LITTLE EWE: The Countdown is ON!!

It’s hard to believe that after all the waiting and preparation LITTLE EWE: THE STORY OF ONE LOST SHEEP will be out in the world in just over two months! With that in mind, there are three things I wanted to share with you today.

First, I wanted to let you know that I’ve seen the ARC (that’s advance reading copy) and Tommy Doyle’s illustrations are darling. Thank you, Tommy and thank you, Beaming Books, for pairing us together for this project.

Here’s a sneak peek at one of the pages:

Second, based on feedback from teachers and parents, I decided to create an activity guide to go with the book. I brainstormed and drafted ideas for what to include and sent them to the amazing team at Beaming Books. They worked their magic and I’m delighted to share that it’s now available as a free download on their website. It includes ideas for discussion, crafts, games, coloring pages and a maze! You can find that here:

Third, I’m hoping you can help LITTLE EWE make a big splash when it releases by pre-ordering your copy today. Here’s the Beaming Books page for LITTLE EWE which includes links to several major vendors including indie bound. Thank you. =)

Blessings, all!

LOVE IS KIND: Student Art and Kindness Reflections!

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 read LOVE IS KIND last week for Fall, and we had also read nonfiction books about owls. So it was perfect! I had them draw Little Owl and write how they can be kind. Attached are papers. Below is what they said in case you can’t make it out.”
What a delightful way to integrate learning about owls with thinking about how to extend love and kindness to one another. Little Owl gives this project a thumbs up… and so do I!
Now, without further fuss, here are the art projects with captions beneath for clarity.  Enjoy!


I can help my mom.


I eat eggs, be kind at breakfast with Grandma.


I can share my stuffed animal.


I love my mom and dad. I play games (with them).


I help my mom clean the room.


I can be kind to my dad (helping him work on their jeep


I hug my mom.


I share with mom flower.


I share an apple.


P1010023.JPGJust in time for National Poetry Month, I rediscovered this little treasure while paging through one of my old notebooks. It’s a perfect example, not only of seizing the moment, but of the power of poetry to spark not only conversation, but creativity!  ENJOY!

“How high can a cow jump?” my newly-minted five year old asks from the back of the car – all serious and deep in thought.

“Come again?” I ask.

“How high can a cow jump?” she repeats. “You know, COWS?” And she drags out the word C-O-W-S to make sure I really understand.

“They can’t,” I reply. “Cows can’t jump. They can moo and chew grass, and they sort of plunk along slowly, but they can’t jump.”

There’s a momentary quiet in the back and I can tell by my daughter’s squiggly brows that she’s perplexed. Finally, she says, in exasperation, “Then how did the cow jump over the moon?”

As we wait for the light to change, I consider the various ways I might answer this. “It’s just pretend,” I want to say, but this, I know, will be too abstract or her. She understands real versus make believe, in theory, but in practice she still gets scared during movies with cartoon characters. She also believes in fairies and Santa and so the distinction is still very fuzzy.

So instead, I say, “Come now, can a dish run? Can a spoon dance?”

My daughter giggles. “No!”

So I continue, “Can cats fiddle?”

“No!” she snorts between giggles.

“Do dogs laugh?” I ask.

By now, my daughter is hysterical. “Say more funny stuff!” she squeals.

So I do. “Do hamsters play flutes?” I ask. “Now your turn!”

My daughter explodes with laughter. Then she says, “No! Do fish dance ballet? Now your turn, Mommy.”

And so we continue, getting sillier and sillier with each passing car. As we head for home, it dawns on me that, as a poet and picture book author, this is exactly the kind of conversation I hope my writing will spark.  And I am reminded, once again, of the power of stories and poems, to spark – not only conversation – but creativity as well!

Happy National Poetry Month all!


Sea White

My eleven-year-old decided to write her own retelling of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”.  First, she went to the library to find as many versions as she could of the famous tale. She read each one, noting what characteristics they shared and what details made each unique.

She titled her version “Sea White and the Seven Starfish”.  After several weeks of writing and revising, her story sparkled like sunshine on a salty sea. “Will you publish it on your blog?” she asked. “I could,” I answered, “but it might be more fun to see if you could get it published in a magazine.”  She loved the idea. But where to start?

With my daughter in mind, here now are SIX tips for young writers (and their parents) on how to submit original kid-written work to magazines.

Select a publication destination.  Only certain magazines accept work from children. For a comprehensive list, visit the NewPages Young Author’s Guide. Maintained by editor Denise Hill, a teacher who loves to encourage young writers, this great resource also includes a list of legitimate contests for kids. Each listing has a link to the publication’s website where you can find more information.

Read several issues before submitting anything. Once you have a short list of potential publications, be sure to take time to read several back issues. Not only is this a great chance for your kids to experience reading magazines, it will also give you and them a sense of the style and content of each.  Does one magazine favor poetry while another favors prose?  Are the illustrations also done by kids?  How many pieces by kids are included in each issue? These are just a few of the questions you and your child will want to think about.

Follow the publisher’s guidelines carefully.  Once you and your child have decided which magazine to submit to, revisit the publisher’s website and print out their submission guidelines.  Make sure your child follows their protocol exactly so that she/he makes a good impression and so that the piece is eligible for review. Pay special attention to word length and format. For example, does the piece need to be typed, or is neat handwriting okay?

Send ONLY your BEST work.  This should be obvious, but it warrants special mention because, as I’ve learned from visiting young writers in schools,  kids often mistakenly think that once they’ve written something, it’s finished.  But good writing requires revision, preferably multiple times, with a nice final round of polishing.  And it’s always a good idea to proofread every sentence with care one extra time before sending.

Be patient. This is hard for kids, but waiting is the name of the game in the publishing world. Most magazines give a time frame for when to expect a reply.  A nice way to help kids wait is to colorfully mark the possible response date on the family calendar. While they wait, encourage them to work new stories and projects!

Stay positive and remember rejection is part of the process. This is also hard for kids, but the reality is only a few of the multitude of manuscripts submitted will make it into print. Still, kids can remain positive because just taking the time to hone and craft a story and send it off – no matter the ultimate response – makes them a winner in my book!  And if nothing pans out, there’s always the possibility of publishing it as an email to family members, or as a special blog post on a family member’s blog. Sounds like a win/win to me!

Happy subbing, young writers!


10 Ways to Celebrate POETRY with your kids!

10 ways to celebrate poetry with your kids

Did you know April is National Poetry Month? Here are 10 ways to celebrate with your kids.

#1 Write/ illustrate a poem with your child.  Picture book author and poet, Penny Klostermann, runs a series on her blog in which a poet and child collaborate on a poem. My daughter and I even contributed a collaboration – an experience we will be both cherish for a lifetime. First, have fun together exploring the series.  Then, using the series as a model, either write a poem and have your child illustrate it, or let your child illustrate something and then write a poem based on the illustration. Don’t worry about perfection – just have fun celebrating poetry together!

#2 Participate in Poem in Your Pocket Day. Even littlest ones can enjoy the fun on April 21st as people all over the nation carry favorite poems in their pockets to read and share throughout the day.  Teachers should ask parents ahead of time to help their little one select a short, simple poem to tuck into their pocket and bring to class. Throughout the morning, pause to read and celebrate each child’s poem.   For more information check out the Academy of American Poets website

#3 Memorize a poem together.  I still remember the A.A. Milne poem “Disobedience” which my mother and I memorized when I was three. Actually, I’m not sure we even memorized it on purpose. I just wanted her to read it to me every night and pretty soon we were reciting it – just because we loved it so much. To hear it recited by Tom O’Bedlam, press here. Is there a poem you and your child love? Then consider memorizing it together.  (If you’ve been reading it to them a lot lately, they may surprise you by already knowing it by heart.) Have fun!

#4 Have a Chalk-A-Bration. On the last day of this and every month, copy or create a poem in chalk with your child on a sidewalk, driveway, or playground surface for others to enjoy. For more details, visit kindergarten teacher and chalk poem lover, Besty Hubbard,at her blog Teaching Young Writers.  

#5 Listen to poetry on the Highlights for Children’s Poetry Player. Follow up with an activity.  For samples of possible follow-up activities see my previous post on this wonderful resource.

#6 Hear your favorite children’s poets read their own work at No Water River.  Poet Renee LaTulippe has a lovely and growing video collection of authors reading samples of their poetry for kids. Each video segment is accompanied by an interview and extension activities. You can even find me reading my poem“Sir Ned”.  Enjoy!

#7 Sip tea and listen to poems at a “Poetry Teatime”. Visit Brave Writer for tips on hosting a successful teatime with little ones. Though geared to a homeschool setting, her tips for teatime can easily be adapted to any family setting. 

#8 Take a field trip… to the library!  Poetry collections are shelved separately from fiction and picturebooks. Ask the librarian (or better yet let your child ask the librarian) to direct you to the poetry section. Then spend some delightful time exploring the wonderful breadth and diversity in children’s poetry books. Check out your favorites to bring home.

#9 Play with words.  This is what poets do!  We play with sound and imagery.  Little ones love to do this too!  So, instill a love for poetry by playing rhyming games. Foster rhythm by stomping or clapping to to the beat of the words.  Play with onomotopeia by creating your own sound words and acting them out.  Have fun with alliteration by taking turns making fun and crazy lists of words that begin with the same sound.

#10 Bring poetry alive with free, ready-to-print poetry activities from Scholastic.   Activities include soccer poems, creepy crawly poems, weather poems and more.

Happy Celebrating!




Happy Spring

Last summer my daughter decided to make a fairy garden. She painted, planted and decorated. She added fairies and a mailbox.

When the garden was ready for business, she informed neighbors and friends that there was a new fairy garden in town and that if they wrote letters to the fairies, the fairies would answer!  What she didn’t share was that she  would be answering the letters for the fairies. She planned to use special fairy handwriting and special fairy paper. Since she’s not a big fan of writing, I thought this a noble, but unsustainable goal.

Soon – sprinkle me with pixie dust – the letters started coming in!  And, despite my initial doubts, all summer and fall my daughter tended her fairy mail with love. She opened each letter with excitement and gave loving thought to each one-of-a-kind response. And she never tired of secretly delivering them at dusk, which seemed delightfully fairy-like to both of us.

As summer faded into fall, I thought her fairy letter love would fade as well.  Indeed, when winter set in and she packed up her garden and shelved it in the basement, I was certain her fairy letter writing days were history.

IMG_1810 (1)But then, last week, she and I spotted this: a bee sipping nectar from a crocus! And she turned to me and said, “I bet the fairies are back too!”  She and I spent the rest of the afternoon working in the garden.  While I raked dead leaves and tilled the soil, she built a new hill with glass pebble brook and got the fairy village up and running!

To her delight, the neighbors noticed! In fact, the very next day, a darling little girl  and her grandmother stopped by the garden while were quietly doing schoolwork inside. And they left mail! And more mail!  My daughter is thrilled. Fairy letter writing is in full swing once again!IMG_1849 (1)

Fairy letter.jpg

Summer 2015

And here’s my takeaway for parents of reluctant young writers. I’m convinced that the secret to making writing fun is to seize upon some instrinsic interest – whatever that may be – and celebrate it as an excuse to write. In our case, that excuse turned out to be fairies! What will your excuse be?

Happy Spring and Happy Writing all!

Miss A.’s APPLE BERRY UPSIDE DOWN CAKE (Or: How to Cook up a Lesson on Revising!)

IMG_1737.jpgLast week, my eleven year old decided to bake a cake using her own made-up recipe.  She wrote her list and we went shopping.  She immediately set about baking her first ever “Apple Berry Upside Down Cake”.  She was so excited that I suggested she write down her recipe while the cake cooled.  The challenge, I explained, was to write an original recipe that used mouthwatering language and clear step-by-step instructions.  She fully embraced the project and I’ve never seen my reluctant writer put words to paper so enthusiastically.  Here is her mouthwatering first, unedited draft. Not bad for someone who usually has a hard time expressing her thoughts in writing.IMG_1721

The problem was… the cake.  It was a little doughy.  And a little heavy.  It looked pretty but did not taste the way she wanted it to. “I want to try it again, but without pizza dough,” she announced.  So she baked it again – this time with pancake batter.  And as she did, she had to revise her written recipe as well.IMG_1689

But there was still a problem… the batter.  It was too goopy and oozed through the layer of apples so that when she flipped the cake it didn’t have a clean, artistic look. It looked more like this…IMG_1730.jpg

And so, for a third time, she had to revise her plans (and her writing piece). This time she decided to use prepackaged crescent dough. And the result?  DELICIOUS!

Now… for the recipe, which together with the cake, are delicious reminders that not only is revising our writing essential, it can also be fun! Enjoy!




2 apples

1 cup frozen raspberries

1 cup frozen blueberries

1 package crescent dough

1 teaspoon butter (to grease pan)

First, grease a nonstick round cake pan with butter.

IMG_1716 (1).jpgNext, cut the apples into slices and place them in the pan so they form a circle like flower petals.

IMG_1717.jpgThen place one cup of raspberries in the center of the apples!!!

IMG_1732Next, put one very thin layer of your pastry dough on top of the berries and apples. (Hint: It won’t taste like plain pastry dough because the sweet bitterness of the berries will make the dough moist and delicious when it bakes.)

IMG_1736.jpgAfter this, place a second layer of apples on the pastry dough, but instead of raspberries add one cup of blueberries!!! Then place another very thin piece of pastry dough on top.

Set the oven to 350 and put the cake in for 25-30 minutes. As it bakes, you will see the cake rise and become flaky. Soon it will smell like you just walked into a French pastry shop, but it’s really your own kitchen.

Let the cake cool down for 45 minutes. Once it has cooled, place the plate that you want to serve it on on top of the pan and flip it over!!!

IMG_1737Voila! Enjoy your Apple Berry Upside Down Cake!

FUN MAIL: GOODNIGHT, ARK Sails to South Korea!

IMG_1602IMG_1604I received a neat package in the mail this week from my author friend, Tina Cho, all the way from South Korea!  The package included several fun things.  First, she sent me a copy of the debut issue of a Korean children’s devotional magazine, I Love Jesus.  The magazine is colorful and engaging and includes daily devotionals for grades 1 – 3 for the entire month of January.  And guess what it also includes?  A review of GOODNIGHT, ARK written by Tina!  The review is short and sweet and the entire issue is is delightful. Even though she’s eleven, my daughter wants to do the devotionals with me – so we’ll be doing them starting February 1. Thanks, Tina!

IMG_1605In addition to reviewing GOODNIGHT ARK, Tina used it in her class. Her students read and discussed the story.  Then they wrote me letters, which she included in the package! (We are planning to Skype so I can answer their questions “live”.)




After reading the story and having the children write me delightful letters, Tina also incorporated the “It’s Raining Rhymes” extension activity from my blog into her lesson. It looks like they enjoyed it!


Thank you, Tina, for sharing GOODNIGHT, ARK with your students.  For more ideas for how to use GOODNIGHT, ARK in the class room or at home press here.  For details regarding how to set up a free 20 minute Skype session press here.  Happy reading all!




IMG_1569As a child I LOVED going to the library. The library opened my eyes to new ideas and faraway places. And I’m certain that my love of writing is rooted in my early connection to books through the library. Now, as a parent, I want to pass that love on to my children so they too will appreciate what a public treasure libraries are.  They are free, open to the all, and anyone can check out the materials. With that in mind, here are ten ways we can encourage our kids to be library lovers for life!

  1. Have a designated “Library Day”. When my kids were preschoolers, Tuesday was our library day and my children looked forward to it all week. They’d enthusiastically help me pile all our materials to return into a designated canvas tote. Then, off we’d go!
  2. Explore every nook and cranny. We expanded our horizons by  making browsing the stacks a game. Each week, we would explore a different section, selecting at least three new items to bring home. And guess what my son discovered? He loved NON-FICTION best! Trucks, dinosaurs, civil war submarines… you name it, he and I read books about it.  And my daughter? She loved how-to books, books about ballet and anything funny!
  3. Allow on-site time for cozy reading. We don’t rush home after selecting our books.  Part of the magic of the library is getting to sit in a cozy corner surrounded by books, books, and more books! These slanted reading tables were a favorite reading spot when my kids were little. They also loved the bean bags.
  4. Take advantage of scheduled children’s programs. Story time, book club, Lego building club, and therapy dog reading night! These are just a few of the many wonderful programs our library offers to get kids hooked on reading and LOVING the library! See what your library has to offer -I’m sure you will be amazed and delighted.IMG_0924.JPG
  5. Hug your librarian. The library just wouldn’t be the same without the knowledgeable staff.  I introduced my kids to our librarians early on. To this day we love and rely on their advice. Very often, when we stop in, they have set aside a book that they think one of my kids will enjoy. And we are always sure to say thank you. A handmade card, book mark, or note is another kid-friendly way to show appreciation.
  6. Invite a friend to join you at the library. Did you know that standing in line to check out books is extra fun with a friend?  At least that’s what my kids tell me. And reading cozily in the library is extra fun with a friend too!  So the next time you and your kiddos feel cooped up on a rainy day, invite a friend to join you at the library for some extra special book time.
  7. Celebrate the reading of newly borrowed books and old favorites by talking about what you are reading at dinner, on walks etc.  We love talking about what we are reading at dinner. These chats occasionally evolve into something more – an impromptu skit of a favorite scene, a quick sketch on the chalkboard to demonstrate something newly discovered, or a race to ask “Siri” a question to confirm or shed new light on something we have read.
  8. Support the library kid-style.  Our Friends of the Library runs a book sale several times a year which helps support special programs.  One way my kids support this is by sorting through their own book and dvd collections a couple of times a year and then donating selected items to the book sale. They also like to bring change from their piggy banks and shop!
  9. Participate in special reading programs that link the library to home.  Library-sponsored home reading programs like the summer reading program keep kids coming to the library every week, even in the summer.  Many libraries also offer special reading programs that run all year long.  Our library, for example, has just inaugurated the “1,000 Books Before Kindergarten” program which encourages parents to read 1,000 books with their children by the time they enter kindergarten. The program includes charts and cute incentives. For more information, check out the “1,000 Books Before Kindergarten” website.IMG_1570
  10. Your turn!  Okay, I cheated with only nine, but that’s because I want to hear from you! How are you passing your love for the library on to your children?  I look forward to your thoughts.

GUEST POST: Debut Author Penny Klostermann with THREE Extension Activities for THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON WHO SWALLOWED A KNIGHT (And a GIVEAWAY!)

DRAGON cover

Today I am delighted to have Penny Klostermann here to share three extension activities for her delightful debut picture book THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON WHO SWALLOWED A KNIGHT, published by Random House (2015), and illustrated by Ben Mantle. Though out less than a week, this rollicking rhyming tale about a very hungry dragon is already receiving rave reviews. “No matter how many swallowed-fly titles you own, this one belongs on your shelf too,” writes Kirkus Reviews.  “This will be a great addition to the kindergarten/first grade curriculum on comparing and contrasting similar stories,” raves School Library Journal.  To these, I would add  that from my perspective as writer, teacher, and mother, Penny’s twist on the beloved “Old Lady who Swallowed a Fly” has everything eager (and even reluctant) young readers desire – great plot, hilarious illustrations, and (my own daughter’s favorite)  – gassy humor!  Without giving too much away, let’s just say that this bit of gassiness was a big hit at our house. 

Now here’s Penny with three engaging extension activities for THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON WHO SWALLOWED A KNIGHT.  And, if you can’t already guessed, Penny’s first career was in the classroom! 

Extension Activities For There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight


Penny Klostermann

Feed The Knight To The Dragon: Classroom or party play activity. This will be a Pin the Tail on the Donkey type activity. Using the images from the book as a guide draw a dragon on a large piece of poster board. Either draw small knights for students to color or have students draw and color their own knights. If you plan to play the game multiple times, laminate the dragon and the knights. Students will take turns being blindfolded as they tape their knight to the dragon. The student whose knight is closest to the dragon’s mouth wins the game.

sign from bookThere Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Rhyme: Rhyme recognition activity. Since my book is written in rhyme, it is perfect for a rhyming game. Using the images from the book as a guide draw a dragon on a large piece of poster board. Draw 9 wooden stakes similar to the one holding the “turn around now” sign in the picture below. Make stakes long enough to hold 2-4 signs (rhyming words). Place stakes in front of dragon as if he is eyeing them for a tasty rhyming meal. Make signs from rhyming words to attach to wooden stakes. Start with these words-knight, polite, steed, speed, squire, fire, cook, book, lady, shady, castle, tassel, moat, throat, enough, stuff. Have students take turns taping the signs with matching rhyming words on the stakes. Challenge students to come up with other rhymes that would match those on the stakes.

There Was an Old Dragon on the Loose: Large group tag game-Perfect for playground time or physical education class. Using images from the book as a guide, create small cards (approx. the size of playing cards) with these images: 1 dragon card (student with dragon card will be the dragon)

10 of each-knights, steeds, squires, cooks, ladies, castles, moats. Choose one student to be the dragon. The dragon will wear a red scrimmage vest or a red wristband. Distribute other cards among the remainder of students. Remind them to keep their card a secret. The instructor should be left with a pile of extra cards. (If you have more cards than students, make sure at least 2 knight cards are distributed) Have all students scatter except for the dragon. When instructor calls, “There was an old dragon,” the dragon will begin chasing the other students. If a student is tagged, they must hand their card to the dragon. If they have a knight card, they must take the dragon’s card and the red vest/wristband to become the new dragon. After the previous dragon hands over the dragon card and the wristband, they exchange their knight card with a new card from the instructor’s pile of cards. On the other hand, if a tagged student has any card other than the dragon card, they are free to take another card from the instructor after turning their card over to the dragon. They may continue the game with their new card. Periodically, the instructor should collect the cards the dragon has collected so they will have cards to distribute to other students. The game is ongoing since the dragon card changes hands time after time.

PPK_0615_RGB_HR_02 BIO: Penny Parker Klostermann is the author of THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON WHO SWALLOWED A KNIGHT. She loves all kinds of books, but especially loves very silly picture books that make her laugh. She has been known to hug her favorite picture books and seriously hopes that someday her books will gain huggable status too. Penny lives in Abilene, TX. Find out more about Penny on her website. You can also follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY! If you’d like a chance to win a FREE copy of THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON WHO SWALLOWED A KNIGHT, published by Random House (2015), and illustrated by Ben Mantle, please post a comment below. If you’d like to increase your chances of winning, please also tweet about this post on Twitter, share it on Facebook, and reblog it. For each additional “shout out,” an extra piece of paper will be added to the magic sorting hat with your name on it, so be sure to let me know if you send any “shout outs”. (NOTE: Must be U.S. resident to enter.) The contest ends Thursday, 8/13/2015 at 11:59 pm EST. The winner will be announced on Friday!