Looking for sensible gifts for children that won’t break the piggy bank?
Try a couple of children’s books by two island authors that take middle-schoolers on a haunted adventure and children to a colorful construction site manned by monsters.
With “The Haunting of Annie MacKay,” Whidbey Island author Martha M. Martin integrates the very real themes of homelessness and bullying into her first novel for middle school readers.
In this old-fashioned ghost story, main character Annie MacKay is dealing with various harrowing relationships and situations in her San Francisco middle school, while living out of an old van with her well-meaning, but unlucky and homeless parents.
When Annie learns that she has inherited a Victorian mansion on Fog Island off the coast of Washington state, the family moves there, accepting the terms that the house is haunted and that they must live there for at least one month in order to own it.
With the help of a new friend, the resilient Annie combats the predatory influence of a look-alike ghost whose unmet needs include finding a doll lost in a shipwreck two generations earlier.
Martin said the inspiration for this pleasant but still entertainingly-haunting novel came when she rescued a salt-encrusted vinyl doll from the water near her home.
“That got me to thinking. What if a child’s doll had been lost before she’d had a chance to see it,” Martin said.
Martin said she’s had a long association with young people through a dance studio business she owned and a girls drill team she formed that won nine California state championships.
Add seven grandsons to that mix, and she said writing for young people seemed the natural thing to do.
Martin hopes that the novel will reveal to young readers a sense of the strength and support that families are built upon.
Martin will speak with the Langley Middle School classes of Jenny Campbell on Friday, Nov. 14.
“I don’t try to keep up with the latest fads and slang,” Martin said, in regards to finding the language of youths. “I tell young writers that it’s better to make up slang than use what is current.”
She also encourages students who would like to become writers to get the work down and send it out.
“I entered one chapter in the Write on Whidbey annual contest four years ago and it was a fourth-place winner,” Martin said.
This turn of events challenged Martin to keep going with the novel.
“I’ll discuss how Annie became older as I got more into the character,” she said.
Martin will also talk to the students about how a simple event can inspire a book, and how she goes about fleshing out characters through the process of writing.
Martin completed two courses of study at the Institute of Children’s Literature. She is a member of the Whidbey Island Writers Association, where she has studied with Marion Blue and Wayne Ude.
A sculptor of one-of-kind art dolls, Martin contributed illustrated articles to the Doll Reader, Teddy Bears and Friends and Doll News for several years.
She is the author of “Chipper, the Heroic Chipmunk,” a picture book, and “How Bonny Got Her Tutu,” her latest picture book about a Native American circus family.
“The Haunting of Annie MacKay” is published by Inkwater Press and is available online;Click here.
While your middle schooler is settled into her comfiest chair being vicariously haunted through Annie MacKay, you can read aloud to the preschoolers in your life.
A construction site to a toddler is like a Broadway show to a theater buff.
That’s why “Monsters on Machines,” by Whidbey Island author Deb Lund, is a great bet for the entertainment of the toddler set, so grab this book because here are some monsters who are ready to roll.
Stinky Stubb, Dirty Dugg, Gorbert and Melvina are the craftiest crew of monsters ever to build a house.
With hard hats and heavy machinery, these feisty fellas dig, dump, hammer, nail and — after a surprise lunch of Mama’s special monsteroni and cheese — they even squeeze in time for an afternoon snooze.
With backhoes, bulldozers and mud mounds galore, here is a book that young construction enthusiasts will want to dig into over and over again. It’s illustrated by Robert Neubecker.
Lund is not new to authoring childrens’ books, but “Monsters on Machines” was a book that needed to be written, and Lund does it with rhyme, adding to the read-aloud fun that will keep little ears engaged.
“I’m so excited about this book. As a librarian, I saw oodles of nonfiction construction and heavy machinery picture books being grabbed off the shelves, but there wasn’t much available in fiction,” the author said. “Neubecker’s playful monsters are the perfect critters to be operating these rigs,” she added.
Inspired by a childhood memory, Lund knows a little something about which she writes.
“When I was a kid, my dad let me dig in our backyard with his backhoe,” Lund said.
“He showed me how to operate the levers, and he’d fill in the hole when
I was done. I’m sure my mom wasn’t crazy about what it did to the yard, but she let those things go by — even the high rides in the bucket of the loader.
“When I got a bit older, I held the funnel over the forms for making concrete septic tanks and covers. Once in a while we’d do a picnic table and benches or a ring for a barbecue pit. The job paid better than any other I could’ve had in Menahga, my little north central Minnesota hometown, and it makes for good inspiration and storytelling.”
Not only has Lund operated heavy machinery, but she has been writing for a long time, too.
In the fifth grade, her teacher sent in a poem she had written and it was published in a book of student writing called “Wonder Writers.” She was hooked.
“I write for children because I remember what it’s like to be a kid, or maybe part of me never grew up,” Lund said.
“Monsters on Machines” is published by Harcourt, Inc.
Other children’s picture books by Lund include “All Aboard the Dinotrain,” “Dinosailors,” “Tell Me My Story, Mama,” “All Day Long,” “Me & God” and “Play and Pray.”
Lund’s books are available at Kingfisher Books and the Honey Bear in Coupeville, Book Bay in Freeland and Moonraker and Act II Books & Puppets in Langley. They are also available at amazon.com or by visiting her Web site; Click here.