09 Feb 2014

Interview with Elias Zapple, Author of “Jellybean the Dragon” and “Duke & Michel”

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“Jellybean the Dragon” by Elias Zapple is a very quirky and fun read about the stellar meeting between 10 year old astronaut Emma and Jellybean the dragon.
With great humorous style and some educational notes about the solar system this is a great story to read your young ones.
Very recommendable. 

Jellybean is a clumsy dragon. As a matter of fact, all dragons are clumsy. So when Jellybean falls from the sky and lands in front of Emma, a 10 year-old astronaut, naturally a series of calamitous events occur forcing Emma to eventually leave her land and meet more clumsy dragons. However, Emma is not only patient, she’s a fighter and she learns to live with Jellybean and experience a whole new and exciting life

Skateboarder Michel is freaking out as his cousin Romain has gone missing. Michel sticks his head through a hole in the garden fence and is sucked into a giant vortex. He ends up in a mysterious corridor, with doors leading to strange worlds. He also meets Duke, a food-obsessed, sarcastic Basset Hound, who is searching for his brothers. Together they hunt for their missing relatives, unaware that they are also being hunted by the Master, a villain with a dandruff problem


“Duke & Michel: The Mysterious Corridor” by Elias Zapple is a very original and 22182961netertaining read about a skateboarder and a talking dog in a corridor connecting worlds.
With great vivid imagination and fantastically created charcters in those worlds Zapple understands how to make kids and their parents smile.
Mayor Sandman in Napland must be one of my favourites, but judge for yourself. There are plenty more ideas and characters in this book.
A real treat.

Elias Zaple

Interview with Elias:

Tell us a little about yourself as a writer and as a person.

As a person, I’m pretty fantastic. As a children’s writer I’m also pretty fantastic. My slugs always tell me I’m fantastic – if they didn’t then in the pot they would go. My neighbour, Dieter would probably not tell you that I’m fantastic as I keep hitting his noggin with cabbages.

What made you become a writer? Have you always written?

One day in the summer of 1870 whilst doing my job as a chimney sweep I inhaled a huge amount of fumes, which then somehow inspired me to write Duke & Michel: The Mysterious Corridor. I probably felt that inhaling large amounts of toxic fumes was not the best way to make a living and so an alternative career was in order. As it has now been almost 60 years since that day, I feel as though I have always written.

When did you decide to write for children? Are you maybe a young at heart who is really writing for yourself?

Since emerging from a tulip in an old granny’s garden in Camberwell, I’ve always felt like writing for children was very natural. Though I didn’t begin until I was down that chimney in Putney, the desire was always there. I’m eternally young at heart due to my constant consumption of cupcakes and my time spent up a hill in Maputo.

Elias Zaple

How long does it take you to write and publish a book?

My slugs and I normally churn out books pretty frequently. As we write a broad range of books for different age groups it can depend how long it takes. On average though it’s around 10 hours from concept to publication. Slugs are great.

What is the easiest about writing and what is the hardest?

The easiest is writing the first draft and the hardest is re-writing then marketing. However, I let my slugs do most of that and so nothing is truly hard for me. I would encourage others to breed slugs and genetically-modify them but then I have the monopoly on them and if anybody else was to start breeding them then we’d have to attack. We have an unlimited supply of cabbages.

Would you say there is a message in the book beyond the story? Do you find it is well received and picked up by the reviewers?

In the Duke & Michel series there is a theme of family unity, to do all you can for your family and stand up to bullies. In Jellybean the Dragon there’s a theme of tolerance and compassion. In all my books though the main purpose is to provide the reader with laughs, fun and a chance to escape into other worlds. I escape all the time but I’m always retrieved by my crack commando slug unit. Of course my books are received well, otherwise they’d be hit by a barrage of cabbages!

What do you like most about your characters? Which one is your favourite? Are you or your children like any of them?

My slugs are nothing like any of my characters! My cabbages probably resemble a few of them… My characters are fun, intriguing and you’ll feel something for them whether that’s love or hate, never indifference! I’d have to say that I do enjoy writing Duke. Duke’s a sarcastic, pompous Basset Hound who’s sharper than something very, very sharp. He appears to be my most loved character, though I believe you quite liked Mayor Sandman from Duke & Michel: The Mysterious Corridor. Boris the Rat from Duke & Michel: The King Tingaling Painting is quite a star too.

What are your next projects? Tell us about your other books.

This month, January 1980 I have two books coming out. A book of rhymes called, ‘Elias Zapple’s Rhymes from the Cabbage Patch’ and the sequel to Duke & Michel: The Mysterious Corridor called Duke & Michel: The King Tingaling Painting. Both are full of laughs and more laughs. The King Tingaling Painting is however, a lot darker than its predecessor.

What is your life like? What do you do for pleasure and work when you are not writing?

My life is very busy coming up with new cabbage recipes, throwing the latest cabbage at Dieter and avoiding slugs whilst walking through my hallway – they keep holding conventions there. I do enjoy a nice cup of herbal tea and quite often I will spend hours in front of the mirror, admiring my moustache – Mr Snazzy. He actually takes up a lot of my time. Combing, waxing and speaking niceties to him – Mr Snazzy is a sensitive moustache.

Who are your literary influences? What are your favourite books/ films/ albums?

Me and mine. Clyde the Slug was quite influential until he got too big for his boots. I did admire Roald Dahl, he was a chip off the old block.

What are your views on independent publishing?

I don’t know, what are their views on me? Have they been speaking ill of me again? A cabbage is in my hand and it has a steel centre!

Can you recommend any indie books/ authors?

I could.

What would your friends tell us if we asked for your best and your oddest qualities?

There is nothing odd about me at all!

What are your favourite animal/ colour/ outdoor activity?

Slugs, green, throwing cabbages.

What would you take to a remote island?

My moustache – Mr Snazzy, my slugs, my cabbages and I’d take Dieter so that I’d have a target to aim at.

Who would you like to invite for dinner and why?

Mary Josefina Cade, Mary Danino, Deb Zeb, Tony Gilbert, Melinda KinsmanNatalie Finnigan, Karen Prince, PJ Larue, Jourden Renee, Celia CarlileAnn Morris and you, Christoph Fischer! I’d serve cabbage salad, cabbage soup, cabbage stew, cabbage cheesecake and cabbage juice then throw cabbages at all of you in a rather surprising and unexpected attack. J

What are you writing at the moment and where would we find out about your next projects?

I’m about to embark upon a series of books about a little vampire. You can find all the latest info about me and my moustache via my website, www.eliaszapple.com Or Google me or come to my garden – BUT don’t even think about taking one of my cabbages!

What else would you like us to know about you and your books?

They’re cheap.


http://smarturl.it/mysteriouscorridor http://smarturl.it/jellybean

25 Oct 2013

“Journey to Jazzland” by Gia Volterra de Saulnier

1 Comment Book Reviews


“Journey to Jazzland” by Gia Volterra de Saulnier with its beautiful illustrations by Emily Zieroth is a magnificent piece of art.
The story follows Windy Flute on her quest from overly regulated orchestra music to Jazzland, the place where there is freedom to play in a group but according to your heart. On her journey she is joined by other instruments who also don’t want to play to someone else’s tune.
The book is a great tool to teach some basic music theory to children as the characters include several Jazz instruments but of course it also works as a metaphor and tribute to freedom of expression in all walks of life.
With delightful characters and a wonderful message this is a great read for any age group that left me feeling warm, inspired and upbeat.



About The Author:

Born and raised in Fairhaven, Massachusetts and attended University of Lowell (now University of Massachusetts, Lowell). It was there that I learned to love jazz. I have been performing jazz and other kinds of music for over 20 years, throughout the New England area. I live in North Reading, Massachusetts with my husband Richard, and my son Charlie.

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One day during an orchestra rehearsal, Windy Flute was playing a piece of music and her mind started to wander. Over and over, she had practiced this piece and played this piece. Feeling bored, she felt that she wanted to be a little different.

Then something special happened. She began to hear notes that weren’t on the page of sheet music on her stand! When she started playing what she heard, Windy realized these new notes made her feel better. The harmonies and the melodies were the same, but the music moved differently. Before she could figure things out, she was interrupted by a stern voice.

 “Excuse me, Ms. Flute, do you mind playing with the rest of us? Where do you think you are — Jazzland?” said Mr. Conductor, scowling down at her.

After the rehearsal, Mr. Conductor gave Windy a severe look and stomped off the stage.

Windy turned to her friends in the woodwind section. “What’s Jazzland?” she asked. She was still thinking about the good feelings she got from playing different notes.

“It’s a myth,” said Mr. Bassoon.

“That’s right,” said Mr. Oboe, “It’s a legend. It doesn’t really exist.”

 “I think it exists,” said Spitz Trumpet.




Signed paerback & matching book thong, 3 Journey To Jazzland Book thongs



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21 Aug 2013

“There’s Nothing Wrong with Claudia” by Brenda Kearns

2 Comments Book Reviews



Claudia does not like being different. She does not like being outside on windy days. And she does not like being able to float—because floating causes nothing but trouble. 

All Claudia wants is to be the same as everyone else…until the day there’s a major disaster at her school, and the only one who can possibly make things right is a very clever girl who knows how to float!

“There’s Nothing Wrong With Claudia” by Brenda Kearns is a wonderful and magic book for children that I would highly recommend.
In the story Claudia is unhappy with her special gift, talent or curse to be able to float, for which no cure can be found.
Only her grandfather keeps assuring everyone: There is nothing wrong with Claudia.
The book is a wonderful plea for acceptance of all of one’s qualities. What may appear as a weakness could turn out to be a strength and a blessing.
The symbolism and the many possible readings of this story work on many levels, which is amazing for such a short story. Floating could be a metaphor for the ability to rise above things, for being light hearted and free or being able to go with the flow of the universe?
This book, being read to a child by an understanding adult as the grandfather in the story, can bring children a greater understanding of the gift that is being different, should help them to accept themselves for what they are and also allow them to enjoy the beautiful drawings and the cute characters.
A very impressive achievement

Brenda -1


Interview with Brenda Kearns

How did you come to writing?

It was an accident, actually. I was a science teacher on maternity leave, and was looking for an excuse to avoid cleaning the house. I was also looking for an excuse to get out of the house. I was bored, bored, bored. So I took an eight-week night class on creative writing. It was a blast! I had so much fun that I decided to try writing for a living, instead of teaching.

Is this your first book or have you written before?

There’s Nothing Wrong With Claudia was my second book. While I was taking that eight-week course, I wrote an early chapter book—Sleepover Zoo. That wasn’t leisurely, relaxing writing—I wrote like a chipmunk hopped up on caffeine. I felt like I had to justify the rather drastic career change that I was considering, and early chapter books were in demand at the time, while I’d heard that editors already had a glut of picture book submissions in their slush pile. Luckily, Scholastic Canada agreed to publish Sleepover Zoo. That gave me the confidence to write There’s Nothing Wrong With Claudia. I figured I’d better have a backup plan, so I also started sending out query letters to every woman’s magazine that I could find. I sent out 365 queries that first year—and received 365 rejections. I stunk at writing query letters!

What made you decide to write for children?

Well, I had two kids. Then I had a third. Then I adopted two. Then I adopted two more. I’m constantly surrounded by kids, so it seemed like a good idea to write things that might distract them so I could get a few minutes of peace.

When did you first have the idea for this book?

My oldest daughter was three at the time. She was very energetic, and my former mother-in-law was convinced that there had to be something wrong with her. Leah loved running, she loved biking, she loved climbing onto counters, she loved crawling under tables…she did not want to sit still and listen to a bunch of boring adults talk about their boring lives. I found myself saying, “there’s nothing wrong with Leah,” a lot. That spawned the idea for the book!

What is your main message in this book?

The things that make you different aren’t necessarily flaws or weaknesses—with the right attitude, they can be your strengths! (also cod liver oil tastes terrible, and grandpas are cool)

How long did it take you to write this book?


Ooooh, good question…I worked on Claudia off and on for about three months. I got it to the point where I was fairly happy with it, then tucked it away to “chill” while I got the magazine writing rolling and started the next picture book, Parrots and Popcorn. When I went back to Claudia a few months later, I hated it! It was completely wrong! Aaarrrggghhh! So I picked away at it for, oh, probably two more years before I really felt good about it.

What do you find the most challenging aspect of the writing process and what the most enjoyable?

The toughest part for me is simply starting a new project. It isn’t actually writer’s block that holds me back. It’s a vague “jumping over a big mud puddle” feeling. I’m always hoping things will go smoothly, hoping I’ll enjoy the process and hoping the end result will be something worth reading, but there’s that annoying, whiney little voice in my head that makes me question whether or not I can actually do it. Oddly, I never worry about whether or not I can write something worth reading while I’m in the midst of a project—I only worry before I start.

The most enjoyable part? That’s the part I call tweaking (I’d call it editing, but that sounds too much like work). Once I have that first draft in place, I’m in heaven! I love to move stuff around, change how sentences are worded, change plot lines, find spelling mistakes and dumb phrases that need to be knocked out…Tweaking is fun, because the pressure is off at that point. I’ve finished the first draft—now I’m just playing with it and making it better.

How comfortable do you feel writing for young adults?

I’m a bit weird—I have an aversion to writing about sex, drugs, violence, vampires and all of that other gripping stuff that teens seem to like. I’m drawn to books that make me feel good and make me laugh, and I really can’t imagine writing something that would make me feel depressed or stress me out. So while I love writing for young adults, I focus on early young adults and my work is laced with humor.

Tell us about your other books

Parrots and Popcorn is a picture book about a girl, Kara, who’s upset about her upcoming birthday. What she wants is a real magic show and a puppy. Instead, her brother is going to do some fake magic tricks in front of her friends, then he’s going to pull some plain old presents out of his magic hat. The night before her birthday, Kara gets hold of her brother’s magic hat and starts experimenting, trying to see if she can actually make it work. She quickly discovers that she’s a lot better at magic than her brother—and she gets a lot more for her birthday than she’d expected!


Sleepover Zoo—the early chapter book that I mentioned—is about a 6th grade girl who moves into a new neighborhood and tries desperately to hide her family’s weirdness from the kids at school. Toni wants to fit in and feel normal, yet her family runs a wild bird care center in their house, so it’s like living in a zoo. When Toni gets cornered by one of the popular girls and has to have a sleepover, things go downhill fast!


The Day I Washed My Face in the Toilet is an early young adult novel. It’s about Monica, a 14-year-old who desperately wants to spend August at a science camp far away from her idiot sister and weird little brother. Trouble is, Monica’s being dragged into the wedding party of her crabby old great aunt who lives in England—and if she wants to earn the science camp trip, she has to keep her siblings in line for the entire time they’re in England, plus convince her crazy Grandma to move into a nursing home. It’s a fast-paced story with lots of laughs (fair warning: no sex, violence or vampires).

How do you write? What is your writing environment like?

I love my office. It’s a small room with soothing green walls, a huge wooden desk, a bookshelf, and a comfy chair and love seat for my kids to use. Very zen. Our Great Dane uses up half of the love seat, so my kids often end up sprawled out on the floor. There have been times when five, six or all seven kids are scattered around in there yakking while I work. It’s a great room—everyone gravitates toward it.


I don’t really have scheduled “writing times.” I do an hour or so before my kids get up, then once they’re at school, or busy playing, I write until lunch. After lunch, I write until supper. Then after the younger ones are in bed, I write until bedtime (or until my brain goes on strike and I have to stop). As long as there’s no music playing, I can write. Kids talking, tractors running (we live on a farm), the TV blaring…nothing really distracts me except music.


How many rewrites did it take you?


I never rewrite…I tweak! That makes the whole process feel less intimidating and less painful. I just tweak and tweak and tweak until I can’t see anything else that I could possibly do to fix the bloody thing. I picked away at There’s Nothing Wrong With Claudia for about two years. Of course, if that was all I was doing for two years, I would have gone bat crap crazy. I’d also started writing health articles for Women’s World and First for Women—and I was working on Parrots and Popcorn—at the same time.

Who are your editors and how do you quality control your books?

My books are all self-published ebooks (even Sleepover Zoo is now an ebook, since the rights reverted back to me from Scholastic a few years ago). So that makes me the editor as well as the writer, which is scary. The thought of a reader finding errors in my books makes me cringe. So, when I think each book is ready, I send it to a freelance editor (Laura Backes is amazing) and ask them to be as critical as possible. It’s money well spent. I wouldn’t trust myself to self-publish without having a second set of eyes (official Editor Eyes) combing through the thing, first.

Another thing that helped was that I had all four books translated into Spanish and French. I didn’t do it to improve the books’ quality, specifically—I just got the wild idea to offer each book in three languages, and I can rarely dissuade myself once I come up with a wild idea. Well, the Spanish and French translators were spectacular, plus incredibly thorough. While doing their translations, one of them found two grammar issues that I hadn’t noticed, and the other one found a couple of typos!

Who are your favourite authors / influences?

I like anyone who makes me laugh, and I love clever, witty writing and smart, but flawed main characters. So Linda Urban (A Crooked Kind of Perfect) Karen McCombie (An Urgent Message of Wowness) and Louise Rennison (Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging) are great picks for me. Ever read Edward the Emu? I have that one memorized. And anything by Dave Barry, of course!

What is your favourite book?

Oddly, the book that I found completely absorbing, read multiple times and still remember vividly wasn’t actually a funny one (sorry, no chance of consistency with me, I guess). It’s David R. Palmer’s Emergence. I still have my original 1984 copy, here, in my office. My kids know they’re not allowed to touch it, because it’s so old it’s starting to fall apart. I’ll be putting it in my will—whichever kid sticks around and takes care of me when I’m old and frail will get it!

What would you take to a lonely island?

A boat with a working motor and lots of gas. I’d have to get home fast before my kids trashed the house. It never occurs to them that dirty dishes can actually be put into the dishwasher.

Who would play your characters in a movie?

Can I pick George Clooney? He’s a cutie—and a good actor. He could play a floating girl, don’t you think?

What are your next projects and where would we be able to hear about them?

I hope to have I Want To Go Home available by March, 2014. It’s a middle-grade novel about a 14-year-old girl (Allie) who’s already been in 17 different foster homes. Every time Allie and her younger siblings get tossed into a new foster family, she plays games (like lying about their mom’s drinking, and pretending counseling is helping) to get back home. Things backfire when they get placed on a farm with a savvy foster mom who doesn’t fall for Allie’s sneaky moves. I Want To Go Home is about Allie’s difficult, yet sometimes humorous journey as she struggles to decide if where she was born is truly where she belongs.

When it’s available, I’ll be posting the news on my Facebook writer page (www.facebook.com/BrendaKearnsWriter) and also on my blog (www.brendakearns.com/blog). So if anyone would like to subscribe to one of those, I can keep them posted (I only put a blurb on the Facebook page once or twice monthly, and I post one blog monthly, so I won’t clog up your e-mail in-box!).

My website:







There’s Nothing Wrong With Claudia



Parrots and Popcorn



The Day I Washed My Face in the Toilet



Sleepover Zoo





There’s Nothing Wrong With Claudia


Parrots and Popcorn


The Day I Washed My Face in the Toilet


Sleepover Zoo



*These books are also available through Apple’s iBookstore, Sony’s Reader Store, Kobo, Copia, eBookPie, eSentral, Scribd and Gardners.



There’s Nothing Wrong With Claudia


Parrots and Popcorn


The Day I Washed My Face in the Toilet


Sleepover Zoo




“Sleepover Zoo” by Brenda Kearns is a lovely story for young adults.
As the title implies there is a sleepover involved, concerning several young girls. There is a long build up to the actual sleepover because of classroom ‘politics’ and worries by the girls about their image.
The location for said sleepover houses animals of all kinds and our heroine is worried that this will lead to ridicule rather than admiration.
The book does well in describing the worries and concerns of teenagers and it has some great revelations and a wonderful message. The description of the house with all the animals is often hilarious and entertaining, as it might be educational.
Once again Kearns has written sensitively about an important matter, the connection of humans with nature and animals. One party guest in particular has a steep learning curve. The characters are lovely, sometimes amusing and certainly very real.
This is a beautiful book that stands out from the many supernatural and superpower helpings of the genre.
Just right.



“The Day I Washed My Face in the Toilet” by Brenda Kearns is a fun read concerning a teenage girl who is plagued by her two eccentric siblings on a family trip to England. 
The book is full of hilarious episodes and colourful characters. A hyper or slightly autistic brother, the diva sister, a difficult great-aunt or the demented Grandmother.
Besides the comedy however the story touches on some serious issues such as the care for the elderly and what to do with problem children. The book remains light hearted with some uplifting moments and great humour.
As with all good young adult fiction there is some food for thought and a message for tolerance and acceptance.
Highly recommended.





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