What’s Being Said
About Agate

Comments, News and Reviews

Character Counts! Chronicle
Josephson Institute
September 2008
Title: Agate: What Good Is a Moose?
Authors: Joy Morgan Dey & Nikki Johnson
Publisher: Lake Superior Port Cities Inc.
Type: Picture Book
Level: Ages 4-8
Pages: 32
Digging for a book to help infuse character into a science lesson or vice versa, I recently unearthed this clever rhyming story about an awkwardly gangly moose named Agate.
As he compares himself to his beautifully polished friends, all of whom have sparkly names of birthstone gems and correspondingly brilliant characteristics, Agate asks, “What good is a moose?”
To assuage his self-doubt, Agate’s friends challenge him to look inward for what makes him shine. Much like trying to find plain agate rock, whose beauty is found within, Agate the Moose has to do some excavating to find the qualities that make him every bit as valuable as his treasured friends.
Agate’s message reinforces the adage, “Beauty is only skin deep” and spotlights the importance of valuing one's inner character.
As a counselor, I enjoyed this jewel as a springboard for self-reflection. Who among us hasn't questioned our reason for being?
An extension writing exercise can pose the question, “What makes me shine?” or “What do I look for in friends?” This gem will supplement the calendar lesson for younger students as each of Agate’s 12 friends represents a birthstone.
The information in the back about gemstones will serve as a geology lesson as well. This book is a diamond in the rough that I enthusiastically recommend adding to your collection.
Barbara Gruener is a school counselor at Westwood Elementary, Friendswood, TX, a finalist in the 2008 CEP National School of Character Award.
January 17, 2009
I  liked agate. I like everything. My name is Keaton. I am six years old.
Keaton Schnidt
December 10, 2008
I bought this book for my mother who's name is Pearl Agate. I love it and can’t wait to give it to her to share with her great-grandchildren. She is 90 years old … loves to read. Thanks for the beautiful book.
Suzanne Byron
August 6, 2008
I simply have to thank your author and illustrator for a wonderful book that I can use for weaving science into a character-building story.  My dad actually found the book for me at Dey's Parts Store in Green Bay and called to see if I'd like a copy.  Since I'm a counselor and character coach, he figured I'd use the story in my trainings as I trek around the U.S.  He was right.t. H<>e bought me two copies and I bought three more when I got home for vacation. I am eager to share your story first in Dallas next week, then Austin, then in Princeton, NJ over Labor Day and in TN the last week of September.  It'll be mid-October when I tell people about it in Washington DC. If you'd like to see your book on my list of favorites, just visit my school online at:  www.fisdk12.net/ww/character/
. I will likely write a review for a national character newsletter in the near future and would be happy to share that as well if/when it comes out. Thanks again for the inspiration!
Barbara Natzke Gruener
Counselor and Character Coach
Westwood Elementary
Friendswood, TX  77546
August 5, 2008
My name is Margaret Brunner, last weekend I went to Duluth to see the tall ships, but instead discovered a real gem in Agate! I'm a nurse in the Burn Center at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis. We have children who are burn survivors … frequently their lives are changed forever because of their injuries and scars. While reading Agate, I couldn’t help but think of one teenager that we have in our unit. She sustained burns over 80% of her body… we know that she will still be the same beautiful person on the inside … it is only the outside that has changed. She has come a long way since her accident, but has a long way to go to recovery. She has not seen herself since the fire. I kept thinking this would be a wonderful book for her as well as other children … and adults who may have a hard time dealing with the change.
Margaret Brunner RN, BAN, CCRN
Clinical Educator
Burn Center
Hennepin County Medical Center
May 20, 2008
I know you won't be surprised to hear from an adult, after all that is how you were created, from an adult’s vision of self. My name is Joanna, and I am currently a student, who is studying to be a teacher. Boy how do I understand feeling like a moose. I am mixed in with people of all ages and descriptions and often I am the old lady of the group. Different from the rest, if you know what I mean. The first time I picked up Agate, I was searching for a book to present to my Children’s Literature class, one that would inspire me to present a creative response lesson. The illustrations jumped to life as I opened the book. There are no true words to reflect the myriad of thoughts and emotions that ran through me as I turned the pages. I could hardly believe it as the thoughts and inspiration for designing a lesson around the this book enveloped me and I quickly purchased the book and ran to the nearest art store. Thank you for the gift I thought I had lost. My desire to paint and teach children how to accept their unique own self through art has blossomed and I am back in the groove again.
Joanna Dufurrena
Reno, Nevada
News Item
News: May 19, 2008

Agate Wins Again:
Two Awards in One Week

Northeastern Minnesota Book Awards“For a self-conscious moose, it’s a start!” said Joy Morgan Dey, quoting her own book after it took the award for Best Children’s Literature at the Northeastern Minnesota Book Awards (NEMBA). The 20th annual awards were given Sunday evening at University of Minnesota Duluth’s Weber Music Hall.    More…
News Item
News: May 15, 2008

Local Children’s Book Wins
Highest MIPA Honors

MIPA AwardA local book took a top award Wednesday night, May 15, 2008, at the Midwest Independent Publishers Association (MIPA) event in St. Paul.  Agate: What Good Is a Moose? by Joy Morgan Dey and Nikki Johnson and published by Lake Superior Port Cities Inc. was awarded “Best Children’s Picture Book at the association’s 18th  annual awards ceremony. The author, illustrator and publisher are all from Duluth.   More…
Letter: March 30, 2008
I just loved your book.  I found it while searching Amazon for new moose books for my classroom.  My classroom is called Moose Hollow and it is filled with moose and trees..  The kids love it.  Your book has such a great message for kids and adults.  The pictures are just wonderful. I loved the picture of the both of you standing by Agate.  My school kids have made a life size fabric moose (one that is flat and can be folded) that we use to show guests and to measure and compare so your picture was perfect. The theme of gems encouraged several of my third graders to find out more about gems. Now I just need to find an agate moose! I have suggested your book to the owners of Mooseville.com.  They are the nicest people I hope they check it out. Thank you for such a fabulous book.  I treasure it just like all my kids.
Sharon Emero
Provo, Utah
Letter: February 18, 2008
I just received my book, poster and  chocolate candies.  I love it all and it was shipped very nicely.  I have a question … I wanted to send the chocolate agate candies into my daughter’s first grade class. Can you tell me if the chocolate candies are made with any peanut products. There’s one child in the class with a peanut allergy. Thank you very much.
Dawn Vaccaro
Thanks for your question - it was a good thing for us to find out, too. We spoke with the factory and the only allergens of any kind that are in or around the chocolates are soy and milk. Their factory is completely peanut free. Thanks again and we hope the kids love the chocolates!

Letter: November 14, 2007
“Agate” is wonderful. I have been painting on YUPO as my only medium for almost 10 years … and most importantly and the best reason … my 4½ lb mixed Yorkie/Poodle is named Moose!  I love Agate and would like to order three copies, please. If you were to sign, them that would be a bonus. “Agate” should be on everyone’s coffee table…young and old alike!
Taylor Ikin
Tampa, FL 33629
Review: December 7, 2007, Amazon.com
5 Stars
Great Book
By A.D. Cox “Hobo,” northern PA
This book has great watercolor illustrations and a nice story.
News Item
News: October 23, 2007

Local Book Wins
National Awards

A children’s book by a local author and a local illustrator earned Silver and Bronze awards in a first-time national children’s book competition. Moonbeam AwardsThe Moonbeam Awards, designed to honor the year’s best children's books, authors and illustrators, are being presented for the first time this year. The awards are organized by Independent Publisher Online and Jenkins Group. The announcement of awards was made October 18. More…

Letter: November 9, 2007
Was at a bookstore in Bayfield during the Apple fest this year and the cover of this book caught my eye. Purchased a copy for a friend from Maryland who loves Moose then bought two more copies on Madeline Island, one for my grandchildren Lily and Edward and another for their pre-school teacher. The story is wonderful for children and adults of all ages. The illustrations are gorgeous!
Susan Motisi
Madison, Wisconsin
Letter: April 12, 2008
I am in Montana at the AGATE (Association for Gifted and Talented Education) Convention right now and your book has been a HUGE hit here. We had a silent auction with several autographed copies of your book. It raised money for summer scholarships for gifted kids. I won one of the autographed books to take back to my students. I just wanted to tell you everybody here was talking about your book. Besides the one I won, I bought two more to take back to my friends for THEIR classrooms. I also love gemstones - especially the ones from Montana. We have a lot of Agates here but my next favorite is the famous Montana sapphire. It comes in lots of different colors which is cool too.  Thanks again for publishing the book. I can’t wait to show them to my students.  It teaches such a great lesson. My kids are 9th graders and we have been learning about tolerance all year. Right now we are reading “To Kill a Mockingbird” and it’s brought up a lot of good conversations.  Kids can sometimes be so mean to other kids - especially when someone is a little different. I think it’s awesome that some kids have the courage to be different and I think it’s wonderful that your book encourages it!
Peggy Mullin
Stevensville, Montana
Blog: March 13, 2008
From: “pixie stix kids pix
Thoughts, Observations and Ideas About Children’s Books
A blog by Kristen McLean from WordPress.com - Related tags:
(3-8) Picture Books, 2007 Spring, Books that rate a 9+, Outstanding Design
Agate (or What good is a picture book? Really good, as it turns out.)
Agate: What good is a moose?
by Joy Morgan Dey, illustrated by Nikki Johnson
Lake Superior Port Cities; April 2007; 32 pp; $17.95 HC 978-0942235739
Core Audience: Children 4-8; Anyone who has ever felt outshined
Strengths: Luminous artwork; great message
Kristen McLean's BlogIf you have been reading pixiestix for awhile you are probably aware of my feelings about marginal books  that are either self-published, or that are produced by small presses that don’t quite get how to put the total package together. I receive hundreds of unsolicited pitches every year for these kinds of books, and when you combine that with the thousands of mainstream books that flow across my desk in a given year, it really takes something to make me sit up.
And this, my friends, is that something.
Meet Agate, the hero of this wonderful and unexpected picture book from a pair of artists and a  small regional press from Duluth, MN. Agate is in a metaphysical quandary. “What good is a moose?” he asks when he compares himself to all of his other “birthstone” friends, like Garnet the Crocodile, Emerald the Lion, and Sapphire the Hippo.
He has a big case of the inferiors, and any child who has ever felt dull will recognize themselves here. At the back of the book, there is a nice appendix that talks about birthstone gems. The writing and rhymes here are very sweet, but what really makes this book is the incredible watercolor illustration presented on a sparkling white ground.
These are just quick scans. For the full effect, get a copy and check out how eye-popping they really are. I particularly like the way Nikki Johnson has let the natural flow of the paint create the rich texture of the animals in motion.
This book really has it all: clean uncluttered design, a nice story, a good message, a eye-catching cover, fresh art, and the element of surprise. This proves the point that a small press with no background in kid’s books really can do a great job. Amazing books can come from anywhere, which why it is SO important that people setting off to make a picture book (or indeed any book) for the first time really understand what it takes, and know the market.
Apparently the author and illustrator brought the project to the press. Bravo to Lake Superior Port Cities for recognizing that Agate really is a gem of the highest order.
Rating: 9.0
News Item
News: November 21, 2007
A small, independent moose made the top of an important national booksellers list this month. The American Booksellers Association released its Winter 2007-2008 Book Sense Children’s Picks list in its November 15 issue of Bookselling This Week. In the #1 spot is Agate: What Good Is a Moose? by locals Joy Morgan Dey and Nikki Johnson and published by Lake Superior Port Cities Inc. of Duluth.   More…
Review: October 20, 2007, Amazon.com
5 Stars
Beautiful illustrations and great story
By A. Blais “Bedtime stories,” MN
Very original picture book. Illustrations are gorgeous and story is first rate. Kids and adults will love this book.
News Item
News: May 14, 2007

Agate The Moose Book Making Waves In
Publishing World

The Northland’s News Center in Duluth presented a story on Lake Superior Port Cities’ new children’s book, “Agate: What Good Is a Moose?” on Sunday, May 13. Follow the link to view the story on the Web.
A new children's book is making waves in the publishing world and it was written and illustrated right here in the Northland.
Dave Anderson introduces us to the authors and tells us how other writers can follow their lead.
The Link to this story is no longer active.
Letter: October 12, 2007
The book, Agate, and its poster are both fabulous!!  A must-have for every parent/grandparent of a young child (teachers, too)! I donated the book and poster to a school library in the Jefferson Parish School District of New Orleans.  The illustrations and the message could not be any better - thanks for publishing this terrific book!! They are selling like hotcakes in my gift business, and I will be donating the proceeds to three of my favorite charities.
J. Taylor
Review: July 26, 2007, Amazon.com
5 Stars
Wonderful book!
By CFH, Minneapolis, MN
My son got this book a few weeks ago for his 1st birthday. Although he doesn’t understand the words yet, he loves the pictures!! They are so colorful and fun! And I absolutely love the story! I know this will become one of our favorite bedtime books!

Review: July 16, 2007, Amazon.com
5 Stars
Agate the Moose and his friends discover how to find the beauty in everyone
By Lawrance M. Bernabo
(The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota)
Agate is a moose who “looks like a Tinker Toy project gone wrong” and mopes around the edge of a lake asking “What good is a moose?” You see, Agate thinks of his friends as sparkling gems, and he just does not seem himself as measuring up. After all, Agate looks at his friends Garnet the crocodile with the famous smile and Topaz the eagle with those strong wings and beak, and in comparison he feels like “a big brown mistake.” Actually, Agate is feeling so blue that he is turning blue, and it is up to his animal friends to remind him of a simple rule. If kids judge this book by its cover they might think it is about a moose with blue antlers, but “Agate: What good is a moose?” is really speaking to any kid who feels that they do not fit in with the others around them.
This charming children’s book is written by Joy Morgan Dey and illustrated by Nikki Johnson. This is their second collaboration, following “Nightlight,” which was about a pair of little bears discovering the northern lights. Johnson is a master painter with the Lake Superior Watercolor Society and one of the interesting things about her artwork in this book is how some of the paintings look more substantial than watercolors. Look at how thick the green and red are on the paintings of Emerald and Ruby, and you might forget that these are watercolors. Johnson’s artwork here tends towards the impressionistic, but that only makes it more effective because kids are going to look at these paintings and think that they can do something pretty much like it and give it a go. So this book has both a simple message and the nice artwork to go with it.
The back of this book begins with a look at “Agate, the Secret Jewel.” This is only one page but kids will find out a lot about nature’s hidden artwork, from where they can be found to what folklore says about agates. This is followed up by two-page spread explaining how “Everybody Has a Birthstone,” that relates the dozen gems from garnet to turquoise to the months of the year. The artwork from those particular pages are reproduced in miniature accompanied by several lines of text telling us about where there are found, what they symbolize, and how they can be used. I have always thought that diamonds and pearls are so omnipresent in jewelry that they should not be birthstones, because there is something to be said for having a relatively unique birthstone and not something that is supposed to be the best friend of every girl on earth.
Letter: June 14, 2007
I read this book to my 5- and 8-year-olds last night. They both loved it! They are fascinated with real agates that we’ve found on the north shore, so this was right up their alley. I loved the theme of self-esteem and inner beauty. My kids loved the illustrations and the “new” colors to learn. The words are lyrical and rhyming. I’m going out to purchase the book today to add to our family’s collection. I just love a good book. This is most certainly one of those!
Michelle Coy RN

Letter: June 7, 2007
I would like to tell you that your book is one of the best I’ve read this year. It is a marvelous story on so many levels. It would obviously be appropriate for primary students, but it has a message that does appeal to upper elementary as well. I would like to incorporate this as my next year’s school theme. We are all a little “unpolished” and I would like to start the year off and use this along with my unit on rocks for earth science. Please let me know what other materials you have that I might use as well. So enjoyed your message and your artwork was stunning. Wonderful job!
Patty tenCate
Ogilvie, Minnesota

Letter: May 31, 2007
I just saw the book for the first time tonight.  It is one of the most beautiful books I have ever seen. I had to order it right away. I'm keeping one, but the  other three will go to lucky friends and teachers.
Mary Adamson
Bloomington, Minnesota

Review: August 7, 2007, Amazon.com
5 Stars
A Thoroughly Entertaining Tale
by Midwest Book Review
Agate is a likeable moose who has low self-esteem issues. He is convinced that he is ugly and ordinary when compared to his beautiful friends who are named after birthstone gems. But Agate learns to see and appreciate his inner beauty because it's what’s inside that counts when it comes to attractiveness. “Agate: What Good Is A Moose?” is an original and brilliantly written story by Joy Moran Dey that is perfectly showcased by the imaginatively executed watercolor illustrations of Nikki Johnson. Very highly recommended for school and community library picturebook collections, “Agate” is a thoroughly entertaining tale that will appeal to readers from 5 to 50.
Review: May 6, 2007, Amazon.com
5 Stars
This book rocks! … teehee
By Belle, San Francisco, CA
I loved this book. I have two little nephews who love rocks, bright colors, and animals. It’s perfect for both of them, and they’re 3 years apart! The moose is super cute, and I’m the red dancing bears of July. I really like that the bat isn’t black, too! Excellent work! Thanks!
Review: June 7, 2007, Amazon.com
5 Stars
SUPER BOOK - and for all ages too!
By Peter Hansen, Atlanta, GA
The water color artistry is remarkable and totally captivated my 6 year old but it is the message that I find so wonderful. My older daughter who is extremely tall (you know - what good is moose?) for her 9 years understood the message and appreciated it greatly! For an adult the message remains relevant still and a reminder for us all. If you have children of any age this is a great book to share with them!
Review: May 5, 2007, Amazon.com
Truely a Gem
By Bull Winkle “Ross,”
San Franciso Bay Area
I tried to think of something profound to say about this book, but nothing I came up with was even close to the warmth and beauty it contains. I absolutely loved it and I look forward to showing it to my Granddaughter.
To Agate’s Home Page
Order Information
©Lake Superior Port Cities Inc.