Gratitude

November is a month to think about gratitude. One definition of gratitude that I like is: the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.  I like thinking of gratitude as a quality; something we might have in us all the time, not just when a moment calls for it. And I like the idea of returning kindness. When we receive a kindness, we might not be able to “return” it to the person who bestowed kindness on us, but we can return it to the world by being kind to someone.

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Next week we will travel to our daughter’s home in Kansas and share Thanksgiving with her, her husband, our son and his family. I am thankful we are able to have this time together, that we can afford to travel and that food will be plentiful, that their house will be warm, and there will be clean running water. I look forward to the conversations and laughter that will be shared and to the wonder that will come in seeing our grandchildren, observing their minds growing right before us.

For many this holiday will not hold joy and warm feelings. Many do not have the basic needs of life, others face a holiday without loved ones. May those of us who can, return some kindness into the world this week. Maybe it will find someone in need.

Peppermint Chiffon Pie is often served on Thanksgiving (along with Pumpkin Chiffon). Both pies are family recipes and made often as you can see by my well loved recipe card! This pie and yummy and pretty!peppermint chiffon

Hint: Nabisco Chocolate Wafers are usually found by the topping for ice cream sundaes

Let’s make EVERY child a reader

One week in the Spring and Fall Every Child A Reader celebrates Children’s Book Week. It’s an opportunity to remind people how important reading is, not just for children but for all. Being a proficient reader is important to succeed in life.

In my role as a speech therapist I work with adults who are having cognitive or language issues. A task we might do is make a list of items, say fruits, vegetables etc. To make that task more difficult I might ask, tell me all the things we can read. What came to your mind? Books, magazines, newspaper were probably first. Did you think about bills, road signs, recipes, food labels, medicine labels, directions, instructions, forms, information signage in stores, in hospitals, car dashboards, and more.

Reading is the key that unlocks the door into every child’s future. Let’s make every week Children’s Book Week, so that the future is bright, not just for the children but  also for the rest of us because the children are our future.

The family that reads together…

We know children learn by watching the adults in their lives. When they are small they mimic our behavior, good and bad. When they are older they may try to reject the behavior we model but that can prove difficult to do! Have you ever said or done something, good or bad, and thought I sound just like my mother or father.

So as National Family Literacy Month begins it we should consider how important it is to model reading for our children. I grew up in a house where reading was valued. Books were given as gifts, trips to the library were frequent, and those who could, read to those who were too young. My mother read fiction. I can still see her crying one evening as she read. And I still remember the book, Five Smooth Stones by Ann Fairbairn.  She showed me that it’s ok to get lost in a book, to respond viscerally to words, and to learn from them. My father was more a nonfiction guy. He read the paper and magazines. I still recall the stacks of National Geographics that he poured over and used to show us the world was a much bigger place than we could imagine.

This love of reading continued in the home I shared with my husband and our two children. Books were everywhere in our house, even in the bathroom. The Reader’s Digest Magazine lived in the bathroom too and was a source of jokes and information for all! We read together as a family at home, in the car, on vacation. Books were given and shared.

We still give books (all those gifts under the tree are books!) and talk about books even though we are all adults. And from Great Gramma (my mom) on down, we are sharing this love of books, modeling it for the next generations. May your family be so lucky as to pass a love of reading from generation to generation. The wealth of that inheritance is beyond measure.

Find additional resources for National Family Literacy month here.

Run away home?

Have you ever wanted to run away? Maybe you are thinking, YES, just yesterday when the work was crazy, the car needed an oil change and the refrigerator had somehow eaten all the food and was wanting to be filled AGAIN. 

Now you do remember wanting to run away when you were a child? I think most children do at some point.  The injustices of childhood loom large.  Everything happens above you. Decisions big (we’re having another baby) and small (blueberry yogurt instead of cherry) are made without you.  Just when you are in the middle of something important (the biggest block tower ever) it’s bedtime, and it seems the rules are constantly changing (don’t lie, unless the neighbor got an ugly haircut).

In Noisy Nora, by Rosemary Wells and A Baby Sister for Frances, by Russell Hoban the main character feels ignored and replaced because a new sibling has arrived.  And Max in Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak has suffered the injustice of being sent to bed without any supper.  And so, they run away to escape. In my book, The Day I Ran Away, Grace feels she’s been wrongly banished to her room and packs up to run away only to be thwarted by the fact that she’s not allowed to cross the street. 

As a child I remember one time packing my little suitcase and heading down the road (I actually just went next door), but mostly when I needed to “escape” I picked up a book.  When the weather allowed, I took my book to swing under a willow tree.  Books allowed me to forget my problems big and small and they gave me examples of how others solve their problems.

Being a child or a grown up can be difficult.  Wanting to run away may just mean we need to escape for a bit so we can face our problem with fresh eyes. And when we return we might hope a good dinner is on the table!

Grace comes home for Spaghetti and Meatballs, her favorite! I’ll let you in on a little secret. It’s her favorite because it’s a family favorite often requested when my kids are returning home.

In honor of Pasta Day (yesterday) this month’s recipe is early!

The Niner meatballs and sauce recipes. Be sure to use the slider to see both!

Word Clouds & Mental Health

Yesterday was World Mental Health Day. Whether or not you or a loved one struggles with a mental health problem it is important to understand them. To understand their impact on individuals, families and communities.

Because my son has OCD I had first hand knowledge about OCD and it’s impact on him and our family. That is what lead me to write Mr. Worry: A story about OCD. And that lead to I Can’t Stop: A story about Tourette syndrome.  Through my books I’ve been able to interact with individuals and families with these disorders.

This summer I was honored to be asked to participate in the International OCD Foundation’s virtual summer camp for kids. I was amazed! They create a wonderful virtual camp for kids from all over the world. They were able to listen to speakers and interact with each other and amazing volunteers.

My part was small. I read Mr. Worry and then took questions. I was awed by the questions and insight these elementary age kids had about themselves and OCD. While I didn’t get to see any, my activity was for them to make word clouds about themselves because it is important to realize that you are more than your disorder.

Try making a word cloud. Think about words that tell about you. Or make one about feelings you have, people in your life, things you’d like to do.

Labor Day Memories

It’s Labor Day! I hope you are relaxing from your labors. Growing up a LONG time ago and on the East Coast school began the day after Labor Day. While all the schools where I live now have already put in many days of school I still think of Labor Day as the official start. In my youth Labor Day would find us watching the Jerry Lewis telethon as we frantically finished sewing clothes for school. While my forays into sewing are few and far between these days I still get the itch to sew this time of year.

Screenshot 2021-08-16 103634I also get the itch to read new things, learn new things and cover some books with brown grocery bags🙂! I’ve never been a crossword puzzle person, but I recently tried the Washington Post’s Daily Mini (+weekly Meta) and I’m hooked. They are small and you can check each word as you do it. I know crossword fanatics would never do that, but that little bit of help has kept me playing and I find I am solving them more quickly. I’m also learning how crossword puzzle makers think!

I was thinking how picture books, while glorious in their own right, are also a mini step for readers into the world of reading and how story works; for that matter how life works. The pictures give clues to help with the words. The new reader builds confidence as they read book after book. Eventually the reader moves on to bigger things, hopefully returning on occasion to the rich worlds offered by picture books. I don’t know if I’ll ever “move on” to bigger crossword puzzles, but my daily mini is perking my interest and giving me confidence.

Now for some book reviews

If Kids Ran the World, Leo and Diane Dillon,  The Blue Sky Press 2014

Inviting, bright illustrations show the world as it should be where kindness reigns and food, shelter, medicine, education and love are there for everyone. This world exists if Kids ruled the world. Until the world shows them otherwise kids assume all things are possible. May this book inspire us to find the child inside, see the world as it should be and strive to improve it each in our own way. An afterward suggest ways to make the world a better place.

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And kids now that the most important thing in the world isn’t money, or being king or queen, or pushing other people around. It’s love: giving it, sharing it, showing it.”

A Perfectly Messed-up Story, Patrick McDonnell,  Little Brown and Company 2014

A quirky, humorous mixture of real images and drawings that break the 4th wall. Louie is a character in HIS story. He’s happily going along when he find that someone has dropped jelly on the page, thus ruining the story. He is talking to the reader about it when plop some peanut butter drops on him. Then Louie finds fingerprints and orange juice. He gives a lecture on the importance of books and begins again only to find someone  has colored in the book. He tries to start again but decides it’s just a messy old book no one will want and he gives up. The story starts without him and he finds out that everything is just fine. And Louie decides it is just fine, messes and all!

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“Everything is fine. I’m still here. You’re still reading. And it is a pretty good story. Messes and all.”

I am a Thief!, Abigail Rayner, Illus Molly Ruttan, NorthSouth Books, 2019

20210420_160813Eliza Jane Murphy, who sees herself as a model student, becomes a thief when she takes a sparkly stone from a display of green things in her classroom. But then her “heart stopped singing”, her letters “went wonky” and she was “too heavy to swing.” She begins to explore her feelings by asking the adults in her life if they’ve ever stolen something. It turns all of them, except her dad, admitted to some minor thievery in their lives. But that doesn’t make Eliza Jane feel any better. So she tells her parents and knows what to do. When she returns it and confesses her teacher said she was brave. She realizes that “nobody is just a thief. Everyone is a lot of things”. Just as she is about to close her investigation on the family thieves she discovers her dad stealing the last piece of cake! Nice lessons showing we are all more than our mistakes, that adults make mistakes too,  and that admitting to and learning from mistakes is what counts.

Time flies

My last blog post was before Thanksgiving. I can’t believe how many months have passed since then. I’m not always as disciplined in my writing endeavors as I’d like to be. While I was working on stories and other things authors do, I failed to continue weekly blog posts.

Sometimes life gets in the way! There were highs and lows, but the biggest high came on December 24th when our first grandchild, Noah David was born!

Noah was born into a family of readers. Before he was born his bookshelf was full because books were a requested baby shower gift.

BOOKS are a part of his everyday life!

READING to children from birth ( or even in the womb) has been shown to have a positive impact on so much of a child’s development.  A recent study from Rutgers University has shown that reading to your child has a positive impact on their behavior. Reading to a child boosts vocabulary and reading skills . But keep in mind that print books get the nod over ebooks in this study out of the University of Michigan. 

So when you finish this find a good book and read to a child!

Picture book month

0716181154_HDRNovember is a month when we think of family, friends and giving thanks. It is also picture book month.  So I thought it was a good opportunity to highlight some authors that are part of my Flashlight Press family.  Writers mostly work alone, but we cherish the relationships, even if they are only in cyberspace, we have with other authors.

When I became a Flashlight Press author my wonderful editor, Shari Dash Greenspan, suggested I contact some the other authors to gain insight into marketing etc. They welcomed me into the family with great advice.

When I see their books at a story or library I smile. Check out their books and you’ll smile too! Click on the links to learn more about each book and find free activity pages too!

Jodi Moore

When a Dragon moves in          When a Dragon moves in Again

Jason Lefebvre

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Too Much Glue

Donna Earnhardt

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Being Frank

Lois Brandt

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Maddi’s Fridge

Richard McFarland

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Grandfather’s Wrinkles

 

Reviews are important

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From The Day I Ran Away

You write a story that you love, you find an editor that loves it too, but the true test is the readers. Will readers love your story? Will they tell others about it? As the viable paths to publication grow, there are more books vying for the readers attention. So reviews are essential for book sales and book sales increase an author’s chance of future publications. There are usually reviews for a few months leading to a book release and a few months after. So it was a happy moment when I saw Melinda Johnson’s  review of The Day I Ran Away 18 months after publication. 

At her blog, More to the Story, Melinda, an author with a master’s in English literature, teases out the layers that make a story one to remember. Her reviews would be helpful to parents, but also great for teachers to use as the talk with students about writing.

When I write I story I’m thinking about some layers but Melinda found layers I didn’t even know I’d slipped into my story.  Here’s a excerpt:

The Day I Ran Away from Flashlight Press is like a well-choreographed dance. Three characters, two voices, three points of view, two timelines, two picture sequences, and a dog spin around each other with no missed beats. The threads fall together easily, and despite action and humor in Isabella Ongaro’s illustrations, the tone of the book is peaceful. The little girl’s growing drowsiness in the bedtime pictures makes sense. She’s been on a big adventure that never took her beyond the reach of love and safety. You’ll want to read The Day I Ran Away over again, even if you aren’t a preschooler, because there’s more to ponder each time you page through the story.

Please visit Melinda’s blog and read some of her thoughtful reviews. And, when you read book you like, write a review! An author will appreciate it!

Picture books & Conversations (part 2)

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My big sister reading to me

Last week I talked about using picture books to talk with children about issues or other topics. Sometimes we can introduce a topic that a child hasn’t experienced.  I still remember my children’s reaction when we read the book Fly Away Home, by Eve Bunting. It allowed us to talk about people who did not have all the things they had in their lives.

Sometimes we can use a book to explore things we all experience.  In The Day I Ran Away, Grace is having a bad day (who hasn’t had one of those!). Her favorite shirt is dirty, her favorite cereal is all gone, she gets sent to her room after a tantrum and, when she colors her white shirt purple, Mom takes her markers away. That’s when Grace decides to run away, but how can you run away if you aren’t allowed to cross the street? We can use this book to talk with children about:

Bad days

  • Have you had a bad day? Why?
  • Share a bad day you’ve had
  • How can we make a bad day better?

Favorite things

  • What is your favorite: color, food, item of clothing, book, etc.
  • What would you do if a favorite thing was missing?

Rules

  • Grace wasn’t allowed to cross the street? Is that a good rule? Why?
  • What rules do you have in your house?
  • What happens if you don’t follow the rules?
  • Why do we have rules?
  • Was it right for Grace to lose her markers for a week?

Saying you’re sorry

  • Grace makes a picture for her mom as a peace offering.
  • What is a peace offering?
  • Why is it good to say you are sorry?
  • How do you feel when someone apologizes to you?
  • What are ways you can tell someone you are sorry?

Yoga

  • Grace is doing bedtime yoga. What is yoga?
  • Have you ever done yoga?
  • Why does she do it at bedtime?
  • What other things can you do to calm down at bedtime?
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From The Day I Ran Away
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