Saturday, April 30, 2011

Sylvan Dell Spring 2011 New Release Giveaway LAST DAY to Enter

It is the last day to enter the Sylvan Dell Spring 2011 New Release Giveaway.   Don’t miss this opportunity to enter!  Learn about the new releases.  Comment on as many of them as you want.  Each is a separate entry.  The winner picks his/her favorite.  It is that simple!  

The Stellar Titles
The Glaciers are Melting
Big Cat, Little Kitty
Habitat Spy
Meet the Planets
Deep in the Desert

For Additional Entries

Friday, April 29, 2011

Interview and Review: Kelly Hashway and May the Best Dog Win (Giveaway)

May The Best Dog Win
For Kelly Hashway, writing is a part of life.  She loves books because they allow her to journey to new places and to become acquainted with different characters.  One of her greatest passions is to foster a love of reading in young people which she does through her numerous publications.  Her debut picture book is May the Best Dog Win!   (Read on for a chance to win a signed copy.)  This up and coming fiction writer’s insight and sense of humor shine through in her interview. 

The Interview
1.   How did you know you wanted to become an author?
I really think people are born writers. Ever since I learned how to write, I created stories, poems, and I even wrote a novel in elementary and middle school. It's just part of who I am.

2.   What inspired you to write this book?
This book was inspired by real life. One of my many quirks is that I vacuum every day. Obsessive, I know! Well, I have a huge German shepherd and she acts really strange every time I take out the vacuum. She stalks up to it, sniffs it, and then runs away. She does this repeatedly until I'm finished. I couldn't help wondering what she thought the vacuum was. MAY THE BEST DOG WIN was born from there.

3.   If you could jump in to a book, and live in that world… which book would it be?
The books in the Percy Jackson series. I mean who wouldn't want to ride a Pegasus? And being able to interact with the Greek gods would just be amazing. 

4.   What is your most rewarding experience since being published?
I recently received a comment from a young girl who read one of my stories. She said she liked it so much that she Googled me and found my website. She also said she was looking forward to my book coming out. That was an amazing feeling for me. It's one thing to have family, friends, and other writers enjoy your work, but when a compliment comes straight from your target audience--well, nothing beats that.

5.   What is the one piece of advice you would give aspiring authors?
Read and write as much as you can. I've learned so much from reading great authors. They really are the best teachers. And the only way you can truly get better at writing is to do it over and over again.

6. Which authors have influenced you most?  How?
Wow, there are so many. , , , and all have amazing voices. I read them all the time. I love how they genuinely sound like preteens and teens. That's priceless. James PattersonKelley ArmstrongWendelin Van DraanenRick Riordan

7. If you were a super hero what would your kryptonite be?
A good sale at a bookstore. I can't help myself. Just a few weeks ago I went into Borders, and I had an armful before I got through the second set of doors!

8. If you were stranded on a what 3 things would you want with you? desert island
My computer, my phone, and my kindle. I hope the island has WiFi!

9.   Do you have any other books in the works? Goals for future projects?
I'm currently working on a middle grade trilogy. I'd really like to see that get published. I also have a young adult fantasy and five other picture books completed.

10. What is your most ambitious dream that you have not accomplished yet?
If it were only a couple months ago, I would've said finding an agent. But I recently signed with Lauren Hammond of ADA Management. So now my big goal is to get my middle grade trilogy published. That would be a dream comes true.

The Book:  May the Best Dog Win
Summary:  Dash’s idyllic life suddenly seems threatened when the Super Sweeper 5000 arrives at his home.   His owner follows the Sweeper around, allowing it to jump on the furniture and eat up all the leftover food scraps!  It even gets its own room!  Dash soon realizes he has nothing to fear.  His place is secure and much more desirable!

Review:  Kelly does an excellent job write imaginatively and realistically through the perspective of a dog.  Dash is an adorable and endearing character.  The charming illustrations by Valerie Bouthyette accompany the text well, depicting his animated confrontation with the sweeper as well as his playful demeanor.  Children (and adults) are sure to fall in love with Dash. 

The Giveaway: Win a Signed Copy of May the Best Dog Win!
  • To enter, comment on this post.  Feel free to share something about a favorite dog in your life.
  • For extra entries, follow Kelly Hashway and Books4Learning on Twitter, become a fan of Books4Learning on Facebook, and/or Tweet or blog about this post/giveaway. 
  • To get separate credit for each entry, create a new comment. 
  • Giveaway is only open only to U.S. residents. 
  • Giveaway ends on May 11, 2011.
Thanks to Kelly Hashway for this interview and giveaway!

Poetry Friday: A Kick in the Head (by Paul B. Janeczko)

A Kick in the Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic FormsIn honor of Poetry Friday, I am highlighting A Kick in the Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms by Paul B. Janeczko.   Check out other Poetry Friday posts at The Opposite of Indifference

Overview and Review:
A Kick in the Head  highlights works from well-known poets like Ogden Nash, William Shakespeare, and William Blake as well as lesser known writers like Bobbi Katz, Gary Soto, and Joan Bransfield Graham.   The book begins with depicting (and defining) line groupings—couplet, tercet, and quatrain—in poetry. Twenty-six different types of poems are included from the simple—haiku, limerick, and cinquain—to the more complex—ode, sonnet, and villanelle.  Brief definitions are in small print on the corresponding pages.  The back of the book includes more details on each poetic form.  A few of my favorites are “Back to School Blues,” “Ode to Pablo’s Tennis Shoe,” and “Is there a Villain in Your Villanelle.”  Many of the poems are whimsical and humorous.  Here are a couple examples:

Senryu by Kristine O’Connell George
First day, new school year,
backpack harbors a fossil…
last June’s cheese sandwich.   

“Epitaph for a Book Editor” by J. Patrick Lewis
Miss Spelling’s
Exclamation points
Were myriad!!!
She lived on
The margin.
And died.

A Kick in the Head is an entertaing read.  Parents and educators may want to use it to introduce poetry to youngsters or as a spring board for children to experiement with creating poems of their own. 

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Versatile Blogger Award

Thanks to Books Kids Like for awarding Books4Learning the Versitale Blogger Award.   Check out her excellent blog.  If were not already acknowledging Books Kids Like here, it would be on my list below!

Rules of the Award
Thank the person who gave you the award.
Tell us seven things about yourself.
Award fifteen recently discovered bloggers.
Contact the blogs to let them know they received the award.

Seven Things About Me
1.     I have always wanted to travel down the Mississippi on a river boat.
2.    I am obsessive when it comes to writing.  It takes me well over an hour to do a single blog post because I revise, revise, revise.
3.    I am counting down the days until the final Harry Potter movie is released.  I plan on attending a midnight showing.
4.    My two greatest aspirations for my children are that they love/serve God all the days of their lives and that they love to learn/read.
5.    I adore my dog, Gizmo, because he so loyal and loving.  He follows me everywhere—including the bathroom—and is always sitting/laying nearby. 
6.    I would love to buy a camper and travel around with my family.
7.    My favorite place to vacation is Disney World.  I am convinced it is the “happiest place on Earth.”

Some of my Favorite Blogs

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Picture Book: Grace for President (by Kelly Dipucchio)

Summary of Grace for President
One September morning Mrs. Barrington rolls out a big poster with all the presidents’ pictures.   Grace Campbell is stunned!  She wants to know:  Where are all the girls?!    Mrs. Barrington informs her that the country has never had a female president.  After stewing over that fact for a while, Grace informs the class that she wants to be president!  Many laugh at her suggestions, but her teacher encourages her enthusiasm by proposing they have their own presidential election at the school.  Nobody seems eager to challenge Grace, so she thinks it is going to be easy to get elected. The next day (in the name of democracy) Mrs. Barrington invited another class to be a part of the election process.  To Grace’s dismay, Thomas Cobb is nominated.  He is the spelling bee champion, winner of the blue ribbon in science, and the captain of the soccer team!  She realizes that winning the presidency is going to be a challenge.  The students in the two classes each represent a different state/number of electoral votes.  Both Grace and Thomas run their campaigns differently to win the majority of the electoral votes.  It looks like Thomas is shoo-in to win.  The election comes down to one vote!

Grace for President, by author Kelly Dipucchio, smoothly blends fact and fiction.   Grace observes that men have ruled the office, so she sets out to change things in her own way.  On a small scale, the school election reflects the real electoral process.  Each candidate campaigns with posters and promises, but one goes the extra mile by organizing a beautification committee and volunteering in the cafeteria.  They calculate the electoral votes to see who is ahead in the polls.  On Election Day, the “states” call out their votes while the candidates watch the electoral votes being added up.  This book is an ideal introduction or set for teaching children about the election process.  

The illustrations, by LeUyen Pham, are appealing.  They assist in capturing the excitement of the election activities.  The final page shows a woman (assumed to be Grace) being sworn in at the front of the capital building, instilling that dreams can come true if we work consistently toward them.  Grace is an amiable protagonist who possesses admirable character qualities.  She works diligently and consistently to promote positive change in her school. She spends much of her time working a long side her classmates and learning about their concerns.  Not only does the book prompt a general discussion on character but it also models the qualities real elected officials should possess.  Students should delve into that issue in a class or home discussion.  Grace for President a superb resource as you study elections, voting, government, or character.  

Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza Hop Giveaway Winner

Congratulations to Nicole Sender
Winner of the $20 Gift Card to Barnes and Noble
For the Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza Hop Giveaway
Thanks to everyone who entered.
* Winner chosen by

Monday, April 25, 2011

Picture Books (Science) Bees

Writing Non-Fiction for Children is hosting Non-Fiction Monday this week.  Click HERE to check out the other great posts.   

Bees are fascinating creatures.  It amazes me how they work together in their flourishing colony in perfect harmony—each bee with its own role, from caregiver to honey hunter.  When I study a topic like bees, it affirms for me the existence of an intelligent and imaginative creator.   It makes me more in awe of Him. 

In school, science felt boring and seemed abstract.  Picture books, though, foster an interest and provide concrete models foundational for later scientific study.  Even if you have “older” children, check out some picture books to go along with a school or home study.  You might just find a new level of enthusiasm! 

The Honey Bee’s Hive: A Thriving City (ages 8 and up) by Joyce Markovics 
I have enjoyed several books in the Spectacular Animal Towns series by Bearport publishing.  Like the others, The Honey Bee’s Hive reveals the mysteries of the bees with amazing, vibrant photographs and captivating text.  The essential role of the honey bee is set up with an anecdote and pictures of bees being brought in to pollinate almond trees in California to help ensure an abundant crop.   Moving into the general information, readers learn about their habitat, home, and communication as well as the process of changing nectar into honey.  One of the most intriguing sections is the life cycle of these insects.  Photographs of the bees from egg to developing pupae accompany the well-written text.   Rounding out the book, a brief look into the dangers that threaten bees.  The Honey Bee’s Hive:  A Thriving City is my top pick for resources on the topic. 

Watch It Grow: Bee (ages 5 and up) Barrie Watts  
With eye-catching original photographs and straightforward text, Watch It Grow Bee focuses primarily on the life-cycle of the insect.  Readers watch as the bees grow from egg to adult.  Several key areas of the adult bee’s life are shown, such as looking for food, pollinating flowers, storing the food, and sustaining the colony.  The large font and straightforward text is perfect for early readers who are becoming comfortable reading multiple sentences on a page.    

World of Insects: Honey Bees (ages 3-7) by Colleen Sexton 
World of Insects:  Honey Bees offers a basic look at the insect.  The first section focuses on the parts of the bee while the second illustrates bees collecting nectar and pollinating flowers.  The process of changing nectar to honey is mentioned but not described in detail.   Each page has a large, dazzling photograph to accompany 1-2 sentences of text.  This Blast Off! Reader can be used as an introduction for preschoolers and/or an early reader for older children.  

Honorable Mention
Bees and Their Hives (ages 3-7) by Linda Tagliaferro
Each two-page spread has 1-2 simple sentences and one large photograph.  A snapshot glimpse into building a hive and the workings of it are depicted. Like World of Insects:  Honey Bees, Bees and Their Hives, it can be used as an introduction for preschoolers or as an early reader. 

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Picture Books: The Story of Easter (non-fiction)

In honor of Easter, I have three non-fiction selections about the origins of the holiday.   Each book has something a little different to offer.  The First Easter is a great initial book for young children.  In The Story of Easter, I learned about the connection of bunnies and eggs to the holiday.  Finally, Jesus brings Christ’s life in full color and grandeur while using the words of the Scriptures.

The First EasterThe First Easter (ages 0-6) by Lois Rock 
Beginning with Palm Sunday and ending with Pentecost, The First Easter covers the highlights of Jesus’ final week and the launch of the Christian church after his ascension.   The main points of the narrative are included, using straightforward language for young listeners.  The juvenile cartoon illustrations are delightful and suitable for the target audience.  The First Easter offers an understandable introduction to basis of this key holiday and of the Christian faith.

The Story of Easter (Trophy Picture Books)The Story of Easter (ages 6-10) by Aileen Fisher  
A concise but faithful narrative of Jesus’ life and final week is the focal point.   The Story of Easter goes on to explain how non-biblical traditions became part of the holiday.  For instance, because Easter Sunday takes place in the spring, other seasonal traditions were incorporated into it by ancient and medieval people.  The egg, for instance, was the symbol of new life in the ancient world.  It was the custom to give eggs as gifts during spring festivals, and they are a ritual food eaten in the Passover.  Various cultures decorated eggs, which is how the Easter egg came to be.  Bunnies, also, became part of the Easter tradition because they represent new life, a crucial aspect of Christianity and spring.  Other customs are also briefly described.

Jesus: His Life in Verses from the King James Holy BibleJesus (ages 6 and up) by Gennady Spirin  
This selection is not specifically about Easter.  Passages of the King James Bible are beautifully illustrated in paintings that combine “both stylized and realistic features and iconic symbolism typical of the early Renaissance artists.”  The specifics covered in the text are:  His birth, His baptism, His boyhood experience in the temple, His temptation, His first miracle, the Sermon on the Mount, His transfiguration, raising of Lazarus from the dead, the last supper, His crucifixion, His resurrection, and His ascension.  The stunning illustrations and the brief overview of Christ’s life make this book an ideal read during the Easter holiday by believers wanting to remember His life and sacrifice or unbelievers who desire to learn about the holiday or figure. 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Picture Book (Science): Meet the Planets (by John McGranaghan)

Summary of Meet the Planets:    
Coming to you live from the Milky Way, Pluto (former ninth planet) emcees the first ever Favorite Planet Competition.   Pluto begins by introducing the inner plants—Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars.  These solid, rocky planets are closest to the sun.  Who is your favorite?  The fastest planet—Mercury?  The brightest one—Venus?  The “mother” of life—Earth?  OR The red-faced planet, named after the god of war—Mars?  Next up, the outer plants—Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.  These gaseous planets have their own rings!  The question is:  Does one of them deserve to be the winner?   The largest planet—Jupiter?  The light on his feet—Saturn?  The slanted one—Uranus?  The beautiful blue planet—Neptune?  The judges cannot come to a decision.  So that means that YOU will decide the Favorite!

Author John McGranaghan creatively introduces readers to the planets in the Milky Way using the competition framework. The fast-paced text offers up an intriguing glimpse into the unfathomable world of outer space.  Captivated readers will be eager to learn more about space and the Greek mythology references.  The imaginative illustrations by Laurie Allen Klein depict astronomers, scientist, mathematicians, and other historical figures related to the study of space.  She cleverly incorporates famous works of art and historical objects.  Sylvan Dell’s across the curriculum teaching guide identifies all the figures and connections, prompting research and learning opportunities.  There are so many layers to this book that each time through can be a new experience, depending on the level, age, and interest of the participants.  Meet the Plants is an out of this world journey through space and learning. 

For more excellent teaching opportunities, check out the Sylvan Dell’s teaching guide and book page.    

Cows Can't Jump Picture Book Giveaway Winner

Congratulations to the
Cows Can’t Jump Giveaway Winner,
Thanks to everyone who entered.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Picture Book (Science): Deep in the Desert (by Rhonda Lucas Donald)

Summary of Deep in the Desert
Poems are set to familiar nursery rhyme and song tunes to reveal the wonders and secrets of desert life.  Readers learn about less commonly known animals, such as the javelin, tarkawara, thorny devil, and Gila monster.  The wonderful poetic text, set to favorite childhood songs creates an engaging reading experience that will not soon be forgotten.  Who can forget “I’m a Little Teapot” after reciting it a few times?   Children will remember how a javelin looks and lives after reciting these poetic lines to the same tune:

I’m a javelin, short and stout.
Here are my hooves, and here is my snout.
I will eat cactus, not a trout.
It’s a desert life for me, no doubt. 

The following lyrics to the poem describe his predator, his survival mechanism, his noises, and more. More familiar animals are also covered like a meerkat, desert tortoise, fennec fox, ostrich, and camel.  The life of an ostrich is easy to recall when singing it using the tune “There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly”:

There is an odd birdy that never could fly.
I wonder why the bird cannot fly.
Do you know why?

There is a fast birdy that runs on strong legs.
You can’t believe the size of its eggs.
It runs on strong legs because it can’t fly.
I wonder why the bird cannot fly. 
Do you know why?

Three additional stanzas celebrate this bird’s unique features.   Each poem in Deep in the Desert follows a similar format to illuminate how the animals survive and function in their habitat as well as to reveal the distinctive climate and vegetation of the desert.

Rhonda Lucas Donald has written an entertaining and educational book of poems.   Children are exposed to the sound of poetic words, providing opportunities to practice or to teach about rhyme (slant, eye, and true), alliteration, and onomatopoeia.  Repetitive phrases and familiar tunes prompt children to participate in reading and reciting after a few exposures to the poems.   Donald uses a variety of sentence types—declarative, interrogative, and exclamatory.  Adults should point out these marks and teach how they are read differently.  Older children can learn their names and functions.   Most of the songs blend well with the poetic words.  Parents may want to practice briefly before beginning to get the hang of it.  I was not familiar with a few of them, but tunes are not difficult to find on the Internet.  One of the best parts of Deep in the Desert is the illustrations by Sherry Neidigh.   Whether it is a sweeping view of the horizon or an up close picture of small area of ground, her detail and color choices are impeccable.  They are an essential element of the overall desert habitat experience. 

For more excellent teaching opportunities, check out the teaching guide and book’s page at the Sylvan Dell website. 

In honor of Poetry Friday, check out the other blogs highlighting poetic works at Book Aunt.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Picture Book (Science): Habitat Spy (by Cynthia Kieber-King)

Summary of Habitat Spy:  
This tour begins in a backyard on the East Coast and journeys to 13 different habitats until reaching the Pacific Ocean.  Children will explore other diverse places, such as meadow, pond, forest, river, swamp, cave, bog, plains, mountains, desert, and beach.  The text on each page follows the same format—a short rhyming invitation to discover a new, exciting place.  Here are a couple samples: 

Let’s spy in the cave…
algae spread,
spiders knit,
swallows nest,
bats flit.

Let’s spy in the desert…
saguaros prick,
scorpions sneak,
cactus wrens poke,
foxes peek.

Cynthia Kieber-King’s text identifies only a few of the incredible plants, animals, and insects on the 2-page spread, allowing for the readers to discover many on their own.  (The Sylvan Dell’s Teacher Guide for the book provides a master list.)  All the habitats are fluttering and swimming with life.  In the bog, a turtle emerges from the water and a duck forages for food while on the plains bison are grazing and butterflies are flitting.   Each time through the book, readers (and observers) will find new things to discover and to discuss.

Christina Wald has done a remarkable job replicating the incredible plants and creatures in their native environments. The picturesque illustrations draw readers into each habitat where they can count and identify the living things.  Young children can practice sorting animals into categories, such as those with fur or with feathers and ones that fly or crawl.  Habitat Spy, along with the teaching guide, offers opportunities to teach older students about invertebrates and vertebrates (reptiles, birds, mammals, fish, and amphibians).  The pleasurable text is primarily made up of nouns and verbs.  Children can learn about these parts of speech and create their own text following the format provided (as seen in book samples above).  Use the book as a spring board to begin to observe and to record observations in outdoor places.  Take a journal to a park, a lake, or a wooded area.  Talk, draw, and write about your surroundings.  Habitat Spy is an outstanding introduction into the study of habitats.  It is sure to take inquisitiveness and learning to new heights. 

For more excellent teaching opportunities, check out the teaching guide and book’s page at the Sylvan Dell website. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Picture Book (Science): Big Cat, Little Kitty (Scotti Cohn)

Summary of Big Cat, Little Kitty:   
Travel around the globe to seven lively habitats to watch and learn about the big cats of the world!  These ferocious predators have a lot in common with their domesticated relative—the house cat.  Author Scotti Cohn sets up a day by day comparison of their habits, such as hunting, pouncing, running, and climbing.  For instance, on Monday an alert tiger chases a gibbon up a tree while an observant little kitty runs a spider off her porch. 
The same pattern is continued for the seven days of the week.  On each page a native animal to the habitat asks the same questions:

“Who are you?” asks a warthog.  “And whose savannah is this?”
The big cat purrs, “I am cheetah, and this is MY savannah.”

The following pages modify the pattern slightly:

“Who are you?” asks a mouse. “And whose house is this?”
The little kitty purrs, “I am Chessie, and this is MY house.”

This fun question and answer structure invites listener participation and memorization which lends itself to choral reading.  The two worlds come together on the final page when a bobcat wanders into the habitat of a cat and dog who warn her to leave their backyard immediately.  The bobcat bounds back to her own territory but not without a scream, to give them a little scare.  

Cohn does a superb job paralleling the lives of wild and domesticated cats.  She offers an ideal opportunity to discuss or to illustrate with a chart (for older children) how they are similar and how they differ.  The author also naturally incorporates in the text days of the week and times of day, providing a springboard for learning for younger children.   The repetitive, pattern text creates a quick familiarity with the action, prompting children to anticipate and participate in future rereading.  Both are foundational literacy skills.  Finally, the text includes some similes adults can identify and explain.  Adult readers can create (and illustrate) similes with their class or children.  Artist Susan Detwiler stunningly illustrates the various habitats—savannah, jungle, snowy mountains, desert, woods, and forests—in vivid color and detail.  Similarly, each domesticated cat is imaginatively shown in a comparable environment or situation.  Whether in the wild or in the home, this book depicts big and little kitties alike as magnificent, self-reliant, and poised creatures.  Big Cat, Little Kitty is a rollicking pounce around the globe.

As with all of Sylvan Dell’s picture books, there are activity pages in the back of the book, an across the curriculum teacher’s guide, and other resources at their website.

Freedom Over Me (Ashley Bryan)

Title:   Freedom Over Me:  Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life Author :   Ashley Bryan Illustrator :   Ashley...