Sunday, April 20, 2014


HAPPY EASTER!  I got out my collection of homemade Ukrainian Easter Eggs and my egg decorating equipment for the first time in a number of years.  Some of the eggs date back to when my children were young.  I became fascinated with the beautiful designs on Ukrainian eggs when I was growing up in northeast Minneapolis and started to make them myself when I was a teenager. The designs are drawn in wax with a stylus and the colors are added successively.   The eggs can be kept year after year because the inside moisture simply evaporates over time.  (The designs are made on raw eggs.  The eggs are not meant to be eaten but used for decoration.) Some of the eggs in the basket were made by my children when they were much younger, others by me.  Now we have some new eggs--made by me, my son (now grown up!) and my granddaughter, age eight.  This year we used purple dye as our third color.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

SHARKS: Linking Informational Text and Poetry (repost from StarWalk KidsMedia)

The following post is from the April newsletter of StarWalk KidsMedia:

Read like a Writer—
Write like a Poet:
CCSS-aligned activities for National Poetry Month

This month we shift to writing and take a look at the link between informational text and poetry, using Anchor Standard 2 from the Anchor Standards for Writing: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.2: Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content. April's featured selections from StarWalk Kids Media offer wonderful mentor texts to support this Standard � and even have some fun in the process!

For grades 3–5: A poem or an essay?
shark Children love poetry. It's short. It has rhythm and beat. It raises pictures in your mind. It uses words very precisely to inform you, delight you, scare you, or make you laugh. And it leaves you with a feeling that is somehow deeper than a mere collection of facts. Yet as Jane Yolen wrote about her collection, Sea Watch, poetry can be a powerful means of conveying complex ideas. "It is amazing how much research goes into each poem, because the poem has to be accurate as well as poetic."

Choose one of the poems from Sea Watch. Warning: Sharks is easy to understand but it offers both information and a deeper meaning along with the thrill. With the whole group, read the poem and consider, what is fact? What is interpretation? Notice the precise choice of words such as "bear-trap jaw." What do you think Jane Yolen is saying about people, even though this poem is about sharks?

Ask your students to research an animal of their choice. The StarWalk Library offers 83 books about animals and animal behavior including Giant Shark, by Caroline Arnold. Then, using one of the poems from Sea Watch as a mentor text, invite them to write a short poem about their chosen animal that gives information and also says something deeper about the animal's place in nature or how it relates to humans. Don't just copy the poem, but use the techniques you observed in the whole-group discussion. Extend the project by having students illustrate their poetry with drawings or images from the Internet.

Share the poems. In ancient times poems were made to be told and sung!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Author Visits to LA's Best Young Authors in Los Angeles

I had two good visits with young authors a week ago at Wilshire Park and Harvard Schools in Los Angeles. These children are participating in the LA's Best after school young authors program and are making their own books.  I know it is inspiring for these young authors to hear from a "real-live" author such as me and to find out that they are doing many of the same things that I do when they are writing their books.  At both schools I gave my slide show to show my writing process.  Then at Wilshire Park the kids did a writing activity in which they created their own "mixed-up" animal after listening to me read my book The Terrible Hodag and the Animal Catchers.  At Harvard School the kids did a Wiggle and Waggle creative art project after listening to me read two stories from the book.
Thanks to California Readers for coordinating this program!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Author Visit to New Horizon School in Pasadena

At New Horizon School, Pasadena, CA
Recently I had a very successful visit to New Horizon School in Pasadena where I spoke to two groups of children. I was surprised and pleased to hear the upper grades greet me in Arabic–which they explained meant "Peace Be Upon You." With grades two through four I showed slides and talked about the process of writing.  With the children in pre-K through first grades, we did several activities including a lion hunt, measuring wingspans, and singing the Wiggle and Waggle song.  I finished by reading aloud my book The Terrible Hodag and the Animal Catchers.  Mrs. Nelson’s Toy and Book Shop provided Wiggle and Waggle and Too Hot? Too Cold? for purchase and signing and many children went back to their classes happily holding their new books.  I thank principal Kim Badge for inviting me and for making sure that everything ran smoothly.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

April is School Library Month

April is School Library Month.  Celebrate with the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) and their gallery of authors.  From Tony Abbott to Allen Zadoff, more than 100 authors including me have contributed quotes about how libraries have been an important part of their lives.  Here's mine:  When I was growing up, I rode my bike to the library and checked out as many books as I could fit in the wire basket on the front. I am a writer today because of my love for books and reading that began when I was young.  
To read all the quotes go to .
For a slide show of the authors go to .

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A POEM IN YOUR POCKET, Two Poems by Madeleine Comora

April is poetry month, celebrating poets and poems of all kinds.  Do you have a poem in your pocket to share with your friends?  I have two poems in my pocket written by my friend Madeleine Comora, a wonderful poet and my collaborator on our book Taj Mahal. As I read these poems I remember Madeleine and her ability to bring nature alive with her words.

Two Poems by Madeleine Comora:

Rabbit’s Feet

Long ago
Rabbit’s feet
were delicate
and round,
but Coyote chased him
day and night.
He ran so hard
his feet grew long
and flat.
This slowed him down.
He stopped.
And with those feet
made one great leap
to the moon.


A blanket
of lumbering
dried earth
and moss
goes rumbling.
A mountain’s back
shakes the trees,
gouges and claws
a century of rings.
The heavy breath
is the dark sound
of winter’s drumming.

This is my contribution to the StarWalk KidsMedia article "The Poem in My Pocket." Find out what poems other StarWalk KidsMedia authors are carrying in their pockets at .

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

ED PERT AWARD Author Visit to Crestwood Street School

Signing the Author Wall at Crestwood Street School
Last Thursday I had an excellent author visit at Crestwood Street School in Rancho Palos Verdes,  where I spoke to four groups of children grades K-6.  They were enthusiastic during my presentations and asked terrific questions at the end.  Crestwood Street School had won the California Readers Ed Pert Award and my visit was one of the benefits. The sponsor of the award is the Winnick Family Foundation. Crestwood Street School will also  be receiving 100 books from the 2014 Elementary California Collection for their library.  My books A Warmer World and Your Skeletal System are in the collection.  I thank Gwen Davies for organizing my day and helping to prepare the students for my visit.  At the end of the day I signed a special “Author Wall” in the library where I joined numerous other authors who have visited the school in the past.  A photo taken of me during my visit will be added next to my signature.