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The Black Alabaster Box

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The perfect formula for a middle grade novel, according to Jim Alkon, Editorial Director of is: “(1) rooted in fact with a semi-educational bent; (2) steeped in adventure and cliffhanging wonder of what’s coming next; and (3) designed to stimulate the imagination with fantasy and improbable occurrences as real as the author’s storytelling can convince.” And guess what? He was writing a review of The Black Alabaster Box, winner of The Fireward Award for Historical Fantasy. 


Fact is, they aren’t just for kids ages 8 – 13 or upper middle grade kids 12-15. Think of J.K. Rowling’s wildly popular Harry Potter series or the classic Madeline L’Engel’s Time Quintet. I read both series as an adult. The issues that delighted, challenged, and pained us as older kids don’t  ever leave us behind. There’s still a kid in us trying to make sense of the world.

Maybe that’s why I wrote The Last Crystal Trilogy. Each of the books is grounded in a real time and place, explores the value of kindness in a world that is often unkind, and makes room for adventure, fantasy, and mystery. And each makes the important point that there are some things only a child can do because kids have the imagination to see things in new and novel ways. Important messages for children? Sure, but messages we all need to hear from time to time.

Sid Johnson and the Phantom Slave Stealer
Getting Great Reviews

“I think that Sid Johnson and the Phantom Slave Stealer would serve as the perfect book to get even the most screen-addicted middle graders out there started on their bookworm journey — and once they get started, this is the kind of tale that will leave them craving more.” K.Hall, BookTrib

“What makes this historical tale a success are Frances Schoonmaker’s solid characterizations and her superb plot. Her descriptive writing style made her characters and settings seem plausible, demonstrating impressive imagination and writing abilities. From Sid’s mother removing the singing kettle from the fire and filling two big, gray-speckled enamel pans with hot water, to Serena the family cat sprawled in the hayloft, I conjured up a beautiful world that I did not want to leave. The tale developed into a lengthy work of well-constructed suspense. Alex Ndirangu for Readers’ Favorite.

A worthy, engaging story of an abolitionist family. Kirkus Reviews

The Last Crystal Wins Multiple Awards

The Last Crystal Wins Multiple Awards

2019 Agatha Award: Best Middle Grade/Young Adult Mystery is the coveted award given by Malice Domestic, the Edgar Award Winning Convention for those who love a traditional mystery.

The Coffee Pot Book Club Best Books 2022, Gold Medal for Historical Fantasy. The  UK based book club promotes historical fiction in all genera. 

The London Book Festival celebrates the best in international publishing. The Last Crystal won for Young Adult Fiction. 

The Outstanding Creator Award recognizes creativity in writing, music, and the arts. Awards to authors focus on those who are published with independent publishers or are self-published. The Last Crystal was 1st place in Young Adult/Teen fiction and 2nd place in History. 

The Maincrest Media Award is for excellence in Young Adult literature. The award reads in part:

What starts as a cozy train ride soon turns into a dangerous quest for a magic crystal against an ancient villain. With interesting characters and an intriguing plot, the story engages the imagination and can be read as the third book in a series or as a stand-alone piece. Full of mystery, adventure, and the discovery that things aren’t always as they seem, The Last Crystal reminds us of the importance of magic in our childhood and the heroic deeds youth are capable of.

BookFest Honorable Mention, historical fantasy, Spring 2022 honors exellence in writing.

Story Monster Approved honors authors of children’s literature whose books inspire, inform, teach, or entertain. 

If you’re shopping for yourself or for a youngster you love, I think you’ll enjoy the Trilogy. Ask at your local, independent bookstore. Click on the books below to read about each one and to find buy links. You’ll find the first couple of chapters, too. Or click below to go directly to Amazon.

The Black Alabaster Box Wins Firebird Award

The Black Alabaster Box is the Spring 2022 winner of the Speak-up Talk Radio Firebird award in two categories: 1st place for historical fantasy and 2nd plae for juvenile fiction. The Firebird Award is handmade items (eg. superhero capes, dollows, pillows) that are sent to homeless shelters for women and children in the author’s name. What an honor. And how appropriate for The Black Alabaster Box where protagonist Grace Willis finds herself without family. 

The Last Crystal Trilogy

Book 1
Book 2
Book 3
New book release!

Sid Johnson and the Phantom Slave Stealer

Second Series

Book 1
Book 2
Book 3
New release! Read the review on


Poetry Book 1

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