March 30, 2012

Perfect Picture Book Friday - Flap Your Wings

Buenas Dias, Peeps!

(You didn't know I was multi-lingual did you!  I am just always full of surprises.  Although, if we're being honest, that is my complete knowledge of Spanish except for ola which I don't know how to spell... and no, which is pretty much the same in any language... )

Where was I?

Oh, yes!  It's PPBF!  How fun is that?  I declare this morning's snack (since we never picked an official one) to be surreptitiously snitched Easter candy (you know, from those bags of jelly beans and chocolates that you bought yesterday and have stowed away in the closet ready to make Easter surprises for your kids, and that you really shouldn't be raiding but it's there, so maybe just a few...?  Or is that just me... :))
so pretty :)  also tasty :)
Got a handful of jelly beans?  Okay then, here we go!

Flap Your Wings
Written & Illustrated By: P.D. Eastman
Random House, 1969, Fiction
Suitable For: ages 3-8
Themes/Topics: assumptions, non-traditional family, unconditional love, responsibility
Opening: (this is actually the first three pages.)
"An egg lay in the path.
A boy came down the path.  He saw the egg.  "Someone might step on that egg and break it," he said.
He looked around.
He saw flamingos and frogs, and turtles and alligators.  "Whose egg is this?" he called.  But no one answered."

Brief Synopsis:  A little boy finds an egg.  He doesn't want it to get damaged, so he looks around until he finds the nest and carefully puts it back.  When Mr. and Mrs. Bird come home, they are surprised to find an egg in their nest... it wasn't there when they left!  But Mr. Bird says that if an egg is in their nest it must be their egg, so they must take care of it.  So they do... with very surprising results!

Links To Resources:  Ideas And Activities For Guided Reading, Incubation & Embryology Activities, use with An Egg Is Quiet (from PPBF link list), talk about what kind of animals, insects and reptiles lay eggs and how the eggs are the same and different.

Why I Like This Book:  This book is fun to read as a picture book, but is also an I Can Read type book that is very accessible to new readers.  The pictures are delightful - Mr. and Mrs. Bird's expressions are very entertaining.  But I really love the story because it doesn't go where you would expect.  It's funny.  And it's a great example of what agents, editors and reviewers mean when they talk about re-readability.  This book delighted me as a child, and delighted my children in their turn.  I've read it so many times that even now, years since I last read it to my kids, I can recite almost the whole book.  It's fun every time :)

For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

I would like to take this opportunity to remind all you fabulous PPB bloggers (especially anyone who is new to PPBF) to please check the comprehensive alphabetical list on the PPB tab as well as the previous week's list (because I am sometimes (ahem, like this week!) behind updating - it takes a while!) before selecting your book for the week.  Although we do have some double-ups, our goal is not to repeat books, but to always be adding new ones.

Also, and this is Very Important, the whole point of PPBs is the resources.  They don't have to be online links.  Lots of you think up GREAT activities and discussion questions etc...  But the book you post must have at least one good resource of how to expand on its use at home and/or in the classroom in order to be added to the comprehensive list.  And it must be self-explanatory and applicable - by which I mean, saying a book can be used for finger rhymes or a math activity doesn't help a reader who doesn't know any.  That's why they come to PPB - to find out exactly what they can do.  So please tell us which finger rhyme and how to do it, or what math activity etc.  Thank you so much!

I would also like to add that Tracy (aka A2Z Mommy) started writing up PPB every Friday in her local online newspaper, MyVeronaNJ!  For the past several weeks, she has chosen a few books she especially liked and added their titles and links to her article, so a number of you have been mentioned and linked!  Thank you so much, Tracy, for helping to get the word out to people who can really make use of the work we all do for PPBFs!!!  Here are links to the last couple articles:  March 23, March 16, March 9.

Finally before we all head off to check out today's fantastically fun picture book offerings, I know you'll want to be sure not to miss any of the high jinx and shenanigans that Phyllis's amazing hosts have kindly and very creatively written up!

She had an Amazing Visit to Maine with Heather N (there's a whole homeschool unit in this post!)

She visited Mrs. Hembree and her 2nd Grade Bulldog Readers in Seattle, WA on her School World Tour!

She was also Visited A Ghost Town In Washington with Heather B!!!

And you can catch up on anything you might have missed on the Official World Tour Page :)

AND!!!  Big News!!!  It looks like I'm finally going to get that map I wanted of the World Tour.  Stay Tuned!  Maybe Monday!!!

PPB bloggers, please add your post-specific link to the list below, and everyone, have a great weekend!  (and that's no April Fool :))

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March 28, 2012

Would You Read It Wednesday - The 33rd Pitch - And A Tour Update!

Oh.  My.  Goodness!

Apparently, Phyllis realized that April Fools Day was sneaking up on her, so she decided to ramp up the visit speed.  My head is spinning!  In the two days since I last posted, she has popped up all over the place and you won't want to miss any of her adventures or the truly awesome posts by her hosts even if it makes your head spin too!

I'm just going to make you a little list so it will be convenient :)

Phyllis Arrived In Maine to visit with Heather N. and her family.  More to come...

Phyllis Visited The Standing Stones at Avebury in the UK with Rebecca... and her 7 children! (These are 2 separate and different links, and the second one has video reviews by Rebecca's adorable, British-accented kids!)
Phyllis with Rebecca's clan at Avebury, UK
Phyllis Arrived In New Zealand to stay with Diane.

Phyllis Toured Auckland With Diane.
Phyllis in New Zealand!
Phyllis Visited The Dixon Kids in Clovis, CA.

Phyllis Visited Knoxville, TN with Donna.
Phyllis sits in with The Rowing Man :)
Phyllis Visited With Mrs. Kistler and the '49ers in San Antonio, TX before heading out on her School World Tour - next stop Washington!
Phyllis enjoys recess with The '49ers!
and last but not least, Phyllis Hangs Out In Windsor, Ontario (with Catherine) and Phyllis Visits With Heather B in Washington! (posts going up today!)

AND, if that wasn't enough to make you dizzy, she is currently headed for Vermont, another location in Washington, Australia, and Birmingham UK, AND we are still waiting for her to show up in Italy... apparently she either took an undisclosed side trip or a very long nap somewhere... we're hoping she'll emerge at some point!

That was in the last 2 days!  Hence the head spinning!

Anyone else ready for a nap?  At least it's Wednesday and we have chocolate :)

Now then, onto our Would You Read It!

Today's pitch comes to us from Terri, who has been an elementary school nurse as well as a pediatric/neonatal nurse for over 34 years and is currently working on acquiring and revamping an old ambulance to bring on school visits so kids can learn what equipment is in an ambulance and what happens when paramedics arrive.  It just so happens to go along with her book ideas.

Working Title:  First Aide For First Grade
Age/Genre: PB
The Pitch:  Mrs Fox is teaching first aide to the class. Charlie doesn't want to listen but his best friend is listening with both ears and it is a good thing. After the lesson, the boys run to the playground to play. Zip, Zap, Zing....and Ouch. Who will help Charlie when he is hurt at recess?

So what do you think?  Would You Read It?  YES, MAYBE or NO?

If your answer is YES, please feel free to tell us what you particularly liked and why the pitch piqued your interest.  If your answer is MAYBE or NO, please feel free to tell us what you think could be better in the spirit of helping Terri improve her pitch.  Helpful examples of possible alternate wordings are welcome.  (However, I must ask that comments be constructive and respectful.  I reserve the right not to publish comments that are mean because that is not what this is about.)

Please send YOUR pitches for the coming weeks!  For rules and where to submit, click on this link Would You Read It or on the Would You Read It tab in the bar above.  Go ahead and send your pitch for a chance for it to be read by editor Erin Molta!

Terri is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!

And I am going to try to catch up with that globe-trotting groundhog... after my nap :)


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March 26, 2012

Oh Susanna - How To Organize Time For Productive Writing?

Happy Monday, my friends!  I hope you all had a lovely weekend!  And now, here we are at the start of another fun-filled week!
Phyllis and friends :)
Before we get to our Oh Susanna question, I'd like to take just a second to update you on Phyllis's tour!  Our furry young friend has been VERY busy!  Some of you may have missed her Friday stop in Chico, CA with Elizabeth - if you did, hop on over HERE and don't miss her "brains before beauty" shot - it's not every day you see a helmeted groundhog on a bike :)  Phyllis also spent a day with Darshana in the Silicon Valley, where she received quite an education on micro-chips and got to wear a bunny suit!  You can see that one HERE (and as you can see above, she also got to hang out with some critters that I'm pretty sure she's distantly related to :))  She also visited Heather in Maine, and that post will be up today or tomorrow HERE - I can't wait to see it!  AND (yes there's more!) she is also in the UK and visited the standing stones at Avebury this weekend with Rebecca and her 7 children.  When Rebecca's post goes up, you will be able to find it HERE and I can't wait to see that one either!!!

I told you our little friend was busy!

Now then, let's have a show of hands.  How many of you are doing the A To Z Challenge?  I am tempted to join (not that Laura anyone is putting any pressure on :)) but am not sure if I can pull off the challenge and still fit my regularly scheduled events in... so I am mulling... and trying to decide if I will be the only person in the blogosphere not doing it if I wimp out elect not to... and wondering if trying to do one more thing will mean the end of what's left of my sanity... :)  So please, do let me know what y'all are doing!

Without further ado, here is today's Oh Susanna question:


O, Susanna, HELP!!  I need assistance developing a better schedule for writing, brainstorming, studying, illustrating, researching, blogging, and following blogs and links,  and of course all the usual home related obligations.  Are there any formulas for beating the distractions and staying up to date w/resources and links and staying on goal? Do you do blogging on Monday, writing on Tuesday,  research on Wednesday, go crazy on Thursday????  I'm also part of the 12x12 group - and love all the interaction and resources--but it's almost overwhelming to keep up. Please---I need ideas!  (side note:  Ghiardelli chocolate brownies work great as a goal reward for me  :)  
I used to have a 'regular job' as a principal w/ specific hours, had an office w/ a door, and everyone understood I was 'at work.'   But now, working at home I am often  interrupted by family, friends (often very pleasant and welcome), the phone (family & business-my husband's a pastor), the internet magnet (for research, I promise!), housecleaning (so easy to get distracted  now that my office is my home), a beautiful day begging to be explored (after all, I am my own boss), and chasing____________________ (fill in the blank with a shiny object),  etc., etc.,  
I tried a Daily Goal Chart like we used at our school.  It's worked for maybe 2 out of 5 days. Grrrrrr----HELP me because I'm,
Three Days Late & Dollars Short


Dear Three Days Late,

I am glad you asked this question, because I'm betting almost everyone reading this struggles with the same problem.  You can take comfort in the fact that, at the very least, you are not struggling alone! :)

Working on your own at home sounds like a dream come true.  What could be better than the entire day, every day, stretching before you just waiting to be filled with your words and stories?

But it's not as easy as it seems.

You may have trouble sitting down to work until the house is clean, and before you know it, half the day is gone.  Your friends and relations may not respect your work time because it seems like a hobby, or because you can set your own schedule and work some other time, so they show up for impromptu cups of coffee or call for a long chat... and before you know it, half the day is gone.  It's far too easy, if you hit a snag in your writing, to say, "I'll just go to the grocery store, because I have to do that anyway..." and before you know it, the day is over and that story isn't a word further along than it was.

As you say, distractions are myriad, and some, like blogging or online research, are especially tough because they start out as legitimate work but it's easy to get sucked in for WAY longer than you intended, or to stray from your original intent.

So how do you manage?

The answer to that is undoubtedly a bit different for everyone.  With a little trial and error you can come up with your own formula of what works for you, but I'm not sure anyone else can give you that formula.  Let's give it a try, though :)

Before anything else, look at your day and your life and your personality.  What obligations do you have to your family and household day to day, and how much time will those take?  (You need a realistic approximation of your work time, and it's probably never going to be all day every day.  Can you realistically devote 3 hours a day to work?  6?  2 1/2?  Or is it likely to change from day to day?)  Are you a person who is unable to imagine being able to concentrate on writing before the beds are made, the house vacuumed, and the grocery shopping done?  (Then get those things done first or you will be wasting your precious work time feeling fragmented and putting less than your full energy into your writing and it will take you 6 times as long to get anything done.)  Do you work well in short bursts of intense energy broken up by other tasks, or does it take you a while to hit your stride and once you do you like to stick with it with no interruptions of any kind?  (Plan your day accordingly.)  Do you need to exercise first thing in the morning to get your brain in gear, or is it more helpful to go later in the day when you need a break from the computer screen and a little time to let story problems work themselves out?

Asking yourself theses kinds of questions should help you have a realistic idea of how much time you actually have and how you will benefit most from arranging it.

Here are some other things to think about/try:

 - Respect your work and ask others to respect it.  Even if you work at home, even if you are your own boss, even if you're not bringing in a regular paycheck, your writing is your work.  But if you want others to respect it and take it seriously, you must first do that yourself.

 - Impose your own hours.  Make a plan.  Say to yourself, "8 AM to noon [or whatever] is my work time."  If the phone rings, you may check the caller ID and make sure it's not your child's school, or the ER calling to let you know someone broke their arm, but emergencies aside, let your voice mail answer while you're working.  You can call back later, but if you answer, you will interrupt your flow, and who knows how much time you'll lose while simultaneously sending the message to whoever it is that it's OK for them to call and interrupt your work.  By the same token, let your friends and relations know that you are not available for impromptu tennis games or drop-in visits during your work hours and stick to it.  Firmly.

 - Identify the time of day you are most productive, and do your writing work then.  Some people work best first thing in the morning.  Others take time to get going and are better off answering emails and doing their blogging first, then writing in the afternoon.  Still others work best when the rest of the world is asleep.  Whatever your most productive time of day, use that for your writing and slot your other tasks in around it.  All of your work will flow more easily.

 - Some people find the internet a huge distraction.  If you are one of them, there are programs for both Mac and PC that will turn off your internet while you work.  You can set the amount of time, and then no email will pop up, no blog posts will lure you from your appointed tasks, and you won't be able to surf around looking for a cute pair of shoes for that party this weekend.

 - Some people work better with encouragement/competition.  There are sites where you can sign up to work for half and hour (or your choice of time) and compare with other people how much you got done in that time.  There are other sites that work by word count, and you can aim for 1000 words (or whatever) and see how long it takes you.  In both cases, you're kind of working with other people.  (And of course I should have the links for those sites, but since I haven't used them myself I don't know which to recommend.  Readers, please feel free to chip in your two cents about such sites you have used and liked!)

 - List your priorities and divvy up your time accordingly.  Most of us would agree that our actual writing should come first, so the biggest chunk of time should be devoted to that.  Does your story or nonfiction work require research before you can write it?  Then that needs a high priority too.  Do you have a manuscript ready for submission?  Then you might need to prioritize time for researching agents or potential publishers, or writing a query or cover letter.  Different stages of the writing process demand different priorities - there's no point researching publishers before you've written your manuscript.

- Experiment a bit and see what works for you.  Some people set aside a couple hours on Sunday afternoon and write all their blog posts for the week.  Then that job is done, the posts scheduled, and you can check it off your list and forget about 'til until next Sunday.  Other people would rather put in half an hour at the crack of dawn Monday, Wednesday and Friday writing their posts when the time comes so that they can talk about whatever is first and foremost on their mind that day.  Some people read and comment on 5 blogs a day.  Others read and comment on blogs for half an hour a day.  Others only read other people's blogs one or two days a week.  What works best for you?

- There's an old adage that says something along the lines of, "A job will take as much time as you have to do it."  If you think you have 4 hours to read and reply to all the email in your inbox and catch up with the 12x12 group, it will take you 4 hours.  But if you say to yourself, I have one hour to read and reply and catch up, you will be more efficient, and when that hour is up, be firm with yourself and move on to something else.

- There is nothing like a good old-fashioned kitchen timer!  Set it for 15 minutes or an hour or whatever amount you need, and do whatever task you allot yourself until the timer dings.  You can use it for both work time and break time.  Write for a measured hour, and then give yourself 15 minutes to check email, or read a couple blog posts, or read a section of your craft book on writing dialogue, or play Words With Friends or walk the dog - but when that timer dings and your 15 minutes is up, it's time for the next thing.

- Some people work well with lists.  Either first thing when you sit down to work for the day, or last thing as you're finishing up and planning for tomorrow, make a list of the things you need to accomplish.  Make the items measurable and attainable in the time you have, for example, write 1000 words of MG novel, or read and comment on 2 new blogs, or study chapter on school visits in XYZ book.

- Other people are oppressed by long to-do lists that may seem insurmountable.  If you're one of them, write your list backwards - that is, make a list of the things you've accomplished as you've done them, for example, wrote my Perfect Picture Book Friday post for this week, read and commented on 3 blogs, added 2 more possible agents to my list, wrote first draft of new PB.

Working at home in any capacity is difficult because of the setting with all it's attendant distractions and the fact that you're your own boss and set your own schedule.  If the work you're doing at home is writing, it's exponentially harder.  Writing is HARD work.  Creativity takes enormous amounts of effort.  Pretty much everything else is easier, so we all find ourselves tempted by reading blogs and studying craft and making pretty new bookmarks to bring on school visits etc...  But ultimately, we are writers.  Writing is our work.  If we don't write, we have nothing else - no reason to build a platform, or search out agents or publishers, or query about school visits, if we aren't producing the book we're going to promote.  It takes a lot of self-discipline, and we probably all have some days where we do better than others.  But I think the key is figuring out how much time you can devote to your work each day, how you want to divide that time up so you get to all the things you need to get to, and how to arrange your tasks in the order that best suits you so that you maximize your productivity.

I realize that was long-winded - sorry! - and I hope it answered your question at least somewhat.  Now, if we're lucky, all the other talented writers out there will chime in with tips and advice and ideas of what works for them, and maybe you'll get some gems from them :)

Please, everyone, chime in! :)
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March 23, 2012

Perfect Picture Book Friday - Kiss The Cow!

Hurray!  It's Perfect Picture Book Friday once again.  If you're casting about for a little smackerel to go with today's story, I would have to recommend chocolate milk :)

(And please stay tuned after the book for an update on Phyllis's World Tour and a fun activity for kids!)

Kiss The Cow!
Written By: Phyllis Root
Illustrated By: Will Hillenbrand
Candlewick Press, 2000, Fiction

Suitable For: ages 4-8

Themes/Topics: curiosity, behavior (stubborness), gratitude, kindness

Opening:  "Mama May lived where the earth met the sky, and her house was as wide as the prairie.  It needed to be.  Mama May had so many children she couldn't count them all.  Among Mama May's children was one called Annalisa. She wasn't the youngest, and she wasn't the oldest, but she was the most curious and the most stubborn."

Brief Synopsis: Every day, Annalisa watches her Mama milk Louella the magic cow.  Magic words make Louella's milk flow.  More magic words make it stop.  And always, always, Mama finishes by kissing the cow.  Annalisa begins to wonder.  What would it be like to milk a magic cow?  Before you know it, her curiosity has gotten the better of her.  Against her mother's wishes, she milks Louella.  But she forgets the kiss with disastrous results!

Links To Resources:  Here are some Facts About Cows, All About Cows For Kids with links to video clips on cheese and butter making as well as printables, songs and poems, stories and more, and Pictures Of Cows along with links to information of all kinds.

Why I Like This Book:  This book is very reminiscent of Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola in its plot and structure.  As such, they are a great pair to read together so kids can see the similarities and differences.  Both offer lessons in not taking things for granted.  This story has a delightfully stubborn main character (if you have kids, you've probably met her :)) who learns that generosity must be repaid with gratitude and kindness, but she comes around in her own way and her own time.  The art is very bright and engaging - who could resist that cow with her gorgeous long eyelashes?  The rhyme of magic words is fun to read and say.  Just an all-round fun book!

For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

Now, before you all rush off to your weekends, I just want to let you know that everyone's favorite groundhog has been a busy girl this week!  I hope you saw her visits with Beth in Saskatchewan and Erik in Philadelphia earlier this week.  And in case you might have missed it since it was a non-posting day for me, she was in both Abilene, Texas with Penny and Nice, France with Joanna yesterday!  Rumor has it she is back in California with Elizabeth today, as well as on her way to Maine and another location in California (apparently she loves The Golden State - she may never come home :)) so more fun posts should be on the way next week!  (Especially because she is also journeying to New Zealand and Italy and who knows when she'll get there - it could be any time!!!)  Here's a little sampling of the fun:
Phyllis trying to convince Beth to let her drive the John Deere in Saskatchewan
Phyllis trying to convince Erik to let her ring the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia
Phyllis trying to convince the street player to let her have a turn with the accordion in France during her stay with Joanna
Phyllis having convinced Penny to let her ride off into the Texas sunset on an armadillo :)

For any teachers who might be reading this post, there is a Phyllis dress-up activity on my website which can be printed on paper or card stock (for free download.)  The Phyllis figure can be colored and cut out (don't worry about the dress up extras for this activity) and makes a perfect, easily portable (or mailable) Phyllis!  She can travel with students when they go on Easter break soon, or be mailed to a pen pal class, or students' relatives all over the USA and the world to gather weather reports, photos, or any other fun activity you and your class can dream up (a la Flat Stanley.)  If you do anything with her, please let me know!  I'd love to share it here with other teachers.  (And if you are a parent, please feel free to suggest this idea to your children's teachers!)

PPBF bloggers, please add your post-specific link to the list below, and I hope you all have a fabulous weekend and get to enjoy this lovely weather :)  See you next week with more exciting adventures from the marmot queen :)

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March 21, 2012

Would You Read It Wednesday - The 32nd Pitch, And A Tour Update, And A Winner!!!

As of yesterday, it is officially spring!  For pretty much the first time I can remember (and please, no comments about senility) it actually feels like spring on March 21st.  We don't have one of these cuties
but the lawn is greening, even up here on the mountain where we are usually two weeks behind the valley.  The lilac bush is unfurling tiny new leaves.  And my Brown Dog spent most of yesterday's romp in a nearby pond looking for all the world like an otter :)

I realize it may not last.  It is only March, and this kind of weather usually doesn't arrive until late April... or late May... !  But boy is it nice while it's here!

Before we get to our Would You Read It pitch for today, we have a couple little items of business.

First, that rascally groundhog Phyllis is in Philadelphia with our friend Erik!  Please hop over and check out his post on Phyllis's visit to the City of Brotherly Love HERE :)

If you didn't get to see her visit to The Land of Living Skies, please check Beth's post HERE.  (It's not every day you get to see a groundhog in a Mountie's hat, and you will love the deal she and Beth struck!)

Tomorrow (Thursday) we will get to hear all about her visit to Nice, France with Joanna, so be sure to check HERE!  As well as her visit with Penny in Abilene, TX (I think there's going to be video footage in this one!) which you can see HERE!

Anyone who wants to browse or catch up, check out Phyllis's World Tour Page on the tab above or click HERE.

I just have to say, I hope you all are having as much fun with Phyllis's tour as I am.  When I came up with this wacky idea, I never dreamed that everyone would be so incredibly enthusiastic and creative and wonderful!  You have all done such an amazing job, and every time I think you can't be any more awesome, you are!  So thank you to everyone who is hosting and posting Phyllis, and to everyone who is reading and commenting and lending their support in other ways.  This tour is only what it is because of you!

Now then, this seems like the perfect moment to announce the winner of Iza's book.  I must say, there were some very entertaining poems in Monday's comments!   Some of them were more entertaining then they were intended to be (Penny!) and we all had a good laugh :)

Everyone who submitted 4 rhyming lines about a bear by 5 PM EDT yesterday had their name fed to random.org.  And the winner of the brand new, hot off the presses, hard cover, signed copy of The Bear Went Over The Mountain, written and illustrated by the fabulous Iza Trapani is............

TERI!!!  (Who has amazing luck with random.org - I believe she won a book giveaway last year too!)

Congratulations, Teri!  Lucky you :)  I hope you enjoy the book.  Please email me and let me know your address and how you'd like the book signed so I can pass the info along to Iza!

And now, the other moment you've all been waiting for, today's pitch!

Today's pitch comes to us from Rebecca, a talented young writer who loves her pony and her friends and who, at 14, is the youngest person to participate in Would You Read It so far.  She does not have a blog or a website (yet!:)) so you'll just have to visit with her here.  Here is her pitch:

Working Title:  Everett
Age/Genre:  YA Paranormal
The Pitch:  Ever since Bria Stone was a little girl, she has had nightmares about shadow-like monsters who claim they're coming to get her. At age six, Bria had another dream, in which a man with glowing skin told her the monsters are real.  When Bria encounters this man - who claims his last name is Everett and that he has no first name - in real life after her nineteenth birthday party, she starts to wonder: if good dreams can come true, does that mean the bad ones can too?

So what do you think?  Would You Read It?  YES, MAYBE or NO?

If your answer is YES, please feel free to tell us what you particularly liked and why the pitch piqued your interest.  If your answer is MAYBE or NO, please feel free to tell us what you think could be better in the spirit of helping Rebecca improve her pitch.  Helpful examples of possible alternate wordings are welcome.  (However, I must ask that comments be constructive and respectful.  I reserve the right not to publish comments that are mean because that is not what this is about.)

Please send YOUR pitches for the coming weeks!  For rules and where to submit, click on this link Would You Read It or on the Would You Read It tab in the bar above.  Go ahead and send your pitch for a chance for it to be read by editor Erin Molta!

Rebecca is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!

And I am really looking forward to hearing about what Phyllis got up to in France, and Texas!  Stay tuned...!


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March 19, 2012

Meet Iza Trapani, Author/Illustrator - And A Giveaway!

Happy Monday Everyone!  I hope you all had a lovely weekend!

You know, I struggle a little with this blog schedule.  On the one hand, I don't want to post more than three days a week.  On the other hand, I don't want to cram so much into a post that you the one look at all that text and skip on to the next blog (I know - I haven't quite mastered that one :)).  On the other hand, I don't want to post twice in a day because that's as bad as adding a day -  I know how busy everyone is, how many great blogs there are to read out there, and how limited your time is.  On the other hand (I believe we're up to four hands now... so you see the struggle!) there's is so much to share!!!  I had thought I could solve one problem by posting the monthly interviews on Saturday or Sunday, but I didn't like that and neither, I think, did you.  We all need a break.  So I'm booting Oh Susanna this week and putting the interview in here.

And oh I have such a treat for you today!  Please join me in welcoming the incomparable Iza Trapani!

SLH:  When did you first become interested in writing and/or illustrating?  Was it something you always did, or something you came to later in life?

Author/Illustrator Iza Trapani
IT:  I have been an artist since I could hold a pencil in my hand (or lipstick for that matter; as a toddler, I used my mom‘s lipstick to paint a masterpiece on our wall.) I have also always enjoyed writing, especially poetry. In high school and college, while art was my main focus, I took as many creative writing courses as I could.

SLH:  Were you encouraged by family/teachers?

IT:  Yes, as long as I stayed away from the lipstick, my family encouraged me. They read and sang to me and instilled in me a lifelong love of art, language and music. Friends and teachers did as well, throughout my whole life. Their belief in me has always been and continues to be empowering.

SLH:  You are both an author and an illustrator.  Which comes first for you, the story or the art?
        
IT:  The story comes first, but I  envision the pictures as I write it. I want to be sure that the story suggests wonderful imagery and that scenes vary from page to page.

SLH:  Where/when/how do you get your ideas?

At the most inopportune times- in the middle of the night, in the shower, when I am driving...The idea for my first children‘s book, What am I? An Animal Guessing Game came to me  when I was on  a long mountain bike ride twenty-two years ago. When a turtle crosed the trail in front of me, I made up a little rhyming riddle about him. By the time I returned home an hour or so later, I had the book roughed out and some of the verses composed.  I  never really thought of myself as a writer until that point.  I had a portfolio packed with children‘s book art but not one story. And then one day (thank you turtle), I tapped into that part of my brain, and after that ideas kept pouring out.

SLH:  What has been the most challenging thing you have faced as an author/illustrator?

IT:  Maybe two things: The waiting- hearing back from editors and art directors, waiting for the book to be printed, waiting for reviews, waiting for royalty statements...The other challenge is  having my illustrations in progress (especially covers) reviewed by, not just the art director and editor, but the marketing team, the sales team, the editorial departments etc. I am very easy to work with and totally open to viable suggestions, but after a while it becomes art by committee.Have you ever heard the expression that a camel is a horse that was designed by a committee?Well, it‘s something like that!

SLH:  What has been the most wonderful thing that has happened to you as an author/illustrator?

IT:  I can‘t put my finger on one thing. There have been so many exciting and gratifying moments. What warms my heart the most is the love and loyalty from my generous fan base - the parents, the early educators, the children, the supportive fellow authors, like you, Susanna. I have met so many wonderful people on this great journey!

SLH:  What has been your best selling book so far?

IT:  The Itsy Bitsy Spider. I am proud (and amazed) to say it has sold over a million copies  and is still going strong.

SLH:  Why do you think that might have been?

IT:  Timing might have had something to do with it. There weren‘t many retellings of nursery rhymes at the time (that I know of ) and so I found a niche in the market. The book became instantly popular with teachers, especially Pre-K to K. I had very positive feedback from early educators telling me how useful the book was in teaching young children to read - that the kids recognized the title so they were eager to look inside the book, that they already knew the first verse so that gave them confidence to learn the other verses. Plus the book could be sung for even easier learning.

SLH:  Were you surprised by one book's success over another's?

IT:  With over twenty years of practice, both my writing and illustration have improved, so it surprises me that my fifteenth book, Froggie Went A-Courtin’, which has some of my best artwork, is not doing anywhere near as well as my second book,  The Itsy Bitsy Spider.

SLH:  Have all your titles earned out?

IT:  Fifteen of the seventeen books that I haveboth written and illustrated have earned out. I have also illustrated four books for other authors and two of those have earned out.

SLH:  Are they all still in print?

IT:  All but one of my titles, a non-nursery rhyme book, My Jack are still in print. Of the four books I illustrated for other authors, only one, The Wedding by Eve Bunting, is still in print.  I have worked with small presses, who keep books in print longer than some of the big houses. My books have had a long run. I have been very lucky.

SLH:  Have sales affected publishers' willingness to do further projects in a good or bad way?

IT:  The publishing world is in such a sea of change right now and publishers are wary and much more discriminating. It's a very tough market right now- even for those of us with good track records.

SLH:  Can you give us any hints about what you’re working on now?

IT:  I have a new book coming out Apri11, 2012- The Bear Went Over the Mountain. As for works in progress, I have a few children's stories brewing and am  also working on the last chapter of an adult(maybe YA) memoir.

SLH:  What advice do you have for authors/illustrators just starting out?

IT:  Spend A LOT of time reading and studying childrens books. Read adult books on writing and/or illustrating. Practice and work hard on your stories and art. Take classes, workshops, join a critique group. Look honestly at your work and polish it to the best of your ability before submitting. There is a wealth of information on the internet. Check out writing/illustrating blogs.  Join the SCBWI  (society for childrens book writers and illustrators)who offer great advice and opportunities for those hoping to become published.

SLH:  Where can we find you?

IT:  My website: www.izatrapani.com
Twitter: @IzaTrapani

And now the quick, fun questions for the end! :)

Agented or not? agented
Traditionally or self-published? traditionally
Hard copy or digital? hard copy
Apps or not? no
Left-handed or right?  I''m a rightie (hands only :-), though I have suspicions I was born leftie and my parents raised me to use my right hand. I lead with my left hand in so many things…Long answer!
Plotter or pantser? plonster
Laptop or desktop? laptop
Mac or PC? Mac
Day or night worker? day
Coffee or tea? Both
Snack or not? Snack
Salty or sweet? Yes!
Quiet or music? quiet when writing/music when illustrating
Cat or dog? One of each (although - SLH here - I've seen her dog and he's more like a pony :))
Currently reading? Besides blogs? :-) Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman

Thank you so much for joining us, Iza!

And now, as if that very informative interview wasn't enough, you all have a chance to win a signed, hardcover copy of Iza's brand new book which isn't even officially out until April 1!!!  To qualify, leave a comment below in which (in addition to whatever else you might or might not say) you include 4 rhyming lines about a bear :)  Qualified comments will be loaded into random.org and one lucky winner will receive The Bear Went Over The Mountain before the rest of the world :)

Now, very quickly before we go:
1.  Look for Phyllis's visit to Saskatchewan on Beth's blog tomorrow (Tuesday, March 20) - it promises to be quite something!
2.  I will be featured on Children's Literature Network's new feature - Bookscope: The Story Behind The Story - with the story behind Not Yet, Rose tomorrow also! (link will be added when I have it!)
3.  Phyllis had an AMAZING visit to Missouri which you won't want to miss (especially if you're a CARS fan :)) so please visit Andi :)  And be sure to check in with Phyllis's World Tour page for updates between blog posts here!

Thank you all for visiting with Iza!  Now write those 4 rhyming lines about a bear :) - you could WIN!!!  (Oh, and please get your rhyming lines in by 5 PM EDT Tuesday March 20 - the winner will be announced Wednesday!)



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March 16, 2012

Perfect Picture Book Friday - The Quiltmaker's Gift Plus Straight From The Editor #6

Boy has his week flown past!  It may have something to do with trying to keep up with a certain wanderlust groundhog who is cavorting about the globe in a way that suggests time has no meaning :)  But before we catch up with Phyllis, let's relax for a moment with today's Perfect Picture Book.

The Quiltmaker's Gift
Written By: Jeff Brumbeau
Illustrated By: Gail de Marcken
Pfeifer-Hamilton Publishers, 2000, Fiction

Suitable For: ages 4-8 (publisher's rec, but text-heavy so maybe preferable for older end or kids with a good attention span.)

Themes/Topics: generosity, greed, helping others

Opening: "There was once a quilt maker who kept a house in the blue misty mountains up high.  Even the oldest great, great grandfather could not recall a time when she was not up there, sewing away day after day.  Here and there and wherever the sun warmed the earth, it was said she made the prettiest quilts anyone had ever seen."

Brief Synopsis:  A kind-hearted quilt maker makes the most beautiful quilts the world has ever seen, but rather than sell them she gives them away to the poor.  When a greedy king wants one, he must learn the joy of giving before he can hope to receive.

Links To Resources: The end papers of the book show numerous quilt patterns by picture and name, and the inside of the dust jacket has a fabulous illustration where kids (and grown-ups :)) can search for all the items given away by the king - the ultimate hidden picture!  Here is a Teacher's Guide suitable for upper elementary.  And here is The Quiltmaker's Gift Website which is full of great resources including puzzles and games, stories of generosity from around the globe, and many other things - even a book on how to make the quilts pictured.

Why I Like This Book:  Although this book got rather luke warm reviews, I love it, and my children all loved it.  It's one of an increasingly rarer breed of picture book these days - the kind with more than 500-1000 words.  As such, it's better suited to the older end of the picture book age group (or good listeners) and I love picture books that fall into that category.  The language is lyrical, the pictures are gorgeous and full of details, and the story has a nice message about what is really important in life.

For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

Next up is our latest Straight From The Editor with Erin Molta.

Here's what Erin had to say:

This seems like it will be cute. Just a couple of minor suggestions.
(Original pitch): Three frolicking baby giraffes try to find a place to play on a hot and crowded savannah. They find it isn’t an easy task. They run into a troop of baboons, a dazzle of zebras, and a pride of lions. At last, they turn to the river, only to be confronted by hippopotami. Our giraffes find fun and friendship at the end of a long a grueling day.

Confronted indicates confrontational and doesn’t provide quite the right lead-in to, “Our giraffes finding fun and friendship . . .”  so you need to say something like, “Finally, the giraffes find fun and friendship. . .” or mention what it is that the giraffes did to change the hippos’ minds so that they are welcomed rather than confronted. It would also be cool if you added the group name for hippopotami (bloat, herd, pod?)

I hope everyone finds something helpful to take away!

Finally, I hope you've all been keeping up with that whirlwind Phyllis!  I can't believe how wonderful all her hostesses have been so far!  They have been showing her SUCH a good time.  She is seeing the sights and learning all about the USA - geography, history, fashion :) (yes, leave it to Phyllis to try to figure out how to wear her sombrero and her coonskin cap at the same time!)  If you haven't had a chance yet, please check out Phyllis's World Tour on the tab above, as well as Kirsten's, Natalie's FirstSecond and Third, Kelly's, and Hannah's posts detailing Phyllis's visits to California, Texas, Florida, and Colorado!  They have all taken Phyllis to wonderful places, and been so creative, and posted such fantastic photos, I urge you all to take a look when you have a spare minute.  Phyllis also left for New Zealand and the UK this morning, and arrived in Missouri around noon.  It would seem the space-time continuum does not apply to her :)

Keep your eye on Phyllis's World Tour tab which will be updated even when it's not a posting day here, and tune in next week for more adventures.  Also, on Monday, instead of Oh Susanna, we will have a visit from the delightful Iza Trapani for our monthly interview which promises to be amazing!

PPBF bloggers, please add your post-specific links to the list below!  Have a great weekend everybody!

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