Sunday Post: Landscapes and a February Poetry Contest

Jake at Time after Time has a Sunday Post Challenge and every week he provides a theme…this week’s theme is LANDSCAPES. 

In addition, Marylin Warner over at Things I Want to Tell My Mother is having a February Poetry Contest 

The Rules:

“Be a rebel with a writing cause; break away from the expected February verses and write a poem about a date or an activity or adventure that WASN’T what you (or your mother) wanted to do…and how it ended.

You choose: rhymed, free verse, a sonnet or a series of Haikus or even non-bawdy limericks, etc.   Just keep your poem to a maximum of 50 words (not counting the words of the title–and please have a title).  JOIN THE FUN!”

I began to wonder how I could combine these two seemingly unrelated ideas into one post.

And then I had an idea!

According to the dictionary, a landscape is a picture representing a view or expanse of scenery that can be seen in a single view.

My poem, Fears of the Inner Child, is really a landscape of my life.  I hope you enjoy reading it.


Childhood often invades adult life.

Fears laid down early create later strife.

Afraid of adventure and trying new things,

Mom constantly cautioned: Be careful! Life stings!

To conquer that panic is my fervent wish.

I’ve parasailed, skydived and swum with the fish.


If you have the time and want to see the sky-dive I did with my son in the summer of 2010, you can go here.

It was an amazing adventure…and a wonderful bonding experience to have with an adult son.   With my book, Show Me How! and my school programs and workshops, I encourage parents to spend time with their young children…reading, crafting and cooking or doing anything positive.   “Raising the Next Steve Jobs”, the cover story in the February issue of Parenting Magazine, offered parents some simple advice: read with your children, talk with your children, participate with your children.  I was quoted in that article…and my book was mentioned.   You know that if want to be in your children’s memories tomorrow, you need to be in their lives today.  The fantastic skydive I did with my son only strengthened the connection we forged over thirty years ago when he was a little boy…believe me, those early years are so very important!

If you’d like more information about Jake’s Sunday Post: 

And here are a few of the posts from other participants in Jake’s Sunday Post:


PPBF: Crow Boy and World Read Aloud Day

Today is Perfect Picture Book Friday where I link up with Susannah Leonard Hill’s fantastic group of writers who contribute a picture book review and related resources.  Parents and teachers can find the best of the best in picture books…a little synopsis, a thoughtful review, and an activity and/or resources to extend the learning experience.  This is a great way for parents and teachers to preview a book before they take it out of the library or spend money buying it.

My selection today is another classic picture book recommended in Show Me How!…this one from 1955…the author/illustrator, Taro Yashima, won the Caldecott Honor Book Award.  

World Read Aloud Day is coming up on March 7th and I thought that Crow Boy would be a perfect choice to get us all in a global awareness mood.



Crow Boy

Written and illustrated by Taro Yashima

Publishers: Viking Juvenile (original edition 1955), Picture Puffins (1976)

Ages: 4 – 8

Themes: Celebrating the uniqueness of each individual, bullying/teasing, mastering tasks and skills, positive attitude, goal-setting, fitting in.

Opening: “On the first day of our village school in Japan, there was a boy missing.  He was found hidden away in the dark space underneath the schoolhouse.”

Synopsis:  Many years ago, in a small village school in the countryside of Japan, a young boy attends school.  Chibi is always perceived as stupid and is treated as an outcast by the other students.  When Mr. Isobe, the new teacher, observes Chibi’s strengths and talents (the boy is a wonderful artist and is also the only person with perfect school attendance even though he has to walk seven miles to school each day), he encourages the boy to participate in the school pageant with an imitation of the voices of crows.  Does Chibi’s performance have any effect on how the children perceive him?  Remember the talent show in Oliver Button is a Sissy.

Why do I like this book

Wonderful illustrations give the reader the sense of the small rural area in Japan…I love books that give young children a window on the world.  The story addresses many important issues as well…bullying/teasing, teacher recognition and encouragement of a student’s gifts and talents, overcoming obstacles in order to achieve one’s goals…as relevant today as it was almost sixty years ago when it was first published.

Related Activities:


Black and White Painting

Although Crow Boy had a difficult time expressing himself verbally, he was able to do so more easily with his artwork.  Painting is a wonderful way to allow a young child to express his feelings and to encourage his creativity.

You will need: Paper (construction paper or grocery bag cut open), black and white non-toxic tempera paint, brushes (or Q-tips) and coverups to protect work surfaces and clothing.

1.      Cover the work surface and your clothing to protect from splatters.

2.      Pour a small amount of black and white paint into two separate containers.

3.      Let your child paint several pictures using different size brushes and/or Q-tips.

4.      When dry, hang up this amazing art. 

5.      Tip to parents and teachers: Art is one thing…crafting is another.  Art is pure expression.  Crafting is following certain rules or steps to produce a particular product.  This activity is art…the child is creating whatever he or she desires…if you ask, “What is this?” or you inquire, “Didn’t you forget the dog’s tail?”…you are passing judgement on your child’s creative voice…I beg you, please don’t!  You can engage with your child by asking, “Please tell me about your art.”  In praising, it is more empowering to say, “I’m so proud of how hard you worked making thick strokes and thin strokes.  Was it difficult?” instead of just saying, “That’s nice!”


Crayola official website with lots of arts and crafts activities and print-outs for kids.

Website for the Japanese American National Museum where you can purchase the documentary narrated by Mr. Yashimo, Golden Village.

Taro Yashimo papers in the de Grummond Collection

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.



Do you have anything special planned?

You can go to LitWorld’s website to get more information and/or register…there will be events online and in different locales around the world.

They are a global literacy organization that aims to help entire communities through books.  We all that that, I know!  According to their website: 

“LitWorld’s mission is to use the power of story to cultivate literacy skills in the world’s most vulnerable children through Education, Advocacy and Innovation. Lit World creates resilience building reading and writing experiences which connect and fortify communities.”

Sunday Post: Colorful

“I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way…things I had no words for.” – Georgia O’Keeffe


Why am I so passionate about encouraging parents and teachers to provide young children with arts and crafts activities?

Even Georgia O’Keeffe stated that colors and shapes enabled her to express what she couldn’t express in words.  Art activities and art education are crucial for kids…and unfortunately, those are the first subjects to be eliminated when school budgets are cut.  Working in different mediums such as paint, clay, crayons and colored pencils allows young children to express their feelings and their thoughts in ways they may not be able to verbally.   Give a child a box of crayons or a palette of watercolor paints and a pad of paper and watch the magic happen!  Participate with that child and draw a picture alongside him and open the door to a wonderful opportunity for a discussion about…anything and everything!

Connections are formed in so many ways and I’ve made two wonderful new connections in the last week.

The first connection is with another Word Press blogger.  Whenever I receive a comment on one of my posts from someone new, I always go to their blog to find out who they are and what they are all about.

That’s how I met Jake from Time after Time.

I was enthralled by the dragon button graphic!

And I promised that I would try to link up with his Sunday posts.  This week the theme is Colorful!

Here’s how the weekly photo Competition works:

1. Each week, Jake provides a theme for creative inspiration.  Show the world…based on your interpretation…what you have in mind for the theme, and post them on your blog anytime before the following Sunday when the next photo theme will be announced.

2. Subscribe to jakesprinter so that you don’t miss out on weekly challenge announcements. Sign up via the email subscription link in the sidebar or RSS.


Make sure to have the image link to so that others can learn about the challenge, too.


The second connection I made was with Jim from  This website offers art instruction videos for all age levels.  They even have special art instruction videos for children…what a wonderful tool for schools, homeschooling families or even individual parents.  I’m really excited about this and I’ve been asked to contribute to their newsletter with a “Kids and Art” column!  I’ll share more about this “art connection” in future posts.  If you are interested in checking out the fantastic selection of art instruction videos they have, you can click on the link above or on the button on my sidebar.

PPBF: Millions of Cats and some awards


English: Wanda Gág (1893-1946), American autho...

Image via Wikipedia

Today is Perfect Picture Book Friday where I link up with Susannah Leonard Hill’s fantastic group of writers who contribute a picture book review and related resources. 

My selection today is another classic picture book…this one from 1928…the author/illustrator, Wanda Gag, won the 1929 Newbery Honor Book Award.  According to Wikipedia, Ms. Gag pioneered the double page spread in this book.  “She used both pages to move the story forward, putting them together with art that sweeps across the entire page spread.”

Millions of Cats is the oldest American picture book still in print!


 Millions of Cats

Written and illustrated by Wanda Gag

Publishers: Coward McCann (1928 original edition), Penguin (more recent editions)

Ages: 2 – 8

Themes: Celebrating the uniqueness of each individual, caring for pets, companionship

Opening: “Once upon a time there was a very old man and a very old woman.  They lived in a nice clean house which had flowers all around it, except where the door was.  But they couldn’t be happy because they were so very lonely.”

Synopsis:  A lonely old couple want a pretty little cat to keep them company.  When the husband finds a hillside FILLED with cats, he has trouble picking the prettiest…and all of the cats follow him home.  “Cats here, cats there, cats and kittens everywhere.  Hundreds of cats, thousands of cats, millions and billions and trillions of cats.”

When the man and his wife leave it up to the cats to determine who is the prettiest, mayhem breaks out and the couple run into their house!  Will the cats be able to choose who is the prettiest?  Will the old couple get the cat that they want?

Why do I like this book

The Rhyme!

The Rhythm!

The Illustrations!

The fact that this book is over EIGHTY years old and adults and children still love it and it is still in print!  Kudos to Ms. Gag!

The Story!  The results of the catfight are somewhat grisly…but the underdog (or should I say, undercat) wins out…through modesty and non-violence…definitely an important message for today’s world!


Related Activities:

New Hampshire Public TV has a kid-lit site where Caldecott Award winning books are read.  You can hear Millions of Cats here:

Anita Silvey’s Children’s Book-of-Days Almanac has a wonderful review of the book and additional information about Wanda Gag and her groundbreaking picture book work here:

Scholastic has a page that provides some guidance for parents and teachers on how to use the book to encourage discussions about caring for others here:

Last week I shared the Valentine Boat made from a shoebox.   Plain brown paper bags also make very versatile (and inexpensive) craft projects for kids.  I found this awesome cat made from a paper bag here: a wonderful resource for craft ideas.


You will need: Plain brown (or white) paper lunch-size bag, 2 pieces of construction paper (one should probably be black for the eyes and whiskers and the other can be pink…or any other color your child would prefer), glue, scissors, crayons or markers.

1.      Cut from the black paper: 2 pupils for the eyes and 6 whiskers.

2.      Cut from the other color paper: 2 eyes, oval stomach, nose, 2 triangles for ears, several small circles for the paws and a small triangle for the mouth.

3.      Place the closed bag with the open end down and attach the eyes, nose, ears, mouth, paw pads and whiskers with glue.

4.      Use marker or crayons to draw the line from the nose to the mouth and add other lines to make the bag more cat-like.

When dry, this cat-bag can be used as a puppet for role-playing or as a snack bag for a special book-reading picnic where Millions of Cats is read aloud!

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.

I also wanted to thank Catherine Johnson, one of my new kid-lit picture book writing blogging friends for giving me the Liebster Blog Award and the Kreativ Blogger Award…you can see what she’s up to at:



This award comes with instructions to pass it along to others:

Bern at Momto2Postlildivas: for her Sunday Showcase link-up that provides parents and teachers with an unbelievable array of crafts for kids.

Barbara at Spanish for Kiddos:

D at Spanish Pinay:

Danae Farias at Believing Unbeliever:

Heather at Saved by Love:

PiP at Piglet in Portugal:

I hope you will take a few minutes and visit these great bloggers…they all have important things to say…and they say them very well!

Love Makes the World Go Round

They say that love makes the world go round.

It definitely makes going round the world more pleasant!

Love is an essential element in our lives.  We can share our feelings with those we love on Valentine’s Day, of course.  But we can and should also find ways to say “I love you” to parents, children, significant others, friends, family members, pets…on a daily basis.

One way to say I love you to your children is to share past experiences with them.  Earlier this week, I did a guest post on Bob Brody’s Letters to My Kids blog, sharing with my children how I met their dad. 

Dear Jason, Peter and Caroline,

 Your future dad and I met as freshmen in college. I sat in front of him in English 1.1 and he sat in front of me in Social Science. Both of us were dating other people pretty seriously. And so for the first two months of the Fall semester, we were just classmates who spoke with each other as we walked into or out of the room.

Then came November 22, 1963. The intercom crackled. “The President is dead!” a voice declared.

For several moments no one reacted. And then everyone did. Screaming. Crying. Young men pounding their fists on their desks.

As we all exited the classroom, your future dad was right behind me.

“I’m going to walk home!” I exclaimed to no one in particular. “I can’t face sitting on the bus squashed between hordes of people!”

“I’ll walk with you,” the voice behind me said. “Where do you live?”

As it happened, we lived only four streets away from each other.

By the way, there are some girls who look fantastic even when they cry. If only I were one of those. Whatever eye makeup I was wearing was smudged and probably dripping onto my cheeks and chin. Plus, my nose was red and my skin blotchy. Hardly attractive!

No matter. Your future dad and I walked and talked for over an hour till we reached my house. And when we looked at each other, I know we saw into each other’s souls and we wanted to walk and talk together forever.

Our relationship grew stronger and closer during that next semester. By the summer, we were dating each other exclusively. We got married as soon as we graduated from college. And our relationship has flourished ever since. To this day, we remain the most loyal of soul-mates.

Out of tragedy, then, came an unexpected opportunity for love. In a sense, sad to say, it took a death to bring you all to life. We’ve never forgotten that, and we never will. And neither should any of you.



Children love to hear about how their parents met.  They want to know about their parents’ childhoods…did dad get into trouble for misbehaving in school…did mom play with dolls or tag after an older brother.   Kids enjoy hearing about when they were babies.  Writing letters to your children helps give them the knowledge of experiences and strengthena their feeling of belonging…a very important component of self-esteem!

What kind of letters will you write to your children or other loved ones?

Please come by tomorrow for Perfect Picture Book Friday!

VOTING DEADLINE: If you have the time, please visit Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog where you can VOTE for one of the six finalists in the Unlikely Valentine Contest…I’m honored to be among those six…but I can honestly say that there were dozens of awesome stories and poems entered…what a talented community of writers!  The poll closes Thursday, February 16 at noon…so hurry over, read the six Unlikely Valentine stories and VOTE!

Valentine’s Day Contest


Children's Valentine, 1940–1950

Image via Wikipedia



Several weeks ago, children’s author, Susannah Leonard Hill, announced a contest: write a children’s story, in poetry or prose, about unlikely Valentines.

To tell you the truth, ever since the second week in January when I decided to participate in Julie Hedlund’s 12 x 12 Picture Book Writing Challenge, I am never without a piece of paper and a pen because I never know when a picture book idea will suddenly descend upon me.  Often, in the wee hours of the morning, a picturesque phrase pops into my head…and if I don’t write it down immediately, it disappears.  Of course, reading what is on the paper in the light of the morning is sometimes impossible…my handwriting is not the best and writing in the dark definitely does not improve it.

So here is my entry into Susannah’s Valentine’s Day Contest…as I read each verse, I can visualize the illustrations that might accompany this story.  I hope you all enjoy it and I welcome your feedback and constructive criticism…but please, be gentle…today is my birthday!


A Story of Unlikely Valentines


Whom Do I Love?  by Vivian Kirkfield


Whom do I love?

Quizzed the cloud-covered moon.

I love the dish that ran off with the spoon.


Whom do I love?

Posed the run-away dish.

I love the silvery stream-swimming fish.


Whom do I love?

Slurped the shimmering trout.

I love the rock-hopping toad that jumped out.


Whom do I love?

Croaked the hip-hopping toad.

I love the waddling duck on the road.


Whom do I love?

Quacked the web-footed duck.

I love the pig on the rusty farm truck.


Whom do I love?

Oinked the curly-tailed pig.

I love the floppy-eared dog that can dig.


Whom do I love?

Barked the diggity-dog.

I love the bee in the hollowed-out log.


Whom do I love?

Buzzed the bumblely-bee.

I love the mouse that lives under the tree.


Whom do I love?

Squeaked the scurrying mouse.

I love the curly-haired boy in that house.


Whom do I love?

Asked the sweet little lad.

I love my momma and I love my dad.


I’m excited to read the other entries that link up to Susannah’s Valentine’s Day Contest…we learn so much when we share our thoughts and encourage and support one another.