ORIGINAL BOOK REVIEW: “Stella the Rejected Star” by Marc McCormack

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION*:

Stella wasn’t like all the other stars in the skies above Bethlehem. She was a four-pointed star in a five-pointed world, and the other stars teased her because of it. Then one day, the stars heard an important event was about to happen-and God would choose one star to play a crucial role.

Could that star be Stella? Not if the other stars get their way, and they will do anything to stop her!

Stella’s story shows us that often the ones considered different in the world are the ones who shine the brightest through their faith, hope, and love.

Stella the Rejected Star was written by Marc McCormack when he was eleven. Almost forty years later, Stella’s story has turned out to be his son Brady’s story. Brady, who is blind and nonverbal with autism, navigates his way through the world as both a star who has sometimes been rejected, and one of the brightest-shining ones.

Set against the first Nativity, Stella the Rejected Star is more than a Christmas story and is for everyone, especially those young readers with four points in a five-pointed world.

Stella’s story is the perfect one to teach children the importance of empathy and acceptance. If your child loves Christmas and stars, even mischievous ones, they will love Stella the Rejected Star!

Some of the proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to autism-related charities.

REVIEW:

Once upon a time ….

The first time I read Stella the Rejected Star, I found myself humming “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” aloud to myself. There are definitely some parallels between the stories of Rudolph and Stella––bullying by one’s peers, physical difference as a subject to be grappled with, a sort of “inspecting of the troops” or competition to guide an important process, and a message involving the triumph of the innocent over the cruel––and I think this parallel provides a unique and interesting starting point for discussions between parents (or grandparents, or caregivers) and young children.

How are these stories similar? It certainly doesn’t hurt that both Rudolph and Stella literally as well as metaphorically shine brighter than their peers, or that when Stella and Rudolph are both brought to the attention of God and Santa respectively, they take the high road and refrain from punishing their peers, even though they have acquired the power to do so.

(A quick aside: I still feel uncomfortable about having put Santa into the same sentence as God, particularly since I grew up in a household where the secularization of Christmas was a regular discussion. Whatever your or my personal stances might be on this particular depiction of the divine, I think it’s pretty safe to assume we’re all aware that the Nativity story occupies a sacred and beloved space in many households around the world, and I definitely do not want to imply I do not take the faiths of my friends, family, and neighbors seriously. I do think it’s important to specify that this book resonates specifically with mainstream Christianity as experienced in America, to prevent confusion.)

How are these stories different? Well, we’ve established that God is not Santa (and vice versa). And while Rudolph’s mission is one of spreading good cheer, Stella’s is to lead the shepherds and wise men to the newborn Jesus. McCormack also distinguishes his story with an added twist: in Stella the Rejected Star, faithfulness magnifies a star’s light, while the bully stars discover that their unkindness leads to a loss of this same light. Not only does this provide an opportunity to talk about bad behavior and bullying with kids, but it also introduces the concept of faithfulness and the relationship between faithfulness and behavior.

I find it incredible that an 11-year-old wrote this story, but that’s the background: McCormick wrote it as a boy and published it in honor of his son Brady, who has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). That Brady was himself was a preemie and only surviving twin underscores the importance of this story, both to McCormick, and to those who learn from his picture book. Beyond the value of teaching children to empathize with and be kind to those who stand out for their differences, there is another moral to this story. Hardship, McCormick hints, provides a backdrop against which both heartbreaking and incredibly beautiful stories can play out. All of this in 32 pages, half of them Seth A. Thompson’s colorful and evocative illustrations. I can’t imagine a better way for families of faith to finish out 2020 than with a story of hope, faith, and maintaining joy through hard times.

You can find another detailed review of Stella the Rejected Star on the Readers’ Favorite website, reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford. It is encouraging to me personally that other highly-rated reviewers have begun to pick up on McCormack’s wonderful story.

IN SUMMARY:

Stella the Rejected Star is a sweet and wholesome picture book for those looking to re-invest the holiday season with the magic of love and kindness present in the Nativity story. Marc McCormack’s story and Seth A. Thompson’s illustrations combine to create what will quickly become a modern classic for English-speaking Christian families.

WHERE TO BUY?

You can find Stella the Rejected Star wherever good books are sold, including Bookshop.org, Barnes & Noble and Amazon. You can also find out more about Marc McCormack’s work on the book’s Outskirts Press author page.

WHAT NEXT?

There are several more children’s books in my TBR pile for me to get through before the end of 2020, with my next review scheduled for the afternoon of January 1st. I can’t imagine a better way to start off a new year than with a good book!

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

* Courtesy of Amazon 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.

Tuesday Book Review: “Misfire”

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:

misfire by bennie c. lee

readers' favorite five stars

Misfire: Recovering & Restoring an Estranged Relationship between Me & My Father When It Seemed Impossible

by Bennie C. Lee Jr

ISBN: 9781478761495

Synopsis*:

While speaking at a summit on the campus of Georgetown University, President Barack Obama mentioned a conversation he had with a young man who asked the question, “How did you get over being mad with your dad, because I’ve got a father that beat my mom, and has left the state. I’ve never seen him because he’s trying to avoid eighty-three thousand dollars in child support payments. I want to love my dad, but I don’t know how to do that.” Many young men and women are faced with this painful quandary when dealing with an absentee father. Misfire: Recovering & Restoring an Estranged Relationship between Me & My Father When It Seemed Impossible addresses this question head on. Bennie C. Lee Jr.’s story details how an explosive relationship between his mother and father led to an estranged relationship between he and his father. For 14 years Bennie did not have much of a relationship with his father, and it seemed as if that was how the story was going to end; spending the rest of his life without his dad. To the contrary, they ended up sharing one of the greatest relationships a son could enjoy with his dad. In this book, Bennie shares six powerful, scripture-based steps on restoring an estranged relationship with one’s father.

 * courtesy of Amazon.com

Featured Review

Misfire by Bennie C. Lee Jr. is a story of one man’s journey through life and the difficulties of having to deal with an absent father, the effect it had on his impressionable young mind, and the steps he took to overcome his adversities. The author delivered his message of absenteeism among fathers as a perpetuating social issue of epidemic proportions, while using his six valuable steps to reconnect and/or establish a lasting relationship with the absent parent. Although the author states that his father was not always a part of his life, for 52 years they existed as father and son; it’s a very long time to have a relationship with his father compared to young men and/or women who never knew their parent at all.

While reading Misfire by Bennie C. Lee Jr., I found his storytelling style very refreshing and down to earth. It was like revisiting the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s through the eyes of his young character – “Rabbit” – as he matured into a grown man, with detailed descriptions of the style of clothes and the music popular in those days. The scene that brought tears to my eyes was when Rabbit was running around to the various clubs to find his father, not knowing the truth about the events surrounding that near fatal shooting until much later in life. The author even describes in much detail the steps necessary to sharing your story and the impact the absent parent had on your life, and allowing him or her to speak without judgment. I enjoyed reading this well-written book, one that touched my heart and soul. This book would make a great movie.

– reviewed by Elise Towner on Readers’ Favorite

Other Reviews

Bennie Lee’s Misfire is right on target.

The bright, almost blinding, florescent light of our cramped kitchen shown in my wide four-year-old eyes. The yells of my father toward my mother and her lover ring in my ears still forty-two years later. The silhouette of my father, standing in our front door cursing us as my mother knelt to comfort her sobbing son, are seared into my memory. This is my story and that of many others.

The power of Mr. Lee’s message in relating his life is to allow the many others like him, to safely relive the trauma caused by their absentee father, through the eyes of another who has successfully navigated to a place of peace. Peace not just for himself, not just for he and his family, but for himself, family, and for the greater good of us all.

He does this in three parts: firstly by relating a powerful autobiography which poignantly illustrates the key issues, pitfalls, blind spots, misdirections that torment and entangle many people who have experienced an absentee father, and reveals how beneficial and healing it is to repair the relationship; secondly he reveals how this trauma can manifest itself in our personally destructive behavior and how reconnecting with one’s absentee father can have a profound healing influence for ourselves, family, and the community; and finally he correctly instructs those who are suffering to seek expert help. Like the blind leading the blind, we often do not realize how our own filters impact our perceptions then actions.

 – reviewed on Amazon by Dicken Greene

Mr. Lee is able to tell his intricate tale of seemingly personal and family bliss wrenched into turmoil, and its resulting wake of devastation and desperation, in a concise, riveting, and easily read format. Before long, we are drawn in and identify with his experience, because not one of us is, have been, or will be without abandonment in some fashion. His candid, raw, pathos-filled, no-holds-barred reflections of personalities, events, and their effects upon his life and others’ are discussed without varnish or candy coat. This is a true love story that ends well. Take his recommendations for healing seriously, for he has traveled the cruel highway of abandonment and arrived scarred, but strong and victorious.

 – reviewed on Amazon by C.R. Evans

 


tuesday book review

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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Friday Conversations With A Self-Publishing Writer 10/11/13

The Christian Inspirational genre is certainly one of the hottest markets for self-publishing authors.  When someone’s faith mixes with experience writers communicate with their readers in a unique and extremely uplifting way—a way that enriches mind and heart to see possibilities beyond their circumstances.

Although many of the books in this genre are written (or ghostwritten) by well-known people, many more are written by people like you.  Their “real life” topics cross over faith denominations into the “real world” with subject matter such as: liberation from life’s burdens; healing wounded hearts; the gift of beauty for ashes; and eternal security.  No one—literally no one—can tell these experiences better than the person who has lived through them.  However, there are a few unique methods to remember when developing the manuscripts, and they begin with preparing yourself to “tell the truth” to the best of your ability.

Whether you are creating your manuscript yourself, or you’re working with a self-publishing team (publishing consultant, author representative, production supervisor, designers, and production managers), and/or a ghostwriter, here are a few things to remember:

  1. Build the timeline.  Most inspiring stories come from finally seeing a positive—even miraculous—result from some not-so-pleasant experiences.  The timeline (for this one book) is most easily built backwards.  Starting with the conclusion of events will allow you to see all the pieces leading up to that more clearly.
  2. List the people.  Make a list of the people who were connected to this process.  There will be the quickly-remembered ones; there will also be the ones who are only recalled as you work on the next guideline—the “scenes.”  Depending on your decision whether or not to use their real names is not a concern at this beginning level.  What is important is that the roles they played are identified.
  3. Picture the scenes.  Use your wonderfully developed imagination to “see” the scenes (as in a movie).  Such as: When I tell the story of my Mother’s last days on this earth, I can see the CNA—a gentle giant of a gentleman—lifting her ever so carefully from a gurney to her bed.  Any movement—even her hand raising to motion for water—caused intense pain.  However, when he moved her, she experienced NO pain.

When inspirational writers begin their creative process with these three foundational exercises, it is remarkable how quickly their true story is developed.  Filling in the details becomes easy.  Then, once the first draft is complete, the other decisions—such as using the names of the real places and people—are also much simpler.  My suggestions for those choices are twofold:  If there are more than three people (other than you) in the story, consider using fictitious names.  Tracking people down to get permission to use their name can be time consuming and slows down the production of the book.  Also, if the place where the majority of the scenes are centered is too well-known—and would overshadow the impact of the story—then consider “setting” those scenes in a more generic place.

Final thought: NEVER hesitate to tell your story!  There are many hands and hearts out here in the self-publishing world to help you through the process.

Royalene ABOUT ROYALENE DOYLE: Royalene Doyle is a Ghostwriter with Outskirts Press, bringing more than 35 years of writing experience to authors who need “just a little assistance” with completing their writing projects. She has worked with both experienced and fledgling writers helping complete projects in multiple genres. When a writer brings the passion they have for their work and combines it with Royalene’s passion to see the finished project in print, books are published and the writer’s legacy is passed forward.

Self-Publishing Week in Review: 10/08/13

As a self-publishing author, you may find it helpful to stay up-to-date on the trends and news related to the self-publishing industry. This will help you make informed decisions before, during and after the self-publishing process, which will lead to a greater self-publishing experience. To help you stay current on self-publishing topics, simply visit our blog every Tuesday to find out the hottest news.

Are Self-published Authors Really Authors or Even Published?

Dr. Jim Taylor, who has self-published 4 of his 14 books, addresses the questions, “Are self-published authors really authors?” He discusses why he self-published his four books, gives examples of famous self-published authors, and talks about how self-publishing provides opportunities to great writers.

Christian Self-Publishing Advances with New Collaboration

A new partnership involving four established companies in Christian publishing will offer authors a variety of services, ranging from editing to distribution. The new company, 1Source, is a collaborative effort including Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild, Believers Press, Bethany Press, and Anchor Distributors. It has already signed novelists Brandilyn Collins and Bill Myers.

Melody Grace Has Two Self-Published Books Among Top Paid iBooks

Only two self-published books landed among all the top paid books in the in Apple’s iBookstore this week–both written by Melody Grace. The list included Grace’s Unbroken at No. 12 and  Unafraid at No. 20.  Self-publishing authors should review the books on the list, and other top lists, to stay current on what is happening in the industry.

If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

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.

Weekly Self-Published Book Review: Corinthia Falls

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 by Midwest Book Review:

Corinthia Falls

Kim Hutson

Publisher: Outskirts Press

ISBN:9781432771676

Reviewer: Olivera Baumgartner

There was little to make “Corinthia Falls” appealing to me at first glance. The book opened with scenes of two warring factions in a small church in Corinthia Falls and a bunch of the town’s teenagers, their ruminations, and pranks. While they were certainly funny, I was afraid that this would become one of those preachy reads on saving souls and superiority of their religion over any other. I could not have been more wrong. Sure, there was plenty of soul saving, but none of it ever became preachy or even remotely boring. I found myself totally engrossed in the little town of Corinthia Falls and the stories of its dwellers, particularly the newcomer, traveling evangelist Pavlos Lincoln Armstrong. As colorful as his name and truly multi-layered, he became a catalyst for a major change in the formerly rather sleepy congregation. Helped along by his bear-like canine companion Silas, as well as a posse of the town’s teenagers, Colonel Armstrong managed to bring together the “Standers” and the “Setters” as well as the former observers.

I’ve truly enjoyed the story and the wonderfully quirky characters in it, particularly the teenage cast. The narrative had a nostalgic, nearly dreamlike feel to it, and I found myself looking forward to each new chapter and each new victory that Colonel and his helpers managed to achieve. Timber, TJ, Anthony the Ant, the Sam’s boys – what a wonderful cast of young men to help change the dysfunctional course the church found itself on. And let’s not forget Becky and the tender love story developing between her and one of the main characters – what a treat! There was so much to enjoy in the first part of the story that I actually wished the story would have ended there.

While I understand the rationale about the “30 years later” second part of the story, and the showing of how goodness will bring positive results in the end, part of me wished that the author would have left that part unsaid. It felt slightly rushed, slightly forced, and not completely convincing. I guess that at times I would prefer to keep wondering how a certain character – or characters – fared later in life, and I found this second part of the story less heartfelt and less persuasive than the first one.

I would recommend “Corinthia Falls” to any lover of good fiction, particularly those readers who enjoy Christian and inspirational books. Corinthia Falls is a place they will enjoy getting to know