Monday, March 31, 2014

Where Does Creativity Come From?

"People aren’t born creative. They don’t learn to be creative. They just keep practicing being creative every day."
Rob Sanders

Cowboy bookplate courtesy Bookplate Ink

Friday, March 28, 2014

Miracles on Maple Hill

In lieu of Perfect Picture Book Friday, here is a Middle Grade classic.

Cover art by Kevin Hawkes
Miracles on Maple Hill
Written by Virginia Sorensen
Harcourt, 1956
Fiction, ages 10 and up
180 pages

Winner of the Newbery Medal in 1957, Miracles on Maple Hill is a family feel-good novel. It tells the story of Marly, whose family is falling apart when her dad returns from the service with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Marly and her brother learn to adapt to their new surroundings over the backdrop of sugaring season, with the help of their unusual community of neighbors.

Although I love the more recent cover by Kevin Hawkes, the original illustrators were kidlit legends Beth and Joe Krush.

1. Read other Newbery novels at ALA.
2. Learn more about maple syrup or visit a farm like Madava to watch the process first-hand.
3. Prepare some scratch pancakes and order authentic syrup from Paul Bunyan's Sugar Camp to celebrate the season.
4. Explore the stresses faced by veterans. Visit a VA hospital or organize a service project. Support our troops, and give them your gratitude.
5. Visit a modern farm or petting zoo complete with baby goats.
6. I highly recommend the Full-Cast Audio edition for long car trips.
7. Visit the author's birthplace and exhibit at the Hurry Hill Maple Farm Museum.
8. If you enjoyed this book, here are a few more you might enjoy about Sugaring from Naturally Educational. Or try these favorites.

YA about PTSD
strong sense of place
PB legend
PB classic on farm life
By the same author

Perfect Picture Book Friday will return on April 4, 2014. Please hop to Susanna Leonard Hill's blog to read the finalists for the March Madness Fractured fairy tale contest or check last Thursday's post for my entry, Goldie and the Three Squirrels. Voting begins today.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

IF, Red

Here's my last minute entry for the Illustration Friday topic "RED"

Image detail of Red Riding Hood by Joanne Roberts

Monday, March 24, 2014

Maximum Effort

"If you can’t excel with talent, triumph with effort."
- Dave Weinbaum

Bookplate by Gadso Weiland

Friday, March 21, 2014

Rain Is Not My Indian Name

Since there are no Perfect Picture Book Friday reviews today, I thought I'd share a Middle Grade book instead.

Excellent audio edition
of Rain Is Not My Indian Name
available from
Listening Library/Random House Audio
narrated by Jenna Lamia
Rain Is Not My Indian Name
Written by Cynthia Leitich Smith
HarperCollins, 2001
Fiction, ages 10 and up
144 pages

This book was very well written in an authentic voice. Generally teenage angst is not a subject I would rate highly, but Cynthia Leitich Smith has created a compelling glimpse into her character's life. The main character and her world may not be in the realm of many readers' experience, but the writing draws you in, and makes you believe in this girl, sympathize with her, want to know where her journey ends. Thought-provoking and fresh, Rain is Not My Indian Name is high on my list of choices for reluctant readers from middle grade up. One should note there are topics discussed in this book which may be mature for younger readers, but they are handled thoughtfully and with appropriate language.

1. Take a group of teens on a photo scavenger hunt. Make a list of places and objects to photograph or compose a list of crazy stunts like posing your group making faces with a stranger, jumping in the air simultaneously, or all blowing bubbles at the same time (bonus points for taking the shot through a window or in a mirror).
2. Improve your teen's digital photography skills with tips from the Digital Photography School.
3. Subscribe to a photography newsletter for teens.
4. TeenInk publishes articles, photographs, and videos exclusively by young people.
5. Learn more about bridge-building competitions. University of Minnesota Duluth
6. Discover your heritage at the National Archives.
7.  Learn how to research your American Indian* roots step-by-step.
8. If you enjoyed this book, here are a few more you might enjoy.

Indian Shoes,
by Cynthia Leitich Smith
Walk Two Moons,
by Sharon Creech
by Pat MacLachlan
Disappearing Act,
by Sid Fleischman

Stay tuned next Friday for another review of books for older readers. Perfect Picture Book Friday will return on April 4, 2014. Please hop to Susanna Leonard Hill's blog to read the entries for the March Madness Fractured fairy tale contest or check Thursday's post for my entry, Goldie and the Three Squirrels. Voting begins next week.

*I use the term American Indian, because one of the elders of the tribe I stayed with several summers ago took offense to the term Native American. He asked me to say Indian or American Indian when referring to his people.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Fractured Fairy Tale Contest Entry

It's time again for Susanna Leonard Hill's spring contest.

Welcome to the March Madness Contest. Below is my entry for the twisted traditional tale in under 400 words (395 to be exact.)

Thanks for reading. Pop over the river and through the woods to read the other entries. Mark your calendar for March 27th. That's the day you'll be able to return to Susanna's blog and vote for the finalist who has written the best story.

Without further ado, I present


        Once upon a time, a little girl named Goldie discovered a little cottage in the woods. The cottage was, in fact, so little that Goldie decided to take it home with her. “C’mon,” she said to her doll, “this will be the perfect house for you and Teddy.” Without another word, Goldie scooped up the cottage and bounded home.
        Goldie didn't know there were three squirrels inside the cottage: a papa, a mama, and a baby squirrel. As Goldie ran, everything inside the little house began to bounce and bump and tumble around. The kitchen chairs crashed against the walls of the little house. Papa Squirrel’s chair knocked a hole in the wall, because it was so hard. Mama Squirrel’s chair knocked her down, but she wasn’t hurt, because it was so soft. Baby Squirrel’s chair knocked into the fireplace and smashed into splinters.
        Papa Squirrel grunted. Mama Squirrel groaned. And Baby Squirrel moaned, “Boo-hoo.”
        As the cottage tipped this way and that, their bowls of acorn soup slid from the table. Papa Squirrel’s soup splattered on his shirt. “Ouch, that’s hot,” he said.
        Mama Squirrel’s soup splattered in her lap. “Brr, that’s cold,” she said.
        Baby Squirrel’s soup flew across the room and splattered against the wall.
        Papa Squirrel steamed. Mama Squirrel sighed. And Baby Squirrel cried, “Boo-hoo.”
        By now Goldie had reached her own bedroom. She put the squirrels' cottage on the floor next to her dolls, but before she could look inside, she heard her mother calling. “Goldie! Time for lunch.”
        When all was quiet, the three squirrels crawled out from under their jumbled furniture and crept into Goldie’s room. The squirrels examined everything. They climbed her bookshelves. They poked in and out of her dresser drawers. They wiped their sticky fur on her curtains, brushed their fluffy tails with her hairbrush, and nibbled some candy from her coat pocket. They searched her toy box. Finally, they explored the big, big bed.
        They were so exhausted from their adventure that Papa Squirrel curled up on the bed post, because it was very hard. Mama Squirrel snuggled into the pillow, because it was very soft. But Baby Squirrel cuddled close to Goldie’s teddy bear and fell fast asleep. Goldie returned to the room and stared wide-eyed at the mess the squirrels had made.

        Papa Squirrel slumbered. Mama Squirrel slept. And Goldie wept, “Boo-hoo.”

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Write2Ignite! Conference

If you are a Christian writer, whether your work is overtly spiritual or not, you may have difficulty finding critique partners who are able to give your manuscript the insight you are looking for. Maybe you are looking for a market for your Christian fiction, biography, or devotional. Or perhaps you just need to figure out how your beliefs fit into your writing. The Write2Ignite conference may be for you. 

Write2Ignite! Christian Writers' Conference
March 28, 29, 2014

Workshops include many of the standard fare: nuts and bolts, querying, social media, marketing, but from writers with a faith-based point of view. Representatives from multiple religious presses and publications will be on hand as well to help you make the connections you need to get your work published. 

My favorite aspect of the conference is the Teen Conference Track. I think Write2Ignite! offers an unparalleled opportunity for young people to explore their inner writer and poet. 

Check out their blog and mark your calendar.

'Hope to see you there.

Monday, March 17, 2014

How To Banish Your Troubles

“I've never known any trouble that an hour's reading didn't assuage.”
-Charles De Secondat 

Linocut by Jorgen Jensen, 1959

Friday, March 14, 2014

PPBF: Sweet Dream Pie

Celebrate National Pi Day with today's Perfect Picture Book Friday pick

Sweet Dream Pie, by Audrey Wood and Mark Teague
Sweet Dream Pie
Written by Audrey Wood
Illustrated by Mark Teague
  • Scholastic, 1998
  • Ages 4 - 9; level 4.6
word count 1040

Fantasy / Tall-tale, Cooking, Dreams

It was almost dawn on Willobee St. when Pa Brindle lit the lantern and led Ma Brindle up to their dark attic, to an old trunk draped in cobwebs.
"I haven't slept a wink tonight," Pa said. "I've been craving a piece of sweet dream pie, just like the one you made me long ago."


When Pa Brindle gets a hankerin' for Ma Brindle's magical Sweet Dream pie, it's the whole town that faces the consequences. All day long, the residents in town smell and feel the effects of the magic working. The unfortunate side-effect of over-eating is more than a stomach-ache in this case, and it is Ma Brindle who has to spend the night chasing the monsters conjured up by the neighbors' not-so-sweet dreams.

What I Love:
If you love Audrey Wood, you'll love the silly plot she cooks up in Sweet Dream Pie. The secret pie ingredients include gum drops and chocolate, so it can't be all bad. Eaten in moderation, Ma Brindle's recipe  guarantees a pleasant slumber. But who can resist just one more piece. This book is guaranteed to have young readers giggling, and it just might help them deal with bad dreams of their own. I can see it becoming a bedtime ritual for little ones with over-active imaginations.
Mark Teague delivers his usual hilarity with the kooky characters populating Willobee Street, and his clever stories within a story.

1. Celebrate in style with the Exploratorium, the museum that started it all. 26 years ago Larry Shaw began the Pi Day celebration on 3.14, and today they have a host of activities and links to share your mathematical enthusiasm. Take note that next year will be 3.1415!
2. Eat a piece of Dream Pie with this chocolaty recipe from Kraft.
3. I couldn't resist including these super-sweet cupcakes inspired by the book, from SweetTreatsBySusan.
4. Here's a cute Play-Doh activity from 3Dinosaurs.
5. For older readers, pick up a copy of Pie, by Sarah Weeks. It's one of my favorite books for 8 to 12 year-olds.
6. Look for these other related Perfect Picture Books at your local library.
Posted by GradeOneDerful
Posted by ThisKidReviewsBooks

Another Wood book,
Posted by StoryPatch

Also posted by Erik,
at ThisKidReviewsBooks

Posted by FloweringMinds
Check out all the recommended titles for Perfect Picture Book Friday
for March 14, 2014, available on Susanna Leonard Hill's excellent blog.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A Wild & Curious Series of Exhibits

The Rosenbach Museum
Philadelphia, PA

On display from artist Sue Johnson

Visit the Rosenbach Museum Friday, March 14, 2014 from 3:00pm - 4:00pm for the hands on tour celebrating Lewis Carroll / Charles Dodgson.

Up next, Sendak in the '60s goes on display Wednesday, March 26 - Sunday, November 2.

Mural by Maurice Sendak, comissioned by  the Chertoff family

The Rosenbach hosts many fabulous literary exhibits, including an artist project from Maira Kalman.
Read my review of Maira's newest book about Thomas Jefferson, or catch up on the past festivities for the museum's Sendak in the Spring event.

Read more about the recent merger of the Free Library of Philadelphia and the Rosenbach Museum collection.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Word Choice

"Words are never too big for children, as long as they are the right words."
-Jane Yolen*

AutoLithography by Karel Benes, 2004

* Courtesy SCBWI

Friday, March 7, 2014

PPBF: Cocoa Ice

Today's Perfect Picture Book Friday pick

Cocoa Ice, by Diana Appelbaum,
and Holly Meade
Cocoa Ice
Written by Diana Appelbaum
Illustrated by Holly Meade
Orchard Books, 1997
non-fiction, grades K-4
word count 2264

Non-fiction, Historical, Chocolate!

"Chocolate comes from a faraway island where birds have pink feathers, leaves grow bigger than I am tall, and it is always summer."

and the opening to the second section:

"Ice schooners come from a land where the water is so hard that people walk on the river - right on the river."

This non-fiction picture book chronicles the ice trade in Maine and the cocoa trade in Santo Domingo during the 1800s. The story is told from two perspectives. It explains how each girl thinks the other's life is strange and exotic. It details how ice is cut and transported to the islands. The book also recounts how cocoa is harvested and enjoyed in both the Carribean and New England.

What I Love:
I love the unique format for storytelling. No matter the reader's location, the dual perspectives give him a connection to the main characters. This story works in so many interesting details about the history of trade, life in the 19th century, culture, nature, and of course, chocolate. This is creative non-fiction at its finest. The cut paper and gouache illustrations are stunning. Sadly, Holly Meade left us too soon, but she left behind a bountiful legacy for future readers to enjoy.

1. Learn about the history and culture of the Dominican Republic.
2. Learn about the history and culture of Maine.
3. Try your own hot cocoa, ice cream, or compromise with hot chocolate ice cream soda.
4. Holly Meade was an accomplished print artist. The Crafty Classroom has a kid-friendly way to simulate woodcuts.
5. Look for these other Perfect Picture Books about chocolate at your local library.
posted by Natalie
posted by Susanna Leonard Hill

posted by Vivian Kirkfield

And the book everyone's been talking about,
No Monkeys No Chocolate, by Melissa Stewart,
Allen Young, and Nicole Wong

Check out all the recommended titles for Perfect Picture Book Friday
for March 7, 2014, available on Susanna Leonard Hill's excellent, chocolaty blog.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

For Reading Out Loud

Celebrate the blessings of literacy. Read to someone today.

World Read Aloud Day 2014

Monday, March 3, 2014


“If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.”
Oscar Wilde

Courtesy Antiquariat

Sunday, March 2, 2014


It's challenge time!

Feeling sluggish as the winter weather drags on? Power through those writing projects with a few March challenges.

Chapter Book Challenge 2014
Created by Rebecca Fyfe
Join the Chapter Book Challenge:
  • Spend the month of March writing your easy reader, chapter, middle grade, or YA from start to finish.
  • Earn the chance for weekly prizes 
  • Enter for the grand prize, a Kindle.
  • Study the blog posts, be encouraged, improve your craft.
  • Network with other writers just like you!
Sign up here


Participate in March Madness
Created by Susanna Leonard Hill

  • Write a fractured fairy tale in 400 words or less
  • Blog your creation March 20- 24
  • Vote for your favorite March 25-30
  • Prizes awarded March 31, 2014

See you there!