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1. Deer Dancer Offers Inspiration

Wednesday morning was difficult for many, including me and the other three writers staying at the Wellstone Center in the Redwoods this week. Just after 9 am that day, to help clear our minds, we embarked on a one-hour hike through the trail just behind the center...


As we wound through the old, towering trees, climbing up and down the small inclines along the trail, we tried to steer our conversation away from politics. We also stopped to enjoy the scenery when it inspired us, especially taking notice of scattered rays of light streaming through the trees. It was exactly what we needed that morning, and exactly why I think we all came to the writing center -- to disconnect from our everyday lives, reconnect with our inner selves, and re-ignite our creativity and dare I say faith -- faith not only in the creative process but, as it turns out, in humanity as well.


The trees along the trails and the accompanying inspiration reminded me of the picture book Deer Dancer by Mary Lyn Ray and Lauren Stringer, which I brought with me to the writing center in hopes that I would find a good place and time to blog about it. There couldn't be a better place and time than here and now.


There's a place I go that's
green and grass, 
a place I thought that no one knew --

As you can see from the very poetic, opening lines of the book, the main character has a special place she likes to go for solitude -- a place not unlike the trail we hiked on Wednesday. And, as we found inspiration in the light shining through the trees on the trail, the little girl finds inspiration from a chance encounter with a deer...

I stayed still 
as he came nearer, nearer
until he was so close
I could almost have touched him.

He looked at me. I looked at him. 

As the book continues, we follow the girl to her ballet class and then back out to the special place where she first saw the deer. The deer returns, and the girl watches the way it lowers its antlers, grazes, and leaps and turns around her. Remembering how her dance teacher had told her to "hold your head as if you're wearing antlers," "listen with your cheekbones," and "look with the eyes in your shoulders," the girl responds to the deer's movements over and over. When the deer finally leaves, the girl realizes she had gotten lost in the inspiration the deer provided and found her own dance. The creative process had prevailed!

I hope that this week and in the coming weeks and months we can all find inspiration, and that we can re-ignite our faith -- faith not only in the creative process but, as it turns out, in humanity as well. 

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2. Time to Get Back into the Rhythm!

I just arrived in the Santa Cruz Mountains for a weeklong writing retreat at the Wellstone Center in the Redwoods. The grounds are gorgeous...and so peaceful...and I am just settling into my room and thinking of some goals for the week. One of my goals, of course, is to get some blog posts out!

The hustle and bustle of life really does take a toll on you (or at least it does on me), so I am so looking forward to the solitude I'm going to have this week. I've already cleared my regular work calendar and am going to spend the ENTIRE week focused on children's writing. I am excited to get back into the rhythm of writing and creating! And speaking of rhythm....


I Got the Rhythm by Connie Schofield-Morrison and illustrator Frank Morrison has been on my "to blog about" list for far too long. Finally I am here to tell you about it! And a much belated thank you to the publisher, Bloomsbury, for sending me a review copy.

The very simple text and exuberant illustrations in this book show readers that rhythm is everywhere -- if you just keep your eyes open. Musicians have rhythm in the way they play their instruments. Butterflies have rhythm in the way they flap their wings. Even street vendors have rhythm in the way they pass out food. And, as the main character in I Got the Rhythm finds out, once you find the rhythm, there are many ways to keep it going! 

I looked at the rhythm with my eyes. BLINK BLINK
I smelled the rhythm with my nose. SNIFF SNIFF 
I sang the rhythm with my mouth. OOH LA LA

The main character also uses her hands, fingers, hips, knees, and feet to keep the rhythm going as she takes a walk through the city with her mom. By the end of the book, her whole body is involved, and she is dancing up a storm!

If I find the rhythm again this week at my retreat, I hope I can keep it going, too. Let me know if you have any other good ideas for "getting back into the rhythm" or "keeping it going" once you find it...whether it's to do with writing, dancing, or another activity you love!

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3. An Interview with Author Judy Cook

Last time I blogged it was related to dancing dinosaurs. And guess what? My post today is about dancing dinosaurs, too! Canadian author and dancer Judy Cook is here with me to answer some questions about her debut picture book When Dinosaurs Go Dancing, recently published by FriesenPress and a great blend of rhythm, rhyme, dance, and science!

Thanks for joining us, Judy! I'd love to hear more about your background in dance. When did your passion for dance begin and where has it taken you professionally?

I started dancing when I was a child at Sonia’s Dancing Academy in Saskatoon. I seemed to have a special talent for tap dancing, and after receiving a trophy for “the most outstanding tap performer” at a dance festival, I was hooked. A little praise goes a long way!

I kept taking jazz, tap, and ballet classes and even helped my teacher Sonia Fabian in teaching little kids. When I finished high school, I decided to continue my studies at the dance college at Ryerson University in Toronto. I had found my path in life! 

I was so happy in Toronto because I had found a group of people who loved dance as much as I did. I was dancing from morning until night. I would even come to the campus on the weekends for extra ballet classes. After graduating, I auditioned for stage shows and began dancing professionally on TV and in shows around the Toronto area.

I was in a show at the Skyline Hotel for a year and then decided to go to Winnipeg when I was accepted for an apprentice position with Winnipeg's Contemporary Dancers. I danced with them as an apprentice for a year and then started a theatre company “Canadian Content Theatre” with some theatrical friends of mine. We travelled and performed all around Canada with that company for over 15 years. 

That’s when we created our show “Listen to the Bones.” It was a musical theatre show all about dinosaurs and was initially in collaboration with a touring Dinosaur Alive exhibit that was at the Manitoba Children’s Museum for a summer.  

What an interesting path that led you to dancing, theatre...and eventually dinosaurs! How did you come up with the idea for When Dinosaurs Go Dancing?


The book title is from a song in our “Listen to the Bones” musical. There is a dance I still do with the kindergarten-grade 2 students.  I have been doing this dance for years in the schools, and the students have always loved it. I kept thinking that somebody should write a book based on this song, but when I realized that I was probably the only person who would ever do it.....I started jotting down ideas for the book.   

It’s always fun to learn more about debut authors and their paths to publication. What was yours like? Did it happen quickly or was it a long road?

It was a long road for me…..12 years. I didn’t know how a person went about publishing a book. I was talking to an old school chum from Saskatoon about my idea. His kids had loved our dinosaur song “Listen to the Bones” when they were growing up. He took out a cheque book and made out a cheque to me for $5,000! He laughingly said that if I make a million I can pay him back some day. So that’s how I got the money to pay an illustrator, and that’s how I met Sonia Nadeau, who is now a dear friend of mine! I also went to a publishing workshop at Humber College in Toronto, so I went into the project with wide-open eyes, realizing that it was very difficult to sell a lot books, and even to make back your money, especially if you are trying to do it yourself.  

 Because you chose to self-publish your book through FriesenPress, you needed to find an illustrator on your own, as you have alluded to. How did you find Sonia Nadeau?

Yes….after I got the money I looked around for an illustrator from Winnipeg, and when I saw Sonia’s work I immediately knew she was perfect for the book project. 

For most traditionally published picture books, the authors and illustrators don’t interact much during the publication process. What was your relationship with Sonia Nadeau like as the book was coming together?

Because I was used to collaborating with other artists in all the previous creative work I had done and because I was so close to the dinosaur material for so-o-o many years, I just knew I needed a more hands-on approach with the illustrator. Sonia was also close to the material because she had a job in a day care and just by chance had been using our music with the kids in her classes for six years! I went to her day care….we recorded the kids dancing to the music, and she used the video for some of the inspiration for her drawings. I also knew I wanted the dinosaurs to be taken from scientific renditions, and Sonia has a friend who draws dinosaurs for encyclopedias, so every dinosaur in the book was drawn that way! We share a particular sense of humour, and we had lots of meetings and were on the same page from the start. She is a delight to work with and I hope we can do it again soon!

I read in your bio at the back of When Dinosaurs Go Dancing that you conduct workshops in schools through several different arts programs. Can you tell us more about those workshops?

I have created a theatrical dance program for schools in which the students and I choreograph together and all the classes perform for each other at the end of the week. I work with some students who have extensive dance backgrounds mixed with some others who have none. It’s my challenge to help create and guide the students to show off everybody’s talents. That’s where my theatre training comes in handy. If somebody in the class has a special talent, we just choreograph it into our piece. My objective is for everyone to have a positive experience with the art form of dance! I was also the dance specialist for a two-year research project creating a dance program focusing on children with fetal alcohol syndrome in the Norway House Cree Nation, and was part of a panel to share the research at a world arts festival (VSA) held in Washington, DC. I have had very positive experiences creating dance programs for children with disabilities.

How do you incorporate the book into your workshops for children?

I have just started to do readings in schools, and I have taken parts from the musical and adapted them to do fun scenes with the kids. The kids become newsboys in a scene that’s set to music and based on when people first began to discover dinosaur fossils.

There is also a hand dance "Back in Time” set to a music soundscape. I can use the same music with the kids for creative transformations….We theatrically change from being the wind…..to becoming a fish…..to flying like a pteranodon. It’s all great for workshop material. The kids can work together and make different dinosaurs out of their bodies while learning to be cooperative and work together as a group.

My partner Rubin Kantorovich and I recently co-wrote a new song called the "Bruce Rap." It’s all about the mosasaur I mention in my book. When I was doing a school workshop, I gave a verse to each group of four-to-six kids to work on, and they learned the words and choreographed cool moves to go along with it. Then they performed it for another class! They LOVED that activity!

The fossil skeleton of the mosasaur is on display at the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre in Morden, Manitoba. FriesenPress's printing press is located in Altona -- a town close to the fossil museum. They printed 2,000 copies of the book for a big giveaway at the Altona Sunflower Festival this year. It was so fun to be able to give books away and not have to worry about making my money back. That was a fun event AND they gave me 250 free paperback copies that I can sell!   


Sonia and I also had a book launch at the fossil museum. I did the dance with the kids, Sonia gave an illustration workshop along with the reading, and we premiered the “Bruce Rap" song.

What great ways to promote the book! Through all of these activities, have you found any parts of the book that resonate the most with children and their caregivers?

I think the younger children enjoy the rhyme in the first part of the book and their older brothers and sisters like the dinosaur and fossil facts in the second part. They all love Sonia’s beautiful illustrations, and the dancers connect to all the dance-related parts. 

What other book projects might you have in the works? Any more dancing dinosaurs on the horizon? 

I would love to do another book with Sonia. I’d like to do a teacher’s guide, too. Right now I’m working on trying to find ways to distribute the book to school and public libraries. Some of my friends who are teachers have told me they have used the book in their classes and are having a lot of fun with it. 

Sonia and I just found out some more positive news. The Mom’s Choice Awards has named When Dinosaurs go Dancing among the best in family-friendly media, products, and services. I’m hoping that will help us promote the book.

Congratulations. That's fantastic news! And thanks for sharing more about your journey with us today!

Thanks so much for this opportunity. It’s fun to share with people the background of how it all came together. I have learned so much about the book business by doing this project, and maybe my story will help inspire someone else out there to keep their dreams alive and perhaps create their own book!

To learn more about Judy and When Dinosaurs Go Dancing, you can check out the book's launch page through the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. You can also follow Judy on Twitter here.

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4. Get Ready for a Dinosaur Dance!


My family and I are vacationing in Japan right now. It's our last day in Tokyo, and we've decided to chill out in the hotel for a little while before heading out into the city one more time. I've been working on some children's writing during our trip, and as only a children's writer might say, I've had dancing and dinosaurs on my mind this morning. Then lo and behold, I discovered this new board book -- Dinosaur Dance! -- by Sandra Boynton!

I've loved Sandra Boynton since my kids were little. They're 9 and 11 now, so we don't read too many board books these days. But Boynton's books bring back such great memories for me, and I still buy them as presents for friends who have babies and toddlers.


Dinosaur Dance isn't coming out until August, so I can't give it a proper review just yet. But, somehow, I am fully confident I will love it. Just wanted to let you know about it, too!

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5. My Favorite Collaboration Is Back!

Read It. Move It. Share It. 
I can't believe it's been two years since Maria Hanley from Maria's Movers and I took a break from "Read It. Move It. Share It." But we're back! We probably won't be posting every month but hope to collaborate at least a few more times this year. It feels so good to be back! To remind you about our collaboration, I choose picture books for Maria to use in her creative movement classes in New York City, and then we both share our experiences with the books. This month's book is Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site!


Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site was published a few years back by debut author Sherri Duskey Rinker and seasoned illustrator Tom Lichtenheld. It quickly rocketed to the top of the New York Times Bestseller List, and for good reason. It's clever, adorable in its words and pictures, and appealing both to children who love trucks and to parents -- and dance teachers! -- who might be anxious to settle their little ones down after a long day at school or play.

The book starts out showing a variety of different trucks working hard until the sun begins to set. It then quickly focuses in on each type of truck and what it has to do to finish its work for the day and get ready for bed. It's written in rhyme, with each truck getting a short introduction, a stanza about what kind of work the truck does, and a stanza to say goodnight.

The first truck in the book, the crane truck, works "hard to help his team" by raising "one last beam." He also reaches, stretches, lifts high, and swings his beam. Only then can he get ready for bed...

He slowly folds his boom back in, 
And then with one last sleepy grin, 
He tucks himself in nice and tight (sigh!),
Then cuddles up and says goodnight.

Shh...goodnight, Crane Truck, goodnight.

This pattern is repeated for a cement mixer, a dump truck, a bulldozer, and an excavator. And as you might imagine, there are fabulous movement words everywhere in the book! There's spinning, churning, lifting, carrying, spilling, and so much more.

As the book comes to a close, the trucks are together again...although they are all sleeping this time. One of my favorite stanzas happens as the book winds down. I love the messages that it sends to young children, who are probably identifying strongly with the trucks by the end of the book. Work hard. Be proud of your work. And make sure your work is fun! Great lessons to carry into adulthood as well...

These big, big trucks, so tough and loud,
They work so hard, so rough, so proud.
Tomorrow is another day, 
Another chance to work and play.

I can't finish this post without also mentioning the brilliant illustrations by Tom Lichtenheld that really bring this book to life. He personifies the trucks so well, giving them great facial expressions whether they are working, playing, feeling sleepy, or snuggling into bed. So sweet.

I can't wait to see how Maria used the book in her classes. Let's go see here.

You can also click here to read an interview with author Sherri Duskey Rinker and learn more about her inspiring road to publication. And if you like what you've heard and seen so far, check out the second picture book by the amazing team of Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld -- Steam Train, Dream Train!

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6. Happy New Year!

Wishing you and your loved ones all the best in the new year. I have a feeling it's going to be a good one. Happy reading and dancing!


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7. Bear Can Dance -- and You Should, Too!


I was browsing through posts on Facebook this morning and read this wonderful quote by a dancer from the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater...

I wish more people knew what it felt like to actually dance. I'm not referring to the difficulty of learning a technique or a combination. I mean the part that comes after everything clicks. When your most focused mind, your most moldable body, and your truest spirit all intertwine at their highest level. That point will look different for everyone, of course, but I wish everyone could attempt to reach it at least once. It can literally feel like flying.  -- Ailey dancer Fana Tesfagiorgis to the NYC Dance Project

I let this quote seep into my soul, "liked" it, and went on with my day. Little did I know it would creep back into my head later in the day when I was reading the new picture book Bear Can Dance! by Suzanne Bloom.

Bear Can Dance! is the seventh in a series of books by Bloom about Bear and his friend Goose. In this book, Bear wishes he could fly! Another character, Fox, comes up with a few clever ideas to help Bear, but none of them work too well. Goose isn't much help, either, insisting that Bear cannot fly. Or can he?

Bear can dance?
It's like flying, but with your feet on the ground. Mostly. 
Ohhhh. Bear can dance!

The only reason Bear wanted to fly was because he wanted to "swoop and glide and feel the wind" in his fur. Flying can do that, but so can dance! After reading the book, I frantically searched Facebook until I found the quote from Fana Tesfagiorgis again, only realizing then how truly magical it was for today.

I love it when fate steps in to bring people, objects, ideas together. In this case it brought a beautiful quote from Fana Tesfagiorgis, a beautiful book by Suzanne Bloom, and me together. A perfect match!

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8. Nutcracker Season Is Here!

It's only September, but ballet schools across the country are already holding auditions for the holiday favorite The Nutcracker. I finally convinced my 8-year-old and 10-year-old daughters to try out for a local production this year. Luckily, as with many recreational ballet schools, this one tries to cast everyone who auditions. The girls auditioned last Saturday, and we have just a few days left before we find out their parts!

While we're waiting, I thought I would do a little research to see what Nutcracker-themed picture books have just been published or will be coming out soon. As I expected, I found quite a few! Here are the four I'm most looking forward to reading...

Written in verse by Kristyn Crow with illustrations by Molly Idle, Zombelina Dances The Nutcracker is a follow-up to Zombelina, which introduced readers to a young Zombie who loves to dance. In the new book, Zombelina and her friend Lizzie need to figure out how to save The Nutcracker production they're supposed to dance in at the local opera house.

Rachel Isadora's Bea in The Nutcracker is another sequel -- to Bea at Ballet. The first book was a concept book, introducing young children to the components of a ballet class. Bea in The Nutcracker breaks down the components of a classical ballet, using The Nutcracker as an example.

I don't know too much about this version of The Nutcracker by Stephanie Spinner and Peter Malone, except that it comes with a CD of the Tchaikovsky score. But the cover really draws me in, and I'd love to see more of the illustrations!

The Nutcracker Comes to America: How Three Ballet-loving Brothers Created a Holiday Tradition also piqued by interested. Written by Chris Barton with illustrations by Cathy Gendron, this book tells the story of how The Nutcracker, which is a Russian ballet, became such a special tradition in the United States.

A few years ago I wrote a post on the blog Dance Advantage about some of my favorite Nutcracker books at that time. You can read the post here, in case you are looking for more dance books this holiday season.

Do you have a favorite Nutcracker picture book? Or do any of the new ones look interesting to you? I'd love to hear!

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9. Booking Across the USA: Maryland!


About five years ago, I was at a Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) conference in Maryland and attended a breakout session on blogging, presented by local children's authors Wendie Old and Mary Bowman-Kruhm. I went into the session with a vague curiosity about blogging -- but definitely no desire to start doing it myself -- and left with the confidence to try it out, plus the specific idea of blogging about picture books and dance. So in many ways, Wendie Old and Mary Bowman-Kruhm were the impetus for the creation of Picture Books & Pirouettes!

When Jodie from Growing Book by Book asked me to join the third annual Booking Across the USA project this year -- with the theme of celebrating authors or illustrators from each state -- I knew exactly what I had to do...feature Wendie Old and Mary Bowman-Kruhm! They actually collaborated to co-write a couple picture books for very young readers, which I'll feature a little later. But first, here's a bit more about Wendie and Mary as individual authors...

About the Authors

Wendie Old has been a storyteller and children's librarian in Maryland for more than 30 years, during which time she has published numerous short stories and magazine articles, four picture books, and seven middle-grade biographies. Among her picture books are To Fly, which is a biography of the Wright brothers for elementary readers, and Stacy Had a Little Sister, which deals with the serious subject of the death of a sibling. You can read more about Wendie and her books here on her website.


Mary Bowman-Kruhm has written more than 30 books for children and teens, including many educational texts. Her latest book is The Leakeys: A Biography, which explores the lives and scientific discoveries of the famous paleontologists Louis and Mary Leakey. In addition to writing, Mary works part-time at the Center for Technology in Education at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. You can read more about Mary here on her website.

Picture Book Collaborations

Remember how I mentioned that Wendy and Mary collaborated on a couple picture books for very young readers? The first, called Busy Toes, has quite an interesting story behind it. It was actually a collaboration among three writers -- Wendy, Mary, and a freelance writer named Claudine C. Wirth. Rather than having all three of their names on the cover of the book, they decided to write under the pen name C.W. Bowie, and they wrote and polished much of the manuscript over email rather than in person!

The simple text, with illustrations by Fred Willingham, portrays young girls and boys using their toes in many creative ways. "Tippy toes and dancing toes" is my favorite line in the book, but there are many others, such as "BIG TOES, little toes. / Open toes and closed toes / Waving toes / Tickling toes / Doggy tummy rubbing toes."

The creative team of C.W. Bowie and Fred Willingham also went on to write a sequel -- Busy Fingers. Similar to its predecessor, the book is about all the many things that little fingers can do: "Fingers high / Fingers low. / Fingers reach to touch a toe. / Fingers say, 'I love you.' / Fingers wave good-bye, too." 

Movement Activity

Part of the Booking Across the USA project is to share an activity to go with a featured book. Not surprisingly, I chose a movement activity -- and I created it to go with Busy Fingers. The book actually contains 23 different movements that can be done by little fingers, but I picked out the eight ones that seemed easiest to incorporate into an activity.

After reading the book out loud one time, I would go through the following phrases from the book and do the accompanying movements together with your little ones:

  • High: Stretch your arms and fingers up high in the air. This can be done either standing up or sitting down.
  • Low: Stretch your arms and fingers low to the ground. This can also be done in any position.
  • Reach to touch a toe: If you are standing up, bend over and try to touch your feet with your fingertips. If you are sitting down, stretch your legs out in front of you and try to reach your toes.
  • Say 'I love you': Practice saying "I love you" in sign language (see photo below). 


  • Wave good-bye: Ask the children to think of different ways you can wave hello or goodbye. You can wave your fingers so that they open and close, or wave them so all the fingers move together from side to side. You can also try using big movements and small movements to wave. Feel free to explore this concept even more and get creative with how you can wave!
  • Count: Practice counting to ten using one finger at a time. If this is too easy, you can practice counting by twos with your fingers, or adding numbers with sums of 10 or less.
  • Shadows on the wall: Experiment with making shadow puppets with your fingers. If you need some ideas, this YouTube video by professional puppeteer Corina Bona explains how to make some simple shapes like a rabbit, a dog, and a face.
  • Blow a kiss goodnight: You and the little ones can blow kisses to each other and practice catching them different ways with your fingers or whole hand. This is a good way to end the main activity.
And finally, if you want to incorporate art into your exploration of this book, there is a perfect stanza that you can re-read to set the children up for some finger painting and cleanup...

Fingers red, fingers green
Fingers soapy
Fingers clean

You can put red paint on one hand and green paint on the other and explore how different finger movements -- pressing, smearing, drawing -- can create different designs. Throughout the activity, be creative, have fun, and discover all the amazing things that your fingers can do!

Click here to access all the posts from the third annual Booking across the USA project.

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10. An Interview with Monica Wellington

Today I have a special treat, especially if you love ballet or know young boys or girls who love going to ballet class every week. Author/illustrator Monica Wellington is here to talk about her newest creation -- My Ballet Journal. Published in 2014 by Dover Publications, this 32-page journal and coloring book is a perfect keepsake for young dancers who want to record their dance memories throughout the year!

Although Monica took the lead in creating the book, she didn't do it alone. Her daughter Lydia, who is a professional ballet dancer, was a co-author. As you might expect, Lydia had lots to say about what went into the book, given that she knows firsthand what it's like to be a ballet dancer from a young age. You can read more about this wonderful mother-daughter collaboration in my interview with Monica. Here we go!

Who is the target audience for My Ballet Journal?

We think the journal is probably best for children ages 6 and up, for children once they start taking formal ballet classes. Ages 8-10 would probably be ideal, when training tends to get more serious and kids start to do small performances. I know Lydia would have loved to keep a journal like this herself at that age. It also seems to appeal to older kids too. Some of Lydia’s adult colleagues at New York City Ballet saw the journal and wanted to write and draw in it themselves!

I had the same reaction! My two daughters are really enjoying the journal, and I bought an extra copy just so I could have one for myself! The first few pages include space for a child to write his or her name and age and to either draw or paste a picture of himself or herself. The last few pages include a ballet dictionary and space for students to write their future goals. And the large middle section of the book is where all the fun is! Students can decorate a ballet bag, learn how to make a bun, write down the ballet steps they are learning, color dancers and costumes, and so much more! Here's a sample page, courtesy of Monica



How did you come up with the idea for the journal?

I have written and illustrated over 30 picture books, but none of them are about dance. I have wanted to do a book project about ballet for a long time, and at last this is my first one! Lydia was the inspiration for this project. I was remembering when she was a young ballet student and all the things that she first loved about studying ballet. Ballet was hard but she kept at it year after year. There were big milestones, like her first pair of pointe shoes and her first time performing on stage in the Nutcracker. It would have been fun to have been able to keep a record in some way, and to have a memento years later.

Here is a recent photo of Lydia. She was cast to perform the Arabian dance in the New York City Ballet's 2014 production of the Nutcracker. Wow!



Can you tell us more about your collaboration with Lydia?


When Lydia was about 11, she designed a card that was printed up for an event at her ballet school. We modeled the style of the illustrated dancers in the journal after this image. To begin the project, I made an outline for the journal, including rough sketches. I showed all of this to Lydia and she made suggestions and corrections. When she looked at some of my sketches of ballet positions, for example, she said, “What is this?!” She took her pencil and redrew the little dancer, straightening the leg or pointing the toes...making all kinds of adjustments, just as if she was a teacher with her students in the studio! Lydia went to a high school for the arts here in New York City, LaGuardia High School, and she was in the visual arts department. (She did all her dance classes at the School of American Ballet.) Lydia is a really good artist and she still enjoys going to figure-drawing classes whenever she has the time. She contributed a lot to the drawings for the journal.

That's really neat. It sounds like a really special experience working with Lydia on this book. Do you have any other children's book projects in the works -- dance-related or otherwise?

I am working right now on a picture book about autumn leaves that will be out in fall 2015. I’m also hoping to do more projects about dance. Maybe Lydia will write a story that I can illustrate!


How are you and Dover Publications getting the word out about this book? How can readers of Picture Books & Pirouettes help?


We are trying to get the word out to dance students, teachers, and schools. Thank you for having us do a Q&A on your blog. Lydia is always so busy with dancing, but I hope she can do a few things with me. It would be fun to do a book-signing event where she could show how to put on pointe shoes, how to put on stage make-up, and demonstrate various ballet steps, for example. 


Oh, that sounds like fun. Let me know if you end up hosting an event like that, and we can post some photos on Picture Books & Pirouettes. And thanks again for taking part in this interview. I just know your journal is going to be a big hit!

To learn more about Monica, visit her website here. You can also link to Dover Publications to see all 19 of her projects with this particular publisher. And finally, you can read more about Lydia and her dancing career here. Also, feel free to leave a comment to let Monica and Lydia know what you think of their journal. I'm sure they would love to hear your thoughts!

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11. Book and Boogie in 2015!

Hope it's not too late in the month for an enthusiastic…..Happy New Year! Thanks for hanging in here with me, as I know my posts have been a little few and far between lately. I'm happy to report, though, that I already have a couple fun posts lined up for the coming months. So stay tuned!


In the meantime, I wanted to highlight Book to Boogie -- a feature on The Library as Incubator Project website that I help curate. It's a monthly series that pairs picture books with dance and movement activities for preschool story time. The series already includes 19 posts, which means 19 great ideas for bringing movement into libraries, classrooms, dance studios, and homes!

I always try to feature the latest Book to Boogie posts in my Read & Romp Roundups, but you can also follow the series at The Library as Incubator Project itself. The mission of this wonderful project is "to promote and facilitate creative collaboration between libraries and artists of all types, and to advocate for libraries as incubators of the arts." This mission really comes out in Book to Boogie and the many other features on the site.

To entice you even more, here is a list of the talented guest bloggers who make the Book to Boogie series possible. Click on their names, and you'll see just how passionate they all are about integrating movement and the arts. Wow!

Jayne Gammons (kindergarten teacher)
Julie Dietzel-Glair (freelance writer and library consultant)
Maria Hanley (early childhood dance educator)
Amy Musser (children's librarian)
Jill Homan Randall (modern dancer and teaching artist)
Liz Vacco (dance, yoga, theater, and early childhood educator)

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12. Read & Romp Roundup: Sept/Oct 2014

Welcome to the September/October Read & Romp Roundup! And since it's actually November, this post also gives me an opportunity to highlight one of my favorite online celebrations -- Picture Book Month! The Picture Book Month blog is full of posts from children's book authors and illustrators who have been sharing all month long why picture books are important to them. It's a very inspiring read, and one I am feeling thankful for this time of year!


Just in time for the cold weather, Darshana at Flowering Minds reviews the new picture book Flora and the Penguin -- the sequel to the popular Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle. Her post includes a delightful trailer for this lift-the-flap book about friendship, told through beautiful ice dancing scenes with the two main characters.


At Wild Things Yoga, Kathleen shares some yoga ideas to go with Manfish: A Story of  Jacque Cousteau by Jennifer Berne and Eric Puybaret. She uses the book to talk about the concept of Ahimsa (non-violence) and try out some fun yoga poses related to the sea!


At Mother Daughter & Son Book Reviews, Renee and her son highlight the new picture book Twelve Dancing Unicorns by Alissa Heyman and Justin Gerard -- a variation of Twelve Dancing Princesses but with unicorns instead! Renee says the book is "an absolutely enchanting tale weaving the themes of magic, love, and friendship" with artwork that is "among the best I've seen in picture books."


Book to Boogie is a monthly series of the Library as Incubator Project in which guest bloggers pair picture books with movement activities for story time. The September post was on Quick as a Cricket by Audrey and Don Wood. The October post was on Sometimes I Like to Curl Up in a Ball by Vicki Churchill and Charles Fuge.


Debbie at American Indians in Children's Literature features Girls Dance, Boys Fiddle by Carole Lindstrom and Kimberley McKay. The main character is a girl named Metisse who would rather play the fiddle than dance, even though most people in her community expect girls to dance. Metisse is part of an Aboriginal group known as the Métis people, who live in parts of Canada and the Northern United States. According to Debbie, you can find elements of Métis culture on every page! 

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13. Join the Sept/Oct Read & Romp Roundup!


The mornings are getting darker, the days are getting shorter, and fall is in the air -- at least here in the states. So it must be time for the September/October Read & Romp Roundup! If you have a recent (or even not so recent) blog post that involves picture books or children's poetry AND dance, yoga, or another form of movement, leave your link in a comment on this post. Or, you can reach me on Facebook or Twitter to let me know about your link. I'll round up all the links and post them together soon. Looking forward to hearing from you! 

Submissions are open through Monday, October 27, 2014. 

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14. Read, Create, Dance: Crafterina's New Video!

Today's a special day for our friend Vanessa Salgado -- dancer, dance educator, visual artist, and creator extraordinaire. Vanessa is the mastermind behind a unique character and children's book called Crafterina, which is more or less a storybook, craft book, and dance lesson all rolled into one. Today is special because it marks the launch of Crafterina's first YouTube video about the book. Take a look!


I had the pleasure of interviewing Vanessa last year to talk about how Crafterina came to be and how crafts and dance go hand in hand. You can read that interview here. And, to supplement the book, Vanessa has created an Etsy site where you can purchase a wide range of additional dance-themed crafts. Her back-to-school paper dolls and pumpkin Halloween mask are popular ones for this time of year. Congratulations, Vanessa, on all your success!

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15. Giveaway: Frances Dean Who Loved to Dance!


When I first saw the cover of Frances Dean Who Loves to Dance and Dance by Birgitta Sif, I knew it was a picture book I wanted to get my hands on. And when I finally did, I wasn't disappointed. The cover, which I loved from the start, doesn't even do justice to the illustrations inside. Created in muted tones with pencil and digital coloring, they are truly gorgeous! 

Dedicated "to all those who live with all their heart," Frances Dean Who Loved to Dance and Dance is a child's journey of overcoming inhibitions to be herself and do what she loves, no matter whom might be watching. 

Frances Dean loves to dance. In fact, she loves to dance AND dance (as the title of the book implies.) She especially loves to dance outside, where she can feel the wind and hear the birds around her, as long as no one is watching. But with the help of her animal friends and another little girl with a big talent, Frances slowly but surely overcomes her self-consciousness. In fact, by the end of the book, she loves to dance and dance AND dance!


Overcoming inhibitions to pursue your passion is an important life lesson, and one that often takes years and years to learn. I still remember when I was in college, covering up my computer screen any time someone came in the room, for fear that he or she might read what I was writing. Now, many years later, I'm willing to show my writing to just about anyone, eager for feedback and comfortable with criticism. But boy did it take a long time. 

Little Frances Dean, having already overcome similar fears, is well on her way to a happy and healthy life. Although Frances Dean's passion is dance, her story is universal and could be applied to other passions such as music, art, and sports. I hope she can inspire lots of other little girls and boys to follow in her footsteps!

I'm giving away a copy of Frances Dean Who Loved to Dance and Dance! Simply leave a comment on this post to enter. Feel free to share your passion, or share a story about overcoming your inhibitions, in your comment. The giveaway closes at 11:59 pm EST on Wednesday, September 24, 2014. 

You can learn more about author/illustrator Birgitta Sif at http://www.birgittasif.com or in a recent interview with her at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. And finally, thanks to Random House for sending me a review copy of this book. I ended up buying my own copy as well, so receiving the review copy allowed me to host this giveaway. 

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16. Read & Romp Roundup: July/August 2014

I just realized that August was the four-year anniversary of Picture Books & Pirouettes. When I was starting the blog back in 2010, someone asked me if there were really enough dance-related picture books to keep the blog going. I had done my research, and I knew that the answer was yes. But, as time has gone on, even I have been amazed by the sheer number of movement-related books out there -- those that contain movement, those that inspire movement, and those that do both. And they just keep coming!

If you check out the left-hand column of the blog, you will see some new releases, some books that have been on the shelves for a little while, and some others that will be published in the next few months. The July/August Read & Romp Roundup also highlights many of these titles -- a true testament to this special niche in children's literature. Thanks for helping Picture Books & Pirouettes keep going strong!



At Playing by the Book, Zoe hosted a summer picture book party that included reading, dancing, and creative cooking and crafts. One of the books she featured was Frances Dean Who Loved to Dance and Dance, which inspired Zoe and her daughters to dance with abandon, just like Frances Dean learns to do in the book!


Thanks to Cathy Ballou Mealy, I also found a lovely review of Frances Dean Who Loved to Dance and Dance on the blog The Illustrated Forest. The author of the post sums up this beautiful book by Birgitta Sif so eloquently in the first few lines of the post that I hope it entices you to read the rest. "Birgitta Sif writes books for people like us; she takes characters that are introverted and makes them brave; she makes them heroes in their own way, and if you are a little shy that is truly uplifting."


Kathleen at Wild Things Yoga shares a yoga lesson plan, perfect for first and second graders, to go with the picture book I Wonder by Annaka Harris and John Rowe. Following a discussion of the book and what her students wonder about in general, Kathleen explores the concept of wondering using movement. For example, "I wonder what would happen if we try to balance on our hands?" and "I wonder what would happen if we try to put our head to our knees?" Fun!


At Picture-Book-a-Day, Amy shares one of her monthly picture book roundups, where she reviews four recent picture books. Two of the books -- Father's Chinese Opera by Rich Lo and I Got the Rhythm by Connie Schofield-Morrison and Frank Morrison -- contain lots of movement. And if you're looking for movement ideas to go with I Got the Rhythm, Amy's got you covered! She features the book, along with movement ideas for preschool story time, in the August Book to Boogie post at the Library as Incubator Project.


The July Book to Boogie post at the Library as Incubator Project features the picture book Here Are My Hands by Bill Martin Jr., John Archambault, and Ted Rand. Written by dance educator Maria Hanley, the enthusiastic post provides plenty of ideas for getting babies and toddlers moving with different body parts!


Thanks to Darshana Khiani, I found out about the blog All Done Monkey, which recently featured a board book about dances from India! Dances of India is the first in a series of four books created by two mothers who wanted to increase the availability of multicultural books for small children. With the help of two characters named Maya and Leela, the book takes readers on a journey across India, introducing four classical dances from distinct regions of the country.


I had the pleasure of meeting well-known author and illustrator Jules Feiffer at a children's writing conference a few years ago and was delighted when I stumbled across a video of him discussing his new picture book Rupert Can Dance. The MacMillan Children's Publishing Group hosts the wonderful one-minute video, during which Mr. Feiffer talks about his inspiration for the book.


I recently discovered the blog The Brown Bookshelf, which "is designed to push awareness of the myriad of African American voices writing for young readers." In July, the site highlighted two picture books about young girls inspired to dance. The first -- Firebird -- is written by Misty Copeland, who as a soloist for the American Ballet Theater was the first Black woman to star in the Firebird ballet. The second -- A Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina's Dream -- is about a little girl who becomes inspired by the first Black prima ballerina, Janet Collins.


And last but not least, I discovered a post on The Book Chook featuring a new picture book out of Australia called Little Piggy's Got No Moves. Written by the husband and wife team of Phillip Gwynne and Eliza McCann with illustrations by Tom Jellett, the book celebrates the uniqueness of every child through a story about Little Piggy, who learns that he really can dance, even though no one thought piggies could groove. Check it out!

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17. 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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18. Join the July/August Read & Romp Roundup!


Yikes! Where has the time gone? Today is the official call for submissions for the July/August Read & Romp Roundup. If you have a recent (or even not so recent) blog post that involves picture books or children's poetry AND dance, yoga, or another form of movement, leave your link in a comment on this post. Or, you can reach me on Facebook or Twitter to let me know about your link. I'll round up all the links and post them together soon. Looking forward to hearing from you! And for those of you celebrating Labor Day, enjoy the long holiday weekend!

Submissions are open through Friday, September 5, 2014. 

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19. Read & Romp Roundup: March 2014

Welcome to the March Read & Romp Roundup! Women's History Month was celebrated widely in March, so several of the submissions feature women who have broken boundaries in the world of dance -- the African American ballerina Janet Collins and the inspiring dancer and civil rights advocate Josephine Baker. And of course, no roundup would be complete without picture books and movement ideas to go with them, which are also included. Enjoy!


At Good Reads with Ronna, Rita Zobayan reviews the popular new picture book A Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina's Dream by Kristy Dempsey and Floyd Cooper. "Inspired by the story of Janet Collins, the first African American ballerina at the Metropolitan Opera Ballet, A Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina's Dream is a story of high hopes and grand dreams," says Rita. Read the full review to see why this "wonderful tale of courage, perseverance, and determination" brought tears to her eyes.

Kidlit Celebrates Women's History Month hosts special guest blogger Kristy Dempsey -- the author of A Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina's Dream. What a treat! Hear from the author herself about her inspiration and experience writing the book. "A Dance Like Starlight is my song of thanks to all the women throughout history who have shown us who we can be and have given us an example to pursue our dreams with passion," Kristy says.


At Booktalking #Kidlit, Anastasia Suen features the new picture book Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker by Patricia Hruby and Christian Robinson. Josephine struggled in her early life but became a celebrated dancer and performer after moving from the United States to Paris in the 1920's. Anastasia's post includes a snippet of text from the book, which is written in free verse. It also includes a book trailer and plenty of examples of the book's illustrations, which are stunning.


Maria from Maria's Movers shares some creative activities to go with the picture book The Squiggle by Carole Lexa Schaefer and Pierr Morgan. With her younger students, Maria used long colorful strings (as squiggles) to explore some of the ideas from the book, and with her older students she made up string dances!


And finally, don't forget to check out the March Book to Boogie post at the Library as Incubator Project. Dance educator Liz Vacco shares movement ideas to go with the classic picture book Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh. She includes ideas for both younger and older students and recommends music to go with the movement!

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20. Join the April Read & Romp Roundup!


I can't believe how quickly April is flying by! The warm weather here in California is inspiring me to get moving more than usual, and today I took my first dance class in a few months. Am feeling pretty good! Hope you are all enjoying warm weather and plenty of movement, too. And, since April is National Poetry Month, I hope you are finding some time to sneak in some poetry, either for yourself or for your little ones. If so, I'd love to hear all about it and how it might be related to movement!

Today's the official call for submissions for the April Read & Romp Roundup. If you have a recent (or even not so recent) blog post that involves picture books or children's poetry AND dance, yoga, or another form of movement, leave your link in a comment on this post. Or, you can reach me on Facebook or Twitter to let me know about your link. If you know of others who might be interested in joining the roundup, please help spread the word, too. I'll round up all the links and post them together in a few weeks. Hope to hear from you!

Submissions are open through Thursday, May 1, 2014. 

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21. Celebrate Maryland with Movement and Art


Today I'm participating in the second annual Booking Across the USA blog tour, which has been organized so well by our fearless leader Jodie at Growing Book by Book. Each blogger on the tour is creating an activity for young children that is related to one of the 50 U.S. states and is inspired by a new series of books -- Travels with Charlie -- by Miles Backer with illustrations by Chuck Nitzberg. I signed up for Maryland!

Some of you might remember that my family and I moved from Maryland to California late last summer, so we've been in our new home for almost an entire school year now. Wow! I must say that I am truly enjoying the beauty, sunshine, and way of life out here on the West Coast, but I do miss many things about Maryland, so this blog tour gave me a chance to reminisce.


The four books in the Travels with Charlie series tackle the West, Midwest, South, and Northeast regions of the United States. Maryland is one of 12 states included in the Travelin' the Northeast book, which publisher Blue Apple Books so graciously sent me to help write this post.

Maryland, like each of the states in the book, is devoted a full-page spread that includes the state capital, a picture of the state flag, a bulleted list of interesting facts about the state, and a poem. The poem ends with the line "Where's Charlie?" to get children not only looking for Charlie (the cute dog you see on the cover of the book) but also perusing all the fun, bright, and educational illustrations in which Charlie is hiding on each spread. 

Movement Activity
Given my blog's theme, I wanted to come up with a book-related activity that involved movement. So why not create a simple dance to the book's poem about Maryland? But first, here are a few definitions that are important to know in order to execute the movements in the dance...

Skipjack: Maryland's official state boat, which looks like a sailboat and is used to fish for oysters in the Chesapeake Bay

Fort McHenry: A star-shaped fort in Baltimore, Maryland, where part of the War of 1812 was fought

And here is the book's poem about Maryland, along with movements to go with each line or group of lines. As you'll see, the first few movements are wavy and circular and the last few are sharp and straight, to give children the opportunity to explore both types…

Maryland: The Old Line State

Where is a skipjack
on Chesapeake Bay? 
[Put you hands in a triangle shape just above your head (like a sail) and sway from side to side like you are going over waves.]

Where's Assateague Island, 
where wild ponies play?
[Gallop (like a pony) in a circular pattern on the floor.]

Where's Fort McHenry
where Francis Scott Key
wrote the "Star Spangled Banner" --
[March in a star shape (like the shape of Fort McHenry). Put an outline of a star on the floor or use stickers for the points of the star if needed. Rather than making circular patterns as they march, the children should make straight lines, in more of a military fashion.]

"Oh, say can you see?"
[Stop marching and put your hand on your heart as if you are listening to the Star Spangled Banner, also known as our national anthem!]

Art Activity
The star spangled banner was actually a flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the national anthem. (The flag was raised at Fort McHenry after a crucial battle in 1814.) What makes this banner so special is that it is the only version of the American flag that has 15 stars and 15 stripes. You can read more about the banner at this website of the National Museum of American History in Washington, DC, where the original flag is on display.

Star spangled banner on display at the National Museum of American History

For an art activity, each child can color his or her own star spangled banner, either freehand our using a coloring page. Here is a sample coloring page from the TPS-Barat Educational Foundation. TPS-Barat also has a whole star spangled banner lesson plan for students in kindergarten through second grade, which could probably be adapted for younger students as well. It's aligned with some of the common core language arts standards and includes illustrations, recordings, lyrics, and more related to the national anthem. (When you color the flag, don't forget that the first stripe is a red one.)

Star spangled banner coloring page from TPS-Barat Educational Foundation

You might consider playing the national anthem in the background as the children color their flags, or turning their coloring pages into "real" flags using some glue and popsicle sticks or straws. If time allows, it might also be nice to do a little marching dance to the national anthem when the flags are finished. First have the kids stand still and wave their flags to the beat. Then have them march, holding their flags still over their heads. Finally, see if they can march and wave their flags at the same time while still keeping the beat!

Don't forget to stop by Growing Book by Book to find the rest of posts in this year's Booking Across the USA tour…plus a giveaway. You can also explore picture books by authors and illustrator from the 50 states through last year's tour here

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22. Read & Romp Roundup: April 2014

At long last, here is the April Read & Romp Roundup. I know the roundup is SUPER DUPER late this time, but to compensate I promise it's going to be a great one. Thanks to all who contributed!


Sandy at Unpacking the POWER of Picture Books starts us off with a bang! All in one post, she highlights the picture books A Dance like Starlight: One Ballerina's Dream, Bea at Ballet, On Your Toes: A Ballet ABC, and Oliver Button is a Sissy. Plus, she includes links to other reviews of A Dance Like Starlight, as well as to an interview with the author and illustrator of Flora and the Flamingo. Thanks to Cathy at Bildebok from Cathy Ballou Mealey for letting me know about this post!


A Dance Like Starlight was a popular book in April, especially given that April was National Poetry Month and the book is written so poetically by author Kristy Dempsey. Rhapsody in Books shares a review of the book, including several passages of text and several stunning images by illustrator Floyd Cooper.


In April, Giselle at Kids Yoga Stories celebrated picture books by author and illustrator Denise Fleming. In addition to listing seven of her favorite books by Fleming, Giselle provides yoga, movement, and counting ideas to go with Count!, In the Tall, Tall Grass, and In the Small, Small Pond. 


The April Book to Boogie post at The Library as Incubator Project features guest blogger Jill Homan Randall, who provides movement ideas to go with the picture book Dance with Me by Charles R. Smith Jr. and Noah J. Zones. Short but spirited, the post is sure to inspire you to integrate this book into a lively story time!


Kathleen at Wild Things Yoga shares a yoga lesson plan for first and second graders based on the award-winning picture book biography The Man Who Walked Between the Towers. The lesson plan focuses on balance, perseverance, self-awareness, and risk-taking -- concepts that are also explored in the book, which tells the story of Philippe Petite, who walked along a wire between the twin towers of the World Trade Center in 1974. The post also provides links to a slideshow, news story, and mini-documentary about this amazing story!


If you love the character Gerald from the picture book Giraffes Can't Dance, you'll love Jayne's April post at ABCs of Reading. The post explores how you can work on the reading comprehension strategy of "making connections" through drama and creative movement, such as by having students travel through the story from Gerald's perspective. For example, "Try to run around, but buckle at the knees. What are your feelings when you fall?" This creative and insightful post also contains a link to an art lesson based on Giraffes Can't Dance...and more!


In her monthly roundup at Chapter Book Explorer, Amy features Five, Six, Seven, Nate! by Tim Federle. A sequel to Federle's Better Nate than Ever, this new chapter book continues Nate's journey to make it big on Broadway. "Take another hilarious and touch ride with Nate Foster as he learns to live in the Big Apple, masters his choreography, has his first kiss, and saves the show!" says Amy.

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23. Join the May/June Read & Romp Roundup!


As you might have noticed, I've gotten a little behind with my Read & Romp Roundups. I've been pondering what to do about this, and I think I'm going to try having bi-monthly roundups -- that is, every two months -- instead of monthly roundups. What do you think? Hopefully this will help me stay on track a little better. Plus, there are lots of picture books I want to share with you and some authors and illustrators I would love to interview, so hopefully this change will give me more time for that as well. So, that being said...

Today is the official call for submissions for the May/June Read & Romp Roundup. If you have a recent (or even not so recent) blog post that involves picture books or children's poetry AND dance, yoga, or another form of movement, leave your link in a comment on this post. Or, you can reach me on Facebook or Twitter to let me know about your link. I'll round up all the links and post them together before the end of the month. And then we should be back on schedule. Hope to hear from you!

Submissions are open through Friday, July 25, 2014. 

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24. Read & Romp Roundup: May/June 2014

Welcome to the first bimonthly Read & Romp Roundup. Thanks to those of you who submitted posts this time around. I also happened to stumble across a few additional posts related to picture books and dance, so I've included those as well. Hope you enjoy the roundup!


Danielle at This Picture Book Life shares a post about the picture book Bonjour Camille, which will be released in August from Chronicle Books. Dressed in a tutu and a top hat, Camille is a little girl with a whole lot of things to do! Check out Danielle's post to learn more about these "things" and to see several bold and energetic illustrations from the book.


Atelierstorytime shares a blog post by Anna Forlati -- the illustrator of the Italian picture book Yoga Piccolo Piccolo. Translated as "Small Small Yoga," Yoga Piccolo Picollo may not be available in an English version, but the gorgeous illustrations in this blog post will speak to everyone!


At Maria's Movers, Maria explores the wordless picture book Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle, which won a Caldecott Honor in 2014. Read her post to see how she used the book in a workshop for 6-year-olds about creating new dances!


Maria was also featured in the June Book to Boogie post at the Library as Incubator Project, where she shared movement ideas to go with the picture book Here Are My Hands. A month earlier, the May Book to Boogie post featured movement ideas to go with the picture book SPLASH! by Ann Jonas.


At the Dirigible Plum, Elizabeth reviews the nonfiction picture book Dancing to Freedom: The True Story of Mao's Last Dancer. The book tells the story of Li Cunxin, who grew up in rural China and was selected as a boy to move to Beijing to train as a ballet dancer. Interestingly, the book is written by the dancer himself. The illustrations by Anne Spudvilas, some of which you can see in Elizabeth's post, help tell his emotional story.


And last but not least, Reading Today Online shares a fun interview with Connie Schofield-Morrison and Frank Morrison -- the husband-and-wife team who created the new picture book I Got the Rhythm. They actually interview each other about creating the book. You don't want to miss it!

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25. An Interview with Author Marlena Zapf: Part I

Earlier this month I attended the annual summer conference of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), where I   so enjoyed hearing a variety of publication success stories, especially those of debut picture book authors and illustrators like Pat Zietlow Millerand Aaron BeckerToday another debut picture book author   -- Marlena Zapf -- is joining us to tell us about her own unique journey to publication. Marlena's book Underpants Dance, with exuberant illustrations by Lynne Avril, was published by Dial in April of this year. It is the story of Lily McBloom, who loves her brand-new underpants so much that she makes up a special dance to show them off. As it turns outs, she loves her underpants so much that she even takes her fancy new dance on the road -- with both hilarious and heartwarming consequences.

Congratulations on your picture book debut! Can you tell us a little bit about how Underpants Dance came to be?

Of course! When I wrote Underpants Dance and chose not to include an ending in which the protagonist “learns her lesson” in the traditional way, I knew not every editor would be jumping to publish it. So what did I do? Research  -- just like SCBWI and every children’s book editor will tell you to do. And it paid off.

Here is what I did. I found out that Steve Meltzer was the Dutton editor for Walter the Farting Dog, and I figured if he likes farting dogs he might be okay with underpants, too. So I followed Dutton’s submission guidelines and sent him a query. He sent back a note asking me to email the manuscript, which I did. Then I waited…almost a whole year. Now, I’ve worked in publishing and know how busy things get. I had a good hunch that the email with my manuscript was lost for good. I also knew that Steve probably had an assistant who read all his mail. So I decided to send a hard copy with a letter politely explaining the situation. Lo and behold, the assistant did find my manuscript, and after some further editorial gymnastics, I ended up with editor Liz Waniewski at Dial and a book contract with my name on it.

Wow. That’s a great story of research and persistence paying off! If we go back in time a little further, what initially inspired you to write Underpants Dance?

I used to be a reading editor at a big school publisher. One thing you need to understand about school publishers is that they put lots of money into developing textbooks that they hope to sell all across the country. And because they need to appeal to a broad market in order to make their sales and not go bankrupt, they can’t offend anybody. So, if a state such as, oh, Texas for instance, declares it won’t acquire any textbooks that include stories about children who defy authority, well then a publisher sure as heck isn’t going to include that kind of story in its program. (Never mind that LOTS can be learned and enjoyed from stories about protagonists who misbehave and make mistakes. Luckily we have awesome librarians to direct kids to those books.) This corporate culture of self-censorship ran counter to my often contrary, somewhat rebellious, nature. And that is where the story of my story begins...


As it happened, I was in this big important publishing meeting where experts were discussing the kinds of stories we should commission. I recall something about well-behaved children who always wear their bicycle helmets and gleefully eat peas…no kidding. Two thoughts went through my mind:

1. What if a REAL child walked into this room right now? These people wouldn’t know what to do with her (especially if she were my cousin’s three-year-old daughter, who was going through her eschewing-any-and-all-clothing phase).

2. What if I jumped up onto the conference table right now and danced in my underpants?

But neither of these things happened. What happened was that I quietly nibbled a dried-up lemon danish and nodded politely while a little girl named Lily McBloom wandered into my thoughts. And she started doing everything that the children in the textbook stories weren’t supposed to do. Then, when the meeting was over, I went back to my desk and wrote the story’s first lines.

Way to go for following your heart! What was the most exciting part of the publication process for you after that?

I guess for me it was when Underpants Dance was finally released. The publication of my first book was a LOOOOOOOOONG process. It was delayed a bunch of times. I think it took about a decade from beginning to end. I’m hoping the publication of my next books won’t take quite so long.

Speaking of your next books, do you have any projects in the works that you can tell us about? I hope they will be in print soon, too!

I’ve written more stories about Lily and Lily’s sister Marigold, but my publisher is waiting to see how Underpants Dance sells before committing to something like a series. This is how publishing works now. So, if you like Underpants Dance and want to see more of Lily, please spread the word!

I’m also working on a middle grade fantasy series inspired by a quote from Joseph Campbell: “There are no models in our mythology for an individual woman’s quest.” Actually, I believe that a new mythology is being created right now, in our time, by authors, storytellers, filmmakers, and especially girls and women themselves. That’s a party I can’t help but join.

If you’d like to hear more from Marlena, stay tuned for Part II of our interview. Next week we’ll be chatting about Marlena's background in movement and how she’ll be incorporating it into her author visits for Underpants Dance!

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