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1. 3 Crucial Reasons to Attend Your Next Family Reunion

by Sally Matheny
Smushy Kisses at Family Reunions

     Is there cringing, wincing, and gnashing of teeth at just the thought of a family reunion? Perhaps you had an agonizing experience as a child. Some crinkled stranger planted smushy kisses on your cheek. Then, pulling you away from your mother, the stranger weaved you through a chattering sea of unfamiliar faces. Finally, she anchored in front of another foreign body and the torture began.

     “This is your mother’s great aunt’s, second cousin, Bertha, who first married Joe Schmitt, who was a tire salesman, but then he died, and about ten years ago she married John Brown, who manufactures straight pins in Detroit and he just so happens to be your dad’s podiatrist's first cousin! How about that?”

Excruciating. But you’re an adult now and here are three crucial reasons why you need to attend your next family reunion.


Remember

     When multiple generations gather, there will always be times of remembering special moments from the past. Births, school days, weddings, funerals. While certain memories will mean more to some than others will, this is your heritage.
     Even if you’re attending your spouse’s family reunion, you can learn a great deal. Maybe listening to your mother-in-law’s childhood memories will give you a better understanding of why his family celebrates Christmas the way they do. What annoyed you in the past, you may perceive differently now.

Too often, an unforgiving spirit
is a person's only legacy.
     Pausing to reflect on the past brings joy, knowledge, and healing. Perhaps the reason many people resist a family reunion is due to a past hurt.   
     Aunt Bertha said or did something she shouldn’t have five, ten, or fifty years ago and for whatever reason people chose to hold onto that strife rather than letting it go. Bitterness was chosen over forgiveness. Pain over joy. Too often, an unforgiving spirit is a person’s only legacy.
     What healing might take place if you go to your next family reunion?


Record

     If there’s emotional or physical healing in the family, record it! Everybody has a story. A family reunion is a wonderful time to record those stories. Make a scrapbook or journal. Better yet, make a video.
     Are there any veterans willing to share their experiences? Those who survived a war can instill fresh perspectives on freedom.
     Who survived an accident or a disease? A problem at work or their first day of high school? Survivors bring strength and hope to the family.

Survivors bring strength and hope to the family.
    Ask the older ones to recall interesting tidbits about the family’s ancestry.
     Even recording opinions on current events will be an interesting piece of history for the next generation.
     No family reunion will ever be the same. The dynamics change. People come and go, jobs vary, and events alter our lives.
     So often, we never submerge past the friendly greetings. Families need to go deeper conveying their life experiences. They inspire us and we can encourage them to keep pressing onward. Everybody has a story that can affect others. You need to share your story.


Recount

     If nothing else, family members need to recount God’s blessings to the next generation. How have you seen God working in your life and the lives of others?

     Describe times when God answered your prayers, when he brought healing, and when your needs were met.

    Share experiences where your faith was tested and God was glorified. Consider the value others could glean from lessons you learned through setbacks and poor decisions.

     If you carve out time for your next family reunion, and share the love of Christ, what eternal rewards are possible? It is not within our power to fathom how God can use us. He is quite capable of making transformations we never thought possible.

 

…which he commanded our ancestors
    to teach their children,
 so the next generation would know them,
    even the children yet to be born,
    and they in turn would tell their children.
 Then they would put their trust in God
    and would not forget his deeds
    but would keep his commands.
Psalm 78:5b-7 (NIV)


     Is it time for a family reunion?

Live out your faith at the next family reunion!
     Reflect on what’s worth remembering, and what things are best left in the past.
     Record family stories to share for generations to come. Recount God’s blessings and faithfulness.

     It’s quite possible, family reunions will have a quirk or two. With a large gathering of imperfect humans, we’ll experience occasional flawed moments. For some, showing love to family is more difficult than it is to friends. God freely offers His assistance with that. He’s the master demonstrator of mind-boggling grace.  
     If you truly believe you’ll attend a perfect, glorious, and joyful heavenly reunion one day, then live it out at your next family reunion.




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2. LIttle Fox is Sad...


The once happy little red fox thinks she isn't good enough... but Grandfather fox knows better. I liked the folk tale nature that these characters allowed.  And I like the mountain meadow setting.


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3. Audiobook Review: Simon and Schuster's Shakespeare Full Cast Dramatizations



First of all, I cannot thank Lauren at Simon and Schuster enough for sending me copies of these five plays to review.  I am a HUGE fan of all things Shakespeare, but I haven't spent much time with him since Dr. Johnny Wink's Shakespeare course in college.  I don't think these really need plot summaries, as they're pretty much cannon, right?  So we'll just jump right in!

Writing
I mean, it's Shakespeare.  Do I really need to talk about how amazing the writing is?  I'll just say that every single time I watch, listen, or read one of his works I catch something new that reminds me of just how witty, smart, and delightful these are to read.  They're just so smart and so funny.  Even the tragedies have amazing comic moments.

Entertainment Value
Again, there's a reason these works have inspired countless spin offs and alternate takes.  They're classic stories that have informed every aspect of culture and it's because they're just so amazing.  Listening to each of these has made me want to find and consume all of my favorite iterations of Shakespeare - Romeo + Juliet, David Tennant's Hamlet, even Shakespeare in Love.

Narration
Y'all.  If you've only read these or seen the modern movies, you are seriously missing out on something amazing.  Shakespeare is meant to be performed and if you listen to these recordings you'll see (hear) why.  These are incredibly done.  I started them a little bit worried about my ability to follow them in audiobook format.  I was afraid that without seeing the characters or reading the play, I'd get lost as far as who was speaking.  When I've read Shakespeare, I've always done is very slowly to try to get everything I can out of it.  Visually it's easier to understand.  But I just wasn't convinced I'd be able to follow on audio.  Thankfully, my fears were completely unfounded.  Even the play I'm least familiar with (A Midsummer Night's Dream) was perfectly easy to follow.  These all have a full cast, music, and sound effects and are just beautifully done.

Overall
I can't say enough great things about these.  They're a treasure to own and something that I know I'll go back to again and again.  At two to four hours, they're perfect for a road trip.  I couldn't be happier with them!

Thank you again to Lauren and Simon and Schuster for providing me with a copy of each to review!

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4. got the right shoe? what’s left?

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Agent shopping can be daunting. But recently, and who knows how, I connected agent-shopping with shoe-shopping, and the process is taking on new meaning (and making me want a new pair of pumps).

Here’s how I pair my shoe and agent preferences . . .

Must match. Having one fabulous flat isn’t so fab, is it? Sure, it looks pretty and fits like a dream, but unless I’m leaving a ball in a hurry, going half shoeless is no way to go. And just like shoes, I want to be paired with an agent whose genre preferences and approach match my own.

Must be the right fit. This is a biggie, isn’t it? I may have written the most charming picture book or witty MG novel, but if it  doesn’t “click” with an agent, it just doesn’t. Agents are people with tastes and personalities just like anyone else. An agent needs to be flipped over my work in order to be its best champion. Much as I’d like to, I can’t cram my size 10 dogs into a pair of six 6 mules. I can’t, and wouldn’t want to, force an agent-client relationship either.

Must compliment what’s already in my wardrobe. I wouldn’t pick a pair of chartreuse polka dot flats that only go with one outfit. Ideally, I want an agent who can embrace all of my ambitions and not just one part of my writerly “wardrobe.” (It absolutely can work on a one-genre basis, but it’s not the best option.)

Must be supportive. Oui. Oui. I know. It makes me sound like I’ve become what the French call a woman of a “certain age,” but I want shoes that not only look stylish, but feel comfy too. And while I don’t think an agent has to be my best ever friend, I do want someone who can support not only my project in progress, but encourage me as an author as well.

Must receive good reviews. This is a deal breaker category for me. I sometimes buy shoes online, but I never, ever click “Complete Order” until I’ve read customer reviews. I work in marketing and I know that while the description may be beguiling–and hopefully accurate–it doesn’t tell the whole story. I want to hear from those who have walked in those shoes. It’s no different with agents. Whenever possible, I talk with current clients of the agent–politely and discreetly of course–about their experience before I send click “Send” on that shiny query letter.

Must be able to go the distance. Nothing’s worse than trudging half-way across a mall or reaching the half-mile on a hike and realizing I wore the wrong shoes. I want shoes that offer the right fit and support so that I can feel comfortable and confident. As far as agents go, I want someone who would be there for me for the long haul too.

Here’s wishing all of us in search of an agent a perfect pairing soon (and yes, maybe some new sling-backs too).

Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world. ~ Marilyn Monroe


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5. Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson

I was lucky enough to hear Jacqueline Woodson speak about and read from Brown Girl Dreaming during the School Library Journal Day of Dialog last spring.  If any of you have seen Woodson before, you know she is charming, and dynamic and funny.  She read a few poems from the book and spoke of her family and writing life.  Like the rest of the librarians, I waited in line to speak with Ms. Woodson and have an arc signed, but 10 minutes or so into the wait I knew this arc wasn't going to be for me to keep.  Instead, I had it signed for a student and gave it to her when I saw her next.   So like so many others, I waited for the book birthday to get my hands on the hard cover copy on the day of its' release.

I'm not sure I can add much to the conversation around this book, as I agree with the buzz.  Brown Girl Dreaming is more than a book or a memoir....it is a gift.  We follow Jacqueline and her changing family from Ohio to South Carolina and up to NYC and each poem is a revelation of sorts that brings the reader through the timeline of Woodson's life.  From the "how to listen" haikus to poems like "sometimes, no words are needed", "stevie", and "as a child, i smelled the air" I found myself closing the book to pause again and again.

I had posted a photo of "stevie" on Instagram and commented that I was swooning over this book, and a friend commented that her copy is so dog-eared that she isn't going to share it with her students.  It made me comment back that this is the kind of book you carry around with you.  I will take the dust jacket off, and place it in my school bag.  And when the world gets to be a little too much, I will open the pages and gift myself with a little bit of magic.

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6. GIRL ON A WIRE Early Bird Special

Anyone who tells you magic isn’t real doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Just like anyone who tells you falling is like flying has never done either.

If you've spoken to me anytime in the past, oh, two-years-ish, you might have heard me gush about  GIRL ON A WIRE from the talented Gwenda Bond. And... its October release date is almost here! In fact...   

*drumroll* ... 

YOU CAN READ IT TODAY!

Yes I know it ISN'T October yet! This is a September surprise. GIRL ON A WIRE is a Kindle First pick. Which means, if you're an Amazon Prime member you can read GIRL ON A WIRE for free (FREE) (zero dollars!) right now. If you aren't, you can read it for $1.99 (which, let's face it, is ALMOST FREE). This deal will be going on the whole month of September. Yesssssss.

GIRL ON A WIRE is the story of Jules Maroni, the extreme high-wire walker and teen daughter of circus royalty. When somebody starts planting jinxy magical items on her costumes, it's unclear if the culprit just trying to scare her... or actually kill her. And is it all just old superstition, or could there be real magic at play? Jules teams up with the son of a rival family to solve the mystery, and sparks fly. (So yeah, it's basically Daredevil Juliet and Trapeze Romeo Solve Possibly Magical Crimes. Yessss.)

Get your e-copy today, a month before everyone else! And if you want to win a new Kindle Paperwhite, check out Gwenda's contest!


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7. How do you make the face look the same from panel to panel?

I get asked questions occasionally about the process of making comics. I’ve passed this particular question on to a handful of the people I’ve interviewed for them to answer, and I’ll post up more as they come in.

How do you make the faces look the same from panel to panel?

I remember this being a big concern of mine when I started drawing comics, and I get asked this pretty frequently. Probably more of a concern that actually telling a story if I’m honest. I think this is a question that gets asked a lot because it is so apparent when the characters don’t look consistent. Here’s how John Allison, Viv Schwarz, Glyn Dillon and Sarah Glidden tackled this topic...
Well how do we? Go read.

And then subscribe to Dan's podcast, it rocks.

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8. Illustration Friday

Metamorphosis.

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9. Nominations Now Open for 28 Days Later!

28dayslogo

Happy Labor Day! 

As today is the day our nation has set aside for celebrating the myriad social and economic contributions of our American labor force (which all too often tends to go unlauded the rest of the year), it is more than fitting that we’ve chosen today to open up nominations for 28 Days Later-2015!

28 Days Later is The Brown Bookshelf’s flagship initiative, a month-long showcase of the best in Picture Books, Early Readers, Chapter Books, Middle Grade and Young Adult novels written and illustrated by African Americans. Each day in February, we will profile a different children’s/young adult author or illustrator, hard-working African American artists who we’ve identified as creators of quality literature for young people!

The nominations we seek should be for authors, illustrators, or books that meet the following criteria:

*New Children’s or Young Adult book releases

*Children’s or Young Adult books that have “flown under the radar”

*African-American authors or illustrators

*Titles published by a traditional publisher for the trade market.

 

Nominations will be accepted beginning today, September 1, through October 31, 2014. To nominate an author or illustrator, simply post a comment here, or email us at email@thebrownbookshelf.com. Feel free to nominate as many individuals (or books) as you like!

Note: To avoid nominating individuals who have already been honored, please check out our previous honorees at the following links:

28 DAYS LATER – 2014

28 DAYS LATER – 2013

28 DAYS LATER – 2012

28 DAYS LATER – 2010

28 DAYS LATER – 2009

 

Thanks in advance for your participation in this year’s campaign. We can’t wait to see who you nominate!


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10. As More Boots Go In...

I am worn out and tired as fuck.

Why Don't You Find Out For Yourself

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11. Monday Poetry Stretch - Labor

Sorry I missed you last week, but with the start of the semester here, things got a bit crazy.

Yesterday during morning mass and the Prayers of the Faithful we prayed for those who labor and wish to do so. I thought a lot about that over the course of the day and realized how very lucky I am to not only be employed, but to be engaged in work that (for the most part!) love to do.

So, this is not very inspired on this day, but I want to write about work and labors of love. I hope you will join me. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

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12. Review: Relentless by Robin Parrish

Title: Relentless
Author: Robin Parrish
Series: dominion (#1)
Publisher: Bethany House
Publication date: July 1, 2006
Pages: 448
Stars: 4

Summary:
In the space of a breath, what he thought was his life…shattered. Grant Borrows has been Shifted- in the silence between heartbeats, his whole life fundamentally altered. There's another man in the world wearing his face and living his life. What's more, the man staring back from his mirror is a stranger. But the changes don't stop at skin-level. Inexplicably, he's able to affect objects around him by simply thinking about them. And as he soon learns, he's become the central figure in a vast web of intrigue that stretches from an underground global conspiracy to a prophecy dating back over seven thousand years. Enemies and allies find him at every turn, but one thing they learn all too soon is that you don't want to push Grant Borrows too far... Can destiny be undone? The players are ready. The game is in motion. And the pace is: Relentless. (The Dominion Trilogy Book 1)

Review:
I really enjoyed this book. It's not quiet like anything I've ever read before. As always the characters were amazing. I felt all of Grants pain and anger. I understood so much of how he was feeling. I feel like this is one of those books that should be made into a book. It had so much detail I felt like I was watching it rather then reading it. After I finished reading the book and writing my review I looked up other reviews. People either loved it or hated it. 4 Stars.

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13.


This was an image I created for a storytelling festival but it was placed on hold until next year...such is the life of an illustrator! I wanted to challenge myself to include 30 animals yet keep my focal point strong. I could never have pulled this off 10 years ago. I love my continuing education in the arts. Looking forward to learning more in the coming years! It's available as a print right here!



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14. ये कैसा रिश्ता

क्या किया एक कवि ने आज तक,
अपनी कविता के लिए,
क्या कभी उसने साथ मे,
दो पल भी मुस्कुरा कर है जिए, 

बस लिखता रहा,
अपना गम और बातें,
और वो भोली सी सरिता,
बहती रही, बिता अपनी दिन और रातें, 

क्या मिला उस मासूम को,
बन के एक दर्द का ज़रिया,
क्योकि दर्द तो दर्द ही रहा,
ना बदला उसका नज़रिया,

कमाता रहा वो शोहरत,
और श्रोताओ की तालिया,
पर उस दीवानी को,
ना दे पाया खुद से - दो बालिया,

अपने आक्रोश और जोश का,
सारी दुनिया मे डंका बजाया,
पर उस मासूम प्रेमिका को,
कभी उसने पास ना बुलाया,

बस करता रहा इस्तेमाल,
ऐश्वर्य और अभिमान के लिए,
उस दुल्हन के शृंगार को,
ज़ालिम ने दो पल भी ना दिए,

क्या फ़र्क हुआ फिर,
इंसान और कवि में,
कविता तो बस जलती रही,
प्रकाश मे इस अंधे रवि के |

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15. Arise!


Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.
Selah.

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16. Watch for it: Be a Changemaker


 
“We've had the civil rights movement and the women's movement—now it's time for the youth movement. Today, youth everywhere are rising up, building new organizations, and creating the changes they want to see in their communities and around the world. Be a Changemaker gives readers the tools and confidence they need to affect real change.”
“BE A CHANGEMAKER is a how-to guide for young social entrepreneurs who want to effect social change in their communities and around the world. Equal parts instruction and inspiration, the book will include tools and tips, exercises, and profiles of teens who’ve already been there, done that.”

Laurie Ann Thompson  swings by readergirlz today to chat with readergirlz cofounder, Janet Lee Carey abouther new book.

 

JLC - Welcome Laurie! It’s good to have you’re here. Tell us what inspired you to write this book.

LAT - I was that kid who wanted desperately to save the world, but I had no idea where to start or even that I actually could. I didn’t come to discover my own power until I was in my 30s, and I didn’t think anyone should have to wait that long! In fact, I believe the world needs everyone to start making their own changes much sooner than that. I wrote Be a Changemaker to inspire teens as well as give them the tools they need to start creating the changes they care about—right now.

JLC - What can readergirlz learn from these committed teens? 


LAT - I hope they can start to see themselves in the various profiles included in Be a Changemaker. I interviewed young people from age 9 through young adults, from across the United States and around the world, and from a variety of racial and economic backgrounds. If they can do it, readergirlz can, too!


JLC – I agree! Anything else you’d like to add about the book?


LAT - In addition to the inspirational profiles of young people who have already created change, Be a Changemaker is loaded with practical advice, templates, examples, anecdotes, and resources to help readergirlz jump right in and start making their change.


JLC – Can you share some excerpts? 


 
“How many times have you complained about something but done nothing to fix it? Or noticed something and thought, Someone should do something about that? We all have those thoughts sometimes. And it’s okay, because none of us can solve every problem we encounter. But guess what . . . you’re someone. And when you set your mind to it, you absolutely can do something that matters.”
 (Chapter 1)

“‘Even though I can’t [completely] stop poverty, war, or rainforest destruction,’ Change the World Kids co-founder Phebe Myers says, ‘I’m a changemaker.’ As their motto goes, ‘No one can do everything, but everyone can do something.’” (Chapter 15)

Change the World Kids 

“’Don’t hesitate because you feel like you have to have the whole model or long-term vision figured out and on a massive scale,’ says Jackie Rotman. ‘You can start small. Just start!’ She adds that after almost eight years of steady work, Everybody Dance Now! has achieved things she never even envisioned when she began the project.” (Chapter 17)
Everybody Dance Now
 
JLC Anything else?
LAT I’d like to invite readergirlz to come and participate in the Q&A section on the Be-a-Changemakerwebsite where we’re hoping to have an ongoing conversation between young changemakers at various stages in their journeys. Even if you’re just thinking about it, and you’re at the brainstorming stage about what you’d like to do, we would welcome your ideas.
JLC Thanks for this book highlighting innovative teen changemakers, Laurie. May their example inspire a wave of teen outreach worldwide.
Be a Changemaker: How to Start Something That Matters   
By Laurie Ann Thompson
Simon Pulse/Beyond Words, 9/14

 

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17. Shades of Love (Cromorna)


Touches our soul,
So pure love,
A beautiful goal,
Naughty love,

Creator of smile,
Touchy love,
That makes us agile,
 Restless love,

Falling tears of joy,
Binding Love,
A harmless decoy 
Love and love.

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18. That Beta Reader Business

Back in the Dark Ages, when I was getting started writing, I never heard anything about beta readers. I barely heard about critique groups. But everyone seems to have BRs these days, and, since I like to maintain the mind of a beginner, I decided I wanted some, too. So when I finally finished a draft of a piece of scifi flash fiction that I'd worked on for the better part of a month, maybe more, I contacted a couple of family members who are science fiction readers and asked them to act as my beta readers. I even used the term, thinking it would make what I was asking them to do sound very professional and technical. Here's what happened:

Beta Reader 1 told me that no one would know what two words in the first sentence meant. I was able to fix that. Evidently the other 898 words were golden.

Beta Reader 2 didn't have time to read the story. I think he might have been afraid to.

I find the whole beta reading thing awkward. Remember all those times people asked you to read something they wrote and it was dreadful and then what were you supposed to do? Yeah, now you're the one asking someone to do the reading, and the people you're asking want to run for their lives. Maybe your writing is as wonderful as you think it is, but your potential beta vict--readers don't know that. Because I like to maintain the mind of a beginner, I'm open to the possibility that maybe I'm wrong.

Additionally, critiquing writing is an acquired skill. The ground isn't thick with trained beta readers.

So this wasn't a particularly successful experience. However, I met with a critique group in August, and I'll be going back in October. Things are looking positive with that, and after a couple more meetings, I'll report on my progress.


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19. When Your Child Won't Sit Still: Tips for Reading with Your Active Toddler

Reading to an active little toddler requires a certain skill set. Today my post is for parents who feel like it's impossible to get their child to sit down to read for even a second. 

If your toddler is anything like mine, he's climbing on the tables and chairs, throwing balls (or sometimes less gentle objects like blocks), and coloring in places he's not supposed to. One second he wants up. The next second he wants down....and what he definitely doesn't want is to sit still. 

So reading a story together? That takes actual effort! On my part, and his. 

What can you do when your toddler is more interested in climbing the coffee table and throwing books, than reading them on your lap?



Here are my best tips for reading with that busy toddler that I have found to work well. Follow these suggestions and I bet you'll begin to connect in ways that make reading more enjoyable for the both of you.

  •  Do an activity or craft before you read together to spark interest in the story. Make connections from your activity while you are reading for additional learning and repetition of concepts. 

  • Make reading aloud a more fun experience. Your child doesn't want to sit still? Then don't! Act out the story, use puppets, sing the words, or play games while you read. The bonus of this technique is that your toddler will be motivated to read again.

  • Let your child take the lead. Allow him to select a book that is interesting to him. If he seems more interested in the pictures than listening to the story, take a picture walk through the book instead of reading the words.

  • Take advantage of meal times when your child is likely to be strapped in his high chair. Sneak in a story before, during, or after his meal. Reading while eating is better than flipping on that TV!

  • Read before bed when your toddler is likely to be “played out”. There is evidence to show that bedtime routines that include stories aid in language development.

  • Did your little one “read” a book all by himself? Initiate reading on his own? Recognize a job well done. Give your child praise when appropriate which will help him associate accomplishment with the act of reading. 

  • Select books that connect to something going on in your life at the time. For example, if you are taking a vacation to the beach, read books about the ocean or sea animals. If the story is relevant, he'll more likely be interested in it.

  • Get rid of the idea of what a read aloud "should" look like. It's wonderful if your child sits in your lap while you read like you see in all of your Pinterest pins. Life isn't always ideal though. Read aloud while your child is playing. Even if it seems like he's not listening, he might be more than you think. He might even surprise you and wander over into your lap as you read, creating that picture perfect moment.

  • Read the same story over and over. If your toddler has a favorite book that he actually CAN sit still to listen to 100 times in a row - that's OK! Children learn through repetition. In this post, I share ways to keep the learning going, even when it's the 100th read through!



There will be good days, there will be bad days but aim for 20 minutes EACH DAY. 
You will be so delighted you put forth the effort!


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20. I KNOW You Are Out There.....

Over 1,582, 116 views on CBO and 705, 633 on Google+ and the feedback?

None.

It is difficult for bloggers to know what they are doing that people like.  That said, I'm never too excited about large numbers of hits but grateful to those who do pop by my Google+ and CBO.

Gets boring though when no one tells you they like "This" or "That".  Come on -give it some thought and let me know.

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21. Window Flowers

2014-089-01

Window Flowers | I am growing several plants right now a geranium, a pineapple, and a dwarf blueberry bush. I am having a difficult time deciding if they should be inside or out. Inside is too easy for them and outside is too harsh (It isn’t the heat it is the hail). So in and out they go and at least they are still alive.

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22. Hiroshima in the Morning by Rahna Reiko Rizzuto

On the basis of Beth Kephart's recommendation in her book Handling the Truth, I ordered a copy of Hiroshima in the Morning through Powells. The author Rahna Reiko Rizzuto received a fellowship to go to Japan in mid-2001 for six months and research her planned novel about the bombing of Hiroshima. What she did not expect was the wrenching difficulty (in a myriad of ways) of parting from her husband and 2 young sons in NYC and how complicated it would be to navigate Japanese culture and gain the insight she wanted on her subject.

This is a really tough book to classify because if I tell you it will resonate strongly with women who feel torn between family life and their work, you will probably immediately think of "Lean In" and not give it a second thought. But that aspect of the book is important and needs to be noted. Rizzuto's personal/professional conflict is so intense and so tied to the unique aspects of researching a book, that any writer who has ever felt similarly torn is going to identify very powerfully with her words. She wonders if she is committed enough to her marriage and motherhood and also worries about her own mother who is suffering from the early stages of dementia. Are there other places where Rizzuto should be? It doesn't help when her husband starts to rethink all of his earlier support for the project after spending one too many nights dealing with sick kids. And all Rizzuto can tell him is that she is talking to people, visiting museums and temples, "soaking up" the culture of Japan.

She might be more convincing if she felt more certain that she was getting done the work she needed.

That's the other impressive aspect of Hiroshima in the Morning--Rizzuto's discovery of how complicated the Hiroshima story is. The book has excerpts from the interviews she conducted with survivors and they are the very definition of gut wrenching. Rizzuto finds herself overwhelmed by the horror of those stories, (you will be too), and transformed by them. Then 9/11 happens and her family arrives for a visit and again her vision of herself and the world goes through another change.

There is a lot about this book that made me think about writing, history, stories, the power of family and so much more. So many times as a writer I have questioned the value of what I choose to do with my life and anyone who has ever been in that position will understand what Rizzuto goes through. But the stories from Hiroshima are what has stayed with me more than anything else and they make me think yet again how much our history is dominated by the way we tell stories, and our collective acceptance of who does the telling.

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23. An Interview with Author Marlena Zapf: Part II

I’m happy to re-introduce picture book author Marlena Zapf to you today. Last week Marlena talked with me about the writing and publication process for her debut picture book Underpants Dance. Today we’re going to focus our discussion on movement -- the movement in the book, Marlena’s background in dance, and how she uses yoga and movement for her author visits!


Welcome back, Marlena! I love how you left a lot of room for illustrations in Underpants Dance, especially when Lily is dancing in her room. “First she did this. Then she did this. Then she went round and round like this. Then she said, “TA-DA!” At these places in the book, were the illustrations by Lynne Avril what you envisioned, or a total surprise?

I feel so fortunate that Lynne agreed to illustrate Underpants Dance. She brings Lily’s spirit to life so perfectly. I believe that picture books are a dialogue between text and illustration, and so I deliberately left room for Lynne to do her thing. I only gave my editor a few notes about what I wanted (like the Toulouse-Lautrec in the museum scene) and trusted the rest. I was expecting Lynne to come up with new things, so I wasn’t incredibly surprised by the illustrations in general.


What did surprise me was that when I received the cover illustration of Lily, it looked strikingly like a dance photo of myself that had been taken that very same week. I will add that Lynne had NEVER seen a picture of me.


Your website also includes some other great photos of you either dancing or wearing that really cool tutu. Do you have a background in dance? 

I’ve always danced for fun, but I never studied dance until I was an adult. (My mother decided to save me from repeating her own unpleasant childhood experience with ballet by signing me up for Girl Scouts instead. I think I would have preferred dance class.) Perhaps it’s for this reason that people often tell me my dance has a childlike quality. I have fun, dance with abandon, and don’t care what anyone thinks of me.

As an adult, I’ve studied a bunch of different kinds of dance, and continue to take new classes when I can. I do something called contact improvisation, which is done with partners or groups, and plays consciously with the physics of gravity and momentum, as well as human connection — it’s a great metaphor for how we move through life and relationships. I’m also part of a community in New England that hosts what are sometimes called “barefoot” or “ecstatic” dances. Really what that means is you take off your shoes and dance however you want. For me, it’s a moving meditation.

School visits are such a big part of marketing picture books these days. How do you present your book to children, teachers, and school librarians? (A little birdie told me that it might involve movement.)

Lily’s story is really about self-expression, so I encourage kids to express themselves through activities that accompany the reading. And I don’t just stand there and tell the kids what to do. I engage with them. I’m certified to teach kids’ yoga and movement, so I use some of those techniques to help kids focus and then have fun with them after the reading.

If the children are sitting on the floor, I like to spread out colorful Yoga Dots, which I learned about from Rosemary Clough. You can buy them or make them out of old yoga mats. (Kids love to pick out their favorite color.) They serve a dual purpose. They give kids focus and a place to sit for the portion of the presentation for which they need to stay still(ish). Afterward, you can use them to play games in which the kids step, dance, jump, and move on or around the dots. This way, kids get their wiggles out, but the dots provide a focus that keeps things contained so that the “wild rumpus” doesn’t turn into utter mayhem. (Teachers are not fans of mayhem.)

Here’s a simple example. Set the dots around the space and play music or sing a song while kids move aroundthe dots. You might encourage them to move at a certain speed or with a specific movement. When the music or song stops, kids jump on a dot and assume their favorite shape or yoga pose. Repeat!

Wow. I didn’t realize you were certified to teach kids’ yoga and movement, too. You are very multi-talented! It’s been a pleasure learning more about Underpants Dance and how you incorporate yoga and movement into your author visits. Thank you, Marlena! 

In case you missed Part I of my interview with Marlena, you can check it out here. You can also learn more about Marlena on her website at www.marlenazapf.com!

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24. Music Monday - You Can Fly

Ah, this makes me all nostalgic (plus gorgeous, acapella harmonies...)

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25. RIP Stan Goldberg

stan goldberg

Legendary Archie artist Stan Goldberg has passed away at age 82. The artist suffered a stroke two weeks ago. His passing was noted on his Facebook page, where fans are invited to share memories.

It is with deep sadness that we inform you of the passing of Stan Goldberg. Stan touched many lives through his artwork but was also a dear friend, beloved husband, loving father and doting grandfather. Through the years, countless fans shared how much his work meant to them and what a thrill it was to meet him or have a piece of his work. Stan felt just as strongly about all the people he met and would fondly recall the stories that fans would share with him.

His friends and family were what he treasured most. May his memory be for a blessing.


Goldberg got his start in the 40s as a teenager, working for Timely Comics and eventually drawing such titles as Millie the Model and Patsy Walker and heading their coloring department during the early Bullpen era. He continued to work on humor comics, becoming best known for his work on Archie titles, starting in the 70s and working on them until 2010. His most recent work for was for parodies in Bongo Comics and Papercutz. A final Goldberg story, wirtten by Tom DeFalco and featuring Spider-Man, will appear in this October’s Marvel 75th Anniversary Special

CBR has a fine obit for Goldberg.

Photo Via Godlberg’s Facebook page.

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