Wednesday, December 25, 2013

HOLIDAY READING: Celebrate With Books!

Some of my favorite Christmas picture books
What better way to prepare for Christmas than to read some of the special books that celebrate the themes of the season! My daughter's family gets out their collection of holiday children’s books each December when they unpack the decorations for the tree.  Their books include winter snow stories, Santa Claus tales, and retellings of the traditional nativity story. As we reread our favorites we enjoy each one all over again, and even though the grandchildren are growing older, no one ever outgrows the love of a good picture book. 
I send you good wishes for a  
Very Happy Holiday 
and a  
New Year filled with wonderful books! 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Young Authors at LA’s Best Have Fun with WIGGLE AND WAGGLE

Recently, I spent an hour with enthusiastic young authors grades one through five at the South Region #10 school in Los Angeles.  The class was part of the LA’s Best after school program offered at many schools. I showed slides, had the children act out the first story in Wiggle and Waggle using my sock puppets, taught them the Wiggle and Waggle song, and then after the slides were finished, the children colored pictures of Wiggle and Waggle while I read the other four stories in the book.  I was impressed by how colorful the children made their drawings and how each one used their own creativity to make their drawings different.
LA’s Best works with California Readers to bring authors like me to the schools.  I have been participating in the program for several years and always enjoy my visits with young authors.
Note:  A printable pdf of the Wiggle and Waggle coloring page can be downloaded at the Charlesbridge website.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

FOCAL Award Luncheon, Honoring ONE CRAZY SUMMER by Rita Williams Garcia

Luncheon table centerpiece for One Crazy Summer, depicting the palm tree next to Cecile's house in Oakland, her poetry, a replica of Delphine's Timex watch, a Chinese take-out box, and Miss Patty Cake, all arranged in the top of a suitcase.
Last Saturday, December 7, 2013, was the thirty-third annual celebration of the FOCAL Award of the Friends of Children and Literature, the support group of the children’s department at the Los Angeles Public Library.  The award this year was given to Rita Williams Garcia for her book One Crazy Summer.  It was a gala event, held at the Border Grill in downtown Los Angeles (across the street from the library), with great food, an inspiring talk by Rita, wonderful essays read by the student essay contest winners and the presentation of the puppet created by Carol Onofrio.  A revolving slide show created by Mara Alpert from the library reminded us of the winning books and their companion puppets from the past.  

Rita Williams Garcia
One Crazy Summer is a great book, Anita is an engaging speaker, the centerpieces, created by students of Ray Moszkowicz at Palms Middle School, and Carol Onofrio’s puppets were amazing as always, and the kids' winning essays were terrific. The contest winners sat at the head table with Rita and I loved how Rita interacted with them. They were truly thrilled to meet her.

Rita autographing a book and puppet
I thank all the people who helped make the luncheon possible–the FOCAL Board, headed by Caroline Gill; the essay judges, chaired by Sandy Schuckett; the awards committee, of which I was Chair; the library staff; and Ray Moszkowicz and his students at Palms Middle School. And above all I thank Rita Williams Garcia, who flew all the way to Los Angeles from her home in Queens, New York, for her gracious acceptance of the award.

For more about Rita’s book One Crazy Summer and this year’s FOCAL committee, see my posts for November 16, 2013 and July 10, 2013.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

PANDA Now at StarWalk Kids as an E-Book

This December the StarWalk Kids Media eBook collection is adding even more eBooks by their authors and illustrators. Here is a list of some of the new entries for the month of December 2013, including my book PANDA, illustrated with photographs by Richard Hewett. Included are some suggestions for using these books to meet Common Core State Standards. If you are already a subscriber to StarWalk Kids, these books are automatically added to your collection at no additional cost. If you are not a subscriber, click here to subscribe or to sign up for a free trial.

PANDA (by Caroline Arnold, photographs by Richard Hewett)
Panda offers children a fascinating and detailed portrait of this gentle forest dweller, illustrated with powerful photographs by Richard Hewett. The clear text introduces young readers to this native of the bamboo forests in central China's mountainous highlands and describes the giant panda's unique physical characteristics. It discusses how Pandas are raised in zoos as part of the worldwide effort to save the species from extinction.
Ages 7-10.  

My book Panda is paired with another book with the same title Panda by Carol Bonner.  Here are some terrific suggestions for how these two books can be used in the classroom.

For grades 4-6, compare two informative but very different books about the giant panda.
You might read Susan Bonners' book aloud, showing the beautiful illustrations. Ask students to work with a thinking partner to revisit the text and come up with the most important life events in the life of a panda. Be sure to have them specify evidence from the text to support their thinking.

Then have students identify one life event they would like to know more about. Use the photo illustrated eBook Panda by Caroline Arnold to search for more detail about that event. Students can choose two words from Arnold's book to reflect their thinking about this subject. Support their thinking with examples from the text. (eg: Adulthood: "solitary," and "bamboo." Pandas are usually very solitary animals that eat bamboo and other wild grasses. It is a good thing they prefer to be alone; otherwise there could be a shortage of food.)

Compare the styles of the two authors. Would students choose one Panda book over another? For what purposes? Why do they think each author chose her style of presentation? What reaction were the authors trying to get from their readers? 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


I was thrilled to learn that my book, Too Hot? Too Cold? is on the recently announced NSTA (National Science Teachers Association) Outstanding Science Trade Books K-12, 2014.  The list of winning titles is now available on the web and will be published with fully annotated reviews in the March 2014 issue of NSTA’s K-12 journals.  Here’s what NSTA says about the list:

This year, science teachers and mentors have been challenged to meet the high expectations of the Framework for K–12 Science Education and the Next Generation Science Standards. The Framework urges us to help learners “[build] progressively more sophisticated explanations of natural phenomena…” while NGSS provides a model for “gathering, describing, and using information about the natural and designed world(s).” In the development of curricula that meet these challenges, literature is an essential partner. “The NGSS are aligned with the CCSS [Common Core State Standards] to ensure a symbiotic pace of learning in all content areas.”

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

ABFFE Holiday Art Auction: Illustration from A KILLER WHALE'S WORLD Helping Support Free Speech

Illustration for pages 8-9, A Killer Whale's World (PictureWindow Books, 2006)
A full-size print of an illustration from my book A Killer Whale's World will be one of more than 70 pieces of children's book art in the ABFFE Holiday Art Auction on eBay.

The auction launches on eBay on Tuesday, Nov. 26, at noon, Eastern Time. "We need help telling people about this wonderful source of holiday gifts,” ABFFE President Chris Finan said. "If you have a web site, you can connect directly to the auction using our new web badge. Or you can just tell a friend.”
The web badge can be copied from the ABFFE web site and connected to eBay using this link.  It is also available to American Booksellers Association members in the BookWeb DIY's Designs & Downloads.

The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE), is the bookseller's voice in the fight against censorship. The week-long eBay auction will feature work from the leading artists and illustrators working in book publishing today. More than 50 artists and illustrators contributed to last year's auction. "The Holiday Children's Art Auction will give people around the country a chance to purchase wonderful holiday gifts and support free speech," ABFFE President Chris Finan said.

The holiday auction is the online version of the children's art auction that is held during BookExpo America (BEA). Both auctions help support ABFFE's defense of the free speech rights of kids. The BEA auction will be held on May 28 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. in the River Pavilion of the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City.

UPDATE from Chris Finan:
NEW YORK, NY, Dec. 5, 2013 - The Holiday Children's Book Art Auction that closed Tuesday hit a new high, raising more than $10,000 to help defend the free speech rights of kids.  Winning bidders walked away with 80 pieces by leading artists and illustrators.  "We are delighted by the success of this year's auction," Chris Finan, president of the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE), said.  "The holiday auction has grown rapidly since it was launched last year.  We are very grateful to the artists for their support."  ABFFE, the bookseller's voice in the fight against censorship, uses the proceeds of the auction to support the Kids' Right to Read Project, which assists people fighting book challenges in schools and libraries, and Banned Books Week, the annual celebration of the freedom to read. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Activities: Holiday Projects at Mrs. Saint Nick's, Ann Paul's New Blog for her New Book

Hand-made gifts are the best kind of presents. For some wonderful and easy-to-make holiday gifts go to the Mrs. Saint Nick, Countdown to a Stress-Free Christmas blog post for November 4th.  Learn how to make a decoupage box with colorful paper or how to knit a simple bookmark. The blog, created by Ann Paul to promote her charming and humorous book 'Twas the Late Night of Christmas, illustrated by Nancy Hayashi, will help you plan for the holidays. And you can get a preview of the book and some of Ann's Christmas crafts in this charming video by Jane Kaczmarek.

'Twas the Late Night of Christmas is available both as a paperback and e-book.
This delightful retelling of the classic poem 'Twas the Night Before Christmas gives Mrs. Saint Nick a starring role and the recognition she deserves. Here's how the story begins:

'Twas the Late Night of Christmas and all through the house everyone was exhausted, even the mouse.
The children were whining. The house was a mess.
Mom slumped in despair from all of the stress.
This is the perfect gift for hassled parents overwhelmed by the crazy-making business of Christmas!
If you live in the LA area, Ann would love to have you join her at one of her signings in the coming weeks.  I'm planning to buy copies for all the moms (and dads) in my family!
Ann's upcoming appearances:
Friday, November 22nd  
6:00 p.m.
Reading & Book Signing
Barnes & Noble
Marina Del Rey, CA 

Saturday, November 23rd
5:30 p.m.
Reading, Signing and Sweets
Skylight Books
Los Angeles, CA

Saturday, November 30th
10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
Book Signing
Once Upon a Time Bookstore
Montrose, CA

Saturday, December 21st
10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Book Signing
Los Angeles, CA 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The FOCAL Award Committee: We Have a Winner!

Being on the FOCAL Award committee is a little like being in a book club.  We read lots of books, talk about them–often with great passion–and then have the difficult task of choosing which one we like best. This year the winner is One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia, a book full of memorable characters and universal themes, with a window onto a period of history–the turbulent 1960's and Black Panther movement–seen through the eyes of three spunky girls sent from Brooklyn to Oakland, California, for the summer. We are delighted with our choice and looking forward to meeting Rita Williams-Garcia at the Award Luncheon on December 7th at the Border Grill, downtown Los Angeles, across from the Public Library. Please join us! (See below for link to details about the luncheon.)

This year’s FOCAL Award committee consisted of myself, past chair Nancy Reich, FOCAL President Caroline Gill, and members Marcia Melkonian, Lisa Schloss, Barbara Stone, Annette Goldsmith, Rachel Kitzmann and Alexandra Stewart--representing school, public and university libraries, classroom teachers, and writers. Each year the committee is given the task of choosing from a list of nominees (this year there were eleven), that includes both fiction and nonfiction ranging from picture books to novels. It is not an easy job, as every book we review has elements that recommend it. To qualify, the book must exhibit high standards of excellence in literature for young people, literary and/or artistic merit, interest and readability, universality, and California enrichment content. One Crazy Summer certainly did.

One Crazy Summer is beautifully written. We care for eleven-year old Delphine, in charge of her younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern. The committee felt that readers will identify with them as they adjust to life in a new place and to a mother they are meeting for the first time. The story is fiction, but the setting is real--from the People’s Center next to the library, to the park where the rally takes place at the end of the book. We felt that the book is a good introduction for kids to learn what it was like to live as a Black American in the 1960's. Most importantly, though, the  book is simply a good story–a page turner.

Essay contest: Part of the FOCAL Award is an essay contest for kids about why they would like to meet the author. We think that readers of One Crazy Summer will find plenty to write about! Winners are invited to the luncheon and sit with the author. We hope to see you there too!

See for details about the luncheon and essay contest.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

FALL GALA: Children's Literature Council of Southern California (CLCSC)

Last Saturday, November 9th, I attended the 52nd annual Fall Gala of the Children's Literature Council of Southern California (formerly SCCLCYP) at the Skirball Center in Los Angeles.  As always, it was a delightful morning with a delicious breakfast and the chance to see friends, meet librarians and teachers, and to hear inspirational talks.  The featured speaker was Linda Sue Park, whose talk focused on her life as an author and how reading has been key to the development of the ideas for her books.  We heard how a poem led to her book The Third Gift and how a meeting with a Sudanese refugee inspired her book A Long Walk to Water and how that book has stimulated thousands of students to sponsor wells for villages in Sudan.  She also read to us her new book Xander's Panda Party, a charming story in verse with amazing art by Matt Phelan.
     The program also included awards to Carrie Arcos (Peggy Miller Award for Young Adult Literature), Betsy R. Rosenthal (Myra Cohn Livingston Poetry Award), Wes Troke (Inspiring Work of Historical Fiction), Jon Klassen (Excellence in Picture Book Artistry), Doug TenNapel (Groundbreaking Graphic Novel) and Allyn Johnston (Dorothy C. McKenzie Award).  Each of them, except for Jon Klassen and Doug TenNapel who couldn't be there) gave touching acceptance speeches.  Allyn's speech recounted the course of her career in publishing.  When she was at Harcourt she was the editor of three of my books, A Guide Dog Puppy Grows Up, On the Brink of Extinction, and Hawk Highway in the Sky.
     I thank Marjorie Arnett, the Gala Coordinator and the 2013 Awards Committee for a terrific program and a wonderful morning celebrating books for children.

Saturday, November 9, 2013


The Ventana Wildlife Society has recently posted a live video cam of a condor feeding site near Big Sur.  Carcasses are regularly provided so the large vultures can have safe, healthy food to eat.  When food is available, you may be able to see five or more of the enormous birds at the site hopping around the food or perched nearby.  Large numbered tags on their wings distinguish them from other vultures.  Links on the page take you to more videos, photos and information about condors.  You can also learn about condors in my book On the Brink of Extinction.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

LITERACY: PASSPORT TO THE WORLD, California Reading Association PDI at Sonoma State University

Caroline at the Signing Table
I just got back from the California Reading Association PDI at Sonoma State (November 1-2) where I gave a talk and did a book signing. It was a great event and I met many teachers and librarians--at my session, the signing table, at the author meet and greet, on the exhibit floor, and at the California Young Reader Medal dinner on Saturday night where Alma Flor Ada was the featured speaker.  My talk, Think Outside the Book, focused on links to Common Core and on projects and activities teachers and kids can do in the classroom to reinforce reading and enhance the content of the book.  In my handouts I included links to many projects, most of which can also be found on this blog and on my website.

Caroline with the Heinemann representative
I always enjoy going to CRA.  It was a full program and with so much going on, impossible to attend everything but I did as much as I could.  In the exhibit hall I had the chance to meet the rep for Heinemann, which publishes the Fountas Pinnell Leveled Literacy Intervention program.  My new book, Octopus, Escape Artist of the Sea, is part of that reading program.
Gretchen Woelfle

I want to thank Nancy Rogers-Zegarra and Lynn Gurnee and all the hardworking CRA committee members for all the organization of the conference.  I also want to thank Sandra Yoon for coordinating the author signing and making the colorful posters for our spots at the signing table.

Patricia Newman, Alexis O'Neill, Marsha Diane Arnold
The program included fifteen other children’s book authors and it is always fun to talk and compare notes.  Coincidentally, three of the other authors Alexis O’Neill, Gretchen Woelfle, and Jeri Ferris were once students in my writing class at UCLA.  Now they are all well known and prolific authors and we are colleagues.

Jeri Ferris
At the CYRM dinner numerous people received awards, including my good friend Jeri Ferris who was honored with the Armin Shulz Literacy Award for promoting social justice in her books.  The first place winners of the CRA student writing contest were invited to the dinner and read their essays aloud.  The youngest of the prize winners, a first grader, concluded his essay: “I like books because reading makes me happy.”  Reading makes me happy too.

Monday, November 4, 2013

FICTION OR NONFICTION: What's Best for Your Story? UCLA Extension Writer’s Program, March 1st, 2014

My Writer's Program T-shirt!
Enrollment for Winter Quarter classes in the UCLA Extension Writer’s Program opens November 4, 2013.  I will be teaching a one-day class on Saturday, March 1, 2014: Fiction or Nonfiction, What’s Best for Your Story?  The class will focus on writing for school age children ages 5 to 12.  I have been teaching in the Writer’s Program since 1981 and have the distinction of being in the program the longest of the current instructors!

Here’s a description of the class:
Shaping your idea and turning it into a book just right for your intended audience involves many choices. This workshop will cover both fiction and nonfiction techniques and how to use them to create a book for children that is both fun and informative and just right for the child and just right for you. From picture books to chapter books, we will discuss developing an idea into a framework for a book or article, choosing a point of view, writing lively prose, and conducting research. Special attention will be paid to organizing material; selling your story to trade, school, library, and magazine markets; and editing your work.
Go to the UCLA Extension website for information about enrolling.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

AUTHORS AHOY! School Visits and More in Beautiful Humboldt County, CA

I am just back from Eureka, CA, and the wonderful Humboldt County Children's Author's Festival--great schools, great people, great authors and illustrators, great Humboldt county scenery--who could ask for more? The theme this year (you can tell by the hats) was Author's Ahoy!
Humboldt County Chamber Readers who performed my book Wiggle and Waggle
Every two years the hardworking festival committee invites twenty-five author and/or illustrators for four days filled with a variety of activities–author visits in the schools, a reception and illustrators’ exhibit at the Morris Graves Museum, a potluck dinner with entertainment by the talented Chamber Readers, a banquet–held this year in the elegant Ingomar Club, and a community book signing at the Humboldt Public Library.  This the fourth time I have participated in the festival, and each time it gets better and better.
Welcome banner, Mattole School, Petrolia
On the first day of school visits my driver, Jere, took me to the wild and beautiful Lost Coast where I visited Mattole School in Petrolia and Honeydew School in Honeydew.  The long ride from Eureka went through Ferndale, up and down over the hills, with spectacular views of the ocean and Cape Mendocino.  At Mattole, I spoke to two groups of children, first the primary grades and then, after the earthquake drill, to the upper grades.

Questions and drawing, Mattole School
The children had read several of my books and prepared questions and wonderful drawings for me.  I could see that their favorite books were about giraffes and zebras!  Then after a delicious lunch at Mattole, I went to Honeydew School where the children had learned about platypuses in my book A Platypus’ World. Then I read them my story about another “mixed-up” animal The Terrible Hodag and the Animal Catchers.  Afterward my driver took my through the majestic redwoods to Highway 101 and we headed back to Eureka.
"Whale Come" at Redway School
On the second day of school visits my driver, Linda, took me to Redway School, also near the redwoods.  The children there had made wonderful welcome posters and prepared questions.  At the end of my presentation the children gave me their questions which had been written on index cards.  Most drew pictures on the other side.  Among my favorites was a picture of me and the student under a colorful rainbow.
Banquet dessert.  Delicious cakes by Ramones
Friday night was the celebratory banquet at the Ingomar Club. Because it was our first time there, the authors were treated to a special tour of the house before the dinner. After a delicious meal, each of the authors gave a three minute talk.  I’m always amazed at the talented company I’m in and  how each one of us is unique. Then, on Saturday from 10:00 to 2:00 we all signed books at the Humboldt County Library, before heading home. It is a tradition that we all wear our festival t-shirts for the signing.
"We are excited to see you and to have a real author at our school." Letter and Zebra pictures from students at Redway School..
It was a full four days with many events to remember.  I thank all the people who work so hard to put it on.  You do a terrific job! 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Art Exhibit, Morris Graves Museum, Eureka, CA

I am pleased to have two of my pieces of original art for my books, A Polar Bear's World and A Walrus' World on display at the Morris Graves Museum in Eureka, California.  As part of the bi-annual Humboldt County Children’s Author & Illustrator Festival, they are among select works from winning illustrators demonstrating the processes of illustration in children’s literature.

The exhibit opened in September and groups of school children visited and learned about the art from docents. I thank Lucy Quinby of the Festival Committee and Jemima Harr, Executive Director and Curator of the Morris Graves Museum for doing such a good job of mounting the exhibit and working with the children.  It was so nice to have the books displayed alongside the art so viewers could see where the illustrations fit in the books. The exhibit will be up until October 29, 2013.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

PEN Literary Awards Festival

Imagine a room filled with more than 300 writers representing genres ranging from fiction, poetry, and graphic novels, to screenplays, teleplays and research nonfiction, to journalism, translation, drama, creative nonfiction and children’s/young adult literature. On October 14, 2013, I attended the 23rd Annual PEN Literary Awards Festival at the Beverly Hills Hotel in California with my friend and fellow author Gretchen Woelfle, one of the judges this year for the Children’s/Young Adult Award.
We sat with the winner, Michael Harmon, the author of the novel Under the Bridge (Knopf Books for Young Readers) and as we ate our delicious dinner listened to him and the other authors accept their awards.  The evening also included awards given for lifetime achievement (Joan Didion), the First Amendment (Chris Hedges) freedom to write (Sonia Nassery Cole) and award of honor (Kickstarter.) 
The program began with a surprise speech by Governor Jerry Brown, standing in for Joan Didion, who couldn’t come at the last moment.  I was sorry not to hear Joan Didion, a writer I have long admired, but the governor was an appropriate choice in that both of them have long associations with Sacramento and have known one another for a long time.  Later in the program we saw a short video interview with Joan Didion.
I am proud to be a member of PEN USA whose mission is to “stimulate and maintain interest in the written word, to foster a vital literary culture, and to defend the freedom of expression domestically and internationally.”  To learn about the many activities of this fine organization go to the PEN USA website.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


Kangaroos are giant leapers.  Did you know that an adult grey kangaroo can jump 30 feet (9 meters) in a single bound and leap over a fence 9 feet (2.7 meters) high?  Its long, heavy tail keeps it from tipping forward as it hops. To jump, a kangaroo springs forward on its hind feet.  Inside each leg is a tendon, which acts like a large rubber band.  When the kangaroo lands, each leg bends, and the tendon stretches.  On the next forward leap, the tendon contracts as it snaps back to its resting position.  This pushes the kangaroo forward.
Click here for a downloadable coloring page of a kangaroo.  A cockatoo is watching from a branch.  You can find out about kangaroos in my book A KANGAROO'S WORLD (Picture Window Books, 2008) and in KANGAROO (StarWalk Kids, 2013) downloadable to your Kindle.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


Last Saturday, October 5th, I had the pleasure of participating in the 61st annual Breakfast With the Authors in Santa Barbara, California.  It was a morning of delicious food, good conversation with teachers, librarians, authors, illustrators, and children’s book lovers of all kinds, plus a panel discussion about the impact of the new Core Curriculum, which was followed by short presentations by the authors, all in beautiful Santa Barbara.  There were twelve other authors besides myself and we each had three minutes to update the audience on our latest work and to give our views on the Core Curriculum.  I love hearing what other authors and illustrators are doing and I’m always amazed how we each manage to get so much into our allotted time. The panel discussion of the of the Core Curriculum, expertly moderated by Matt Zuchowicz from the County Education Office, included Barbara La Corte, principal at Hope Elementary School in Santa Barbara, who has hands on experience in putting the new program in place at her school; me, representing the author’s point of view; and Erin Frazer, buyer at Chaucer’s book store in Santa Barbara, who commented how the Core Curriculum is affecting her business. After the initial discussion, an open mic forum allowed people in the audience to express their points of view.  I felt honored to be part of the panel–I learned a lot in preparing! I’ll put my thoughts in a future blog.

I have attended in the Breakfast With the Authors many times in the past.  I believe the first time I came was in 1981, when I was a new author and one of my new books was Animals That Migrate.  The last time I came was in 1999.  It was great to be back!  Thank you Rose Koller, Matt Zuchowicz, Fred Borchers, and all the staff at the Santa Barbara County Education Office for putting on another great event!  Hurray for children’s books and reading!

The authors and illustrators who were there:  Caroline Arnold, Susan Casey, Tina Nichols Coury, Joan Bransfield Graham, Carol Heyer, Valerie Hobbs, Sarah Lynn, Michelle Markel, James Mihaley, Karen Lee Stevens, Greg Trine, Lee Warlaw and Eugene Yelchin.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


Caroline, Age 10
When I was ten years old, I met a girl who loved to read as much as I did.  We went to the library together, checked out books, and talked about what we had read.  One day we decided to have a project:  we would read all the books in the public library!  Week by week we systematically went through the library shelves pulling out the books we hadn't read. Did we read all the books in the library?  Not quite, but we read a lot.  And I realize now that my love of books that began when I was a child was the perfect preparation for becoming a writer.

If you want to be a writer, there is no better way to get started than to be familiar with the books that have already been written. My basic words of advice to aspiring writers are to read as much as possible.  It is also important to know your audience.  Writing for a three year old has different challenges from writing for a ten year old. Go to a bookstore or library and browse the shelves.  Look at how long the books are, the relationship of text to illustration, the variety of topics for each age level.  Try reading the text aloud and listen to how it sounds.

Of course, every writer must also write and, like every other skill, writing improves with practice.  As you work on your stories, use what you've learned through your reading to improve your writing!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


Who doesn't love dinosaurs?  First graders at a school I visited read my book Dinosaurs All Around, which tells how artist Steven Czerkas creates life-size dinosaurs for museum displays, and then created their own dinosaurs with paper plates.  The curved edge of the paper plate is perfect for attaching the bony plates on the back of a stegosaurus.  I love the way students gave the dinosaurs all sorts of different colors.

Dinosaurs All Around was published in 1993 by Clarion Books.
Stephen Czerkas's dinosaur models, ranging from the largest carnivores to hatching babies, are widely exhibited in museums. This book is based on a traveling exhibit, "Dinosaurs: A Global View," organized by the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and a visit to the artist's studio. Czerkas draws on a painstaking study of fossil bones, living reptiles, and modern animal behavior in the process of putting skin over the bones, choosing color and markings and action poses for the most true-to-life portrayal possible.

Learn how such models are constructed, and the decisions the artist must make in portraying these long-vanished reptiles. Find out how models like these help us to understand what life was like millions of years ago when dinosaurs were alive.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

KINDLE: More of My Books Now Available for Your Kindle

StarWalk Kids has now published nine more of my books on Amazon Kindle, all from my animal series illustrated with photos by Richard Hewett.  With new formatting and updating, these out-of-print books are getting a new life as digital books, perfect for your computer and other digital devices.  I now have a total of 20 titles available for download as Kindle books. The books are also available through the StarWalk Kids subscription program.
Look for these new titles:

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


A walrus mother has a baby, called a calf, about 15 months after mating. At birth, a walrus calf weighs 100 to 160 pounds (45 to 72 kilograms) and is about 4.5 feet (1.4 meters) long.  The calf is almost the size of a person!
You can learn more about walruses in my book A WALRUS' WORLD (Picture Window Books, 2010.)
To print a coloring page of a walrus mother and baby, click here.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A Mural as a Class Project: Miwok Village Life

Mural of Miwok Village by Third Grade Students
Most students in third grade learn about Native Americans.  In my brother’s third grade class in Novato, California, located in Marin County just north of San Francisco, the children learned about the Miwoks, a tribe indigenous to their area. Their studies culminated in books that each child wrote and illustrated, telling about the life of a traditional Miwok family. (I had a chance to see the books in progress on a class visit.) The students also made a mural depicting Miwok life.  Everyone in the class participated in painting the background of the mural, using brushes and sponges to create the local hills and landscape.  Then each student drew animals, birds, people, chopas (dwellings) and other elements and glued them to the background.  The result is a beautiful and detailed depiction of a Miwok village. By working together the students created a piece of art much more complex than each could have done alone and enjoyed the satisfaction of a joint project.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

School Garden: Plant in Containers

An old tire, dresser drawer, tin can, or bucket can make a good gardening container
Gardening is a great hands-on learning project with kids.  But many schools have limited gardening space.  One solution is to use containers.  Container gardening is a flexible alternative to the usual garden plot. Small containers and some containers with wheels can be taken in at night. Larger containers can be used for rooftop and parking lot garden spots.  Spread wood chips or sawdust to cover the asphalt and you can transform a hot dusty corner of the playground into a green oasis for your children.
Containers  should hold at least three gallons of soil for large or deep-rooted plants such as tomatoes, squash and melons, and one and one-half gallons of soil for smaller plants like lettuce, onions, and herbs.  When filling the container with soil, leave a one to three inch basin below the lip for watering.  Containers should have drainage holes in the bottom.  And, containers should be made of a material that will not rot or deteriorate before the plants have matured.

Have fun growing plants and reaping the harvest!

Thanks to Children’s Gardens, A Field Guide for Teachers, Parents and Volunteers by Elizabeth Bremner and John Pusey.  Illustrations by Caroline Arnold

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


I'm always amazed at the creative projects students do after reading my books. When I visited Susan B. Anthony School in Sacramento several years ago, I found a whole class wearing these charming hats inspired by my book Wiggle and Waggle.  With magic markers and yellow construction paper you can make your own Wiggle and Waggle hats too!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Writing Process: My Idea Box

So you want to write a children's book!  Ideas for books are everywhere. They come from our own interests and experiences, both as adults and when we were children.  They can be found in all kinds of written material including books, newspapers, magazines, museum and travel brochures--even junk mail!  Here are some good sources of ideas.
  •     Television, radio, movies, the internet.
  •     Children’s questions.
  •     Your observations of children at school and at play.
  •     School curriculum needs.
  •     Parenting needs.
    I’ve learned to keep my “idea antennae” up all the time because I never know when something will trigger an idea that might later develop into a topic for a book.  It might be a conversation with friend, an interaction with a child at a school, or a news item on the radio.  I always keep a pen and paper handy so that I can quickly jot down a few words when the idea is fresh.
    On the shelf above my desk I have my “idea box” in which I toss notes scribbled on bits of paper, articles cut out of the newspaper or torn out of magazines, brochures collected on vacations and anything else that might be relevant to a future book project.  Periodically I go through the box and select a few items to develop into possible books.   I already have enough ideas to last for at least two more lifetimes, and since I’ll never be able to use them all, my challenge is to try to select the best ones.

Saturday, August 10, 2013


If you are a teacher or librarian in the Los Angeles area, here is a terrific opportunity for the kids at your school or library:

Calling all writers in grades 5-8 who have ever had a crazy summer! FOCAL, the friends group of the Children’s Literature Department of LAPL Central Library, is sponsoring their annual writing contest. This year students are reading the book One Crazy Summer, by Rita Williams-Garcia and traveling back in time to the summer of 1968 in Oakland. This exciting, emotional work of historical fiction (winner of the Newbery honor, Coretta Scott King Author Award, Scott O’Dell Historical Fiction Award and the FOCAL award) is the story of three sisters, sent from Brooklyn to spend the summer getting to know their mother in California. The girls have dreams of Disneyland which are immediately replaced by summer camp with the Black Panthers. This is indeed a crazy summer!

The writing contest is an opportunity for students to respond to award winning literature for an authentic reason; winning a contest! Standards will be met! History will come alive! Students will have fun while they learn! And, three lucky winners will have lunch with the author, get an autographed book, and read their essay aloud at our annual awards luncheon. Will you be submitting the best three essays from your class by November 2, 2013?
For all the details, go to and download the guidelines and application,

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

"Wormy Activities" Perfect for Summer Gardening with Kids

For some great ideas of "wormy" activities go to this post at Squish Preschool Ideas.  It includes links to activities for my book Wiggle and Waggle as well as many other suggestions for art projects, games, and more.  This is a terrific resource for summer gardening projects with preschool and primary school age kids.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Memories of Madeleine Comora, 1962-2013

Madeleine Comora Bhushan on her Wedding Day
My friend Madeleine Comora-Bhushan passed away July 3, 2013.  She was an accomplished poet and author of children’s books as well as a gifted painter.  Her home was in Glendale, but she also lived in India for several years where she embraced its rich culture and history.  Many of us in Southern California knew her and will miss her.

I first met Madeleine when she was a student in the writing course I taught at UCLA Extension.  Her class project was the story of barber surgeons and the history of dentistry, inspired by her father who had been a dentist. We reconnected when I later joined a writers’ critique group to which she belonged. By then Madeleine was having some of her poems published and was working on new book projects such as Rembrandt and Titus.

Her book George Washington’s Teeth was co-written with Deborah Chandra, a member of Myra Cohn Livingston’s poetry group that Madeleine was part of. Some of Madeleine’s other stories and poems included a railroad story, inspired, I believe, by her grandfather, and an imaginative dog story, inspired by her dearly beloved bulldog Eleanor.

Madeleine’s writing came from her life, whether on a personal level or from her interest in art and history. The book we did together, Taj Mahal, grew out of a mutual fascination with India and visits to the Taj Mahal, which we both found far more impressive than we expected. The book started out as a strictly nonfiction project focusing on the background and building of the Taj Mahal, but evolved into a poetic retelling of the tale that is said to have inspired the building of this great monument. In the beginning, we envisioned the book illustrated with photos and historical art, but, when our editor suggested that Madeleine’s husband Rahul, a professional artist, submit some sample art, it became obvious that he was the perfect choice as the illustrator. So, while Madeleine and I labored over the text, making sure that every word and comma was exactly right, Rahul painted the pictures, researching every detail. The final product was a true collaboration. I brought my experience and nonfiction skills, Madeleine was the poet, creating music in every line, and Rahul contributed his beautifully detailed art and his Indian sensibility.

Meanwhile, Madeleine and Rahul became officially engaged and were married in a traditional Hindu ceremony, which I and many of Madeleine’s writer friends attended. Madeleine was the most beautiful bride I had ever seen. And then, not too long after, Madeleine became pregnant, her belly expanding each day with twins. I remember going to a baby shower organized by Madeleine’s sister Aileen. And then Kavi and Shiva were born, so tiny at first. After they came home, I helped with the feeding and diapering, trying a give Madeleine a break during a time Rahul was away. I remember how calm she seemed and so glowing with the joy of motherhood.  I am saddened that Madeleine will not see her boys grow up, but she gave them a good start.

I last communicated with Madeleine in late April. She was on her way home from Seattle where she had been getting medical treatments. She said, “I’ll call you soon.”

Madeleine was a wonderful poet, perceptive critic in our writer’s group, loving wife and mother, teacher, and friend. My heart goes out to her husband Rahul, her twin boys, her mother and sisters. She will be terribly missed.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Activity: Make a Dinosaur Time Line

Many of my books, such as Giant Sea Reptiles of the Dinosaur Age, Pterosaurs: Flying Reptiles of the Dinosaur Age and Dinosaurs With Feathers, are about dinosaurs or animals that lived in the Dinosaur Age (the Mesozoic Era.)  Trying to grasp the huge span of time that these animals were alive--225 to 65 million years ago--and the time that has elapsed since they became extinct is difficult.  One way to appreciate that span of time is to  make a time line of the history of the earth and show when dinosaurs, pterosaurs and giant sea reptiles lived. (Use a roll of shelf paper or draw the time line with chalk on the playground. If one inch equals a million years you will need about 20 feet to go back to the beginning of dinosaurs.)

Would you like to have a pet dinosaur?
Write a story about what you would do if you had a dinosaur, pterosaur, or giant sea reptile as a pet. Where would you keep it? What would it eat?  Do you think you could teach it to do tricks?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Summer is SUN FUN time! Easy-Read Activities on Kindle

SUN FUN: An Easy Read Activity Book by Caroline Arnold.  Here is the perfect book to inspire activities to do with your kids, grandkids, or students, on a hot summer day! 
     Did you know that you can tell time by the sun, cook with the sun, and make pictures with the sun? This book for children ages 5 to 9 has ten fun activities that use energy from the sun, including making a sun clock, shadow puppets, and sun reflectors. From an ice cube race to learning how to watch a solar eclipse, this book uses easily found materials and simple directions to learn about the sun and solar energy.
     I wrote and illustrated this book in 1981.  Many of the projects were ones that I did with my own children and their friends (who became models for my drawings for the book.)  The book has long been out of print but is now available in digital format as a Kindle book on Amazon and at StarWalk Kids.  Have fun and stay cool!
You can preview the book in this video on YouTube about how to make a sun clock. 
     Illustration note:  This book was illustrated back in the days of preseparated art.  I had only three colors to work with--black, red, and yellow--and had to create a separate drawing for each color.  I worked on a light table to make sure that the images for each color would line up (or register) when the pages were printed. In the printing process, the colors combined to make the final image.
Note:  This is an updated reposting of an early blog.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

ONE CRAZY SUMMER by Rita Williams-Garcia, Winner of the FOCAL Award 2013

I am pleased to announce that Rita Williams-Garcia wonderful book, One Crazy Summer, has been chosen to receive the FOCAL Award this year. (FOCAL, Friends of Children and Literature, is the support group for the children’s department at the Los Angeles Public Library.) This was my third year on the FOCAL award committee and I had the role of chair.  Books that are considered for this award must have a California connection, and I must say I always learn more about my state after reading the books each year. This book gave me a new perspective on Oakland–a part-time home for me.
I had the pleasure of meeting Rita Williams-Garcia two years ago at the Judy Lopez Book Award dinner, when she received another of her many honors for this book. I look forward to meeting Rita Williams-Garcia again! The award will be presented at the annual FOCAL Award Luncheon held at the Border Grill in downtown Los Angeles (across from the public library) on December 7, 2013
The luncheon will also honor the winners of the writing contest, children grades 3-8, who have read One Crazy Summer and written essays about it.  Information about the contest will be on the FOCAL website soon.  For a list of all the books that have won the FOCAL award, click here.
Teri Markson, who has previously been on the award committee, wrote an excellent  review of the book for School Library Journal.  Here it is:
School Library Journal (March 1, 2010)
Gr 4-7-It is 1968, and three black sisters from Brooklyn have been put on a California-bound plane by their father to spend a month with their mother, a poet who ran off years before and is living in Oakland. It's the summer after Black Panther founder Huey Newton was jailed and member Bobby Hutton was gunned down trying to surrender to the Oakland police, and there are men in berets shouting "Black Power" on the news. Delphine, 11, remembers her mother, but after years of separation she's more apt to believe what her grandmother has said about her, that Cecile is a selfish, crazy woman who sleeps on the street. At least Cecile lives in a real house, but she reacts to her daughters' arrival without warmth or even curiosity. Instead, she sends the girls to eat breakfast at a center run by the Black Panther Party and tells them to stay out as long as they can so that she can work on her poetry. Over the course of the next four weeks, Delphine and her younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern, spend a lot of time learning about revolution and staying out of their mother's way. Emotionally challenging and beautifully written, this book immerses readers in a time and place and raises difficult questions of cultural and ethnic identity and personal responsibility. With memorable characters (all three girls have engaging, strong voices) and a powerful story, this is a book well worth reading and rereading.-Teri Markson, Los Angeles Public Library

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

ART TOAST: Edible Art Project

Art Toast by Ida Frask: Frida Kahlo, Self Portrait Dedicated to Dr. Eloesser
A friend sent me a link to photos of The Art Toast Project by Norwegian artist Ida Frosk and an interview with her by Tish Wrigley.  Assembling fruits and vegetables and other food items, she recreates famous paintings using a slice of bread as her canvas.  Ida Frosk has done Van Gogh's Sunflowers, a Jackson Pollack drip painting, Munch's Scream and many more.  I was particularly charmed by Frida Kahlo's Self Portrait Dedicated to Dr. Eloesser.  It occurred to me that making art toast would be a perfect project to do with kids.  Not only would they learn about art, but in the end, they could eat their creations!  The possibilities are endless.
Ida Frosk was asked about what happens to her projects after they are finished?  She says:
I usually eat it! This is not an art project as such, everything is made to be eaten. Seems like a shame perhaps but since it has been documented, there's always the chance to experience it once more - and to share it with others. I particularly enjoyed eating the Monet toast, made with pistachio butter, apples and kiwi - so yummy and beautiful!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Science of Apple Pie: Cooking as a Science Project

Is baking an apple pie a science experiment? Why not? The multiple variables--type of apple, moisture, fat content, spices, salt, etc. all impact the final result and can be measured and charted. Recently I attended the UCLA Science of Pie lecture by Chefs Christina Tosi of Momofuku Milk Bar in NYC (who brought compost cookies) and Zoe Nathan of the Rustic Canyon restaurant group (she had samples of her blueberry cornmeal cake) who shared some of their baking secrets and also were part of a panel to judge the student made pies at booths around the room.  The pies were projects of students in the Science and Food class.  You can read more about the event in this terrific article in the LA Times.

Each group of students had experimented with different variables. Then they made a poster presentation of their project. We all got to sample the pies. My favorite--an apple sour cream pie with a crunchy crust!
You can find out more about the activities of the science and food class and the public lecture series at their blog scienceandfood --Promoting knowledge of science through food, and food through science.

Science note:  Understanding food molecules can help us to enhance the desired flavors and textures in our food.  Apples contain pectin molecules.  By intereacting to form a network, these molecules can provide texture for pie fillings, jams, and gumdrops!