Archive for June 2010

Writing Ideas – In the Kitchen

June 29, 2010

The kitchen is not only a gathering place for dirty dishes; it’s also a gathering place for people. Think about it. The last time you hosted a party, where did the guests end up? I’ll bet it was in the kitchen! Things happen there — things that can spark ideas for creating a writing masterpiece.

Where else, but in the kitchen, can you find a gross science project in the making just by opening your refrigerator door or a ketchup bottle explosion that looks like a Friday night horror fest?

Where else, but in the kitchen, can your teenager and her friend have a Ping-Pong match using finger gelatin?

Where else, but in the kitchen, can your toddler find instruments to hone his talent as an up and coming drummer or find shriveled up grapes that cause hysteria because they’re  mistaken for bugs?

Where else, but in the kitchen, can a table be so versatile it can be a place for homework, for sewing, for art projects, for family discussions, for sibling rivalry, and for eating?

Where else, but in the kitchen, can your gourmet cooking set off the fire alarm or someone mistakenly put dishwashing soap into the dishwasher instead dishwasher detergent?    

Where else, but in the kitchen, can some of the worst moments and best moments take place?

The next time you have writer’s block or need an idea, march yourself into the kitchen. Whatever you’re looking for or whatever you need, you just may find it — IN THE KITCHEN!


A Rainbow of Books

June 25, 2010

Lately, we’ve been inundated with a series of fierce thunder storms, wickedly wild winds, and torrential rains. I’m not a big fan of storms. They scare me. But sometimes those storms come bearing gifts. Rainbows! They’re a wonder of science and nature and a delightful surprise.   

Books by authors with diverse backgrounds come bearing gifts, too. These authors provide a delightful surprise to readers by allowing them a peek into different cultures and life styles. Here are a few of my favorite books from a rainbow of authors.

What Can You Do with a Paleta? by Carmen Tafolla (Tricycle Press, 2009)

 Monsoon Afternoon by Kashmira Sheth (Peachtree Publishers, 2008)

Show Way by Jacqueline Woodson (Putnam Juvenile, 2005)

And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell (Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, 2005)

Dim Sum for Everyone! by Grace Lin (Dragaonfly Books, 2003) 

Jingle Dancer by Cynthia Leitich Smith (HarperCollins, 2000)

There are delightful surprises everywhere!

A Double Rainbow!

Death of a Picture Book

June 22, 2010

I received the news last Friday. After waiting four years for my picture book to be released, it has been canceled. Years of anticipation, excitement, hopes, and dreams evaporated as I heard the news from my agent. The reason? My book was orphaned when my original editor left for another publishing house. After a new editor took over the project, it was ultimately decided the book would not fare well in the marketplace. I had no one to root for my book – no one who truly believed in it. Friday was a sad day. It felt like a death in my family of manuscripts.

I’m aware picture books are struggling in the marketplace, but I had the false sense of security my book was safe because it was so far along in the process. I had planned multiple ways of promoting my book. I was ready to do anything to get it recognized. Now I’m back to square one.

I’m sad for my loss, but I’m also sad for the many good picture books that may not be published because of the economy. For many people, spending sixteen to eighteen dollars on just one book is not an option any longer. Then there are those people who are under the impression that once a child reaches a certain age, picture books are passé so they don’t purchase them.   

Picture books are invaluable. Children like to be read to and enjoy the visual stimulation a picture book offers. Reading to your child is a perfect way to bond and create future readers. These books provide important tools for teaching children. They are not just for the young. There are many excellent picture books written for older children, too. Picture books inform, entertain, and stimulate the imagination. If you’re a writing teacher, they’re a perfect way to teach the six traits of writing. It’s time to rally for picture books. Sing their praises. Buy one, or two, or three today.

And now like the old song, it’s time for me to “pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again.”

Meanwhile, I’m thinking that changing my name might help me in the picture book market. How about Mylie Cyrus, or Miss Piggy, or Lady Gaga?


June 18, 2010

Neighborhood garage sales! Bring ‘em on and bring out the junk. It’s time to purge the basement, attic, and house of items you no longer need. Gather them up, slap a price tag on them, and say adiós. It’s been said one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. Go for it, treasure hunters!

My husband really gets into garage sales. He was born to sell junk. I, on the other hand, don’t like garage sales. I’ll help collect stuff from the house and that’s where my job ends. I’m totally uncomfortable coercing people into buying things – especially when they’re bargain hunters, trying to beat the price down to mere pennies. It’s a no win situation for both of us. So I let my husband charm the crowds as I take refuge inside the house. When it’s over, I have one rule. Once an item leaves the inside of the house, it’s banned from ever returning. No more junk!

What is junk? According to a dictionary definition, it’s worthless things. I believe junk is really in the eye of the beholder.

Patricia Polacco has written a new book called The Junkyard Wonders. Its release date is July 8th. She is one of my favorite picture book authors and speakers. She is also a talented storyteller, and, like her books, she has the uncanny ability to evoke emotions and inspire an audience. Her newest book is about a class of nontraditional students, known as the junkyard, who are taught by a teacher who challenges their creativity and abilities. It’s based on events from her life. I’m eagerly awaiting its arrival. If it’s anything like Thank You, Mr. Falker, it’s sure to be an inspirational hit.

Thank goodness for talented authors who recognize the power of words and know how to use them to entertain and inspire. Thank goodness for teachers who recognize diamonds in the rough and know how to work with them until they shine.

It’s true. One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.

More favorites by Patricia Polacco:   Aunt Chip and the Great Triple Creek Dam Affair, The Bee Tree, Mr. Lincoln’s Way, Welcome Comfort

Free to Fly

June 15, 2010

Yesterday was Flag Day. On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress in Philadelphia adopted the Stars and Stripes as our national flag. Did you fly your flag?

If you didn’t fly Old Glory or you totally forgot it was Flag Day, you weren’t alone. Up and down the street of my neighborhood our flags were the only ones in sight. Granted, my flags are on the pitiful side, but I planted them in my flower pot proudly!

I remember after 9/11 flags flew every day from almost every house for months on end. It was inspiring to see the display of patriotism. Now it’s unusual to see flags flying from every house.  But of course, since this is the land of the free, we’re all free to choose whether or not we want to fly our flag. However, it would be a sad day if we were suddenly told that we could no longer display our national symbol. Independence Day is just around the corner. Fly our country’s flag and be proud of the country in which we live.

More about our flag for children:  The First American Flag (Our American Story) by Kathy Allen (Picture Window Books, 2009), The American Flag (Symbols of America) by Debra Hess (Benchmark Books, 2008), Flag Day by Robin Nelson (Lerner Classroom, 2009), The American Flag by Elaine Landau (Children’s Press (CT), 2008), Meet Our Flag, Old Glory by April Jones Prince (Little, Brown Young Readers, 2004).

Closed for the Summer

June 11, 2010

It’s a wrap! The library books are inventoried, put in order, and covered for the summer. The shelves have never been so jam-packed or so neat. It’s rather sad. I’d much prefer to see those books flying off the shelves and being kid-handled as students search for their favorites and discover new ones.

As I turn off the lights and lock the door to the library, I wonder. Did I do my best this year? Did I introduce students to a variety of genres and encourage them to step out of their reading comfort zone? Did I model my love of books and reading and instill those qualities in my students? Then a second grader hands me a simple note written from the heart and my confidence is refueled.

And now it’s my time to read, read, read and discover new ways to turn every student into a lifelong reader.

The Cow Stops Here

June 8, 2010

Mo-o-o-ve over! June is National Dairy Month, and Saturday the cows were out – Cows on the Wisconsin State Capital Concourse, of course, of course. “Dairy aire” was in the air. Got Milk? You betcha! White milk, chocolate milk, and strawberry milk were on the menu. There were hunka, hunks of cheese and mounds of squeaking cheese curds. If you missed breakfast or lunch, grilled cheese sandwiches were making the rounds. For dessert or an anytime treat, I scream, you scream we all scream for ice cream and don’t forget the overstuffed cream puffs. The cows were doing their best to please. It was a dairy day overload. Follow me and see. 

First stop — cows. I had a hard time getting close to the mooers. Those little kiddies wouldn’t let me in. 

A Close-Up Look

That's Big

I was looking for Alice in Dairyland, but found Natalie Salkowski, the Fairest of the Fair, instead. Notice she has a cow in her last name, and I think she’s wearing a dress designed by “Holstein.”     

Natalie Salkowski

Milk mustaches were en vogue.  

Got Milk?

There were all kinds of dairy treats. 

Good for Your Teeth and Bones

Say Cheese!

Give the Man a Cream Puff!

It was an “udderly” satisfying day. So don’t forget to celebrate National Dairy Month. Drink a glass of milk today!

Want to know more about cows and dairy products? Check these out. 

The Milk Makers by Gail Gibbons (Aladdin, 1987), Cows (Animals Animals) by Renee C. Rebman (Benchmark Books, 2009), Farm Animals Cows by Cecilia Minden (Cherry Lake Pub., 2009), Cows (Animals That Live on the Farm) by JoAnn Early Macken (Weekly Reader Early Learning Library, 2009), Ice Cream:  The Full Scoop by Gail Gibbons (Holiday House, 2008) 

For Fun:  A Big Cheese for the White House:  The True Tale of a Tremendous Cheddar by Candice Fleming (Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) 2004) 

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