This morning, I am honored to be guest blogging over at picture book author Danna Smith’s blog, Picture Book Playlist. Today’s topic? The power of SETTING to make a picture book story SHINE. So, I hope you refill that delicious cup of coffee you’re sipping right now and pop on over for a read. I’ll make it easy for you. Here’s the link. Thank you for having me, Danna!
Today I’m delighted to feature SIX AUTHOR-CREATED EXTENSION ACTIVITIES in celebration of the release of Christian picture book author Denette Fretz’s adorable new picture book, I WANT YOUR SMILE, CROCODILE, published by Zonderkidz and illustrated by Jacki Urbanovic. Not only is Denette a skilled children’s author, with a gift for creating stories that are fun and thought-provoking, she’s also a teacher – so her extension activities, many of them faith-based, are teacher tested and approved!
As you will see from the book trailer, I WANT YOUR CROCODILE SMILE is a clever tale of self-acceptance, starring Jack, the Meerkat, who covets all the things his zoo friends have but ultimately discovers that true contentment is only found when we accept and embrace that we are each created beautifully according to God’s perfect, purposeful design. Enjoy the book trailer, then treat yourself (and your kids) to Denette’s rich offering of extension activities. Zonderkidz is also offering a GIVEAWAY so be sure to check out details for how to enter at the end of the post. Take it away, Denette!
SIX Extension Activities for I WANT YOUR SMILE, CROCODILE
Thank you for hosting me on your blog, Laura! I hope your readers and their children enjoy these activities together.
1. Become a meerkat expert. I Want Your Smile, Crocodile follows a spunky meerkat, Jack, who thinks he would be happier if he were more like his zoo friends. With an adult’s help, follow these video links to begin learning more about meerkats:
2. Print and complete a meerkat word search. Now that you know more about meerkats, can you solve Jack’s clues to find thirteen meerkat words? If you get stumped, the words you are looking for are printed at the bottom of this post.
3. Read about animal features. In I Want Your Smile, Crocodile, Jack wants a crocodile smile, polar bear fur, and an elephant’s “hose nose.” What if you had animal teeth? Animal hair? An animal’s nose? Discover amazing animal facts by reading these fascinating picture books by Sandra Markle:
What if You Had Animal Teeth?
What if You Had Animal Hair?
What if You Had An Animal Nose?
4. Design an imaginary animal. Jackie Urbanovic illustrated I Want Your Smile, Crocodile and did a fabulous job giving Jack the Meerkat jellyfish swish, porcupine spines, or an elephant’s trunk. What animals would you combine to create a new one? Print and use the template below to draw your imaginary animal. I thought this would be fun to try…and drew a “piggock!”
5. Follow the zookeeper. Start at the beginning of I Want Your Smile, Crocodile, and follow the zookeeper through its pages. What is he doing? How is the zookeeper acting like Jesus?
6. Discuss scriptures about God’s design. Below are the “foundation scriptures” I kept in mind when writing I Want Your Smile, Crocodile. Read each scripture. How does each scripture relate to the story? Most importantly, how does each scripture relate to YOU?
- Genesis 1:31
- Psalm 139:14
- Ephesians 2:10
Thanks so much for these WONDERFUL extension ideas, Denette! Enjoy another I Want Your Smile, Crocodile activity next week, when the Blog Tour stops by Rebecca J. Gomez’s site for a “Read, Discuss, Do” activity…and another chance to win a book!
Answers for Word Search:
1. MONGOOSE 2. SENTRY 3. MOB, CLAN, GANG 4. BURROWS 5. KALAHARI 6. CLAWS 7. INSECTS, SPIDERS, SCORPIONS, SNAKES 8. PUPS
BIO: Denette Fretz is an elementary art educator and picture book author who desires to craft humorous, inventive, and memorable parables that engage imagination and encourage life-application of biblical principles. She is the author of PIRATES ON THE FARM (Zonderkidz, 2013), CONRAD, THE COWGIRL NEXT DOOR (Zonderkidz, 2014) and I WANT YOUR SMILE, CROCODILE (Zonderkidz, 2018
NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY!!!
If you’d like a chance to win a FREE copy of I LOVE YOUR SMILE, CROCODILE, written by Denette Fretz and illustrated by Jackie Urbanovic, let me know in a comment below. (NOTE: Must be U.S. resident with a street address (as opposed to a P.O. Box and at least 18 years old to enter.) The giveaway ends Thursday, 5/10/18 at 11:59 pm EST. The winner will be announced on Friday 5/11/18! THE GIVEAWAY IS NOW OVER. WINNER POSTED HERE.
Finally, spring is in the air! I hear the birds chirping at sunrise. There’s a robin family building a nest in my neighbor’s tree. The cherry blossoms are about to burst. It’s perfect timing to welcome today’s guest blogger, picture book author Danna Smith, in celebration of the release of her new springtime book, SPRINGTIME BABIES, published by Little Golden Books. Today she’ll be sharing her journey from reading Little Golden Books as a child to now writing them! Thank you so much for stopping by, Danna. Take it away!
Most Americans can remember growing up with Little Golden Books, those little gems that captured our hearts at the store while our parents shopped. Books like The Poky Little Puppy, Scuffy the Tugboat and my favorite, Wonders of Nature, caught our attention with their distinctive gold foil spines, colorful illustrations, and exciting adventures. The first 12 Little Golden Book titles hit the shelves in 1942 during wartime when picture books were expensive, and money was scarce. At 25 cents, Little Golden Books were affordable for everyone. Today, with hundreds of titles available they continue to delight, and are still affordable—at about the price of a greeting card!
Little Golden Books aren’t just for children; adults love them too. Collectors rummage through piles of books at thrift shops and garage sales looking to find that illustrious 25 cent first edition to add to their collection. I have a small but beloved collection of my own.
Imagine my delight when my agent called with news that I had an offer from Little Golden Books and then again with offers for three more books! I had to pinch myself! I remember scribbling my name in many Little Golden Books throughout my childhood. Reading was a joy and these little books were like friends. Joining the Little Golden Book family of authors and artists is a dream come true.
While I had initially written Springtime Babies as a picture book, it turned out to be perfect for Little Golden Books. Editor and author, Diane Muldrow, worked with me to cut the text from 32 pages to 24. Next, it was time for the illustrator to work her magic. When I saw the sketches and then the final color images, I was in love! Artist, Takako Fisher, did a fantastic job. I couldn’t be more pleased with her adorable, chunky animal (and human) babies.
Golden Books works about three years out which means if you sold a manuscript today in 2018, the book would most likely publish in 2020 or 2021. If you want to try your hand at writing a Little Golden Book, my advice is to draft a conceptually strong story perfect for a young audience of 2–5-year-olds. Your manuscript should be highly visual (illustratable) and original or at least have a fresh take on a familiar subject. A hook that can tie into an event or special day such as Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day is also a plus. Be sure to study the Little Golden Books line to make certain your idea is fresh. Paginating your manuscript in the way you see it published will not only help you better visualize your story but will help the editors see your vision. If your agent calls you with an offer, pinch yourself then get ready to revise!
Danna Smith is the author of a dozen books for children. Her next Little Golden Book, Rocket-Bye Baby: A Spaceflight Lullaby releases in January 2019 followed by The Colors of Summer (May 2019) and The Colors of Winter (Oct 2019). Danna is currently living in Northern California, where she is hard at work on her next book. You can find more about her and her books online here:
Book Review Blog: https://picturebookplaylist.com/blog/
This week DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE received a LOVELY stamp of approval from longtime Colorado teacher and dear friend, Jeananne Wright. Thank you, Jeananne!
Now, with her permission, taking excerpts from her note, here are SEVEN THINGS KIDS CAN LEARN FROM/ BE ENGAGED WITH as they read DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE:
First, the tactile gold glitter on the front and back covers are the perfect intro to the book. The kids can feel that and know that something wonderful will be found inside!
Second, kids might not know a thing about opera or classical music or even what a diva is!
Third, the story teaches how to rely on friends and how to be a good friend.
Fourth, it also portrays forgiveness, humility and perseverance.
Fifth, after reading, it will be loads of fun for kids to think of other things that go together, like carrots and peas, salt and pepper etc. So the book doesn’t end on the last page.
After reading the story parents/teachers and kids can also discuss the cover, author, illustrator and on the back the captions, ISBN numbers etc.
Finally, after all that, they can even practice their tra la las in an operatic voice. Or how about taking in an opera? What fun!
Thank you for these wonderful ideas, Jeananne, and for giving DIVA DELORES your teacher stamp of approval. =)
Happy Reading, all!
Just look at the darling diva that illustrator Rebecca Gerlings has so charmingly created for the book jacket to my newest book, then head on over to the Darlene Beck Jacobson’s blog for stop one of the official DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE blog tour! My topic today? How to Write Picture Books – DIVA STYLE! Happy Reading!
This summer I’ve been celebrating the release of brand new kids’ books with special guest posts and author/illustrator interviews. Today, I’m delighted to have debut picture book author Linda Whalen as my guest. Illustrated by Jennifer Morris, Linda’s book LITTLE RED ROLLS AWAY (Sleeping Bear Press) piqued my interest because one of my vivid early memories is of watching an old house being moved in the town my grandparents lived in. The Little Red in Linda’s story is a barn who’s a little scared about moving and all of the unknowns. As a child who moved around a lot, I would definitely have benefitted from a story like this! Here’s the book trailer which gives a wonderful sense of the book:
Linda is here today, not only to celebrate the release of this book, but also to share her thoughts on what it means to be a writer who is in it for the long haul. Her words really resonated with me. I hope they encourage you as well. Take it away, Linda!
In it for the Long Haul
By Linda Whalen
The long haul, sounds kind of scary because it implies patience and endurance. Ugh! Patience is not one of my virtues when it comes to getting published. Writing is a different story. Writers should want, need, love to write. Put the words that float, zoom or just sit in your mind down on paper or on your computer even if you wind up throwing that paper away or hitting delete. Being a writer is forever. Whether you let the words out or not, you will still write them in your mind.
Yes, it can be a long haul to being published. It was for me. It’s not for some. In either case, a writer should write. Otherwise, a writer’s soul withers and gets cranky. My family can always tell when I’m not writing because they will touch my arm and say, “I think you need to go write.” It’s true. If I let a rejection get to me and just stop writing for a while, I’m not as happy as usual. A writer needs to write.
The long haul is sometimes down a nice, even-paved road slowly getting to your destination but no road ever stays the same. Sometimes you hit a pothole or a detour or a sudden summer storm tries to blow you off the road completely. Don’t stop hauling your dream of being published down the road. Continue to write.
Writers are never really alone if you think about it. Every time you write, somewhere out there another writer is struggling just like you to do justice to the words and ideas springing into their thoughts. We look at the same blank pages. Search for the right way to convey our thoughts. Worry about rejection. Hope that someone will understand and love our story. Hunger to see our name follow a book title.
If you are a writer, you are in it for the long haul even if you physically stop writing because there will always be stories lingering in your mind waiting to be told. So tell them. Tell them because they need to be told. Every writer comes with a unique experience and you never know when the story in your mind may be just what someone needs. Being a writer is more than stories, it’s an opportunity to touch the lives of others. That’s a gift that is worth all of the struggle, rejection, and long nights. So enjoy the long haul, see the beauty of writing along the way and become companions with other writers on the road with you whether they are in your rear mirror or up ahead. You travel the road together in it for the long haul.
Linda Whalen was raised in Southern California then married and traveled throughout the United States finally settling in Northern Calif. A city girl who found she loves country life with her husband, family and the creatures playing in the fields around her home. Devoting her life to children she has been a 4-H leader, volunteer teacher at her church, and owner/operator of Whalen’s Country Childcare a licensed facility. When she’s not writing Linda loves to sneak away to her art studio. To learn more, or contact Linda, please visit her website: http://www.lindawhalenauthor.com.
Linda Joy Singleton, author of over 45 books ranging from picture books to young adult, has a new picture book out with little bee books. It’s called A CAT IS BETTER and today, in celebration of its recent release, I am honored to have her as my guest. I know you will be inspired by her reflections on waiting for inspiration. Take it away, Linda!
WHEN INSPIRATION STRIKES
Linda Joy Singleton
Writers are often asked if they wait for inspiration to write a book. My answer used to be, “No way! I sit in my chair and write almost every day, until the book is finished.”
But writing my picture book, A CAT IS BETTER, has changed my answer. I can’t just say, “I’m going to sit down today and write a picture book.” The picture book process doesn’t work that way. I still believe it’s important to write regularly for novels; getting that first draft can be a huge, time-consuming challenge. If you don’t add a few pages regularly, the book may never get finished.
Writing picture books has been a different experience for me. The short format is closer to creating poetry or music, and just can’t be forced. It may sound cliche, but I have to wait to be inspired before I write a picture book.
Usually when an idea does strike, it’s in the middle of the night or when I’m driving. And if I don’t write it down immediately, the idea could vanish like a forgotten dream. Sometimes it feels like the words are a gift to me from the universe, and I’m always grateful (even for the many books I wrote that never sold).
My first picture book, SNOW DOG, SAND DOG, was inspired by a black and white photo. The next, CASH KAT, was triggered by a money game I played with my grandson.
But writing A CAT IS BETTER was a completely different experience. It was the first time that I was able to successfully ask the “universe” for an idea.
I was a speaker at a writing conference, and sitting in on another session. While others were making picture book dummies, a pre-arranged exercise, I had nothing to do. So I told myself that I would write a picture book. “What topic?” I asked myself. “Cats,” came the answer. Because I LOVE cats. And just like that—an opening line jumped into my head. “Congratulations, I’m your new cat. I’m the perfect pet for you. You may take me home now.”
My theory is that my creative brain whirls in the background of my life, but it’s not easy to access the information. But in this amazing moment, my conscious and creative mind connected. I wrote the first draft in one hour. I rewrote it for a few weeks, showed my agent, and after five rewrites for an editor, I had a contract. And A CAT IS BETTER was a June 2017 release from Little Bee Books.
Since that experience, I’ve had more of these conversations with myself. I saw a photo online that made me think, “Someone should write about this.” I kept thinking about the photo, and a title popped into my head. But I couldn’t think of a plot. I mulled this over, frustrated that no ideas happened. But at 4AM one morning, words popped into my head! I got up, typed quickly, writing a rough draft.
I don’t know if this new book will sell, but it was fun to write. Thank heavens for amazing, almost magical moments of inspiration.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Linda Joy Singleton is the author of over 45 MG, YA and picture books. She’s currently working on the 6th mystery in the MG series, CURIOUS CAT SPY CLUB. In 2017, she has two new picture books, A CAT IS BETTER and LUCY LOVES GOOSEY. She lives in the country with a menagerie of animals, including dogs, cats, pigs, horses and peacocks. She offers tips to writers and resources for teachers at www.LindaJoySingleton.com.
This week, coinciding with National Poetry Month, I am delighted to have picture book author and poet Elizabeth Upton as my guest. I met Elizabeth at KidLitTV’s Live Stream Read Aloud event last month and had the pleasure of listening as she read aloud her delightful debut, MAXI THE LITTLE TAXI, illustrated by Henry Cole and published in 2016 by Scholastic. It’s a fun and bouncy story with spot-on rhythm and rhyme. It’s also full of wonderful poetic elements and I’m delighted that Elizabeth has agreed to pen this post on one of my favorites – onomatopoeia! Take it away, Elizabeth!
It’s an honor to be asked by Laura Sassi to be a guest blogger during Poetry Month. I love poetry. Happily, my poetry has been in three collections by the amazing Lee Bennett Hopkins. My picture book, MAXI THE LITTLE TAXI, features poetic elements including rhythm, rhyme, repetition and word play. I was thrilled when the School Library Journal review that said MAXI THE LITTLE TAXI “is filled with onomatopoeia and amusing details sure to delight young readers.” Onomatopoeia [on-uh-mat-uh-pee-uh], according to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, is “the naming of a thing or action by a vocal imitation of the sound associated with it (as buzz, hiss)”. Children love to imitate, so this aspect of poetry is very easy for them to access.
In my book, it’s Maxi’s first day of work and off he goes!
Max ZIPPED here.
He ZIPPED there.
He ZIPPED everywhere—
From the park, to the river,
And back to the square.
He ZOOMED up.
He ZOOMED down.
He ZOOMED all around town—
Splashing in every big puddle he found!
All over town Maxi gets filthy and he finally arrives at a carwash full of playful sounds. Onomatopoeia is one of the driving forces that keeps the story moving in a fun and engaging way. For example, the spray at the car wash goes “pish-pish”, the scrubbers to “flip-flop”, and the suds go “blip-blop”.
I hope that adults enjoy the lyricism and onomatopoetic playfulness of this story as much as children do. When you’re done reading, you may want to engage in word play with the child in your life.
Car and Truck Onomatopoeia: Anyone who has seen children play with cars and trucks, has witnessed their innate ability to use onomatopoeia (honk, honk, beep, beep). When children naturally use onomatopoeia, adults can say, ”Oh my! That’s a fun sound! That’s sounds like a little poem.” Make sounds with the child.
Bath Time Onomatopoeia: Maxi the Little Taxi is a bath poem. When children play in the tub ask them to think of what sounds they hear. Ask: “What sound does the water make when you fill the tub? What sound do your feet make when you get in the water? What sound does is make when you use the soap? What sound does the drain make when the water goes down?” (Examples: Whoosh, plip plop, drip drop drip, rub a dub dub, gurgle gurgle.) Then say: “Let’s make a lot of bath noises all in a row to make a little poem!”
Rainy Day Onomatopoeia: A rainy day is the perfect time to play with onomatopoeia! Ask: “What does the rain say when hits the roof? What does it sound like on the window, etc. Let’s say those fun little sounds all in row and make a little poem.” ( Example: Drip drop..plippity plip,plicka plicka plick!)
Read more picture Books with Onomatopoeia. Type “Picture Books with Onomatopoeia” in your search bar and you will find many resources.
Thank you for reading my guest blog! I hope you enjoy reading Maxi the Little Taxi with the children in your lives and that you have fun nurturing their natural poetic sensibilities!
Elizabeth Upton is the author of Maxi the Little Taxi which was published by Scholastic Press in spring of 2016. Her poetry appears in the following collections by Lee Bennett Hopkins.
Seasons, Margaret K. MacElderry Books (“Spring Sun” and “Summer Sun”)
Incredible Inventions, Greenwillow Books (“Ferris Wheel”)
Hamsters, Shells and Spelling Bees, Harper Collins [I Can Read! ] (“Show and Tell”)
For more information, please visit Elizabeth at Elizabethuptonauthor.com.
There’s more to a picture book than the thirty-two colorful pages it contains. There’s also the story behind the creation of that picture book. What inspired the author to write it? And what does the author hope readers will take away from the story? Today, as guest blogger at Heart of Deborah, I’m sharing a special Christmas memory and how it inspired me to write GOODNIGHT, MANGER. So, please grab a cup of coffee, or tea as I prefer, and head on over! I’ll make it easy. Press here.
I am so excited to have Juliana Tyson Kissick as my guest today. We recently reconnected on Facebook, but I first met her when she was in fourth grade! She was my student. Just take a peek at that adorable class, gathered joyfully around our Thanksgiving project that year. She’s seated in the center with a very young Mrs. Sassi standing behind her. And there she is working hard. She’s also represented by one of the little birds depicted in the delightful card my mom made for me that school year. The card is dated 1995 and the note I found with it reads:
“Mom made a terrific birthday card depicting an early January day in the new classroom. It was pouring and the power went out. I kept the kids entertained until their parents came by reading. It was a treacherous day with lots of flooding and rain.”
READ ALOUD TIME. It was my favorite part of the day and it happened every day, right after lunch. Actually, I think it was everyone’s favorite part of the day – a chance to be transported by storytelling to magical worlds, faraway places and different times. And I AM THRILLED that Juliana has agreed to share a little bit about what reading books aloud has meant to her over the years. Take it away, Juliana!
When Laura invited me to write on the topic of reading aloud to children in the classroom, I felt an immediate surge of energy run through my gut. It was as if my soul were demanding I leap through the computer screen, exclaiming, “There is nothing more important than reading to children in schools!!” — a good indicator that I probably had something to say on the matter. And what I came to realize over the course of writing out my reflections was how valuable and multi-faceted the benefits of “story time” really are… and most certainly not just for children. It’s like my Jewish, anecdotally-driven father always tells me (quoting the magnificent poet, Muriel Rukeyser), “The universe, Juliana, is made of stories, not of atoms.”
Story time. Is there a more cherished, enchanted hour in the world of a young person? The Phantom Tollbooth, Charlotte’s Web, The Boxcar Children, Little House On the Prairie, A Wrinkle in Time, Where the Red Fern Grows, The Giver… I can remember every. single. book that was read to me (or that my classmates and I read aloud to each other) over the course of my elementary schooling. I LIVED for story time. And it wasn’t just because “story time” equated not doing math (something I still avoid, sorry Laura). No, story time wasn’t just an easy out…that’s what recess was for. And it wasn’t just because I was somewhat of a doctoral candidate in the esteemed academic discipline of Class Clownery and more or less couldn’t wait until I was allowed to give a personality (a British accent) to letters on a page… ok fine, maybe it was a LITTLE bit about that (I’m not British, for the record). But really, truly, at the heart of my love for story time was my love for adventure and meaning, adventure beyond the physical entrapments of my birthed circumstances and the moral lessons to help me make sense of it all. Story time was everything I dreamed this life could be and opened my eyes to what it already was… in other words, story time was church. It was spiritual. It transcended me. It was a gathering, a listening, an intuiting, a shared emotional rite of passage that didn’t have a right or a wrong answer. You couldn’t get a check minus in story time. You only had to be a person. And that, dear ones, is why the gift of telling story is just that–a gift. It validates the complexity of our humanity and the diverse range of our experiences, and all we have to do is breathe and listen.
Unlike reading alone, the experience of being read to (or reading to someone) transforms written narrative into a conversation between heartstrings. When characters are given voice, when a scene depiction is read with purpose and conviction and tone, suddenly this is now a world and these are now living beings that are taking up physical and emotional space in our lives. It becomes real. And when something becomes real, like all the greatest of fiction has taught us, we conjure empathy and compassion. The characters don’t need to look like us, or talk like us, live in our hometown…heck they don’t even have to live on this planet. Story makes everything, and everyone, a worthy subject of our love and understanding. And oh how this world could use a whole lot more of that.
Just yesterday one of my best friends mentioned to me that she and her husband were reading the Harry Potter series to one other before they went to sleep… and I couldn’t help but get wholly and utterly inspired to treat my own grown-up self with the same kind of joy and validation I gave my story-loving, story-needing child self. We don’t really grow up, you see. We just grow.
Blessings and giggles,
Bio: It probably won’t surprise you to know that Juliana grew up to become a storyteller. She’s a multiple Ovation-nominated choreographer, actor, dancer, and founding member of Los Angeles’ very own Boom Kat Dance Theatre. After over a decade of performing professionally in Southern California, Juliana moved to San Francisco with her husband (and former boy across the literal street), Ryan. It was upon the move to Northern California that Juliana tapped into her love of visual art to further her storytelling career. In 2014, Juliana founded Good Juju Ink, an illustration design company dedicated to spreading “good juju” one funny-but-tender illustration at a time. Good Juju Ink’s greeting cards are sold online at www.goodjujuink.com and at Paper Source locations nationwide.