Rochester Children’s Book Festival Interviews! Podcast 10

by Daniel Johnston on November 26, 2014 · 0 comments

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I had a fantastic time this Saturday morning visiting the Rochester Children’s Book Festival. At the event were dozens of great authors, tons of great events (including one funny one where kids were reading to dogs!), and plenty of great workshops and read-alongs. Although I haven’t been to many other book festivals, others have told me that this is one of the best run book festivals in the country, and I can easily see why.

In this podcast I interview six authors who were very kind and agreed to let me interview them for you guys. Below I have info on all the authors in order of their interviews and their information (and what time in the podcast their interviews start). I hope you find these as inspiring and interesting as I did.


I also got this illustration of myself as a “super writer” by Suzanne Bloom, who did a “super reader” illustration for Erik last year. It only took her about thirty seconds to do, which was pretty cool to see.


*Some descriptions taken from Rochester Children’s Book Festival website.

Paul Acampora


Paul Acampora writes novels and short stories for young readers. Kids, parents and critics praise his work for its laugh-out-loud humor, rollicking dialogue, and heartfelt characters. His books include Defining Dulcie, Rachel Spinelli Punched Me in the Face, and his newest novel,I Kill the Mockingbird, which is a comedy/caper about three friends who sabotage their summer reading list. Paul is a popular leader of writing workshops for schools, libraries, and conferences.

Interview starts at 3:33

Susan Williams Beckhorn


Susan Williams Beckhorn is the award-winning author of six children’s books, two of which she illustrated. She grew up in a family where kids, animals, and the outdoors were cherished. Cozy hours listening to her parents read aloud led to a life-long passion for books. She read walking to school, under the covers, everywhere! She says, “I just figured I would write my own stories one day. There is nothing else I would rather do. No one should ever think writing for children is easy or trivial. Our children deserve the very best.” Susan lives and writes in Rexville, NY.

Interview starts at 10:07

Erin Dionne


Erin Dionne’s books are Models Don’t Eat Chocolate Cookies, The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet, and Notes from an Accidental Band Geek. Her novel Moxie and the Art of Rule Breaking: A 14 Day Mystery, is based on the real-life Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum art heist. The series continues with Ollie and the Science of Treasure Hunting (July 2014). A graduate of Boston College (English & Communications, 1997) and Emerson College (MFA, 1999); she teaches writing at Montserrat College of Art and lives outside of Boston with her husband, two children, and a very indignant dog.

Moxie and the Art of Rule Breaking: A 14 Day Mystery on Amazon

Interview starts at 16:34

Lisa Scott


Lisa Ann Scott is a former TV news anchor, who now enjoys making up stories instead of sticking to the facts. She lives in upstate New York with her husband and children where she works as a voice actor when not writing. She just published her first book and has one in the works!


Interview starts at 19:46

Linda Sue Park


Linda Sue Park is the acclaimed author of more than 20 books for young readers, including the 2002 Newbery Medal winner A Single Shard, and two books in The 39 Clues series. Her most recent book is Xander’s Panda Party, a kids picture book.

Interview starts at 27:o0

Matt Phelan


Matt Phelan is the illustrator of many books for young readers, including Xander’s Panda Party by Linda Sue Park, Flora’s Very Windy Day by Jeanne Birdsall, and The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron, winner of the 2007 Newbery Medal. He is the author/illustrator of the award-winning graphic novels The Storm in the Barn, Around the World, and Bluffton. His latest books include his first picture book as both author and illustrator, Druthers (September 2014), and Miss Emily by Burleigh Mutén (March 2014). Matt lives in Ardmore, Pennsylvania.
Interview starts at 31:49


May B. by Caroline Starr Rose Review

by Daniel Johnston on November 23, 2014 · 0 comments

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May B. is the first book by Caroline Starr Rose, an author who has been attempting to get published for years. It is written in a unique verse told in the first person by May B., a girl living in Nebraska during the 1888 blizzard in which thousands died, though the time is never actually specified in the book.


May B. has dyslexia, and she wants to learn to read but she simply can’t. She is smart at other things, but words keep tricking her, and eventually her parents take her out of school and send her off to work as a maid for Mr. and Mrs. Obligner, who were just recently married. Mrs. Obligner doesn’t like the dirty countryside so much, and tensions between the two are high. May B. tries to help, but there’s nothing she can do. She keeps trying to learn to read, but Mrs. Obligner always makes her stop if she catches her.

Unfortunately, Mrs. Obligner eventually decides to go back to her family, and Mr. Obligner abandons the house, leaving May B. in it. She has a chance to escape and to go back to her family (it’s fifteen miles back home), but is too afraid, especially after she hurts her ankle and learns that there is a wolf sneaking about. So she lives there alone, without much food, and waits for her Pa to come and pick her up for Christmas. There is a huge snowstorm, and May can barely even get out of the house even if she wanted to. How will she make it home alive in the middle of a massive storm?

Book trailer for May B.


This book does a good job of blending together historical, emotional, and adventure parts of the story. No date or much description of setting is given, yet we can pretty much tell. May’s dyslexia is mentioned, but there is not any dwelling on it nor any resolution; nor is it ever identified as dyslexia in the book. And all of this is mixed in with May being away from her family and having to survive on her own for months.

My general rule with kids books is that if a kid would never have thought to write it, then it’s not a good book. May’s dyslexia is certainly not something most kids would write about, but Miss Rose was a teacher in the past and dedicated the book to students who she felt that she could’ve done better with, so it is quite understandable that she would write about a girl with learning problems. Nevertheless, I think it detracts from the story as a read for kids.

The verse style is also very interesting. It gives the novel an austere feel, leaves a lot to the imagination, and confines the book clearly to May’s experience. Although I think it is something adults will appreciate more than kids, it does also leave the room open to more action and worries because we only see May’s view of the world.

I really like the idea of finding the place where the earth meets the sky, something referred to time after time throughout the book as something May and her brother are trying to find. They’ve even made a bet about who will find it first. Clearly May B. knows children well to write about a concept like that, and what is even more cool is what it represents: A world of beauty and peace, the way the world should be. What is most endearing is that even though May and her brother haven’t found it yet, they have absolutely no doubt that they will.

In the end, this book is well-written, with an excellent look inside the character’s mind and interesting action and ideas. On the other hand, it is hard for me to recommend this book because it does have some things that will make it less appealing to kids. The dyslexia part is probably the biggest thing; if that was replaced with something more exciting to kids this book would be a real winner. It is really a book that adults will appreciate more than children will, as a lot of the beauty of the simple verse style will not be understood by kids; they’ll just know something impressive is going on.

Nevertheless, the story definitely keeps itself moving, and anyone will be excited to see how it turns out. So I recommend it for middle grade girls who are already serious readers. There is no doubt that Miss Rose is a very good writer and I’m excited to see what her next works are like. Blue Birds is coming out at the beginning of next year, and expect a review in January.


Beware the Fish! (MacDonald Hall Series) by Gordon Korman Review

November 23, 2014
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Beware the Fish! by Gordon Korman is without a doubt the funniest book I have ever read in my life. This book is incredibly good, especially considering it was published when Korman was just 17 years old. It is the third book in the MacDonald Hall series, but they need not be read in order to […]

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Go Jump in the Pool! by Gordon Korman (MacDonald Hall)

November 23, 2014
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Go Jump in the Pool! is the second book in the MacDonald Hall series, started by Gordon Korman when he was just twelve years old. This book was published when Korman was just 16 years old, and is one of the funniest he has ever written! Summary At the beginning of the book, the MacDonald Hall […]

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Interview with Iron Guy Carl of Boys Rule Boys Read!

November 12, 2014
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Hi guys, today I’ve got an interview with Iron Guy Carl, a librarian who blogs over at Boys Rule Boys Read! I’ve been trying to do an interview with him since the beginning of the year, but since technology didn’t permit, we eventually decided to do a text interview. Here it is! 1.How did you become […]

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Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher Review

October 1, 2014
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I’m always (usually :)) open to book recommendations, so when my cousin recommended to me the book Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher I thought I might as well give it a shot. Summary This was a famous book several years ago when it came out in 2007, and I can see why. It’s young adult and […]

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7 Lessons Learned from 4 Months away From Blogging

September 28, 2014
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Hi everyone, as you may have noticed, I haven’t posted anything on this site since I graduated high school back in May (yay!). I’ll share more about what’s going on later, but I’ll definitely be writing more regularly now. So I’d like to share some of the biggest things I learned from my four-month hiatus: […]

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Life’s Secret Weapon by Daniel Johnston (New Short Story!)

May 16, 2014

Hi everyone, I’m super excited to share a new story with all of you today. It’s yet another one about life, which I think will probably continue for a while. It’s my favorite subject these days! This one is about sticking through rough experiences and coming through them stronger, and it emphasizes feeling good about […]

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Everest by Gordon Korman Review

May 14, 2014
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Gordon Korman has written so many good books that it’s always been hard for me to decide which one is my favorite. Sometimes I’d think it was Swindle, sometimes MacDonald Hall, and other times Everest. Korman did three action trilogies (each book is about 150 pages, so they’re quick reads): Island, Dive, and Everest. In Island, a group of kids […]

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The Look of Life by Daniel Johnston (New Short Story!)

May 8, 2014

Hi everyone, I’ve been doing a lot of writing lately, and I’m super excited to share with you one of my new stories! I got the inspiration to write this story when I was having a tough couple of hours. I’ve been super happy lately so it made me think about how other people might […]

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