Friday, 16 December 2016

Three Last Minute Children’s Book Ideas for Christmas

It’s that time of year again. Christmas is almost here!
I’ve trimmed the tree and hung the lights, but still have a few Christmas gifts to gather.
If you are anything like me, you had every intention of being organised this year, just this once! Would have been nice, but it never seems to happen. December rolls around too quickly and Christmas day is sneaking up so fast!
So here are my suggestions for that last minute gift to grab for the kids. Based on some fantastic children’s books I have reviewed this year, here are three of my favourites you can download or purchase from Amazon and still have them in time to add to your little ones Christmas stocking.
After all, by giving the gift of reading you are giving a gift that can be opened over and over again. Seems like a winner to me!
My three picks (in no particular order) are :-
Three Little Gnomes and the One Bite Mystery by Rhonda “Grammy Pags” Paglia 
With Christmas being in the middle of the summer holidays here in Australia, this story is a great way to motivate the kids to get outside and start a vegetable patch. I adored this story and the wonderful illustrations that supported it.
Format: Kindle Edition
Loved this little gnome tale! I absolutely adored “Three Little Gnomes and the One Bite Mystery.” The illustrations were simply charming and Nibbles McGibbles was a fabulous character! I could easily see kids really enjoying this story. It helps develop imagination while encouraging healthy eating habits without explicit instruction. Children are also encouraged to share in a meaningful manner. It could be a useful springboard for a school vegetable garden or one at home so that children can learn first hand how to grow and nurture their own food. They also learn the value of patience while waiting for the vegetables to grow and ripen, and that their patience and caring pays off in the end.The extras at the end were fantastic. I always feel an opportunity to learn is so valuable. Rhonda Paglia adds information in a light and entertaining manner that kids are sure to enjoy
One Hot Mess by Jeanne E Rogers 
Along with rather cute caricatures of our native fauna, One Hot Mess reminds us all of the importance of looking after our environment. There has been an ad campaign here lately reminding everyone not to “be a tosser” but to place your rubbish in a bin. This short tale demonstrates just how important that message is for people and animals alike. It is a wonderful read aloud story for the whole family.
Format: Paperback
What a compelling read for children and the adults who read to and/or with them! We learn that our stewardship of the earth begins with how we care for our own space in order to keep our environment free of contamination and pollution. The text flows with lively dialogue and descriptive passages. The illustrations are eye-catching and colorful. In keeping with the educational value of this text, a glossary at the end of the book presents the Australian flora and fauna specific to this story. The author’s photographs are vivid examples of the characters and their outback homeland. This clever, non-preachy fable that teaches the precious lesson of caring for our environment makes a perfect gift for a very lucky child. I think I’ll read it once more before I gift-wrap it for my granddaughter!
Amazing Matilda -A Monarch’s Tale by Bette A Stevens 
This award winning picture book presents the life cycle of a butterfly. From the tiniest of eggs to crawling out of a cocoon and becoming a beautiful butterfly. It also teaches the important lesson of persistence and patience, to never give up and follow your dreams. Sound familiar? Emma the Eager Emu teaches a similar significant lesson. It’s no wonder I love this book so much.
Format: Paperback
Amazing Matilda, A Monarch’s Tale, is a beautiful tale about a monarch butterfly during the stages of her metamorphosis. Catepillar is eager to grow up and fly but the wise words from other animal friends encourages her to be patient, one day it will come. Not knowing what her fate will be, she listens to her friends and hears of their youthful life trials and the lessons they have learned. As time passes her instincts take over and soon she begins to physically change.
Children of all ages will be able to relate to monarchs plight in some way. The tale will also inspire readers to not only follow their dreams, but to encourage others to do the same. Ones dreams are never too big, but with the support of friends and family, as well as with patience and determination, anyone can reach their goal. Ths sky is the limit.
This story is a true gem and one that will inspire children for years to come.
A few extras ;- My own books are always available here on my website. If you purchase directly from me I can personally sign any copies before posting. They are also available on Amazon.
Copyright Sandra Bennett and Dianna Budd
Emma the Eager Emu
By Erika on January 18, 2016
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
This story with colorful, bright illustrations delivers a very important message to children the fun way. Emma, the emu is very eager to fit in and be like other birds, but she can’t fly like others. She believes that it’s her fault and it makes her very sad until Rosie encourages her to run instead of trying to fly. Emma discovers that running, which she can do better than others, gives her the sensation of flying and it makes her happy.
The story prompts children to learn to recognize their limitations as well as their abilities and potentials. Just because we can’t do something, it doesn’t mean we can’t do something else well.
Frazzled Freya
Format: Kindle Edition
Poor Freya, the frill-necked lizard, is so frazzled by the heat, the spooky shadows, and the terrifying (but imaginary) monsters, that she’s too scared to play with her friends. Children’s author, Sandra Bennett has tucked a lot of little lessons into this delightful rhyming story. Illustrator, Dianna Budd has done an outstanding job with her color palette choices. The reds, yellows, oranges, and browns help the reader get a sense of the hot, dry, dusty Australian outback that Freya is feeling. In addition to experiencing the Australian environment, kids meet some of the creatures that live in the outback, and they learn along with Freya, that sometimes, stepping out of your “comfort zone,” will help you overcome fears. Ms. Bennett, who is from Australia, has added extra enrichment pages at the end of the book. Kids will learn more facts about each of the REAL creatures found among the pages of this charming book. I learned a lot too!!
Gingerbread Aliens
Book 1. The beginning of the adventure!
By Lucy on March 22, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition
We gave a hard copy of this delightful book to our 5 year old niece who loved it. I don’t know what it is about snot and exploding slime that intrigues little people so, but Sandra Bennett has managed to capture the secret to bring this delightful story to life from a child’s point of view. We (and our niece) are eagerly awaiting the sequel. Recommended reading.
Aliens Shenanigans
I have never released this one on Amazon as yet, perhaps it should be on my “to do” list for 2017. Consequently I don’t have any reviews. I can say however, that those children that loved the first in the series, loved this one too! So much so, because of their humour and entertaining manner of delivering kitchen and classroom science to kids, they are both now available at Questacon, Ausrtralia’s National Science and Technology Museum.
 My best wishes to everyone for a wonderful Christmas. I hope you are able to spend the season with your loved ones. Don’t forget to Read a aloud a good children’s book (picture, early reader or middle grade) with the family. It will give you all great pleasure and precious memories to share.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Inspire Kids to Read and Write Together.

November is a great month to encourage writing, (as is any month). It is Picture book month and NanoWriMo (National Writing Month). Why not combine the two with your class and enjoy a reading and writing session using your favourite picture books as stimulus.
Reading and writing go hand in hand. One is always helped by achieving the other. Reading is improved when children read something they have written themselves just as writing improves the more they can read. Kids succeed with both these skills when brought together to share ideas, inspire, encourage and work as a team.

There is no need for a child to struggle alone in the classroom. As part of a team, they can develop their strengths as each member brings significant individual qualities to the group. One may have amazing creative ideas as a story starter, while it may take another to bring the story to conclusion. One child may be a great reader but need inspiration for ideas of their own.  Teamwork can supply the support and encouragement for all to succeed. Together they can find the confidence to write and read a story that they may not be able to imagine individually.
This is particularly useful with multi-age groups where younger children have amazing imaginations but need the help of older kids to read and write. In turn, older kids who struggle with the lack of creativity or imagination are stimulated by their younger group members to develop ideas further, therefore together they are able to create a much more interesting story.
When put to work together it is surprising what ideas a group of children will come up with to produce a diverse range of stories taken from the same stimulation.
Take for example a group of children in varying ages from 6 to 12, brought together to write a Fractured Fairy Tale.
We began by reading aloud together the very familiar story of The Three Little Pigs. Everyone loves a fairy tale and all the colourful pictures that go along with the book. As you read together, even those who can’t yet read along, can still participate with the well known repetition. “I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house down!” 
After the initial story, we discussed the characters and stories of a few more rather familiar fairy tales – Goldilocks and the Three Bears and Little Red Riding Hood. Again, this allows all age groups to participate, it is not necessary to read all the stories as they are so well known.
We discussed the possibilities of what might happen should all these characters come together in one story.  As a guidance I helped structure a beginning and middle of their stories before sending the groups off to work and discuss how they might bring their fractured fairy tale to a conclusion. They drew story boards for their ideas to help reach a satisfactory ending that they all agreed upon. This requires a lot of chatter, but it is busy, happy talking as they draw, read, discuss and write down ideas.
Here is an example of a story that one group worked together to encourage each other to read and write. 
The Wolf Attack.
In a little cottage in the woods lived three bears.
One day they invited Goldilocks and her Grandmother for lunch. Little Red Riding Hood was also on her way to visit.
Meanwhile, the Big Bad Wolf was hungry. He was trying to catch the three little pigs for his dinner. They ran to the house of the three bears for safety.
The big bad wolf found some other evil wolves to join him and they followed everyone to the cottage in the woods.
The wolves banged on the door but they could not get in. So they disguised themselves as pigs and tried again.
But their growly voices gave them away and unknown to them, the pigs also had security cameras  on the outside of the cottage.
The Three Little pigs, the Three Bears, Goldilocks, Grandmother and Red Riding Hood could not be fooled.
The bad wolves gave up and went away leaving everyone to enjoy their lunch.

What picture books would you use to help bring a group of students together to read and write?

Friday, 4 November 2016

6 Tips to Help Get Your Indie Books in Stores.

Struggling to find book shops that will order your books?
Need help with ways to make this dream a reality?
It is possible, and my books are the proof that you too, can do it!
  1. Produce a quality book. One that any store would be happy to have on display on their shelves among the traditionally published books. The old cliche “You can’t judge a book by its cover,” unfortunately is not true. Your book has to be visually appealing. It has to entice buyers to pick it up off that shelf so that they will browse through it and make a decision. If a shop owner believes your book has this charm, they are more willing to take a chance and place an order. I was once told by the manager of one gift shop that my books were “so beautiful they would sell themselves.” That manager had no hesitation in placing an order.  
  2. Do your research. Does your book or books fit into a specific niche? Think outside the square, other than book shops, can you think of other places that might be interested? There are many different and selective gift shops you can target. I have two totally different series of books that I am marketing, so they require different scenarios. My Australian picture books are ideal for many tourist gift shops, Information Centres and National Parks, however my Alien short chapter books do better in places like museums of Science and Technology. You may find garden centres more suitable, coffee shops or other places of interest. You are only limited by your imagination.
  3. Start local. Look around your local area. Many shops are prepared to support a local author. NamadgiOne of the first questions I am often asked is, “Are you local?” If I answer yes, they are far more interested in considering what I have to offer. Sometimes when I have been further afield they are still willing to take a chance, it all depends on the particular store. You have to gauge what their reaction may be when you look around. Sometimes it is evident that the store stocks local products only. Don’t waist your time even asking. Sometimes it’s more a case of “you never know, unless you give it a go.” I  have been to places where emus are found naturally roaming the streets and thought the gift shop there would be interested for sure. As the area was targeting tourists that come to see the dolphins, their shop consisted only of dolphin and other sea creature products. Not an emu in sight! “Emma the Eager Emu” was evidently not wanted. Yet another gift shop in a similar area was more than pleased to take an order of both ‘Emma” and “Frazzled Freya.”
  4. Make a connection. Once you have discovered where your books are a best fit, check out their websites. Plan a visit. I always enter a store and take a good look around to see what they have on offer. If there are books similar to mine, that is Australian picture books, then I’ll usually ask to speak to the manager or whoever is in charge of stock purchases. If I am lucky, they are available, we have a chat, I show them my books and they make a decision. It’s not always that simple, they may have to take the books to a committee and reply to you in a week or two. Other times, if the person is not available, I suggest leaving a complimentary copy for them to peruse at a more suitable time. I always leave an information sheet that includes all my contact details, the Recommended Retail Price and the wholesale price. Be sure to get their contact details before you leave. A business card you can swap is always handy. 14449903_10210975624455271_7750051560321988407_n
  5. Introduce yourself. Either in person or via an email. You can’t get to every store you want to target, sometimes an email is the only option. Some retailers only want to be contacted by email, not in store. Don’t forget the follow up emails also from those contact details you picked up in the stores you left your books in. Always be polite with your introduction and attach a copy of your front cover. Add any links to your website, Facebook author page or Amazon links, anything that might help them gain further information if interested. If I haven’t left a copy of my books in-store, then I also offer to forward a pdf copy for them to see if interested.
  6. Never give up. I started out with my first book in 2012, it hasn’t been until this year, 2016, since I have had four books published, that I have begun to have more success with selling my print copies to more stores. Stores often look for more than one book they can sell from you. In fact I have even been asked if I have any others! Naturally I am working on this. For every yes you will receive two or three “no’s.” Don’t let it worry you, move forward and look elsewhere. There is always another opportunity around the corner and another store that will appreciate what you have to offer. It may take time, but persistence does pay off. It took me four months to land an order from Questacon, the National Science and Technology Centre here in Canberra. I initially dropped copies of all four books in there back in July after another gift shop that placed an order not only made the suggestion that I try Questacon, but also gave me a contact name. After various emails back and forth an order was placed this week for my Bradberrie Brothers Alien Adventure series. I am so excited and honoured to be given this fantastic opportunity. It isn’t every day you get a couple of your books into one of the busiest and best places for kids visits in our Nation’s Capital city. Questacon is in the heart of Canberra and is a place where school children visit from all over the country. It is known Australia wide as a great hands-on science and technology museum. To have my science based children’s books included in their gift shop is amazing and I am so thankful.20161104_124414
Just like Emma the Eager Emu, I have followed my dreams, set my goals and been persistent. If I can do it, you can too! Good luck and best wishes for your successful journey whatever path you decide to take.
Have you managed to sell your indie books in stores? Drop me a line in the comments section below. I’d love to know how you also achieved it. If this post helps I’d also enjoy hearing how you go.

Monday, 29 August 2016

Six Strategies for a Successful School Visit.

Last week was Book Week. I visited four schools and did six readings. It is a busy time yet one of my favourite times of the year as I love being invited into schools to read to so many wonderful little children. The delight and excitement on their faces makes every moment so worthwhile. I am happy to visit school anytime throughout the year, it just so happens that Book Week seems to be a particularly special time. This year the theme was Australian Stories, so Emma the Eager Emu and Frazzled Freya were a perfect fit.
Here are my six tips or strategies I would like to share that help make a school visit so successful.
  1. Be Organised Ahead of Time. Never underestimate little people. If you think you can just go in and read your book, think again! Kids expect to be entertained. You need a plan. A well thought out lesson plan. Teachers and parents like a reason for your visit. They anticipate some kind of learning to be taking place during the session and afterwards too if you can organise it. Teachers always appreciate a good follow up activity. Part of my package is to send them an idea of what I plan to be speaking about as well as a couple of possible follow up activities. The complexity or simplicity of these depend on the level of the students. It can be as simple as a colouring in page, a craft activity or a comprehension page. 
  2. Send the school a Pre-Order Form. If you hope to gain a few book sales while you are there, then the best marketing strategy is to forward a pre-order form to the school at least two weeks prior to the visit. This way the school has time to send the form home in the newsletter and parents have time to respond. I always add a note about the benefits of reading at home, reading a book from an author the children have met, books make great presents etc. Include your website so that parents can make an informed decision. I also usually give a discount for an author visit as an encouragement to purchase a signed copy of the book on the day.
  3. Have a Poster for the School to Display. You want to advertise your upcoming visit. Don’t expect the school to make up a display for you. Schools are very busy places so they will appreciate the effort you make in having a poster ready for them.  It should include a photo of yourself so the students can see who the author is coming. A copy of the cover of any of your books. The date of your visit and your website information. Forward it along with the pre-order form at least two weeks in advance of your visit.
  4. Be Prepared to Mix it up a little. When reading your book vary your pitch, tone and expression. Use puppets where you can. Kidslove puppets! Ask questions, involve the kids, encourage participation. If there is repetition in your story, (as in Emma The Eager Emu) the kids can join in and help you recite certain lines. Have a discussion at the end. What did they learn from the story? Was there a moral? In my case, my books are about unique Australian animals, so that allows for an opportunity to discuss the nature of these amazing creatures, what makes them special and even what their habitat is. I have a video of a frill-neck lizard in the wild that the children find fascinating and a video about an emu that we can all sing along to. 
  5. Be Flexible. Sometimes not all goes to plan and you may have to change things. Kids can get restless. Don’t persist if something isn’t working, don’t stress, move onto something else. This is where another activity can be useful, that video or craft. Sometimes things might be going so well, that they may ask for more! Last week I planned to read and do my lesson around my latest book, Frazzled Freya, each session lasting only half an hour. The children in several groups were listening and responding so well that I was asked to continue. I pulled out my emu puppet and proceeded to read Emma the Eager Emu.
  6.  Finish on a high. Sometimes I use the video of the emu song to finish. It’s a great way to end a session. The kids are laughing and are happy. Now I have Freya to add to the mix, I remind them of the games they can now go outside and play just like Freya does in her story, (Shadows and Hide and Seek) then we all finish with a special frill neck lizard wave.
Do you have any other ideas that help make a school visit successful? Share them in the comments below.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Rhonda Paglia, Children's Author: It's an International Book Launch! Join in the fun...

This Thursday 18th Aug 16 at 10:00 am Aust EST (Wed 17th 8:00 pm US EST) I will be joining Rhonda in all the fun of her book launch party. Come on over and join us for giveaways and exciting information

about writing our stories, the Aussie Outback and the animals that inhabit it.

Rhonda Paglia, Children's Author: It's an International Book Launch! Join in the fun...: Hi Everyone!   YOU are INVITED to the Virtual  Launch / Birthday Party  for our newest children's book:  Three Little Gnomes and the ...

Friday, 3 June 2016

Kilts, Clans and Celtic Heroes

Have you ever been to Scotland?
Have you ever dreamed of visiting Scotland but never quite managed the trip?
Then Rhonda Paglia’s new book “A Journey Through Scotland: Highlands and Lowland – Fun Facts, Sights, History”, has it all for you.
Take a tour of Scotland with Rhonda and her husband and let her show you amazing sights such as Rosslyn Chapel,  tell fascinating tales like the one about the ghost that haunts Edinburgh Castle, and search for the legendary monster along the banks of Loch Ness.
There is so much to see and learn in the beautiful pages of this non-fiction pictorial journey. Rhonda has provided just enough information on each topic to entice the reader to want to explore further into this wonderful country of history and heritage.
For me, it was like a trip down memory lane. Each page I turned evoked special thoughts of our own wonderful experiences visiting many of the same places as we explored our own cultural ancestry. Edinburgh, Glasgow, Stirling, William Wallace Memorial, Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness, and so much more, they all came flooding back to life in my mind, producing smiles and laughter.
While I have been lucky enough to have visited Scotland twice, I recognise many people haven’t been so fortunate. Rhonda’s book is a great place to start. It gives you a glimpse of the people, places, tastes and even language of this magnificent country all mixed with a little touch of humour along the way. If you have always wanted to visit or perhaps just considered a visit to Scotland, once you have immersed yourself in the page of this tour of Scotland, you will be enticed even more!
Kids in middle school would find this book quite helpful for school projects when searching for information on Scotland. While the information is not in depth, it is a fabulous place to start their research. Plenty of gorgeous photographs to demonstrate the character of the country both the cities and countryside. Plus the book includes a map, basic facts about Scotland, an illustration of a man dressed in complete Highland Dress including full labeling as well as a list of Scottish words and sayings to help the wary traveler understand.
I thought it was so good, I wish I had thought of the idea myself!*Version*=1&*entries*=0

Monday, 28 March 2016

Hold onto your Akubra and take a wild ride around the Top End!

Hold onto your Akubra, (if you don’t have one, get one) and take a wild ride around the Top

End of the Northern Territory with Annie Seaton in her fantastic adventure/romance novel “Kakadu Sunset.”
It should come with a warning – Beware of crocodiles and sharks!
There are crocodiles a plenty in the waters around the Wold Heritage listed National Park, but there are also plenty of sharks waiting to bite around the Parliament of Darwin.
If you have ever been to Darwin and Kakadu or ever wanted to explore this wondrous site, Annie Seaton will take you on a wild ride of exploration and discovery to delight,  entice and thrill. She supplies enough suspense, drama, a tinge of romance, complex yet believable characters, as well as a dose of current political viewpoint along with debatable environmental issues. Annie Seaton has obviously researched not only the location thoroughly, but also everything to do with flying helicopters and the disastrous results of mining so close to a world heritage national park.
I found her descriptions of the area took me back with fond memories to my visit of Kakadu and I couldn’t help laugh when she even included the phrase “Kakadon’t” that I have heard so many times before from people who have visited when it has been far too hot and humid. I also enjoyed her snippets of Darwin after spending two years there myself. It’s amazing that a brief mention of a street name or suburb can spark  the flooding of good times shared with new friends in a town that became home for a short while. Yet these descriptions did not distract from the pace of the story telling, for me, they enriched it all the more. The lookout at Ubirr over Arnhem land, Yellow Waters sunset cruises, the Crocodile Hotel and Jabiru, not to mention the suburb of Cullen Bay, Darwin, these are all so familiar to me.
The main character, Ellie Porter, is the local helicopter pilot, raised on a mango plantation next to the national park, but when her father suddenly died, the farm was sold and the family left the Territory, all except Ellie. Her heart belonged to the Territory, she could never leave this pristine area. On a return flight to base after a dramatic rescue, Ellie spots digging near the back of the old property, just near the border to the park. Her curiosity and fear for the possible destruction of her beloved land lead Ellie into all kinds of trouble. Can she learn to trust the new pilot who desperately wants to keep to himself? The romance between the two is an obvious one however the characters are endearing enough to make you want to see them come together. The villains are so nasty you can’t wait to see what punishment Annie has in store for them. The inevitable crocodile scene is brilliant! I found myself almost punching the air with delight! “Yes! Got him!” This by no means gives away the ending or what happens to the main antagonist. For that, you will have to read “Kakadu Sunset” yourself.
A compelling story of love, loss, ancient land,  and current political issues. Told among striking scenery and woven around complex characters, “Kakadu Sunset” is a story that will take you on a wild ride through the Australian Outback. If you have ever been to the Northern Territory it will bring back delightful memories. If you have never been, it will only inspire that spark to travel the open road. So hitch up the caravan, put on your hat and shorts, drink a cold beverage and dive into Annie Seaton’s “Kakadu Sunset” before the wet season and the storms roll around once more.