Wednesday, December 30, 2015

FOCAL Award Luncheon, December 2015

Puppets by Jesse Kingsley, depicting Sylvia Mendez in the book Separate is Not Equal by Duncan Tonitiuh
On Saturday, December 12th, I attended the annual gala luncheon that honors the winner of the FOCAL Award. FOCAL (Friends of Children and Literature) is the support group of the children’s literature department of the Los Angeles Public Library. The award is presented annually to a children's book with California content. This year it went to Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight For Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh, published by Abrams, 2014.
FOCAL Luncheon book sale table with Storybook Puppets and Separate is Not Equal
Usually the author of the winning book gives a speech at the luncheon. This year, however, Duncan Tonatiuh was unable to attend. Instead, he sent a video of his acceptance, so we got to meet him virtually. His charming young daughter was also part of the video. And, while we were not able to meet the author, it was a special treat to be able to meet Sylvia Mendez, the subject of the book, who came to the luncheon. She was delightful and enjoyed interacting with all of the guests.
Sylvia Mendez

Every year at the luncheon, winners are presented with a unique puppet representing a character from their award-winning book.  Jesse Kingsley, the puppeteer, used Duncan’s illustrations as inspiration for his puppet of Sylvia.

For many years the puppets for the FOCAL winners were created by Carol Onofrio. Another special treat at this year’s luncheon was the wonderful new book with photographs of all Carol’s puppets and their stories. The book, Storybook Puppets, created by Carol Onofrio’s family as a memorial to her body of work, is available in the shop at the Central Library.

Also present at the awards luncheon were children who won the FOCAL essay contest, along with their teachers, and parents. Each of the children read their essay aloud and told about a favorite part of the book and why they would like to meet the author.

Centerpiece
Many people contributed to the success of the luncheon: the officers of FOCAL; the hardworking FOCAL award committee, whose difficult job it is to choose a winner; LAPL children’s librarians; the middle school art students and their teacher, Ray Moscowicz, who created the wonderful centerpieces for the tables; and the parents and teachers who encouraged the students to write their wonderful essays. I always enjoy going to the luncheon and helping to celebrate the love for books and reading. Thanks to everyone for making it such a festive occasion!

For more about the book SEPARATE IS NEVER EQUAL go to my blog post for September 9, 2015.
Caroline Gill, President of FOCAL; Sandy Schuckett, Essay Contest Chair


Sunday, December 27, 2015

LA’s BEST Young Author’s Program at San Pascual School, Los Angeles

Two weeks ago I spent a delightful hour with a group of very enthusiastic young authors in kindergarten and first grade at San Pascual Elementary School in Los Angeles who are participating in the LA’s BEST after school young author program. They had just completed their “I Am...” books and were beginning to work on books about a person they admired. I read my book A Zebra’s World and we went on a “Lion Hunt.” I also read Wiggle and Waggle and then the students colored their own Wiggle and Waggle pictures using a creative mix of colors. At the end of the hour I read A Polar Bear’s World while  three students acted out the story wearing my polar bear masks. Finally, we had a question period and talked about our favorite animals. It was a fun afternoon!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

HAPPY HOLIDAYS

When I was nine years old, my drama club at the Northeast Neighborhood House in Minneapolis put on a play at the annual children's Christmas party called The Littlest Angel, based on a story written by Charles Tazewell. I recently searched for this book and found that it's message is as appropriate today as it was more than fifty years ago--that the best gift does not have to be expensive but must come from the heart. Here is a passage from the book:

And what was his gift to the blessed infant? Well, there was a butterfly with golden wings, captured one bright, summer day on the hills above Jerusalem and a sky-blue egg from a bird's nest in the olive tree that stood to shade his mother's kitchen door. Yes, and two white stones, found on a muddy river bank, where he and his friends had played like small, brown beavers, and, at the bottom of the box, a limp, tooth-marked leather strap, once worn as a collar by his mongrel dog, who had died as he had lived, in absolute love and infinite devotion.

Yes, it was the perfect gift.
In remembrance of this story, I wish all of you a
Happy Holiday
 and a 
Peaceful New Year!

Monday, December 21, 2015

LA’s BEST visit to Young Authors at Grant Elementary School, Los Angeles, CA

Coloring rain forest animals
Two weeks ago I spent an hour with a group of very enthusiastic young authors in kindergarten and first grade at Grant Elementary School in Los Angeles who are participating in the LA’s BEST after school young author program. I had a chance to see some of their “I Am...” books which they had just completed and their notebooks for a new project, “An ABC Christmas.” Each student read one sentence for me from the ABC book. For the letter “B” one student wrote, “I like Christmas bells.” Then I read to them from my books A Zebra’s World, Wiggle and Waggle, and A Day and Night in the Rain Forest. At the end of the hour the children colored their own pictures of a toucan and monkeys in the rain forest. I was pleased to see how excited they were about learning about animals. It was a fun and full afternoon.
Page from an "I Am...." book

Thursday, December 17, 2015

LA’s BEST Visit with Young Authors at Latona School, Los Angeles, CA

Last week on Tuesday I enjoyed an hour with a group of aspiring young authors in the LA’s BEST after school program at Latona Elementary School in Los Angeles, California. The students, kindergarten and first graders, responded enthusiastically to my presentation. I read to them from my books A Zebra’s World and Wiggle and Waggle and then they all had a chance to color their own versions of Wiggle and Waggle. I loved the variety of colors they used–from naturalistic to rainbow hues. At the end of the hour I read A Polar Bear’s World and the children acted out the story wearing polar bear masks. Soon they will be making their own books.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

HORNBOOK REVIEW of A Day and Night in the Desert and A Day and Night in the Rain Forest

The Hornbook includes this very nice review of A Day and Night in the Desert and A Day and Night in the Rain Forest in its Nonfiction Notes section, Natural History.

Arnold, Caroline A Day and Night in the Desert
Gr. K–3     24 pp.     Capstone/Picture Window

Arnold, Caroline A Day and Night in the Rain Forest
Gr. K–3   24 pp.     Capstone/Picture Window

Caroline Arnold’s Habitats series. Double-page spreads feature vibrantly colored collage animals (not to scale) against appropriately colored backgrounds (browns for Desert; greens for Rain Forest). The engaging text describes animal behavior and survival mechanisms. A description of each habitat, a world map, “Fun Facts,” and two Common Core–aligned critical-thinking exercises are appended. Reading list. Glos., ind.
Subjects: Natural history; Deserts; Animals—Desert animals; Rainforests; Animals—Rainforest animals; Habitats; Environment—Ecology; Amazon River region

Saturday, December 12, 2015

CHILDREN’S WRITING WORKSHOP at Big Sur

Andrea Brown and Caroline
Last weekend I participated in the Children’s Writing Workshop, held at the Big Sur Lodge in Jules Pfeiffer State Park on beautiful Highway 1 on the California coast. It was my second time as a faculty member and I enjoyed the opportunity to get to know the other authors, agents and editors on the faculty as well as many of the writers attending the conference. The Big Sur Writing Workshops are for writers of picture books, early reader, middle grade and young adult fiction, courtesy of the Henry Miller Memorial Library and the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. As my agent Andrea Brown says, “It’s like writing boot camp, except there are no push-ups.” For more information about this and future workshops, click HERE.
View from my deck at the Big Sur Lodge

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

BOOK FAIR Author Visit at Hawthorne School, Beverly Hills, CA

With my books at the Hawthorne School Library Book Fair
One evening last week I gave a presentation to Kindergarten through third grade children and their families at Hawthorne Elementary School in Beverly Hills, California, in conjunction with their school Book Fair. Once a month the children come to school for an evening “Story Time” and listen to stories read by members of the community and many of them dress in their pajamas for the event. On the night I visited I could see that many of them were all ready for bed! We met in the cafeteria for my presentation, which included reading my books Wiggle and Waggle and A Zebra’s World. Then the children got a treat of milk and cookies before we all went to the library for the Book Fair and I autographed books. The Book Fair was put on by Mrs. Nelson’s Book Fair Company. It was a fun evening celebrating books and the joy of reading and I thank the parents who helped put it on and for sponsoring my visit.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

LA's BEST Young Authors at Bassett Elementary School

"I am....." books created by young authors at Bassett Elementary School in the LA's BEST program
Last Tuesday I spent a delightful hour with 22 enthusiastic writers grades K through 4 at Bassett Elementary School in Van Nuys, California, who are participating in the LA's BEST Young Authors after school program. The children shared their first project with me, their "I Am..." books about themselves, which they had just completed. Their second project, which they were just starting, is alphabet books. I shared my books with them and talked about how I get ideas and do research. Then I read my story The Terrible Hodag and the Animal Catchers. The Hodag is a creature with the head of an ox, feet of a bear, back of a dinosaur, and tail of an alligator. For the final part of the hour the children created their own "mixed up" animals and drew pictures of them. I was impressed by their enthusiasm and creativity!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

LIVING FOSSILS: Clues to the Past, Review in Kirkus

My new book LIVING FOSSILS: Clues to the Past, due to be published February 2, 2016, has a great review in the December 1 issue of Kirkus!


Six creatures whose essential appearances haven't changed in millions of years provide an introduction to the idea of "living fossils." Scientist Charles Darwin introduced this phrase in 1859, and, though it's not scientifically accurate, it's a popular way to refer to animals that seem to have retained ancient features. Some have even reappeared, alive, after having disappeared in the fossil record. Arnold illustrates this with intriguing examples: coelacanths, horseshoe crabs, dragonflies, tuatara, chambered nautiluses, and Hula painted frogs. Her choices range widely across the animal kingdom and come from around the world. After introducing the concept with the coelacanth, she presents the other five, each with two double-page spreads: then and now. An accompanying narrative describes major features, when and where the species can be found, something about its behavior, and, usually, some natural threats. Further facts appear in the backmatter. The pleasing design offers a clear image of the animal stretching across the fold to a column of text. Inset boxes detail adaptations that have allowed each animal to survive. (In the case of the extremely endangered frog, the question becomes "Will They Survive?") Plant's realistic acrylic paintings show his subjects in their natural habitats and, sometimes, as fossils. School and public libraries whose copies of James Martin's Living Fossils (1997) have worn out will welcome this inviting new look at a popular subject, as will kids with an interest in paleontology and evolution. (timeline, glossary, resources) (Nonfiction. 7-10) 


Review Issue Date: December 1, 2015
Online Publish Date: November 17, 2015
Publisher:Charlesbridge
Pages: 32
Price ( Hardcover ): $16.95
Publication Date: February 2, 2016
ISBN ( Hardcover ): 978-1-58089-691-7
Category: Picture Books

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

SCBWI Book Launch Party for A DAY AND NIGHT IN THE RAIN FOREST

Today is the first day of the new SCBWI Book Launch Party celebration! I have created a page to promote A DAY AND NIGHT IN THE RAIN FOREST and the other books in the Caroline Arnold's Habitats series. Take a look and leave a comment or check the like button!


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Here’s a turkey from my folding board book for tots, Who Has More? Who Has Fewer? illustrated with my own cut paper art. It is wishing you a very Happy Thanksgiving! You can find this book on Amazon. It features seven birds–owl, dove, chicken, duck, goose, turkey and swan–and you can count their eggs on one side and their babies on the other. A companion book Who is Bigger? Who is Smaller? Features seven different farm animals.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

LIVING FOSSILS: Clues to the Past, Review in Publishers Weekly

My new book LIVING FOSSILS: Clues to the Past (Charlesbridge, February 2, 2016) got a very nice review in the November 16, 2015 issue of Publishers Weekly.

Dinosaur buffs are a natural audience for this informative overview of six living species that closely resemble their distant ancestors. Plant’s (the Ancient Animal series) naturalistic acrylic paintings shift between “then” and “now” as Arnold (Too Hot? Too Cold?) Compares the lives of modern-day animals and their prehistoric forebears. Bulleted sidebars present reasons why certain animals have persisted; horseshoe crabs, which have existed for hundreds of millions of years, have hard shells that protect them from predators, can adapt to ocean temperatures and saline levels, and require little food. As readers explore the characteristics that have led to these animals’ resilience, it may raise questions about how other creatures–including, perhaps, humans–will survive the test of time. Ages 7-10. (Feb.)  Publishers Weekly November 16, 2015 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Author Visit: Ronald Reagan Elementary School, Bakersfield, CA

In the Ronald Reagan Elementary School library, Bakersfield, CA
A week ago I had a very successful author visit at Ronald Reagan Elementary School in Bakersfield, California, with four presentations to students in the multipurpose room and book signing in the library during the lunch period. I had great audiences and was pleased with the enthusiastic response to my program by both students and teachers and excellent questions at the end of each session. With the youngest students we learned about zebras, went on a lion hunt, and sang the Wiggle and Waggle song. With all the students we talked about birds and measured wingspans. It takes three students with their arms outstretched to make one California condor! These extremely endangered birds can be seen in the mountains of Kern County not far from Bakersfield.
I thank principal Pam Somes for organizing the day, making sure that everything ran smoothly, and for a delicious lunch. I thank the librarian for sharing my books with the students in advance of my visit. And I thank the parent and teachers who helped with the very busy book sale. It was a very full and satisfying day!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Author Visit at Loudon Elementary School, Bakersfield, CA

Last week I had a full and rewarding day visiting Loudon Elementary School in Bakersfield, California. I was greeted by colorful welcome banners in the multipurpose room where I gave two presentations, one to grades 1-3 in the morning and another to grades 4-6 in the afternoon. I was pleased with their enthusiasm and excellent questions. In the morning I also presented to the kindergarten students and to a class of TK students, who especially liked my Wiggle and Waggle puppets and learning about animals. At the end of the day I received some charming letters and drawings by several classes of the primary students. I thank kindergarten teacher Janerl Lampson for coordinating my visit and making sure that everything ran smoothly. I also thank Principal Sharon Dunn for all her help during the day and for a delicious lunch. And I appreciate all the teachers and the librarian for sharing my books in the library with the students before my visit and for their support of reading at all levels.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Prints of My Illustrations Now Available at YESSY Art Gallery

Sample page from my Yessy Gallery
I have recently opened an online art gallery at http://www.yessy.com/csarnoldbooks where you can purchase high quality prints of my illustrations in the books in my Caroline Arnold’s Animals series. Soon I will be adding images from my new Caroline Arnold’s Habitats series. Take a look and consider buying a piece of art either for yourself or for gifts during the holiday season!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Project: “WORMS AND DIRT” FOR DESSERT

"Worms and Dirt" Dessert, inspired by Wiggle and Waggle
My book, Wiggle and Waggle, five stories about two hard working worms that live in the garden, has inspired numerous school projects–from building a worm bin for composting to cut paper art to wormy math word problems to recipes for a worm party. In the third story of the book, “A Day Off”, Wiggle and Waggle pack a lunch of dirt rolls, bug juice, and mud pie and then go on a search for the perfect place to have their picnic.

At one of my recent school visits the children had read Wiggle and Waggle. After my presentations, we all had lunch together and enjoyed a delicious “worms and dirt” dessert. The “dirt” was made of brownie chunks and the “worms” were the gummy variety. It was the perfect way to end the day.

For a downloadable packet of more Wiggle and Waggle projects, click HERE.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

WORMS IN THE GARDEN Art Project

Wiggle and Waggle art project, North Coast Learning Academy, Eureka, CA
Wiggle and Waggle were worms. 
They lived in the garden. 
All day long they dug in the dirt.


My book, Wiggle and Waggle, five short stories for beginning readers about two hard working worms, has inspired numerous gardening and art projects for children. On a recent author visit to North Coast Learning Academy in Eureka, California, I found that the children had made wonderful construction paper pictures of Wiggle and Waggle digging in the dirt.

They drew the worms on pink paper and cut them out. (Wiggle has googly eyes. Waggle has glasses.) Then they folded a large piece of brown construction paper in half and cut four slits, making three strips across the paper. They then inserted the worms under the top and bottom strips to make them look as if they are sliding through the dirt. The final step was to attach a piece of green paper, notched at the top to look like grass, behind the worms. And, voila! We have Wiggle and Waggle digging in the garden!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Books in Spanish Now at StarWalk Kids Media

As of October 1, 2015, books in Spanish are now available in the eBook collection at StarWalk Kids Media. They are designed to support English Language Learners in acquiring academic vocabulary in both English and Spanish, and to enable both English- and Spanish-speaking children to learn the same, Standards-aligned content together. The eBooks are narrated by native language speakers for both language groups, and primarily cover informational subjects such as science, biography, poetry and historical fiction, focused on grades K–3.
I am happy to say that two of my books are in this collection, Mother and Baby Zoo Animals, Mama y bebe animales del zoologico and The Terrible Hodag, El Terrible Hodag.
Students can quickly and easily find the English-language version of a book after they’ve read it in Spanish, because the book information page for each bilingual book offers both languages simultaneously, with buttons that allow a student to “Read in English” or “Leer en espaƱol” with a single click.

All these books are available with a StarWalk Kids Media streaming eBook subscription. If you are not yet a subscriber and would like a free trial, click here to learn how you can try these books for your classroom or library.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

AUTHOR FESTIVAL ILLUSTRATOR EXHIBIT, Morris Graves Museum of Art, Eureka, CA

A Day and Night in the Forest, original art for pages 2-3, exhibited at Morris Graves Museum, Eureka, CA
Every two years, in conjunction with the Humboldt County Author Festival, a special exhibit of original art from books by participating authors and illustrators is displayed in the youth gallery at the Morris Graves Museum of Art in Eureka, California. The exhibit runs for two months before the festival so the general public and children in visiting school groups can become familiar with the work before the authors arrive.
Morris Graves Museum of Art, Eureka, CA
I am pleased to have my art included and this year I contributed two pieces from my book A Day and Night in the Forest. The festival, held this year from October 14-17, always begins with a reception at the museum. I always enjoy the show and the opportunity to see the work of the other illustrators--Bob Barner, David Biedrzycki, Bethanie Murguia and Kathleen Pelley. I thank Lucy Quinby, the school and author liaison for the festival, for making the arrangements, and Jemima Harr, curator at the Morris Graves, for coordinating the exhibit. It looked terrific! The exhibit dates are September 5th to October 25th.
You can read about my school visits during the author festival in my previous post and see some of the terrific cut paper art created by the students.
A Day and Night in the Forest, original art for pages 14-15 and 2-3

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

READING ACROSS THE UNIVERSE at the Humboldt County Author Festival, Eureka, CA

Signing books at the Humboldt County Library
Last week I participated once again in the wonderful Humboldt County Author’s Festival in Eureka, California. http://www.authorfest.org/ The theme this year was Reading Across the Universe. This was my fifth time at the author festival, and each time it gets better and better. For forty years the Author Festival Committee has been bringing authors–this year there were 23 of us--every two years for two days of visits to schools and a day of book signing at the beautiful Humboldt County Public Library. 
Authors at the Ingomar Club wearing our Across the Universe Bug-eye Glasses
In addition, there was a welcoming reception on Wednesday evening at the Morris Graves Museum of Art; a potluck dinner on Thursday evening with space ship table decorations made by local students and a wonderful dramatization of some of our stories by high school students; and on Friday evening a gala banquet, held this year at the Ingomar Club (the historic Carson Mansion) overlooking the harbor.
At North Coast Learning Academy
My first school visit was at North Coast Academy in Eureka where I spoke to three enthusiastic groups of children in grades kindergarten through grade eight. Before my visit the children had read a variety of my books (provided by the county library) and the wall of the room was decorated with wonderful artwork ranging from worms in the garden inspired by my book Wiggle and Waggle and paper plate zebra masks inspired by A Zebra’s World to drawings of sharks and the Taj Mahal. I was pleased with the good response to my presentations and the good questions. And I thank the parents and teachers for the delicious lunch!
At Kneeland School
My second day of school visits was at Kneeland School, reached by a beautiful drive up a winding road into the mountains above Eureka. Children have been attending this school since 1880! This year the 25 students range from kindergarten to seventh grade. I spent the first hour with the lower grades, where everyone had a chance to use my Wiggle and Waggle sock puppets to act out the story, and then, after recess, I presented to the upper grades. Everyone in the school had created cut paper art, inspired by my book A Day and Night in the Forest. Two people had even made porcupines–cutting out lots of quills! We all had a delicious lunch of homemade soup. 
"Worms in Dirt" dessert

Dessert, in keeping with the Wiggle and Waggle theme, was worms in dirt--actually brownie chunks with gummy worms. The students at Kneeland know a lot about real worms and have their very own worm bin. On a daily basis lunch scraps are contributed to the worm bin to be made into compost.
As always, I thoroughly enjoyed the author festival and thank the hard working committee for making it all possible. I also want to thank my drivers who ferried me around so expertly: Ann Wieland, who gave three of us a wonderful scenic tour of the coast on our way to the hotel from the airport; Stella Hawkins, who took me to North Coast Learning Academy on Thursday; and Byrd Lochtie, who drove me to Kneeland on Friday and then graciously took me for a visit to the Sequoia Park Zoo in the afternoon. I also thank Eureka Books who coordinated the Saturday book sale at the library. The Humboldt County Author’s Festival is truly a community effort and a very special event for everyone involved. Thank you all!
Across the Universe cakes for the Banquet

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

CLCSC Fall Gala with Guest Speaker David Weisner

Logo of the Children's Literature Council of Southern California
Last Saturday I attended the annual Fall Gala of the Children’s Literature Council of Southern California, held this year at the Skirball Center in Los Angeles. After a delicious breakfast and conversation with librarians, teachers and other authors, we heard Caldecott Medal winner David Weisner’s inspirational talk about his books and the storytelling process. He told us that as a child he was always drawing. He shared pictures (saved by his mother) from when he was five and six years old–demonstrating that his art then was much like the art of any child. But as he continued to draw and practice he developed his skills and his own style. There were also excellent talks by this year’s award winners: Salina Yoon, for Excellence in a Picture Book; Joan Bransfield Graham, Myra Cohn Livingston Award; Susan Goldman Rubin, Notable Work of Nonfiction; Isabel Quintero, Peggy Miller Award for Young Adult Literature; and Maureen Palacios, Dorothy C. McKenzie Award. Thanks to all at the CLCSC committee members for all your hard work in putting on the gala! As always, it was a most enjoyable and rewarding morning.
With authors Barbara Foster Bietz and Alexis O'Neill at the CLCSC Gala

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Hispanic Heritage Month: Great Books at StarWalk Kids Media

Hispanic Heritage Month, September 15 - October 15 is the perfect time to check out the broad selection of eBooks at StarWalk Kids Media – picture books, nonfiction, poetry, biography, folktales and realistic fiction -- to enrich your students’ experience with Latino culture and history from Mexico, the Amazon Basin, and the American Southwest. Books range from Maria Molina and the Days of the Dead (Gr. 2-4) by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Enrique O. Sanchez to my book for older readers, City of the Gods (Gr. 5-9) illustrated with photographs by Richard Hewett, that explores the ruins of the ancient metropolis and ceremonial complex of Teotihuacan (Mexico) and shows what life was like for the people who lived there more than a thousand years ago.

All these books are part of our StarWalk Kids Media streaming eBook subscription. If you are not yet a subscriber and would like a free trial, click here to learn how you can try these books for your classroom or library.


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The 63rd Annual BREAKFAST WITH THE AUTHORS, Santa Barbara, CA

Mary Ann Fraser, James Burks, Joan Bransfield Graham, Greg Trine, Caroline Arnold, Rebecca Langston-George at the Breakfast With the Authors, Santa Barbara, CA, October 3, 2015
Last Saturday, October 3rd, I had the pleasure of participating once again in the Annual Breakfast with the Authors, hosted by the Santa Barbara County Office of Education. This was the 63rd anniversary of the breakfast–each year an opportunity for people who love books and reading to meet with authors and hear about their latest books and thoughts about writing while enjoying a delicious breakfast. Featured authors this year were myself, James Burks, Julie Dillemuth, Mary Ann Fraser, Rebecca Langston-George, Mel Gilden, Joan Bransfield Graham, Valerie Hobbs, Michelle Robin La, Sarah Lynn Scheerger, Greg Trine, Mark London Williams, and Lee Wardlaw. (We missed Lee, who couldn’t make it at the last minute.) 
In recent years, the authors have been given a topic to respond to in our short (3-5 minute) talks. This year, the question was: If you could write in any time period past or future, when would it be, and why? Answers varied from the Stone Age (when stories were written in pictures) to the 40's and 50's (when children’s books came into their own in the publishing world)  to the present (with the explosion of the digital age and all that means for research, writing and communicating with editors.)
I thank Rose Koller, Fred Borchers and everyone at the Office of Education for all the hard work of putting on the breakfast and to Chaucer’s Books for providing books for sale and autographing. I have been attending the Breakfast With the Authors since the 1980's when my first books were published, and it is always a highlight of my year and a great way to begin the school year.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

MY FIRST LIBRARY: Hennepin County Library Northeast

At the Hennepin County Library Northeast in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Last week, when I was in Minnesota for the celebration of the East Side Neighborhood Services Centennial, I stopped to visit the recently remodeled Hennepin County Library on Central Avenue in Northeast Minneapolis. When I went inside and checked the computer catalog I was pleased to discover that the library system (including this branch) has many of my books. More than fifty years ago, when I was growing up in Northeast Minneapolis, this was the library that I came to with my family and where I checked out books with my library card. At the checkout desk the librarian would put a card stamped with the due date in the pocket at the front of each book. Two weeks later I would bring back the books and check out more. It was my first library experience. In those days it was called the Central Avenue library and it was part of the Minneapolis Public Library system, now merged with the Hennepin County libraries, and it was in a different building, a large stone structure built in 1915 with funds from Andrew Carnegie.
The Central Avenue Library, Built in 1915
Every Saturday morning my parents would drive us to the library from the Northeast Neighborhood House where we lived. My brothers and I would go downstairs to the children’s room to pick out our books, and our parents would go upstairs where the adult books were shelved. Later, at home we'd gather on the sofa or one of our beds and either my mother or father would read to us. I liked story books such as Madeleine or Curious George. My brother Steve loved trains--which we could see chugging along the tracks on the other side of the park--so his books were usually about locomotives.  Peter liked sports and Tom preferred animals so we always had a variety of subjects to choose from. Even after I learned to read on my own I continued to listen to these "story times."

The library I grew up with was torn down in 1971 and replaced with a modern glass and brick building, which was then remodeled and enlarged in 2011. The old card catalog that I remember thumbing through is long gone and many of the bookshelves have been replaced with tables and computers. But the library is still a place where people from all over the neighborhood come to read and research and on the Saturday morning I visited it was already busy. Long ago the books at the Central Avenue library fed my love of reading and is one of the reasons I grew up to be a writer. I have fond memories of the hours I spent there.

For a brief account of my years in Northeast Minneapolis and my connection to East Side Neighborhood Services, go to my blog page Memories of Northeast Minneapolis. This is the text of the short speech I gave at the 100 year celebration of ESNS.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

JAGUAR: Coloring Page

In the Amazon rain forest, jaguars slip through shadows on silent paws. Their spots help them hide. When a jaguar gets close to its prey, it pounces and bites it with powerful jaws.

For a printable page with a drawing of a jaguar you can color, click HERE.

You can learn more about rain forest animals in my book A Day and Night in the Rain Forest.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

WHAT I LIKE BEST ABOUT BEING A WRITER

Anyone who works with children knows the insatiable curiosity every child has about the world we live in and how everything in it works. One of the reasons I like writing nonfiction is that I still have those questions inside me. I want to know the answers too. I continually find it amazing that people are actually willing to pay me to find out all kinds of fascinating things.

Once I read an article that described children as being not like vases to be filled, but rather like fires to be lit. I like that image because it suggests that children have minds that are alive and eager to learn. My purpose as a writer is to provide the spark for that fire. I want readers to close the last page of my book and say, “That was exciting!” or “Wow” I never knew that before!”

People often ask me what I like best about being a writer. I enjoy the research and creative process, but the best part for me is when the book is finally published. When the first copy of a book arrives in the mail and I see my name on the cover, it gives me a tremendous feeling of satisfaction, especially when I know that the book is now ready to go into schools and libraries where kids can read it. I always hope that my readers will feel the same sense of excitement that I felt when I wrote the book.

I enjoy being involved in the creative process and being able to find out new things and trying to understand them. I also get a great deal of satisfaction from being involved with children and trying to keep up with their curiosity. Children are the most valuable resource in our country today and I feel they deserve the best books that we can give them.