Book Review

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Reviewed by Jeffrey Sanzel

Jeannie Moon’s latest romance novel, “Then Came You,” is a wonderful portrait of love in a small town and gets to the heart of what really makes a family.

The book is cleverly rooted in a legend connected to the history of the fictional town of Compass Cove, founded 1667. The prologue tells the story of a young widow, a compasssmith and a needle that pointed not north but to an individual’s true north (i.e., love). It is a sweet tale and one that sets just the hint of magical realism (and will surface later in the novel).

Above, author Jeannie Moon

At the center of Moon’s novel is 29-year-old Mia DeAngelis “who in another life … would have been a star. In this life, she was doing damage control. Again.” Mia is raising her orphaned nephew, Ben, after her sister’s suicide nine years earlier. Initially, Mia’s rather cold mother was raising Ben with Mia’s father. After the two were hit by a drunk driver, taking the father’s life and injuring Mia’s mother, it was decided that Mia should become guardian.

There is nothing of the Hallmark movie about Moon’s dealing with the dysfunctional pieces of the family; she has created real people in a complex situation. Mia’s desire to adopt Ben is very candid and the complications that ensue feel honest. Mia is faced with the double challenge of being a single mother who is not the biological mother. This desire to adopt Ben is the driving force in her life and in the story.

Ben is now an active 10-year-old boy who Mia has moved from Maryland to raise Ben in Compass Cove where she had summered as a girl. Her grandmother, a vital and free spirit, pitches in and Mia is finding a new life. There is nothing random about the relocation from a city to the Long Island suburb. Mia is doing everything she can to save Ben from himself and the latent anger that is brewing beneath the surface. Gradually, it is revealed that Mia lived in the shadow of her thinner, prettier sister — “the sainted Sara” — and is just now coming into her own. It is clear that the sister’s suicide had been a destructive force in all of the family members’ lives, and they are each dealing with it in a different way.

Mia has taken up the post of librarian at the local university, and it is there she begins to find romance. Prior to Compass Cove, she had been unlucky in dating, not having had a second date in five years or a real relationship in nine. Ben has become her whole life and she has accepted that this is her lot. At this point in her life, Mia has never been in love.

Her immediate chemistry with the college football coach Adam Miller is helped along by Adam’s kindness to Ben and his welcoming the boy to become a sort of mascot to the football team. Adam, a former pro-athlete and past “bad boy,” is smitten with Mia. Adam has a long history of risk-taking that ended his professional career but helped him find himself. A native of Compass Cove, he moved back home to find balance again. Their attraction is natural and believable and electric at the get-go.

The cover of Moon’s latest book

There are struggles from the beginning of their courtship (Mia’s mother, even at long distance, has a real canker about sports in general and athletes in particular) but their attraction is undeniable. The novel addresses real fight-or-flight issues in relationships and the challenges that force people to put up walls and barriers.

Moon shifts effortlessly between the voices of Mia and Adam, changing syntax and diction seamlessly, alternating between the articulate and educated Mia and the slightly rough-hewn Adam.

After Adam stands Mia up for a date, she becomes more involved with Noah, a self-important professor, who is “the right guy” and ticks all of the appropriate boxes — but who is clearly not the right choice. Mia begins seeing Noah seriously but is constantly drawn back to Adam.

It is in a crisis involving Ben that the two suitors true colors come out, and Moon deftly addresses the issue of what makes a hero and, ultimately, what makes a good man.

There is plenty of heat between Mia and Adam and their passion is vividly depicted. Their intense and breathless physical compatibility leads to deeper feelings and the examination of second chances and what defines “the love of your life.” One chapter ends with Adam’s plea to himself: “Love her back. Just love her back.” Likewise, when she looks into Adam’s eyes, she sees the future — their future. In “Then Came You,” passion and intimacy are about trust.

In the background of the burgeoning relationship is a cast of interesting and engaging characters, including both their grandmothers, whose families are longtime Compass Cove residents and are involved without the caricature of meddling.

One of the richest characters is Mia’s mother, Ellen, a distant woman of strong opinions and a judgmental streak who has become acerbated by her daughter’s and husband’s deaths. Living in Charleston, Ellen does not want to give up legal custody of Ben and yet she doesn’t want to take full-time responsibility as it would interfere with the new life she has set for herself. While she is mostly portrayed in phone calls, the depth of her control permeates Mia and Ben’s lives. Moon has well-crafted Ellen’s literal and figurative disconnects and becomes the threat to Mia’s adoption of Ben.

In addition, the surfacing at Thanksgiving of Adam’s ex — the rail-thin, acid-tongued model Pilar — brings up doubts but then strengthens Adam and Mia’s future. This forced confrontation with his past, helps Adam grow yet another step toward what he really wants in the world. There is a late-in-the-game plot twist that enforces Mia’s complicated family history. But rather than feeling contrived, it is brutally honest and raises the final stakes in Mia, creating the family she truly craves.

If anything, “Then Came You” is a tribute to the support of a small town. “Mia had only started to learn it was okay to lean on others since moving to Compass Cove.” She moves from a life of isolation and the illusion of independence to embracing extended family in the form of friends and neighbors.

For both Mia and Adam, making Compass Cove a home brings out the good and the better in them. “Then Came You” is an appealing novel that will delight fans of both the romance and literature genres.

Jeannie Moon is the author of 15 published novels. Born and raised in Huntington, Moon is currently a librarian in the Smithtown school district and the president of the Long Island Romance Writers. “Then Came You” is the first book in her new Compass Cove series, published by Tule Publishing Group, and is available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Kobo and iBooks. Meet her at a romance author panel, The Power of Love, at Sachem Public Library in Holbrook on Saturday, Feb. 10 from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Books will be available for purchasing and signing. For more information on the author, visit her website at www.jeanniemoon.com.

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By Jeffrey Sanzel

Public radio personality and prolific author David Bouchier has gathered 122 essays in his newest collection, the charming “Out of Thin Air.” Divided into seven loose themes covering such topics as technology, politics and travel, Bouchier covers many of the same ideas but always from a different angle. As they are based on his well-known radio commentaries, each essay is a clever gem, rarely more than two pages, and makes for insightful and entertaining reading.

Author David Bouchier

In the Preface, Bouchier defines an essay as “the writer talking to you, one on one, about something that he or she finds interesting, annoying, bewildering, or funny.” This definitive statement guides the entire work. As we wend our way through his experiences, it is as if he is sitting across from us over a lively coffee. He is articulate and witty and, even when he is at his most hyperbolic, there is a sincerity that comes through.

Bouchier’s first essay, “Waiting for the End” appropriately deals with just that — the end of the world. He clearly gives us a sense of his life’s view and what will come in the ensuing pages: “The future is virgin territory, and any pessimist can claim it.” When writing of a cinematic look at the apocalypse: “The movie was two hours and thirty-eight minutes long. The actual end of the world needs to be snappier than that, or we will lose interest (average adult attention span: twenty minutes).” We now know who Bouchier is and can proceed in the full knowledge that we will laugh and be inspired in turns or, just as often, simultaneously.

Much of the book is taken up with issues of modern technology and the disenfranchisement of people of an earlier generation. What separates Bouchier from the usual curmudgeonly wheezes is that he has — albeit sometimes reluctantly — embraced not just the power of these changes but their necessity. Not that he doesn’t take many pointed and highly amusing shots at our slavish addiction to all things computer centric; he rails against them but still sees their value. “We are never alone unless the battery runs out.” He is not so much technophobic but “techno-wary.” Of cellphones, “I talk, therefore I am” is followed by his taking it a step further that this form of communication brings us closer to each other and yet isolates us from the world.

In his longest essay, “The Ghost in the Machine,” Bouchier makes the valid point that computers have rid us of the need for memory. With instant access, we have disconnected from ourselves and no actually living is done. We have become a society that survives in a virtual existence. While he is going to the extreme to make his point, there is a reality in his argument that demands we look inward.

“From Hardware to Software” is a laugh-out-loud equation of old-fashioned hardware stores with the heroic doctors of television drama with the dramatic of-course-it-can-be-saved. It reflects on a time when problems had solutions and mourns the loss of these kinder bastions of help and support and knowledge. In the same vein, the author writes a paean to the joy of the manual typewriter, gone the same way is these shops.

What helps enrich the pieces is that Bouchier is incredibly well-read and knowledgeable in a wide range of topics — literature (novels in particular), art and science to name a few. He encourages the reader to embrace science — even if you don’t understand it. He praises continuing education but never laments that education is wasted on the young. It gives a vast scope for interpretation and reference that enriches the depth of his exploration.

As stated, many subjects overlap (notably cellphones, computers and other contemporary gadgetry), but he manages to mine a different perspective with each vignette: He finds a singular awareness to highlight.

The topics that are covered are plentiful. The author’s thoughts touch on ideas from “selective forgetting” (a wonderfully accurate concept) to the danger of the smiley face. He pursues the danger of teaching fake history and the repercussions on young (and older) minds. Here, like so many places in his writing, he shifts easily from his acerbic and pithy quips to important concepts such as learning from history, not just ingest it.

Bouchier’s take on the opposite of procrastination — “pre-crastination” — is amusing and not a little disturbing; he finds that people who rush into things are not giving the proper thought. This leads to a siting of truly dangerous things that should give people pause: “double bacon cheeseburgers with fries, international wars, and marriage.” Even when taking aim at easy targets, his perceptions are both fresh and refreshing. Ultimately, in “We’ll Do This Later,” somehow he makes a strong case for procrastination. He is also adept at looking at two sides of a situation.

In “The Way We Were,” the author starts out with a pointedly ambivalent view of reunions but then comes to a much more introspective conclusion, finding the worth in the event. It is not just that he finds the two views but he is able to perceive multiple awarenesses.

“Worth Preserving” is a timely solution for maintaining historical sites. What is fascinating is that at first it seems like he is being tongue-in-cheek — and he might possibly be — but the concepts of preservation and accessibility are sound. It is this blend of humor and understanding that fuel his writing.

And yet, Bouchier’s take on nostalgia comes at the discussion from a different standpoint: “Every nation has its own tales of a glorious past that never existed.” He gives Downton Abbey as a prime example that the truth is much darker below stairs. Basically, the good old days that are glorified by film, television and novels never existed.

He laments the bookless bookstores that have become clothing emporiums — most notably university bookstores where books are screens “to goggle or Google at.” Clever word play is powerful and his succinctness is an arrow to the center, his dissections as swift and accurate as a scalpel.

“Losing stuff, like losing weight, is a lost cause.” We have too many things — we are saturated as “willing prisoners” of our acquisitions. Again, he turns his accusations inward and finds the positive in what has become a negative cliché — he finds the value in “stuff” as a connection to who we are related to from where we’ve come.

The author’s thoughts about wedding extravagance are really an exploration of marriage in the short and long term, calling to task the reality that in the modern age being average and fitting in trumps being Mozart. In the age of driverless cars, perhaps it is not the vehicles that should be recalled but the drivers themselves. In a flip on red-light cameras, he makes the case to reward good drivers for correct behavior.

The selfie as “a sudden plague of pathological vanity” is extreme — but not inaccurate, flying in the face of the cliché of a picture being worth a thousand words. The “Look at me, I’m here, I exist” is no more than a “flicker across the consciousness leaving no trace. They’re not worth a thousand words, they replace a thousand words.”

There is a great deal of strong advice in Bouchier’s writings. In “A Good Long Read,” he meditates on the transition from reading long books to embracing a series of books. This is a healthy and helpful suggestion to readers of desire but limited time.

An extended section on politics in the book should be made required reading in every school (and home, for that matter). The author’s view on the American system can be summed up in his observation that we have hundreds of choices for cereal but only two for president. He writes about the true heroes of our times and times past as well as a fascinating connection between clowns, Halloween and Election Day.

A discussion of a universal draft — men, woman, all ages an socioeconomic backgrounds — ultimately hints at broader ideas. He does the same thing with a darkly comic advocation of making everyone in the world an American. In his section on travel, Bouchier opens up with “Escape Attempts,” which hints at deeper themes — going from trips to war to marriage and children. He makes profound statements about the power of inner life, of reading versus travel. He points out that “to” is often less important than “from.” Style of travel from point of view as well as the unnecessary obsession with souvenirs all encourage us to look not just in the mirror but within ourselves.

The essay “The Business of America” is the smartest and most accurate assessment of the lack of values in our constant pursuit of meetings. In the “Right to Arm Bears,” Bouchier proposes leveling the hunting playing field by providing animals with guns. “Philosophy in the Slow Lane” meditates on life in the Long Island Expressway traffic jams, comparing it to the classic audio novels (Twain, Melville) he listens to when caught in the given congestion of our daily lives. All pithy statements; all with great truths beneath.

The best summation of Bouchier’s work would be in his own words: “What makes us different from bees and lemmings is that we can and do break away from the herd, and think our separate thoughts. We are bees with a perspective on the hive, which allows us to evolve and to create. It also gives us a headache.”

Thank you, Mr. Bouchier for the reminder of all the former. And your tag to this thought reminds us never to take ourselves too seriously.

‘Out of Thin Air’ is available online at www.amazon.com. Meet author David Bouchier at the Third Friday event at the Reboli Center for Art and History, 64 Main St., Stony Brook on Friday, Dec. 15 at 6 p.m. Bouchier will discuss his 25 years on public radio. The event is free.

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By Melissa Arnold

Most people have something they dislike about their appearance at one time or another. Diane Melidosian is no exception, struggling with a stubborn cowlick for her entire life. In the spring, she released her first book for children, “Cornelius & the Cowlick,” which recounts a young boy’s efforts to tame his unruly hair. In the end, kindness from his friends and classmates allow Cornelius to embrace the things that make him unique and special.

Tell me a bit about yourself. Where did you grow up?

I grew up in East Northport, but I’ve lived in Stony Brook for more than 30 years. I went to college in Michigan but returned to Long Island when I got married in 1974. I studied special ed, and when I was in undergrad, Eastern Michigan was one of the few schools in the country to offer that program, so off I went. My husband and I were both special ed teachers, but later on I became a reading specialist. We’re both retired now.

Did you always want to be a writer?

I didn’t really want to be a writer when I was a kid — I just had a very active imagination.

What inspired you to write this book?

Above, the cover of Diane Melidosian’s first children’s book

I have a cowlick myself, and it’s always been a problem. All the things that Cornelius does to try to deal with it are things I’ve tried myself. Nothing works! To this day I struggle to keep my hair down, so that’s really where the inspiration came from — having lots of bad hair days. Somewhere along the line I decided to write a story about it.

How did you go about getting the book published?

I did self-publishing through Amazon. One day, I visited the Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s Educational & Cultural Center in Stony Brook, and there was a woman there doing publicity for a book she had written. I don’t remember her name now, but I spoke to her and she told me about publishing through CreateSpace, which is a part of Amazon. I went online and it looked like something I could handle. It was pretty user-friendly, too.

What made you choose the name Cornelius for the main character?

I thought it was a good fit because of the alliteration with the word “cowlick.”

What do you want kids to take away from reading your book?

You know, it’s meant to be a silly book, but my cowlick was something that always troubled me. I figured there’s a kid out there that struggles with hair issues and they might be able to relate and get a laugh out of it. Having his friend and the other kids rally around him helps him to accept himself more. The message I would want them to walk away with is that nothing is insurmountable and don’t take yourself too seriously.

Who did the illustrations for the book? Were you involved in the process?

After I wrote the story, it sat in a drawer for 10 years because finding an illustrator was a big obstacle for me. I don’t have any artistic talent. But then a friend of mine suggested her niece, Kyra Slawski, who ended up doing it for me. She had just graduated from college with an art degree, but she had never done anything like this before. She was very hesitant at first, but I said, “Look, anything you do is going to be fine.” She did a wonderful job. We met a few times in person but did most of our work through the computer. She would send some illustrations to me and I would send them back with comments — sometimes Cornelius’ cowlick wasn’t in the right spot, or I had a different idea. We’d go back and forth until both of us were satisfied.

What was it like seeing Cornelius come to life?

It was so surprising. You can write the story and have an image in your head, but seeing it is different. I can’t say he was exactly as I pictured him — I had pictured a boy a bit more like Dennis the Menace — but when Kyra first sent me her illustrations, I was all for it.

What advice would you give someone who wants to write a book?

Don’t put you book in a drawer for 10 years! Work on it bit by bit and set a time for it to be completed.

“Cornelius & the Cowlick,” recommended for ages 3 to 8, is available on www.Amazon.com for $9.50. The book can also be found in the Local Authors Collection at the Emma S. Clark Memorial Library, 120 Main Street in Setauket.

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A cornucopia of crime and punishment

By Jeffrey Sanzel

Author Kerriann Flanagan Brosky

“Historic Crimes of Long Island” by Kerriann Flanagan Brosky is a highly readable journey through “Misdeeds from the 1600s to the 1950s.” The Huntington author has collected 20 tales of local mayhem, ranging from murder to kidnapping, crimes motivated by money, passion and, occasionally, insanity. Brosky’s tight, you-are-there prose propels the reader from one piece to another, covering a wide range of sinister and often heinous actions. As aptly stated in the Preface, the book includes “pirates, witches, jealousy, revenge, tar and feathering, beheadings, drownings, madmen eccentrics, axe murderers and more.”

Brosky never shies away from skin-crawling detail where appropriate; but what separates this work from many others like it is her compassion for the victims. More often than not, books that chronicle the darker side of history tend to celebrate the perpetrators. Brosky instead shows great sensitivity and understanding of the targets. She offers insight into the motivation of the offenders but never excuses or glamorizes their actions. She does not revel in evil but explores it from multiple angles. She is more interested in the “why.”

The book wisely eschews chronology but instead opts for contrast as the accounts venture back and forth throughout time, weaving a rich tapestry, no two stories identical. Incidents in Quogue, Huntington, Islip, Smithtown, Westhampton Beach and other well-known Long Island towns create an intense backdrop to the range of occurrences.

Brosky focuses on not just a variety of episodes but chooses to spotlight different aspects of the proceedings. The Corn Doctor Murder exams a tangled legal system whereas The Mad Killer of Suffolk County emphasizes a sociopathy that drives a man to thrill killing.

Kidnapping or Murder? The Alice Parsons Case shows the politics that can interfere with an investigation as the conflict between the FBI and local police left the case unsolved. The Murder of Captain James Craft stretches from Glen Cove to the Tenderloin and includes both deception and decapitation. The Samuel Jones Murder addresses capital punishment in light of a botched hanging in 1875. Buried treasure, a violated burial ground and obsessed gardener are examined in astute detail.

One of the most intriguing entries is East Hampton Witch Trial of 1658. Like all sagas of this era, it shows the power of a vindictive nature in a culture of suspicion. It clearly sites the hysteria and danger but what is unusual in this report is the surprising outcome.

Perhaps the strongest and certainly most heartbreaking is Starr Faithful: Drowning, Murder, or Suicide. Here is a devastating sketch of a tragically abused girl, ill-treated from a very young age. This is a detailed commentary, mired in deep unhappiness, promiscuity, alcoholism and blackmail. Above all, it is a dimensional portrait of the victim. (As an interesting side note, Starr Faithful was the inspiration for John O’Hara’s novel, “Butterfield 8,” and the Elizabeth Taylor movie that followed.)

The book is well illustrated with photos, period prints and newspaper clippings, supplemented by Penny Dreadful-style illustrations by author Joan Harrison (who also provided the Foreword). Some stories are solved; others are left open, haunted by doubts and conflicting evidence. A variety of characters sharply presented, flesh out this slender but consistently engaging composition, sure to please a wide range of readers this Halloween season.

“Historic Crimes of Long Island,” published by The History Press, is available online at www.amazon.com and local bookstores. Upcoming lectures and book signings in the area include Port Jefferson Free Library on Oct. 27 at 7 p.m., Northport Historical Society on Oct. 29 at 2 p.m, and Half Hollow Hills Community Library in Dix Hills on Oct. 30 at 7 p.m. For more information, visit www.kerriannflanaganbrosky.com.

Reviewed by Rita J. Egan

When three cows embark on an adventure to the beach, things can get a bit tricky, but that doesn’t stop Ms. Brown Cow. Children will discover that when one is determined to achieve a goal, even when obstacles are present, one can accomplish almost anything in the delightful children’s book “How Now, Ms. Brown Cow?”

Peter Fowkes

Written and illustrated by Port Jefferson native and St. Anthony’s High School graduate Peter Fowkes, the self-published book features witty yet simple rhymes and vibrantly colored funny illustrations. The story is one that will surely provide little ones with plenty of giggles as Ms. Brown Cow finds a solution to any problem.

In addition to the “How Now, Ms. Brown Cow?” book, Fowkes, who is a producer and director living in Los Angeles with his wife Nancy and two children Benjamin and Charlotte, has also published “Rainbow Sheep” and “Elmer, The Pet Horse.” All three, recommended for ages 4 to 8, are part of the Beyond the Blue Barn book series.

Fowkes recently took time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions about “How Now, Ms. Brown Cow” via email.

Do you have a favorite memory from your childhood years?

I grew up in the Port Jefferson area, in the village of Belle Terre. I played village Little League coached by my dad, spent my teenage summers lifeguarding on the Suffolk County shoreline, graduated high school from St. Anthony’s in South Huntington, and even though I have since moved, my mother still lives in the family home that I grew up in on Crooked Oak Road. My most vivid childhood memory is going on a third-grade field trip with Scraggy Hill Elementary School and deciding to ignore my teacher’s warnings about not getting too close to the edge of the stream. I fell in. I was fine, but it was embarrassing to spend the rest of the field trip in my tighty-whitey underpants covered up by Mrs. Christman’s oversized jacket. My life has been very much that way ever since.

Tell me a bit about your career?

I have worked in the television industry for 20 years now. I gave the NBC tour as a page in Rockefeller Center after I graduated from Fordham University and continued on the TV path to work as a producer and TV director on comedy shows. I am proud to note, most of them are even funny, but not all of them. A few highlights would include a few years with the “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and a few years with “Impractical Jokers.” I mostly work freelance, which is fancy speak for stressful employment hunting, but it has given me the opportunity to have a very diversified career taking on many projects and some very rewarding experiences.

How did you get involved with writing children’s books?

For starters, I was terrible at math. My math notebooks would be filled with doodles and cartoon characters as I would spend the entire lesson drawing Batman and Charlie Brown instead of learning fractions. I was a bad math student, but I became a pretty good artist. A few times in my TV career I had the opportunity to do some animation, and I thought I came up with a pretty cool style. I would mix cartoon drawings with real photographs, the result was “a poor man’s Roger Rabbit.” I decided to translate that style to children’s books because I thought kids would love it. In TV, the experience of producing a show is very collaborative. That is all well and good, but I wanted to tell a few stories all on my own. I wanted to pair simple funny stories with silly beautiful illustrations, and I wanted my kids to like them.

How would you describe “How Now, Ms. Brown Cow?” to someone who hasn’t read it?

“How Now, Ms. Brown Cow?” is a simple story, with a simple message that isn’t too preachy, with lots of funny pictures. It is a book for kids that I promise parents will enjoy reading with them.

How did you come up with the idea of cows who are determined to make it to the beach?

I liked the idea of characters that did not know their “place” in society. Like, what could you achieve if you never were told, “You can’t do that”? What if you really believed that you could do anything you set your mind to? Well, these cows clearly do not think of themselves as “just farm animals.” They think they can do whatever they try to do and if that means ride a motorcycle, take a cab, fly an airplane or shoot themselves from a cannon to get to the beach, they’re going to get to that beach.

When did you start the Beyond the Blue Barn book series and why?

I purposely wanted to play around with the children’s book clichés of rhyming stories about farm animals at the old barn etc. I thought that would be a fun place to start the stories and then let the characters go nuts. All the Beyond the Blue Barn books start with a family photo of the old farmer and all of his animals.

I was looking at an old school class photo and was wondering whatever happen to this one, and where did that one wind up going and decided to take that approach with all of these farm animals as the books start with the farmer retiring to Fort Myers and the farm being sold.

Each book then follows a farm animal or group of animals on their adventures after they leave the Blue Barn to start their new lives. All of these animals are infected with a blissful sense of unawareness of what is expected of farm animals; therefore, they can do anything and try to do so. They feel no limitations. The cows may dream of being lifeguards, the sheep astronauts and rock stars, a turkey wants to be a professional tennis player. Why not? So, the goal is to keep it simple, silly and fun.

Do you have another children’s book planned or more adventures for Ms. Brown Cow?

Well, the Blue Barn opening page has plenty of animals in the picture and every one of them has a story. So far, we have followed three groups. “How Now, Ms. Brown Cow?” follows the three cows on a quest of determination to get to the beach. “Elmer, the Pet Horse” follows a horse in his new home where he does not see why he isn’t accepted into the family home like the dog or the cat. “Rainbow Sheep” is a battle for the affections of children at a petting zoo where the sheep continually top each other with more audacious acts thinking it will make them more liked. So, I do plan more adventures for the other animals formally of the Blue Barn.

Tell us about the illustrations.

I think they tell much more of the story than the words do in these books. My books are narrated by the farm animals and the pictures often don’t really match what the animals are saying because they do not know the full story. They are unreliable narrators. I mean in my book “Elmer, The Pet Horse,” before the horse is bought by a new family, he thinks he is getting a corporate job as a foreman at the glue factory. He even imagines himself at some giant corporate office wearing a hard hat being all important.

How do you find the time to write? Any advice for aspiring book writers?

Like everybody else in the world, I really don’t have time to write, but I forced myself. The one piece of advice I would have for aspiring writers is:  just sit down and start your book. I meet people all the time that tell me about an idea they have for a book, but it’s just an idea until you start it. For me it was important to break it down into parts. Doing a whole book is overwhelming, but just trying to finish a page here and a page there is easy and before you know it, it’s done.

For more information on Peter Fowkes and his Beyond the Barn book series, visit his author’s page on www.amazon.com.

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Reviewed by Melissa Arnold

Grant Shaffer and Alan Cumming with their current pets, Jerry and Lala. Photo from Jud Newborn

Have you ever wondered what your pets are thinking, or what they’re up to when you’re not around? Actor Alan Cumming and his photographer/illustrator husband, Grant Shaffer, sure have. Constantly entertained by their late beloved dogs, Honey and Leon, the couple decided to share the fun in their new children’s book, “The Adventures of Honey & Leon,” beautifully illustrated with a silly, imaginative story line. Cumming and Shaffer, who have been together for 13 years, recently answered questions about the book via email.

Tell us a little bit about yourselves. Were you always animal lovers?

Alan Cumming: I always had animals around me growing up. I had two little West Highland Terrier dogs when I was a little boy, but as I lived on a country estate there were always sheep and cows and deer and pheasants around.

Grant Shaffer: I’ve always been an animal lover. I grew up with dogs, cats, a rabbit, lizards, snakes, hamsters, fish … I even had a pet rat that I was crazy about.

Is this your first foray into writing/illustrating?

AC: I’ve also written “Tommy’s Tale,” a novel published in 2002; “Not My Father’s Son,” a No. 1 New York Times best-selling memoir; and a book of photographs and stories titled “You Gotta Get Bigger Dreams.” GS: I illustrated a children’s book last year called “Three Magic Balloons,” written by Julianna and Paul Margulies.

How did you come up with the story line?

GS: The idea came up when we’d be traveling and missing our dogs. We would spot people at the airport, on the street or at a beach and say, “There’s Honey” (old lady in a bathrobe and a floppy sun hat), or “There’s Leon” (short little guy wearing big sunglasses and a flat cap), and the story just grew from there. The problem with dogs is that they don’t stick around forever. I think this was our way of trying to immortalize them, and we thought kids would like this tale.

AC: It seemed such a good collaboration considering our respective jobs. I love the idea that we have created something together that celebrates the creatures we loved so much.

What was the process like?

GS: Alan wrote the story first, and then I added the drawings. We mulled the idea of doing a children’s book for years, so it took a long time. It was great, and pretty fluid. I’ve heard of some couples who are barely speaking to each other after a joint project like this, but luckily that’s not us!

How did you come to adopt Honey and Leon?

GS: Before we met, Alan had adopted Honey, and I had adopted Leon, so when we got together, so did they. They were pure love and magic to us, but all dog owners think that about their dogs. Leon would sing (howl) along to Radiohead or if a siren went by, and Honey always crossed her paws like a lady, and she’d actually pose for a camera, looking left, then right.

Did you often wonder what the dogs were thinking at home?

GS: All the time. It usually involved food and dog treats I think. One time we rang up a pet psychic, so she could tell us what the dogs were thinking. She was so off, saying that Leon didn’t like my phone’s ringtone (I never used a ringtone) and that Honey wanted Alan to eat more vegetables (as a vegan, that’s all he eats). It was worth a funny phone call though.

Can you share with the readers a favorite story about Honey and Leon?

GS: We used to play a game: If I walked the dogs, Alan would hide somewhere in the house. Alan’s hiding places became more involved, and the chase would become more frantic each time. I would guide them with “hot” and “cold,” and Alan would clue them in with a whistle. When they’d finally find him, it was like a family reuniting that had been separated for decades — lots of whining and licks!

Do you two hope to adopt pets again someday?

GS: We already did! When Honey died (from old age), Leon was so lonely, so we adopted a Chihuahua mix named Jerry. Then Leon died (from old age) and we adopted Lala (a mini-collie mix, but she looks like a black fox). We are in love all over again.

Is there a particular message you hope to pass on to kids with this book?

GS: I like that the story features two gay dads, but that isn’t the story really. It’s just, “Here is our family on a fun adventure together.” I guess that’s a message in itself.

Who is your target audience?

AC: We recommend the book for kids ages 3 to 7.

Are there any other books we can look forward to from you?

GS: “The Further Adventures of Honey & Leon” comes out in 2019. “The Adventures of Honey & Leon” is available online and in stores wherever books are sold.

Cumming and Shaffer will make a special appearance at the Cinema Arts Centre, 423 Park Ave., Huntington on Sept. 18 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $75, $60 members. The event, hosted by Jud Newborn, includes a rare screening of Cumming’s “The Anniversary Party,” followed by a Q&A and book-signing reception for “The Adventures of Honey & Leon.” Every ticket holder will receive a copy of the book. Call 631-423-7611 for more information.

Bruce Campbell answers questions from the audience.

By Kyle Barr

Bruce Campbell walked from the back room of the Book Revue in Huntington on August 15 to a crowd that had flooded the entire space of the bookstore. Fans had crowded in between shelves stuffed with books and in chairs besieging a small podium to the rear of the store. The line to pick up Campbell’s new book, “Hail to the Chin: Further Confessions of a B Movie Actor,” snaked its way around the store.

The man made famous for starring in B movies, the “Evil Dead” trilogy and television show as well as for his large, clefted chin was rather nonchalant about the turnout.

“Who came the farthest away today?” he asked the crowd. A person in the back shouted “England,” with an English accent. “England?” Campbell said, his mouth twitching. “You’re full of crap.” Another person yelled out California. “California? You didn’t come here just for this, cause I’m going to California.” The audience laughed. “You’re either lying or you’re an idiot.”

The crowd was large enough that Campbell was signing books and memorabilia late into the night. The venue didn’t allow people to spend too much time taking pictures with Campbell, but he was eager to calm people by making a joke of it. “They’ll take pictures, they’re gonna grab your damn camera, click click click click, you’re gonna go, ‘Oh, are we posing?’ nope, click click, the camera’s back in your hand and you don’t know what happened. You’re gonna get pictures tonight, they’re gonna be mostly crappy. Photoshop, reframe them. I’m gonna see all these crappy photos on Twitter tomorrow and I’ll go, ‘Wow, that’s another crappy photo.’”

Campbell is well known for his facial ticks. He always talks with his head tilted to the side and his lips twitch often. It’s part of his persona, the one people have learned to appreciate from childhoods spent watching the “Evil Dead” films and Campbell’s other B movie rolls — people like Dennis Carter Jr. of Lake Ronkonkoma, who that day cosplayed as the chain-saw-toting, ripped shirted main character of the famed “Evil Dead” franchise.

Carter says his friends call him the Long Island Ash, as he has a penchant for dressing up as the main character of the “Evil Dead” franchise and going to conventions. He especially likes to show up wherever Campbell appears. Just the day before Carter traveled to New Jersey to see him at a book signing in that state as well.

“Bruce is really a good guy,” Carter said. “He’s not like other celebrities who get pompous about these sort of things. He’s really humbled by the crowds that he gets. He’s worth it.”

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Reviewed by Melissa Arnold

Author Lisa French

Fishing has been a beloved part of Lisa French’s life for many years. The South Setauket mother of three has turned that passion into a fun book for kids with “A Fishing I Will Go!” Follow the children in the book on a fishing adventure as they catch fish commonly found in Long Island’s waters including a fluke, sea robin, crab, squid, eel, blackfish, bass and a tuna. The interactive story, told entirely in rhyme, features a jellyfish, starfish, piece of driftwood and a message in a bottle in every hand-drawn picture.

French, 53, hopes to teach kids about fish and fishing while also raising money for a cause close to her heart. A portion of the profits from the book will go to the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation to support multiple sclerosis awareness and research. French lives with the disease, and her mother, to whom the book is dedicated, died from MS-related complications in February of this year.

Were you creative growing up?

I’ve always been the creative person in my family that people would come to for wedding toasts, eulogies and poems. I have a whole book of poems that I’ve written and I love to draw, especially in pencil.

What inspired you to want to write a book?

I spent 26 years running a day care, and I have three children of my own. There was a time when my children and the children I watched wanted a new game to play, and I created one for them. I had a patent pending for it, but the process became too costly. After that, I decided to try writing a book.

The kids love books, and they like catchy phrases. I had a couple different ideas started, but the kids I watched knew that I would go fishing, and they were always excited to hear stories about it. Every Monday when we got back from the weekend they’d ask me, “What’d you catch, what’d you catch?” At first, I just wrote the story and printed out pictures from the Internet to go with it. The kids still loved it, and that inspired me to go forward with it.

How did your family respond?

They definitely took it seriously. In fact, they even helped me to get the money together that I needed.

Tell me a bit about the story.

This is a simple story — my own story — of going out and trying to catch a fish to keep for dinner. It’s about learning what you can keep, what you can’t, and making the perfect catch at the end of the day.

Why did you want to write a fishing book specifically?

Each page of the book has a significant, personal meaning for me. A friend of mine has a boat called The Reel Adventure that we go fishing on. All the fish mentioned in the book I caught on his boat. There’s a page with a lighthouse that’s actually Breezy Point — my nana had a house that overlooked the scenery I drew in that picture. I also used to fish off the pier. I even went in a rowboat with my father and caught an eel with him once. The page with the sea bass that swallowed all the bait but wasn’t (heavy enough) is something that actually happens while fishing.

Did you self-publish or work with a publisher?

I looked at several different publishing companies online and read reviews, and I decided to go with one that’s only been in business for about four years, called Palmetto Publishing Group. They’re based in South Carolina and were a very nice group of people to work with. By working with them, I now have the freedom to get into bookstores and create a hardcover version of the book, which I’m planning on.

What about the illustrations?

I had trouble finding an illustrator to work with, so I did all of the drawings for the book myself using pencil. I did the drawings on paper first, and then I found Adobe Draw, which allows me to copy my drawings onto (the computer) and color them in.

What is the target age for this book?

The kids that I’ve done readings for have been between the ages of 2 and 4. They really enjoy acting out parts of the book with me — we cast our lines together, reel in the fish and throw them back. I also have a fishing game that allows them to catch fish using rods with magnets on them.

Lisa French with her late mother, Joyce, who suffered from chronic progressive multiple sclerosis.

Why did you choose to have some proceeds from this book benefit the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation?

My mom always stood by me and always told me how good I was (at writing). She really pushed me, and it’s for that reason that I dedicated the book to her. She passed away in February from chronic progressive multiple sclerosis (MS), which she got in her late 20s. It wasn’t until her mid-30s that she was diagnosed. She started using a cane, then a walker, then a wheelchair. She ended up paralyzed from the waist down, and in her mid-50s also lost the use of her left side. Doctors told me she wouldn’t live past 60, but she passed away at 74 — she was a miracle case.

I also have MS, but it’s the relapsing-remitting form. They say it’s not hereditary, but I’ve heard of so many people who have MS whose mothers had it, too. I believe there’s more research to be done.

“A Fishing I Will Go!” is available online at www.amazon.com. Find out more about the book on Facebook at www.facebook.com/afishingiwillgo. To make a donation to the MS Foundation, visit www.msfocus.org.

All photos courtesy of Lisa French.

The cover of 'Lone Eagle'

By Rita J. Egan

The cover of ‘Lone Eagle’

Long Island has long been home to many important events in the field of aerospace, particularly during World War II, leading to its iconic nickname as the “cradle of aviation.”

In an effort to help keep the island’s aviation history alive for the next generation, Port Jefferson Station resident John Herman has written a historical fiction book, “Lone Eagle.”

Children will be delighted to join 12-year-old Clementine, the protagonist of “Lone Eagle,” on her adventures during the golden age of aviation. An added bonus for those who live on Long Island is the main character’s hometown of Garden City, a short distance from Curtiss and Roosevelt fields, in a time before the latter became a shopping mall.

While Herman grew up in a different era, just like Clementine, he lived in Garden City as a child and was in close proximity of Mitchel Air Force Base and fascinated with aviation.

The book, which is Herman’s first published work, takes place in 1927 and follows Clementine during her visits to local airfields at a point in time when flying an airplane across the Atlantic Ocean nonstop was just a dream.

The tomboy, whose nickname is Lone Eagle, is determined to be a part of the race to fly across the ocean in her own way by trying to give each pilot a good luck charm, and her quest takes her on an adventure where she meets many interesting characters. The book is historically accurate, which is demonstrated many times, not only with the author’s documentation of historical events such as Charles Lindbergh’s awe-inspiring solo nonstop transatlantic flight in the Spirit of St. Louis from Roosevelt Field to Paris in 1927, but also as Clementine and others keep up with the latest news by reading newspapers, listening to the radio in the parlor and making calls from telephones located in hallways.

One of the drawings in the book depicting ‘The Spirit of St. Louis’

Throughout the book, Herman’s pencil drawings depicting airfields, airplanes, as well as other scenes, are a charming addition. At the end of the story, the author lists the Atlantic flight time line to enhance readers learning experience.

In the introduction, Bob Mott, museum director of the Bayport Aerodrome Society, writes “many young people on Long Island today grow up with little knowledge of the aviation history that took place here back during what has become known as the golden age of flight . . . [This is] a must read for any young person who is interested in aviation.”

Recently the author took time out to answer a few questions about his latest venture.

How did you become interested in aviation?

As a youngster, I built models of airplanes and read aviation history. In high school, I built radio-controlled models and then started flight training at Zahn’s Airport [in North Amityville].

What is your day job?

I work for Creative Models and Prototypes, in Hicksville. They are a spin off of the old Grumman model shop. We make prototypes of inventions and models of all types (test, display, volumetric, etc.).

Did you always want to be an author and illustrator of children’s books?

I can’t say I started out wanting to be an author, but when I began reading children’s books to my own children, it began to take on an appeal. I have always been an avid reader. When you combine that with an interest in drawing, eventually an illustrated manuscript was bound to happen.

Author John Herman

What was your favorite book as a child?

As a kid I read the Tom Swift series among others. The Redwall series was a favorite to read with my son, and of course, both of my children enjoyed being read Harry Potter.

Did you base the character Clementine on a child in your life?

Clementine is not based on anyone in particular, although I probably would have been right beside her if I had been 12 years old in 1927. I know we would have shared an interest in all things aviation.

Are there any experiences that Clementine went through in the book that you identify with from your own childhood?

Like Clementine I was always fascinated with aviation. I spent hours exploring the abandoned Mitchel Field Air Force Base. If Roosevelt Field had still been an airfield rather than a shopping mall, I’m sure I would have spent a lot more time there.

How would you sum up the book for someone who hasn’t read it?

“Lone Eagle” is a close-up look from a child’s perspective of what was — at that time — the world’s most challenging technological achievement. Clementine wants to be involved, and in her own unique way, she is.

For what age group is this book best suited?

“Lone Eagle” is a beginning chapter book for readers from 8 to 11.

What is your process when creating a book?

This is a tough one. I usually get the inspiration to write from a specific event or occurrence that triggers an idea for a story. Once the story starts to take shape, it gives me a feeling for the style of illustration that I think will work best.

What advice would you give someone who is interested in writing a children’s book?

I think that, at least for me, the easiest and best subjects for creating a children’s book come from personal experiences, things that I am familiar and comfortable with.

Any upcoming book signings?

I don’t have any signings scheduled right now, but “Lone Eagle” is available through Amazon.

For more information about the book and the author, visit the Lone Eagle Facebook page.

Cindy Sommer

Stony Brook author Cindy Sommer and her debut picture book “Saving Kate’s Flowers” has been recognized with a Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators 2017 Crystal Kite Award for New York.

Each year, 15 books are honored from U.S. and international regions from more than 1,000 nominated books. Members of SCBWI vote to honor the outstanding work of their peers in the genre of children’s books. SCBWI is the only professional organization specifically for those individuals writing and illustrating for children and young adults in the fields of children’s literature, magazines, film, television and multimedia.

Sommer has always been passionate about writing, but it was her daughter’s desire to save the flowers from winter’s fate that inspired her first picture book. She tucked the idea away and years later set out to make the story come to life. The whimsical illustrations by Laurie Allen Klein feel familiar with a nod to Beatrix Potter and her rabbit family that lived in the human world.

To read a book review of “Saving Kate’s Flowers,” visit www.tbrnewsmedia.com.

Sommer will be reading and signing copies of her award-winning book on Monday, June 19, at Harborfields Public Library, 31 Broadway, Greenlawn from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. For more information on this event, call 631-757-4200.

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