Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Holiday Cookies: Artistic and Delicious! HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Sugar cookies ready to go into the oven
A favorite activity of the holiday season is baking cookies.  A tradition at our house has always been making sugar cookies–cut out with the cookie cutters passed down from one generation to the next and decorated with sprinkles, colored sugar, cinnamon candies and whatever else is available. This is a perfect activity to do with my grandchildren–each one has his or her own style of decorating!  And then, after all the cookies are baked, everyone enjoys eating them.

Sugar Cookies

3 cups flour
1 cup shortening (or half butter, half shortening)
2 eggs beaten with 1 cup sugar and 3 tablespoons milk
1 scant teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla

Cut shortening into flour with pie blender.  Add remaining ingredients which have been beaten together.  Mix well.  Chill overnight.  Roll out and cut shapes.  Place on greased cookie sheet and sprinkle with sugar.
Bake at 375 degrees 8-10 minutes.

This was originally my grandmother Grandma Dorothy Scheaffer’s cookie recipe.  It is also known as Aunt Dea’s sugar cookies.  She used to make the cookies with lard.  They were a special treat made when we visited our cousins in Kenosha, Wisconsin. 


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Writing Process: One Idea Leads to Another

I frequently discover ideas for a new books as I am working on other projects.  What is mentioned as a passing fact in one book later turns out to be the main theme of another project.  For instance, in my book, The Ancient Cliff Dwellers of Mesa Verde, I wrote a short section about petroglyphs, or rock art.  I was fascinated both by the stone images that had been carved into the rock and by the fact that they have endured for hundreds of years.  A few years later, as I was leafing through a publication that I receive as part of my membership in a local museum, I learned of a rock art site in the California desert where thousands of petroglyphs lined the canyon walls.   I arranged a visit and discovered the subject for a new book, Stories in Stone: Rock Art Pictures by Ancient Americans.   Of course, the book wasn’t just about petroglyphs, but the stone images provided me with  a theme that allowed me to discuss the people who made them, how they did it, and what the symbols may represent.
(Both The Ancient Cliff Dwellers of Mesa Verde and Stories in Stone are out of print.  You can look for them in your library.)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


On one of my school visits, I went into the library and found it festooned with paper chains.  When I looked closer, I saw that each link had the name of a book and the name of a child written on it.  The chains were a clever way of keeping track of all the books the children had read during the year.

Here's how you can make your own literacy chain:
  • Cut strips of paper 1 inch wide and 8 ½ inches long.  When you finish reading a book, write the name of the book on a strip of paper.  Glue or tape the ends of the strip together to make a circle.  Do this with every book you read, connecting the circles to make a chain.  This is a good class or family project. You can use the chains to decorate a bulletin board, your room, the library, or at holiday time.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Author of the Month at UNABRIDGED

 Check out the Charlesbridge Publishing blog, Unabridged, where I am the Author of the Month for December!  I write about the background for my upcoming book Too Hot? Too Cold? and offer three cool activities that kids can do as extensions of the book:
  • Hot Rocks
  • Making a Wingspan Tape
  • Cooling Thermometers. 
You can also see a photo of me and my brothers in the snow taken when I was ten years old.  My mother wrote on the back of the picture that the temperature that day was minus 14 degrees!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A WARMER WORLD, NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book

I was delighted to learn that A Warmer World is on the National Science Teachers Association Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12 for 2013.  It is an honor to be on this select list and a reward for all the hard work by my editors and everyone at Charlesbridge.  Thank you!

The OSTB list now includes a wider range of books than ever before.  NSTA says: "Our vision of what we call science has broadened. The practices we use to explore the natural world and to create new products now include mathematics and engineering. We also recognize the importance of the arts, history, and human perspectives in these explorations. Science is not just one “way of knowing,” but many."

Here is a link to the list and the entry for A Warmer World:
A Warmer World. Caroline Arnold. Charlesbridge.
Beautiful book with two levels: story line and facts about an important current issue and its effect on animals.