Monthly Archives: November 2011

Discovering ideas Day 20

I’ve made it to day 20!  I love the PiBoIDMo concept, because the month of November is purely dedicated to the discovery phase of creative writing. My PiBoIdMo journal is a glorious mess of thoughts, quotes, lists, characters, titles, memories, collages, and doodles. There may be a full blown idea in there somewhere, but most need more time to steep.  Creative writing is a complicated and time-consuming process, and I don’t think the journey is quite the same for any two writers. Discovery requires the writer to look at the world through an imaginative lens; to see something extraordinary in the otherwise mundane. The inner editor is silent while the creative soul soars! A great idea is a diamond. When you find one, let it dance in the light.

If writing is thinking and discovery and selection and order and meaning, it is also awe and reverence and mystery and magic….Authors arrive at text and subtext in thousands of ways, learning each time they begin anew how to recognize a valuable idea.”

-Toni Morrison


Read a book, give a book! Day 19

Don’t you love it when you discover something great by accident? That is exactly what happened to me today.  A random Google search led me to an amazing online literacy initiative that I plan to share with everyone I know! It is called We Give Books and it is sponsored by the Pearson Foundation. When you visit the We Give Books website you will find a free e-book library filled with some of the latest and greatest picture books for ages 0-10. (Pearson is adding new books every month!) Each time you finish reading an e-book, simply click “Give a Book” at the bottom, and Pearson will donate a picture book to a child in need via the campaign of your choice. (You must set up an account in order to choose one of the five literacy campaigns that Pearson supports.  You only have to provide your name and an email address to participate.)  It’s that simple! I chose LitWorld, a campaign that is currently giving books to the children of the Navajo Nation.

Participating in a literacy initiative like We Give Books is a wonderful way to encourage your children to love reading while also teaching them to give to other children who may not be as fortunate.  I know what we’ll be doing in the library after the Thanksgiving break!

Here is a link to the site:  I have also added a We Give Books Widget to my page.

Award winning authors give books!


What is Mrs. K. reading today?

I finished reading A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park, and I highly recommend it. The story is based on the real life experiences of one of the Lost Boys of Sudan. I also highly recommend a picture book about the Lost Boys of Sudan called Brothers in Hope: The Story of the Lost Boys of Sudan written by Mary Williams and illustrated by Gregory Christie (2005).

I cannot wait to start reading my next YA historical fiction choice An Elephant in the Garden by Michael Morpurgo.  (Michael Morpurgo is also the bestselling author of War Horse.) I haven’t read any reviews of this book, but I have high hopes for it. A book about an elephant set in war torn Dresden in 1938 sure sounds like an interesting read to me.  I’ll keep you posted!

Librarians rule Day 18

Tonight’s post is going to be short and sweet, and anyone who works in education or knows someone who works in education will understand why!

Here is my submission for Perfect Picture Book Friday.  Thank you, Susanna Leonard Hill, for another great idea! If you would like information about other perfect picture books to read with your children or students, visit Susanna’s Perfect Picture Books list today!


How Rocket Learned to Read

Written and illustrated by Tad Hills

Schwartz & Wade Books 2010, fiction

Suitable for:  Preschool-Grade 1 (Ages 4-7)

Themes/Topics: reading, friendship, seasons

Opening and Brief Synopsis: “Rocket loved to play.  He loved to chase leaves and chew sticks.  He loved to listen to the birds sing.” One day as Rocket looks for a place to take a nap after playing all day, a little yellow bird announces that it is time for school!  She tells Rocket that she is his teacher and that he is going to learn how to read.

Links to Resources:

Why I like this book: This is a jewel of a story, and it is all about the love of reading.  I think it has the power to inspire children who are just learning to read. The illustrations are also adorable!

Thankfully, I have my daily PiBoIdMo idea courtesy of one of my wonderful students.  (I totally misinterpreted her illustration, but she was not offended. She liked my idea and changed her picture!) I won’t give it away except to say this: it is holiday themed. I’ve never been inspired to write a holiday picture book, but I can already see this one taking shape in my mind!

All week I have been sharing my Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart pop-up books with my fourth graders, because they will be visiting  the “Wizards of Pop” exhibit at the Visual Arts Center the Monday that we return from Thanksgiving.  Robert Sabuda has a great website with tons of great pop-up templates ranging from easy to very difficult. I chose one of the easy ones for my students to put together (a rabbit in motion) and ran it off on card stock.  We have had so much fun this week putting them together! There is no greater joy than seeing the “oh!” expression on a child’s face when he sees his pop-up creation come to life.  Many students colored their rabbits, drew meadows for them to run through, and wrote titles on the covers of their mini books.  One of my GT boys drew a shark’s mouth around the poor little bunny! Now that’s thinking outside the box!

Tonight I’ll close with a quote:

“What can I say? Librarians rule.”

-Regis Philbin

Right back at ya, Reg!

Thank you, Pat Mora! Day 17

Pat Mora is a well-known name in the world of children’s lit. Mora’s books add a  much needed multicultural flavor to the world of children’s picture books and literature for young adults. My favorite Pat Mora book is Tomás and the Library Lady. This story is based on the Texas born educator Tomás Rivera.  It is about  his relationship with the librarian who first checked out a library book to him during a summer stay in Iowa when he was a boy.  Tomás was the son of migrant working parents and had no permanent address, so the librarian checked out two books to Tomás under her own name. I love this story!

Not only is Pat Mora an award winning author of books for children, teens, and adults, but she is also an advocate for teachers AND librarians! You go, Pat Mora!  I ordered one of her latest books for educators today called Zing! Seven Creativity Practices for Educators and Students. The reviews sound really promising, and I can’t wait to add it to our professional collection.  Other great titles by Pat Mora include Doña Flor, The Race of Toad and Deer (a re-telling of a Mayan folktale) , and Yum! ¡MmMm! ¡Que Rico! Many of her books for children are printed in both English and Spanish. To learn more about Pat Mora, her books, and her ideas on creativity, click on the blue  Bookjoy icon to the right.


Now it’s time for What is Mrs. K. reading today?

I finished the Liberation of Gabriel King, and I recommend it.  The message in the story is a good one, and its delivery is fairly original.
Now I am reading A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park. (I have to admit that I really want to finish this blog today so I can read the ending!) If you need a little perspective in your life, try reading this book. Two characters tell parallel stories that take place during two different time periods in Southern Sudan.  Both stories revolve around water, of course, and survival. Linda Sue Park is another award-winning author who has written a number of outstanding multicultural books for young readers. For more about Linda Sue Park, visit


Tonight when I take out my PiBoIdMo journal, I am going to write down some of my memories of growing up in a multicultural neighborhood.  I grew up with kids from India, Taiwan, Mexico, the Philippines, and Vietnam. My friends were always interested in learning about one another’s cultures and tolerance was the norm in my little world. I am already recalling some great memories that will make fantastic PB ideas. Time to journal!

In the great green room… Day 16

A few years ago my parents retired, sold their home in South Texas, and moved to North Texas where I have lived for the past fifteen years. They packed boxes upon boxes of old toys, clothes, and beloved books from my childhood which are now stacked in my closet and attic. Looking through all of those old books certainly brings back pleasant memories. Here are five of my favorite childhood books straight out of the box.


 The first book, The Top of the Pizzas, was probably my favorite and is now out of print. Many of us own copies of  The Little Engine that Could and Goodnight Moon, and I can’t imagine that either title will ever go out of print. What makes a picture book timeless? How do some stories manage to defy generational gaps while others fizzle out after a decade or so?

Goodnight Moon is a classic picture book first published in 1947.  This book has since been printed in over six languages and is one of the most recognizable picture books of all time. The author of Goodnight Moon, Margaret Wise Brown, was an interesting character who published hundreds of picture books for children during her short lifetime. Wise believed that children wanted to hear stories about the “here and now,” and she is credited as one of the first picture book authors to apply this philosophy to her writing for young children.

To read the full article about this fascinating author, go to

Librarians build and weed collections, and the rule of thumb for collection development is that you only order titles with current publication dates unless the books are essential to the collection.  We are picky when it comes to classics.  In my collection, you will find books by Margaret Wise Brown, Ezra Jack Keats, Eric Carle, Don Freeman, and Bill Martin, Jr. So what do these classic authors have in common?  Why are their books still so popular with children? When I read one of these classic stories aloud to my little ones at school, something magical happens-that’s the best way I can explain it.  The text is concise and lyrical, and the illustrations are simple, captivating and original. These are the “read it again!” books that never get old.

Enjoy this musical rendition of Goodnight Moon. Goodnight!

Grumpy Librarian Day 15

On a happy note…It’s Day 15, and I’m halfway home!

So how do you begin to generate PB ideas when you have had the most awful, rotten, stinky, I’d like to punch somebody in the nose kind of day? Everybody has days like these, including children. You might as well write about ‘em!

Here are some notable children’s books about bad days:

Alexander and the Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, by Judith Viorst

Mean Soup, by Betsy Everett

When Sophie Gets Angry-Really Really Angry, by Molly Bang

The Grouchy Lady Bug, by Eric Carle

Grumpy Cat, by Brita Teckentrump

Children love these stories, because they can easily relate to the main characters. When I read these stories aloud, my students always encourage the protagonist in hopes that he/she will find a solution and eventually happiness. Anger, sadness, grumpiness, and utter despair are feelings that children experience in a very real way.  A stolen pencil may seem trivial to us, but to a child who just bought that shiny purple pencil from the pencil machine, it is a real tragedy! Addressing emotions in picture books validates a child’s right to feel angry, frustrated, or disappointed. It can also provide hope for a better experience or a fresh new day.

I love reading to my students!

Rockin’ it old school Day 14

Twenty-first century learners are growing up in a vastly different world.  Technological playthings are easily accessible and oh so convenient. Parents,  before you hand over that iPad, read a book to your kid!   How can it be that a child grows up without having had a single book read to her at home? Parents have the power and the privilege to instill a love of reading in a young child’s heart. Teachers and librarians can’t do it alone.

One of my second grade students wore a shirt today that said, “Rockin’ it Old School,”  and it had a picture of a record on it. I told the boy that I liked his shirt and that I listened to records when I was his age.  His reply was, “What are records?”  I pointed to his shirt and explained that the picture on his shirt was a record and that a record played music. He looked really confused.

So here is my “old school” top ten list. Maybe I will even get a PB idea or two out of it.

10. Cabbage Patch Kids

9. E.T

8. eight track tapes

7. Chutes and Ladders

6. parachute pants

5. bad perms

4. Thriller

3. no cable TV

2. acid wash everything

1. telephones that were (gasp) attached to the wall!!

Funny, I didn’t feel deprived in the least growing up.  So what are you rockin’ old school?

Dinosaur bones and scary stories! Day 13

My dogs chew through rawhide bones really quickly. My husband returned from a shopping trip to Wal-Mart today with this:

He thought that Cate and Sebastian would share the bone, but Cate grabbed it first and proceeded to nick every piece of furniture in the house with it. I will probably have to repaint the walls after they are done with this thing. PB idea??


NEW! What is Mrs. K. reading today?

Today I started a young adult novel called The Liberation of Gabriel King by K.L. Going. (2005) The story is set in a small rural town in Georgia in 1976.  Gabriel, the protagonist, is scared of everything-spiders, bullies, basements… His best friend Frita, the first black girl to attend his school, is determined to “liberate” Gabriel from all of his worries so he will move up to the fifth grade with her. (Gabriel has decided to stay in the fourth grade.) This book is ripe with historic and current themes like bullying, racism in the South, fear, friendship, and loyalty.  So far I am really enjoying it. Stay tuned!

Liberation of Gabriel King____________________________________________________________________________________________

What sort of books do students ask me for the most in the library? Why SCARY books, of course! We have a huge selection of scary chapter books/novels from which to choose, but not as many really good scary (not too scary!) picture books for the younger ones. I’m keeping an eye out for new scary picture books to order for the library. In the mean time, I might as well write one! I took the “what if” idea for generating ideas and added a bit of scary to it. Here are a few of my scary “what if’s”:

1. What if my sister is stolen by zombies?

2. What if a ghost follows me home from school and wants to stay for dinner?

3. What if a goblin wants to be my best friend?

You get the idea. Kids love a scary story-as long as there is a funny or comforting ending. A scary picture book must have a little comic relief at the end (or a warm fuzzy) so children don’t have nightmares after reading it!

Kodak Moments Day 12

The time really got away from me today.  I hope I can post before midnight!

I spent several hours today searching through family albums with my mother. We had a great time reminiscing and laughing at things we hadn’t thought about in years. I was on a mission to find pictures for my PB photo inspiration box. Here’s what the outside of the box looks like:

And here’s what’s inside!

I found so many inspirational pictures! A day at the beach, an eight year old me parading in my grandmother’s high heels, a devious grin…photographs capture precious moments in time.  Take some time to look through your family photos.  I’ll bet you’ll find something that will inspire you to write! I have already developed several ideas based on the photos I found today.  Photographs can provide those little details that make a story feel authentic and familiar.

On a different note…I bought a copy of Sabuda and Reinhart’s Encyclopedia Mythologica today at Barnes and Noble. It was in surprisingly good shape-just one ripped paw. I’m gearing up for the Wizards of Pop exhibit coming to town next weekend.  Our fourth graders are taking a field trip to the Visual Arts Center after Thanksgiving to see it, so I am taking my books to school this week to share with them.  Can’t wait to meet Michael Reinhart next Saturday and take the gallery tour! I am such a nerd!!

Now I’m off to journal!

Lessons from Mem Fox Day 11

Fun Friday Foto is really Fan-tastic! Thanks, Susanna, for this wonderful idea!

Theme is hibernation…I had a hard time choosing a favorite!

My cat Dakota finds interesting places to hibernate…

This is my sweet little Cate the night I brought her home from the animal shelter.


Mem Fox is hands down my favorite writer of picture books for young children. I met her in 2002 at the International Reading Conference in San Francisco. I was a 26 year old reading teacher who knew absolutely nothing about her or her philosophy about reading aloud to young children. (the horror!)  I scarcely realized at that time what an incredible impact she would have on my life as a teacher and librarian. On that April day in 2002,  Mem taught me and a room full of reading teachers the “right” way to read a picture book aloud.  Ten years later I still utilize Mem’s techniques when I read aloud to my students, and I often think about her when I come across a picture book that is oh-so-read-aloud-able.

Picture book writers must consider the read-aloud potential of their stories when writing and revising manuscripts.  A picture book should lend itself to rhythmic readability. A great read-aloud speaks to the reader and tells her which words or phrases to stre-e-e-etch,  which syllables to stress, and when to quicken!!! or slow… the pace of the text to match the action in the story. Writing a picture book is a fine art, and I admire anyone who can do it well.

Mem has a link on her site called So you want to write a picture book… I was impressed by her sage advice and her brutal honesty with writers new to the business.  Here are a few things that I learned from Mem today:

1. Do NOT self publish! Mem knows people who have lost their homes due to the debt incurred by self-publishing.

2. “Unless you are an art-school trained illustrator don’t even think of doing the pictures yourself.”

3. Keep your word-count under 500.

4. Don’t ask your friend to illustrate your book-even if you think he/she is really good. The publisher will most likely reject it.

5. Keep your cover letter simple, and don’t be discouraged by rejections.

6. Send your manuscript to one publisher at a time. You might as well get an agent while you’re at it as many publishers will only accept manuscripts from agents.

Many new lessons learned today from the one and only Mem Fox! Here is a link to the full article:

P.S. If you are a parent, teacher, librarian, or anyone who impacts the lives of young children, you must read Mem’s book Reading Magic. No excuses!