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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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:

sally and the singing whale berinna hansen


Sally and the Singing Whale

by Betinna Hansen

ISBN: 9781478786412



“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


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.


Book Trailer



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


Self-Publishing News: 9.18.2017 – New Releases!


And now for the news!

Some highlights from this month in the world of self-publishing, specifically new releases written by self-publishing authors and published by independent presses! Today we’ll be featuring brand-new releases in the Outskirts Press Bookstore!

Are you looking to kick off the school year with some current and relevant material on supporting diversity in the American education system? We are! Of course, we may be biased by the fact that we have personal connections to a number of students and educators who might benefit from Joseph T. Mayhew and Robert J. Hudak’s combined experience and expertise–but it would be the rare American who didn’t have some sort of tie to these issues. (The Six Degrees of Separation from Kevin Bacon thing works for a reason!) Suffice it to say, this is one of our top picks both for new releases and back-to-school reads. Disadvantaged children deserve a better future than the one they’re given, and special education–rightly and compassionately and thoughtfully administered–may help them find that future.

Not everyone’s looking for a five-alarm snot bomb of a book on the eve of Fall … but some people are, and here’s a fantastic new example of the form! This is the memoir of Peter Gordon, who was pulled out of his idyllic life (he’d been recently remarried, developed a thriving career, and lived in a beautiful mountain resort) by a case of leukemia. The only solution? A bone marrow transplant, an invasive and dangerous procedure under his specific conditions. The book copy calls this a “real-world healthcare saga for our times, offering insightful lessons for cancer patients, caregivers, and medical professionals,” and it’s not exaggerating the broad appeal of this fantastic book! Just make sure to bring tissues.

Some of us may not have run across a Gothic novel (NOT to be confused with ‘graphic novel’) since grade school, when we had to read The Castle of Otranto and Northanger Abbey and–oh? That was just us? Not you? Never mind. Still, Gothic novels aren’t what you would consider run-of-the-mill mainstream fiction in 2017. Enter Dwight Brooks and Salvage Optic, stage left. Here’s a novel to delight and confound your expectations, what with its embrasure of archaic diction (a la the Royal Society, circa 1674) and its ferocious, beautifully-plotted character arcs. Did we mention there are pirates? Our bad. There are LOTS of pirates. And that’s fantastic, really. This is a book packed with swash, buckle, and literary Easter eggs which will keep the discerning reader busy in front of a crackling fire this Fall. Really, you couldn’t ask for a stranger–or more appealing–hybrid of a book!

No list of new releases is complete without a seriously awesome picture book! Bertyl, by Sandra Dobozi, fits the bill perfectly. This sweetly rhyming book follows the adventures (not to be confused with the piratey adventures of Salvage Optic) of a turtle looking to nail down answers to some of life’s tough questions: Who am I? What am I here for? Why am I not like other turtles? (Seriously, we can relate.) Fans of R.J. Palacio’s Wonder and its picture book counterpart, We’re All Wonders) will appreciate Dobozi’s take on what it feels like to be “different,” and to want to know one’s place in the world. This is the uplifting, positive, inspiring kid’s book we all need to read in the doldrums of 2017.


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 Monday to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.


Conversations: 5/26/2017


Recently I was inspired by a famous news commentator who said, “Even though our world seems to be more than fifty percent influenced by hate—by evil—it is up to us to talk about and write about the good, ethical and moral things of life. Our children need to know—must know—their futures are bright.” This television news celebrity was speaking to my small group of writers and sharing some amazing (really miraculous) things that have happened in her life—demonstrating just how much power she/we have in the words we choose to “broadcast.”

At the next writers’ workshop each of us still felt her passionate message and agreed that no matter what project we were developing, somewhere—some way—we would include something to inspire our readers. So it is today that I’ve selected two books to demonstrate inspired writing. The first is a recently published children’s book and the second is a classic novel that bridges the juvenile/young adult/adult categories.

Melissa Brown just released her book, COUNTRY ZOO: Gretchen the Runt, in Februarycountry zoo melissa brown this year. A baby giraffe has just been born and joined the other giraffe’s in their outdoor enclosure. She’s been named Gretchen and it’s quite obvious that she’s smaller than normal. She can’t reach the tastiest leaves to eat or play games that the big animals play. She doesn’t like being small at all! In time, she grows bigger and new adjustments must be made.

There are wonderfully insightful comparisons made in this story to help children understand a few of the complexities life gives us all—when we are different. You will appreciate the humor and heartwarming compassion used to teach children (and parents) to value themselves and appreciate the special person(s) we are.

I predict this little picture book will become a favorite “keepsake” story in every home because: (1st) it is so well written and, (2nd) because it inspires parents and children in tandem. Thank you, Melissa Brown, for giving future writers such an excellent example and for donating a portion of your royalties to The Pacer Center to prevent bullying of children and teens.

My classic novel example is SHOELESS JOE (1982) by W. P. Kinsella, a Canadian author who inspired Readers with “…his own brand of magic realism, comic sense, sentimental and sometimes edgy” writing style” (V. Sayers, Professor of English, Notre Dame).

  • As a writer, I immediately loved two things about this novel. First, the author named the main character after himself—well, the last name, anyway. Second, the author writes in his own search for writing support and inspiration as the main character goes in search of the reclusive (real) writer J. D. Salinger. (Today we can “talk” with most of our favorite author’s via websites, Facebook messaging, etc.) BIG point to remember: if you must give someone’s real name in your book(s), be sure you have their written and signed permission.
  • Then I learned that Kinsella wrote his first draft while attending a writers’ workshop in Iowa! WOW! What a great environment! If you’ve ever been to a week or weekend retreat with other writers you already know how inspiring that dynamic energy can be.
  • In 1989 this book became a movie—FIELD OF DREAMS. The screenplay was tweaked a bit here and there, but the basic story is all there. And, they changed the “reclusive” author’s name to Terence Mann who delivered this great quote: “I want them to start thinking for themselves!” (Isn’t that what we want for all our children—to think clearly enough for themselves that they will not fall prey to those who would lead them into trouble?)

May all your writing adventures be inspired, my friends, and when you’ve come to THE END of the story, GET IT PUBLISHED. Let’s make this world a better place for our children! ⚓︎


ABOUT ROYALENE DOYLE: Royalene has been writing something since before kindergarten days and continues to love the process. Through her small business—DOYLE WRITING SERVICES—she brings more than 40 years of writing experience to authors who need “just a little assistance” with completing their projects. This is a nice fit as she develops these blogs for Outskirts Press (OP) a leading self-publisher, and occasionally accepts a ghostwriting project from one of their clients. Her recent book release (with OP) titled FIREPROOF PROVERBS, A Writer’s Study of Words, is already receiving excellent reviews including several professional writer’s endorsements given on the book’s back cover.  

Royalene’s writing experience grew through a wide variety of positions from Office Manager and Administrative Assistant to Teacher of Literature and Advanced Writing courses and editor/writer for an International Christian ministry. Her willingness to listen to struggling authors, learn their goals and expectations and discern their writing voice has brought many manuscripts into the published books arena.

Conversations: 5/19/2017


Teaching is IN my DNA. I also believe it is in the DNA of every author. Last week I wrote about developing messages of encouragement in our Children’s books utilizing themes that, while reinforcing good qualities, also teach our young readers “how-to” cultivate habits that will benefit them throughout their whole lives. It is my premise today that Teaching and Encouraging need to be synonymous purposes at the core of our children’s books. The inquiring minds of our children need to be exposed to only the best of content and quality writing techniques.

So it is that first, I’ll offer a couple of websites to writers who will take their writing gift seriously enough and go the extra mile to research what is currently perceived as the best quality of Children’s, Juvenile and Young Adult books on the market. The following Parent’s websites, are created to “clue us in” to what our children find on bookshelves and online bookstores today.

http://www.scholastic.com/parents/resources/article/guides-to-reading/parent-guide-to-book-genres-fantasy Here I found an excellent combination of classic and current book titles as well an several well-thought-out discussion points that will help me discuss stories with my grandchildren. It also leads to other parts of the Scholastic site for further research.

https://www.commonsensemedia.org This site offers “practical tips for parents of exceptional readers” to help parents (and teachers—and writers) find age-appropriate books to challenge and engage the “thinking” reader.

THEN we have the book: The New York Times Parent’s Guide to the Best Books for Children. The 3rd revised edition was released in 2000, and the 4th should be coming out any time now. However, the information available in this one is well worth having at your fingertips because it is organized in six sections according to reading level: Wordless, Picture, Story, Early Reading, Middle Reading, and Young Adult.

IF you’re writing in the Juvenile/Young Adult genres, you already know that the task of creating a quality story—that sells—is a challenge. Today’s youth appreciate very different worlds from the adventures of western lawmen or the deep jungle exploits of Tarzan or the daring explorations of sci-fi heroes like John Carter. Here are a few threads that connect past writing successes with current Reader-expectations:

  • Hidden Treasure: The intrigue of unknown wealth continue to draw the attention of Readers.
  • Surprise Discoveries: Whether the surprise comes in the form of dragons, or elves or giants, young readers will come back for more.
  • Family and Friends: Juvenile and young adult readers are trying to figure out how these relationships work. Give them excellent examples.
  • Develop REAL characters in REAL situations—even if the world they’re living in is a fantasy planet. This will give your Readers the opportunity to “step into the pages” of the story and (again) figure things out (maybe in their real lives) for themselves.

RESEARCH AND REMEMBER WHO ARE READERS ARE. We’re writing for our neighbor’s grandchildren who spend a lot of time in virtual words (online or purchased video games) where the “action” is extremely fast-paced and almost anything can (does) happen. However, these same children are also going to school and studying fractions. The stories we write for them can (should) help them balance their lives and prepare them for adulthood⚓︎

children's picture books
Children reading a book sitting on the roof of the house. Boy and girl reading by the light of a flashlight at night.


ABOUT ROYALENE DOYLE: Royalene has been writing something since before kindergarten days and continues to love the process. Through her small business—DOYLE WRITING SERVICES—she brings more than 40 years of writing experience to authors who need “just a little assistance” with completing their projects. This is a nice fit as she develops these blogs for Outskirts Press (OP) a leading self-publisher, and occasionally accepts a ghostwriting project from one of their clients. Her recent book release (with OP) titled FIREPROOF PROVERBS, A Writer’s Study of Words, is already receiving excellent reviews including several professional writer’s endorsements given on the book’s back cover.  

Royalene’s writing experience grew through a wide variety of positions from Office Manager and Administrative Assistant to Teacher of Literature and Advanced Writing courses and editor/writer for an International Christian ministry. Her willingness to listen to struggling authors, learn their goals and expectations and discern their writing voice has brought many manuscripts into the published books arena.