ORIGINAL BOOK REVIEW: “The Enchanted Rope” by David D. Bernstein

The Enchanted Rope by David D. Bernstein

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION*:

Young Jack’s mother has become an angel.

He misses her singing him to sleep, misses her reading him fairy tales and misses her love of wildflowers and dragons.

Under the Alaskan sun, in a field of dreams, Jack gathers up one hundred wildflowers and starts to weave an enchanted rope so he can climb up to the world of angels his mother is in. A school of salmon, a clan of wolves, a brown bear, and one bold eagle watch him as he weaves and weaves and finally sends the magic rope far up into the air.

When he returns from his adventure, he sees one red flower is missing from the rope. Jack smiles. He knows what that means.

In this magical and touching tale for children ages 6 to 8, David Bernstein explores the loss of a loved one by a young boy and offers an imaginative and comforting view of the possibility of reconnecting with someone who may have gone from earth, but who is not, in truth, gone.

REVIEW:

This week is something of a reunion for me, in that I’ve actually read the book I’m reviewing several times before, and am only now ready to post the review. I have also reviewed a book by this author before, and you may remember his name from my review of the middle grade novel The Portal several weeks ago.

So, why the delay?

The Enchanted Rope is a story of loss, grief, and what comes after. In particular, it depicts a child who has lost his mother and who desperately seeks to stay connected with her by weaving a rope made from her favorite wildflowers. It has a happy ending, in that he meets his mother in “the great beyond” (to quote Soul), albeit in a transformed state, and they do end up maintaining the connection he was so desperate to recreate. Those who know me well already know this, but my own mother has undergone a “health journey” of her own over the last five months, one that she is lucky to have survived––and yet she is changed, fundamentally, as the result of months of cascading problems totaling to a severe traumatic brain injury (TBI). The first few months I spent by her side, I thought we might have lost her. I am so, so grateful that her story didn’t end there, though, and that despite her total transformation as a person as a result I have another chance to forge my own new connection to her before facing the struggle that Jack, the boy at the heart of Bernstein’s The Enchanted Rope, must go through at the beginning of this book.

Yup, I read a children’s picture book about a child grieving the loss of his mother while I was at the bedside of my own precious mother, not knowing her fate. And as the weeks ticked by with little apparent progress, my ability to handle fictional portrayals of grief and loss over sick or lost mothers took a bit of a nose-dive. (Thus the delay. I’m so sorry about that.) I was already the kind of person to cry over a really good Christmas commercial, or anything involving injured animals, but this experience has sensitized me to a whole new range of possible emotional triggers. Including Disney (Disney+?) movies. Mothers don’t tend to last long or be very caring/capable in most of the animated classics. Even the new live-action Beauty and the Beast highlights the fact that Beauty’s mother has passed away and that she and her father grieve daily for her. My heart, my heart.

I should note at this point that The Enchanted Rope was not itself triggering for me, merely that its subject was one I wasn’t terribly well equipped to handle for a while, and yet I’m so grateful to get to review it now. In my years as a librarian, I came to realize that there are relatively few books for toddlers through elementary school that grapple with loss. There aren’t even a huge number of books on the subject of losing pets! (One good one, though, is Big Cat, Little Cat.) I continue to hope that authors and illustrators will add to the general canon more beautiful, sincere, and helpful books on grief. That David D. Bernstein goes down this road is in and of itself a rare thing for a children’s author, and that he finds a way to give voice to a child in need of connection to a lost loved one is rarer still. Sally Taylor’s illustrations are colorful and eye-catching, too.

I think I’m one of those people who will always have a soapbox on balancing the text-to-page ratio in picture books, and I can’t even blame the typography professor at my alma mater, since I cleverly (and errantly) arranged to skip that class, despite my minor in Illustration. As Bernstein’s book goes on, there is simply more story that he wants to share than in its early pages, where he communicates much with very few words. I try to remind myself in many ways, though, that any objections I have on this front come down to taste, and not necessarily even all that educated of a taste, if we’re talking about my own. (Just imagine a self-conscious laugh-cry emoji here!) I doubt many of Bernstein’s readers would even notice the shift in text-to-page, much less object. It’s just … a thing that is there. There are one or two typos to get excited about, but nothing that detracts from what I believe to be an invaluable central message:

As Bernstein might put it, one’s connection to people gone or transformed is not necessarily severed by death, and in remembering and cultivating the kinds of beautiful things that our loved ones loved, we maintain our relationships with those who leave us for what comes next. Love, imagination, and a bit of arts-and-crafts know-how can be healing to the hurting heart. More of this, please!

WHERE TO BUY?

You can find The Enchanted Rope by David D. Bernstein wherever good books are sold, including Bookshop.org, Barnes & Noble and Amazon. You can also find out more about it on the book’s Outskirts Press listing.

WHAT NEXT?

Next week I will be posting my review for Kevin Fodor’s memoir, Turn it Up! Confessions of a Radio Junkie.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

* Courtesy of Outskirts Press book listing.

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ABOUT KENDRA M.: With nine years in library service, six years of working within the self-publishing world, as well as extensive experience in creative writing, freelance online content creation, and podcast editing, Kendra seeks to amplify the voices of those who need and deserve most to be heard.

In Your Corner: In a Time of Social Distancing, Come Together (Digitally) for Children’s Book Week 2020

If you’re one of the many authors whose lives have been touched by recent events, you might have found that the line “children’s books are much harder to write than you think” has more resonance than ever. Authors, editors, and publishing professionals alike must face up to the peculiar challenges of the genre–which include writing a captivating story, generating eye-popping illustrations, and creating a marketing strategy which will appeal to both the children who make up your primary audience AND the adults who must pay for its purchase–all in a time when everything feels just a little bit harder. Even the biggest event related to children’s books, Children’s Book Week, has had to make accommodations.

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Event planners have compromised by preserving the original week of celebrations (May 4-10) and taking them digital, then moving the offline aspects of the program to November 9-15. Join us and tens of thousands of others in celebrating in May by using the hashtag #BookWeek2020atHome and making use of the Children’s Book Week website’s many fun at-home resources for kids and adults.

There are ways to write and publish children’s books which will sell well to folks of all ages, and here we have put together a top six tips list to help you create your own.

  1. Mind your length. As any preschool teacher or children’s librarian can confirm, reading with children is most enjoyable for both parties when the book in question contains just enough text to carry the story along without exhausting their attention.
  2. Pick a timely subject. Picture books are more likely to be picked up by parents, teachers, and librarians on the prowl if they tackle subjects which these adults want to prepare their children to face. Take advantage!
  3. Don’t dumb it down. You heard right—baby talk doesn’t carry as compelling of a story as a book which treats its younger audiences with a rich vocabulary and age-appropriate but sophisticated sentence structure. 
  4. Voice morals carefully, and cleverly. Few will argue against picture books as prime tools for teaching sound decision-making skills, but most of these success stories find clever, quiet ways to do so without alienating readers by being too “preachy.”
  5. Think about those end materials! Many of today’s best picture books include a few pages at the end which include notes for adults on how to make best use of the book in teaching a skill or an idea to young readers. Hint: this is especially useful to parents grappling with becoming educators as a result of stay-home directives.
  6. Humor me. Or rather, humor them! Children have a keen sense of humor, and are particularly sensitive to farce and comedy. Adults are more attuned to situational and other forms of irony. A good picture book will entertain everyone!

In an ideal world, you would be able to focus on the act of writing your picture book, and not have to worry about the complicated minutiae of publishing and marketing your book which you may or may not feel prepared enough to tackle. Luckily, we already live in that world! There are numerous options available if you’d rather trade your limited time and energy for a paid service. These companies offer a comprehensive list of services which they hope you’ll take advantage of as you work to translate your vision to the page. And of course, I’m here for you as well!

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Outskirts Press. The Sales and Marketing departments are composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

Self-Published Book Review: Sally and the Singing Whale

Book reviews are a great way for self-publishing authors to gain exposure. After all, how can someone buy your book if he or she doesn’t know it exists? Paired with other elements of your book promotion strategy, requesting reviews is a great way to get people talking about what you’ve written.
When we read good reviews, we definitely like to share them. It gives the author a few (permanent) moments of fame and allows us to let the community know about a great book. Here’s this week’s book review:

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Sally and the Singing Whale

by Betinna Hansen

ISBN: 9781478786412

 

Synopsis*:

“Whales are monsters,” Papa warns Sally. “They will eat you up!” This is the beginning of the story, a beautiful adventure that is sure to charm both children and parents. Sally is always in a good mood and sure to come out on top, but when she sneaks onto her father’s ship, something unexpected happens –Sally is thrown overboard and swallowed by a whale! This heartwarming book is as exciting as it is layered. It is about a little girl’s love for her father, her growing independence, and the beauty of the natural world. But it also touches on the fear of the unknown –a fear that, Sally learns, has nothing to do with reality. PRAISE: Author Betinna Hansen was accepted to the Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature, where Sally and the Singing Whale was described as “Magical” and likened to the classic children’s story Pinocchio and the biblical story of Jonah. “Sally and the Singing Whale is a book that you will want to read and re-read for its depth and timelessness.” –Denise Dowling Mortensen; Children’s book author of Bug Patrol and Good Night Engines/Wake Up Engines.

“Betinna Hansen is a gifted storyteller whose words create beautiful pictures in my head!” –Peter Catalanotto; Author/Illustrator of Emily’s Art and Monkey & Robot. To learn more go to www.singingwhale.online

 * courtesy of Amazon.com

Reviews

Sally and the Singing Whale is a children’s picture book written by Betinna Hansen and illustrated by Tata Bobokhidze. Sally wants to go to sea with her dad, who’s a fisherman, but he’s just not willing to let her come along with him. When she asks why, he tells her that whales are monsters with sharp teeth. Sally has had many exciting adventures and loves seeing new things, but she’s both scared and skeptical of her father’s description of the whales. Her dad wants her to stay safely at home in her little treehouse that’s perched in a sunny clearing among hills and mountains. But Sally has other ideas, and while she looks sleepy as he sings her their lullaby, she’s ready to adventure once again as soon as he leaves. Sally gets dressed and follows him to the harbor where his ship is waiting. She stows away in what seems a perfectly safe place, but suddenly finds herself in the belly of a very large whale.

Betinna Hansen’s children’s picture book, Sally and the Singing Whale, is a lush and lovely fantasy about a girl’s interaction with a whale. I loved the feeling I got when reading this tale, that it was set when men like Sally’s father went whaling in ships often much smaller than their targets, and admired how Hansen is able to interject a sensibility into the fishermen’s mindsets after Sally and her father’s lullaby is sung by a pod of whales. Tata Bobokhidze’s illustrations are a masterful blend of rich colors, striking watercolor washes and marvelous little touches that bring each of these panels to life. Each and every page is suitable for framing and would make a grand themed wall in a child’s room. I found myself pausing and getting lost in each frame as I read of Sally’s adventures. The details are wonderful — check out the little eyelashes on the whale, follow Sally’s path as she enters the whale’s baleen-fringed mouth and take a moment to find where Sally is hiding on the ship. There’s so much to enjoy about this book, both for children and those fortunate adults who happen upon this book when it’s story time. Sally and the Singing Whale is most highly recommended.

 

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Thanks for reading!  Keep up with the latest in the world of indie and self-published books by watching this space!

Self Publishing Advisor

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Beijing Book Fair 2014

Book fairs are an excellent way for self-published authors to promote their books and network with industry professionals. The Beijing Book Fair 2014 will take place August 27th through 31st, so now is the time to consider registering your book.

The Beijing International Book Fair is the largest publishing industry event in the Asian Market. This is a huge opportunity for self-published authors, considering China is the most populous country in the world. This market is interested in books translated into their local language as well as the rights to distribute English Language content. English language titles are at the forefront of the market growth in China.

Children’s books authors can be especially lucrative in this market, since the government mandates that all Chinese children learn English at an early age. STM, academic areas, sports, sports medicine, and military history are also areas that have been in high demand.

Hundreds of thousands of visitors attend the show annually to see the books from 56 different countries. Your book could be there!

To learn more, visit http://www.chinaexhibition.com/Official_Site/11-2822-BIBF_2013_-_The_20th_Beijing_International_Book_Fair.html

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog at http://kellyschuknecht.com.

4 Reasons to Self-Publish This Easter

Holidays can be an excellent source of motivation and inspiration, and many great books center around a specific holiday. Here are four reasons you should self-publish this Easter.

1. Children’s Books

Holiday themed books are especially popular among children’s book authors because teachers, parents, and kids love to read books related to what children are experiencing at that time. Perhaps you could write a book Sunday school teachers could use to teach kids about Easter, or you could create a funny bunny story that plays with alliterations, metaphors, and other writing techniques so teachers could use the book in writing lessons.

2. Adult Books

Holiday themes aren’t just for children. Many adult books centered around a holiday also have success. There are countless possibilities depending on your interests, non-fiction, Christian fiction, mystery, romance, poetry, and more. Let the holiday inspire you, and be creative.

3. Time to Write

Most people have time off from work near Easter. This long weekend is a great opportunity to work on your book. Use this extra time to brainstorm ideas, finish your manuscript, start a new writing project, or begin the self-publishing process.

4. Family and Friends

Most people are surrounded by family and friends during the holidays. This is a great opportunity to get the support and motivation you need to complete your writing project. This Easter, tell your family and friends about your writing goals and the projects you are working on. Their enthusiasm and support will help you through the process.

I’d love to know, what are your favorite holiday themed books?

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog at http://kellyschuknecht.com.