7 Ate 9 Review

I LOVE anything by children’s author Tara Lazar.  Anything.

She has an innate ability to weave her words into a humorous tale that results in laughter by both children and adults.  That my friends takes talent!

Her latest creation is a pun filled tome that answers the life-long question of why 7 Ate 9. Written in film noir style, you follow Private “I” as he tries to discover the truth behind 9’s disappearance.  Illustrator Ross MacDonald added to the fun of this book by playing along with the puns in his illustrations.  His drawings evoke a 1930’s-1940’s feel with rotary phones, vintage clothing and period storefronts.  This book is loaded with math puns and fun word-play.

As a former teacher, I can see so many used for this book in the classroom.  Math puns and number fun aside, it is packed with figurative language, idioms, strong verbs, plot, etc…

This book is a MUST HAVE!!  Trust me, you won’t be disappointed!

Even the book trailer is fabulously created!

If you love this book as much as I do, please go to Amazon and leave a review.  Support other writers!

‘Till Friday,



Master Study Monday #1

I know, Monday’s are like potholes in the road of life, but I hope that Monday Master Studies will brighten your day and help you build a mentor text resource.

I participated in Arree Chung’s 6-week Storyteller Academy and learned so much!  If you aren’t familiar with Arree, he is the author and illustrator of Ninja! (2014), Ninja! Attack of the Clan (2016), ninjaThe Fix-it Man (2016), Out (2017), and many more wonderful books.  Arree, like most of us found his path to writing on a long and winding route.  He went from producing lots of spreadsheets to working at Pixar!  He has taken his experiences and turned them into a wonderful course for writers called Storyteller Academy.  The summer term is already underway, but I encourage you in joining me in enrolling in the Fall session.  You can find more information here.

One of the things I learned from the 6- week course is what Arree calls Master Studies.  He encourages you to read, read, read!  He breaks down the elements of a good story so that you can get better at writing your own stories. 

A great story has these elements

·        Character/setting

·        Inciting incident (what event starts the “ball” rolling)

·        Problem

·        Escalation (events that build in intensity to the climax)

·        Solution (how is the problem solved)

·        Theme /Hook (is there a universal theme: friendship, be yourself, etc…)

I have found that making this a habit extremely valuable.  I try and complete a minimum of 3 studies a week.   Taking it one step further, I created a form to “dissect” the story elements.  So they are handy, I print them out and  keep them in a notebook as a mentor text resource.  I hope that what I have created will help you as well. You can download the Master Studies form I created to use for your own personal study. 


Master Studies Worksheet PDF



Here is an example of my chart for Gemma Merino’s The Crocodile Who Didn’t Like Water (2013).


Each week, I will post the next week’s book so you can study it along with me.  So, go grab a copy of the snurtchThe Snurtch, by Sean Ferrell, and we will compare Master Study Worksheets next Monday!


Happy reading!


Summer Revamp

Summer vacation is only 4 weeks old but it’s already kicked my rump!

The week after school was out, we hit the road to soak up some Texas history at the Alamo (I was in heaven!), some culture at the historic Market Square (and fabulous Mexican food!), the San Antonio Zoo where inspiration hit and I sketched out a story while sitting beside the carousel, and Sea World.

We are home now, and I realized that my daughters, M & K, are growing up way to quickly, so, I’ve been spending as much time as possible hanging out with them. BUT, it’s time to get back to work .  Am I the only one who likes to organize and redecorate during the summer?  Last year, my poor hubby came home from work one day to find that I had painted our second bathroom.

This summer I am in the mood to organize and much to my daughters’ dismay, I  started by cleaning out their closets.  I eliminated toys of days gone by, clothes that no longer fit and rearranged bedroom furniture.  Next stop is my closet…I’m working up the courage to tackle that!

I am also going to revamp this blog.  First up, I will attempt create a schedule for the blog and I hope that you will join me for…

• Monday Master Studies- inspired by Arree Chung’s Storyteller Academy
• Wednesday Writing- craft of writing, reviews, education
• Friday Fun-anything that I find interesting!

I will go more in-depth about each topic this week starting with our Monday Master Studies tomorrow, Monday, June 26.

I will also be offering some free downloads that I have created! I hope you will join me and participate in learning, having fun and building community.

Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do. ~Pele

While in Abilene, ( story here) my family completed the “scavenger hunt” for all of the storybook sculptures.  It was a fun beautiful day.  When we got home, we checked all of the books out from out library and read them again.

Here’s a look at the sculptures through my lens.

Make sure to visit the Storybook web site to learn more about the artists and book characters represented.

Abilene-Storybook Capitol of Texas, Part 2

Abilene-Storybook Capital of Texas

If you love children’s books like I do, then Abilene is a MUST stop destination on your travels through Texas.  I’m fortunate enough to be a 3 hour drive away.  The Mr. and I decided to take our girls on a little day trip for Spring Break.  (Honestly, I REALLY wanted to visit the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature.)NCCIL logo

The National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature (NCCIL) collaborates with award-winning illustrators to create exhibits of their work.  After debuting at the NCCIL, the exhibits then travel to museums, libraries, and galleries nationwide.  The mission of NCCIL is to exhibit, tour, collect, preserve and promote original art from  the finest children’s literature  thereby inspiring and empowering children to read and be creative.

Lightning struck when William Joyce set his children’s book Santa Calls in Abilene,  which led to a  chance meeting and an immediate friendship between the he and the Mayor and the NCCIL was born.

I love what Joyce had to say about it…

You know sometimes luck, fate, chance—whatever you want to call it—shines down so bright it makes life seem like something from a storybook.

That’s how it happened for me and the city of Abilene. By chance I set my book Santa Calls there. The main character’s name was Art Atchinson Aimesworth and I wanted him to wear a cowboy hat. So obviously he couldn’t be from New Jersey or Boca Raton. Abilene, Texas fit like a four Beaver Stetson. It sounded just right.

Of course I’d never actually been to Abilene. I don’t often visit the places I write about. Not the North Pole, or Mars or the Lost City of Atlantis. How was I supposed to know Abilene was a city of cock-eyed optimists and dreamers. The book had been out for about two weeks when I got a call from the Mayor. The next thing I know they’d built a museum, and erected a statue of my characters.

The NCCIL is a great achievement. They put art and literature on a pedestal there. They’ve made life more vivid and dreams come more alive for countless children and grown-ups.

Things like that don’t happen in real life very often.


Words Set Me Free | © 2012, James E. Ransome, Acrylic and oil paints on paper



Currently on display is the artwork of James E. Ransome. this is the rope  The exhibit is titled Everyday People.  His  work is saturated with  vibrant colors that bring life to his pictures.  I particularly enjoyed seeing large prints from   This is the Rope.

Visit his website to see this talented artist’s work.  I love his use of colors to evoke a mood or feeling.


Make sure to stop by for my next post where we go on a storybook scavenger hunt through Abilene!



dr-seussToday, March 2, is Theodore Geisel’s birthday.

Better known as Dr. Seuss, Theodore Geisel was a prolific children’s writer.  In 1960, Random House founder Bennet Cerf challenged Seuss to write a children’s book using only 50 words.The result of this challenge, Green Eggs and Ham was born!  Granted, the story has over 700 words, but, it is written with only 50 unique words.

Children’s author Vivian Kirkfield  has created a challenge in honor of Geisel’s birthday and Bennet’s challenge.  It’s call #50 Precious Words.

The rules are simple:  Write a story appropriate for kids ages 12 or under, using only 50 words…they can all be different words, or you can use some of them over and over…just as long as the total word count for the story is 50 or less.

Let me tell you, using ONLY 50 words is very difficult.  Not only do you only have 50 words to work with, your story still has to have an arc.  It’s not as easy as it seems!

So, I’m throwing my hat in the ring and posting my #50 Precious Words entry.

I hope you enjoy it and please feel free to leave me feedback!

Not Me

©Julie LaCombe 2017

(48 words)


The lamp crashed to the floor.

Mom asked, “Who broke it?”

Not Me.

The cookies disappeared from the jar.

Mom asked, “Who ate them?”

Not Me.

There’s someone who lives in my house,

His name is Not Me.

Trouble is his business.

Unfortunately, they think it’s just me.


Go by and read all of the other wonderful entries on Vivian’s blog!






I Did It!


I just completed my first Storystorm challenge and ended up with 34 picture book ideas!

Some of them may be good, some not so much, but I’m looking forward to fleshing them out to see what I’ve got.

I am participating in the Write On Conference this week.  The line-up looks pretty good and there will be agents and editors trolling the forums looking for manuscripts.  I’m hoping to learn and improve my craft.

So, between all of this writing, I am also preparing and teaching a PreK sight word reading class through our local parks and recreation.  Is it ok to admit that I’m hoping these littles will provide me with picture book ideas?!

I have also found a new critique group that I’m looking forward to working with.  There seems to be a Texas theme among all of us!  They seem like a great bunch and I hope we can build a wonderful, supportive community.

Now top all of this off with Julie Hedlund’s 12X12 and I’ve just summed up my month!  I am really looking forward to learning everything I can from the 12X12 community of writers.  Plus, I will be challenged to finish a manuscript each month.

Now for the blog…It’s really taken a back seat to everything else, but I’ve decided to start reviewing and dissecting the books I’m reading.  Hopefully it will serve as a resource for you.

Oh, I forgot, one last thing…if you haven’t heard about it already, Susana Hill is hosting a writing contest.  Hop on over to her blog and see what you need to do to enter her Valentiny contest.

Ok, I lied.  One more thing.  If you didn’t read my post about ReFoReMo, go check it out.  I can’t wait to learn from all of the fabulous guest posters during the month of March!

So, there you have it!  I hope everyone reading this has a wonderfully productive year!