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Monday, November 27, 2017

Mentor Text for Rhyme--MAMA MAMA MISSES LLAMA by Anna Dewdney

Just finished reading this book.
Wow is all I can say. I am in awe.
If you want to know how to do rhyme...LOOK AT THIS MENTOR TEXT!

Three things that stood out to me

1. Perfect rhyme scheme.--No near rhymes at all.  Every line 7 syllables except for 4 lines (that were together) of 8 syllables.  Now that is magic!

2. Low word count--just under 350 words  Parents do not want long, drawn out stories, and pre-schoolers would not listen to it anyway.  (Reminding myself of this, too!)

3. She writes perfectly for the target audience.  Any pre-schooler or kindergartner will relate to EVERY PAGE of this book. She writes what they experience. Down to the last detail.

Here is a brief outline of the story arc.
1.  Waking up and going to school for the first time
2.  Getting dressed, brushing teeth, breakfast, running late
3.  Driving, meeting teacher and new faces
4.  Hanging up coat and saying goodbye
5.  Feeling shy, being asked by teacher what he wants to do
6.  Different activities at pre-school or kindergarten--blocks, train
7.  Story time
8.  Lunch time
9.  Missing mama
10.  Going outside for recess and play--tag, slide, hide and seek
11.  Drawing time
12.  Mama comes back--
13.  Showing mama the slide, saying good-bye
14.  He loves being with mom and school

So in summary, there is a reason that this book is so popular.  Nice work, Anna Dewdney!

Friday, November 24, 2017

5 Minute Friday --FAMILIAR

We love the familiar.

I’m famous for that at restaurants. 
Not really wanting to try a new restaurant.  
And even at a familiar restaurant, only ordering the same old thing instead of trying a new entrée. Why do I do that?  Two words.  It’s safe.

I only shop at one grocery store.  Why?
I know where everything is and I’m comfortable there.
It seems faster and easier than going somewhere else, even if they have the same stuff, just in a different place.

Ever been overseas and found a familiar brand or restaurant? Why is that so thrilling?
When I lived in Spain, everything I did, every place I went, everything I ate, was a cross-cultural experience.  After a while, I was starved for the familiar.  Even to the point of having my mom mail me a box of Kraft macaroni and cheese. (I am being vulnerable here because honestly Kraft mac and cheese is pretty disgusting—how could that be the thing I craved?  But it was!)  I remember when it came in the mail and the Señora fixed it for my roommate and I.  You would have thought we had died and gone to heaven.  All for that familiar cheese sauce that is really not that good.  But it was a taste of home. 

Most of us like the familiar.  
Because, let’s face it, it is “the known.”  The comfortable.  The safe. 

We have to be careful, though.  
The familiar can become an enemy of stepping out and following God’s call.  

-Think if Abraham and Sarah had never left Ur.  

-Or if David had never fought Goliath. 

-Or if the disciples had never followed Jesus.  

You can fill in pretty much any Bible character.  

They had to take a risk to receive God’s blessing and experience his adventure. 

In my experience, God does not call us to the familiar.  

Instead, he calls us out of our habits, out of our comforts, and out of our normal into the unknown. 

But that’s where he can reveal his provision, his power, and his faithfulness.

The choice is ours.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

TURKEY OF THANKS--fun idea for your family at Thanksgiving

Looking for a fun Thanksgiving tradition for your family?  


 (Baker Family Turkey of Thanks 2009) 

1. On a posterboard, piece of butcher paper, draw a body of a turkey. Add eyes, beak and gobbler. Or print off a fancy cut-out from the Internet on colorful paper.

2. From colorful construction paper, cut out multiple feathers.  I like to make 5 feathers per family member or guest on Thanksgiving Day.

3. Each family member/guest writes something that he/she is thankful for on a feather.

4. Everyone takes turns sharing what they have written on their feathers, and then they tape them to the poster.

5.  Explain that we are thankful to God for all of these wonderful things that he has blessed us with.

6. Once everyone has their feathers taped onto the poster, it creates a colorful TURKEY OF THANKS!

--Do one or two feathers per night for several nights before Thanksgiving.  Try to memorize the Scripture verse(s) together as a family.

--Look up Psalm 100 in the Bible and read it aloud together as a family.  Notice verse four. "Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name."

--Pray together as a family in short sentence prayers thanking God for the things that you wrote on the feathers.

Sample:  Lord, I thank you for our family.
               Dear Heavenly Father, I thank you for our home.
               Thank you, Jesus, for dying on the cross for our sins.
               I thank you, God, for our dog, Buddy.

My kids (Throwback from 2009)


Friday, November 17, 2017

5 Minute Friday--EXCUSE

I’m a teacher so when I hear the word excuse, I think immediately of:
    -Excuses why your homework wasn’t done.
If you don't have an excuse, there is a consequence.


            -Excused and unexcused absences
(Meaning if you have a good reason or someone like a parent to vouch for you, your absence is not counted against you.  If not, it is "unexcused," and you are penalized.)


            -Being tardy without an excuse…
If you come into my class late without an excuse, I mark you tardy.  After 3 unexcused tardies, you receive a detention from the Dean.

(Don't you miss high school and all of its rules?)

As a teacher, when someone is absent, tardy, or without his homework, I want to know “What is your excuse?”

The Bible says in Romans 1:20, "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse."

In my opinion, this means that God's Creation and his eternal and invisible qualities are enough to show all of us that he exists.  Those who choose not to believe in him are without excuse. 

So what happens if you are unexcused with God?  The Bible is clear that just like a “late” student without a pass/excuse deserves detention, "the wages of sin is death." Romans 6:23a

Thank God there is more to that verse.

"but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." Romans 6:23b

He sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the penalty for our sin.   He paid it to “excuse" or pardon our sin by having Jesus die on the cross in our place. By placing our faith in what Jesus did on the cross, we receive forgiveness (our excuse) and eternal life.

Thanks be to God! 

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Analyzing for layers--PICK A PINE TREE by Patricia Toht

Even though its the middle of November, I'm in a Christmasy mood!  So I chose a sparkly, new Christmas book fresh off of the library shelf and decided to analyze it for the layers that Julie Hedlund talked about in her FB video.

Here is a picture of the cover--isn't it cute?

Interestingly enough, this book has a unique STRUCTURE in that it is a rhyming poem about the setting up of a Christmas tree, so it does not have much on the layers of PLOT and CHARACTER, but instead it is very strong in HEART, LANGUAGE, AND PACING.

In fact, I'm pretty sure HEART is the reason I chose it!  I'm drawn to those little Hallmark-y places where you can cut down your own Christmas tree as a family, sip some cocoa or cider, and then go home and have a special family night of decorating.  I identified with the description of each step in the process, and my heart does a big "Awww, so sweet!" because of the warm feelings doing this activity evokes each year.  It is a fun, family time!

I call the layer of LANGUAGE "word choice".  Patricia Toht has this layer down pat! Even the title "Pick a Pine Tree" is poetic.  I love the phrase in the book "hang them all in little nooks" because that perfectly describes how we look for the perfect little spot to nestle in our special ornaments.
Other vivid/specific word choices that paint pictures:  
spiky needle clumps, 
snug and sturdy
bundle it upon your sled, 
piney scent, 
thirsty tree, 
bulging boxes, 
rusty tins, 
pointy tips, 
candle clips, 
lacy snowflakes, 
silver drips

She does a nice job with PACING.  There is just the right amount of text on a page.  And many times the page ends with "but wait," "next," "it's a...," Which leads you to the next page.

As I mentioned, this was a book that paints the picture of decorating the tree--not an action driven or conflict driven PLOT.

As for CHARACTER, there is one main family, but there are many other people depicted.  There is not one main character in this book.

The RULE OF THREE is in there, but more subtle.  I found these three's:

one with spiky needle clumps, scaly bark, or sappy bumps.

Lift, bundle, and bring it home

Golden star, velvet bow, angel dressed in flowing robes

I loved the details in the ILLUSTRATIONS, and I notice something new with each reading.  
For example: 
-the red thermos by the tree salesman in the chair at the tree lot,
-the texturizing of the trees,
-the netting on the tree that dad holds while mom trims the trunk,
-the white kitty hiding in the tree,
-the welcoming light from the house as they invite their friends in for a decorating day,
-(and on last page) Santa's sleigh on the roof and Santa in the living room

As you read, you can hear the VOICE in the story that builds and builds to the crescendo:
"Merry Christmas , one and all"

Finally, the THEME is not stated (of course) but I would say it is the joy that comes from family and togetherness at the holidays.

If you read this picture book, look for these layers!  I would love to hear other examples that you find! And great job Patricia Toht and her illustrator Jarvis on a beautiful Christmas book!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Interview with Jackie Yeager, middle grade debut author of SPIN THE GOLDEN LIGHTBULB

Book summary:
An eleven year old and her four teammates (The Crimson Five) discover a world full of spinning bunk beds, floating playgrounds, and an invention task more complex than anything they'd prepared for at home.  These kids are on a competitive adventure in a world of magical realism where anything is possible.

Jackie, so glad you can join me today!  I can't wait to hear your answers to my questions. 

 First off, I love the behind-the-scenes information when it comes to how authors get their inspiration.  I have read that you based SPIN THE GOLDEN LIGHT BULB off of an Odyssey of the Mind Competition in which you were involved.  I would love to know, what is the Odyssey of the Mind Competition?

Odyssey of the Mind is an international creative problem solving competition. Kids work in teams of 5-7 and are supported by one or more volunteer coaches—usually a parent. They work through the school year on a one of five long term complex problems. On competition day, the team presents their solution to a panel of judges in the form of a skit. That day, they also solve an on-the-spot type verbal, hands on, or verbal/hands on problem that they are not given until they walk into the judging room. The program helps to develop team work and creative problem solving skills and is available in many schools around the country. My kids were lucky that there was a strong Odyssey of the Mind program already in place in their school district.

So your own kids were in this competition and you were the coach?

When my daughter was in fourth grade I coached her team and continued to do so for several years after that. When my son was in fourth grade I began coaching his team as well. The kids had a lot of fun through the years and I did too. 

Sounds fun!  Can you tell us what happened with that team and how you used it as a springboard for the novel?

In 2011, the first year that my son’s team worked together, they placed first in the regional competition and earned a chance to compete at the New York state competition. It was an amazing experience and the kids were just thrilled to be competing there. In a shocking turn of events, the team placed second at the NY state competition earning them a chance to compete at the World Finals along with 850 other international teams and teams from around the US. It was an amazing experience for all of us—not just for the kids and me but for all of our families too, one I’m sure none of us will ever forget. It was like being at the Olympics of Imagination, with Opening and Closing Ceremonies, parades, and incredible performances by kids from all over the world! 

At the time, I had been querying another middle grade novel, without much luck. It was during and after our trip to the World Finals that I realized that this could be the bases for an incredible story. It took me a year after that to formulate an idea, not really an Odyssey of the Mind Story, but a story of five kids who compete in something on a larger than life scale. It eventually became the backdrop for THE CRIMSON FIVE books.   

That is fascinating.  I am also curious whether there is a scene in the novel that you are most proud of or that was most difficult to write?
There’s a heartbreaking scene between Kia Krumpet (the main character) and her Grandma Kitty that was particularly difficult to write. It’s a scene where I hope to show the moment in a child’s life when he or she realizes that a family member (like a parent or grandparent) is not perfect—that moment when that illusion is shattered. It happens to every child at some point in their life and can be a defining moment for them. 

Now you have my interest piqued!  I will enjoy reading how you handled that delicate scene.  

Is there a takeaway you hope your readers have after reading your book?

I’m all about positive thinking and dreaming big. One of my favorite quotes by Kia Krumpet is, “I know my chances stink, but somebody has to win. I pick me.” That quote is not meant to show that Kia is conceited but rather that her dreams are bigger than her present reality and she’s not afraid of them. I hope if there’s one thing my book will inspire readers to do, it’s to Dream Big!

That is beautiful!  The sky is the limit when we dream big!  Love it!  
When will SPIN THE GOLDEN LIGHT BULB be available for pre-order?

The publication date is January 9, 2018 but it’s available for pre-order now on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and also through any independent bookseller on the IndieBound website. Here are the links:

Finally, I've heard that there is a sequel!  Is that true?  If so, can you share the title of the sequel and its release date?
The sequel to Spin the Golden Light Bulb is Flip the Silver Switch and it’ll be released on July 10, 2018 almost exactly six months later.

Ooh--congrats on the sequel, as well!  2018 is going to be a special year for you.  I'm so happy for you!  Finally, I'm sure everyone is so curious to know...what happens when you spin the light bulb?

I definitely cannot give that one away. Kia and her teammates would be disqualified from the competition if I did! But…January 9th is coming fast, so at least you won’t have to wait too long to find out! 

Well, I tried :)  I can't wait to read the book and find out!     
Thanks for having me on your blog, Mindy. It was fun answering your questions!

You're welcome!  I'm hoping you'll join me again sometime soon!  I want to ask you about some writing tips...

Sure thing!

In the meantime, best wishes on this fabulous book and its sequel!

Author blog:  (Jackie has a BOOK NOOK where she recommends great middle grade fiction, and SCRIBBLE TIPS where she gives helpful writing advice, along with her fabulous blog entries)

Twitter:  @JackieYeager

What is Magical Realism? It is realistic fiction that includes an element or two that relies on the reader believing in magic or the possibility that it could happen in the future through science. Jackie's book is futuristic magical realism relying on the possibility of things being different in the future.

Also on Facebook and Pinterest

About the author: 
Jackie has a Masters degree in Education, lives in Rochester, NY with her real life prince charming and two royally amazing teenagers, and would live in a castle if she could.  When she is not living in her own fairytale world, she spends time reading, practicing yoga, and cheering for the crew at marathons, triathlons, cross country meets, track meets, and hockey and baseball games.  She does a lot of cheering!  She is also a former coach of a middle school Odyssey of the Mind team who once upon a time competed at the World Finals.  They may or may not have been the inspiration behind the book, and even its sequel.