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Choose Your Own Adventure Blog hop! Tony the Phony and the Northern Woods by Kid Author T. Man

1 Feb

Hi everyone! Today, I have a treat for you! I get to share an interview with a kid who wrote his own Choose-Your-Own-Adventure story!

T. Man, the author, wrote a first book, along with his brother (M. Man), and mother – author Michelle Isenhoff. The first book, Tony the Phony and Cursed Mansion, was a success.

The next book is “Tony the Phony and the Northern Woods”. T. Man went solo (but has a little help from his mom). You can follow along with this read along adventure by clicking over to the Story Boys Blog – click HERE!

Tony the Phony and the Northern WoodsTony the Phony and the Northern Woods

Series: Tony the Phony #2

Written by T. Man with Michelle Isenhoff

21 pages – ages 7+

Published by Amazon Digital Services LLC on January 13th, 2016

Synopsis- Tony the Phony is back in another adventure! Tony and Ed are going to Tony’s grandpa’s house for a weekend fishing trip. Only, that Tony’s mom doesn’t know that they are flying in a plane to Canada to get there, when Tony is [supposedly] at Ed’s house. What will happen next? You decide!

What I Thought- This was a fun Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book. It is perfect for reluctant readers, as it is a short story that is fun and interactive. I enjoyed reading the variations of what happened to Tony and his friend, Ed, and the fact that they incorporated some fantasy, and a lot of adventure. Kids will love this book. T. Man did this mostly by himself (with help on the sidelines by his author-mom) and there is a quality to the work which makes it an enjoyable experience! I love to read works by kid authors! Keep on writing!

 

Now, onto a special interview with T. Man himself!

Erik- What do you like the most about writing Choose-Your-Own-Adventure stories?

T. Man- I like to have a whole bunch of endings, so some of them can be funny and some of them not. I like to write something for everyone.

Erik- That is always a good idea, T. Man. What is your favorite ending to the story?

T. Man- The one with the police car, because I know that’s exactly what my mom would do if I left in a plane.

Erik- It’s good to know that you can imagine what would realistically happen if the story took place. When are you planning a new Tony the Phony book?

T. Man- I don’t know. Maybe in a year or two. I’d like to do the next one with my brother because it’s a lot easier with two people thinking up the story.

Erik- I see what you mean. You did a good job on your own, too. If you had a choice, would you choose to travel by plane (like Tony did)?

T. Man- I’ve never traveled by plane before, but I probably would since it’s very rare that they crash. My grandpa is a pilot, and he said he’s been up so high he’s seen all of Michigan like a big mitten. I think that would be cool. 

Erik- That’s cool that your grandpa is a pilot. I bet it would be amazing to see the entire state. You get to choose the ending of your day today – what would it be?

T. Man- I already have a snow day. I’d also like to have my new air soft gun delivered today. So I can join the neighborhood air soft wars.

Erik- Thank you very much for letting me talk with you, T. Man!

Thanks for stopping by! No go check out the hop! :D

My First Scholastic News Kids Press Corps Story is Out! @KidsPress

28 Jan

Hello blogosphere! This has nothing to do with books, but it does have something to do with writing!

Click on THIS link to go over to the Scholastic Kid Reporters’ Notebook to read my first Scholastic News Kid Press Corps article!

Here’s the blurb – “Scientists and officials work together to improve a freshwater lake in Pennsylvania.”

While you are there, check out all the awesome news articles written for kids, by kids!

KidsPressLogo

Multicultural Children’s Book Day! #ReadYourWorld

27 Jan

Today is Multicultural Children’s Book Day!!!

MCCBD

And I am a Multicultural Children’s Book Day reviewer! Before I get to my review, I wanted to let you know a bit more about this event.

For those that don’t know what that is, Multi Cultural Children’s Book Day was created by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom in 2014. As the official website states:

Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. Using the Multicultural Children’s Book Day, Mia and Valarie are on a mission to change all of that. Their mission is to not only raise awareness for the kid’s books that celebrate diversity, but to get more of these types of books into classrooms and libraries. Another goal of this exciting event is create a compilation of books and favorite reads that will provide not only a new reading list for the winter, but also a way to expose brilliant books to families, teachers, and libraries.

The MCCBD team’s mission to spread the word and raise awareness about the importance of diversity in children’s literature. Our young readers need to see themselves within the pages of a book and experience other cultures, languages, traditions and religions within the pages of a book. We encourage readers, parents, teachers, caregivers and librarians to follow along the fun book reviews, author visits, event details, a multicultural children’s book linky and via our hashtag (#ReadYourWorld) on Twitter and other social media.

I’d like to thank all of the sponsors of this years events –

Multicultural Children’s Book day 2016 Medallion Level Sponsors! #ReadYourWorld

Platinum: Wisdom Tales Press * StoryQuest Books*Lil Libros

Gold: Author Tori Nighthawk*Candlewick Press,* Bharat Babies

Silver: Lee and Low Books*Chronicle Books*Capstone Young Readers T

Tuttle Publishing ,NY Media Works, LLC/KidLit TV

Bronze: Pomelo Books* Author Jacqueline Woodson*Papa Lemon Books* Goosebottom Books*Author Gleeson Rebello*ShoutMouse Press*Author Mahvash Shahegh* China Institute.org*Live Oak Media

Multicultural Children’s Book Day has 12 amazing Co-Host and you can use the links below or view them here.

All Done Monkey, Crafty Moms Share,Educators Spin on it,Growing Book by Book,Imagination Soup,I’m Not the Nanny,InCultural Parent, Kid World Citizen,Mama Smiles,Multicultural Kid Blogs,Spanish Playground

Now on to my review!

MCCBDbookGarrett and the Feathered Serpent Quetzalcoatl

Series: Tales from Davy Jones Locker #1

Written by Carl Gundestrup

190 pages – ages 8+

Audio Book Run Time: 2 hours

Published by Davy Jones Publishing on June 4th, 2015

Summary from Goodreads-Garrett Spencer is a boy on crutches, with one good leg, no friends, never been to a real school and lives with his family in a cave… because no one on the island will rent them a room.
The family lives on Shiloh Island, known for pirates, treasure caves and legendary sea monsters. Shortly after they arrive, Garrett rescues the legendary feathered sea creature Quetzalcoatl from the ravages of a hurricane and certain death. For the first time in his life, Garrett has a best friend.

But in order to remain together they will have to battle the bullies of the island – survive multiple attacks by Sea Dragons – attempt to find the hidden treasure beneath the island – save Garrett’s father’s business and unite the people of the island.

What I Thought- This was an interesting review for me. The book is a very cool concept. Mr. Gundestrup produced an audio version of the book (more on that in a bit) as a gateway to get reluctant readers wanting to read the whole story. I was a bit hesitant at first because I much prefer written stories to the audio-version, but the audio book was very thrilling and added depth to the story. I was happy to listen to this amazing audio book with 22 different voice actors, sound effects, and a whole orchestra! That being said, the story itself was very gripping. It is a marvelous story about true friendship. The characters are realistic and well-developed. Garrett is physically challenged yes, but he is stronger than most people his age. He is still bullied, but many of his peers admire him. Quetzalcoatl is an awe-inspiring creature of magnificent splendor that has a marvelous “history”. It can heal anything and anyone, and will not hurt you.  The plot is very driving, action-packed, and does a good job of keeping you hooked. Gundestrup writing is spot on for a middle-grade audience. The book is very cool, and does a great job of making it so that you believe that Quetzalcoatl could be real. I was definitely impressed with the audio-book. Having said that, when I sat down to read the ebook version, I was not disappointed. The written story added some subplots and I have to say I do enjoy reading the words in a book and I personally feel more attached to the characters as I read, but I can see how the audio/written book will have real appeal to kids who aren’t as fond of reading as I am. This one is definitely worth a try!

fivebooks

I give “Quetzalcoatl” five out of five bookworms!

To learn more, please visit the Tales of Davy Jones official website by clicking HERE.

Check out the trailer!

BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE!!!

 Classroom Reading Challenge . This very special offering from MCCBD offers teachers and classrooms the chance to (very easily) earn a free hardcover multicultural children’s book for their classroom library. These books are not only donated by the Junior Library Guild, but they are pre-screened and approved by them as well.

What we could really use some help with is spreading the word to your teacher/librarian/classroom connections so we can get them involved in this program. There is no cost to teachers and classrooms and we’ve made the whole process as simple as possible. You can help by tweeting the below info:

​ Teachers! Earn a FREE #Multicultural Kids Book for Your Classroom! #teachers, #books #teacherlife 
http://ow.ly/UUy96

The Classroom Reading Challenge has begun! Teachers can earn a free diversity book! #teachers, #books
 http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/?p=1796

My entry in the Susanna Leonard Hill 5th Annual Holiday Contest!

11 Dec

Yes, it’s that happy time of year when sugar plums are dancing, frost is nipping and we get to enter Susanna Leonard Hill’s Annual Holiday contest! WOO!

This year’s rules are as follows – (taken from Ms. Hill’s blog)

“Write a children’s story (children here defined as approximately age 12 and under) beginning with any version of “Rocking around the Christmas tree at the Christmas party hop.”  You may use that actual opening, or you may change it to any similar version “[Verb of your choice]ing [any preposition you choose] the [any item you choose] [any preposition you choose] the [venue of your choice].”    Your story may be poetry or prose, silly or serious or sweet, religious or not, based on Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or whatever you celebrate, but is not to exceed 350 words . No illustration notes please.  Your entry should be posted on your blog between right now this very second and Friday December 11 at 11:59 PM EST.”
 
Here is my entry. It comes in at exactly 350 words.
 
Merry Christmas Mrs. Claus!
By Erik
mrsclaus

“Rockin’ around the Christmas tree at the Christmas party hop? Who has time for that?” Mrs. Claus chirped.

She wiped her brow. It was Christmas Eve and she had a lot to do.

Gingerbread was baking, hooves needed trimming, Santa wanted his beard curled, the sleigh’s guidance system wasn’t working. This was just the beginning of her ‘to do’ list.

Mrs. Claus looked at her list and, with a twinkle in her eye, started to work.

She packed toys, checked the reindeer’s jingle bells and fixed a button on Santa’s coat. As she was breaking up an argument between two elves, Rudolph clopped in.
“Will you polish my nose?”

“Of course dear,” she smiled.

“I don’t get it Mrs. Claus. Why are there no Christmas songs about you?” Wilhelm Elf said thoughtfully.

“Christmas isn’t about songs. It’s about serving others. I’m happy to do my little part,” Mrs. Claus remarked.

“You organize the naughty and nice lists, wax the sleigh’s runners, hang the lights, paint the toys – YOU MAKE SURE THE BATTERIES ARE INCLUDED!” Wilhelm exclaimed.

There was a loud “Ho ho HELP!” and an even louder crash.

Mrs. Claus dashed over to find Santa laying on the ground with ornaments strewn around him.

“Ho ho ooh,” Santa grumbled. “My back.”

“What happened, Papa?” Mrs. Claus reached to help Santa.

“I was carrying these in for you when I slipped,” Santa moaned.

“You have to make your run!” Mrs. Claus gasped.

“I don’t think I will be going anywhere tonight,” Santa signed. “You should make the run.”

“I can’t do that!” Mrs. Claus quipped.

“If anyone has the spirit of Christmas, it is you,” Santa said as he gently took her hand. “You can do it.”

With a kiss she grabbed Santa’s coat and darted out the door. Santa and Wilhelm scurried to the window in time to see the sleigh take flight. Mrs. Claus was holding the reigns.

“Merry Christmas Mama,” Santa said with a wink.

“I think we fooled her,” Wilhelm giggled.

“Where’s my pen?” Santa boomed. “We need to write a song called ‘Here Comes Mrs. Claus’.”

 

Debbie Dadey’s Mermaid Tales Wahoo-athon! Review, Giveaway, Release Celebration, Poetry Contest! Wahoo!

8 Dec

Today’s post is PACKED full of fun AND PRIZES!

One of my favorite authors whose books were the first independent readers I started reading (Bailey School Kids) has a new book coming out December 15th. It is the 13th book in her Mermaid Tales series. But before I get to that and the SUPER giveaway/poetry contest – I am going to tell you a bit about this awesome author and the 12th book in the Mermaid Tales series.

The one

The only –

DEBBIE DADEY!

dadey

WHO IS THIS DEBBIE DADEY?!?

“Debbie Dadey used to teach first grade before becoming a school librarian.  She was never a vampire, even though her first book (with Marcia Thornton Jones) was about a vampire teacher and was called Vampires Don’t Wear Polka Dots.  Fast forward a quarter of a century and that book is celebrating twenty-five years in print and Debbie has a new book coming out called The Crook and The Crown.  It is the thirteenth book in The Mermaid Tales series from Simon and Schuster.  Debbie currently lives in Sevierville, Tennessee which is far away from the ocean, but she has heard some rumors of mermaids in the mountains!”

Debbie Dadey is the author and co-author of 162 books, including The Adventures of the Bailey School Kids series and Mermaid Tales.       http://www.debbiedadey.com/    LinkedIn   Twitter   Facebook

Ms. Dadey’s books are perfect for young readers. They are engaging, well-written and have a great message behind the stories. Like I said earlier, her Bailey School Series is one of the first series I read as I became an independent reader. They got my interest and made me want to read more. I see the same quality in her Mermaid Tales series (my little sister Josie LOVES this series).

The 12th book in the series was published in September – here’s what I thought about it –

wishuponWish Upon a Starfish
Series: Mermaid Tales [#12]
Written by Debbie Dadey
Illustrated by Tatevik Avakyan
128 pages – ages 7+
Published by Aladdin on September 1st, 2015

Synopsis from Goodreads-Pearl has always dreamed of being famous: the star-studded stage, the sea flowers, the applause! So when she finds out that her third grade class is performing The Little Human, she just knows she’ll get the leading role. Especially since world-renowned merstar Angelfish Molie is judging the tryouts!

But in a shocking turn of events, Pearl’s best friend, Wanda, gets cast as the little human instead…and Pearl is stuck playing the stinky sea witch. Pearl can’t believe her best friend would steal her dream role from her.

After Pearl tries—and fails—to get Wanda to trade parts, she decides to quit the play. Are Pearl’s dreams of being a sea star doomed? And can she and Wanda patch up their friendship before it goes up in bubbles?

What I Thought- This was a nice book about friendship, and about how good things can come out of things that don’t go exactly as planned. Ms. Dadey has a great writing style that makes you believe that you are actually under the sea with Pearl and the others. I was laughing at the fact that the play was called The Little Human – a play that is a play on The Little Mermaid. ;) There is other such humor in the book that will delight kids. The illustrations are nice black&white line-type pictures spread throughout the story and add a nice touch to the text.  The reading level makes it perfect for young readers, but I think older kids will enjoy the story also. It is nice that the books are a series because you get to follow characters, but each book can be read independently without being lost. The characters are fun and kids can relate to them (even though they are mermaids/men). Don’t let The Mermaid Tales series fool you – boys will like the series too!

I give this five out of five bookworms!fivebooks

 

The next book in the series, The Crook and the Crown, is set to release one week from today on December 15th!

the-crook-and-the-crown-9781481440752_hr

To celebrate, I’m hosting a PRIZE PACK giveaway! Check out what one lucky person can win –

mermaidprize

You can win a signed hardback copy of the Crook and the Crown, a Mermaid Tales T-Shirt, mermaid jewelry craft kit, mermaid Barbie, and a magical swimming mermaid doll! *Prizes courtesy of Debbie Dadey and my mom :)

This would make an AWESOME present for the upcoming holiday season! I know what you are thinking – ERIK HOW DO I ENTER TO WIN THIS AWESOME PRIZE PACK?!?!

Well I’m going to tell you –

Because in book 11 of the Mermaid Tales series, The Polar Bear Express, poetry is featured, all you need to enter is to write a Mermaid Poem in the comments below! You want an extra entry? Share this post on twitter or Facebook or some social media site and tell me you did in the comments (one extra entry per person).

polar

That’s it – write a poem and share. All eligible entries will be added to a hat and I will randomly pick a name out on December 14th ET (contest closes at 4pm December 14th) and the winner will be announced on December 15th – the release date of The Crook and the Crown.

Here is my example:

Mermaid Haiku

by Erik

Exploring mermaid.

The surface is the limit.

Skylark underseas.

Here’s another –

Mystery Mermaid

by Erik

Waves crash on the rocks

swelling currents at the docks

I steal a glimpse of a mermaid lady

oh wait, that’s Debbie Dadey!

Any type of poem works! Have fun and good luck!

Erik’s Bookish Christmas Gift Picks!

6 Dec

With Christmas coming up, it probably means that you are looking for gifts for those young people on your list. I have some suggestions for bookish gifts you may want to consider.

 

First I have a few Christmas themed books to suggest that put a twist on the traditional Christmas stories you have this time of year.

sagasantaThe Saga of Santa Claus

By M.D. Couturier

132 pages – ages 9+

Published by CreateSpace on September 13th, 2015

Synopsis from Goodreads-Valdor is a selfish king who cares nothing for his fellow human beings. One night, the god Odin turns him into a goat-man and offers a trial. If he succeeds, Valdor will regain his body and kingdom. But if he fails, he will be condemned to wandering the world as an outcast. In desperation, Valdor agrees. But little does he know that he is about to embark upon an extraordinary journey that will change his life forever.

What I Thought- Not only was this a unique take on the Santa story, it is an example of a self-published book done very well.  I like the idea of how Mr. Couturier explained how Santa Claus started. Valdor’s change was slow, but it was interesting, as he does change, but he doesn’t realize it at first. I like how the book explains all of the parts of the Santa Claus “mythology”. I enjoyed reading this, and love that the Norse gods play a role in the story (but wait… I know you’re asking- “Norse gods in a book based on a Christian character?” It all makes sense!). At 132 pages it is a quick read, but an interesting one that will pique a kid’s interest.

xmascowsChristmas Cows: A Mooving Alphabet

By Carol J. Haile

40 pages – ages 5+

Published by Firenze Press on February 20th, 2013

Synopsis- Have you ever wondered what cows are thinking? Especially during the holidays? Especially at Christmas time? From A to Z, you get to see how cows might take in all of the festivities!

What I Thought- This is a really nice alphabet book that makes you smile. Ms. Haile has subtle humor incorporated throughout the illustrations that adults will love. Kids will get a giggle out of seeing cows in the illustrations (ear tags and all). Ms. Haile has hand-drawn, calligraphy and color-illustrations throughout the book – one for each letter of the alphabet. Each page depicting cows celebrating the Christmas season in some way. I thoroughly enjoyed this story as I was reading it.

xmasellisChristmas in America

Written by Callista Gingrich

Illustrated by Susan Arciero

40 pages – ages 6+

Published by Regnery Kids on October 13th, 2015

Synopsis from GoodReads-Ellis the Elephant is back! In Christmas in America, the fifth in Callista Gingrich’s New York Times bestselling series, Ellis discovers the meaning of Christmas and learns how this special holiday has been celebrated throughout American history.

In preceding books, including Sweet Land of Liberty, Land of the Pilgrims’ Pride, Yankee Doodle Dandy, and From Sea to Shining Sea, Ellis learns about the pivotal moments that have shaped our nation. Now, in Christmas in America, this adorable pachyderm explores the tales and traditions that have made Christmas a cherished part of the American experience.

What I Thought- This was a very interesting and fun book, which talks about things that happened on Christmas day in America’s history. It tells of George Washington crossing the Delaware River on Christmas, and about how some American soldiers and German soldiers in World War II shared a Christmas dinner with each other. It was cool seeing that Christmas was always an important part of our history. I think the book will give a different view for kids when thinking about Christmas. The story warmed my heart and  Susan Arciero’s illustrations complimented the book wonderfully.

Below are some more suggestions for creative bookish gifts for kids.

herocomicThe Superhero Comic Kit

By Jason Ford

60 pages – ages 7+

Published by Laurence King Publishing on July 21st, 2015

Synopsis from GoodReads-Draw, color, and sticker your very own superhero comic books! Make your superheroes – or even yourself – the stars of each super adventure! The book contains 12 exciting 8-page comics to draw, color, and complete. Each adventure has super story prompts to start you off – and the rest is up to you! You can even pull them out, put them together, and give them to your friends to read. Also includes sections on how to create and draw your superheroes and supervillains, and over 100 fantastic superhero stickers to add to your stories.

What I Thought- This is a really cool comic kit. Who wouldn’t want to make their very own comic book? The book is large – about 11.5″ x 16.5″ – which adds to it’s super-ness. It is that large because you tear the pages out to create 8″x 11″ comics. I liked the idea that the book gave you starters for your comics, but also leaves room for creativity. I like that with the superbeings, it doesn’t say what their superpowers are – you get to decide. That was well thought out by Mr. Ford. This book would make a wonderful gift for a kid who likes superheroes and making their own stories. It is a nice starter guide for any kid interested in writing his/her own comics.

Well, how about some notebooks, diaries, and journals?

The publishing company Mudpuppy has some great ones for kids (and playful adults too!)

They have cool designs for boys and girls, and various shapes and sizes, so there will always be the right one. I like their selection, and recommend them. These are some of their product that stuck out for me.

Mudpuppy has two-layered notebooks, one with normal shaped pages, and the top layer to go along with the cover design – pretty cool. They have a ton of designs – even Wimpy Kid-themed notebooks. I’d be happy to get one of these cool notebooks.mudpuppy1

Their diaries are nice. I like that they have designed for boys as well as girls. They all have a lock on them to keep your thoughts secret. lip. There is lined paper inside that coordinated with the cover. Diaries are a great way to get kids into writing.mudpuppy2

The Kids’ Travel Journal is really cool. It is made for a kid who is going on a trip, and wants to catalog what happens during the trip (where they went, who they met, how long it took, etc.). It is a really awesome journal.

Kids' Travel Journal

Kids’ Travel Journal

Review! The Elementia Chronicles by Sean Fay Wolfe – AND INTERVIEW!!!

1 Dec

 

It must be December because the WordPress snow is back (I love it when it snows on my blog :) )! With Thanksgiving over, it’s time to think about the holidays. I have an awesome series to tell you about today that would make a great gift for the kids on your holiday list! What is even better, the series was penned by a kid who was just 16 at the time he wrote the first book!

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The Elementia Chronicles: Quest For Justice [Book 1]
An Unofficial Minecraft-Fan Adventure

Written by Sean Fay Wolfe

512 pages – ages 8+

Published by HarperCollins on July 30th, 2015

Synopsis- From GoodReads: “Dark forces are at work on the Elementia server, and when new players Stan, Kat, and Charlie arrive on the scene, they quickly find themselves in peril. Targeted by more experienced players, the noobs must band together against the king, battle the natural forces of the game, and unravel the mysteries of Elementia in the name of justice.

~

 

51Sc51y7UwL._SY400_The Elementia Chronicles: The New Order [Book 2] An Unofficial Minecraft-Fan Adventure

Written by Sean Fay Wolfe

400 pages – ages 8+

Published by HarperCollins on November 5th, 2015

Synopsis- From GoodReads: “President Stan has led his people through an epic battle and brought peace to the Republic of Elementia. But dissent is rippling through the countryside. King Kev’s loyal followers are still at large and a new organization, the Noctem Alliance, is poised to strike terror throughout the land. With new threats on the horizon, and citizens of the Republic dividing between two loyalties, Stan must stop the Noctem Alliance before it destroys them all.

~

What I Thought About the Series- A unique book series, The Elementia Chronicles makes a nice bridge between the popular videogame “Minecraft” and reading. It’s perfect for reluctant readers – Minecraft is the big videogame trend right now and a book tie-in is an awesome idea. The strength of these novels isn’t in the subject matter but the masterful writing and intriguing plot. It’s a great series  for kids (and adults) wanting to read a good story. Sean has a distinct writing style, and makes you feel like you are there with the characters. I, myself, am not a big Minecraft player, and was a bit hesitant when asked if I wanted to review the first book. After reading the first, I quickly got my hands on the second – the story captured me. Wolfe wrote the books so that even if you have never played Minecraft, you wouldn’t be “lost” in the story. Also, the plot flows seamlessly from book one to book two in the series. The second book was not a disappointment.  Wolfe kept the same enthusiastic writing style as I enjoyed in the first. He incorporates sub-plots that keep you involved, and twists and turns to keep you guessing. It’s a nice series, and I recommend it heartily.

I give this series five out of five bookworms!fivebooks

Book #3 is coming out soon in January! It’s already on my TBR list.

Herobrines Message Cover

About the Author:

16TC

Sean Fay Wolfe was sixteen when he wrote the first book in the series. Here is his official bio from his website:

Hi, I’m Sean Fay Wolfe, the author of the Elementia Chronicles and the head of my company Diamond Axe Studios. I recently graduated high school, and have just started college at the University of Rhode Island (USA).

I love story telling and have been writing most of my life. The three books of The Elementia Chronicles are my first published books. I have several other action-adventure books in the works and am anxious to share them!

I am also an avid gamer. It was my love of the Minecraft game and the platform that it provides for endless creativity that inspired me to create the tale that I tell in the Elementia Chronicles. The story stays true to the game while being packed with action and adventure. I was inspired by some of my favorite books, such as “Harry Potter” and “The Hunger Games”, as well as my favorite animated TV series “Avatar The Last Airbender” and it’s sequel “The Legend of Korra.”

In addition to playing games, I love to create them. I taught myself to program in the Scratch online programming environment when I was 13. The link to my Diamond Axe Studios page has some of my games including fan games of Fruit Ninja and Super Mario Elements, and original games such as From the Ground Up and Ninth Force. They are free and play right in your browser!

When I’m not going to school, writing, and/or programming, I have various other interests. I am an Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America where I enjoy camping and High Adventure trips; I am an accomplished martial artist and musician; and like spending time with my family.

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Sean signing at his book launch for “The New Order” [Book #2]

Now onto the interview!

Erik- When you had the concept of the book in your head, did you imagine it as a Minecraft story or did it develop into one? 

Shawn- The concept of the Elementia Chronicles started as a Minecraft story, and it never strayed from that. The idea developed from my experience playing on online Minecraft servers. While the story is fictional, many characters are based on archetypes of those I experienced while playing on multiplayer servers (griefers, old and new players, redstone experts, etc). Similarly, the events are based on real types of events that happened to me while playing, specifically the discrimination against new players. One of my biggest inspirations wasMinecraft: The Noob Adventures, a web show about three new players who fight against a King on an abandoned server. While I loved the series, I thought about how the story would have played out if the server wasn’t abandoned, and if a server of thousands of players was divided between support of the newer and older players. These elements are where the basic ideas of Quest for Justice came from. As I wrote the first book, I started to realize that there was more than a single book’s worth of story that I could tell with these characters in this setting, so I decided to modify the story and expand it into a trilogy.

Erik- While I was reading your book, I enjoyed how it brought the Minecraft level down to a beginner experience to make it enjoyable to even those who aren’t into the game. Was it hard to “dumb down” playing Minecraft?

Shawn- I don’t think that “dumbing it down” is the proper term to use. Instead, I took inspiration from one of my favorite book series of all time,Harry Potter. In that series, the reader isn’t just dropped into a fantastic world of magic and fantasy where they’re surrounded by people who know what’s going on. Instead, the reader follows Harry, who is also new to the world, and needs things explained to him because he knows just as much about this magic world as the reader does. I tried to do something similar with Stan. I didn’t want to assume any knowledge of Minecraft on the part of the reader, as I wanted the book to have the broadest appeal possible. Instead, by having the story follow Stan, a new player, he can learn any information about Minecraft needed for the story along with the reader. This works as not only a way of introducing newcomers to the world of Minecraft, but also as an amusing tail of a noob learning how to play if you do know what’s going to happen.

Erik- I notice in your book it mentions another server, and even other places (mainly; Earth (the real world)). Why did you decide to write a book that mentions these, but places Elementia, the server, as the “real” world?

Shawn- The reason that I reference the real world, as well as other Minecraft servers, is because Elementia is just a Minecraft server, and isn’t supposed to be the real world. This is a stylistic choice that I borrowed from Minecraft: The Noob Adventures. In that series, as well as mine, the characters are aware that they’re playing a video game, but they’re so immersed in playing the game that it feels like real life to them, i.e. if somebody is killed and banned from the server, they treat it like a real death. In essence, the characters are so into the game that Elementia feels real to them, even though they’re aware that other Minecraft servers, as well as the real world, exist. In The New Order and Herobrine’s Message, these ideas are explored further, as certain characters start to work beyond the server of Elementia itself to try and solve their problems.

Erik- I’ve played Minecraft but I am not immersed in it like some of my friends. When I got your book to review, I was a bit hesitant because I figured it was going to be a story for fans. I was really wrong. The story was engaging and very interesting. Did you keep non-fans in mind when writing the book? Did you have some non-fan help (like beta readers) to make sure everyone enjoys the story?

Shawn- I did try to keep non-Minecraft-fans in mind while I was writing the book. I wanted The Elementia Chronicles to be a story set in Minecraft, and not a Minecraft story. What I mean by that is that I tried to use Minecraft as simply a setting to tell an interesting story, rather than having the fact that the book takes place in Minecraft as a gimmick which is the only reason that you would want to read the story. I did want the book series to stay true to Minecraft, because it’s a game that I love so much, and I wanted to do it justice, only using creative license where necessary to make the story more engaging (i.e. making fighting more complex, making the villagers talk, etc). However, I wanted the main draw of the Elementia Chronicles to be that it is an interesting story, rather than having the Minecraft setting be the main draw. One of the first people to read the book was my mother, who still hasn’t played Minecraft to this day. She told me that she was able to totally understand what was going on in the story, and urged me to keep writing because she wanted to know what would happen next. This reaction, along with similar reactions from other beta readers of varying degrees of familiarity with Minecraft, is what encouraged me to publish the book in the first place.

Erik- What advice would you give to other aspiring kid authors?

Shawn- My advice to other young authors would be to not be afraid to put your work out there. With the rise of the internet and social media, it’s become easier than ever not only to publish your work, but to get it noticed. You can do what I did, and self-publish your book at first, or you can share it to story-sharing or fan-fiction websites, whatever is appropriate. You’ll find that, in a lot of cases, your friends, family and teachers will want to help you, giving you feedback and criticisms that you can use to improve yourself. If you have an idea for a story and are willing to put the work in, you’ll find that it’s becoming easier and easier to share your ideas with the world.

Want to learn more??

Visit Sean on Facebook HERE

Twitter HERE

His official website HERE – on his website there are some great educator resources to incorporate Minecraft into the classroom!

Cover Reveal! Kissed by an Angel Anthology

19 Nov
Happy Thursday! I have had the privilege of writing a short story for an anthology which will be published December 13th of this year. The stories in the anthology all have children as main characters and they have special abilities.
The concept of the anthology started when Robyn Campbell and her writing buddies tossed around the idea of doing a book to benefit the Sturge-Weber Foundation. Ms. Campbell’s son, and my friend, Christopher was born with Sturge-Weber.
Sturge-Weber Syndrome is a rare brain disorder. It is characterized by a port-wine birthmark. It can cause seizures, paralysis, stroke, blood clots, glaucoma, and a host of other problems. The Sturge-Weber Foundation is a place where parents can go to find information. ~ Robyn Campbell.
 

In total, eleven authors contributed to the book:

Catherine Johnson, Lynn Kelley, Yvette Carol, Suzy Levinson, Vivian Kirkfield, Ellen Warach Leventhal, Hope Lim, Theresa Milstein, Cheryl Secomb, Erik Weibel and Robyn Campbell.

The stories are all marvelously different and captivating.
Here’s the blurb:
 
Wander with us onto a magical island ship, uncover an amazing secret, and solve a very fishy mystery. Discover a World War II codebreaker, captivating garden, time machine, undercover agents, bug master, plus more. And meet a special boy who was kissed by an angel.
I had a lot of fun writing the story for the anthology. Mine is titled The Accidental Agents. It was very cool to see what each author came up with. Mark your calendars for the 13th when the book is released!
 
All proceeds from the sale of the book go to support research at the Sturge-Weber Foundation. If you’d like to learn a bit more – check out Robyn Campbell’s post HERE.
 
Now the cover reveal!
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Recap of the Lititz Alive Literature Festival and some news!

18 Nov

Hello blogosphere!

Today I am going to tell you about a great experience I had at the annual Lititz Literature festival but first I have a small announcement.

I have been selected as a 2015-2016 Scholastic News Kid Reporter! WOO!

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For those of you who know me, journalism is one of my interests and I am very excited and humbled by this opportunity. To check out all the awesome kids reporters for this year, visit the Scholastic Kid Reporter’s Notebook HERE!

Now on to why you are all really here – LITERATURE FESTIVAL!!!

NOTE* This article is NOT a Scholastic News report – it’s just me doing my thing. :)

For the past five years, I’ve convinced my mom and dad to drive me the two and a half hours (each way) to attend the annual Lititz Kid Literature festival. Each year the festival is organized and presented by Aaron’s Books, a fantastic book store in the heart of Lititz. Side note – if you’ve never been to Lititz, the town is worth the drive. It’s very cool.  Every year the festival has an awesome line up of authors and great workshops for kids. The workshop topics range from writing to illustrations to research and best of all, they are taught by authors and illustrators! This year the event was especially wonderful because of a new venue.  Aaron’s Books bookstore partnered with the Warwick Education Foundation and through this partnership the festival was held in the Lititz Elementary school.

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I had a chance to interview Mr. Kurt Gardner, who is a board member of the Warwick Education Foundation and was the Literature Festival’s chair. Mr. Gardner said that Aaron’s Books approached the Foundation, and asked to partner with them. The Foundation agreed, as they saw it would coincide with their mission to advance education. They also thought that it would help the festival get more visitors and visibility. Well, it worked! Todd Dickinson, owner of Aaron’s books told me that this year’s festival drew over 600 people. “In past years it was difficult to reach 200,” Dickinson said.

Although there were triple the people at the festival this year, I thought the  festival ran as smoothly as past years and all of the workshops and lectures did not disappoint.

Gordon Korman was the featured author at the event. During his festival-opening talk, he said that he started writing in 7th grade, when his gym teacher had to take over English Class (and he was NOT equipped to do so). He pretty much had half a school year to do one project, and he decided to write a book. I need to thank his ex-gym/English teacher because the book he wrote is one of my favorites – “This can’t be happening at Macdonald hall” (plus it’s pretty cool his 7th grade project got published).

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I really liked the part of his talk where he compared fingerprints to character’s dialogue. He pointed out how dialogue can be very unique and how you have a character say something gives them a unique identity. I personally never thought about it like that, but am going to now!

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Mr. Korman said that “What if…” is the most important question to ask yourself, and that he had gotten many ideas from that “question.” After his talk I was able to ask Mr. Korman a few questions of my own. I asked if he got any story ideas being in the small rural town of Lititz PA. He told me that being in Lancaster county, with Amish communities alongside cities and towns, had already given him a few scenes/ideas for books.

I asked him if his kids realized how cool their dad really is, to which he laughed and said that his kids read his books, but they usually went through a phase. “It’s usually around 5th grade” he said, and explained that his older kids didn’t really read his books anymore, unless if it’s on their summer reading list. ;)

Mr. Korman has finished the second Masterminds book, and is waiting for it to get published (see my review of the first in the Mastermind series HERE). He has also written a stand-alone novel to come out in the summer of 2016, called “Slacker”. He is also coming out with a holiday follow-up of the popular Swindle series (an awesome series) called “Jingle,” set to release in the fall-winter of 2016.

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MORE HIGHLIGHTS FROM LITITZ –

I got to hang out with some literary titans – the Pokey Little Puppy and Corduroy – and I got to pretend to be Olivia.

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I kicked off the workshop sessions by attending a writing workshop instructed by Corey Ann Haydu, author of Rules for Stealing Stars. I always love the writing workshops at this festival. I learn so much.

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lititz3 I sat in on A.S. King’s Teen Talk workshop on what books teens read, why they read and how they see themselves portrayed in books. A.S. King is a constant supporter of the Lititz festival and I always look forward to hearing her speak and just saying Hi to her. She insists I keep getting taller – I think she’s getting shorter. ;)

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One of my favorite sessions was the Reading Adventure Panel – A discussion about writing exciting books for reluctant readers. The panel included (from left to right in the picture) Matt London, David Potter, Gordon Korman and Mark Tatulli.

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I loved that the authors said that they don’t like the term reluctant readers and that adventure books don’t always just appeal to boys.

I picked up Mr. Potter’s book The Left Behinds: The iPhone that Saved George Washington at the festival. I don’t know how this one got past my radar. It’s right up my alley – dystopian historical fiction! Oh yeah! That is definitely on my TBR list. He said there’s another coming out early next year.

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Another series I can’t believe I missed is the 8th Continent by Matt London (one of the panelists).

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It is a series about two kids who want to transform the Great Pacific Garbage Patch into an eighth continent so they can live there with their family under their own rules. Sounds like an awesome premise to me. I get a chance to catch up on the series (there are 3 books so far) before the final book in the series is released early next year.

Of course I was geeking out that I got to hear  Mark Tatulli, author of one of my favorite comic characters – Lio. I missed Mr. Tatulli’s workshop on making stories come alive because we had to leave before he did it. :( Hope he comes back again. He has a new Desmond Pucket book coming out in February 2016 that I’ve added to my need to have list. It’s Desmond Pucket and the Cloverfield Junior High Carnival of Horrors –

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Some other highlights were –

litiz5Getting a signed copy of Wolfie the Bunny – meeting Ame Dyckman and getting an awesome squishy carrot from her. :)

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Seeing Lititz perennial favorite Courtney Sheinmel and getting her fantastic new middle grade book Zacktastic! Ms. Sheinmel is the author of the Stella Batts series and has penned this new book with a boy main character because her nephew Zack wanted a boy main character – now that’s service! Zack (the character not the nephew) just found out he is a genie and has to go on his first assignment without any training. I added this one to my TBR list!

I also picked up a copy of Click Clack Ho! Ho! Ho! to review in December and was able to meet and get it signed by illustrator Betsy Lewin. I know, I know, I am 13 but I still LOVE picture books. ;)

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In addition to the workshops, lectures and book signings, there were crafts, read-alouds, a local author corner and therapy dogs you could relax and read with. :)

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There was so much to do and it is such a great time at this festival.  There were more authors at the event that I just didn’t get a chance to get to, but would have love to hear speak. I think I will have to work on that cloning project for next year. My recommendation – just go ahead and mark your calendars for next year and make the trek out to Lititz – it’s worth it!

Susanna Leonard Hill’s Halloweensie Contest Entry! “A Perfect Halloween Night”!

30 Oct

Hi folks! It’s that time of year again!

Time for Susanna Leonard Hill’s Halloweensie Contest!

Here’s the rules (From Ms. Hill’s site):

“The Contest:  write a 100 word Halloween story appropriate for children (title not included in the 100 words), using the words costumedark, and haunt.   Your story can be scary, funny or anything in between, poetry or prose, but it will only count for the contest if it includes those 3 words and is 100 words (you can go under, but not over!)  Get it?  Halloweensie – because it’s not very long and it’s for little people :)  (And yes, I know 100 words is short but that’s part of the fun and the challenge!  We got over 130 fantastic entries last year so I know you can do it!)  Also, you may use the words in any form – e.g. haunt, haunts, haunted, darkness, darkening, costumed, whathaveyou :)  No illustration notes please!”

Oh – and there’s prizes! :)

To check out all the rules, prizes and other great entries, click HERE to go to Ms. Hill’s blog.

So without further ado, here is my entry!

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A Perfect Halloween Night (87 words)

By Erik Weibel

Dark and chilly.

Crisp and windy.

A perfect Halloween night.

 

Costume on.

Bag in hand.

Bring two more – just in case.

 

House by house.

Trick-or-treat.

And always say ‘Thank you’.

 

One house left.

No lights on.

A truly deserted place.

 

Ring the bell.

Shuffling heard.

Ghosts must haunt these grounds.

 

Door hinge creaks.

Holding breath.

Bony hand reaches out.

 

Skin tingles.

Feet drag.

Fear-struck on the door step.

 

Blood pulsing.

Stifled scream.

Happy Halloween, young man.

 

Kindly eyes.

Wrinkled smile…

New-found friend.

A perfect Halloween night.

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