Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Let's Make Stuff - KBWT

Check my Let's Make Stuff page for directions on how to make a paper campfire with your young friends and family members.  Very cute and you can use it as a fire starter when you go camping.

It's KBWT!  I'd like to feature Kathy Ross' website as the Kids Book Website for today.  Kathy has written slews and slews of books about making crafts with kids, or about kids making crafts.  Her crafts often use items that other people will toss away.  Some of her crafts are SO clever and SO easy that I am speechless with wonder.  To be completely unbiased, I have to admit that a few of her crafts do not appeal to me.  But every single one of her books has several crafts that I wish I had thought up first.

So many craft books for kids result in "cute" things that are really more about technique and/or about keeping the kids busy than they are about making something useful.  Kathy Ross' crafts often have a play or gift component.  The Comet Balls from her book Crafts for Kids Who Are Wild about Outer Space are a good example. (Sadly, the book is no longer in print.)  We made those last week for the Stories in the Schools.  They are simple aluminum foil balls with ribbon tails that allow children to toss the balls and catch them by the tails.  So easy to do.  So cute.  Have I been effusive enough?  Check out the website.  Look for Kathy's books at the bookstore or library tonight!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Confession Time

Can I be honest here?  Sometimes, I get....down.  And being me, I sometimes wallow in my down-ness.  Sniff, sniffle....  So this weekend I was down-ish and I didn't want to "do anything".  My Hub was tolerant - at best - but I knew I'd get no pity from him.  He has lived with me too long.

So I have decided on a new tact when this down-ness hits.  It is the advice my mother, - long may she reign! - gave me when I was an eleven year old.  Do Something! 

Here's the thing.  Once I start Doing Something, I suddenly find so many things to do, I no longer have time to feel down!  Amazing!   Like weeding! and a weeded bed looks so nice, who can stay down?  Or FINALLY turning that old towel into reusable mopping cloths as per Michele over on Michele Made Me.  (Hers look nicer but mine work just fine.)

What about replacing the foam cushions in our old sofa with foam from the cushions in the attic?  Or writing up directions on how to make Bead Bugs, or sending cards to my friends, or shortening the curtains, or working on that song I wrote or practicing the piano or the accordion or the guitar....   Oh no!  Now I feel down because I have TOO MUCH TO DO.  Just kidding.
Or I could work on the Craft Fair, October 13th, 2012! Here is Genevieve at last year's Fair.

So I will make a list of Things to Do When Feeling Down to keep with me at All Times.

I am not feeling down today but here are some things I hope to do:
Go to Quaker Meeting - It is First Day after all.
Practice the accordion!!  Yay!
Make a bath puppet from another old towel.  Because puppets are so much fun and easy to do and I don't really need a pattern.
Write - a poem, a story, directions for a craft, a letter.
Send e-cards to my sister and brother who share a birthday - eight years apart.
Maybe even straighten up a room or two.

Thanks for reading! 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

KBWT - First Book - more

Check out First Book, an organization that distributes books to children who live with few or any books in their lives.  First Book supports other literacy programs as well.  Please look at their website at www.firstbook.org and help this fine organization out.

Parents are always asking which books are best for their children - best as in "most likely to make my child smarter" and best as in "I don't want to waste my time on some silly little book."

My answer has always been, "If you and your child both like the book, THAT is the best book for you."

Hmmm, not good enough, I'm afraid.  So check out Scholastic.com's 100 Best Books for children.  There, that should keep you all happy for awhile.

Start them young.  Start them right - or is that correctly?

But, in case, you really want more, more, more - as well you should - check out Betsy Bird's blog, A Fuse#8 Production, and scroll down til you see the little tabs on the right hand that say 100 Best Picture Books,  and 100 Best Chapter Books.  You may be able to get a Pdf of Betsy's latest 100 best poll that finished up at the end of June.  So many great books are on these lists.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Ode to Libraries video

Thanks to the Huffington Post for sharing this quite, um, laudatory video of Daniel Handler and Maira Kalman performing, as you will, an Ode to Libraries.

I couldn't figure out how to embed the video so follow this link.  It's lovely.  And it features my FAVORITE instrument.  Guess which one.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Just Breathe

I love the blogs I follow, Cold Antler Farm in particular.  Today Jenna posted a video clip, a song she uses when she's afraid and worried.  The song was written by Ze Frank when one of his fans asked for something to help her in times of worry.  Thanks to Jenna, I can share this clip to you.  Thanks to Ze Frank, we can all sing this little song the next time a deadline looms, a family member hurts us, a bill arrives unexpectedly, a leak springs up.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Book Review - The Agency

I was lucky enough to score an ARC of Y. S. Lee's second book in The Agency series (The Body at the Tower) last Fall.  Shame on me for not reviewing it here.  When I saw the third book, (The Traitor in the Tunnel), I scarfed it up.  Now all I have to do is read the first book.

Fans of Victorian England will eat this series up. The period details are well drawn and in the third book the readers even get to meet Victoria herself!!  Here's the set-up.  Mary Quinn is a half-Chinese, half- Irish orphan who is rescued from a life of crime by The Agency, London's only all female private investigation operation.  Mary gets a good education, room and board and training in detective skills.  In The Body at the Tower,  she investigates a scam at an expensive building site and meets James Easton, a dashing engineer.

In The Traitor in the Tunnel, Mary is assigned to Buckingham Palace to solve the mystery of small thefts from the Blue Room.  While she is on assignment in the palace, a drinking buddy of the Prince of Wales is murdered in an opium den and the suspect just may be Mary's long-lost father.  Mary discovers a secret tunnel - not on any of the palace maps - that leads to the new sewer tunnels and a project overseen by....James Easton!  Romance, intrigue, an attempt on the Queen's life and an attempt to find and save her father keep Mary very busy in this third outing.  And there is a promise of more to come and very interesting developments at the end of this book.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Storytelling Thursday! The haircut.

There are a lot of very cute posts out there about very young children telling stories.  The link  directly below this paragraph will take you to "The Worst Haircut EVER", recorded by an NPR journalist after one of his pre-school daughters cut the other pre-school daughter's hair.  These kids are so cute.

The Worst Haircut!  "Everybody does that kind of stuff sometimes!"

Here is another clip which gives advice on helping children tell their own stories.  Thanks go to Detroit Public Television.

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

"Blue Sargent had forgotten how many times she'd been told that she would kill her true love." The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater.

How's that for a first sentence?  Blue lives with psychics, her mother and her aunts.  After introducing Blue in the prologue that begins with the sentence above, the action moves to the "corpse road" behind a crumbling church on St. Mark's Eve.  Here, Blue, who is notably NOT psychically talented - just psychically helpful -, sees her first spirit.  Blue and her Aunt Neeve are collecting the names of local people who will die in the upcoming year - read the book if you don't understand.  And this boy appears  - well, his spirit does.  And Blue can see him.  His name, he tells her, is Gansey.

Ahhh, Gansey and his fellow rich boarding school friends!  They have a mission and it involves the "corpse road", the ancient Welsh King, Glendower, a boy who died before his time and one who lived when he should have died - and eventually, it involves Blue.

Here is some noteworthy advice.  Write this down.  Do NOT begin a Stiefvater book in the late evening if you hope to get some sleep.  It was Thursday night after 10:30 pm, and I couldn't sleep.  So, I said to myself, "Self, just start that new Maggie Stiefvater book.  Reading might help you sleep." Hahahahahahahahahahaha!  I could not put the book down. 

The book is due out in September.  Go to your favorite book purveyor - I vote for a local one - and pre-order.  Or request it at your public library.  You will not be sorry.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Summer Reading Clubs! KBWT!

So, here's an idea.  Run a Summer Reading Club!  Offer kids free books - or prizes - when they successfully;
a.  Complete a predetermined number of books, or pages or amount of time
b. Answer questions about the books they read OR write a review OR tell someone about the book
c.  Attend programs in your place of business
d.  Complete a scavenger hunt OR a puzzle OR find a hidden object
e.  Do all or any combination of the above.

So, who runs these Summer Reading Clubs?  Public Libraries!  I said, PUBLIC LIBRARIES! Bookstores! (Like the Moravian Book Shop)  (Click on these links to learn more about their summer reading clubs.) Publishers!  Those three make sense.  Some school districts run reading clubs.  Tutoring centers run reading centers.  Here are a few of the more well-known Summer Reading Clubs.

Sylvan Learning Centers run BookAdventure.  (Check out the snazzy buccaneer dinosaur and dog!)  Sylvan has produced quizzes on recommended books.  And quiz taking is part of the club's requirements.  Sylvan boasts that they have quizzes for close to 8000 books so you should find something you or your young reader like..

Barnes and Noble Booksellers have run Summer Reading Clubs for years.  This year's theme, Imagination's Destination, dovetails nicely with the Collaborative Summer Library Program's theme of Dream Big - Read (The Public library program).  Barnes and Noble just asks that readers in grades 1 through 6 to read and record a set number of books.  It's easy!

Scholastic Books asks kids - or teachers - to log their time spent reading.  Word Girl is the mascot this year and Scholastic offers certificates, activities, booklists and more.  Check it out.

PBSKids has partnered with other organizations to provide Reading Programs - like the Soar with Reading program sponsored by PBSKids and JetBlue.  Join to earn prizes AND to donate books to needy children around the USA.

iVillage has joined with PBSKids to provide their own Summer Reading Challenge.  Click here for more information.   The program offers daily email tips for increasing your child's literacy skills.  This is a great program for parents of "emerging" readers.

BTW, I wondered if Amazon.com offered a Summer Reading Program and a simple search only offered me a chance to buy a book.  Hmmm.  I guess brick and mortar stores care more about the literacy of their future customers than online merchants.  If I am wrong, please send me the link to Amazon's Summer Reading program.  I promise to post it here.

Free HUGS! Kristin Pedemonti

Kristin shares her message of joy on a TED talk.  Click here to see her presentation.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

NYPL MIlstein Collection

I love libraries.  And NYPL is an icon in the library world.  Thanks to Betsy Bird for posting this video trailer about the Milstein History and Geneology collection at the library with the lions in front.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

OCD, Butterfly Clues, Atlantis Complex

OCD:  It's one of those meme-things.  You know, you decide to name your baby Eloise because the name is unusual without being weird and her nursery school class has four Eloises in it.  Or, one TV show centers around a brilliant nut-case and all of a sudden three or four shows have brilliant nut-cases in them. 

Here's the thing.  All those parents decided independently 3 or 4 years prior to ever speaking to each other that Eloise was the perfect unusual but not weird name.

TV shows take a couple of years to get on the air so - independently - different networks find themselves using very similar ideas.

It happens in science, too.  Darwin and Watkins (I think), Marconi and Tesla.  Although in science it might be borrowing from each other.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a YA fiction meme.  I downloaded Eoin Colfer's The Atlantis Complex to prepare myself for Artemis Fowl's last appearance - ever - in The Last Guardian (due out next week) and guess what neurological disorder Artemis develops?  Obsessive Compulsive Disorder!  Along with paranoia and delusions and multiple personality disorder.  His OCD is a symptom of the Atlantis Complex, developed by humans who have undergone prolonged exposure to magic.

Expect undersea disasters, explosions, magical hi-jinks, a particularly spectacular criminal plot and even a little bit of old-fashioned true love in The Atlantis Complex.  There are a lot of narrow- extremely narrow - escapes.  The most worrisome happening, though, is when Artemis' alter ego, Orion, takes over.  AAAAAAAAHHHHHH!  Now THAT is scary! 

At the same time, I picked up a copy of The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison, a pretty absorbing murder mystery whose heroine suffers from.....say it with me! OCD.  Yeah, with tapping and counting and magic words.  The heroine, Penelope (Lo), has also developed a compulsion to steal.    Penelope's disorder seems to be the result of grief and guilt over her brother's death. 

Penelope's story opens in Neverland, the seamy underside of Cleveland.  You never thought of Cleveland as having seams, right?  Penelope is looking for some last trace of her brother, and for pretty things to add to her vast collection of obsessively ordered keepsakes.  And suddenly a shot bursts through a window right above Penelope's head.  A girl, a young stripper, is the victim of that shooting.  Penelope seems to be the only one who cares about the crime.  Now, she has a new obsession - solving Sapphire's murder.  And she has a new friend, a homeless teen artist who calls himself Flynt, who reluctantly agrees to help her.  But is he only trying to make sure Lo doesn't find the answers?  Savvy murder mystery readers might guess who the culprit is but Lo's relationship with Flynt drives this book, along with Lo's discoveries about Sapphire and herself.

Thursday, July 5, 2012


Today, I am sharing books about fireflies with the children at the Allentown Public Library.  And we will be making this Karen Maurer original craft:  Bugs in a "Jar".  (I decided to do away with the crumpled paper at the bottom of the cup. It's distracting.)

I got my inspiration for this craft from an article I read, suggesting that children could use clear plastic take-out cups and the lids as bug collecting "jars".  That's a lot safer than the canning jars I used as a kid.  One trip on the pavement and there would be shards of glass everywhere.  And take-out lids already have holes punched in them for the straw.

To make my "bugs" glow, I used glow in the dark pony beads, available online at Oriental Trading.   Any pony bead will make a bug and you can get a bag of 100 hundred beads for $1 at Dollar Tree.  The glow-in-the-dark beads go with my firefly theme.

The wings are scraps of tulle.  I bought mine at Dollar Tree but any craft store has rolls of the stuff for cheap.  Other possible materials for wings include tissue paper, which is a little delicate, and scraps of thin fabric.

My take-out lids were given to me by the good people at Panera on Cedar Crest in Allentown.  If you are doing this with just your family, save your take out cups and lids and the craft is truly cheap.

It's Thursday and that means I should talk about Storytelling.  One of the best types of storytelling is when people share stories of "when I was little".  So instead of featuring a storyteller or a book, I challenge my readers to tell stories of summer nights "when I was little."

When I was little, we chased fireflies, counting them up and trying to outdo each other.  The smaller kids would swing their hands through the air and shout out numbers, whether they caught a bug or not.  There is nothing worse to a little kid than not being able to keep up with the older kids.

How do I know my little brothers and sisters counted pretend fireflies?  Well, when they finally caught a lightning bug - that's what we called them - they got so excited, they gave themselves away.

We lived near a park - the picnic kind of park - and there were perhaps six lone streetlamps casting our shadows long and dark on the grass.  The street lamps didn't put out enough light to discourage the lightning bugs.

We ran outside in our pajamas and in our bare feet and we sang snatches of songs.  My sister and I liked to pretend we could speak other languages by singing "O Sole Mio" as loud as we could and then gibberish to the rest of the tune.  We only did this at night.  Night makes anything seem possible.

Those memories are not really a "story" but they were fun to share with you.  Catch some real lightning bugs tonight.  Check out Firefly.org for information about these amazing little lightbulbs.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

KBWT - Lewins, Arnosky, Booktalking!

It's been a whole week since I posted here.  What??!!

Anyway, I follow Book Blog from Booklist Online and they offer excellent book reviews. Check out yesterday's review of Puffling Patrol by Ted and Betsy Lewin - two of my favorite author/illustrators.  Ted and Betsy don't seem to have websites of their own, alas, just simple bio pages.  But here is an amazing fact!  Ted Lewin was a professional wrestler in his late teens.  He tells that story in his book, I Was a Teenage Professional Wrestler, which he illustrates with drawings he did at the time and paintings based on those drawings.

Betsy Lewin has illustrated slews of books on her own, including the wonderfully expressive pictures in Doreen Cronin's Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type.  By themselves, the Lewins are marvelous and together...well, they are superb.

If you enjoy children's non-fiction you have to check out Anastasia Suen's blog, Booktalking.  There, I linked to her Monday post at the end of which she rounds up reviews by OTHER children's book bloggers - all on children's non-fiction.

All this talk of children's non-fiction and author/illustrators reminds me of Jim Arnosky!  And his alterego, Crinkleroot.  Check out Jim's page AND Crinkleroot's page for all kinds of great nature-loving info and activities.
We live in a fascinating world full of amazing creatures.  And we are lucky to have Ted and Betsy Lewin and Jim Arnosky to write books about it all.  Hie thee to a library on Thursday and check out some nature books.

And be careful with those fireworks!  Happy Fourth!  Visit the Liberty Bell Shrine in Allentown for a wonderful program at 1:30 pm tomorrow!