Childish Nonsense

Exploring Children's Literature

Harriet Tubman review

Harriet TubmanI Am Harriet Tubman
By Grace Norwich
Illustrated by Ute Simon
Far more the usual one sentence in a history book, Harriet Tubman was an interesting person who lived an exciting life. Born a slave, Harriet had to be strong despite her slight build and incidents where she was sick or injured. The author gives a realistic account of what it must have been like for Harriet. The reader learns why she was so determined to help so many people and how this translated into freedom and rights for others. She fought for anyone who was not getting what they deserved, including women. The vivid drawings add to the feel of being with Harriet in her journey through life. In the wrap up, the author not only summarizes the salient points, but she lists places to visit and resources to use for finding out more.
Reviewed by Sue Poduska
Scholastic Inc., January 2013 release
Early reader, History.
E-book, 128 pages
ISBN: 978-0-545-52044-7

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Holy Spokes! Review

Holy Spokes! A Biking Bible for EveryoneHoly Spokes

By Rob Coppolillo
Packed with information, this is a volume worthy of the name biking bible. The author includes information from the history of bikes through and including their future. He takes the reader through an exhaustive encyclopedia of the types of bikes available and how to choose the right one. He then talks about maintaining the bike and what to do when traveling with it. He even gives hints about the types of equipment needed, from toe clips to minivans. His list of organizations and websites that can provide more information is also exhaustive. And, for the still timid, he points out the many advantages to riding a bike. The illustrations are clear and accurate – a must for one than one chapter.
Reviewed by Sue Poduska
Zest Books, January 2013 release
Chapter Book, Bicycles.
E-book, 210 pages
ISBN: 978-1-936976-23-2

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A Zillion Different Directions

12-x-12-new-badgeI’m starting to get the feeling my only New Year’s resolution should have been to stay focused.

I’m now involved in some semi-public groups. As you probably know, I participated in Picture Book Idea Month ( in November. This was a great exercise in noting those ideas that pop into your head so they don’t just fly away. As a result, I need to find a way to make sure some of these ideas become stories. Thanks to the brain child of Alayne Kaye Christian, I joined a Facebook group called Sub Six, in which we challenge each other to write, polish, and submit at least six picture books within the year. Of course, I still felt I needed a push to get the writing going and keep it going. So now I’ve subscribed to the 12 x 12 group, a creation of Julie Hedland ( This is a group of very dedicated writers who promise to write twelve picture book manuscripts in the next year, whether or not they get submitted.

I need goals and I think all these groups will encourage me to keep producing.

On a more personal level, I’m now part of two critique groups – one of them online and specifically for nonfiction writers. The other is in its infancy. Both groups have some very good writers. Just hope I can keep up.

All of this as I start to assume some of the responsibilities of regional advisor for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

As far as actual writing goes, I dusted off a nonfiction picture book from last year and am hoping the new critique group can give me some ideas to polish it up for submission. I’m also researching another picture book and busily jotting down more ideas. A middle grade novel in need of revision and a middle grade nonfiction book both keep trying to intrude.

The one direction I know I should be focused on is a good beginning. Yes, I know we’ve all internalized the mantra, “Make sure you grab them with the first sentence.” But this is one mantra that cannot be repeated too much. Keep repeating it until it sinks in. It applies to life as well as manuscripts.

I’m a Jeopardy! junkie, and they recently had a category about first lines. It was like they set off a bomb in our living room. I started spouting. “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.” “To begin my life at the beginning of my life, …” “It was a dark and stormy night.” Etc. Yikes.

We can’t always tell what’s going to be a good first line. A formula would sound, well, formulaic. But we hope we hit the grabber right away.

Okay, I think I’ve given a feel for the whirlwind that are my thoughts. May you have more focus than I do. And, Good Beginnings to All!

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