Saturday, November 28, 2015

A Knock at the Door

A Knock at the Door
By Helen Yeomans
Illustrations by Matteo Mazzacurati

This outstanding children’s book by Helen Yeomans is the most unique collection of short short stories that I have ever read. All of the characters are letters which form words. Each letter speaks, has a distinctive personality, forms particular words and lives . . . well, mostly happily together. These letters of the alphabet, like children, get into trouble and sometimes have difficulty getting along.

There are strict rules in the world of word formation and the overseer of letters takes no nonsense from young letters who are lazy or likely to get into mischief. The formation of letters which make a word is an important job. When forming new words or made up words, letters must present them to The Counsel of Letters, made up of a 26 letter panel where the word is approved or denied.
Author Yeomans writes a lively, funny book which will make learning letters and turning them into proper words fun for children. It’s a great read aloud book because adults and teachers will laugh out loud at the antics and wry humor—then explain it to the younger children who may have missed the joke. Children learning to read alone will find this entertaining as it teaches them proper spelling and pronunciation of words; particularly when the letters themselves are in an ornery mood.

This often quirky, yet wise community of letter characters complete, with illustrations, should be required reading in pre-school and the lower grades. The author doesn’t talk down to the children and sparks their curiosity toward new words they may not know. Making learning an enjoyable experience both enhances the child’s ability and desire to learn the amazing letters which go into the making of the words used to communicate.

As an adult, I loved this book, much in the way adults love Dr. Seuss, and children will feel the same way. The characterization of all 26 letters is so life-like that this is a book children will want to read again and again. The illustrations are adorable but might  further enhance the book if there were more of them. Need a smile? Read this book to a child you know. You’ll both be glad you did.

Micki Peluso

Friday, November 20, 2015

This article explores the origins and history of one of our favorite holidays.


 Spicy, aromatic whiffs of pumpkin pie, plum pudding, and candied sweet potatoes mingle with and enhance the hearty, mouth-watering smell of roasted, stuffed turkeys. Thanksgiving, a harvest festival thanking the Creator for a bountiful year, has remained virtually unchanged since the pilgrims in Massachusetts shared that first feast with Chief Massoit and some of his braves.

On Staten Island, New York as in homes across the nation, people will gather in love and harmony to give thanks. Holiday fare on the Island will not differ greatly from traditional foods, except for the addition of ethnic dishes, such as home-made ravioli, succulent tomato sauce, crusty loaves of Italian bread, lasagne and delectable pastries indigenous to the New York area. In Italian homes, especially, a nine course meal is not unusual.

The turkey will dominate the day, whether served in homes, hospital rooms, soup kitchens for the needy, or meals on wheels for housebound senior citizens. Restaurants across the Island will also defer to the turkey, serving those who wish to celebrate, but hate to cook. Thanksgiving is a holiday that reminds people of the past, celebrates the present, and offers hope for the future; a day that gratifies body and soul.

Although Governor William Bradford, of the Plymouth Colony issued the first Thanksgiving proclamation in 1621, the concept of giving thanks is as old as the need for worship, and dates back to the time when humanity realized its dependence upon a Higher Power.The colonists of Plymouth observed three days of feasting,games and contests following their plentiful harvest in the autumn of 1621. The journal of Governor Bradford describes the preparations for that first Thanksgiving: "They began now to gather in the swell harvest they had, and to fit their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health and strength and had all things in good plenty... Besides waterfowl, there was a great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc... Which made many afterward write so largely of their plenty here to their friends in England, which were not feigned, but true reports."

Staten Island, at that time, was a beautiful lush wilderness, sparsely inhabited by the Aqehonga Indians, who fished, hunted deer, raccoon, and fowl, and harvested corn, pumpkins, berries and fruit. Settlers arriving from England and Holland in 1630, added sausage, head cheese and pies to the abundant game and vegetation on the Island. Twenty years ago, it was common practice for butchers to hang plucked turkeys in store windows, while grocers displayed fresh produce and jugs of apple cider.

On October 31, 1777, the Continental Congress appointed Samuel Adams, Richard Henry Lee, and Daniel Roberdau, to draft a resolution "to set aside a day of thanksgiving for the signal success lately obtained over the enemies of the United States." The resolution was accepted on November 1, 1777.
George Washington issued a presidential proclamation appointing November 26, 1789, as a day of general thanksgiving for the adoption of the constitution. The first national Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1863, due to the unrelenting efforts of Mrs. Sarah J. Hale. While editor of The Ladies Magazine in Boston, she penned countless editorials urging the uniform observance throughout the United States, of one day dedicated to giving thanks for blessings received throughout the year. She mailed personal letters to the governors of all the states, and to President Lincoln, persuading many governors to set aside the last Thursday in November as a day of Thanksgiving. Her editorial was titled,"Our National Thanksgiving", and began with a biblical quote: "Then he said to them, go your way and eat the fat and drink the sweet wine and send persons unto them for whom nothing is prepared; For this day is holy unto the lord; neither be ye sorry, for the joy of the lord is your strength." Nehemiah, VIII:10

President Lincoln, moved by Mrs. Hale's editorial and letter, issued the first National Thanksgiving Proclamation on October 3, 1863, which reads in part: "The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of almighty God." Lincoln designated Thanksgiving as a day "to subdue the anger which has produced and so long sustained a needless and cruel rebellion." The northern states, in response to the proclamation, held services in churches of all denominations, and gave appropriate sermons.
President Roosevelt, on December 26, 1941, approved the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving, to be observed in every state and the District of Columbia.

The first international Thanksgiving was held in Washington, D.C. in 1909. It was the brain-child of Rev. Dr. William T. Russell, rector of St. Patrick's Church of Washington. Dr. Russell called it a Pan American celebration, and it was attended by representatives of all the Latin American countries. The Catholic Church was chosen for the services, since Catholicism is the religion of the Latin American countries.

St. Patrick's Church published an account of the celebration, noting that "it was the first time in the history of the Western World that all the republics were assembled for a religious function...When asked what prompted Dr. Russell in planning a Pan American Thanksgiving celebration, Dr. Russell said, "My purpose was to bring into closer relations the Republics of the Western World. As Christianity had first taught the brotherhood of man, it was appropriate that the celebration should take the form of a solemn mass." The Pan American celebration continued from year to year.

Some Eastern cities adopted the old world custom of dressing children in the over-sized clothes of their elders, masking their faces, and having them march through the streets blowing tin horns. The children often carried baskets, and solicited fruits and vegetables from house to house to help celebrate the day. This tradition was adapted from an old Scotch wassail custom.

The warm, loving atmosphere of this holiday has been immortalized in song, literature, and poetry, such as the well-known poem by Lydia Maria Child: "Over the river and through the woods, to Grandmother's house we go..."
Thanksgiving signals the onset of the joyous holiday season which continues until New Year's Day. Thanksgiving also proclaims the arrival of Santa Claus, who assumes temporary residence at the shopping malls which will be ablaze with Christmas decorations. Those shoppers brave enough to venture out on 'Black Friday', the day after Thanksgiving, can take advantage of sales.

Today, more than ever, Thanksgiving is intrinsic to our time. The need to give thanks is profoundly American. As a people, we have pursued idealism, struggled for individual freedoms, and enjoyed the fruits of capitalism. Like the starship "Enterprise" on Star Trek, Americans have "dared to go where no man has gone before." The act of giving thanks acknowledges the greater force that inspires this nation, encouraging and demanding excellence. This Thanksgiving, when stomachs are bulging with savory, traditional food, and hearts are full with love for family and friends, it is fitting to give thanks.

Stand up on this Thanksgiving Day, stand
upon your feet. Believe in man. Soberly and
with clear eyes, believe in your own time and
place. There is not, and there never has
been a better time, or a better place to live.
-Phillip Brooks

Monday, November 16, 2015

“I am proud to announce that my stories, 86 the Cole Slaw, The Mean Machines, Relatives and Fish, and Tomatoes and Teenagers each won a prestigious award and are now published in a book of hilarious short stories that tickle the funny bone.These stories are also featured in two humorous video trailers at  and I would be so appreciative if you would take a couple of minutes to watch these amusing videos, click on the LIKE button beneath each one and write a quick comment if you can. Thank you. Your support means so much to me. ”

Thanks, Micki

Below you can find the URL’s for the video introducing each chapter of the Crystal Colletion.








Friday, November 13, 2015

Tales2Inspire ~ The Crystal Collection: Stories that Tickle the Funny Bone

Lois W. Stern, creator of ‘winning stories by talented authors from across the globe’, has outdone herself with her latest collection of stories; the first collection ever of strictly humorous stories. As author and publisher Stern admits, funny stories are more difficult to write, edit and judge since what strikes one person's funny bone might go right over the head of another. This is not the case with these unique stories encompassing all walks of life, and unusual situations — did I mention funny?
My personal favorite, the story about a ’chicken zombie’ is a laugh out loud story that is almost unbelievable. I know I'll never feel the same toward chicken again. In another story, leaving two little girls alone with gallons of different colors of paint makes one smile. One story proves with slapstick humor that machines can be extremely mean to young housewives. 
“You can't spell ‘DON’T without ‘DO’” is proven in a hysterical short story about a young boy who cleverly beats the system, avoiding punishment. “Love in Bloom . . . Remembering When” is a sweet funny love story, a thoroughly satisfying read. Author Stern adds her own comical account of how a redhead proves she's a true redhead.
Each of the stories in this collection of humorous anecdotal tales is well-written, the authors are all contest winners and their work is edited to perfection. The lovely crystal on the book cover is perfect for these types of stories as some shine with brilliance, others are sharp and witty, and still others smooth and pleasant. But as the creator, Lois W. Stern writes, they are all ‘sparkling crystals of laughter.’
The type of stories in the Crystal collection is perfect reading while traveling or waiting for appointments. Just be careful where you chuckle or burst out laughing. Those enjoying this book in the Tales2 Inspire series will want to check out the other collections. I know I did.
Micki Peluso


Sunday, November 8, 2015

The Music of Life

The Music of life
 Micki Peluso

     Music is ingrained in our lives from the melodic chirping of birdsong to lullabies crooned to sleepy toddlers. We celebrate with music, we mourn with music. Even some dogs like to sing; or maybe they just howl to get us to stop. My house was always filled with music, especially when five of my six kids were teenagers. It was the late 70's but we all loved to sing songs from the 60's as well; Elvis Presley was an icon in our home.
     My oldest daughter Kim played guitar and wrote songs, and her sisters and I sang along, sometimes taping ourselves on cassettes with a little red recorder. We all cried while singing “Teen Angel,” but couldn't stop singing it. That song would prove an omen of the day when we’d have our own Teen Angel.
     Dante could play any instrument and song by ear, even classical music like Beethoven and Bach — where did he hear that? Kelly sang in the school choir and Noelle played the trumpet in the band. The rest of us were not musically talented but I did know if a note was flat. I taught myself to play the guitar years before but when I could go no further I taught Kim who was six years old at the time. She quickly surpassed me.
     I did love to sing, albeit off key, and sang Baptist spirituals and folk songs like "I Gave My Love a Cherry,” and my favorite country-western songs. I could do a fair “Love Me Tender,” or so I thought.  Noelle burst in from school one day to show me her new trumpet by blasting me with a few earsplitting notes. “Can you play “Long, Long Ago, Far, Far Away?” I asked. When the joke finally the hit her, she just laughed. Thankfully we had an acre of land and no close neighbors – although I thought I heard the dairy cows from the nearby barn mooing backup up one day.
     On a sunny late summer day 14-year-old Noelle was singing and dancing down our country lane, on her way to a concert at the nearby park with her girl friend. I knew she was meeting her first puppy love, a cute, blue-eyed, shaggy haired boy named Chuck. Within moments, a drunk driver struck her and left her face down on the side of the road. That day the music died – except for the mournful dirge of the church organ on the day of her funeral.

     It was a few months later when her younger sister Nicole’s 11th birthday was coming up. I had to convince her to have her party at the Roller Skating Rank where the girls had spent so many good times skating to the hit tunes and a few oldies. She felt guilty but agreed to go. As she and her friends ate pizza and drank soda, I turned to gaze at the skating rink. For a few brief moments I saw Noelle, dancing on skates smiling and full of life. I was mesmerized.  I blinked, and the vision was gone, but I heard a line from the stereo playing the song, “American Pie,” by Don McLean . . .” The Day the Music Died.” 

Monday, November 2, 2015

A Christmas Tale for all the year

The Magic of Christmas
The Magic of Love
Beautifully Illustrated Poems for Children and the Young at Heart. 
By Susan Brougher
Most adults retain childhood memories of Christmas, which seem, in retrospect. so much better than the memories made today. In this lovely illustrated book, Author Susan Brougher relates both memories past and present in a storytelling poem, which is both lively and cheerful. The meter is off a bit but not enough to detract from the beauty and charm of this book.
It's important for children to learn of the past while enjoying the present. The author puts the birth of Jesus into her poems, where He belongs this time of year. The subtle yet natural way that the author blends Christmas  with the night Christ was born is beautifully and tastefully done.Children will also love hearing about picking out real trees, instead of the poor imitations in today's world.Yet this poem teaches as well. We need to save the trees to protect them and the earth.
This is a book which encourages children from 2-7 to ask questions. It's a perfect 'read to' book as well as for those just learning to read on their own--a book young ones will treasure throughout the year. Both  the poem and illustrations make this book a delightful story for adults of all ages, taking them back to memories of their own youth; bringing back a little of its magic
This is the type of Christmas my own children enjoyed and will be perfect for my grandchildren. There is something about Christmas past that is lacking in today's technological world. Author Susan Brougher brings it back to readers with a little 'fairy dust.'
I was presented with a copy of this book by the author for an honest, unbiased review.
Micki Peluso 


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Infinite Waters 9+1 Speculative Short Fiction Stroies

Infinite Waters 9+1 Speculative Fiction Short Stories
By Nicholas C. Rossis

This collection of short stories written in a quirky yet eclectic style will capture the minds of readers who love a story with often weird conclusions — which go beyond twist endings. The author has a creative, imagination, coming up with some of the most bizarre mind-boggling stories I've read in a long time, if ever.

In “A Twist of the Tail,” a woman finds herself in a strange town, disoriented and sporting an extra body part. Then as her memories slowly return, things become stranger yet. “What's in a Name,” is an outer space story that has a hysterically funny ending. One of my favorites is “Two’s a Crowd,” proving that identical twins can feel alike in more ways than ever ‘dreamed’ of. “The Things we do for Lust,” is a captivating tale of a time traveler who manages to live two different lives. These are a few tempting selections which will leave readers wanting more. And all with surprise endings, one could not possibly see coming.

Some of the stories are science fiction, some paranormal, others not normal in any possible sense of the word as Author Nicholas C. Rossis pens ten spectacular fiction tales, each carrying a theme which reflects all of them. These stories are perfect for readers with limited time but loving a good short read. They can be read waiting for appointments, taking mass transit to work, or whenever there are a few minutes to enjoy some of them. Just be careful where you burst out laughing or gasp in shock. Many stories will be read more than once, like fairytales for grown-ups. Author Nicholas C. Rossis has more than mastered the craft of speculative short fiction.

Those enjoying this book — and who could not? — Will want to check out his first short story collection, “Power of Six,” and his finalist International Award-Winning children's story, “Runaway Smile.”

Micki Peluso: author of . . . And the Whippoorwill Sang