Anita's Haven

books, thoughts, stories, poetry, interviews, writing

MARGOT GETS AN UNEXPECTED VISIT by Lieve Snellings – my review

This book is a lovely approach to combining a children’s nature encyclopaedia of animals with a children’s story. 

Getting children to actually meet and communicate with Margot the Groundhog, thus being acquainted with forest animals, and also introducing the animal to human activities such as sports can easily be used in a classroom, or as fun reading for children who truly love nature. There is enough plot here for two separate books, so I do believe it would profit from being split into two parts or two books, and it would strengthen the focus of children on each of the aspects. The characters are lovely and children can relate to them.

Two aspects of the book give it that special flare – 1. beautiful photos of the nature and animals instead of illustrations (some are filtered and have additional sticker effects which the kids will find fun), 2. the obvious love the author has for nature and animals, and wants to convey that love to the children. The text is placed on the photos which sometimes makes it slightly difficult to read, but not so much it would deter you from the story. Considering the fact that the author is turning it into a series of adventures, this is a very promising start.

The overall layout and the intent of the book are commendable, and I can easily see it as a well-loved gift for any child aged cca 4-10 who enjoys nature and loves to discover facts about animals.

This review is written for the Readers Review Room, awarding the book the blue bookworm.

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​There’s no magic trick quite like reading

When you are a bookworm, like me, and reading for you constitutes pleasure, relaxation and escape, then it is only logical that reading in the summertime is somewhat synonymous with a holiday.

Even my early childhood memories of the beach and the summer break always involve some sort of reading, be that of magazines, comic books or adventure books. As life moved onwards, and the days of vacation and free time grew shorter, I found it fascinating how my favourite summer reads had become longer, more detailed books, even series of books. From Jean Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear to binge reading Harry Potter and several recently discovered indie authors, reading has become my magical vacation within a vacation, adding a new, extradimensional journey beyond commonplace time and place, free of travelling expenses, packing or congested roads. And I relish it.

It was always unclear to me how some people say summer reading is difficult for them, they can’t concentrate on the beach and it only unnerves them. But, as always, it may simply be a matter of making the wrong choice. Let me explain.

Last summer I started observing people’s reading habits on a family-oriented beach where we spent our holidays. I had picked up a collection of indie short stories and, to my joy, discovered that reading great short stories on the beach was a special treat; it became my ritual – a story a day, and several novels before bedtime and at early sunrise (because who needs sleep on holidays, right?). Short stories are a charming way to get a tan without counting the tanning minutes; you mentally disappear into worlds and situations, and yet finish just in time to go for a swim, have a cocktail or build a sandcastle with your kid. Furthermore, I enjoyed recommending the stories to my friends, who took interest in reading something that was a quality read, and yet short enough not to be time or attention consuming.

Giddy about discovering that ‘no-strings attached’ short-story beach thrill, I was somewhat disappointed to see other people reading long novels on the beach; they were mostly battling with thrillers or romance novels. Battling, I say, because they would either read without even getting into the story (shame, shame, shame), mostly holding their books or devices as sunshade, or truly did get into the story but were then agitated at every interruption from friends, children, other tourists… Nobody shared my short-story fad!? Apparently not. But hey – here is my chance to educate, right?

As this year’s holidays approach, be it on a beach, garden deck chair or just our home terrace, I am already looking forward to choosing a short story collection for the brief moments of lounging between active relaxing or social interactions, and also extensive novels for the blissful alone-time when everyone falls asleep or just before they wake up. Mind you, some of those extensive novels will be by authors I discovered through their short stories – by ‘sampling the dish’ in a way. Like the Extension Charm to my holiday, short stories will add one dimension, novels another, and a week’s vacation will suddenly seem like an amazing fortnight at least.

My suggestion to you? Find your favourite read, whichever length or genre it may be. Add dimension to your holiday. And by all means, share the joy with other people, be they people you’ve already met or those you’d like to. Books do offer excellent conversation starters, you know? And who knows to which dimension that can lead.

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Why kidlit?

​You don’t write a childrens’ book because you’re in it for the money. You write it because you’ve told this story to children before, you’ve talked to them about it, you’ve asked them their opinions, their predictions, their solutions for problems, and you’ve seen that gleam in their eyes when their hearts and minds open to life. 

Now I may have kept Spikes for Hank to myself and my little learners, but I thought ‘why not see if anyone else really feels it’. 

So when I receive a review like this, from someone who truly gets it as a parent and sees its potential, my heart smiles.

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BILLY HAS A BIRTHDAY by James Minter – my review

Bullying and abuse has never sit well with me, so any attempt to stop it is appreciated. James Minter has composed a series of stories about negative behaviour and positive outcomes, and Billy Has a Birthday deals with overcoming bullying. 

This chapter book is intended for children 8-11 and can be used in a family or classroom situation, or the children can read it by themselves. There are even additional activities available to help engage the children. A simple, everyday situation, a boy’s 10th birthday, and an average family setting should make the children feel safe while reading, and, if guided well by the educator or parent, the child who reads it might open up about being bullied or witnessing bullying, which is what is usually the most difficult thing to do – open up and ask for help. Despite keeping the story simple and using likeable illustrations, the author does not embellish the boy’s fear of the bully, the complications it causes and explains the real punishment which befalls the bully himself. 

In my opinion, a sensitive topic like this one should be discussed both in families and schools, and this book is a good tool to help One might claim children want more suspense from stories – such as dragons, zombies, pirates, etc. All that is well and true, but children know that is just fancy, fabrication, fantasy. It is seemingly simple books like this one that stir up real emotions because, to children, they are almost non-fiction. They will relate and react. It is up to us to be there and steer them towards positivity.

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Gratitude

To all those who have helped me, one way or another, to get my new #children’s book Spikes for Hank out there – THANK YOU. In these unkind times, your #kindness and support are not taken lightly and will be reciprocated. I am happy to report the #book has been uploaded to Lulu.com this morning, in both #e-book and #paperback form, and I am waiting for my #proof #copy to arrive. Fingers crossed!

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Readers Review Room

Congratulations to Traci Sanders on pushing forward with the Readers Review Room! I’ve found many wonderful #books there and am proud to be included in the #reviewers’ team! So happy to say that the #readers/reviewers at RRR are volunteers of all ages who get to read vetted books for no charge and write honest reviews. 

Thinking of applying? Email form

The exclusive newsletter is out.  Congrats to Karen J. Mossman, author of the month, and to all the reviewers who volunteer their time to support authors write more books and excel! 

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Surprise!

A little surprise! Announcing my new children’s book by July/August 2017, these 2 ebooks are on special summer offer https://tinyurl.com/y864klzz! You might want to grab them – each has special activities for adults who read to/with kids or kids who read by themselves! 

#kidlit #childrensbooks

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Overwhelmed♡

Ever gotten this kind of a review/motivation for your book? Bev Tiernan, you are one of a kind♡. Everything this lady does is unique:) My first children’s book in rhyme (which should be out this summer), just got this poetic comment via email (posting here with author’s permission). 

Just read through your story

And read it with speed,

Don’t make any changes

There is no real need.

The characters are lovely

There’s no need for fright,

I love the cool ending

It all turns out right.

The lesson is taken

And taken so proudly,

One must spread the word

And yell it out loudly.

Whenever a flaw is in us at all

We must face it bravely

And follow our call.

So happy Hank did this and found his own way,

It just makes me want to shout out HOORAY!!!
B.J. Tiernan

Overwhelmed by huge support from fellow teachers and authors for my upcoming children’s book. You warm my heart and help me go on. Every second of your time is appreciated, and every line of (constructive) criticism, advice and praise is cherished. 

Especially now that the school year is in its finale, and all those who are teachers, like myself, know what a stampede that can be. I just squeezed this post amongst work phone calls, email trainee conferences, lesson planning, re-recording lesson music and stories, and I’m not even at work yet…. woohoo. Coffee time and then something exciting. 

Onwards and upwards!  Ready steady…

#amwriting #amteaching #newbook #kidlit

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New release in the summer

You may think authors take reviews for granted. We do not. I am so grateful to anyone who takes the time to read my book and craft a review. It’s like wind in my sails every time the sea gets too rough, the time too scarce, and my energy too low. 

Getting some inspiring advanced reviews for this little guy has made my week. Getting it published during the summer now looks promising. Planning on some online events, so stay tuned for a positive children’s book about accepting ourselves as we are. His name is Hank:) 

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LEFT OUT by Jean Gill – my review

Have you heard about the Looking for Normal books? They might be just the thing for your teenage and YA children and students, and hey,why not – even for you! Especially if you are dealing with such kids/adults:).


Another one of Jean Gill’s brilliant stories! The best thing a book can do is pull you in and make you think and feel, and this one does just that. No matter whether you are an adult or a teenager, this is definitely a story you should let into your library. Every educator and parent should read it, and so should teenagers (although we might try telling them they shouldn’t, just to increase the chances of it actually being enticing to them). 

The story touches on numerous important issues about growing up, without preaching, judging, laying blame or displaying any prejudice. Introducing the theme of prejudice through the seemingly simple problems of a left-hander in the right-handed world lures us into seeing our world as it is – filled with prejudice all around. We realize how many times all of us show it, unaware, yet effectively hurting each other. The witty and humorous parts of the story and the wonderful characters will feed your soul, and basically inspire you to be a better person, not a mere conformist. A special treasure are the various kinds of parents in the story – they made me angry and smile at the same time, as I recognized myself in their attempts at doing what’s best for their kids and loved them for it. Jamie and Ryan will, no doubt, resonate with teenagers – there is so much to relate to with those bright kids growing into great people.

The author shows admirable understanding of the teenage mind, led primarily by their emotional world, as they try to tug themselves out into reasonable adulthood. She displays the depth of their conviction, which sometimes may be misguided, but is deeply felt nonetheless, and we should therefore respect it in all its seriousness. For instance, when the main character Jamie observes her mother and never wants to be like her – we’ve all been there, right? Or when Ryan (mis)judges his mother’s intentions – that scene made me rethink my own relationship with my son. Reading about Kelly’s misplaced trust and about Ryan’s new school, opened my eyes to the fact that it is no wonder how many teenagers enjoy gaming and fantasy so much – it is easier to bear than their own reality. But life has its twists and turns, and when we try to do better, we can, as Jean Gill proves. The story is permeated with author’s expressive style gems, such as comparing Jamie’s family to a bus terminal, informative texts about left-handers (with charming comments by the main characters) and the realistic family conversations.

As a parent and a teacher, I felt this book in my gut. It hits so close to home on more levels than I can count. I felt for all those kids, all those teachers and parents trying, failing and succeeding at doing the best they can. It is amazing to see how similar parenthood is all around the world, how many things can go wrong, how many times misunderstandings stem from brief, implied (mis)communication instead of good old-fashioned listening. This may well be the best writing by Jean Gill I’ve read yet, and I am so happy to know there are so many books I still haven’t read by this author. 

Left Out on Amazon 

PS: You can never have enough of a good thing. Not only was I fortunate enough to read Left Out (and enjoy its remakewith this great new cover), but there is also a sequel – Fortune Kookie  coming out. It is the second part of the Looking for Normal trilogy. Quality reading for me and my YA learners!

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