Sunday, March 29, 2015

Celebrating Reading with Young Authors and Illustrators at Gladstone Elementary in San Dimas, CA

Last week I had the honor of speaking to the young authors and illustrators and their proud parents and grandparents from Gladstone Elementary School in San Dimas, California, at the culmination of their week of celebrating reading. All the students had written stories or poems and then illustrated them or had them illustrated by another student. Two or three students from each class had their work selected to be published in a bound book called Griffin “Tales”. After my presentation each student was called to the front of the room and presented with a copy of the book and then asked to share their stories with friends and family. I received my own copy of Griffin "Tales", personally autographed by the contributing authors and illustrators. It is a book I will treasure! I suspect some of these students may grow up to be writers and illustrators. I thank Irene Burton for inviting me to participate in Young Author’s Night and to the committee who made everything run smoothly. I had participated once before about ten years ago in this special event and it was a pleasure to go back.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Author Visit to Brawerman East and Brawerman West Schools in Los Angeles

Last week I enjoyed visits to Brawerman East and Brawerman West Elementary Schools in Los Angeles as part of their Celebration of Reading. At both schools I spoke to children in kindergarten through third grades and had very enthusiastic audiences with lots of excellent questions at the end of my presentation. At Brawerman West I was treated to a room full of students all dressed up as their favorite characters from a fiction book of children’s literature. Even the teachers wore costumes. I thank librarian Karen Morgenstern (who was dressed as the Queen from Snow White, complete with a real apple!) for inviting me to Brawerman West and doing such a good job of preparing the students for my visit. At Brawerman East I thank librarian Crystal Noe for reading my books to the students before my visit and Rosie Barajas and Principal Gillian Feldman for making sure that everything ran smoothly. I thank the Susan Isaacson, Assistant Principal for arranging my visit. It was the perfect final event for a full week of Celebrating Reading!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Author Visit at Park Century School, Culver City, CA

Last Tuesday I spoke to students and teachers at Park Century School in Culver City as part of their week of celebrating reading. I was impressed by their enthusiasm and good attention and their excellent questions at the end of my presentation. I thank librarian and reading specialist Sarah Ziolkowska for inviting me and doing such a good job of organizing my visit. It was a pleasure to get to know her and to meet the other teachers and a staff at Park Century.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Author Visit, Mount Vernon Elementary School, Bakersfield, CA

Welcome Sign, Mount Vernon Elementary School, Bakersfield, CA
On Monday of this week I had an excellent author visit at Mount Vernon Elementary School in Bakersfield, California where I was greeted with a colorful welcome banner. I did three large assemblies for students in kindergarten through sixth grade and a shorter assembly for the afternoon pre-kindergarten children. I was impressed by the enthusiasm of the students during my program and the excellent questions they asked during the question period at the end. 
Signing books in the library
In the middle of the day I had the chance to meet some of the students in the library during the book signing time. Each one seemed thrilled to be taking home a new book personally signed by the author. I thank Tina Zito, the Academic Coach, for doing an excellent job of organizing the day and making sure that everything ran smoothly. I also thank her for a very tasty lunch  in the teacher’s lounge and for the delicious cakes she ordered to share with the teachers and celebrate Authors Day. Altogether, it was a very successful Author Day!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

WHAT TIME IS IT? Project: Make a World Time Zone “Clock”

Paper Plate Time Zone "Clock"
It takes 24 hours for Earth to make one complete revolution in space.  As each hour passes, Earth rotates approximately 15 degrees of longitude.  In 1884, at the International Meridian Conference, it was agreed to divide the world into 24 time zones measured from the Prime Meridian in Greenwich, England.
What time zone do you live in? You can make a time zone “clock” that will help you figure out what time it is in other parts of the world compared to the time where you live.

You will need:
  • scissors
  • 2 paper plates
  • ruler
  • pen
  • brad
1.  Cut the rim off one paper plate to make a flat circle.
2. Use the ruler and pen to divide the circle into 24 equal pie-shaped sections. Start by dividing the circle into quarters and divide these in half to make eighths.  Then divide each of these into three smaller sections.
3.  Write “London, Greenwich Mean Time” in one of the sections.  Then, continue clockwise writing the name of a city in each of the following time zones.
4.  Place the circle with the city names in the center of the other paper plate.  Fasten them together with the brad.
5.  On the rim of the plate, above the pie section that says “London,” write “12:00 Midnight”.  Continue in a clockwise manner, writing 1:00am, 2:00am, 3:00am, and so on until you return to 12:00 Midnight.
6.  Look at the time on the rim of the plate above the time zone where you live.  That is what time it is when it is 12:00 midnight in London.  When you rotate the circle so that the time on the rim is your current time, the other pie sections will tell you what time it is in other cities in the world.

Note: If you need to adjust your time according to daylight savings time, remember: spring forward (add an hour in spring); fall backward (go back an hour in fall.)

You can find this project and many others in my book The Geography Book: Activities for Exploring, Mapping, and Enjoying Your World. It is available both in paperback and as a Kindle book.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Charlotte S. Huck Children’s Literature Festival, Redlands, CA

Festival Poster created by Peter Brown
Last week I participated in the wonderful Charlotte Huck Children’s Literature Festival, held at the University of Redlands, in Redlands, California. It is named in honor of Charlotte S. Huck (1922-2005), who championed children’s literature throughout her long life and career. The festival brings educators, librarians, parents and students together with award-winning speakers and celebrates children's literature and the inspiration it brings to young readers.
Keynote speakers this year included illustrator Peter Brown, poet Rebecca Kai Dotlich, writer Marc Tyler Nobelman, novelist Avi, writer Jennifer Holm, and illustrator Lois Ehlert with editor Allyn Johnston.
Between the keynote speeches we had many choices of breakout sessions.  I presented a breakout session on Friday afternoon called From Polar Bears to Zebras: Nonfiction books as Springboards to Reading, a hands-on workshop featuring fun projects and classroom activities linked to my books. I thank Peggy Constantine for her assistance during my workshop and for introducing me. I thoroughly enjoyed going to several of the other breakout sessions. I went to Marilyn Carpenter's book review session, story telling with Adrien Lowery, and Kristine O'Connel George's and Deborah Kai Dotlich's poetry jar jamboree.  It was hard to choose! As a special treat during the conference, we were all entertained by singer/music teacher Emily Dale who had turned several of the authors’ picture books into songs.
At the book signing table at the Charlotte Huck Literature Festival
Participants in the conference had the opportunity to buy books and have them autographed during the festive (and delicious) reception before the Friday night dinner. Other California authors who also participated in this year’s conference were Erin Dealey, June Sobel, JaNay Wood-Brown and poet Kristine O'Connell George.
This was my second time at the Charlotte Huck Children's Literature Festival and I thoroughly enjoyed it once again. The success of the conference is due to Chair Marjorie Arnett and the hardworking Festival committee, whose members work tirelessly throughout the year to make sure everything runs smoothly. They are already at work on next year’s Festival, which will celebrate twenty years!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

UCLA Writer's Program Scholarships

For more than thirty years I have taught in the UCLA Writer's Program. My courses have focused on writing for children, but the program offers hundreds of classes in all kinds of writing from screenplays to novels and more. I have just learned that scholarships are available for promising writers.  Here is the information:

Applications are now available for the 2015-16 Writers’ Program Scholarship, which covers the cost of three full-length Writers’ Program courses during a one-year period. The deadline to submit is Monday, June 29th, 2015.

For more information about the scholarship, please contact Katy Flaherty at or at 310-206-0951.