Sunday, July 31, 2016

A Review of GAZPACHO FOR NACHO by Tracey Kyle
Review by Lynne Marie and Kayla Michelle

by Tracey Kyle
Illustrated by Carolina Farias
Two Lions Publishing, 2014

From the cover on, this book just serves up fun!

So many succulent ingredients are thrown into this book.

RHYME -- The rhyme is very nicely done-  rhythmic, catchy and lots of fun!

CHARACTER - So many of us (or our children) will identify with little Nacho's picky eating and imaginative reasons for avoiding anything but gazpacho.

THEME -  Trying new things is always a rewarding theme and particularly inspiring here.

ART - The art sets the mood perfectly with just the right amount of ethnic flavor and is both sweet and fun.

WORD CHOICE -- the word choices in this book are absolutely delicious!

My daughter and I each read this book and absolutely LOVED the experience. We cannot wait to make the Gazpacho soup recipe.

Kayla noted that this is a great book for becoming familiar with Spanish words and culture. And she repeated that it is.....FUN TO READ! 

REVIEWER'S NOTE: If you have a book you would like reviewed over at My Word Playground, please feel free to contact me at for mailing address. 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Writing a One-Sentence Summary by Katy Duffield

When I read writing blogs, one of my favorite things is to find is an exercise or activity that is
immediately useful to my writing—something that I can directly apply to my work-in-progress. So as I thought about ideas to share, I hoped to come up with something that was both immediately applicable and something a bit out of the ordinary. That brought me to one-sentence summaries.

One-sentence summaries are often used in query letters or when pitching your manuscript, but in this case, I’m suggesting that you write a one-sentence summary while still in the drafting stage or even before you even before you write the first word of a manuscript.

I have found that if I cannot distill my story down to a single sentence, I’m not ready to write. Or maybe if I’m drafting or revising a picture book or a chapter book and I’m running into problems and just can’t get it to come together, writing a one-sentence summary can provide the direction I need to solve those issues.

There are lots of different strategies to writing one-sentence summaries. Over the years, I’ve collected several different methods. Try them out and see which ones work best for you. And be forewarned, the seemingly simple little rascals can sometimes be truly frustrating to pin down! The key is to focus on simplicity while still hitting the required marks, and resist the urge to include too many details.

Let’s take a look at a few one-sentence summary templates and some examples:

1) [character’s name] was a ________ who more than anything wanted ________________ but couldn’t because ___________________, until _________________ happened.

*Example from Paul Schmid’s picture book HUGS FROM PEARL:

Pearl was a porcupine who more than anything wanted to give her friends hugs but couldn’t because she was just too darned prickly, until she devised a creative way to both protect her friends and to get her much desired hugs.

2) (Character) wants (concrete want) because (abstract want), but (conflict) stands in the way. [from novelist Cynthia Lord]

*Example from L. Frank Baum’s THE WIZARD OF OZ:   

Dorothy wants to return home to Kansas because she’s come to realize the importance of family, but her struggles in the strange land of Oz stand in her way.

3) X is Y until Z:
X = the character
Y = World/Circumstances
Z = Inciting Incident
[from agent John Cusick]

So, X (your main character) is Y (in the general place, time, circumstances of the protagonist’s every day life when the novel begins) until Z (the thing that makes the story a story happens).


Harry is a sad British boy until he discovers he is a wizard and is whisked away to Hogwarts, a wizard school.

4) Begin your one sentence summary with the word “when” and let it lead you to “until” or “but.” When this happens, then this happens, until this happens.
[This is my personal favorite.]

*Example from my picture book LOUD LULA:

When a little ol’ southern gal arrives for her first day of kindergarten, her oversized voice wreaks ten kinds of havoc, but before the day is over, her giant voice comes in mighty handy.

One-sentence summaries can help us stay on track. They can help us make sure we’re staying true to our story and not getting lost on too many tangents. They can also help us identify the core elements of our stories and help us connect the dots between those elements. And as a bonus, they’re also great to use in queries, in pitch sessions, or when someone asks, “Hey, what’s your book about?”

Special thanks to Lynne Marie for inviting me to write this post!

Katy is the award winning author of more than twenty children’s books including the picture books Farmer McPeepers and His Missing Milk Cows, illustrated by Steve Gray (Rising Moon Children’s Books), Loud Lula, illustrated by Mike Boldt (Two Lions, 2015), and the forthcoming Aliens Get the Sniffles, Too, illustrated by K.G. Campbell (Candlewick Press, forthcoming 2017).

Many of her books are nonfiction leveled readers written for educational markets. Katy has also written nonfiction books for older readers and for many children’s magazines. A full listing of her published credits can be viewed at
Katy writes from her home in northeast Florida.

If you’re a picture book writer, Katy critiques picture book manuscripts. For details, please visit the Critiques page on her website.

Visit Katy online at or follow her on Twitter @KatyDuffield.

Katy’s most recently published picture book:

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

REVIEWSDAY TUESDAY: A Review of Sue Fliess' Calling All Cars

by Sue Fliess
Illustrated by Sarah Beise
Sourcebook/Jabberwocky, 2016

Calling All Kids - be sure to check out Calling All Cars, a fun and active picture book by Sue Fleiss, with a subject matter that will definitely appeal to boys and colors and cute furry animals that will definitely appeal to girls!

But that's not all, with it's catchy rhyme, it's quick and easy for parents to read AND even simple enough for the beginning reader to start picking up the words and reading to the parent!

Big cars, small cars, let's call all cars! 

The author and illustrator take us on a visually engaging ride from the city to the beach, to the mountains, into a traffic jam, past a circus and more until it's finally time to park in the garage. Because at the end the cars go to bed, this even makes a great bedtime book.

 Sue Fliess is the author of many books, including Shoes for Me, A Dress for Me, Too Many Trucks and MORE!  Please check back HERE at My Word Playground for a review of her new book, A Fairy Friend!

REVIEWER NOTE: This book was so fun and the art so entertaining that Kayla and I challenged ourselves to make a replica of one of the cars out of construction paper scraps. It was a fun, quick and easy activity. Please consider doing this activity with your child so they can make their favorite car! All you need is a pair of scissors, constructions scraps, glue-stick and paper fastners for the wheels.

And for an added activity be certain and watch the absolutely adorable trailer for the book, here:

NOTE from REVIEWER: If you are an author or illustrator who is interested in having your book reviewed on this blog, please e-mail for hard copy address. We would be glad to review your book, and if possible, include an activity for readers. We are also interested in Guest Blog Posts and select Interviews. Thank you for supporting My Word Playground in it's goal to spread the Word about reading and children's writing.

Monday, July 25, 2016

WRITING TIP: Point of View by Alexis O’Neill


My challenge as a writer is always to find the best way to express a story to readers to capture the maximum emotional impact.

And to tell the truth, I had a two-year struggle trying finding the best story format as I gathered research for my latest book, The Kite That Bridged Two Nations: Homan Walsh and the First Niagara Suspension Bridge.

This true story took place in January 1848, when Homan Walsh, an ordinary boy from Niagara Falls, New York made history by flying his kite in a contest. His kite string, which he was able to anchor across the Niagara River Gorge, was the first line of the first suspension bridge over the Niagara River.

Many challenges faced Homan during his attempt: traveling across an icy river by ferry to Canada, walking along the top of a frozen cliff, flying his kite until midnight, suffering a line break just before reaching the other side, becoming stranded by river ice for eight days when he tried to reach home, and deciding whether or not to reenter the contest to finish what he started.

When it came time to pull all my research together, I tried different paths - including various narratives told from third-person point of view and a story in poems - but none captured the excitement of the event, the spirit of the moment, the emotions of flying a kite, failing and then succeeding.

But when I tried telling Homan Walsh’s story from his point of view, the story began to come alive. Here’s how the book begins:
Whenever wind lifted off the river
and sent the trees to dancing,
I’d itch to fly a kite.

As writers, we have to play with approaches to stories until we find the one that fits best. By changing the point of view (first person / second person / third person), we can discover fresh ways to tell our tales -- and the best way to connect with readers.

ACTIVITY: [NOTE: Kite Flight template attached as PDF and JPG]
Try telling a story from the point of view of a kite.
Print this activity, KITE FLIGHT and have fun imagining how a kite might view the world.
For more activities and resources, go to



Alexis O’Neill’s picture books include The Recess Queen, Loud Emily, Estela’s Swap and The Worst Best Friend. A former elementary school teacher and museum educator, Alexis teaches for the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program and visits schools around the country. Her newest book, The Kite That Bridged Two Nations, is a 2016-2017 California Young Reader Medal Nominee and a winner of a 2014 EUREKA! Silver Honor Book Award for Nonfiction.  Visit Alexis at

Thursday, July 7, 2016

INTERVIEW WITH DAX VARLEY, YA Horror/Paranormal Author by Lynne Marie

As an old-timer from "Childrens-Writers on Yahoo Groups," I am thrilled to interview Dotti Enderle, who now writes young adult horror novels under the pseudonym Dax Varley.

1. When did you begin your publication journey?

I began publishing in 1995, subbing to children’s magazines. By 2000 I had over 100 stories, poems, and articles published.

2.    What type of books did you write?

I’m all about horror and paranormal. Love, love, love it!

3.    How long were you writing/studying children’s literature before you became published?

I was only submitting for a year before my first magazine piece was published. But my first book The Lost Girl (Fortune Tellers Club) came out in September 2002. Getting that call in 2001 was the happiest day of my life.

4.    Which was your first published book? Tell us a little bit about it.

The Lost Girl was the first book in my Fortune Tellers Club series. The series focuses on three girls who use divination to solve mysteries.

5.     How did you come up with your Ghost Detective series by Dotti Enderle?

I sat down and started writing the first one and it all just spilled out. I’ve written many of my books that way. I love discovering the plot and characters as they materialize on the page.

6.    How did you make the shift and begin writing young adult horror?

I’d always read so much YA and wanted to write it. I love YA. I’ll probably always write YA.

7.     Were you a horror movie fan? If so, what is your top three favorite horror movies?

Oh yes! I grew up with the Universal Monsters.  My top three:
The Exorcist
The Changeling (George C. Scott)
Tie between Psycho and Carrie

8.    How did you come up with the Dax Varley pseudonym?

Varley is my maiden name. I knew I wanted a one syllable first name, and spent some time in thought. I kept thinking, I want to keep the D and ax the rest. It suddenly snapped.

9.    If you could be a “monster,” which type would you choose?

Something feline with the ability to steal into a person’s room and steal their breath while they sleep.

10.                        Tell us a little bit about your latest book.

My latest is Sinful, a stand-alone book in the Bleed series. It’s currently up for nomination at Kindle Scout. Here’s the blurb:
Sam, a sin eater, is asked to absolve the sins of Rebel Walker, a billionaire infected with a lifetime of evil. Now Reb’s corpse has vanished with Sam being the last to see it. But who’d snatch it...and why? The dead can’t get up and walk out. Or can they? Drawn into a labyrinth of murder, mystery, and pure horror, Sam battles paranormal forces, as well as his own personal demons—all while pursuing the mysterious new girl at school.

11.  What’s coming next from you?

ABDO Publishing is releasing four books in my Demon Slayer series in September. And I’m currently writing the third book in my Sleepy Hollow series.

12. Are your books entirely fictional or inspired by true events?

 It depends on which one, but there’s some of my own life or family memories in all my books.

13. If true events, describe a true event that inspired you and became a book.

My novel Crosswire is based on the fence-cutting war in Texas in 1883, and my Fortune Tellers Club series (now retitled Oracles) was inspired by my own childhood.

Thanks, Dotti, for this engaging interview -- we look forwarding to reading more from you in the future!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

TWO FOR ONE REVIEWS: Bringing the Outside In by Mary McKenna Siddals

Reviewed by Lynne Marie and Kayla Michelle

by Mary McKenna Siddals
Illustrated by Patrice Barton
Random House, 2016

We're bringing the outside in, oh
Bringing the outside in...

And so begins this sing-songy rhyming romp which follows little ones as they interact with nature.

Siddals uses fund active verbs -- mopping, dumping, shaping, sweeping, digging and Patrice Barton draws splashing, jumping, skipping and romping to keep the action flowing as the adorable children enjoy the outdoors. Woven into this season concept book are threads that suggest fun ways for children to bring nature into their lives. There's so much fun to be had that a little bit always follows them into their home -- whether it be mud, sand or leaves.
I think the sing-songy simple but active text is perfect for toddlers to learn words and repeat. And Patrice Barton's sweet digitally-colored pencil illustrations are adorable and engaging! It makes a great Baby Shower Wishing Well gift, as well as toddler present.
Kayla and I both really enjoyed the art and illustrations, as well as the inspiration. Here is a list of outdoor activities that we have compiled to enjoy along with this book.

1. Collect rocks
2. Make a sandcastle
3. Make a sand drawing
4. Make a rock sculpture
5. Make a leaf scarecrow
6. Plant a seed and watch it grow
7. Let a snowflake land on your tongue
8. Let snowflakes fall on black paper and observe
9. Read Mary's Millions of Snowflakes book
10. Lay on the grass and look up at the clouds - find cloud animals!

More about Bringing the Outside In:
Mary's Facebook page for the book:
Amazon link to the book: 

Mary McKenna Siddals
Bringing the Outside In (Random House)
Shivery Shades of Halloween (Random House)
Compost Stew (Tricycle / Random House)
Millions of Snowflakes (Clarion / Scholastic)
Tell Me a Season (Clarion)

NOTE from REVIEWER: If you are an author or illustrator who is interested in having your book reviewed on this blog, please e-mail for hard copy address. We would be glad to review your book, and if possible, include an activity for readers. We are also interested in Guest Blog Posts and select Interviews. Thank you for supporting My Word Playground in it's goal to spread the Word about reading and children's writing. 

Monday, July 4, 2016


When I think of my favorite books, they aren’t about characters that live happy, healthy lives. Likely, the main character is a poor, unfortunate soul who endures endless trials and tribulations. 
He or she might have it all and lose everything or have nothing and everything to prove as life evolves from bad into worse. 

We all have moments in lives we can draw upon to identify with these characters. We are rooting for them, and feel the tension as they fall and joy in their successes, no matter how small. We read on, knowing that something else terrible will likely happen -- wanting to know what happens next, and how the character gets itself out of the terrible mess. 

Readers love suspense and failure and the ultimately satisfying resolution. So don’t have them follow a character with perfect family and a wonderful life. Introduce them to an orphaned boy who gets shuffled off to relatives to live in a closet under the stairs, a human girl who becomes involved in a love triangle with a werewolf and a vampire, or a boy-turned man who endures unrequited love upon a moor, and so many other characters who have so little to lose and so much to gain and never give up. 

Think of the stories you remember best and write down what you loved most or connected with about them. Likely it will be for their unfortunate circumstances and the tenacity that drove them through it to the end as the tension got worse and misfortune fell time and again, calling for personal sacrifices and courageous acts with uncertain outcomes.

When revising your current work-in-progress, consider how you’ve handled your main character. Where are they coming from? Do they have a compelling problem? What have they got to lose? Mull this over, consider worse possible scenarios and then raise the stakes!