My experience of obtaining a balance with parental approval

Growing bookworks Jan 2020

Growing Bookworms

I have two sons, both of which are quite different in their abilities and attitudes to life in general.

My oldest, Gregory, is a scholar. At the age of five he could read music and played the piano with some aptitude. At six, I taught him to read as he was frustrated by this inability and the schools in South Africa only teach reading during the year children turn seven. By the end of his second year of schooling, Greg had read all the series of books for young children I could think of, including Horrid Henry, Astrosaurs, the Little Men and Little Miss books, Secret Seven and many more.

I moved him on to other books, the Classic Starts series for children and during his third year of school, he started delving into some of the original classics. He also read all of the Shakespeare Junior Classics. The school enrolled him in a mathematics extension programme and he finished the entire additional workbook in two afternoons.

From a learning perspective, my oldest son is a dream. He works hard, perseveres and is determined to succeed. He is a lot like me. He shares my failings too. He only applies himself to things he enjoys, gets bored quickly and needs to be continuously challenged and stimulated. These character traits do not always provide for a peaceful co-existence with peers and colleagues, many of whom do not share our obsessive approach to work and areas of interest. My colleagues often ask me how I know so much about a certain topic and I will say: “It’s an interest of mine.” Greg and I are peas in a pod, we have many interests which we are very passionate about. Greg is not interested particularly in sport or socializing and does these things only when it is necessary.

My younger son, Michael, is different. Michael also likes to achieve, but his aims are tempered by a general enjoyment of life and friends and he likes to relax. He also likes to socialize and spend time with friends. School assignments are not a cause for concern until the day before they are due and, even then, they are approached in a slow and steady manner and not with panic. Michael doesn’t aim for distinctions and is very happy to achieve Bs and Cs on his progress report.

Michael is not particularly sporty, but he loves to join in with the whole “rah rah – all mates together” theme of an all-boys school and loves the war cries. He will break into a vibrant rendition of a war cry at the drop of a hat and I will be in stitches of laughter as he belts out the phrases at the top of his loud and currently breaking voice.

In summary, I am trying to bring up a complete overachiever and a happy go lucky Joe and get both through school, college and relationships.

The interesting thing for me is that both my boys have the same number of achievement certificates from their schools. Granted, Michael was at a remedial school until this year, and they do give awards for a greater variety of achievements, but Michael’s were generally in academic categories such as mathematics and Afrikaans.

With two boys as different as mine, it is not always easy to find the correct balance for encouraging and rewarding them, especially verbally. This past week, Gregory came home with 98% for his English examination and 93% for his mathematics examination. Michael came home with 60% for his Afrikaans examination and 75% for his English examination. I gave them both equal congratulations and made an equal fuss of their achievements. Other members of my social circle and family don’t always understand this approach. For me, I judge my boys’ achievements on their individual histories, attitudes and effort.

Gregory works very hard all the time. He has the intellectual ability to achieve very high marks and this, coupled with his work ethic, enable him in achieving excellent academic success. My worry for my older son is that he spends to much time working, gets to obsessed with achievement of his goals and struggles to balance other aspects of his life with work. In that way he is just like me.

Michael has a learning barrier and struggled to learn to read competently. He qualifies for a time concession for examinations and time will tell whether he need this or not. A child that struggles to read and write in his mother tongue, finds a second language extremely difficult. A remedial school focuses on the core subject of English and mathematics and the second language isn’t as much of a focal point. When we knew in 2018 that Michael would mainstream for high school, I got an Afrikaans tutor for him as I knew his abilities in that language were lacking. He has worked hard to get on top of his deficiencies.

When he started high school this year, Michael was one of the only boys, out of 150, that didn’t know anyone. He was the only boy who transitioned to his high school from his primary school. The first week was hard and he felt very tired. One the second day of school, the boys wrote an Afrikaans test to see what their level of proficiency in the language was and Michael failed. As a result, he is now attending extra lessons in this language at the school as well as at home. When he came home with a 60% result, I was ecstatic. This mark is an indication of his perseverance and resilience, and I will be delighted if he can maintain this mark for the next five years.

Obtaining his Afrikaans result on the same day as Gregory’s mathematics result made me reflect on the differences in my two sons and how I perceive their achievements. I my eyes, their achievements are equal as the input was equal.

This reflection on how we need to consider out children separately and not measure them against their siblings and peers inspired this post. Each of our children is special in their own way and each deserves to be measured against his own input and ability levels and not those of others.

About Robbie Cheadle

IMG_9902

Hello, my name is Robbie, short for Roberta. I am an author with six published children’s picture books in the Sir Chocolate books series for children aged 2 to 9 years old (co-authored with my son, Michael Cheadle), one published middle grade book in the Silly Willy series and one published preteen/young adult fictionalised biography about my mother’s life as a young girl growing up in an English town in Suffolk during World War II called While the Bombs Fell (co-authored with my mother, Elsie Hancy Eaton). All of my children’s book are written under Robbie Cheadle and are published by TSL Publications.

I have recently branched into adult and young adult horror and supernatural writing and, in order to clearly differential my children’s books from my adult writing, I plan to publish these books under Roberta Eaton Cheadle. My first supernatural book published in that name, Through the Nethergate, is now available.

I have participated in a number of anthologies:

  • Two short stories in #1 Amazon bestselling anthology, Dark Visions, a collection of horror stories edited by Dan Alatorre;
  • Three short stories in Death Among Us, an anthology of murder mystery stories, edited by Stephen Bentley;
  • Three short stories in #1 Amazon bestselling anthology, Nightmareland, a collection of horror stories edited by Dan Alatorre; and
  • Two short stories in Whispers of the Past, an anthology of paranormal stories, edited by Kaye Lynne Booth.

I also have a book of poetry called Open a new door, with fellow South African poet, Kim Blades.

Find Robbie Cheadle

Blog: https://www.robbiecheadle.co.za/

Blog: robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com

Goodreads: Robbie Cheadle – Goodreads

Twitter: BakeandWrite

Instagram: Robbie Cheadle – Instagram

Facebook: Sir Chocolate Books


Want to be sure not to miss any of Robbie’s “Growing Bookworms” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress. If you found it interesting or entertaining, please share.

 


Sir Chocolate and the Graffiti artists – A Christmas story

Growing bookworks 2

It was two nights before Christmas, a cold and cloudy day

When the Roundy Twins thought of a new idea for play

Into Sir Chocolate’s Chocolatier, the naught pair snuck

And found his sweet decorating tools; for them a bit of luck

DSCN1295

They spent the long winter’s evening, having a lot of fun

And admired their handiwork, when they were quite done

They had painted the town with Sir Chocolate’s edible-paint

The tubes were all empty, they had painted without restraint

20160221_171929 (2)

Pictures and graffiti adorned every house in town’s walls

They’d been to the local market and sprayed all the stalls

And the stage in the park, was full of paint and a mess

The twins were shocked at how it looked, I must confess

 

They felt some remorse, the annual play was on Christmas Eve

They’d painted all the props, not one did they miss and leave

Now that they had finished, they knew they’d been bad

The concert would be ruined, and their friends would be sad.

IMG_0072

Bright and early the next day, Sir Chocolate heard a knock

He was hoping to sleep late, but could not the loud sound block

Mr Christmas Pudding and Miss Christmas Cracker were at his door

They were really upset, their tears made puddles on the floor

 

They’d been preparing for months, for this Christmas event

The invitations to the townspeople had already been sent

“We’ll have to cancel the show and it is such a shame”

“We can’t carry on now; without props it won’t be the same!”

48195656_785318601814829_4813420924378284032_o

A short while later, Constable Licorice joined them for tea

Everyone helping clean up, was the only plan he could see

He and Sir Chocolate walked about town, looking for clues

It didn’t do them any good, only wore out their shoes

 

Of the irresponsible trouble makers, no trace could they find

When discovered, they’d get a piece of Constable Licorice’s mind

Signs asking for information, were put up all around the town

Passersby read them with interest, then shook their heads with a frown

 

The towns people rallied round, and worked extremely hard

The culprits, once caught, from the concert would be barred

It took all day, and everyone was feeling really tired

There was so much to do, some extra help had been hired

IMG_0323

Sir Chocolate was amazed at how the mess disappeared

The stage and props looked fine when the paint had been cleared

The town’s people sat down to enjoy a picnic on the grass

And to their great cleaning effort, they all raised a glass

 

Mr Christmas Pudding and his friends all the concert tickets sold

Miss Christmas Cracker performed and was a sight to behold

At the end of the play, the crowd gave a standing ovation

Which the performers on stage, received with great elation

IMG_0055

 

The next day, Sir Chocolate was awoken early once again

Mrs Roundy had come to visit and her boys behavior explain

She had seen them mopping around, looking most upset

Their naughty and destructive actions, they both did regret

 

Constable Licorice and the boys had a long conversation

Sweeping the street clean of snow, became their obligation

In this way they made amends for their naughty silliness

They knew the results of their actions, had been quite serious

IMG_1048

Each promised they’d never write graffiti on walls again

This was one form of art from which they’d always abstain

They spread the news to their younger siblings and friends

They felt it was the least they could do, to try and make amends

By Robbie and Michael Cheadle

IMG_0036

About Robbie Cheadle

IMG_9902

Hello, my name is Robbie, short for Roberta. I am an author with six published children’s picture books in the Sir Chocolate books series for children aged 2 to 9 years old (co-authored with my son, Michael Cheadle), one published middle grade book in the Silly Willy series and one published preteen/young adult fictionalised biography about my mother’s life as a young girl growing up in an English town in Suffolk during World War II called While the Bombs Fell (co-authored with my mother, Elsie Hancy Eaton). All of my children’s book are written under Robbie Cheadle and are published by TSL Publications.

I have recently branched into adult and young adult horror and supernatural writing and, in order to clearly differential my children’s books from my adult writing, I plan to publish these books under Roberta Eaton Cheadle. My first supernatural book published in that name, Through the Nethergate, is now available.

I have participated in a number of anthologies:

  • Two short stories in #1 Amazon bestselling anthology, Dark Visions, a collection of horror stories edited by Dan Alatorre;
  • Three short stories in Death Among Us, an anthology of murder mystery stories, edited by Stephen Bentley;
  • Three short stories in #1 Amazon bestselling anthology, Nightmareland, a collection of horror stories edited by Dan Alatorre; and
  • Two short stories in Whispers of the Past, an anthology of paranormal stories, edited by Kaye Lynne Booth.

I also have a book of poetry called Open a new door, with fellow South African poet, Kim Blades.

Find Robbie Cheadle

Blog: https://www.robbiecheadle.co.za/

Blog: robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com

Goodreads: Robbie Cheadle – Goodreads

Twitter: BakeandWrite

Instagram: Robbie Cheadle – Instagram

Facebook: Sir Chocolate Books


Want to be sure not to miss any of Robbie’s “Growing Bookworms” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress.

 

 


Seeking Out Children’s & Young Adult Fiction in November

Children's & Y.A.

In November we’ve been seeking out children’s and young adult fiction on Writing to be Read. There are a few differences in writing for our younger readers from writing for adults. As authors, we are in a position to shape young minds, and that’s a big responsibility.

Fiction for adults relies on our words to paint a visual image for the reader, but stories for beginning readers rely heavily on illustrations to enhance our words for youngsters. Authors who have the ability to illustrate their own books may be at an advantage, because illustrations can be a sizable expense for authors like myself, who do not possess such abilities. (Long time Writing to be Read followers may be aware that I once tried to have the first book in the My Backyard Friends series published, but a halt was put on the project after a five year publication process, when the arrangement for illustrations fell through. So, I speak of this added obstacle for children’s authors first hand.)

My interview with author and artist Judy Mastrangelo talks about her Portal to the Land of Fae series and her other works, and shares several of the author’s bright and colorful illustrations. I found her work to be delightful in both text and illustrations in my review of Flower Fairies, and I’ve no doubt that her stories are enjoyed by both young and old.

Young adult authors are faced with a different dilemma, because the audience they write for still have the curiosity of children, but they are beginning to deal with adult issues in their lives, although they are not yet adults either. Controversial topics must be handled with sensitivity and finesse, because the Y.A. critics can be relentless, as is illustrated in this NY Times article about Y.A. author Amélie Wen Zhao.

On Writing to be Read, we looked at how Y.A. fantasy and science fiction author Carol Riggs deals with issues that might be frightening for adolescents in her Junction 2020 series on “Chatting with the Pros“, and saw how Jordan Elizabeth handles a dark fantasy story which deals with the controversial and often taboo topics of teen suicide, cutting, and depression in my review of Tabitha’s Death. Jordan also talks about the inspiration behind her fantasy novel, The Goat Children, which deals with the issue of Alzhiemer’s disease, on “Writing for a Y.A. Audience“.

Also in November, Robbie Cheadle also looked at the pros and cons of classic vs. contemporary children’s fiction on “Growing Bookworms“, and Jeff Bowles took a look at Disney’s new video streaming service, Disney+, on “Jeff’s Movie Reviews“, where we can find all the great tales of the Disney classics. What a great way to introduce our children to them, (or just re-watch them ourselves to indulge our own inner children).

In addition, we said goodbye to a great author, who was known and loved in the online writing communities in my “Tribute to Tom Johnson“. Tom was originally a pulp and science fiction author, but in recent years, he’s been writing children’s stories for the Wire Dog story collections. He will be greatly missed.

November has been a great month and we’ve explored a lot of children’s and young adult fiction. I hope you’ve enjoyed yourself as much as I have. There is no theme for December, as I’m taking this time to breathe before the next round. I’ll be updating you about the changes that will be coming for 2020 on Writing to be Read,  reviewing a couple of books which didn’t fit under this year’s themes, and throwing in a few surprises. I do hope you’ll all drop by and check it out.


Interview with children’s author & illustrator Judy Mastrangelo

Judy Masrangelo Framed

My guest today is an author and talented illustrator of children’s fantasy books. She seems a bit shy, but I was able to coax a few answers out of her, regarding writing for children and creating beautiful illustrations. Because, after all, at least half of writing for children is creating visual images, so an author who can do their own illustrations comes into the game a step ahead. Please help me welcome author and illustrator Judy Mastrangelo.

Kaye: When did you know you wanted to be an author?

Judy: I’ve always enjoyed writing, ever since I was very young.

Kaye: Would you share the story of your own publishing journey?

Judy: As a child I would write little stories from my imagination, or about my everyday experiences.

Coming from a fine art background, I’ve always loved the wonderful artists of the “Golden Age of Illustration”, who illustrated books from about 1850 to 1925.  I like to think that I continue along this line in my own small way.  I enjoy writing stories that I illustrate, and also love illustrating classical stories in the public domain.

Many of my paintings have been licensed for various markets, such as art prints, wall murals, greeting cards, jigsaw puzzles, oracle cards etc.  I have written and illustrated several published books.  And I have both illustrated and written the text to a new inspirational Oracle Card Deck which will be on the market next year, published by “RED FEATHER MIND BODY SPIRIT”, a division of Schiffer Publishing.

You can see and hear podcasts about my artwork on Youtube.

These include some radio interviews, plus several teaching podcasts about the steps I take in the creation of my Art.  To learn more about my Art and products, you can visit: www.judymastrangelo.com

Kaye: What’s something most readers would never guess about you?

Judy: I am a “movie buff” and enjoy many genres of film.

Kaye: What is the biggest challenge of writing for children?

Judy: I try not to “talk down to children”.  Just having fun at writing is what I enjoy doing, and making my stories come from my heart, expressing how I feel. My books are really intended to be appreciated by all ages ~ the young and the young at heart.  I attempt to appeal to the “Child in all of us”, and to rekindle the wonderful feelings we have all experienced in our youth, of the awe and beauty of the world around us.  As we grow older, life seems to become more mundane, with all the everyday things we have to do in order to survive.  The realm of art certainly plays an extremely important part in everyone’s lives, so that we may feel uplifted and inspired to higher worlds.

Kaye: What is the one thing you hope to teach children?

Judy: I like to impart the wonder and beauty of the world around us; sensitivity to nature and to all living beings, including animals, plants, and trees, as well as humankind are excellent lessons to understand.  I feel that developing creativity as an art form, and one’s imagination, are very important aspects of life. Many people seem to place imaginative painting and literature more in a children’s category, although I’m sure you’ll agree that the genre of fantasy art is appreciated by all ages.

CINDERELLAMany adults also enjoy themes, such as fairy tales, and other types of fantasy. I’m sure no one will dispute the fact that great authors such as William Shakespeare, Hans Christian Andersen, Robert Louis Stevenson, James Barry, etc. wrote memorable outstanding fantasy stories. And that’s why I feel that my writing and paintings can also appeal to any age person.

One just has to “let go” of their preconceived notions that fantasy, fairies, fairy tales, etc. are just for the young. It will keep us all “Young at Heart” if we believe in the magical power of art to unleash our imaginations.

Kaye: Your books are illustrated in bright, vibrant colors. What medium do you work with?

Judy: Acrylic paint on canvas is my medium of choice.

 

Kaye: What is the most challenging thing about illustrating your own books?

Judy: The art of illustration is very dear to my heart, something I have been developing my entire life. It is a labor of love for me, and I paint because I enjoy doing it so much. I usually paint slowly, because I am somewhat of a perfectionist, and as a result my paintings aren’t created very quickly. This can sometimes present a problem. But I do enjoy illustrating my own books that I also design. Many of my books I have written myself, and others have stories or poems that are in the public domain which I illustrate. It’s all great fun to illustrate, and I relish every moment I spend doing my paintings!

Kaye: What is the most important quality in a children’s story for you?

Judy: Delight, imagination, and fun.

Kaye: What’s the best piece of advice you were ever given?

Judy: Be true to my heart, be myself, and enjoy the process of creating.

Kaye: Flower Fairies is focused on the characters. What comes first in your mind, the character, or the story?

Judy: I’m a very visual person, and often I first get images in my mind of a painting that I would like to create. Often this “germ” of an idea or image leads to a story, or a series of paintings. So I would say that the story as a whole comes first.

Kaye: As a children’s writer, what kind of research do you find yourself doing for your stories?

Judy: I often research period costumes for my characters to wear, and I also consider other art forms which portray the ideas I wish to develop in my stories. I love all forms of great art, and often music, drama, dance and other literature is a great inspiration to me, as well as great painting of course. So I immerse myself in art that I love, as part of my research for a specific project. It brings me great joy to do this.

Kaye: Tell me a little about your Portal to the Land of Fae series?

Judy: The world of nature spirits has always been fascinating to me. I love the realm of fantasy. And the tiny folk, such as fairies and elves are of particular interest. For many years I’ve done paintings of these lovable spirits, and have enjoyed writing about each painting I create.  I love writing poems to go with my artwork, and have enjoyed describing my feelings about the fairy world. The idea of making a series of books incorporating these works was an intriguing one for me, and four categories developed from them:

Flower FairiesFLOWER FAIRIES: This book tells about the precious Elves and Fairies who live amongst the Flowers, such as: the graceful ROSE FAIRY, and the comical little SWEET PEA ELVES.  I often depict Flower Fairies to appear as graceful ballet dancers. In this genre of art, I have been inspired by the Flower Fairy paintings of British artists Cicely Mary Barker and Margaret Tarrant.

 

 

SECRETS OF THE FAIRIES COVERIn my SECRETS OF THE FAIRIES, I portray the secret life of elves and fairies that I imagine to exist in amazing places.  There are many delightful things that i depict these creatures doing.  They often enjoy frolicking and playing in a garden.  These secrets tell of the hidden world of elves and fairies, little known to mortals. I’ve also written and illustrated depictions of the four seasons with the fairies, and their beautiful romantic lives.

 

FAIRY TALE FAIRIES, various forms of fantasy have always been the closest to my heart.  They include fairy tales and myths.

The world of fairies has often inspired the arts of other great literature.  Some excerpts from classical literature for this FAIRY TALE FAIRIES book are included in this volume. You will see some of my illustrations from Hans Christian Anderson’s Thumbelina, Cinderella by Charles Perrault, Peter Pan by James Barrie, and many others. Sometimes authors and painters depict elves and fairies in a darker way, but I prefer to focus on depicting the lighter, more cheerful and spiritual side of the fairy realm.

MYSTICAL FAIRIES COVERMYSTICAL FAIRIES:  In this volume, I want to share my feelings of Spirituality and Goodness, Love for Life and Nature, and the Healing power of Art. I feel that Elves and Fairies, are beautiful, Magical, and Spiritual Beings which can inspire and uplift one to higher realms.  I often depict them as radiant beings, which glow with an inner light, with radiating and sparkling auras, glow like spiritual Angels.

 

Kaye: Your Come Play with Me series includes bonus features. Would you like to tell us about the series and bonus features?

Judy: My Come Play With Me book series is designed to give readers high quality illustrated storybooks in full color.  They also include some delightful interactive bonus pages.  These books include fun filled things, such as How to Draw pages, coloring pages and recipes, etc.

THE STAR COVERMy first book in this series, THE STAR, illustrates the entire famous TWINKLE TWINKLE LITTLE STAR poem, written by Jane Taylor.  I’ve interpreted this beloved poem, as a fanciful, Dream-like adventure.   I’ve included a delicious bedtime snack recipe, some “how to draw” pages, a creative writing section, coloring pages, and some decorative gifts to cut out, etc.  An Audiobook of my book THE STAR is also available, where people can listen to this song being beautifully sung.  If the kindle ebook, or paperback versions of my book THE STAR are purchased also, along with the audio book, people can sing along with the audiobook as they read it interactively.

Two other books in this series have a Bunny theme: The first one, entitled WHAT DO BUNNIES DO ALL DAY? is my original story of a little Bunny’s first adventure.  Some interactive pages include Mama Bunny’s recipe, coloring pages, creative writing and drama ideas, and decorations to cut out from the book.  An audiobook of this story will be available soon, to be listened to interactively along with reading this book in kindle or paperback.

 

The second Bunny book in this series, LEARN TO DRAW BUNNY AND HIS FRIENDS, is a companion book to my book WHAT DO BUNNIES DO ALL DAY?  In it I show easy to do, attractive, and fun ways to learn to draw little Bunny’s animal and flower friends that he meets in the book about his first adventure.

 

Some of the animals I show how to draw are rabbits, frogs, butterflies and turtles. Then daffodils, daisies, and buttercups are several of the flowers I describe drawing, all in three easy steps.  It’s a delightful interactive book, which also includes special pages for people to draw their own pictures, with small border decorations for inspiration.

Kaye: Which character is your favorite? Why?

Judy: One of my favorite characters is Little Bunny in my book WHAT DO BUNNIES DO ALL DAY? He is a sweet innocent little rabbit who is delighted and excited at the opportunity of investigating the big world all by himself for the first time.  I’ve modeled this little animal on our own dear little Netherlands Dwarf pet rabbit, who is very loved by my husband and me.  He gives us both a lot of Love in return.  Knowing this adorable Little Bunny intimately was a great inspiration to writing and illustrating my story.

Kaye: Where does your inspiration come from?

Judy: My inspiration comes from many things: my love for nature, for instance.  When I am in a flower garden, I imagine delightful Flower Elves and Fairies living there.  I visualize them wearing costumes made of leaves and flowers, acorn caps, etc.  I collect things such as leaves, pine cones, berries, ribbons, and scarves, to give me ideas for their fanciful clothing.

I take photos of beautiful places that I visit, to give me ideas of backgrounds for my paintings. Great art of the past and present is always an inspiration to me, such as: wonderful films, great literature, beautiful music, ballet dancing, and beautiful paintings. They always kindle my enthusiasm.

Kaye: Is there anything unique or unusual about your creative process?

Judy: I have developed a method I call “Mind Painting”.  This is my own personal way of capturing ideas and images for my paintings and writing, which develop in my mind.  This is a procedure used by many creative authors, composers, painters, poets, choreographers, etc. throughout the ages. I just close my eyes and “visions” appear in my head.  I do this during the day, or at night before going to sleep. These images often develop into stories which evolve into my books. It’s a delightful process.

Kaye: What is your greatest achievement to date in the literary world?

Judy: Reading and hearing the wonderful and appreciative compliments from people who have read my books, and who have seen my illustrative paintings, has always been very encouraging to me.  I receive these compliments from all kinds of people, worldwide, and of all ages.  I feel that these wonderful responses have been the greatest achievements in my literary and artistic world.

I want to thank Judy Mastrangelo for sharing with us here today, both her wisdom and her fabulous illustrations and book covers. You can learn more about Judy and her children’s books on her website or on her Goodreads Author or Amazon Author pages.


Like this post? Let me know in the comments. You can be sure not to miss any of Writing to be Read’s great content by subscribe to e-mail or following on WordPress. If you found it helpful, please share.


Contemporary versus classic books for children

Growing bookworks 2

I have read a lot of children’s books. Some I read to myself as a girl and others I read to my sons, nephews and nieces and the children who attended our local Sunday school, over the past sixteen years. Many of the books I have read over the past six teen years are contemporary fiction which is defined as a fictional book (events, settings, characters etc. described are not real) set in contemporary times (modern times).

A few examples of popular contemporary fiction book series for children I can think of are Horrid Henry written by Francesca Simon and illustrated by Tony Ross, Winnie the Witch written by Valerie Thomas and illustrated by Korky Paul and the Percy Jackson, Kane Chronicles and Heroes of Olympus series written by Rick Riordan. All of these books share the common characteristic that they are set in our modern world and the main characters have access to television, email, cell phones and the internet.

 

Two common traits I have noticed with contemporary fiction books for children are that these books tend to be far more plot driven than classic children’s books and that there is often, but not always, a theme of disregard and even disrespect for authority figures.

The books I have mentioned above are the ones that I think deal with this growing concept of disrespect towards authority figures by youthful characters in books in an acceptable manner. Horrid Henry, for example, is a naughty pre-teen boy. His brother is his complete anti-thesis and many of the stories revolve around the tension and conflict between the two boys. In these stories, however, the parents always come out on top and Henry is always disciplined and made to toe the line.

Books that are more plot driven can be more appropriate for modern children than classic books which focus more on characterisation such as Little Women by Louise May Alcott and What Katy Did. Our children are used to the fast pace of television and computer games so if we want a book of compete with these other choices, it needs to keep their attention. Modern children also have shorter concentration spans due to modern electronic devices and do not want to read long flowery descriptions. I think the same can be said for many modern adult readers too. Short stories and novellas have become more popular due to time constraints and more available choices when it comes to relaxation. Many modern readers do not want to trawl through the lengthily descriptions included in books like Great Expectations by Charles Dickens and The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Given everything I have said above, are classic books worthwhile for modern children, or even books written post World War II like Enid Blyton’s books?

Let us look at the definition of a classic book: “The classic that keeps on being read is the book whose situations and themes remain relevant over time—that miracle of interpretive openness that makes us feel as though certain stories, poems, and plays are written with us in mind.”

I group classic books in my mind into fairy tales and other classic books. Fairy tales spark the imagination and this is an important aspect of children’s development. In addition, fairy tales help children confront and overcome their fears, which are featured in these enduring stories and also, provide a lot of social messages about how to behave in order to achieve a good life outcome. Fairy tales also introduce children to the idea that life has pitfalls and things don’t always go the way you hope and want them to. They teach children to be resilient and enduring.

Classic books feature humans experiencing life and all it has to offer. The often contain thought-provoking socio-ethical situations such as I am David, which depicts the life of a boy on the run from a concentration camp. Classic books introduce children to history in an interesting and understandable way such as the Little House series of books which depict the pioneer life of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her family. As with fairy tales, classic books contain messages the teach children about perseverance to overcome injustice such as the Count of Monte Cristo. Classic books are also a challenge which stimulate the mind, which can only be a good thing.

What are your thoughts and experiences with contemporary and classic books for children?

About Robbie Cheadle

IMG_9902

Hello, my name is Robbie, short for Roberta. I am an author with six published children’s picture books in the Sir Chocolate books series for children aged 2 to 9 years old (co-authored with my son, Michael Cheadle), one published middle grade book in the Silly Willy series and one published preteen/young adult fictionalised biography about my mother’s life as a young girl growing up in an English town in Suffolk during World War II called While the Bombs Fell (co-authored with my mother, Elsie Hancy Eaton). All of my children’s book are written under Robbie Cheadle and are published by TSL Publications.

I have recently branched into adult and young adult horror and supernatural writing and, in order to clearly differential my children’s books from my adult writing, I plan to publish these books under Roberta Eaton Cheadle. My first supernatural book published in that name, Through the Nethergate, is now available.

I have participated in a number of anthologies:

  • Two short stories in #1 Amazon bestselling anthology, Dark Visions, a collection of horror stories edited by Dan Alatorre;
  • Three short stories in Death Among Us, an anthology of murder mystery stories, edited by Stephen Bentley;
  • Three short stories in #1 Amazon bestselling anthology, Nightmareland, a collection of horror stories edited by Dan Alatorre; and
  • Two short stories in Whispers of the Past, an anthology of paranormal stories, edited by Kaye Lynne Booth.

I also have a book of poetry called Open a new door, with fellow South African poet, Kim Blades.

Find Robbie Cheadle

Blog: https://www.robbiecheadle.co.za/

Blog: robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com

Goodreads: Robbie Cheadle – Goodreads

Twitter: BakeandWrite

Instagram: Robbie Cheadle – Instagram

Facebook: Sir Chocolate Books


Want to be sure not to miss any of Robbie’s “Growing Bookworms” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress.


A Farewell Tribute to Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture

Last week, we lost a dear friend of mine and a member of the Writing to be Read author family, Tom Johnson. Tom was a multi-genre writer for most of his life, mostly pulp fiction in the traditions of the classics, but in recent years, he dedicated himself to children’s fiction, with the intentions of creating stories for today’s children which reflect old fashioned values and morals in the traditions of the stories his mother read to him as a child. Tom took part in Round 2 of my “Ask the Authors” blog series, (which will become a published book by WordCrafter Press soon), and I interviewed Tom about his children’s stories back in 2018. He had some great things to say about writing for children that may be relevant here, since the Writing to be Read theme for November is young adult and children’s fiction. With that in mind, I’m reprinting that interview in part here, (you can read the full interview here), as we remember our friend and fellow author. Tom may be gone, but his wisdom lives on. This is what writing for children meant to him.


Kaye: Although in the past, you’ve written and published many different genres, you are currently writing only children’s stories. So, let’s talk about that. Tell me a little about your stories.

Tom: My children stories are about 1k and meant as bedtime tales, and to be read in classroom or library settings. They are short stories with little morals to teach children something about life.

Kaye: Are they a series or stand alone?

Tom: They are a series, and published in anthologies about once a year. There have been four anthologies so far. I was invited to participate beginning in volume #3. The anthology is called Wire Dog Storybook. Here is the background. True story. A young girl, Ellen Walters, asked her father, David Walters, if she could have a dog, and he said, “No.” So she found an old wire hanger and shaped it to resemble a dog, and called it wire dog. David Walters was fascinated by her ingenuity and created the Wire Dog storybooks. So the stories usually feature Ellen and Wire Dog, but always Wire Dog. Five of my stories have been published so far, and I’ve written three more for the 2018 yearbook when it comes out at the end of the year.

Kaye: What age group are they aimed at?

Tom: I feel that we should begin reading to our children by age one. With that in mind, my stories are aimed at the age group of 1 to 5. However, older children will enjoy the stories, as do adults.

Kaye: What differences do you see between writing for children and writing adult fiction?

Tom: Adult fiction usually means, “no holds barred”, while writing children stories you want to stay away from violence, horror, and adult themes. Keep in mind, young children absorb what they hear quickly, and some themes could have an adverse effect on young minds. When writing for children we must keep this in mind.

Kaye: What appeals to you about writing for children?

Tom: Do you remember the old radio show for kids, Let’s Pretend ? It produced shows for children that acted out fairy tales and light adventures – nothing as harsh as today’s cartoons that are aimed at our youth. Well, I have the chance to import my love for adventure in tales easily understood by young people; children who some day may also experience that same love to pass on to their children. Stories that give our children a moral to live by, not “It’s clobbering time!” Or Pow! Bang! Boom! It’s something my mother did for me when I was little, and now I have the same opportunity, and I’m not going to pass it up.

Kaye: You have wanted to write for children since you were little and your mother used to read to you.

Tom: Oh, yes. I hope that mothers are still reading to their children. They learn at such a young age, and we’re missing an opportunity if we fail them when they’re young. They will never forget what they learn as children, it’s when their minds are growing and grasping at everything. I think one of the first words they learn is, “Why?”

Kaye: What were your favorite children’s stories?

Tom: Really, I would have to look them up in the book of fairy tales on my shelf. There were so many she read to me. Knights saving young damsels come to mind. I remember one particular fairy tale where the princess was on a glass mountain, and the young knight had to save her. She watched each day as a knight riding brown horse attempts to scale the glass mountain, then a knight on a white horse, and so on, until the final day when a knight riding a great steed scales the mountain, and we find out that he was the knight on the brown horse, the white horse, etc. It wasn’t the color of the horse, but the persistence of the knight that finally achieved the goal.

Kaye: In what ways do the stories you write emulate those favorites from your childhood?

Tom: Like the fairy tale I mentioned above, my stories will also have a similar moral – it’s not the color of the horse, or the knight’s armor, but his persistence that wins the hand of the princess. Do the right thing, for the right reason. Persevere. If you don’t succeed today, try and try again.


The stories that we hear and read in childhood often stick with us into our later years. Even though Tom wrote other fiction through the years, as he grew older, it was the stories that his mother read to him as a child that inspired him. That’s what writing children’s fiction is all about.

Tom Johnson Books

Tom’s other works included pulp, crime and science fiction stories right up there with the best, and many may be familiar with his promotions for them on Facebook. His covers seem to reach out and grab your attention.  He published over eighty books during the span of his career. In that previous interview, Tom claimed that Alien Skies was born from his most unusual inspiration and the Guns of the Black Ghost was written as a homage to Walter Gibson’s The Shadow radio drama. You can read my review of Pangaea: Eden’s Planet here.

Tom Johnson and wife Ginger

Writing was a big part of Tom’s life. It was important to him. But, Tom was more than just a talented and dedicated writer. He was also a loved life partner to his lovely wife Ginger. She was supportive of his writing, and I believe she edited some, or perhaps all of his work. With Ginger at his side, Tom lived a life doing what he loved – bringing his characters to life.

Tom, farewell. You will live on through the plethora of books and stories you’ve left us with, but you will still be greatly missed.


Are you a Tom Johnson fan? If so, feel free to leave a few words in the comments telling us what Tom meant to you, or share a memory, or just tell me which of his books is your favorite.  Thank you all for joining me in saying good-bye.

 


“Flower Fairies: Portal to the Land of Fae”: A delightful introduction for young and old

74156978_532028357344307_2810390581459550208_n

Flower Fairies, by Judy Mastrangelo, is book 1 in her Portal to the Land of Fae series and a delightful introduction into their world, no matter what your age. Each page is filled with colorful images which highlight the natural world and enmesh it with the world of fantasy. Laugh with fairies and elves as they dance and play among the plants and flowers. Manstrangelo’s bright illustrations bring her well crafted descriptions to life and immerse you within the imaginary world of fea. There is no age restriction on the hearts these tiny fairy children will capture.

I’m looking forward to my next adventure into this magical land when I read the rest of the books in this series. I give Flower Fairies five quills.

five-quills3

Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.