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