

Meet the Silliest, Warmest Know-It-All™, Mrs. Pinkelmeyer from Poppingham, England and her furry brown dog, Moopus McGlinden, in their first adventure. This fresh, funny, and charmingly illustrated story will make even the youngest children laugh and smile. When Mrs. Pinkelmeyer tries to put her rrrrump rrrroast in the oven, she talks on the phone to a mysterious stranger in New York who is caring for her nephew while his parents are away. Any child who has felt the sadness of separation from a loved one knows a good story can provide just the right comfort. Mrs. Pinkelmeyer distracts Henry who missed his parents so much that he was no longer singing or playing. As Mrs. Pinkelmeyer talks to little Henry on the phone from the other side of the Atlantic, he forgets his absent parents while concentrating on Mrs. Pinkelmeyer and Moopus.

The Elliott Review:

This book is one that kids will definitely enjoy. The pictures are whimsical and hilarious-looking, so they will appeal to children and adults of all ages. The playful quality of a "Rrrrump Rrrroast" being included in the story is something I know will instantly endear this story to my students' hearts, along with the dog's strange name and cute little face.

Though I have not taught with this book yet, I believe that it will be a great addition to my repertoire of mentor texts mainly in the area of plot development. The simplicity of the story can clearly show how a problem is presented and then resolved through the character's actions which is something that developing writers need to be able to see first hand. A variety of writing prompts could be developed based on the events of the story.

Thanks so much to the author who provided this book for a fair review. I was not required to write a positive review.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Author Interview: Jessica Park, Author of Relatively Famous

Jessica Park, author of Relatively Famous was kind enough to answer a few questions for The Elliott Review! She's currently promoting her awesome book around the blogosphere, so keep your eyes open for more reviews, interviews etc. or check out her website to see what else is in the works.

Has your relationship with your son influenced your writing? In what way?

If you count interrupting my writing time for pesky necessities like, you know, food, then yes. Kidding, kidding… I don’t need reminders to feed my child. Usually.

Okay, seriously now: In some ways, he does influence me, especially with this book. Dani’s father starts from a place of no genuine interest in his daughter—she is nothing more than a means to boost his image as a family man, and to salvage his sinking acting career. But, as the story progresses, and despite his best efforts to stay distant from his daughter, Mark totally falls for his kid. He gets what it means to be a parent and what that kind of ferocious love can do. My son taught me about that.

Is your personality similar to any character in Relatively Famous?

As much as there are times that I still feel like a fifteen-year-old girl, and there are parts of Dani’s very compassionate and warm side that I connect with, her mother, Leila, and I are probably pretty similar. We both have a powerful devotion to our children, but couple that with a pretty decent balance of protectiveness and a willingness to let them go off on their own and figure out who they are separate from us. In RELATIVELY FAMOUS, Leila allows Dani to spend the summer in California with her rather inept father, Mark. It’s a struggle for her to let her “baby” go, but she is smart enough to swallow her own fears and to trust in her daughter. I like to think that I’m that kind of a parent, one who wants her child to venture off on his own, even when it hurts to have him grow up.

Do you keep plotting your characters' lives even after the story ends?

A little bit, yeah. Partially because it’s hard to let them go! I spent the better part of a year writing RELATIVELY FAMOUS, and I really missed these people that I’d spent so much time with. That sounds crazy, I know. But you know how it is when you read a story and get swept up in the characters? It’s ten times worse when you write them because authors are so much inside their heads. We know them like they are friends or family.

I handed in a manuscript to my agent, and the characters in that book are still with me very strongly. The last third of the book practically wrote itself. I understood the characters so well that I knew exactly what they would say or do in any given situation. It’s hard to drown yourself in these fantasy lives and not imagine what happens to them after the last page. Sometimes the futures I see for them are detailed and other times it’s just more of a general sense of where they would be in their lives.

Do you intend to write any kind of follow up for Relatively Famous?

I’m not sure yet. I have some ideas for continuing Dani’s story, but realistically it depends on how well this book sells. I’d love to see what happens to her as she tries to return to school and lead a “normal” life. I suspect she’d end up back in L.A. with her dad, and then we’d get to see how things play out between her and Nathan. I’ve played around with the idea of delving more into that hottie Jason, too. I think that there is a lot more to him than what we’ve seen. He comes from a pretty rotten, unavailable family, and that’s a lot of the reason that he’s been such a jerk. Some interesting stuff could happen if Dani gets more involved with him. And I’ve wondered about bringing Dani’s mom out to California… maybe seeing what happens with her relationship with Mark. It could be juicy. We’ll see…!

Are there any other projects you are working on?

My agent is shopping another YA novel now. I can’t go into too much detail about it, but it’s about a college freshman who moves to Boston. When her housing falls through, she ends up living with family friends and gets completely entrenched in their lives. The family is extremely quirky, but equally wonderful. The heroine develops an online relationship with the eldest son (who is away traveling) and strong friendships with the college-age son and preteen daughter that are still at home. It’s a deep character study of a very complex family system, but at its heart it’s a knockout love story.

If you were to suddenly discover you were the love child of a celebrity, which one would you want to be your dad?

Matt Damon, Josh Holloway, Joshua Jackson, Ed Westwick, Orlando Bloom, Hayden Christensen… Oh, you said Dad. Sorry. These are not appropriate father figures for me.

I’ll go with Harrison Ford. He seems like a fairly normal guy. Relatively unaffected by his celebrity status. Plus, hellooooo…. He’s Han Solo. ‘Nuff said.





Check out Relatively Famous at Amazon.com


Ways to follow Jessica Park:

Review: The Naming (Pellinor 1) by Alison Croggon

Synopsis:

In the classic spirit of epic fantasy comes this glittering saga of a young girl who learns she possesses an uncanny gift — and is destined to use it to save her world from a terrifying evil.

Maerad is a slave in a desperate and unforgiving settlement, taken there as a child when her family is destroyed in war. She doesn't yet know she has inherited a powerful gift, one that marks her as a member of the noble School of Pellinor and enables her to see the world as no other can. It is only when she is discovered by Cadvan, one of the great Bards of Lirigon, that her true identity and extraordinary destiny unfold. Now, she and her mysterious teacher must embark on a treacherous, uncertain journey through a time and place where the forces of darkness wield an otherworldly terror.

The first book in a quartet, Alison Croggon's epic about Maerad and her remarkable yet dangerous gift is a beautiful, unforgettable tale. Presented as a new translation of an ancient text, THE NAMING evokes the rich and complex landscape of Annar, a legendary world just waiting to be discovered.

The Elliott Review:

I was somewhat scared to read this book due to the mention of it being a part of the "classic epic fantasy" genre. I love fantasy just as much as the next paranormal addict, but there is just something about reading Tolkien that kind of grates on my nerves. I loved Lord of the Rings, but that was only because I broke my rule and watched the movie first. The Naming does indeed hold true to the dictates of epic fantasy, both the things I love about it as well as the things I ... don't so much love about it. Okay, deep breath.

The world-building in this story is phenomenal. The world that Maerad and her companions inhabit is very deeply developed and intricately planned down to the last detail. There are several appendices detailing the history of this world, as well as a pronunciation guide. This is, for me, both a curse and a blessing. I love that the world is believable and well thought-out, but I (personally) am not in love in intricate descriptions seemingly for the sake of description. Yes, I do want to have a general idea of a character's surrounding world, but I do not feel a deep-seated desire to hear about the appearance of every cloud of mist or dew dropping off a blade of grass. That is a complaint I have about Tolkien, so those of you who love Tolkien will love this about this book!

What caused me to enjoy this book despite the issues I have with the genre was character development. Maerad is  believable and likeable, and I loved seeing her discover so much about herself in this first book. She has complex emotions, but there is no resort to melodrama here. She stands up to her circumstances admirably and bravely and without any unnecessary blubbering.

And Cadvan! I love the character of Cadvan. He has a dark, shadowy past and angst-filled background story, yet (again) this is understated and thus more powerful. I'm not really sure what his role in the story will be at this point. I can't tell if he will be merely Maerad's teacher throughout or if they will, in time, develop a romantic relationship. Since I've already started to massively love him, I really hope that there is some romance ... even though he is a lot older than Maerad.

All in all, I would recommend this book. It's definitely an intellectual commitment since it's so long, but it is an intelligent story that is rare. The writing style is stately and precise. This story isn't necessarily "sexy," so people aren't going crazy over it, but it's worth a read for sure.


Alison Croggon discusses the series:

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Review: Relatively Famous by Jessica Park

Synopsis:

Meet Dani McKinley: A typical teen whose world is rocked when she finds out that her father is a famous Hollywood action star. Now meet Mark Ocean: A self-serving actor with a floundering career who sees that a daughter is just what he needs to reinvent himself as a family man and get back on track. When the two decide to spend the summer together, they must not only wrangle their own love lives, but try to figure out who they really are to themselves and to each other.

Now armed with credit cards, club memberships, and a new wardrobe, Dani learns that what Mark has in wealth, he sorely lacks in parenting skills. Trying to show Mark that parenting is about more than loading her up with Prada bags and taking her to movie premieres is challenging enough, but she's also got her hands full with her new friends. Oh, and the boys... Dani meets Jason, a gorgeous young personal trainer who is easy on the eyes and wildly flirtatious. But is this smug hottie the one for her? Or will she ignore her friends eye-rolling and go for the goofy but sweet surfer?

While juggling her own complicated love life, Dani tries to set her father up with someone less likely to appear on a VH1 reality show, and someone more... well, normal. And age-appropriate. And dressed in anything but a thong bikini. But whether Mark is able to heal old wounds and move forward with anything more than a meaningless fling remains to be seen.

Can Dani fit in with this new, fast-moving California crowd without losing herself? With the world at her fingertips and hot boys now after her, staying grounded gets tough. And can Mark drop his egocentric approach to life and learn to appreciate how truly wonderful his daughter is? As driven as he is to get that A-list acting role, he's willing to do whatever it takes to get there, even if it means using his daughter. Or is he...? Mark and Dani's relationship hits a few highs, but the question becomes whether the lows are too much.

The Elliott Review: 

I really enjoyed reading this book - it was a fast, fun read that had me completely spellbound the entire time. I would have read it straight through in one day if I'd had the time to do so. Everything just flowed so naturally and entertainingly. This is the perfect lay-in-bed-and-read book.

The plot also really intrigued me. I loved the idea of a girl discovering that her father is a famous movie star. What girl wouldn't fantasize about the idea of suddenly becoming famous? I loved seeing how Dani meets her father and integrates herself in to Hollywood society. Even with such an astounding leap in circumstances, all the action is fairly plausible and thus interesting!

The characters also really grabbed me. I felt a connection with all of the major characters - Dani, Mark, Olivia, Nathan, Leila, Alan - I wanted to see good things happen to them and for them all to have that "storybook" ending. The father-daughter relationship between Mark and Dani was so moving to me - the fact that Mark really does want to get to know his daughter and be there for her. It seems like something that would be so rare in real life. I also loved the whole cast of characters that we meet.

I would recommend this book to anyone, really. It would be perfect for a school or classroom library - relatively clean and addictively readable.

Connect with Jessica Park:

Twitter: @JessicaParkYA
Goodreads: Jessica Park Goodreads Author
Blog: Relatively Famous, A Young Adult Novel

Thanks to Jessica Park for providing a copy of this book for a fair review. I was not required to write a positive review.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Read-a-Long: The Naming by Alison Croggon


 This week at There's A Book, we're having a discussion about The Naming by Alison Croggon. Today Danielle has posted some questions for discussion for those who would like to participate. Right now there are only two people participating in the read along of the Books of Pellinor series (plus Danielle and me), but you can definitely sign up if you are interested even if you missed this month's time frame. Participants have a chance to win prizes and to have a great time as well.

Review: Oogy by Larry Levin

Synopsis:

In 2002, Larry Levin and his twin sons, Dan and Noah, took their terminally ill cat to the Ardmore Animal Hospital outside Philadelphia to have the beloved pet put to sleep. What would begin as a terrible day suddenly got brighter as the ugliest dog they had ever seen--one who was missing an ear and had half his face covered in scar tissue--ran up to them and captured their hearts. The dog had been used as bait for fighting dogs when he was just a few months old. He had been thrown in a cage and left to die until the police rescued him and the staff at Ardmore Animal Hospital saved his life. The Levins, whose sons are themselves adopted, were unable to resist Oogy's charms, and decided to take him home.

Heartwarming and redemptive, OOGY is the story of the people who were determined to rescue this dog against all odds, and of the family who took him home, named him "Oogy" (an affectionate derivative of ugly), and made him one of their own.

 The Elliott Review:

This book, released today, grabbed my heart long before I ever read it with the amazing picture of Oogy on the cover and with the very moving trailer online (below). When I finally got my hands on this book, it did not disappoint in any way. It is, in fact, just as moving as all the good press lead me to believe.

The story behind Oogy's mistreatment and subsequent welcome into the Levin household is one that will instantly grab anyone's heart. The idea that a dog could survive such treatment and not only survive but thrive is a message that resonates with all people - we are all survivors of something in some way. It's amazing to see a mere animal that can be an example for weathering life's trials and still having a great, productive life.

One of the most moving things about this book is the way the theme of adoption is treated. The story of how Levin's children were adopted and his thoughts about being a father greatly strengthen the positive and inspirational message. Their household is one that is all about inviting and giving second chances and being successful in life.

This book is for all ages, really. Children old enough to understand, teens, adults - everyone has the potential to fall in love with Oogy. I will be placing it in my classroom library so that my middle-schoolers can enjoy the story.

A small (but, to me, very important) side note: Oogy does not die at the end of this book!

Trailer:



Thanks to Hachette Books for providing a copy of this book for a fair review. I was not required to write a positive review.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Review: Green Eyes by A. Birnbaum

Synopsis:

Green Eyes, the curious kitten, ventures beyond his familiar big red box and greets spring, summer, fall, and winter—each with their unique colors, scents, and feelings. Children will delight in discovery with Green Eyes as he ventures out and cozies up to the familiar warmth of home upon his return.


The Elliott Review: 

I've been using this book with my students to model the use of detail in a paragraph for several years now, but this year is the first time I've actually noticed that it is, indeed, a golden oldie - originally published in 1953. The drawings, however, are absolutely beautiful with an eclectic feel to them.

The text is simple and somewhat predictive toward the end, but the simplicity helps show my older students how to include details as well as different levels of details. It's also very funny to see what things each class notices about the clever illustrations as we read along.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Update: What I Learned From Being a Cheerleader Giveaway


 Thanks to Belle Bridge Books, I have been able to update my What I Learned From Being a Cheerleader Giveaway to include five winners who will each receive a copy of the book + stickers.

Interview + Giveaway: What I Learned From Being a Cheerleader + Stickers!

Adrianne Ambrose, author of What I Learned From Being a Cheerleader, was nice enough to stop by and answer a few questions for The Elliott Review.

What experience did you have with cheerleading or cheerleaders in middle school? Were you one of the popular kids or one of the “nerds”?

I was definitely not one of the popular girls in middle school, so when I landed a spot on the cheerleading squad in eighth grade, it ruffled a few feathers. What I Learned From Being a Cheerleader is not autobiographical, but I did frequently call upon my middle grade memories and my one year as a cheerleader for inspiration when writing the book.

In your writing you seem to channel all the issues that come with being in middle school. What made you choose to write about cheerleading and middle schoolers?

I started writing the story because I was living in an apartment with two other women and we had some unbelievably noisy upstairs neighbors. We tried everything to get them to be more considerate, but nothing worked. My initial inspiration was just to vent a little because I was so frustrated. Then the character of Elaine popped out of my head. It became really fun to follow her around and see what she was going to do next. So, I didn’t exactly set out to write about cheerleaders, it’s just how the story evolved.

What do you hope readers will take away from What I Learned From Being a Cheerleader?

I hope older readers will enjoy remembering the comedy and tragedy of middle school. It’s when you’re just starting to figure out who you are and who you want to be. But, that doesn’t mean that’s how your friends and classmates perceive you or who they want you to be.

For readers who are in elementary and middle school, I hope they think the book is funny and an enjoyable read. But, also, that they’ll get to learn a few middle school lessons from vicariously experiencing them through Elaine. Middle school can be tough and I think it’s good to know that there are other kids out there who are also struggling through it.

Are you working on any new writing projects right now?

Yes, Belle Bridge Books, the publisher of What I Learned From Being a Cheerleader, has asked me to write a sequel, which will hopefully hit store shelves in September of 2011. I’m also working with the talented illustrator Monica Gallagher (www.eatyourlipstick.com) on a graphic novel for Oni Press. It hasn’t been announced yet, so I can’t give you too many details, but it’s a romantic comedy with a hint of magic and will hopefully be out in the spring of 2011.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

This may be a little obvious, but I love to read. I’m usually reading a fiction book, a non-fiction book, plus listening to a recorded book. Not simultaneously, of course. ;O) I also love to travel and have been to an obnoxious number of countries.

Don't forget to check out What I Learned From Being a Cheerleader on Kindle as well as in Paperback.



GIVEAWAY!


Now you have a chance to win the great book I just reviewed - What I Learned From Being a Cheerleader.

Five winners will a copy of the book as well as some really cool promotional stickers.

Two runners up will receive some stickers as well.


This giveaway is open to U. S. residents only.

To enter, all you have to do is follow my blog.

Extra entries can be earned through:
  • +1 - Tweeting about the contest (see Tweet button above)
  • +1 - Commenting on the review post
  • +2 - Commenting on this interview (not simply saying, "Great Contest!")
Please enter using this FORM. Comments gain you extra entries but do not enter you in the contest.

Giveaway ends October 30th. This contest is now closed.

Thanks to Adrianne Ambrose for the awesome stickers and to Belle Bridge Books. I received a copy for a fair review. I was not required to give a positive review.

Review: What I Learned From Being a Cheerleader by Adrianne Ambrose



Synopsis:

Eleven-year-old Elaine Rewitzer is funny, smart and happy being a geek, but when she wins a spot on the Cross Creek Middle School Buccaneers cheerleading squad, she gets totally into her new life. Her mega-brain best friend Bethany warns that Elaine will just become "part of the herd," and her best geek-guy-pal, Tim, (who‛s struggling with nose polyps) feels forgotten. Will Elaine survive the roller coaster of pre-teen cheerleader fame? Will she win the heart of the cutest boy on the basketball team? Will she confess her "uncool" love for comic books? Will she lose Bethany and Tim‛s friendship for-evah? AND WHEN WILL SHE GET HER POM POMS???

The Elliott Review:

I'm going to admit that I wasn't sure about this book at first because, being the biggest nerd in the world, I really am not in love with cheerleading or cheerleaders, but as a teacher, I was very interested to see how the events of this story would play out. I was also concerned by the fact that the entire text of the book takes the form of journal entries. My doubts about this book, however, were completely erased by reading it.

I was blown away by Adrianne Ambrose's amazing characterization of a sixth grade girl. Each journal entry kept me interested in reading the next (and the next, and the next). The entries remind me so much of the diary I kept in middle school - complete with the "I hate [insert name here]" or "My life is sooo over," etc. Although my experiences were different from Elaine's, there is just something about the particular brand of misery that is middle school that all girls share, and that element is beautifully displayed here.

I know that my students will love this book, as well. Kids this age love being in each other's business, so I know that the diary format would be a huge appeal for both girls and even boys, who act like they don't care what's going on in the female mind. Although there are quite a few positive messages that all middle schoolers need to hear in this book, it still comes across as authentic and not at all preachy.

I would highlight recommend this for classroom libraries, to anyone who has a middle-school age student, and I would also recommend it to older nerds and non-nerds alike. It's a fun, fast read that is witty and fresh.


Trailer:
Thanks so much to Adrianne Ambrose for providing a copy of this title for a fair review. I was not required to write a positive review.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Interview: Donna Marie Seim, Author of Hurricane Mia

Donna Marie Seim, author of Hurricane Mia, was so kind as to answer some questions for The Elliott Review. 
 
Thanks for joining us, Donna!


Thanks so much for asking to interview me. HURRICANE MIA has been an incredible adventure from beginning concept to finished book!

Where did you get the inspiration for writing HURRICANE MIA? How did you decide on the Caribbean as a setting?

 I love to read books that sweep you up and carry you off to faraway places. The setting for HURRICANE MIA is taken from The Turks and Caicos Islands in the British West Indies. I have traveled to and explored this grouping of islands for many years and have fallen in love with its natural beauty, the richness of culture, and the people. That in itself was the inspiration for writing a story. 


I have collected many treasured memories including boat rides, where I kissed the ground when I got back on land! I have traveled to many of the 40 islands and Cays that make up these islands and have had the opportunity to visit with Bush Doctors and Grannies.  I have witnessed wild donkeys, iguanas and barracudas.

The kernel for the core of the story, 'the tea that cures everything,' came from an interest in bush medicine and a story I had heard about a tea that can help fight cancer. This story, combined with researching a Granny from the early 1900's who claimed none of her patients ever died, inspired me to write a story! I planned for the story to be a natural adventure mixed with an emotional one and to bring two different cultures together in the friendship that builds between Mia and Neisha.

In HURRICANE MIA, Mia meets an island girl, Neisha, her own age. What strengths do you think the girls bring to one another?

       Mia is a feisty tween, self absorbed, spoiled and yet still worried about her mother's health. Although, it is also true that her mother's health is what is denying Mia the summer she had planned with her best friend. Mia is angry, has an attitude, and in the past has clashed with her grandmother, resenting her rigid ways. But now it is culminated by the fact that Gram is thwarting her from what she wants to do most - obtain the tea so she can go home and make everything the way it was before.


Neisha, is a gentle loving daughter, not self absorbed like Mia, and totally dedicated to her mother. She is accepting of her role in life, with the one exception that she would like to go to high school, but at the same time she is fiercely loyal to her mother refusing to leave her tend the cafe alone.  Neisha is at one with her natural surroundings and is comfortable and self assured  within her safety zone. It is she that tells Mia about the tea. 

When they are in life-threatening danger and Mia finds out that Neisha can't swim, it's Mia's strength and persistence that gets Neisha out of the boat and to safety. The girls personalities are opposite, as are their cultures, and yet they compliment one another and find themselves becoming true friends. In the end Mia cares about Neisha getting to go to high school on the big island. Neisha reassures Mia about her mom getting stronger. Through the girls quest for the tea, Mia grows, painfully at times, as she learns about responsibility, friendship and the importance of family. Likewise, Neisha is forced  to conquer her fear of the water. She then shows her strengths sharing her knowledge of survival on an uninhabited island.

What message do you hope that your readers will take away from this story?

I think there are many messages in the story, but the bottom line is, that two girls from opposite cultures could meet, form a strong bond of friendship, and in the end,  provide each other the strength to face their individual lives and circumstances that lie ahead of them.

What are you working on now?

Yes, a writer is always working! My next book is a chapter book for middle grade readers, the same age group as HURRICANE MIA. The book is entitled, CHARLEY,  a story of a city boy from Boston, who is orphaned and finds himself in a traveling choir. The choir tours throughout New England singing at churches and community halls. After singing, the children are lined up and a few are chosen by families to live with them. Charley is not chosen time and time again until finally, in the depths of rural Maine, a dairy farmer, at the request of his wife, chooses Charley! The adventures begin, the city boy is now a country boy or not?

I am also working on a new picture story book, SATCHI AND LITTLE STAR. A story  about an island girl who tries to catch and tame a wild horse. In the end she learns what friendship really is. My third novel is in the beginning planning stages entitled, SHY MAGGIE.

Do you have a website? How can readers pick up a copy of your book?

Yes, I do have a website, www.donnaseim.com. HURRICANE MIA, A Caribbean Adventure, is available at www.publishingworks.com under the Pea Pod Press imprint and Amazon.com. I can also be found on Twitter @hurricanemia.


The love of children and children's literature has played an integral role in Donna Seim's life. Hurricane Mia! A Caribbean Adventure, is Donna's first novel for middle grade readers.

When Donna is not in the Caribbean, she lives in Newbury, Massachusetts, with her husband and her dog, Rags.
Donna is a graduate of Ohio State University, and holds a master's degree in Special Education from Lesley University.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Review: Hurricane Mia by Donna Marie Seim

Synopsis:

Mia's entire summer is ruined! First, she learns that her mom is sick. Then, she and her younger brother Jack are whisked away to their grandparents' home on a remote island in the Caribbean. Mia is furious until she meets Neisha, an island girl, who tells her about "the tea that cures everything." Will Mia be able to find the tea? Will it cure her mom? And will it prove to be her plane ticket back home? Join Mia on an incredible adventure, where she sails the high seas, meets wild donkeys, explores uninhabited islands, and searches for a magical tea.

The Elliott Review:
 
This middle-grade book is a fun read. The simple plot is easy to follow for students who may be struggling readers, yet it also has a richness of description about it that makes reading interesting at the same time. Students will appreciate Mia's approach to everything - the typical tween attitude, and her adventures in the Caribbean may cause them to want to experience and/or learn more about Caribbean culture.

The text of the book has great potential for use by teachers. The descriptions are perfect to adapt as a mentor texts for just about anything, especially the concept of showing things happening in writing instead of telling about them. Also, the description provides a way to show students how to add details to their own writing.

The messages in the book also could provide some meaningful discussion in the classroom or at home. The idea of accepting everyone is ingrained throughout, with Mia's younger brother Jack being able to contribute much to their adventures despite the fact he is a stereotypical "nerd" who is teased at school. Mia and Jack also learn more about Caribbean culture that is so different from their own as they befriend Neisha. Another discussion point is that of dealing with hard times. Mia's mother has leukemia, and Mia is truly afraid for her. Neisha's family situation is less than perfect, but she learns to adapt to it.

There is also a section at the back of the book that can help readers to learn more about Caribbean culture and expand their knowledge through having fun. 
A huge thanks to Skye at Peapod Press for providing this book for a fair review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.