Go Away, Big Green Monster!

Need a fun, quick read to get your kids (and you) smiling? Try my favorite monster book:

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Book Info

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1st edition (January 1, 1992) Fiction or Non-fiction: Fun, fun, fiction
Ages: 3-6
Theme: Monsters ūüôā Imagination and Conquering Fears

Opening Sentence: “Big, green monster has two, big yellow eyes”BGM2

Synopsis: The book takes you page by page introducing the monster and all his scary features. Then you work in reverse through each feature again, telling the monster, “You don’t scare me! So go away scraggily, purple hair” etc. until you come to the fun ending “And don’t come back… until I say so.”

Why I like it:¬†It’s just plain fun (and very short) ūüėČ I’m also a sucker for books with cut out pages, or moving parts. LOVE THEM. This one is so entertaining with the layering and how it works so perfectly building up the monster, then taking him away again. Simple, but brilliant!

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Activities:

BigGreenMonsterPlaydough
Click Here to see on http://www.makinglearningfun.com

Literacy Activity

Coloring, Lesson and Snack Time Ideas

Face Pieces Coloring Page

Video

Song

 

Buy the book on Amazon.com

See a complete listing of ¬†‘Picture Perfect Books’ here


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Famous Authors Interviews – Words of Wisdom

Be prepared to be shocked… authors, even the extremely famous ones , are real people – like you and me. ¬†I know, shocking huh? ūüėČ

Honestly though, while I’m glued to my computer for my day job, I enjoy listening to interviews with these real people. Their¬†thoughts are inspiring and motivating – especially if you’re a writer too.

I was capitvated by J.K. Rowling’s interview with Oprah (see below). If you have 45 minutes it’s worth the watch (or listen, like I did). If not, I’ve included links to some other famous childrens author interviews I enjoyed (that are a lot shorter).

Be prepared though – you’ll want to write as soon as you’re done listening. Might want to save some time for that for later.

— click on the author’s name to see the video —

Author InterviewsJ.K. Rowling (Harry Potter series) -CLICK HERE-:

She is the ultimate rags to riches story. One of my favorite things about her is her ability to remember what life was like before fame and to not lose sight of that. So refreshing!

Jon Scieszka (True Story of the Three Little Pigs) – CLICK HERE-:

What a funny guy. I really enjoyed hearing his thoughts on reading and boys – how they struggle to read more than girls. I just enjoyed this interview in general, his happiness is contagious.

Jerry Spinelli (Maniac Magee, Stargirl) – CLICK HERE-:

I enjoy Spinelli’s writing style – so I was eager to hear his interview. I loved that hated¬†reading the required reading in school because I always struggled with that as well.

Beverly Cleary (Ramona and Beezus) – CLICK HERE-:

Beverly was a children’s librarian before becoming an author. She got in to writing because the children weren’t satisfied with the books that were available.¬†She never received a rejection letter – ever!

 Lois Lowry (The Giver) РCLICK HERE-:

Lois Lowry dropped out of college and finished after he children were all in school. She never submitted a story formally. She was approached by an editor and asked to try writing a story for children – which turned in to her first novel.

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Mo Willems

Mo Willems (Elelphant and Piggie, Pigeon) -CLICK HERE-:

Mo fell into writing almost by accident, but man am I glad he did. I LOVE the Elephant Piggie series.

Katherine Paterson (Author of Bridge to Terabithia) -CLICK HERE-: 

She stresses the importance of reading as an author. She also talks about the real life death that inspired the book The Bridge to Terabithia.

Kate DiCamillo (Author of Because of Winn-Dixie, Mercy Watson) -CLICK HERE-: 

Kate says she loves to finish stories but doesn’t actually love to write them. Each morning she has to convince herself to get the writing done.¬†Man, I can relate to that some days.

Before you head off to to do some writing yourself, would you share comment below about something that motivates you to write? Thanks!

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DON’T TOUCH! This is MY reading time!

Hand Over the Books

I’m in that phase of life – the Tasmanian devil in a mini van phase. And the endless running around leaves me wondering how to follow the holy grail of advice to writers:

READ – read – READ!

I tried reading in the morning while I ate my cereal. Not my brightest idea. My day goes a little like this. I wake up long before the sun comes up and wake up my children (two who are far too peppy for 6 am). Then clothes and hair and teeth and lunches. Some shoe tying and shoe finding, then library book hunting – under the bed, under the couch – until we’re five minutes past go time. One says they never ate breakfast, so¬†I hand them an¬†apple and bread and shoo them out the door. Repeat the process two times for my middle schooler and high schooler – throw in a little driving faster than I should ’til that school zone sign comes in to view and you’ve got my morning (sounds familiar to any of you?). I¬†count it a¬†success if¬†my kids get in the front door before the bell rings, I mean, who’s really¬†looking if their socks match anyway? So…

Reading while I eat breakfast is out.

The rest of my day isn’t much slower. I work from home part-time, which sounds magical to everyone I tell and in many ways it is. But without¬†set work hours and no clear cut ‘coffee breaks’ and ‘lunch hours’ like¬†most office jobs –¬†reading while I work is not an option either.

Afternoon carpool is different. I have about fifteen minutes in the car before my kids come out. I used to try and squeeze in some writing here (and still do sometimes) but most often, I read. Repeat that twice for picking up my middle schooler and high schooler and I’ve got 30-40 minutes of reading under my belt.

Afternoon carpool reading is a GO!

Is it selfish that that’s not enough time to me? I crave a big, long chunk of reading time but almost never get it unless I do the following:

Swap TV/Internet zoning out for reading time.

With four kids and all the after school activities that come with that, sometimes there isn’t even TV time to swap. When I do choose a book over HGTV I’m always more satisfied. In reality, I wish I was one of those avid readers that always preferred a book over TV – but I’m not. Often¬†TV wins out, but I still think – especially on the channel flipping nights-¬†we should all do ourselves¬†a favor by turning it off and grabbing a book instead.

The only curse (or maybe it’s a blessing) I have with reading is¬†it puts me to sleep. Anyone else have this problem? When I read I calm down. My body seems to take that as a cue that it’s time to sleep. When I was reading the sixth Harry Potter book for the first time, I came¬†to the climactic seen in the tower – you know the one I’m talking about. One of the most pivotal scenes in the entire series, and what do I do mid-sentence? I fall asleep. I woke up four different times trying to finish the scene and couldn’t. ¬†I finally gave in to the sleep and finished the chapter when I woke. My husband¬†still teases me about that to this day.

Bedtime is my reading time.

My reading¬†curse makes bedtime a great time for reading. It helps me unwind and fall asleep faster. Before my husband convinced me to trying reading at bedtime I would lie in bed for nearly 45 minutes – waiting for the chatter in my head to quiet. Books quiet my¬†internal chatter¬†’til¬†all I hear is the story I’ve wrapped myself in.

Then…¬†I fall asleep.¬†ūüôā

Being a reader does not require ideal circumstances. Don’t let yourself or anyone around you try and convince you it does. Readers can come from any kind of life and any level of busy – you just have to want it bad enough.

When and where do you read?

Please comment below.

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Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel

It’s Perfect Picture Book Friday Time! And we’re talking about one of my favorite childhood books:

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel

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Book Info:

Written and Illustrated by: Virginia Lee Burton
Published:  Houghton Mifflin, 1939
Fiction or Non-Fiction:¬†Fictional (I’m¬†yet to meet a talking steam shovel).
For Ages: ¬†3-8 (or 38… or 83… really, any old age)

This Book Teaches:

Loyalty, Hard Work, Determination¬†– OR – less eloquently put: It teaches kids the importance of working their hineys off before spending retirement sitting on them¬†ūüėČ

Teaching Resources:

A Look Inside:

Text from Opening Page

Mike loves his red steam shovel, Mary Anne. Mary Anne loves Mike and loves to work but no one wants an old steam shovel for their jobs anymore. So, when a cellar needs to be dug for the new town hall, Mike and Mary Anne promise they can dig it in just one day! No one believes them, but they show the town that hard work and determination can accomplish the impossible Рeven without a shiny, new paint job.

Photo_Aug_10_2_23_29_PM.480x480-75I read this book countless times as a child in the 80’s. While the book was old to me then, and is even older to students now –¬†I still think the pencil sketches are timeless – just like the story.

As a kid I got swirled up in the tension of the story. Will they make it? They do,¬†but Virginia doesn’t leave the story at the ‘hip, hip, hooray – you saved the day’ -nope- she takes it a little farther, which is wonderful.¬†My¬†first time hearing the story I was so worried for Mary Anne at the end. How will she get out of the hole she dug?¬†Virginia turning her in to the furnace for the new town hall and showing Mike enjoying his retirement at Mary Anne’s side created an extremely satisfying ending for me.

Take a minute and give it a look. You’ll be glad you did.

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Click here for a complete list of Perfect Picture Books.

 

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To End or Not to End?

That’s today’s question.

I need your help. Take a quick minute and comment below with two things:

1. Do you prefer books that leave you hanging? Or books that give you closure?

2. Have a book in mind?

Thats the Ending

FOR ME:

In a series, I want closure at the end of each book with the over arching storyline pulling me on to the next book. I get most frustrated with¬†series where book one ends and I feel like I’ve read the cliffhanger at the end of a chapter. The Divergent series left me feeling this way, especially book two. To me the series felt like one big story, chopped in to three books. Just not my preference. On the other hand, the Harry Potter series managed to create unique stand alone books that also worked together as a whole. The Last Apprentice Series does this as well. Anyone else agree with me here? Or¬†want to defend Veronica Roth’s tactics?

There are some times that¬†I like a little ambiguity. The book I have in mind is Lois Lowry’s,¬†The Giver.¬†¬†This book lets readers have a bit of a “choose your own adventure” moment with the ending. My book club read this book and many of the ladies hated the ending.They felt it was unfinished. I didn’t not feel that way. Personally, I love it. If you remember, Jonas’s first memory given was of a sled ride. Then, at the end of the book he’s faced with an unknown town, a place that could be a chance for a new life, a chance for a new start and what’s waiting on the top of the hill for him? What’s his first memory of this new life? A¬†sled ride. That’s a pretty perfect ending to me.

Let’s hear your thoughts!

6 reasons to be grateful you’re a writer NOW

With Thanksgiving being less than a day away, it seems only appropriate to list the reasons we should be grateful to be a writer now instead of decades ago.

Drum roll please.

Thanksgiving

 

1. We don’t have to use whiteout.

Typewriters and whiteout are fun to mess around with. ¬†The tick-tick-swuurrr is oddly soothing, but type a whole novel on that antique? NO WAY! I’m grateful for computers and not having to retype my entire manuscript when it’s time to revise.

 2. SO many books.

According to Nick Morgan on Forbes.com, there are 600,000 to 1,000,000 books published in the U.S. per year. And that’s added on top of the millions of books that already exist! The up side to this daunting number is¬†there will always be a plethora of¬†new¬†stories to read. Definitely something to be grateful for.

3.  Choose your own publication.

We should be grateful that today’s publishing market is a choose your own adventure. If you’d like a road full of rejection with the hope of a substantial advance -choose traditional publishing. Want to risk it all? Choose self-publishing. Or, if you want to have a writing assignment nagging at you multiple times a week the road to blogging is right for you.

 4. You can say that!?

I’m conservative. I don’t read books with risque stuff and can’t stomach most of Stephen King (even though I highly respect him as an author). I know that what I like you might hate and vice versa. So¬†thank you to today’s writing world for giving us variety to please every reader’s appetite.

5.  Spell check? Yes, please!

Yes, you too can have a super smart computer point out all your incomplete sentences and less than impressive spelling mistakes (insert sarcastic “Yay!”). Let’s be honest, having your word processor make you look like a grammar idiot¬†has got to be¬†much¬†less embarrassing than the live human being doing the same that writers of yesteryear had to face.

¬†6. ‘Cuz we are liv-ing in a – a digital world (did you hear Madonna too?)

While I swear writers are the only people who use stamps regularly when it’s not Christmas time – I’m very grateful that more and more publications have moved to electronic submissions. Now instead of obsessively checking my mailbox I can obsessively check my inbox too. Isn’t technology grand?

Happy Thanksgiving Y’all!

Comment below. Why are you¬†grateful you’re a writer now?

Book Review: Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes

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I stumbled on this little gem entirely by accident. I was at my mother in-laws house digging through her childrens book for a bedtime story to read my kids. This cover was bright and cute so I picked it (who says kids are the only ones that pick books based on covers?). Instantly I was in love. My poor children had to put up with me asking if I could read it to them over and over. I even snuck it back to my room and read the book a couple more times while they were napping. It’s that delightful.

Synopsis: ¬†A little mouse name Chrysanthemum LOVES her unique name, until she starts school. At school the children tease her because she’s named after a flower and her name is so long “it scarcely fits on a name tag.” Every night Chrysanthemum’s parents have to buoy her up with praise, Parcheesi and chocolate cake. Things turn around when her class meets the pregnant music teacher, Ms. Delphinium Twinkle (who just happens to also be named after a flower and has a name that scarcely fits on a name tag). The children idealize Ms.Twinkle and the teasing turns to praise. The books ends with Ms. Twinkle having her baby and naming her Chrysanthemum.

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Here’s what entranced me:

THE LANGUAGE:

This is a phenomenal read-a-loud book. The words skip along with sing-song fluidity. You feel her excitement, worry, relief, right along with her. While many of the words are too difficult for younger readers to read on their own, it is written in a context that make perfect sense to them when read aloud.

THE ILLUSTRATIONS:

I love Kevin Henkes little mice. They’re ¬†brightly colored and whimsical – very¬†unique to him. In Chrysathemum he does a wonderful job showing the untold story in the art work. Pay close attention to the illustrations with her parents – such funny details added her and there.

BEST FOR AGES 3-8 – but geez, I’m over thirty and still love it.

BUY IT OR BORROW IT?  This is a buy it book! Totally worth the investment.

Have you read Chyrsathemum?  Tell us what you think of it.

Your Book Bucket List

Book Bucket list

Do you have a book bucket list? I do – well, did. Proud to say I checked all those puppies off. Which is sadly not as big of a feat as it might sound since I was 11 or 12 when I wrote it (which means it’s a tiny list). Even still, it’s a list full of goodies. Wonder if some of yours are on it. Hmm…

I made my book bucket list because I hated reading until 4th grade. Once I liked reading, I spent 2 year reading whatever fancied me. By 6th grade my reader friends had all read these wonderful classic books under their belts and I hadn’t touched one of them. I wanted to know what the big deal was about this redhead named Anne and why the secret garden was a secret. So… I made a list. My book bucket list.

I’m totally game to let you see it (kind of a strange post if I wasn’t), but will you do me a favor? Promise me you’ll share at least one book on your book bucket list in the comments below? Kid Lit, Adult Lit – Whatever! I find some of my favorite books through other’s recommendations and would love to hear yours.¬†That’s how #7 got added to my list. Recommendations are gold!

Alrighty, enough of my chit chatting, here we go:

BOOK #1 РAnne of Green Gables Рby L.M. Montgomery

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BOOK #2 – Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe – by C.S. Lewis

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BOOK #3 – Bridge to Terabithia – by Katherine Paterson

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BOOK #4 РSecret Garden Рby Frances Hodgson Burnett

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BOOK #5 – Number the Stars – by Lois Lowry

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BOOK #6 –¬†Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – by Roald Dahl

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BOOK #7-  The Giver Рby Lois Lowry

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While I love all of these books for various reasons, three of them had a lasting impact on me.

Anne from Anne of Green Gables¬†taught me that optimism is contagious and that bosom friends do exist (I’ve met a few).

Bridge to Terabithia is one of the most beautiful tragedies I’ve ever read. No child should have to experience loss like that but how amazing to see the resilience of children through the characters in this story. Beautiful.

And,¬†The Giver. Like I said, this one was recommended to me. I don’t think I would have picked it up myself, but I love the world she creates. And her characters are so alive! Man,¬†I hope to write characters like Lois Lowry one day. I also love the ending – that debated, unloved ending. I find it symbolic and perfect, I could ramble on and on. I’ll¬†save it for¬†another post instead.

[Insert deep satisfied sigh]

I.    LOVE.    STORIES.

PERIOD.

Let me read a few of your favorites? Please share your book bucket list below!

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YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: “A Spoonful of Sugar? Nah. Just give ’em time.” ¬†

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Simple Fix for Reluctant Readers

mary-poppins-spoonful-of-sugarBribery works – almost as magically as Mary Poppins. When my kids dreaded reading I bribed them¬†so they’d read. Not with¬†a spoonful of sugar (or candy, or money) I bribed them with¬†time. Nothing fancy, just plain old time and it worked. Beautifully.

My oldest two are now teenagers who¬†love to read. If you had told me seven years ago they’d be readers I would have laughed -no – I would have thrown my head back and cackled.¬†These two? You kidding?¬†

Both struggled, week after week to get their required reading done. We read together, sure, but they were old enough I felt like they should be reading on their own more but to them (and to me) the number of minutes they had to read each week felt like Mt. Everest.  So, I did what any rational mother would do in a moment of crisis, I turned to google for help. I found a few articles, pieced some ideas together creating this magical idea Рlet them stay up later to read.

I need to interject here. I wasn’t in love with this idea at first. Bedtime is sacred at my house. I¬†need my two hours after my kids go to bed to regain my composure from the frazzle of the day. I sometimes wish I was one of those fun, carefree moms that lets there kids stay up and play ¬†– but nope. I’m not. Bedtime hits and it’s hugs, kisses, and SEE YA! You can understand why I was hesitant to give this a try?

Here’s my twist on the idea: ¬†Let your kids stay up for an extra thirty minutes after their normal bedtime to read in bed.

Brillantly simple, huh?

Too simple, I thought. All I could see was more minutes of “I need a drink” and “I have to go to the bathroom.” I also envisioned my son filling his bed with action figures instead of books. My husband and I were desperate so we tried it anyway.

We just adjusted their bedtime back 30 minutes and then let them read for 30 minutes. SO… they really were going to bed at the exact same time (shhh.. don’t tell). Luckily they¬†were young and naive and never¬†called us out on our trickery. The most beautiful thing was that it worked. They read and liked doing it.

We¬†did have¬†to make it a strict 30 minutes of¬†reading.¬†More than one night their lamps got turned off early when we caught them playing with action figures or ¬†coloring books instead of a reading but they learned the rule quickly and we had few issues after that (except them wanting to finish just one more chapter… please!).

Not only did their reading chart fill to overflowing each week, but their night time reading spilled over in to day time reading. To this day they still do their thirty minutes (or more) of reading each night, without fail. Our younger children have started the tradition too Рa tradition I hope will be passed on and on.

What about you? Any reluctant reader tips or fun reading traditions?

Teachers, in your opinion, can giving dedicated reading time improve a students desire or ability to read?

Please share below!

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100 pages or less… that’s all I got in me.

When I was in Ms. Sloans’ third grade class, they split us up by reading levels. Most of the kids in my reading level whipped through¬†War and Peace in preschool. But I was not one of those kids.¬†I hated reading.

Book report time made my stomach churn. Ms. Sloan dropped a list of approved books on each of our desks while we fidgeted in our blue, plastic chairs.

“Pick one from your reading level!” she said.

All I could think was, which one’s the shortest?

During library time, I walked past shelf after shelf of books, letting my finger bump along the spines until I found one of the books on the list. Without glancing at the cover, I flipped to the last page.

“142 pages. ¬†Nope.” I slapped the book shut. I had never read a book over 100 pages and had no intention to start now.¬†I found every book on the list. Flipped to every last page and put most of them back. The book I finally settled on looked boring, but it was only 87 pages (87 pages, I never finished).

I’m not honestly sure how I got away with not reading a novel until fourth grade, but it was Ms. Jensen, a 4’10” ball of spunk, that caught me in my fib. ¬†She called me to her desk and asked me outright if I had every finished a novel. I felt my heart run to hide in my¬†throat. How had she found out? My mom? I couldn’t find the words to answer, so I shook my head no.

“Maybe you haven’t found the right author.” She stared at me. “Let’s try Lois Lowry. Today in library, look at all of her books. Find one that looks interesting to you, and that’ll be your book report book.”

I found¬†Anastasia¬†Again. All¬†160 pages pages of it (gulp). I read it all that afternoon. I read it all the next afternoon, and before too long, I’d finished it. And… I loved it.

“Great!” she said, when I told her my good news. “Now let’s try some others.” She recommended Beverly Clearly’s Ramona books, Ann Martin’s Babysitters Clubs series and on and on. I read them all, and loved them all.

It was the stories I fell in love with, not the reading. Ms. Jensen (and Lois Lowry) taught me that once I was caught up in the story I stopped caring about the page number. I learned to love the characters. They felt like real people. People who went to my school, people who went to my pool. And because I cared about them, I cared about their stories.

For anyone who claims they don’t like reading I say, hogwash! Everyone has a character they can relate to. Someone that can pull you into their world; make you laugh, make you cry, make you wonder. You just have to start looking. Some of them might even be in those darn books over 100 pages.

Happy reading storytime, everyone!

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