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Results 1 - 25 of 186
1. Good Morning, and Happy 4th

Yawn. Stretch. Um, good morning.

It's March 16th, right? Snow still on the ground?

(My last post was on March 15th.)

What! It's July 4th? So, that's what all the noise is about. 

Oh, dear. I have missed a day or two a few months. We're all fine, the chickens are fine (and sassy), and the summer is really fine. My son, J., and I are listening to an audiobook of The Outsiders, narrated by Jim Fyfe. I cannot remember if I ever read the young adult novel before, but hearing it this way is wonderful. Fyfe does a great job with different voices for all the characters.

My 13-year-old Minecraft devotee must read the Seamus Heaney translation of Beowulf this summer for school. I refuse to make any comments indicating doubt here. Fortunately, there's an audiobook for that one, too.

I've been reading a lot since I'm taking a Coursera course called "The Fiction of Relationship" and just finished up Kafka's Metamorphosis for the first time ever. Gregor Samsa the bug made me incredibly sad. (Pssst: why don't you join me as a fellow student in the fall for "Modern and Contemporary American Poetry"?)

My year with the sweet class of third-grade rowdies is over, and we had a great time reading together and talking about books. I hope to post about what we read soon. At year's end I was invited to a third-grade pool party. Featuring an in-ground pool, it was noted with pride. The other details—date, time, address—were not spelled out, but I loved the thought nonetheless.

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2. Blog Break

Good morning, everyone. I am taking a bit of a blog break, but hope to return before too long. My father passed away recently. When I was a little girl, he read aloud every single one of Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books to me. Dad would get so wrapped up in the stories that he would read ahead in the books after I went to sleep. During one of his trips up east, my father made sure to visit Malone, New York, childhood home of Wilder's husband, Alonzo. Farmer Boy is set there, and that was one of Dad's favorites in the series. I have such good memories of my father, and his reading aloud to me is one of them. A beautiful gift. 

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3. GigiStudio Etsy Spring Sale

Hi! I’m having a sale in my shop. ❀ Special Spring Sale ❀ 15% off all prints in my shop. Sale starts Friday, April 22st thru Friday, April 29th Coupon Code: Spring2011 Click the image below and it will take you to my etsy shop.

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4. Protected: convo

There is no excerpt because this is a protected post.

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5. Better Parents?

[Economics expert Andreas] Schleicher explained to [Thomas L. Friedman] that “just asking your child how was their school day and showing genuine interest in the learning that they are doing can have the same impact as hours of private tutoring."

Oooh, ooh, I have this down. I am so glad to know that conversations like the following will lead to ratcheted-up test scores, according to the New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman. His piece yesterday called for "better parents" and better parental involvement in children's education.

Picture this: a suburban mom picking up her 12 year old from school. Son settles into front seat of car.

Mom (brightly): How was your day?

Son (with indifference): Good.

Mom waits for more information. Mom hears none. Mom tries to think of engaging topic.

Mom: What did you have for lunch?

Son: [Long sigh.] I forgot. Maybe a sandwich? 

Mom, so devoted to her own lunch that she cannot believe anyone could forget what he ate, ponders a new subject.

Mom: So, I guess you played soccer at P.E.?

Perhaps the kind-of-a-statement/kind-of-a-question format will work.

Son [Shorter sigh, more like a huff]: We ALWAYS play soccer. It's soccer season. I'm gonna turn on the radio, okay?

I have more tips for great test-score-raising talks like this. Just ask!

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6. Protected: sketches

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7. This Morning's Laugh

...comes from the blog of Editorial Anonymous, a children's book editor. This morning E.A. answers a question about an author queries:

If you're writing nonfiction, then yes, we really do want some reason to think that the nonfiction is not full of mistakes copied from Wikipedia, or "facts" revealed to you on a piece of toast by Jesus.

Read the whole post.

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8. Giant Sock Monkey Roommate

My daughter just received the finest going-away-to-college-gift ever! It’s a giant sock monkey, named Lloyd. And what better roommate is there than a fluffy, cute stuffed animal who cannot talk, cry, complain, drink or be messy? Thank you Dylan O!


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9. One Fish, Two Fish Sneakers?

Heck, yeah. Look at this Zappos page of the Dr. Seuss line of Converse sneakers. I love 'em, especially the infant/toddler "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish" shoes and this pair for adults. Maybe a better Seussian than I can figure out where the illustrations are from on the second ones.

Props to the new blog It's Always an Adventure, where I first read about the sneaks.

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10. Twitter Virus 9/21

As of Tuesday morning 9/21, there seems to be a virus on Twitter. Beware. I am staying away for now. If you know a safe place for Twitter status updates, please leave it in the comments!

Here is one place: http://status.twitter.com/

Boing Boing has some information too: http://www.boingboing.net/

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11. Banned Books Week

The American Library Association and others have declared this week Banned Books Week.

A couple of years ago I wrote about a banned book during Banned Books Week and got into a yearlong argument with Chris Crutcher's assistant. When I finally cried and sobbed, "Leave me alone!," she did. Kidding. Sort of.

I could start another arugment, I suppose, about plot points and stylistic writing choices (the argument was not about banning), but instead will direct readers elsewhere: one of my favorite writers on book challenges and know-nothing nutters is the school librarian Camille Powell, who blogs at Book Moot. Here is a link.

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12. More on Banned Books 2010

Didn't I tell you on Monday that Camille Powell (who blogs at BookMoot) dishes up the straight talk on banned books? Here she is again, quoted in Time Magazine's article on YA author Ellen Hopkins' being disinvited from a Texas teen literary festival and the ensuing fallout: "If You Can't Ban Books, Ban Authors," by Phil Bildner. (Thanks to @gregpincus for the news.)

The Paper Cuts blog at the New York Times neatly summarizes another recent controversy in which a Missouri professor is attempting to get the YA novel Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson, pulled from local high-school curriculum. See "Twitter: Banned Books' New Best Friend," by Lela Moore.

Then there's Sherman Alexie's YA book, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which has been banned from a Missouri high school. More at "Mo. School Board Keeps Ban on Award-Winning Book," an AP story at the Southeast Missourian newspaper. (Link via the Tattered Cover bookstore's blog.)

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13. I love my Mom War revision and can't wait to dig even deeper!

Wow, it's been a really long time since I posted.  I'll fill you in on what I've been up to in a sec, and want to let you know that as soon as I'm able to put my Mom War revision aside for a bit, I'll type up my notes from the FL SCBWI Conference in Miami and share as much as I can with you.  It was an absolutely AMAZING weekend! 

Since it might be a few days or longer until I'm ready to post, I'll give you an incredible nugget agent Erin Murphy shared on a handout loaded with questions to explore when revising.  I do keep an eye on a lot of them already, but I love having them all in one easy to find place.  While I'm doing a few last full rounds of revision on Mom War, I'm going to select two to four questions each round and make sure I explore them in every scene.  Erin said that Robin LaFevers has a great site that contains a good portion of the ideas that inspired her handout.  I haven't had a chance to read through the entire site yet, but I love how easy it is to find writing gems like a characterization worksheet and plotting advice (scroll down and you'll see a list of labels on the right side).  Thanks for sharing all this wonderful writing info, Erin and Robin!   

Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld put on yet another amazing conference.  The speakers were incredible, and it was great to see so many writing friends, make some new ones, and spend time with the wonderful faculty.  If you want a sneak peek at the photos, you can view them here.   

What else have I been up to since I last posted?  Well, besides, revising, revising, revising, critiquing, reading, and attending the FL SCBWI Miami Conference, I also had to bring my 1 1/2 year old Bullmassador pup in for knee surgery. 

Lolly always seemed a bit stiff right after standing up, but when she started limping, I rushed her to the vet.  Before I knew it, we went to a surgeon who pinned her rear right knee into place.  It looks like we'll have to go through the same thing with the left knee, too.  She's been spending most of her time in my office, often curled around my chair. I can't wait until she's able to run around and chase balls again--it isn't easy keeping my energetic eighty-two pound pup from climbing stairs, running, and going into psycho play mode.

I went to Lake Tahoe for the first time with my family.  Wow--it is absolutely gorgeous there!  I'll share two of my favorite photos below, and if you want to see more, you can click on this link

I'll try to post the novel intensive notes soon, but need to go through my MG one more time,revise a couple picture books, and catch up on some critiques I owe before I'll reward myself by taking a break to type up my notes. 
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14. Elsewhere

Amid a pile of Junior's school papers, I found the following list:

To Do

1. Get a gigantic snake.

2. Get a German Shepherd puppy.

3. Buy a Rolls Royce.

4. Everything else.

In terms of the blog lately, I've been a bit in the #4 mode. I've been reading up a storm...but adult books. Two of them did feature reclusive children's book author characters, and one could be a crossover book for teens. I'll try to write about that soon. My new-found wild enthusiasm for fiction in translation continues, and I've been studying sites like Words Without Borders, Three Percent, The Millions, and Translationista.

We visited my dad down south for a big birthday, and then hosted a mini-reunion of other family here at our house with ten tons of delicious New York deli-style food: bagels, lox, corned beef, pastrami, chocolate babka, half-sour pickles, the works. There should be an entire holiday devoted to eating chocolate babka; I may have to declare it. (Epicurious has a recipe I want to try.) During the reunion I was amazed when a young cousin almost single-handedly finished a difficult jigsaw puzzle of a William Wegman dog photo.

Part of last weekend was spent cleaning up the garden, and getting ready to plant herbs outside in less than a month. Woo hoo! The chickens accompanied Junior and me in our digging, and Lovey kicked dirt in our faces as she happily hunted for worms and bugs. We kept having to turn her around. Queen Elizabeth III (Queenie) is still a nervous sort, but we hope she'll come around and won't think of us as the Giant Enemies Who Must Be Avoided.

And, if you're a birder, you know that April is a huge month for migrating birds, and just this afternoon I spotted my first warbler of the year. Warblers are tiny songbirds, often brightly colored. They're hard to tell apart, so I've spent a lot of time going over the guide books in anticipation.

Happy April, happy reading, and happy everything else!

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15. Overheard Kid Conversation

The scene: Two boys, both around 10, watching a kitten play.

Boy #1 (with a sigh): Wouldn't it be so cool to have a tail?

Boy #2: Yeah. And retractable claws.


From the archives: Guys Read, 1st Grade Version

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16. Hey, That's Me!

Sometimes I do other things besides blog. No, really. For instance, I have this new pair of binoculars, and I use them to check out the bird life in the neighborhood and nearby—in addition to the two hens in the front-yard chicken coop, of course. Recently the new binocs and I were captured not on film but in a sketch. Go see.

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17. Welcome, Choice Literacy Readers!

A big welcome to the readers of Choice Literacy's excellent newsletter, which kindly mentioned Chicken Spaghetti's "Best Children's Books of 2009: The Big List of Lists."  The weekly newsletter is free, and I highly recommend it.  

To find out more about the organization, check its web site, which says that Choice Literacy is "the home on the web for K-12 literacy leaders. We are literacy coaches, teachers, and school leaders with experience in dozens of diverse classrooms. This site presents the best of the tools, guides, literacy lessons, and sage advice we've gathered and tucked away as we've worked together over the years."

If you haven't seen the Chicken Spaghetti list lately, lots of best-kids-books links have been added, including those from Smithsonian Magazine, Audio File, and Nick Jr.

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18. Monday Morning Coffee Talk, 1.11.10

Last week the new ambassador for young people's literature was announced: Katherine Paterson. Hurray! A big group of bloggers also saluted the outgoing ambassador, Jon Scieszka. Though late, I'll add to the chorus: thank you very much, Mr. S.!

The Newbery, Caldecott, and a host of other children's book awards will be announced on January 18th. Details at the web site of the prizes' sponsor, the American Library Association. A plea to the ALA: please, please, please put a clearly labelled link on your home page so other readers don't have to hunt around the whole site. And while I'm at it, "ALA Youth Media Awards" means nothing to the general public; please include the words "Newbery" and "Caldecott." Thank you.

Elizabeth Bird, of the New York Public Library and A Fuse #8 Production, is taking a poll of the top 100 children's fictional chapter books. What's your favorite?

The NAACP Image Awards include honors for children's and teens' books. The 2009 nominees make up a very interesting list.

At the blog Charlotte's Library, you'll find a good list of 2009 children's books featuring dragons. (When I was little, I wanted so much for dragons to be real.)

Want a laugh? The hilarious blog Awful Library Books gave the nod to the best awful books of the year last month.

Meanwhile the proprietor of My Parents Were Awesome has a book deal, says GalleyCat.

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19. Haiti

Author Mitali Perkins put together a good list of children's books about and set in Haiti, at her blog, Mitali's Fire Escape. She writes, "Stories can bring faraway people and places from the screen into our homes and hearts, and keep them there, even through information overload or compassion fatigue." I can't say it any better than that. 

The Rumpus details a number of ways to help in Haiti.

A teacher in Haiti—and one of my kid-book-blogging friends—whose site is There Is No Such Thing as a God-Forsaken Town, says, "Things are worse than anyone can imagine. Our whole family is fine and our house and school are standing and apparently undamaged. 14 others at our house." She asks for our prayers. 

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20. On Behalf of Lunch Ladies

A recent conversation with my son, age 10.

Junior: Mom, when you were in school, were the lunch ladies mean?

Me: Hmm. No, they weren't. I remember them as being nice.

Junior (with relief in his voice): Yeah, they're nice. At my school they're nice. But in books they're always mean.

Me: Yeah, I noticed that, too. 

Junior: It isn't true.

Me: Nope.

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21. Comment Moderation Note

Due to spam problems, I have had to turn on comment moderation for a while, so all comments are held until I approve them. Perhaps this will stem the spam tide, at least for a while.  I wish I didn't have to do it, though.

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22. Monday Afternoon Coffee Break, 2.1.10

28 Days Later, a monthlong celebration of African American writers and illustrators, at The Brown Bookshelf

2010 Newbery winner Rebecca (When You Reach Me) Stead, interviewed by Kurt Andersen, at WNYC Radio's Studio 360

Author Katherine Paterson on Apple's iPad, at the New York Daily News. "It is as futile for us to fight technological advances as it was for Plato to battle literacy."

A new Carnival of Children's Literature, with links to many blog posts, at Jenny's Wonderland of Books

Jen Robinson's newsy roundup, at PBS Parents' Booklights blog

On February 8th in NYC, PEN American Center presents "Crafting a Career as a Children's or Young Adult Author," a free panel discussion with Brian Floca, Richard Peck, Jane O'Connor, and Marilyn Singer. David Levithan will moderate. Details here.

Speaking of Brian Floca, I highly recommend Moonshot, a gem of a picture book about the Apollo 11 moon landing. Floca's college newspaper, The Brown Daily Herald, recently talked to the author-illustrator-award winner.

A bounty of recommendations for nonfiction books for children, at Wild About Nature, host of this week's Nonfiction Monday fiesta.

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23. We're completely cut off from the world!


Sorry I've completely disappeared lately, but we moved and have no internet, tv, or phone. Thank you AT&T! You're so not cutting it these days.

We're enjoying our new home, mess and all. I'm slowly digging us out from under all the boxes. It may be June before I get through it all. Loving my new kitchen, but it's a challenge to downsize to about half of what I had. It's cozy, though.

My youngest is home sick with bronchitis. Poor guy. I had it a little, too. Being sick is bad enough, but without tv and internet it just plain SUCKS! We're at Starbucks checking email. I miss my Tweeps and blogs.

The weather has been beautiful! 70 degrees and sunny. Blossoms on the trees. It looking a lot like spring.

I hoped to back soon. Maybe if I call AT&T everyday to complain, they'll get their act together.

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24. Nothing to do with illustrating but I am purroud

A shout out to my English Nephew Jonny and the song "Starry Eyed" which he wrote for English pop star Ellie Goulding!! Soon to be in the US, we hope. (What a road he walked to get there.)

You ROCK, Jonny. Major congrats!!!!!

(Oh, and congrats on your brand new spankin' baybeh, too!! You know the one that cries and needs to be fed, and nappy changed.)

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25. Harvey

Have you ever heard of the movie, Harvey with Jimmy Stewart (my favorite actor)? It’s about a man who sees a rabbit that others cannot see. Well, my daughter’s high school put on a play version of the movie. We held the cast party here and I made a big cake honoring our school director:


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