Entries tagged with “Holidays”.
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Thu 14 Feb 2013
Happy Valentine’s Day!
If you’re the type to get swept up in the hype, today is a day of candy, hearts and roses.
It also might be a good day to read a book about love.
Enter Josepha, who read Love is in the Air (Penguin Young Readers, 2012) by Jonathan Fenske.
Here’s what she had to say:
Today’s guest reviewer: Josepha
Things I like to do: Go swimming, read books and be creative.
This book was about: A kite and a balloon who start being friends. They float and fly in the sky. Then, one fell and the other did too. The kite was there to catch the balloon.
The best part was when: The kite was spinning and spinning.
I was surprised when: The balloon pulled and pulled and flew up by the kite.
I was worried when: The balloon fell.
This book taught me: It’s good to make new friends.
Three words that describe this book: “Sky.” “Flight.” “Friends.”
My favorite picture in this book was: When the kite met the balloon.
My favorite words in this book were: “They flipped. They dipped. They spun in the wind.”
Other kids should read this book because: It teaches them about love and how to care for people and why you need friendships.
If you’d like to learn more about author and illustrator Jonathan Fenske, you can:
- Read this blog post about the release of Love is in the Air.
- Check out his latest book release, Guppy Up!, that just came out this month from Penguin.
And if you’re looking for more love and friendship books to read, check out this post showcasing a variety of titles. It’s called: “Why Can’t We be Friends: Tales from the Heart.”
What’s your favorite story about love or friendship?
Sun 23 Dec 2012
Christmas can be loud.
Family gatherings might include movies, cheering at televised sports, debates about who really drank the last of the eggnog, games, feats of strength and more.
But if you’re lucky, Christmas will also have some quiet times. Times to appreciate what makes the season special.
Deborah Underwood’s new picture book, The Christmas Quiet Book, is the perfect book for celebrating those quiet times, and the perfect incentive for working more of them into your celebration.
So I asked several of my family members to tell me their favorite quiet parts of Christmas — and hold Deborah’s beautiful book (which is illustrated by Renata Liwska). Here’s what they had to say:
Clark — Watching big, fat, fluffy flakes of snow falling onto a country landscape.
Pam — Now: Reading a good book next to a lit Christmas tree — a blanket and a dog on my lap and a mug of warm cider next to me. When I was younger: Lying on my stomach looking at (but not touching) the presents under the tree.
Daniel — Being alone. (Perhaps because he’s having a little too much brotherly/sisterly togetherness in the photo.)
Rebekah — Hearing Christmas music playing in the background while I’m relaxing.
Tom — Watching “It’s A Wonderful Life” as the snow falls.
Gwen — Waking up early and lying in bed realizing that it’s Christmas.
Sonia — Staying awake Christmas Eve night until I hear someone filling my stocking.
Allen — Going out for lunch with my daughter after shopping for my wife’s present. And, sitting back and looking at the tree with all of the unwrapped presents at the end of Christmas Day.
I didn’t take pictures of my mother or husband. (Not that they’re not EXTREMELY photogenic, they are!) Here’s what they had to say:
Jean — The candlelight service at church when we all hold lighted candles and sing “Silent Night.” And the second best quiet time is when I get up early on Christmas morning, and everything is ready, and I can quietly sit and anticipate everyone’s arrival.
Mark — Seeing lit candles in the window when it’s dark.
And me? My favorite quiet part of Christmas is sitting alone in a room that’s totally dark – except for the lights of the Christmas tree. That’s followed closely by eating Christmas cookies all alone in a corner of the kitchen!
What’s your favorite quiet Christmas tradition? Share it in the comments below.
If you’d like to learn more about Deborah Underwood, you can visit her website or read this interview. You also could read this kid review of Deborah’s The Loud Book.
If you’d like to learn more about Renata Liwska, you can visit her website.
Just make sure to do it softly.
And have yourself a quiet little Christmas.
Tue 20 Nov 2012
Posted by Pat under Book reviews
Before they tuck into their turkey or their tofu on Thanksgiving, most people think about what they’re grateful for.
And today’s guest reviewer, Gianna, knows what she appreciates: “Food, water, family and clothing.”
She also knows what she’ll be eating for Thanksgiving: “Turkey, cranberries, pumpkin pie — of course — mashed potatoes and gravy. There’s so much food, I can’t really remember it all!”
The book we’re featuring today tells a similar tale. Bear Says Thanks (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2012) is written by Karma Wilson and illustrated by Jane Chapman.
It’s all about Bear, who is bored. And hungry. Bear wants to invite his friends to a feast, but his cupboards are empty. So his friends bring the feast to him, instead. Bear is worried that he has nothing to contribute, until he discovers that he has something very special indeed.
Let’s see what Gianna has to say.
Today’s reviewer: Gianna
I like: To play hide-and-seek with my neighbor. Peanut-butter ice-cream. Reading books.
This book was about: How the bear was bored and missed his friends, but he didn’t have any food to give them. So his friends brought food, and they ate it together.
The best part was when: Bear said, “Thanks.”
I laughed when: I thought Bear was going to say, “Thanks,” but he said, “Wait!” instead.
I was worried when: Bear said, “Wait!” I thought they might not have their feast.
I was surprised that: Bear’s friends came with the food.
My favorite picture in the book was: When Bear plopped down because he was frustrated.
My favorite words in the book were: “And they lay out their feast on a quilt on the ground.”
Other kids reading this book should watch for: Younger kids should watch for how Bear says thanks. It’s important to do.
Three words that best describe this book are: “Food. “Thanks.” “Sharing.”
If you’d like to learn more about Karma Wilson, you can visit her website. She’s written other books about Bear and his friends.
If you’d like to learn more about Jane Chapman, you can visit her website. She and her husband have, between the two of them, illustrated more than 140 books.
Sat 7 Jan 2012
Posted by Pat under Me, Writing
This fall, I was fortunate to sell my first picture book manuscript — Sophie’s Squash — to Schwartz & Wade, an imprint of Random House Publishing. (Full, enthusiastic details of this event were shared here.)
And now, just a few months later, I’m doubly fortunate to say Schwartz & Wade has acquired another of my picture books, Sharing the Bread.
It’s awesome news. In fact, I’m still beaming.
But I’ve heard a lot of comments like this:
“It’s cool you sold your second book so quickly after your first. It must only have taken you a few weeks to write.”
Um … no.
I’m sure there are authors who dash off a manuscript in an afternoon, read through it the next day, smile, add a few commas, change a word or two and send it off to editors who greet it with shouts of delight and fight for the right to publish it.
But that’s not me.
So I thought I’d share the evolution — so far — of this 310-word story.
The initial idea.
Three years ago, I was in a meeting. It had nothing to do with food, families or cooking, but out of somewhere, these words popped into my head: “Mama be a cooking pot, cooking pot. Big and round and black and hot. Mama be a pot.”
That’s stupid. I thought. How could someone be a pot? (As you can tell, I’ve got a pretty critical internal editor.)
My internal editor wasn’t done lecturing me either. Writing a rhyming book is HARD. And you are not a rhymer. Remember that awful rhyming story about okra you spent months slaving over before you realized it was awful? Hmm? Well? Do you?
But I kind of liked the rhythm, so I jotted the words down. During the next few weeks I played around with them until I had several verses about a family making a meal together. At first, each family member was pretending to be some part of the meal. I vaguely thought the story might be something kids could act out.
But thanks to the wise counsel of my internal editor who was, I believe, making gagging noises, I realized this was not a good idea. So I had the family gather the ingredients and cook the meal without any play-acting. Mama was no longer a pot.
Not knowing what else to do with the story, I sent it to my critique group at the time. They didn’t love it. So the story sat on my hard drive, largely ignored, for a year while I worked on other things.
It might have stayed there forever if I hadn’t needed a manuscript to send to another critique group I belong to. I didn’t have anything new, so I dusted the story off and sent it out, cringing a little as I did.
Are you kidding? asked my internal editor.
But these group members liked it. “You need to work on this some more,” they said.
So I did. I used their feedback to make the verses stronger and the rhythm better. I consulted rhyming dictionaries and tried to be as creative as possible. I shared it with a few other writing friends and took their suggestions to heart. I spent lots of time staring off into space tapping out the story meter with my fingers to make sure it was correct. My cat thought I was playing. My family thought I was crazy.
When the story was as good as I could make it, I sent to to someone with a well-deserved reputation as an excellent rhymer for a paid critique. Her response echoed my second critique group’s, “I really like this. I think you should work on it some more.”
She suggested a more traditional rhyme scheme and shared a few books written in a similar vein. Even though I sighed at the thought of the work involved in changing my rhyme scheme, I knew her advice was valid. So I read the books, ripped my story apart and started rewriting. And re-rhyming. And tapping my fingers on my desk. Again.
The new story revisited both my critique groups, several writing friends and a few family members. I made more changes. Eventually, I sent it back to the rhyming expert. “I think you can sell this,” she said.
But don’t cue the balloons.
I was tempted to celebrate. After all, this writer said the same thing about the manuscript that eventually became my first sale. Then I remembered it had taken several years and several more revisions before that sale occurred. Still, I sent out some submissions.
I heard back more quickly than usual. One form rejection. One note saying this wasn’t quite right but to send other things that I wrote. One note saying it was lovely but too quiet to stand out in the marketplace. This last editor did mention that the story might do well with a holiday or educational hook.
By this time, I had acquired an agent, Ammi-Joan Paquette. She and I decided to add a holiday angle to the story by having the family prepare Thanksgiving dinner instead of an everyday meal. Joan also showed the manuscript to Anne Schwartz of Schwartz & Wade. Anne liked it, thought a Thanksgiving angle would be helpful and asked me to work on it some more.
What rhymes with turkey?
So I dug in again. Only to realize that not much rhymes with turkey. (“Jerky?” “Murky?” “Perky?”) Or with stuffing. Or mashed potatoes. So I put the Thanksgiving words in the middle of the sentences so I could rhyme more common sounds at the end. I pruned. I polished. I pulled out large chunks of hair. But, I persevered.
(By the way, I was going to post a photo with this blog showing me in the throes of revision. But when I revise, I run my fingers through my hair and end up with what my husband calls “edit head.” It is not an attractive sight.)
Joan liked this version, and sent it off to Anne. Anne liked it but shared an email full of further suggestions. So, in response, I varied my rhyme scheme slightly, added a refrain, deleted two stanzas, added a new one and reordered some of the others. The updated version went back to Joan. She had a few more ideas. I incorporated those, and Joan returned it to Anne.
By this time, my internal editor and I were afraid we had used up all our chances to get this right. Personally, I was amazed at how much better the manuscript had become from the first time I’d thought it was done. But would Anne agree? Would it be enough?
A few days later, Joan called. Anne liked the manuscript and wanted to acquire it. To paraphrase Ernest Thayer, “There was joy in Mudville.”
But I’m still not done.
Anne wants me to work on it some more. I just got her line edits in the mail today.
And I seriously can’t wait to see how much better my story — and the ultimate book — will be after this next rounds of changes.
Sun 25 Dec 2011
Well, the gifts are open, and the wrapping paper has been mostly cleared away. So here are the books that found their way under several trees this year.
- One Day and One Amazing Morning on Orange Street by Joanne Rocklin.
- Nowhere Girl by A.J. Paquette.
- Spaceheadz (the first two books in the series) by Jon Scieszka.
- Beryl: A Pig’s Tale by Jane Simmons.
- Mental Floss The Book: The Greatest Lists in the History of Listory.
- Sheepish: Two Women, Fifty Sheep and Enough Wool to Save the Planet by Catherine Friend.
- The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food and Love by Kristin Kimball.
- Twelve Days of Christmas in Wisconsin by Erin Eitter Kono.
What books did you give or receive this year?
Thu 22 Dec 2011
Posted by Pat under Family
I hope you have a happy, peaceful holiday season, no matter how you choose to celebrate.
Here is my contribution to the holiday cheer. This is my daughter, Sonia, playing piano at her school concert.
This was her first-ever “public” performance. Her piece? “Jolly Old St. Nicholas.”
Fri 29 Oct 2010
First, a story …
Halloween isn’t even here yet, and the candy wars have already started at my house.
Things began innocently enough. A co-worker gave me a small bag of treats for my youngest daughter. She was thrilled. And very protective of her windfall.
It seems my oldest daughter had recently eaten some potato chips the youngest thought were hers.
So I wasn’t too surprised when I opened the pantry and found the note in the picture attached to the treat bag.
I wonder what will happen when they each have their own haul from trick-or-treating?
Now, some recommendations …
If your focus is more on books than on candy, here are a few last-minute Halloween recommendations.
How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin? by Margaret McNamara (Schwartz & Wade, 2007). The title sounds like this might be nonfiction, but in fact it’s a wonderful, fiction picture book about Charlie, a boy who wishes he weren’t the shortest kid in his class.
Beautifully woven into that story line is a class project to guess the number of seeds in three different pumpkins. The book has lots of my favorite things. There’s a classroom setting with a diverse mix of kids, an engaging story and lots of educational hooks — in this case about pumpkins and math — mixed in along the way. There’s even some nifty pumpkin facts from Charlie and his teacher at the end.
Seed, Sprout, Pumpkin, Pie by Jill Esbaum (National Geographic Children’s Books, 2009). This book is part of a gorgeous series called Picture the Seasons, which also includes titles about spring, winter and apples plus an upcoming book about summer and the beach.
This ode to pumpkins for kindergarteners through second-graders covers traditional and unexpected uses for the big, orange fruit with stunning, full-color photography.
And Booklist praised its simple but clever narrative calling it, “Fun, cozy, evocative stuff.”
So get reading before hordes of trick-or-treaters beat down your door. And if there’s any candy you especially want for yourself … be sure to put a note on it.
Tue 26 Oct 2010
Halloween is getting closer, so here’s Boo Cow (Charlesbridge, 2010) — a fun, friendly, spooktacular mystery by Patricia Baehr to get you in the spirit of the season.
Chicken Noodle Farm has a fresh coat of pickle-green paint, 552 chickens and no eggs at all.
Mr. and Mrs. Noodleman, who own the farm, are beside themselves.
What are they doing wrong?
Will they ever have eggs for breakfast?
At first, they blame Boo Cow, the ghost of a cow named Molly who used to live on the farm. Surely she’s scaring the chickens. But as they dig further into the mystery, they discover another culprit altogether.
To find our more, let’s talk to Chase.
Today’s reviewer: Chase.
I like: Playing sports. My weiner dogs, Dexter and Daisy. Eating macaroni and cheese.
This book was about: A boo cow that the farmers thought was scaring their chickens. But the cow really loved the chickens.
The best part was when: Boo Cow scared Farmer Hackett as he was stealing chicken eggs. He said, “Mooo-ooo-ooo!”
I laughed when: Mrs. Noodleman used pink, fluffy nightgowns for the chickens’ beds.
I was worried when: The ghost cow said “Mooo-ooo-ooo” for the first time. They should have called Ghost-Busters. And, I was worried when the chickens didn’t lay any eggs.
I was surprised that: Farmer Hackett stole the eggs.
This book taught me: To buy nightgowns for chickens. And, to not judge people if you don’t know things for sure.
Other kids reading this book should watch for: Why the chickens weren’t laying any eggs.
Three words that best describe this book are: “Fun.” “Silly.” “Ghost.”
My favorite line or phrase in the book is: “A cowbell softly tolled. Clink-clunk! Clink-clunk.”
You should read this book because: It’s good. I was glad Boo Cow wasn’t stealing the eggs.
By the way, Chase says his favorite way to eat eggs is scrambled with some cheese on top. And he’s going to be a football player for Halloween, although it would be fun to dress up as a chicken in a pink nightgown.
If you’d like to know more about author Patricia Baehr, read this blog post.
If you’d like to know more about illustrator Margot Apple, you can read this biography.
More Halloween book reviews are in store. Stay tuned! And there’s still time to comment on the question of the month:
What are YOUR favorite Halloween books?
Sun 24 Oct 2010
Halloween seems to get more popular each year.
In fact, the National Retail Federation expects Americans to spend more than $5.07 billion on costumes, cards, candy and decorations for the holiday, with the average consumer shelling out $64.82. (I’m a little behind the curve. I’ll probably spend around $40.)
With all that money going to ring in the holiday, it seems some of it ought to be spent on books.
So if you’re looking for a good, nonscary Halloween read for yourself or a middle-grader in your life, consider Callie’s Rules (Egmont USA, 2009) by Naomi Zucker.
Callie is an 11-year-old trying to figure out the rules of middle school. Not the official school rules, but the unwritten social ones — like that boys and girls need to sit on opposite sides of the cafeteria or that you really shouldn’t eat what’s served for lunch.
And she’s finding it hard to fit in because most of the rules don’t make sense to her. Why should you wear a scarf when it’s 80 degrees outside? And what’s the point of pretending not to know the answer when you do?
Just when Callie thinks she’s making progress at blending in, a decision to turn her town’s annual Halloween celebration into a more politically correct Autumn Fest puts her back in an unwanted spotlight.
Callie’s family is all about Halloween. Her dad makes special Toasty Ghosties for treats, her mother, who’s an artist, builds huge creations that flash lights and spew smoke. And her six brothers and sisters enjoy the parade, window-decorating and trick-or-treating.
As Halloween approaches, Callie learns how to creatively work within the new set of rules, decides which rules aren’t worth following at all and politely stands up for what she believes in.
You can learn more about this book and its sequel — Write on, Callie Jones — at Naomi Zucker’s website.
I’ll feature more Halloween-inspired books as the day approaches. But here are two others to consider right now:
Midnight Fright (Cartwheel Books, 2008) by Wisconsin authors Kathryn Heling and Deborah Hembrook. This book lets children set the hands on a built-in clock to match what’s going on at various times throughout the story.
The rhyming text is fun, and the story is suitable for the youngest spooks in your house. (For an interview with these authors, check out this link.)
The Perfect Pumpkin Pie (Atheneum Books, 2005) by Denyz Cazet. This wonderful read-aloud is full of pumpkins, ghosts, pie and a memorable refrain. It will carry you through Halloween and Thanksgiving. And you’ll likely find yourself quoting odd bits of it throughout the rest of the year.
The illustrations might be a tad too creepy for some younger readers, so use your best judgement.
What are YOUR favorite Halloween books? And how much do you think you’ll spend on the holiday this year?
Wed 20 Oct 2010
Fasting might not seem like fun to most people.
But, it’s what Shirin wants to do more than anything in Moon Watchers: Shirin’s Ramadan Miracle (Tilbury House, 2010) a new picture book by Reza Jalali.
Shirin’s parents fast. So does her older brother — or at least he tries. What can Shirin do to celebrate Ramadan, help her family, and feel more grown-up?
Fortunately, she comes up with the perfect idea.
Here’s what ForeWard Reviews had to say:
“This book is perhaps most valuable as a lesson on Islam. Each practice and tradition is explained, but without disrupting the pace of the story. Non-Muslim readers will walk away with a more developed global perspective. Muslims will relate the tale to their own Ramadan experiences, and every young reader will identify with hearing that terrible phrase: ‘You’re too young.’ ”
Now, let’s hear from another reviewer!
Today’s reviewer: Jaiden (shown in the photo with her little sister, Sienna.)
I like: My little sister, Sienna, my mom’s famous ice-cream sandwiches and playing
This book is about: Ramadan. Having to not eat for awhile. Shirin, the little sister, wanted to not eat for awhile – but her family said she was too young. She wanted to do what everybody else did.
The best part was when: She could not eat and she fasted with everybody
I laughed when: I laughed when the brother gave the present to her, and my
mommy started to cry.
I was worried when: The little sister couldn’t do the fasting.
I was surprised that: The brother gave his sister a present.
This book taught me: That people fast at Ramadan.
Other kids should watch out for: The heart-shaped rock.
The words that best describe the book: A girl and her dad watching the moon.
Favorite line: You’re too little to do Ramadan.
You should read it because: It teaches you about something important.
If you’d like to learn more about Ramadan, visit this site. Or go check out this list of books about Ramadan for children and teens.
If you’d like to learn more about author Reza Jalali, read his biography.
If you’d like to learn more about illustrator Anne Sibley O’Brien, visit her website or read this interview at Into the Wardrobe.