Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Apartment Building (3 Word Challenge)

3 Word Challenge: Friend, Expand, Apartment
Challenge words selected by Ann Daniels and her 4th grade class at Pattengill Elementary



We live in the upper corner
of an apartment building.
4E on the door.
Mama says it’s home.
I say it’s a palace.

Step outside into my garden.
See how the sunlight sparkles
on row after row
of windows,
brighter than snow?

If you went out on the rooftop
you could survey the land,
stretching as far –
as wide –
as the greatest of lakes.

I like to walk up and down
the grand staircase,
waving to my subjects.
Mama says not to dawdle.
“Princesses don’t dawdle,” I say.

Jaydon lives here, too.
He always waves back.
But this is MY castle.
It doesn’t need a knight.
It doesn’t need a king.

He shrugs his shoulders.
“Cool,” he says.
“Could it use a dragon?”
His eyes smile,
even when his mouth doesn’t.  

For weeks we play,
all day, sunup to sundown.
Time grows shorter 
as autumn comes,
as leaves and defenses fall away.

Our building isn’t just a palace.
We had to expand.
It’s a Viking ship, and an airplane factory,
a school for neglected monsters.
But that’s not important.

Most of all,
it’s where my friend lives.


About 3 Word Challenges
I encourage every reader to submit three words to me which I will then craft into a poem, short story or story snippet. 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!

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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

How to Go Batty...bat themed books you might have missed!

In honor of my bat-loving daughter, our recent "research" trip to see the bats of Austin (the largest Mexican free-tailed urban bat colony in North America) for my latest picture book draft, and the upcoming batty holiday (Thanksgiving, #amiright...), I am dedicating this post to all things BAT!

First, just take a look at this cutie! I only wish I had gotten a better shot with her stuffed bat in hand! Mad props to our tour captain (Laura Soto with Lone Star Riverboat!) and the lovely, patient people sitting in the row in front of us.

Even though our bat viewing was limited since they didn't come out until after it was pretty dark, the tour was funny and informative. We learned which Austin building was designed to look like a Rice University Owl, that Willie is still more popular than Stevie Ray, and that you can take the cowboy out of Austin, but not the USB stick, along with lots of facts about bats (you'll have to wait for my unwritten, uncontracted, unpublished bat book for me to divulge THOSE)!

But, if you don't want to wait 2-200 years for MY bat themed picture book (or take a tour with Lone Star Riverboats, where you, too, will learn the bat facts) here are some bat themed books you might have missed!

Bat Loves the Night
Nicola Davies, Sarah Fox-Davies

A non-fiction selection by one of my favorite non-fiction writers, Nicola Davies. Seriously, she is FANTASTIC. If you haven't checked her out, grab Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes, too!

Bats Around the Clock
Kathi Appelt, Melissa Sweet

A fun way to learn about telling time with Batstand host Click Dark! Also check out Bat Jamboree and Bats on Parade!

Bats at the Beach
Brian Lies

A perfectly-timed, rhyming adventure at the beach. If beach trips aren't your thing, try Bats at the BallgameBats at the Library, or Bats in the Band.

Nightsong
Ari Berk, Loren Long

A wonderful tale about finding independence and confidence in yourself. Loren Long's illustrations knock this one out of the park.

Stellaluna
Jannell Cannon

A story about friendship and being who you really are with beautiful, lifelike illustrations.

Baby Bat's Lullaby
Jacquelyn Mitchard, Julia Noonan

As the name implies, this one is a poetic lullaby, good for bedtime and younger readers.


Happy reading! And don't forget: it isn't too late to enter the current giveaways! You have until September 30, 2016 to be entered to win a copy of Emily Arrow's Storytime Singalong, Vol 1 or you can donate books here to potentially be an instant-winner of an Amazon gift card!

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Monday, September 19, 2016

Encourage reading...by not reading! (plus a GIVEAWAY!)

One of my most popular posts by far was this one, a blog post about encouraging reading in reluctant pre-readers. I absolutely LOVE that this post was so popular, and I really hope that the list has helped readers of my blog find a book (or two, or ten!) to help encourage their littles toward a fondness for reading.

But like I said in that post, I definitely understand that not all kids enjoy reading. So, with that in mind, I've put together a list of ways to encourage your kiddos to read, without actually reading. And while that sounds really strange, I am a big fan of doing whatever it takes to get kids engaged in books. Even if that means not reading. :)

EMILY ARROW
How can there be so much adorableness packaged up in one person? It should be impossible. Except it isn't, apparently, because we have Exhibit A, Emily Arrow. What does Emily do? She adapts children's books into songs. But in a way that you've never heard before. It's not Peter, Paul and Mary style, where all of the words in the story are sung (although this Peter, Paul and Mary book IS popular at our house), and it isn't nursery rhymes. It's actual current, popular children's books adapted into song. And she has a YouTube channel. And she adapted my favorite children's book of all time (and was the 2015 Winner of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest for it). AND one lucky reader is going to win a copy of Emily's 2016 album, STORYTIME SINGALONG, VOLUME 1. Just leave me a comment on this post by September 26, 2016 (EXTENDED!) September 30, 2016 to enter (or subscribe to email updates)!

ONE MORE STORY APP/WEBSITE
From their site: "One More Story is the online library of the best of children's illustrated books set to music and read aloud to you. Follow Benjamin D. Bookworm, Bendy, through your favorite books, or try the I Can Read It mode to read them yourself." I had some difficulty finding apps that would read aloud to my daughter when I looked; most of the apps out there are either to help kids read on their own (which although admirable, wasn't necessarily what I was going for at age 3) or didn't include any of the more popular titles or authors that we would find in the library or bookstore. While One More Story isn't free (around $50/year), it is a great app that my own little asks for again and again.

BOOK TO TV/MOVIE/THEATER ADAPTATIONS
Introducing a character via television/movie FIRST can be a fun way to sneak in a little literary magic. If yours are anything like mine, once your little is hooked on a character, they'll want everything they can see/touch/taste/hear to be about said character. So, make the characters literary! Some great options: Julia Donaldson's THE GRUFFALO, Janell Cannon's STELLALUNA, Marie-Louise Gay's STELLA and SAM series, Kate and Jim McMullan's I STINK and I'M DIRTY via Amazon's new series, THE STINKY AND DIRTY SHOW, and (hopefully soon!) Mary Pope Osborne's THE MAGIC TREE HOUSE series. Finding characters at the theater is especially fun, too! There is SO much great children's theater based on kid lit. Two of our favorite stage adaptations: (again) Julia Donaldson's ROOM ON THE BROOM and Mo Willems' ELEPHANT AND PIGGIE'S "We Are In a Play."

FIND BOOK CHARACTERS BROUGHT TO LIFE
Artists all over the world have brought storybook characters to life via sculpture. Visit Robert McCloskey's ducklings (of MAKE WAY FOR DUCKLINGS fame) in Boston's Public Garden, the winged monkeys of L. Frank Baum's THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ in Burlington, Vermont, or seventeen different characters in the Storybook Capital of Texas: Abilene (including Dr. Seuss's Horton).

BOOKS THAT INCLUDE SONGS
Sneak in a song from a book between repeat encores of "Let It Go," and you might pique their curiosity! Eric Litwin has some fun choices, both in the Pete the Cat series and his newer series, The Nuts.

And while this is a total cheat to include on this list, you have to learn the Happy Llama, Sad Llama song (complete with hand gestures) if you are going to read ANY of the Llama Llama books by beloved Anna Dewdney.

I'd love to hear if you have any other ideas for encouraging reading by not reading!

Happy (non?) reading!




Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Let's Raise Books! (a Pop Up Birthday Book-raiser)

Every once in a while you come across an organization or group that is doing such amazing things that they make YOU feel inspired and ready to take on the world. Pop-Up Birthday is that organization for me right now.

Pop-Up Birthday's Mission: 
"To provide birthday celebrations to children in foster care and create a moment of connection between the child and their caregiver.  We believe that something as simple as a birthday party has the power to provide normalcy, joy and hope in a foster child’s life."

They do something so simple, yet so powerful! What a fun and special way to make an impact in the lives of children who (unfortunately) really need to be reminded how amazing and beautiful the world can really be.

Pop-Up Birthday provides "a plastic tote filled to the brim with complete party supplies, including theme decorations, paper goods, games/craft, cake, candles, balloons, goody bags, a personalized card and gifts for the foster child." Because Laila Scott (the founder of this goodness) understands the value of books in the lives of children, each box also includes a new book. This pretty much hits upon every single thing that I love and that is good in this world (and I know there are others of you just like me out there!): BOOKS, GIFT GIVING, PAPER GOODS (giftwrap, cards and party supplies galore!), PARTY PLANNING, HELPING KIDS IN NEED, HELPING FOSTER CARE KIDDOS...so much goodness! 

As you can see, I am in love.

So, to help support Pop-Up Birthday in the best way I know how, I am raising books! Want to help?

What I'm Raising: New children's books (picture book to YA)

To donate before September 21, 2016, go HERE and pledge the number of books you are donating (1 to infinity!). My 4th and 16th pledges will receive an INSTANT WIN PRIZE (a $25 AMAZON GIFT CARD). Plus, I will match your book pledges, up to the first 20 books. To donate after September 21, 2016, simply leave me a comment on this post so we know to look for your donation!

Once you've pledged, you can either mail the book directly to me (PM me on Facebook for my physical address), or send them directly to Pop-Up Birthday!

I hope you'll come join me and take part in this book-drive for a great cause. And, if you want to volunteer or put together a box of your own, I know they would love to have your help!

Happy Reading! 


Friday, September 9, 2016

Five Books You Might Have Missed

Ahh! I can't believe I took two whole months off from blogging! It's been a crazy two months for sure, involving moving and family and writing and preschool beginnings. But I've missed you guys!

Over the summer we did lots and lots and lots of reading. There are so many wonderful children's books, and it is easy to know absolutely nothing about the ones that came out when you didn't have littles at home! Since I usually review new books, I wanted to make sure to dedicate a post or two to some of the older standouts we recently discovered that may have gone under the radar! Here are the first five. Enjoy!


Cloudette (2011)
Tom Lichtenheld
IndieBound | Amazon
Tom Lichtenheld, illustrator of wildly popular books like Good Night, Good Night Construction Site and Stick and Stone, also has several author-illustrator books under his belt. This adorable one, about a cloud who is too small to do much of anything, is definitely worth the read.

I Had a Favorite Dress (2011)
Boni Ashburn (Author), Julia Denas (Illustrator)
IndieBound | Amazon
If you've ever known a little girl who wants to wear her same favorite dress day-in and day-out, then this is a read for you! This little girl's crafty mother helps her convert her favorite dress into new things each time they become too small or otherwise impractical (tank tops aren't allowed at school). "Snip, snip, sew, sew!"

Take Away the A (2014)
Michael Escoffier (Author), Kris Di Giacomo (Illustrator)
IndieBound | Amazon
A great way to introduce word play in an imaginative alphabet book. Though some of the complexity might be lost on younger readers, they'll still love the beautiful illustrations as they make their way through the alphabet (my favorite is "I," when stairs become stars). Older readers will have a lot of fun deciphering what words will become with missing letters. And don't forget to look for the mouse!


Whopper Cake (2007)
Karma Wilson (Author), Will Hillenbrand (Illustrator)
IndieBound | Amazon  
Rhyme done right. Wilson's rhyme uses clever word pairings and never misses a beat: "Today is Grandma's birthday/and Granddad has an itchin'/to bake a whopper chocolate cake/and traumatize the kitchen." And the fun doesn't end with the story...you can even bake your own whopper cake with the included recipe!


Ben Draws Trouble (2015)
Matt Davies
IndieBound | Amazon
The sequel to the also popular Ben Rides On, Davies' Ben Draws Trouble features a little boy who can't quite focus on what he's supposed to, as he is always lost in his drawings...until a teacher takes notice of his skills and helps channel his talents.


Happy reading! 

Keep an eye out for some exciting news about upcoming giveaways next week!  
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