Archive for January 2012

Recipe for a Picture Book

January 31, 2012

Imagine the delicious smell of homemade brownies wafting through the house. Your senses are piqued. A well-written picture book should do the same. If all the ingredients meld together perfectly, you’ll be dying for more of the same.

A picture book recipe.

Preheat your brain to 350 degrees


1 cup originality

2 cups imagination

½ cup rhythm and rhyme (rhyme optional)

½ cup creative wordplay

2 tsp.humor

1 T. Grab-Your-Heart Seasoning

Combine all ingredients. Mix well. Arrange mixture on paper. Bake until it springs to life.

Note:  There are some foods that taste much better the next day, and then there are foods that have lost all their appeal the day after. Manuscripts are a bit like this. Before sending your work to an agent or editor, a good rule of thumb is to let it rest. In a few weeks, you may find it hasn’t lost its appeal and still shines like the top of the Chrysler Building, or you may find it stinks! Let it season.

Check out these posts:

9 Factors that Make a Picture Book Successful

Writing Tips for Children’s Writers   

6 Small Changes to Help You Reach Your Writing Goals 


A Little Sick Humor

January 27, 2012

One of my students decided to sick-it-to-me! I guess that’s one of the disadvantages of being in close contact with kids. They ever so nicely cough and sneeze in your face and feel no guilt about spreading their germs.

My eyes are watering. My nose is red. I can’t breathe. I have a cold. In five minutes my first class will arrive in the library. I will entertain them with a fabulous story and share some of the germs they so generously gifted to me.

Book ready. Tissue ready. It’s library time!

One of these books might be the best medicine of all.

Llama Llama Home with Mama by Anna Dewdney (Viking Juvenile, 2011)

The Sniffles for Bear written by Bonny Becker and illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton (Candlewick, 2011)

A Sick Day for Amos McGee written by Philip C. Stead and illustrated by Erin Stead (Roaring Brook Press, 2010)

Mother, Mother, I Feel Sick; Send for the Doctor Quick, Quick Quick by Remy Charlip and Burton Supree and illustrated by Remy Charlip (Tricycle Press, 2001)

Bear Feels Sick written by Karma Wilson and illustrated by Jane Chapman (Margaret K. McElderry, 2007)


A Bevy of Winners

January 24, 2012

The wait is over. The American Library Association announced the 2012 Youth Media Award winners yesterday. Wow! Wow! Wow! Such wonderful books! Such surprises!

It’s always exciting to see who the winners are. In my “Anticipation” post, I blogged about my choices for the Caldecott and Newbery. Although none of my choices won the top prize, I was happy to see Inside Out and Back Again written by Thanhha Lai was a Newbery Honor Book, and Blackout written and illustrated by John Rocco and Me … Jane written and illustrated by Patrick McDonnell were Caldecott Honor Books. Me … Jane also won the Charlotte Zolotow Award.

Another impressive book I was pleased to see win an award was Balloons over Broadway:  The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade written by Melissa Sweet. It won the Sibert Award for the most distinguished informational book for children.

Browsing through the list of winners tells me I have a lot of great books to read. There’s no time to lose. I’m off to the library to see which books I can pick up. Ta, ta for now!

Another Classic Book

January 20, 2012

There they go again. Whining. Complaining. “I can’t do it. I can’t.” Before you pop your top at your youngsters, grab a copy of “I Can’t” Said The Ant by Polly Cameron and share it. It’s a classic!

Poor Miss Teapot has fallen to the floor and can’t get up. With catchy one-line rhymes, the objects in the kitchen persuade an ant to help.

 “Push her up,” said the cup.

 “I can’t,” said the ant.

Never fear! With encouragement from the kitchen objects and cooperation from the ant and his friends, Miss Teapot is mended and lifted to safety.

Red is the color of choice for the illustrations, and the text is done in olive green. The color palette is a bit limited compared to today’s picture books, but the rhymes make the book sparkle. Read it once. Read it twice. Read it again. You and your listeners will be repeating the one-liners over and over!

Think of the fun you can have making up your own rhymes and drawing pictures to go with them. This classic book never loses its appeal!

Overdue: What’s Your Excuse?

January 17, 2012

Seeing library books go out the door is a treat. They’re in the hands of readers on their way to success. Getting them back in the door is another matter.

There are many ways to remind students to return their books on time.

A Poster:  Tuesday is library day. Return your book.

Verbal reminders.

Written notices.

Letters home.

Last resort:  Bribes

In each of my library classes, there is at least one student who forgets to return his/her book. Some of the excuses are farfetched, but it’s always a treat to hear what comes out of the mouths of babes.

 There is one boy who is a habitual non-returner. He’s a great kid, but I think he needs a little organization in his life. Here is his latest reason for not returning his book. “The bus ride home subtracts me from remembering my library book.”  

Subtracts? Hmmm …

If I added up all the overdue fines this child has incurred and subtracted  the amount from the cost of the books he’s lost, maybe we’d come out even. Silly me. That will never happen because our library doesn’t collect fines. There is positive spin on this. The youngster must be reading those overdue books. He incorporated a new vocabulary word into his excuse, albeit incorrectly. We’ll work on that, too.

Overdue book? What’s your excuse?

Check out these books:

Beverly Billingsly Borrows a Book written and illustrated by Alexander Stadler (Harcourt Children’s Books, 2002)

Stella Louella’s Runaway Book written and illustrated by Lisa Campbell Ernst (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2001)

On Stage in the Library

January 13, 2012

When I step into the library, I become an actor. No matter how tired I am or what mood I may be in, when students arrive at the door, I greet them with a smile. The phrase, “turn that frown upside down,” comes to mind.

Getting children excited about books and reading is one of the most important parts of my job. Doing this isn’t always easy. I pick and choose different genres and give a pep talk about each book, trying to peak interest from preschool to middle school students. I read picture books, passages from nonfiction books, and excerpts from chapter books. I’ve done experiments from science books, and I’ve given academy award-winning performances in order to instill excitement about reading. In short, I do what every librarian does who loves books and kids.   

It’s rewarding to see children excited about books. The younger students never seem to have a problem finding a “just right book.” The downside is when you have that one student, usually an intermediate or middle grade student, wandering from shelf to shelf unable to find a book. No matter what you do or say, nothing seems to interest him. My next step is to find out what the student’s likes and dislikes are and tell him to come back later after I’ve pulled some books that might peak his curiosity. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. Librarians do what they need to do. 

My motto is never give up and keep on smiling!      

Here are some popular authors in our library:

Sara PennypackerRick Riordan, Lenore Look, Gary Paulsen, Lisa Yee, Rachel Renée Russell


January 10, 2012

The American Library Association Midwinter Meeting is quickly approaching. Do you know what that means? The ALA will announce the Youth Media Awards. I can’t wait to hear who all the winners are, but my two favorite awards are the Caldecott and the Newbery.

There are so many excellent books out there. Choosing is difficult. I’m not an expert, but I know what I like. Here are some of my choices.

For the Caldecott Medal:  A colorful group.

Blue Chicken written and illustrated by Deborah Freedman (Viking Juvenile, September 2011)

Blackout written and illustrated by John Rocco (Hyperion Book CH, May 2011)

Red Sled by Lita Judge (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, November 2011)

Jonathan and the Big Blue Boat written and illustrated by Philip C. Stead (Roaring Brook Press, June 2011)

Me … Jane written and illustrated by Patrick McDonnell (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, April 2011)

For the Newbery Medal: 

Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart written by Candace Fleming (Schwartz & Wade, February 2011)

The Mostly True Story of Jack written by Kelly Barnhill (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, August 2011)

Inside Out and Back Again written by Thanhha Lai (HarperCollins, February 2011)

Okay for Now written by Gary D. Schmidt (Clarion Books, April, 2011)

Bigger than a Bread Box written by Laurel Snyder (Random House Books for Young Readers, September 2011)

Will one of these books be an award winner or will the selection committee surprise us all?  What do you think?



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