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Friday, June 15, 2018

Elsie Mae Has Something to Say by Nancy J. Cavanaugh - Book Review, Guest Post & Giveaway

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Review by Suze

Elsie Mae loves spending summers with her grandparents at the Okefenokee Swamp. She's a city girl from a large family and here she has complete freedom and she can be herself. Because hardly anyone notices Elsie Mae at home she wants to do something brave, she'd like to be a hero for once. When the swamp is in trouble, because someone wants to destroy it for financial gain she writes a letter to the president, hoping this will make a difference for both the swampers and herself. Is it enough for others to notice Elsie Mae though?

Henry James has been left by his parents and Elsie Mae isn't happy she won't have her grandparents' undivided attention for the summer after all. He wants to be a preacher and keeps quoting the Bible. Elsie Mae is still looking for a moment of glory and when hog thieves are stealing people's livelihoods she wants to be the one to catch them. Together with Henry James she goes after the criminals. Will Elsie Mae become a hero like she planned and if she does, is being a hero what she wanted or is it tougher than she thought it would be?

Elsie Mae Has Something to Say is a beautiful story. Elsie Mae is a strong, smart and brave girl. Together with Henry James she has many fantastic adventures. Most of them are pretty risky and I loved the tension Nancy J. Cavanaugh has put into her story. Elsie Mae and Henry James come to an understanding before getting to know each other well, I liked that approach of friendship a lot. They both enjoy good food and they love animals, but Henry James is a devout person and Elsie Mae is after being noticed. This is a fabulous combination that leads to many fantastic scenes and plenty of amazing dialogue. I really enjoyed their story and couldn't wait to find out if they'd catch the hog thieves and if the president actually read Elsie Mae's letter.

Nancy J. Cavanaugh has a fantastic descriptive writing style. I was immediately captivated by the Okefenokee Swamp, she paints a gorgeous picture of it in a fantastic way. I liked how she effortlessly makes history come to life. It was fun to read about life in the swamp and I learned a lot from it. The swampers found a place in my heart straight away. The family aspect of Elsie Mae Has Something to Say is heartwarming. I enjoyed every single page of this incredible book and highly recommend it.


If you like historical fiction Elsie Mae Has Something to Say would be a perfect choice. It's meant for the 8-12 age range, but can definitely be enjoyed by readers of any age who love the genre.

About Nancy J. Cavanaugh

Nancy J. Cavanaugh spends her winters in Florida enjoying the Gulf Coast and her summers eating pizza in her former hometown of Chicago. She loves reading middle grade novels. Her secret? She hasn't read an adult book in years.

Like her main character, Ratchet, Nancy is pretty handy with a ratchet and is able to take apart a small engine and put it back together.

Like her main character, Abigail, Nancy often struggled while growing up to find the courage to do the right thing. She also fell in a HUGE puddle, just like Abigail did.

Nancy has been an elementary and middle school teacher as well as a library media specialist. One of her favorite parts of writing for children is being able to say "I'm working" when reading middle grade novels.


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The Story Behind the Story
Guest post by Nancy J. Cavanaugh

One of the questions I am most often asked is, where do you get your ideas?

For me, inspiration comes in a variety of ways – in the people I see, the places I go, the quirky things that happen to me. The gathering of interesting bits and pieces is what I put together to come up with a unique idea for a book. In my most recent novel, Elsie Mae Has Something to Say, my collection of interesting bits and pieces began with, of all things, a television program.

One day I happened upon a program in which a scientist studying alligators stood in water up to his neck. I have to admit, I continued watching the show, not because I was so interested in alligators, but because I wanted to know if the scientist would live until the end of the show or be torn apart by the alligators he was so impassioned about studying. But after several minutes of the show, the scientist and the alligators became secondary because the narrator explained that this was all happening in a place called the Okefenokee Swamp – an intriguing, mysterious place which I had never heard of before.

Shortly after watching that show, I headed to the public library to find out something about this swamp with a name that was so much fun to say. One of the first books I found was called, The Okefinokee Album, by Francis Harper. In Harper’s book, I discovered amazing photographs that told the story of settlers, called swampers, who lived on islands in the Okefenokee. Just like the man in the television program, Harper was also a scientist. He went to

the Okefenokee with a passion for studying its flora and fauna; but once there, he found the people of the swamp even more interesting.

I poured over Harper’s book reading and rereading the stories of the swampers’ life. I studied the photographs of the swampers Harper befriended during his visits to the swamp, imagining what these people’s lives must have really been like. And I discovered how in the 1930’s, with the help of President Roosevelt, Harper and his wife became instrumental in the Okefenokee Swamp becoming a National Wildlife Refuge.

My next step in gathering even more interesting tidbits of information and first-hand experience was to visit the Okefenokee. So, off I went on an author field trip to southeastern Georgia. There I got to immerse myself in this place that had become utterly fascinating to me. And not only did I get to literally walk and canoe where real-life swampers had once lived, I had the amazing opportunity of spending time with people who had grown up in and around the swamp. Having them tell me stories of their lives breathed even more life into everything else I had learned about the Okefenokee.

The richness of this unusual place, the uniqueness of the swamper folks and their way of life, and an interesting slice of the swamp’s history in becoming a protected area of land ultimately inspired Elsie Mae’s story. And in order to give it the kid-appeal every middle grade novel needs, I added the universal hope that many young people have of wanting to do something really important in the world so that they can be a hero. From that, the book Elsie Mae Has Something to Say was born – a mystery, adventure story which gives readers the opportunity to venture into life as an Okefenokee swamper in the 1930’s.


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One very lucky reader of With Love for Books will receive signed hardcover copies of Elsie Mae Has Something to Say & Just Like Me by Nancy J. Cavanaugh.

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The winner will be notified by email and has 3 days to respond. All of our giveaways are international.


  1. Elsie Mae Has Something To Say sounds like a book that touches the heart of and is packed with adventure, family, love, friendship and mystery.

  2. "Just Like Me" sounds like a wonderful summer-camp story!

  3. What a fabulous-looking read, would love to get lost in it's pages!

  4. They sound really wonderful!Thank you for sharing them

  5. Ha ha! Nancy is right - it's great to be able to say "I'm working" when reading YA books. That's a perk of my job too.

  6. Me and my almost 10 year old daughter would love to read it. Sounds amazing.

  7. Many thanks for the review and giveaway!

  8. sounds brilliant reads thanks for writing

  9. great giveaway = thanks for the chance to win these good looking books

  10. Thanks for the great prize and competition. Good luck everyone!

  11. Sounds like a great novel, I'd love to read it. :-)

  12. I've watched many documentaries about life in the mangrove swamps of N. America and this sounds as if it could add even more to my understanding of what was a unique way of life in the depression and turbulence of the '30s.

  13. It was lovely to read your guest post, it's always so interesting to learn how a story develops and this one certainly has a lot of background. Though I for one wouldn't be neck-deep in water with an alligator that's for sure and I do hope that Elsie Mae wasn't either.