If you're looking for a masterpiece or 12, go no further than the PBS KIDS GO! Writers Contest, which just announced its national winners. These dozen stories, written and illustrated by kids in grades K-3, are online and ready for you to read aloud and share with your kids. Don't miss gems like "Desk: A Totally True Tale of Terror" or "The Adventures of Sniffy Pete and Drono."
Plus, your kids can make their own story mash-ups featuring the places, characters, objects and words taken from other Writers Contest entries. The possibilities are endless!
Hearing about Ripple - this wonderful project to help the birds and animals of the Gulf Coast - I have become addicted to the pages and pages of artwork. Many were created by children's illustrators and some of published children's books. At this point the children's literature "rock star" illustrators haven't made an appearance, but I'm hopeful that some of them will be willing to lend a hand to publicize this fantastic idea. (Hello, Mo?)
Here's the deal. Artists send an electronic file of their sketchcard to the organizer, often with some notes about the work or their feelings on the Gulf disaster. You make a donation of $10.00 to The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies or The International Bird Rescue Research Center. You email the donation confirmation to email@example.com, along with your address, and which card you want. The artist will mail you the signed card.
The nonprofits get money to help with the Gulf oil spill and more exposure for their important work. The artists get exposure for their talents and a chance to help the charity. You get an opportunity to help the charity and a bonus piece of art. Win-Win-Win!
Here are three children's illustrators who at this moment have sketches still available:
1. Katie Davis is the author/illustrator of picture books, including Who Hops?, and Kindergarten Rocks! and the upcoming Little Chicken's Big Day.
2. Michele Henninger is an illustrator from New Hampshire who has work featured in the SCBWI Bulletin and children's magazines.
3. Ginger Nielson is children's picture book illustrator living in New Hampshire whose books include My African Bedtime Story and Song for a Giraffe.
The website has raised 3,000 dollars so far and new sketches are added every day. But if you're ready to contribute now, consider some of these sketches lost in the surge of newer items. (The titles are the post headlines, which are sometimes the title of piece and sometimes not. You'll see the whole list of titles at the bottom of Ripple.)
11. Charlotte's Card (Someone has to buy this sad otter. Please.)
14. New News and Cards
19. I'm a Cartoonist After All
34. She Can Bring out the Best (A little hermit crab picture.)
44. Across the Pond
83. The Way things should be
85. Situation is Graphic
94. Family Ripples (A child's artwork. Think how happy she'll be when it's sold.)
Of course, you can also do what I've been doing - visiting the page constantly, skimming through all the artwork, bemoaning what I missed, and celebrating what I bought.
A blank page can be quite intimidating whether you write a lot or are a beginning writer! That is why we all need prompts for writing. As I think about it, my monthly postings for Booklights have been prompted by those of the other bloggers' postings throughout the previous month.
Terry started March out by giving great suggestions for prompting young writers. As she reminds us, a picture is truly worth a thousand words (or at least 20 if you are six-years-old). And while I don't want to "steal" any of the ideas for prompts for April that Terry might share, I think a delightful prompt for today comes from Megan McDonald, author of Judy Moody books.
Her prompt is an illustration of a practical joke the Judy Moody plays on her brother Stink. Young writers are then invited to write about a practical joke played on someone or make one up.
Pam's posting earlier today reminds us that we will celebrate National Poetry Month during April. Here is a website that provides great prompts for writing poetry. It includes a 40 minute webcast of Jack Prelutsky and interviews with Maya Angelou, Karla Kuskin, and J. Patrick Lewis.
Pam also reminds us that this is a wonderful time of the year to bring off the bookshelf Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit. While the book is rather dense in text, don't postpone reading it to young children. They catch on to language quite quickly. I tell my university students of the child who, after hearing Peter Rabbit numerous times, was overheard telling his tired, old dog, "I implore you to exert yourself!"
Susan has introduced me to several Passover books that are excellent. And the "old" Easter book of which Pam reminds us, The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes, was a favorite of an author I mentioned last August. I told about a visit with author Jean Davies Okimoto. She talked about The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes, by Dubose Heyward and illustrated by Marjorie Flack (who later won a Caldecott Honor). Although first published in 1939, this is a very progressive book. Jeanie remembers how she knew this was a tale with a truly feminist perspective. She noticed the ranges of bunny colors and the inclusiveness of the story.
In that same August posting, I suggested that parents and teachers might want to read Jeanie's picture book Winston of Churchill, One Bear's Battle Against Global Warming, which is illustrated by Jeremiah Trammell. As I said , the book brings forward concerns for the environment in an interesting way for children and their parents.
So that brings me to look ahead to April 22 which is Earth Day. While I don't usually start our recommendations for books to get for special days, I will go ahead and get us started this month with three books released this year that you might check out.
Fancy Nancy: Every Day is Earth Day, by Jane O'Connor. An "I Can Read!" book for beginning readers.
Where Do Polar Bears Live? by Sarah Thomson. This is a piece of non-fiction with challenging concepts written for primary graders. Be sure to notice the end papers!
Global Warming, by Seymour Simon. A publication by the Smithsonian and written by my favorite writer of science picture books. Wonderful photographs!
I would add to that list an older book, one that I mentioned in September, Peter, Pamela and Percy in the Big Spill. The story relates the oil slick off of Cape Town that harmed many sea birds in 2000.
It seems appropriate that this month, I have gone back to postings from March as well as throughout the year. For the day after Earth Day, April 23, was the day in 2009 that Gina first welcomed everyone to Booklights. So, happy anniversary to a wonderful group!
Happy Reading, Ann
Sit back. I'm going to tell you one of my favorite children's book publishing stories.
No, wait. I already did. Go and read it or this post won't make much sense. I'll wait here.
What took you so long?
Isn't that an amazing story? (I mean the Curious George story, but I love all three of them.) It's been a favorite of mine for a long time, even before I read Louise Borden's wonderful book: The Journey That Saved Curious George.
I happened to be in Manhattan this past weekend and luckily stumbled across an extraordinary exhibit at The Jewish Museum that thoroughly documents the Rey's four month trip from France to the United States via Brazil. There are countless original sources including the journals that H.A. Rey meticulously recorded. There's the hand drawn wedding invitation and incredibly creative New Year's cards. There are the letters from various publishers. There are the videos of interviews with the Reys. But there's so much more than that.
You get to see the artwork.
Creating picture books is a very involved process and there are numerous steps that have to happen in order for you to hold the finished book in your hands. For some great children's picture books with details and illustrations of every step, see Eileen Christelow's What do Authors Do? and What do Illustrators Do? and Aliki's How a Book is Made.
Original picture book art is the actual illustration that's used to make the image you see in the book. It's magical stuff. No matter how well you know the book, the real artwork will always surprise you. It will be smaller or bigger than you expected. It will have many more or less colors than you expected. It will have colored pencils where you thought there was paint. It will have texture and fabric that you're not able to fully appreciate in the book. At the same time, the image is so familiar to you that it feels like an old friend.
The remarkable thing about this exhibition is that there are nearly eighty original works. That's right, almost eighty. Usually, if you're lucky, you'll get to see a few pieces at a time or maybe even ten. But with this exhibit we get to see so much more than that. We get to see our friend George in pictures you'll recognize immediately. And not just him. There's Katy Kangaroo, Pretzel, Spotty and Whiteblack the Penguin and many other delightful characters that the Reys created. What does it look like? Hop on over to the exhibition's main page to see a tantalizing sample.
Okay, hop back. What struck you the most? For me, it was the physical shape of the of the pictures... which is the most obvious in the picture of George swinging from the trees and eating bananas. I'm so used to seeing the white pristine background but in reality the pictures were cut out (much more than in that one image you saw) and glued on to the pages. It makes perfect sense but was so surprising to see nonetheless. George himself was fairly small suspended in the middle of a huge white space. Once I got over that, I wanted to spend all day looking at the artwork. It was so beautiful I really can't put it into words.
This exhibit showcases many treasures from the extensive archive of the Rey's papers at the de Grummond Children's Literature Collection at the University of Southern Mississippi. Take a look at the H.A. and Margret Rey Digital Collection. It's fascinating.
Curious George Saves the Day:The Art of H.A. and Margret Rey is at the Jewish Museum in New York City through August 1, 2010. It's appropriate for all ages and completely accessible to kids. There's a comfy reading area filled with many of the Reys' books which are begging to be read aloud.
If you can't make it to New York, the best substitute is The Journey That Saved Curious George which contains lots of the archival material found in the exhibit.
And keep your eyes open for picture book art. Ask around. Maybe your local library (particularly if it's a large, central, urban library) has a few on the wall of their children's room. Maybe you'll find a picture or two in a children's bookstore. Watch for exhibits that come through your city. Visit the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts.
The artwork above that you're drooling over is for sale at the legendary Manhattan children's bookstore: Books of Wonder. It's all of the original cover art work for Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series. The artist is John Rocco. There are also pictures you may not have seen before that were created for the deluxe edition of The Lightning Thief. You can see better pictures here and even order your own prints.
Whenever or wherever you find it, it will always be magic.
Dr. Seuss (aka Ted Geisel) wrote 63 books for children. Looking for one of them? You won't find them at my library today. They're all checked out.
Why the run on Dr. Seuss books this week? As Jen talked about yesterday, Dr. Seuss' birthday (March 2) is also designated as Read Across America Day. People from all walks of life read books to children on this special day and many of them select Dr. Seuss books to read.
Ted Geisel's popularity isn't limited to March by any means. As someone who has worked in bookstores and libraries, I've found that in both venues Dr. Seuss books are consistently the most frequently checked out, purchased, and requested picture books and early readers. His books just have that special, magical something that we all look for when we read a children's book. As President Obama said in his proclamation for Read Across America Day yesterday, Dr. Seuss' "imaginative tales have helped generations of children learn to read, and they hold a cherished place on bookshelves in homes across America."
When Ted Geisel started out, success seemed a long way off. After illustrating two books written by Alexander Abingdon, (Boners and More Boners) Ted decided to strike out on his own, but it didn't go so well. Twenty seven publishers rejected And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street, the first chidren's book that he both wrote and illustrated. Here's how the book finally ended up being accepted:
"On the blustery day he learned of his twenty-seventh rejection, Ted fought back frustration and anger and decided to return to his apartment, stage a ceremonial burning of the now tattered manuscript, and get back to cartooning for adults. As he walked grimly along Madison Avenue, he was hailed by Mike McClintock, who had been a year behind him at Dartmouth.
"What's that under your arm?" McClintock asked.
"That's a book that no one will publish. I'm lugging it home to burn."
McClintock smiled. Three hours earlier he had become juvenile editor of Vanguard Press. "We're standing outside my new office," he said. "Come on up and let's look at it."
Half an hour later McClintock took Ted in to meet James Henle, editor of Vanguard Press. Henle agreed to publish the book."
(From Dr. Seuss and Mr. Geisel by Judith and Neil Morgan, page 82, hardcover edition).
Here are some of my other favorite Dr. Seuss facts:
- He won the Pulitzer Prize, two Oscars, two Emmys and the Peabody Award, but the most famous American children's book illustrator never won the biggest award in his own field: the Caldecott medal. He received Caldecott honors for McElligott's Pool (1948), Bartholomew and the Oobleck (1950) and If I Ran the Zoo (1951).
- At the end of college, he was voted the "least likely to succeed" by his fellow members of the Casque and Gauntlet honor society at Dartmouth. Clearly his high school friends at Central High School in Springfield, Massachusetts were more omniscient: they voted him Class Artist and Class Wit.
- His editor, Bennett Cerf, bet him fifty dollars that he could not write a book with a vocabulary of fifty words. The result was Green Eggs and Ham, which in 2001 was ranked by Publisher's Weekly as the fourth-bestselling English-language children's book of all time. Bennett Cerf made good on his bet, but I have a feeling that Ted made more than $50 from the book.
- He was the Berenstains first editor. He wasn't wild about their idea to write books about bears, though. He said they'd never sell. Obviously they did and after their first book The Big Honey Hunt was published, they wrote 16 more books for Ted's Beginner Books company. He was the one that shortened the author's names to "Stan and Jan" from Stanley and Janice and he also named the series "The Berenstain Bears." For more information about how Beginner Books was started, see Terry's great post on the subject.
The advertisement for And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street urged: "Booksellers, hitch on! This is the start of a parade that will take you places!"
Truer words were never spoken. The parade of Dr. Seuss books stretched from Mulberry Street in 1937 to Oh, The Places You'll Go! in 1990. Three more books were published after he died in 1991. The parade is still going on; almost every one of Dr. Seuss' books are still in print, which is truly a remarkable thing. You can find a full list of his books here.
If you're ever in San Diego, be sure to check out The Dr. Seuss Collection at the Mandeville Special Collections Library at UC San Diego. It contains everything from the original art for nearly all of his books to notebooks he doodled on in college, fan mail and Seuss products.
What's your favorite Dr. Seuss book? Which ones do your kids love? What is the first Dr. Seuss book that you remember yourself or your kids reading? Did you read a Dr. Seuss book for Read Across America Day? What's your favorite Dr. Seuss memory. I'd love to hear all about it.
I've got my own brand new Dr. Seuss memory from something that happened after I finished writing this post. My son (who loved seeing all the pictures in the post) asked to read Dr. Seuss books last night. And for the first time, he read a book he'd never seen before by himself from beginning to end! It was The Eye Book by Theo. LeSieg (one of Ted's pen names). A great book for beginning readers.
The photo of Michelle Obama reading The Cat in the Hat yesterday is from Getty Images. The photo of Dr. Seuss drawing sketches for the television special How the Grinch Stole Christmas is from the Wikimedia Commons.
Perhaps it is because we are having one more dreary, cold, wet (yes, still snow flurries!) day in Nashville, all I want to do is what Jen has just recommended: cozy up with a good book. And I would add that I'd like to cozy up under a fabulous quilt!
I will use that quilt metaphor in this month's posting. So many of the postings this past month provide great fabrics of ideas and suggestions for developing in young children a love of reading. I will try to sew some of those fabrics into a quilt of connections. Thanks to James Ransome's end pages in Under the Quilt of Night for this quilt that I would choose for wrapping myself.
Immediately upon reading Jen's post, I registered to vote in the contest Ideas for Change in America. I had not heard about this Change.org contest and was delighted to read so many great project ideas. The "Read to Kids" campaign gets my vote, of course. I particularly like what the creators have said in the description:
"By reading aloud with children, we can improve their interest in and attitudes toward reading and improve children's fundamental literacy skills, including reading comprehension, vocabulary, reading ability, listening comprehension, attention span and ability to articulate thoughts. Being read to by an adult also helps build a child's self-esteem and confidence.
A national "Read to Kids" campaign could engage national and local literacy organizations, schools, teachers, parents, authors, publishers and nearly every sector of business and society that understands that our nation's future depends on our children's literacy skills."
I join Jen in encouraging you to vote....and suggest that you send the "Read to Kids" description on to those you know in the business world as well!
Thank you, Pam, for reminding us about Goin' Someplace Special. This ranks very high on my "favorite books of all time" list. Those who share my love of this book should be sure to check out the Reading Rockets website that Gina has led us to. The writing prompts for Goin' Someplace Special are excellent. Even though the February challenge has ended, I plan to store the ideas inside a copy of the book.
NOTE to teachers....be sure to check for the March prompts. One of my former students entered one of her second grader's writing in January and her student was selected for an honorable mention. What a fabulous way to validate the efforts of a young writer!
Susan got us all thinking about how we organize, shelve, and attempt to easily locate our books. As a Mac computer user, I have used a software package called Booxter for several years. The program allows me to use a scanner like they have at the grocery store to record the ISBN codes on the back of each book (you can also manually enter these). All the information I need, including a picture of the cover, immediately pops up and is added to my catalog of books.
Finally, I'll add my own "piece of fabric" to this quilt. It actually brings us back to our many conversations around this year's Caldecott Award winner, The Lion and the Mouse. The website Teaching Books includes a video of Jerry Pinkney as he talks about the creation of the book. He ends the interview by saying that this fable is truly about family and helping others.
Scroll on down the link and check out the suggestions for enriching a reading of Benny and Penny in the Big No-No (this year's Geisel Award winner). The book becomes interactive when you click on the "Play" button.
Let's hope for lots of sunshine and even some days that will make us all want to take our books and young readers outside!
Every year, on March 2nd, the National Education Association (NEA) celebrates Dr. Seuss's Birthday as Read Across America Day. Here's a bit of background from the Read Across America website:
"NEA's Read Across America is an annual reading motivation and awareness program that calls for every child in every community to celebrate reading on March 2, the birthday of beloved children's author Dr. Seuss. NEA's Read Across America also provides NEA members, parents, caregivers, and children the resources and activities they need to keep reading on the calendar 365 days a year.
In cities and towns across the nation, teachers, teenagers, librarians, politicians, actors, athletes, parents, grandparents, and others develop NEA's Read Across America activities to bring reading excitement to children of all ages. Governors, mayors, and other elected officials recognize the role reading plays in their communities with proclamations and floor statements. Athletes and actors issue reading challenges to young readers. And teachers and principals seem to be more than happy to dye their hair green or be duct-taped to a wall if it boosts their students' reading."
So, what we have is an entire day dedicated to getting kids excited about reading. A day when people visit schools, and dress up like Dr. Seuss characters, and read books. PBS is a Read Across America partner. Here are a couple of PBS-affiliated resources (with thanks to DC PBS station WETA and Reading Rockets), to help you celebrate the day:
Many other partners and supporters of Read Across America Day are listed here. You can also fan Read Across America Day on Facebook, and, if you like, make a pledge there on how you plan to celebrate Read Across America Day.
I do have one other idea for how you can celebrate Read Across America Day, if you are so inclined. Change.org is running a contest on Ideas for Change in America. The top 10 rated ideas (out of 60 finalists) will be presented to members of the Obama Administration and media at an event in Washington, DC. One of the finalists is the Everybody Wins! proposal to launch a national "Read To Kids" campaign. Personally, I think that a national campaign that encourages reading aloud with children is a wonderful idea. If you think so, too, you can click here to see more details, and vote. Voting for this round of the contest runs through Friday, March 11, at 5:00 pm Eastern (each individual can vote once).
But really, the ultimate way to celebrate Read Across America Day is to curl up in a comfortable corner, and read a book with a child. Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss, and happy reading to all of you.
At first glance, February isn't the most inspirational of months. The slog of winter feels, well, sloggy, and spring is still ages away. May we suggest a little writing prompt to help you and your kids through the doldrums?
The Exquisite Prompt Writing Challenge from Reading Rockets and Adlit.org has just the right mix of ideas to get you going: Self-portraits, poetry, pourquoi tales, fabulous fables, and the 13th Labor of Hercules. This month, Shannon Hale (Princess Academy) and Calef Brown (Polkabats and Octopus Slacks) provide the inspiration and your kids do the rest.
Any other creative ideas to break the February blahs? Or does anyone out there actually like February?
First, welcome back to Booklights posting, Susan! Your January 6 posting got many of us looking forward to next Monday when the Caldecott, Newbery, Coretta Scott King Awards and others will be announced. Several other important awards have already been announced.....so I want to talk about one of particular interest to Booklights parents.
The thirteenth annual Charlotte Zolotow Award was announced this morning. The award is given annually for outstanding writing in a picture book (published in the United States in the preceding year) for children from birth - age seven.
And the 2010 Charlotte Zolotow Award goes to.....What Can You Do with a Paleta? a beautiful story of a young Mexican-American child's delight with a popsicle on a hot summer day (which may be difficult to imagine after this past cold, cold week). The book is both culturally specific and universal in its theme.
As the judges said, "Author Carmen Tafolla playfully appeals to all of our senses with rich imagery and crisp language. She invites us to think of all the creative things that can be done with a paleta, from painting your tongue purple or giving yourself a blue mustache to making a new friend or learning to make tough decisions. A sprinkling of Spanish words and Magaly Morales' sun-warmed acrylic illustrations add details of life in a vibrant barrio where the daily arrival of the paleta wagon is met with anticipation and celebration."
So parents and teachers, go ahead now and check out this beautiful book and have it ready for a sunny day when your children are ready for popsicles/paletas!
The 2010 Zolotow Award committee named three Honor Books:
Birds, written by Kevin Henkes, illustrated by Laura Dronzek
Pouch! written and illustrated by David Ezra Stein
Princess Hyacinth: (The Surprising Tale of a Girl Who Floated),
written by Florence Parry Heide, illustrated by Lane Smith
The 2010 Zolotow Award committee also cited four titles as Highly
Hello Baby! written by Mem Fox and illustrated by Steve Jenkins
Ready for Anything! written and illustrated by Keiko Kasza
Under the Snow, written by Melissa Stewart and illustrated by
Constance R. Bergum
Who Will I Be, Lord? written by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson and illustrated by Sean Qualls
I also want to mention that the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction was also just announced. It went to Matt Phelan for The Storm in the Barn. It is a graphic novel that will be most enjoyed by children ages 9-12.
Happy reading of award-winning books! Ann
For some of us, winter wears out its welcome long before the season is over. If you or the kiddos in your life are anything like me, you've got an extended case of cabin fever. Here's an outlet for all that pent-up energy: the Exquisite Prompt Writing Challenge from Reading Rockets and AdLit.org.
This year-long activity and writing contest (through seasons warm and cold!) gives students the opportunity to flex their creative muscles with writing prompts inspired by famous authors and illustrators. The challenge is connected to a larger serialized story (called an exquisite corpse) sponsored by the National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance and the Library of Congress, and boasts participation by superstars like Jon Scieszka, Katherine Paterson and Kate DiCamillo.
January's prompt has Gregory Macguire (Wicked) and Patricia and Frederick McKissack (Goin' Someplace Special) to thank for its roots. Learn more and participate here.
Has anyone tried an exquisite corpse in a classroom or casual setting before? How crazy did the story get?