reviews of ... Charley
— KIRKUS Review
"Seim’s debut middle-grade tale of an orphan’s journey in the early 1900s.
In this charming historical novel, Charley, 12 years old, is a street-smart city boy, accustomed to stealing food when necessary and staying out of trouble whenever possible. Roaming the streets of Boston after his mother dies, Charley learns that his father has left him and his siblings to go find work. His older brother George insists that Charley accompany his younger siblings to the New England Home for Little Wanderers, a place that will take care of them until they are placed with a family while George, who’s 14, joins his friends near his job at the wharf. Although Charley and his siblings hope to find a family for the three of them, his younger sister and brother are adopted into two separate families, leaving Charley alone in the orphanage. Before long, the boy’s beautiful voice brings him to the next chapter in his life; while leading a children’s choir on a trip to Maine, Charley sings his way into the hearts of the Worthingtons. He must learn to adjust to life on a farm, where his street savvy is no longer an asset, and new challenges confront him at every turn. His foster parents, though strict, are kind to Charley and endeavor to make him comfortable in his new home. In time, however, a family tragedy compels Charley to run back to Boston and see if he can survive on his own. But a sudden turn of events halts his plans and gives him a chance to prove himself a hero. This gently told story of abandonment and survival is a captivating read, drawing on historical facts to give texture to the tale. Charley’s rambunctious spirit and tenacity pave the way for endless adventures and lessons learned. Young readers, even struggling ones, will find this novel easy to read and an enjoyable way to learn about a different time, and Charley’s emotional roller coaster as he is passed from place to place is affecting.
A well-drawn coming-of-age tale about the loves and losses of a young boy. "
— “Although Charley’s world of city orphanages and dairy farming recalls a bygone era, the message at the heart of Donna Seim’s poignant novel is timeless. Through the eyes of an orphaned child, Seim explores the struggles and triumphs faced by countless ‘little wanderers’ as they attempt to make sense of their pasts and build new lives, often in the care of families whose circumstances are radically different from those of their previous upbringings. Writing with empathy for the practical challenges and ambivalent feelings experienced by everyone involved in foster placements, Seim nevertheless conveys an unwavering faith in the belief that no matter how unconventional their path, every child deserves a loving family.”
Joan Wallace-Benjamin, President & CEO, The Home for Little Wanderers
— Amazon.com 5 star review— "Just from the synopsis, the story reminded me of something out of Dickens and I was intrigued. After starting Charley, I read it straight through. It is a wonderful story and the characters are real. Seim's research into turn of the Twentieth Century life is evident in the fantastic attention to detail. The most amazing aspect of the story is not how Seim manages to get you to fall in love with the characters or pulls you into the world she has written, but she manages to keep it grounded to reality by educating us on life in the early 1900's, especially the life of orphans and farmers. While the story is written for young readers 8+, I recommend anyone who loves a good story to pick this up and share it with your children or in my case, grandchildren."
— Amazon.com 5 star review— "Charley's story is believable because it is based on real people, in a setting so very real to me. I was mesmerized by Seim's ability to recapture those memories that lay nearly forgotten in my own past. The book is so well written, and so carefully and concisely illustrated by Susan Spellman, that people who hadn't grown up on those city streets can still envision them through Charley's eyes. I give five stars for this wonderful book, and am happy to learn that some middle schools are beginning to add it to their recommended reading lists for ages 8 to 12. I believe many older readers will enjoy it as well."
Thank you, Donna Seim, for this treasure of a book!
— Amazon.com 5 star review— "I have just finished reading "Charley". I was very impressed indeed. It is well written, flows smoothly and is sufficiently fast paced to keep everybody, and particularly young readers, enthralled.
Any book that can bring tears to your eyes is truly a great book.
The author has captured the nature of the times.
Congratulations on a super accomplishment."
— Amazon.com 5 star review— "Charley is a compelling narrative with a diversity that is marvelous. The author brings empathy for this young orphan boy's life and a depth of historical detail that is fascinating. It is also a tale of true-to-life adventures."
I taught in middle-school for many years and this is a book that I expect my grandchildren will request to be read to them more than once! It is also likely to be a book that will be secretly read by flashlight after mom and dad have said, "Turn out the light."
— Amazon.com 5 star review— "I saw this book in a local toy store - having a son who is also 12, and a reluctant reader, I am always on the lookout for something that he might connect with and enjoy reading - THIS IS THE BOOK!
I read it right away, and no sooner did I put it down he picked it up, AND I started recommending it to friends and family."
Review by: Mom's Lifesavers, read the full review here
— "This is such a cute and heart warming story. Charley doesn't want to leave his older brother or younger brother and sister, but when his dad leaves to find work, his older brother tells Charley that they need to go to the orphanage. After the choir director finds out Charley can sing very well, he joins the choir who travels all over the east, in hopes of finding homes for the children.
This story also breaks my heart, with knowing even now, children are hoping to find a family to call their own. I had a hard time reading it, only because it brought tears to my eyes, and it's really hard to read while you're crying. But I love this story! Donna Seim paints a picture and you imagine you're there in Boston, or in Maine. You can hear the language of the time too."
Review by: www.bookscompleteme.com
— "Basing her supremely delightful story upon real events and places, Donna Seim captures the world of orphans and foster children of early twentieth-century America. It is hard to not fall in love with Charley... a must read for all children trying to envision the past and understand a world that no longer exists but which gave rise to the present. An excellent history primer."
Lawrence J. Yerdon, President and CEO, Strawbery Banke Museum, Portsmouth, New Hampshire
reviews of ... Satchi and Little Star
— Midwest Book Review, "highly recommended especially for public library children's picturebook collections" — Satchi and Little Star is a heartwarming picturebook that will especially appeal to little girls who love horses. Satchi is a young, dark-skinned island girl who is fascinated by the wild horses who live near her. One young horse has a white star on his forehead; Satchi longs to tame him and make him her own. When she asks her mother and father about the prospect, they tell her, "Satchi, wild horses are meant to be wild." Unbowed, Satchi resolves to catch and tame Little Star entirely on her own. But attempting to domesticate a wild animal is no simple prospect, and when Satchi's efforts put Little Star in jeopardy, she must summon all her courage to rescue him! Satchi and Little Star ultimately has a strong positive message about how it is possible to love wild animals without forcibly making them into domestic pets, and is highly recommended especially for public library children's picture book collections.
— Amazon.com 5 star review — "Satchi and Little Star" Author Donna Seim and Illustrator Susan Spellman are a perfect team for the very believable story, dramatic depictions and charming island setting for this youngster's tale. Donna Seim introduces the island horse culture to set the stage for Satchi's perspective, which then is lovingly conceived and told so it invites a child to "read" and "see." The simple island life appears relaxed and conducive to a touch of drama. The illustrations reinforce each other with repeating elements that become familiar like Satchi's many colorful pigtails along with her claim to be an "island girl" and a "friend" to Little Star. A lizard stays on the scene along with typical yard animals. The jelly bread is enticing for Little Star and all the horses, but can be a favorite for children as well. An excellent life-lesson here is to nurture a friendship, recognize and help those in need, then, after you take care of them, release them to their natural environment. The book covers these ideas clearly and makes you wish you could be there with the little girl Satchi. All seven of my grandchildren will enjoy this book.
Mac Gimse, Professor Emeritus of Art, St. Olaf College, Northfield MN
— "A moving and beautifully illustrated story of the power and beauty of the bond between a young girl and a wild horse that she befriends on Grand Turk Island...a welcome addition to every child's bookshelf."
Jay Bowen, President, Animal Rescue League of Boston.
— "A must read for every boy and girl who has ever yearned to own a wild animal. This heart-warming story, wonderfully written with vibrant illustrations, captures the heart of the relationship between a young island girl and the wild horse she has fallen in love with. A great lesson for all!"
Stephanie Human, Chairman, TCSPCA, Grand Turk Chapter
— "What can be better than island girls and wild horses at the beach? Satchi is such a delight! I'm going to love showing this to young girls when they come in my shop looking for a book about horses."
Leslie Lanier, owner, Books to be Red, Ocracoke, NC
— "Children, parents and grandparents alike will enjoy this delightful story about a little girl who loves horses and learns a valuable lesson about friendship. Susan Spellman's whimsical watercolors bring the warmth and color of the Caribbean
Karel Hayes, artist and author of THE WINTER VISITORS, THE SUMMER VISITORS, SNOWFLAKE COMES TO STAY.
reviews of ... Hurricane Mia! A Caribbean Adventure
— Mia thinks her entire summer is ruined when she has to travel from Boston to spend her vacation with her grandparents at their Caribbean home instead of going camping with her friend. She is stuck on an island with limited contact with the outside world and thinking she has little to do with no computer, TV, DVD player, or cell service. To make matters worse, the reason she has to stay with her grandparents is because her mother has leukemia.
But a chance encounter with a local girl named Neisha sets Mia's mind turning. Neisha tells Mia about a bush doctor named Auntie Cecilia who has a tea that cures everything. Mia is determined to buy this tea to make her mother well and return to her regularly scheduled life. Mia tries to save up tips by working at the Green Flash Café, the restaurant owned by Neisha's mother. When she finds out it will cost $300 to charter a boat to get to the remote island where Auntie Cecilia lives, Mia realizes she will never make enough tips and decides to take matters into her own hands! Adventure ensues as Mia, Neisha, and Mia's little brother try to find their own way out to the island.
Beyond Mia's working at the restaurant for tips to save up for purchasing the tea, there are other economic lessons hidden in this chapter book. For instance, readers will see how children's schooling differs in other cultures by learning that Neisha can't go to high school because it's on a different island and her mother can't afford the boat ride it would take to send her to school every day. Mia and Neisha get crash courses in markets by understanding how tourists influence local businesses, such as the Green Flash Café. In another instance, the girls are given a free ride on a horse to help drum up customers for a local man who sells horse rides, with the idea that their ride would show how gentle the horse is so people would want to ride it.
In addition to its economic lessons, the book is an interesting look at cultural differences, friendship, and family relations. It's also a book about learning when it's right to persevere and when it's just plain stubborn – and learning from mistakes that happen as a result of the latter choice.
The gentle pencil-sketched illustrations are an added bonus, especially for seeing the character's faces as envisioned by the creative team, but these illustrations are not indispensable. There is also a map on page 90, which is a nice touch but might have been better suited at the beginning of the book so that readers would learn the new geography right away instead of towards the end of the book.
The book concludes with helpful supplementary features – a glossary, plans for a Caribbean party, discussion questions, and a bibliography. Children are thus given the chance to further interact with the book and its subject matter, whether alone or in groups.
Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children
— I'm very sorry I haven't written a blog sooner. My computer has been having many problems, but it's been fixed and now i can get back to writing reviews! It is also now Summer Vacation, so there will be plenty of time for me to write reviews! The book I will be reviewing today is called Hurricane Mia, by Donna Marie Seim.
When Mia's mom becomes sick, Mia and her brother, Jack, are sent away to stay with her grand parent's house on a distant island in the Caribbean. Mia is miserable. She had plans to spend the summer with her friend, but now she's being "punished" by being dispatched to a remote island. After Mia and her Gram butt heads,(encounters that leave both parties fuming),Mia meets Neisha, an island girl. Mia and Neisha quickly becomes friends and Neisha tells Mia about "The tea that cures everything". Mia,Neisha, and Mia's brother Jack soon hatch a plan to travel through the sea to the island where the tea can be found. But when a brush with a storm has events taking a turn for the worst, Mia begins to despair. Will she ever be able to get the tea back to her mother?
This is a great book for early middle school readers, probably grades 4-6. It's a great book,full of storms, friendships and garden eating donkeys. Hurricane Mia also has characters that the reader grows to understand and love and some very funny moments, including an encounter with the garden eating donkeys.
Fiona, Got Books? (book reviews blog)
— Me and my mom just finished reading your book.
I love the adventure in the book because my favorite part was when they were stranded on a sand bar and Mia went to great lengths to save her friend and brother.
My mom's favorite part was the relationship between Mia and Neisha. It was a relationship built purely on friendship regardless of your status on the island. They truly liked each other for who they were.
Louisa and Margaret
— Amazon 5.0 out of 5! stars Great Read! The sensitive and whimsical black and white illustrations add to the charm and appeal.
By Midwest Book Review (Oregon, WI USA)
"Hurricane Mia, A Caribbean Adventure" is an illustrated chapter adventure novel for young readers ages 8-12. Heroine 12-year-old Mia is devastated to learn her mother is gravely ill and as a result, she and her younger brother Jack are to spend the summer with their grandparents in the Caribbean. This is quite a contrast to the summer camp in Maine Mia had anticipated enjoying with her best friend Sam. However, despite Mia's intense disappointment, worry and fear, she takes quick part in a great adventure on her Caribbean vacation, searching for a healing tea that may possibly help her mother. she makes a good friend on the island named Neisha, and along with Jack, Mia experiences unexpected joy in both her surroundings and her unconventional extended family. "Hurricane Mia" is an excellent multicultural adventure that comes with a glossary, bibliography or set of references, suggested study questions and even some fun theme activities like Hurricane Mia and the Green Flash Cafe, a great idea for a theme lunch. The sensitive and whimsical black and white illustrations add to the charm and appeal of "Hurricane Mia."
— Amazon 5.0 out of 5! stars Great Read!
By Shirley Priscilla Johnson, Author/Reviewer (USA)
We meet Mia in this outstanding tale, a young girl whose mother is dying of leukemia forcing some changes in her life. Mia's family feels it would be better for her and her younger brother to stay at her grandparents house during this time. Mia is not happy, she will have to leave her dog, her best friend, not go to camp, and leave her mother. When Mia reaches grandma's she feels she is a little cold, perhaps cranky. Mia never looks at herself as being the problem. Mia sneaks into town and meets, Neisha, an island girl whose family owns a Cafe. Much will happen because of the friendship of these two girls. When Neisha hears of the sickness of Mia's mother she tells her about Auntie Cecilia, a woman who makes a tea that can 'cure' anything. Mia simply must have that tea no matter what it takes, even if it endangers their lives.
This was quite a story. I read it with my 11 year old granddaughter and it definitely kept her interest. The author did a good job at bringing the characters to life and a great job at the description of the locals. Many facets of life were portrayed in this read that some children may be facing., such as the illness of a parent. There were also many decision making situations that Mia had to address, each with their own set of consequences. There was adventure and danger, family and friendship issues, and emotional upheavals. This read seemed to have it all.
My granddaughter and I truly enjoyed the story and looked forward to our daily reading of it.
We are anxiously awaiting the next book to see how some of the problems are worked out. Very well done, a read I am sure will be enjoyed by many.
— Amazon 5.0 out of 5! stars A tale of comeuppance.
By Peggy Tibbetts (Silt, CO USA)
While their mom is dying of leukemia, Mia and her younger brother Jack are whisked off to a remote Caribbean island to spend the summer with Gram and Gramps. With her plans for summer camp ruined and worried about her mom, Mia is stuck in "poor me" mode. She moans and groans about everything. She defies her Gram and sneaks into town where she makes a new friend in Neisha, an island girl. Neisha tells her about Auntie Cecilia, a wise woman who makes a "tea that cures everythin'". Mia decides she must get some of that tea to save her mom. But the woman lives on another island so she drags Neisha and Jack on a reckless and hair-raising adventure out on the high seas.
"Hurricane Mia" is a tale of comeuppance many tweens will relate to. Seim's portrayal of island life and its peoples is vivid. She shows readers the inconveniences and the dangers, as well as the idyllic side. The inclusion of Spellman's drawings - especially the map - add to the story's allure. Seim has also added a glossary, references, plus activities and discussion questions which challenge middle grade readers' imaginations.
— Amazon 5.0 out of 5 stars! A Provocative Glimpse of Conflict and Resolution in the Caribbean for Youngsters.
By L. C. Henderson (Velddrift, South Africa)
For any child between the age of 8 and 12 who loves the sea, this middle reader is a must. A modern-day adventure story of a girl and her kid brother, who are packed off to their Gram and Gramps, who live on a remote island in the Caribbean, is both heartwarming and inspirational.
The multicultural and empathic nature of the text should appeal to anyone who is exposed to a multiplicity of different cultures. How the heroine, who is almost an anti-heroine at the start of the story (many a tween, even though they might find it hard to admit, should be able to relate to her peevishness and selfishness), comes to realize that, by insisting upon having her own way, she endangers the lives of others makes this a fine coming of age novel.
Hurricane Mia is filled with believable characters, who are so intriguing that, if you haven't visited the islands, you long to do so. The interplay between the local inhabitants of the islands and the newcomers, who long for their cell phone connections and ready internet connections, is amusing and true to life. One cannot help but admire the pluckiness of the locals, who make the most of the relatively scant resources which are available to them. Yet even they are not perfectly adapted to life in such a harsh climate - when one thinks of the Caribbean, one tends to think of balmy turquoise waters and blissful days spent lounging under tropical skies, but in Hurricane Mia there is inclement weather, as the title suggests, and sting rays and hammerhead sharks that can harm you.
This is a world in which you soon, as a child, have to learn to accept your responsibilities. That Neisha, the quintessential island girl, is unable to swim comes as a shock both to Mia and her brother, Jack. "`You can't swim? Your dad is a fisherman! You live on an island! How can you not know how to swim?' The words flew out of Mia's mouth like bullets." In such an environment, one not only sometimes has to fight the elements, but the conflicts between the characters themselves sometimes seem overwhelming, as, for example, the antagonism between the willful Mia and her Gram, whom she regards as over-restrictive and demanding.
The novel is beautifully illustrated with numerous drawings by Susan Spellman, and includes a glossary, a reference list, a study guide and activities. In short, it is not only a delight to read, but also a springboard for young imaginations. Donna's love of children and children's literature radiates throughout this reader, making it an inescapably good buy. Do get it - you won't be disappointed!
— Amazon 5.0 out of 5 stars! Not just an exciting adventure!
By Heather Alexander
Wonderfully crafted plot, a definite page-turner. Love the feel of being in the Caribbean and the way life is there. Touches on the dependence on technology that kids have now and how Mia felt being stranded on an island without it. It addresses the mother's illness in a realistic way with a good outcome that doesn't depend on her magically getting well. Mia is foolish AND brave and love is more important than anything!
— "This insightful and uplifting story teaches young readers about friendship, responsibility and the value of the community they live in. Very high praise, indeed!"
Unicorn Bookstore, Turks and Caicos Islands
— "Wow! What a dynamic first children's novel from Donna Marie Seim! This book has it all -- disappointments, anger, fear, misadventure, sibling rivalry, prejudices, illness, danger...you name it, and the ending brings reconciliation and love all around. From pre-teens to senior citizens (especially grandparents), this is an excellent and engaging read with wonderful illustrations to augment the story line. Definitely recommend this book strongly."
Jack Burke, Author of "Creating Customer Connections" and "Relationship Aspect Marketing".
— "It was impossible to measure the velocity of Hurricane Mia but I was immediately lifted up in her wake and transported to the Caribbean. There, I traveled alongside Mia, Jack & Neisha on their adventures.
Donna Seim has captured the sense of adventure and daring as well as Mia's driving need to find a cure for her mother - while Mia and her cohorts found misadventure along the way, there are clear messages that children and adults can grasp. Susan Spellman brings the characters to life with her simple yet elegant illustrations.
This is a wonderful story for young readers...and grownups that enjoy a good escapade now and then. I strongly recommend this book as a great summer read or any time you need to be whisked away with friends!"
Lois Sari Grossman
reviews of ... WHERE IS SIMON, SANDY?
— “The simple folktale style of this story includes rapid plot development and descriptive language. Cultural facts are related through the illustrations, which provide insight into island life. The realistic, colorful pictures capture the emotions of the people and donkey.”
School Library Journal
— “I’ve found the perfect winter read: Where is Simon, Sandy? …an engaging yet informative picture book…”
Danielle Dreger-Babbitt, Seattle Books Examiner
— “WHERE IS SIMON, SANDY? highlights a very important era in our cultural heritage and brings a focus to our beloved donkeys. Ms. Spellman has captured the feel and look of the Islands by marrying various aspects of the architecture, gates, walls and landscape of the Turks & Caicos. The characters, written words and art come together beautifully to convey a truly unique story that will not only entertain the young readers, but also teach them about loyalty, friendship, responsibility and compassion.
In my capacity as Director of Culture for the Turks & Caicos, I can truly say that book projects like this one are a blessing. We need many more books and stories like this to be used in our educational system in order to build a sense of national pride and cultural appreciation among our young readers.”
David Bowen, Director of Culture, The Turks & Caicos Cultural & Arts Commission
— “As modern development slowly erases traces of the Turks & Caicos past, this book can serve as a proud reminder to local children of their country's rich history and folklore. The touching tale is simply told and beautifully illustrated; Grand Turk visitors will recognize the island's distinctive features on every page. Best of all, the story captures the sweet innocence and camaraderie of life on a small Caribbean island, a feeling that can still be found in many of Grand Turk's dusty corners.”
Kathy Borsuk, Editor Times of the Islands, The International Magazine of the Turks & Caicos Islands
— “Such a lovely tale! There is heartfelt depth here in this simple story of island life. The dutiful donkey Sandy alerts her community to the plight of her master through her loyal behavior, and help is soon on the way. The writing and images perfectly capture the wonderful feeling often found on islands, that of community where everyone feels part of a special extended family, and depending on one another is a natural way of life. WHERE IS SIMON, SANDY? is a tale that is sure to enjoy a long life in the hearts of those who hear it.”
Holly Meade, Children’s book author and illustrator
— “…a great read. WHERE IS SIMON, SANDY? brought back fond memories of my boyhood days in the islands when children were free to roam and everyone was his brother's keeper. I was especially enthralled by the vivid eye-catching illustrations which I am sure will encourage children of all ages to turn these pages over and over again.
Honorable Dr. Carlton Mills, Minister of Education, Turks and Caicos Islands
reviews of ... FIFTY CENTS AN HOUR
— "FIFTY CENTS AN HOUR was unique in my reading experience, a fresh, honest voice coupled with a great sense of humor."
Jonathan S. Shaw, Managing Editor, Harvard Magazine.
— "Accessible, funny, and original, the author's fresh and quirky storytelling style transports the reader back to the 1950's and early 1960's in this sweet, humorous and touching memoir."
Kristin Seim, editor