Lima Beans Make Me Gag

Posted May 30, 2013 by cathyso3
Categories: Special Days

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I love vegetables, but DO NOT serve me lima beans. They make me gag. Maybe it was the way my mom cooked them – dry as a bone and hard to swallow. Despite that, she must have done something right because I’m all in for fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s a good thing because June is National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month. Arugula. Okra. Romanesco. Kumquats. Quince. Salmonberries. YUM!

Okay, maybe you’re not into exotic fruits and vegetables, but carrots, broccoli, green beans, apples, bananas and pears are perfectly safe choices. Take a trip to your local grocery store. Peruse the fruit and veggie aisle. Don’t pass by these delicious treasures. Grab a handful and step into a healthy new world. Remember your mother’s wise words:  “Fruits and vegetables are good for you!”

Munch and crunch! Chomp and chew!

Fruits and veggies good for you!

Take a bite out of these delicious books.


Green Beans, Potatoes, and Even Tomatoes written by Brian P. Cleary and illustrated by Martin Goneau

The rhyming text in this book moves at a quick pace and keeps interest at a high level. The illustrations are colorful and fun while providing excellent information on the nutritional value of vegetables. Whether they’re sliced, diced, peeled, or steamed, vegetables are a perfect choice to keep you healthy.


The Vegetables We Eat written and illustrated by Gail Gibbons

This nonfiction book presents a wide variety of vegetables that grow in different shapes, sizes, and colors. The author explains how vegetables are categorized by the way we eat them. Accompanying illustrations help the reader learn the different categories of vegetables such as tuber, stem, and root. Gibbons explains the different ways to grow and harvest vegetables and how they get to the grocery store for consumers to buy. This book is chock-full of information for the mind and body.


Go, Go, Grapes! A Fruit Chant written by April Pulley Sayre

Do you want to be a cheerleader? If you do, this book is for you! April Pulley Sayre offers a fast-paced cheer for fruit. Vivid photographs and text with rhyme and rhythm make this book a real winner.

Also check out Rah, Rah, Radishes!


Gregory, the Terrible Eater written by Mitchell Sharmat and illustrated by Jose Aruego and Ariane Dewey

Gregory, a young goat, is a fussy eater. He only wants to eat “fruits, vegetables, eggs, fish, bread, and butter.” His parents are horrified! Goats eat cans, boxes, shoes, paper, and the like. With much patience, Gregory’s parents slowly introduce hearty goat food into his diet with a bit of his healthy food included. The mix is just right.


Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! written by Candace Fleming and illustrated by G. Brian Karas

Mr. McGreely plants a garden he has always wanted. Lettuce, peas, carrots, and tomatoes are his choice. Alas, hungry bunnies attack his garden. Muncha! McGreely is determined to stop them. He builds a fence, walls, and trenches to deter the hungry bunnies. Mr. McGreely thinks he has won the battle, but, unbeknownst to him, the bunnies have outsmarted him. The text provides interactive participation with its repetitive “Muncha! Muncha! Muncha!” Make sure to scope out the bunnies hiding in the illustrations.

June is National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month and Dairy Month. Eat, drink, and be healthy!


Posted May 23, 2013 by cathyso3
Categories: Life

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My daughter is getting married. The good news is I’m thrilled she has found someone wonderful. The bad news is I have to purchase a mother of the bride dress. This may seem like a trivial thing to some, but for me it’s colossal!

I hate to shop. Having a personal shopper who knows exactly how to find the perfect clothes for my body type would be ideal. As I get older, I have found my body does weird things. It revolts against everything I do to try to keep it in check. No matter how much I exercise or how well I eat, things keep happening to my body – ugly things – wrinkles, sun damage, sagging parts, and added weight. This is one time I’d like to be a man and just get measured for a groom-chosen tux. In and out. No hassle.

With my body baggage in mind, I began to look for a mother of the bride dress. I planned my strategy. I started by looking online. The first thing I noticed was the mother of bride dresses were being modeled by what looked like twentysomethings with perfect figures. In my mind, I’m still twenty-six, but in my body I AM NOT A TWENTYSOMETHING! Show me real everyday moms in these dresses.

I found a few dresses I thought would work for me. I went to the bridal salons that had them and tried them on. The dresses DID NOT look the same on me. I don’t need a bridal salon. I need a saloon!!! My mind was running wild. I was hysterical. Can I lose twenty pounds in two months? I took a deep breath and calmed myself. It’s taken me years to put on these pounds. My body is certainly not going to let that extra weight go without an all-out fight! I chose a new strategy. I picked out the ugliest of ugly dresses I could find and tried them on. They provided a good laugh, which helped with my overall mental and physical health.

The good news is I finally did find a dress. The bad news is someone politely said, “It’s slimming.” A better comment would have been, “You look gorgeous!”

Thank you very much!

Here are some great picture books where, unlike my experience, dressing up can be a fun experience.

The Very Fairy Princess Here Comes the Flower Girl   written by Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton and illustrated by Christine Davenier

Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed written and illustrated by Mo Willems

Pinkalicious Flower Girl written and illustrated by Victoria Kann

Love A Tree

Posted May 16, 2013 by cathyso3
Categories: Picture Books, Poetry

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Today is LOVE A TREE DAY!  Every tree offers something magical – fragrant blossoms, cool shade, perfect climbing branches, colorful autumn leaves, oxygen, fruits, nuts, homes for animals, hiding places. I can’t imagine a landscape without a tree. Trees are a gift to us.

When I was in grade school, we had to memorize Joyce Kilmer’s poem, “Trees.” There were giggles and shades of embarrassment as the words, breast and bosom, stumbled out of our mouths. But the poem has stuck with me. I can still recite it, and I no longer get embarrassed when I do. Kilmer’s poem reads like a thank you prayer. The words in the last line —“But only God can make a tree”— are  powerful words and food for thought.

Here are some tree books that offer some food for thought.

A Tree Is Nice written by Janice May Udry and illustrated by Marc Simont

This book is a Caldecott Award Winner. In simple text, Udry tells how a tree can bring enjoyment to all.

Someday a Tree written by Eve Bunting and illustrated by Ronald Himler

Careless dumping of toxic materials destroys a beloved tree, but a little girl discovers something she can do to make others hope for a new beginning.

The Giving Tree written and illustrated by Shel Silvertein

A relationship between a boy and tree demonstrates unconditional love.

The Grandad Tree written by Trish Cooke and illustrated by Sharon Wilson

An apple tree grows and changes through the seasons just like the children’s grandad changes through the season of his life. Watching nature, the children realize special memories will never die.

Give a tree a hug today!

Planting Seeds of Knowledge

Posted May 9, 2013 by cathyso3
Categories: Picture Books

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It’s seventy degrees. The sun is out. I have a smile on my face.

It was a wicked winter to say the least. With these warms days upon us, I think it’s safe to say spring has finally arrived. Good-bye you extra boots, mittens, scarf, hat, and coat. You’ve overstayed your welcome. You’ve taken up  space in the back seat of my car for the last seven months! It’s time to get out.

Spring means new life. Crocuses, daffodils, and tulips brighten drab landscapes. Surprise seeds planted by animals and wind begin to burst forth. It’s a time to get outside and discover those new treasures.

Here are some fabulous nonfiction picture books that are sure to make you smile. Go ahead. Plant a seed in your brain and let your knowledge grow.


Planting the Wild Garden written by Kathryn O. Galbraith and illustrated by Wendy Anderson Halperin is a beautiful book with soft colors filled with pictures of animals and seeds. Galbraith’s lyrical language and clever use of onomatopoeic words add to the enjoyment of the book while educating readers on how seeds are planted in nature.


The Reason for a Flower written and illustrated by Ruth Heller is a perfect book to pair with the one above. Heller’s illustrations are bright and inviting. The simple rhyming text explains how flowers are pollinated, how seeds are spread, and how seeds grow. Scientific terms are easily understood through Heller’s text and illustrations.


Another educational book that explains the journey of a seed is A Seed Is Sleepy written by Dianna Hutts Aston and illustrated by Sylvia Long. Each page has lyrical text and detailed illustrations along with an explanation of what happens to a seed. It’s an ideal pick for learning about seeds and nature.


Seeds travel everywhere. Take a peek at Flip, Float, Fly  Seeds on the Move written by JoAnn Early Macken and illustrated by Pam Paparone. A puff of wind sends seeds soaring. Page after page reveals new information about seeds and where they go. Like a giant microscope, Paparone’s illustrations zero in on the details of certain seeds and how they go from seed to flower to fruit. This book is fun and educational.

Now smile and go plant some seeds.


The Princess in Us

Posted May 2, 2013 by cathyso3
Categories: Picture Books

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At a recent writing conference I attended, I won a simply charming picture book in a raffle. The Very Fairy Princess was written by the mother/daughter combo of Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton and was illustrated by Christine Davenier.  

photo (17)

Princess books are in high demand in our school library with the kindergarten and first grade girls. If one girl wants to check one out, they all do. Sometimes, out of curiosity, the boys get involved, too! I guess we secretly all want to be a princess or a prince. If we can’t be one, the next best thing is to read about one.

I highly recommend The Very Fairy Princess. It’s funny and heart-warming. Geraldine, the little fairy princess, is a spunky gal. She has a crown, wings, and shades of pink, purple and red are her favorite colors to wear. This fairy princess is also very practical and dispenses some first-rate advice that is perfect for young children. “You can be whatever you want to be. You just have to let your sparkle out!” If you like this book, you’re sure to enjoy the rest in this series.

Whether it’s a crown, a certain dress, fairy wings, a favorite T-shirt, blue jeans, or a smile, sometimes that one special item makes you feel good inside which makes you shine on the outside. That’s a wonderful thing!

Let your sparkle out today!

Memories From A Long Weekend

Posted April 25, 2013 by cathyso3
Categories: Life

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It’s a mother’s dream to be actively involved with her daughter’s wedding plans. Mother and daughter shopping for wedding dresses, looking for flowers, choosing invitations … I was eagerly looking forward to all of that.

Our visit to the east coast was set. My husband and I got great airline fares. It was going to be a perfect long weekend of wedding planning with our daughter and her fiancé. It was a dream come true.



Not a dream.

A nightmare.

It began with our arrival at O’Hare Airport in the pouring rain. The day before our airline had experienced a system failure. Travelers were still trying to get out of Chicago. HA! No problem for us. Our 8:20 evening flight was on time. The rain continued, but we were safe and comfortable as we waited to board.

We watched buckets of rain splash on the tarmac. It looked like we needed an ark not an airplane. Lightning flashed, thunder rumbled, and the deluge continued. On-time flights suddenly became canceled flights. Along with hundreds of other people, we found ourselves up a creek without a paddle.

There was a mad dash to get into the rescheduling line. To be safe, we also used our phone to reschedule. We did everything we possibly could to get a flight out of Chicago. Bad news.  According to the airlines, there were no flights available for us until Friday morning. FRIDAY? FRIDAY? That was two days away! Appointments we had scheduled for wedding plans would be missed!

It was 10:30 in the evening — time to rethink our situation. We decided to get a hotel room and keep on phoning the airlines. Alas, there were no rooms at the inns. Full, full, full was the word, and the roads around O’Hare were flooded. With no place to go, we chose the next best thing to pass the time. We headed to the airport hotel. Following suitcases being pulled by other weary travelers, we went straight to the bar. We remained there until it closed. It was then my wonderful husband took me to a cozy corner in the hotel lobby where we camped out on the floor for the night. We were not alone. There were many other flightless people littering the lobby floor. It was romance at its best!

As I watched the lightning and rain, my husband continued to call the airlines to reschedule our flight. At 2:45 am success was ours! He had managed to obtain a flight for us early the next morning. Being persistent does pay off.

I’d like to erase that night from my memory bank, but the memories from the visit with our daughter and her fiancé made up for the stressful events that had previously happened. AND after visiting numerous bridal stores, the dress choice is down to two. Now that’s success!

If you like flying and airplanes, check this book out.

 Moon Plane, written and illustrated by Peter McCarty, was a 2006 Charlotte Zolotow Award winner. A young boy sees an airplane in the sky and wonders what it would be like to be on it. Using muted colors, McCarty depicts the boy on the plane flying over a car, a train, a boat, and all the way to the moon and back home to his mother. The illustrations and simple text produce an overall good feeling. That’s the type of flying experience I would have liked to have had!

Tips from a Writing Conference

Posted April 18, 2013 by cathyso3
Categories: Conferences

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Once again, SCBWI-Iowa hosted another fantastic conference. The members of the Iowa chapter are not only extremely talented, but they are some of the nicest people I’ve met. This year’s theme was “The Sky’s the Limit,” and I’m still flying high from an overload of valuable information from a very knowledgeable group of speakers.

Take a look at this lineup!

Bonnie Bader- Editor-in-Chief, Warne & Early Readers Grosset & Dunlap, a Division of Penguin Young Reader

Patti Ann Harris- Senior Art Director, Little Brown Books for Young Readers

Stephanie Pitts- Assistant Editor, Schwartz & Wade, Random House

Jennifer Mattson- Literary Agent, Andrea Brown Literary Agency

Rebecca Janni- Author from Iowa

Alice McGinty- Author from Illinois

Pat Zietlow Miller- Author from Wisconsin

Here are a few tips from the speakers at the conference.

Picture books are back! Yes, after a few slow years, editors are looking to acquire picture book manuscripts once again. Here’s what editors want in the picture book genre:  Short books 250-500 words, clever concepts, humor, unique voice, and character-driven books. Think visually. Now get to work on a new manuscript or dust off a manuscript you filed away and write something amazing!

There is a need for leveled readers to go along with the Core Curriculum Standards. If you are thinking in terms of writing a series, there must be a hook and you must have at least three story ideas. Each book should have a catchy title and must stand alone. Nonfiction is also being considered for the leveled readers.

Oral pitches should be no longer than thirty seconds. Take a look at Jill Esbaum’s (Iowa author) post from for crafting a one sentence synopsis or “elevator pitch.”

In the YA category, contemporary realistic fiction is the trend. Zombies and paranormal are out for now.

When writing, word choice, language, style, voice, and pacing are key.

A note on cover letters:  They should be short and concise – no frills! If you’ve been published and are an SCBWI member, include that information.

Writing conferences are beneficial. If you have the opportunity to attend one – go! You come away with new friends and worthwhile information.

Happy writing!

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