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.

Advertisements
Uncategorized

Alliteration by Gabrielle Schoeffield

I confess, my fascination with words qualifies as a first-rate fetish.   It’s only natural I should challenge myself to share the wonder of words and writing from A to Z.

Today, I’d like to share what I have found (and love) about alliteration.  Alliteration is in the air, in awe inspiring abundance much like the autumn leaves.

Alliteration, by definition, is “the repetition of usually initial consonant sounds in two or more neighboring words or syllables.” There are so many examples of this in everyday life.  Business’s like Dunkin Donuts, Chuck E. Cheese, Bed, Bath, and Beyond are perfect examples, as are famous people like Jesse Jackson, Kim Kardashian, and Doris Day.   Even Super Heroes get in on the alliteration action (did you see that one?) with their real names.

Captain America real name isBucky Barnes.  The Hulks real name is Bruce Banner. Spider-Man goes by Peter Parker.  Superman’s real name (Clark Kent) has the same sound (although it doesn’t start with the same letter), but his girlfriend Lois Lane does.

Alliteration can also be found in poetry, music and literature.  William Shakespeare clearly had a handle on the topic when he wrote “Good night! Good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow.” (Romeo and Juliet).  Edgar Allen Poe opened his poem The Raven with “Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary…”  But my favorite poetic alliteration comes from Paul McCartney’s song, Let it Be. Inspired by a dream about his late mother, Paul wrote the song that includes my favorite alliteration, “Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.”

In my research of the topic, I was amazed at the lack of picture books written in the alliterative form.  I did manage to come across books at my local library.

If You Were Alliteration written by Trisha Speed Shaskan, illustrated by Sara Gray, explains by example what alliteration is and then gives an example.  “If you were alliteration, you would be the same sound repeated at the beginning of two or more words in a phrase or a sentence.” Ms. Shaskan used “Ulysses the Unicorn spots a UFO as he makes a U-turn on his unicycle” as her example. The illustrations are colorful and delightful.  Beyond the definition and examples of alliteration, the author has included a game to play, a glossary of terms and where you can go to learn more about alliteration.  You’ll have to check out the book for the instructions for the game!

Walter Was Worried was written by and illustrated by Laura Vaccaro Seeger.  Not only is this delightful book written in alliteration, the illustrations include the emotion the characters were feeling “when the sky grew dark”.  You will have to check this one out.

Of the few books I found on alliteration, Betty’s Burgled Bakery, written and illustrated by Travis Nichols is clearly my favorite!  It fits in the “graphic novel” category although it is a picture book.  When Betty arrives at work to find everything missing, she calls the “gumshoo zoo” detective agency to report “A bread bandit burgled my bakery before breakfast!”  To find out how the case is solved, you’ll just have to read the book!

I am lucky to have been blessed with a lifelong love of learning, blessed with friends who fancy writing as much as I do and the opportunity to share my stories with you all.  Thanks for stopping by!

Best in Show

Strategies for Showing Versus Telling

Hi Everyone!

Welcome to our fourth blog post! What an honor it is to be able to interview authors on their strategies for showing readers their stories through the most amazing selection of words. Ever WONDER how they accomplish this? Best In Show blog posts will showcase authors sharing their strategies for captivating the audience through showing, not telling. In addition, I will share some tips for building the love of reading in an era where technology largely competes for a child’s attention. I hope you find the information useful whether you are writing your next book, presentation, or looking for ways to encourage a child in your life to read, read, read!!

Our WONDER OF WORDS guest today is picture and chapter book author, Ariel Bernstein (www.arielbernsteinbooks.com). I had the pleasure and honor of working with and learning from Ariel in a critique group in 2015-2016 and saw her talent for showing versus telling right away. It has been such a joy to watch her career as an author blossom. My students Skyped with her last fall and learned so much.

TS: Hi Ariel, Congratulations on the recent release of your new chapter book series WARREN & DRAGON (Viking Children’s, 2018). Thank you so much for spending some time with me today. Where do your story ideas originate from?

AB: It’s hard to pinpoint exact places where story ideas originate from! Often when an interesting idea pops into my head, or I see something interesting happen in real life, I will write it down. Later on, I’ll try and see if I can turn the idea into an actual story. For example, during one winter I heard a kid say, “I want the cold to go somewhere else.” I thought that could become a funny story of a kid trying to convince winter to go away. I wrote the picture book and although it never sold, I enjoyed the experience of writing it.

TS: When revising manuscripts, how do you identify which areas need more showing and less telling?

AB: Sometimes it’s hard for me to have a good perspective on my own writing. I get feedback from other writers who give me critiques, and if they think I need to show more and tell less, I listen!

TS: Are there specific strategies you use to incorporate more descriptive language?

AS: I try not to use much descriptive language with a picture book as the illustrations will show almost everything. With the chapter book, sometimes during revisions I’ll see that a scene moves too quickly, so to slow it down I will try and add descriptions of people and places.

TS: How do you know when you’ve finally got it just right?

AS: It’s hard to answer this because if you wait a while and look back at a manuscript, there’s always a chance you’ll want to change something! But after listening to feedback from critique partners and revising a number of times, it comes down to instinct that my manuscript is ready to be sent to my agent. And then she might have suggestions for revisions! And if an editor acquires it, there might be even more revising.

TS: Do you have any tips or suggestions for how writers can be more aware of painting that full picture for the reader and listeners?

AS: This isn’t new advice, but it’s the perfect one – read, read, and read some more! Read like a writer – figure out how a book you enjoy draws you in (is it the interesting characters? The setting? The voice?), how it keeps your attention (the chapter endings? The quick pace? An engaging plot?), and how the ending leaves you feeling satisfied (are all loose ends tied up? Is there a twist ending? Does it make you want to re-read the book?). Be aware of these things when writing and revising your own work.

TS: My students love Owl, Monkey, Warren and Dragon. Your characters are relatable to readers of all ages. They remind us what it is like to behave and express emotions and that is a wonderful thing! Thank you for sharing you gift of words with us and we look forward to many more books!

warren and dragon.jpgowl and balloon.jpg

You can find Ariel’s books at:

www.arielbernsteinbooks.com

Facebook: fb.me/ArielBBooks

Twitter: @ArielBBooks

Instagram: @arielbbooks

Tips For Creating Lifelong Readers:

Reading is a whole lot easier when kids learn early in life how much fun it can be. Here are five easy tips as everyone settles into those Back To School routines:

-Read bedtime stories to your kids every night: let them choose the story

-Always ask questions as you go: helps keep kids engaged

-Read and repeat: this helps build confidence

-Read more pages and fewer screens: have more books available than phones

-Visit your local library: this can be such a fun family outing

Thank you for joining us today and enjoy our next post by Gabrielle Copeland Schoeffield on November 3rd!!

About

Welcome to The Wonder of Words

Welcome to our blog, The Wonder of Words. We are a team of writers focused on children’s literature. We are excited to explore various features that encourage readers and writers of all ages to explore more children’s books. Postings will be on the first and third Saturday of every month. Feel free to review our bios and learn more about us and our focus. Thanks for stopping by!

Candice Marley Conner

An avid reader of fairy tales, Candice takes turns with her Mermaid Girl and Dinosaur Boy on who plays the villain. Evil cackles have been mastered by all. She and her family love exploring any sort of watery, magical place, be it beaches, swamps, rivers, and even mud puddles.

Candice is a member of SCBWI and an officer for the Mobile Writers’ Guild. Her debut picture book Sassafras and her Teeny Tiny Tail will be published in 2019 with Maclaren-Cochrane Publishing. You can find her work in collections such as Pieces: A Mobile Writers’ Guild Anthology, Fireflies & Fairy Dust: A Fantasy Anthology, Chicken Soup for the SoulBabybug Magazine, and online at Mothers Always WriteMamalode, and The Good Mother Project.

She adores discovering how books go from a wispy spark to something you can hold in your hands, so her posts will focus on finding creativity and interviewing authors on how their books came to be.

Gabrielle Schoeffield

When she isn’t conjuring up ways to embarrass her teenager, Gabrielle enjoys travel, exploring, and researching new book ideas. If you need her, try looking in the cornfields where you may find her listening to the wind rustling through the corn or the thunder of horse hooves on the wind as they engage in a battle at Gettysburg over 150 years ago.  Her passion for writing is reflected in her weekly newspaper column and her blog, Butterfly Kisses and Silly Wishes, where she shares her thoughts on life, love, and the pursuit of a writer’s dream.  Gabrielle is an active member of SCBWI, Maryland Writers Association, and graduate of Children’s Book Academy.

Gabrielle will blog an A to Z mashup of writing ideas, from alliteration to the zany journey to publication, and everything in between.

Katharine Derrick

Katharine loves reading books until they fall apart. The first book she read like this was a huge volume of folktales, called Once Long Ago. Unfortunately, it was on loan; she hopes that when her mother returned it to the original owners, they understood just how much that book was loved.

Once Long Ago started a life-long search for story.  Katharine’s first published work was a fifty-word micro; more recently she has been published in Takahē magazine with her short story ‘The Auburn Trail’. She has had numerous pieces of flash fiction appearing online in Flash Frontier, one of which gained her a Pushcart nomination. She is a key organizer for writing events in Northland, her local district in New Zealand, and teaches applied writing at a local polytechnic. Her current works-in-progress are picture books and a YA novel.

Katharine will be reviewing children’s books from picture books through to young adult novels to find out what makes them spark.

Sandra Sutter

Sandra doesn’t know any dragons, bears, werewolves or yellow-bellied marmots, but she loves to write about them. A wife, mother, and master finder of silver linings, she fuels her creativity with coffee, craft beer, and an extra-helping of vacations.

You’ll find Sandra happily learning more about her craft in online courses, conferences and critique groups. She is also an assistant for the Children’s Book Academy writing and illustration courses. Her debut picture book, The REAL Farmer in the Dell, a humorous, modern retelling of the popular children’s song, is set to arrive spring 2019 with Clear Fork Publishing. Sandra focuses primarily on writing fiction and nonfiction picture books with heart and humor, as well as fun and adventurous chapter books. There is also a good versus evil, suspenseful and somewhat romantic young adult project just waiting for her to finish one day. Stay tuned, and read more about her writing at: www.sdsutter.com.

Look for Sandra’s blog posts under the title “Pitch It to Me”. For each post, she will select one picture book pitch to review and share alongside her alternative pitch for that story and a third, guest contributor’s pitch for readers to vote on a favorite. May the best pitch win! And hey, no matter what, the lucky writer will end up with feedback on three fantastic pitch ideas and a complimentary critique from yours truly on the full manuscript. Submitting your pitch for the next post is easy!

  • At least two (2) weeks prior to Sandra’s next post, send your pitch to: sandra@sdsutter.com;
  • Write “PITCH IT TO ME” in the subject line and keep the pitch to 70 words or less;
  • Place the pitch in the body of the email (attachments will be disqualified);
  • Sandra will email the winner with instructions for sending the full picture book manuscript (<700 words fiction; <1000 words non-fiction);
  • After the contest, Sandra will send the winner a complimentary critique on the manuscript.

Tina Shepardson

Tina was that child who wrote pages and pages of stories and tied them together with ribbon and yarn. Those paper-tied books opened doors to many babysitting jobs and eventually her teaching career. An award-winning teacher for over 29 years, Tina has shared thousands of books with children. Now she’s a Debut Picture Book Study Group Admin, a Children’s Book Academy graduate and course assistant, and an active member of 12×12 and SCBWI.  Find her in Upstate New York with her family, walking their Akitas, teaching, and enjoying the latest snowstorm. Learn more at http://www.tinashepardson.com/.

Look for Tina’s blog posts under the title “Best In Show”. Each post will center on the art of showing versus telling. She will provide strategies and interviews from authors on how they find just the right words to show their story.

Yvona Fast

Yvona began writing at age ten when she won a $25 bond for her essay, My Favorite American—despite the fact that she was an immigrant and had only been speaking English for a little over a year. In 1993, she contacted the editors of Christian Single magazine with a one-line query. ‘Happenings in Siberia’ was her first published piece.

She’s gone on to publish many more articles, poems, and essays on topics ranging from health and cooking to disabilities and careers. Her weekly column, ‘North Country Kitchen’ has run each week since 2005 in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise. Her books include Employment for Individuals with Asperger Syndrome or Non-Verbal Learning Disability: Stories and Strategies (2004), My Nine Lives (2011), Garden Gourmet (2013) and Different (2017).

Yvona has taken numerous writing classes, participates in several critique groups, and is an active member of SCBWI and the Adirondack Center for Writing.