Read Across America: A Very Special Birthday!

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you'll go.”
-Dr. Seuss

Read Across America, Dr. Seuss's nationwide birthday celebration, is Wednesday, March 2! Come celebrate with me! I’ve got a stack of amazing books to donate to BookSpring, an Austin area non-profit that "promotes access to quality, developmentally appropriate print and digital book ownership as a means of developing the lifelong motivation to read and learn."

Tell me your favorite children’s book! For every 3 comments that I receive between here and Facebook, I’ll donate a book from the stack! Now go celebrate your philanthropy AND Dr. Seuss’s birthday: snuggle up and read!

Here’s the list (in order of photo):
Big Red Barn (Margaret Wise Brown), Planting a Rainbow (Lois Ehlert), Giraffes Can’t Dance (Giles Andreae), Twice as Moody (Megan McDonald), Ramona Quimby, Age 8 (Beverly Cleary), I REALLY Like Slop (Mo Willems), Click, Clack, Quackity-Quack (Doreen Cronin), Steam Train, Dream Train (Rinker, Lichtenheld), The Important Book (Margaret Wise Brown), Ribbit! (Rodrigo Folgueira), Thump, Quack, Moo (Doreen Cronin), Splish, Splash, Splat! (Rob Scotton), Otis (Loren Long), Robot Zombie Frankenstein (Annette Simon), Bears Make the Best Reading Buddies (Carmen Oliver), The Curious Garden (Peter Brown), All the World (Liz Garton Scanlon), Horton and the Kwuggerbug and More Lost Stories (Dr. Seuss), From Head to Toe (Eric Carle), Wild About Books (Judy Sierra)


3 Word Challenge: Mist, Friends, Flower
Challenge words selected by L. Quaife

You rambled,
down winding paths,
as the sun shone brightly.
Flowers rustled as breezes blew,
petals and grass conversed with leaves.
Suddenly skies changed, becoming nearly black.
Rain came down in torrents as fog rolled in to play.
The storm raged stronger; listened to secrets and fears.
Don’t forget yourself as you struggle to find the way.
You are not alone, for your friends will gather near.
Together you will turn floods to dew, fog to mist.
The sun will emerge anew, chasing clouds.
You’ll find your path once more.
But as you do, remember
without the storm,
nothing thrives.

**Send me any three (clean!) words, and I'll create a poem, short story or snippet with your words!**

The Defeat

3 Word Challenge: Aluminum, Anteater, Surrender
Challenge words selected by R. Schmidt

The ants made a mound in our garden.
The ants made a mound in our yard.
The ants made a mound in our mailbox –
And then sent Ant Sue their regards!

The ants were quite tricky and feisty.
The ants were quite clever and tough.
The ants were quite cunning and gutsy.
But I’d finally had enough!

The ants will never surrender!
The ants will never leave!
The ants will never suspect –
My anteater’s meant to deceive.

The ants quickly fled our garden.
The ants quickly fled our yard.
The ants quickly fled our mailbox –
they left no new address card.

The ants never knew that I’d tricked them.
The ants never knew that I’d won.
The ants never knew that anteater
was just made of…aluminum. 

**Send me any three (clean!) words, and I'll create a poem, short story or snippet with your words!**

Favorite Book (this week): The Curious Garden

The Curious Garden
Peter Brown
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Books about gardens are generally pretty popular at our house. We've read Lois Ehlert's Planting a Rainbow probably 2,762 times in the last three years. But this is not just a book about gardens. It's about persistence, resilience and beauty. It's about creating new things, believing in yourself and growing in unexpected ways. It's about preparation, patience and hope.

Brown's tale of a boy who decides to help a struggling garden (eventually helping the garden spread throughout the city), manages to be both whimsical and realistic at the same time. Readers will love the amusing ways the gardens grow, from popped up where they don't belong and squeezed into impossibly narrow spaces to parades of animal topiary and lining lush park steps. Kids will also love looking for a tiny Liam in many of the illustrations, seeing his interactions with the gardens (singing and covert ops to transplant seedlings) and watching him grow as the garden itself grows.

Inspired by Manhattan's High Line garden, Brown's book is a reminder that there is always a way to create beauty - all it takes is a little persistence, and a little love.

The Valiant Path

3 Word Challenge: Ice Princess, Snow Castle, Moon Catcher 
Challenge words (all 6) selected by H. Kostka

If you travel far enough,
beyond where narwhals play,
you’ll see the waters change
to a silver shade of gray.
You might find the entrance
to a cave of inky blue –
and if you wait ‘til nightfall,
may discover the way through.
They say that the enchantment
at the mouth of the cave
keeps the route concealed to all,
but the valiant and the brave.

Many years ago,
when the path was not obscured,
the Ice Kingdom just beyond
was wholly unsecured.
A Moon Catcher stole the moon,
with plans to rule the realm.
They battled for Snow Castle,
their Ice Princess at the helm.
When the land was safe once more,
a council was convoked;
No one knew quite what to do
until an old man spoke.

The man was a sorcerer;
he crafted spells and charms,
and he could use his magic
to keep them safe from harm.
Using an old cloaking spell,
beginning with the cave,
he only allowed entry
to the bravest of the brave:
If twelve stars are seen below
while the golden moon is high,
the valiant shall gain entry,
though the others be denied. 

**Send me any three (clean!) words, and I'll create a poem, short story or snippet with your words!**

Bears Make the Best Reading Buddies Giveaway!

I am very excited to announce that I'll be giving away a signed copy of Carmen Oliver's new book, Bears Make the Best Reading Buddies!

Subscribe to Pickle Corn Jam (and other stories) via the Follow by Email tool on the site OR share your favorite post on your Facebook page (and leave a comment on this post letting me know you did - and which post you chose!) to receive an automatic entry!

Submit a new 3 Word Challenge via the site's Contact Me! form to receive an EXTRA entry!

Entries must be received between Monday February 22, 2016 (12:01 AM CST) and Saturday, March 5, 2016 (11:59 PM, CST). Giveaway is now closed - stay tuned for the next one!

Winner will be chosen at random and will be announced on the site following Carmen Oliver's Book Launch at BookPeople on Sunday, March 6, 2016. Congratulations to Gini Q., winner of Bears Make the Best Reading Buddies!

Good luck!

Sweepstakes entry and prize award is subject to Sweepstakes Rules and Regulations found here.

Finders Keepers

3 Word Challenge: Zoey, Acorn, Dance
Challenge words selected by S. Caller

A little brown acorn fell to the ground.

A pile of orange leaves muffled its sound.

A hungry gray squirrel discovered a meal.

But soon was distracted by curious squeals.

Er-Ew. Er-Ew. SQUEE!
A shiny red trike slowed near the tree.

Squirrel’s tail twitched quickly; he needed to flee.

Golden-haired Zoey climbed to the ground.

Mommy, come look at the acorn I found!

Tap, tap, tap.
Little squirrel feared he was losing his snack.

Shuffle worry. Shuffle scurry.
He needed a plan to get his nut back!

She needed to SEE him to give him a chance.

He’d go out on a limb. He’d do a squirrel dance!

Rustle! Shake!
Zoey heard something above in the tree.

Did that squirrel dance? Did he just wave at me?

Clap! Clap! Yay!
She took the acorn from the leaf pile,

looked into the tree, and gave squirrel a smile.

Rustle, rustle, peek.
Hello, Mr. Squirrel, is this what you want?

Were you eating brunch at a squirrel restaurant?

The squirrel scurried down with lightening fast speed

Would he make it in time? Would he succeed?

He made it to Zoey, ran into her feet.

He was ready to claim his sweet, nutty treat!

She held out his nut; he took it with pleasure.

Then dashed right off – to stash his new treasure.


The Willow's Leaves

3 Word Challenge: Grace, Blessing, Daughter
Challenge words selected by Tim C.

Daughter, come and sit with me,
here, under the willow tree.
Rest right here upon the ground,
draw the golden branches round.

Though the days pass quickly now,
here below these weeping boughs,
for a moment time will wait,
giving space to contemplate.

You’ve brought Grace into my soul,
filled my heart and made me whole.
All the blessings I’ve received
far outnumber this tree’s leaves.

You are growing strong and wise,
every day, before my eyes.
Soon it’s you that I’ll look to –
I couldn’t be more proud of you.

**Send me any three (clean!) words, and I'll create a poem, short story or snippet with your words!**

Hula Dance-ray

3 Word Challenge: Gabriella, Wiggler, Love
Challenge words selected by M. Steffel

Every day as she and her mother swam to school, Gabriella would press her face to the window of Stingray City ballet, and watch as the stingrays plied, jetéd and pirouetted across the floor. Gabriella’s wings wiggled with excitement. Gabriella longed to dance.

As soon as she was old enough, Gabriella’s mother signed her up for Beginner Ballet. It didn’t go well.

“Gabriella! You are far too wiggly for ballet!” the Ballet Master called.

Gabriella was crushed.

“I’m just a wiggler. I’ll never be a dancer.” Gabriella cried to her mother that evening.

“Ballet isn’t the only kind of dance there is, you know,” her mother said. Gabriella peeked her head out of the sand where she was hiding.

“It isn’t?” she asked.

“It definitely isn’t.”

Gabriella popped all the way out. Her wings wiggled with excitement.

Over the next few months Gabriella tried many types of dance. She tried to tap along with the starfish, but had nowhere to put her tap shoes. She tried hip-hop, but all the spinning made her dizzy. She tried swing dance with the sharks, but her wings were too slippery. Gabriella kept trying. Flamenco. Folk. Line Dancing. She even tried to Polka. Nothing felt quite right.

Until the day Leilani arrived. Leilani was new to Stingray City. She and her family had come all the way from the Hawaiian Islands!

“Leilani, why don’t you tell us a little about what you like to do,” their teacher said.

“I like to dance.” Leilani said quietly.

Gabriella perked up. Her wings wiggled with excitement. She could hardly wait until recess. At last it came, and Gabriella rushed over to Leilani.

“I’m Gabriella I love to dance too I’ve tried all different kinds of dance ballet tap hip hop swing I even tried Polka.” Gabriella said, without taking a single breath. She finally paused. “What dance do you do?”

“Hula.” Leilani answered quietly. “I’m too wiggly for ballet. And spinning makes me dizzy. I wanted to try tap, but didn’t know where to put my shoes.”

Gabriella could hardly believe her ears. “I’m too wiggly for ballet, too!”

Leilani smiled.

“Hula will be just right for you, then. Come on, I’ll show you how!”

Leilani’s wings wiggled with excitement.

And so did Gabriella’s. 

**Send me any three (clean!) words, and I'll create a poem, short story or snippet with your words!**

Hungry Monkey

3 Word Challenge: Mia, Monkey, Dance  
Challenge words selected by CAubel

Earlier today, ‘round a quarter past two,
a monkey named Milo broke out of the zoo.
He ran through the town, with only one thought:
he had to eat out before he was caught.

He raced down the street, toward the center of town,
where the selection of food did not let him down.
Should he try Thai? Or food from Havana?
Chef Angelo’s place had a dish with bananas?!

So Milo swung in, right through the front door,
hoping to try foods he hadn’t before.
Milo tripped waiters, and knocked over chairs.
And to the Chef’s horror, he didn’t stop there.

He swung from the lights, sampling dishes with glee,
with no sign of stopping his Italian food spree.
“Great Mama Mia!” Chef Angelo cried.
“We’ve got to get that monkey outside!”

The chef lunged to the right, but Milo went left,
dodging away, leaving Chef quite bereft.
The two of them put on quite a display;
a monkey-Chef dance, a sort of ballet.

But Milo was full; it was time to go home.
Though he greatly enjoyed his first taste of Rome.
He bid Chef goodbye, and ran out the door,
already planning to come back for more.

**Send me any three (clean!) words, and I'll create a poem, short story or snippet with your words!**

The Race

3 Word Challenge: Josie, Shark, Laugh
Challenge words selected by Erin L.

Josie took her pail down to the ocean,
as a seagull flew by, causing commotion.

“Everyone run! Everyone flee!
Mr. Shark’s coming! He’s right behind me!”

Everyone panicked. Everyone worried.
“Shark’s on the way! Everyone hurry!” 
They packed their towels, and umbrellas, too.
Josie just watched, unsure what to do.

She decided to ask why anyone cared –
If Shark’s in the ocean, they shouldn’t be scared!

“Mr. Seagull! Can’t we stay on the sand?
Sharks live in water; they can’t come on land!”

“You are quite right,” Seagull laughed as he said,
Mr. Shark gives us nothing to dread!”

“We’re not afraid of Mr. Shark, you see!
But we are racing him…in the Ocean Grand Prix!”

**Send me any three (clean!) words, and I'll create a poem, short story or snippet with your words!**

Carmen Oliver at BookPeople, 3/6 @ 2 PM

Local children's author Carmen Oliver will be at BookPeople in Austin, Texas, Sunday, March 6, speaking and signing copies of her new book, Bears Make the Best Reading Buddies!

Carmen is a truly gifted writer, teacher and speaker who has crafted a tale that will send your little ones on a hunt for their own reading buddy.  Who doesn't want to snuggle in with a huge, cuddly (*nice) bear? While hopefully your own child picks a buddy that is a little smaller, I'm a huge believer in encouraging reading, and Carmen's story encourages both reading and being read to.  And can you really resist characters with names like Mrs. Fitz-Pea?

Come out and see if you agree: DO Bears Make the Best Reading Buddies?

The Dreamer

3 Word Challenge: Julian, Smile, Run 
Challenge words selected by K. Brestal

What will you dream of tonight, my love?

A baseball player with a magic glove?
Daring Julian, the kingdom’s new knight,
who tucks in all of the dragons at night?
Or Captain Graybeard, a wily old cat,
who once set sail with a giant wombat?
Perhaps you’ll dream about Chester Magoos,
the cheetah who wouldn’t run without shoes?
Or Leroy, a dentist…and crocodile…
who loved to make his patients smile?

But even if tonight’s dreams are boring,
(or if you can’t dream through somebody’s snoring)
the very best part of dreaming for sure,
is tomorrow you get to dream some more!

**Send me any three (clean!) words, and I'll create a poem, short story or snippet with your words!**

Moon Catcher

3 Word Challenge: Nadia, Sun, Moon 
Challenge words selected by H. Kostka

Nadia was a rodeo star.
Everyone knew it, near and afar.
Her trusty steed, Maple,
was no normal horse.
And her roping lasso
was golden of course.

But after so many wins
from high in her saddle,
Nadia grew bored
of wrangling cattle.
She would rope something bigger,
something quite grand.

Catching the moon
was step one in her plan.
Once she lassoed the moon,
she’d move onto the sun,
for she was quite certain
that had never been done!

**Send me any three (clean!) words, and I'll create a poem, short story or snippet with your words!**  
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Little Owl's Nest

3 Word Challenge: Owl, Hat, Basket 
Challenge words selected by J. Manes

Little Owl needed a home. She had never built a nest before, and wasn’t quite sure where to begin. She flew around the forest, looking for supplies. She came upon a campsite. A red baseball hat rested on a picnic table.

“That might make a good home!” Little Owl thought. She circled low, but as she was just about to grab the hat, the campers returned to the site and frightened her away.

Little Owl flew on. She came to a house at the edge of the forest. A vegetable garden grew in the backyard, and a basket for gathering vegetables sat on the ground.

“That might make a good home!” Little Owl thought. She circled low, but as she was just about to grab the basket, a dog charged out the back door, barking loudly at a squirrel.

**Send me any three (clean!) words, and I'll create a poem, short story or snippet with your words!**

In Training

3 Word Challenge: Jeremy, Hot Air Balloon, Watermelon
Challenge words selected by L. Quaife

A genuine blue belt, through and through,
Jeremy didn’t just break boards in two.
He practiced his skills wherever he could,
(a little more than he probably should).
Tomato towers at the grocery store?
With one quick kick they fell to the floor.
Hot air balloon toy stuck under the couch?
One stellar leg sweep knocks it right out.
Picnic watermelon needs to be sliced?
With Jeremy around you won’t need a knife! 

**Send me any three (clean!) words, and I'll create a poem, short story or snippet with your words!**

Welcome to Pickle Corn Jam!

I've started this site to continue my writing journey, share my love of writing and books with you, and hopefully to inspire some of you to start writing, too!

I really enjoy the entire creative process, from getting the very first inkling of an idea down on paper and revising it (a million times), to taking a manuscript out for critique, revising it again, completing it (if that is even possible) and (hopefully soon!) seeing an actual book - not paper-with-a-million-cross-out revision-lines, not a twelfth-version-track-changes-document on a computer screen - but an actual BOOK on a bookshelf.

It's an exhilarating (and simultaneously terrifying) journey.

But, as long as there are stories to be told and characters begging for life, I'll keep writing. And while I hope I can do them justice, I know I'm going to enjoy trying.

What you'll find on Pickle Corn Jam


3 Word Challenges
I consider these my writing workout. If I can't make it to the gym (let's be honest - EVER), at least I can get my workout here! I encourage every reader to submit three words to me which I will then craft into a poem, a short story or a story snippet (fo' free!). Please keep the words clean - this is a site about books and writing for kids, after all! Please also keep in mind that since the goal with these pieces is to connect the words in fresh and creative ways (quickly), I won't always meet your expectations completely. With only three words to go on, we might have a very different vision. I hope that you like what I write, but if you don't, feel free to contact me, or give it another go with three different words.


Storytime Combos
Here you'll find groupings of 3 picture books centering on a topic or theme. These picture books are perfect for story times, generally for readers (listeners!) ages 3-8. I usually post these combos to my Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts. Come follow me!

Traditional Reviews
I love to read children's books. I love exploring new authors, new-to-me authors, classic authors - anything kidlit related! I'll review some of the books I am reading, and let you know when I find one that I feel is an absolute must-read.

The Well Read Guess & Well Read Review
The Well Read Guess features a quote from a book (and sometimes an illustration). These giveaway contests are open for a week or so, and are followed up by a review of the featured book.

While most of the reviews on the site are currently centered on picture books, keep an eye out for more middle grade and young adult reviews!

Please note: I do not currently review books at the request of authors/publishers/agents. Thanks for understanding! 

KidLit News! 

The Big Picture
Where I stand on issues affecting the book industry. I'd love to hear your thoughts, too!

Local Events
I'll list local picture book related events here, from book launches and writing classes, to festivals and even fun story times!

Plus...giveaways. Who doesn't love free books?

Thanks for taking the journey with me! I hope you enjoy!


   Professional Reader