Uncategorized

Covid, Quarantine, Cookies and a Quest

Thanks for stopping by!

The past few months have been history-making and challenging. For more than 9 months, we’ve been living in the midst of a pandemic. Everything has changed. There are no concerts, theater performances or poetry readings – except on zoom. We’re staying apart from friends and family. We need something to cheer us, to take us into a different world – and what’s better than a good book? Between the covers we enter a world where we learn, meet the characters, and empathize with them.

2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment giving women the right to vote. We just had a national election – and chose a woman of color for the Vice Presidential position. With differing perspectives, our United States has become very divisive, making the months of campaigning and debates stressful for many.

One of the most powerful and moving picture books about voting is Lillian’s Right to Vote by Jonah Winter ; illustrated by Shane W. Evans. (Schwartz & Wade, 2015.) Through the eyes of an old woman climbing a hill to vote at her polling place, the reader is introduced to the history of voting in America from the fifteenth amendment that gave African American men the right to vote to the present.

Between the pandemic, the election, and daily troubles of life, we experience waves of fear, waves of disappointment, waves of exhaustion, waves of unease, waves of joy, waves of hope. Books can help us make sense of our changing world.

Walkout by Tina Shepardson; illustrated by Terry Sirrell. (Spork, 2020) shows young readers what it means to take action, to take a stand, to make your voice heard. This important book looks with sensitivity at what it means to stand up for your beliefs.

With all this going on, I have been preoccupied, and found it hard to focus or find time to write. Instead, I’ve turned to cooking healthy meals – and baking cookies. And the pounds pile on…

Healthy food has long been a passion of mine. For many years I’ve written a weekly food column for my local paper, the Adirondack Daily Enterprise that encompasses everything from collards to cookies. And who doesn’t like cookies?

As writers, we try to inspire. In my column, I try to motivate people to prepare healthy meals with products from our local farms. We’re on a quest: we want our words to touch lives. The world needs us to do that.

November is the month of gratitude. December ushers in the winter holidays. Even in times of pandemic, this is the time we think about family connection.

Sadie’s Shabbat Stories by Melissa Stoller; illustrated by Lisa Goldberg (Spork, 2020) is all about family ties and traditions. Telling stories about family heirlooms is a beautiful way to make family connections and learn your family’s history. No matter what our heritage, everyone has stories that are important and inspirational.

Melissa Berger Stoller brings the reader inside the special relationship between Sadie and grandma. Sadie learns to tell her own stories, bringing the past and future together. This book is especially important now, when many children cannot spend time with grandparents due to quarantine restrictions.

After the holidays comes a whole new year. What will it bring?

What are your hopes for the year to come? What brings you joy?

Book Reviews, Uncategorized

Neurodiversity in Children’s Picture Books

Yes, I know Autism Awareness Month is April – not August. But they both begin with the letter ‘A’. And autism is a lifelong condition. It does not go away when spring ends and summer begins. It does not go away when a child grows up and turns 18. Approximately 1 in 59 children has been diagnosed with some form of autism spectrum disorder, according to the CDC.
I am neuro-diverse. I recall the day I stumbled on the website nldline.com while helping a library patron search for books on learning disabilities for math rather than language. My eyes opened wide. There were people with the same issues as me! What joy!
My own neurologically atypical existence was complicated by the fact that I am an immigrant. By the time I was ten, I had lived on three continents, and spoke three languages. That could be why my issues and challenges were not taken seriously and sometimes attributed to cultural difference.
When I was growing up in the 1960s, little was known about neurodiversity. I had difficulty in group conversations, so I tended to stay to myself – and came to believe I was shy. (I’m not). Even as an adult, group conversations still pose a problem. I don’t read body language well so I don’t know when it’s ok to speak – so I either stay quiet or interrupt.
I was told I was immature and would grow up eventually, or that I was lazy and not trying hard enough. Now I know that I have slow processing speed, and that is why everything takes longer.
Yet no matter how hard I tried, I kept failing at certain things. I never learned to ride a bike, or to throw and catch a ball. We tell our kids, “You can do anything if you try.” But this is not true. Not only will I never be a brain surgeon – I’ll never be a ballerina because I have dyspraxia. I’m a klutz.
We’re all different – and that makes for an interesting world. No matter which spectrum we belong to, everyone has strengths, and everyone has challenges. All humans are equal. All have dignity.
I have gathered some recently published books that feature neurologically diverse characters. Most are fiction. The last two are nonfiction biographies About Temple Grandin, a neuro-diverse woman whose contributions to science and inventions resulted in groundbreaking improvements for farms worldwide.


A Friend for Henry

by Jenn Bailey, ill by Mika Song. Chronicle Books 2019. 32 p. ; 535 words.
2020 Schneider Family Honor Book.
In this story about searching for a friend in a new classroom that is too loud and too close, Henry’s analytical, literal personality comes through. A touching story that will appeal to anyone looking for friendship but especially to those with neurological differences.


How to Babysit a Logan

by Callie Metler-Smith, ill by Cindy Vattathil. Clear Fork Publishing 2019. 32 p; 407 words.
What a great message about how a pet can be a best friend. Such a wonderful bond between the cat and the boy! Shows we all need and can give support. Beautiful illustrations and a great story for all kids! The cat, Thunderbolt, explains how he spends his time making sure Logan is safe and loved. A beautiful bond between a pet and an autistic boy. encourages discussion and understanding about what life is like with autism. informational in such an easy, conversational tone

This Beach Is Loud

by Samantha Cotterill (au/ill), Dial Books, 2019. 32 p.; 318 words.
Even fun things can feel overwhelming. For all children – but especially children on the spectrum – new things and things with sensory overload can be overwhelming. This book does an excellent job of portraying this feeling, and the tension is resolved joyfully at the end. This book also shows the use of calming activities like breathing and counting. As a word nerd rather than a picture person I found some of the circular text that goes off the page very difficult to read.

Too Sticky! Sensory Issues with Autism

by Jen Malia ill by Joanne Lew Vriethoff. Albert Whitman, April 1, 2020. 32 p.; 1,005 words.

The own-voices book portrays sensory issues and Holly’s struggle well. We see the MCs feelings and the support she gets from her family. The slime science experiment relates to STEM concepts. It shows empathy. However, I thought for a picture book at over 1,000 words it was a bit too long. Also, the child-protagonist is constantly prodded by adults and does not solve her own problem.

Noah Chases the Wind

by Michelle Worthington ill by Joseph Cowman. Redleaf Lane (an imprint of Redleaf Press), 2015. 32 pages; 449 words.
Winner of the silver medal in the Moonbeam Children’s Books Award in the Picture Book 4–8-year-old category from Independent Publisher ; Winner of the Gelett Burgess Children’s Book Award
The first two lines say it all: “Noah knew he was different. He could see things that others couldn’t.” The rest of the story shows the beauty of being different. This is a story for every child who feels different or sees the world through a different lens – not just those on the spectrum or with sensory integration disorder. This whimsical story also highlights Noah’s special interest in weather.

The boy who said nonsense

by Felicia Sanzari Chernesky ill by Nicola Anderson. Albert Whitman & Company, 2016. 32 pages; 862 words.
Celebrates diversity. Because Tate doesn’t communicate like other children, it takes time to recognize is special gift for math. Shows we’re all unique and need to be valued for our gifts in spite of challenges we may have.


Cy Makes a Friend

by Ann Marie Stephens ill by Tracy Subisak. Boyds Mills Press, 2019. 32 p.; 252 words.
A wonderful, fun read! Many children have trouble making friends because they are shy or different. This is a great book for everyone who feels vulnerable and is afraid to reach out to make friends.

Benji, the Bad Day and Me

by Sally J. Pla, Ill by Ken Min. Lee & Low Books, 2018. 32 p.
Everyone has a bad day occasionally. This story reminds me of the classic Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. But here, the main character Sammy’s brother Benji, who comforts him, is autistic. The book touches on the feelings not just of those who are neuro-diverse, but their siblings. The author notes, “It’s important to note that no two autistic kids are alike, and their needs and behaviors will always be different.”


Uniquely Wired

by Julia Cook, ill by Anita DuFalla. Boys Town Press, 2018, 32 p.
In this first-person narrated story, Zak, a boy who is autistic, shares his quirks, interests and view of life. However, the author fails to address uniqueness – because no two people on the spectrum are alike – and describes some autistic traits as gifts, confusing many readers. The author needs to learn more about the subject before attempting to write about it.

All My Stripes: A Story for Children with Autism

by Shaina Rudolph (Author), Danielle Royer (Author), Jennifer Zivoin (Illustrator). Magination Press, 2015. 40 p. Gold Medal, Mom’s Choice Awards
Zane the Zebra has many stripes! The book brings an important message about accepting our differences.
After a troubling day at school when his autistic qualities – sensory issues, inability to communicate with his classmates, wanting to do a project differently and not understanding figurative language – make him feel different, his Mom explains that only one of his stripes is autism. He has many other excellent stripes, like honesty, curiosity, caring, and navigation. Zane feels better about himself and comes to understand that all the stripes together make him who he is. There are many pages of helpful information in the backmatter.
The problems with the book are that some of the incidents would not really happen. No teacher would leave a kid behind during a fire drill, cowering under the desk until the firemen arrived.

A Manual for Marco: Living, Learning, and Laughing With an Autistic Sibling by Shaila Abdullah, ill by Iman Tejpar. Loving Healing Press, 2015. 36p.
This book is written from the point-of-view of an eight-year-old girl learning how to deal with her autistic brother Marco. Presented in a notebook format, she writes down the things her brother does. The reader sees the importance of acceptance and love.
Backmatter contains a list of of things to remember to make life with an autistic sibling easier. Also included are resources for more information about autism.

How to Build a Hug: Temple Grandin and Her Amazing Squeeze Machine by Amy Guglielmo , Jacqueline Tourville , and Giselle Potter et al. Atheneum Books for Young Readers , 2018 ; 48 p.
A wonderful story about overcoming obstacles, especially emotional and sensory ones.
A wonderful story about overcoming obstacles, especially emotional and sensory ones. The story begins with a problem and shows how Temple felt as a child, how she found her own unique and creative solution from experiencing the world around her. The backmatter author’s note shares more about Temple Grandin and her amazing scientific contributions as a pioneer in her field.

The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: the Story of Dr. Temple Grandin By Julia Finley Mosca Ill by:Daniel Rieley. The Innovation Press, 2017. 40 p.
Written in rhyme with beautiful illustrations, this account addresses Temple’s challenges and accomplishments. The story shows how being inclusive makes a positive impact on everyone. Backmatter includes a letter from Temple Grandin, interesting details from the author’s interviews, a timeline and a two-page prose biography.

Book Reviews

Life in our surreal reality

Overnight, a pandemic changed the world. Suddenly conversation is about germs, viruses and bacteria. We’re learning new terms, like stay-at-home orders, social distancing and quarantine. We’re disinfecting everything from shopping carts to gas pumps. Everyone is donning masks – not just bank robbers.

Memorial Day is the official start of summer – and no one knows what this summer will bring. Many venues are closed and summer events, like outdoor concerts, have been canceled.

We want to explain this new, surreal reality to our children. As a teenager, I was fascinated by The Microbe Hunters by Paul de Kruif (1890–1971). Though written in 1926, the author was able to make microbiology exciting. The nonfiction book reads like a novel, with vivid characters and a dramatic plot.

Today, pandemic-themed kids’ books are popping up like dandelions in the yard. Catchy titles, like Sharona Corona, Paula and the Pandemic, Lucy and the Corona Virus, Little Unicorn Stuck at Home, the Day the Lines Changed.

Other titles are more straightforward: Sophie’s Questions about the Pandemic; Where did everybody go? What is Social Distancing? What’s a Quarantine? Not forever but for now: A story for children about feelings and the coronavirus.

Books about staying at home or social distancing include A Little SPOT Stays Home and Stuck in the Dog House. Other titles, like Keep away from Germs and The Coronavirus Monster: An Unwanted Visitor from the Germ Planet, discuss controlling germs by handwashing. There’s even a coloring book: Understanding the Coronavirus – COVID-19 Coloring Activity Book for Kids.

Most of these books are self-published in a hurry by well-meaning folks with few credentials in medicine or literature. However, three stand out above the rest.

Coronavirus: A Book for Children, by Elizabeth Jenner and Axel Scheffler, the illustrator of “The Gruffalo,” and the staff of publisher Nosy Crow. This book, for children aged 5 – 12, was created with input from educators, a child psychologist, and experts at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. It is based on scientific facts, and written in a kid-friendly way. It attempts to explain what the virus is, how it is caught, and why so many things – from schools to restaurants, stores and playgrounds – are closed.

 

What Is COVID-19? (Engaging Readers) by Alexis Roumanis, published by Engage Books. These are three volumes of early readers, from Level 1 (32 pages, for children aged 3 – 6) to Level 4 (48 pages, for ages 9 – 11) that aim to explain the covid pandemic to children at different levels.

Anna and the Germ that came to visit by Christianne Klein and Helene Van Sant-Klein, published by Truth Fairy Media. Christianne is an award-winning news anchor; Helene is a licensed clinical counselor, family therapist, and registered nurse with experience in parenting and trauma. The mother-and-daughter team brings their expertise in bibliotherapy, counseling and media to the subject of the pandemic.

This list is only a start, since new books on this subject are emerging daily. I hope you will find some of them helpful.

Emory University held a competition for writers and illustrations of books about COVID-19. The winners can be found here:

http://globalhealth.emory.edu/what/events_programs/COVID-19%20eBook%20Comp.html

winners

About, Book Reviews, Finding Creativity

David Harrison: Fifty Years, One Hundred Books

2020 is David Harrison’s 50th year of writing for children. In that time, he has penned more than 100 books, including 21 poetry collections. His books have won numerous awards, have been translated and anthologized. He is Drury University’s poet laureate. David Harrison Elementary School in Missouri is named for him. He has spoken at conferences, workshops, and visited hundreds of schools.

After Dark, David’s 97th book and 20th collection of poetry was released earlier this month. Three more are scheduled for publication later this year, and one for 2021.

His first book – a picture book, The Boy with a Drum – was published October 1, 1969. His second, Little Turtle’s Big Adventure, was read on the air by Captain Kangaroo. His third, “The Book of Giant Stories,” won a Christopher Award.
Many of David’s books combine nature, science, poetry and humor. Both science and poetry require observation and the ability to describe what is observed. As a biologist and a poet, David has developed a lifelong habit of watching wildlife – and writing about it.
After Dark was inspired by sitting on the patio, listening and watching night life by the lake – as well as family camping trips from when he was a child. The 21 poems featured here are chock full of interesting scientific facts.

His last book, And the Bullfrogs Sing (Holiday House, 2019), is a free verse poem about the life cycle of frogs, accentuated by the chorus Rumm, Rumm, Rumm” and other bullfrog noises.David’s love of nature began when he was a youngster, camping with his parents (who also instilled in him a love of reading) and playing in his backyard. He studied biology in college and has two science degrees. Before he began to write, he worked as a pharmacologist and parasitologist. But it was a creative writing class he took while a science major at Drury in the 1960s, and a professor who encouraged him to write, that launched his writing career.
David’s ideas for poems and stories “appear everywhere in everyday life.” For example, one afternoon when David found insects under his welcome mat, he wrote this:

Bugs moved under
my welcome mat.
If bugs can’t read,
explain that.
I’ve always said
that bugs are pests,
but bugs who read
are welcome guests.
(From BUGS: POEMS ABOUT CREEPING THINGS, Front Street, Incorporated, 2007.)


About poetry, David says:
“Poetry ranges from doggerel to sublime. At its worst, it should be shot on sight. At its best, it protects our language and reminds both writer and reader that every word has meaning and only the right one will do for the purpose at hand.”
When writing poetry collections, David tries to find the cadence and sound that fits the subject. He looks for ways to make each poem stand alone, but still fit the collection. He avoids common, over-used meter and rhyme schemes like a-b-c-b. He says, “I want my menu to feature a variety of offerings so readers don’t grow weary of the same-old-same-old.” He may combine various poetic forms with free verse poems in the same collection. Often, a poem will show him what form to use – “it just sort of develops, and I roll with it,” he says.

His advice to aspiring authors is “Dare to be different.” He explains: “By that I mean know the market but don’t worship it. If you read a book you like, enjoy it and move on. No point following someone else’s idea. Listen to your own voice, your own experiences, your own beliefs and feelings and passions.”

Book Reviews

What are you grateful for?

The Thanksgiving holiday is behind us. Most folks gathered with family and friends, eating the same menu as last year and sharing our blessings.

Now is the time for frantic holiday shopping and listing what we wish for rather than what we are grateful for. But we need to be grateful each and every day of the year. It is still important to cultivate the attitude of gratitude.

Here are some books that teach children the importance of cultivating gratitude.

 

ThankU: Poems of Gratitude by Miranda Paul, illustrated by Marlena Myles. Millbrook Press, 2019.

This collection of poems by more than 30 poets shows that we can – and should – be grateful in all seasons. The opening poem, Giving Thanks by Joe Bruchac, tells us each day is a gift to be treasured. Some poems are not explicitly about gratitude. Instead, they give thanks for the sky, dimples, shoes, birds, snow, a rock on the beach. Some are serious; others are funny. Each showcases a different poetic form; these are explained in the back of the book.

 

Thank you, Earth: A love letter to our planet by April Pulley Sayre. Greenwillow Books, 2018.

Thank You, Earth: A Love Letter to Our Planet

Like many of the poems in Miranda Paul’s collection, this poem and beautiful photo essay is an ode of gratitude – in this case, to our earth. The poem begins:

“Dear earth,

Thank you for water and those that float,

for slippery seaweed and stone.

Thank you for mountains and minerals,

that strengthen bills and bone.”

This simple, powerful message helps us appreciate our world. The back of the book contains three pages of scientific information.

 

The Thank You Book by Mary Lyn Ray, illustrated by Stephanie Graegin. HMH Books for Young Readers, 2018.

Thank you isn’t just for learning manners. It’s also when something makes a little hum – a happy little hum – inside you and you want to answer back.”

So begins Mary Lyn Ray’s latest book that teaches about giving thanks for both small and large things in our lives. The text explores appreciation for laps, books, jackets, puddles, and the earth we live on. It tells us that thank you “is also for when hurt and sad and not-so-good gets better”. The lyrical text and detailed pencil and watercolor illustrations make the characters and the concept of gratitude come alive to young readers.

 

We Are Grateful Otsaliheliga by Traci Soreli, illustrated by Frané Lessac.

Charlesbridge, 2018.

This beautiful, lyrical picture book focuses on the Cherokee custom of celebrating blessings as well as reflecting on struggles. The story winds its way through the seasons looking at expressions of gratitude in fall, winter, spring, and summer. Each season begins with “we say Otsaheliga / oh – yah – LEE – hay – lee – gah / we are grateful.

 

Thankful by Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by Archie Preston. Zonderkids, 2017.

The gardener’s thankful for every green sprout” is the opening line. The fun, rhyming text and whimsical illustrations with bold lines and soft colors celebrate daily blessings. The poem features examples of what people are grateful for: the gardener, for green sprouts; the painter, for color and light; the poet, for words that rhyme; children, for storytime. This great read-aloud reminds us of how special we are.

 

Look and Be Grateful by Tomie DePaola. Holiday House, 2015.

The short (37 words) text of this beautiful book encourages us to open our eyes, look around, and be grateful.

 

The Thankful Book by Todd Parr. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2012.

The story opens with “Every day I try to think about the things I’m thankful for.” The main character tries to think of something he appreciates each day: his shadow, music, his hair. Bold lines, bright colors, and easy, playful text encourage children to find something they can be grateful for.

We all need to learn to express gratitude each and every day. Here is a triolet* poem I wrote a few years ago:

Thanksgiving

is gratitude

for living.

Thanksgiving.

For fun, for food,

for fortitude,

Thanksgiving

is gratitude.

 

What are you grateful for today?

 

 

* The triolet is a short, 8-line poem of repetition, The first line of the poem is used three times and the second line is used twice. There are only 3 other lines to write: 2 of those lines rhyme with the first line, the other rhymes with the second line.

 

 

 

Book Reviews, Finding Creativity, Uncategorized

Words Matter

“We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.” Toni Morrison

As readers, we are drawn to words. Over the years I have been drawn to Michener, Uris, Tolkien, Barbara Kingsolver and Barbara Ehrenreich. As a youngster in Poland, I was raised on the works of Janusz Korczak, the poetry of Jan Brzechwa, Maria Konopnicka and (in translation from Spanish) Monro Leaf’s The Story of Ferdinand. After we arrived in the United States, I read Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Books, Hugh Lofting’s Dr. Dolittle stories and Maguerite de Angeli’s Door in the Wall. And of course, there were all the classics – the Brothers’ Grimm, Johanna Spyri, Jules Verne, Charles Dickens. Who are some of your favorite authors?

As writers, we know words matter. I often say, “Words are my world”.  “In the beginning was the word.” We paint the world through words. We develop characters and plot with words.

As parents and teachers, we teach children to use words wisely.

This is increasingly important when our country’s leaders use derogatory, negative, foul language and resort to name-calling. As someone who was called names, tormented and bullied due to cultural and neurological differences, I’m sensitive to this type of language.

What message does it teach our children? How should we respond?

I suggest we respond with love by teaching kindness. Being kind can make a huge difference in someone’s life.

Some books that teach the importance of our words, kindness and inclusivity:

The Big Umbrella words and pictures by Amy June Bates. Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers 2018. 32 p; 89 words

There is always room for everyone under the big umbrella that loves to gather people in. This free verse, beautifully illustrated poem shares the message of inclusiveness in a fun way. Our hearts have the same capacity to expand – there is no limit to how many people we can love and include.

Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller ill by Jen Hill. Roaring Brook Press 2018. 32p; 400 words

Be Kind copy

When Tanisha spills grape juice all over her dress, her classmate tries to be kind. But it is not always easy. Examples of kindness include giving, helping, and paying attention. These small acts are important and build more acts of kindness.

If you plant a seed words and pictures by Kadir Nelson. Baker and Bray 2017 (an imprint of Harper Collins).

If you plant a seed copy

In this short poem, we learn that the things we plant grow and grow and grow. They can be carrots or tomatoes, selfishness or kindness.

Words and Your Heart words and pictures by Kate Jane Neal. Simon & Schuster Children’s Books, 2017.

words and your heart copy

In her debut, Kate Jane Neal explains simply and directly the power our words have. She shows how our words impact others – both for good and for evil.

Here is a poem I wrote about words:

WORDS: HANDLE WITH CARE

As children, we were told to say:

“Sticks and stones may break my bones,

but words can never hurt me.”

Yet words often cause injury and pain…

The scars don’t show,

but the wounds may never heal.

Words

 or their absence

have power:

They can hurt, or they can heal.

They can bruise, or they can mend.

They can kill – or give new life.

Words

evoke image, smell, taste, sound, mood, feel.

Words have power.

Words are real.

 

Words

tell a story,

convey a message,

convince the skeptic,

stir up mood and feelings.

Words.

Use them with care

to encourage, engage, enrich.

It is said: “The pen is mightier than the sword.”

Words

can change lives.

You

can change the world

one word at a time.

What is a quote or poem that resonates with you?

What are some of your favorite books that teach kindness?

How can your words help change our world?

Share it in the comments to pass along the power of words.

 

Finding Creativity

SYNERGY!

When Janean, a friend and fellow writer, asked me to collaborate on a story I was hesitant. For 30 years, I have written solo: articles, books, poems, stories.

Yes, I have critique partners. I know that picture books are a marriage of two great minds – the writer and illustrator –further refined by the editor. That’s part of their unique magic!

Still, I found it difficult to grasp why two writers would work together on a story. Research revealed that collaboration between authors is not uncommon, so I asked a few authors to describe how they worked together.

The prolific author of 376 children’s books Jane Yolen has worked with other writers often, including her son and daughter. She partnered with others because she admired their work, needed their expertise, or ’to give a foot up’ into publication. “Two authors share their talents, their research, and provide a critical eye,” she said. “It’s important to set ego aside, decide whose name goes first, and share the royalties and advance equally.”

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Amy Gugliemo, a member of my northern NY Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, has had several partnerships. She was first approached by a parent to work jointly on a book about her art-based curriculum which taught all subjects, including math and science. She enthusiastically agreed. The result was the Touch the Art series of books with Julie Appel. Later, Amy partnered with Jacqueline Tourville, another critique group friend. ”Jacqueline and I have similar sense of humor and we spent a lot of time swapping work, so we just started writing together,” she said.

 

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While Julie and Amy would meet in person or chat on the phone, Jacqueline and Amy work through email, sending drafts to one another for edits. “We will go back and forth until we’re both happy,” says Amy. “I’ve been very lucky with my collaborations and I would be open to working with other authors in the future. Publishing is a difficult sport and the best thing about collaboration is having someone to share the ups and downs of the business. It’s always great to celebrate with a friend!”

 

Matt Forrest Esenwine teamed up with Deb Bruss on the story Don’t Ask a Dinosaur. Matt and Deb are in the same SCBWI writers group. According to Matt, Deb gave Matt a general concept and a few lines, but no plot or ending. This sat by his computer for a few months, until he figured out where to go with it. They revised it about 20 times, sharing the versions with one another using Google docs and receiving feedback from their critique group. “One good thing about working together is the back-and-forth of ideas. You have to be able to compromise, and let go of the idea that this is your baby. Co-authored projects are a joy to complete, knowing two people have put so much time, talent, and effort into one little book,” said Matt.

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David Harrison and Sandy Asher co-authored the play, Jesse and Grace: A Best Friend’s Story. Sandy would write a poem from Grace’s point of view, send it to David, and he would respond from Jesse’s POV. Since neither knew in advance what the other would say, “the telling was spontaneous and personal and related to the interior thinking of each character,” said David.

Trisha Speed Shaskan and Stephen Shaskan teamed up on their graphic novel series Q & RAY and picture book PUNK SKUNKS. They like to formulate ideas together, then brainstorm the conflict. “You need to allow ample space for everyone’s ideas and keep things positive,” they wrote in a Storystorm blog post. They believe finding someone you fully trust and maintaining mutual respect is essential.

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I began to see that working together is synergistic – the effect is greater than the sum of its parts, resulting in a better story than when each writer works alone. I have high hopes for the story Janean and I are creating together.

Book Reviews

On Being Thankful

November days are dark, dim, dismal, dreary. They’re also Days of Gratitude when we ponder what we’re thankful for. This November, I’m thankful for words. For much of my life, words have been important in my world. As a dyspraxic kid, I needed words to understand my world. I was an early talker and early reader.

I’m grateful for the words of my childhood – Polish words. My favorite stories were Janusz Korczak’s tales about King Matt the First. I also enjoyed Grimm’s fairy tales and all the children’s classics like Cinderella and Snow White.  We moved to Israel; Hebrew words. I recall reading Joanna Spyri’s Heidi. The first stories I read in English were Kipling’s Jungle Book and Marguerite de Angeli’s The Door in the Wall. As I got older, I enjoyed Mark Twain and Charles Dickens. In high school, it was Tolkien, Michener, Uris, Steinbeck.

The possession that I am most thankful for is my library card. I used the library a lot as a child, and I use it a lot today as an aspiring author. When I was young, my friends existed in books and lived in other worlds – worlds those books transported me to. I could lose myself in a book and forget my loneliness. The little card is my key to other worlds via books, DVDs, and CDs.

Today there are many books that teach children the importance of cultivating gratitude. At my local library, I was drawn to three gratitude books. In Look and be Grateful, Tomie De Paola’s simple words and bright pictures encourages young children to be grateful for each and every day. In Suzy Capozzi’s and Eren Unten’s I am Thankful, a boy learns to think positively even when things don’t go the way he wants. In Grateful Gracie by Jennifer Tissot and Cecilia Washburn, Gracie helps her older, grumpy brother learn the power of gratitude. The book teaches kids that we can remember the good things even when days are gray and life seems hard.

Among the classics are Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree, Dr. Seuss’ Did I ever tell you how lucky you are?, and Stan Berenstain’s The Berenstain Bears Count their Blessings.

These five titles common on almost every list of gratitude books for kids:

The Thankful Book           The Thankful Book by Todd Parr, which celebrates all the little things children can give thanks for.Bear Says Thanks (The Bear Books)

Bear Says Thanks is a story of friendship and gratitude  by By Karma Wilson, Illustrated by Jane Chapman

Grateful: A Song of Giving Thanks is a book and CD that combines words, illustrations and music in a stirring anthem to gratitude.

 

Gratitude Soup by Olivia Rosewood, where Violet the Purple Fairy mixes everything she’s grateful for in an imaginary soup pot.

Thankful by Eileen Spinelli illustrated by Archie Preston encourages kids to be thankful for even the smallest blessings. “The poet is thankful for words that rhyme, the children, for morning story time,” she writes.

Her words resonate in my heart; I’m thankful for words.  

I’m thankful for the gift of words and wordsmithing my dad passed on to me. We lived on different continents, traveled separate pathways. I have no memories, few mementos, and only one gift: Language. Like father, like daughter – both lovers of words. For that, I’m grateful.

I’m thankful for writing partners, writer’s groups, writing teachers and mentors, so many resources to improve my craft.

Words matter. With my writing gift, I hope to encourage, engage, enrich the lives of my readers – as my life has been enriched by the written word. I hope to use my words, my voice, to encourage, to affect positive change in our world, to share peace, love, life, joy, faith, hope.

WORDS: Handle with Care

 As children, we were told to say:

“Sticks and stones may break my bones,

but words can never hurt me.”

Yet words often cause injury and pain…

The scars don’t show,

but the wounds may never heal.

**

Words – or their absence – have power:

They can hurt, or they can heal.

They can bruise, or they can mend.

They can kill – or give new life.

**

Words.

Use them with care.

To encourage, engage, enrich.

It is said:

“The pen is mightier than the sword.”

Words

can change lives.

You

can change the world

one word at a time.

**

Some say a picture

is worth a thousand words, but…

Pictures lack sound, smell, or taste…

 Words evoke image,

smell, taste, sound, mood, feel.

Words have power.

Words are real.

**

Words tell a story,

convey a message,

convince the skeptic,

stir up mood and feelings.

 My world of words

is worth more

than a thousand pictures.