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

Friday, October 28, 2011

Oh Those Trolls That Don't Like To Read...

What is to be done about them?

As the Queen of this library, I try hard to help parents and even teachers find ways to make reading more interesting and enjoyable. Schools work hard at helping children learn to read; they coach, coerce, and challenge young people to read, read, read.

James Patterson recently wrote an article on CNN about How To Get Your Kid to be a Fanatic Reader.

His own son, at the age of 8 began to slide into the reluctant reader downward spiral. He and his wife decided this could not be tolerated and so one summer, they set out to change his opinion about books.
Read the entire article for how he did this. I do, however, wish to point out a few key issues Patterson discussed that is very important:

1. Sorry, moms and dads, but it's your job -- not the schools' -- to find books to get your kids reading and to make sure they read them.

2. The only way to help kids love to read is to get them to read everyday. 

3. Allow kids to pick books they enjoy, even if it's not a standard novel. Boys enjoy the graphic novel, joke books and even fact books (especially if they include facts about explosions, machinery or weird stuff). This reading counts! 

4. Sometimes kids need to be rewarded for reading. I've seen schools that have offered children a certain amount of money per book they've read during the year. My daughter once received a check for $6 sent in the mail to her by the school for books she'd read during the school year. She was thrilled. And even now, she loves reading. That was an incentive that helped get her going. 

5. You need to help your children find books they will love. If you aren't sure, check out the many literature blogs, or book list offered. There's a list of links in Patterson's article and on his Read kiddo read website

Don't give up and just write your child off as one of those kids who will never love to read. Keep pushing. Make sure there is nothing hindering your child's reading such as a learning or reading disability that makes reading difficult. Even if there is, check with your school's specialist on tips for helping your child read. There are many ways to get around a disability. 

And as always,
Happy Reading!
The Queen

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Wizardry Writing Wednesdays #4- Stories Need Characters

Good day, good day young scribes! Wizard Lexiconi here with another lesson on making stories come alive. Now that we have discussed how to find story ideas and what genre they might fit in, lets get to the first very important aspect of every good book: The Character.

There are three very important characters you need to make a story flow. 

First is the Hero, also know as the protagonist. This is the star of your story. The main character can be animal, vegetable, person, or thing. Generally, this character is on a journey of some sort, or is after some one or thing. They must have something they want more than anything in the world!

Second is the Villain, otherwise known as the antagonist. This dastardly dude is there to fight your character all the way. Though, not all villains are prominent throughout the story. Some bad guys aren't even people, but rather any kind of opposition that stands in the way of your character getting what they want.

Of course, third is your supporting character, that lovable side-kick. Both the hero and villain are known to have them. This person or thing helps your characters along in achieving their goal.

Ok, so here is what Lexiconi wishes you to do...

Think about your story idea and begin putting characters in. While creating your characters, answer these questions in your writing journal:

1. What is the characters name? (Be it the hero, villain or side-kick)
2. How old are they?
3. What are they? Person, thing, animal...
4. What do they look like? Write a brief description of their features.
5. What is this character's strength and weakness? You need to know both.
6. Where do they live? Do they like it there?

Next week, come back and we will talk about motivating your characters.
Until next week, 
Let your imagination weave some wacky tales. 
Wiz. Lexiconi, Sr. Mage 1st class: Fabulist extraordinaire

Monday, October 24, 2011

Mostly True Story of Jack by Kelly Barnhill

Happy Monday Friends-
The Queen here with a mid-level fantasy novel you are sure to find fascinating. I did. The story left me guessing all the way to the end about who Jack really was and where he came from. Action and the mystery behind the True Story kept me turning the pages. I hope you will enjoy it as well. 

Publisher and date: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (August 2, 2011)
Reading level: Grades 4 and up
Book Info: 336 pages
Genre: Fantasy fiction
ISBN: 978-0316056700

Book Summary
Jack is practically invisible at home, but when his parents send him to Hazelwood, Iowa, to spend a summer with his odd aunt and uncle, he suddenly makes friends, is beaten up by the town bully, and is plotted against by the richest man in town.  (from book flap)

Activity Adventures:

Book Theme: magic, interpersonal relations, friendship, family life, Iowa,
Truth isn’t always what it seems to be.

This story is also about sacrifice and friendships, about when things get broken and how sacrificial love (the kind where we forget about what’s in it for us) can make things whole again.

Writing or Discussion Prompts
*Have you ever felt invisible?

*Jack had to stand between the good and evil parts of his real mother in hopes of pulling them back together. Discuss what it might mean for someone to stand in the gap between good and evil.

Authors Arena

Kelly Barnhill writes fiction and nonfiction. She was a reading teachger with the Minneapolis Public Schools and later taught reading at a center for homeless youth. She also teaches writing through the Writers and Artist in the Schools Program. A mother of three “insanely brilliant children (evil geniuses –genii? – all of them, hell-bent on one day ruling the world)”

Favorite Quote:  “I believe in stories. I trust in stories. Storytelling is hardwired into our brains: it dictates how we think, how we understand the world, and how we make the world new again.”

Check out these interviews with Kelly Barnhill:

Other Works:
Children’s Nonfiction Books
Monsters of the Deep, Capstone Press, 2008
Animals with no Eyes, Capstone Press, 2008
Sewers and the Rats That Love Them, Capstone Press, 2009
Bizarre, Creepy Hoaxes, Edge Books, 2009
The Wee Book of Pee, Edge Books, 2009
The Bloody Book of Blood, Edge Books, 2009
The Sweaty Book of Sweat, Edge Books, 2009

Iron Hearted Violet, Little, Brown, August, 2012

Friday, October 21, 2011

Fantastic Fall Reads

Hello friends. Do you feel the weather turning crisp? Has the landscape turned to brilliant colors like a dragon's flame? As the days shorten and cool, what better activity can you dream up besides snuggling beneath a soft blanket with a cup of hot cocoa and a good book?

Sounds delightful, yes?

Well you are in for a treat because the Queen has been browsing the book shelves again and I've found some fantastic fall reads for your enjoyment and adventure.

Fall Mixed Up by 

  • Reading level: Ages 4-8
  • School & Library Binding: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Carolrhoda Books (October 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0761346066

Favorite Line:
"Can this be fall?
Close, but not quiet.
Go back and find all the 
things that aren't quite right."

Lots of things happen in September, October and November. It's a wonder a person can keep it all straight. Unfortunately, Bob Raczka didn't and now Fall is all mixed up! Provide a list of months and see if children can sort out this fall mess either by writing the events in the correct order under the right month, or by making printed event cards for children to sort out. 


Ten Little Beasties by Rebecca and Ed Emberly
  • Reading level: Ages 4-8
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Roaring Brook Press (August 2, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596436271

There's a song you can download and sing along to the words in the text. 

What happened to the beasties? Create your own scrap paper beasties. Sing the song as you add and subtract your beasty puppets. 


Trick or Treat Marley by John Grogan
Illustrated by Richard Cowdrey
  • Reading level: Ages 4-8
  • Hardcover: 40 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (July 26, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061857556

Just for some wild Marley fun! 


Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert
  • Reading level: Ages 4-8
  • Hardcover: 40 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books (September 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0152053042

Normally, I don't features older books, but this one was such a beautiful book that I had to mention it.

There are several lesson plans to go along with this book already out there. My thoughts, which I'm sure are included in those lesson ideas, was to make your own leaf characters. Children can write stories about where the wind might blow their creations. Another option is to color copy their creatures and mail them to friends for a new adventure. The Leaf Man can be mailed around the country to family and friends and each person can write a small bit about where the leaf man went. 

Favorite Line:
"Well, a leaf man's got to go where the wind blows."

Hope your own reading adventures take you near and far and to exciting places. 

Happy Reading,
The Queen

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wizardry Writing Wednesdays #3- Turning Ideas into a Story

Hello there aspiring scribes-
Wizard Lexiconi here with another Wondrous Wednesday Writing Tip. First things first, I hope you've brought your memory maps we started on during week #1. They are most essential. If you do not have them, or are unaware of what a memory map is, you have one of three choices:

#1) Go find your memory map and hurry back.
#2) Click above link and find out what a memory map is.
#3) Do none of the above and be turned into a toad.

Alrighty then, are we ready now?

Look at your memory maps. Are there any stories that can be turned into a usable story?
Many authors take incidents that have occurred in their lives and turn them into a story. Not necessarily a biography or memoir type of story. But by taking a place they visited, or an event that happened and dropping new characters into that event or sending them to that place.

Here's where the genre lesson comes in handy. Did you decide you like science fiction or fantasy? Historical?

Say for instance, one of your memories was of your dog Maxwell that liked to dig holes all over the yard. Put a sci-fi spin on that and perhaps that dog is really an alien looking for a secret time capsule that he people left buried in your yard a hundred years ago.

Or, have Maxwell dig a hole that leads into an enchanted land and you accident get sucked in one of the holes with him and end up traveling back in time to the stone ages. There you go, fantasy and historical at the same time. (It's been done, trust me. There is nothing new under the sun.)

Where other ideas come from:
If the memory map doesn't quiet work for you, there are other places where ideas lurk.
Maybe you have a favorite character in a book, television show or movie, ect. Can you put them in a new place and write a story using that character? Might not be publishable, but it'll be fun and a great writing exercise. What about taking a secondary character from a favorite book and making them the hero of your own new adventure?

Tell an old story from a different, lesser character's point of view. Or put those characters into a more modern or historical or even futuristic time? What about the three bears with a space age background. Could change the bears to aliens and have an astronaut visit their empty home.

You see, my young pencil pushers, the sky is truly the limit.

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

Monday, October 17, 2011

Junonia by Kevin Henkes

Happy Monday fair readers!
The Queen here with an early chapter book for young readers in third to sixth grade. This is a great summer time read, while sitting outside beneath the warm sunshine with the wind playing a calming tune to match the calming tone of this book. There's no grand action, but young Alice has some issues to deal with as she turns to a double digit age. I think girls especially will enjoy this story and find commonalities with Alice. Enjoy!

Publisher and date: Greenwillow Books (May 24, 2011)
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Book Info: 192 pages
Genre: fiction chapter book
ISBN: 978-0061964176

Author and illustrator: Kevin Henkes

Book Theme: dealing with change and unexpected events

Book Summary:
Alice Rice is returning to the beach to celebrate her 10th birthday. All her friends are expected to return as well. But when old friends cancel and new friends arrive, Alice’s big 10th birthday celebration fall into ruin.

Returning to the beach cottage—a cottage named Scallop—where she has always celebrated her birthday is a special occasion for Alice Rice.
Who will see the first dolphin this time? The first pelican? What will have changed? Stayed the same? And will this be the year she finally finds a junonia shell?
Alice's friends are all returning, too. And she's certain her parents have the best party planned for her. Alice can't wait. If Alice is lucky, everything will be absolutely perfect. Will Alice be lucky?

Activity Adventures:

Young Readers:
Paint a sea picture. Look up ocean scenes on the internet or in books. Use sand for the ground, paint and wavy tissue for the ocean and blue watercolors for the sky. Add some cotton clouds and cut out sun and birds, ect. Collect small shells and glue them to bottom. Set in frame.

Older Readers:
Purchase or gather shells. Sort them according to size, shape and type. Look up the names of shells. There are many listed in the book on the front and back cover.

Crafty Ideas:
Make bracelets and necklaces from shells.

Writing Prompts:
- Have you ever wanted something really bad like Alice wanted to find a Junonia shell? What did you do? What happened? Write about it. 

Authors Arena

Here's something interesting from Henkes' website
"I became an author-illustrator when I was nineteen years old. I flew from my home in Racine, Wisconsin, to New York City with my portfolio, hoping to find a publisher. And magically enough Susan Hirschman at Greenwillow Books made my dream come true. My first picture book, All Alone, was published in 1981. Since then I've written and illustrated many picture books and written several novels. I like the variety of trying new ways to fill the pages between two covers. Experimenting with words and paint and ink keeps my job interesting. “ 

Don't forget, Wizard Lexiconi will be here once again this Wednesday for another Wizardry Writing Lesson. I do hope to see you there.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Friday Book Features: I Broke My Trunk and The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School

Hello Friends and Fabulous Readers!
The Queen back with more wonderful books for your reading enjoyment. Today, I've decided to introduce two books because one book comes with a vast treasure box of activities ready for you to plunder. The second comes from a well-known author Mo Willems.

Our first book feature:

The Gingerbread Man: Loose in the School
by Laura Murray

  • Reading level: Ages 4-8
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Juvenile (July 7, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399250522

Product Description
When a class leaves for recess, their just-baked Gingerbread Man is left behind. But he's a smart cookie and heads out to find them. He'll run, slide, skip, and (after a mishap with a soccer ball) limp as fast as he can because: "I can catch them! I'm their Gingerbread Man!"

Author Laura Murray dreamed of being a writer "someday." She fell in love with children's literature while attending college to get her teaching degree. But writing was something she kept on the back burner. Then, after working as a Kindergarten teacher and having her own children, that "someday" came and she joined SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) where she learned the craft of writing for children.
As a teacher, she also understands the importance of making reading come alive and has already come up with many fun extension ideas for her Gingerbread book
Run, Run, Run on over as fast as you can and see what the fun things you can do with the Gingerbread man!

Illustrator Mike Lowery
Mike Lowery lives in a tiny cottage surrounded by trees where he mostly just makes art. His work has been seen in galleries and
publications internationally and he is Professor of Illustration at
the Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta. His daughter
Allister loves it when he draws faces on their bananas.

(Bio from Mike's website) 

Here's a sample from one of his journals. Anyone can carry around a small moleskin blank book to make pictures in. It's how even the pros practice for when they create art for books. 

Our Next Book: I Broke My Trunk by Mo Willems

  • Reading level: Ages 4-8
  • Hardcover: 64 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion Book CH (February 8, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1423133099
Gerald and Piggie are best friends.

In I Broke My Trunk! Gerald tells Piggie the long, crazy story about breaking his trunk. Will Piggie end up with a long, crazy story of her own? 

Mo Willems has written and illustrated many books for children since his start on Sesame Street. He has several websites which can be linked to from his main site. There's so much to do with all his crazy characters that there's little need to add more activities here. His Pigeon and Bunny website have lots to do and explore for both the "fun" children's areas and the "boring" parents areas. 

What I liked about this particular Pig and Elephant book was how Elephant went about telling the harrowing, or humorous tale of how he broke his trunk. It didn't happen the way you'd think it should have happened, let me assure you without offering any spoilers. 

I think this would be a great book to use when presenting a lesson on Getting to the Gist of a Story, generally taught with the Write Traits lesson plans. When you get to the Gist, it's how readers and writers seek out the Main Idea of a story or passage. 

It takes quiet a while for Elephant to just get to the Gist of his story.

picture from Wikipedia

Have a wonderful weekend friends, and I do look forward to seeing you again next week.

Happy Writing,
The Queen