Wednesday, November 27, 2013


What book should you read to commemorate a convergence of two holidays that won't happen again for another 77,798 years?  Molly's Pilgrim, by Barbara Cohen, reminds us that it takes all kinds of pilgrims to have a Thanksgiving.  The short film adaptation of the book even won an Academy Award.

Happy reading and Happy Thanksgiving,

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Writing for Boys

If you read the blog often, you know that I try to share book  titles that appeal to boys who are reluctant readers.  While I focus on books that boys may like, I don't often focus on writing specifically for boys.  Well, here's an opportunity for all the aspiring authors out there to hone their craft and capitalize on the need for exciting books that grab boys' attention.  The Highlights Foundation is offering this workshop on writing for boys.  Check it out.  Who knows?  You may be the next Jeff Kinney!

Happy reading and writing,

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Second Sight Saturday: Thanksgiving

I originally posted this last year:

November 21, 2012
This year many of us have so much to be thankful for in the wake of Sandy.  Here are some quotes on gratitude to help us keep our focus:
"Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude."   -   A.A. Milne
"We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.”    -  John F. Kennedy
“Some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am grateful that thorns have roses.”  -  Alphonse Karr
"Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”  -  Epicurus
"As you walk through life, make it your goal to see the doughnut and not the hole."  - Bob Merrill
“The Pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts. No Americans have been more impoverished than these who, nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving.”   - H.U. Westermayer
Happy Thanksgiving,

Friday, November 22, 2013

11/22/63 - What if?

What if Kennedy wasn't assassinated?  Would the U.S. have entered Vietnam when we did?  Would the  Civil Rights Act have been passed when it was?  These are questions posed by Stephen King's 11/22/63.  For time travel, historical fiction, rhetorical questions, suspense and even a romance, read Stephen King's 864-page book, 11/22/63.

Happy reading,

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Books Build Memories

When my children and I started reading When Did You See Her Last? my son commented on how long it takes authors to release new books.  I told him I didn't remember how long ago Lemony Snicket's last book came out.  He said, "Sure you do.  Don't you remember we read it in the dark, in the den during Hurricane Sandy?"
And suddenly it all came flooding back to me.  Not just the memory of reading that book, but the memories of reading significant books in my life.  Speechless and staring at my son, I vividly felt like I was twelve years old at Christmas and getting Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret.  Once again, I could hear my cousin, who is ten years my senior, telling me what a great book it was. (Of course, she was right.)
I realized, this is my son's story.  For the rest of his life, when he thinks of the book, Who Could That Be At This Hour?  he will think of Hurricane Sandy.
So my question is, what's your story?  What visceral memories are evoked in you when you think of particular books?

Happy reading and remembering,

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Gettysburg Address - 150 Years Later

Thanks to my dad for reminding me that this was the 150th anniversary of The Gettysburg Address.  Here is a video of famous Americans recounting those immortal words:

Happy reading,

Monday, November 18, 2013

President Obama on American Education Week

According to the DOD website, this is President Obama's proclamation for National Education Week:

“Education is both a pillar of democracy and a cornerstone of American opportunity. In an increasingly competitive world, it gives our children the tools to thrive and our Nation the talent to lead. During American Education Week, we reaffirm our commitment to the next generation, and we celebrate everyone who is striving to help America’s young people realize their full potential. “Every day throughout America, our children mark the many milestones of learning — from scribbling their first attempts at the alphabet to conducting their first science experiment to crossing the stage at commencement. The educators who guide them deserve our highest admiration, respect, and support for investing in young people’s futures. We all have a stake in public education, and we all have a role to play — from parents and mentors to community leaders and business owners. Through programs focused on tutoring, sports, the arts, and vocational training, we can inspire children to learn both inside and outside the classroom. “A great education is a ticket into the middle class, and it should be available to everyone willing to work for it. My Administration is committed to reining in college costs and reducing the burden student loans place on young people. We are also moving forward on a plan to connect 99 percent of America’s students to high-speed internet within 5 years; pushing to make high-quality early education accessible to every child in America; and working to strengthen programs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Because none of these plans will succeed without outstanding teachers, we must support these professionals as they perform their vital work. “As we move toward Thanksgiving, American Education Week offers a chance to express our gratitude to educators across our Nation. Let us do so with a renewed commitment to giving every young American the opportunities a world-class education affords. “NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim November 17 to November 23, 2013, as American Education Week. I call upon all Americans to observe this week by supporting their local schools through appropriate activities, events, and programs designed to help create opportunities for every school and student in America. “IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this fifteenth day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.” BARACK OBAMA

Happy reading,

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck

This weekend, my children and I finished reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck.  Filled with middle school humor and Greg Heffley's continued antics, this book is just as perfect for reluctant readers as is the rest of the series.  Read it with a boy who thinks he hates reading and you'll both be clutching your bellies from laughing so hard.  For my other book picks for reluctant boy readers, click here.

Happy reading,

Friday, November 15, 2013

Thursday, November 14, 2013

An Ethical Question

Being happy in my classroom, it has been years since I have had to search for a job and go through the whole interview process.  Thinking back on it though, my stomach does a little flip as I remember cover letters, resumes, gathering my college and grad school transcripts, teaching certificates, building a portfolio, interviews, second interviews, writing samples and sample lessons. 
A friend of mine recently went through this whole process as she went on her first job interview after being home with her children for the past twelve years.   Most of the process was exactly the same.  The administrators interviewing her were very gracious, and after her second interview, they escorted her to another part of the building to work on her writing sample.  And that is where she observed a big difference. 
The young, recent-college grad who was there also working on a writing sample, took out her smartphone and was scrolling, then writing, scrolling then writing.  My friend was shocked.  My question is, was this other girl cheating, or was she just using the technology that we teachers have been training our students to use?

Happy reading,

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Cricket in Times Square

Here in New York we had our first snow of the season today.  It wasn't a good, sticking kind of snow.  It was more of a wet, messy kind of snow; the kind that makes you want to curl up with hot cocoa and a good book or movie.  When I saw the snow today, I was sorry that I had just finished The Cricket in Times Square, because it is exactly the kind of cozy book that today's weather called for.  The classic story of friendship, is not only a great way to think about what it really means to care about someone, it is also a celebration of all things New York; Times Square, Grand Central, Chinatown, the subway, Broadway, Coney Island, and Central Park. 

Happy reading,

Monday, November 11, 2013

Veterans Day

My favorite book to read on Veterans Day is a book that several years ago, I sent to my father-in-law, a veteran.  The Wall, by Eve Bunting is a picture book with the simply beautiful message that although it is an honor for a child to see their grandparent's name on a memorial, it is better to have the grandparent here, telling you to button-up your jacket.  Read it with your students, or read it with a veteran that you love.

Happy reading,

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Second Sight Saturday: NaNoWriMo

November is National Novel Writing Month - thirty days where you write every day and try to bang out a completed first draft of a novel.  The pace is grueling and the results probably won't even be publishable, but at least you will have a completed draft to revise at your leisure.
Last year I posted this from NaNoWriMo veteran Mimi Cross:

November 20, 2012
Mimi Cross is a multi-talented singer, song-writer, and now, novelist, that I met at a writer's workshop. We immediately hit it off and formed a small writing group with another woman we met at the workshop. Below is a guest post in which she shares her writing tips for a successful NaNoWriMo. Enjoy!
Hi, Christine, thanks for having me as a guest on your blog J
My first NaNoWriMo experience was in 2009. I loved it so much, I’ve participated every year since. This year I’m taking a break, but only because I’m working on editing and revising one of my NaNo manuscripts.
For all those folks who are participating this year, here are some tips to try. They worked for me, so they can work for you. Good luck, Wrimos!
Take Five for NaNoWriMo
Write 50,000 words in 30 days? How? This puzzle has five easy pieces.
1. A Carrot. Set up your reward, NOW.
The SCBWI conference in NYC was the reward I chose for my first NaNo. The conference is in February this year, and registration is open. If you are writing for children and you aren’t a member of SCBWI, I strongly suggest you join—even if you don’t use the winter conference for your reward. This community of writers and editors and agents is your tribe.
Other possible rewards: Chocolate—actually no, you ought to stock up on that for your writing. How about a nice dinner out? Or you could get some new clothes, or a puppy, a new car, a trip around the world . . . Seriously? Make sure your can actually pay for your reward! Like I said, plan it now.
2.A Website.
I told myself I didn’t need to spend time I didn’t have on the NaNoWriMo site, as refreshingly irreverent and hilarious as it is. Then, I saw the template for my own personal page. I’m an artist—give me any parameter, please! The template is an opportunity to organize.
After a few days of writing I uploaded my title and text and got a word count. I was right on! I uploaded my excerpt that any NaNoWriMo participant would be able to read. Wait!Are you kidding? I’m not telling ANYONE about this! Hmm.
3. A Secret. Enter my pseudonym. The name my son gave me. He was three at the time of my first NaNo. (I didn’t ask for a new name, guess he just figured I needed one. Psychic.) Having a name that felt lucky for me was freeing and—anonymous.
After two weeks, when I realized I’d succeed, (there’s not enough space here to chronicle my doubts, I’ll simply say the NaNo community is awesome! See my blog for advice I gave a blocked writer who supported me in my darkest hour. Wacky, but it works!) I uploaded my picture and confessed my true identity. I added my website link.
My page read, “Mimi Cross The author of I Woke Up One Morning in November and I Realized I Love You the story of two young musicians who become confused during their creative journey, mistaking the highs and lows of their musical efforts for the ups and downs of life itself.” Proof—I was writing a novel.
4. A Circle. At some point I told several accomplished writers what I was doing. Why? I’d be embarrassed if I didn’t complete my goal. Wisely, I chose creative, generous people. All month long, behind the music of Philip Glass, Phish and Böjrk, (the artists my characters listened to at high volumes) I could hear the voices of my mentors cheering.
5. A Rockstar. Don’t Look Back. That’s right, D.A. Pennebaker’s documentary film covering Bob Dylan’s 1965 tour of the UK. If you’re weak like Orpheus, if you turn back and read what you have written, your novel may vanish forever like Eurydice. Write like a runner. Sprint. Outrun your inner critic. Fly. Flow. Let go. Remember Franny and Zooey. A writer writes. NaNoWriMo is about writing. Save the reading—and editing—for later.
Magically enough—and there were many magical moments during my NaNo adventure, I’m convinced there are unseen universal energies at work when it comes to writing—my story developed a beginning, middle and end. One day it will be ready to share.
Here’s the kicker:
As of today, 10/30/2012, I Woke Up One Morning in November and I Realized I Love You still isn’t edited, but that’s okay, because what my first NaNo experience did was clear the pipes.
That's right—3 days before I finished my first NaNo, a blazing new idea lit up my brain. As of today, that manuscript is in the hands of agents—yes, I mean today, right now. So keep your fingers crossed for me, because it’s the first book of a trilogy that’s nearly complete.
Who knew noveling was so addicting?
Remember writers; you can do this. You really can. Let go and allow National Novel Writing Month to have its way with you. It just might change your life.
Wow!  Great guest post!  Thank you, Mimi.
Happy reading and writing,

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Picture Book Month

November is Picture Book Month.  Click on the link to find tips for celebrating this beloved medium.
Picture books are the most expensive books to produce, and consequently the most difficult to get published.  Due to the short, concise nature of the text, the picture book author must be fastidious with his or her words, and merciless with his or her revisions and edits, making well-written picture books models of exemplary writing.  Kudos to all who have successfully published in this medium.  Keep at it for all  those still plugging away. 

Happy reading and writing,

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Election Day

Happy Election Day!  It was on this day in 1872, that suffragist Susan B. Anthony broke the law and tried to vote for president.  Hopefully you have honored the sacrifices of all those who came before us and voted already, today.  If not, please get out and vote. 
When you get home, why not read, Duck for President  with your own kids?

Happy reading,

Monday, November 4, 2013

Looking for Lefties - Research

5 of the last 7 presidents were lefties, as were Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci.  Although a small percentage of the population, lefties are over-represented among architects, musicians, and art/music students.  There is increased left-handedness among children with IQ scores above 132.  Why?
I have been assigned to research an article on left-handedness and learning.  If you are a lefty, or a parent of a lefty, I'd love to pick your brain.  I'm also looking for input from coaches on challenges that left-handed athletes may face.  If you would like to be quoted in a national magazine, please leave a comment here, or email bookgirlblogger(at)gmail(dot)com.
Happy reading,

Friday, November 1, 2013

Big Kid Bedtime Stories

I hope everyone had a great Halloween. 
Now that it is November, you can read my article, "Bedtime Stories for Big Kids" in the current issue of Scholastic Parent & Child.  There you will find tips on keeping the bedtime ritual alive with 'tweens, as well as evidence of the importance of reading aloud with older children.  Experts like Michelle Anthony, Ph.D., Krista Granieri, Adjunct Literacy Professor, and parent, Linda Doherty weigh in with their opinions.  You'll also find book recommendations perfect for 'tweens.

Happy reading together,