Category Archives: Uncategorized

Picture Book Summit 2019 Author Study #3

Picture Book Summit 2019 Author Study #3

Read about the talented author and storyteller Rukhsana Khan. We will hear from her tomorrow and many others at this year’s fifth anniversary of Picture Book Summit!

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August Author Study – Susan Verde

August Author Study – Susan Verde

This month’s Reading for Research author study takes a look at books by Susan Verde. Read how she connects with kids and invites them to learn and grow. Her books address compassion, empathy, mindfulness and community.

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Picture Book Summit 2019 – Author Study #2

Picture Book Summit 2019 – Author Study #2

Coming this October: Picture Book Summit – all the content of a conference, in the comfort of your home! I took a look at the books by this year’s presenters. Time to look at books by Matthew Cordell!

Register here for Picture Book Summit 2019. See you there!

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May Author Study: Anika Aldamuy Denise

May Author Study: Anika Aldamuy Denise

My picture book mentor text author study features the very versatile and talented writer Anika Aldamuy Denise. Check out my post on the Reading for Research (RefoReMo) blog here.

Anika writes fiction, nonfiction, and diverse books. What a package!

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Kidlit for Christchurch fundraiser & auction March 24-27

Kidlit for Christchurch fundraiser & auction March 24-27

The #kidlitforchristchurch auction is live until March 27th at 11:59 pm! My donation is one copy of the middle-grade novel AMINA’S VOICE by Hena Khan, two Abo el Ela Co. Abu Ghazala Egyptian shawls made in Cairo, Egypt, one Navy Blue, one Burgundy, approximately 7ft x 3ft, all items are new. Bid on my items, #035 here!

What is this fundraiser about? Organizers wrote:

On Friday, March 15, a gunman opened fire in two Christchurch Mosques, Masjid Al Noor and Linwood Masjid Mosque. During this terrorist attack, 50 people lost their lives and 48 people were injured.

As members of the kidlit community, we want to make a stand against hatred and Islamophobia, and show our solidarity with the victims and affected Muslim communities. The auctions and raffles on this page will support the United for Christchurch Mosque Shootings fundraiser, which aims to “help with the immediate, short-term needs of the grieving families.”

The auctions and raffles will be open March 24th at 12:01 AM EST and close March 27th at 11:59 PM

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Under My Hijab by Hena Khan

Under My Hijab by Hena Khan

Today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday pick is UNDER MY HIJAB.

Written by: Hena Khan

Illustrated by: Aaliya Jaleel

Publisher: Lee & Low Books, February 5, 2019

Suitable for ages: 5-8

Themes/Topics:  hijab fashion, modern Muslim women, religion

Brief Synopsis: UNDER MY HIJAB is written from the point of view of a young girl who observes how, when, and where her modern, independent, female family members wear their individual headscarves for work and play.

Why I like this book: Hena Khan’s story is for anyone curious about modern Muslim women who choose to wear a hijab.

Most often women cover their hair, ears, and neck but to show just how individual that choice is, the cool artist aunt covers her hair and ears pinned with a handmade jewel. Illustrator Aaliya Jaleel adds other details like henna designs worn on the hands of these characters while attending a social event.

At the end of the book, the author shares the cultural and religious significance of wearing the headcover.

I read the ARC for this review. UNDER MY HIJAB would be a great addition to the home, school, and library.

Resources:

  • Resources: For more about Islam for kids, see the World Religions website.
  • See examples of modern hijabs at this London fashion show.
  • Watch this tutorial on youtube by a young girl on how to style different headscarves.
  • Read this interview on the Lee & Low Book blog with author Hena Khan.

To read lots more Perfect Picture Book Friday reviews visit author Susanna Hill’s blog.

Happy reading!

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King Cake Season is here!

King Cake Season is here!

It’s Day 2 of the Carnival season and I’ve ordered my second King Cake! It’s just too tempting with all the varieties, favorites, and new versions. So I wrote a serenity prayer to get me through this visit!


The King Cake Prayer


God, grant me the serenity to accept these King Cake calories.

Courage to stop when I’ve had enough,

And the wisdom to choose wisely.


AMEN!

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King Cake Season is here!

King Cake Season is here!

On the first day of Carnival, I cut the first piece of our first King Cake and I got the baby!  It’s Day 2 of Carnival and I ordered my second King Cake! It’s just too tempting with all the varieties, favorites, and new versions. So I wrote a serenity prayer to get me through this visit!


The King Cake Prayer
God, grant me the serenity to accept these King Cake calories. Courage to stop when I’ve had enough, And the wisdom to choose wisely.
AMEN!

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Storystorm with Tara Lazar

Storystorm with Tara Lazar

Hear Ye! Hear Ye! STORYSTORM, author Tara Lazar’s story idea and writing craft event is coming to a computer screen near you soon! Visit her blog to read the rules and register. 

Last year I created an insertable text Storystorm calendar to collect my story ideas and jot down notes from the daily posts. That way, my ideas and craft tips from the amazing Storystorm contributors are always at my fingertips. If you think it will work for you, download a copy below. 

Thanks for hosting this wonderful writing event again Tara. And happy 10th-anniversary STORYSTORM!

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Indiana SCBWI Summer Kick-Off Conference 2017 Re-cap

Indiana SCBWI Summer Kick-Off Conference 2017 Re-cap

Last Sunday I drove through rural Indiana on my way home from an inspirational weekend at the summer SCBWI Indiana writer’s conference when my eyes caught the light on my dashboard. This incident sent me on a journey to get gas fast. Thank goodness my GPS found a gas station nearby. I listened carefully to the directions, but drove and drove. The gas light began to blink. My first thought: what a great example of rising tension!

Believe me, there was panic, but my first reaction was about writing. I credit this SCBWI Indiana conference for that.  I just spent the weekend writing and thinking about writing. Thinking about character, and plot and story arcs. A weekend filled with instruction, inspiration and motivation.

Here’s a re-cap of the amazing faculty who presented.

Danielle Smith, founder of Lupine Grove Creative is an agent that represents picture books through young adult novels. She is such an inspirational force in this industry. I always enjoy listening to her honest appraisal of what it takes to be successful in this business.

 

The one and only author and indie publisher Darcy Pattison shared her wisdom with us. Pun intended! If you haven’t heard Darcy speak, put her on your bucket list and listen carefully to what she has to say.

What’s better than hearing author Tammi Sauer speak? Hearing her TWICE! Tammi gave a dynamic instructional presentation, er performance on story plot and structure. Her books are great to use as mentor texts because she is the plot whisperer!

 

Tammi is a role model for how teaching can be entertaining! She is as funny in person as the characters readers know so well in her books.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Troy Cummings is a mega talented author-illustrator. He shared tips for making a dummy to check and improve pacing and page turns. He is such a naturally funny guy. I would be very disappointed to learn he was shy as a child and not the kid that always kept others laughing.

 

 

Troy also shared the revision process for one of his soon to be released picture books that has that perfect combination of heart and humor. Pictured here is an example from one of his new releases.

 

 

 

 

A huge thank you to Shannon Anderson, SCBWI Indiana Regional Advisor (photo), Mandie Anderson, Assistant Regional Advisor, and Sharon Vargo, Regional Illustrator Coordinator, for hosting and coordinating a fabulous event.

 

It’s always fun spending time with writers and meeting new talent. It’s exciting to finally meet writers in person you interact with in the virtual world. Here’s Emmie, me, and Manju.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The King Cake Baby sold in the PAL Bookstore and some readers in and around Indiana will learn a bit about one of our Mardi Gras traditions.

This conference faculty was delightful and the venue at Potawatomi Inn in the state park was breathtaking. I am definitely looking forward to the next SCBWI conference hosted in Indiana.

Write on!

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The 12 Days of Christmas starts today!

The 12 Days of Christmas starts today!

The 12 days of Christmas starts today. I know the song by the same name first played on the radio the day after Halloween. For some cultures, primarily in Europe and Latin America, the first day of Christmas started on December 25 and will end January 5. Here in the US, at least in creole Louisiana, the first day starts today, December 26 and will end January 6.

So what’s up with that song? We know it’s about someone getting lots of gifts, especially birds, from their true love. A wee research led me to a number of guesses about its origin. The earliest written version is from 1780 published as a children’s “memory and forfeits” game much like the game ‘I went to the market and bought’ where players are tasked with remembering and repeating what was said before them. Others hypothesize it’s an English Christmas carol, a French folk song from 1770, and even a ‘code’ persecuted English Catholics used to practice their faith back in the 16th-17th centuries. A century later it was described as a game played at a Twelfth night celebration.

Fast forward to the 19th-20th centuries and the parodies ensued. If “The 12 Days of Christmas” Happened in Real Life and a very funny video 12 Days of Christmas parody of the Johnston family.


Although no one can say with certainty what the meaning is behind the song or the origin, today it’s rooted in both secular and Christian Christmas traditions. And it’s so much fun to sing! Whether there is a connection or not, there are 12 days from today till January 6th, also known Twelfth Night, Le Petit Noël, Little Christmas, Feast of the Epiphany, or Three Kings’ Day.

Whether the song is enjoyed for a secular or religious reason, we can extend the spirit of the season 12 more days. My plan is continue gift giving, but through acts of kindness. I hope you will join me!

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Little Red Cuttlefish

Little Red Cuttlefish

Perfect Picture Book Friday is back! Today’s pick is Little Red Cuttlefish.

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Written by:  Henry Herz, Josh Herz, and Harrison Herz 

Illustrated by: Kate Gotfredson

Publisher: Pelican Publishing Company, Inc. (September 2016)

Suitable for ages: 5-8

Themes/Topics: bravery, marine life, fractured fairy tale

Brief Synopsis: Little Red takes crab cakes to Grandmother Cuttlefish’s corral, but when she gets there, the big, bad, hungry tiger shark threatens to eat them. Little Red’s quick thinking and smooth moves saves the day!

Life under the sea is captured beautifully in the colorful and detailed illustrations by Kate Gotfredson. The movement and vibrant depiction of marine life brought back many fond memories of my experiences diving and snorkeling around the world.

Why I like this book: Little Red Cuttlefish is a fun, lively aquatic retelling of the classic Little Red Riding hood tale. Ocean references and active language is used throughout the story. The author’s note includes information about cuttlefish and tiger sharks and provides online resources for further reading. A nice addition for any home, elementary school, or classroom library.

Resources: The BBC, NOVA, PBS, etc. has cool videos on cuttlefish here.

The book also includes links to learn more about oceans and sea life from Oceana, Animal Planet, National Geographic and many others.

For more reviews of today’s picks, visit author Susanna Hill’s blog here.

Happy reading! Read the rest of this entry

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Reflections

Reflections

“The mind of an adult begins in the imagination of a child.”

Kwame Alexander

 

It’s been a tough week. Violence, death, injustice. We can barely keep our heads above the flood of emotions.

 

Award winning Children’s author and poet Kwame Alexander spoke on NPR – Weekend Edition Sunday about the recent unrest in our country – Reflecting On Police Shootings, Author Kwame Alexander Focuses On Next Generation. His words helped calm the waters.  They enlighten and uplift.

 

What Kwame said is true for many of us in this kidlit business. It is more fulfilling to focus on children. Children’s authors have responded by sharing their creativity and focusing on the children. I too found an artful outlet by creating a meme using the character I introduced in my book, THE KING CAKE BABY.

 

He may be naughty & naked, but the King Cake Baby loves all. I know he believes baby hugs are the best.

KCB hugs FB

It is times like these that literature is a way to help children feel safe and provide comfort. Kwame shared this poem he wrote fifteen years ago.

When

 

When the world is not so beautiful
The flowers waste water
The women can no longer find their song
The children refuse to play
There are no men to teach to love
The ground inside collapses
The coldest winter screams
The summer burns red
The sea is full of blues and the sky opens up
At least I’ll have poetry
A gathering of words
A get-together of emotions
A font of ideas
Hope with wings

 

~ Kwame Alexander, children’s author and poet

 

Read on and go forth and hug!

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Ask Me by Bernard Waber

Ask Me by Bernard Waber

Ask Me is my pick for today’s for Perfect Picture Book Friday review!

Written by: Bernard Waber

Illustrated by: Suzy Lee

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (July 14, 2015)

Suitable for ages: 4-7

Themes/Topics: parent-child relationship, father-daughter bonding, curiosity, patience, wonder

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Brief Synopsis:  “Ask me what I like,” a little girl asks her father as they take a stroll through the neighborhood on a cool fall day. And so he asks, “What do you like?” The child answers, the father sometimes probe for more information, and they continue the dialogue over and over throughout the book. You can feel the child’s energy as she provides list after list of things she likes each time she sees something different. This is a wonderful story that shows the special parent-child bond between a father and his daughter.

Opening pages:

Ask me what I like,”

“What do you like?”

“I like dogs.”

“I like cats.”

 “I like turtles.”

Why I like this book: This story captures a precious moment in time every parent is bound to recognize. It reminds us of the innocence of childhood and all the wonders in the world they see, even when on a simple walk.

The illustrations are delightful and colorful. A lovely read aloud and bedtime book.

To read other Perfect Picture Book Friday picks from today, head over to author Susanna Hill’s page here. Check out her new blog for the New Year!

Happy reading!

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All Saints’ Day in New Orleans

All Saints’ Day in New Orleans

All Saints’ Day or the Feast of All Saints is celebrated every November 1st. Today is the day the Catholic Church reminds us how we’re supposed to live, as saints did. Catholics love their saints and this is a special day to honor them. A saint, by definition, is a person recognized after death as a soul who’s made it to heaven because they’ve lived a holy life on earth. They are more than faithful, but rather exceptional. They were benevolent role models, teachers, miracle workers, and intercessors, who chose to live a consecrated life taking vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. There’s no shortage of souls who became saints in accordance to church doctrine. In fact, there’s probably a “patron saint” to pray to for guidance or even favors for anything you need or any area in your life you’d like to improve. Each known for their special interests and or talents. The belief is, since they’re already in heaven, they’ve got your back.

Today, New Orleans families traditionally visit cemeteries to clean and decorate the tombs of our loved ones in preparation for tomorrow, All Souls’ Day. Growing up, caring for your dead was family event.

Below is a public domain photo from 1885, Harper’s Weekly “Decorating the Tombs”.

All_Saints_Day_in_New_Orleans_--_Decorating_the_Tombs

All Souls’ Day or the Feast of All Souls is celebrated every November 2nd. I wrote about the difference between these two days last year here. For centuries, New Orleans has had a special relationship with the dead. The idea that the souls of our dead live on allows us to continue to celebrate them in life. They body is gone, the spirit lives on. We want to believe our loved ones made it into heaven. But in case they lead a less than benevolent life and their souls landed in the mid-way point called Purgatory, rather than reach the ultimate destination, today is the day we pray for their mercy. The church encourages relatives on earth to celebrate the Commemoration of all the Faithful Departed. For all intents and purposes it’s an annual request for free ”get out of jail cards” for Catholics.

Although I am not there today, I do visit our family tombs when I am home. For all my family members who are out at cemeteries today, thank you. I plan to return the favor one day.

 

 

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Goodreads Book Giveaway!

Goodreads Book Giveaway!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The King Cake Baby by Keila Dawson

The King Cake Baby

by Keila Dawson

Giveaway ends July 31, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

                 **Win an autographed copy**


Celebrating my debut picture book half birthday with a giveaway! 

The King Cake Baby is a tasty re-telling of the Gingerbread Man tale, told New Orleans style! The little plastic baby escapes before he’s hidden inside a cake. Then chased by an old Creole lady and an old Creole man, a praline lady in Jackson Square, and a waiter at Café du Monde. But can he outrun a clever baker?

Enter to win a copy to find out what happens. Because you can’t have a king cake without a king cake baby hidden inside!

“No, mon ami, you can’t catch me, I’m the King Cake Baby!

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Coming Home by Greg Ruth

Coming Home by Greg Ruth

Coming Home by Greg Ruth is today’s pick for Perfect Picture Book Friday!

Written & Illustrated by: Greg Ruth

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends (November 4, 2014)

Suitable for ages: 4-7

Themes/Topics: military families, resilience, hope, anticipation

Coming home

Brief Synopsis: Coming Home is a nearly wordless story of a young boy awaiting a loved one to return home. It is a sweet and simple story depicting a typical military homecoming scene. Through eyes of the boy, readers experience the emotion and anticipation felt on this joyous day when families and friends gather to greet their loved ones. The boy sees others arrive while he searches for his someone special. And it has the perfect surprise ending!

Opening pages:  “Every day, soldiers leave their families to protect others. We love them. We miss them when they’re gone. And we want them all to come home. They are our heroes.”

Why I like this book: As a former educator in the Department of Defense Dependent Schools I know first-hand how deployments affect children. As a military spouse, this book flooded my memory. I re-experienced every homecoming scene I and my children have had when their father returned from an assignment as an active duty naval officer. It’s very moving. Civilians get a glimpse into the life of a military child.

The beautiful illustrations depict the many different ways a homecoming can be celebrated. There are spouses, parents, friends, pets, even a man touching the belly of his pregnant wife. I highly recommend it!

Resources: Little Listeners in an Uncertain World Coping strategies for you and your child during deployment or when a crisis occurs. Two options to create a book together, when it’s dad or when it’s mom “out there.”

Helping children handle deployments Addresses a child’s moodiness and behavior during the deployment may be a sign of stress or anxiety and how to help.

Preparing children for deployment Tools and resources for military families throughout each stage of deployment by those who have been there.

The “So Far” Guide A guide to help children and youth cope with the deployment of a parent in the military reserves.

For other Perfect Picture Book Friday picks from today, head over to author Susanna Hill’s page here.

Happy reading!

 

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The King Cake Baby – A Query Letter That Worked

The King Cake Baby – A Query Letter That Worked

Sub It Club featured the query letter that lead to the acquisition of my manuscript for The King Cake Baby. To see that post at the SubitClub blog, click here.

Every writer knows the importance of a query letter. A what? That’s what I asked after writing an early draft of my story. Upon learning the purpose of a query and what it entailed, I then set out to learn how to write one. Essentially, it’s a letter that accompanies your manuscript when sending it to an agent or editor and includes the following components: the hook, the book, the cook. Huh?

No worries, at Sub It Club you can learn a lot about how to write a query and more. Writers work hard on perfecting the manuscript they hope to sell. But first you must sell your story idea to an agent or editor through your query. The intent is for the person reading it to want to read your picture book manuscript or pages to your novel that’s attached.

Almost done. There’s more? Yep. To complete the submission process, you must know what agents and or publishing houses are a good fit for your manuscript. Huh?

No worries, hang around the Sub It Club  to learn all about it!

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Tom Clancy 1947-2013

Tom Clancy 1947-2013

“You learn to write the same way you learn to play golf,” Clancy said. “You do it, and keep doing it until you get it right. A lot of people think something mystical happens to you, that maybe the muse kisses you on the ear. But writing isn’t divinely inspired – it’s hard work.” — Tom Clancy

It’s a sad day when someone dies. Sadly, Tom Clancy died today. So many have enjoyed his books and or movies based on his bestselling novels. The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, and Clear and Present Danger are just a few that propelled his stardom and inspired followers who loved the high level of drama, chills, and thrills Mr. Clancy was known for in the books he wrote about espionage and the military.

I am certain his followers are happy Mr. Clancy kept writing until he got it right. But saddened because Command Authority, scheduled for release in December 2013, is the final work of this remarkable writer.

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“Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So… get on your way!” Dr. Suess, Oh the Places You’ll Go!

“Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So… get on your way!” Dr. Suess, Oh the Places You’ll Go!

An important step to fulfilling the desire for publishing a book is moving from dreaming about it to actually doing it. On an annual trip with my girlfriends, a late night discussion lead to the creation of our individual bucket lists and mine included publishing a children’s book. It was then that I decided to take the next step. Just because I enjoyed writing or felt fairly comfortable composing did not mean I was equipped to actually write a book. The dream had always been there, but not the commitment. I began to research avenues available to me to learn how to write for children. I decided to research online sources, both fee based and free and decided to join the Children’s Book Insiders. CBI is a very reasonably priced self-paced writing course. There are many websites, blogs, and articles on the web as well. Read and heed the advice given, especially from those who have been there, done that.

What’s to learn? Lots. How to develop a story idea, how to develop characters, how to develop a plot, how to write for specific age ranges and even how many words a writer uses to tell their story depending on the audience are just a few lessons. There’s even a lesson on how to deal with rejection! Even once you feel your work is as complete as it can be, there are more lessons about submission, promotion, and marketing.

Do you think you want to publish a book? As Dr. Suess says, “Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So get on your way!”

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“Writing a picture book is like writing War and Peace in Haiku” Mem Fox

“Writing a picture book is like writing War and Peace in Haiku” Mem Fox

Last night our local SCBWI group gathered for a meeting. Three new participants joined us. After settling some business, there was time for critiques. Anyone interested in getting feedback about a manuscript shared what they wrote. One member in particular read part of a story, the entire manuscript turned out to be more than 1500 words. Well written, but long for a picture book.

I remember well the first time I read for the group. I had about 1500 words as well. The group gave the same advice to the new member given to me. Cut to 1,000 words. Less, if possible. I think I know what my face looked like that night. And I remember thinking how difficult it will be to tell story using only 800-1000 words!

When I saw the quote, the title of this post by Mem Fox, I immediately identified. Someone once told me writing a picture book isn’t like writing a novel. As though it’s easy. That’s like saying the medical care of a child is easier than the medical care of an adult because they are smaller.

I think both are equally challenging. Write on.

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