Friday, April 29, 2016

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Buffy's Blog.

My selection is Winter Song by William Shakespeare. This song from Shakespeare's comedy "Love's Labour's Lost" is beautifully illustrated by Melanie Hall.

Here is a lovely way to introduce Shakespeare to young readers. The joys and trials of an Elizabethan winter find expression in Shakespeare's lively phrases and Hall's colorful double page spreads.Alice Provensen provides an introduction and glossary for the less obvious words and phrases.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Writers Wednesday

Today's interview is with New York Times best selling author Brian Lies.

Before we get into the details of your interview, I must say I've been a fan of your books ever since I discovered "Bats At The Beach." I'm intrigued by your unusual choice of animal subjects and would like to know how you ended up with bats and now alligators?

The bat books grew out of a frosty window our daughter noticed one chilly December day as we were getting her ready for school.  She pointed at the bumpy silhouette at the top of the frost, and said, “Look!  It’s a bat, with sea foam.”  I’d never planned to write a book about bats, never planned for the one book to become a series.  The bats became a fun an interesting way to look at activities which are most often shared in groups—trips to the beach or a library, a baseball game, a musical concert.  I’ve enjoyed thinking about how we view the world, and how different these familiar activities might be if they occurred at night (and sometimes upside down).
The alligators in Gator Dad came from the original sketch I drew when I was first thinking of the story, ten years ago.  Then I thought maybe I should do more traditionally cuddly animals.  Rabbits?  Bears?  Especially for a book that could be read by dads who might tire of overtly cute animals, it seemed to me that alligators were the most appropriate animal.  That sometimes tough dad exterior often hides a gentler inside.

How did your interest in writing for children develop? 
I think my desire to write began with my older sister, who for as long as I can remember always wanted to be a writer.  Younger siblings often don’t want to be “left behind.”  But we grew up in a family that values creativity, and it wasn’t long before I enjoyed making stories and pictures on my own.

Perhaps more important, I’m from a reading family, and I was exposed to some books that changed how I thought—Jane Langton’s children’s books such as The Swing in the Summerhouse, The Diamond in the Window, or Jean Craighead George’s My Side of the Mountain.  Edward Eager’s magic books.  I remember how magical reading itself felt—being transported away into a different world, and the beautiful pain of being torn out of that world at the last page of the book.  I also believe that if you’ve witnessed magic, at some point you have to wonder if you’ve got any of that magic in you, too.  Could I create something that affected someone else the way these books affect me?  Some day I’d love to do a book that leaves readers with a lump in the throat.

How does your career as a writer influence other areas of your life and vice versa? I’m guilty of that very American habit of identifying yourself by what you do as your job. I write.  I draw.  It seems that being an author/illustrator has created a bit of attention deficit, because I’m always looking around for things that could be additions to stories, always curious.  It seems I’m always thinking about what I’m working on. Having a home office further blurs the line between work and “private life,” because you’re never physically distant from your work, too!

What do you do when you are not writing? 
These days, if I’m not working on a new book, I’m most likely visiting schools around the country.  But for relaxation, I read, I have a wood shop in the basement and like building things, and I enjoy bicycling.  For years I had a big vegetable garden out back, but it became shaded by trees.  Those trees threatened our house (two have fallen on it in the last three years!), so we had them taken out last spring . . .and now for the first time in years, it looks like I’ll be gardening again.  I’m having a little of the “re-opening an important space” feeling depicted in The Secret Garden!

Briefly, what's your book "Gator Dad" about? 
In its simplest form, Gator Dad is about an alligator dad getting through the day with his three kids.  But underneath, I see it as a celebration of dads who are actively involved in their kids’ lives (something that’s good for both the kids and the dads), and perhaps even as a visual script for dads who are more likely to do something to show their love than they are to say something.  My hope is that kids of those fathers will recognize some of this alligator dad’s actions in their dads, and realize that even if dad doesn’t say he loves them, he really does.

I see Gator Dad as a book for kids and for their dads, and would be thrilled if people began to think of it as an automatic “expectant dad” gift, the way people often give graduates copies of Dr. Suess’s Oh, The Places You’ll Go.

What inspired you to write the book?
Around the time our daughter went off to college, I was looking through a decade-old sketchbook.  It included a sketch of a big alligator with his arm around a dejected little gator, both sitting on a wall.  I had found that having a child leave home leads to contemplation, and something about that sketch resonated with me.  I started thinking about all of the times we’d had when I was a stay-at-home dad, and I thought about my relationship with my own dad. . . and the book began to take shape.

What are your current/future projects? 
I’m just starting work on a picture book called Got to Get to Bear’s!, about a character who’s received a summons from a friend who never asks, and how she makes her way through a rapidly-growing blizzard to find out what he wanted.  That will be published in fall, 2018.  I’m also thinking a lot about a story of grief and renewal.  I’ve got a motley group of unusual characters in mind, jostling for their place in line!

What is your writing process? Do you follow a regular routine? 
I think that if I were solely a writer or an illustrator, I’d have a more regular routine than I do.  Instead, my days are shaped by where I am in the story process.  When I’m working on the text for a story, I’ll write daily, but the concentration required for writing is pretty intense, and I can’t do it much longer than three hours.  When I’m working on sketches or final paintings for a book, I’ll draw or paint daily for as many as 14 hours.  But mixed in with these days of writing and illustration are school visits, which punctuate my schedule and keep it varied.  As a result, most weeks are decidedly interesting.

What book(s)/author(s) have influenced your writing and how?
I credit Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever for all of the details I put into my illustrations.  As a boy, I spent hours poring over the pictures in that book for little things.  An apple falling out of a mountain climber’s backpack.  A balloon getting away from a mouse.  There was so much to look at!  Other writers from my early years are Jane Langton and Jean Craighead George (as mentioned above), who gave me a sense of magic in the ordinary, and a desire for self-sufficiency.  One inspiration came from a real-world interaction:  Harry Devlin, of the Wende and Harry Devlin team (the Cranberry picture books, but also my childhood favorites The Wonderful Treehouse and The Knobby Boys to the Rescue) visited my school when I was in fifth grade, and made me realize that being an author and an illustrator was a real job. 

What part of the writing process do you find most challenging and how do you deal with that challenge? 
For me, the most challenging part of writing is committing to one line of thinking or one way to tell the story.  There are so many possible ways to go—which one serves the story best?  For instance, I have one story idea in my queue that might be a simple picture book.  It might be a series of picture books.  Or it might be a chapter book, illustrated with line drawings and punctuated by occasional color plates, and involve a much larger swath of time and characters.  And I haven’t settled on either which route I’d prefer to go as a write, or which would be most satisfying to readers. 

Anything else you'd like readers to know about you and/or your book? 
The “robot rides” that Gator Dad gives to his kids in the book comes from my childhood, when my Dad would put my older sister or me on his shoulders, and we’d steer him through the house by tugging on his ears.  A tug meant a 90-degree turn, even if it meant running into a wall, and a robot ride always involved a lot of laughter.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Poetry Friday

Poetry Friday is hosted today by The Poem Farm.

My selection is "Canyon" by Eileen Cameron with illustrations by Michael Collier.  


The power of water, the relentless mechanism of erosion, and the grandeur that can be created by the forces of change are depicted in lyrical free verse and stunning photography. Cameron leads readers on a poetic adventure following the first tentative wisps of falling snow on mountain tops, down swift running streams, and on to the thundering power of the Colorado River as it sculpts canyons that become stunning geological wonders.


Collier's gorgeous color photography compliments the text and features differing perspectives that invite the reader to contemplate the extraordinary beauty of our natural world.


The book concludes with a map that illustrates the location of the various scenes.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Writers Wednesday

Today's guest is Robert Scott Thayer. Mr. Thayer is the author of the Readers' Favorite Book Award Winner, Kobee Manatee: A Wild Weather Adventure which is the second in his manatee series. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

In addition to being a children’s author, I am also a singer/songwriter. I have won several International Songwriting Awards including those from Billboard.  Grammy winner, Jim Cravero, produced my newest children’s tune titled, Kobee’s Song.  It’s fun, upbeat, and has a solid reggae grove.

Ever since I was young, I had a passion for manatees.  As I got older my admiration for these threatened marine mammals kept growing.  So I studied them in greater detail.  I have plans for creating a complete Kobee Manatee series, which is educational, entertaining, and fun for children, parents, grandparents, teachers, and librarians.

I have a strong interest in weather, oceans, sea life, and coral reefs, which will be subjects for upcoming titles in the series.  I have a degree from Temple University.  I also worked as a copywriter.   In addition, I am a member of the Author’s Guild, SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), the Save the Manatee Club in Maitland, Florida, and BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc.).  I currently reside in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.  You can learn more about my children’s educational series at:

Ever since I was young, I always had a strong interest in manatees and I always enjoyed learning.  Especially learning about anything living. At 7, my parents bought me a microscope.  And when I saw my first single-cell amoeba, I was fascinated!  I quickly gravitated toward insect and animal books, butterflies and moths, reptiles and mammals.  All along the way, I always had such a keen interest in manatees.  Then as I grew older, I also became very interested in weather and the oceans.

So for me, the natural progression in the series was to have the first title, Kobee Manatee: Heading Home to Florida, teach children all about manatees.  Then the second title, which is my current release, Kobee Manatee: A Wild Weather Adventure, I continue entertaining and teaching children by having my protagonist, a friendly manatee wearing a purple cap and a yellow jersey, introduce different cloud types and weather events, which take place along Kobee Manatee’s adventure from Key West, Florida to Nassau in the Bahamas.

How did you get interested in writing this particular genre? 

I’ve always had a passion for manatees.  And I also enjoy wearing a cap as part of my own outfit. With that said, I wanted to reflect this in my protagonist.  So I created a manatee wearing a purple cap and a yellow jersey.  And while I always enjoyed learning, I decided to incorporate this concept into my manatee by giving him anthropomorphic traits.  Clearly, the logical genre choice for me would be writing children’s picture books.  I wanted my books to be fun, entertaining, and educational so learning would seem incidental.

Do you have any favorite authors or favorite books?

I’ve always enjoyed Dr. Seuss because they were such fun reads. What can be more fun for a child than reading Green Eggs and Ham? And also the wonderful Curious George series by Margret and Hans Augusto Rey.  As for other favorites, I enjoy any title on science, living things, weather, and the oceans.

What's a typical working day like for you? When and where do you write? Do you set a daily writing goal?

A typical working day for me can vary greatly, except for my mornings.  I’ll research new ideas and create an outline for one of my upcoming Kobee Manatee blogs.  I also may review and edit a blog that’s almost ready to post.  I’ll check with both Google analytics and my distributor’s sales reports to see how my marketing is performing.

As for my writing, I find mornings are best.  It’s quiet and I usually have no interruptions.  I’ll write with my laptop and sit at the same couch spot during each session.  Much like Sheldon Cooper’s favorite sitting spot!  As for my daily writing goal – it’s important for me just to progress with some new words each time.  It doesn’t matter if I’m in the zone and a whole bunch of stuff flies off the keyboard, or if I’m struggling and finding it difficult to get that next word down.  As long as I write something, I’m happy.

What is the hardest part of writing for you?

I write children’s educational picture books, where I’ll create a fictitious story and then weave in “Kobee’s Fun Facts,” which mirror the story’s subject.  The hardest part of writing in this genre for me is keeping my word count in the narrative arc manageable for my target audience, children 4 to 8.  However, I’m finding the “Kobee’s Fun Facts” embedded in each story can draw in readers who are older.

What’s the best thing about being an author? 

I get such a great feeling when I learn children love one of my titles.  And especially when I do an author visit at a school. There’s nothing better for me than being in that live environment, where I personally see how much fun the children are having when I read them a Kobee Manatee story and then sing them a Kobee Manatee song!

What are you working on now?

I’m working on my third series release, Kobee Manatee: Shipwreck Sea Friends.  This title is another adventure tale were Kobee and his pals are busy searching for the historic shipwreck, the SS Antonio Lopez, off the coast of Puerto Rico. Children will be able to identify popular reef fish and they’ll also learn our beautiful coral reefs are now being seriously threatened and dying from increasing Ocean Acidification.

What advice would you give aspiring writers? 

Stick with it!  We all have those unwanted days where nothing in the writing department seems to make sense.  You just can’t get one new word on the page.  When that happens to me, I just write anything down anything!  This can definitely help dissolve that stubborn mental jam, and those thoughts can start flowing again. 

The question I’d like to be asked in an interview is

Why is it important to teach young children about manatees and other threatened animals?

It’s very important because not only manatees, but also all sea life, including our precious coral reefs and plankton are now threatened from increasing Ocean Acidification [OA].  OA is a condition caused from carbon dioxide [CO2] in the air dissolving in the ocean.  This creates carbonic acid in seawater.  Carbonic acid can destroy coral reefs.  CO2 levels are the result of human activities, which include the burning of fossil fuels; oil, coal and natural gas.  According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization [UNESCO]
“Coral reefs are the nurseries of the oceans, they are biodiversity hot spots. On some tropical coral reefs, for example, there can be 1,000 species per square meter². Their decline affects tourism, food security, shoreline protection and biodiversity.  Ocean acidity has increased by 30% since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.”

How is Ocean Acidification a Threat to Coral Reefs and Marine Life?

Ocean acidity results in an increase in the amount of energy needed by small ocean organisms in making their carbonate shells. In some areas of the oceans, the increasing seawater acidity will make it impossible for these organisms to live. This will have a drastic effect on ocean ecosystems. As a result, tropical oceans will not be able to sustain coral reefs.  Here is what UNESCO is saying about the increasing threat of CO2 and increasing ocean acidification, “Coral reefs are the nurseries of the oceans, they are biodiversity hot spots. On some tropical coral reefs, for example, there can be 1,000 species per m². Their decline affects tourism, food security, shoreline protection and biodiversity.”

“Ocean acidification may have a strong negative impact on many plankton and zooplankton species that form the base of the marine food chain. Plankton is key to the survival of larger fish, and their decline may trigger a chain reaction through the marine food web. This will affect the multi-billion dollar commercial fisheries and shellfish industries, as well as threatening the food security for millions of the world’s poorest people. Ocean acidification, along with warming surface waters, may reduce the ability of the ocean to absorb CO2, leaving more CO2 in the atmosphere and worsening its impact on the climate.”

Science is just now beginning to explore the devastating impacts of Ocean Acidification [OC].  Clearly, this is a very important message I would like getting out to our younger generation.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Nonfiction Monday

For Nonfiction Monday: "My First Book of Baseball: Mostly Everything Explained About the Game" by Beth Bugler and Mark Bechtel with illustrations by Bill Hinds. 

Parents and children will enjoy this second book in the Rookie Book Series from Sports Illustrated for Kids.  Eye-catching photographs highlight a MLB game from the umpire shouting "Play ball!" through the 7th inning stretch and on to the game-winning grand slam! 

Opening pages highlight the basics of teams, innings, and diamond, layout the structure of the game, and explain terms such as offense, defense, infield, and outfield with the help of vivid illustrations.

Adult readers will appreciate the cartoon dialogue bubbles that appear frequently throughout the photographs offering thoughts or remarks from the various players. 

Children will enjoy the comic-strip style kid who leads the reader through the pages as he follows the game from beginning to end and makes humorous comments on the action.

This book offers an entertaining introduction to America's favorite pastime for budding baseball fans.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Friday, March 25, 2016

Poetry Friday

Poetry Friday is hosted today by My Juicy Little Universe

My selection is "In the Wild" by David Elliott with illustrations by Holly Meade.


Wildlife and poetry -- what an enticing combination for children. Elliott takes readers on a quest across continents and through a variety of habitats to discover some of our favorite animals. Panda,  zebra, polar bear, sloth, and kangaroo are just a few of animals celebrated in this colorful collection.

Short poems offer thoughtful insights into details, invite readers to observe wildlife with a thoughtful eye or simply enjoy how unique each creature is in form and behavior. The simple-appearing verses are reader friendly, but possess an underlying sophistication in their use of vocabulary and imagery  -- the glisten of sunset in a lion's eye or likening an elephant to a cloud: Powerful, yet delicate/as lace.../When peaceful, silent;/when angry loud. 

Meade's bold use of color and line fill the pages with images that draw the reader's attention to the subject of each verse and make the illustrations every bit as commanding as the words.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Poetry Friday

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Robyn Hood Black

My selection is "The Arrow Finds Its Mark: a book of found poems" edited by Georgia Heard and illustrated by Antoine Guilloppe.     


Heard has collected the works of many of the best known names in children's poetry for this collection of "Found" poems. An introduction explains this form of poetry is created using words and/or phrases that are found in ads, signs, lists, letters, or other random sources such as tweets. The found material is then shaped into a poem.


J. Patrick Lewis delights sports fans with "Nicknames in the NBA" from a basketball encyclopedia.  Joyce Sidman, Marilyn Singer, Bob Raczka, Jane Yolen, Laura Purdie Salas, and Lee Bennett Hopkins are just a few of the talented contributors who share their work. Each poem is accompanied by a note describing where the source material was found.

This entertaining book offers inspiration to young writers as it invites them to find poetry in unlikely places. 

The Gingerbread Cowboy Book Trailer