Saturday, July 30, 2011

When You're Not Sure About What They Read

Good Day, Dear Reader Friends.
The Queen here wondering about book choices for young children. How do you decide what is acceptable to read, and what isn't. Perhaps you peruse review sites looking for what others think about a book before you'll allow your little ones to glace at the book cover. Or maybe you are comfortable letting your little bookworms pick and choose as they please.

I've often struggled with this issue myself. Back when the Harry Potter books first came out, I head all sorts of warnings and suggestions to keep the kids away from these books. Yet, the popularity grew and they were stocked in the school libraries and I knew if my kids wanted to read them, they could get them easily. Finally, I read them myself.

And I fell in love with the books. Now I'm more of a fan than they are. Go figure.

The same thing happened with the Princess when she came across the Twilight books. I looked at them with great trepidation at first. Vampires. Oh please.

Yet, again, I knew she could get the books easily and read them on the sly if she really wanted to. And she really did want to read them. So I got US a copy and we read them together.

The result: Lots of discussion about falling in love, making a person so important they just about become your god. And loosing yourself to another when you try to be like him.

What Parent's Are Doing:
I've heard from parents who are strict and watch everything their children read. They check the reviews and even read the books themselves when they can. I've talked to other parents who let their children make the choices, believing that if a child chooses it, then they are more likely to read and enjoy it. Everyone has to do what best fits their family.

What You Can Be Doing:
I think, friends, that it's important to be involved with your child's reading.
I believe it's important to read what your child reads so you will know what is going into their minds.
I encourage all parents to be open, but honest with what their children read. If there are some bad influences, use those topics for lively discussions.

In the Wimpy Kid books, I have a few issues with the main character Greg. Some of his character traits aren't so amiable. He's quick to throw his friends under the bus. He's a slacker and he's quite selfish. However, he does learn in the end. Some.

Instead of telling my little Prince that he can't read these books, which I get a real chuckle out of, as well, I use them to point out things about friendship, honesty, and what happens when you try to think only of yourself.

Teaching Our Kids To Read Wisely:
The most important key is to teach your kids when to close the book themselves.

We want our children to make wise choices about what they read. We don’t want them to be afraid of books, but to choose wisely and think intelligently about what they read. I always tell my kids, there are thousands upon thousands of books out there waiting to be read. If one makes you feel bad, or doesn’t meet up to your standard, toss it and go on to the next. Don’t miss out on the really great reads by wasting your time with something that doesn’t appeal to you.

Same goes for dragons. But that's another issue.

Happy Reading.
The Queen

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Books Aplenty! Some Interesting Reads

Good day loyal subjects. The Queen here with a few books for you to consider. Remember, I do not review books at The Castle Library, however, there are some books I've read that I very much enjoyed, however, I was unable to come up with enough activities to do a weekly feature.

My peculiar pooch, Ginger, doesn't get the same thrill with reading that I do. Actually, I think she was upset that I cluttered up her nap space.


Bobby the Brave - Sometimes: 
Sometimes, it's hard to stand up to people you care about, and that's what this delightful book was all about. There is one other book about Bobby before this one, and author Lisa Yee has plans to write a book for each month of Bobby's fourth grade year.

This particular book dealt with facing your fears.

For people looking for books that have bi-racial characters, that have real issues to deal with, these book might be worth looking into. Bobby struggles with having asthma and I love how she has him explain to his class what it's like to live with asthma.

Queen of the Falls
Chris Van Allsburg has done it again in Queen of the Falls.
Do you love biographies? Here's one fantastic tale of Anne Edson Taylor, a retired 62 year old charm school instructor who seeks fame and fortune by going over the Niagara Falls in a wooden barrel.

It's true. And it really happened at the turn of the 19th century.

Unfortunately, things didn't quiet work out as Taylor planned, but you can read the book to see what happened.

And if you are interested in lesson activities to go along with this book, you can find one here at Effective Teaching Articles.

The Danger Box;
I just finished reading The Danger Box by Blue Balliett.

I had no idea Darwin had missing notebooks. I had no idea he was a list maker and that he never felt like he fit in. There's a lot of things I didn't know about Darwin, that Zoomy ends up finding out when a mysterious box shows up in his small town.

Zoomy has trouble dealing with an unsure world. He's also legally blind and has to look at things so close, he sees thing that others often never see.

Listen to this video by the author Blue Balliett.

Well, that's all the reading highlight I have for now, good readers. I hope you'll check out some of these books. If you click the box links, I get a small percentage of the sales from Amazon that will help with running The Castle Library.

Thank You!
The Queen

Monday, July 25, 2011

Author's Visit Schools... Skype Style

Good afternoon, loyal friends and dragons.
(I received an email last week that the dragons were feeling sorely ignored in my weekly post. So there you go.)

Queen here, this week there will not be the usual book feature. Instead, I'd like to let you in on an unusual opportunity for teachers, librarians and schools.

Laurel Snyder has written a book titled Bigger Than a Bread Box, which is about a magical breadbox that delivers whatever you wish for- as long is it fits inside. When twelve-year-old Rebecca finds the magical box in her Gran's attic, it makes life away from home and her separated parents much easier for awhile. Then, the box begins to make everything more difficult as she has to decide not just where, but who she wants to be.

This sounds like a thought provoking novel.

So here is the author's purposed plan: 

I hereby announce my CRAZY PLAN.  I am going to come and visit YOUR SCHOOL, via skype, and meet with your students. I plan to talk about being an author, writing for kids, revising and editing, my favorite books, and specifically– about how BIGGER THAN A BREAD BOX took me thirty years to write.  I plan to read a little bit from the book, and field questions from interested students.
THEN I plan to followup with students who might be interested in writing, or asking more questions, via email.
Sound good?

For more details on this intriguing plan, check out Laurel Snyder's site. The best thing is that the first 100 teachers or schools to contact her will get a free copy of the book! Wowzers!! (As my dragon friends would say.)

There's more!  
Hey, this is The Castle Library, there is always something more.

The person behind this grand scheme is Kate Messner. She has found that virtual classroom visits are a great way to connect authors with readers. Many authors will Skype for free since there is no cost of traveling or providing worksheets or other items.

Check out her site, as well, to see if there are other authors you'd like to have a virtual visit with.

The Queen thinks this is a most astonishing concept that she has heard in awhile. And knowing how many classroom now have a smart board technology, it's almost like the author is right there in the class with you. This is something a tech savvy teacher or librarian will want to check into.

Well, that's it for today my loyal subjects. Please do return on Wednesday for some bookish news and goings on that are sure to be quiet enlightening. On Friday, I would like to speak with parents about how to  make the hard choices on what your children read. My little prince and princess sometimes bring books to the castle that I'm just not sure are appropriate for royal minds. Come back Friday for a discussion on when is it best to just close a book and when should you leave the pages open.

Happy reading!
The Queen

Friday, July 22, 2011

Wolf of Tebron: Author's Arena

Happy Friday, good friends.
Today we get the meet the creator of Tebron and many other fantasy world. Be sure to read her writings about why writing fantasy is important.  
Happy Reading, 
The Queen

C. S. Lakin

C. S. Lakin lives in Los Angeles and has published several novels. She currently works as a freelance copyeditor and writing coach while teaching workshops on writing at conferences. She has written articles about writing and on the importance of fantasy on several websites.

Lakin explains on her website that the main reason she began writing the Gates of Heaven Series was because of a small book written by G. K. Chesterton called Orthodoxy. In that book Chesterton says that fairy tales have a specific order or rule that they all follow. These rules mirror our own existence in this world. And for this reason, she states, fairy tales have a way of resonating deep in our souls. 

Read more about her thoughts on fairy stories.

Check out more information on C.S. Lakin

Other books by this author:

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Wolf of Tebron: Activity Adventures

Welcome back friends. 

Today, we journey into the realm of fantasy and fairy tale. You never know what will happen. What mysterious creature might you encounter? What enchanted house will you enter? Watch out for the warm porridge and soft bed, the home owners will be home soon and they're real bears about intruders. 

I hope you've gotten your own copy of The Wolf of Tebron. If you click on the amazon link, I earn a few gold pieces that help run this quirky kingdom of mine. Also check your local bookstore or library for a copy. I'm sure you'll enjoy it. 

Now, for today's reading adventures: 
Get out your reading notebooks for this activity.

Compare and Contrast
C. S. Lakin says this story relates to the fairytale “The Enchanted Pig” 
Clink the link and read the complete story. After having read The Wolf of Tebron and The Enchanted Pig, compare and contrast what is similar and what is different in each story.

Now, can you think of other old fairytales that have been remade into contemporary stories? What about the movie, Beastly?
Clueless - based on Jane Austin's Emma.
10 Things I Hate About You - a modernization of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew

So, taking old stories and "re-purposing" them has been going on for some time. And it's something anyone can do. You have the plot and characters all done for you. All that's needed is to drop them into a new setting.

Here's some examples, then I want you to go try it: 

The Three Pigs:
What if these three brothers set out in our world today? What kind of life would each lead? The straw builder is lazy. The wood builder settles for good enough. But the brick builder plans ahead and works hard for his security.

The Three Bears:
What if someone broke into your house while you were gone for the weekend and lived there? What if they took over your life, doing the things you normally do?

The Turtle and the Hare
Have you ever been bested in a race or competition where you were sure you had the upper hand over the opposition? Humm... how can you make a come-back and win this time? 

So there you go, three ideas fresh off the top of the Queen's crown. She now offers this challenge to you, young scribes of the Internet...

Pick your a fairy-tale and make it your own. 

Have fun and come back later to let me know what you came up with.

Here's one more noteworthy announcement:
For a sneak peek at The Wolf of Tebron, check out the Free Book Preview

See you back here in the kingdom on Friday to meet the Author C.S. Lankin

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Wolf of Tebron: Book Introduction

Publisher and date: Living Ink Books/ 2010 (
Book Info: Paperback: 272 pages
Genre: YA fantasy fiction
Ages: suggested 14-18+ years (Maybe for mature 12+ if parents read the book, too, to help in understanding of some deep subjects such as depression and marital infidelity, for example)

ISBN: 978-0-89957-877-4

Author: C.S. Lakin

Book Summary from Amazon:
A young blacksmith must undertake a perilous journey to the four ends of the world to rescue his wife, who is held captive by the Moon. Along the way, he befriends a powerful wolf who encourages, protects, and ultimately sacrifices his life to save his human friend. A stirring allegory of Gods love in classic fairy tale tradition.

Queen’s Take on the Book:
Simply put, I found this book enchanting. I also found it engaging. Even engrossing. Joran’s journey, as he takes us from his mundane “safe” life, into the beauty of the  mystical and magical, kept me turning page after page. In the true meaning of “fairytale” Lakin opens a beautiful world full of danger and treachery. And the danger comes from within the main character as he deals with his own treachery of misunderstanding and reckless anger. The deep spiritual truths are there for the taking, for those who wish to see them. Yet, they are not so overpowering as to turn away the general reader.

There is much to be taken from this book, slice by slice, piece by piece, and bite by bite. Way too much even for the Queen’s banquet table. Here is a book you will want to read, then share and discuss with others as you dig deep into the many hidden truths found within the pages.

Discussion Questions:
I’ll not post any here because the author provides some great discussion questions at the end of the book. However, here are some things to consider while reading this book.

While reading, consider how this story connects deeply with our need for story in our lives. Why is story so important to mankind?  Does the story connect with your own life’s journey? If so, in what way?

Can you see the Christian elements in the story? How might you see God’s relationship with man played out in this fairytale?

Come back Wednesday for some Activity Adventures with the Wolf of Tebron. On Friday, we will meet C.S. Lakin, the author of this story and others in the series. 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Charlie the Ranch Dog - Author's Arena

Ree Drummond
Biography from publisher's website
Ree Drummond began blogging in 2006 and has built an award-winning website, where she shares recipes, showcases her photography, and documents her hilarious transition from city life to ranch wife. She is the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling cookbook The Pioneer Woman Cooks. Ree lives on a working cattle ranch near Pawhuska, Oklahoma, with her husband, Ladd; their four kids; their beloved basset hound; and lots of other animals.

Ree Drummond  began writing her award-winning blog called The Pioneer Woman  to chronicles her transition from city girl to country pioneer wife and mom. It helped her make the adjustment, and gave her something fun to do.

Do you keep a journal? Sometimes, writing helps you see things that are going on in your life a little differently. Try it. Spend time at the end of the day thinking about everything that happened. Don't settle for telling yourself that your life is boring. You only find the extraordinary and adventure when you really look for it. Did a younger sibling say something silly? Do something silly? Get you into trouble? Did your parents? Did you? There's always something. Write it! 

Who knows where your words will take you. Look where they've taken Ree Drummond.

Diane deGroat

BIOGRAPHY from publisher's website

Diane deGroat is the illustrator of more than 120 children's books and the author-illustrator of bestselling books, including Ants in Your Pants, Worms in Your Plants; April Fool! Watch Out at School!; Mother, You're the Best! (But Sister, You're a Pest!); Last One in is a Rotten Egg!; and the New York Times bestseller Roses are Pink, Your Feet Really Stink. Diane lives in Amherst, Massachusetts.

Diane deGroat grew up in a time when there were no computers, video games and the tv was only in black and white and you had to get up to change the channels.

Yet, since the first grade, she had a love for drawing on the sidewalk outside her home, getting her school work done so she could visit the art center. She loved the smells and squishy feels of poster paints and from that time on, was the kid in class who knew how to draw.

Like many of the other artist I've featured here, nearly all report to having a love for art from their early grades in school. Maybe you feel a thrill when the art teacher says you'll get to paint today. Maybe you draw little figures on your notes and worksheet. If you do, maybe you are in the makings of becoming an artist someday that will delight children just like deGroat does.

Check out her website for her own complete story and for some fun things to do like coloring pages and information on how she makes her paintings for children's books in the FAQ page.

If drawing or painting gets you energized. Get a notebook or make your own drawing book by stapling several sheets of blank paper together. Draw the things you see, the things you imagine. You never know where your pictures may take you. Look where they've taken Diane DeGroat.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Charlie The Ranch Dog - Activity Adventures

Welcome back to The Castle, good friends. Today, we have some down-on-the-ranch fun for you. 

Of course, as always, get out your journals, crayons, markets and imaginations and let's have some fun adventures!

*   *   *   *
Charlie the Ranch Dog

Charlie the Ranch Dog describes himself as having big paws, short legs, droopy eyes and long, dangling ears. (Remember the list you made from Monday about each character's characteristics? You might want to pull that back out.)
He not only describes his looks, he describes where he lives - the ranch - and what he does - works hard (a-hem, just humor him, all right?) 

Writing Prompt
Developing Character: Here's what I want you to do. On a clean sheet of paper, draw a sketch of yourself. Make it nice and color it in. Think about all those things that make you... well, you. Maybe you don't have long, dangling ears and droopy eyes... unless you are a basset hound reading this...? 

But I bet your hair is a certain length and color. So are your eyes, a certain shape and color. 
After you've drawn how you look, get another sheet of paper and write out a list of words that describe you. Yes, you can list words about how you look, but go deeper than that. Where in the world do you live? What do you like to do? What are you like? Are you lovable, a prankster, joker, bully, friend... what?

Okay, now you can play a game. Have the whole family or a group of friends do this. Pile all the description papers into one pile. Everyone holds their pictures face down on their lap. One person picks a description paper and begins to read it. Everyone has a chance to make guesses until the right character picture is "found." Keep going until everyone's pictures has been matched to the list description. 

There might be more words that others can help you add that you missed out on. Write those down, too.
This is how character descriptions in books are often started. You have just completed one on yourself and I bet, you are one interesting character! 

Things To Do On The Web:

Printable from Harper-Collins Publishers
Help Charlie Find Suzie

Click on these links for more farm coloring pages. 

DLTK's Crafts for Kids
Farm Animal Coloring Pages

Enchanted Learning
Farm Animals Around the World

Have fun. Leave a comment about which activity you did. I'd love to see pictures, too. Send an email. 
Happy Reading,
the Queen

Monday, July 11, 2011

Charlie the Ranch Dog - Book Introduction

Charlie the Ranch Dog

  • Reading level: Ages 4-8
  • Hardcover: 40 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (April 26, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061996556
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061996559
Book flap description: The adventures of Charlie, basset hound ranch dog, and his sidekick, Suzie.

The Queen's Take
Charlie the Ranch Dog has long floppy ears and short legs. His friend, Suzie, has long legs and is very fast. Charlie works hard on the ranch, when he's not eating, sleeping, looking for critters under the stairs, eating, sleeping, helping in the garden, sleeping, and in general, sleeping.

No, Charlie isn't exciting, nor adventurous. He's actually quite lazy. However, he is adorable and the farm pictures are beautiful. Suzie, of course, does most of the work, and her antics along with the other little critters will make for some great discussions after reading. You can also view this book at the Barnes and Noble storytime page being read by the author, Ree Drummond, herself.

Discussion Questions:
1. Who does most of the work? Charlie or Suzie?
2. What words would you use to describe Charlie? Write them down.
3. What words would you use to describe Suzie? Write them down, too.
4. Compare the words you listed. Are they opposites? What else do you see about the list you made?
5. Look at all the critters in the book. Which ones are considered wild animals and which ones are considered ranch, or domesticated, animals?

(If you're children aren't sure what domesticated means, look it up. Remember my adage: The Dictionary is Your Friend!!)

Here is a video that Ree Drummond made about her book Charlie the Ranch Dog, and her life on the ranch. See how many similarities you can find between the book and her real daily life. Then come back on Wednesday for some fun activities on the royal ranch-lands.

The Queen.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Writing Games: Scribes having fun

Welcome back my loyal subjects. The Queen here to bring you more marvelous activities to encourage your young scribes to get out their quill and ink and let's get to writing! 

There are many ways to tell a story, from speaking it out, to drawing a series of pictures that detail a plot line, to writing the actual words. Here are some fun ways you can get your children writing this summer.

Word Collecting
You’ll want a book that has at least 26 pages and will fit in a purse or pocket. Whenever you go out on errands, challenge your children to write down as many new words as they can find. They must be words they’ve never seen before. They have to write them on the correct letter page, and not crowd the words together.

When you get home, give your child a dictionary. Make it a game. For every so many new words and definition, give them prizes. 

Round-Robin Stories
Play the what-if game, using writing prompts. The prompt might be, “A dragon walked into the library one day….”

This can be played with a group of children, or as a family. Even young ones can get involved if mom or dads will dictate their portion of the story.

Each participant starts with a long sheet of blank paper. At the top, copy the writing prompt that starts the story. Set a timer for 10 minutes. During that time, players write the story without stopping to think about it. They have to free-flow write, or write without thinking. No editing or rewriting. Just write. When the timer goes off, everyone switches papers. Make sure each player has one turn at every page. Set the timer again for three minutes so players have a chance to read what was written in the first session. Set the timer again for 10 minutes, and everyone picks up the story where the last person left off. By time all the stories circle around, you will have several wildly different and often hilarious stories to read out to each other. 

On-Line Ideas:
Here are some adventure places I found while traveling the dark and twisting roads of the Internet. Sure, I came across a few trolls and goblins, but I also found some fantastic treasures on my journey. Lucky for you, because I'm so fond of my loyal subjects, I will share them here with you. Enjoy!

Sixteen Sensational Storytelling Ideas from the Book Chook

Helping Young Children Develop Strong Writing Skills

Story Stones to help young storytellers: A Happy Wanderer - Story Stones

Over at I Can Teach My Child, there's a post on Vertical Writing With Window Crayons. Make sure you read the comments for tips on clean up. 

Thank you for visiting the Castle today. Do come back next week when the Queen will be sharing a new book called, Charlie the Ranch Dog by Ree Drummond. I expect we'll have a howling good time. 

Happy Reading, 
The Queen

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Attention Young Scribes: The Summer Journal

This week, since we celebrated a holiday and since the Queen was on a mini-get-a-way vacation, she has decided to not post a new book, but rather discuss with you a very important activity she thinks young princes and princesses and dragons and trolls and even the toads should engage in. Read on, dear subjects about starting your own Summer Journal Fun Book.

The Summer Journal:
This can be a simple spiral notebook, or a homemade journal they’ve created themselves. The homemade journal is more personal, but kids can personalize notebooks and bound journals as well. 

Here's some samples of ones I use for taking story notes, writing out short stories or ideas, and for art. The top one is my theory on how Puppets "really" work. It's quiet magical. Maybe I'll share the ancient secret some day. Maybe.

What Goes Into The Summer Journal?
Every experience, token, and keepsake of the places you go and the things you do during the summer months. Even if you had a watermelon eating party, glue some seeds into the book. Then tell about the party. 

Did you take a trip? Perfect. Lots to write about there. But don’t stick with the mundane “We flew to Greece then took an ocean liner to Rome.” 

Instead, encourage young scribes to write about the scariest or most unusual statue or building they saw. What was the most interesting thing did they learn in one day of touring the sights. 
What did they eat that was totally delish? Or totally gag-a-maggot? 

Look for the unusual and write about it. Parent’s, you can do this too! You should. Really. 
Besides, it's fun once you get into it. Really. 

Maybe you stayed home and had a very boring summer! I don’t believe it! 
Something, sometime, somehow, someway happened that can be written about. Did little brother flush is Spiderman undies down the toilet? (It’s happened at the Castle before; let me tell you- what an ordeal!)

Did you have a slumber party at your house? What games did your friends play? What kinds of dares did they talk you into? So much to write about, so little time. Oh my!

Swimming? Tell about it. 
Visiting relatives? Many a books have been written about such experiences. 

The possibilities are endless.

How To Make it FUN!

Got colored writing tools? Glue? Scotch Tape? Then you are set to make your Summer Fun Journal loads of fun, fun, fun. 

  • Talk about what you learned about Greek statues from the statues’ point of view. You can draw the statue, or  take a picture from a brochure or one you took. Cut it out and let it narrate the story of your adventures. 
  •  Draw the yummy or gross food you had to eat. Draw your face when you ate it. Write dialogue bubbles like in comic strips of what you were thinking.
  •  Write your story out in different colored ink, crayons, pencils or markers.
  •  Add cut-outs to a page and draw or color a scene around the cut out. It could be the hotel you stayed at. A place you visited. Or pictures of people you were with. Write your story around the cut-outs, in spirals, or other fun shapes.

For Young Beginning Writers:
The key is helping them to recognize letters and words, then making the connection that letters make up word which make up sentences.

  • Find the letters in their name at the places you go. If visiting Alabama, take the A if your child’s name is Angela, or Abigail.  Mix and match letters you find to spell their name.
  • Let them draw what they saw and then dictate what they thought about it while you write. Your modeling will help them see how important writing is.
  • Encourage them to trace, or copy the words you encounter each day. Let them copy the word, Zoo, and then they can draw or cut out pictures of the animals they saw there. You can also write out the names of those animals in dashes or dots and let him/her trace out the word.

Making sure your preschooler recognizes letters give them a big headstart when they enter kindergarten. 

Come back on Friday for some Writing Prompts and Games you can play that will encourage those young scribes and keep them scribbling away! 

Happy Reading... and Writing!
The Queen

Friday, July 1, 2011

Squirrel's World - Author's Arena

You've met Squirrel.... And Rabbit, Mouse and Turtle...

Now meet the creator behind these wonderful creatures. 

Lisa Moser- Children's Book Author

Lisa loves:
-Sundays and church.
-the smell of a leather softball glove on a hot, summer day.
-a new box of crayons.
-chocolate cake, chocolate cookies, chocolate pie, chocolate
candy bars and chocolate ice cream. If they made chocolate meatloaf, I'd eat that, too!
-playing sports. Softball, tennis, volleyball and golf are some of my favorites.
-going on vacations and flying in an airplane.
-playing dolls with my daughter.
-looking at Lake Michigan. It’s so big, it reminds me of the ocean.
-being a children’s book author. It’s a great blessing.
(taken from author's website)

Lisa says on her website that one day she watched as a squirrel energetically played all around her backyard while a rabbit sat very still the whole time. These two very different characters prompted the idea for her book, Squirrel's World 

See? Story ideas are all around you if you'll look at the world with your writer's glasses on. Take a look around and see what stories are out there waiting for you to write about!