Friday, January 27, 2012

King Jack and the Dragon by Peter Bently

Hello good readers.
The Queen here with another daring tell of true imagination adventures as three constructive young children brave dragon invasions and attacks of parental giants. If this book doesn't spark some creative ingenuity, I don't know what will. Read it, then do it, as I always say. Let this book open your mind of playful possibilities and fun.

Happy Reading,
The Queen

Book Title: King Jack and the Dragon
Author: Peter Bently                                                                 
Illustrator: Helen Oxenbury

Book Information:
Publisher and date: Dial (August 18, 2011)
Reading level: Ages 3 and up
Book Info: Hardcover: 32 pages
Genre: Picture book
ISBN: 978-0803736986

Book Theme:
Playtime, friends, using your imagination, family, facing fears.  

Book Summary
A trio of children spends the day playing in their fort, defending it from dragons and beasts, before reality intrudes at nightfall.

Gentle, unassuming rhyme tells the story of Zack, Caspar and King Jack, who make a glorious fort in Jack and Caspar's backyard out of a cardboard box and other tried-and-true materials. The children—preschooler Jack, his toddler brother Caspar and pal Zack—are happy playmates consciously indulging in make-believe. Reality and fantasy merge at the end of the day when "a giant came by and went home with Sir Zack" (a parental hand drags the protesting little boy off) and "another giant came and took Caspar to bed" (he is unceremoniously carried off in the crook of Mommy's arm). Does King Jack have the starch to defend the fort by himself? Who needs starch with a Mommy and Dad like Jack's?"

Activity Adventures:

Young Readers:
What can you make a castle or fort out of? Let your children pull out those blankets, pillows and other fun items to make an imaginary place to play. Get in there and play along with them. Who knows what adventures you can all have together?

Don't forget, young knights, kings, cowboys and Indians need plenty of nourishment. Bake some special cookie snacks for your young adventurers to nibble on. 

Older Readers:
Do you have closets full of old shoe boxes? Create your own castle, fort or city from them. Our young prince loves creating his own toys and has used up the top of his bed for his castle creation, all the way down to paper warriors.

front view of castle

side/ top view of castle

Crafty Ideas:
Draw pictures of creatures you might battle if you were King. 

Writing Prompts:
Write a story of one of your play times. Describe where your make-believe world was, give setting and what characters were in your play? What battles did you have to face?
Many stories come from people sitting down and imagining.

Authors Arena

Author: Peter Bently
Peter Bently was born in Tidworth and attended Balliol College, Oxford, where he studied for a BA Hons in Modern Languages. He has two young children and now lives in Devon. (That's somewhere around England. Why don't you grab a world globe or map and see if you can find it?) He has also written several other award-winning picture books, including A Lark in the Ark (Egmont) and Shark in the Dark (Macmillan).

Try Google Maps and see if you can find the town where both Bently and Oxenbury live? Google Maps offers a street view. If you've never been to England, London, or any of those areas, perhaps you can look at the street views and see what their cities are like. Compare them to where you live? Do you see many similarities? What's different? 

Peter Bently finds inspiration for his stories by watching his own children play. What things inspire you? Look around and make a list of things you might can write about.

Illustrator: Helen Oxenbury
Helen Oxenbury is the renowned illustrator of many classic picture books, including We¹re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig by Eugene Trivizas. Ms. Oxenbury lives with her husband, illustrator John Burningham, in North London.

You can read this interview with Helen Oxenbury as she discusses the creative process behind her book, There's Going to be a Baby.

Watch the video of Helen Oxenbury discussing how she became an illustrator. It started when she was a child, drawing pictures every day.

Do you enjoy drawing pictures? Do you see creatures and people in your mind and want to sketch what nobody else can see?

Do it!

Don't worry about how good you are at it. Skill comes with practice. Grab a blank sheet of paper, some colors and pencils and have at it. Let your imagination soar. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wizardry Writing Wednesday #14 by Wizard Lexiconi - Putting it all Together

Good afternoon, young scribes.
Wizard Lexiconi here with another writing lesson. We've discussed characters, and they should be well developed right now. If you are joining this class late, I suggest you peruse past post and get caught up. 

I've showed you different methods for plotting. And finally, over the past month, we've talked about scenes. 

Today, I want you to take all these pieces and begin putting them together.  

Your plot line should not have been written in stone. If you did write it on stone... well, it's for such reasons I have so many toads around here. 

Your plot is simply a guide, an idea of how you wish your story to go. The scenes you've created can should fit into this plot like like a foot fits into a sock. Each foot is shaped a bit differently and the sock will form around whatever foot, paw or pad, you put into it. 

What you need to remember is that each scene builds upon the previous, like a wall on a castle. You want each problem the character faces to get a little worse over the course of the story. As a matter of fact, the characters problems eventually get so bad, that we come to out darkest moment, or also called the climax.

Do your scenes escalate into a do-or-die situation? The point where the character can not turn back? 

This week, work on creating tension in your story. Next week, I'll discuss climax in more detail and some of the rules involved in the climatic scene. 

Until next week... 

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

Monday, January 23, 2012

Blackout by John Rocco

Happy Monday my dear reading friends.
The Queen here with a fun, yet realistic, book about a common issue many have experienced: Blackout by John Rocco.

I'm sure you'll find the illustrations delightful. Rocco has experienced blackouts many times, and actually interviewed people who have experienced the same. Their stories are what inspired this book. I hope you'll enjoy!
Happy Reading,
The Queen. 

Book Title: Blackout
Author and Illustrator: John Rocco

Book Information:
Publisher and date: Hyperion Book CH; First Edition edition (May 24, 2011)
Reading level: 4 and up
Book Info: Hardcover: 40 pages
Genre: Picture book. Based on real events
ISBN: 978-1423121909

Book Theme:
community, compromising, adapting, new experiences.

Book Summary: From
One hot summer night in the city, all the power goes out. The TV shuts off and a boy wails, "Mommm!" His sister can no longer use the phone, Mom can't work on her computer, and Dad can't finish cooking dinner. What's a family to do? When they go up to the roof to escape the heat, they find the lights--in stars that can be seen for a change--and so many neighbors it's like a block party in the sky! On the street below, people are having just as much fun--talking, rollerblading, and eating ice cream before it melts. The boy and his family enjoy being not so busy for once. They even have time to play a board game together. When the electricity is restored, everything can go back to normal . . . but not everyone likes normal. The boy switches off the lights, and out comes the board game again.
Using a combination of panels and full bleed illustrations that move from color to black-and-white and back to color, John Rocco shows that if we are willing to put our cares aside for a while, there is party potential in a summer blackout.

Activity Adventures:

Young Readers:
Turn out the lights and get out your flashlights or candles for some shadow animal fun. See what kinds of creatures you can make. Come up with stories for your shadow puppets to act out. Video tape your plays and show them later to family and friends.

Older Readers:
Spend an evening without the aid of power. Turn out the lights, go outside for some star gazing, marshmallow roasting, playing board games by candlelight. Tell spooky stories around a pit fire.

Crafty Ideas:
Take a black or dark blue piece of construction paper and create your own blackout picture. What do you think you might see on a night with no man-made lights? white splatter paint will make for great stars.
Create a cut out of your house or apartment. Add some yellow to window to show candle light or flashlights. Have fun with your creation.

Writing Prompts:
Journal about a time when you had no power. What did you do? How did you handle the situation? Were you afraid or calm about it?

Discussion Questions:
Create a plan of action in case your family finds itself without power. Do you know where the flashlights are? Do you have spare batteries for them? What about candles? Wood for a fireplace or fire pit outside if it's cold or you need to do some cooking.

Talk about some fun ways you can spend the time until power comes back on.

If you are prepared, it wont be such a scary experience for little ones when the lights do go out.

Authors Arena

Author and Illustrator John Rocco
From the Jacket-flap:
John Rocco has held a wide variety of jobs in his life, from working in the shell-fishing industry, to designing attractions for Walk Disney World's Epcot, to creating illustrations for the DreamWorks movie Shrek. Since 2005, his focus has been on creating children's books, such as Wolf!Wolf! and Fu Find the Way. He has also created cover artwork for Rick Riordan's best-selling Percy Jackson and the Olympians serices and the Kane Chronicles.

John and his family live in Brooklyn, New York, where they have experienced their share of memorable summer blackouts.

Take some time to check out some of Rocco's other work. Rent Shrek for a movie night. Check out Riordan's books if you love fantasy and mythology. I'm reading this series right now. I bet you'll love it, too. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

What Is Your Dog Doing? by Marilyn Singer

Good Friday dear readers,
Today the Queen has a book for pet lovers and lovers of pets. What Is Your Dog Doing by Marilyn Singer and illustrated by Kathleen Habbley. You'll learn all the wonderful things a dog can do. And their talents far extend the mundane sit, lay down and roll over. Check out the book from your local library or favorite bookstore and learn about some of the fun things a dog can do.

This week, I'm participating in the Perfect Picture Book Fridays over at Susanna Leonard Hill's site. Susanna is a former teacher, mom and lover of books. (Aren't we all?) Skip on over there after you've had your browsing time and take a look around at the wonderful books she is featuring and things she is doing.

But for now, I wish to present to you, this weeks dog-gone great read: 

Book Title: What is Your Dog Doing?
Author: Marilyn Singer                                                                                                   
Illustrator: Kathleen Habbley

Book Information:
Publisher and date: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (June 7, 2011)
Reading level: preschool +
Book Info: Hardcover: 32 pages
Genre: Picture book
ISBN: 978-1416979319

Book Theme:
Dogs, play, pets

Book Summary: from
This colorful, young read-aloud about all things canine is doggone fun. Woof! Sit. Stay. Roll Over. Sure, those are the classics—but dogs can do so much more! Sledding. Shedding. Inspecting. Protecting. Paddling laps. Dancing? Perhaps! Be it a working dog or a playing dog, man’s best friend can be pretty darn busy. This energetic, rhyming text paired with vibrant, playful illustrations is sure to get dog lovers everywhere eager to teach their old dogs some new tricks.

Activity Adventures:

Young Readers:
What is your dog doing?
Don't have a dog? What about a cat? Hamster? Gold fish?
Even if you don't have any pets, draw a picture of the kind of pet you might like to have. Now write a short story about your pet or dream pet.

Older Readers:
Research a famous dogs or other kind of pet and write a report about them. Answer these questions?
What's the name of your famous pet?
Where do they live and when did they live there?
What type of pet or breed was it?
What made this animal famous?

You can come up with a few more questions of your own to cover.
Some famous pets you can pick from: The presidents dogs, famous race horses, sea animals, ect. Balto, Seabiscuit, Lassie, or even Garfield.
Crafty Ideas:
If you do have a pet, create a scrapbook of things you and your pet do together. Take pictures. Post them in the book and write a sentence about what you are doing.

Look at the Activities with Dogs page to find fun places and things to do with your dog.

Authors Arena

Marilyn Singer was born in the Bronx (New York City) on October 3, 1948 and lived most of her early life in N. Massapequa (Long Island), NY. She attended Queens College, City University of New York, and for her junior year, Reading University, England. She holds a B.A. in English from Queens and an M.A. in Communications from New York University.

In 1974, after teaching English in New York City high schools for several years, she began to write - initially film notes, catalogues, teacher's guides, and film strips. Then, one day, when she was sitting in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, she penned a story featuring talking insect characters she'd made up when she was eight. Encouraged by the responses she got, she wrote more stories, and in 1976, her first book, The Dog Who Insisted He Wasn't, was published by E.P.Dutton & Co.

Since then, Marilyn has published over eighty books for children and young adults. Her genres are many and varied, including realistic novels, fantasies, non-fiction, fairy tales, picture books, mysteries and poetry. She likes writing many different kinds of books because it's challenging and it keeps her from getting bored. 

Illustrator: Kathleen Habbley
Kathleen Habble lives and works in Wheaton, Illinois. When she isn't doodling editorial and commercial work, she's at her local animal shelter doing "dog research"—and helping out. 

Some of her work has appeared in Teen Vogue, Nickelodeon, and other magazines. This is her first picture book.

Check out more of her work on her website. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Wizardry Writing Wednesday #13 by Wizard Lexiconi -

Welcome back young scribes and toads. (Oh, and yes you dragons and trolls, as well.) 

I assume you have had ample time to come up with your story ideas. Whether short or long, every story must have a "stand-out" character. Nobody wants to read about how your dog slept all day, or how a mouse ran in his spinning wheel for an hour straight. Those characters must have a distinct personality and more important, they must have a problem to face and overcome. 

Once you have your character developed, now you will need to focus on your plot.  Check back over previous post to learn more on this topic. 

So, I will also assume that you have somewhat planned out your story. Listen up: NOT EVERYONE is good at plotting out a story. Plotting kills their inspiration. It's like opening the last few pages of a book or being told how a story ends. The thrill of discovery is gone and they can't write another word on it. 

If you are a "seat-of-the-pants" writer, then you will want to keep in mind the general direction that your story will take and a possibility on how it will end. 

This week, we will talk more about scenes. 
A scene is a small part of the over all story. Picture a scene in The Wizard of Oz, where Dorthy decides she will run away to protect her dog Toto. The scene starts with her crying on her bed. Toto returns. Then Dorthy is so glad to see him, but knows that hateful woman will come back for them if she doesn't do something. So Dorthy makes a choice and then we are taken into the next scene. 

Every scene has a motivator. This is something that happens that forces your characters to react. 

So, put simply, every scene in a story should contain a motivator and reaction. And each scene must make your story move forward.

Keeping this in mind will  help you as the writer to keep from putting in unnecessary scenes. If there is no motivator and no forced reaction from the character which moves the story forward, then you have done nothing more than create an information dump. 

Get rid of those. They make a story drag and cause readers to close your book. 

Look at your favorite books and try to mark where a scene begins and where it ends. Sometimes a scene is a whole chapter. Sometimes it's just a few paragraphs. 

This will help you to be able to see your own story in smaller scenes and will help you write tighter prose. 

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

Monday, January 16, 2012


Good Monday, dear readers,
The Queen here with another one of Brian Selznick's masterpieces titled Wonderstruck.
One story is told in text, while another story is told strictly in pictures. Amazingly, both stories are easy to follow. The way they intertwine and finally meet is... well, something you will need to find out for yourselves.

Head down to your local library or favorite bookstore to get a copy of your own. This book, with it's beautiful pencil illustrations is worthy to adorn any home library. You will want to take it down again and again.

Book Title: Wonderstruck
Author and Illustrator: Brian Selznick                                                                                                              

Book Information:
Publisher and date: Scholastic Press; 1 edition (September 13, 2011)
Reading level: 9 and up | Grade Level: 4 and up
Book Info: Hardcover: 608 pages
Genre: Mid-reader chapter book.
ISBN: 978-0545027892

Book Theme:
Deafness, Family, Searching for idenity

Book Summary
From Brian Selznick, the creator of the Caldecott Medal winner THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET, comes another breathtaking tour de force.

Playing with the form he created in his trailblazing debut novel, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Brian Selznick once again sails into uncharted territory and takes readers on an awe-inspiring journey.

Ben and Rose secretly wish their lives were different. Ben longs for the father he has never known. Rose dreams of a mysterious actress whose life she chronicles in a scrapbook. When Ben discovers a puzzling clue in his mother's room and Rose reads an enticing headline in the newspaper, both children set out alone on desperate quests to find what they are missing.

Set fifty years apart, these two independent stories--Ben's told in words, Rose's in pictures--weave back and forth with mesmerizing symmetry. How they unfold and ultimately intertwine will surprise you, challenge you, and leave you breathless with wonder. Rich, complex, affecting, and beautiful--with over 460 pages of original artwork--Wonderstruck is a stunning achievement from a uniquely gifted artist and visionary.

Activity Adventures:

Create your own mini museum. Use a shoe box or shadow box and begin collecting objects you find interesting. You'll need to label what each items is, and write a short description of where you found that object and what it does. Decorate the outside of your mini-museum to fit your personality and likes. 

Visit your local museum. Write about your favorite display.

Artist: Take a pad and colored pencils to a museum and sketch one of your favorite pieces. 

Last challenge: Purchase or make your own small book and sketch a series of drawings that will tell a story. No words, just drawings. You don't have to be as detailed or good as Selznick. Stick drawings will work just as well. The key is to tell a story, using just the pictures, no words. Try drawing some event that happened to you, such as cooking breakfast, or riding your bike to the park. Make it as detailed or vague as you want. Then let someone look at it and see if they can "read" your picture story.

It'll be fun. Try it. 

Authors Arena
Brian Selznick feels that his illustrations are more authentic when he immerses himself in his subject matter. For the picture book Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride, Selznick spent six months in Washington, DC conducting research at libraries and museums. For his Caldecott-Honor-winning illustrations in The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins, he traveled to London to sketch, photograph, and climb inside the famous dinosaur replicas. For his best-selling 533-page illustrated novel, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Selznick watched old French films, interviewed experts, and traveled to Paris three times. That book won the 2008 Caldecott Medal for it's groundbreaking "cinematic" illustrations.

Friday, January 13, 2012

I Am J by Cris Beam

Hello dear readers. The Queen here with a touching, and poignant book by Cris Beam titled, I Am J. 

I'm so glad I came across this book in our library. When I first began reading, the story was slow and hard to grasp onto. But soon, I connected with J and his struggle to just be who he believed he was, despite what the world and his own body was telling him. This novel not only explores the feelings some transgender people may experience, but it gives hope and encouragement to seek out support and offers references at the end of the story on where someone dealing with this or similar issues can go for help.

Beam provides a good, solid story. But within that story, she offers a branch for those who might feel they are sinking in all the trials and mixed up emotions many who "just don't fit in" often struggle with.

The Queen encourages those who are questioning their sexuality, who are feeling that thing's aren't quiet right, to read this book. I also recommend this book to anyone who has a relation or friend dealing with these issues, as well.

The Queen also wants to say to those who feel they don't fit in to the "status quo" that you are not a freak. You are not alone. And you will find your way through this. Keep your chin up, young warrior! There will be  battles ahead, but I am confident that with the help of others who want to support, with writers who are courageous enough to write these challenging books, and with your own belief in yourself' that you can bravely face each and every battle that comes your way. Keep fighting. Keep on your journey. You will make it through.

And, dear readers, if you have found other books that speak to the LGBT community, please, please leave a comment with the title or reference for those who may pass through, that they might gain a bit of encouragement for thier journey.

Thank you, and happy reading,
The Queen

Book Title: I Am J
Author:   Cris Beam 

Book Information
Publisher and date: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (March 1, 2011)
Reading level: Young Adult
Book Info: Hardcover: 352 pages
Genre: Realistic fiction
ISBN: 978-0316053617

 • Junior Library Guild Selection, 2011

• Kirkus, Best Books for Teens, 2011
• Nominated for Best Fiction for Young Adults, by YALSA, the YA division of the American Library Association
• Amazon Best books of March, 2011

Book Theme:
Transgender kids, LGBT, Sexual Identity, Finding yourself
Cussing, mature topics, talk about sex, teen drinking, and smoking.

Book Summary
Growing up, J (born as Jennifer) always thought of himself as a boy stuck in the body of a girl. In elementary school J shunned his mom’s attempts to stick him in dresses and preferred the rough-and-tumble play of boys on the playground. Now, as a teenager, J’s Puerto Rican mother and Jewish father want him to think about his future and one day start a family, a possibility that makes J feel misunderstood and anxious about what lies ahead. So after an argument with his best friend, J strikes out on his own. He starts classes at a school for transgender and gay teens, but the complications resulting from who he is and who he wants to be prevent J from truly connecting with anyone. Fed up hiding inside layers of oversized t-shirts, J decides to explore testosterone treatments and embarks on a path that will test his patience, maturity, and commitment. Author Cris Beam’s extraordinary understanding of this often overlooked population shows in J--a complex, conflicted character whose emotional journey will resonate beyond the final page. Equally impressive is Beam’s vivid dialog, which illuminates relationships and situations that any teen who has felt isolated will easily relate to. Thoughtfully researched and written, I Am J is ultimately an inspiring novel about deciding to lead the life one is meant to--no matter at what cost. --Jessica Schein

There are no Activity Adventures for Young Adult books. However, there are many topics presented in this book that can be turned into discussion questions. 

Authors Arena

Author: Cris Beam
from website:
Cris Beam is an author and professor in New York City. She is the author of Transparent, a nonfiction book that covers seven years in the lives of four transgender teenagers, which won the Lambda Literary Award for best transgender book in 2008, and was a Stonewall Honor book. Her young adult novel, I am J, was released by Little, Brown in March 2011, and a nonfiction book about the state of foster care in the U.S. will be released by Houghton Mifflin-Harcourt in 2013. She teaches creative writing at Columbia University, New York University, The New School, and Bayview Women’s Correctional Facility. She has an MFA in creative nonfiction from Columbia University and has received fellowships from the Point Foundation and the Corporation of Yaddo.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Wizardly Writing Wednesdays #12 by Wizard Lexiconi

Good day, young scribes and toads.
Wizard Lexiconi back again with another writing lesson. We have learned, so far, on how to create interesting characters, where ideas come from and establishing plot. Today, I want to take a step back and talk more about brainstorming and developing a story plot line.

Perhaps you already have stories brewing in your mind that need to be written. Good! Sit down and begin jotting out those ideas. Get them out of your head and onto parchment so you know what you have to work with. Many writers have boxes and crates filled with notes about their story world.

But if you are having trouble coming up with a story idea, there are things you can do to get the creative juices flowing.

Draw a sketch of your house and think of something memorable that happened in each room. These are possibilities of budding stories.

Do the same for your school. Jot down incidents that have happened that were funny, scary, or strange.

Journal, journal, journal! I can't say this enough. Write daily in it. Write about how you feel about your day. Write about things that happened, things that made you happy or mad. Writer's write!

Finally, a friend has posted an intriguing activity that is meant to help inspire the creative spark within. Check out  Suzanne Hill's blog for a little activity where you pick from her list of characters and then put them into a setting, give them a problem and so on. This provides a basic story plot that you can turn into something fun.

Mainly, just write. And do it often. See you next Wednesday.

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

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Sniffles for Bear by Bonny Becker

Happy Monday reading friends:
The Queen here with another picture book for the cold and flu season. Are you feeling under the weather? I can't imagine anyone can be as pathetically sick as Bear in Bonny Becker's newest book, The Sniffles for Bear.

Yes, our melodramatic-bear is back again and mouse is there as usual, whether he's wanted or not to bring cheer to the day.

I loved this book and loved how children can learn how to have patience (note: not patients) with sick friends or family. The watercolor illustrations are beautiful and the story endearing. Especially when the tables are turned.

I hope you'll head to your nearest bookstore or library and purchase a copy of your own. This is library worthy and a must read when someone is feeling under the weather. It promises to bring a chuckle, if not at least a smile.

Happy Reading,
The Queen

Book Title- The Sniffles for Bear
Author: Bonny Becker                                                                                                               

Book Information:
Publisher and date: Candlewick (September 13, 2011)
Reading level: 3 and up
Book Info: Hardcover: 32 pages
Genre: fiction picture book - humorous
ISBN: 978-0763647568

Book Theme:
Friendship, Animals, Extraordinary Language 

Book Summary
The relentlessly cheery Mouse pushes a cold-suffering Bear to new heights of melodrama in a hilarious new adventure starring the unlikely pair.

Bear has a terrible cold. In fact, Bear is quite sure that no one has ever been as sick as he is. So when Mouse comes tap, tap, tapping on his front door eager to make Bear "as good as new" by reading a sunny story, singing a rousing chorus and plinking a twangy tune on her banjo, the pitifully coughing Bear - growing weaker by the minute - is convinced that his tiny friend does not appreciate the gravity of the situation. Can there be any saving Bear from his certain demise? Welcome the world's most lovable curmudgeon and his endearing, unstoppable sidekick in a wry new comedy sure to have even red-eyed, sniffly-nosed readers rolling with laughter.

Activity Adventures:

Young Readers:
Make a get well card for someone in need. 

Older Readers:
Look up the hard words:

Crafty Ideas:
Make "Care Bags" that you can give out when someone is sick. What things can you add that will be "just the thing?" 

Writing Prompts:
Think of a time when you were sick. What made you feel better? What made it worse? If you got sick again, what would be "just the thing" a person can do to help you feel better?

Authors Arena

Author: Bonny Becker
Bonny Becker is the author of a number of award-winning picture books and middle-grade novels. She lives in Seattle.

Bonny has been writing for fifteen years and has six children’s books published to date: Just a Minute (Simon & Schuster, 2003), An Ant’s Day Off (Simon & Schuster, 2003), My Brother, the Robot (Dutton, 2001), Tickly Prickly (HarperCollins, 1999), The Christmas Crocodile (Simon & Schuster, 1998), and The Quiet Way Home (Henry Holt and Company, 1995). Bonny also published a short story in the collection On Her Way for ‘tweens.

Illustrator: Kady MacDonald Denton

Kady MacDonald Denton is an author and illustrator of books for children.

She lives with her husband in Peterborough, Ontario. Their children are grown but often visit to say hello. Kady works at the top of the tall yellow brick house, in an attic studio that has lots of room and a skylight.

Her books have won awards, are translated into many languages, and are read by children around the world.

Check out an interview with Kady Denton over at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

Frog and Friends by Eve Bunting

Good Friday to you dear readers.
Today, The Queen wishes to present two delightful books she has recently come across, both by the same multi-published author Eve Bunting and the wonderful artist, Josee Masse.

I thoroughly enjoyed both of these short chapter books for beginning readers. Frog is cute, friendly and never wants to be "rude".

I loved this line in the first book, "There is nothing wasted that you give to a friend."

You will find other treasured nuggets inside these books as well. Use them to discuss with your children topics such as friendship, giving gifts, being who you are and not wishing to be something else.

The words are simple and should be easy for young readers. The pictures are bright and colorful and have such detail, a child may want to linger long over each page.

Along with these stories are some ideas to help make them come alive. Don't be afraid to get messy. Children learn best in when it's a little messy. Just have fun and explore with your children.
Happy Reading,
The Queen

Book Title: Frog and Friends
Author: Eve Bunting                                                                                                               
Illustrator: Josee Masse

Book Information:
Publisher and date: Sleeping Bear Press (July 22, 2011)
Reading level: K and up
Book Info: 40 pages
Genre: Fiction: Beginning reader chapter book
ISBN: 978-1585365487

Book Title: Frog and Friends - Party at the Pond
Author: Eve Bunting                                                                                                              
Illustrator: Josee Masse

Book Information:
Publisher and date: Sleeping Bear Press (October 1, 2011)
Reading level: K and up
Book Info: 40 pages
Genre: Fiction: beginning reader chapter book
ISBN: 978-1585366903

Book Theme:
Great lessons about friendship, giving and sharing, kindness, including outsiders, and having fun. 

Book Summary
Welcome to Frog and his world. He enjoys nothing better than spending time floating in his pond or visiting with his friends. He appreciates the simpler things in life and would prefer that things stay just the way they are--nice and peaceful.

Activity Adventures:

Young Readers:
Do a big and little sorting activity. Print or purchase some animal picture cards. Find a picture of a hippo to represent the big animals and a frog to represent the little animals. Now have your child sort the animal pictures into large and small types of animals. Take it a step further and have them sort animals into water and land animals, fur and non-furry animals, mammal and reptile or bird types of animals.

Make a frog puppet from a paper plate. There are different variations of making these cute little projects.

Don't be afraid to get out the green paint, glue and wiggly eyes. The link above is from Family Fun and will provide directions on how to make the frog pictured.

Have fun. Let kids make up their own frog adventures. 

Older Readers:
Look up these questions:
1. What is a mammal?
2. What kind of animals lay eggs? Do only birds lay eggs?
3. Name the different types of animal families that lay eggs.

Explore the world of frogs. Visit a local pond and explore the life that lives in this environment. Create a home-made field guide book to take along and bring colored pencils and a camera for documenting your explorations.

See if you can catch a few tadpoles to raise on your own. Here are some places you can find more information on caring for frogs:
Raising Tadpoles: Tadpole Care
How to Raise Tadpoles
Tadpoles for Beginners
Care of Frogspawn and Tadpoles

While at the pond or creek, play your own game of leaf and twig races. Just for the fun of it.

Writing Prompts:
Keep notes on what you learn about frogs.

Write a story about what you would do if one day, you woke up as a frog.

Make up a new story with one of the other animal characters being the star of your tale. 

Authors Arena

Author' s Bio
The author of more than 100 books for young readers, Eve Bunting was born in the small village of Maghera in Northern Ireland. In 1958, she emigrated to the United States, where she has lived ever since, raising three children and — more recently — welcoming four grandchildren. Bunting began writing after moving to California, where she enrolled in a community college creative writing course. Her first published story, The Two Giants, was a retelling of a folktale she knew from her childhood. “I thought everybody in the world knew that story, and when I found they didn't — well, I thought they should.”

Bunting's interest in just about everything, and her confidence in wanting to share her thoughts and experiences with children, has led to her incredible career as the creator of a wide variety of books. She has written picture books, novels, and even some nonfiction. She never shies away from addressing difficult issues, including racial prejudice, death, troubled families, and war; at the same time, her work is infused with hope and beauty. Her numerous awards and honors include the Golden Kite Award from the Society of Children's Book Writers, the PEN Los Angeles Center Literary Award for Special Achievement in Children's Literature, and the Edgar, given by the Mystery Writers of America.

When Bunting isn't writing, she enjoys reading and playing golf. She lives in Pasadena, California, with her husband.

Illustrator: Josee Masse

For as long as she can remember, Josée Masse has been drawing. She studied graphic arts in Montreal and worked as a graphic designer for 3 years before beginning her career as an illustrator. Josée’s strong sense of concept and design shows itself in her artwork. She loves illustrating books for children and enjoys the challenge of solving problems for her clients who have difficult concepts to convey. Josée illustrated Mirror, Mirror, published in 2010 by Dutton, received five starred reviews and was named one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Children’s Books of 2010. She was recently featured in the Society of Illustrators Annual Exhibition 53.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Wizardry Writing Wednesday #11 by Wizard Lexiconi -

Happy New Year, friends and young scribes. 
Wizard Lexiconi back again with more writing tips and challenges for the new year, but first, I'd like to talk about priorities. 

During this time of New Year Resolutions, of making vows to trim up, work harder, get better grades and stay out of trouble, such as not turning as many pupils into toads and such...

Point is, I want to ask you, where are your priorities? 

Writers must write. If you desire to be a writer, or want to learn to write better, but don't make time for writing a priority, then how will you make that desire happen?

Same goes for reading. Learning to read, loving to read, being an avid reader only improves your life. It expounds your world. It fills your brain with new ideas and information about places you may never be able to physically set your feet. 

However, you must make them a priority. Wait until the right moment comes, and time will slip away. 

Make time everyday to read. I know you hear a thousand times to turn off the television and video games and open a book. And some may even feel the television and video games are more fun. I'm sure they are. I'm not going to tell you to give those things up, but do take time to fit in a bit of reading and writing. I know that you will also find enjoyment in these activities as well. Many, many people love to sit on a sunny veranda (that's a fancy word for porch) or snuggle beneath a comfortable blanket beside a roaring hearth (that's another fancy word for fireplace) and get lost in a story. Or to even create an adventure in words of your own. 

Give it a try. Start with a few minutes every day. Start by setting a timer for 15 minutes a day. Write in a journal before you go to bed. Just do it. 

You are the only one who can make that happen.

Next week we will get back to work on novel writing. I believe we left off with writing scenes. 
I would have continued our lessons during the holidays but do you know how hard it is to find presents for my many, many toad friends? I have many that I've turned into frogs, you know. 

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

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Man in the Moon and Nicholas St. North Book I by William Joyce

Happy New Year dear reader friends.
The Queen here after a nice holiday break. To start off 2012, I have found two books, by the same author, William Joyce. I present to you today the beginning books of the Guardians series.

Nicholas St. North will resemble someone we are all familiar with during this time of year. However, this is not the jolly present-giver we know of today. Joyce has uncovered long lost tales of not only Santa's back history, but that of other guardians of childhood such as the Man in the Moon, the Tooth-fairy and more. All these beings are there to watch over children, protect their imaginations and ability to dream great dreams.

I present to you, Nicholas St. North Book I and The Man in the Moon. Thus begins the imaginative adventures of those who are sworn to protect and uphold all that makes childhood magical.

Publisher and date: Atheneum Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (October 4, 2011)

Reading level: 7 - 11 Years

Book Info: Hardcover: 240 pages

Genre: Fantasy chapter book

ISBN: 978-1442430488

Book Theme:
The Guardians are all new versions of the familiar childhood icons, like Nicholas St. North, "a daredevil swordsman, ruffian, and notorious outlaw," or an Easter Bunny with a worldwide network of tunnels and a sword, or a Tooth Fairy who keeps the teeth she takes until she can return them to the children who lost them for a very specific and sort of wonderful reason.  Their task is to protect the very nature of childhood, to keep hopes and dreams alive and darkness away, and the payment they take is very simple: as long as children believe in them, they have power.  If that ever stops, they would all go away.

Book Description

Guardians of Childhood Chapter Books
Before SANTA was SANTA, he was North, Nicholas St. North—a daredevil swordsman whose prowess with double scimitars was legendary. Like any swashbuckling young warrior, North seeks treasure and adventure, leading him to the fiercely guarded village of Santoff Claussen, said to be home to the greatest treasure in all the East, and to an even greater wizard, Ombric Shalazar. But when North arrives, legends of riches have given way to terrors of epic proportions! North must decide whether to seek his fortune…or save the village.When our rebellious hero gets sucked into the chaos (literally), the fight becomes very personal. The Nightmare King and his evil Fearlings are ruling the night, owning the shadows, and sending waves of fear through all of Santoff Clausen. For North, this is a battle worth fighting...and, he’s not alone. There are five other Guardians out there. He only has to find them in time.

The Man in the Moon introduces younger children to Mim and how he came to be. Beautifully illustrated, with some pictures from the Guardian's Book I included, the reader learns the story of how the Man in the Moon came to be.

Publisher and date: Atheneum Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (October 4, 2011)

Reading level: 7 - 11 Years

Book Info:Hardcover: 240 pages

Genre: Fantasy Picture Book

ISBN: 978-1442430488

Book Description

Guardians of Childhood
Up there in the sky.Don’t you see him?
No, not the moon.
The Man in the Moon.
He wasn’t always a man.
Nor was he always on the moon.
He was once a child.
Like you.
Until a battle,
a shooting star,
and a lost balloon
sent him on a quest.
Meet the very first guardian of childhood.
MiM, the Man in the Moon.

Reading Activity Adventures:

Do a study on the moon, depending on your child's age. Older children can look at the different phases of the moon and learn about gravity. Younger children can learn what the moon does, how it reflects sunlight and lights up our night skies. They can also learn about stars and how astronauts have traveled into outer space in rockets and the shuttle. 
Make it fun. Spend an evening star gazing during a full moon. See if you can recognize the face on the moon. If you have a telescope, all the better. 

Some Native American cultures made devices called dream catchers which were meant to catch bad dreams and let the good ones slip through. In the morning, when the sun hit the dream catcher, all the bad dreams would disappear. Enchanted learning has instructions on making your own dream catcher. 

Write a story about what you would do if invited to visit the Man in the Moon. What would you do? What do you think the environment would be like? Who do you think you might meet? Draw your own pictures to go with your story and put into a book form to share with family and friends. 

Author's Arena:
William Joyce explains the ideas behind Nicholas St. North and The Man in the Moon.


A true luminary and creative spirit, William Joyce has put his personal stamp on children's media in every direction. His picture books include George Shrinks, Dinosaur Bob and Santa Calls; he's won three Emmy awards for his Rolie Polie Olie animated series; developed character concepts for Toy Story and A Bug's Life; and his films include Robots and Meet the Robinsons. He's currently co-directing The Guardians for DREAMWORKS, and is producing The Leaf Men, based on his picturebook. He lives in Shreveport, LA, and is the founder of Moonbot Studios.