Saturday, July 30, 2011

Blog CONTEST - Author Signed Copy of Gabriel's Journey


 I am giving away a great historical fiction middle grade novel for ages 9-13. It is the third book in the Racing to Freedom Trilogy. The hardback book is signed by the author, Alison Hart.

Click here to read the book review.

To enter: Post a comment on this blog post. Sign up to follow my blog and get an extra entry into the contest when you also post a comment. Contest ends Friday August 5 at 6:00 pm MST.


You may leave your email in this format emailatyahoodotcom on the blog post or email me directly under my contact info. See my privacy policies for contact information. It is used to contact winners of contests only and is never sold or given away.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Book Review: Gabriel's Journey (Racing to Freedom Trilogy #3) by Alison Hart

Gabriel's Journey is the third book in the Racing to Freedom Trilogy by Alison Hart. Also included in the trilogy is Gabriel's Horses (book one) and Gabriel's Triumph (book two). Together, the trilogy explores the complexity of African American History and the Civil War with a stirring character and his love of horses.

When thirteen-year-old Garbriel leaves the home of his former master to join his father in the Union Army, he finds he is too young to be a soldier. His experience caring for horses and as a jockey lands him the job of mucking stables and taking care of the Fifth U.S. Colored Calvary’s horses instead. When he tames the spirited horse, Champion, he gains the respect of it's owner, the white commander, Captain Waite. 

Gabriel's success taming Champion, earns him a uniform, his own horse and a chance to join the ranks of soldiers on their way to battle. He leaves with hope and desires freedom, but learns those words come with a price. Being a soldier is harder than Gabriel expected and his hope turns to discouragement when he encounters bad weather, low supplies and racism from both the Union and Confederate soldiers.

When Gabriel's father and Captain Waite do not return from the battle of Saltville, Gabriel rides into the battlefield in search of them, putting aside his own fears and gaining courage along the way.

Alison Hart's poignant end to the Racing to Freedom Trilogy provides a raw look into the African American contributions to the Civil War and the racism they encountered. The first person narrative through the eyes of a thirteen year old soldier, Gabriel, really drives the message of the atrocities of war and the love of family freedom and horses. For those looking for a great piece of historical fiction, I recommend the Racing to Freedom Trilogy. It is well researched and well written.

Check back for your chance to win a hardback signed copy of Gabriel's Journey.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Historical Fiction Books for Boys by age

I have compiled a short list of historical fiction based on age. If you have a book you would like to see on the list, please contact me and I will add it.

Picture Books 

The Babe and I David Adler
Back of the Bus Aaron Reynolds
Baseball Saved us Ken Mochizuki
A Big Cheese for the White House : The True Tale of a Tremendous Cheddar  Candace Fleming

Death of the Iron Horse  Paul Goble 

Farm Summer 1942  Donald Hall
Freedom Summer  Deborah Wiles
Henry's Freedom Box Ellen Levine
Peppe the Lamplighter by Elise Bartone
Pink and Say by Patricia Polacco
Quiet Hero: The Ira Hayes Story by S.D. Nelson
Shipwreck! The True Adventures of a Japanese Boy by Rhoda Blumberg
Shoeless Joe and Black Betsy by Phil Bildner
Silent Movie by Avi

The Unbreakable Code by Sara Hoagland Hunter 
When Joe Lewis Won the Title   Belinda Rochelle
Willy and Max: A Holocaust Story  Amy Littlesugar

Chapter books Ages 4-8

The Art of Keeping Cool by Janet Taylor Lisle
A Ballad of the Civil War by Mary Stolz and Sergio Martinez 
The Boy Who Saved Cleveland  James Giblin
Day of the Dragon-King by Mary Pope Osborne
Diary of a Drummer Boy  Marlene Brill 
Dog of Discovery: A Newfoundland's Adventures With Lewis and Clark  Laurence Pringle
Ice Wreck (A Stepping Stone Book) by Lucille Recht Penner

First Flight: The Story of Tom Tate and the Wright Brothers  by George Shea and Dan Bolognese
Robert Henry Hendershot  Susan E. Goodman
Sailing for Gold  by Deborah Hopkinson
Say-Hey and the Babe  by Neil Waldman
School at Crooked Creek  Laurie Lawlor

Sleds on Boston Common: A Story About the American Revolution by Louise Bordon
Time Traveler: Children Through Time by Angela Bull

V for Victory by Teresa R. Funke

Middle Grade Books Ages 9-12 

 Beyond the Deepwoods by Paul Stewart
The Copper Treasure by Melvin Burgess 
Daniel's Walk by Michael Spooner
Down Sand Mountain by

The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick
Neil Armstrong is My Uncle and Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me by

One Crazy Summer  Rita Williams-Garcia
A Single Shard   Linda Sue Park (Newberry winner)
The Story of Jonas by Maurine F. Dahlberg

The Trouble With Jeremy Chance George Harrar
When the Whistle Blows by
Woods Runner  Gary Paulsen

Young Adult (Teen)

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain 
 Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
Choosing Up Sides by John H. Ritter
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell
Journey to Topaz by Yoshiko Uchida
Kingdom by The Sea by Robert Westall
My Brother Sam Is Dead by James Collier
Nothing to Fear by Jackie French Koller
The Notorious Izzy Fink by Don Brown  
The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
Sounder by William Armstrong (Newberry Winner)
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

And The Winner Is.....

Zapato Power: Freddie Ramos Takes Off (Book 1)
Add caption
Congratulations to Cindy Shumway on winning the contest for Zapato Power.

Email me your address so I can get your book out today.

Winner was chosen by Thank you to all who entered and be sure to check back for next week's giveaway, Gabriel's Journey by Alison Hart.

Note:  Last week I erroneously announced a winner to the contest that didn't actually end until today. The drawing was held today and a winner was chosen based on the correct contest end date.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Author Interview: Jacqueline Jules Author of Freddie Ramos Series

                                      Blog Interview with Trudy Zufelt             

Jacqueline Jules

Book Trailer for the Zapato Power series:

1. What made you decide to become a writer?
      I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t want to be a writer. I declared my intention in third grade when my teacher asked us to put our future career choice on a sentence strip for the bulletin board. The desire to write grew out of my enjoyment of reading. I think it is very natural to want to create something you enjoy, especially when you are young and you don’t realize how hard it is.
      Through reading, I developed a love of words. I would say I am obsessed with them. I love arranging and rearranging words in a poem or a story. Some people play games. I play with words. They entertain me as I turn them around and around like puzzle pieces until they make the picture I want to see.

2. Where did your idea for your main character, Freddie Ramos come from?

I am a teacher and a former school librarian. Freddie Ramos is a composite of the students I taught in a Title I elementary school in Northern Virginia. His first name was taken from a smiling first grade boy with a huge head of curly hair. His last name is after a sixth grade girl whose breezy attitude sometimes got her in trouble with her teachers. When I write, I begin with a picture in my mind of one of my students, but along the way, the character acquires personality traits from other people I know, including my two sons, my husband, and myself. In the end, the character becomes a person in his or her own right. The character of Freddie Ramos bears little resemblance now to his namesake, considering his signature hairstyle is a marine buzz cut. But that’s how writing is for me. I start with one idea and it morphs into another and then another. Sometimes I am amazed by how far my final story travels from the original idea.

3. Freddie Ramos is such a fun boy. Do you ever become attached to your characters when you write?

Freddie Ramos has become almost like a third son to me. I hear his voice in my head when I write his stories. At times, I say to myself: “That’s the way Freddie would say this,” or “That’s the way Freddie would think about this.”

Editors and reviewers often talk about voice. It is an elusive quality hard to capture and even harder to explain. As readers, we all know that some of us connect with certain main characters and therefore love the book. Other people can read the same book and find the character unappealing.

A writer has to really love a character to write a good story about him or her. And that is of course, a big part of the fun. When you care about a character, you care what happens to him. Right now, I am working on a middle grade novel. The more chapters I write, the more interested I become in the character’s story. At this point, I think I’m writing because I want to see how the story turns out and what will happen to the character. Stories and characters can take on a life of their own. That’s when the magic happens.   

4. Who are some of the children authors that inspired you?

Jane Yolen is an inspiration to me because she writes in so many different genres: poetry, picture books, early readers, fantasy, etc.

I’m also a fan of any author who struggled for years to publish a book which later became a huge hit. For instance, Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. I paste those stories to a bulletin board near my desk to read when I am discouraged.

5.  You are also a teacher. Is there anything you wanted to see in children's literature that you decided to put in your writing?

Absolutely! I became serious about writing for children when I became a librarian and found holes in my collection on certain topics or reading levels. Zapato Power grew out of a desire to provide my students with a superhero on a lower reading level than what I currently found available. I had so many little boys in the library asking for books about superheroes. But most of the books were too difficult for them to read. So I decided to try to write my own superhero book. What began as a desire to write a book for my first and second grade students at a Title I Elementary School ended up being a book about them. After I decided to give my character super speed, I imagined my students with this newly acquired super skill. What would they want to do? How would their lives change? It was important to me to write a story about a real little boy who just happened to have his most fantastical dream come true. Wouldn’t we all want to acquire a superpower? But what would we do if it happened? What problems would we encounter? Those are the questions I think about as I write the Zapato Power series.  

6. What were some of your favorite books growing up?

I really enjoyed The Borrowers by Mary Norton, The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling, and The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

7. What is the hardest thing about writing?
First drafts can be hard for me. The words seem to come one at a time. And then I delete half of them! It can take awhile to see the characters and the setting in my mind. Sometimes all I accomplish during my writing time is two or three pages of notes on my character or the plot. These are my free writes. They begin with: “Okay, what do I want to happen now? What is this character like?”

But once the story really gets going, it is almost like reading. I discover the character as I write and enjoy watching the story develop. The ideas fly in from all directions and each time they fit into the story, it’s a happy surprise.

8. How long does it take you to write a book? and How long does it take to publish a book once it is written?

It takes forever to write a book. Books need to be revised over and over again. I am pretty fast when I revise. That’s the part I like the most. But it takes me hours and hours. I am a bit of a workaholic and it is not unusual for me to write from 9 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. with only eating or exercise breaks. Most of the time, I eat my breakfast and my lunch at the computer.

Some books take longer to write than others. I signed a contract for a picture book this winter that I started in the early 1990’s. It was a story idea I loved but just couldn’t get right. Every year or so, I took the manuscript out and tried again. Finally, in the summer of 2010, I turned that creeping caterpillar into a flying butterfly.  

I really liked what you said, Trudy, in your July 8th post about writing. You said, “I want my novel to be good more than I want to see it in print. If that means I have to rewrite it a hundred times over ten years, I will do it.” These are very wise words that most writers don’t realize at the beginning of their careers. Many aspiring writers are more anxious to be published than they are to write a good book. I know I was guilty of that at one time. I am still hungry to publish, but I want my product to be worth reading. And I am very grateful to my writing critique group and to my editors who push me to do my best work.

9. Do you have more books planned in the Zapato Power series? If so, how many?

The fourth book in the series: Zapato Power: Freddie Ramos Makes a Splash will be released in March 2012. In this adventure, our boy with super-powered purple shoes attends a summer camp with swimming lessons. Over the week of July 4th, Freddie must deal with a bully who has just moved into Starwood Park, a fear of putting his head into the water, and the disappearance of his special shoes from the boys’ locker room. To make matters worse, someone is messing up Starwood Park with wads of sticky purple bubblegum. Freddie must work fast to save the day and his summer.

I would love to continue the series with a fifth book and beyond. Keep your fingers crossed for me that I will continue to find readers and Freddie’s popularity will grow.

10. What is the best advice you have for somebody that wants to be a writer when they grow up?

I work as a writing specialist now. I often tell my students to keep their writing journals in a safe place. One day, they may want to go back to a story they wrote long ago and develop it into a longer piece.

Reading is also crucial for all writers, young and old. The more you read, the more you develop a love of language and a natural sense of when a story works and when it doesn’t.

Thank you Jaqueline for a thoughtful interview. Click here to read my book review on Zapato Power Freddie Ramos Takes Off. Freddie Ramos is a fun superhero character and it's great to see how an author creates such wonderful books.

Click here for your chance to win this adorable signed paperback copy of Freddie Ramos Takes Off.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Blog Giveaway - Author Signed Paperback Copy of Zapato Power

I'm giving away an adorable signed paperback copy of Zapato Power Freddie Ramos Takes Off by Jacqueline Jules with art by Miguel Benitez. This is an early chapter book for ages 6-9.

Click here for the full book review.

To enter: Post a comment on this blog post. Sign up to follow my blog and get an extra entry into the contest when you also post a comment. Contest ends Tuesday July 26 at 6:00 pm MST

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Book Review - Zapato Power Freddie Ramos Takes Off by Jacqueline Jules

Zapato Power Freddie Ramos Takes Off by Jacqueline Jules art by Miguel Benitez

Highly Recommended

When Freddie Ramos opens a package and finds a brand new pair of purple sneakers, it's Zoom! Zoom! Zapato and he's off to race a train. He moves fast with the sneaker's superhero powers.

Freddie can't help but wonder where the mysterious sneakers came from. While he tries to solve the mystery, the reader learns he lost his soldier father two years earlier through a carefully woven back story.We also learn of his Latino heritage through easy to understand Spanish words.

His new Zapato Power makes Freddie feel like a hero. He uses his superhero status to do good by cleaning bad words, grabbing a library book and saving a dog. The black and white comic book style illustrations by Miguel Benitez are a perfect fit for the superhero theme.

The author, Jacqueline Jules, leaves the reader wanting to read the sequel when Freddie finds out the shoes came from an inventor. Zapato Power had me laughing out loud. I loved the fresh voice of a Hispanic main character. I highly recommend this early chapter book with fantasy elements for the Hispanic boy, but it is so fun, it will appeal to a wide range of children. (Ages 6-9) Highly recommended.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Chapter Book

Children's literature encompasses a large audience with a vast array of reading skills. Books are often categorized by age and reading levels as follows:

  • Picture books - ages 0-5
  • Early readers - ages 4-8
  • Chapter books - ages 6-8
  • Middle grade -  ages 8-12
  • Young Adult - teen to early 20's
Today I am focusing on the chapter book. What is the chapter book? It is the book group targeting readers usually from 6-8 years old. The chapter book bridges the gap between picture books/early readers to middle grade. While early readers might have short chapters, the book length is usually less than 60 pages. With chapter books, the chapters get longer, characters are more developed and the book length is over 60 pages, but less than 160. These books move the child toward independent reading. They often are written as a series with a likable characters that readers will want to follow. The Junie B. Jones series is an example of this.

Mary Kole, of Andrea Brown Literary Agency, wrote and excellent article here on the chapter book. She points out that publishers aren't anxious to publish new chapter books, but will take a look if they can be developed into a promising series.

New chapter books series still make it into the market and offer fresh voices into an established area.

Coming up on my blog. A book review of Zapato Power Freddie Ramos Takes Off by Jacqueline Jules to highlight a chapter book series with a fresh Latino voice that will especially appeal to boys.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

And the Winner is.....

Congratulations Ilima on winning the blog contest for the Rick Frost adventure books, The Alaskan Adventure and The Sword of Calibum.

Check my blog next week for the next drawing. A free paperback signed copy of Zapato Power Freddie Ramos Takes Off. A darling chapter book I'll be reviewing in a few days.

I have several books I'll be giving away as well as other great reading prizes so check back often. Follow my blog to keep updated.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Self Published Book

At some time, a reader will come across a self published book either through electronic media, or print. A self published book is one which the author pays for all of the production and advertising costs of the book. A traditional publisher usually pays those costs. The book is not advertised as self published. The publishing information is usually in the first few pages and one would have to research the name to find out if it is a self publishing company. With electronic media, it's a little trickier to find the publisher. If one is not listed, it is probably a self published ebook. The low costs associated with digital media has resulted in a boom of self published electronic books.

A few months ago I read a book that would be classified as middle grade. I had heard a lot of good things about the book from a friend. Before I even read the first page, I was a put off by the number of pages, over 700. Too long for a book meant for 9-13 year old boys. I knew my boys would never read it. I wanted to put it away after the first 200 pages, but I continued reading, hoping it would get better. It never did.

The story line was intriguing, but the writing needed work. When I finally finished, my first thought was, "Who would publish this book?" I looked up the the publisher and found it was a self publishing company. The author had chosen to forgo the traditional publishing route and self publish his novel. I don't know the reasons why he did this, but I do know his novel would have been better had he worked on edits. It was apparent the novel needed a good editor.

Not all self-published books have substandard writing. Eragon by Christopher Paolini and The Christmas Box House by Richard Paul Evans are two self-published books which have hit the New York Times best seller list. A self published book making the best seller list is the exception. Very few do. 

Simon Haynes wrote a great blog article. Click to read. He talks about his experience with self publishing. He points out that if an author's book is good, a traditional publisher will eventually pick it up. Does that mean all self published books are bad? I believe if an author is diligent about working on edits and is willing to hire an editor, then their self published book might work. However, at a traditional publishing house, a book must go through many levels and editors before it is published, resulting in a refined finished product.

I understand how frustrating it can be finding agent and publisher willing to take on a new writer. I too have a middle grade novel I am trying to get published. I want my novel to be good more than I want to see it in print. If that means I have to rewrite it a hundred times over ten years, I will do it. When it is good, it will get published. If not, it doesn't deserve to be in print. I believe success with childrens fiction through self publishing would be almost impossible. Others my feel different and some may have had success self publishing childrens literature.

I would love to hear from authors who have self published. Please post comments in answers to these questions.

Why did you self publish?
Has self publishing been effective for you?
If you had to do it over again, would you do it different?
What types of books do best with self publishing?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Interview with Author Todd Bush

Todd Bush is the author of the Rick Frost series. Rick Frost and the Alaskan Adventure and Rick Frost and the Sword of Calibum. I recently had a chance to interview him. Here's what he had to say.

Thanks so much for this opportunity! 
1. What inspired you to become a writer.
I've always loved to read, ever since kindergarten.  But I never really thought about writing until I was in the US Air Force, stationed in the Azores.  Several of my friends complained that people back home had no idea what it was like to an American living overseas in the military.  I decided to write a blog and discovered I loved doing it.  Fiction was a natural progression of that.

2. Is your main character, Rick Frost, based on a real person?
Rick isn't based on someone real, but he is a combination of characters that I have loved reading about, and watching over the years.  Indiana Jones, James Bond, Dirk Pitt and a little bit of the Hardy Boys can be found inside Rick and his personality.  But mostly, Rick is different from the typical protagonist.  In adventure novels, the heroes are the best-looking guys, with perfect height and weight proportions.  Rick isn't like that.  He's tall, solidly built and his best friend Ben is the one who has the perfect looks.  But what Rick has is the desire to achieve, natural leadership, and a refuse-to-lose attitude that makes people want to follow him.

3. What type of research did you do for this book and how long did it take?

A lot of the research for my books comes from the Internet.  It's amazing that writers can basically learn almost everything about a location halfway across the world simply by typing in the name in a search engine.  But, I also asked friends who lived in England to describe certain aspects of the country, the attitude toward the royal family and other things in the book.  However, the largest part of the research was done on the history of England as well as the Arthurian legend.  For that, The History Channel and the library became my biggest friends.

4. What is your favorite part of your book? (The Sword of Calibum)

It's hard to say which is my favorite part.  I enjoyed writing the rugby scene.  I had a lot of help from a South Florida man who is from England and runs a rugby club here to make it as accurate as possible.  I love writing action scenes and that one is as action-packed as it gets.  But I also love history and paying tribute to heroes.  The scenes at the Tower of London with the Yeomen Warders was a lot of fun.  The Warders, or Beefeaters as they are popularly called, are all former senior non-commissioned officers in the British armed forces, so to put them back into action defending a member of the royal family was especially fun.

5. How long does it take for you to write a book?

It takes at least three months to write the first draft.  To paraphrase Mark Twain, once you finish writing the book, that's when you actually start writing.  Editing is where all the work comes in.  That can take a long time.  I would say on average it takes me an year to really finish a book.  

6. Did you read a lot as a child and if so what were some of your favorite books?

I did read a lot as a kid.  I loved the Hardy Boys books.  I also liked the classics.  Being from Mississippi, I was drawn to Twain's river books, Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer.  I also liked Willie Morris's Good Old Boy.  As I got into my teenage years, I started reading Clive Cussler's Dirk Pitt adventure novels.

7. Do you have more books planned for Rick Frost?

I do!  I am currently writing the third book in the Rick Frost series, set in New York City.  If you're going to have an adventure or thriller series, you almost have to go to New York at some point, right?  I also have the basic ideas for at least two or three more adventures for Rick.  Actually, it is all up to Rick... a writer needs to not only know his characters, but also to listen to them.  They will let you know all you need to know.  As a writer, if the characters aren't real to you, they won't be real to the reader.

Both books are available as eBooks or paperback through Amazon or Barnes and Noble.


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

BLOG CONTEST - Signed copies of Alaskan Adventure and Sword of Calibum

Rick Frost & the Alaskan AdventureRick Frost & the Sword of CalibumWinner of the blog contest will receive paperback copies of Rick Frost and The Alaskan Adventure and Rick Frost and the Sword of Calibum. Both books are signed by the author, Todd Bush. To enter, please post a comment on this blog post.

To read a review of Rick Frost & the Sword of Calibum click here.

Contest ends Saturday, July 9 at 3:00 p.m. MST. You may also receive an extra entry by following this blog. Each entry is assigned a number and numbers are picked by

Monday, July 4, 2011

Rick Frost and The Sword of Calibum - Book Review

Fresh off his Alaskan Adventure, Rick Frost heads to England for a semester of study abroad. What starts as a fun weekend with his new friend C.J., the son of the Prince of Wales, ends up with terrorists taking the weekend guests hostage and leaving Rick as the only one who can save them.

C.J. sends Rick on a quest to find the Sword of Calibum. Rick must join forces with a mysterious group of treasure hunters to keep the legendary Arthurian sword from the terrorists who want to use it to rule England. The treasure hunters take Rick halfway across the globe in search of clues. On the beach of Maine, he finds the one thing that will bring him and the treasure hunters steps closer to solving the quest.

The plot thickens when Rick is betrayed by a member of the shadowy group he had grown to trust. He must escape his captors and free CJ to complete the quest and find the one true sword that will save England.

The Sword of Calibum is a fast paced young adult adventure with a likable male protagonist. Quick read for the teen boy who likes an adventure with historical folklore woven into it. It is the second book in the Rick Frost series by Todd Bush.

Have your read the book? Feel free to comment.