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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: young readers, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 35
1. Liz’s Picks Video: Fireboat, by Maira Kalman

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Liz discusses Fireboat, by Maira Kalman, as a special book to share with a young reader around the topic of September 11.

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2. Our Favorite Books for December

Our five favorite books for the month of December feature caterpillars, pigs (both large and guinea), and several incredible heroines. All make perfect holiday gifts and can be found on the First Book Marketplace.

PreK-1st (Ages 2-6)

VHC_bilingualThe Very Hungry Caterpillar / La oruga muy hambrienta written and illustrated by Eric Carle

One of the most popular books on the First Book Marketplace is back after a brief hibernation in its cocoon. Eric Carle’s unique illustrations are as charming as they were 40 years ago, but now even more students can count along as our hungry friend eats its way through fruit, junk food, and leaves in this Spanish-English bilingual board book. No matter how many times your students flip through each page, they will stay hungry for more (with minimal risk of stomachaches).

Grades 1-3 (Ages 6-9)

Mercy_WatsonMercy Watson to the Rescue written by Kate DiCamillo and illustrated by Chris Van Dusen

As it turns out, the floorboards in the Watson household are not strong enough to support a grown man, a grown woman, and a hefty pig named Mercy all sleeping in the same bed. With a BOOM and a CRACK, all three Watsons wake up to find the bed teetering over a hole, but it’s Mercy to the Rescue! Or is it? Actually, no. Mercy has snuffled her way over to their elderly neighbors, the Lincoln Sisters, in search of sugar cookies. Luckily, Mercy’s actions still might get somebody to call the Fire Department for help. With delightful illustrations and loveable characters, this Advanced Reader is sure to make any student feel all “warm and buttery-toasty inside” as they cheer along this porcine-wonder.

Grades 2-4 (Ages 8-10)

Hamster_CheeseHamster and Cheese (Guinea Pig, Pet Shop Private Eye Series #1) written by Colleen AF Venable and illustrated by Stephanie Yue

Zounds! Somebody has been stealing Mr. Venezi’s sandwiches from the counter of his pet shop. He suspects the hamsters are the culprits and threatens to send them all away if his sandwich is stolen again, prompting the exceptionally excitable Hamisher the hamster to enlist the help of Detective Sasspants, Guinea P.I.(g). But how is this reluctant pet shop Private Eye supposed to solve a mystery when the hamsters sleep through the crime, the fish are too distracted by their reflections, and Gerry, the most suspicious slithery suspect, won’t cooperate? Jump into this hilarious graphic novel to find out and test your own detective skills along the way.

Grades 5-6 (Ages 10-12)

Mighty_Miss_MaloneThe Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis

In 1936, the town of Gary, Indiana, was held fast in the grip of the Great Depression, homelessness, and the ever-present scourge of racism – however, it was also home to a loving family of four uniquely talented people. Readers are given a window into this world through the eyes of the earnest, book-brilliant, and fiercely loyal protagonist Deza, the youngest member of the Malone family. With a father in search of a job and a brother in pursuit of his dream, Deza soon finds her tight-knit family torn apart. She will need every ounce of her unflappable optimism to hold her loved ones together, so they can continue, undaunted, on their journey to that place they call Wonderful.

Grades 7+ (Ages 13+)

Code_Name_VerityCode Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Code Name Verity is the ultimate story of friendship and sacrifice, following the stories told by two heroines caught behind enemy lines in Nazi occupied France. Feverishly gripping and expertly plotted, this award-winning novel will make you gasp, cry, and want to go find your best friend and hug him or her right away. Whether told under the influence of horrendous torture or guiltily crammed in the lines of a pilot’s note book, you won’t be able to stop reading these confessions until you reach the stunning conclusion.

The post Our Favorite Books for December appeared first on First Book Blog.

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3. BOOK OF THE DAY: The June 2012 List!


Plan in advance for father’s day! The month of June is dedicated to books for dads and boys…don’t worry, a few dads & daughter books thrown in too! Good list for reluctant readers as well as summer vacation. Enjoy!

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4. The Joys of Writing for Middle Grade/Teen Readers

Guest Post: 5 Reasons I like Writing for Middle Grade/Teen Readers 
By Cheryl Carpinello

1. Being able to write the types of stories I loved to read as a kid.

As a kid, I devoured books: adventures, mysteries, fantasies, animal stories. As an adult, I still enjoy the same types of reading, but I don’t find myself getting ‘lost’ in the adult reads. And so I write the stories of my youth.  ex. The Harry Potter series

2. Knowing that kids lend themselves to imagination easier than adults.

Young readers, like adults, can be a difficult audience to write for. What I’ve found, though, is that they eagerly enter into the world of a book easier than adults. The innocence and imagination of young readers knows no limits at this age.  ex. The Hunger Games, The Twilight series

3. Helping young readers to see their world in a different way or from a different viewpoint.

Frequently, young readers only see their world from their own point of view. Try visiting a middle school or high school and seeing all the drama that goes on with the boys as well as the girls. Creating the types of characters that these readers can identify and empathize with, helps them to see their real-life situations differently.  ex. A Child Called It.

4. Understanding that while young readers enjoy stories, they are also looking for truths about themselves and life.

Being a hero isn’t easy. Sometimes heroes doubt themselves as well as those around them. Sometimes, heroes even fail, but they don’t give up. Young readers tend to think that they have to be perfect all the time, succeed all the time. As adults, we know that isn’t true or even possible.  ex. The Lord of the Rings

5. Getting letters/emails from young readers.

Young readers are not shy. One of the exciting reasons I enjoy writing for these ages is that they have no qualms about saying what they think. Kids may not always be tactful when expressing their feelings, but they are truthful. It is the truth about your writing that will make you a better writer. As a high school writing teacher, I always tried to couch my criticisms in a positive, but instructive manner. In a way, this is what young readers do also if we as writers listen.

About the Author: 
Although a retired teacher, Cheryl Carpinello still has a passion for working with kids. She regularly conducts Medieval Writing Workshops for local elementary/middle schools and the Colorado Girl Scouts. She is not the only one who loves Medieval Times and the King Arthur Legend. The kids thoroughly enjoy writing their own medieval stories complete with dragons, wizards, unicorns and knights!

She loves to travel and her other job is with a major airline. Her favorite trip was a two week visit to Egypt with her husband that included traveling by local train from one end of Egypt to the other.

Some of her favorite books include The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Once and Future King, and any by the duo Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child.
The World of Ink Network will be touring both of author Cheryl Carpinello’s Middle Grade Arthurian Legend books, The King’s Ransom (Young Knights of the Round Table) published by MuseItUp Publishing and Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend published by Outskirts Press throughout January 2013.

Some stories become legend while some legends become stories!

You can find out more about Cheryl Carpinello, her books and World of Ink Author/Book Tour at http://tinyurl.com/ajka7zv

Follow Cheryl Carpinello at
Carpinello’s Writing Pages http://carpinelloswritingpages.blogspot.com


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5. In The End, It's All About Young Readers

The whole I'M BORED adventure has been amazing and continues to be amazing. Whenever things start to settle, something else happens that reminds me all over again to appreciate every moment.

I was floored about how it all began, with a rejection and a friend's encouragement. Then came the Simon & Schuster BFYR book illustration contract and the SCBWI Illustrator Mentorship program. Then the fun and immense satisfaction in collaborating with my editor and art director on the project.

Because I had been so focused on just trying to get published in past years, I underestimated how much joy I would get from reader feedback. Wow. 

Experienced authors and illustrators out there are likely much more used to this, but I'M BORED is my first children's book project and I'm still getting used to the fact that people out there -- people who aren't related to me and don't know me -- are looking at my illustrations in a published book they bought or borrowed.

From Paula Speer White, who sent me the photo above: "This book is excellent for teaching verbal irony at the secondary level and self-efficacy at the elementary level~I give it a 10! Humorous, courageous, and witty!"

I've heard from some parents whose children have learning challenges or who are slow readers, who delight in the humor and want to read the book over and over again.

Parents tell me that their older children are enjoying the book as well, reading it on their own.

Librarians tell me that I'M BORED has become a favorite with their young readers. I so love the idea of a copy of the book eventually becoming battered and dog-eared because of constant use. 

I think about a young person sitting down with a copy of I'M BORED, or perhaps having the book read to them by an adult, and try to imagine what happens as they listen to the story. Does it make them laugh out? Does it engage their imaginations? Do they identify more with the little girl or the Potato? Does the experience engage them enough to encourage a greater love of books and reading?

Does it change them for the better, even in a very tiny way?

Oh, I truly hope so.

What I've come to realize: While it's good to keep the market in mind (particularly if you want to get your work accepted by a traditional publishing house), remember that it's all about young readers. In the end, we create the magic for them, not the industry.


For more fun photos, see the I'M BORED In The Wild reader gallery. If you'd like to submit a photo, here's how.

Teachers: if your class sends me snaimail about I'M BORED, I'll write back (with doodles!).

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6. Love TOON

TOON Books offers 11 of their titles for FREE online viewing.  AWESOME for young readers, these books have a Read to Me option for younger kids, too.   I love TOON.

The TOON library is all part of Professor Garfield's website.  (That's Garfield, as in the orange cat?)  Check it out.  It looks like fun.

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7. So what do we think? The Wild West: 365 days


 The Wild West: 365 days


 Wallis, Michael. (2011) The Wild West: 365 days. New York, NY: Abrams Press. ISBN 978-0810996892 All ages.

 Publisher’s description: The Wild West: 365 Days is a day-by-day adventure that tells the stories of pioneers and cowboys, gold rushes and saloon shoot-outs in America’s frontier. The lure of land rich in minerals, fertile for farming, and plentiful with buffalo bred an all-out obsession with heading westward. The Wild West: 365 Days takes the reader back to these booming frontier towns that became the stuff of American legend, breeding characters such as Butch Cassidy and Jesse James. Author Michael Wallis spins a colorful narrative, separating myth from fact, in 365 vignettes. The reader will learn the stories of Davy Crockett, Wild Bill Hickok, and Annie Oakley; travel to the O.K. Corral and Dodge City; ride with the Pony Express; and witness the invention of the Colt revolver. The images are drawn from Robert G. McCubbin’s extensive collection of Western memorabilia, encompassing rare books, photographs, ephemera, and artifacts, including Billy the Kid’s knife.

 Our thoughts:

 This is one of the neatest books I’ve seen in a long time. The entire family will love it. Keep it on the coffee table but don’t let it gather dust!

 Every page is a look back into history with a well-known cowboy, pioneer, outlaw, native American or other adventurer tale complete with numerous authentic art and photo reproductions. The book is worth owning just for the original pictures.  But there is more…an index of its contents for easy reference too! Not only is this fun for the family, it is excellent for the school or home classroom use too. A really fun way to study the 19th century too and also well received as a gift.  I highly recommend this captivating collection! See for yourself at the Litland.com Bookstore.

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8. So what do we think? Wally the Cock-Eyed Cricket


Wally the Cockeyed Cricket


 Brown, Bea (2011) Wally the Cockeyed Cricket. Mustang, OK: Tate Publishing. ISBN 978-1-61777-106-4.  Recommended age 8 and under.

 Publisher’s descriptionWhen Wally the Cockeyed Cricket finds himself trapped in Mrs. Grumpydee’s kitchen, he sings a sad song and Mrs. Grumpydee’s locks Wally in a jar. When the jar is knocked over and shatters, Wally the Cockeyed Cricket sings a different tune.

 Our thoughts:

 Read it—see it—listen to it! The great thing about books from Tate Publishing is that you do not need to choose between print and audio formats because books have a code that permits you to download the audio version on MP3 too! The print version has beautifully captivating illustrations. Yet the young man (ok, he sounds young to this old reviewer!) reading the audio does an excellent job at it. A great enhancement to teach reading to little ones :>)

 Of course, the most important reason to consider adding this book to your child’s bookshelf is because they will enjoy the story! As evidenced by its title, Wally looks a little different than most crickets. He doesn’t think anything of this difference and is happy as can be. Until, that is, he unfortunately wanders into Mrs. Grumpydee’s kitchen! Captured, bullied and made a public spectacle, Wally never loses courage or confidence. Helped with the aid of a complete stranger, he is rescued and makes a new friend. Virtues exhibited are courage, justice and friendship.  A feel-good story where the good guys win! Great parent-child sharing, Pre-3rd grade class or homeschool, bedtime reading, gift giving, therapy use, and family book club! Grab your copy at the Litland.com Bookstore.

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9. So what do we think? Abe’s Lucky Day

Abe’s Lucky Day


 Warren, Jill. (2011) Abe’s Lucky Day. Outskirts Press Inc. ISBN 978-1-4327-7305-2. Age 8 and under.

 Publisher’s description:  Any day can be a lucky day.  Abe is a homeless man who lives in the alley behind a bakery and winter is coming. What will happen on his lucky day that will change his life? 

Our thoughts:

 Introducing us to the varied faces of distress and homelessness, Abe’s Lucky Day reminds us that , while food, warm clothes and dry beds feel great, helping others feels even better. Illustrations permit the child to imagine themselves in the story, and so can feel the heartwarming rewards of selflessness…definitely good for your Litland.com family book club or a preschool classroom. Part luck and lots of kindness, Abe’s Lucky Day infuses a desire for kindness and generosity into its reader’s mind and heart, and is sure to strengthen bonds within the family reading it as well :>) Great for gift-giving, pick up your copy in our Litland.com Bookstore!

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10. BOOK OF THE DAY: February 2012 List


No need to wait until the end of February for the complete list. Here it is–plan ahead! Click on the link above, and also follows us on Facebook at Litland Reviews http://facebook.com/Litlandreviews

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11. BOOK OF THE DAY: The January list!


Here it is! The book of the day challenge, to recommend a new book or related media every day in 2012. January is complete, and attached for handy download–just click on the above link. February is on the way! “Friend” Litland Reviews on Facebook to see daily recommendations as they post. http://facebook.com/Litlandreviews

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12. BOOK OF THE DAY: March 2012 list


Spring is upon us, and you can prepare for both Spring and Summer vacations with plenty of good books! Check out recommendations for all ages, plus DVD’s and teaching too!

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13. Book of the day: April


The full April list is here. Get a sneak peak at the 2nd half of the month and stock up for summer vacation too!

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14. BOOK OF THE DAY: The May 2012 List


In celebration of Mother’s day, moms, women and daughters, recommendations span ages and areas of interest. Great for summer vacation reading too!

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15. Dutton to Publish First John Grisham Series for Kids

I was very excited to read that Dutton is set to publish a series for kids!  I have always loved his work and to see a children’s series is triple exciting!

Penguin Young Readers Group in the U.S. and Hodder & Stoughton in the U.K. announced today that they will be publishing bestselling author John Grisham’s first series of books for children. The middle-grade series will focus on 13-year-old Theodore Boone, a legal whiz kid. In the first book, Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer, Theo gets caught up in a high-profile murder trial in his town. It’s scheduled to be released by Dutton Children’s Books on May 25, and on June 10 by Hodder in the U.K. The second book, as yet untitled, is scheduled for release in 2011.

Penguin bought the series yesterday in a two-book deal with Grisham’s longtime agent, David Gernert of the Gernert Company. Don Weisberg, president of Penguin Young Readers Group, and Julie Strauss-Gabel, associate publisher at Dutton, acquired North American hardcover and paperback rights to the series, and Strauss-Gabel will edit the two books. Oliver Johnson, publisher at Hodder & Stoughton, will edit Grisham in the U.K.

“Since children’s books is a completely different area of publishing than adult, and since John had never experienced any publishing in the children’s area, we went out and spoke to a very, very small number of people we felt were particularly good at children’s books,” said Gernert, adding that Random House, Grisham’s adult publisher, was in the mix. “We tried to figure out who had the vision for launching Theo that most matched John’s, and it ended up being Penguin and Don Weisberg.”

Both Johnson and Weisberg have previous connections to Grisham, though neither Penguin nor Hodder publish his adult books. Johnson was Grisham’s longtime editor at Random House U.K. before moving to Hodder, and Weisberg oversaw sales for Grisham’s books when he was head of the sales department at Random House U.S. “I’ve worked with John for many years,” Weisberg said in an interview. “What makes John Grisham so successful as an adult writer just lends itself to the middle-grade format and age group. The pace, the intelligence, the way he respects his audience, it’s just terrific.”

According to Weisberg, publicity plans for the series are “still being discussed. Our marketing plans and promotional plans will be very aggressive, obviously. Details to come. We’re in the planning stages.” Gernert said that his agency is just beginning to look into selling the series into foreign territories. Grisham has more than 250 million books in print worldwide, and his books have been published in 29 languages.

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16. Great Summer Read! Iggy the Iguana: Summer League

What do iguanas named Iggy and Liz, Buddy the bullfrog, a turtle named Snap Shell, Marc the Mouse and Cooper the chameleon have in common? They all love baseball! The follow-up to Iggy the Iguana is a perfect read for 7-10 year-olds. Summer League focuses on normal kid problems in the form of a very different All-Star baseball team.

Iggy faces challenges throughout the summer that all young readers (and older readers!) can relate to, and has to make a very important decision about a whether to keep a secret that could compromise the whole team.

With summer just around the corner, although snow accumulations in he Northeast would contradict that statement, Iggy the Iguana: Summer League, is the perfect read, and comes highly recommended by this reader!

To see a video interview with author, Melissa M. Williams, click here.

Melissa M. Williams has been writing stories since the age of eight years old. Many of her stories were inspired by real-life experiences with childhood pets she owned while growing up in Houston, Texas. After receiving her Bachelor's degree in Psychology, she moved to Dallas, TX to pursue a Master's degree in Professional Counseling. While in graduate school, she finished her first children's book, "Iggy the Iguana", and proceeded to have the book published before the age of twenty-six. Many of the ideas in this book were inspired by Miss Williams' experiences as a substitute teacher for third and fourth grade classes in the city of Dallas.

In addition to writing for children, she is a published songwriter and has co-written for her younger sister’s, Misha, International Albums. Melissa currently lives in Houston, Texas and visits schools through out the entire Texas region, promotion literacy, creativity, and learning for kids. Her Literacy Foundation Read3Zero now offers children the opportunity to be published by her own publishing company, LongTale Publishing.

Iggy the Iguane Website


Melissa M. Williams website

More on YouTube with Iggy and Melissa Williams

Discover the Magic in Cynthia's Attic - Mary Cunningham Books

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17. Glamour Girl From The Stars - Carlton Scott

GLAMOUR GIRL FROM THE STARS-- Out of this world rhyming story about a 3 foot tall alien girl named Plee-Dee who borrows her father's flying saucer to visit Earth hoping to enter the Miss Universe Pageant in LA. She visits different cultures around the world realizing she feels good about herself without having to enter pageants. The book intends to teach little girls self esteem. Illustrations in colored pencil and photos from the author.


As a kid, I loved anything to do with space. At risk a revealing my age, the first poem I ever wrote (around age 9) began, "When I was a little girl like you, I went up in Sputnik # 2." For those of you younger than 60, Google Sputnik.

I can only imagine how much I would've loved Glamour Girl From the Stars, by Carlton Scott. Heck, I love it now at a much-advanced age.

Looking through a telescope across the Universe, Plee-Dee, an alien girl from across the galaxy, spots Earth and likes what she sees. Convincing her father that she's only shopping for a new spacesuit, she takes off in his spaceship toward the blue planet. After a time-traveling mistake sends her back to dinosaur age, she sets course for 2010 Las Vegas where shoes, clothes, Elvis impersonators and the Miss Universe Pageant (imagine the irony!) is her first stop.

After realizing Area 51 is onto her, she zips across the Pacific to Waikiki Beach, China, Africa and exciting places all over the world.

The illustrations, also by Scott, are colorful, pleasing and beautifully drawn. His style blends well with the storyline.

All his books are now autographed and shipped to people’s homes from his website: www.carltonsbooks.com


At the age of 33, Carlton Scott was pursuing a second degree in nursing when he had a case of misdiagnosed glaucoma and lost the vision in his left eye. To help deal with the stress of being visually impaired, he would hike in the Rocky Mountains near Denver, Colorado where he lived. He then took off to Southeast Asia, backpacking and venturing through Thailand; Cambodia and Bali, Indonesia to decide what to do with his future.

During this time, he finished his second children’s book, Little Big Wolf, based on his drawings and collection of hiking photos. He published both Grin’s Message and Little Big Wolf in hardcover and sold 2000 of each through Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com, craft shows and street fairs. He then returned to Florida and finished his second degree (a bachelor’s in nursing) and accepted a job at All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida, in the Pediatric ICU.

Today, Carlton travels with his wife, Annie (also a nurse), throughout the United States providing critical care services to hospitals from Alaska to Los Angeles. His newest children’s book, Glamour Girl From The St

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18. Scout Camp Memories

After many decades, I still have fond memories looking back on my scout camp experience. I was probably 10 or 11—at that vulnerable age just shy of the terrible teenage years.

I went to camp two years in a row and the first year was, by far, the best. Although, the 2nd year taught me much more about life and relationships.

The first year, four of us friends who grew up together, went to school together and played sports together, resided for two weeks in a three-sided Gypsy Camp cabin. While there was some mild bickering amongst our quartet, we remained fiercely loyal to each other and pretty much stuck together. As I remember, we came in 2nd in the end-of-camp talent contest performing a skit to the tune of Junior Birdmen.

This is the way I remember it:

Up in the air Junior Birdmen
Up in the air upside down
Up in the air Junior Birdmen
Keep your noses off the ground

When you hear the doorbell ringing
And you have your badge of tin
Then you know, Junior Birdmen
That you sent your box tops in.

(If you have another version, please post it, or post your favorite camp song)

The 2nd year wasn't quite as much fun. We graduated to the next level; a full-size cabin with 8 scouts, one of which was the daughter of the head counselor. "Lynn" (not her real name - I'm afraid she'll find me and beat me up, again) was a real, uh...snot. It was either done her way or she ran to her mother to squeal on how mean we were being to her. Like the four of us who grew up together, "Lynn" had 3 life-long friends in the cabin with her. Only difference was, they couldn't stand her either.

As stressful as that was, I learned some valuable lessons:

1) Those in charge are not always kind to the masses.
2) Life is not always fair.
3) I'm never going to be able to get along with everyone.
4) I can rise above injustice and have fun in spite of disagreeable people.

So, to all you Junior Birdmen out there..."Keep your noses off the ground!"

I have no idea what that means, but it seems like a good way to end this blog post.

'Tween time-travel series, Cynthia's Attic.
Download the series on Kindle today!

Mary Cunningham Books

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19. A talent for reading

This is my incredibly beautiful niece, C—queen of the lacrosse fields, a fifth grader taking sixth grade math, a practicing piano student...and a reader.  She professes to having read every single Benedict Society (late at night, for hours at a time), is caught up, fast, within the worlds of Rick Riordan, and has now read The Penderwicks four times through.  "You buy me the best books," she whispered to me, this Thanksgiving, words that made me happier than I can say—words that sent me straight back out to the bookstores yesterday, looking for the right next things for C's library.  There's something that binds readers, isn't it true?  And C and I will always have this—these books we love to share. 

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20. The Circle of Focus

When Jane Yolen speaks of ‘focus’ with respect to writing picture books, she specifies that it should be sharp and small.

There’s an acting term originally coined by the great acting teacher Stanislavski called “Circle of Focus.”  During his career as a young actor, Stanislavski often experienced tension on stage. He discovered that he could better focus by concentrating on a small circle – just himself and one other actor or prop.  Once focused on this small circle, he could extend his attention to a medium-sized circle that included more actors or larger props, and then to a larger circle, encompassing the entire stage, ultimately even the audience. This technique, he felt, enabled actors to achieve ‘public solitude.’

Dr. Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, teaches the concepts of Circle of Concern and Circle of Influence – thus leading to Circle of Focus.  He describes our Circle of Concern as encompassing all that is of concern to us, our Circle of Influence as all that we actually have any direct control over, and our Circle of Focus as where best to direct our energies for maximum effectiveness.

Young reader’s circles of concern are necessarily small, just as their world is. They do not yet have the ability or experience to cope with politics, history, tragedy or economics – items that are usually within the circle of concern of most adults. Young people’s circles of concern and influence are narrower and more immediate – home, family, friends, and school – and their circle of focus is generally trained on the daily challenges of growing up: learning to tie one’s shoes, for instance, or whistle, ride a bike, or apologize.

Picture books are most successful when they maintain the same small Circle of Concern and Focus as that of a child. It’s best to leave epic tales involving multiple characters or tackling large themes to the novels that will be enjoyed in later life.

Nevertheless, within that small circle of concern, we want to keep the focus very sharp. We want to minimize wide angles and zoom in on the important. We want to choose words, images and ideas that are clear, strong, and compelling – and to avoid the blurriness of excess description and unnecessary details. We don’t need to embellish. Too many characters, references or changes within a picture book will confuse at best, and bore at worst.

Keep it simple, keep it small and keep it sharp.

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21. Words, words, words.

Polonius: What do you read, my lord?

Hamlet: Words, words, words.

– William Shakespeare, “Hamlet,” Act 2, Scene 2

And so we come to #5 in Jane Yolen’s wonderful list of “10 Words Every Picture Book Author Must Know,” which she shared at the SCBWI Winter Conference a few weeks ago: Words.

Here are the three things Jane said about words – and I shall elaborate a bit on each.

1.  Pick them as carefully as a poet – Language is a fundamental part of children’s literature. Word play, rhythm, alliteration, parallelism, refrain, patterns, echoes, onomatopoeia – it’s all about being imaginative and creative with words.  Personification can be effective too – for instance, instead of “the leaves rustled in the breeze,” you might try, “the leaves whispered,” or “the leaves danced.”  Children’s imaginations are often fired by their senses, so incorporating what can be seen, smelled, tasted, heard, or felt to the touch is a powerful way to engage young readers in descriptive narrative.

Above all, look for juicy verbs.  Verbs are a writer’s best friend. They keep the story moving forward, and help us to show through behavior and action rather than tell through description.  Be as creative as you can be in your use of verbs. Keep a list of favorites – and always keep a Thesaurus handy to find better options for the ones that are common, tired, or overused.  Finally, remember that it’s all about economy with picture books. Three words, artfully chosen, will achieve far more than ten general, rambling ones.

2. Children love big words – don’t ‘dumb down’ your language. While we have to keep the age of our reader in mind in terms of what will engage and be relevant to them, we should never talk down to them.  Their focus may be narrow and their vocabulary limited, but their brains are like sponges, expanding with every drop of information we give them.  Using a sophisticated word here and there invites children to ‘stretch up.’ Whether they infer the meaning through association or context – using the surrounding words to understand the meaning of that one – or whether they pause to ask a grown up what a word means, once that meaning is absorbed it becomes part of the ever-expanding vocabulary and is unlikely to be forgotten.

3.  Words can be made up – just do so with care. Harry Potter, Winnie the Pooh, The Hobbit and virtually every book by Dr. Seuss all contain made-up words unique to their worlds and characters.  Shakespeare, in fact, made up thousands of words and phrases that have since become part of our everyday language. Most education scholars and child development specialists would agree that the creative use of words helps a young reader appreciate the power of expression. In seeing the rules of language being bent or challenged, children learn critical-thinking skills and develop their own imaginations. It’s important, however, to use this tool with care. Don’t overdo it, and make sure that if you are using invented words, their intended meaning can be clearly inferred by the reader.

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22. eBooks Are Taking Over…Eventually

Kids get all sorts of hand-me-downs. Clothes, shoes, and even e-readers, as Mom and Dad upgrade to newer, more powerful devices. With a growing number of tweens, teens, and collegians toting these devices with them in their backpacks, it’s no... Read the rest of this post

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23. In honor of my dad

Thinking a lot about reading. How what we read affects us. Affects how we think. Affects how we view the world.

I just realized that all my main characters in the books I write are readers. Maybe that's because I don't really understand the inner workings of people who don't read. Maybe it's because I best understand people who do read.

At any rate, Grant--the protagonist--in the novel I'm working on now, is an avid reader. He's also a baseball player who wants to make it to the big leagues. When I started working on this story, he wasn't such a reader. He was too "active" to want to read.

Then I sat talking with my Aunt Ruby--my dad's sister--who told me that my dad, Orland Fjelland--always had his "nose in a book" when he was growing up--that he read constantly. I knew my dad loved to read, but I'd never thought about him as a reading kid. I'd heard stories about using barrel staves as skis, sledding the hills in the timber in winter, swimming in the creek, riding bucking horses, riding the draft horses home from the fields, about sneaking away as a young man to ride in the rodeo...but I never thought about him as a voracious reader.

So in tribute to my dad, my character is now a voracious reader. And it's been fun to figure out which books he would be reading in the mid-1930s.

Just wish my dad were still around. I think he might like this book. At least, I sure hope so. I guess I have my "ideal reader" for this one.

1 Comments on In honor of my dad, last added: 7/18/2011
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24. Picture Book Writers – New Opportunity

MeeGenius!–a e-picture book app for young readers for iPhone, iPad, iTouch, Google TV, and the web–have just kicked off a contest.

They are searching for the next great children’s book author, and is extending an invitation to aspiring and published authors to submit a manuscript. Winning manuscripts will be beautifully illustrated, professionally edited, and published online at MeeGenius. It’s as simple as writing, submitting, and having MeeGenius’ online community vote.

Open to both aspiring and published authors, the MeeGenius! Author Challenge 2011 will award one winner $1500 and a publishing contract as well as offering a MeeGenius! library to the school of the winner’s choice. Three runners-up will win $500 and publishing contract.

Submissions will be posted on the MeeGenius! website where visitors can vote on their favorites. The most popular picks become finalists.


  • Stories should be between 10 and 20 pages in length.


  • MeeGenius’ audience is young children between the ages of 2 and 8. MeeGenius will not accept any entries with language, themes, or content inappropriate for children.
  • Any content which resembles or directly plagiarizes another published work will not be considered.

Submit Your Story by November 1, 2011

No illustrations.

Manuscript Voting Round

November 28 – December 18, 2011

Finalists Round

January 31 – February 21, 2012

Winners Announced!

March 7, 2012.

Make sure you check out this link for a sample manuscript, since they do not want it submitted in the standard format: http://meegenius-static.s3.amazonaws.com/challenge/01/ManuscriptFormattingExample.pdf

For complete rules and guidelines, visit www.MeeGenius.com.

Here are some good reasons to enter:  Everyone has a chance to win.  They are not asking for a entry fee, and you have over a month before the deadline, so I expect to see a lot of your stories on line at the end of November.  Good Luck.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: children writing, Competition, Contests, opportunity, picture books, Places to sumit, publishers, submissions, Win Tagged: e-picture books, ebook for kids, MeeGenius, young readers 3 Comments on Picture Book Writers – New Opportunity, last added: 9/29/2011
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25. So what do we think? Just Fine the Way They Are

Just fine the way they are

Just Fine the Way They Are

Nordhielm Wooldridge, Connie. (2011) Just Fine the Way They Are: From Dirt Roads to Rail Roads to Interstates. Honesdale, PA: Calkins Creek of Boyds Mill Press. ISBN 978-1-59078-710-6. (26 pgs) Author recommends grades 4-6; Litland adds excellent for younger advanced readers.

 Publisher’s Description: Change. Who needs it? We do! Mr. John Slack, the keeper of a tavern beside a rutted dirt road in the early 1800s, thought things were just fine the way they were. So did Lucius Stockton who ran the National Road Stage Company in the mid 1800s. So too, did the owners of the railroads when the first model T appeared in 1908. Yet with each new innovation, Americans were able to move around the country more quickly, efficiently, and comfortably. Connie Woolbridge offers an informative, yet light-hearted look at how the dirt roads of the early 1800s evolved into the present-day U.S. highway system. Richard Walz’s gorgeous paintings capture both the broad sweep and the individual impact of change and progress.

 Our thoughts:

 What a great overview of American history focused on transportation! Told in a folky style, the narrator’s storytelling voice reminds us of sitting on the front porch and listening to elders of the family recount the same stories over and over again. And even though we already knew the story, we enjoyed hearing it once more. Only for 8-11 year olds, these stories will be new :>)

 Just Fine the Way They Are has lots of potential uses:

 * reluctant readers, particularly boys, will find an easy and entertaining style holding their attention.

* a discussion tool for talking about feelings or conflict, making it great for family book clubs or class discussions.

* illustrations are brilliantly eye-catching—I was sitting in a diner reading this, and the waitress walked over saying “What a cute book!”. As such, it would surely keep the students’ attention if read to the class, whether reading to a traditional classroom or homeschool kids around the dining table.

* While intended for 4th, 5th & 6th grades, it also would be great for accelerated students writing their first book report.

 An added touch: it comes complete with a historic timeline, bibliography, and list of relevant websites. Plus the author (a former elementary school librarian) has lesson plans on her website too (see http://conniewooldridge.com/ )!  This is one of those unique books that provide diversity on the bookshelf, catching the eye of the reader looking for something a bit different, and being enjoyed many times over :>) Pick up a copy at our Litland.com Bookstore!

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