Monday, December 19, 2011

Happy Holidays! From the Castle Residents

Happy Holidays dear readers!

The Queen here but not with another book this time. I'm here to bid you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. 

Here at the Castle Library, we have decided to take a break during this festive season to celebrate, enjoy our families and get our shopping done! Yes, even Queens and Wizards must shop for their dragons, trolls, knights and, well... frogs. 

Though there might be a random post or two over the next two weeks, I will not present any more books until after the new year, and Wizard Lexiconi will also not be returning until then as well with more of his wizardly lessons for our young scribes.

For now, we hope you'll enjoy the time celebrating in the way you all celebrate this time of year. Read those stories dearest to you. Write words of well wishes and thankfulness for what you've been blessed with. This is, more than anything else, a time to remember the goodness of our fellow mankind, to wish all good will and to give the gift of love above all else.

Thank you all for stopping by our little bit of enchanted land.
We appreciate you and wish you all the best.

From all of us at The Castle Library

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a Very Happy New Year!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Advent Reading and Activitiy Ideas - repost

Happy Friday, Friends.
We've been so busy with the Holidays here at the Castle Library, that I'm lacking the time needed to present a new book, though I have have a couple I'm excited to tell you about. Because of these time restraints, I am re-posting the article we did early this month about gift ideas for young readers. Hopefully, if you missed it, it will help you with your shopping this last week before Christmas.
Speaking of such, does anyone have any ideas on what kind of book to get a Wizard with a fondness for toads?

Happy Reading,
The Queen

Christmas is coming! The dragons have set up the grand ballroom's tree all lit up with sparkling lights and garland. (Though I'm sorry to say the first tree went up in smoke due to an over-achiever who thought the tree should be lit by candles) He is very sorry for setting the whole tree on fire. A lesson learned I say, no harm done.

Anyway, during the holiday busyness, it's easy to miss out on the wonderful reading opportunities this season holds for young princes and princesses. Here are a few ideas I've collected from around the reading kingdom. I hope you find something that tickles your holiday fancy!

Ho-ho-ho and happy reading!
The Queen.

The Twenty-five Books of Christmas
This is one of my favorite games to play around the castle. First, collect twenty five Christmas themed books. 
Wrap each book individually, then place in a larger box or crate. The container can also be wrapped and set by the tree. Make sure young readers can get to the presents inside. Every day or evening, allow a child to pick one book to unwrap and read for that night.

They get the joy of unwrapping a literary present each day, and the amount of books left in the container will tell them how many days are left leading up to Christmas. You can also number the presents if you wish books to be read in a certain order. 

Here are some fun ideas I've found on the web:

A list of ideas, printables, and resources found around the web to make counting down to Christmas fun and educational!

Over at The Book Chook are a plethora of literary gift buying ideas. As Steven King, quoted in the post, said, “Books are the perfect entertainment: no commercials, no batteries, hours of enjoyment for each dollar spent. What I wonder is why everybody doesn't carry a book around for those inevitable dead spots in life.” 

Check out their book and gift list. 

Over at Mother Reader  Pam Coughlan has comprised a list of great book giving ideas. Here's her description of what you can find in this fantastic post:
For all of your holiday shopping needs, here are 150 Ways to Give a Book, grouped by (approximate) age. They are all MotherReader-approved titles — i.e., Good Books. There are a lot more choices for younger kids, as that’s the group we adult most fear disappointing with giving “only” a book. And picture books are my specialty. After the book and gift selections, I’ve also included ways to wrap a book, and book-themed gifts to include for a variety of ages.
I especially like the tips of giving movie tickets or even a dvd to go along with the book version, or wrapping a paint set for books that are related to art. There are so many fun ways to give the gift of reading. I hope you all find something that inspires you to visit your local book store with innovative gift giving ideas that will not only provide enjoyment, but stretch the mind of a young reader. 

Happy Reading, Friends.
The Queen

Monday, December 12, 2011

Okay For Now by Gary D. Schmidt

Good day readers,
I have another chapter book that will set you soaring into unlimited possibilities. Gary D. Schmidt, author of  Newbery winners such as Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy and The Wednesday Wars has recently came out with another touching story titled, Okay for Now.

I laughed out loud only to get angry on the next page. I dared to hope and cried as the story began to wrap. Most of all, I was touched with the message of how "the power of art and story (has) over despair and loss."

Doug Swicteck, referred to as a "thug in training" finds a sense of freedom from his troubled life when he begins to sketch John James Audubon's bird of America and when Mr. Powell, from the library, begins to teach him the concepts of sketching and composition. Doug takes on the challenge of reclaiming the missing pages of the Original John Audubon book the library has sold off to keep itself and the town afloat.

Here is a story about rising above your circumstances and reaching for the stars. In the time of our first moon flight and the turmoil of Vietnam war, Doug manages to fight his way out of the miry clay until even his worst skeptics admit that he is someone who will go wherever he wants to go.

I loved this book and I'm confident, you will too. Educators, here is a great story for teaching courage, steadfastness and having the guts to keep trying even when the stats are not in your favor.
Happy Reading,
The Queen

Book Information:
Publisher and date: Clarion Books; None edition (April 5, 2011)
Reading level: Ages 10 and up
Book Info: Hardcover: 368 pages
Genre: Chapter book fiction
ISBN: 978-0547152608

Book Summary
As a fourteen-year-old who just moved to a new town, with no friends and a louse for an older brother, Doug Swieteck has all the stats stacked against him. So begins a coming-of-age masterwork full of equal parts comedy and tragedy from Newbery Honor winner Gary D. Schmidt. As Doug struggles to be more than the “skinny thug” that his teachers and the police think him to be, he finds an unlikely ally in Lil Spicer—a fiery young lady who “smelled like daisies would smell if they were growing in a big field under a clearing sky after a rain.” In Lil, Doug finds the strength to endure an abusive father, the suspicions of a whole town, and the return of his oldest brother, forever scarred, from Vietnam. Together, they find a safe haven in the local library, inspiration in learning about the plates of John James Audubon’s birds, and a hilarious adventure on a Broadway stage. In this stunning novel, Schmidt expertly weaves multiple themes of loss and recovery in a story teeming with distinctive, unusual characters and invaluable lessons about love, creativity, and survival.

Activity Adventures:
John James Audubon

Look up John James Audubon's Birds of America. Study the life of Audubon and what he did for wildlife preservation.

Check out the National Audubon Society.

There's an article about him over at PBS.

Make bird feeders to help birds get through a cold winter. The Audubon Magazine has 11 tips for making bird feeders.

Gather some sketch paper, pencils and even some water colors and have a go at creating your own wildlife pictures.

American History:
Do you love space? The story takes place during two important historical times. The Vietnam war and the first landing on the moon. Pick a topic and research it. Create a "What I Learned About ______" book.
Learning information just for the fun of it helps deepen your understanding about the world around you.

Crafty Ideas: 
Be A Nature Scientist:
Create your own nature book. Either draw pictures, or collect nature pictures you've photographed or clipped from a magazine. Provide a bit of information about the animal you captured. 

Additional Resources: Check out the Educators Guide for Okay for Now

Authors Arena

Gary D. Schmidt is the author of Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy (2005), which won both Newbery and Printz Honors, and The Wednesday Wars (2008), winner of a Newbery Honor. He teaches writing in the English Department at Calvin College, in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

2011 National Book Award Finalist for Young People's Literature

Gary's read from one of the most powerful chapters in his book.

Gary Schmidt reading from his YPL book Okay for Now at the 2011 NBA Finalists Reading from National Book Foundation on Vimeo.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Wildwood by Colin Meloy

Happy Friday dear reader friends.
The Queen here with another wild title for your enjoyment. Come with me into the pages of Wildwood for a fantastic adventure with Prue and Curtis as they search the magical woods just outside of Portland, Oregon for Prue's kidnapped baby brother, Mac.

But reader beware, there are bloody battles to fight, loss of life to endure and even the threat of a child sacrifice.

Other than that, the writing is clean, the story engaging, though long, and the characters realistic. Well, relatively saying. The fighting coyotes and kidnapping murder of crows does stretch the imagination, but that's what makes this story so wonderful.

If you've experienced this adventure, please leave a comment on what you thought about it. Because it is a novel, I have no activity ideas for you today though you can find discussion questions to further your understanding of this story at Wildwood Chronicles. I simply encourage you to find a comfy spot, wrap up in a blanket if it's cold outside and get ready for a wild read. Enjoy.

Happy Reading,
The Queen

Book Title: Wildwood
Author: Colin Meloy                                                                                                               
Illustrator: Carson Ellis

Book Information:
Publisher and date: Balzer + Bray; First Edition first Printing edition (August 30, 2011)
Reading level: Ages 9 and up
Book Info: Hardcover: 560 pages 
Genre: Fantasy
ISBN: 978-0062024688

Book Summary
Overview from Barnes and Noble
Prue McKeel’s life is ordinary. At least until her brother is abducted by a murder of crows and taken to the Impassable Wilderness, a dense, tangled forest on the edge of Portland. No one’s ever gone in – or at least returned to tell of it.
So begins an adventure that will take Prue and her friend, Curtis, deep into the Impassable Wilderness. There they uncover a secret world in the midst of violent upheaval—a world full of warring creatures, peaceable mystics, and powerful figures with the darkest intentions. And what begins as a rescue mission becomes something much greater, as the two friends find themselves entwined in a struggle for the very freedom of this wilderness. A wilderness the locals call Wildwood.
Wildwood is a spellbinding tale full of wonder, danger, and magic that juxtaposes the thrill of a secret world and modern city life. Original and fresh yet steeped in classic fantasy, this is a novel could have only come from the imagination of Colin Meloy, celebrated for his inventive and fantastic storytelling as the lead singer of the Decemberists. Wildwood is truly a new classic for the twenty-first century.

Authors Arena

Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis live in Portland, Oregon with their son, Hank. As you can see in this video they put together' about collaborating on Wildwood, their inspiration came from the woods around their city. You can find out more about them at  Wildwood Chronicles.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Wizardry Writing Wednesday #10 by Wizard Lexiconi - Scenes

Hello again young wordsmiths,
Today, I will delve into the basics of scenes. For a more comprehensive and mind-boggling lesson on the bones and tendons of a scene, hop on over to Randy Ingermanson's site. Here, I will only give a basic sketch of what a scene is.

When you read a story, you'll notice that generally, that story is broken down into chapters. Sometimes, within that chapter, there will be breaks, which we call scene breaks. It's a bit of white space, oftentimes marked with a funny little sign that indicates there will be a change in view point character, time, or setting. They are like mini stories within the story. But they can't stand alone.

Think of the Wizard of Oz. Dorthy meets the Scarecrow and frees him from the wooden post where he's hung all year. He explains his problem, she invites him to come along to meet the Wizard. There's a scene. Alone, it's not that great. But it's an important part of the overall story and moves the action and plot along.

These chapters are small scenes that make up the whole of the story line. Scenes are important to look at because often, new writers want to put a lot of unnecessary scenes in their story. They want to show a sweet or fun moment the character experiences. They will call it character building. Yes, sometimes a story requires it. But if you can take that scene out and it doesn't change how the story flows one bit, it's useless information and will bog down your story, thus boring your reader.

Readers don't like to be bored and we don't want to put out boring stories. That makes readers want to turn on the television or put down your book and never come back.

So, lets not be a toad about hanging on to those precious scenes. Pick and chose what really needs to go into your story, to help your character grow, to add tension and to keep the reader turning pages.

Come back next week and I'll get into the inner workings of a scene a little more. You can also check out Ingermanson's site as well.

In the meantime, I came across this rather comical plot skeleton I wanted to share with you. The link will take you to a picture that you can print out and use with your own story.

Plot Skeleton Graphic

Notice that the body is divided into three "complications." This is where your scenes will fit in. Each scene, as you will learn more about next week, must complicate your character's goal and stretch them to grow.

But for now, I think you have enough to think about and make some notes in your story.

Happy Writing, friends.
Let your imagination weave some wacky tales. 
Wiz. Lexiconi, Sr. Mage 1st class: Fabulist extraordinaire.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Miss Smith - Under the Ocean by Michael Garland

Good day fine reader friends. The Queen here with another delightful read of the high seas. I fell in awe over Garland's beautiful illustrations in this book. Each page provides lively details for the eyes to behold and examine. I also loved the references in the story to other great classics such as The Owl and the Pussy Cat to Treasure Island and The Little Mermaid. What a wonderful way to introduce a child to even greater stories and peak their interest in them.

Book Title: Miss Smith - Under the Ocean
Author and Illustrator: Micheal Garland

Book Information:
Publisher and date: Dutton Juvenile (April 28, 2011)
Reading level:Ages 5 and up
Book Info: Hardcover: 32 pages
ISBN: 0525423427

Book Summary (From
5 and upK and upMiss Smith
Miss Smith's class can't wait for story time. When their teacher reads from her incredible storybook, the worlds she describes come alive-literally! So when the class takes a field trip to the local aquarium, reading magic brings favorite nautical characters to life, including Long John Silver and the Swiss Family Robinson. From swimming with the Little Mermaid to rescuing their treasured storybook from scurvy pirates, it's another rollicking reading adventure Miss Smith's class - and readers - won't soon forget.

Newest Release for the holdiays

Activity Adventures:

Young Readers:
This book is a great way to introduce a young child to classics. Many classics have been condensed into short picture books. Go to the library and look up some of these classics to read together.

Older Readers:
Challenge older readers to pick one or two of the classics from the book to read. After reading the book, rent the movie version to watch. Use a Venn Diagram to do a compare and contrast of the book and movie.

Crafty Ideas:
Look at the sealife in the book. Younger children can make fish from paper plates. (Find a link)
Older children can pick a fish and look it up, draw and color.

Writing Prompts:
What books have your read recently? If you were to take a trip across the country you live in, who would you want to stop and visit or bring along with you?  Greg from Diary of a Wimpy Kid? Harry from Harry Potter? Cat from The Cat in the Hat? He promises to be fun. How about Skippyjon Jones?

Write a short story add your favorite storybook characters to your own adventure.

Discussion Questions:
Research the giant squid.

Authors Arena

Michael Garland is a best selling author and illustrator. His books have won numerous awards including the California State Young Readers Award, the Delaware State Reading Award and the Texas Armadillo Reader’s Choice Award. The Society of Illustrators honored Michael’s work with two silver medals. He lives in Patterson, New York, with his wife and their three children.

Author/Illustrator past works:
Super Snow Day -ISBN 978-0-525-42245-7
Miss Smith and the Haunted Library - ISBN 978-0-525-42139-9
Americana Adventure - ISBN 987-0-525-47945-1

Older works: 
Miss Smith Reads Again!, Dutton, 2006.
The Great Easter Egg Hunt, Dutton, 2005.
Michael Garland’s Christmas Treasury, Dutton, 2004.
Miss Smith’s Incredible Storybook, Dutton, 2003.
The President and Mom’s Apple Pie, Dutton 2002.
Last Night at the Zoo, Boyds Mills Press, 2001.
Icarus Swinebuckle, Albert Whitman, 2000.
Angel Cat, Boyds Mills Press, 1998.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Hand Book by Jeff Newman

Happy Friday reader friends! The Queen here with a "hands down" cute little book about... well, hands. The story begins with first one, then two baby hands and progresses to those hands that go on from clapping, to waving good-bye as they go to school, tossing hands at graduation and on to meeting someone special and holding on. The book comes to full circle when the hand cycle starts again.  

Book Title: Hand Book
Author and Illustrator: Jeff Newman                                                                                                                

Book Information:
Publisher and date: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, August 2011
Reading level:  P - 3
Book Info: Hardcover, 40 pages
Genre: Fiction Picture Book
ISBN: 10: 1416950133

Book Theme:
Hands reach.
Hands teach.
Hands tell stories of life and love.

The Queen's Summary
The text is easy to read and the repetitive style great for even the youngest readers. However, the concept behind some of the pictures such as "Hands toss" at graduation, and "Hands cross." when searching the job ads might be hard for young kids to fully comprehend. Perhaps the parent or teacher could ask what the child thinks is going on, and starting from the feedback given, go on to explain the meaning behind some of the more difficult concepts in this book.

Other than that, I loved the simple words and pictures. I think kids will enjoy discussing how their hands will change as they grow older. 

Activity Adventures:

Young Readers:
Let young children explore what their hands can do. Provide paints, markers and even play dough. Take pictures of your child's hands as they explore these different mediums. Make a book from the photos on all the wonderful ways hands can be useful to us. 

Older Readers:
Have older children write sentence to go along with the pictures of their hands. 

Crafty Ideas:
Sketch pictures of people's hands. 

Discussion Questions:
Compare your family's hands. How are they different? How are they the same? Discuss the changes hands go through as a person grows up. 

Authors Arena

Author and illustrator Jeff Newman.

From the bookflap:
Newman is the author and illustrator of  Reginald: Hippo! No, Rhino; and The Boys. He grew up in Ashland, Massachusetts, and currently lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with his wife and son.

If you'd like to see more of his illustrations, and check out his blog, look over at Newman Pictures.

Read the interview with Newman over at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. 

And another interview over here at Bottom Shelf Books. This one has a for real picture of the author and illustrator, though I think his drawings are fabulous. 

Be sure to check out some of this other works and let us know what you think.
Happy Reading!
The Queen

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wizardry Writing Wednesday #9 by Wizard Lexiconi - The Plot

Hello again, young scribes. I do hope your holiday was blessed and your buttons didn't pop off your britches. 

The frogs and I went up to the Castle and joined the Royal family in their feast. It was a grand time, until the dragons decided they wanted to be in charge of tree decorating. We skedaddled quick, let me tell you. There is still a cloud of smoke hanging over the castle towers. I'm sure it'll clear eventually and I hear they found another tree to replace the charred one. 

That's what happens, friends, when you let dragons get too close to combustible materials.  

Well, now for today's lesson. 

Now that you have your story idea in mind and have developed your main characters, including the good guy, the bad guy and any supporting characters, it's time to plan out how your story will flow. 

Not everyone likes to plan out stories. Some, called "seat-of-the-pants" writers love the thrill of discovery. To know what will happen next in the story kills the desire to keep writing. For them, writing is like reading or seeing a movie for the first time. They are glued to the keyboard eagerly anticipating what will their characters do next. 

THE PITFALLS: Such writers generally have more editing and rewriting that needs to be done afterward. They also risk running down boring rabbit trails, unnecessary story plots and dead ends they can't figure how to get out of. However, there is very little that can't be fixed. 

If you think you fit this description, then it's best to just sit down with a basic outline in your mind and write, write, write. Don't worry about deep editing or fixing until you've allowed the story to pour fourth however it comes out. Have fun with it.

Then there are the "Plotters" who look at their story like a big jigsaw puzzle that they need to piece together. Some go to extraordinary lengths to plot out their stories. 

You might start with a simple plot line like this: 

The exposition is your introduction where you introduce the character and the story problem. From there, the rising action consists of the problems your character faces, the defeats and the achievements. The climax is that moment your character will either triumph or die trying. Then the following falling action and resolution is the wrapping up of all the small plot threads you've created in your story. 

Another option is the storyboard, pictured below. I like having a visual not only of where my story will go, but pictures of my characters, as well. 

Beware, this does become a bit tedious and time consuming. However, if you really want your story to come alive for you, this helps a lot. 

PITFALLS: Some people plot out their story so much, it looses its flexibility. More often than not, I can plan, but them my characters decide to take another option. Don't be afraid to let your imagination run away. You can always reel it back in if needed. Sometimes, you'll find out information you didn't know and it makes your story so much better. Don't get stuck in the plotting so much you lose your creativity

Well, that's a good place to start for now. There are other ways to plot and you can do an on-line search for graphs and such. Keep it simple, silly. Don't be a toad about plotting out your story or it may never get written. 

Happy Writing, friends.
Let your imagination weave some wacky tales. 
Wiz. Lexiconi, Sr. Mage 1st class: Fabulist extraordinaire. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wizardry Writing Wednesdays # 8 - The Book of Thanks

Hello fellow scribes.
Today, we are veering off the beaten novel writing path for something a little different. Today I want to present a challenge. Today, I encourage you to open your creative minds and think.

Think about all the things you have to be thankful for.

Yes, yes, I'm sure you've heard this before. A hundred times even. But I'm going to be the 101. It's important.

Here's the first thing you do:

Make a small pocket sized book. You can get fancy or simple. If you are unsure how to put together a book of your own, here's a few links that might help.

A Place of Our Own: Homemade books

The Crafty Crow provides several options

There are more sites out there to get your ideas flowing, but these should provide a great start.

And why, you might ask, would I, Wizard Lexiconi ask you to make a book, instead of purchase the book? Because putting your time and personal touch to it makes it more special to you and you will more likely actually use it.

I do encourage that the book be able to fit into a pocket.

Now that you have your book made, look around and begin listing things you are thankful for. Fill the book with a simple list. Journal about experiences you've had that left you feeling blessed or thankful. Draw pictures of people and things you are grateful for. You can even take photos and glue them into your book. Collect items such as leaves, buttons, ect. There is no limit. This book is strictly for you.

Well, focusing your mind on things you are thankful for, things you've been blessed with improves your mood, lifts your spirit and brightens your outlook on life. It also fights stress and you never  know, there might be some great stories that you can later incorporate into your writing.

It's a win-win activity. I hope you'll join in.

There is always the frog pond for you if you don't.

Thinking blissful thoughts and the prospect of a big turkey!
Happy Writing Dearest Friends.

Let your imagination weave some wacky tales. 
Wiz. Lexiconi, Sr. Mage 1st class: Fabulist extraordinaire. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Animal Eggs: An Amazing Clutch of Mysteries and Marvels!

Animal Eggs: An Amazing Clutch of Mysteries and Marvels!

By Dawn Cusick & Joanne O’Sullivan

Publisher and date: EarlyLight Books (February 1, 2011)
Reading level: 7 and up
Book Info: 48 pages
Genre: Non-fiction picture book
ISBN: 0979745535

Book Summary
Kids who like animals will love Animal Eggs! Discover amazing colors and dozens of shapes and sizes—pink, yellow, orange, red, purple eggs, spotted eggs, speckled eggs, see-through eggs, and so many more. Explore dozens of wild and wonderful ways animals protect their eggs: male fish that protect hundreds of eggs in their mouths, female turtles that make elaborate nests on seashores, and female spiders that spin a silk ball around their eggs and carry the ball with them everywhere. Marvel at the surprising places some animals lay their eggs—in fruit, on the bodies of other animals, and even in dog poop!—so the baby animals have food to eat from the minute they hatch. Discover the tricks used by snakes, mammals, and bugs to steal eggs from other animals. Features a dazzling variety of animals, including snakes, amphibians, insects, spiders, crustaceans, fish, birds, and even mammals, all in four-color photography. Includes glossary and index.

Activity Adventures:
Readers will find everything they wanted to know about eggs and more.

Young Readers:
Egg match. Take a few of the more common types of animals and their eggs. Print or draw a picture of the animal on one note card and the corresponding eggs on another. Let kids match the animal to their eggs.

Older Readers:
The book is interactive in itself. At the end is a section titled: Whose Egg is This? Take time to guess who each egg belongs to before turning the page for the answers. How many did you get right?

Take a walk outside. Can you find a few of the eggs in the book? Search high and low for them. Make a list of all that you find. This can be turned into a Scavenger hunt type of game.

Crafty Ideas:
Gather your fabric, paper and assortment of crafty supplies. Make your own special eggs. Use some from the book to gather ideas.

Writing Prompts:
Create your own field guide of eggs that you find during your exploration and the animals they belong to.

Authors Arena

Dawn Cusick is blessed with many talents. She combined her writing and artistic skills and spent nearly twenty years working an in-house author and editor for a craft book publisher, producing titles such as Tabletop Fountains, The Michaels' Book of Arts and Crafts, and multiple editions of Quilt National. Her fascination with science and nature has now led her to create children's science books. In between books, Dawn teaches biology at a community college in western North Carolina, where she lives with her husband, two sons, and not nearly enough cats.

Other works include: Animal Tongues and Bug Butts

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wizardry Writing Wednesdays # 7 - Character Arcs and Charts

Wizard Lexiconi here with some places you can seek for aid in developing your story characters.
Some writers simply see a character and begin writing the story about them. They are called Seat of the Pants writers who enjoy learning about the character as they go along. These people write for discovery.

Then you have your plotters. They need to know beforehand as much detail as possible before they can begin the writing process.

There are many ways to go about creating your story. It's up to you and your distinct personality on what will work for you.

Here are some places you can find help when creating your characters:

The Hero's Journey at Read, Write, Think

The hero's journey is an ancient story pattern that can be found in texts from thousands of years ago or in newly released Hollywood blockbusters. This interactive tool will provide students with background on the hero's journey and give them a chance to explore several of the journey's key elements. Students can use the tool to record examples from a hero's journey they have read or viewed or to plan out a hero's journey of their own.

Over at Enchanted Learning, you can find several graphic organizers to print. 
Graphic organizers can be useful in analyzing the personality traits of fictional characters (like sad, happy, talkative, quiet, smart, silly, lazy, hard-working, optimistic, pessimistic, confused, scared, brave, strong, weak, loyal, friendly, down-to-earth, snobbish, honest, emotional, etc.).

For beginning writers, learning what a character trait is the start of helping them to understand why characters are important to their story. 
Here's a PDF page to print and use on Character Traits.
And one more from Teacher Vision on getting to the gist of your story with the 5W and an H. 

Well, my young scribes, this should help those of you who need a visual means of creating characters. I hope you'll find something that works for you. Feel free to try different methods until you find one that fits what is comfortable for you.

Let your imagination weave some wacky tales. 
Wiz. Lexiconi, Sr. Mage 1st class: Fabulist extraordinaire

Monday, November 14, 2011

Books to Movies - Newest Releases

Hello fair readers!
The Queen here today to talk about books that are about to be released into movies. I do love a good movie, but sometimes, the movies based on books leaves one disappointed and sometimes bewildered. There have been times when I've wondered, what happened to the wonderful story the author created for me? If movie people wish to make their own story, don't tie it in with this marvelous piece of literature.

I've spoken to many knights and wizards who are a bit reluctant to go see a movie after they've read the book. They fear the whole wonder of what they've read will be tainted in some way.

Well, I'm on the drawbridge about this issue. I have to admit, there have been a couple of times where the movie proved to be better than the book. But generally, that happened when I saw the movie, then decided to read the book afterward. Not often, has this happened.

With the holiday season approaching, there are a few books that have been turned into movies are are soon to be released.

The first upcoming release is Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer.
I have already procured my tickets, have re-read the book and am ready to see what they do with this blockbuster story. I know there are many young and older people I'll be standing in line with for the mid-night showing. I'll be sure to give a royal wave.

The next release of this season is The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

Book Description from
Orphan, clock keeper, and thief, Hugo lives in the walls of a busy Paris train station, where his survival depends on secrets and anonymity. But when his world suddenly interlocks with an eccentric, bookish girl and a bitter old man who runs a toy booth in the station, Hugo's undercover life, and his most precious secret, are put in jeopardy. A cryptic drawing, a treasured notebook, a stolen key, a mechanical man, and a hidden message from Hugo's dead father form the backbone of this intricate, tender, and spellbinding mystery.

The movie is scheduled for release on November 23. What a fantastic Thanksgiving treat that might be. However, I encourage you to read the book first. I find little ones love the reward of seeing a movie of the books they've read. What a great incentive to encourage reading!

Here is the official trailer. Enjoy!

Finally, just released today is the trailer for The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.
This movie isn't scheduled for showing until spring of 2011, so you have plenty of time to read all three books to get ready for it. Today's trailer release tells me the movie promises to be as exciting as the books.

Well, if you haven't read these books yet, you still have time to run up to your local library or bookstore and prepare yourself for some lively entertainment.

Happy Reading, and Movie Watching!
The Queen

Friday, November 11, 2011

Perfect Square by Michael Hall

Good Day Friend Readers!
The Queen here with another perfectly fantastic read and activity adventure for you. I love the way Hall takes an ordinary square and transforms it into an out-of-the-box experience for young readers. This proves, things are more than what they seem. I do hope you'll take the adventure challenge and see where your own imagination will take you.
Happy Reading!

Perfect Square by Michael Hall

Product Details

  • Ages: Pre-school and up
  • Hardcover: 40 pages
  • Publisher: Greenwillow Books (March 29, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061915130
  • Genre: Fiction picture book

Book Description
A perfect square is transformed in this adventure story that will transport you far beyond the four equal sides of this square book.

Adventure Activities:
You'll need some colorful sheets of paper. Cut the papers into various shapes. They don't have to be just squares, though that's a great starting place. Now, clip, cut, tear and crumple the paper into new things and places. Where can your imagination and some simple shapes take you?

After creating your master pieces, put them in your own book of shape adventures that you can share with family and friends.

Now, take your cameras out and about and snap pictures of shapes that you encounter during the day. Do you realize there are triangles in roofs, rectangles in buildings, circles in fountains? Oh and much more. Go on a shape hunt. This will also help you whip into shape some fantastic ideas for your perfect paper pictures.

Author's Arena:
Michael Hall is the creator of the critically acclaimed and nationally best-selling picture book My Heart Is Like a Zoo. He is also an award-winning graphic designer whose work has been widely recognized for its simple and engaging approach. Michael Hall is the co-owner and principal designer at Hall Kelley, Inc., and lives with his wife and two daughters in Minnesota.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wizardry Writing Wednesdays # 6 - More About Characters

Wizard Lexiconi here with another discussion about developing your characters.

First off, I can't stress enough that unless you have an interesting character that the reader will care about, nobody is going to care for your story. 

This is why it's important to really know your character, decide what the character wants and needs, and how you as the storyteller, are going to keep that character from getting what they want until the very end. 

So, now that you know what your hero and villain want, think of ways to hinder them. What problems will your character face? How you have developed your main character will determine how they face their problems. 

For example:
You've developed a mild-mannered little pig who gets frightened easily. So, when faced with a challenge, if   pig becomes suddenly brave, the reader will not buy it. They will hurl your story across the room and go read something more sensible. They might also wish that you be turned into a frog, which I can certainly oblige them if you do this kind of nonsense to a character. 

Keep your character's consistent. If your pig is a coward, then let them face each challenge the way a coward would. If you wish for them to be brave by the end of the story, then you will let him work on small acts of bravely, on purpose or accidental, throughout the story. By the end of the story, I might be more willing to believe your pig will stand up for it's fat little self after a few scenes of it progressively gaining confidence. 

This is called Character growth. And is also known as the Character Arc. That imaginary arched line that takes your character from the pathetic creature to something we can truly cheer for. 

All characters change during the story. 
Dorthy figured out she really did love her home. The Cowardly Lion really was brave. The Tin Man had a heart and the Scarecrow was smart all along. 

Harry learned, through seven books, that he really could be a great wizard because of his willingness to put love above power.

Wilbur learned he really did have value and was important. Charlotte gave him the words and the pig took them to heart and began living them. 

So, how will your character grow during the story? Think about what they start off as and what you want to see them end as. Make a few notes and tuck them into your story folder so you can check on how he/she is progressing along. 

Come back next week as we delve a little deeper into character arc and how it effects plot structure. There are different kinds of arcs to follow that can help you along. Trust me. Frog's honor. 

Let your imagination weave some wacky tales. 
Wiz. Lexiconi, Sr. Mage 1st class: Fabulist extraordinaire

Monday, November 7, 2011

Beginning Reader Books: Pinkalicious and Friday the Scaredy Cat

Pinkalicious: Pinky Promise
Written and Illustrated by Victoria Kann
Reading level: Ages 4 and up
Paperback: 32 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins (July 26, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0061928879

Book summary:
When Pinkalicious uses all of Alison's pink paint in class, Pinkalicious knows just how to make it up to her best friend!

Author Arena:
Victoria Kann is the award-winning illustrator and author of the picture book series featuring the whimsical and effervescent character Pinkalicious. Victoria coauthored and illustrated the first two books, Pinkalicious and Purplicious, as well as the play Pinkalicious: The Musical. She wrote and illustrated the New York Times number-one bestseller Goldilicious and is working on several more books about the adventures and antics of Pinkalicious. Victoria teaches at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Recently she built a tree house for her Princess Pinkerellas. She often hears galloping in the house and wonders if it is Goldilicious or just her Pinkerbelles.

Activity Adventures:
Color mixing: how is pink made? Let your kids experiment with color tones using black and white to lighten and darken colors.
Take it further by starting with primary colors and finding what colors appear by mixing them together.

Color Books: Find items in your favorite color. Yellow is the sun, bananas, bees... what else can you find? Pick any color and look through magazines, take a walk and collect items or find your colors during your daily routine. Draw or paste items into your color book.

Friday the Scaredy Cat

Written by: Kara McMahon
Illustrated by: Maddy McClellan

Product Details 
Paperback: 24 pages
Publisher: Simon Spotlight; Original edition (June 28, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1442422939

Book Summary:
Ready-to-Read. Level 1
Black cats are supposed to be scary, but no one has told that to this little black cat named Friday. So instead of being scary, Friday the Scaredy Cat is scared! When the doorbell rings, he jumps, runs, and hides. When a car horn beeps, he jumps, runs, and hides! But when something really scary appears, what does Friday do? Find out in this fun, sweetly spooky easy-to-read level 1 story!
Author's Arena
Kara McMahon is the author of dozens of books for children. She lives in New Yourk City with her husband Bryan, and their cats Angela and Friday, both of which were adopted from shelters. Supporting animal shelters is a cause she holds close to her heart, and she hopes that after reading about Friday, more people will make shelters their first stop when looking for a pet.
Adventure Activities:
Write a story about what is you are most scared of. Make it as silly or serious as you want. Some times the best way to face a fear is to recognize what it looks like first.
Make a black cat puppet using a paper sack and cat face cutout. Walk around your house and see what things your Scaredy Cat might be afriad of.
Maybe you don't need a new pet, but did you know shelters are always in need of pet food donations, blanket and items that make dogs and cats stay there more comfortable? Maybe you can find other ways to help the animals that live in shelters find a new home? What do you think you can do?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Wizardry Writing Wednesdays # 5 - Motivating Characters

Hello again young scribes. Wiz. Lexiconi here to talk more about developing characters.

Just like us, without being motivated to do something, we would spend our days as couch potatoes. However, whether you like it or not, you get up every morning for school, spurred by the fact that you need an education. You work or do chores, especially if there is money involved. You practice and play hard at sports with the incentive that you might win a championship.

But that's not good enough for a storybook character. The stakes need to be higher.

Sometimes, it's a life or death situation your character needs to be up against, but not always. However, whatever the is motivation that drives you character, the consequences of not getting it need to be substantial.

Wilber, in Charlotte's web faced certain death if he and his friends didn't find a solution to save him.

Harry in Harry Potter had to face the evilest wizard ever to save himself and his friends. He was willing to sacrifice himself for his friends.

Wendy in Peter Pan didn't wish to grow up, but eventually accepted the fact that it had to happen.

Dorthy in The Wizard of Oz followed the yellow brick road into danger just so she could get back home.

Each hero had something they wanted more than anything which drove their actions and made the story interesting.

Here's your assignment: Get out your quills and parchment and copy the following paragraph, making sure to fill in the words in parenthesis with information from your own story.

Somebody (your character's name) wanted (what do they want more than anything else?), but (what is the biggest hurdle or obstacle that gets in their way?). So, (what is character's plan B? That thing they do to overcome the obstacle?), then (what is the outcome of that plan b?)

Again, it goes like this:

This is the gist of your story, the main idea of what your story will be about.

Please feel free to share what you came up with if it pleases you.
Return next week for more about character motivation. Remember, your villain also has to have a motivation. Try filling in the blanks for all your characters and see what kind of story frame you begin to come up with. Soon, we'll be moving on to plot and structuring your story.

Who is thinking about taking on the NaNoWriMo challenge? It starts tomorrow and it's not too late to sign up.

Let your imagination weave some wacky tales. 
Wiz. Lexiconi, Sr. Mage 1st class: Fabulist extraordinaire

Monday, October 31, 2011

Zero by Kathryn Otoshi and Argus by Michelle Knudsen

Good Monday! The Queen here with two new books for your enjoyment. Did you know numbers are very important? Even the number Zero. Well, they are. Read to find out how Zero finds that she too counts. Our second book is also about value, even when someone is different. Argus is about one of my favorite creatures: Dragons. But he is supposed to be a chick like all the other kids have in class. Hummm... what's Sally to do with her different and troublesome science project? Read to find out. 


Publisher and date: KO Kids Books (September 15, 2010)
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Book Info: 32 pages
Genre: Children’s picture book
ISBN: 097239463X

Author and Illustrator: Kathryn Otoshi

Book Theme:
Values, counting, courage, social skills, numbers, math

Book Summary
Zeros search to find value in herself and in others.

Activity Adventures:

Use the book to teach children to count by 10s.

Show just how important a Zero really is. Have children count out the numbers 1-9 using stickers, rocks, buttons, ect. Now, if the Zero is added to that number, how many items are needed to make say, 20, or 30. Now the numbers are much bigger.

Crafty Ideas:
Print, color and cut out the numbers 0-9. Add stickers to show how many each number represents. This will help smaller children learn the number values.


Publisher and date: Candlewick (February 22, 2011)
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Book Info: Hardcover: 32 pages
ISBN: 0763637904
Genre: fiction picture book

Illustrator: Andrea Wesson

Book Theme: Different isn’t so bad

Book Summary
Sally’s class is doing a science project, and Mrs. Henshaw is handing out eggs for hatching. "Mine looks different," says Sally. When Sally’s egg cracks, what emerges is something green and scaly with big yellow eyes. Argus isn’t like the other chicks: he isn’t small and fuzzy, and he doesn’t like seeds and bugs. He’d rather eat other chicks (or children, as he grows even bigger). Watching the other kids playing with their identical chicks, Sally wonders, would she be better off without Argus? With sly humor and a subtle tug at the heartstrings, Michelle Knudsen hatches a story about learning not just to tolerate, but to love what is different, while Andréa Wesson’s endearing illustrations bring the tale to life with quirky details and offbeat charm.

Activity Adventures:

Crafty Ideas:
Print or cut out egg shapes. Let little ones paint their own dragon eggs.

Writing Prompts:
What would you do with a pet dragon?

Discussion Questions:
Have you felt different and wished you could ditch that thing that makes you stand out?

Authors Arena

Michelle Knudsen is the author of more than 40 books for children. Her best-known title is Library Lion (Candlewick Press), which was a New York Times bestseller and has been translated into several languages. Her latest book is the picture book Argus. Formerly a full-time children’s book editor, Michelle continues to edit manuscripts on a freelance basis and teaches children’s book writing at Gotham Writers' Workshop in NYC. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her diabetic cat, Cleo.

Illustrator: (from
Andréa Wesson graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design. She studied Illustration, and has since illustrated several books, including Not Just Another Moose, Jack Quack (both Cavendish), Evangeline Mudd and the Golden-Haired Apes of the Ikkanasti Jungle (Candlewick), and Opera Cat (Clarion).

She lives in Davis, California, with her husband, son and daughter. She has three cats, five fish, and a shrimp named Manny.

Andréa is currently working on Encore Opera Cat and watching Manny as he moves into the sunken pirate ship at the far end of the tank.

Happy Reading to you all!
The Queen