12 x 12 in 2012 Picture Book Writing Challenge: 1 down…11 to go!


The blogosphere is full of challenges this year. 

One of the ones that struck a chord in me was Julie Hedlund’s 12 x 12 in 2012.  Julie is a talented writer, inspired blogger and generous spirit.  I’ve never met her, but if you visit her blog, you’ll see what I mean.


Badge by Linda Silvestri


When my children were little, I always had a pad of paper and pencil and pack of crayons wherever we went.  Bored children?  Write a story!  Cranky children? Write a story!  Happy children?  Write a story!

You get the picture!


The original mock-up for The Balloon Man


Sad to say, many of those stories were tossed during different moves we made over the years.  Others languished in taped-up boxes, forgotten in the shadowy corners of a closet.

My children are grown now, with families of their own…but my passion for picture books remains fresh!

Of course, I am fortunate in that I get to read picture books with a new generation of children when I present the Show Me How Story-time with Miss Vivian programs to library groups, kindergartens and Pre-K’s.  And I do have the opportunity to read to my grandchildren when I visit them.


But one of my dreams is to write a picture book story that children love and want to hear over and over and over again.

And that’s why, when I saw Julie’s 12 x 12 Challenge, I knew I had to participate.  Write twelve picture book drafts in a year…one each month.

January has come to a close…and I’m proud to say that I’ve completed my January assignment!

I know it needs a LOT of work…it’s just a rough first draft.

The tentative title:

 Caroline’s Hat…or Caroline’s Flower-Sprigged Hat.

The story:

Little Caroline is out in the garden.  She forgets her hat when her mother calls her in for lunch.  While she is gone, several garden animals help themselves to parts of her hat so that when she returns, it is not where she left it.  As Caroline searches the garden, she discovers her hat is being used by the animals for their own purposes.

The opening lines:

“The soft summer breeze tousled Caroline’s’ curls,

As she lay in the tall green grass.

On a blueberry bush, the red ribbons waved,

From the brim of her flower-sprigged hat.”

I think we all have secret dreams…would you like to share yours?

Today is the last day of the month, so our 2012 PPP “Read to your Child Everyday” Challenge ends for January.  In the next few days, I’ll be posting the name of the January winner of a picture book.

Spaghetti Eddie Meets Building Book Buzz

Koenig's 1814 steam-powered printing press

Image via Wikipedia

Today is Friday…my day to review a picture book and link it to Susannah Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book Friday

Before I get to the review of Spaghetti Eddie, I wanted to share with you an amazing resource for authors.  Whether you have published many books already or are just thinking about writing a book, Sandra Beckwith’s Building Book Buzz workshop is a must!  You know, it’s very rewarding to write a book…even more rewarding to see it in print.  But once your book is published, you don’t want the books to sit in their shipping cartons…you want them in the hands of your target market.  So how does that happen?  How do you write a press release about your book?  What social media should you use…Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+?  As the cartoon personality Cathy would say…AAACCKKKK!

If you are planning to self-publish, then taking this course is, without a doubt, the best $199 you will have ever spent.  (Sandy has some discounts available)  But even for those who are published by major houses or have many published books under their belt, it is still usually up to the author to do the lion’s share of marketing and promotion….unless, of course, you are a famous celebrity or politician.  In those instances, the publishing house may ante-up with bigger dollars for advertising and publicity to insure a return of the big advance they probably paid.  Sandy has a blog and she just did a post on how to get free publicity that may make a big difference in how your book is perceived.  She is always providing free tips in the articles she writes.

I hope that anyone who is thinking about getting a book out there will take a look at Sandy’s online workshop…the information will help you know what you have to do…before, during and after the publishing process…and will give you more confidence in your own marketing ability…and her personal attention and expertise are priceless.

And now…on to the review of Spaghetti Eddie.

 Spaghetti Eddie

Written by Ryan SanAngelo

Illustrated by Jackie Urbanovic

Publishers: Boyds Mills Press

Ages 2 – 7+


Valuing one’s own strengths and qualities, creative problem-solving, helping others.


“This is Eddie.  He eats spaghetti every day except Sundays.  On Sundays, he eats ravioli.”


When Eddie’s mom sends him to the store to buy frosting for his father’s birthday cake, Eddie takes his ever-present bowl of spaghetti and meatballs along.   As he walks to the store, Eddie meets several neighbors and he suggests ingenious spaghetti-solutions to their problems.  For example, one friend has a broken shoelace and Eddie offers a strand of spaghetti to replace it.  As Eddie approaches the grocery store, a robber runs out, holding a bag of stolen money.  Will Eddie be able to do something to save the day?  (Hint: you will stand up and cheer for Eddie when you find out)

Why do I like this book:

What a hilarious story!  I loved this book because I was a very picky eater when I was little (unfortunately, I LOVE EVERYTHING now) and I was able to identify with Eddie, who loved spaghetti so much that he had it every day.  Young children will also appreciate Eddie’s peculiar eating habits… many children have stages where they love or hate a certain food.  Eddie’s ingenious use of his bowl of spaghetti and meatballs will encourage kids to open their creative minds and see new possibilities in the commonplace.  The book is just plain funny…and the illustrations truly capture the spirit and voice of the story.

Related Activities:

Pasta-Covered Treasure Box

Most children have a stash of small keepsakes…a special pebble, a shiny coin, a super-friend’s ring.  Here is a perfect container to keep those items in.  This project also makes a lovely gift for Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day.

You will need: 1 clean container with lid (a one-pound margarine or cottage cheese container works well), white glue (glue stick won’t work), dry pasta (spaghetti, macaroni and/or other interesting shapes), markers.  Depending on the age of the child, you may want to cover the outside of the container with craft or construction paper and decorate the lid with pasta.  Older children may have the patience and dexterity to put pasta on the outside of the container.

1.      Spread white glue on the top of the lid and press pasta shapes in desired design.

2.      Spread white glue on the outside of the container and cover with paper or pasta.

3.      When the glue is dry, you can use marker to color some of the pasta.  Optional: the pasta can be painted with non-toxic tempera paints.

This post is part of a series for parents and teachers.  Perfect Picture Book Fridays is hosted by Susannah Leonard Hill.  Click on her link and find lots of other picture book suggestions with summaries and activities.

Following in the Footsteps of Steve Jobs

Have you seen the February issue of Parenting Magazine?

Splashed on the cover is a picture of a young boy, with glasses, and a thoughtful yet mischievous expression on his face.  I guess you might say he is the “stereotype” of an “intelligent” child.  The lead article in this issue is entitled, “Raise the Next Steve Jobs…or at least a really, really bright kid”.  (Click on the link and it will take you to the entire article on CNN.com) 

Parenting’s senior editor, Christina Vercelletto, did a masterful job of pulling together the opinions of experts along with a mountain of research and contributions from colleagues Lois Barrett, Stephanie Eckelkamp, Beth Weinhouse and Stephanie Wood, as she focused on revealing “what makes a child grow into a brilliant adult”.

The feature recounts how Steve Jobs dropped out of college, but went on to change the world with his Apple computer.  The article examines topics like “genius defined”, “the lowdown on testing” and “the power of a parent”.

I was honored to be a contributor to that article.  Asked what I thought about the validity of IQ and standardized tests and whether they should be used to determine a child’s potential for success in school and later in life, I responded that I believe there are many factors that can affect the score of these tests.  “What if the child didn’t get a good night’s sleep or is getting over a cold?  Maybe the room is too hot or the kid next to him is fidgeting and distracting him.” 

The Parenting Magazine article emphasizes several things that parents can do to encourage school success and greater enthusiasm for learning.  These echo the suggestions that are found in my Show Me How book, where I provide activities and concrete examples for parents of young children.

1.      TALK, TALK, TALK…about anything and everything.  Engage your child in conversation at the breakfast table, while shopping, in the car, on a walk.  Ask open-ended questions like the one given as an example in the article, “What would happen if we stopped for ice cream on the way to the beach?” And don’t talk down or baby-talk to your children…your children will learn whatever you teach them.

2.      READ, READ, READ…anything and everything.  Picture books, comic books, travel guides, atlases, cookbooks…children have more of a chance to succeed in school when they have access to books and someone who reads to them. 

3.      PRAISE RESULTS…mastering tasks and skills motivates children to seek new challenges.  Chapter One in my book, I Can Do It Myself, encourages parents to allow children to try to do things on their own, even if they fail in the beginning.  Give praise for problem-solving and good effort as opposed to blanket praise.  True self-esteem is built on a basis of self-worth.  We feel good about ourselves when we accomplish our goals.   We all need a cheering committee…and parents are a child’s most important fans!

4.      CELEBRATE CURIOSITY…very young children are almost always curious.  But something often happens as they get a little older…they stop asking questions and begin to operate within the confines of what is considered the “norm”.  Parents need to encourage their children by sharing their passions…art, music, sports, carpentry.  And they also need to observe what special talents or strengths their children have and show an interest in those…even if it is watching an anthill or making intricate mud-pies.

5.      SEIZE TEACHABLE MOMENTS…encourage observation of detail and build vocabulary, math and money skills while shopping, driving or doing just about anything with your child.  Parents can engage young children in conversation about the shapes and colors of fruits and vegetables….and older children can discuss where the foods come from and how they are grown.  And that advice brings us back to number 1: TALK, TALK, and TALK.

I don’t know if you want your child to be the next Steve Jobs.  But I do know that every parent wants their child to have a positive self-image and thrive and be happy and succeed in life and in school.  Look back over the five points above…they are simple steps you can take that have big results: Talk with your children; read with your children (join my reading challenge…you might be the lucky winner of a picture book for your child); praise your children; celebrate your children’s curiosity and seize teachable moments.

Parents: Have You Told Your Kids?


Scan of a Valentine greeting card dated 1909.

Image via Wikipedia


In only a few weeks it will be Valentine’s Day.

I’ve been asked to write a special letter to my children about how I met their father.  It will appear in Bob Brody’s Letters to My Kids.  I’ll post it here after Bob publishes it.

Bob has appeared on the CBS Early Morning Show and his mission to encourage parents to write letters to their children to pass along the family history has been written up in the New York Times and other respected newspapers and magazines.

He has put together a fun survey that includes questions like: have you told your kids how you met your spouse?   Bob has asked me to spread the word to parents.  The survey takes just a couple of minutes.  He is looking to get at least 100 responses…why not give it a try.  I did!

You can click on the links above or follow this link below.


I know Bob will appreciate your response to the survey. 

Have You Seen This Movie?


In 2003, 13-year old surfer, Bethany Hamilton, lost her arm to a shark attack.

Soul Surfer tells the story of her miraculous recovery and re-entry into the world of competitive surfing.

The movie was released in 2011 and stars AnnaSophia Robb, Dennis Quaid, Helen Hunt and features singer Carrie Underwood in her first film role.

This is not a movie for young children, but it is definitely a must-see for parents.  Bethany’s parents support and embrace her in every direction she takes.  The love and the positive affirmation she receives from her family are major contributing factors in Bethany’s acceptance of herself.  When Bethany joins a Christian mission in tsunami and earthquake-ravaged Thailand, she discovers that while she may have lost her arm, others have lost everything.  This experience helps Bethany put her situation in the proper perspective and she is able to encourage and motivate others to have the courage to live.

For more information about the movie, you can visit Soul Surfer on Wikipedia.

Home movie night is just one way for families to cut down on expenses.  I got the DVD of Soul Surfer from our local library for free. 

Do you and your children have a library card?  Do you make good use of this amazing community resource?   If you haven’t already done so, please check out your library…many libraries have amazing programs for children and adults of all ages.  The librarian can assist you in finding wonderful picture books that you can share with us in the 2012 PPP Challenge to read every day with your children.


No Rules…Just Read!

Project 365: Perfect Picture Book Friday – Cornelius P. Mud, Are You Ready For Bed?

 Cornelius P. Mud, Are You Ready For Bed

Written and illustrated by Barney Saltzman

Publishers: Candlewick Press

Ages 2 – 7


Mastering tasks and skills, bedtime routines and father­-son relationships.


“Cornelius P. Mud, do you know what time it is?”


It’s bedtime at the Mud household.  Cornelius’ father asks if he is ready for bed.  Cornelius answers “yes” to each of his father’s questions.  Did you put your pajamas on?  Did you feed your fish?  Did you brush your teeth? The hilarious illustrations reveal  that Cornelius and his father have different ideas about what constitutes getting ready for bed.  Should he really be feeding his fish chocolate chip cookies?  And wait till you see what he puts on his toothbrush.  (Hint: it’s NOT toothpaste)  But the most important thing Cornelius needs to remember is that his father truly loves him.

Why do I like this book:

This is a story that every parent and child can relate to.  Many parents have trouble establishing bedtime routines.  And most young children LOVE to procrastinate and put off going to bed.  During my Show Me How Story-time programs, the kindergarten children can’t wait to talk about what is wrong with Cornelius’ pajama choice.  They love counting the pile of books that Cornelius has chosen for his father to read…nineteen!  And they gasp with horror as they watch Cornelius put chocolate chip cookies in the fish bowl.  The book is funny and a joy to read and listen to…but it also encourages children to think about what activities they need to perform as they get ready for their own bedtimes while sending a beautiful message about a father’s love for his son.

Related Activities:

No Tick-Tock Clock (From Show Me How! Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking)


Telling time is an important skill that young children need to learn…even in these days of digital clocks.  Here is a simple clock with movable hands that a young child can make and set to a special time…lunchtime, playdate time or bedtime. 

You will need: 1 dark piece of construction paper, 1 circle cut from light construction paper (about 6 inches in diameter), 1 metal paper fastener, 2 “hands” cut from dark construction paper, marker or crayon, glue stick.

1.      Poke a hole in the center of the construction paper circle.

2.      Write the numbers in the correct order around the inside edge of the circle…draw the 12, 3, 6 and 9 first…then fill in the other numbers.  If the children are doing the numbers themselves, this will help them leave enough space for the rest of the numbers.

3.      Glue the circle onto the center of the larger piece of construction paper.

4.      Poke through the center hole and also the two “hands” and attach the hands with the metal paper fastener.  The hands should be able to turn.

This post is part of a series for parents and teachers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays hosted by Susannah Leonard Hill.  Click on her link and find lots of other picture book suggestions with summaries and activities.

Project 365 Challenge: Day 18…Where Does Time Go?


This is a picture of my three-year old grandson, getting a haircut.  He’s so grown-up…but the memory of walking up and down the hospital corridor with my daughter on the day he was born is as fresh in my mind as if it had happened yesterday.

Time passes so quickly.  Please don’t waste it regretting the past or pinning your hopes on the future. 

Today is here.  Use it to the best of your ability.  Do something you’ve been meaning to do for yourself.  Reach out and help someone else.  Pass along a smile.  And, if you can, read to a child.