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1. Win a Free Copy of the DOGGIRL Audio Book!

Guess what? From now until the end of the month, I’m going to be giving away one free copy of the DOGGIRL audio book every day! That’s ten free audio books. I know! I mean it!

To enter to win, just send me a note here on my contact page telling me one quick story about you and your love for animals. It can be a childhood memory, a quick story about a favorite pet of yours, or just an overall description of why animals make our lives so much better.  Keep it short (I do have other work to do), but tell me.

That’s it! I’ll pick one winner every day and send you the secret code to download the book from Audible.com.

Sound easy? Of course it is. So go for it!

0 Comments on Win a Free Copy of the DOGGIRL Audio Book! as of 4/21/2014 2:11:00 PM
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2. Purina® “PAW”ty Challenge (Funpage for Kids)

First Book and Purina® have teamed up to celebrate two of our favorite things – reading and pets. And we want you to join the fun! Click on the image below to download and print our Purina® “PAW”ty Challenge funpage. You’ll find creative activities like drawing, story writing and a book maze for your kids or students to enjoy.

Purina and First Book fun page

The post Purina® “PAW”ty Challenge (Funpage for Kids) appeared first on First Book Blog.

0 Comments on Purina® “PAW”ty Challenge (Funpage for Kids) as of 4/11/2014 11:49:00 AM
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3. Coloring Page and Hidden Picture Puzzle for Easter

A special treat! A hidden picture puzzle and coloring page for Easter by Liz Ball. To order books with her hidden picture puzzles or other books (like Topsy Turvy Land written by Mama Donna) from Hidden Pictures Publishing, click HERE. Enjoy! *Click on the picture, then print! It will print out full size ready to be colored. If that doesn't work with your printer, right click on the

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4. Citizen Canine

Citizen Canine is a very readable account of our fur-babies, a passionate ode to pets as well as a dispassionate historical view of animals in our human world. It's not just about dogs, but cats and all the other nonhumans we've invited into our homes. Books mentioned in this post Citizen Canine: Our Evolving... David [...]

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5. Perfect Picture Book Friday - Sparky

Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday, Everyone!

It's been a couple weeks!

What with the March Madness Writing Contest and all the long posts for the finalists and the winners, etc., I think we could all use a break.  So today I'm going to do my best to be brief :)

I hope you all enjoy this picture book as much as I do :)

Title: Sparky
Written By: Jenny Offill
Illustrated By: Chris Appelhans
Schwartz & Wade Books, March 2014, Fiction

Suitable For Ages: age 3-8

Themes/Topics: pets, being yourself

Opening: "I wanted a pet. A bird or a bunny or a trained seal.  My mother said no to the bird.  No to the bunny. No no no to the trained seal."

Brief Synopsis: A little girl's mother says she can have any pet she wants as long as it doesn't need to be walked or bathed or fed.  So the little girl finds just the pet to fit the requirements... A sloth... whom she names Sparky :)

Here the girl plays with Sparky and introduces us to Mary Potts

Links To Resources: Talk about what makes a good pet; discuss the pros and cons of various pets, 10 Popular Small Pets, Best Pets For Kids slideshow, Rainforest Classroom Activities, read with "Slowly, slowly, slowly," said the Sloth by Eric Carle, or perhaps with other picture books about more boisterous pets for comparison.

Why I Like This Book: I love Sparky.  He's so cute!  And so sleepy and slow :)  And I admire any child who can come up with a pet that doesn't break the rules of not needing to be walked or bathed or fed.  The girl tries to play games with Sparky, but with the exception of Statues he's not much good at them.  In response to annoying Mary Potts from across the street she tries to teach him tricks to show what a good pet he is.  But aside from excelling at playing dead he's not much good at that either.  But you know what? She doesn't care.  For her, Sparky is "it" :)  And what a nice message that pets can just be loved for who they are.

For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

How'd I do?  Brief enough? :)

PPBF bloggers, please leave your post-specific link in the list below so we can all come see what you picked and make our library lists for the weekend :)

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone! :)


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6. The Surprising Magic of “Cookie”

Once again, crisis and injury averted thanks to a clever dog training technique I learned from master trainer April Bush.

A little background: Last fall while we were backpacking in the San Juan range of the Rocky Mountains, I heard some commotion one morning coming from the area where husband and dogs had gone off to retrieve our food bags from where we hung them in the trees overnight to keep them away from the bears.

Our younger Lab, Baby Moose, aka Baby Danger, was only about 10 months old. He’d already earned his nickname when he was 5 months old and jumped from a moving car just because that seemed interesting. He rolled several times, just a ball of whirling black fluff, while I watched in horror before catapulting out of the car myself, but by the time I reached him he’d already stood up and shaken it off like it was no big deal. “What are you looking at, Mom?”

Baby Danger.

So now fast-forward several months and I’m hearing his unusually deep, serious bark coming from that area where bear bags are hung. Then I hear my husband shout, “Moose!” and then even more loudly, “Robin!” And that’s never good, because it usually means there’s some sort of emergency calling for my wilderness medical skills.

Great.

So I start fumbling into my boots, but before I can get them on I hear my husband tell Moose very calmly, “Go show your mom.”

And here comes trotting toward me, very proud, Baby Danger with a face full of porcupine quills. Twelve of them. While our older dog had the sense to keep his distance from the porcupine they both found, Moose went right for it. Why not? Looks interesting. He didn’t even seem bothered by all the needles stuck in his snout–at least not until I started prying them out one at a time with the plier setting of the multi-tool I was happy we brought along.

So now here we are, six months later, and you’d think the dog had a sense of history or self-preservation or just some sense in general. Nope.

Baby Danger

Baby Danger

Yesterday while he and I were cross-country skiing in some beautiful woodlands, he suddenly veered off toward a tree. I kept skiing, not thinking anything of it, until I once again heard that deep, manly bark of his that only seems to come out when he’s found something particularly dangerous and worth chasing.

I quickly reversed course.

Moose stood at the base of a tree, barking his lungs out at a huge beach ball-sized porcupine perched on a low branch only about a foot above him. Well within quilling distance. The porcupine kept puffing himself larger and doing this cool trick where the spikes rolled in a wave across his back as if someone were running a hand over a fresh buzz cut. It was impressive, but also kind of awful. Because any second those quills were going to start shooting into my dog’s face.

I shouted, “Moose, leave it!” and “Come!” but as you can imagine, boring commands like that were nothing compared to the thrill of a treed beast.

But I had one more command in my arsenal. The magic one I’d learned from April.

“COOKIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!”

Moose tore himself away from the porcupine and came racing toward me. Unbelievable. I opened up my treat bag and let the heavens rain treat. Because that’s what the special word “Cookie” has come to mean. It has to mean that every time.

Here’s what April taught me: Come up with some special word that you only use in the most dire circumstances when you really, really need your dog to come to you. Maybe it’s because he’s about to run out into traffic, or he’s chasing something he shouldn’t, or he’s a black dog who’s run off into the darkness at night and you have no hope of finding him otherwise.

“Cookie” is a good word to use because you can really draw out the sound. Anything ending in an “ee” sound is great.

To build the power of the special word, you start using it a few times a day at unexpected, random times. You’ll always want to have a good supply of your best treats on hand–the thing that makes this word so special is that the dog really hits the jackpot of treats once he responds.

The first time, stand close enough that your dog can see you. Then call out the word with as much enthusiasm and volume as you can. The dog won’t quite understand what you’re doing this first time, so open your hand and show the monster mound of treats. Yes, lad, you get every one of these if you come.

Do it again some time later that first day, standing just out of sight of your dog. See if he remembers what happened last time. He probably will. Again, huge jackpot of great treats, one after another for about 30 full seconds. You want this to be the most fabulously-rewarded command in your entire arsenal.

And a key part of the training is that it has to be a totally positive experience. You can’t use “Cookie” and then leash up the dog or put him in his crate or do anything he might not have come running for if he’d known. In a crisis situation you are going to hold on to him and probably leash him up, but he doesn’t need to know that right now.

Do it about 3 times a day for a week. Then just once a day for the following week. Then every other day, gradually tapering off until you do it once a week. The whole process should take only a few weeks, but it’s worth continuing to strengthen it weekly.

Because there will come a time, just like my experience yesterday, when you’re going to want your dog to remember how fantastic it is to drop everything and run for the Cookieeeeee!  I cannot tell you how happy and relieved I was that it worked.

Me sportin' the ever-trendy treat pouch.

Me sportin’ the ever-trendy treat pouch.

The down side, from a fashion standpoint, is that you’re going to end up wearing something like this hot-looking number whenever you go somewhere where you’ll have your dogs off-leash. I know, I know, you’re insanely jealous right now. I understand.

The alternative is to carry a bunch of great, smelly treats in your pocket, and maybe end up like Elaine in that Seinfeld episode where she’s running from a pack of dogs because she’s hidden mutton in the pockets of her coat. Don’t ask why. Just watch the episode.

So that’s my how-to for the day. If you have a dog like mine with a will of his own, you’re going to need some magic every now and then to keep him out of danger. I don’t know if this will work on Moose every time, but I’m grateful it worked yesterday.

Peace out!

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7. Prizes

The ALA Awards were presented last week. There were a LOT of winners. Mom wasn’t any of them. Not only did she not WRITE any of the winning books, she has barely READ any of the winning books. I think she needs to step up her game. She has printed out the list, so that’s a good start.

Meanwhile, I have been winning awards left and right over here.

Our friends Wallace and Samuel  and Coccolino gave us the Best Blog Around the World Award.

best-blog1

Around the WORLD – Hear that, Mom?

photo 2

Our friend at Trifles gave us the Cracking Chrispmouse Bloggywog Award

christmas awardand the Opposites Attract Award

oppositesattractaward

See, Mom? I spread joy, peace, cheer, and stuff like that all over the place.

 hand1

And our friends Little B. and Granny at Angelswhisper gave us the Excellence Award. excellence-awardExcellence, Mom. Not just-OK or good-enough or kinda-nice or a Rate-Your-Story-4.

photo

Thanks to all of our bloggy friends for sharing these awards.

And Mom, it’s seriously time to step up your game.

Less this....

Less this….

...and more this!

…and more this!


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8. Countdown Wednesday

caneldar

Today, Mom and I are counting down about rest.

What I Know About Rest

3. I nap in my bed.

photo 1

2. I nap on the couch.

photo 2

…a lot.

photo 4

16. I nap in the street. (But only in the summer.)

street nap2

1. I nap on Mom’s bed. I am allowed on her bed when she says the word, “OK” and then we sleep there all night long.

photo 10

Who turned out the lights?

I am not allowed on there when she makes the bed, or when she is sorting out her folders and paperwork for her college job.

photo 3

Who? Me?

What Mom Knows About Rest

3. Waking up super-early in the morning, lazing in bed, drinking tea is a perfect, restful start to the day.

photo 11

2. After a story is finished it needs to rest. No working on it, no looking at it, no THINKING about it.

photo 20

Sometimes, a story needs to rest for a week. Sometimes longer.

calendar

1. While a story is asleep, it’s difficult to wait for it to finish resting. It’s good to start mind-writing a new story right away. (And all new stories should be about me!)

swing

26. When stories wake up from resting, they sometimes stink.

photo 30


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9. Countdown Wednesday

Today we are counting down about winning. Not the Charlie Sheen kind which was kind of weird, but the writer kind. And the blogging-dog-of-a-writer-kind.

photo 1

Mom is a Winner

3. Mom’s book won a prize once. It’s called The Moonbeam Award. It shows as a badge on the cover of her book. I think it would look better shaped like a dog bone.

book cover

2. In 2013, Mom’s story Show and Tell Surprise was in Humpty Dumpty Magazine. That was a winner. Plus, magazines taste delicious.

humptyhumpty2

1. Mom also had an acceptance from MeeGenius for her first ever ebook, named What If I Don’t. We can’t even wait to see that one in the MeeGenius Bookstore. BIG winner. Plus, inside my head, I often think, “What-if-I-don’t?”. I hope someday to say it out loud.

meegenius blue

78. Mom is a winner in the 12×12 Challenge. She wrote 12 storybooks in 12 months. Just barely by the skin of her teeth, but she did it.

12-x-12-new-banner

I am a Winner, too!

3. Hutch a Good Life awarded me the Sunshine Award. Yay! I love sunshine. Plus I am afraid of the dark. 

Sunshine

2. Along with Nikitaland, Hutch also gave me the Blog of the Year Award. I have seen friends that have this award, and I am in good company with it. Plus stars are my favorite shape – except for dog bones.

boty-banner600

1. Bacon and AngelsWhisper both awarded me the Friends and Followers Award. I love friends and followers. So, thanks, friends! And thanks, followers!

FRIENDS-FOLLOWERS-award

67. I will give myself the Biggest Rule Breaker Award.

photo 3

Something smells good in here…..

I always ignore rules, so if you are reading my blog, you deserve an award. Feel free to share my bling, and also take a minute to click my friends’ links and check them out. Then maybe you can be a Rule Breaker, too.

photo 2

Mom left a cup of coffee for me. Yay!

 


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10. Gotcha Day #4

Stories go a long way from start to (hopefully) finish.

Mom’s first book went from this…

lightbulb

to this….

manuscript

to this…

book cover w border2

December 12 is my Gotcha Day. You can read my Gotcha story here . We celebrated with ice cream. Mom made me a doggie yogurt ice cream pop with a cookie handle.

pop

I went from this…

blanket baby

to this…

swing

to this…

dress

Change is good.


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11. Inspirational Quote of the Week

It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.

~Franklin D. Roosevelt~

table

Trying something is important. This Roosevelt guy knows what he’s talking about. What would life be like if we didn’t try? Mom tries all the time. She tries to write awesome stories.

book cover w border2

She tries to write funny poems.

loose tooth

She tries to get unusual ideas and to dream up unique characters.

perfect friend

Even though Roosevelt says to – she doesn’t frankly admit failure, but she does keep on trying something.

I try all the time, too. I try to sit on my ParkIt Mat.

parkit

This is boring…

I try to reach things on the table.

table2

I try to fetch the ball and to walk past things even if they’re scary.

fetch

Like Mom, I never admit failure. I only admit, “Oh well.” and “Maybe next time.” and “Is that pumpkin trying to kill me?”

*gulp*

*gulp*


10 Comments on Inspirational Quote of the Week, last added: 11/8/2013
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12. GeoDog

Mom and I went geocaching again last week. Geocaching is like treasure hunting. Mom holds the phone that shows the GPS and compass. Then we walk and walk and walk and walk.

walking

Then she decides the phone is upside down, so she turns it around and we start over. We walk and walk and walk and walk some more – the other way.

walking 2

The phone tells her when we’re getting close, and then we start searching and scanning till we find the treasure.

in a tree

Sometimes, Mom says, “No acorns.”

acorns

and “Don’t eat the pine cone.”

pine cone

and “Yikes! Hornets!”

nest

Geocaching is fun!

geo green

Mom does treasure hunting when she wants to submit a story, too. She has too many stories to count inside her computer and some more inside her head (that’s what’s up in there…). She is sure that one of them is a treasure and will be Book #2. Whenever she reads about a publisher or an agent that seems to be looking for the type of story Mom writes, she starts treasure hunting. She opens up story after story, revises them a little, talks to herself about them, and decides whether she’s headed in the right direction, or needs to turn around and start over.

map


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13. Five Word Friday

Today’s five words are about autumn.

1. Leaves – Leaves are falling everywhere. Some of them are dull and brown. Some are gorgeous and brightly colored. They remind Mom of ideas. Ideas come in all shades, too. Some are brilliant. Some crumble when you touch them.

huh

2. Cool – Mornings and nights have been cool lately. Sweater weather for sure.

sweater

3. Ready – Fall reminds us that winter is coming. We need to be ready. Mom is getting ready for PiBoIdMo. It’s a whole month when she has to write down a new picture book idea every single day. She’ll type them into her phone, and then try to make each one into a story.

piboidmo2013-participant-214x131

4. School – Kids go back to school in the fall. That means I go back to working at Read-To-A-Pet-Night at the library. Sometimes, Mom and I listen to 7 or 8 stories. Some are awesome. Some are …meh.

pet night

5. Halloween – Halloween is in the fall. Mom got me 2 costumes. One of them is a turtle costume. We used to have a turtle named Leave-the-Turtle-Alone. I hope Mom doesn’t change my name to Leave-the-Dog-Alone. That would be too lonely!

IMG_2629

Does anybody want to play with me?


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14. Ideas

Starting on November 1, Mom will be a part of PiBoIdMo.

piboidmo2013-participant-214x131

Yep. November is Picture Book Idea Month. That means she will have to get a picture book idea in her head every day for 30 days.  Last year, she wrote 30 ideas, and 8 of them are now either stories or poems. And one of them will be Mom’s first ever eBook, called What If I Don’t.

piboidmo2013-slogan-490x301

Ideas are a way of life when you’re an author. They are also a way of life when you’re a dog. Here are some ideas I have for stories….

Cupcake, the Best Dog in the World.

polka

Cupcake Gets Unlimited Treats

101 treats

When Cupcake Went for a Ride

car

Cupcake Looks Pretty

closet

Read to a Pet Night Starring Cupcake

pet night

Street Naps for Cupcake

street

Cupcake Turns Seven Years Old

birthday 7

That’s a week’s worth of ideas, right there! What’s the big deal? I wish November was named DogIdMo. I could totally do this!


11 Comments on Ideas, last added: 10/15/2013
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15. Take-My-Picture-Tuesday

I have a lot of costumes. Costumes turn me into a character.

bunny tutu rudolph 4 ladybug2 photo3

Mom has a ton of characters inside her head. She saves them up and puts them into her stories. She studied about developing her characters by writing character sketches of them. The character sketch helps Mom get to know her characters really well.  Really, REALLY well.

Really??

Really??

She needs to know things like: their favorite color, their best talent, their favorite food, their secrets, their favorite words to say, and a million other things. Once Mom knows about her character, then she knows how that character would work best in a story. If I were one of Mom’s characters, this is what she’d know about me….

Favorite color – Pink, what else? I’m a little girl.

pink

Talent – Bowling. Dog bowling…

Favorite food – Bacon treats. And dog food. And MilkBones. And yogurt. And chicken. And pizza. And apples. And peanut butter. And goose poop. And cigar butts. And paper. And dirt.

treats

Secrets – I’m not as dumb as I look. Sssshhhh.

dumb

Favorite thing to say – “Wait! What??”

Wait! What??

Wait! What??


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16. This is Not About Me

This post is not all about me for some reason.

new couch

It’s not even all about Mom. It’s not a birthday party for Mom’s old book, Keep Your Ear on the Ball.

book cover w border2

Or her ALMOST new ebook, What If I Don’t.

meegenius blue

Today, we want to say “Surprise!” and “Happy Birthday, Pam!” to our bloggy-friend Sammy’s Mom.

birthday lights out

If you don’t know Sammy or Pam, you can visit them here. If you want to see ME (and a bunch of bloggy friends) in a special happy birthday video, click below. Hey, wait a minute…maybe this IS about me, after all!


11 Comments on This is Not About Me, last added: 9/25/2013
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17. Five Word Friday

five

Today, I am listing 5 words from Mom’s August 12×12 story. She didn’t like this story very much, but she kept on writing it all the way to the end. (It’s not about me, so I’m not crazy about it either.)

undercover dog

When Mom finally wrote the last sentence, it made her laugh out loud. Mom said, “Well, that was worth the trip, I guess.” and “This story doesn’t sound like me at all!” and “Technically, that’s still a street nap, even though you’re sort of on the sidewalk…”

sidewalk nap

1. Dance – I dance for treats.

dance1dance2

2. Head – My head is tiny. So is my brain. Ummmm…I’m not stuck under there. I’m fine. …Really.

under bench

3. Bounce – Mom is teaching me to sit on my mat, so that (in between dancing), I will not bounce around too much. Someday, I will learn that whole sitting still thing….

mat

4. Dripping – I don’t like getting wet.

raincoat

5. Peanut Butter – Peanut butter, yogurt, a smashed banana, and some honey make a yummy ice cream treat. Mmmm….

ice cream2


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18. Love

Happy Valentine’s Day!

photo12

I love love. I could kiss, cuddle, and snuggle 24 hours a day. Mom should’ve named me Valentine.

Even though Mom loves me a lot, she apparently does not have time to kiss, cuddle, and snuggle with me 24 hours a day. She says, “Sorry, Sweetie. I have things to do.” and “Go play with your toys.” and “Why are you staring at me?”

photo13

Mom loves her work, so she needs time to do that, too. When she was a teacher, she thought it was the best job in the world. Now that she supervises student teachers, she thinks that’s the best job in the world. She also thinks being an author is the best job in the world.

nutley school visit

Somebody (Mom thinks it was Kathy Lee Gifford, but it was actually Confucious) said, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” I guess Mom has never worked a day in her life! Isn’t she lucky?

Have a super-special Valentine’s Day filled with lots of love, kisses, cuddles, and snuggles. xoxo

photo14


10 Comments on Love, last added: 2/15/2013
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19. Happy Ending

Mom loves a happy ending. When she writes a story, she makes sure there’s a problem, and then her characters try to solve it, but they always face obstacles trying to get it done. Mom struggles with the conflict in her stories. She says, “I don’t like trouble.” and “Why can’t things just go smoothly?” and “GET DOWN!!”

piano

I LOVE trouble. Sometimes I surf the top of the piano to see if there’s anything for me to play with or eat. Mom said, “You’re going to get a spankin’!” I thought she said, “You’re going to get some bacon.” I ran into the kitchen so fast, I crashed into the cabinet. No bacon. Why does life have to be so difficult?

At the end of Mom’s stories, the conflict is gone, the obstacles are overcome, and the problems are solved. I love a happy ending.

sleeping


11 Comments on Happy Ending, last added: 2/20/2013
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20. "besties" # 2

I know, the bunnies again...but how could I resist?

ink and pencil on paper

They do seem to be getting along well these days. Unfortunately when I started this drawing they were supposed to be the active subjects of a science experiment (bunny behavior). I guess huddling together in a box is a kind of behavior...

I'm really liking this toned paper I've been using (buff?). I've had it for a while and I'm going to find out what it is and get some full size sheets to work on a bigger project.

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21. Take-My-Picture-Tuesday

photo3

We had an awesome snowstorm, last week. Mom took me for a lot of walks, and each time we went out, it got deeper and deeper.  Here I am trudging through the snow.

photo5

It was almost up to my my belly, but not quite. That would’ve scared me! It was deep enough to make walking slow and difficult, but FUN!

photo4

Mom is working on two new stories at once. She’s in deep, just like I was. Each day she works for a little while on one of the stories and then she works a little while on the other one. It’s slow and it’s difficult, but she’s having fun. That’s because being an author is a blast! It’s just like being a dog in the snow!

photo2


13 Comments on Take-My-Picture-Tuesday, last added: 3/10/2013
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22. I Am NOT a Jedi

4

Renn is a brave, little boy spending some not-so-fun time at the hospital this week. Mom and I are writing a special blog post today just for him. You can read about Renn at The Brain of a Jedi.

Mom’s author friend, Susanna Leonard Hill has  links to lots more well wishes for Renn on her blog. Take a look, and while you’re at it, send along some prayers and happy thoughts for a tough, smart little Jedi and his family.

Mom is afraid of Jedi warriors (No, she’s not. I am…). In fact, she’s afraid of warriors of all kinds (No, she’s not. I am…). Light sabers scare her (No, they don’t. They scare me…). And forget about Darth Vader’s voice. She’s terrified of that guy (No, she’s not. I am…).

So, we’ll have to work with what we have. My cuteness!!

Here I am dancing like a cute ballerina.

If you want to see how smart I am, here I am solving a problem while looking cute.

If you’ve never seen a dog eat Cheerios, watch how cute I am using my Cheerios machine.

And if you need a laugh, watch me tame the laughing mechanical dog (still while looking cute).

And when it’s time to sleep, stop by my booth for the cutest kiss you can get for a nickel…
photo14
Hang in there, buddy! xoxo


12 Comments on I Am NOT a Jedi, last added: 3/11/2013
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23. Wordless Wednesday : Our dog Oso at our favorite beach

Oso at our favorite beach. He has the odd habit of only picking the ball up with one fang. So the ball is always sticking out of the side of his mouth :) <3 him sooo much!

Oso at our favorite beach. He has the odd habit of only picking the ball up with one fang. So the ball is always sticking out of the side of his mouth :)


1 Comments on Wordless Wednesday : Our dog Oso at our favorite beach, last added: 4/18/2013
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24. Otis Dooda: Strange But True

I told myself that while I was at ALA, I wouldn't pick up arcs.  Then a school marketing person handed me two arcs, and publishers gave some to me, and you know how it goes!  The result is that I've been reading a bunch, and now that it's summer and my commute is simply from my bed to the lake, I actually have some time to blog.

The first up, is Ellen Potter's new book Otis Dooda: Strange But True.  Potter has stepped out of her wheelhouse with this illustrated novel for the younger set, but since Potter is writing it, you know the writing is tight.

Otis and the rest of the Dooda family are making a move to NYC.  They are moving into the 35 story Tidwell Towers, which impresses Otis since it looks like it's made up of LEGO blocks!  Otis notices the automatic door and thinks that moving is "kind of cool, like we were moving into a Price Chopper Supermarket!" (p8)  The automatic doors aren't the only thing that is different from Otis' old place...there seems  to be a kid skulking in a potted plant in the lobby.  It turns out that he gives everyone the shakedown for candy and other goods when they come into the building, and if you don't pay up he curses you!

Otis finds this out the hard way, refusing to sacrifice his homemade LEGO lie detector.  Otis gets the details when he befriends Perry, a kid on his floor with the strangest looking and smelliest dog you've ever seen.  One of the great things about Tidwell Towers is that there are lots of kids, and before long Otis is hanging out with Perry, Cat and Boris and they are hatching plans to put the kibosh on the plant guy.

What follows is an often hilarious tale of the often dysfunctional apartment slash big city life.  As I said, this isn't what I would necessarily expect from Potter, however, I know at my library I have daily requests for "something with lots of pictures, like Wimpy Kid", and this fits the bill.  Strange parents, a creepy older brother, rats and poodles,  friends with parents with odd jobs, and trying to dodge the inevitable summer enrollment in classes all come into play.  The humor is sly and horse read oriented at the same time, and readers will likely laugh out loud along the way.

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25. Anna Was Here, by Jane Kurtz

Anna is a worrier.  But she is also a planner, which helps to alleviate some of those worries.  Her weekly Safety Club meetings also help.  She doesn't let the fact that the only other member left is Jericho - Anna's Sunday school teacher and part of her minister father's college group.  But it is in one of these very meetings, that Jericho lets some news slip.  News that Anna hadn't heard.

Anna's family is moving to Kansas.

This unleashes a whole new set of worries for Anna.  She's prepared for weather emergencies in Colorado, not Kansas.  She is going to have to sleep in a house that belongs to a church!  She is going to have to deal with cousins.

Little does Anna know that there will be emergencies that will change her family and make her look at the big picture instead of focusing on her own private worries.

Anna Was Here is a charming book that explores family and faith in equal measure.  Anna's family is Christian and their faith truly does drive their actions and their interactions.  Even if readers are not religious they will be able to identify with the themes of moving, getting past oneself and shifting allegiances.  Anna's relationships with her cousins and her conflict with her dad are perfectly age appropriate and it's refreshing to see her grow out of behaviors and into herself.  A perfect read for those kids who are fighting the change of growing up, and for those families who are looking for Christian books for kids.

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