Archive for July, 2013

July 26, 2013

Little Red Writing Hood

OMG THIS BOOK IS SO GOOD!!! I squealed with excitement when I opened up the package from Chronicle Books and saw the cover. Then I squealed some more as I realized just how tremendously awesome the story was. I only just stopped squealing a few moments ago so I could share all this goodness with you! Here’s the deal. Little Red Writing is the kind of picture book you can’t help but pick up. The cover is beautiful, the colors brilliant, and the story hook tempting. Little Red Writing is a pencil? And she wants to tell a story? And she gets lost on the way to the end!!!

It’s a children’s writer’s/teacher’s/librarian’s dream come true. But here’s the good part–the kids are going to love it too. The small ones, who won’t know what a conjunction is for many a year to come, will just love the funny story of the pencil and the really gorgeously original illustrations. The older ones will love a fun reminder about how to write a story. The story starts out with Little Red’s teacher, Ms. 2 (love it!) asking the class to write a story.

littleredwriting

Title: Little Red Writing
Author: Joan Holub
Illustrator: Melissa Sweet
Genre: Picture Book
Ages: 2 – 8

Little Red begins to write:

Once there was a brave red pencil who went on a journey. As she walked along…

But then a thought bubble from Little Red interrupts the story:

Walking is boring, decided Little Red. She wanted her story to be exciting. She went to the gym and was quickly drawn into action. (LOVE THAT WRITING!) She bounced! She boogied! Then she cartwheeled right off the page…

Okay, there you go, only a few pages into the book and already a lovely little lesson about using more powerful verbs to tell your story. But it gets better, because Little Red tumbles into…

a deep, dark, descriptive forest.

Ha! Has anyone ever heard the editing advice that you should go through your manuscript and throw out all the adjectives? Well, that might be a tad harsh, but it has a ring of truth in it and even this picture book is here to warn you about it! Then LIttle Red meets some “conjunction glue” and she squeezed the bottle. What happens?

Too many glue words came out! So that is how she found herself writing a sentence that would not end but just kept going and going and running on and on although it had no purpose yet it would not…

Yes! It’s true. The book DOES just keep getting better and better. And if you have an older kid, they could find all the conjunctions on that page. Little Red Writing doesn’t just learn about parts of speech, she also learns about parts of a story.

It was the middle of her story, where something exciting should happen. And it did.

You, too will love this story all the way to principal granny and the Wolf 3000 pencil sharpener. And your kids will be introduced to so many features of writing, whether you help them realize it or not! This book comes out in September, just in time to get your pencils sharpened!

And if you liked this book, check out two word smithing books: Ann And Nan Are Anagrams and Wumbers.

July 19, 2013

The Journey

Kathy Higgs-Coultard, Director of Michiana Writers' Center

Kathy Higgs-Coultard, Director of Michiana Writers’ Center

By Kathy Higgs-Coulthard*

When my son, Christopher, was little we used to take frequent walks. Or, more accurately, I would take walks and Christopher would ride along—first in a snuggly (think papoose), then stroller, then wagon. I chose the destination, the route, and the purpose of the trip. Often, our trip was designed to be educational in some way: To the pond to capture tadpoles or to the weeping willow to picnic and read. But eventually Christopher grew less and less content in the role of passenger, until the day came when he insisted on walking.

At first that seemed like a win-win. He could walk and I wouldn’t have to pull the wagon. I decided one of our first excursions would be to the park about a block from our house. The excursion would fit perfectly in the after lunch, before nap slot—five minutes there, about a half hour of playtime, five minutes back. No agenda, just playtime. We sunscreened up and trotted out the door.

Christopher was so excited to be in the lead that he made up a song about going to the park. Wish I’d had a video camera with me (partly so I could share it with you, but mostly so I could use it to blackmail him if the need arises later in life). So, he’s singing “Park, park, PARK, park, PARK!” and  then he stops at the end of our yard and climbs on a big rock, jumps off, climbs back up, repeat. I lure him off the rock, remind him of our destination, and we’re off again, singing.

Until we get across the street. The frogs are thrumming up a storm. Christopher’s eyes light up and he bolts for the cattail forest. Twenty minutes later we emerge, mud-crusted and carrying a new (temporary) travel companion named Ribbit. I look at my watch—naptime is quickly approaching, but it’s okay. We’re really truckin’ now, singing “Park, PARK, park.”

Until two houses from the park. The neighbor’s yard is covered with sweet gum pods. If you’ve ever seen one, you’ll understand Christopher’s fascination—the spiky seed pods look like creatures from another planet. Christopher nearly drops Ribbit as he scrambles to fill his pockets (and mine) with pods. Of course the neighbor comes out laughing. She provides a bucket and Christopher completely fills it. We’re so close to the park I can hear a child squealing “Higher, higher!” presumably as someone pushes him in a swing. I thank the neighbor for her bucket and lure Christopher back to the road, singing “Park, park, park.”

Until we reach the park gate. The squealing child and his daddy are leaving and Christopher has to show them his treasures—his “sweet gummies” and his froggy. The little boy says he wants some and before I can say a word, Christopher is leading them down the street away from the park. Both children are singing “Gummy, gummy, GUMMY.”

In some regards the afternoon was a wash. We never did reach the park. Naptime was very late and only accomplished by allowing Ribbit to sleep in a bowl by Christopher’s bed. But when I really think about it, this trip was the most worthwhile one we’d taken so far. So what if we didn’t swing at the park? Christopher had changed the purpose of our trip, and in so doing, had gained a pet, a new friend, and several dozen spiky seed pods. But the real treasure was the sparkle in Christopher’s eyes the next day as he asked me if we could go on another walk.

A few of my favorite books about the discovery nature of child-directed play:

itsrainingitspouringTitle: It’s Raining! It’s Pouring! We’re Exploring!

Author: Polly Peters

Illustrator: Jess Stockham

Genre: Picture book

Ages: 3-7 years

Celebrates the joy of imaginative play as three bored children face a rainy day. Fun rhyming text, playful pictures. Love that Dad and Mom work together making lunch!

notaboxnotastickTitle: Not a Box (And the companion book, Not a Stick)

Author: Antoinette Portis

Genre: Picture book

Ages: 1-6 years

What child doesn’t like to play with an empty box? Especially if the box is big enough to climb in! Inspired by the author’s memories of sitting in a box as a child, this book explores the power of imagination as a child transforms his ordinary box into a spaceship and flies to another planet.

preschoolersbusybooktoddlersbusybookTitle: The Preschooler’s Busy Book and The Toddler’s Busy Book

Author: Tish Kuffner

Genre: Nonfiction

Ages: Adult

Although the point of my blog post is that kids need times to direct their own play, a parent can only take hearing “I’m bored” so many times before they cave in. Instead of turning on the TV, try some of the activities in these books.

*You can read more about Kathy here. Kathy normally blogs on the second Monday of the month. Except when the months go by so quickly that I accidentally schedule her post for August instead of July and don’t notice until she politely asks where the post might have gone. In case you were wondering.

July 18, 2013

anagram THIS

Okay, don’t do that because that would mean a different four-letter word and this is a family-friendly blog. But if you would like to work on some other anagrams, boy do I have the book for you. I LOVE this book! One of the most excited things about having a book blog is getting unexpected goodies in the mail. And Chronicle Books always sends me some awesome ones.

annandnanTitle: Ann and Nan are Anagrams
Author: Mark Shulman
Illustrator: Adam McCauley
Genre: Picture Book
Age: 4 – 9

Ann and Nan are Anagrams is a picture book filled with anagrams. (In case you are thinking “WHAT is she talking about?”, an anagram is a word or a phrase rearranged to make another word or phrase. Like Ann and Nan in the title of this book. Or spot, stop, tops, pots, and post on pages 4 and 5.)

There are some anagrams in the text itself.

Then she whispered like a wise shepherd.

Or how about one of my favorites:

…bring me your aunt. She’s a nut.

And as you might expect, the anagramming leads the story a bit, which leads to a crazy, goofy plot. This page gets an interesting illustration:

The schoolmaster was in the classroom teaching vowels to wolves and feeding presents to serpents.

There are also anagrams spread through the illustrations. Such as “eleven plus two = twelve plus one” on the chalkboard at school or “Gold Roaches Grade School” on the door.

The illustrations are bright and fun and remind me of an old circus poster for some reason. Maybe the fancy fonts (to point out the anagrams) combined with all the yellows and reds.

I love this book for a young reader or even a pre-reader who is learning a few words, because they can really stop and enjoy the words. It teaches them that stories are made of words and words are made of letters and that sometimes, there’s a lot of fun to be had in that!

Let your kids find the anagrams in the text. (It’s made easier with matching font for each one. And you can move on to the anagrams hidden in the pictures as well. Then have them make up their own anagrams. You could write letters on index cards and have them mix and match them around until they find different words. (For example, give them one card with “S”, one with “P”, one with “O” and one with “T” and see if they can rearrange them to make the words from the book I listed above.) Good luck!

July 15, 2013

don’t like camp

My memories of my camping experiences include mostly the one where I was stepped on by a horse and one where a counselor carried me upside down across a lunchroom and plopped me at a table of strangers. They did not, as I wondered if they might, eat me alive, so that was good. Oh, and I remember mail day, because I was one of the only campers who got something EVERY SINGLE DAY. (So embarrassing, mom!) But cool, too.

The protagonist in Like Bug Juice On A Burger doesn’t like camp much. And what makes this different from most don’t-like-this-much books is that there’s no major oh-wow-this-is-awesome revelation at the end. She gets through the experience, she makes a friend or two, and she has a few good times. She doesn’t LOVE it. But she doesn’t hate it, either, and that in itself is a valuable lesson. likebugjuiceonaburger

Title: Like Bug Juice on a Burger
Author: Julie Sternberg
Illustrator: Matthew Cordell
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Age: Elementary, 7 – 10ish

Another thing I love about the book is the language. It’s written almost poetically with frequent line breaks:

“All aboard!”

And Joplin was waiting beside me.

My mom kissed my head

one last time

before letting me go.

Then,

feeling very small,

I followed tall Joplin

onto the humungous bus.

Is that great imagery? “Tall Joplin”? I love that!

Another reason I love this book is that it doesn’t preach the message that everyone is supposed to be good at everything and like everything. It provides the reader with a great role model for a girl who (mostly) has fun at camp, and it shows that this is okay. One of the great messages, of course, is that she tried it. You can talk with your kids about things they’ve tried and liked or not liked, and what they might have gained along the way.

July 10, 2013

A Vegan Mac and Cheese for the Healthy Family

Okay, so I am so excited to introduce one more new writer. I had been following Ophelia’s blog for some time now and have made almost every recipe she has posted. Seriously. Her chocolate-avocado pudding is one of my favorites. And now she is writing for us! Because I’ve always wanted to make sure that the Family That Reads Together is also Eating together. But let her introduce herself:

I am French and vegan (no, it’s true!). The French part, well, I obviously didn’t choose, but the vegan part was a decision I made about 10 seconds after watching a slaughter-house/factory farm video (thank you liberal arts schools!).

Cue 2009, the birth year of my daughter. I realized the moment my daughter was born that not only was I entirely clueless in my new role as a mom, but that my vegan cooking skills were going to be put to the test by the brand new palate of a child! Overwhelmed by the magnitude of this new responsibility, I had to dig deeply for a creativity I didn’t know I had.

And so here is some of that creativity! Welcome Ophelia! Thanks for joining us! (You can find her own blog at lapetitevegan.com.)

A Vegan Mac and Cheese for the Family that Eats Healthy Together!

Yes, everyone needs a good vegan mac and cheese recipe. Let me rephrase that: everyone needs at LEAST one good mac and cheese recipe. If you search around, you will find that there are many out there and most of them will be satisfying (you know, the whole point of this dish). BUT, what many lack is a bit of originality (yes!) and a wise ratio of good nutrients. Just a roundabout way of saying that many require WAY too much margarine for my taste and (boringly) rely on flour to thicken the sauce. Cue this recipe.

Title: Vegan Fusion World Cuisine
Author: Mark Reinfeld and Bo Rinaldi and the chefs at Blossoming Lotus
Genre: Cookbook

This recipe comes straight out of the Blossoming Lotus cookbook. I love it because it covers my two most basic mottos: it’s easy (I mean, all you need is a blender!), and delicious. This one comes with an added bonus: it’s also original. Its originality comes from the main ingredient: tahini. Tahini is just another word for sesame butter (as in, ground up sesames). Most of us unknowingly consume tahini in hummus or perhaps even in the occasional “tahini dressing” (recipe to come!). Regardless, let’s be clear about this butter: it’s high in calcium, iron, good fats and protein. Win!

Ok, so gathering the ingredients is what will take you the most time, though they can all be easily found in your local health food store. This recipe also calls for raw garlic, which many little ones might find too strong/spicy in flavor. I recommend trying it anyway at first and if you notice a reluctance, perhaps blend it with less or even without garlic, take a batch out for your child and then go to town with the garlic for yourself.

If you want to make this entirely gluten free, simply replace the oats with ground up flaxseeds (same ratio), and use quinoa pasta instead. And you know, it doesn’t HAVE to be poured over pasta. Clearly you can use it as a dip, pour it over veggies, rice, quinoa or even eat it with a spoon (yeah, I said it). Enjoy!

Mac and Cheese (or “Cheez” if that makes you more comfortable!)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

1 1/2 cup soy, rice or almond milk (unsweetened preferrably)

2 TBSP rolled oats

2 TBSP tahini

2 TBSP nutritional yeast

1 tsp soy sauce (or tamari or bragg’s)

3/4 tsp dijon mustard

1 clove of garlic

1/2 tsp turmeric

salt and pepper to taste

Place all these ingredients in a blender and blend until completely smooth.

Pour over pasta

and stir.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Top with sauteed or raw veggies

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So what do you think? Are you in for vegan mac and cheese? And if you try this recipe out, let us know how it worked for you and your family! Happy eating!

July 8, 2013

Need some science with your watermelon?

I have never tired to make my love for science a secret. Except in high school, and then I actually hated it so there was no secret, just a catastrophic misunderstanding that was luckily remedied by some more creative teachers in college. But that’s another story for another time. Right now, I want to talk about how you can get your kids to love science, too, because, really there is nothing NOT to love. And while most parents know to keep up on reading over the summer, and many also do some math or writing, not everyone thinks about science.

So today I’m linking to an article I wrote for ParentMap magazine in Seattle. It talks about how to bring science to your kid, whether that kid is scientifically, artistically, linguistically, or anything other-istically inclined. So go ahead and click on the link below.

Turn Cooking and Collecting Into Summer Science Fun!

And then, depending on which part you (and your child) likes best, head to the kitchen or the backyard or the library. And let the science learning begin!

Some of the books mentioned in that article can also be found on this blog. LIke Swirl by Swirl, Forest Has A Song, and Autumn Winifred Oliver Does Things Different.

July 2, 2013

Minding your own business

AngieHeadShot

Angela Verges

Today’s post comes from Angela Verges, one of our new writers who you’ll be hearing from on the first Tuesday of each month. I’m so excited to have her on board, and I love what she’s talking about here, as well as the book she recommends (which, I just learned while researching it a bit, is written by the nephew of the original author. I think that’s cool!)

Angela Verges is a writer and mom of two teen boys who inspire her daily (even when they don’t know it). She is the author of a forthcoming picture book, Abby and Zach Pray through the Alphabet. You can find her blogging through the corridors of parenting at www.mamaprayed.blogspot.com. Visit her website at www.angelaverges.net or follow her on twitter @AngelaVerges.

Minding your own business and making money

The kids have only been on summer break a short while, yet they are already asking, “What can we do today?”

“Mind your own business,” I responded.

My boys, Donovan and Joshua, looked at me with astonishment and confusion on their faces, “What?”

I proceeded to explain to them about a class once offered at our local recreation department called, Mind your business. It was a class that taught youth the basics of starting and operating their own business venture. The boys were hooked at that point, the thought of earning money for something that they wanted to buy intrigued them.

Although the boys did not have an opportunity to participate in the class, they still liked the idea of starting their own business. Putting on their thinking caps, they came up with idea after idea, then reasons why a particular idea wouldn’t work.

There was the idea of walking dogs as a business, but Donovan remembered a past dog episode. “Don’t you remember the time Norma brought her puppy for a visit and you ran as far as you could from it?”

“Oh yeah, scratch dog walking from the list,” Joshua responded.

As the boys were deep in thought, I remembered a book I came across recently. It was one of my favorite characters, Amelia Bedelia. The book was titled, Amelia Bedelia Means Business by Herman Parish. It features a younger Amelia Bedelia who wants to earn money to buy a new bike.

ameliabedeliameansbusinessTitle: Amelia Bedelia Means Business
Author: Herman Parish
Illustrator: Lynne Avril
Genre: Early Reader, Fiction
Age: Early Elementary

At her father’s suggestion, Amelia Bedelia started a lemonade stand business. True to her character, Amelia has a quirky response to her dad’s suggestion. When her dad tells her she can run a stand, Amelia wants to know if she should “run” or “stand.” Mixing the literal and figurative, Amelia’s adventures continue along this vein.

The book has a suggested reading age of 6-10 years and my boys are a little older than this. However, they like the idea of starting a lemonade stand and have agreed to take a look at how Amelia Bedelia does it, quirks and all. My only question now is can Donovan and Joshua go into business together without becoming too competitive.

lemonadewarTitle: The Lemonade War
Author: Jacqueline Davies
Genre: Fiction
Age: Elementary

As I thought about the challenges Donovan and Joshua could face (with each other) as business partners, I came up with another book for them to read. I don’t think the boys know it yet, but it can be dangerous when I start thinking. The additional book I spotted for them to read is The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies.

In the book, Jessie makes a bet with her brother Evan to see who could earn a hundred dollars first. Evan is good at talking to people and Jessie is good at math. So the lemonade war begins, and so does summer reading for my boys.

If your child is interested in starting a lemonade business here are a couple of helpful websites to check out. This site tells how to create an easy to assemble lemonade stand and includes templates, www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/how-to/intro/0,,20210158,00.html. Another site lays out a “Kids Lemonade Stand Business Program” that gives the ABC’s of business for kids, www.teachingkidsbusiness.com/lemonade-stand.html.

The next time your child asks what he or she can do for fun, you can tell them, “mind your own business.” Then show them how to do just that, while earning money.

Has your child ever operated a lemonade stand or other business? What tips would you share?