It’s always fun for an author to receive mail – especially the kind that includes student artwork and thoughtful writing inspired by one of their books. That’s exactly what happened this week! Now, with permission, I’m delighted to share teacher and author Tina Cho’s students’ work along with her explanatory note about how she used LOVE IS KIND with her students in South Korea. Thank you, Tina!
I spent a LOVELY (and fashionable) hour at the Cranford Public Library this morning sharing LOVE IS KIND at my Book Jacket Workshop for kids ages 5+. First, we read the story. Then it was time for a quick history of book jackets, using my own jackets (and impeccable sense of style ) to demonstrate how book jackets developed from plain (like my brown corduroy) dust covers, protecting the fancy book beneath, to colorful (i.e. plaid jacket) covers meant to catch a readers eye like the adorable covers to GOODNIGHT ARK and LOVE IS KIND (Zonderkidz) … to even fancier (like that sequined jacket and the glittery cover of DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE (Sterling Publishing) )to really make a book stand out. And then it was time for them to make their own covers and they did a FANTASTIC job! I even had the pleasure of having several kids read their flap copy to me – with adorable bios! Thank you for having me, Lauren and staff, and thanks for putting so much effort and joy into your projects, kids! Here are a few pictures that capture the feel of the morning. Let’s keep spreading BOOK LOVE!
As part of our homeschool time together, I have looked for opportunities to make writing experiences as authentic as possible for my reluctant writer, so when Miss A. asked if she could join me on a Friday afternoon author visit to her old elementary school, I said yes – IF she agreed to be a journalist for the afternoon – taking notes on the visit, conducting a few interviews, and then putting it all together into a news article, using the format we’ve been examining while reading our local newspaper together. She fully embraced the assignment! Take it away, Miss A!
AUTHOR LAURA SASSI VISITS SCHOOL
By Miss A.
CRANFORD – On Friday, May 4th, my mother, picture book author Laura Sassi, came to Bloomingdale Avenue School to share her new book, Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse with kindergarteners through second graders. The purpose of her visit was to get kids excited about reading and writing and to share a little bit about how a picture book goes from inspiration to publication.
Starting at 1:00 pm, three different groups came to the auditorium for this special event. The students quietly listened to their teachers and all had smiles on their faces. The kids looked very excited and happy to see that a special guest had come to visit them at their school.
Dressed like a diva herself, and using lots of expression, even singing, Laura Sassi read her newest book. The kids “ooohed” and “aaahed” as if they were watching fireworks. After reading Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse, the author showed the students the very first drafts of her story. She even showed the kids pictures of what Diva Delores looked like before she was a seal. The kids were surprised that she was once a hippo!
A few days after the visit, I had the chance to interview a student and two teachers to see what they thought of the visit. Everyone was very positive. Kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Benoit, said that the favorite part for her students was “the author in costume and the use of her voice demonstrating not just fluency, but voices and even sound effects”. She added that because of the visit, “The use of voices is starting to show up in speech bubbles in their writing.”
Second grade teacher, Mrs. Oricchio, praised the visit as making “the art of writing a ‘real world’ experience” for her students. She added, “I think Mrs. Sassi’s energy and passion for her work really came through and inspired my young writers.”
I was lucky enough to get student feedback as well! Second grader, Taylor, explained that her favorite part of the visit was when the author “dressed up fancy and was reading Diva Delores”. She added that the visit also inspired her to make a writing notebook for her own stories.
It was amazing being able to see my author mom in action reading her book. I could tell that the teachers and all the students enjoyed the visit. My mom enjoyed it too, especially when one of the students raised her hand and said, “You look like a movie star!” But my favorite moment was when I was able to reunite with all my teachers from kindergarten through second grade. I was so happy to be able to see my teachers and I was so happy to see so many kids enjoying and listening to the book.
Today Miss A. – my reluctant reader and writer – asked if she could write a guest post to share her excitement over receiving an author-response to a recent fan letter she wrote to an author whose book she LOVED. Maybe, I need to rephrase this… Today, my daughter, who USED to be a reluctant reader and writer – asked if she could write this guest post. My response? Of course! Take it away, Miss A.!
Have you ever been inspired to write a letter to an author whose book you loved? Well, I was inspired to write one to author Tami Charles after reading her book Like Vanessa (Charlesbridge, 2018).
Like Vanessa is about a girl named Vanessa who enters a school pageant as a way of finding her happiness and who discovers that happiness isn’t found exactly where she thought it was.
After reading Tami’s book, I just knew I had to reach out to her. In the letter, I told her how much I loved her book and how I found her book such an inspiration for me. I found her book inspiring because I’ve always had trouble having to speak up for myself. Her book shows me that I can be strong and have confidence in myself.
I’ve written fan letters before, but never gotten a response. This time, however, was different because in the mail today I received a special letter from Tami Charles! And here is a little piece of that letter:
In her wonderful letter, she explained that she wrote the book for girls just like me and she thanked me for writing her an old-fashioned letter! I may even get to meet her this summer!
Thank you, Tami, for inspiring me with your book and for taking the time to answer my letter! I will keep it tucked forever in my copy of Like Vanessa!
What a delightful surprise to have this bright pink yarn-bound book arrive via special delivery right to my doorstep (Thank you, Mrs. Timberlake!) from the cute, hardworking kindergartners in Mrs. DeVestern’s classes at the Ben Franklin School in Edison, New Jersey.
It seems they’ve been learning all about authors, illustrators, picture books, and the magic of putting words and illustrations together. And do my delight, after reading DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE, they decided to write and illustrate their favorite parts of the story. The teacher gathered their responses in a book and had them delivered to me!
Thank you, Mrs. DeVestern and thank you, kindergartners! You did a wonderful job picking the most important and best parts of the story. I shall treasure each and every one of your responses. And now, I’d like to share just a sampling. The last picture is, of course, my thank you note back to them! Aren’t their illustrations and sentences wonderful?
Happy reading, all!
Miss A. did such a lovely job on this book jacket and review that I’ve decided once again to celebrate this reluctant reader’s blossoming joy of the written word by sharing her latest book review. Our children’s librarian recommended the prequel to this book, “The War that Saved my Life”, and Miss A. loved it so much that we were both ecstatic to learn that a sequel was in the works. “The War I Finally Won” released this past October, but the copy we read was an advanced copy. Miss A. loves the thought that she was one of the first kids to read it and hopes that many, many more take her advice and enjoy this wonderful story. Anyway, here’s her review. Happy Reading!
THE WAR I FINALLY WON
The War I Finally Won, written by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, is a sequel to The War That Saved My Life. In this story, Ada and Jamie are living with Susan in a cave-feeling house in Kent, England. Susan takes Ada to get surgery to heal her crippled foot. Ada’s surgery goes well, but then Lord Thorton, Maggie’s dad, brings a German girl named Ruth, for Susan to tutor. Ruth stays with Ada, Jamie and Susan in the cave house. Ada doesn’t trust Ruth because she’s German, but Ruth tells Ada that she’s from Germany but despises Hitler because she’s Jewish.
To complicate the situation, Lady Thorton also moves in with them because the soldiers need the Thorton’s house for a place for the soldiers to stay and rest. What’s even worse is that Maggies brother, Jonathan is fighting in the war and everyone is worried that he’s going to die. There’s a lot of drama in this book, and it actually helps Ada to overcome her struggles with loss, acceptance and love.
I love this book because I can relate to Ada on many levels. For example, when Ada didn’t trust Ruth, I thought she was a spy and didn’t trust her at first either. But later, as they grew to be close as sisters, I learned that trust is important to friendship. For most of this book, Ada dislikes Lady Thorton, but soon realizes that she and Lady Thorton have several things in common like lonely childhoods and feelings of loss. She realizes they are both just doing their best to survive in a tough world. I can relate to feeling that sometimes life is tough, too. Finally, when Susan got sick and Ada felt worried and sad, I was worried about Susan too, since her friend Becky had died from pneumonia. This is the scene when Ada finally says “I love you” to Susan. This shows that Ada has accepted Susan’s love and accepts her into her life.
I give this book five out of five stars! I thought it was sad, funny and engaging all at the same time. It was sad because there was death and loss because of the war. It was funny because everything is still so new to Ada and she often misunderstands things in funny ways. For example, she thought dragons were real. It was engaging because the story felt so real that I didn’t want to stop reading it. Again, like the first, I recommend this book with all my heart!
Today I’m extra excited because I get to be the host of a very special interview (with book review included)! Please join me in welcoming picture book author Penny Parker Klostermann and young readers, James and Luke, ages 7 and 5, as they review Penny’s new book A COOKED UP FAIRY TALE (Random House Books for Young Readers, September 5, 2017) and then interview the author in a special Author Spotlight.
Before we begin – I’d like to set the stage a little. One hot afternoon in early July a shiny gold package – containing Penny’s charming new picture book – was mistakenly delivered to James’ and Luke’s doorstep. Since they were greatly excited by the arrival of the package I said they could read it first. So they did and they LOVED it. They kept asking and wanting to read the story again and again and it was actually quite some time before I got to see the book myself. Their enthusiasm inspired me and so, with their mother’s permission, I asked if they’d be interested in reviewing the book and interviewing the author for my blog!
They said yes! And the result is… well… delightful! Thank you James, Luke and Penny! Now on to the review and interview with the boys’ words in purple and Penny’s in green to match the bubbling cauldron on the book’s cover.
First, Penny’s response to how A COOKED UP FAIRY TALE was delivered to the wrong house:
I have to say that I’m in love with this delivery mishap and the events that followed. In A COOKED-UP FAIRY TALE, there is a delivery mishap too and it’s essential to the story. Not only is there this wonderful delivery mishap coincidence, but also because Laura let the boys read the book first, there’s a fun “kid review” of my book! And isn’t a “kid review” the absolute best and most important kind of review possible? It makes me smile from ear-to-ear that James and Luke loved A COOKED-UP FAIRY TALE enough to spend time with it, write a review, and even create their own art. This is definitely a happily-ever-after moment for me as an author.
Next, the review:.
A BOOK REVIEW BY JAMES
Title: A COOKED UP FAIRY TALE
Author: Penny Parker Klostermann
“This book is about a boy named William that LOVED to cook! William loved to cook so much that he used the ingredients from the fairy tales and when the fairy tales began, what William cooked messed up the fairy tales. What I thought was funny about this book was the William tried working at Gingerbread-on-the-go. I would recommend this book!”
James’s review is a treasure. Now that this book is out in the world it’s no longer mine. But when I wrote it there were certain things I hoped readers would take away when they read it. I’m excited that James thought about William just as I did when I created his character. I love that he found humor in the story. And I especially love that he recommends A COOKED-UP FAIRY TALE!
And now… the interview with authentic kid questions! (Thanks, again, boys!)
Where did you get the idea for the book?
I love David Ezra Stein’s book, INTERRUPTING CHICKEN. I think it’s so fun the way he used well-known fairy tales to tell a tale of his own. I wondered if I could come up with an idea for a story that would include fairy tales but be a story of its own. I researched by listing fairy tales and their common elements. While doing this I noticed how many fairy tales have food in them and the idea grew from there.
How did you pick the characters?
When I noticed that so many fairy tales had food items in them I had to decide how a main character would interact with food in mind. A chef seemed perfect—a chef who loved cooking so much that he ignored all else in the magical land of fairy tales. Enter William, the chef.
Then I needed a character that ran the land so that when things went wrong she could make sure the fairy tales got back on track. Enter Judy, Chief of Fairy Tale Headquarters.
Do you like cooking?
Yes and no. I do like baking. Cakes, pies, cookies, brownies, cobblers, and anything else to feed my sweet tooth. But when it comes to cooking a full-blown meal, I don’t do that very often any more. I’d rather be doing other things like writing ☺, walking, reading, or watching TV. It’s just my husband and me at home so we’d just as soon have a salad or something else simple. I am a good cook though and I can whip up a full meal when I need to.
Where did you get the title from?
Well that’s an interesting question because it wasn’t the original title. The original title was APPLES, BEANS, AND PIE, OH MY! Sort of Wizard of Oz-ish, right? But my critique group thought since that title gave a nod to the Wizard of Oz that people would expect my story to have a hint of Oz, which it didn’t at all. They had a good point. So I played around with it and thought about William cooking up trouble. That’s when A COOKED-UP FAIRY TALE came to mind.
Where did you get the illustrations?
Aren’t they perfect? My editor at Random House, Maria Modugno, picked Ben Mantle to do them. She picked him for my first book and he did an amazing job. She thought he would be just right for my second book, too. I didn’t talk to Ben at all when he was drawing the illustrations because he gets to use his creativity to tell half of the story with pictures. He’s such a talented artist.
Finally, I asked each boy to draw a picture of their favorite scene. Luke picked the three little bears (because they are funny) and James picked the city scape (because it reminded him of where he used to live).
Penny’s reaction to their delightful artwork:
If any of you reading this post follow my blog series, A GREAT NEPHEW AND A GREAT AUNT, you’re aware of my fondness for children’s artwork. Children’s artwork has an energy and an element of confidence that I wish they could hold on to forever. When I saw Luke’s drawing of the three bears and James’s drawing of the cityscape you can imagine how happy it made me. They included details from the book but made their artwork unique and special. If they lived closer I might have to borrow their drawings for a week so that I could hang them on my refrigerator and see them every time I walked by.
Thanks so much, Laura, for featuring A COOKED-UP FAIRY TALE and for sharing your preview copy with James and Luke.
James and Luke, thank you for all of your hard work. Your review, questions, and drawings made me very, very happy ☺
And thank you, Penny, for joining in the fun. Congratulations on this book and I hope it’s just the second of many more to come!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Penny Parker Klostermann is the author of A Cooked-Up Fairy Tale and There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight, both from Random House Children’s Books. She loves all kinds of books, but especially loves very silly picture books that make her laugh. Penny has been known to hug her favorite picture books and seriously hopes that someday her books will gain huggable status too. You can learn more about Penny on her website at https://pennyklostermann.com/.
Earlier this week my adorable seven year old neighbor, James, reminded me that Arbor Day was just around the corner and that to celebrate, he planned to write a poem. I think he told me this because he knows I like to write too. I told him I’d love to read the poem once he’d written it and Thursday after school I finally got the chance. “I’m going to read it over the loudspeaker at school tomorrow” he explained.
And that gave me an idea! With his mom’s permission, I asked James if he’d like to share it on my blog as well. He thought that sounded neat! And, to illustrate, Miss A. offered to let us use her newest art work – a stained- glass illustration of a cherry tree in bloom. Now, without further ado, please enjoy this delightful collaboration between two young artists in celebration of trees!
And now a bonus… an illustration by James as well!
I think both the artist and the poet did a great job! Happy Arbor Day to all!
For her birthday, my daughter received a subscription to CRICKET® Magazine, an engagingly written and beautifully illustrated literary magazine for ages 9 – 14 that’s part of a larger family of magazines published by Cricket Media. Other magazines in the group include LADYBUG® Magazine, for ages 3 – 6, and SPIDER® Magazine, for ages 6 – 9. I’m a long-time fan of these magazines. Several of my poems have appeared within their pages, gorgeously illustrated. With this subscription, however, I’ve had chance to appreciate these magazines from a new angle – that of educator and mom.
As a homeschool mom who seeks to engage my daughter with interesting lessons, as well as ones that align with the common core, I was delighted to discover that Cricket Media has created in-depth teacher guides for each of their magazines. Curious to see what they were like, I downloaded the Teacher’s Guide for the March 2017 issue of CRICKET® Magazine.
The March 2017 CRICKET® Magazine Teacher’s Guide is 26 pages long and includes directions for how to use the guide, a skills and standards overview, plus detailed lesson plans for each story/poem with lots of thoughtful questions relating to key ideas, text structure, various literary elements, vocabulary and more. Each lesson also includes ideas for writing extensions. This month, I’ve been incorporating one story/poem from the issue, along with the accompanying discussion and writing activities, into our weekly literature/language arts lessons.
Early last week, my daughter wrote her own personal narrative as an extension for the first story in the magazine, “Wishin’ Impossible”, and we ended the week with a lovely in-depth analysis and discussion of the poem, “March”, which is found on page 10 of the March issue.
The extra special thing about this particular poem is that I know the author! Jennifer Cole Judd is not only a talented poet whose work appears regularly in children’s magazines, she is also the author of the delightful rhyming picture book, Circus Train, which was published in 2015 by Two Lions. After a thoughtful discussion of Jennifer’s metaphorical poem which compares March winds to a lion, Miss A. was inspired by to write her own poem.
Thank you, Cricket Media, for creating beautiful literary publications that inspire my reluctant reader to both read and write! And thank you, Jennifer, for sharing your beautifuly written pieces with the world!
Now, in celebration of reading and writing, here’s Miss A.’s poem:
Two weeks ago I received a surprise phone call from one of the first grade teachers at Hillside Avenue School with a special request. Her students had brainstormed special activities to make the end of the school year extra fun. Their top vote? Invite a MYSTERY READER to visit on the last day of school. Would I be willing, this teacher asked, to come and be, not just a MYSTERY READER, but a MYSTERY AUTHOR as well? Since I LOVE visiting with school kids, I said yes, of course!
Today was the day. Since the visit was a surprise, I tried to arrive as inconspicuously as possible. Here I am (above) giving the “top secret” signal just outside the main office.
Then it was time to quietly roll my author-visit cart down to Room 8. I snapped this picture just before entering the room. Then… SURPRISE! (I loved seeing all those wiggly-toothed smiles and could feel the EXCITEMENT in the room.)
While the children gathered on the rug, I set up my display. Soon it was time for introductions and an enthusiastic discussion about where we – as writers and artists – get our ideas. They all had such good thoughts!
Next we all enjoyed an interactive reading of GOODNIGHT, ARK with the help of my skunk puppets! We paused occasionally to notice things like word choice and page turns and how the illustrations added extra (and often funny) details to the story. What attentive readers they were!
Finally, I challenged the first graders to be writers and illustrators over the summer. And here’s the special part. If they write a snazzy story or poem that includes an illustration that includes extra details and, if their parents agree, they may send snap shots of their pieces to me via their teachers and I will post them on my blog! I can’t wait to see their work. =)
In the meantime…
HAPPY SUMMER ALL! And don’t forget to weave some reading, writing… and drawing time into every week!