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The Gifts of a Character

Monday, May 5th, 2014

Guest Author: Alyssa Satin Capucilli

We’ve all heard that gifts come in all shapes and sizes. But I’d never quite received a gift in the form of characters before, until recently, that is. I’ll explain. A beloved editor had sketches of “a little dancing girl” drawn by the superbly gifted Sarah Massini, and knowing my own love of dance, she generously shared the sketches with me. First came the rush of goosebumps covering my arms. Then, a whoosh of love for the not yet named, “Tulip.” I could hear the tone of her voice; I could see the curve of her cheek. I knew the way she would thoughtfully, tenderly, share her joyful passion with the kindred spirit she wishes for over and over again, and finds in a rather large dog named Rex. And while we discover that Tulip may not be quite like other children, and Rex may not be quite like other dogs, this does not become occasion for concern, but rather, a chance to revel in the power of being unique.Tulip demanded that from me and I happily acquiesced! In a spirited romp through tall grass, wide puddles, and smiling daisies, Tulip and Rex celebrate the precious gift of being able to express yourself freely, imaginatively. That Tulip and Rex share a passion for something perhaps a bit out of the ordinary provides the seeds of one of the most important tenets of childhood…friendship. Every child deserves that. Every puppy, too.

There’s an ever-present sense of responsibility I feel writing for young children. In essence, we serve a slice of the world to them, often allowing them to share experiences vicariously. We provide a safe harbor to poke and prod and discover a range of emotions.  In doing so, sometimes our readers, even the youngest find a literary soul mate. And no matter where a story begins, it seems I’m always drawn to the emotional core of the character and how they navigate through the familiar and unfamiliar, the safe and the uncertain, the need to love and be loved — the common threads we all share.

 Looking out at a star filled sky, Tulip hugs Rex proclaiming, “There’s nothing quite like sharing love, is there, Rex?”

 That’s my gift to you, Tulip, I whisper. 

 About Author:

Alyssa Satin Capucilli is the award winning author of Biscuit, the popular best-seller used to launch the My First I Can Read Series from HarperCollins. With over fifty titles in the series as well as over twenty million books in print, Biscuit has been deemed a modern classic and has been translated into numerous languages worldwide.

 She is the recipient of numerous awards including the Washington Irving Award, the Garden State Award, the Bank Street College Best Book Award and the Oppenheim Portfolio Gold Award, and the American Library Association Award.

10 Interesting Facts You Might Not Know About Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

Author: Sherry Helms

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin-Luther-KingAn apostle of peace and a preacher of universal love, harmony and brotherhood- Martin Luther King Jr. is an iconic figure in the U.S. history whose mission in life was to serve others. One of the greatest orators in the history of America, King was a charismatic figure who both amazed and uplifted people by his clear sense of purpose, his commitment to social transform and the brilliance of his insights. For his non-violent movements to eradicate racial prejudices and segregations in America, he was awarded with the Noble Peace Prize in 1964.

Born in Atlanta, Georgia on January 15th, 1929, Martin would not bow his head in apathy and, with his outstanding efforts, gave hope to the poor and strengthened the lives of millions of mistreated and downtrodden people. US Civil rights leader, Dr. King also authored many books, including Why We Can’t Wait, Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story, The Measure of a Man, I Have a Dream Writings and Speeches That Changed the World, and many more.

There’s no doubt that most of us are pretty familiar with his civil rights movement and his eloquent oratory skills, but there are indeed some facts that have slipped under the radar. In honor of a great man and leader, we have dug up some interesting and lesser-known facts about the legendary icon that you probably may not be aware of.

1. King’s Birth Name Was Michael, Not Martin.

The original name of this civil rights leader was “Michael King, Jr.” In 1931, when his father, a pastor at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, traveled to Germany, he changed his name to Martin Luther in homage to the German Protestant Reformation leader Martin Luther as well as that of his 5-year-old son. But no records documenting a formal name change and hence until his death he officially remained Michael King, Jr.

2. Martin Skipped the 9th and 12th grades

Martin Luther King, Jr. was such a bright student that he skipped both the ninth and the twelfth grades and entered Morehouse College at the tender age of 15. By the age of 19, he graduated college with a degree in sociology. King also received a divinity degree from Pennsylvania’s Crozer Theological seminary and earned his Ph.D. degree in 1955 from Boston University. The title of his theses was “A Comparison of the Conceptions of God in the Thinking of Paul Tillich and Henry Nelson Wieman.”

3. King Was Jailed 29 Times

According to the King Center, King was arrested and sent to prison nearly 30 times over the course of his life. Most of the reasons he was arrested were for acts of civil disobedience. In 1963, he was taken to jail in the consequence of the Birmingham confrontation with the municipal authorities. He wrote a prose, “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” that ranks among most important American documents written. He was also ridiculously jailed for driving 30 miles per hour in a 25-mile-per-hour zone in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1956.

4. The Youngest Person To Receive Noble Prize

King won a Noble Peace Prize at the age of 35. In 1964 when he received the Noble Prize, he was the youngest overall for the Peace Prize. He earned $54,123 (about $400,000 today) for his Noble Peace Prize but donated all his money to the Civil Rights movement. Moreover, he was the first African American to be named Man of the Year by Time Magazine in 1963.

5. King Was Nearly Assassinated A Decade Before His Death

Assassination new

On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King was assassinated by James Earl Ray but it was not the first assassination attempt. While King was on a book tour in Blumstein’s department store, signing copies of his new book, “Stride Toward Freedom,” on September 20, 1958, he was approached by a black woman, Izola Ware Curry. The woman asked him if he was Martin Luther King Jr., which he obviously replied yes. After he gave affirmative answer, she said, “I have been looking for you for five years,” and then pulled out a seven-inch steel letter opener and stabbed him in his chest. The sharp point end of the blade came on the edge of his aorta, and King underwent hours of emergency chest surgery.

6. King’s “I Have a Dream” Speech on the Steps of The Lincoln Memorial Was Not His First.

Martin Luther King’s speech, “I Have a Dream” on August 28, 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial was considered as one of the finest addresses ever delivered to a public audience. About 250,000 people attended and listened to his immortal speech. Although this outstanding speech was not King’s first at Lincoln Memorial. His first national address was delivered on the topic of voting rights at the monument.

7. There are Over 1,000 streets Around the World Named After Him


You might not know that there are more than 1,000 streets named after Martin Luther King, Jr. all over the world so far. Presently, over 730 streets have named after king can be found in nearly every major city in America.

 8. MLK Is the Only Non-President With A National Holiday In His Honor

To date, there are George Washington and Christopher Columbus are the only other two people in American history that have national holidays honoring them. Martin Luther King, Jr. was the only non-president native-born United States citizen to have had his birthday observed as a federal holiday. In 1983, Martin Luther King, Jr. birthday as a national holiday was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan. Each year MLK day, first commemorated in 1986, is celebrated on the third Monday in January, close to the King’s birthday, January 15.

9. King’s Last Words

According to Jesse Jackson, who was also present at the assassination, Martin Luther King Jr.’s last words were:”Ben, make sure you play: Take My Hand, Precious Lord in the meeting tonight. Play it real pretty.” to musician Ben Branch, who would be playing at Dr. King’s speech that night. On the day King was assassinated, he was out on the balcony for a smoke. Later, the last words spoken by him became his last wish as at his funeral, his good friend Mahaila Jackson sang the same hymn for him.

10. King’s Heart was 20 Year Older Than Him

Martin’s autopsy results revealed that although he was only thirty-nine at the time of his death, he had the heart of a sixty-year-old man. It can be assumed that it was a consequence of the lot of stress he was gone through during thirteen years of civil rights movement. King once himself had verbally predicted that he would not live to see forty.  

20 Famous Mark Twain Quotations

Saturday, November 30th, 2013

Author: Sherry Helms

Mark TwainToday is the 178th birth anniversary of Mark Twain. A genius American author and humorist who is best known for his masterpiece, The Adventures of Tom  Sawyer (1876), and its follow-up, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885). Known for his excellent works, sharp wit and brilliant quotes, the author inspired many great authors, including Kurt Vonnegut and Ernest Hemingway.

To celebrate Mark Twain’s birthday today, we have compiled here 20 dazzling quotations by him.

 1) Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.

2) Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.

3) It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool, than to open it and remove all doubt.

4) Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are more pliable.

5) Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.

6) If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.

7) Always acknowledge a fault. This will throw those in authority off their guard and give you an opportunity to commit more.

8) I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.

9) A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.

10) In a good bookroom you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them.

11) Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.

12) The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.

13) The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.

14) Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.

15) I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.

16) Honesty is the best policy – when there is money in it.

17) Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.

18) The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you figure out why.

19) I have a higher and grander standard of principle than George Washington. He could not lie; I can, but I won’t.

20) Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.

Tell us in the comment section if we missed your favorite that continues to motivate you.


Review: Rick Riordan’s The House of Hades: An “Intense” Thriller

Friday, November 8th, 2013

Author: Sherry Helms

House of hades newThe #1 New York Time bestselling author of “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” series- Rick Riordan is back with the fourth terrific volume in The Heroes of Olympus series, The House of Hades. In this electrifying new book, Rick teleports the reader to various places from Rome to Tartarus, Venice, and lastly Greece. Moreover, you’ll find a lot of deadly monsters, non-stop action, nerve-racking battles, and horrifying psychological thrills in this amazing new entry.

This installment chronicles the adventures of seven demigods (who have one Roman- or Greek-god parent) in their race against time to save humanity from the chief antagonist, Gaea. The book picks up right where the third book of the “Heroes” series, “The Mark of Athena,” left off. Percy and Annabeth fell straight into the Tartarus and the Romans set to attack Camp Half-Blood. The other five demigods are still in our world continues their quest to find the Doors of Death in order to save both Percy and Annabeth. This is true that the stakes are sky high in this novel but our favorite heroes know what will happen if they don’t succeed; Gaea’s armies will never die; the time is less and they must stop the entry of underworld beasts into the mortal world so that they can’t cause havoc on earth.

In this gripping tale, Riordan brings back a lot of characters from his previous series. He has done an amazing task to put all heroes in the limelight at least once and the two main characters into the gulf of desolation. However, we recognize the main characters of this book from the past few books in the series, yet we find them more surprising and entertaining.

This time all the seven demigods, author introduces to us, not only have to face monsters that they’ve already defeated once before but they must overcome their own concerns and fears- something that can be as devastating as a outer world. Written from the perspectives of all seven characters, this new tome in the The Heroes of Olympus series is perfectly paced and keeping you turning pages until the end. The master storyteller Rick Riordan somehow manages to keep every character’s narration interesting. And for the first time, the author introduces a gay teen character, who first expelled by the Cupid himself. Along with the character development, we get some great plot twists in Riordan’s latest Percy Jackson world.

If you have been keeping up with The Heroes of Olympus series and are on tenterhooks for another brilliant work by Rick Riordan, then you will not be disappointed!

The Blood of Olympus, the fifth and final book in the Heroes of Olympus series, is set to be out on October 2014.

Book Review: Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep: Rewarding Sequel to “The Shining”

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

Author: Sherry Helms

Doctor SleepThe Global monarch of horror fiction-Stephen king- is back with the sequel to his best-selling third novel- The Shining, comes out of 36-years of wait.  The major difference between the two is that how quickly he now plunges into the action. At the time, King penned down “The Shining,” he was a committed alcoholic but this time he is a recovering alcoholic, and in Doctor Sleep, we find a more nuanced view of the cause and the treatment of alcoholism.

Conceptually, there are many similarities in the Stephen’s new novel Doctor Sleep and the latest by his son Joe Hill- N0S4A2- as both books open with the protagonist’s childhood comes across with the terrible ghostlike creatures. “Doctor Sleep” picks up the story of Dan Torrance who survived both his evil-infested dad, Jack Torrance, and the malignant spirits of the gruesome Overlook Hotel when he was a little boy. While he escapes the hotel of horrors, he can’t shake the visualizations he sees by his psycho-intuitive powers to perceive the energy of other psychics. Finally, he settles in a small New Hampshire town, where he finds friends, an AA community that sustains him and a job at a nursing home where his remnant supernatural powers provide ease to the dying earns him the name Doctor Sleep. But his peaceful life is ripped apart when he telepathically meets the evanescent 12-year-old Abra Stone, who also has “the shining”, and who is a target of a clannish bunch of ­shining-eating paranormal beings called the True Knot.  Led by Rose O’Hara alias Rose the Hat, this gang of almost immortal travelers needs the psychic powers (which they call “steam”) of children to stay forever young.

In the author’s note that concludes “Doctor Sleep,” the remarkable new sequel to “The Shining,” Stephen King shows his bafflement with Stanley Kubrick’s movie adaptation – regarded by many people as the best horror film of all time. The author has faced a particular challenge in writing this follow-up to “The Shining” because he has not only to inscribe a convincing and satisfying new tale from the bones of “The Shining”, one of the most terrifying novels of the twentieth century, but he must also wrest control of our reminiscence of that small boy-Danny.

In spite of its many horrors, “Doctor Sleep” is more of a paranormal adventure crossed with a moving story of redemption, mixed with themes like family, mortality, and second chances. King’s latest won’t make you forget Jack Nicholson’s manic performance, but it is still enthralling and will offer you a fresh case of the creeps, and introduce some electrifying new characters.  

The strongest point of the novel is the portrayal of the development of the main character- now adult ‘Dan’, as he struggles with his own lingering demons (his past, alcoholism, and his precognitive ability),  with new characters like Abra, Chetta, Dave, Doctor John, and The True Knot. However, King took about 500 pages to develop the characters, yet the accessible flow of story and plenty of twists and turns along the way will grasp the reader’s attention until the end.

In overall, Stephen’s latest installment, “Doctor Sleep” is a well-crafted story of good and evil that keeps the pages turning and will thrill the millions of dedicated fans of The Shining and entertain anyone new to this icon in his canon.

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