Category Archives: Childrens

Welcome, John S. McFarland!

We’re excited to welcome John S. McFarland to the Highlighted Author. As writer of historical and arts-related subjects, he’s been widely published in magazines and has appeared on television and radio. He also is a frequent visitor of elementary schools and performs readings for first through third graders. In addition, his book is taught as a chapter book in several school districts. Enjoy the feature!

–Jo Grafford, Highlighted Author Co-Hostess

Annette: A Big, Hairy Mom

51FehFT4q6LA little boy lost in the woods is saved by a sasquatch mom suffering from empty-nest syndrome…Annette: A Big, Hairy Mom, is a richly illustrated, slightly ironic young reader novel in the best tradition of Roald Dahl. It is funny, poignant, wry and character-driven, as well as quickly-plotted and suspenseful.

Evan Nestor Bettancourt, is a small-for-his-age eight year old slow to realize he is not a little kid anymore. He is imaginative, curious, and warily fascinated by the monsters in his story books. He is also particularly selfish and spoiled. His father, a high school biology teacher in a mountain town in northern California, encourages his son to see the practical, scientific side of life, and not worry about the fanciful creatures which live in his imagination. On a family outing, Evan Nestor is lost in the woods, and just as he starts to wonder if he will ever see his parents again, he meets one of those creatures: Annette, a sasquatch mom curious about the odd ways of humans, and missing her own child who has grown up and gone off on his own.

Pursued by a sweets-loving cryptozoologist who wants to reveal Annette’s existence to the world, and a hungry mountain lion, the unlikely pair make their way to a spot where Annette knows Evan Nestor will be safely found by his own kind. What they learn about sharing, empathy, and each other along the way, prepares them for many adventures to come.

Available now on AMAZON.



When Evan Nestor opened his eyes, for a moment he couldn’t remember where he was. Damp, moss-covered rocks overhung him, and he was shivering. His clothes, his hair and skin felt damp, too, and his fingers and the tip of his nose hurt from the cold.

He remembered he was lost.

“Mom and Dad?” he said quietly. No answer. “Mom and Dad?” More loudly this time, but still no answer.

He felt the fear pain in his stomach that he sometimes felt when he thought he heard a monster in his closet or outside his window at night. He thought he might cry. He crawled a little closer to the edge of the rock overhang that was protecting him. It was on a steep hillside, and he was overlooking a small valley filled with pine and spruce trees, and a carpet of ferns.

The ground was covered with loose, rich-smelling dirt and it felt almost like a soft cushion to Evan Nestor. As he crawled forward, his hand touched something hard in the dirt. His fingers closed around the object. It was gold-colored and light, like plastic. Evan Nestor looked at the object. It was a tube of lipstick like he had seen on his mother’s makeup tray in the bathroom. He smiled. There was something familiar in this, and comforting. Evan Nestor suddenly reached into his shirt pocket. His big red button was still there. He removed it and looked at it respectfully. He was glad he had not lost it. Evan Nestor put the lipstick back on the ground. He ran his fingers through the dirt again. He felt another object, but larger than the lipstick. He pulled it out of the dirt. It was a pink hand mirror with blue flowers painted on it. There was a little crack in the glass at the bottom edge, but otherwise the mirror was in good condition for being covered in dirt.

A lipstick. A hand mirror. These were things that belonged not to a kid or a dad, but more to a mom. Evan Nestor’s own mom had things like this. She had her share of bicycling equipment and skiing equipment, and even woodworking tools, for she was better at fixing things than Dad was. Still, mirrors and lipsticks were mom things. Evan Nestor wondered how these mom things had come to be here. He smiled again.

He looked above himself along the rock wall. There was a sort of shelf in the stone above him, and he could see something long and white sticking out beyond the edge of the shelf. Evan Nestor stood. The object was a hair brush. But, there were many other things on the rock shelf, too. There was a plastic dinosaur, a ball and jacks, a pocket knife, an adjustable wrench and screwdriver, a coupon for $1 off a fish plate at Ahab’s Fish and Chips, and a Decepto-Bot action figure from the planet Mendacitron 4.

Evan Nestor was amazed at all these things being collected together out in the woods. Who could have done it? He picked up the Decepto-Bot from the other things and sat on the ground to think about it.

A rustle of twigs on the ground down the hillside startled Evan Nestor. He slowly crept, on his hands and knees, backward and further into the rock overhang. In a few moments, he saw a little gray mound of fur pop up above the lower edge of the rock opening. Some animal was creeping up the hillside. Suddenly, two pointed ears could be seen, then a shiny black snout. It was a gray fox. The fox stopped abruptly when it saw Evan Nestor back in the shadows. Evan Nestor smiled, not knowing if he should be afraid or not. The foxes ears quickly pricked up and it looked first to its left, then to its right. In a moment, Evan Nestor realized he could hear a very low and steady growl. He took his red button from his pocket and clasped it between both hands.

In an instant, the fox seemed to see something that startled it, and it ran off. The low, growling sound continued and grew louder. Instead of a furry gray mound at the rim of the overhang, Evan Nestor now saw a dull, yellow one. The mound grew into a muscular back, a strong neck, and a wide, round head set with terrible, yellow eyes. It was a mountain lion!

The stab of fear shot through Evan Nestor’s stomach again. There were tears in his eyes, and he wanted to close them, but he could not. The lion’s eyes looked deeply into Evan Nestor’s, and he found he could not look away. The lion crept up closer to the overhang. Then suddenly, from somewhere above, an arm reached down and grabbed the lion by the skin of its shoulders, as if it were a kitten. But, it was like no arm Evan Nestor had ever seen before: it was huge and covered with long, black hair, and its wrist and forearm were as big around as one of his father’s legs…at least.

The great cat lifted off the ground with a puzzled expression on its face. In another second, it was tossed down the hillside with an indignant hiss, and Evan Nestor heard it crash into some brush somewhere far below. There was no other sound for many minutes, and Evan Nestor did not move. Whatever had saved him must have gone. Slowly and very quietly, he crawled toward the front of the overhang.

He could see now that it was a bright and sunny day. He noticed the sounds of birds singing, which he hadn’t noticed before, and a little breeze was stirring through the valley. As Evan Nestor neared the front of the overhang he noticed the edge of something just to the right of the opening. It looked like the edge of a huge foot standing still on the moss. It was like a person’s foot, but so much bigger that Evan Nestor could hardly imagine it. And it was covered with long, black hair.

The foot didn’t move. Evan Nestor crept out a little further. His fear filled his stomach and head, but his curiosity was even stronger. Could this be a monster? Could this be a nice monster who had deliberately saved him? The enormous foot was attached to a thick leg the size of a tree trunk, bulging with muscles, and also hair-covered. The creature still did not move, but stood facing away from Evan Nestor, as if it were looking down the hillside where it had flung the mountain lion.

Finally, Evan Nestor poked his head entirely out from under the rock overhang, and saw the great creature standing there. It was a giant, taller even than Mom when she sits on Dad’s shoulders in their Neptune’s Envy above ground swimming pool in the summer: taller than the guttering on their house. It was a mountain of muscle and black hair. Its arms hung low, nearly to its knees, and its back was wider than Evan Nestor’s mattress. A true giant. Could it be a real monster?

Evan Nestor gasped when he realized the creature was slowly turning toward him. He had no place to run. Before he could move, the great face was looking at him. The mouth was wide and thin-lipped and opened a little, showing several white, flat teeth. The eyebrow ridges were heavy like a gorilla’s, and the top of the head was pointed.  And sitting on the broad, flat nose was a pair of heart-shaped, bright pink sunglasses.

About John

71MGE45KGaL._UX250_John S. McFarland’s first novel, The Black Garden was published in 2010 to universal praise. His work has appeared in The Twilight Zone Magazine, Eldritch Tales, National Lampoon, River Styx, Tornado Alley, and in the anthology, A Treasury of American Horror Stories. He has written extensively on historical and arts-related subjects and has been a guest lecturer in fiction at Washington University in St. Louis. He is a lifelong Bigfoot enthusiast, and Annette: A Big, Hairy Mom is his first novel for young readers.

Connect with John

John S. McFarland Goodreads Author Page

Annette the Mom Website

Annette’s Facebook Page

Welcome, Stephanie D. Sharp!

We are excited to welcome a multi-talented screenwriter turned children’s book writer, Stephanie Sharp. This week we are spotlighting her children’s book called The Bird That Couldn’t. Enjoy the feature! –Jo Grafford, Highlighted Author Co-Hostess

The Bird That Couldn’t

TheBirdThatCouldntA small bluebird by the name of Alfred is forced to begin his flying lessons without any consideration of how he may feel about it. However, Alfred tries to take charge of the situation the best way he knows how without letting his fears get the best of him. Eventually, Alfred learns a valuable lesson in life. He takes the ability and knowledge that he had been given, and uses it to benefit those who aren’t so lucky. He then realizes that sharing the ability, care, and concern with others makes his fear disappear, and the want to share his new found capacity soars to a new height.

Available in paperback now on AMAZON.


A Note From Stephanie

A well-rounded freelance artist, I have completed a total of 3 full-feature scripts. The first is a 3-Star script (via the Screenwriter Showcase Community) entitled ‘The Secret of the Nile’ placing emphasis on the demise of an ancient kingdom and the unification of one country. The script is accessible via

Secondly, ‘The Deadly Sins of Farmakeia’ is a script that quickly changes gears and places emphasis on the willful interaction with demonic entities and the deadly results it can bring about. A viewing of the award winning visual pitch/movie trailer and additional info can be accessed via

My final completed script is entitled ‘Love and Let Die’ and is rated 5 stars via the Scriptbuddy Writers Community. It is unique in that it is about a man who kills his wife and kids by DUI and receives a divine offer to replay his life to save them all in exchange for a devastating sacrifice. The script has been professionally rewritten and can be accessed via 

Check out Stephanie’s other works on her AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE.


Don’t miss a single Highlighted Author feature! Follow us on:

Facebook | Twitter

Follow the Highlighted Author Hostesses, too!

Charlene on Facebook

Charlene on Twitter

Jo on Facebook

Jo on Twitter

Welcome, Chantal Fournier!

We are excited to welcome Chantal — winner of the Mom’s Choice Awards gold Medal — back to the Highlighted Author. As the proud parent of three children, I have often searched for books to help my children better understand the world around them and its many challenges. (Everything from potty training to having that all-important birds and bees conversation.) I love how Chantal has created a heart-warming story and coping mechanism in Silent Words to assist children in making sense of grief. Please be sure to read the excerpt. What parent cannot relate to a talkative kiddo? I love the beautiful cadence of this book. It reads almost like poetry. Enjoy the feature! –Jo Grafford, Highlighted Author Co-Hostess

A Special Message From Chantal

Chantal_PicWelcome! My name is Chantal Fournier and I am extremely honoured to be the highlighted author this week on I am still pretty new at this and well…a bit shy when it comes to putting myself “out there”, so this is a great opportunity for me to talk about my children’s book and my other upcoming projects, and to share about my life as a Canadian author and literacy enthusiast.

I currently live in Toronto, Canada, with my partner Nicolas Lajeunesse and our two teenagers after a long stint on the beautiful Canadian West Coast. As I was growing up, my head was full of stories – but I never took the time to write them down. My partner’s amazing art and generous encouragement convinced me to finally put pen to paper or rather, fingers to keyboard!  When I am not writing, I work as an analyst for French literacy programs and I enjoy reading murder-mystery novels.

My partner and I are very proud of our first published book, Silent Words, winner of a Mom’s Choice Awards Gold Medal. Silent Words tells the story of Zelda, a little girl who loves to talk. She always asks a million questions and her head is full of words like apple, bunny, cartwheel and dwizzledoodle. But when a sudden storm turns Zelda’s world upside down, all her words go silent. Zelda must embark on a quest across mountains, forests and oceans to find her parents—and her voice.

This tale of loss and hope is suitable for children 5 to 9 years old, and can be a valuable tool to help children grieving a loved one. Silent Words, written by Chantal Fournier and illustrated by Nicolas Lajeunesse, is published by Evolved Publishing.


Illustrating Children’s Books Is Grown Up Work!

I tend to judge a book by its cover, especially when it comes to children’s books. Whether I’m browsing in a bookstore or online, if the cover illustration doesn’t grab my attention, I’ll usually move on to another title. A few months ago, a marketing director from a major children’s books publisher told me that minimalist covers are “in” at the moment. Monochromatic backgrounds with a large image and a simple colour palette are my favourites.

My partner, Nicolas Lajeunesse, is an incredibly gifted artist – in my eyes, he’s the best! After sharing a few ideas with him about our main character, Zelda, I eagerly anticipated his first drafts. I wasn’t disappointed. Seeing my words come alive through his illustrations has been nothing short of amazing.

Illustrating a children’s book is a long process. After reading the script for Silent Words, Nicolas drew rough sketches of all the characters and the key backdrops. He then spent countless hours creating storyboards. Together, we had to decide which parts of the story would be shown through illustrations, and which ones had to be left to the imagination. This is not as easy as it sounds. He drew enough illustrations to create a 50-page book, so he had to scale it back until the story could fit into about 30 pages – quite a long children’s books by the industry’s standards!

The next step was to create the characters using Photoshop. Nicolas tested different proportions, colours, textures and features until he was satisfied. He then created each illustration based on the original storyboards. Nicolas felt the colours should reflect Zelda’s moods, so he opted for yellow and golden backgrounds when she was happy. When she reaches the turning point of the story, each page is drawn with dark greens and browns. The return of yellow and golden hues highlights Zelda’s happiness at the end.

Illustrating Silent Words required over 100 hours of work, most of them spent in front of the computer. I believe the illustrations are phenomenal and I am looking forward to the day when I can see our next book project, A Very Beary Sweater, come to life through Nicolas’ drawings.

If you want to see more of Nicolas’ work, check out his online portfolio at He also illustrates an online zombie story (for adults), at


Purchase now at Evolved Publishing or Amazon!

Silent Words Excerpt

MomsChoice_Banner_SmlZelda’s head is full of words.

Apple, bunny, cartwheel, dwizzledoodle.

If she can’t find the word she needs, she makes one up and keeps on talking. She talks and talks and asks a million questions until she runs out of breath. Then she fills up her lungs, counts to three, opens her mouth, and starts talking again.

5 Stars for Silent Words

It has been a privilege to read “Silent Words”. This book will benefit in a multitude of settings. It could be used for children when they lose a loved one, but could also be used to help them in the trials and long road to recovery when they have been abused in some way. I could see it be put to use for a bullying situation as well.

The way Chantal Fournier was able to capture the delicate innocent mind of a young child in a situation of shock is stunning. For any parent this is the type of book you will want to reach for if ever your child encounters a situation that emotionally stunts them.

I also believe it would help teachers to use this book as a teaching tool to help students at a middle elementary level age to understand how to speak out when they have already been scarred, i.e. in a bullying situation when children have not been taught they should not say cruel things that hurt. Or can help prepare children for future hurt as they grow up… –Donna/Book Tiger


Follow Chantal on Social Media

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Also… Don’t miss a single Highlighted Author feature! Follow us on:

Facebook | Twitter

Follow the Highlighted Author Hostesses, too!

Charlene on Facebook

Charlene on Twitter

Jo on Facebook

Jo on Twitter