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Celebrating National Poetry Month for Children


National Poetry Month was initially celebrated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996. Since that time it has become the largest literary celebration in the world! There are so many good places out there in cyberspace to find children’s poems, interviews with children’s poets, videos of poetry readings, poetry-writing help, poetry celebrations, poetry book lists and more. Here are some places to look.

During Poetry Month, ALA sponsors the Dear Poet project, a multimedia education project that invites young people in grades five through twelve to write letters in response to poems written and read by award-winning poets.

ALA also sponsors Poem in Your Pocket Day, which will be on April 30th this year. Participants carry a favorite poem with them and share it with others throughout the day. You can share your poem on twitter, or other social media places, too.

Find more poetry month celebrations on twitter at Poets.org, and National Poetry Month.

Poetry Friday is a special tradition in the Kidlitosphere. It's a weekly gathering and sharing of favorite poetry thoughts and poems and books, hosted by a different blogger each week. And you can continue to be part of Poetry Friday throughout the year!

On her blogsite, The Poem Farm, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater is featuring a special project for poetry month this year called Sing That Poem! You won’t want to miss a visit to her site this month.

At The Miss Rumphius Effect blogsite you’ll find links to poetry resources and so much more on this teacher’s blog. A special feature for poetry month this year are her daily links to different poetry forms.

Find more poetry tips and terms on the website of Sharon Creech.

Reading Rockets celebrates children’s books and authors, and of course, National Poetry Month. Watch videos of poets reading poetry, interviews with children’s poets, and much more

Visit the Poetry Foundation: Poetry Picks for Children where you’ll find favorite poetry books for children selected by Children’s Poet Laureates.

The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) established its Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children in 1977 to honor a living American poet for his or her aggregate work for children ages 3–13. This award is currently awarded every two years. The winner of the NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children for 2015 is Marilyn Singer. She has published over one hundred books for children and young adults in a wide variety of genres, and many of her books have won prestigious awards.

Find a list of Ten Popular Poets for Kids here on the pbs parents website. Some of my favorites are:

Shel Silverstein
Jack Prelutsky
Kenn Nesbitt

So many links, so little time! All of this is enough to make my head spin! Children’s poets like Marilyn Singer and so many others are a great inspiration to those of us struggling to write not just good poetry, but really great poetry—advice from poet laureate, J Patrick Lewis on Day 8 of RhyPiBoMo. So enjoy, learn, and be inspired!  Read More 
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It's RhyPiBoMo 2015!


It’s Poetry Month! And what better way to celebrate writing poetry this month than by participating in RhyPiBoMo! At first glance it sounds a bit like something Mork, from Mork and Mindy, would say ‘back in the day.’ But really, RhyPiBoMo stands for Rhyming Picture Book Month.

Started in 2014 by author Angie Karcher, RhyPiBoMo is a great experience for poets, both new and experienced, whether you write in rhyme or not. I followed it last year, and it was like taking a 30-day course in writing poetry!

And there’s still time to sign up as a participant! Take the pledge, and register by April 8th to be eligible for some great daily prizes. Visit the RhyPiBoMo website for official rules, to see who’s posting, and for a list of prizes.

Read the daily posts and get inspired—you’ll catch up quickly! Then check the daily challenges for hands-on poetry writing.

Ok, so I seem to be consistently a day late this week! Yesterday was “WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE RHYMING PICTURE BOOK” Friday. I love good rhyme, so here are a few of my favorite rhyming picture books.

TROUT, TROUT, TROUT! A Fish Chant by April Pulley Sayre
TEN LITTLE LAMBS by Alice B. McGinty
GOD’S QUIET THINGS by Nancy Sweetland

And one that discovered recently, written in verses although not a rhyming picture book, has become another of my favorites—
ONE THOUSAND TRACINGS by Lita Judge.

Join RhyPiBoMo before April 8th and get your badge! Happy Poetry Month!  Read More 
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Pick Up a Puppy Book on National Puppy Day!

Inspiration for Name That Dog!
Today is National Puppy Day!

A note to picture book writers—Can’t think of anything to write about? Write about a dog!

Many picture books with dogs (and older books for children, as well) have remained popular over the years. Here’s my shortened list of books about dogs that most picture book readers know.

Names of familiar dogs in picture books:
Pretzel
Biscuit
Clifford
Benjy
Harry
Mudge
Martha
Carl
Spot (see Dick and Jane, 1950’s)
Snoopy

Books with dogs as characters:
The Halloweiner
The Poky Little Puppy
Detective LaRue
A Pet For Miss Wright
Officer Buckle and Gloria
Are You My Mother?
Go, Dog! Go!
Pup and Hound
Shiloh
Ribsy

Books about dogs belonging to people in history:
George Washington’s Dog
Lewis and Clark’s Dog

Poetry books about dogs:
Bow Wow Meow Meow: It’s Rhyming Cats and Dogs
Once I Ate a Pie
Love That Dog
and of course, Name That Dog!

Books without a dog or puppy in the story, but the dog in the illustration adds to the story:
Turkey Surprise
The illustrator, Thor Wickstrom, added the dog to my picture book, Turkey Surprise. It has no dialogue, and nothing is said about the dog in the story. But that little dog adds such humor, and you really know what he’s thinking by looking at the illustrations!

Writers, I hope you’re inspired! Now pick up your favorite children’s puppy book and enjoy National Puppy Day! Click here for some quotes about dogs.  Read More 
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Caldecott and Other Great Picture Books

Caldecott Medal

On February 2nd the American Library Association announced the 2015 Youth Media Award winners. Among those awards is the Caldecott Medal, awarded to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.

Congratulations to the 2015 Caldecott Award winner, The Adventures of Beekle, The Unimaginary Friend, illustrated and written by Dan Santat! I’m not an artist or an illustrator, so the awards for illustrations made me stop to look at picture books from a different angle—illustrations.

I borrowed The Adventures of Beekle from the library. The illustrations are very colorful and imaginative, and, I think, match the feelings of Beekle. There are illustrations of children with their imaginary friends on the inside covers, done in black and white over blue background, which adds to the picture book experience, and also adds to the story. As a reader, I always like when there are illustrated end pages rather than blank pages. Much of the story experience in this book is told through the illustrations.

In addition to the Caldecott Medal winner, this year Caldecott Honor Awards were given to five picture books for young readers, and one graphic novel for young adults. I wasn’t able to find all of these books at the library, but I did take a look on line at the ones that I couldn’t find. Here are a couple of the Honor Books that I did get to look at.

Nana in the City written and illustrated by Lauren Castillo
The illustrations of the city in the beginning of the book lack as much brightness—when the young boy thinks the city is busy, loud and scary. Later, as Nana shows him how the city is a wonderful place, the illustrations become brighter and more colorful—I like the contrast. I like the textures shown in the illustrations, too.

Sam & Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen, written by Mac Barnett.
I read this book last year, and at the time I thought that the illustrations carried the story. I still feel that way. Sam and Dave are digging a hole, hoping to find ‘something spectacular.’ Through the illustrations we see that as they dig, they change directions, just missing their ‘something spectacular.’ What most impressed me in the illustrations was that the story seemed to begin and end in the same place, but subtle details in the illustrations show that it’s indeed not the same place. For example, what was an apple tree in the beginning of the book, is a pear tree at the end. You’ll have to check out the book to find the rest.

Of the winners that I didn’t get to look at (yet), there were two books that I definitely want to read.

The Noisy Paintbox by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Mary GrandPre, written by Barb Rosenstock
I checked this book out on line. From what I saw, I loved the colors and the art style. The story line also sounded interesting to me, and I hope to be able to read this one soon.

The Right Word by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet, written by Jen Bryant
This is another book that intrigued me when I looked it up on line. I’m a list-maker, and this is a story about Roget, of Roget’s thesaurus—a list-maker. The illustrations seemed to be very ‘busy,’ which matches Roget’s list-making personality. I’m interested in seeing more.

I love when the words and the illustrations work together in a picture book to create a beautiful work of art. There are a couple of picture books in my own library which are not Caldecott winners or honor books, but books where (in my opinion) the illustrations worked with the text to create a ‘winning’ picture book.

One is God’s Quiet Things, illustrated by Rick Stevens, written by Nancy Sweetland. I love the soft pastel illustrations. They seem to take me to a new dimension where I can feel as well as see the quiet things in nature that God created. The writing is also very soft and lyrical, which I enjoyed.

Another book, which combines text and illustration to create the story, is Mole Music, written and illustrated by David McPhail. Mole’s story is told in the words, but the effects of what he does is shown in the illustrations. It leaves a very powerful impression on the reader.

For those of us who write for children but don’t illustrate their work, I hope this inspires you to take a ‘different’ look at picture books.

The Caldecott Medal was named in honor of nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association.  Read More 
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Book Love—A Blog Hop!

I love sharing good books with other readers, in person and online. But I don’t do it often enough. Thanks to Carrie Finison for the push to blog about books that I love this month!

I read about the Book Love Blog Hop on Carrie’s blog, Story Patch. I hope you’ll join me in blogging about books that you love this month.

BOOK LOVE Blog Hop Instructions:

1. Pick some books you love (any genre) that you think deserve more attention than they are getting.

2. Post reviews for the books you chose on Goodreads, or any social media. The reviews can be brief - even posting a short review helps. Posting on Amazon or Shelfari is great, too, or Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc. The more places you can publicly proclaim your love, the better!

3. If you want, you can also post the reviews on your own blog, or link your blog back to your reviews on social media.

4. Feel free to display the BOOK LOVE badge on your blog - and if you want, link it back to this post so your visitors know what it's all about.

5. Tag some friends to do the same! Tag friends through their blogs, or on Facebook. That's it! If you don't want to wait to be tagged, you can jump right in and start reviewing and tagging yourself.

Here are some of the most recent books that I’ve read and loved.

THE THREE BILLY GOATS FLUFF, by Rachael Mortimer, illustrated by Liz Pichon (picture book)
Opening line: “Trip-trap. Trip-trap. How was he supposed to sleep?” The story plays on the well-know tale of the Three Billy Goats Gruff. The problem: Mr. Troll can’t sleep with the goat children trip-trapping across his bridge all the time. Kids will love how the goats end up solving the problem and make a friend in the process. Illustrations are big and colorful, adding to the experience. Scholastic 2010

DOUG UNPLUGS ON THE FARM, by Dan Yaccarino (picture book)
Opening line: “This is Doug. He’s a robot.” On the way to visit a farm, Doug’s parents plug him in so he can learn all about farm things. But when Doug gets un-plugged, he learns about a farm first hand, and picks up some things that you just can’t get any other way. Alfred A. Knopf 2014

BIG BAD WOLVES AT SCHOOL, by Stephen Krensky, illustrated by Brad Sneed (picture book)
Opening line: “Rufus was a young wolf who spent his days turning over rocks, rolling in the grass, and running like the wind.” Rufus’ parents send him to the Big Bad Wolf Academy to learn more about being wolf-like. He is not exactly the best student. In the end he saves the day just by being himself. Simon & Schuster 2007

ONE THOUSAND TRACINGS, HEALING THE WOUNDS OF WORLD WAR II, by Lita Judge (picture book)
Opening lines: “When I was three, Papa left home to join the war. When I was six, the war was over.” Written in a lovely poetic voice, this follows the true story of how one family helped to ease the suffering of many Europeans following World War II. Double spreads are captioned with titles and dates. This story is a picture of how seemingly small efforts make big differences. Hyperion Books for Children 2007

TOP SECRET FILES: THE CIVIL WAR, by Stephanie Bearce (middle grade)
Opening line, chapter 1: “Railroad baron Samuel Felton knew a terrible secret—one that could change the course of history.” If you think you don’t like history, this book will change your mind! No computers in the 1800’s? No phones? No problem! Find out how men, women, slaves and even young boys worked together for a cause that they believed in. Readers will be caught up by these true stories about people, and events that happened in the Civil War. Then they can try out their own spy skills with the activities provided throughout the book. Prufrock Press 2014

Tag, you’re it, Sue B. Edwards!

Tag, you're it, Margo Dill!

Tag, you're it, Joyce Ragland!

Ok, blog friends. I tag you! February is Valentine’s Day, but the love doesn’t have to stop there. So hop on, and share some of your favorite books!  Read More 
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Poetry: Puns and Plans


There are so many ways to procrastinate! My brother sent me an internet post on Punography yesterday. I pulled out a few that might be related to reading or writing.

I'm reading a book about anti-gravity. I can't put it down.

Broken pencils are pointless.

What do you call a dinosaur with an extensive vocabulary?
A thesaurus

I love these, but I can’t let it keep me from writing, and being creative myself. I’ve been working on a Halloween poetry collection. I started it ages ago, and really want to get it to the place where I would be happy seeing my name on the book’s cover. That means that I’m happy with each and every poem in the book. Here’s my present day plan.

Plan: Have a theme that connects the poems in my book to each other.
Pulling it off: Identify my theme—does it work? Will readers ‘get’ it? Or do my poems seem random? How would I identify my theme on paper, in one or two sentences?

I look at the list of poems that I have so far and try to see how it will flow, from beginning to end. I want to make it start on Halloween, just before trick-or-treating begins, and end when it’s all over at the end of the night. I think I’ve got that, but I’ll be running it past my critique groups to see if they see the same way that I do.

Plan: Have a consistent tone in all of the poems in my collection.
Pulling it off: Re-read my collection, from beginning to end. Do the poems all have the same tone? Are they light or serious? I want them to be lively and fun—not too spooky, or dark.

After doing this I found that a few of my poems were longer, and seemed ‘older’, or not as much fun as the others. So I took those out. That meant that I would have to replace those with others! More work! But definitely worth the effort.

Plan: I want to have three more poems finished before sending this manuscript out again. (Yes, I did send it out a few times already, thinking it was ready. After the rejections, and with some feedback, I can see that I was wrong about that).
Pulling it off: I’m a list person. So I made lists. (I even made a list of my lists!)

List 1: I made a list of things related to Halloween, including characters and anything about trick-or-treating or spooky things. This is my Idea List.

List 2: I listed my finished poems, putting the character or topic of each poem along side of it. This way I know what I’ve already touched on, and can eliminate things from my first list.

I chose a topic for my new poem (using my lists) and thought about what kind of rhythm would work best for that topic. I get so many songs and poems running through my head when I’m doing this! I’ll be glad when I’m finished so I can sleep at night.

Doing the writing—this is the hardest part, of course, because I want the rhyme and rhythm to work so well that you won’t really think about it when reading the poem. So I make lists—of rhyming words, of words that mean the same thing but are more fun to say, of different ways to end my poem—I want the last line or two to have a ‘punch’ so that you’ll remember it.

So I have been busily writing Halloween poems, in January. Some are good, some not so good. The puns in Punography inspire me, because I love the play on words. I hope they made you smile—and inspired you, too! Now go and write!  Read More 
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Looking Ahead in 2015!


Here it is, already the 2nd day of the new year! I have my my never-ending list of things-to-do in front of me. Mostly it’s a continuation from 2014. I made some mental new year’s resolutions, but now I really need to get them down on paper! It’s always more permanent when you write it down. So, here goes.

Resolution—Read more for pleasure: one adult book and one children’s book each month. I get so caught up in ‘getting things done’ sometimes that I don’t take the time to read just because I love to read! And also as a writer, this is so important. I’m on top of that one already. I finished one of my new books last night, a mystery/suspense. And I have the next ones on the lamp table, ready to pick up and start reading.

Resolution—Write one hour a day (on manuscripts), five days a week. Ok, this doesn’t sound like much, but it gets me into the chair. And I know that once I sit down to write I’ll be there much longer than one hour. Plus, on those days when my schedule is determined by things other than myself, I’ll figure out a way to take at least an hour to work on my writing—eg: take it with me, or stay up an hour later.

Resolution—Revise current manuscripts: complete one every 2 months. Complete! Finished! Ready to send out.

Resolution—Work on new manuscripts: one completed draft every 2 months. It doesn’t have to be perfect.

Resolution—Follow up on manuscripts that are out to editors and agents more consistently. The newest trend at publishing houses seems to be ‘if you don’t hear from us in three months, assume we are not interested.’ However, if I’ve met someone at a conference who accepts submissions from attendees, I would expect to hear from them. I have two submissions from conferences that I need to follow up on, now. My resolution is to do that within the next week. As for other submissions, my plan is to follow up with a letter after 3 to 4 months.

Resolution—Be a more consistent blogger: twice a month, and more often if I can. I‘d love to do this every week, but I really think I can do it 2 times a month. Anything over that will be a bonus.

Resolution—Learn how to tweet! I signed up for an account on twitter long ago, but never learned how to tweet, re-tweet, or what a hashtag is! If I don’t get it before then, I’ve signed up for a program through Missouri SCBWI on Marketing and Social Media in March.

This is my plan, for my writing, in 2015. I made a separate plan, on how to keep my resolutions.
1—I try to make resolutions that I really think I can keep.
2—I try to make my resolutions specific. For example, read two books a month, instead of read every month. Revise ‘one manuscript every two months,’ instead of just ‘revise my manuscripts.’
3—I plan to re-evaluate my resolutions from time to time, probably every three months. Have I set them high enough? Too high?

Ok, my new year’s resolutions are ‘on paper’ so there’s no backing down now! Take the plunge, and get yours written down, too, before January slips away!  Read More 
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Looking Back at 2014

A DAY AT THE ZOO Board Book
Looking Back…

Today is the last day of the year—2014. Looking back, it was a pretty good year as far as writing goes.

Early in the year I had two board books accepted by Highlights for their new Let’s Grow series! The Let’s Grow series is developed by the creators of Highlights High Five magazine for preschoolers and Highlights Hello magazine for babies and toddlers. My books, A DAY AT THE ZOO and WHEELS GO ‘ROUND are board books written in verse for the 0 to 2 age group. You can click the link here to find out more about the Highlights Let’s Grow subscription.

This was another ‘first’ for me as a children’s writer. A DAY AT THE ZOO and WHEELS GO ‘ROUND will be my first board books published, and also my first books written in verse. It was also my first work-for-hire. I worked with a consulting editor for Highlights, who had contacted me late the year before after reading my poems for babies in my picture book FROM DAWN TO DREAMS, POEMS FOR BUSY BABIES, published by Candlewick.

Working on these books was pretty much my main writing focus the first four months of the year. It reinforced my belief that, Yes! I can write a story for young ‘readers’ in 28 lines or less! And Yes! I can re-write to make my rhyme perfect, no matter how impossible that seems!

Writing poetry with good rhyme and rhythm takes a lot of effort. And children deserve that effort. There were times that I wondered if I would ever come up with just the right word! When that happens, you can do one of three things—

You can give up and quit.

You can ‘settle’ for less than perfect.

Or you can keep trying until you get it just right. Because you believe you can do it, and maybe because someone else believes in you, too.

In March I had another writing first. The education editor at Scholastic Canada wrote to me asking permission to use one of my poems in a poetry collection for grade 3 students. My poem Bandit, from NAME THAT DOG, will be included in that collection, my first poem to be included in an anthology!

That month I also attended a local Missouri SCBWI program on the Common Core and School Visits.

In April I attended the Indiana SCBWI Spring conference and met an editor from FSG who requested that I submit my non-fiction/poetry manuscript, WHAT GREAT TEETH YOU HAVE. Still waiting…

My favorite thing to do as an author is to talk to kids about books and writing, and to talk with the kids who read my books! I spoke to second grade students at Lakeview Elementary school in April, and visited my granddaughter’s Kindergarten class at Providence Christian Academy to read and talk about books. I also joined other Missouri SCBWI children’s authors and illustrators at the MASL (Missouri Association of School Librarians) convention to sign copies of our books.

In May I did a workshop on writing poetry for students in grades 5 to 8 at the Ozark Writing Project (OWP) Youth Conference in Springfield, MO. I saw so much talent in those students!

In June I gave a workshop on writing picture books for the Saturday Writers in St. Peters, MO, and met more great writers.

In September I attended the Missouri SCBWI Fall conference where I helped wherever I was needed. It was a great conference, perfect especially for those of us who write picture books. I was thrilled to present the certificates to those Missouri PAL (published and listed) authors who had books published in 2014. And led a great critique group with picture book writers and illustrators, and learned from them as well.

I submitted TOAD IN THE ROAD, a picture book in verse, to an agent that I met at the conference who was interested in my work. Still waiting…

In October I met author Mac Barnett and illustrator Jon Klassen at the Spencer Library branch in St. Charles where they gave a presentation to patrons.

November brought the Local Author Night to the Middendorf-Kredell (MK) Library here in O’Fallon where I met up with a friend, and schmoozed with friends who were signing their books. I met some other authors there as well.

December was a big month for Scholastic Book Fair sales. I met teachers, librarians, parents and young readers at book fairs in Columbia, Fenton and St. Charles in Missouri and autographed copies of my picture book, NAME THAT DOG, which is carried by the Scholastic Book Club and Book Fairs.

Writing for children is a lot of things. It’s writing, learning as we go, and sharing what we’ve learned along the way. It takes a lot of patience, and perseverance.

Yes, 2014 was a good year for ‘writing.’ Now it’s time to look ahead to 2015. Happy New Year, Happy Reading and Writing, to all of you!  Read More 
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Christmas Carols--"Thank God for Kids"


I've got my Christmas cd's out and even some old Christmas tapes, and the radio station in our car is tuned in to the Christmas channel. I stopped to think when I heard Kenny Chesney sing “Thank God for Kids,” which was originally done by the Oak Ridge Boys. There are many Christmas songs that wouldn’t have been written if it weren’t for kids.

See if you can guess the names of the following Christmas songs.

1—a song that might inspire a child to be good before Christmas.
2—a song about a chilly winter creation who magically comes to life
3—a song about a child who asks for something that will help him wish everyone a Merry Christmas
4—a song about a child who was naughty all year
5—a song about a baby born in an unusual crib in a barn
6—a song about a boy who gives the Baby Jesus the gift of music
7—a song about the leader of Santa’s team
8—a song about someone who took over when the leader of Santa’s team was sick (think country music)
9—a song about a magical place filled with what children hope to get on Christmas morning
10—a song about a child whispering to Santa what he and his friends want for Christmas

There are Christmas stories all around us at this time of year. If you celebrate the season in a different way, similar inspiration is sure to surround you.

Ok, here are the answers to the songs listed above:

1—Santa Claus is Coming to Town
2—Frosty the Snowman
3—All I Want For Christmas is My Two Front Teeth
4—I’m Getting Nothin’ For Christmas
5—Away in a Manger
6—Little Drummer Boy
7—Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
8—Leroy the Redneck Reindeer
9—Toyland
10—Jolly Old St. Nicholas

Happy Holidays to all who celebrate the season!

And a very Merry Christmas to all, from my blog to your home!  Read More 
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Scholastic Book Signings



A big Thank You goes out to Scholastic Book Fair coordinators Lisa Clouse, Holly Phillips and Jessica Kunderman for inviting me to autograph copies of NAME THAT DOG! at their Scholastic Book Fair sales in Fenton, St. Charles, and Columbia in Missouri this month! I loved meeting and talking to all those who came in to browse and purchase books. Thank you for all the planning and for showcasing my picture book, NAME THAT DOG! NAME THAT DOG! is originally published by Dial Books for Young Readers, and is also sold by Scholastic Book Clubs and Book Fairs.  Read More 
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