Anna brings new meaning to the traditional phrase, “as a fly on the wall.”—Gracie Bradford, Readers’ Favorite

Mayflower-Fly on the Wall Series-3D-book
Reviewed by Gracie Bradford for Readers’ Favorite

Mayflower: Fly on the Wall Series is written by Linda Smigaj. This 50-page fiction book written for 7-10-year-olds by a retired elementary school teacher of 34 years conveys a powerful lesson. The main characters are Professor Beatrice Fuddy-Duddy and Anna, a cheese fly. The story dates back 400 years, starting in the year 1620 to chronicle the arrival of a ship called the Mayflower. Anna is a cute little character dressed in a stunning, colorful outfit; she wears a bow tie and displays colorful wings. The book contains journal entries about what transpires on the ship as seen through the eyes of a fly. Anna brings new meaning to the traditional phrase, “as a fly on the wall.” I think this book would be an excellent addition to classrooms of a younger age group, given the exceptional illustrations throughout the book and a well-developed story line.

Linda introduces a lesson on early American history with a twist to make learning fun. This book has pictures throughout, making it easy to comprehend concepts. Equally important are ten non-fictional facts elementary school kids probably did not know about the journey of the Mayflower. A glossary provides additional insight into the story. The highlight of the book is illustrations of six flies dressed in an array of colors with unique shapes and forms. Kids will love these characters, and the questions associated with the pictures are sure to generate interesting discussions. The illustrations are outstanding. The main character is well developed and lends itself to a book series.

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“The Mayflower from a different point of view..”—JJ Phillips, Readers’ Favorite

Mayflower-Fly on the Wall Series-3D-book
Reviewed by JJ Phillips for Readers’ Favorite

Mayflower (Fly on the Wall Series) by Linda Smigaj is an educational children’s story about the adventure of the Mayflower. But this isn’t just any history lesson. This story is narrated by Anna, a cheese fly, who has stowed away aboard the Mayflower. Because of this unique and fresh approach, children can read the story of the pilgrims and the Mayflower from a different point of view in the hopes that they are encouraged to learn about the story. The story starts on board the Speedwell, a ship that turned out to need too many repairs. After switching to the Mayflower, the story follows the adventure across the ocean, documenting everything that happened along the way until the day the Mayflower reached the New World. Although this may be a familiar story to some, this new and educational perspective makes it a fun and interesting way to revisit a familiar story.

I really liked the idea of using a fly to narrate a story about the Mayflower. I think any book or story that can make learning fun deserves the proper credit for trying to educate our young people. Keeping young students interested in history is not an easy task, but
Linda Smigaj does a nice job in Mayflower with an interesting narrator character and fun, colorful drawings and depictions that are both appealing and informative. Overall, this is a very educational piece that is as fun as it is informative and I think kids will absolutely love it!

“. . . true meaning of the word ‘family.'”—Chris Fischer, Readers’ Favorite

OUTBACK 3D-book-72DPI-RGBReviewed By Chris Fischer for Readers’ Favorite

In Outback: Bothers and Sinisters, the new young adult novel by author Mark Wayne Adams, and the one of the books in the Family Tree Novel series, which also includes graphic novels, readers will be treated to a very unusual and interesting story that is certainly well worth the read. Protagonist Driew Qweepie is a boy on a mission of sorts, an adventure to find the truth of his family history, what his home is, and the true meaning of the word ‘family.’ Adventurous, thrilling, and exciting at times, the story of Driew’s journeys and growth is one that will have readers hungrily turning the pages until they get to the very end.

Outback: Bothers and Sinisters was a unique and fascinating read. Besides introducing readers to some great characters that they will find intriguing, the book serves as a guide to new terms and language in Australian, American and Qweepie. Young adult readers are certain to learn something from this book, but will also be presented with positive messages about the importance of family and family history. It’s easy for me to be able to recommend this book, both as a great read as well as a guide for children to learn about other cultures and terminology from those cultures. I was excited to find this book, and am very much looking forward to reading more from the highly inventive mind of author Mark Wayne Adams in the very near future. If it’s anything like Outback: Bothers and Sinisters, it will certainly be worth the read!”

 

“fun, adventurous and rooted in history”—Tracy Slowiak, Readers’ Favorite

Mayflower-Fly on the Wall Series-3D-book
Reviewed By Tracy Slowiak for Readers’ Favorite

Wow! That’s exactly what I thought when I finished reading Mayflower, the first book in debut author Linda Smigaj’s Fly on the Wall series. This was simply a fantastic read; fun, adventurous and rooted in history with quite an interesting protagonist, a cheese fly named Anna. Anna has traveled to England with a family fleeing Holland, and then she takes the Mayflower to the New World. With lots of historically accurate illustrations showing how the ship was organized, as well as facts and information presented in an absolutely wonderful way, this book will keep children entertained as they are being educated…a dream for any parent or teacher for sure!

I so, so enjoyed Mayflower. Author Linda Smigaj has done a completely wonderful job in writing an engaging and delightful story with a great deal of educational merit. Her use of a fly as the narrator is both surprising and delightful – the old saying of “I wish I could be a fly on the wall…” comes true in this book! This book does an excellent job in relaying true life facts and experiences about the  Mayflower and those who journeyed to the New World on her, but does so in such a way that kids might not even know that they are being educated, they’ll be having too much fun. I highly recommend Mayflower to any child looking for a good book, or parent for a unique book that their child will love. I look forward to reading more from Linda Smigaj’s entertaining new Fly on the Wall series, and hope that the author is already hard at work on the next installment!

FREE Mayflower Resources and Websites

Mayflower-Resources and Websites-www.flyonthewallseries.com

History with a Twist Makes Learning Fun!

Welcome to the world of Linda Smigaj’s books. Educator and juvenile fiction author Linda Smigaj, aka Professor Fuddy-Duddy, captures the imagination of readers, ages 7–10, through stories of historically accurate events told from a unique perspective. Come travel through early American history with these adventurous flies.

Other FREE Printable Educational Resources for Mayflower:

Written by Linda Smigaj and Illustrated by Mark Wayne Adams
ISBN:  978-1-59616-034-7

Retail Price: $9.99

Visit Linda Smigaj’s websites at: www.lindasmigajbooks.com or www.flyonthewallseries.com.

Meet Linda Smigaj, author of “Mayflower: Fly on the Wall Series”

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Linda Smigaj, aka Professor Fuddy-Duddy, is a retired schoolteacher who taught elementary school for more than 34 years. She earned her Master of Arts in Speech and Drama, and is National Board Certified in Literacy. This is Linda’s first book in the Fly on the Wall series.

Linda currently lives in Jacksonville, Florida, with her husband Daniel. She has three grown sons, three grandchildren, one granddog, and two cats. Mayflower is her first picture book.

Linda’s website: www.flyonthewallseries.com
Linda Smigaj’s Facebook Page

Written by Linda Smigaj and Illustrated by Mark Wayne Adams
ISBN:  978-1-59616-034-7

Retail Price: $9.99

OUTBACK: Bothers & Sinisters, Conversation with the Author

OUTBACK: Bothers & Sinisters, CONVERSATION WITH THE AUTHOR

16-OUTBACK-Conversation_With_The_Author1. What is your inspiration for writing about the Bothers & Sinisters sibling dynamic?

I believe we all come from multifaceted dysfunctional family. The drama within the smallest of families offers rich writing inspiration. “Sissy,” my cousin Gayla, reminded me of bothersome and sinister things we did as children that our parents never knew. Funny thing was my parents, aunts, and uncles had the same experiences.

What inspired me to use a family tree as my inspiration was the falling out of family members and the severed relationships due to traumatic words that wounded the entire tree. Words in a family can change the entire dynamic for future generations.

When I was hurting as a kid, I found comfort out back in trees. I carved my childhood feelings on tree branches that healed over time hiding my words and feelings. I believe family trees heal much like trees in nature—over time.

2. Why is the Australian theme important in the Family Tree Novels?

I’ve always felt life would be different on the other side of the world. Australia’s size and location in the hemisphere was nearly opposite of the United States in position. They spoke a derivative of English as does the United States. One was founded on religious persecution the other by persecution of outlaws. These two worlds are rich in native culture and national treasures. I could explore both my entire life and be surprised daily.

3. What research did you do and how did you go about discovering your inspiration?

Reading and sharing my interest in places and ideas inspires me. When I decided to use the outback as my theme, I received various comments and feedback—positive and negative. Naturally I chose the theme since every parent and child has played in the magical outback at some point in their lives.

I chose to read children’s books to adult fiction about Australia. This taught me what Gulia’s character might learn at her age and what her mother might experience as an adult. Discussions about Australia revealed information about living there that I had not experienced. Smells, sounds, events, and moments only residents can relay.

Lastly I wrote a list of commonalities of Australian and United States families. I chose native folklore, ancient trees, and immigrant family history.

4. As a Kentucky native and a Florida transplant, how autobiographical is this story in comparison to your own? 

I did pull from my own experiences of visiting my Kentucky family as an adult and how my Floridian children must feel when visiting Dawson Springs for weeks at a time. Growing up in Kentucky, my family was average middle class to most people living there and poor to outsiders when compared to big city living.

My childhood is a far cry from my adult life in a manicured Florida suburb. I wanted to share how caring for even the worst home can change everyone’s perspective. Like Gulia grew to love the Qweepie farm saying she “could live there forever.”

5. Which character do you have the closest connection to?

I feel a connection with each of the characters, they are like family. To pick one character I would say Killiope. As the oldest sibling in my family, I feel a responsibility for each of my siblings. Leaving home was my only escape from responsibilities, which soon caught up with me. As the series continues, I hope to become more relatable with each sibling hierarchy as the series continues.

6. Did you enjoy the writing process, since you’ve illustrated over fifty picture books?

I always enjoyed books as a child—from illustrations to reading. Making a career writing or illustrating books never came to mind. As a child my ambition was to become an animator after watching Walt Disney’s movie, Fantasia. Once I discovered there were more profitable art careers besides animation, I began illustrating books. Being around creative writers, inspired my love of writing. I’m a firm believer, you are who you associate with.

7. How do you approach the writing process?

My writing process is fairly structured. I outline the story using a historical timeline which guides the rhythm of each book. As ideas appear, I categorize them into their respective place within the story timeline. I also parallel historical facts and words I want included from the time periods. Some days I sit inside my screened pool and become a prisoner to the story. Every breath is a moment trapped within Driew Qweepie’s story.

8. What part of the writing process do you love most?

My favorite thing about being a writer is hearing from readers! Connecting with book lovers reminds me what writing fiction is all about—escape for us all. I enjoy reading Goodreads and Amazon reviews and seeing posts about the story—both positive and negative. I can’t improve without their honest feedback.

9. When do you decide to share the OUTBACK writing with others?

I waited until the OUTBACK book was half completed—about eight chapters. These chapters are rough and very general in creative language. My goal was to give a bland idea of the plot, character action, and historical content. If this was enough to inspire others to ask questions or want more, then the creative embellishments would be much easier.

For the first novel, I had my wife read it. She is very thorough and not a reader. Needless to say, she only read it once, and wasn’t excited. My next version was much more polished and the reader had decent feedback.

By the Beta Reader stage, all sixteen chapters had been edited using Fire Up Your Fiction: An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Stories, written by a colleague, Jodi Renner. Her book was a great resource for a newbie or established writer. I went chapter by chapter and was critical of what I’d written. Trimming excess really makes a difference when creating a fast reading fiction book.

10. Who were your favorite childhood writers and why?

At age 13, Stephen King’s werewolves of the Silver Bullet stalked my warm Kentucky summer nights. King’s photo spooked me, and his writings haunted me. Really cool feeling when an author chooses the proper sequence of words to spur an emotion. To this day I feel Misery hearing “I’m your biggest fan!”

11. What advice would you offer new writers?

Don’t wait to write a great novel. Age is not a limitation to becoming an author. Write everyday moments until the novel revels itself in your average day.

Write often in any format possible. Siri’s dictation on my Apple devices lets me write while walking, driving, or when I’m too lazy to use my thumbs. I carry my Best Sketchbook with me most everywhere to write and draw my thoughts. Use an app like A Novel Idea or software like Scrivener to keep track of your notes. Import your journal entries, dictations, and loose notes once a week into one main document that shows the word count. That will show you how quickly the story grows.

Join a professional writing group to enhance your writing. Join a publishing group to learn the marketing behind writing. Lastly, support local independent book stores. They will be the first to stock your book.

12. In the Author Biography, you indicate OUTBACK was inspired by a brown doll you had during your childhood. Where did the doll come from and what other life experience was used in the novel?

In the years since my childhood, I’ve learned to appreciate the value of dolls and toys as companions in my life. As a Caucasian boy, owning a brown baby doll named Driew was open season for teasing. I protected our colorful relationship which made me a better man in many ways.

I have what I’ve come to call an “adopted family,”­ characters who  came into my life when my family is absent. In their own way, they provided me with an imaginative love that became the structure for my artistic talent. I thank Driew and many more like him.

In OUTBACK, I wanted to bring some of my out back magic to the book. I wanted the book to be about the bonds formed between people that become your adopted family. Hopefully readers are engaged by my writing.

13. OUTBACK is set in the small town of Dawson Springs, Kentucky. Why did you choose to set the novel here?

I’ve lived nearly my entire life in a small town. I’m fascinated by the customs of small towns. Relationships there are a social dance that you don’t get in major cities. I think I’ll always write about this lifestyle.

Dawson Springs is my hometown in Western Kentucky. The Qweepie farm combines my parent’s family farms and a 1939 home where I lived briefly in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. I think using the town is a homage to the people who said, “Remember me when you’re famous!”

14. In addition to being a novelist, you are also a children’s book illustrator. How has being an illustrator impacted your novel writing?

It keeps me focused on the importance of words. I overwrite most scenes and deeply edit my writing to be more precise with my words. This has taught me to appreciate the usage of illustrations with words. Rather than writing numerous pages to explain a message that can be brief and poignant.

15. When you began the Family Tree Novels, did you have the adventure completely outlined? How have you been surprised along the way? Were the introductions of additional characters  important in the influence of the story’s direction?

At the start of the series, I had a thin thread of intention of the entire series, five books. I’m a supporter of timelines and outlines. I used several drafts that were stimulated from the main outline. The titles and Australian theme came as I introduced Gulia’s character. The attraction to Australia and the region inspired the titles.

The character that surprised me the most was Ida Mae. She was a character who was a first draft villain. “The maid did it” theme was my original intent with Ida Mae. Through the revisions, I saw the potential of her adoption into the family. She forced me to choose a dark underlying problem in my childhood to face. I think she has become a fabulous addition to the story.

16. What was your most challenging limitation while writing OUTBACK and what has been the best pleasure?

The greatest challenge was eliminating my prior illustration projects and focusing in on my writing time. I had to eliminate my personal choices and focus on the characters’ lives. I also didn’t want readers to be mired in details of Driew’s torturous life. Readers should experience the positives in his journey: small town life and personal relationships.

The greatest pleasure has been, participating in Driew’s adventure whether living my family life, driving on book tours, walking, or trying to fall asleep. Writing has become a journey I commit to each day. Not the most talented side of my artistic profile, but a frustrating and exhilarating challenge at the same time.

17. What can you tell us about DOWN UNDER the next book in the series?

I don’t want to share too much about the upcoming book. But I will say that DOWN UNDER is a faster progression of understanding Driew’s family magic. A miraculous event happens between he and Pester, his big bother, that will reach far into the choices of Driew’s manhood.

Summer Reading List: “Lost in Boston”

The Johnson family is traveling to new places again. This time, they fly to Boston and Jennifer Johnson wants her kids to experience some of the town’s history while there. Taking a subway ride for the first time, sampling new foods, and exploring impressive landmarks—like the Paul Revere House, the Old North Church, and the USS Constitution anchored in Boston Harbor—add fun and discovery to this family adventure.

Lost in Boston is part of our Summer Reading List for Students! Purchase your own or check the book out at the local library. If it’s not available at the library, request it be added.

Lost in Boston is written by Jane R. Wood. This is one of five books in her award-winning series of chapter books:  Voices in St. Augustine,  Adventures on Amelia Island: A Pirate, a Princess, and Buried TreasureTrouble on the St. John’s River, and Ghosts on the Coast.

Summer Reading List: “Trouble on the St. Johns River”

In Trouble on the St. Johns River, the Johnson kids Joey, Bobby and Katy are up to their adventurous ways again. But this time, instead of exploring history, they’re making it! Joey and Bobby start their summer vacation by setting out for their favorite fishing pond, but end up leading a crusade to clean up the environment instead. Finding the pond covered with green muck and dead fish, the brothers decide to do something about it. That leads to a close encounter with a manatee, a visit to a center that rehabilitates injured sea turtles, and a boat tour on the St. Johns River. What they learn through these experiences inspires them to create The Greenies and chart a course of action that captures the attention of many, including a local TV station. By the end of the story, Joey, who thought there was nothing kids could do to make a difference, realizes that perhaps they are the very ones who can. It’s a story of awakening that will inspire young readers to become more aware of their environment and give them some ideas on how to preserve it.

Trouble on the St. Johns River is part of our Summer Reading List for Students! Purchase your own or check the book out at the local library. If it’s not available at the library, request it be added.

Trouble on the St. Johns River is written by Jane R. Wood. This is one of five books in her award-winning series of chapter books:  Voices in St. Augustine,  Adventures on Amelia Island: A Pirate, a Princess, and Buried TreasureGhosts on the Coast, and Lost in Boston.

Summer Reading List: “Voices in St. Augustine”

Thirteen-year-old Joey Johnson hears voices. Only he can’t find the people who belong to them. His curiosity leads him on a quest where he learns more than just history about the Nation’s Oldest City. He discovers he has a special connection to the past—something that changes his life forever.

Voices in St. Augustine is part of our Summer Reading List for Students! Purchase your own or check the book out at the local library. If it’s not available at the library, request it be added.

Voices in St. Augustine is written by Jane R. Wood. This is one of five books in her award-winning series of chapter books:  Adventures on Amelia Island, Trouble on the St. John’s River, Ghosts on the Coast, and Lost in Boston.