Friday, August 31, 2012

Summer Send-Off Contest Entry

I am entering Susanna Leonard Hill's Summer Send-Off Writing Contest, which uses Heather Newman's dramatic illustration as a writing prompt.
Contest Rules:
The contest will be for a children's story of 250 words or less based on the picture above and in which somebody somewhere in your story says, in dialogue, "Did/do you see that?" (you may substitute any of the other senses - "Did/do you hear/feel/taste/smell that?") and somebody somewhere in your story says, "Goodbye!" (you are allowed to substitute "Farewell!", "Au revoir!", "Sayonara!", "Ciao!", or "So long!")

Smarmy, knighted spy for Medieval Intelligence: 6thCourt, has been Drag’s loyal groom for two years.  While weary of the constant scale scrubbing, his mission to keep Drag away from the castle has been successful…until now.  Now, thinks Smarmy, MI6 will never promote me unless I rescue Princess Alia!
Chaos erupts around the castle as the news of Drag’s conquest spreads throughout Fairyland. Heroes and Villains come out of the woodwork to be part of the story. Not only do I have to battle Drag and save the Princess, Smarmy calculates, but I also have to deal with an overly eager Prince bent on rescuing a Damsel-in-Distress, a Sorceress who looks ready to cast a spell on anything that moves, and a girl who is about to throw flowers at the scene as if she is watching a staged play. 
Thinking fast, Smarmy shouts: “Did you see that?” as he flings his scrub brush across the fiery ravine.  All the characters turn to look.  Smarmy quickly pours his bucket of suds over Drag’s head. Howling, Drag claws at his eyes, buying Smarmy enough time to race to the first tower room. With a hearty “Ciao!”, he calls his trusty blackbird, who flies from his perch with the key.  “Princess,” Smarmy bows, as the rotund and not-quite-beautiful Alia, disguised as a handmaid, sashays out of the room.
“It’s about time,” Princess Alia sniffs. “The Prince had his eye on the wrong girl!” (240)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Music for Life

I love to sing.  The advent of the new school year brings a new chorale season.  Joining this community of musicians last year gave my voice a fresh purpose and a weekly date night with my husband, who also joined (We met in choir in college).  Before I had kids, I could imagine myself singing to my children: rocking in a chair for a lullaby, dancing around the room to a foot-stomper, or acting out a story/song.  I re-familiarized myself with lullaby lyrics and learned some new ones.  I got recommendations for children’s CDs (must haves: Elizabeth Mitchell, Laurie Berkner, and for train lovers, Choo Choo Soul.)  But I had no idea there were so many terrific picture books with song lyrics as text.  My kids love music just as much as I do and we enjoy every discovery.  Take a look at some of these:
Hush Little Baby (Sylvia Long) - This is one of my favorite board books.  I love the peaceful lullaby time of night and I have always liked the melody of Hush Little Baby.  One thing bothered me about it, though, as I got older.  The original text is a list of bribes to get a baby to stop crying!  Not the best message to go with the beautiful tune, although I’m sure it has a lot of folk value.  Sylvia Long had the same thought and created this beautiful book with alternative lyrics that highlight exploring and discovering the world with a young child.  Pick this one up for a baby shower gift or the little one in your life!

If You Were My Bunny (Kate McMullan; David McPhail) – Parents, read the last page of this lullaby book to yourself first to give yourselves a jump on the tunes within.  There are five common lullabies, rewritten from an animal’s point-of-view.  For example, the rabbit mama sings “Hush little cottontail don't you hop. Mama's going to bring you a carrot top..."  This gentle book makes a calm and unique end to the day.

The Neighborhood Sing-Along (Nina Crews) – Nina Crews, daughter of the famed children’s author/illustrator Donald Crews (his Freight Train is another huge favorite in this house), is a photographer, creating stories around children in everyday settings.  In this case, she illustrates 34 children’s songs by photographing kids on and around the streets of Brooklyn.  This book is a companion to Crews’ The Neighborhood Mother Goose.

I Love You! A Bushel & A Peck (Words and music by Frank Loesser; pictures by Rosemary Wells) – I love musicals, so I was delighted when I happened upon this frolicking good time on the library shelves.  If the title doesn’t tip you off, Wells illustrated a song from the musical “Guys & Dolls”.  If you’re only familiar with the movie version with Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando, you will have missed out on this tune.  For some reason, it wasn’t included.  I have to admit, it is very catchy, so be warned.  This ditty just might get stuck in your head! (That’s my 3 year old’s new favorite phrase: “Is it stuck in your head, Mommy?”)
On Top of Spaghetti (Author/Illustrator: Paul Brett Johnson; Lyrics: Tom Glazer) – I love this take on the classic song.  Who can resist these opening lines? “Howdy, folks.  Welcome to Yodeler Jones’s Spaghetti Emporium & Musicale.  You’re just in time to hear about the BIG SNEEZE.”  The reader is treated to a story just as silly as the song, with hysterical consequences.  Sheet music, lyrics, and a recipe for spaghetti and meatballs are included at the end!  (Yes, this was also on my “spaghetti” book list, but I couldn’t resist including it here as well.)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A to Z Books for Back to School

Has it really been a month since my last post?  I guess summer really does a number on routine!  I hope to get back into the weekly swing of things.  In honor of this exciting time of year, I'm offering A to Z books to kick off the new school year.  I hope, teachers, you can use these in your classrooms and, parents, that you have fun sharing them with your children!

Z is for Moose (Kelly Bingham; Paul O. Zelinsky) – As an aspiring author, I’ve heard that alphabet books don’t sell, unless they have a unique twist.  Well, this book by Kelly Bingham, cleverly illustrated by the amazing Paul Zelinsky, gives us just that with a whopping sense of humor.  Talk about a page turner!  Starting with the inexplicable title, the reader just wants to find out more.  I love the setting of the stage, with each letter getting its time in the spotlight.  Until Moose interferes, that is.  A to Z books have surpassed the early reader stage.  Get this one out for your preschooler, your middle school student, or your grandfather and all will enjoy!

Alphabet Under Construction (Denise Fleming) – Mouse is determined to build the alphabet.  Luckily verbs from A to Z come in handy! (Pun intended.) Denise Fleming’s bright and funny illustrations help the youngest readers “read” the book.

Compost Stew: An A to Z Recipe for the Earth (Mary McKenna Siddals; Ashley Wolff) – This book is so timely.  Students are now making composts at school and learning about decomposition through this important natural recycler. Compost Stew is a clever A to Z rhyming book with fabulous collage illustrations made from recycled/reused materials. A fun way to learn about composting and inspire new composters!

Bad Kitty (Nick Bruel) – First of all, I LOVE the two bite marks taken out of the cover and book pages. You can tell you are dealing with a really BAD KITTY!  Second, this unique A to Z book features a fun story, character change and FOUR, yes FOUR, sets of alphabets!  And where else will you find “Chicken Cheesecake” and “Insect Ice Cream” for “C” and “I”???  And if you can't get enough of Bad Kitty, there are more and more of them!

A Gardener’s Alphabet (Mary Azarian) – Mary Azarian’s unique wood block illustrations are the heart of this book.  From relaxing in an “Arbor” at the book’s onset to harvesting an enormous “Zucchini!” at the end, Azarian explores gardenscapes and vocabulary from various cultures, seasons, and angles.

Girls: A to Z (Eve Bunting; Suzanne Bloom) – An empowering alphabet book that features girls in various occupations.  The message, while obvious, is no less powerful.  Girls can be anything they dream to be!

Backseat A-B-See (Maria van Lieshout) – Cringing about the car trip you have planned with the kids?  Take this book along for some fun with signs.  See how many you can spot!  Are there other signs that would go with each letter?  This book is a game in disguise!

A Isn’t for Fox: An Isn’t Alphabet (Wendy Ulmer; Laura Knorr) – Each letter in this unusual alphabet book is a short rhyme of what the letter is and isn’t, ripe for illustrating.  Laura Knorr runs with the text and creates colorful juxtapositions that make you smile.  Children love the game of searching the picture for all that is mentioned in the text.  Great fun!

Ashanti to Zulu: African Traditions (Margaret Musgrove; Leo and Diane Dillon) – Winner of the Caldecott Medal, this superbly illustrated A to Z book featuring 26 African tribes is a must-have for teachers with an Africa unit in their curriculum.  Late elementary and middle school would be the student audience for this book since the text is challenging, new words need to be pronounced and the cultures are intricate and varied.  As a third grade teacher, I used only the letters appropriate to my lesson, as it would be an overwhelming read, otherwise.

ABC (Dr. Seuss) – Classic, silly rhymes from the master!  I’m especially fond of M: “Many mumbling mice are making midnight music in the moonlight... mighty nice.” and O: “O is very useful. You use it when you say: ‘Oscar’s only ostrich oiled an orange owl today.’” since I’ve used both as vocal warm-ups!  Actually, there is a whole vocal warm-up version of this book.