PiBoIdMo 2015 is Coming!

I love challenges and I need deadlines! Picture Book Idea Month offers both. Here are the details from Writer’s Rumpus.

WRITERS' RUMPUS

by Amy Courage

Linus Pauling, the noted American chemist said, “The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas.”

I’m definitely not a scientist (Hello, me with a C in high school chemistry), but Pauling’s quotation is true for writers as well.

Enter PiBoIdMo, or Picture Book Idea Month. Ta Da!

12105917_10154498195608538_2106654379768966188_n PiBoIdMo 2015 logo by Troy Cummings

PiBoIdMo is a month long picture book fiesta that has taken place every November since 2008. Hosted by picture book author extraordinaire Tara Lazar (The Monstore, I Thought This Was a Bear Book), PiBoIdMo encourages you to dream up, doodle, or write down an idea every day for a month.

This will be my second year participating in PiBoIdMo. Last year over 1,300 picture book writers participated and about 800 completed the challenge.

There will be encouraging blog posts to help you brainstorm every…

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Hook’s Revenge by Heidi Schultz – Book Review

I was first interested in reading HOOK’S REVENGE to see what could be done differently with the Peter Pan story? It was already a terrific story as it was. But, I was blown away by how Heidi Schultz added even more fun and adventure to this classic tale.

The reader sees Neverland through the eyes of 61Y1SGUldFL._SX338_BO1,204,203,200_Jocelyn Hook, Captain Hook’s daughter. Jocelyn was raised on the mainland by her grandfather. When she was 12-years-old she was sent to a boarding school to learn how to be a proper young lady of England. Jocelyn had no interest in that lifestyle. She dreamed of adventure on the high seas and becoming a pirate like her father.

So, Jocelyn ran away for adventure which proved to be more difficult and less glamorous than she envisioned. Jocelyn had to dig deep to overcome huge obstacles such as cannibals, the lost boys (including the bothersome Peter Pan), the infamous crocodile and her own lack of experience and confidence.

This fast-paced story is wonderfully descriptive with tons of action and even a hint of romance. Peter Pan plays a minor role and there are many colorful cast members who take center stage. One of my favorite parts was the entertaining narrator, a cantankerous old pirate who sometimes insults the reader—very funny!

I highly recommend this wonderful adventure story for girls grades 4-6.

 

Last In a Long Line of Rebels by Lisa Lewis Tyre

I recently had the opportunity to read an advanced copy of LAST IN A LONG LINE OF REBELS by Lisa Lewis Tyre due out September 29th.

23845970This debut novel takes place in Zollicoffer, Tennessee, a small town with a long history and a little mystery. Lou Mayhew lives with her parents in the center of town in one of the original houses still standing. It also happens to be a junkyard—the family business. Some people in town consider it an eyesore and try to get it removed through eminent domain. Lou is determined to save her family’s house. She enlists friends to help search for evidence that will get the house registered as a National Historical Site. While looking into her family history, Lou finds some troubling news about her ancestors, but also discovers that there might be a stash of civil war gold hidden in or around the house.

This book is fun and fast-paced with lots of witty southern humor. The author also manages to weave in some serious topics such as the civil war, slavery and racism. The characters are wonderfully authentic and the story is full of heart.

This is the perfect middle grade book for boys and girls in 4-6th grades. Not only is it entertaining, but it opens up opportunities to discuss the choices people make and how they can affect history.

Find a Penny, Pick it Up . . .

Finding a penny on the ground has been a lucky superstition for a very long time. The origin is believed to go as far back as ancient Greece when it was lucky to carry around a piece of metal to fight off evil spirits. Some believe the saying used to be, “find a pin, pick it up and all day long you’ll have good luck.”
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When people started using coins for currency, the saying changed to “find a penny.” If you found a penny ages ago it was considered to be very lucky and a sign of prosperity. I’m not sure there were many pennies left lying around back then, so finding one was certainly lucky.

 

Now a days, finding a penny isn’t as big of a deal. Even though a penny can’t buy much anymore it may just buy you a little luck.

 

 

Mysteries for Middle Grade Readers

I love a good mystery but not all mysteries are good. Some are just too predicable. A good mystery has to have clever plot twists and an unexpected ending.

For middle grade there are some great mysteries that run the gamut of humorous to dangerous. Below are a few books for middle graders who have a fondness for mysteries like me. They are listed from younger (9-11) to older readers (11-14).

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EDDIE RED UNDERCOVER: MYSTERY ON MUSEUM MILE and the sequel MYSTERY IN MAYAN, MEXICO by Marcia Wells. Eddie Red is a sixth grader with a photographic memory and artistic talent that proves to be very helpful to police. The books are fast paced with lots of clever boy humor. The reader is taken on a journey around New York City and Mayan, Mexico.

 

DOUBLE VISION series by F.T. Bradley. This trilogy stars look-3ee8d60f14856eca5afb5a5496c51bef_16xq_vptnalike double agents who don’t particularly like eachother. They sometimes make solving the mystery a competition. These stories are fast-paced with lots of action and cool gadgets. The settings are wonderfully vivid and educational, taking place in Paris, Washington D.C. and Hollywood.

 

11737313THREE TIMES LUCKY by Shelia Turnage. This is a mystery with a lot of heart. Mo Lobeau is a mystery herself because she washed up in the town of Tupelo Landing during a storm and has been there ever since. Her and her friend Dale are self-proclaimed detectives and are out to solve a murder. The southern dialect and humor make this a fun read.

 

51lN8VHFIFL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_THE WOLLSTONECRAFT DETECTIVE AGENCY by Jordan Stratford. Two unlikely friends team up to form the Wollstonecraft detective agency. Ada is an 11-year-old genius with an abrasive personally who looks at the world very analytically. Mary is well-manered and imaginative with an adventurous side. The two are “clever and clandestine.” The characters are based on real women in history and the setting is authentic1826 London which makes this not only entertaining but educational.

12975886CAPTURE THE FLAG by Kate Messner. Anna, Jose and Henry are snowed in at a busy Washington D.C. airport. They are trapped with many other travelers and some mysterious ones. When the famous flag that inspired “The Star Spangled Banner” turns up stolen, the three realize they are snowed in with the thieves and have to help track them down.

 

 

18060008UNDER THE EGG by Laura Marx Fitzgerald. Thirteen-year-old Theo lives with her flighty mother in a delapidated townhouse in Greenwich Village. They live on very little. Then Theo accidentally spills rubbing alcohol on her deceased grandfather’s painting and discovers a masterpiece. However, Theo’s grandfather was a security guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Is the painting stolen? Theo has to find out how her grandfather got the painting and what to do with it.

 

18222716GREENGLASS HOUSE by Kate Milford. Twelve-year-old Milo lives in an old house on a hill that’s also an inn his adoptive parents run. The guests, however, are often smugglers making their way though town. During one Christmas break some unexpected guests arrive. They are not only peculiar but they all have interesting stories to tell. Milo, with the help of Meddy, find many hidden treasures in the old historic inn that help them discover what may have brought these strange guests to Greenglass House.

 

Superstitions and the Thirteen Club

Superstitions were widespread in the 1800’s. People believed it was bad luck to break mirrors, spill salt, and walk under ladders, but none was more evident than the fear of the number thirteen. In fact, the thirteenth of every month was considered unlucky and so was every Friday—not just Friday the 13th.

People were so superstitious that their unfounded beliefs distracted them at work on the days considered to be unlucky. Captain William Fowler sought to bring an end to those strange beliefs and prove them false by starting the Thirteen Club.

To challenge this belief, the club met on the thirteenth of the month, members sat thirteen to a table and ate dinner at precisely 7:13pm. During one dinner, the club added candles to everyone’s seat. The first candle to extinguish would be the first to die. Of course, that person didn’t die within the year and all the members were living proof that the superstitions were untrue.

Although the social events seemed lighthearted and fun, the members took their position seriously. One of the roles of the club was to reverse Friday’s bad reputation. They believed the superstition stemmed from the fact that Fridays were “hangman’s day”—the day when judges scheduled public hangings. The club members made use of their respected positions in the community and convinced judges to execute criminals on other days of the week.1357520976_4781_invite-2

Club member, Judge McAdam stated, “Now anybody can have as much pleasure on that day [Friday] while those who were formerly hanged only on Friday may now have the pleasure of being hanged on every day of the week.”

Five Presidents of the United States were honorary members of the club along with many Senators, Governors and other statesmen across the country.

The club’s moto was morituri the salutamus which means we who are about to die salute you. This latin phrase originated in the times of Rome gladiators who would say this to their emperor before going into battle.

Although the club no longer exists today, many people refuse to let go of this strange superstition.

Mo Willems offers Picture Book Inspiration at the High Museum

Last night, I had the pleasure of hearing Mo Willems speak at the High Museum in Atlanta. He definitely has the right formula for writing children’s book. He’s honest, has great sense of comedic timing and is authentically empathetic to children.20150528_204126

Some of the best advice he gave was that books are more intimate than other forms of media. That’s because “books speak to you in a whisper,” and unlike television, a book doesn’t tell you how much time to spend with a scene—you can take as long as you wish.

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Top 10 Things I Say To Authors at Conferences

Great advice and check list for your manuscript before bringing it to a conference.

The Blabbermouth Blog

stickfigureGIFoozThis past weekend I was at the New England SCBWI conference, Thinking Outside the Crayon Box, doing query critiques and manuscript critiques. First of all, I happen to love going to this conference. It’s impeccably run, pretty darn big, draws really top notch speakers, and the attendees are some of the nicest people ever. But I noticed that the words that were coming out of my mouth as I spoke to the authors to whom I was assigned were pretty much the same as they usually are when I go to conferences anywhere.

Here’s the scene: I sit across a small round table with an author on the other side. They are either nervous or not, friendly or not, open to hearing my input on their query letter or manuscript, or not. Regardless, I always try to make them feel comfortable, usually with a joke (which is usually a dumb one), and I remind them…

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What Do Children Want to Read? “Make Me Laugh”

Due to the collective stress we adults are feeling due to the tumultuous political environment, I’m reminded of a post from a while back that is worth recycling.

It’s no surprise that the number one feature kids look for in books is humor. When picking out a book for themselves, they love to laugh!

In the fall of 2014, Scholastic surveyed a sample of children ages 6-17 along with a group of parents. They asked them about their reading habits. The full survey can be found at  2014 Scholastic Study.

There are many interesting findings in the study, but one in particular asked “What do you look for when reading a book for fun?” (please select all that apply.) Here are the results:

Make me laugh – 70%

Let me use my imagination- 54%

Tell a made up story – 48%

Have characters I wish to be like because they are smart, strong and brave – 43%

Teach me something new – 43%

Have a mystery or problem to solve – 41%

Tell a true story (nonfiction)- 31%

Are a little scary – 30%

Let me forget about real life for a while – 26%

Are about things I experience in my life – 25%

Have characters that look like me – 17%

Have characters that are in love – 17%

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Noam Chomsky on the Dangers of Standardized Testing

As the kids prepare to take standardized tests in April, this article hits home.

Creative by Nature

“The assessment itself is completely artificial. It’s not ranking teachers in accordance with their ability to help develop children who will reach their potential, explore their creative interests. Those things you’re not testing.. it’s a rank that’s mostly meaningless. And the very ranking itself is harmful. It’s turning us into individuals who devote our lives to achieving a rank. Not into doing things that are valuable and important.”

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The following is a partial transcript for an interview with Noam Chomsky uploaded to youtube by The Progressive Magazine.

“You take what is happening in education. Right now, in recent years, there’s a strong tendency to require assessment of children and teachers so that you have to teach to tests. And the test determines what happens to the child and what happens to the teacher.

That’s guaranteed to destroy any meaningful educational process. It means the teacher cannot be creative, imaginative, pay attention…

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