Summer Reading List: “DOWN UNDER: Kussins”

The Family Tree Novel series’ steady, enduring story is like a tree growing against nature’s will toward the sky. Driew Qweepie’s perennial story buds, blossoms, grows, and falls from the twisted branches of the Qweepie family tree. The story’s sing-song rhythm creates a songline for readers to follow, scanning a century all told.

The book series begins with a boy starting walkabout, a historical rite of passage into manhood. The moments throughout walkabout are viewed by a magic man chasing along an untimely move from Dawson City, Victoria, Australia’s Outback, to Dawson Springs in rural western Kentucky. This journey becomes a boy’s tracing of his bloodline, discovery of country, and possible death.

DOWN UNDER: Kussins 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.

DOWN UNDER: Kussins is written by Mark Wayne Adams. This is one of books in his award-winning Family Tree Novel series of chapter books:  STATION: OutlawsOZ: InlawsNO WORRIES: Momus & MamaaysOUTBACK: Bothers & SinistersDOWN UNDER: KussinsG’DAY: AintsMATES: Uncools, and WALKABOUT: Mates.

“‘Down Under: Kussins is as exciting as it is entertaining, a real thrill ride.”—Divine Zape, Readers’ Favorite

Reviewed By Divine Zape for Readers’ Favorite

DOWN UNDER: Kussins by Mark Wayne Adams is a glorious read, tantalizing and absorbing, a book for young readers that will equally appeal to adult ones. The book reveals a lot of creativity and symbolism on the part of the author, starting with a stream of consciousness built about bullying Driew, one of the lead characters, and immediately draws readers into a beautiful adventure that centers on family values, and coming-of-age challenges.

Mark Wayne Adams has a unique style of writing and it is interesting to see how creative he gets with diction. The characters are very interesting and mature readers will be reminded of the young kids they once were, of a beautiful world they once inhabited, and dreams they once had. The characters are relatable, real, and watching them deal with challenges and conflict is a huge entertainment. The plot is fast-paced, imagined with a lot of surprises for readers. There is music in the writing, like the singing-things, a kind of music that moves with the plot and animates the action throughout the whole novel.

Besides the musical quality in the writing, readers are met with symbolism, and beautiful dialogues that help to enhance plot and characterization. This is a hilarious ride for young readers and the prose is certainly going to ring through their ears like music. They will love characters as compelling as Driew as they follow them through the adventure. DOWN UNDER: Kussins is as exciting as it is entertaining, a real thrill ride.

5 FREE Mayflower Classroom Activities

Mayflower-Fly on the Wall Series-3D-book
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.

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: or

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.

“filled with fascinating and little-known historical facts…”—Jack Magnus, Readers’ Favorite

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

Mayflower: Fly on the Wall Series is an educational book for children written by Linda Smigaj and illustrated by Mark W. Adams. This historical tale is narrated by a Dutch cheese fly, named Anna, whose quest for adventure leads her to join forces with the Pilgrims on their 66-day journey aboard the Mayflower. Anna narrates how the Pilgrims and the other passengers bound for the New World had originally been scheduled to travel on another ship, but problems with its seaworthiness led to their voyage on the Mayflower, a merchant ship that had never carried passengers before. The daily life of those passengers was filled with hardships, as the ship had neither living quarters nor facilities and proper space for them. Storms and rough seas were especially difficult for all concerned. Despite the challenges of their journey, all on board, save for one sailor, survived the Atlantic crossing.

Linda Smigaj’s educational book for children, Mayflower: Fly on the Wall Series, is filled with fascinating and little-known historical facts that make this Fly on the Wall book a particularly interesting read for both children and adults. Anna’s narrative is beautifully brought to life by the pen and ink and watercolor illustrations of Mark W. Adams. I instantly knew I was in for a treat when I opened the book to the illustrations showing the parts of the ship and the areas where the Pilgrims and the other passengers spent their time aboard the Mayflower. And while I was fully aware that I was reading an historical and educational book, it felt more as if I were reading an adventure tale, and an exhilarating one at that. What a marvelous way to introduce history to young readers! This very entertaining and informative work also contains a glossary and an appendix filled with more little known facts about the Mayflower’s journey. Mayflower: Fly on the Wall Series is most highly recommended.

“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!”


When you began the Family Tree Novels, did you have the adventure completely outlined?

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.

Read the full OUTBACK: Bothers & Sinisters, Conversation with the Author

5 Star Review: “OUTBACK: Bothers & Sinisters

OUTBACK 3D-book-72DPI-RGBReviewed By Tracy Slowiak for Readers’ Favorite

“Wow! Just, wow! How’s that for a review? Well, that was certainly my first thought when I finished reading Outback: Bothers and Sinisters: A Family Tree Novel by author Mark Wayne Adams. In an incredibly unique and interesting story line for young adult readers, the story follows Driew Qweepie, a ‘tween-aged’ boy who lives in a family filled with magic and ends up with a life filled with adventure. This first book in a planned series does a great job of introducing readers to Australian, American and Qweepie vernacular that will be necessary for the rest of books, but does so in a very intriguing manner. Young protagonist Driew must learn the importance of family, of home, and of history in this novel, and the journey he takes to get there will keep readers on the edge of their seats!

I so enjoyed reading Outback: Bothers and Sinisters. Author Mark Wayne Adams has done a fantastic job in creating characters that his young adult readers will have no problem in connecting with and relating to. His scene setting abilities are simply second to none, and his book provides a great message without making a reader feel as if they are being bonked over the head with it. Any young adult reader who enjoys an adventurous and fun read would enjoy this book. Any parent who is interested in a book that will allow their child to think and learn while reading should definitely pick this up for their loved one. I am pleased to recommend this book very highly, and look forward to reading more in this series as soon as more books are available!”

“Authentic glimpse into the lives of the passengers.”—Gisela Dixon, Readers’ Favorite
Reviewed by Gisela Dixon for Readers’ Favorite

Mayflower (Fly on the Wall Series) by Linda Smigaj is a children’s book for ages five up to pre-teens. Mayflower (Fly on the Wall Series) is one in a series of books in which literally a “fly on the wall” observes historical events and presents the story to the reader. In this book, Anna is a small cheese fly from Holland. She has moved with her human family to England and from there to the New World via the Mayflower. The fly narrates how they boarded the ship, their hardships and experiences on the ship, and finally their landing in Plymouth, Massachusetts on the coast of the New World. Although the book is told from the point of view of Anna, the fly, it provides an authentic glimpse into the lives of the passengers, as well as the living conditions on the ship and the voyage itself. At the end, the book also provides a glossary of words for young readers.

Mayflower (Fly on the Wall Series) by Linda Smigaj is a cute and engaging book on the passage of some of the early settlers from England to America. It describes a real, historical event in a concise, educational, and yet entertaining way that will appeal to children. The illustrations that go with the book are outstanding. In fact, the pictures really make the words come alive and add to the overall fun and engaging style of the book. This is a great book and I am looking forward to reading the other books in the Fly on the Wall series.