GUEST BLOG: The Book That Changed Her Life by Stephanie Karp

IMG_2486Today I am delighted to have my  friend Stephanie Karp writing on a subject dear to her heart: reading!  Join me as we celebrate the wonder and magic of reading and the joy of passing it on to our children. Take it away, Stephanie!

When I was 10 years old, I couldn’t draw enough books into my life.  Nancy Drew, Judy Blume, How Green Was My ValleyWhere the Red Fern Grows.  Books spilled from my dresser and they piled at the foot of my bed.  Books had to be pried from my fingers at the dinner table.  Sometimes I actually had my nose buried in a book.  I do mean this literally as I truly loved the scent of possibilities created by mere paper and ink.

So it was with alarm and shock that, as my daughter, Eden, grew up — despite seeing me with a book always in my handbag, one in the car, and a never ending pile (still!) on my nightstand — she declared to me that she was not a reader, never would be.  Nothing interested her. And would I please stop wishing it were otherwise.

Until … the book that changed her life.

Suggested by a well-read young friend, Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea was a book I purchased from our local bookstore as yet another attempt to find a book to suit my daughter.  A novel about one year in the life of a fifth grade class and told through the eyes of seven students, Because of Mr. Terupt tells the story of a class that is deeply affected by their new teacher Mr. Terupt and the tragic accident that touches all their lives.  It looked like an intriguing book to me and yet I didn’t have higher hopes than usual.

That is until the first night my daughter excused herself from the dinner table to go read her book.  And again, the next night.

Carrying the book in the hallways of her school, she told me that people (many of them teachers) would stop her in the hall to exclaim how much they, too, loved Mr. Terupt.

As Eden’s 4th grade class enjoys silent reading each day, she had a lot of time to spend with these much loved characters.  Mr. Terupt and his students were as alive and real as anyone she spent the day with at school.

Finally, after reading slowly for days savoring each page, Eden came to the final chapter.  During silent reading at school, her seat neighbor asked her if she was okay — should she get the teacher?  Eden’s breathing had quickened, her face had reddened; her chin trembled with the effort of holding back her tears.

That night, at home in bed, Eden finished the book that had changed her life.  She was finally able to understand why I loved reading so much.  Eden’s world was changed from the moment she cracked open the spine of that book and entered its’ world. The joy, the tragedy, the elation — the depth and breadth of humanity that one experiences when reading a wonderful book is what changes lives.  Eden had never allowed herself to feel this way before.  Nothing in her life had ever moved her to this degree.  The first time it happened, it was because of a book.

And so, while Eden is on to the second book of this series, I pushed aside my own pile of best sellers and have begun to read Because of Mr. Terupt.  I am eager to experience the range of emotions my daughter felt while reading the book that made her, finally and forever more, a reader.  Just like me.

Looking back on your childhood is there a book that stands out as being the very first to turn you on to reading?  And what titles stand out as life-changing for your child or children? Please share. 

IMG_1350Formerly from Brooklyn, NY, Stephanie Karp reads and creates stories from her 114 year old home in Westfield, NJ where she lives with her husband and three children.  A writer all her life, her passions include adoption advocacy, special education and a good game of tennis.    Through their event entertainment company, The Main Event, Stephanie and her husband also help throw fabulous parties — Check out www.TheMainEventOnline.com

The fun at VOCATIONAL MOTHERING Continues…

photoPlease join me today as I continue my visit at Noelle’s blog with an interview.  Also, today is the last day to enter her giveaway for the perfect stocking stuffer…. a copy of GOODNIGHT, ARK!

 

A Review, an Interview, a Giveaway, and a NEW TAB!

photoWow-ee!  There’s a lot going on today!  First since everyone seems to like extension activities, I’ve decided to make finding the extension activities for GOODNIGHT, ARK easier by gathering them together under one new tab (see above). I will be adding new activities periodically, so please check back.

Also, in the “fun” category, today GOODNIGHT, ARK is  being reviewed on Noelle Kirchner’s thought-provoking blog, Vocational Mothering, which focuses on faith and motherhood.  An interview will follow tomorrow and… there’s a giveaway which starts today!

So pour yourself a cup of tea, then head on over to Noelle’s. Happy Monday all!

FUN NEWS: GOODNIGHT, ARK is traveling to GERMANY!

German cover for GOODNIGHT, ARKA German edition of GOODNIGHT, ARK is in the works. Published by SCM R. Brockhaus, the German title is SCHLAF GUT, NOAH which means “sleep well, Noah”. The German edition will be available January 2015.

I can’t wait to receive my copy and have my husband read it to us. (Yes, he speaks a little German.) In keeping with the style of the original, SCHLAF GUT, NOAH will still rhyme and, of course, Jane Chapman’s illustrations are as delightful as ever.

Happy reading, all!

THE RIVER: Thoughts on Writing as Reflection versus Replication

IMG_2515

It was one of those crisp November days we get here in New Jersey and the reflection in the river was amazing – so detailed it seemed I could see each leaf still dangling from the trees lining the other bank.  The old boathouse, too, seemed a perfect replication of reality.  I couldn’t stop looking.

But as I gazed in wonder, I noticed it wasn’t a perfect reflection.  The moving river created tiny ripples that made the reflection shimmer. The walls of the reflected boathouse stretched and wobbled with the moving current.  And fallen leaves gently floated down river, obscuring a perfect reflection.  But those imperfections only made the scene more beautiful in my eyes.  “Dazzling” is the word I chose for the river that day.  I was dazzled – so dazzled that I had to take a picture (which doesn’t even come close to capturing the beauty of that moment).

As a beginning writer, I mistakenly believed that if I was writing a story inspired by something that actually happened, I had to write it exactly the way it happened. Trust me, my early stories were cumbersome and flat and ordinary.  As soon as I let go of that inner need to be fully grounded in reality, my stories began to “dazzle”.  No longer weighed down by the desire to replicate the situations that inspired them, I let my inner creative spirit take over.

Moments of inspiration -like trees along the river bank – became just that- moments of inspiration. My imagination became the river. Like moving water, gently flipping leaves in its current and stretching reflections in new and fascinating directions, I, too, began to flip and stretch my ideas into stories that only vaguely resembled their original inspiration.  And that, I have discovered, was (and is) creativity at its best.

So, this week as you take a stroll down the banks of inspiration, remember to let your imagination run – like a river.

Happy writing all!

The Art of Picture Book Making Workshop: SO MUCH FUN!

DSC_5452Saturday morning I was joined by twenty enthusiastic K – 5th graders for a special workshop on the “Art Of Picture Book Making” hosted by the wonderful book-loving staff at the Cranford Public Library.

Using GOODNIGHT, ARK as the example, we took a little journey with Noah and the animals to see how a picture book idea goes from spark to publication.

DSC_5474We also explored what makes picture books special.  They are the only literary genre, with the exception perhaps of the graphic novel, in which the text and illustrations work together to tell the story.  Neither is complete without the other.

DSC_5462After looking for examples of this in GOODNIGHT, ARK the children got busy brainstorming and writing their own picture books.

DSC_5478

DSC_5469I know they were having fun because when our time was up, no one wanted to leave!  The librarian graciously extended our work time by fifteen minutes.  Hooray for young writers and illustrators! And hooray for picture books!

Thank you, Redeemer Lutheran and Barnes and Noble!

IMG_0145I spent a lovely Sunday afternoon sharing GOODNIGHT, ARK with Redeemer Lutheran Nursery School at their Barnes and Noble book fair.

First, I introduced those stinky skunks!

IMG_0152 Then I read the story.  “All aboard!”

IMG_0156

Afterwards there was a scavenger hunt and a Noah’s Ark themed craft.

Thank you Barnes and Noble and Redeemer for having me! I think we all had a great time!

TWO BY TWO: Counting Activities for GOODNIGHT, ARK

photo - Version 2IMG_3148IMG_3147 - Version 2

Almost every little one who reads GOODNIGHT, ARK instinctively wants to count the animals that fill each colorful page.  So, seizing upon that intrinsic love, here are some fun counting activities to engage those emerging mathematicians. Enjoy!

All Aboard: After reading the opening where Noah invites the animals to board the ark, pause with your child to look for pairs of animals, counting a simple one, two, for each pair.  Extra challenge: Count ALL the animals boarding the ark.

Off to Bed Two-by-Two: For this spread, first look for pairs, counting a simple one, two per pair.   Extra challenge: Count the animals by twos ( 2, 4, 6, 8 etc.) to see how many are settling down for the night.

Now how many? (Adding on): As the story unfolds, different pairs of animals head for Noah’s bed. For each spread, count how many animals are in (or under) the bed already.  Then add on the number of newcomers.  Example:  On the fifth spread, there are two boar and two skunks for a total of four.  They are joined by two quail and two sheep. Kids can add those to the four by counting up, five, six, seven, eight.  Extra challenge:  Create number sentences to add up each new total:  4+4=8 or 4+2+2= 8.

Category Count: In this fun variation, have your little ones count by category. Example: How many animals with wings are there? How many animals with stripes How many animals with scales? How many insects?

What If? (Subtracting):  For this activity, have fun counting up your bed totals on each page and then wonder together how many would be left if a particular animal, or pair of animals, decided to head back down to their own bunks.

EXTENSION: (Inspired by my daughter who baked the cookies picture above).  Bake and decorate pairs of animal cookies. Then use them to practice all the different kinds of counting we’ve explored today. Once you’ve finished counting, have a cookie snack.

Have fun!

FINDING LOST TREASURES: Some Writerly Thoughts

TILESI’m blogging over at Pens And Brushes today on the magic of finding hidden tiles and how that inspires me as a writer.  If you have time please pop on over.  I’ll make it easy for you. Press HERE.