Friday, November 28, 2014

Award-winning novel details the riveting journey of a twelve-year-old slave boy on the Underground Railroad

Bringing history to life is a sure-fire way to engage, enthrall, and inspire readers, and that is precisely the goal of author Cindy Noonan in her new book for middle schoolers and up titled Dark Enough to See the Stars.

Noonan, who spent considerable time researching the history of the Underground Railroad in Pennsylvania and New York, creates a memorable story of escape and danger told in the first person by twelve-year-old Moses.
In the poignant opening scene of the book, Moses bids his beloved Mama, who is being sold and sent to a southern plantation on a train, farewell. When a fight breaks out and the overseer’s attention is distracted, Moses, at his mother’s urging, seizes his chance and runs.

Following the North Star by night on the Underground Railroad, eluding bloodhounds and trackers, Moses sets off on his dangerous, perplexing, and often lonely journey. For a time, he finds shelter with an Abolitionist family, but then the Fugitive Slave Act becomes law. This means that Northerners caught harboring runaways must pay a fine and go to jail.

Moses and a slave girl living with the family flee north by canal boat, steamship, and rail, slave catchers pursuing them at every turn. Their hopes of reaching freedom in Canada seem distant, but Moses, whose mama didn’t want him growing up a slave, is determined to be free.

Dark Enough to See the Stars received the 2014 Silver Medal in the Preteen Fiction eBook category from the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards. In addition to documenting many authentic sites and characters, the book offers significant benefits to young readers:
  • It teaches kids Underground Railroad history in an exciting way
  • It delivers the heart and soul of the desperate human quest for freedom while prompting questions about oppression
  • It shows how people of the era stood against abuse, violence, and oppression
  • It strongly appeals to boy as well as girl readers
Noonan comments, "Researching the horrors of slavery and the selfless individuals who worked on the Underground Railroad made me realize how important it is for children to learn about this era of American history. What better way to understand the feelings and dreams of an American slave and the high price of freedom than through a fictionalized slave boy their age?"

"You don't have to be a twelve-year-old boy to enjoy this riveting story of bondage, loss, escape, and liberty. Middle school students, teachers, and parents alike will gain valuable insights into the lives of runaway slaves, the role of the Underground Railroad in American history, and the Abolitionist Movement. More importantly, they will grow in their appreciation for the not-so-easily-explained cost of freedom. Don't waste your time looking for a better way to teach history to your kids." ~ Reader Review by Sherry Boykin, motivational speaker and writer

Author: Cindy Noonan resides in Northeast Pennsylvania with her husband of forty-five years, Frank. After raising five children, they now enjoy time with their nine grandkids, especially at the beach.
#   #   #

Dark Enough to See the Stars by Cindy Noonan; published by Helping Hands Press; Category: Juvenile Historical Fiction; Soft Cover: 978-16220885347, $14.99; eBook: 978-16220885330, $2.99; Availability:,,,,

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Award-winning series for children shows Tator the Gator why reading is important

Sometimes, reluctant readers just need a little convincing, and that’s certainly the case in the newest title from the acclaimed Apple Bunch Books book series.

"Tator’s Swamp Fever" by Diane Shapley-Box brings back familiar friends Tator the Gator, Perdie the Birdie, Cabbit the Rabbit, and Fred the Frog while relaying an important message: reading is not just a fun activity but also an important asset.
The lovable characters in Diane’s books live in an all-American apple-harvesting town. The friends experience fun filled adventures as they travel across America.

As "Tator’s Swamp Fever" begins, Fred the Frog is excited because his book club is meeting and he has a new book to share. Fred invites Tator to attend the book club meeting with him, but Tator replies, "Reading books is not for me. I have no need at all. Everything I need to know I learned when I was small."

But, of course, this isn’t really true, as Tator learns when his mom comes down with the alligator flu. Tator and his friends travel to the swamplands and find a wise old albino alligator who lends Tator a book from his library.

Following the instructions in Cures For A Gator, they collect native ingredients for a stew to help cure Tator’s mom. Tator realizes reading can be fun and useful.

Shapley-Box comments, "Tator the Gator, who is always thoughtful and kind, is one of my favorite characters from the Apple Bunch Books book series. I wrote this tale because I wanted to encourage reading while learning about the swamplands."

Like all the books in the series, "Tator’s Swamp Fever" boasts bright, colorful illustrations and lively rhymes. The book concludes with a Fun Facts section that teaches children interesting facts about alligators and other swamp creatures.
Shapley-Box’s books have won first place in many contests, including the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards, The North Texas Book Festival, and The Press Women of Texas. The Apple Bunch Book series has been featured on The Good Day show on Fox and was one of the top ten Made in Texas picks in Houston Family Magazine.

Author: Diane Shapley-Box is a graduate of The Art Institute of Dallas. She has worked as a concept designer and professional illustrator for individuals, newspapers, and a corporation before creating the Apple Bunch Book series. Diane has lived in many places across the United States. Her experiences inspire her to create adventures that introduce interesting destinations across America while stressing the need for kindness and helpfulness.

Tator’s Swamp Fever by Diane Shapley-Box; Apple Pie Publishing; Category: Children’s Picture Book; Hard Cover: 978-0692208472, $17.99; Availability: www.applepiepub.comboutiques, gift shops, and museums nationwide

Monday, November 24, 2014

Award-winning children’s book banishes the stigma of low literacy

Carey Rigby-Wilcox is on a mission to highlight the impact low literacy has on adults and to spread the word that help is available.

The author of the autobiographical children’s book "My Mummy Couldn’t Read," Rigby-Wilcox met with her tutor for three-plus hours every Sunday for over twenty-three years to address her own low literacy issues. Once shy and insecure, she is a walking testimonial to how learning to read expands your life.

In her newest book, "My Dad Couldn’t Read," Rigby-Wilcox further destigmatizes the trauma of low literacy while offering a poignant tale of inspiration for children and parents alike. Parents usually strive to be an inspiration to their children, she notes, but what happens when children become an inspiration to their parents?

In "My Dad Couldn’t read," told in the first person by a young boy whose dad can barely read, readers learn how the boy’s dad struggles through grade school, how his shame and confusion grow, and how he finally gives up, quits high school, and goes to work instead.

The boy’s dad is good at his job, but he always feels that something is missing from his life. When his own son is born, he realizes that he made a terrible mistake in not persevering through his reading challenges and receiving his high school diploma. The question is, what can he do about it now?

"My Dad Couldn’t Read" tells the poignant story of how the boy’s dad addresses his low literacy, the shame and confusion it causes, and his hopes and fears for his beloved son. In so doing, the story offers an inspiring testimony to the power of love and mutual determination.

For Rigby-Wilcox’s efforts, "My Dad Couldn’t Read" received a Bronze Medal from the 2014 Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards in the Reading/Literacy category.

She comments, "I want to shed a light on literacy issues that affect adults today and also show that there is help for anyone who needs it. I have lived a life of shame, and I have decided to break the shame by telling my literacy story. There is help out there, and the ripple effect helps families, communities, and countries."

"The award winning ‘My Dad Couldn't Read’ is a powerful story that will pull on your heartstrings. The empowering message and the family bonds in this book will inspire you and your children. Rigby-Wilcox shows readers that with support and determination, anything is possible." ~ Kristine Scarrow, author of Throwaway Girl
"Breaking stereotypes and new ground, ‘My Dad Couldn't Read’ is the perfect follow-up to Rigby-Wilcox's bestselling ‘My Mummy Couldn't Read.’ This one is for the boys!" ~ Wes Funk, author

Author: Carey Rigby-Wilcox, a mother of four, is a committed literacy learner, activist, volunteer, business owner, illustrator, and author who is deeply dedicated to promoting literacy at the local, provincial, and national levels. Carey travels across Canada sharing the importance of learning to read and how exciting it is to be an award-winning author and illustrator. Carey has presented numerous keynote presentations and speeches at various events. Her passion as an advocate for literacy has taken her to provincial and federal governments and even to Parliament. She is committed to spreading the word about the importance of literacy and the barriers adult learners face. Her self-published autobiographical children’s book "My Mummy Couldn't Read’ was short-listed for the 2008 Saskatchewan Book Awards Book of the Year.

My Dad Couldn’t Read by Carey Rigby-Wilcox; Publisher: See A Book Take a Look; Category: Education, Inspiration; Soft Cover: 978-1927778012, $10.00; eBook: 978-1927778029, $5.99; Downloadable PDF (from author’s website): 978-1927778029, $5.00; Availability:, McNally Robinson Booksellers,,,,,, Copia, Gardners Books, Baker & Taylor, e-sentral, Scribd,, Oyster, Ciando eBooks

Friday, November 21, 2014

Author Interview with Richard McEwan

Richard McEwan retired to the Outer Banks of North Carolina after a long career in sales, marketing and advertising. He lives with his wife, Christie, and their two dogs, Buddy and River, one cat named Oyster and many photos of foster dogs. He was inspired to begin writing because of his grandchildren's love of books.

Tell us about your current book. Give a short summary.

This is my first children’s picture book, The Adventures of Sir Buddy and Mr. Pupples – The Rescue just released by Halo Publishing International. The book introduces children to the idea of fostering pets through the engaging story of the rescue of a lost puppy.

My hope is that the story will plant a seed for fostering pets, and when a child sees a stray dog or cat, that they think about the story and how the puppy, Mr. Pupples, was found and saved. 

Can you tell us about your publisher and how the process worked in getting published? 
Halo Publishing has been a delight to work with. The staff has been responsive, especially Lisa Umina, the publisher. I had contacted Lisa after a fellow author told me that is who she worked with in publishing her first book. I told Lisa I had written three stories and she suggested I select one and submit it, which I did. It was accepted and after working with an editor to smooth out the bumps I searched for an illustrator locally. That did not pan out so I contracted with an illustrator, Amy Rottinger, through Halo and that turned out to be a great experience. Once the character of the dogs was established, Amy worked on finalizing the pencils for each page for approval and then went to color. Halo then produced a PDF version of the book for approval sending it to the printer. The printer then sent a final press proof for approval before going to printing. 

How did you get the idea for this book?  
The idea for the book came from two sources. First, my involvement with my wife in fostering dogs; and the impact that has in not only bringing joy to the one who adopts the dog or cat but also in saving animals from being euthanized. Second, is my grandchildren’s love of books.

What is a typical writing day like for you? 
Since this is my first book I really do not have a typical writing day. I started this spring with notes for my first story and then began filling in around the notes as time permitted or as thoughts came to me.  The completion of the first story generated the momentum to continue with writing the next two, using a similar pattern of writing.

What do you enjoy most about writing? 
Envisioning the enjoyment children will have reading the story and their learning from the story.

What is the most difficult part of writing?  
When I am trying to finish a thought or complete something I had written previously and cannot because I have writer’s block. It is so frustrating. Sometimes I can push through it and the words flow but I have found the best tact is to leave it alone for a while…just let it rest. 

How has publishing a book changed your life?  
It has given me a greater awareness of the value of picture books in a young child’s life. The illustrations or pictures immediately engage a child but also reflect the story being told which brings the child into that story. This combination leads the child to connect words with the visuals, thus the beginning of reading. Just as important, the stories expose children, at an early age, to ideas and concepts.

Is your book is based on true events? How has that affected those around you or why made you choose to use historical events? 
The character Mom in the book is actually my wife. Her love for animals, in particular dogs, lead her into fostering. She has a sense of pride about her role in the book but, more importantly, that children are being introduced to the fostering of dogs, and the treatment of lost or stray dogs.

What are your plans now? 
First I want to get this book on solid ground as far as building awareness, developing followers and, of course, generating sales. Then I will begin writing my second book in this series.

What is your best tip for aspiring authors?  
Don’t give up! Don’t put your partially written book back in the drawer or in the file folder you have had for years. Make a commitment to yourself that this is important and set aside the time. Think about the feeling of accomplishment you will have when you have your book in your hands for the first time or see your book on the shelf of your local book store or on Amazon. It’s powerful!
Is there anything else you would like to share with our readership? 
The story is actually about our two dogs, both of whom we had fostered. Sir Buddy’s story is base on fact and Mr. Pupples’ story is a mixture of truth and fiction.  My wife and I over a 5-year period had fostered about 50 dogs with only one not being placed in a forever home due to serious health issues.
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?
About the Book:
This is an engaging story for children to read or have read to them about a lost puppy. Hopefully, it will encourage young ones to think about the story when they come upon a stray dog or cat; and seek the guidance of an adult in helping to find it's family...or new home.


*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.