Wednesday, November 27, 2013

I am thankful for…

I am thankful for creativity and the stories that surface from inspiration and hard work. Check out these fabulous picture books about WRITING!

Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street by Roni Schotter; illustrated by Kyrsten Brooker - A series of eclectic characters give Eva writing advice on 90th Street: observe, use words in a new way, imagine, add action. She discovers that things really do happen on 90th Street!

S is for Story: A Writer's Alphabet by Esther Hershenhorn; illustrated by Zachary Pullen - Now there is an alphabet book for writers of all ages. Each letter describes a component of writing in a short rhyme. The facing page includes expository text to elaborate. "Y is for Your Story,/ yours to live and grow,/ of all you do,/ and where you've been/ and where you hope to go."

Aunt Isabel Tells A Good One by Kate Duke - In this collaborative tale, Aunt Isabelle encourages her niece to come up with the details of a good story, starting with Where and When and prompting her with questions along the way. An excellent example of story writing demonstrated within a story!

The Plot Chickens by Mary Jane and Herm Auch - "One day Henrietta said, 'Reading books is so much fun. Writing books must be eggshilarating.'" Filled with puns in text and illustration, this clever story on writing a story offers up writing rules in the setting of an opinionated henhouse. Henrietta's manuscript, "The Perils of Maxine," is typed in full on the final page.

The Little "READ" Hen by Dianne de Las Casas; illustrated by Holly Stone-Barker - In this creative writing version of The Little Red Hen, Little "Read" asks for help brainstorming, researching, outlining, drafting, editing, and proofing. Of course, her friends won't help. Will she keep the story to herself?

Little Red Writing by Joan Holub; illustrated by Melissa Sweet - "Once upon a time in pencil school, a teacher named Ms. 2 told her class, 'Today we're going to write a story.' 'Yippee!' said the birthday pencil. 'Slammin.' said the basketball pencil. 'Sharp! said Little Red." Little Red wants to go on a journey to write a story about bravery. Her teacher gives her some advice: "Stick to your basic story path so you don't get lost." Along the way, Red meets action words, adjectives, conjunction glue, adverbs, and an especially fearsome foe. Finally, her story is finished: "Once there was a brave red pencil…"

Friday, November 22, 2013

PPBF: Theo's Mood

TitleTheo's Mood
Author/Illustrator: Maryann Cocca-Leffler
Publisher/Date: Albert Whitman & Company/2013
Genre/Audience: Fiction/Ages 4-7
Themes: emotions, babies, older sibling, school

Opening: "It was Mood Monday and Theo was the first to share his mood news."

Synopsis: (from inside flap)

Are you in a GOOD MOOD or BAD MOOD? It's Mood Monday, and everyone in Miss Cady's class is sharing their MOOD NEWS. Eric is HAPY because he got a new bike! And Mia is PROUD because she hit a home run! But now that Theo has a new sister, he is not sure how he is feeling. EVERYONE HAS MOODS. WHAT'S YOURS?

Why I Love This Book
This book gently introduces kids to a variety of mood words (bored, jealous, cheerful, grateful, afraid, etc.) without being didactic. It is also a terrific book for a child who has become a big brother or sister, validating their many emotions from pride to jealousy.

Activity Guide from publisher

Maryann Cocca-Lefler's website

Play Mood Charades

Craving more Perfect Picture Books? Author Susanna Leonard Hill compiles weekly book reviews from bloggers at Visit Fridays or click the Perfect Picture Books tab at her website for a subject listing.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Turkey ... with a Side of Stories

First, I apologize to my readers for my recent hiatus. When life gets busy, blogging falls off the 'to do' list. But that's as it should be. As much as I enjoy sharing my book lists and staying connected to the world of children's literature online, I want to take advantage of kid lit opportunities in person, as much as possible.

And that's what I've been doing this month. First, I attended the NJ SCBWI Craft Weekend on the beautiful campus of the Princeton Theological Seminary. The faculty of agents, editors, and authors provided their collective wisdom on the children's book industry and offered a wide array of strategies for the aspiring author. Peer and professional critiques have jumpstarted my revision plans. Overall, it was well worth the trip!

This month, I also enjoyed the 17th Annual Rochester Children's Book Festival. This amazing, family-friendly festival is full of authors and illustrators signing books, offering workshops, and reading aloud. My boys also enjoyed Busy Bookworm Place, where they made a zebra out of the letter Z as a craft connection to Z is for Moose (which we had signed by illustrator Paul O. Zelinsky!). Check out this fun book trailer. We also had to stop at the tables of JANE YOLEN, JEFF MACK, and MATTHEW MCELLIGOTT! Going to this sort of thing is like a celebrity red-carpet event for me. I can never get enough!

Now for some Thanksgiving books :)

In November (by Cynthia Rylant; illustrated by Jill Kastner) - With lovely lyricism, Rylant ponders November: a month of goodbyes and goodnights, but also the month in which family and blessings are celebrated. Here is the final, beautiful spread: "In November, at winter's gate, the stars are brittle. The sun is a sometime friend. And the world has tucked her children in, with a kiss on their heads, till spring."

Turk and Runt: A Thanksgiving Comedy (by Lisa Wheeler; illustrated by Frank Ansley) - Turk, the big, burly brother is the apple of his parents' eye. He can dance and play football. He has a shot in life. Except that he's a turkey and his little brother Runt keeps pointing out the obvious, to no avail. Will the family start listening to Runt before it's too late? I am thankful that this story is a comedy, and not a tragedy.

The Peterkins' Thanksgiving (Adapted by Elizabeth Spurr; Illustrated by Wendy Anderson Halperin) - "The dinner, sir, it's stuck!" And so begins the Peterkins' Thanksgiving meal. A great deal of solutions are suggested and several strategies are tried. Join Mr. and Mrs. Peterkin and their six children as they try to free their dinner and salvage their Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving with Me (by Margaret Willey; illustrated by Lloyd Bloom) - A girl, eager for her uncles to join her for Thanksgiving dinner, asks her mother to recount family tales. In anticipation, she imagines the dancing and singing and feasting that the family will share.

The Ugly Pumpkin (by Dave Horowitz) - Told in rhyming first person, the sad and lonely Ugly Pumpkin goes on a journey to flee incessant teasing and find his place in the world. Garish illustrations add a bit of spookiness to this twist on The Ugly Duckling.

Gracias: The Thanksgiving Turkey (Joy Cowley; Joe Cepeda) - New York City is known for its diversity, but a turkey in an apartment building? Unheard of! So when Miguel raises the turkey his father sent for him to fatten up for Thanksgiving, he faces challenges, not the least of which is developing a friendship with the bird that is supposed to be dinner! Read this lovely English/Spanish story to find out if Gracias gets pardoned.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Thank You!

Dear Readers,

Thank you for reading my blog. I'm thrilled to announce that I tied for fifth place in Susanna Leonard Hill's Halloweensie Contest. Check out all the winners here.

And if you missed it, here's my story, one more time!

Happy Thursday!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


It is voting day! Here in Virginia and we are in the midst of some contentious state elections, including the governor's race. So go out, do your civic duty, then come back to vote on your favorite story!

I'm excited to say that I've made the top 12 (out of 79 entries!) Thank you, everyone, for your kind comments on my Halloweensie story.

There will be six winners and voting is open until Wednesday, November 6 at 5 PM EST.