Another Column at MyShelf.Com

Babe To Teens, Past
A YOuth Column
By Beverly Rowe

    • Junie B. Jones on the Ban list!!!
    • What to read after Harry Potter
    • Interview with Connie Lee Berry
    • 2 Reviews
    • 2 new contests - win a batch of great books

    BAD GRAMMAR HAS THIS SERIES ON SOME PARENTS' "BAN THE BOOK" LIST. Are you familiar with Junie B. Jones? She is the main character in a series of books by Barbara Park for kindergartners and young children just learning to read. This immensely popular series has been around for fifteen years. According to a recent New York Times article, a growing number of parents are concerned about what their children are learning from her. Junie B. resorts to name calling and talking back to adults, but more importantly, she does not use proper grammar or punctuation. The latter is why the parents are upset.

    This series focuses on a teaching method known as "whole learning" which allows children the freedom of bad grammar and misspelled words. Whatever long as the kids are reading and writing. And now there is a movement to BAN these books. Well, how about James Joyce too, with his broken stream of consciousness style, and maybe Joyce Carol Oates with her incomplete sentences? Okay...I just wanted to rant a bit, and give you something to think about.

    At Amazon
    Junie B. Jones's First Boxed Set Ever!
    Junie B. Jones's Second Boxed Set Ever!
    Junie B. Jones's Third Boxed Set Ever!
    Junie B. Jones' Fourth Boxed Set Ever!


    Are you suffering from Wizard withdrawal, and mourning for the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows cast since you read the last page of the last book of that fantastic series? You are beginning to realize that J. K. Rowling is not going to write another one? Well fret not...fantasy is alive and well. New friends and magical worlds await you in a vast multitude of books that you haven't read. Here are some suggestions...all of these books are still in print, and available to purchase, or to check out at your local library.


    Redwall is the first book of 18 in the Redwall series. Brian Jacques takes your imagination to new levels in this wonderful series about talking animals that populate the abbey. The series skips around chronologically, visiting the past and the future. Once you get started on this series, you may want to read all of them.


    Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer is the first book in a five part series and is about a 12-year old criminal mastermind who sets out to kidnap a fairy and hold her for a pot-of-gold ransom. Colfer calls this book " 'Die Hard' with fairies." This exciting series will step-up your imagination and the coded messages at the bottom of each page will raise the level of mystery and fun.


    His Dark Materials Trilogy - The Golden Compass, the Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman introduces us to 11-year old Lyra, the heroine who lives in Oxford, England in a world that has similarities to our own, except that in Lyra's world, everyone has a daemon, a living manifestation of their soul. Children die in this dark series, and Pullman is not a fan of organized religion, but exciting and fun to read.



    And of course, there is the incomparable Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis that is laced with Biblical ideals. You have seen the read the innovative books.


    Lloyd Alexander won a Newbery Award for The High King, his final book of a five-part series, The Chronicles of Prydain. In this series, we follow Taran, assistant pig keeper, from unformed boy to courageous young man. Set in the mythical land of Prydain, Taran yearns to go into battle like his hero, Prince Gwydion. Before the story is over, he has met his hero and fought the evil leader who threatens the peace of Prydain. Intoxicating stuff for fantasy lovers.


    The Stones of Abraxas by K. Osborn Sullivan features an evil magician and the fight over the magic gem-stones that make up The Stones of Abraxas...five gems having magical powers and held together by a golden shield; a medieval-like world in a riveting fantasy that is populated with compelling, fully-developed characters.


    The Call to Shakabaz by Amy Wachspress features African-American children that act and speak like contemporary urban children, but they travel to mystical foreign lands, encounter talking animals and magical powers, and deal with a conflict between forces of good and evil on an exciting hero's journey.


    I can't forget to mention J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings. If your introduction to fantasy was the Harry Potter series, you absolutely must get your hands on Tolkien's works. In the Hobbit we meet Bilbo Baggins and then The Lord of the Rings tells of the great quest undertaken by Frodo and the Fellowship of the Ring: Middle Earth and the characters we meet in these classics simply set the standard for fantasy fiction.

    Connie Lee Berry is writing a series of adventure/mystery books for kids nine to twelve years old titled Incredible Journey Books. I just finished reading the first two, and two more will be published in October. They are exciting and funny and will leave kids wanting more. Connie agreed to answer some of my questions.


    Bev: I didn't see anything about you on the Incredible Journey Books web site. Tell us a little about yourself...a mini-biography.

    Connie: My life is pretty ordinary actually. I grew up in a small town in Kentucky. After college, I became a flight attendant for a major airline. Having never traveled as a child, I was anxious to see the world. After a few years of working for the airline, I got married and became a mother of three. When my oldest son went to kindergarten, I became very active in his school, doing countless kids' projects and becoming room mom. During this time, I realized how much I enjoyed doing creative projects and being around kids. For about five years, I volunteered heavily at my children's schools, even automating a school library at one point. It was during this five years that I started writing. The idea for the Incredible Journey Books stemmed from a combination of my experiences in my adult life, traveling the world and doing creative kids' projects.


    Bev: How long have you been writing?

    Connie: I've been writing children's books for about four years now; however, I've been doing other creative projects, such as writing poems and creating things, since I was little. I've always had a love for creating. I think you use a lot of the same skills writing books as you do with other creative endeavors. All require imagination and a passion for what you're doing.


    Bev: Tell us about your road to publication.

    Connie: Initially, I didn't set out to become a children's book author. I wrote the first book to inspire my oldest son to write. But once I started writing...I got hooked. And by the time I pursued getting the first book published, I had written six of them, just because I thought it was so much fun. Getting the first two books published was actually an excuse to get to keep writing them. Thank goodness it worked out because my husband's patience was growing thin. He viewed my writing as a hobby and whim until that time, and with three children, there is not a lot of extra time to pursue a hobby.


    Bev: Has any particular author been an inspiration to you?

    Connie: I love so many children's books that it would take too long to answer this question. However, my children loved the Magic Treehouse books by Mary Pope Osborne when they were in second and third grade. I remember reading those books with my kids, thinking that the author of this series had the greatest job in the world.


    Bev: Tell us about developing the plots for your books. Do you do extensive outlining and plotting before you begin to write your stories?

    Connie: I have to admit that I don't do a lot of planning. I really work best when I write impulsively. I plan the general plot of the story and then just let the story unravel from there. I enjoy writing with spontaneity.


    Bev: I just finished reading The Criminal in the Caymans and Treasure in Tahiti. What fun! What an exciting concept. Tell us about your research for these exotic places. Do you actually go to the various places to research the sites for these adventures?

    Connie: I've been to most of the places that the books visit. I also research each place that the books visit using books and the Internet. I want the books to be educational, so I enjoy researching the places and throwing in factual things here and there.


    Bev: Sam and Max are great characters. Do you think that your own family member's personalities show up here? Tell us about developing them for the series.

    Connie: I originally wrote the first six books for my two sons and so the characters are loosely based on them. I enjoy using real-life characters in the books. In the first book, The Criminal in the Caymans, I used the names of kids we knew in the chapter, Fungus Feet. And in the third book, Adventure in Africa, I use the names of children in my son's fourth-grade class. Kids really get a kick out of that. But I also use many fictional names and elements as well.


    Bev: OK...the old leather journal and the map...I didn't get it. Where did they come from?

    Connie: That's a continuing mystery that will be solved in a later book. The mystery of where these items came from will end up having a very logical explanation, as well as the letters appearing on the map. I thought it would be fun to have not only a mystery or adventure in each book but an ongoing mystery as well. I also wanted to introduce a map into the series to add an educational element and that was a way of doing that. I've always had a love for things old, like the journal. It ties the past in with the present, and I find that interesting.


    Bev: I see that Pirates in Paradise, number three, and Adventure In Africa, number four in the series will both be available in October. Do you have plans for other books in the series?

    Connie: Yes, I plan to write two to four books a year for the series. It's my way of getting to live in a constant world of adventure and have an excuse for doing so.


    Bev: What do you like best about being a published author of children's books?

    Connie: I love the impact that it makes on the children that read the books. If I can add a little bit of adventure into a child's life, that is very exciting to me. Like I said earlier, I grew up in a small town in Kentucky, never leaving the state except going across the state border to Tennessee to visit my grandparents. Although these states are wonderful places to grow up, I always longed to see what other parts of the world were like. I hope the books get children interested in exploring other parts of the world and open their minds to other cultures and ways of living.


    Bev: Is there a downside?

    Connie: I can't think of a single thing that has been negative. The experience has been very positive for me.


    Bev: Do you belong to any writer's groups?

    Connie: I don't at this time. I would love to join one in the city in which I live, Tampa; however, I've been so busy writing for the series and raising three children, I haven't yet made the time. I think a writer's group would be very fun and inspirational.


    Bev: What is the best advice you ever received about your quest to become a writer?

    Connie: To edit, edit, edit. Sure, the creative part of writing is certainly the fun part, but editing is just as important.


    Bev: Do you have any other thoughts you would like to share with us?

    Connie: My advice to anyone who wants to become a writer is to make sure it's something you love to do. In other words, write because it's gratifying to you, something you enjoy, not to get published.


    The Criminal in the Caymans
    By Connie Lee Berry

    Kid's Fun Press -- February 28, 2006
    ISBN: 10: 0977284808
    13: 978-0977284801
    Children/Fiction - Ages 9-12

    Buy a Copy


    Review by Beverly J. Rowe,

    Second grader, Sam, and his third grade brother, Max, just can't wait for spring break. Then they find out that their dad has a job to do in the Cayman Islands, and they will be going there too. Odd things start happening to Max and Sam after they find out they are going to the Cayman Islands for spring break. Two mysterious boxes arrive on their doorstep, one containing an ancient leather-bound journal and the other an old, frail map. A notation on the map indicates that it was made over 40 years ago, but across the top is printed "Max and Sam's Incredible Journey Map."
    Unusual, funny events seem to plague the two boys, but their plane finally arrives at their Caribbean destination. Then they overhear a telephone conversation and discover that a guy on the beach may be one who was shown on national television on the America's Most Wanted program. The adventurous boys plot to help catch this frightening character after they spot a tell-tale tattoo on his stomach as he relaxes in a beach chair. And then they discover a secret about their father and his clandestine reason for coming to the Caymans.

    Connie Lee Berry has crafted a lively, funny story, filled with mysteries and secrets. Max and Sam are engaging characters who manage to get themselves tangled up in danger and excitement in this fast-paced adventure in an exotic place. The illustrations add visual interest, and the back pages of the book have interesting facts about the Cayman Islands, tell you how you can join the Incredible Journey Club, and tell you how you can submit your own science projects and fun poems to be included in future Incredible Journey books. What fun!

    Treasure in Tahiti
    Incredible Journey series, # 2
    By Connie Lee Berry

    Kid's Fun Press-- August 1, 2007
    ISBN: 10: 0-9772848-1-6 - 13: 978-0-9772848-1-8

    Children/Fiction - Ages 9-12

    Buy a Copy

    Reviewed by Beverly J. Rowe,

    Mr. Stone is being sent to the exotic island of Tahiti for work, and the Stone family will accompany him in this new Incredible Journey adventure. It's a last-minute scramble to get ready and to the airport in time for their flight.
    This time, they aren't staying in a fancy hotel as they did in the Caymans...they are ushered to a small, rickety hut; but it does have a beach and the ocean in the backyard. Oh, well, camping in paradise might be fun. When the boys find a jar buried beneath the floor of the hut containing what appears to be an old treasure map, dated 1904, the adventure begins.

    Mr. Stone takes the boys to a nearby island by canoe, where they come across signs that warn them off the island. The signs seem to be very old, and Max and Sam remember the rumors that the bounty from a bank robbery many years ago was hidden on an island. Their interest piqued, the boys decide to explore the island and find more trouble than they bargained for with a hair-raising chase scene that will take your breath away.

    Connie Lee Berry continues the exciting series with compelling characters, fast action, and lots of laughs. The illustrations add visual impact to the story, and Berry includes history and interesting facts about the location, cool science projects and a poem in the back of the book.

    Watch for upcoming Incredible Journey books, Adventure in Africa and Pirates in Paradise, available in October 2007.



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2007 Past Columns

Connie Lee Berry

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