Monday, April 30, 2012

Library Lily by Gillian Shields

Good day, dear reader friends.
One of the reasons I host this blog is because I believe reading is a grand adventure, and I wish to offer ideas on how to bring the make-believe into real life.

Without books, our lives are like a soup without salt. Bland.
But without living life, we would have no books. Because books are what mirrors our lives, our fears, our dreams and aspirations.

So today, I offer you Library Lily by Gillian Shields. Lily loves books and spends all her time with her nose in them. Until she meets a friend who hates books. This story is how they balance each other out and create a great friendship. Same as any reader or adventurer must balance fiction and reality.

Allow books to enrich your life, but don't stop living.
Happy Reading,
The Queen

Book Title: Library Lily
Author: Gillian Shields                                                              
Illustrator: Francesca Chessa

Book Information:

Publisher and date: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers (June 8, 2011)
Reading level: Ages 4 and up
Book Info: Hardcover: 26 pages
Genre: Picture Book
ISBN: 978-0802854018

Book Theme:
Reading, friendship, adventures in books and real life

Book Summary
Lily loves to read. She is fascinated by the stories in her books, and reads wherever she goes—through summer, autumn, winter, and spring. But one day, Lily meets a girl who hates reading. Milly invites Lily to have adventures of her own—outside the pages of a book. Together the two friends help each other discover the joy of both backyards and books—and find on the way that adventures are best with a friend along.

Activity Adventures:

Find a book that you enjoy and dress up like characters to act out the story, such as Red Riding Hood, or The Three Bears, ect.

Pick something unusual you have done recently and write a story about it, including drawing pictures or adding photos of your adventure. It can be something simple as a day at the park, going hiking, or any day that stands out from the rest.

If you enjoy non-fiction books. Think of ways you can take what you've read and apply it to your real life. Do you like to read about animals? Go exploring in your yard, as an example.

The possibilities are limitless.

Authors Arena

Gillian Shields was born and brought up in Yorkshire, in the north of England. As she grew up, she had two passions:books and theater. Gillian’s love of books led her to read English at St. Catharine's College, Cambridge. After university she studied acting in London. She then taught in a drama school, the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts, for several years, becoming Vice Principal. She recently taught English and Drama at Beechwood Sacred Heart, a girls’ boarding school.
Having children gave Gillian an excuse to carry on reading children’s books, as well as a motivation to write them. She has a son and a daughter, and is married to Brian, who works for the New York Times Media Group.

Illustrator: Francesca Chessa
Graduated in architecture, Francesca Chessa attended illustration courses by Aura Cesari and Stepan Zavrel.

Since 1997, she has received mentions and prizes in various international competitions and has taken part in various exhibitions.

In 1998 she received a mention at the "illustrator exhibition" at the Bologna Book Fair after which her drawings were exhibited in several museums in Japan and Taiwan. In 1999 she was selected at the Illustrator Competition for X anniversary for the "UN Convention about the children's right" in Milan.

 Some works of hers are in Unicef Postcard Collection 2005-2010 and into Sympathetic Keepsake Collection by Amnesty International.

She teaches drawing and color theory in educational workshops since 1999.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

Happy Friday good friends,
The Queen here with another chapter book for mid-graders. I've spent that past couple of months catching up on Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series, finishing the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series and now working through The Heroes of Olympus series. Now I have to wait until this fall for the next book. Looking forward to it.

But until then, I introduce you to....
Happy Reading,
The Queen

Book Title: Son of Neptune
Author: Rick Riordan                                                                                                             
Book Information:

Publisher and date: Hyperion Book CH; First Edition edition (October 4, 2011)
Reading level: Ages 10 and up
Book Info: Hardcover: 544 pages
Genre: Fantasy chapter book
ISBN: 978-1423140597

Book Theme:
Greek and Roman Myths, Demigods, Bravery, friendship, over-coming obstacles, Mythology studies

Book Summary
In The Lost Hero, three demigods named Jason, Piper, and Leo made their first visit to Camp Half-Blood, where they inherited a blood-chilling quest:

Seven half-bloods shall answer the call,
To storm or fire the world must fall.
An oath to keep with a final breath,
And foes bear arms to the Doors of Death.

Who are the other four mentioned in the prophesy? The answer may lie in another camp miles away, where a new camper has shown up and appears to be the son of Neptune, god of the sea. . .

With an ever-expanding cast of brave-hearted heroes and formidable foes, this second book in The Heroes of Olympus series offers all of the action, pathos, and humor that Rick Riordan fans crave.

Activity Adventures:

 There are so many fun activities that can be done to go along with these books. Some ideas off the top of my crown are to hold mini-olympic games, or a competition, or challenges that players have to complete. Research your favorite god, monster, or hero.
Draw pictures of what you think a monster might look like based on Riordan's descriptions in the book.
Write a prediction on how you think Annabel might be challenged in the books ahead.
Or, if you want some other ideas, check out the  Teacher's Guides on the World of Rick Riordan website.

Authors Arena

Author: Rick Riordan (from
Rick Riordan is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, the Kane Chronicles, and the Heroes of Olympus. He is also the author of the multi-award-winning Tres Navarre mystery series for adults.

For fifteen years, Rick taught English and history at public and private middle schools in the San Francisco Bay Area and in Texas. In 2002, Saint Mary's Hall honored him with the school's first Master Teacher Award.

While teaching full time, Riordan began writing mystery novels for grownups. His Tres Navarre series went on to win the top three national awards in the mystery genre - the Edgar, the Anthony and the Shamus. Riordan turned to children's fiction when he started The Lightning Thief as a bedtime story for his oldest son.

Today over 30 million copies of his Percy Jackson, Kane Chronicles, and Heroes of Olympus books are in print in the United States, and rights have been sold into more than 35 countries. Rick is also the author of The 39 Clues: The Maze of Bones, another #1 New York Times bestseller. In 2011, Rick received the Children's Choice Book Award for Author of the Year.

Rick Riordan now writes full-time. He lives in San Antonio with his wife and two sons.

Find out more about Riordan here.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Wizardry Writing Wednesday: Dirkus' Farewell Speech


I, Dirkus P. Dragon, pre-school writers of letters and words extraordinaire, am here on this last Wizardry Writing Wednesday of April, to present my farewell speech.

All because my bratty brother wants his turn. Blah!

Yes folks, it's time for me to get back to my lessons. Wiz Lex has returned from his all frog choir tour (covered in tomatoes and spit-wads) and is ready to get back to instructing. Between you and me, I think it's for the best.

But, that means I have to get back to work now. Boo! Hiss!

That's okay, summer is right around the castle corner and soon I'll be free! Free! and FREEEEE!

Hummm, now I just need to think about what knowledge I wish to impart on you for our last (sniff) Wednesday together. (Don't worry, I'll be back. They can't keep an eye on me ALL the time. And you think I'm good with writing my letters, I'm awesome-wasom on the computer. HA!)

I think, what I've found most important in my five long years of being a scribe (remember, that's a writer) is that writers have to write. Yes! Every, every, every day.

Go buy you a little notebook, or make one, that's a blast to do. Something that is uniquely YOU! I've drawn dragons chasing knights on mine!! What do you love, love, love?

Did someone say flowers and ponies??? I'm going to pretend I didn't hear that!

Whatever. Just make you a book, and make sure it has lots of pages in it because I want you to write something every, every day. Got it?

Don't make me get Wiz Lex. He hasn't turned anyone into a frog in months and I see his wand finger twitching. Yeppers.

Write your name until you get as great as I am. (ha, as if that's possible) Write the names of your favorite food places, shopping places, play places. I have a list of knights I haven't chased yet in my book.

And for you artsy folks, make sure you leave pages to draw about the things you write.

Now for my secondest tip. Great writers do something else besides write. And the Queen will bop you over the head with her scepter if you get this answer wrong. And it hurts. I know. But don't ask how I know. I just do. Nuff said about that.

Have you guess yet? Fine, I'll tell you. Great writer's READ!!

Yes, you have to READ, READ, READ. A lot.

If you'll do those two things, then you might get to be as fantabulous of a writer as I am.

Happy Writing!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Aggie Gets Lost by Lori Ries

Happy Monday dear reader friends.
Well, the Castle was without internet services all weekend, which is why you might have noticed the absence of a book feature on Friday. If anyone has seen that little rapscallion Dirkus, let me know. I have a sneaking suspicion he might have had something to do with the disconnection.

Ah well, we are back up and running now and I have an endearing early chapter book for you today. Aggie Gets Lost by Lori Ries. Aggie and Ben are back for another adventure. If you've ever had a lost pet, you'll know exactly how poor Ben feels when his friend, Aggie gets lost at the park.
The Queen

Book Title: Aggie Gets Lost
Author: Lori Ries                                                                                
Illustrator: Frank W. Dormer

Book Information:
Publisher and date: Charlesbridge Pub Inc (July 1, 2011)
Reading level:Ages 4 and up
Book Info: Hardcover: 48 pages
Genre: Fiction early reader
ISBN: 978-1570916335

Book Theme:
Lost dog, responsibility, friendship, pet care

Book Summary
Aggie and Ben are back with another adventure in three short chapters just right for beginning readers. Ben and Aggie are playing fetch in the park. When Ben throws too far, Aggie doesn't come back! Ben looks and looks, but he cannot find her. It is the worst day ever. Ben's sadness turns into determination as he retraces his steps, makes posters, and enlists other people to help turn Aggie from a lost pup to a found one.

Activity Adventures:

Lost Posters:
Do you have a favorite pet?
Create a poster describing them. List all the things you love about them. Write a short description of what they look like. And draw a picture of what they look like. On the back of your poster, write a story about the first time you met your favorite pet.

Bake some cookies and shape them into doggie bones for the fun of it.

More fun is to Google a recipe for home made dog biscuits and make them for your pet or as gifts to friend's pets.

Authors Arena

Author Lori Reis
 Lori Ries was born in Syracuse, New York, the eldest of four children. She discovered a love for storytelling as a young child and wrote her first story when she was just ten-years-old. It was a short story called Jo-Jo the Raccoon based on a true story about a baby raccoon that Lori's grandfather found on the side of the road and brought home for his children to raise. Lori spent countless happy childhood days in upstate New York, but later moved with her family to Virginia where her step father's military career took them. They moved then to Hawaii, and later Montana where Lori graduated from high school. Lori returned to Virginia where she met her husband, David. With her growing family she has lived in Utah, Illinois, and finally Oregon, where they now reside. Lori remained interested in writing and storytelling since those early days when she wrote about Jo-Jo the raccoon. In high school, her English teacher Joe Anderson, encouraged her gift and told her if she worked at it she could become a great writer. The seed was planted and Lori eventually enrolled in the Institute of Children's Literature to pursue her love of writing. She began to bloom when she received a scholarship to the Highlights Foundation's Annual Writer's Workshop in Chautauqua, New York. It was at Chautauqua, where Lori received encouragement and inspiration, that she met an exuberant little boy named Sam. It was there that Super Sam! was born. Lori lives in Tigard, Oregon, with her husband and three children.

Illustrator: Frank W. Dormer

Frank Dormer graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design with a degree in illustration.
He now divides his time between teaching and book illustration. He has created art for several children's books, including Socksquatch, his first book as both an author and illustrator.
Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast has an interview with Frank.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Wizardry Writing Wednesdays - Dirkus on Storytelling

Hello! Dirkus here once again. I get to play with all of you until the end of this month. My big brother Rankus found out Wiz Lex let me take over his writing lessons and he wants a turn next. Big fire breathing baby lizard.

Ah well, I guess it's only fair. He knows more about writing anyway as he's in the fourth grade. But I'll tell you now, he's a big know-it-all.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

But on to today's fun stuffs. Wiz Lex says once we learn how to write, then we can start learning how to be great scribes like himself and master the art of storytelling. Well, I'm still too little to write out the really awesome-wasom stories I can come up with, (especially when I'm in big trouble). However, I know that even when telling a tall tale, you have to get your story straight.

That means learning about beginning, middle and end.
Every story has one. Do you know how Wiz Lex taught me about the BME? (that's code for Beginning, middle and end, duh.)

Well, I'm going to tell you about a couple of fun things we did.

 First, he wanted me to learn about sequins... uh no, that's not right. Wait, let me think a minute...
Oh, I remember:

We took the comics out of the weekend paper that the Queen gets delivered. She only insists that I let her read them before I take them. Guess that's fair.

Now the fun part comes. I get to use my scissors and cut apart each box in a comic strip. Then Wiz Lex mixes them up and I get to put them back in the right order. He tells me that if the boxes are mixed up, then the story no longer makes sense. I've read them out of order and guess what? He's right.

Sometimes, Wiz Lex makes it really challenging, and he tells me to fill in the words of the characters. I can write a little, so I try. But usually I'm best at saying the story out loud and he will write it so I can see my words in print. 

I can come up with some crrrr-azy stories!

So, I get that all stories have to have a beginning, a middle and an end. And once I get bored with making sequins out of comic strips... uh, you know what I mean, I get to move on to for really real story telling.

Sometimes the frogs like to get in on this fun. We all create puppets. Some are made from socks, or paper bags, paper plates and some are drawn figures glued on a stick. We've even made a puppet stage out of the Queen's sheets!
(That's another one of those little secrets between me and you, kay?)

Then Wiz Lex guides us with questioning through the beginning, middle, and end of the plot line. Lots of times he rereads our favorite stories to us and then will ask these kinds of questions:
"What is going on at first?"
"What kind of problem does the knight run into?"
"Then what happens?"
"How does the knight solve his problem in the end?"

Then, we get to act out the story using our puppets. It's awesome-wasom fun!!

Now, you go try it.
Later gators,

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

The Queen has found a new favorite author. Maggie Stiefvater has woven an intriguing tale in her book Scorpio Races. She gives us a brave hero in Puck and a character with integrity in Sean. Their story kept me turning the pages and wanting more.

The book is clean. If there were any cuss words, I missed them. Though the scenes were people were killed by the fairy horses were quite descriptive, I found them less gory than what I read in The Hunger Games.

I will be returning to the library for more of her stories.
Happy Reading,
The Queen.

Book Title: The Scorpio Races

Book Information:
Publisher and date: Scholastic Press (October 18, 2011)
Reading level: Ages 14 and up
Book Info: Hardcover: 416 pages
Genre: YA Fantasy chapter book
ISBN: 978-0545224901

Book Theme:
Bravery, mythological horses, dealing with death, facing your fears and overcoming them.

Book Summary from Author's website
Based on the legends of the eich uisce — the Celtic water horse — The Scorpio Races take place on the tiny, fictional island of Thisby. Each November, water horses emerge from the black ocean and gallop the beach beneath the cliffs of Thisby. And each November, men capture these horses for a thrilling and deadly race.
Both Sean Kendrick, four time champion, and Kate "Puck" Connolly, newcomer to the races, will ride this year, and both of them have more to gain — or lose — than in any previous year. But only one can win.

Activity Adventures:

Make your own November Cakes
Purchase a tube of cinnamon rolls and bake as directed. Fill the middle with a tablespoon of honey and cover with frosting. 

Reading the Prologue Here

Authors Arena

Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Behind The Story:
"The reason why I wrote The Scorpio Races is because of a piece of advice I was given or read or found when I was a teen. It was this: write the book you've always wanted to read, but can't find on the shelf.

Well, the book I always wanted to read had water horses in it. It's a tiny corner of Scottish and Irish and Manx mythology: swift and beautiful horses that jump out of the ocean and attack people or cattle. The legend was more complicated than that, though — the horses had their own kind of magic. Some of them turned into young men and attempted to lure women into the ocean with them. Some of them appeared as cute little ponies and tried to lure children onto their back. My particular favorite part of this legend was the version that explained that as more children climbed onto the pony, its back would lengthen to accommodate them. Later, the victims' lungs and livers would wash up on the shore." Read the rest over at Stiefvater's website

Author's bio from her website:

All of my life decisions have been based around my inability to be gainfully employed. Talking to yourself, staring into space, and coming to work in your pajamas are frowned upon when you're a waitress, calligraphy instructor, or technical editor (all of which I've tried), but are highly prized traits in novelists, musicians, and artists (I've made my living as one of these since I was 22).
I now live an eccentric life in the middle of nowhere, Virginia, with my charmingly straight-laced husband, two small kids, two neurotic dogs who fart recreationally, and a 1973 Camaro named Loki.
I'm an avid reader, an award-winning colored pencil artist, and play several musical instruments, including the Celtic harp, the piano, and the bagpipes.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Bumble-Ardy by Maurice Sendak

Hello good readers.
The Queen here with Maurice Sendak's newest book, Bumble-Ardy. Written in true Sendak form, this book is not a cutesy story about a fun birthday bash, but more of a what happens when Pigs go wild tale.

True Sendak fans will love the story. If you are looking for something sweet and nice, you might want to look at last week's books. This one isn't for you.

Happy Reading,
The Queen.

Book Title: Bumble-Ardy
Author: Maurice Sendak                                                                                                                

Book Information:
Publisher and date: HarperCollins; First Edition edition (September 6, 2011)
Reading level: Ages 1 and up
Book Info: Hardcover: 40 pages
Genre: Fiction Picture Book
ISBN: 978-0062051981

Book Theme:
Pigs, birthdays, learning a lesson, forgiveness
Rhyming story

Fave Sentence:
"So Adeline, that aunt divine, 
Took in her Bumble valentine
And kissed him nine times over nine."

Book Summary
Bumble-Ardy has evolved from an animated segment for Sesame Street that aired in the early 1970s to a glorious picture book about a mischievous pig who has reached the age of nine without ever having had a birthday party. But all that changes when Bumble throws a party for himself and invites all his friends, leading to a wild masquerade that quickly gets out of hand. In this highly anticipated picture book, Maurice Sendak once again explores the exuberance of young children and the unshakable love between parent (in this case, an aunt) and child. Bumble-Ardy is the first book illustrated and written by Sendak since Outside Over There in 1981.

Activity Adventures:

Something Fun:
Create your own costume party. Collect dress up clothes. Create masks from paper plates and decorate with glitter, sequins and feathers or whatever else you have on hand.
But don't be a pig about it, mind your manners!

Crafty Ideas:
Make a pig mask from paper plates. Paint the plate pink, cut out big triangle shaped ears and use a paper cup for the snout.

Make clocks to help with telling time. 

Writing Prompts:
This is national poetry month. Make up your own poem. Write about your favorite birthday party.

Discussion Questions:
After reading, talk about the expressions on the pig's faces? They show a variety of emotions.
Talk about why Aunt is upset, and why Bumble cries.

The section of the party has little text. Can you find Bumble in the mayhem? Why do you suppose he wanted everyone to come dressed up, and clean?

Talk about if the party goers were real friends or not? What went wrong in this story? What went right? 

Authors Arena

Author and Illustrator: Maurice Sendak
bio from
For more than forty years, the books Maurice Sendak has written and illustrated have nurtured children and adults alike and have challenged established ideas about what children's literature is and should be. The New York Times has recognized that Sendak's work "has brought a new dimension to the American children's book and has helped to change how people visualize childhood." Parenting recently described Sendak as "indisputably, the most revolutionary force in children's books."

Winner of the 1964 Caldecott Medal for Where the Wild Things Are, in 1970 Sendak became the first American illustrator to receive the international Hans Christian Andersen Award, given in recognition of his entire body of work. In 1983, he received the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award from the American Library Association, also given for his entire body of work.

Beginning in 1952, with A Hole Is to Dig by Ruth Krauss, Sendak's illustrations have enhanced many texts by other writers, including the Little Bear books by Else Holmelund Minarik, children's books by Isaac Bashevis Singer and Randall Jarrell, and The Juniper Tree and Other Tales from Grimm. Dear Mili, Sendak's interpretation of a newly discovered tale by Wilhelm Grimm, was published to extraordinary acclaim in 1988.

In 1997, Sendak received the National Medal of Arts from President Clinton. In 2003 he received the first Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, an international prize for children's literature established by the Swedish government. Maurice Sendak was born in Brooklyn in 1928. He now lives in Connecticut.

Read the interview over at NPR Books:
Maurice Sendak: On Life, Death And Children's Lit
Listen to interview here

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Dirkus on handwriting tips

Hello again! I'm back. 
Dirkus here with another writing lesson for little hands. 

Last time, I said that little hands need practice working on their fine motor skills. This means they learn to do small movements with their hands and fingers. And I talked about some of the things I've done to help mine. 
Which does not include putting small motors on your fingers. Wiz Lex says that's not what this means. 


Once youngsters have had time to work on getting their fingers to do small tasks, then they are ready to move on up to more important stuff like: Handwriting

(And no, it's not writing on your hand. It's making your hand write letters. And stuff.)

Well, I had to ask. I'm just little you know.

So, here's some fun things to do that will help learning to write more interesting

Use different mediums to write with. Some of my favorites are shaving cream or whipped cream. (yum on the second one, but not the first)
You can also write in pudding, sand, rice, or most best, finger paint. (But only on paper. Repeat after me, Not The Castle Walls. Eeeish, I get it already. And I only did that once... or twice.)

Another favorite thing that is perfectly all right with Queenie  is to write on the sidewalks with water or chalk. She doesn't mind because the rain washes it away.

I've said before that play dough or clay makes great fun in creating letters. But what about bread or pretzel dough? You can bake your letters and eat them too. YUMMERS!!!

Wiz Lex makes letters out of sandpaper for me to trace with my finger, or do crayon rubbings on.

And they all offer me plenty of opportunities to trace lines, shapes, play connect-the-dots, and anything else that helps develop my fine-motor skills.

So get to it! Go write some letters, dudes.

Later gators!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Dead End In Norvelt by Jack Gantos

Hello dear reader friends,
The Queen here with a fabulous Newbery Medal winning book by Jack Gantos, Deadend in Norvelt. Steeped in history, this humorous fictional based on experience book is about a young boy named Jack who is grounded for the whole summer, then lent out to an elderly, quirky neighbor to write obituaries.

I laughed out loud while reading this book. It's a must have for any library.

Happy Reading,
The Queen

Book Title: Dead End in Norvelt
Author: Jack Gantos                                                                                                           

Book Information:
Publisher and date: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR); First Edition edition (September 13, 2011)
Reading level: Ages 10 and up
Book Info: Hardcover: 352 pages
Genre: Fiction chapter book
ISBN: 978-0374379933

Book Theme:
Small town life, history, the elderly, coming of age, death

Favorite lines:
(Mrs. Dubicki) "Yeah, two weeks will give me time to wrap up my business, say all the goodbyes I care to say, and then I'll be ready to meet my husband in heaven. Will that fit your calendar, Mr. Reaper?"

"Umm, I'll check my schedule," I quickly replied, "but I think I can fit you in."

"Would you like a cup of tea?" she asked.
page 109

Book Summary
Dead End in Norvelt is the winner of the 2012 Newbery Medal for the year's best contribution to children's literature and the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction!

Melding the entirely true and the wildly fictional, Dead End in Norvelt is a novel about an incredible two months for a kid named Jack Gantos, whose plans for vacation excitement are shot down when he is "grounded for life" by his feuding parents, and whose nose spews bad blood at every little shock he gets. But plenty of excitement (and shocks) are coming Jack's way once his mom loans him out to help a fiesty old neighbor with a most unusual chore—typewriting obituaries filled with stories about the people who founded his utopian town. As one obituary leads to another, Jack is launced on a strange adventure involving molten wax, Eleanor Roosevelt, twisted promises, a homemade airplane, Girl Scout cookies, a man on a trike, a dancing plague, voices from the past, Hells Angels . . . and possibly murder. Endlessly surprising, this sly, sharp-edged narrative is the author at his very best, making readers laugh out loud at the most unexpected things in a dead-funny depiction of growing up in a slightly off-kilter place where the past is present, the present is confusing, and the future is completely up in the air.

Activity Adventures:

Writing Prompts:
There's a lot of history discussed in this book. What is true, and what is not true? Check out a few facts to see for yourself.

If you had to write your own obituary, what would you want it to say?
Check out what was going on in history on the day you were born. There are many sites you can find that will list world events on a given day.

Discussion Questions:
Jack is caught between his feuding parents, both telling him to do different things. Discuss what you think about how Jack handled his being grounded. Did you think it was fair? Has there been times your own parents are making different demands from you and you are unsure who to listen to?


Authors Arena

Author: Jack Gantos

Jack Gantos has written books for people of all ages, from picture books and middle-grade fiction to novels for young adults and adults. His works include Hole in My Life, a memoir that won the Michael L. Printz and Robert F. Sibert honors; Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key, a National Book Award Finalist, and Joey Pigza Loses Control, a Newbery Honor book.
Jack was born in Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania, and grew up in the nearby town of Norvelt. He remembers playing a lot of “pass the chalk” in Mrs. Neiderheizer’s class in first grade. He was in the Bluebird reading group, which he later found out was for the slow readers. To this day he’d rather be called a Bluebird than a slow reader.
Read more at his website.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Wizardry Writing Wednesdays - Dirkus discusses fine motor skills

Hello again. Dirkus here to talk more about learning to write.

You know, writing doesn't start with picking up a crayon and writing on wall... uh, I mean, the Queen's throne... no, no, I didn't do that. I really mean, picking up a pencil and writing letters. No on the wall. That's a big NO NO! And definitely not on the Queens throne. Nobody can prove I did that.

Anyway, before you can be a great writer like me, you have to train your fingers and paws, or hands, or claws (whatever) to work on small objects. This is what Wiz Lex calls developing the fine motor skills.

Which I think it really silly cause I don't have any small motors on my fingers. But the man loves to hang out with frogs, what do you expect, huh?

So, how does a dragon work on their fine motor skills? I'm glad you asked. (If your not lucky enough to be a dragon, you can still do these things too. I believe it works for everyone.)

Put together a puzzle (Personally, I like to assemble... and disassemble knight's armor.) Not generally a problem. Unless they are wearing it. heh heh heh.
Practice lacing with cardboard punched with holes. (or tying your brother's tails together. That's always fun, too.)
String beads or circle-shaped cereal onto yarn tied into a knot at one end- I strung several shells together and gave it to the Queen. How was I supposed to know there were still crabs living in a couple of them? Geeze, I'm only three.
Construct with legos or blocks- legos or blocks only. NOT, and I repeat, NOT blocks taken from the Castle wall. They aren't as easy to put back as it looks.
Practice cutting skills with safety scissors- Again, it needs to be stated... only cut paper. NOT the Queen's tapestries. Never the Queen's tapestries.
Play with play-dough- I also love mud. But nobody else does.
Practice buttoning, zipping, and snapping- If you have such things. I'm a dragon. I have to settle for buttoning, zipping and snapping Wiz Lex and he doesn't like when I do that. bummer.
Let children help out in the kitchen - Yes, yes, yes!! I love to help mix the cake dough, sort the utensils,  unscrew lids on the jam jars, and the cookie jar, and...

They should let me in the kitchen more often. But they don't.

Happy learning to write. Come back next week. (Maybe I'll share some of my cookies with you)

Monday, April 2, 2012

Swirl by Swirl - Spirals in Nature by Joyce Sidman

Good Monday dear friends:
The Queen here with a beautifully illustrated and written book, Swirl by Swirl. Read the book, then open your eyes to the wonders this author points out. They are all around and they are marvelous. Spirals. Spinning, twisting, curling, beauty. Go find them!

Happy Reading,
The Queen.

Book Title: Swirl by Swirl - Spirals in Nature
Author:  Joyce Sidman                                                                                                       
Illustrator: Beth Krommes

Book Information:
Publisher and date: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children (October 4, 2011)
Reading level:Ages 4 and up
Book Info:Hardcover: 40 pages

Book Theme:
Swirls found in nature

Book Summary
A Caldecott medalist and a Newbery Honor-winning poet celebrate the beauty and value of spirals.What makes the tiny snail shell so beautiful? Why does that shape occur in nature over and over again—in rushing rivers, in a flower bud, even inside your ear?
With simplicity and grace, Krommes and Sidman not only reveal the many spirals in
nature—from fiddleheads to elephant tusks, from crashing waves to spiraling galaxies—
but also celebrate the beauty and usefulness of this fascinating shape. 

Activity Adventures:

A book about spirals requires that you make a few of your own.
Get out the paints and make spirals with your fingers. No paint? What about shaving cream or pudding?

Practice cutting. Cut out spirals then hand them from your ceiling for decorations. Here's a pattern for a cut little snake.

Writing Prompts:   Write your own poems. Here's some poem starter ideas.

Discussion Questions:
Talk about places you might see spirals.
Go on a spiral hunt. Use the book to help you find some. What others can you find?

Authors Arena

Joyce Sidman is known for her fresh, inventive poetry for children. Her award-winning books include Dark Emperor (A Newbery Honor Book), Song of the Water Boatman and Red Sings from Treetops (both Caldecott Honor Books), Butterfly Eyes (Cybils Award), and This Is Just to Say (Claudia Lewis Poetry Award). A recent starred review in School Library Journal said, "Sidman's ear is keen, capturing many voices. Her skill as a poet accessible to young people is unmatched." Born in Connecticut, Joyce now lives in Minnesota. Visit her at

Illustrator: Beth Krommes
Winner of the Caldecott Medal for "The House in the Night"

In 1982, I became interested in wood engraving, being drawn to its small scale and fine line work. My first illustrations were wood engravings. I soon switched to scratchboard, which has the same look but is faster. My first children's book, Grandmother Winter, was published in 1999. I'm still amazed and humbled that in 2009 my sixth book, The House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson, won the Caldecott Medal.