Wednesday, February 29, 2012

February '12 Educational Tip

There has been a running dialogue lately in The New York Times regarding teacher performance  where everyone from Bill Gates, to past and current educators, have given their opinion on the practice of making teacher assessment scores public information. The supposed premise of the practice is, in theory, to root out and expose the lower performing teachers.  
As parents, we are deeply committed to the education of our children. Bill Gates has some definite opinions on education and what our children are learning in their classrooms. Whether you agree with his ideas or not, he wrote an Op Ed piece recently where he questions the practice of publicly flogging an already fragile system with teachers who feel overwhelmed and unappreciated. Mr. Gates, the founder and owner of Microsoft, with hundreds of employees who work for his company, states in his opinion piece that the New York City Department of Education is going about business the wrong way. He states that no other business operation, with the intent of publicly identifying the weakest link in the chain of operation in order to make improvements, exists.
Many educators who responded stated they thought the practice of making teacher assessment scores was not effective in helping the poor performing educators receive constructive criticism to help them improve their classroom skills and techniques which then, in turn, benefits the students. Many people were surprised that Mr. Gates, who is all about school reform, including more teacher accountability, came to the defense of teachers in the New York public school system. His point is that releasing the scores of teachers, who are assessed by the student performances in the classrooms and standardized examinations, amounts to little more than public shaming.  
Every teacher has an individual teaching style. If we are sending the message to the student population that they should work together and respect everyone’s unique personality and talents it seems to be that the same courtesy is not being extended to the staff of teachers by essentially publicly embarrassing the weaker teachers into improving their performance. Remember when your mother taught you that you get more flies with a little honey than vinegar?

Be Well 
Alice Knisley Matthias
SFC Educational Writer

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Book Review: Against the Tide

Against the Tide

The Valor of Margaret Wilson

17th Century Scottland

Author: Hope Irvin Marston

P & R Publishing

From the back cover: Seventeenth-century Scotland is a place of cruel intolerance for the Covenanters, a people bound together by their loyal faith. A young earnest Covenanter, Margaret Wilson finds her pledged loyalty to Christ and his covenant in opposition to King Charles II's demand for her absoulute obedience. Will Margaret choose to defy teh authorities? Or will devotion to her family, love for her sweetheart, and hopes for future happiness rule her heart?

My review:
The author has done a wonderful job of weaving the facts that can be documented about Scottish history in the seventeenth century into a wonderful story with characters to care about with a  solid Christian based story of good versus evil and right versus wrong.  The plot is complex enough to keep children reading but not overly complicated to overwhelm them as they read the life of Margaret Wilson.

The trials and difficulties the character walks through in  faith gives tribute to her sense of right and wrong and her obedience to Christ. The ending is intense and emotional for the reader who has fallen in love with the character from the first pages. The text is rich in detail and entertains as well as educates the reader on times in the 17th century.

This is an excellent book for readers who can appreciate history written in an engaging storyline. Expect to feel the saddness as well as the triumphs the character experiences and have your tissue ready for the last pages of the life of Margaret Wilson.

Visit: and or for more information about the author and her work.

The World of Ink Network will be touring three of award-winning author Hope Irvin Marston books. Her most recent release Eye on the Iditarod: Aisling’s Quest (ISBN: 978-0-89317-071-4) is a biography, but was written as an autobiography. Windward Publishing (An imprint of Finney Company) released the book December 1, 2011. The other two books on tour are My Little Book of Bald Eagles also from Windward Publishing (An imprint of Finney Company) and Against the Tide: The Valor of Margaret Wilson from P & R Publishing.

You can find out more about Hope Irvin Marston’s World of Ink Author/Book Tour schedule at There will be giveaways, reviews, interviews, guest posts and more. Make sure to stop by and interact with Marston and the hosts at the different stops by leaving comments and/or questions. For each comment, you will be entered into the big Giveaway at the end of the tour.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Believe... Author Kasey Kellem

Have you been following the tour for author Kasey Kellem? If not check the interview tomorrow at tomorrow for a great start to the week. Kasey has a great book for kids and a wonderful mission to teach children the skills they need to be successful. It all starts with believing in one's self and it is a great book.

Also on SFC blog this week are some other good book reviews for books for kids including teens. Check back here for the newest information on upcoming books.

Here is hoping you are spending some quality time with family and friends this weekend and that you are well rested for the new week.


Traveling to Italy with the Family

Megan Gates is an active blogger who provides written work to the blogosphere pertaining to NYC Rentals, Hamptons Homes, home improvement and the latest architecture, design, fashion and travel.  Follow her on twitter @MEGatesDesign.

A vacation to Italy seems to be too luxurious and fancy to do with your family on a budget.  However, with some advanced planning and useful information, an Italian vacation can be affordable, flexible, and family friendly.

To ensure you don't miss out on the finer things Italy has to offer, such as its world-famous cuisine, culture, historical landmarks and ancient ruins, plan ahead as much as possible.  Form a list of your top cities and attractions and whittle it down until it's both doable in your allotted time frame, and friendly to your bank account.  Always remember that, when traveling with your children, trying to squeeze too much into your trip will turn a fun, family vacation into a tourism nightmare.

Avoid planning your vacation during the peak travel season in May, June, September and October. July and August will be hot, so keep that in mind when traveling with small children.  If you are able to go in March, April or November, the weather will be milder and the attractions less crowded and more affordable.

Flights and Accommodations

Book flights in advance and out of a major international airport if possible.  Avoid direct flights from the U.S. to Italy as they are more expensive.  Instead, take a layover in London or Munich to save money and give the family a relaxing break.

Looking for affordable accommodations? Forget the luxury hotel; opt for low-budget hotels or house and apartment rentals.  Rentals are ideal to prepare meals in the kitchen, saving money on pricey restaurant meals.

If you go out for a meal, avoid the ristoranti and instead dine in an osteria, trattoria or an agriturismo.  These are more reasonably priced and informal.

Getting Around

Don't ride in expensive Italian taxis.  Go for discount travel passes for the railway and try to see as many attractions as you can located within walking distance of each other to cut down on travel costs.

Italy for Free

It's hard to fathom, but there are wonderful, free attractions in Italy, particularly when in Rome. Find free concerts in the park and free admission to famous museums, including the Vatican and Musei Capitolini on the last Sunday of each month.  The Pantheon is always free, though they have hours of operation, so plan accordingly.

An Italian family vacation is possible with advanced planning and research. Relax, have fun, and enjoy your stay in Italy.

Monday, February 20, 2012

February is Almost Over

It is hard to believe that February is almost over. Most of us are happy to see winter come to an end and to begin to plan our spring activities. But before the month ends, there are so many great learning opportunities in February.

1. Celebrate Black History Month- read or find an activity that celebrates the wonderful culture surrounding Black History.  Many authors have written great books about Black history. Donna McDine and Nancy I Sanders are two of those authors and if you take the time to search you will find a rich array of books for adults and kids on the subject.

2. Read at least one book on one of the Presidents of the United States. There are books on all of them starting with George Washington and Abraham Lincoln and ending with biographies on the most recent Presidents including George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama.

3. Write poems. In celebration of the month that Valentine's Day is scheduled, give writing a try.  Enter poetry contests for kids, send your stories here to the blog, or to other magazines for children. Young or old, writing is a wonderful way to express yourself.

Can you think of other fun stuff to do and learn in February? Share your ideas by making a comment and maybe we will post something here on your ideas. I can't wait to see what you want to learn.

4. Think weather. February is a good month to learn about weather. Visit the library or search the internet for sites that teach you about weather. This winter has been rather warm so what does that mean to us for summer? How do you measure rain? How much snow will equal each inch of rain? These are the fun questions that you can discover if you read about the weather.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Book Lovers Blog Hop & Giveaway - February '12

Book Lovers February ‘12 Blog Hop & Giveaway:

Make friends, share the love of reading and be entered to win a FREE book! There will be up to 6 winners during this Book Lovers Blog Hop & Giveaway. All you have to do is enter the giveaway below. 

There are many ways you can enter. 1)Promote the Book Lovers Hop and World of Ink Tours on any social network. 2) Tweet it once a day. 3) Share on Facebook. 4) Like this blog post. 5) Leave a comment. 

Also, don't forget to follow those who have joined in the Book Lovers Blog Hop. By joining the Book Lovers Blog Hop, you are automatically entered in our Book Giveaway! There will be up to six (6) winners for this Book Giveaway. Note: One book per winner.

Join the Hop & Rules:
1.      Follow the Top link of the hop! Hop Host: Families Matters 
2. Grab the button for the hop and place it in a post, sidebar or on a blog hop page
and make sure to let us know.
3.Grab the buttons for the World of Ink Tours and place it in a post or side bar. 
Make sure you let us know where it is in the comments section below.

Just right click on the pictures and choose save as to get our banners.

Just enter the book giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Please play nice and follow our simple rules! Make sure to FOLLOW AT LEAST ONE PERSON and as many other blogs as you'd like to have more follow back. This is what makes Book Lovers Blog Hop work, so if you're not willing to follow, please don't link up.

Remember to leave a comment on the blogs you follow to let them know you found them here at FAMILIES MATTER, and if someone follows you, be sure to follow back. If you follow us and leave a comment, we'll definitely follow you too!

Book Lovers Blog Hop is now OPEN!

If you want to become a World of Ink Host and do a review or interview shoot me an e-mail:

Please make sure you Follow the top link of hop if you want to link up!

Note: You can use all or parts of this post for your post about the Book Lovers Blog Hop.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Book Review: My Little Book of Bald Eagles

My Little Book of Bald Eagles

Author: Hope Irvin Marston

Illustrated by Stephanie Mirocha

Windward Publishing:

From the back cover:  From the newborns' first solo flight to their own fishing adventures, this beautifully illustrated book is ideal for introducing young children to the wonders of nature.

My Review: This is a beautiful book. I have been lucky to see bald eagles in person on my summer trip to Alaska and they are the most fascinating birds to watch. This book tells their story in beautiful active words that engage the reader. The realistic illustrations are nothing more than fantastic. Children will love the pictures, the text, and their new found facts about the bald eagle.

Books written so well like this one by Hope Irvin Marston are the kind of books that make children love nature and want to learn more. This would be an excellent addition to any elementary classroom as a resource to learn more about this protected bird.

Thanks to Ms Marston for contributing such a fine book for young learners. Follow her on the next stop on the World of Ink tour at

Thursday, February 16, 2012

February 2012

# 1 New York Times Bestselling Author and World Renowned Inspirational Speaker Joyce Meyer Helps Kids Discover the Many Ways to Pray in Her Debut Children's Book

"You don't have to be high in the sky to be close to God!," Pouch Squawked. "That's what prayer is for!"

While #1 New York Times bestselling author Joyce Meyer has penned more than 90 books and inspired millions around the world through her renowned ministry and national radio and television broadcasts, she will reach a whole new audience with the release of her first ever children's book.

Named one of the most influential evangelical leaders in America by Time Magazine, Meyer's debut in the children's area, EVERY WHICH WAY TO PRAY (Zondervan; March 2012; $15.99), revolves around a whimsical cast of animal characters who help readers discover the many fun, simple and engaging ways to pray each day.

Inspired by Meyer's adult book, The Power of Simple Prayer, EVERY WHICH WAY TO PRAY is set against the colorful backdrop of Everyday Zoo, home to a comical cast of animal characters who interact and explore life lessons together in their fun-filled community.

Readers will be captivated by Mary Sullivan's vibrant illustrations and they'll relate to Hayley and Harley Hippo who want to pray, but believe that in order to be close to God, they must pray quietly in a church - with heads bowed, hands folded and dressed in their Sunday best.

With the help of a quirky pelican named Pouch, the zoo's sheepish librarian, Miss Bimble, and Sarge, a bear police officer, the Hippo children and readers discover that prayer is simply talking to God as a friend. And, it should be the easiest thing we do each day.

Watch Meyer discuss her inspiration behind EVERY WHICH WAY TO PRAY:

Joyce Meyer talks about her first picture book, Every Which Way to Pray
Joyce Meyer talks about her first picture book, Every Which Way to Pray

Joyce Meyer is one of the world's leading practical bible teachers and founder of Joyce Meyer Ministries. A #1 New York Times bestselling author and named one of the most influential evangelical leaders in America by Time Magazine, she has written more than 90 inspirational books, which have been translated into 84 languages. Meyer's Enjoying Everyday Life radio and television programs broadcast around the world and translate into 43 different languages. She travels, extensively, conducting conferences. Meyer and her husband have four children and ten grandchildren and make their home in St. Louis, Missouri.

ABOUT THE ILLUSTRATOR: Mary Sullivan was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and raised all over central Texas. Sullivan studied at the University of Texas in Austin, earning a BFA in studio art. She has been drawing for as long as she can remember and is forever grateful to her parents for filling her childhood home with music, art, and poetry. Mary currently lives in Austin, Texas, and spends her days drawing and writing for children.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

February 2012

Emmy Award Winner Joel Tanis Invites Kids and Families to "Come On Over" with Two New Episodes of the Hit Series!

The new season of the Emmy Award-winning children's TV show "Come On Over!" continues with two new episodes on DVD. The series, which first captured the hearts of children ages 4-8 in 2006, presents creative play for kids and their families. With its friendly vibe, fun antics and surprise guests - including Grammy Winners Jars of Clay - the show has been a roaring success among kids and families.

As the show's executive producer and star Joel Tanis told The Christian Post, "One of our goals for this show is making it good for the whole family. We want parents to sit down with their children and laugh along with it."

Using his art studio and backyard as the primary setting, Joel and his quirky cast of friends and neighbors - including Ceci LeBarge, Brandy, Grandma Zippy, Hedge and Mr. Flabbinjaw - burst into music videos, whimsical make-believe, hands-on arts-based projects and a number of faith-building activities for kids.

The new "Come on Over!" episodes follow Joel and the others from one hilarious adventure to another. In DANCE HOW YOU WANNA DANCE! (Zonderkidz; February 2012; $12.99), the crew wiggles and jives their way through a fun filled episode on learning how to dance. And, in SPREAD A LITTLE JOY! (Zonderkidz; February 2012; $12.99), the gang invites Dr. Fullovit to help them experiment with bubbles and cure "boreditis" with their "sci-tastic" new skills!

Magically blending the heart of "Mister Rogers Neighborhood" with the silliness of "Pee Wee's Playhouse," both DANCE HOW YOU WANNA DANCE! and SPREAD A LITTLE JOY! DVDs include a series of video shorts that take the themes of the day and show how they fit into God's Creative World. Other video shorts give families fun ways in which they can creatively play together.

The following is a list of other ways each 24-minute episode inspires children and families:

  • Kids get to learn through creative play. Children learn useful social skills through play, like how to cooperate, how to negotiate and how to act kindly. They also develop their minds and bodies through play as they explore, imagine and create.
  • Each episode models playing with the arts, playing to learn and playing for a better life. The arts include music, dance, theater and visual art - and have characters that model these areas. Playing to learn is when play helps us discover parts of God's joyful world like bubbles or bees or reading. Playing for a better life means using play to explore things like moods or fears or family.
  • It encourages families to play together. All of the great things children explore through play can be accented when interacting with grown-ups. When playing, grown-ups can model cooperation, kindness and joy. Playing allows families time to deliberately interact. Both DANCE HOW YOU WANNA DANCE! and SPREAD A LITTLE JOY! DVDs include written and video material to help families play and pray together.

Catch a glimpse of the new season of "Come On Over!" (Featuring musical guests Jars of Clay) on YouTube:

Come on Over - Express Yourself
Come on Over - Express Yourself

ABOUT "COME ON OVER!:" "Come On Over!" is an Emmy Award-winning musical comedy for kids and families that models creative play. The 24-minute episodes follow Joel and his friends as they play through all sorts of situations and model healthy choices and family values. As needed, regular friends bring enthusiasm, encouragement, smarts, and even skepticism to the show. The themes of COO! are enhanced by faith-building activities that are a part of the DVD booklet. These materials include fun discussion points, games, and scripture that encourage families to play and pray together. To date, the show has won twelve regional Emmy awards.It also won two National Bronze Telly Awards. Joel Tanis is based in Holland, Michigan.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Is An Alpaca the Right Pet for Your Child?

Category: Pets:Farm-Ranch

 Spring is just around the corner and with it comes the desire for most kids to want a pet.Alpacas are a popular animal on both big ranches and small hobby farms. They are stunning in a group photo and  look loving and sweet but is an alpaca a good pet for a child? You need to know about alpacas before deciding if this is the best pet for your child.

Alpacas are a herd animal. This means that they are happiest when they have at least one other alpaca in the pasture. They are also not fond of being petted and nuzzled unless you work with them everyday and they learn to trust. After that, they are a relatively safe animal with children.

Alpacas don't need much of a shelter, and a three-sided shelter will keep them protected from the elements. However, they will also come in and out of a barn if that set up is available. They also don't challenge fencing. Fences need to be sturdy but also with small openings so that wild dogs, coyotes, fox and bobcats cannot enter. The alpaca has two defenses, they can kick and they spit. So the farm owner must take care to protect them from harm.

Alpacas need hay, grass, and fresh water daily. Who will be caring for the alpacas everyday including winter becomes an important question when deciding if an alpaca is a good pet for a child. The animals must have their fiber cut or sheared once a year too. You can hire someone who does this or you can purchase clippers, scissors, a table, and other equipment that makes the task easier but that is an additional expense. This is not a task that a child can do alone.

Alpacas are raised for fiber and to reproduce with the hopes of having female offspring more often than males born. Female alpacas are more expensive because they have the ability to produce a cria or baby alpaca every year for more than 25 years. That can be a return on your initial investment if the female produces high quality crias and their fiber is of excellent texture. Males can be expensive if they have fathered good offspring but they can be found pretty reasonable if all they are used for is fiber. These gilded males are lovingly called "fiber boys" and they make good pets at less cost than other male alpacas.

Alpacas can be haltered, lead in an arena, and taught a few tricks. Often they are seen dressed for parades and handled very safely by children. To get an alpaca to the level of being led on a lead rope for hours on end takes daily practice and daily human contact. Some counties have 4H categories for the alpaca allowing children to show their pet in an arena before a judge and that can be an added pleasure to having an alpaca as a pet.

When considering if an alpaca makes a good pet, keep in mind where the alpacas will stay, who will be caring for the alpacas, the cost of hay if you don't have pasture grass and the cost of shearing yearly. Incidental costs include worming, vet checks, the costs of breeding, extra nutritional supplements, and how much time you have to invest in training the alpacas. Alpacas can make the perfect pet for a child if you have a small hobby farm and you have the time to learn the best way to train and care for these gentle animals. Alpacas provide warm fiber to be spun into yarn for socks, scarves, and sweaters. Just keep an eye out for the famous nasty spit that may come your way during the learning process.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Book Review: Believe by Children's Author Kasey Kellum

Title of Book: Believe

Publisher: Halo Publishing, Int.

ISBN Number(s): 9781612440392

Genre of Book(s): Childrens

Publication Date(s): November 2011

 HaloPublishing, Amazon,

Author Website:


Blog Address:

Twitter URL:!/kaseyc7

Facebook URL:

Author Bio: Kasey Kellem,a School Counselor and former Special Education Teacher, has devoted her lifeto helping children facing adversity be resilient. Kasey created Mind OverMatter (M.O.M.) books to teach children skills to overcome life’s challenges.She has earned a Bachelors Degree and Masters Degree in Special Education andan Educational Specialist Degree in Counseling. She is a devoted wife, stepmother, sister, daughter and counselor.

Book and Children’s Authors Show interview onYouTube

Mind Over Matter Books are geared towards young children tohelp them learn how to be resilient.  Children need to be prepared with the right tools to face thechallenges, adversity and obstacles that may become a part of their lives. This book shows, through whimsical illustrations and simple wording, how to be resilient.  These books are designed to also serve as decorations in a child’s bedroom or playroom on book shelves,nightstands, or desks, which will serve as constant resiliency reinforcement.

Review: This book is so cute, great illustrations, and a simple message for children under the age of seven. Believe is a book about teaching children skills they need to overcome some of life's difficult moments and still believe in themselves. It is fun, positive and a great teaching tool for parents and teachers.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

What to Expect ... A Quick Review

What to Expect When You're Expecting by Heidi Murkoff
 What to Expect The First Year

                                                    What to Expect the  Second Year....

Author Heidi Murkoff


Sharon Mazel, Arlene Eisenberg, and Sandee Hathaway

REVIEW: These books in combination give you all the information you need during pregnancy and the next two years with your baby. Reassuring answers to common and not so common questions on pregnancy and raising a baby.

What to Expect When You're Expecting covers pregnancy through delivery and everything in between. It is full of useful information to ease your mind and educate you on what happens including the post partum stage. It features a week by week look at pregnancy and complete chapters on multiple births, lifestyle, and more.

What to Expect The First Year and What to Expect the Second  year give parents the perfect guide to growth and development, behavior, sleep issues, temper tantrums, and how to comfort a crying infant. These books are excellent resources for new parents offering both mothers and fathers tips and facts.

The advice is physician based and approved which offers you the security of knowing that the information is the current standard in pregnancy and pediatric care. For more information on the books and the publisher visit: and

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Book Review: Goosebumps Books

Goosebumps Books have been around for sometime. Kids grab copies in school libraries and gravitate towards the displays at book stores. There is a very good reason for that. R.L. Stine does a bang up job of scaring the reader yet keeping them engaged. The bottom line, he keeps kids reading.

R. L.Stine

Goosebumps books

Rise and Shine. Forever. Don't Go To Sleep

ISBN: 978-0-439-77477-2

Chapter book - Gr 4

Don't Go To Sleep is a scary tale about Matt. He couldn't sleep in his bedroom because it was so small and he deserved more room. So he sneaks into the guest room to sleep. Oh he sleeps alright, but the nightmares soon begin.

Kids will be on the edge of their seats with this fun and scary book. Each chapter is a page turner, which is a key part to any of R. L. Stine's books... they are page turners.

The best part of the Goosebumps books is this, kids always have a somewhat happy ending and are ready to start the next book. The books are just scary enough to NOT drive kids away, instead the stories drive kids back to the very next book the very next time they have a chance.

Any time an author can keep a child engaged and interested in reading more and more....well that is an awesome thing. Parents can be comfortable with the books this author writes. And if you have doubts, read them. They are really

Monday, February 6, 2012

Valentines Day Ideas

Valentines Day is just around the corner. Here are a couple of  selfless ideas to celebrate.

Valentines Day is for love so what better way to show your children about loving and caring for others than by making cards to take to your local nursing home or homeless shelter. Make red hearts and layer them on pink construction paper cards for a simple thoughtful note for residents. Children can pen their own messages of hope and care which will surely brighten some one's day.

Help children to melt chocolate chips or Hershey bars in the microwave. Dip juicy strawberries in the melted chocolate and lay them on wax paper to cool These make a yummy treat to share with friends after school.

Consider donating an extra box of store bought children's Valentines to your child's teacher for those students who may not be able to participate in the class exchange due to financial hardships. Teachers are always happy to receive donations of supplies and store bought snacks to keep on hand so no child feels left out if they cannot afford to participate or if they simply forget to let mom know what they need.

Another way you and your child can share love on Valentine's day is to take a couple of boxes of dog and cat treats to the local animal shelter. When the economy is down, pets seem to take a back seat. Many once loved animals have found themselves in local shelters because their owners can no longer afford to keep them. People who cannot adopt a pet at the moment can still make a difference by sharing treats or by donating dog and cat food. Volunteers are often needed to help groom and clean after these animals too, so consider finding time to help out if your local shelter is in need.

This is another commercial holiday celebration that can be used to help and do for others. What other ways can you think of to celebrate the Love on Valentine's Day?

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Black History Month-

The Golden Pathway by Children's author, Donna M.McDine is a wonderful story to begin your celebration of Black History Month. This is a story of the pain of slavery and a young boy who tried to stop it. It is so heartwarming while being true to the history of slavery. It is an excellent choice for children at home or in the classroom to open the conversation about that piece of our history.

Visit: for more information

America's Black Founders is another excellent resource to use in the classroom. It has activities and recipes, history and biographical information to celebrate Black History Month. Author Nancy I. Sanders has done an excellent job engaging the reader while teaching valuable lessons from our history.

Visit Nancy I. Sanders at

Please join me in celebrating Black History Month. These two book choices are a good start to your journey.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Interview: Children's Author Kasey Kellem

February is bringing many new and exciting posts and today is another great interview with children's author, Kasey Kellem. Welcome Kasey.

1. Tell us a little bit about your background and how you became an author. Presently, I am a high school counselor and have been in education for 22 years. Prior to counseling I was a special education teacher. I have been intrigued by resiliency since I began teaching. I even went back to college for another degree beyond my masters to study resiliency in the form of school counseling. I wanted to further my studies at the doctorate level to learn HOW to teach kids resiliency, but ran into some contractual roadblocks at work. I was still determined to somehow teach kids how to be resilient, so I later came up with the book idea.

2. Tell us about your current book. Give a short summary, tell us about your publisher, and also how you got the idea for this book. “Believe” is the first of my five Mind Over Matter (M.O.M.) Books which are geared towards preschoolers to help them learn how to be resilient. The books help teach kids skills to be prepared with the right tools to face the challenges, adversity and obstacles that may become a part of their lives. The additional books include are: DREAM; LOVE; LAUGH; and RELAX. Each book shows, through whimsical illustrations and simple wording, how to be resilient . These books are designed to also be decorations in a child’s bedroom or playroom on book shelves, nightstands, or desks which will serve as constant resiliency reinforcement.

I had put a post on Facebook looking for a publisher and a former student set me up with his sister’s publishing company. Lisa Umino from Halo Publishing International loved my books and their purpose! She focuses on children’s books, Christian books and books that help others! My book could have fallen under all three of those categories. I am grateful for social media!

Throughout my home I have wooden decorations that say, “Believe,” “Relax,” “Laugh,” “Love,” and “Dream.” I felt that children should also be reminded of these resiliency skills in a more whimsical way. So, my niece, Jackie, and I originally brainstormed the ideas for each book about 5 years ago. I kind of let it go for a few years and revisited it this past year. It just took off and in a few short months I was going to print with “Believe!”

( Also See above for how I came up with the book)

3. What is a typical writing day like for you? I usually work on my book and marketing for an average of 4 hours a day after work. My husband and I are pretty much empty nesters with college age kids, so I gratefully have a lot of time. I am very good with balancing time after work. I make sure I work out each day, have down time with my husband and make time for my books each day.

4. What do you enjoy most about writing? It is very relaxing and allows me to use my brain and my creative side. Sometimes when I am at work, the paperwork stifles my thinking and creativity, so this is a nice outlet. Also, I feel like I am doing something good for others which is my purpose and mission in life!

5. What is the most difficult part of writing? Coming up with a specific number of ways to Believe, Love, Laugh, Relax & Dream was a bit challenging. My niece, Jackie was very helpful in brainstorming initially, but my team and I had to revisit a lot of the original ideas and revamp them. I also needed a catchy and meaningful name to describe the books and the company I created to sell these books. It took a few months to finally come up with MOM books. Mind Over Matter not only describes the purpose of these books, Resiliency, but also included my late mother (the acronym M.O.M.) who always encouraged me to write books!

6. Do you make school visits or do speaking/book signing engagements? If so, please describe a typical presentation. I have been to a day care and did a reading circle with a group of about fifteen 3-7 year old children. I had a webkinz caterpillar with me and each child had an opportunity to come up front, hold the caterpillar while finding the hidden caterpillar on each page. At the end, we formed a circle, passed around the believing caterpillar and told one thing we believed about ourselves. Each child was then given a sticker that said, “Believe!”

I have also done book signings at a church function and craft fair. I had the books and some framed illustrations displayed and signed books purchased from the various patrons. I hope to have many more book signing opportunities and am working on scheduling those now.

7. Is there any book that, when you read it, you thought, "I wish I had written that!"?

Yes, I wish I had created the Chicken Soup for the Soul books. I wish I had come up with that idea and gathered successful stories from former students, friends and family because they all have great resiliency stories. I think those books really show people overcoming all sorts of challenges in life from simply being a teen or a mother to battling cancer. The stories are very inspiring and motivating which is my mission with my books: to inspire and motivate!

8. Do you have a website? If so, please give the URL. If not, where can readers go online to learn more about your book(s) and to order?

Halo International-Believe:

MOM Website


MOM Blog:

Facebook Page:

YouTube (Children’s Authors Show Interview):



9. What are you working on right now?

We are doing the final editing pieces of the next book in the series, Love. As soon as I sell enough Believe books, I can go to print on this book. The additional 3 books, Laugh, Relax & Dream are also pretty much done and ready to go to print.

10. What is your best tip for aspiring authors?

Go for it! Don’t make excuses to not follow your dreams. Set aside a few hours a day to just write and make it fun. If you start to feel stressed during the writing process, walk away, do something fun and mindless and come back to the writing table when you are ready!

11. What advice would you give children and teens as they prepare for life? We all have to face obstacles and challenges in life. Don’t think you are the only one experiencing adversity. Don’t make a platter out of the sandwich you have been served, instead enjoy the dessert that comes with it. If you believe you will get through your issues, have people who love you, relax often, laugh and have a dream, you have the skills to get through anything!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Interview: Children's Author- Hope Marston

We have some great authors this month. Please help me welcome children's author, Hope Marston to the blog today.

1. Tell us a little bit about your background and how you became an author.
I am a Post Depression child and the eighth of nine children who grew up on a dairy farm smack dab in the middle of the state of Pennsylvania. Books were a scarce commodity in our household so it was a red letter day for me when the county bookmobile came to our school which was located on the corner of our farm. What a thrill it was to climb into that vehicle, which was probably about the size of the Taurus van my husband drives, and choose one book from all those beckoning me from the shelves. After I read my book I returned it to the teacher and was allowed to borrow someone else’s story. It was through those bookmobile experiences I developed a respect for authors. I decided that someday I would write a book. It took me about thirty years to accomplish that goal, and the fun continues.

2. Tell us about your current book. Give a short summary, tell us about your publisher, and also how you got the idea for this book.
Eye on the Iditarod: Aisling’s Quest, my thirty-second children’s book, was released by Windward Books on December 1. It’s a biography of Aisling (pronounced “Ashley”) Lara Shepherd whose goal is to some day run her own dogs in the famous Iditarod sled dog race held each March in Alaska. Born legally blind, from the time she was three she loved watching sled dog racing on television. My book, written from information Aisling shared with me in hundreds of e-mail letters, follows her through the mushing season the year she is eleven. That memorable year she conquered obstacles, dealt with heartbreak and loss, and achieved great victories, while keeping her eye on the Iditarod.

In 2008 when Aisling was ten years old, she was one of three girls chosen from 8,000 nominees for a Real Girl of the Year Award, by American Girl. The award was given in recognition of her “demonstrating initiative, effort, impact and personal growth” in reaching her goal of someday running the Iditarod. She exemplified those qualities by her dedication to rescuing, training and racing sled dogs. I learned about her from an article in an online newspaper published near where we used to live in Maine. (It pays to keep up with your former hometown, or have a husband who daily reads the news from back home. Aisling lives in the next town over from where I taught for six years after my husband and I were married.)

Windward Books had been one of my publishers for many years. I am the author of an eight-book series of wildlife picture books called My Little Books. To date there are over 125, 000 copies of these books in print. Because of the satisfying relationship I have with Al Krysan, the publisher, I asked if he’d consider publishing Aisling’s story. Gentleman that he is, he agreed to read it though biography was not a genre he published. When eventually he found time to read the manuscript, he was hooked. He has demonstrated his commitment to Aisling and her goal by backing the book with a tremendous publicity blitz. I am honored by his trust in me and in Aisling’s story.

3. What is a typical writing day like for you?

I believe writers must write every day. I begin my writing day with Morning Pages, a habit I developed many years ago after reading a book by Julia Cameron. I used to keep these writings, but one day the stack of journals became so tall and took up so much room, I started disposing of them a few at a time in the weekly trash pickup. They had served their purpose in the original writing in that they primed the pump for whatever I was going to concentrate on later in the day.

What do I write? It depends on what is on my mind. Sometimes it is two pages in which I try out ideas for a problem in some manuscript. Sometimes it is a rant about someone of something that upset me. Sometimes it is gloating over an unusual blessing or circumstance that came my way. My third page is a prayer journal of sorts. A page of pondering, asking, thanking, worshipping the Lord because I know my talent comes from Him. All of this serves to clear the writing pipes and make room for the “good” stuff to flow through later in the day.

Unlike most of my writing friends who feel freshest and want to get right to work on whatever manuscript is at the top of their work pile, I can’t settle down until I take care of major things on my daily “to do” list. If I don’t take care of them first, they keep distracting me until I give them the attention they are demanding. That means I spend my mornings doing my other things. Sometimes I don’t get to my writing until after the evening meal. But when I do settle down to write, I give it my full attention. My goal is to spend at least three hours a day writing.

4. What do you enjoy most about writing?

I love refining my manuscripts after I have a reasonable first draft. One of my joys is finding the precise word I need in a particular passage. That’s especially challenging when I am writing historical fiction, which I am doing right now. I have to find the right word for the context and then make sure that word was in use at the time. Two of my well-worn reference books are The Synonym Finder and English through the Ages.

5. What is the most difficult part of writing?
The most difficult part of writing for me is choosing what to write from a long list of things I find intriguing. When I began my publishing career nearly forty years ago, I couldn’t think of interesting topics. Now I can’t decide which I’d like most to write.

6. Do you make school visits or do speaking/book signing engagements? If so, please describe a typical presentation.

I enjoy making school visits and doing book signings. Bob Renaud, the illustrator for Eye on the Iditarod: Aisling’s Quest, lives about twelve miles from me. That made it possible for us to do joint signings after the book was released. We received our copies on December 4 and conducted seven signings between December 10 and 21.

My school presentations are tailored to the teachers’ requests. I prefer small groups to enable eye contact. Teachers are free to set a schedule for my class visits in which I share a specific book, talk about my life as a writer and why I wrote that particular title. Sometimes teachers request that I address a particular topic, such as where I get my ideas. Length of each presentation is dependent on the age group. Along with the pre-sale of my books before my visit, I also bring stuffed animals that go along with the titles. I have a cute little husky dog that goes well with Aisling’s story.

7. Is there any book that, when you read it, you thought, "I wish I had written that!"?

Yes, more than one! I’d love to be able to write riveting historical fiction like the adult writer, Liz Curtis Higgs, stories like Thorn in My Heart, Fair Is the Rose, Here Burns My Candle, and Mine Is the Night.

8. Do you have a website? If so, please give the URL. If not, where can readers go online to learn more about your book(s) and to order?

Come visit me at Among other things you’ll find an update on Aisling’s mushing competitions for this season. If you have a question, please email me at

9. What are you working on right now?

My current project is an historical middle grade novel, Sackets Harbor Powder Monkey. It’s local history. I had hoped to find a publisher for it a couple of years ago. After over 20 rejections I realized it must have major faults. I learned to find them after attending Darcy Pattison’s Novel Revision Workshop in the fall of 2010. Since then I’ve spent considerable time re-writing the story. Last month I had it professionally critiqued by children’s editor Paula Morrow (good decision on my part) and am now working through her comments and suggestions. Because it’s too late to find a main stream publisher in time for the War of 1812 Bicentennial Celebration, I am bringing this one out as an e-book.

10. What is your best tip for aspiring authors?

Read. Read. Read. Read the kind of books you’d like to write and read How-To books that show you how to write that kind.

11. What advice would you give children and teens as they prepare for life?
“Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15 KJV

12. Is there anything else you would like to share with our readership?

Yes. A big “thank you” to you for inviting me to your blog and another “thank you” to those of you are reading my interview. I’d love to hear from you.

The World of Ink Network will be touring three of award-winning author Hope Irvin Marston books. Her most recent release Eye on the Iditarod: Aisling’s Quest (ISBN: 978-0-89317-071-4) is a biography, but was written as an autobiography. Windward Publishing (An imprint of Finney Company) released the book December 1, 2011. The other two books on tour are My Little Book of Bald Eagles also from Windward Publishing (An imprint of Finney Company) and Against the Tide: The Valor of Margaret Wilson from P & R Publishing.

You can find out more about Hope Irvin Marston’s World of Ink Author/Book Tour schedule at There will be giveaways, reviews, interviews, guest posts and more. Make sure to stop by and interact with Marston and the hosts at the different stops by leaving comments and/or questions. For each comment, you will be entered into the big Giveaway at the end of the tour.

In addition, come listen on February 6, 2012 to Blog Talk Radio’s World of Ink Network show: Stories for Children at The hosts VS Grenier and Irene Roth will be chatting with Hope Irvin Marston about her books, writing, the publishing industry and experiences. The show will air live February 6, 2012 at 2pm EST. You can listen/call in at (714) 242-5259. (Note: if you can’t make the show, you can listen on demand at the same link.)

To learn more about the World of Ink Tours visit:


*Stories for Children Publishing, LLC. (SFC) and its divisions do not receive any compensation for product reviews beyond a sample and/or limited access to a paid website. SFC donates all books sent for review to a charitable organization. SFC may do a contest or giveaway of samples we receive.