“Show me How!” Book Review and Giveaway

I really wish that I had the book “Show me How! Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking” by Vivian Kirkfield when my daughter was younger. The book is divided up into six chapters, outlining several appropriate picture books for different subjects, such as “valuing strengths and qualities” and “feeling appreciated, loved, and accepted.” Each recommended picture book is accompanied by a craft and a recipe.
Vivian generously provided a free copy for me to review. Even better, she has generously provided a free signed copy to one of my lucky readers. But more on that at the end of the post.
It was a rainy day on Sunday, so I decided to test the book out. Although my daughter is now eight years old, and the book is recommended for ages 2-5, I still decided to use her as a guinea pig. But here’s the thing: although my daughter reads chapter books, she still loves it when I read picture books to her. Many people say that picture books are for every age, and I am one of those people who agrees. (Note: The crowd of authors went wild when Allyn Johnston of Beach Lane Press announced at the SCBWI conference I recently attended that they would be taking off the age limits on their picture books.)

Anyway, I decided to start with the book “Today I Feel Silly & Other Moods That Make My Day” by Jamie Lee Curtis, which is included in the section “expressing feelings”. My daughter did not know that we were going to be starting with this book, but she came down the stairs already dressed for it: wearing a bandana on her arm and carrying a balloon. (OK, the balloon was in her mouth.) When she heard that’s what we were going to be reading, and that I thought she was already dressed appropriately, she spent some more time being silly, putting the bandana on the balloon and so on.
Finally we snuggled up to read–or in this case listen–to the book. Now here’s the only slight glitch with the recommended picture books in “Show me How!”. Some of them are older and harder to get. But most of them are available in some form or another, e.g., the library might have it in audio or video format. Snuggling up with your child while someone else reads is also a very satisfying experience.
The book generated little discussion afterwards except for my daughter saying that she felt tired and crabby. I didn’t really see that, but perhaps the crafting and cooking afterwards made her feel better. I know that crafting and cooking always pulls me out of a blue funk.

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We made the sherbet (strawberry instead of blueberry) and then froze it. It was very simple to do.
While it was freezing, we worked on the craft. Confession time: we have never decorated a dress-up storage box. See, I told you I could have used a book like “Show me How!”.

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Does it look like it’s a banana box anymore?

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This craft was definitely a lot of fun.
The sherbert was frozen by the time we finished our craft. Result? Delicious! My daughter’s review: “This is a good way to eat your strawberries. And a delicious one. And this recipe is very simple.”

Now these activities are meant to be done one per day, but I knew that I probably would not have time on another day to review more of the book, so we moved on to another picture book. This time I read “Franklin in the Dark” by Paulette Bourgeois from the section “Acknowledging and Coping with Fears”. I borrowed a 25th anniversary edition from the library. The book is still very relevant today despite its age.
“Franklin in the Dark” generated a rather lengthy discussion. We talked about my daughter’s fears: the dark like Franklin, riding a bike (or more specifically falling off one), roller coasters…Then she wanted to know some of my fears. Definitely roller coasters. Next we talked about the animals that we would be afraid to meet in the wild. Crocodiles for both of us. Finally she showed off some of her knowledge about one of the world’s most dangerous sea creatures: the blue ringed octopus. (Don’t let the fact that it’s only 8” fool you.)
Books that generate lots of discussion are always welcome in our house. Certainly what your child wants to talk about will be different.

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Anyway, we eventually decided to make the trail mix. I had let my daughter pick out what she wanted to include in the trail mix when we went grocery shopping earlier.
Alas, time ran out and we never did get to the accompanying craft, but my daughter was open to doing it another day.
And we will definitely be reading some of the other picture books such as “There’s an Alligator Under My Bed” by Mercer Mayer and doing the accompanying activities.
We really enjoyed our afternoon exploring Vivian’s book. And I think that you will enjoy exploring her book too. So I am giving away a signed copy to one lucky reader. All you have to do is leave a comment on this blog post telling me why you want the book. My lovely assistant (aka my daughter) will draw a name out of a hat on Tuesday June 23, 2015. You have until noon (EST) that day to enter. I will announce the winner on Wednesday June 24. Good luck!

Ah-ha Moments at the SCBWI Conference

Despite getting off to a rough start–my first train was 1.5 hours late, and so I missed my connection–my weekend at the SCBWI Canada East conference was awesome!
This was my first SCBWI conference, and it was definitely worth my while to attend. I learned so much, made friends, and got some contacts.

Beautiful environment

Beautiful environment

I was thrilled to be able to sit in on the Crystal Kite award presentation (for 2014). Winning the Crystal Kite is special, because it is voted on by your peers. Helene Boudreau won for “I Dare You Not to Yawn”. I confess that I had never read it before, but I understood why the book won after she read it. It is fantastic! Helene told us that she would be watching us to see if we were yawning during her book reading. She also told us that during her research she discovered that 55% of people will yawn within 5 minutes of seeing someone else yawn. I am one of those 55%! As well, she mentioned that even reading about yawning can make you yawn. So…are you yawning yet? (And yes, I did yawn more than once during her book reading.)
Did you notice that she did a lot of research even though her book was a fiction book? I remember reading last year in this Kidlit Summer School post about doing research even if your book is fiction, because it will enhance your character.
Helene also talked about having Ah-ha moments. So I wanted to share with you three Ah-ha moments I had during Saturday’s conference.

I confess I am sitting at the back again. Maybe next year I'll move closer.

I confess I am sitting at the back again. Maybe next year I’ll move closer.

1. During her session of “Picture Book Voice” literary agent Heather Alexander talked about dialogue. Maybe you have heard the debate about the proper use of dialogue tags. Should you stick to just “said” or should you use other tags such as “whispered” or “yelled”? Heather was of the opinion that you should just use “said”. Why? She mentioned several reasons, including the fact that said would not need to be explained like a word such as retorted would, thus slowing a story down. As well, she said if you use a dialogue tag such as whispered, you are doing more telling instead of showing. A-ha, I thought. Now that I know more of the reasoning behind why to use said, I can know when or if I need to break the rule.
2. My second Ah-ha moment came during author Kari-Lynn Winters‘ session called “Getting Your Act Together”. Kari-Lynn mentioned that as soon as you get a book published, you are going to be on the stage, doing book talks. But instead of simply reading your book aloud, why not incorporate some dramatic techniques into your presentation? After all, you want to be invited back, right? Plus the more that you involve the kids, the more the kids will want to buy your book.
Kari-Lynn shared several dramatic techniques that you can use at an author visit. One is the “hot seat” where you put a student in a chair and ask him/her questions about your main character. You can also use this technique yourself when you are writing your character. Put yourself in the hot seat and see what answers you come up with about your own character.
During the session, I suddenly thought, Ah-ha, I really want to study dramatic techniques to use in my author talks. And maybe even take a drama class.
By the way, I wrote about Kari-Lynn Winters’ fabulous book “Gift Days” in this blog post.
3. My third Ah-ha moment came during Beach Lane books vice president and publisher Allyn Johnston’s talk called “Now Let’s Read Aloud”. Allyn mentioned that a lot of writers don’t realize that you don’t have to actually meet the editors at a conference. She said that writers may actually be doing themselves a disservice by following around an editor. That’s because many writers will meet an editor and suddenly become like a deer in headlights and start babbling away.
Ah-ha, I thought, this confirms something I realized when I attended the CANSCAIP conference. I went to that conference, gathered my information, and then submitted my manuscript afterwards. Because simply by being at the conference, you are already opening doors. Anyone who hears Allyn Johnston speak automatically bypasses her no unsolicited manuscript policy. She would rather have you absorb the information you gained during the conference, alter your manuscript, and then submit. It makes sense to me.
I did luck out and have Allyn Johnston sit at my table at lunch, and it was fascinating to hear her stories. Also sitting at my table was author Linda Urban, who informed us that she is going to have an extended picture book published. It’s more than 70 pages!
What do you think about my Ah-ha moments? Do you have anything to add? Leave me a comment.

RhyPiBoMo Favourite Rhyming Picture Book Choices

Normally I post my blog on Wednesday, but this week I wanted to post it on Friday in order to participate in “Friday favourites”.

One of my favourite parts of RhyPiBoMo is Friday favourites. That is the day that we share our favourite rhyming picture book of the week. I learn about so many rhyming picture books that I have never heard of, and I am really enjoying reading the suggestions.

So far this is what I have nominated for my Friday Favourites:

Week 1
“Once Upon a Memory” by Nina Laden, illustrated by Renate Liwska

This is a book that I found out about during ReFoReMo.

Week 2
“Won Ton and Chopstick” by Lee Wardlaw

Week 3
“Mable Murple” by Sheree Fitch, illustrated by Sydney Smith

My Friday Favourite for week 4 is another book by Sheree Fitch.

“Night Sky Wheel Ride”
by Sheree Fitch
illustrations by Yayo

The premise: Two children wonder if they are brave enough for the ferris wheel. When they discover they are, they take a joyous journey on it.

These are some of the reasons why I like it:

Effective use of white space
I love how the words “up up up” lift up and “down down down” tumble down the page

Repetition
There is plenty of repetition and a refrain.
As the kids become braver, the refrain changes.

Unique rhyming pairs
Examples:
reeling/feeling
swingsway/away

Plenty of use of the power of threes
Example: we wait wait wait

Lots of Alliteration
Examples:
swinging swaying staying
“See out to sea, Sister.”

Plenty of fun and interesting words
Examples:
whopdeedeedoo; swiggle sway

Vivid Imagery
Example: “Dizzy-dazed we gazed up
feel the moon’s breath on our faces”

Use of big words
Example: phosphorescent

Great Metaphors
Example:
“The people waaaaaaaaaaaaay down there are dancing jelly beans.”

Use of rhyme within a rhyme
Example:
fizzy with the dizzy reeling

Fabulous pictures
The ferris wheel is drawn as a squealing pig, a washer, and a dandelion among other things.

 

If you have read this book, what do you think about it? And what’s your Friday favourite? Leave me a comment below.

Stay tuned next week for my giveaway!

Local Little Free Libraries

Inspired by Nicole Popel’s beautiful blog about little free libraries, I decided to do a blog post about our local little free libraries.
Nicole has her own little free library. So far my favourite blog post of Nicole’s has been the one about the little free library that doubles as a geocache site! Besides wanting a little free library of my own, I have always wanted to try geocaching. Right now, due to location, I cannot put in my own little free library. But I certainly can try geocaching, and it is on my list of things to do and soon! And perhaps when I finally do get my own little free library, I’ll also use it as a geocache site.
There is a map of little free libraries around the world. Unfortunately, our local ones are not on this map. Word of mouth seems to be the best way to locating them. Although, if you are on Facebook, there is a group about the little free libraries in KW.
There is an upcoming workshop for building your own little free library at the Preston library. Hmmm, maybe I should go anyway.
So what exactly is a little free library? They are gathering places for neighbours to share their literature and books. The basic philosophy is this: “take a book, return a book”.
To read about the history of little free libraries, click here.
There are two little free libraries that are close to me.

September 1
The first one is within walking distance. It’s always exciting to see how the selection has changed since the last time I was there.

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This was yesterday’s selection of books, a mix of adult and children’s books.

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The second one is close to my daughter’s school, and it’s the first time I have been there.

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This was yesterday’s selection of books, also a mix of adult and children’s books.
I took a book from each of them, and in return I left a book.
What about you? Do you have any little free libraries that you love in your area?

Update: April 17

So I went geocaching this morning for the first time. I didn’t find the site, but I did discover a new little free library in the area. Awesome!

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Author visit: Dave Atkinson

 

I love attending author visits! It’s one of my favorite ways to do some research.
In this case, I lucked out by having Dave Atkinson visit my local used book store, Millpond Records and Books.
Now I had never actually heard of Dave Atkinson before. No matter, all published authors have some insight to give into the publishing process.
To prepare, I bought his first middle grade (8-12 years old) novel called “Wereduck” to read before his visit.
Luckily, I really enjoyed reading “Wereduck”. The book is about a girl who is supposed to become a werewolf on her 13th birthday, but she does not want to become one. She would rather be a duck. A duck you say? Yes, that’s right. So when the moon calls to her, instead of howling in response, she quacks in response, and so her dream becomes true. It’s a great exploration of what many children experience: the expectations of adults are placed upon them, but they don’t necessarily want to live up to those expectations. They have their own ideas. And it’s explored in a fun way.
Dave Atkinson was charming and engaging and open to questions from the audience. It took him 5 years to write “Wereduck”, but only 11 months to write the sequel (due out in 2016). When I told him what my favourite part was, he said that the character that I was referring to would have a much larger part in the sequel. Yay! I don’t want to spoil it for you, but if you do read the book, then I’ll let you know more…
Dave Atkinson first sent out “Wereduck” to Nimbus, who spent 6 months looking at it, but then sent him a rejection unless…unless he was to make the changes they suggested. So he did, including making it longer. That is a rarity, for a publisher to ask for a longer text, but Dave Atkinson said that he is used to writing for radio, which means he writes short and succinct. He desires to write a picture book, which would be perfect for him, if he can already write short and succinct.
Probably my biggest takeaway about his writing process was his statement that “red ink means love”. That is if someone takes the time to mark up your manuscript with corrections, it means they care enough to do so. It is something us writers should keep in mind.
What about you? Have you been to some recent author visits? Have you read “Wereduck”? Leave me a comment below.

More Book Research

Since I had a little time on my hands, I decided to use my time wisely and take myself out on another book date. This time my target was the local independent bookstore, Book Express.
I asked the owner of the store what picture books are the most popular. No surprise, he mentioned “The Book with No Pictures” by B.J. Novak and “The Day the Crayons Quit” by Oliver Jeffries.
Then he mentioned that a third popular recently published book is the book of poems by Dennis Lee of “Alligator Pie” fame. “Melvis and Elvis” is a book of poems dedicated to the theme of discovering the joy of reading. Watch the video below to see Dennis Lee read one of the poems from “Melvis and Elvis”. To learn more about “Melvis and Elvis”, check out this interview of Dennis Lee by CBC Canada.

I was then thrilled to find that the third of Alma Fullerton’s picture books set in Africa is out! “In a Cloud of Dust” is set in Tanzania, where my father comes from, so immediately I was intrigued. In many communities in Africa, children have to walk several hours to and from school. Enter the libraries. But these are not the libraries you may envision, ones full of books, but instead bicycle libraries! Children can sign out bicycles in order to make their commute to and from school much shorter. Can you imagine? What a fabulous idea!
I first heard of Alma Fullerton when my daughter won her book called “Community Soup”. Then I attended a talk by her, where I learned more about Alma and her inspirational background.

“In a Cloud of Dust” is a winning addition to anyone’s library.

Feel free to add some recent picture books that you have discovered in the comments below.

To see some of the work of local authors, including ones from Natalie Hyde and Frank Glew, and also “Introducing Sophia Firecracker” by A. A. Riley, click here.

Book Date

I decided that I would take Tara Lazar’s advice and take myself out for a date to the bookstore. Don’t worry–it’s just for book research. Tara Lazar explains the process in this ReFoReMo post.

I have no Barnes and Nobles in my area, so I went to Chapters-Indigo.

So what grabbed me? I noticed immediately that there were a couple of books that were already mentioned as mentor text in ReFoReMo prominently displayed. “Tap the Magic Tree” was mentioned in this blog post. “Goodnight, Already” was mentioned in this blog post as well as in Tara Lazar’s post.
I also noticed that “The Hockey Sweater” was one of the books that had premiere placement. This makes sense, because it is the 30th anniversary of the book and Tundra Books has reissued the book. (If you have never seen the short film that was made from the original essay, then you are in for a treat. It is one of my favourite NFB films. Click here for some background information.)

Here are three books that were prominently displayed that jumped out at me:

1. “Sweetest Kulu” by Celina Kalluk
I had heard about this book before, and I was glad that I finally got to see it. The illustrations are fabulous! The book is written by an acclaimed Inuit throat singer and is a unique take on welcoming a baby to the world. In this case, the animals of the arctic give gifts to the new baby.

2. “If You Happen To Have A Dinosaur” by Linda Bailey
I love dinosaurs, and I know many kids do too, so I had to check out this book. It’s hard to keep a topic that is written about so much fresh, but this book does it charmingly. It did not disappoint. What do you do if you happen to have a dinosaur and you don’t know what to do with it? Well you can use it as a coffee grinder or an umbrella…Who knew? This is a hilarious book.

3. “What Forest Knows” by George Ella Lyon
I fell in love with this book immediately. The illustrations are fantastic. The language is just beautiful, so lyrical. “Forest knows snow”…”Forest knows waiting”…
The date was fun, and I am sure to do it again soon and hopefully more regularly.
Have you done a book date lately? Tell me some of your favourite new books below.

A Book with a Digital Companion

“Walking Home” by Eric Walters is a middle grade novel about two Kenyan orphans that walk 150 km from an IDP (internal displacement) camp to their grandparent’s house. The story is spectacular enough, and the website that accompanies it makes it even more spectacular.
Muchoki and his younger sister Jata have lost their father and other relatives to political violence. When their mother dies of malaria at the camp, Muchoki learns that he and his sister are to be placed in orphanages. So the two sneak out one night to walk to their grandparent’s house, although they have never before met their grandparents. They are only guided by a “string”, which comes from their mother’s stories.
The novel is a great read. It is hard to put down, a real page turner. And the ending made me cry. In a good way.
Most of all, I love the digital companion that accompanies the book. Found at www.ericwalterswalkinghome.com, the reader can discover audio, video, images, maps or articles related to the book. What makes it so real, is that it is real. The author, accompanied by several Canadians and by several Kenyan orphans, walked the route that his main characters took in the novel! Talk about doing your research!
So on the website, you can find background information about such topics as real IDP camps and ethnic groupings in Kenya. You can find pictures of who the main characters are based on in real life. You can find videos of real displaced persons talking about their experience or of what it’s like to be in a church in Kenya.
Authors will also find a lot of valuable information on the website. Eric Walters has posted information about how his personal experience helped shape his book, about the editorial process, even alternative chapters he wrote. In chapter three, page 6, Walters has a particularly important author note on the importance of constantly engaging in dialogue with those people you are representing.
Are digital companions the wave of the future? The website certainly is a lot of added effort. Does it attract more readers? It certainly attracted me. Actually, that is why I originally decided to read the book. I heard about the digital companion and was intrigued. But the book would stand alone as a great novel.
If you have a moment, check out Eric Walter’s website and let me know what you think.

Are you doing ReFoReMo?

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This March I decided to join the first annual ReFoReMo challenge.

What is ReFoReMo?

From the website:
“The ReFoReMo Challenge, or Reading for Research Month Challenge, was founded to help picture book writers reform writing by reading and researching mentor texts.” You can read the rest of the introduction by clicking here.

Picture book writers can find advice for a wide variety of manuscripts in the posts.

Some of the posts so far have been:
1. Marcie Flinchum Atkins talking about second person point of view texts.

2. Jodell Sadler on pacing in picture books.

3. Founder Carrie Charley Brown with a plot study tool.

It’s too late to sign up for this year, but it’s not too late to follow the blog posts and gain some valuable insights.

Do you have some mentor texts you would like to share?

Writing Beginning Readers and Chapter Books

In my Word by Word Facebook group, we are working our way through the book called “Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Beginning Readers and Chapter Books” by Nancy I. Sanders.
This is quite different from learning about picture book writing, which I focussed on last year.
Yet, I find that I am really enjoying the book so far.
In chapter 1, Nancy talks about the “Triple Crown of Success”. Nancy notes that people write for three reasons:
“1. for personal fulfillment
2. to get published
3. to earn an income.”
However, writers will get frustrated if they try to use one manuscript to accomplish all three goals. Therefore, you should be working on three different manuscripts at the same time to accomplish these different goals. Hmmmm, interesting…
So far I have found the idea of writing beginning readers and chapter books exciting! It is a world that is full of structure. Often the word list is provided and even things such as length of sentence can be controlled. This is definitely a world that is quite different than picture books.
The only drawback to this market is that it is hard to break into. <Sigh> However, with some persistence I believe it is doable.
What do you think of Nancy’s “Triple Crown of Success” theory? And have you tried writing beginning readers and chapter books?