Saturday, September 26, 2020

FOCAL AWARD WINNER: TODOS IGUALES: Un corrido de Lemon Grove by Christy Hale

The 2020
FOCAL Award Winner!

Todos Iguales: Un Corrido de Lemon Grove = All Equal: A Ballad of Lemon Grove
Christy Hale - author/Illustrator
Congratulations to Christy Hale!
This year's FOCAL award luncheon honoring Christy Hale will be held virtually at a date (to be announced) in November.
Check the FOCAL web page https://www.focalcentral.org/ for updates and further information.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

PHOTO TIP #1 for Ilustrating Your Next Book

For many years I worked with professional photographers who illustrated my books with their photos. We worked as a team--I wrote the text and the photographer took the pictures. I learned a great deal about photography from them. For several of my newest books, including Hatching Chicks in Room 6 and Butterflies in Room 6, I have been my own photographer.

As I was cleaning out my teaching files recently I found a list of photo tips from my friend and fellow Grinnellian, Martha Cooper, a professional photographer best known for her photographs of subway art in New York city. She is also the illustrator of three children's books, My Two Worlds, Lion Dancer and Anthony Reynoso: Born to Rope.

At a class Martha and I taught together some years ago, she handed out a list of photo tips. Today, almost everyone is a photographer--we carry cameras in our pockets in our phones. Whether you are illustrating a children's book, creating a magazine story, assembling a slide show or family album, or even just sharing favorite photos with a friend, I think you will find her advice useful. She says:

LOOK and THINK before you shoot. A good eye is more important than a good camera.

Tip #1.  Think carefully about how and where and with what text your photos will be used. Are you aiming for specific documentation or evocative illustration or a combination?
Shoot with a point of view. Concentrate on situations which best express the proposed or existing text. No matter how picturesque or graphically interesting a photo is, it will wind up in the reject pile unless it is relevant to the particular story you are working on. (Martha Cooper)

Both Hatching Chicks in Room 6 and Butterflies in Room 6 are photo essays. In both books I needed to document the growth process in real time, which meant photographing each step of the life cycle--from egg to adult. This involved some close-up photography. But I also was documenting the children's participation in the process and their emotional reactions. This involved wide-angled shots placing the activity within the classroom. One of my favorite pictures in the butterfly book shows the children clearly entranced as they observe the chrysalises in their enclosure.
Photo for p. 15, Butterflies in Room 6
Look for more of Martha Cooper's tips in coming weeks on this blog.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

LITLINKS: Kids See Chicks Hatch with their Own Eyes, Guest Post at Patricia Newman's Blog

This week at LitLinks: Kids See Chicks Hatch with Their Own Eyes you can find my article about how you can use my book Hatching Chicks in Room 6 in connection with reading and STEAM activities. I am happy to contribute to Author/Speaker Patricia Newman's wonderful blog featuring ways to connect STEM and STEAM books with literature in the classroom. My article features hands-on activities about chickens and eggs and reading strategies for using my book with students, helping them understand the concepts in the book. It posted today, joining dozens of previous posts by other children's book science writers and illustrators.
Thanks Patricia for the opportunity to contribute to your terrific site!

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

MUSIC LESSONS FOR ALEX: The Making of a Photo Illustrated Children's Book


    On August 3, 1985, the first copies of my new book, Music Lessons for Alex, arrived in California–just in time for the Suzuki Institute at UCLA. Although I have written over 30 books for children, the publication of this book is particularly special for me. Music Lessons for Alex traces the story of an eight-year-old girl, Alex, from the time she first begins violin lessons to her first recital nine months later. Like Alex, my own children struggled through beginning lessons, also experiencing the joy of progress, occasional frustration and disappointment, and ultimately the triumph of success.
    Many children who begin music lessons become discouraged because they do not understand the process involved, and imagine that they will become virtuosos overnight. I wanted to write a book that might help children and parents realize that learning to play music is just like learning to read, play a sport, or any other skill–that it is a slow, gradual, step-by-step process which can be fun and which has rewards along the way.
    In the spring of 1983, when I suggested my idea to my editor at Clarion Books in New York, she was interested. She remembered her own experience of playing the cello in her school orchestra and felt that if she had had a book such as mine, it might have helped her enjoy it more. We discussed how I would write my book and decided that it would be best to present the material in story form. The book would be illustrated by Dick Hewett, a Los Angeles photographer with whom I had worked before.
    Dick and I were lucky to have the cooperation of so many people, particularly Alex and her family, Alex’s teacher, and the students and teachers of the San Fernando Valley Suzuki workshop program. We attended several o Alex’s lessons, during which Dick took unposed photos–trying to be as unobtrusive as possible so that the lesson would not be interrupted. He also took photos when Alex went to group lessons at the workshops.
    When we assembled all the photos for the book we realized that there were some points that I had made in the story, such as tuning, correct placement of the feet,  practicing at home, that did not yet have illustrations, so we arranged to spend a day with Alex and Susan to take those photos. We also took photos of the Brentwood school orchestra to illustrated the point that as Alex progressed, playing in an orchestra was something to which she could aspire. We also wanted to show instruments other than the violin, for, although we had focused on the violin in our book, we felt that the basic process of learning to play music was similar for all instruments.
    When the photos and text of the book were finished and assembled–a process that took several months–we sent them to our editor. Then we worked with her to refine and clarify details. One of the hardest things for me to remember was that because of my involvement in my own children’s lessons, I understood a lot of musical terms that a child or parent new to music lessons, might not. As I wrote, I had to keep asking myself, “What would I want to know about music lessons if this were my first introduction to the subject?” Finally, more than a year after we had submitted our completed project to our editor, the book was published.
    As people attending the Suzuki Institute read Music Lessons for Alex, the people depicted in the photographs in the book discovered that they had become celebrities of a sort. Alex was even asked for her autograph by several people. I was pleased to have such a positive response to the book and hope that many children and parents will have the opportunity to read it.

Note: Music Lessons for Alex has long been out of print. A few used copies are available on the internet. I wrote the above description of the process of creating the book shortly after it was published. The article appeared in Ledger Lines, the newsletter of the Los Angeles branch of the Suzuki Music Association of California.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

CLCSC AWARD FOR NONFICTION: Butterflies in Room 6

I am so pleased to learn that my book Butterflies in Room 6: See How They Grow will be receiving the nonfiction award from the Children's Literature Council of Southern California (CLCSC) for books published in 2019. The annual Fall Awards Gala will be held virtually this year on November 7th. 
The chair of the Awards committee, Charmetria Marshall, wrote: We want to thank you for such an exploratory and fun book that highlighted the joy of a real class of children learning science first-hand. The committee found that the vivid images greatly enhanced the reading. 
Thank YOU Charmetria, and all the members of the Awards Committee!
The Children's Literature Council is a non-profit organization established in 1961 to promote greater interest in literature for children and young people, and to encourage excellence in the field. The awards are presented annually at the Fall Gala to celebrate and recognize the outstanding work of Southern California authors and illustrators. Other award winners this year are Laura Taylor Namey, Margaret Dilloway, Roseanne Greenfield Thong, and Rebecca Constantino. The keynote speaker at the Gala will be Deborah Heiligman.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

RAY BRADBURY, my Neighbor

Gate to the property where Ray Bradbury once lived.
This week marks the 100th anniversary of Ray Bradbury, the author of The Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451 and so much more. Until his death in 2012 he was my neighbor. I never saw him, but I often passed his modest yellow house in Los Angeles, just a few short blocks from mine, as I drove home from the supermarket. I remember loving his books when I read them in high school and college. In 2012, when I read in the paper that he had died at the age of 91, I wondered what would happen to the house that had been his home for more than fifty years. Then one day, as I drove by, I saw bulldozers knocking it down. Over the next year, in its place, a striking modern architectural edifice rose up and filled the property. Ray Bradbury fans were appalled, but it was too late. (For a time line of the house’s history, click HERE.)

View of the house from the front gate
On a recent daily walk, I passed the property and saw it up close for the first time. Much of the new house is hidden behind dense shrubbery. At the entrance is an elaborate iron gate whose design is made of intersecting letters. As we passed, I noticed a small sign. It reads:

Ray Bradbury, American author and screen-writer, wrote many of his greatest works in the home that once stood on this site. To pay homage to his life and spirit, the design of this gate incorporates his words.

“Living at risk is jumping off a cliff and building your wings on the way down.”
"I never ask anyone else's opinion. They don't count."  
"Don't think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity."
“Stuff you eyes with wonder,” he said, “live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds.”
"Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said." 

Then, as I looked closely, I could see the words embedded in the gate design. While individual words and letters are discernible, it is a bit hard to distinguish the whole quotes among the surrounding metal. Even so, the fact that they are there to connect us with Ray Bradbury and his work means he is still part of our neighborhood.

After finding the sign, I wanted to read Ray Bradbury’s books again. When I went to the Los Angeles Public Library website I discovered that many of his books are available to borrow as digital copies. I checked out Dandelion Wine (1957), his semi-autobiographical book about his growing up years in Waukegan, Illinois (renamed Green Town in the book) and downloaded it to my computer. As I have been reading the stories–about making dandelion wine, the pleasure of fresh cut grass in the summer, his elderly neighbors and their “Green Machine”, and more–they bring back memories of childhood visits to my grandparents' house in Kenosha, Wisconsin, a similar midwestern town just up the road from Waukegan. While the time period of Bradbury’s stories about Green Town is nearly a century ago, the essential human qualities of the characters are universal.

A side gate to the property is also embedded with Ray Bradbury's words. Behind it is a glimpse into the densely planted garden surrounding the house.
I never would have discovered the sign on the gate if it hadn't been for the need to get out of the house in our self-isolation in response to the corona virus. My perspective has changed as I take my daily walks through my Cheviot Hills neighborhood in West Los Angeles. I see things up close. I have more time to linger and take a second look. I hear the birds sing and the noisy flocks of parrots foraging in the eucalyptus trees overhead. I see my neighbors’ houses and the diverse ways that they have landscaped their front yards. And I have rediscovered Ray Bradbury, one of America’s greatest writers.

(Republished from my travel blog The Intrepid Tourist 5/4/20.)

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

RAY BRADBURY CENTENNIAL CELEBRATIONS

The Palms-Rancho Park Library in Los Angeles is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of author Ray Bradbury.
I recently received this notice from my local library:

This summer Palms-Rancho Park Branch Library in Los Angeles is celebrating the centennial birthday of Ray Bradbury with a bookmark contest, graphic novels/comic book creation, and discussions. Join us as we recognize his long legacy of storytelling and library advocacy, August 22 - 29, 2020.

Ray Bradbury was a local resident and a long time supporter of libraries. He is one of my all-time favorite authors.

For more about Ray Bradbury and his books go to the LAPL Blog.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Kangaroo Coloring Page

A sulphur-crested cockatoo looks on as a young kangaroo stands up tall and punches with its paws. During play fights, young kangaroos do not hurt one another.
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.  You can find out more about kangaroos in my book A KANGAROO'S WORLD (Picture Window Books, 2008) and in KANGAROO (StarWalk Kids, 2013) downloadable to your Kindle.


Wednesday, August 5, 2020

FIFTY NIFTY PROJECTS FOR KIDS

Are you looking for something to do while school is out for summer vacation? At my website you can find FIFTY NIFTY PROJECTS that you can do in connection with reading my books. Most of the the projects use materials easily found at home or at school. They range from writing a pyramid poem to putting stripes on a zebra (cut paper art) to simple science experiments like finding out how icebergs affect sea level.

Go to My Books at my website to find more information about the books that inspired these projects. Many of the books are available as e-books that you can download from Amazon and other platforms.

Have fun!
Here are a few examples of the projects you can do:
Curlycue Snakes
(Read SNAKE or A DAY AND NIGHT IN THE DESERT)
Make a model of the Taj Mahal
(Read TAJ MAHAL)

Peanut Butter and Jelly Geology
(Read TRAPPED IN TAR or GLOBAL WARMING AND THE DINOSAURS)

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

ODE TO LIBRARIANS

I was cleaning out my files recently and discovered this poster created by the Pennsylvania School Librarian"s Association for School Library Media Week, March 31 to April 4, 1986. Note the electronics filling the shelves--televisions, desktop computers, fax machines, tape recorders, and for some reason, fans!
Along with many other children's book authors, I was asked for a quote about what libraries mean to me. The Author quotes were printed on the back of the poster. Here is what I said:

Libraries are full of wonderful books, magazines, newspapers, encyclopedias and more; but, best of all, libraries are home to librarians, those helpful people who always seem to know how to find the exact book or periodical which has the information I need to know.




Wednesday, July 22, 2020

THE GEOGRAPHY BOOK: Perfect for Stay at Home Fun STEAM Activities

Get to Know the Earth's Many Forms with Dozens of Fun and Easy Projects in The Geography Book by Caroline Arnold.
From finding directions by the stars, to mapping your neighborhood,to making an earthquake in a box, you'll have a great time learning about the world with The Geography Book. You'll find out how to determine location on the Earth, how maps can provide us with a wide range of information, how different land forms were created,how water has helped shape the Earth, and much more.

Using simple materials you'll be able to find around the house or in your neighborhood, you'll be able to create things like a giant compass rose, a balloon globe, a contour potato, a map puzzle, and a tornado in a jar. So get ready for a fascinating trip around the globe. (Amazon)


The Geography Book: Activities for Exploring Your World (Wiley, 2001), my book for children that is filled with projects related to learning about geography and earth science, has been selling steadily for almost twenty years and is especially popular with home schoolers. Now, at a time when many children are at home and doing distance learning, this is the perfect book to have on hand to inspire fun projects that can be done with easily available supplies.

The Geography Book, paperback
The Geography Book, ebook

Here are a few samples of projects in the book:
Project: The Salty Sea: Making Salt Crystals

Project: Time Zones of the World, Make a "World Clock"

Project: Icebergs and Sea Level
 

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

EL NINO: Stormy Weather for People and Wildlife, Now available as an E-Book

My book, El Niño: Stormy Weather for People and Wildlife is now available as a Kindle book on Amazon. For readers age 10 and up.

Drought in Southeast Asia, brutal storms in Australia, and spring-like temperatures in the northeastern United States--all of these seemingly unrelated events are caused by El Niño. Disrupting weather all over the globe every three to seven years, El Niño is second only to the change of the seasons in its influence on the climate.
El Niño is the name given to the unusual increase in ocean temperatures along the Peruvian and Ecuadorian coasts that is part of a larger pattern of changes in wind and weather throughout the Pacific region and beyond. With El Niño come violent storms and upsets in the global food chain that dramatically affect both humans and wildlife.
With the use of photographs, charts and maps, this updated edition of El Niño: Stormy Weather for People and Wildlife makes clear how this remarkable weather pattern is formed, how scientists track it, what its effects are, and why following its path is of such importance.

Originally published by Clarion Books as a hardback book in 1998, El Nino: Stormy Weather for People and Wildlife is an Accelerated Reader book. You can look for it in your library.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

STEAM Activity: Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? A chicken lays an egg, a chick grows inside, hatches, grows to be a chicken--that lays another egg.  And so on, and so on.

There are many ways to illustrate the repeating process of a chicken's life cycle. In one classroom of second graders at a school in California, the children made a mixed media presentation using packing material to represent the chicken’s nest, real feathers on the growing chick, a hand-print to make an adult chicken, markers for drawing, and googly eyes for all. With black arrows indicating the circular process, it is a dramatic and colorful presentation.

To do this project you will need:
White poster board or heavy paper cut into a large egg shape.
White paper for the eggs.
Yellow paper for the chick.
Colored markers.
Googly eyes.
Feathers.
Packing material for nest.
Red poster paint.

Use the picture above as a guide.
Have fun!

Learn about a chicken's life cycle in my book HATCHING CHICKS IN ROOM 6.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

STEAM Project: The Egg is Hatching!

When a chick is ready to hatch, it uses its beak to poke a hole in the shell. In my book, Hatching Chicks in Room 6, you can see photos of real chicks in the process of hatching. In this art project ou can create your own hatching chick.

You will need:
Yellow construction paper, about 12 by 18 inches.
Brown construction paper, about 12 by 18 inches.
A small piece of orange construction paper, about 4 inches square.
Pencil.
Scissors.
Glue.
Black marker.

1. Draw a large egg shape on the yellow paper. Cut it out. Use the pencil to trace around it to make another egg shape on the brown paper. Cut it out. Make a small hole in the middle of the brown paper.
2. Spread glue around the edge of the yellow egg. Put the brown egg on top and press to fasten the two pieces of paper together.
3. Carefully tear the paper around the hole, pulling the pieces back to reveal the yellow paper underneath.
4. Use the marker to draw two black eyes.
5. Fold the orange paper in half to make a triangle. Fold under two corners and glue on to make a beak.

Your chick is ready to hatch!


Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Writing Exercise: USING THE FIVE SENSES, 2

I recently cleaned out my files and found various materials that I had used when teaching my class in writing for children in the UCLA Writer’s Program. Here is another version of my writing exercise called “Using the Five Senses.”
 
Most of us have no trouble writing visual descriptions, but we often forget to include our other senses in our writing. This exercise focuses on using all five senses to make your writing come alive.  Choose an object, place, person, or animal, and write five sentences about it, one sentence (or two) for each sense-- sight, sound, touch, taste and smell.  The following examples are from my book Fox (Morrow Junior Books) now available as an ebook on Amazon.
  • Sight: When most people think of foxes, they picture the red fox, with its large white-tipped tail and brilliant flame-colored fur.
These large pointed teeth cut against each other like the blades of scissors and are good for ripping and tearing.
  • Sound: These high-pitched sounds, called ultrasounds, are made by many of the rodents that are the foxes’ prey.
Foxes bark or growl as warning to one another or to predators that come too close. If a fox is trapped or cornered, it makes croaking noises.
  • Touch: Each month-old pup weighs about a pound, and its short newborn coat is covered with soft light-colored fur.
  • Smell: One sign of a fox’s readiness to mate is a strong skunk-like odor in its urine.
Like other canids, a fox has a scent gland underneath its tail that produces a strong musky odor.
  • Taste: When the pups are about two weeks old, their first teeth come in. About a week later, they begin to suck and chew at the pieces of meat their parents have brought back to the den.
You can write more complex descriptions if you like.  The important thing is to immerse yourself in the scene and use all your senses to convey the essence of that scene to your reader.  To find out if you are using sensory descriptions in your writing, go through one of your stories with a highlighter, and mark each time you use one of your senses.  Note which sense you use most often!

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Writing Exercise: USING THE FIVE SENSES, 1

I recently cleaned out my files and found various materials that I had used when teaching my class in writing for children in the UCLA Writer’s Program. Here is a writing exercise called “Using the Five Senses, 1.” (Another example of this exercise will post next week.)
 
Most of us have no trouble writing visual descriptions, but we often forget to include our other senses in our descriptions.  This exercise focuses on using all five senses to make your writing come alive.  Choose an object, place, person, or animal, and write five sentences about it, one sentence (or two) for each sense-- sight, sound, touch, taste and smell. 

Here are some examples from my book A Walrus’ World.
  •     Sight: The baby walrus’ plump body is covered with short fur.
  •     Smell: The mother walrus sniffs her baby and rubs his back with her whiskers.
  •     Sound: Splash! He tumbles into the water. Splash! His mother dives in too.
  •     Touch: Using her whiskers, she feels a clam.  Then she grabs the shell with her lips and sucks out the meat.
  •     Taste: Their sleek bodies slide through the cool, salty water.  (From A Killer Whale’s World.)
You can write more complex descriptions if you like.  The important thing is to immerse yourself in the scene and use all your senses to convey the essence of that scene to your reader.  To find out if you are using sensory descriptions in your writing, go through one of your stories with a highlighter, and mark each time you use one of your senses.  Note which sense you use most often!

A Walrus’ World and A Killer Whale’s World are in my series Caroline Arnold’s Animals published by Picture Window Books (Capstone.) 
Illustration by Caroline Arnold from A Killer Whale's World

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

THE CRAFT OF WRITING: On Writing Well by William Zinsser

My favorite book on the craft of writing is On Writing Well by William Zinsser. More than forty years after it was first published, I still think it is the best guide to nonfiction writing I’ve read.  Clear, well-organized, thorough, entertaining, and practical–it embodies the principles it teaches.  As I write and edit my own manuscripts, advice from this book is always at the back of my mind.
Among my favorite quotes is one from the section on punctuation:
  • “There’s not much to be said about the period except that most writers don’t reach it soon enough.”
After a brief introductory chapter, the first real chapter in the book begins with this sentence:
  • “Clutter is the disease of American writing.”  
De-cluttering is the route to clarity and it is my goal as I edit my own manuscripts,

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

MILKWEED AND MONARCHS

Monarch butterfly on a milkweed plant in northern Wisconsin.
Look along a roadside, in a vacant lot, or in an abandoned country field, and you will probably see milkweed, a tall plant with broad leaves, thick stems and pink, yellow or purple flowers. If you look closely, you might find a monarch butterfly sipping nectar. Many insects make milkweed plants their home. They eat the nectar, sap, leaves, stems, roots, and seeds. You may also have milkweed plants, also called butterfly weed, in your garden.
Monarch caterpillar on a milkweed plant in my garden.
Milkweed gets its name from the white sap inside its stem. Poisonous chemicals are in the sap. Most plant-eating animals, such as cattle or deer, do not eat milkweed because it tastes bad. But monarch butterfly caterpillars are able to eat milkweed sap and the poison does not hurt them. A little bit of the poison becomes part of their bodies and helps protect them from birds and other predators. Predators learn to recognize monarchs by their distinctive black and orange colors and avoid them because they taste bad.

Female monarchs lay their eggs on milkweed leaves and when the eggs hatch, the tiny caterpillars eat the leaves. After a few weeks, when the caterpillars are about two inches long, they stop eating, attach themselves to a leaf and cover themselves with a green shell called a chrysalis. Inside the chrysalis, the caterpillar, now called a pupa, slowly transforms into a butterfly. After about two weeks, the beautiful butterfly emerges and the cycle of life begins again. (For a previous post with more about metamorphosis and a photo of a monarch chrysalis, click HERE.)
Milkweed pods in the fall. (Illustration by Caroline Arnold)
In the fall, monarch butterflies fly to their winter homes and milkweed flowers turn into seed pods. At first, the crescent shaped pods are soft and green. As the seeds grow inside the pod, the outside becomes hard and brown. When the seeds are ripe, the pod cracks open and the seeds spill out. The wind catches the the fluffy seeds and they are carried away, floating like tiny helicopters. Some of the seeds fall to the ground. In the following spring they will grow into new milkweed plants, providing homes for a new generation of monarchs.

Monarch butterflies depend on milkweed. In recent years, the disappearance of milkweed in many rural areas as a result of development has had a deleterious effect on monarch butterflies and their numbers have plummeted. You can learn about planting milkweed in your area to help monarch butterflies at this NWF website.

In my book, Butterflies in Room 6, about a kindergarten class raising painted lady butterflies, you can learn more about butterfly development.

For a fascinating article about the role of color as it relates to how well monarchs fly, click HERE.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

THE WRITING PROCESS: Six Questions Exercise

When Mammoths Walked the Earth is available as an e-book on Amazon
I recently cleaned out my files and found various materials that I had used when teaching my class in writing for children in the UCLA Writer’s Program. Here is a writing exercise called “Six Questions.”

When I started researching my book When Mammoths Walked the Earth (Clarion, 2002) I ended up with a jumble of facts about these huge prehistoric animals that lived in the Ice Age. My job in writing the book was to line up the facts so they made sense. So I asked myself a few questions: Who were the mammoths? What did they look like? Where and when did they live? Why were they unique? How do we know about them?
Asking questions is a technique I use that helps me focus on what my book is about and this helps me figure out how to organize the information. The six basic questions are who, what, where, when, why and how. Try answering the following questions about your subject. Your answers will help you shape your story. (Although my focus is on writing nonfiction, this exercise works for fiction too.)

Who is your book about? Who or what is the main subject or character of your story?
What does your subject look like? What is unique or special about your subject’s appearance?
Where does the main character live? Or, where does the story take place? In other words, what is the setting of your story.
When does the story happen? That is, what is the time frame?
How does the main subject behave? How is it adapted to its particular way of life? Or, what is the main action of the story?
Why should we be interested in your subject? What makes it compelling?

Note: When Mammoths Walked the Earth is out of print but available as a Kindle book on Amazon.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

LETTERS FROM STUDENTS: Author Visit Follow-Up

I love to do author visits and to feel the excitement that surrounds my appearance at a school. But the real value for the students is in the preparation and follow-up. I love to get letters and thank-you notes from students and teachers after my visit. They tell me what the students remember and what most impacted them about my program.
A few months ago I was pleased to receive a packet of thank-you notes from Mrs. Ritter’s kindergarten class at Jacoby Creek School in Arcata, which I visited in October during the Humboldt County Authors Festival. In the picture above you can see me (without any hair!) and the table with my book display. I love the drawing of the tiny butterfly in the book in my hand!

Note: One of the casualties of the coronavirus pandemic is the suspension of school and cancellation of author visits. I don't expect to do any on site author visits in the near future, although perhaps when school reopens there will be the possibility of Skype or Zoom visits. Time will tell.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Projects for Kids: A GARDEN IN YOUR KITCHEN, Growing an Avocado Pit

It may take up to six weeks for an avocado pit to sprout.
Look around your kitchen. Some of the things we eat are seeds. Some of the things we eat have seeds in them. And some, such as pineapples and carrots, will sprout new leaves if placed in water. Now, at a time when many schools are closed, I will post a new simple gardening project each week that kids can do at home. Have fun watching things grow!

Avocados
Did you know that the pits inside peaches and avocados are seeds? Most pits take a long time to sprout. The hard outer covering must split or rot away before the seed inside can grow.
An avocado pit takes two to six weeks to sprout. But when it does grow, it makes a beautiful houseplant.
First wash the pit, and remove any bits of avocado. Then poke three toothpicks into the side of the pit, and place the seed on the top of a glass or jar filled with water. The round end of the pit should be down, and the pointed end should face up. Be sure than there is always some water covering the bottom of the pit.
As the pit begins to grow, it will split. When the stem is about six inches long, cut off the top half. Then, when new leaves have formed and the root is thick, plant it in a large pot (about ten inches across).  Keep it watered, and it should grow into a beautiful plant.

Update July 1, 2020:
Three months after putting my avocado pit in water, it has sprouted its first leaves. (The root began to grow about a month ago.) Soon I will plant it in a pot with dirt.


Look for all the  kitchen garden projects in these posts:
Dried beans and peas 3/25/20
Fresh Vegetable Seeds 4/1/20
Herbs and Spices 4/8/20
Birdseed 4/15/20
Citrus Fruits  4/22/20
Carrots  4/29/20
Pineapple  5/6/20
Avocados 5/13/20

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Projects for Kids: A GARDEN IN YOUR KITCHEN, Growing Pineapple Leaves

New leaves have begun growing from the center of this planted pineapple top
Look around your kitchen. Some of the things we eat are seeds. Some of the things we eat have seeds in them. And some, such as pineapples and carrots, will sprout new leaves if placed in water. Now, at a time when many schools are closed, I will post a new simple gardening project each week that kids can do at home. Have fun watching things grow!

Pineapple
Next time your family is having fresh pineapple, cut off the top two inches before you serve the rest. Keep the leaves attached. Trim the edges of the pineapple so that the the center of the fruit fits into the top of a glass. Fill the glass with water just to the bottom of the pineapple. Place near a window so the pineapple gets plenty of light. In a few weeks you will see roots growing down into the water.  You can plant your pineapple in a pot with soil and watch it sprout new leaves. 

You can experiment with other seeds and plants around your house. It’s fun to discover how things grow–and you’ll end up with a beautiful garden in your kitchen!

Look for all the  kitchen garden projects in these posts:
Dried beans and peas 3/25/20
Fresh Vegetable Seeds 4/1/20
Herbs and Spices 4/8/20
Birdseed 4/15/20
Citrus Fruits  4/22/20
Carrots  4/29/20
Pineapple  5/6/20
Avocados 5/13/20

Monday, May 4, 2020

CHILDREN'S BOOK WEEK, May 4-10, 2020. Celebrate #BookWeek2020atHome

Children's Book Week is an annual celebration of children's books, authors, illustrators and publishers. This year's celebration, May 4-10, 2020, is the 101st!  #BookWeek2020atHome 
It is sponsored by the Children's Book Council and Every Child a Reader.

Here is what they say:

This celebration honors children's books, readers, and book creators. It is all about connecting over books and that can be done anytime, anywhere. Celebrate at home and online all week long!
Read all about our new plans in PW Children's Bookshelf.
Resources and Celebration Ideas!
  • Brand New 2020 Bookmarks with activities are available. Wonderfully illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton, the Fan Brothers, Michaela Goade, John Parra, Sydney Smith, and Duncan Tonatiuh!

  • Find coloring pages, the 2020 Official Poster, and more printable activities on our website.

  • Need some celebration inspiration? Check out all our ideas for how to participate at home and connect with others.

  • Follow #BookWeek2020atHome to find videos, live virtual events from book creators, resources, and celebration ideas from libraries and local bookstores. And use it to let us know how you are celebrating from wherever you are!
Please email Shaina.Birkhead@cbcbook.org with questions.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Projects for Kids: A GARDEN IN YOUR KITCHEN, Carrots

Sprouted Carrot Tops
Look around your kitchen. Some of the things we eat are seeds. Some of the things we eat have seeds in them. And some, such as pineapples and carrots, will sprout new leaves if placed in water. Now, at a time when many schools are closed, I will post a new simple gardening project each week that kids can do at home. Have fun watching things grow!

Carrots
Cut off the top of the carrot, leaving about an inch of the carrot on it. Place this in a shallow dish of water, and wait for a few days. Soon you will see new leaves growing out of the top. Wait a bit longer and you will see roots growing out of the carrot bottom. You may want to transplant your carrot into a pot full of soil and watch the leaves continue to grow.

You can experiment with other seeds and plants around your house. It’s fun to discover how things grow–and you’ll end up with a beautiful garden in your kitchen!

Look for all the  kitchen garden projects in these posts:
Dried Beans and Peas 3/25/20
Fresh Vegetable Seeds 4/1/20
Herbs and Spices  4/8/20
Birdseed  4/15/20
Citrus Fruits  4/22/20
Carrots  4/29/20
Avocados  5/6/20
Pineapple  5/13/20 

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Projects for Kids: A GARDEN IN YOUR KITCHEN, Citrus Fruits

Lemon seeds
Look around your kitchen. Some of the things we eat are seeds. Some of the things we eat have seeds in them. And some, such as pineapples and carrots, will sprout new leaves if placed in water. Now, at a time when many schools are closed, I will post a new simple gardening project each week that kids can do at home. Have fun watching things grow!

Citrus Fruits
The seeds of oranges, lemons, and grapefruit also grow into nice houseplants. Plant them in potting soil, and place on a sunny windowsill. You can start several seeds in one pot, but when they grow, there will be room for only one plant. Then the plants are matchstick size, choose the strongest one and pull out the others. This is called thinning. Gardeners thin so that their plants have plenty of room to grow.
Look for seeds inside an orange

Look for all the  kitchen garden projects in these posts:
Dried Beans and Peas  3/25/20
Fresh Vegetable Seeds  4/1/20
Herbs and Spices  4/8/20
Birdseed  4/15/20
Citrus Fruits  4/22/20
Carrots  4/29/20
Pineapple  5/6/20
Avocados  5/13/20