A blog for kids (and their parents) who love books, words, and dreaming big...
I'm so glad you stopped by! Welcome.

Sunday, July 31, 2011


Trump Tower in Chicago, IL, 2011


Skyscraper, skyscraper,
Scrape me some sky:
Tickle the sun
While the stars go by.
Tickle the stars
While the sun's climbing high,
Then skyscraper, skyscraper,
Scrape me some sky.
~Dennis Lee

Saturday, July 30, 2011


Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net

"This sentence has five words.
Here are five more words.
Five-word sentences are fine.
But several together become monotonous.
Listen to what is happening.
The writing is getting boring.
The sound of it drones.
It’s like a stuck record.
The ear demands some variety.

Now listen.
I vary the sentence length,
and I create music.
The writing sings.
It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony.
I use short sentences.
And I use sentences of medium length.
And sometimes,
when I am certain the reader is rested,
I will engage him
with a sentence of considerable length,
a sentence that burns with energy
and builds
with all the impetus of a crescendo,
the roll of the drums,
the crash of the cymbals --
sounds that say listen to this,
it is important."
– Gary Provost

Friday, July 29, 2011

Back in time...

Last month, after writing about the historical fiction I loved as a young girl, I searched online for lists of popular middle grade historical novels.  Many of them I'd never read before, and several piqued my interest.  I decided to take my list to the library and check out a handful of them. 

I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed all of the books I read!  Though they are written for a middle grade reading level, I think that many older kids... and adults... would relish them as much as I did.  I have arranged the books below chronologically, by the time periods in which the stories take place:

A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park, 2001, winner of the 2002 Newbery Medal ... This was actually the second book that I read by Park -- after reading When My Name Was Keoko (farther down this page) and falling in love with Park's writing, I went back to the library and checked this one out.  (Now I'm planning to read her other middle grade books... Seesaw Girl, The Kite Flyers, Project Mulberry, Archer's Quest, Keeping Score, and A Long Walk to Water... as well!)

This story takes place in Korea, in the 12th century.  The main character is a brave and thoughtful orphan boy named Tree Ear.  Befriended and taken care of by Crane-man, a physically disabled man living under a bridge, this is the story of their relationship, as well as Tree Ear's apprenticeship to a local potter.  I loved the beautiful imagery in this story.

Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson, 2000 ... This book is based on an actual epidemic of yellow fever in Philadelphia that killed ten percent of the city's population in just three months.  The story centers around teenager Mattie Cook, who must flee the city with her grandfather after her mother becomes ill.  Anderson provides a vivid picture of daily life in 18th century Philadelphia, and I quickly became caught up in Mattie's fight for survival during this frightening time.

Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan, 1985, winner of the 1986 Newbery Medal ... I didn't get this book from the library -- I found it on my daughter's bookshelf!  This is a very short book, only about 58 pages, yet it paints a picture of loss, love, and life on the prairie in the 19th century, along with the phenomenon of mail-order brides. The main characters include children Anna and Caleb, as well as the book's namesake, Sarah, the woman who traveled to the prairie from Maine to meet them.  

Based on actual events that took place in MacLachlan's family, this book is the first in a series that also includes Skylark, Caleb's Story, More Perfect Than the Moon, and Grandfather's Dance.  (More books to put on my "to read" list!)

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor, 1976, winner of the 1977 Newbery Medal ... The story of an African American family in the deep south during the 1930's, this book explores the themes of racism, poverty, and the love of family.  Main characters include the narrator, nine-year-old Cassie, and her big brother Stacey, both of whom learn about loyalty, social injustice, and the importance of owning their own land. 

This book is the first in a series about the Logan family.  I have not read the other books yet (Let the Circle Be Unbroken, The Road to Memphis, and prequels, The Land and Song of the Trees), but I plan to check them out soon!  All of these books are based on family stories that Taylor heard while growing up.

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry, 1989, winner of the 1990 Newbery Medal ... This book takes place in Denmark during World War II, when Nazis began detaining Jews and taking them away to death camps.  It is the moving story of young Annemarie Johannesen and her best friend, Ellen Rosen.  Annemarie's family first brings Ellen into their home to live, and then later tries to smuggle Ellen's entire family out of the country, to safety.... 

When My Name was Keoko by Linda Sue Park, 2002 ... This is the first of Park's books that I read.  I was so intrigued by it, I couldn't wait to read more of her work!  The story takes place in Japanese-occupied Korea during World War II, and is told through the words of Sun-hee (changed later to Keoko, under Japanese law) and her older brother Tae-yul. 

I found this book especially interesting, maybe because I'd never really known much about Korea (or the Japanese occupation of the country) before, and Park's writing painted a clear picture for me.  I learned quite a bit about Korean society at the time and how heart-breaking it was to have their culture -- their language, their flag, even their names -- made illegal by their Japanese rulers. 

(It should be noted that Park does not treat all the Japanese characters in her story as villains.  As with all groups of people, some individuals are kind, some are not.   For example, Sun-hee's best friend is a Japanese boy, Tomo, who tries to help the family.)

The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt, 2007, the winner of the 2008 Newbery Honor Medal ... This story is told by Holling Hoodhood, a seventh grade boy living in Long Island, NY during the late 1960's.  While the Vietnam War rages on, Holling battles his own wars, with his teacher Mrs. Baker (who, he's convinced, hates him), with school bullies, with his parents (who never seem to listen to him) and older sister, and with his own fear of the future.  Throughout all these battles, Holling (and author Schmidt) keeps his sense of humor, making much of the book laugh-out-loud funny!

Have you read any of these books?  If so, what did you think?  I'd love to hear your thoughts, as well as recommendations for more historical fiction, whether for middle grade readers or any other age.  And, if you haven't read the books above, please consider doing so -- I highly recommend them!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A spark

Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net

“To learn to read is to light a fire;
every syllable that is spelled out is a spark.”
- Victor Hugo

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


This week's word is limerick, the name of a special type of poem.  I like it because a) it's a fun word to say, and b) limericks are usually quite silly! 

Limericks have five lines: 
  • Lines 1, 2, and 5 have seven to ten syllables, and the three lines rhyme with each other. 
  • Lines 3 and 4 have five to seven syllables and rhyme with each other.

Here are a few limericks that I found online:

There was a young lady from Leeds
Who swallowed a package of seeds.
Now this sorry young lass
Is quite covered in grass,
But has all the tomatoes she needs.
~Author unknown

What a limerick is in a crunch
Is a bit like a loony's light lunch.
Though it briefly delights,
It's just four nutty bites
Swallowed down with a ludicrous  punch.
~Graham Lester

I've written a few limericks of my own, mostly for a poetry unit in English when I was a teenager.  The following is my favorite. (Heidi was one of my best friends, but I exaggerated *a bit* about the state of her room!):

There once was a young girl named Heidi
Whose bedroom was very untidy.
One day she got stuck
In all of that muck,
And we never again saw Heidi!

Do you have any favorite limericks?  Or have you written any of  your own?  I'd love to hear them!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Eyes in the Night

Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net

Eyes in the Night

The moon came up on a summer's night
That was soft and dark except for the light
Of fireflies and the gleaming eyes
Of green-eyed cats and
the amber eyes of wandering dogs
And the red eyes of frogs
and the eye of the toad
Picked up by lights coming down the road,
Little emerald eyes, the gleaming eyes,
And the eyes of rabbits and foxes
And more and more flickering fireflies.
Then the car went by, and soon
There was only the light
Of a big warm moon
All over the summer night.

~Margaret Wise Brown


Monday, July 25, 2011

Spotlight on Shel Silverstein: Poet, Author, Illustrator, and More

I was first introduced to Shel Silverstein's work when I was nine.  I was at Girl Scout summer camp with my best friend, enrolled in a session called "Hug-a-Tree".  We each "adopted" a tree in the campgrounds for the week, talking to it and watering it daily.   We also learned all kinds of information about trees.  (Really, it was the perfect camp for the daughter of a forestry professor!) 

One day, a camp counselor read one of Silverstein's most popular books, The Giving Tree (1964), aloud to the group.  I enjoyed it so much, I asked to look at the book afterwards, so that I could reread it. 

As I mentioned in an earlier post, our family had a large maple tree in our backyard.  I loved that tree.  I never thought of the tree as an "it", but always as a "her" --  when we first moved to our house, I named her Maple.  (Not real creative, I know, but I was only 6 at the time.)  

I talked to Maple all the time, convincing myself I could hear her talking back.  I considered her my friend.  Because of that experience, I felt a connection to The Giving Tree.  I could truly appreciate the bond between the boy and the tree in the story.  The tree's selfless love for the boy warmed my heart, and that image has always stayed with me.

About a year later, one of my friends checked out  the book Where the Sidewalk Ends (1974) from the school library.  Together we sat down and looked through it, laughing and laughing at all the zany poems and illustrations inside.  The book ended up being a huge hit with our whole class!

When I was in jr. high, I heard that Silverstein had published another book of poetry, A Light in the Attic (1981).   I immediately went searching for it at the library.  Once again, I loved the wackiness of Silverstein's words and drawings. 

Many years later, my in-laws discovered what a big fan I am of Silverstein's work, and they bought me both volumes of poetry.  When a third volume came out in 1996, Falling Up, they bought that for me as well.  I've shared the books with my kids many times -- they love the silliness as much as I do!  And even though I know many of the poems by heart now, I still find myself flipping through the pages every so often, reading and chuckling.

When Emmalie and Nick were little, my in-laws bought something for all of us, the CD of Where the Sidewalk Ends (2000).  That was when I discovered something even better than reading those poems out loud -- listening to Shel Silverstein himself read them aloud!  All these years later, we still pop the CD in on car trips sometimes -- instant fun for the whole family. :)

I've read most of Silverstein's other books for children... Lafcadio, the Lion Who Shot Back, The Missing Piece, A Giraffe and a Half, and more.  I've thoroughly enjoyed each one!

A few years ago, my brother-in-law gave me this one: Who Wants a Cheap Rhinoceros? (1964) -- a fun book about a very unusual pet!

He also gave me Runny Babbit, which was published in 2005, six years after Shel Silverstein's death.  (It was completed before he passed away.)  Talk about a tongue twister -- this one is nearly impossible (for me, anyway) to read aloud, but, oh, so funny to try!

Besides all of his works for children, Silverstein also wrote books and drew cartoons for adults.  He composed music and wrote plays, as well.  To learn more about this very talented man and his marvelous creations, check out the official Shel Silverstein website for kids.  Be sure to look for his work at bookstores and the library, too!

Sunday, July 24, 2011


From the book
Antler Bear Canoe: A Northwoods Alphabet,
written and illustrated by Betsy Bowen, 1991 

If kids are entertained

by two letters,
the fun they'll have
with twenty-six. 
Open your child's imagination. 
Open a book."

 ~Author Unknown

Saturday, July 23, 2011


I'll admit, it's been awhile since I last climbed a tree, but when I was a kid, I practically lived in one! 

We had the perfect climbing tree, a maple, in our backyard, and whenever my family wanted me, they could usually find me there.  I ate snacks in the tree, did homework up there, played games with my sister and my friends, and read countless books while perched on my favorite branch. 

I found the following poem recently and it made me smile, remembering the days when I felt exactly like this....

Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net


The trunk of a tree
is the road for me
on a sunny summer day.

Up the bark
that is brown and dark
through tunnels of leaves that sway
and tickle my knees
in the trembly breeze,
that's where I make my way.

Leaves in my face
and twigs in my hair
in a squeeze of a place,
but I don't care!

Some people talk
of a summer walk
through clover and weeds and hay.

Some people stride
where the hills are wide
and the rocks are speckled gray.

But the trunk of a tree
is the road for me
on a sunny summer day.

by Aileen L. Fisher

Friday, July 22, 2011


Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net

I have a secret.

Actually, it's not really a secret to anyone who knows me personally.  But, to anyone reading this who has never met me, this might come as a surprise.

As much as I love words and writing and chatting online, I am very quiet and shy in person.  I get extremely nervous when I have to talk, even when I'm talking with people I know well. 

I get so nervous that when I was a young girl, I used to wish I was mute -- physically unable to speak -- because then no one would expect me to talk!  I wished I could just walk around with a pad of paper and a pencil, communicating with others that way. 

Every once in a while, I still wish that.  Though now I'd probably choose a laptop instead... :)

For me, the internet has been a really good thing.  I can easily share my thoughts and feelings with others online, things that would otherwise stay bottled up inside me. 

I have made many friends online with people I never would've met without the internet.  Even if I'd come across them in my daily life, I would've been too scared to start up a conversation and get to know them.  I would've missed out on so many friendships with so many wonderful people.

Though my difficulty with talking has many disadvantages, it does have a few benefits.  Since I spend little time talking myself, that means I spend a lot of time listening to others instead.  I believe that listening to people -- really paying attention to what they are saying -- is important.  It helps me to better understand others.   And people enjoy being heard. :)

I also wonder: if I had spent more time talking throughout my life, would I still be as interested in the written word as I am now?  Maybe.  Or maybe not.  As it is, I am fascinated by words on paper or computer screens, whether I'm reading others' words or writing my own.  I like being able to communicate without ever having to make a sound.  It's part of what makes me me.

I've been thinking about this subject a lot recently.  Ideas for a character who doesn't speak, even though physically able to do so (a condition called "selective mutism"),  have been buzzing around my head for awhile now -- the problems such a character could encounter, and how he or she might react to and solve those problems.  I definitely could sympathize with such a character.  Maybe it's just me, but I think my ideas could create an interesting story for kids.  Hopefully, I'll start getting those ideas written down soon -- along with all the other story ideas that are filling up my brain! :)

How about you?  Are you a talker, or do you prefer to keep quiet much of the time?  What is your favorite way to express yourself?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The right word

Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net

"The difference between the
almost right word

the right word
is really a large matter --
it's the difference between
the lightning bug and the lightning." 

~Mark Twain, in a letter to George Bainton, 1888

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


This week's word is sweven, an archaic noun meaning "a vision or a dream".

My alarm clock woke me in the middle of the most delightful sweven.

I first heard this word in high school, at a party.  My friends and I were playing something similar to the board game "Balderdash".  (But this was several years before that game came out.) 

One person would look for an uncommon word in the dictionary, and read it out loud.  Everyone else would make up a definition for the word, writing it down on a piece of paper.  (Meanwhile, the reader would write down the correct definition.)  The reader collected all the papers, mixed them up, and read each one aloud.  Then the other players voted on which definition they thought was the correct one.

When it came time to hear the various definitions written for sweven, my friends and I really liked the correct meaning, as well as the fake one that received the most votes, defining it as an adjective meaning "heavenly".  From then on, we often used the word in conversation, sometimes using it correctly, and sometimes using it the other way.  One day I even created a "Sweven" button to wear with my other totally 80's buttons.  :)  (I still have it around here somewhere!)

How would you use the word sweven?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Sunrise on Lake Isabella, MN, Aug. 2010


Morning is
a new sheet of paper
for you to write on.

Whatever you want to say,
all day,
until night
folds it up
and files it away.

The bright words and the dark words
are gone
until dawn
and a new day
to write on.                               

by Eve Merriam

Monday, July 18, 2011

Wild about animals?

Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net

I have always loved to read fiction, but it's only recently that I've come to appreciate nonfiction.  When I was younger, pretty much the only nonfiction I ever read was for school assignments.  It always seemed dry and boring to me.  (Turns out, I was just reading the wrong books -- there are plenty of well-written, interesting nonfictional books out there!) 

Fiction still far outweighs nonfiction in my reading selections today, but ever since my son Nick was born, I've read quite a bit of nonfiction -- most of it about animals.

Even as a little boy, Nick preferred nonfictional books about animals to any other genre, and I ended up learning quite a bit about various wildlife as I read them to him.  Now a 12-year-old, Nick still would much rather read nonfiction than fiction.  A few years ago, he realized he'd read just about every book on animals in the children's nonfiction section of our library, and since that time has been steadily making his way through the adult section.   

When I decided that I wanted to write a post about some good nonfiction picture books on animals, I knew just who to go to for help!  The following books all have Nick's stamp of approval.  :)  These books provide information in fun, interesting ways and include colorful pictures that children and adults will enjoy. 

These first 4 books are for younger children -- beginning readers or those who need someone to read to them:

Bats,  written by J. Angelique Johnson with pictures contributed by various photographers, 2011... this book offers easy-to-understand facts and close-up photos of these often misunderstood winged creatures of the night:

Meet the Meerkat, written by Darrin Lunde, and illustrated by Patricia J. Wynne, 2007...  This book asks questions that kids themselves might ask about these African mammals, then provides answers using short, simple facts:

Vulture View, written by April Pulley Sayre and illustrated by Steve Jenkins, 2007... Using rhymes and concise prose, this book tells readers about the life of a turkey vulture.  There is also a short section at the end of the book that provides more detailed information about the birds for parents or older readers: 

I See a Kookaburra!,  written and illustrated by spouses Steve Jenkins and Robin Page, 2005... This book shows various habitats around the world, encouraging readers to search for the creatures hidden in each environment.  Turn the page, and all of the animals are shown again, this time in plain view.  Details about the habitats and the wildlife, as well as a world map, are provided at the end of the book: 

The next two picture books are for more experienced readers.

Hide and Seek, written by Andrea Helman and  photographs by Gavriel Jecan, 2008... Even non-readers will enjoy trying to spot the camouflaged animals in these photos!  This book talks about different ecosystems of the world and then describes various creatures from each who blend in with their surroundings:

Super Swimmers, written by Caroline Arnold, and illustrated by Patricia J. Wynne, 2007... Marine mammals are the subject of this book, which offers detailed information and scientific illustrations:

Are you wild about animals?  Or do you, perhaps, have a budding young animal-lover in your life?  I'd love to hear about your favorite animal books,  nonfictional or fictional!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

In the Summer...

  Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net

In the summer when the days are hot,
I like to find a shady spot,
And hardly move a single bit
And sit, and sit, and sit, and sit.
-Author unknown

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Man's Best Friend...

Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net

"Outside of a dog,
a book is man's best friend. 
Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read."
~Attributed to Groucho Marx

Friday, July 15, 2011

I Left My Heart in Hogwarts....*

The Sorcerer's Stone (1997), The Chamber of Secrets (1998),
The Prisoner of Azkaban (1999), The Goblet of Fire (2000),
The Order of the Phoenix (2003),The Half-blood Prince (2005),
and The Deathly Hallows (2007)

When I’m 80 years old
and sitting in my rocking chair,
I’ll be reading Harry Potter.
And my family will say to me,
“After all this time?”
And I will say, “Always.”
–  Attributed to Alan Rickman,
the actor who portrays Professor Snape
in the Harry Potter movies
(but I'm pretty sure he wasn't really the one who said it)

I distinctly remember the very first time I ever opened up one of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books and began reading it.  My parents had given me the first three books in the series for Christmas in 1999.  While I appreciated the thought behind the gift, I had heard all the hoopla about the books, and convinced myself that they couldn't possibly be as good as everyone said they were.  I set them on my shelf and walked away. 

On Thanksgiving Day 2001, after I'd spent several hours (by myself) making a feast for our family, and then another hour or more (by  myself) cleaning up after the meal,  I was upset  and not feeling very thankful.  I retreated to my bedroom and shut the door, leaving my husband and kids to fend for themselves.  I slumped onto the bed.  I briefly considered taking a nap, but then my eyes were drawn towards the bookshelves.  I suddenly realized that I owned three books that I'd never read, never even opened.   It was something to do, so I grabbed Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone off the shelf.  I flipped it open to the first page, and began to read.

From that very first sentence, I was a Harry Potter fan!  I eagerly read all three books over that holiday weekend, then couldn't wait to get my hands on the fourth!  (I used that year's Christmas money to buy myself  Goblet of Fire.)

By the time the fifth book came out, I had created another Harry Potter fan, someone who loved the books even more than I did -- my daughter, Emmalie.  She walked up to me one day, complaining of boredom, and saying that she didn't have any new books to read.  I handed her The Sorcerer's Stone.  She did not seem very interested in it -- like me a few years earlier, she thought all the Harry Potter hype was just that.  I said, "Trust me.  Just start reading, and see what you think."  As predicted, once Emm began reading, she couldn't put the book down.  She reads quickly (even faster than me), and soon had read all five books.

I checked the sixth book out from the library as soon as it was published so we could both devour it -- as only BookWyrms can :) -- and then Emmalie received a copy of the book for Christmas later that year.

By 2007, Emmalie and I were so anxious to read the final book that I agreed to wait in a HUGE bookstore line at midnight the day it came out.  I quickly drove home with my new copy of  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, then began reading it right away, around 1am!  I read straight through the morning and afternoon until I had finished the very last sentence. (I did fall asleep for an hour or so at one point, book in hand, then woke up and immediately went back to reading!)  As soon as I'd finished it, I handed the book to Emm, and she read it straight through, as well.

Both of us have re-read all seven books several times.  Emmalie has even read each of them aloud to her brother, Nick.  We love the characters, the settings, and the adventures.  Emm is such a fan that she collects all kinds of Harry Potter memorabilia -- puzzles, costumes, stuffed animals, and more.  There is just something about the story that speaks to us, captivates us, and leaves us longing for more.

Though books are almost always MUCH better than their movies -- and J. K. Rowling's series is no exception -- our whole family has seen every Harry Potter movie.   We love the actors who were chosen to portray the characters, and we enjoy watching the stories play out on the big screen.  (Both Emmalie and I hate it when scenes are cut out or changed, however.)

With the last movie, "The Deathly Hallows, Part 2",  comes that same bittersweet feeling that we had when we read the last book.  We can't wait to see it (in fact, by the time this posts on my blog, Emm, Nick, and I will have already been to the midnight premiere), but we're also sad that the series has come to its end.  You can be sure, however, that we will return to Hogwarts again and again in the years to come -- in our re-reading of the books, in our re-watching of the movies, and in our dreams....

“The stories we love best
do live in us forever
so whether you come back by page
or by the big screen,
Hogwarts will always be there to
welcome you home.”
- J. K. Rowling

*For the younger generation -- like my daughter, who didn't understand the reference -- there is an old song called "I Left My Heart in San Francisco", and I was trying to mimic that. My heart, or at least a part of it, will always be in Hogwarts....

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The whiff of a soul...

Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net

Browsing the dim back corner
Of a musty antique shop
Opened an old book of poetry
Angels flew out from the pages
I caught the whiff of a soul
The ink seemed fresh as today
Was that voices whispering?
The tree of the paper still grows.

~Pixie Foudre

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

When writing...

Photo courtesy of PublicDomain Pictures.net

"Fill your paper
with the breathings of your heart."
~William Wordsworth

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


"Haiku" by Emmalie (who is studying Japanese in school)

The word for the week is haiku, a type of Japanese poetry.  The poems are short, only 17 syllables -- 5 in the first line, 7 in the second, and 5 in the third.  Haiku does not rhyme, and the poems often describe elements of nature or the seasons.

I wrote a lot of haiku when I was a teenager, partly for class and partly for myself, because I enjoyed it.  Re-reading them again now, I am not too impressed with the poetry of my youth. ;)  There are a few poems I wrote back then that I still like, however, including the following:

Rich purple velvet
Opens, praising the new day --
The morning glory.


A star winks at me
From the black pool of nighttime,
Bidding me "good night".

While reading through some haiku online, I came across this humorous poem:

The only problem
with Haiku is that you just
get started and then

~Roger McGough

If you've never written haiku before, give it a try ~ you just might like it! :)

Monday, July 11, 2011

A Second Big Dream Come True

Back in 1995, the instructor for my correspondence course through the Institute of Children's Literature gave me a new assignment: pick an age group, find three magazines that catered to that age, and then write a short story that fit those magazines' guidelines. 

I chose to write for early readers, creating a children's version of a favorite Christmas story, O. Henry's "The Gift of the Magi".  Called "The Greatest Gift of All", my story ended up being about 800 words long.  My instructor really liked the story, though she thought it still needed work to be publishable.  She gave me a few ideas for revisions, then encouraged me to try sending it in to the magazines I'd picked earlier.

I rewrote the story, then sent it to the three magazines in 1996.  I was a bit discouraged when I received three rejection letters back, but I knew I had to keep on trying!  I found several other magazines that accepted early reader fiction, and sent out more copies of my story. 

Then one day in 1997, I received a different kind of rejection letter -- a handwritten one from Clubhouse, Jr.*   The editor who'd read it said that she loved the story, but they could not use it in any of their December issues.  Their magazine was a Christian one, and they wanted all of the stories in the December issue to focus on the birth of Jesus.  She said that if I was willing to do a little rewriting -- turning it into something other than a Christmas story -- she would consider publishing it.

If you've ever read "The Gift of the Magi", you know that its overlying theme is love.  It wasn't hard for me to turn my Christmas story into a Valentine's Day story, so I quickly did that and resubmitted it to Clubhouse, Jr.  Just a few weeks after that, I received an acceptance letter from the magazine, and in February of 1998, my story "The Greatest Gift of All" was published:

Clubhouse, Jr.
February 1998 issue

The story features a poor young church mouse named Lucy, who wants to purchase a special gift for her grandfather.  When I wrote the story, I imagined soft, sweet pictures to go with it, like those of Garth Williams (the artist who illustrated the books Bedtime for Frances, Charlotte's Web, the Little House series, and several others).  I wasn't expecting the bright, cartoon-like pictures that the magazine used, and was surprised by them.  (I don't know who drew them; there are no credits given for the illustrations.)  Still, that did not dampen my enthusiasm about being published again! :)

"The Greatest Gift of All", p. 1-2

"The Greatest Gift of All", p. 3

The magazine purchased "first rights", which means that, now that Clubhouse, Jr. has published it, I can sell the story again to another publisher.  I have changed it back into a Christmas story and have mailed it out to several book publishers.  So far, I only have a pile of rejection slips to show for it --  but I just keep on hoping and trying. :)

*Although I knew that Clubhouse, Jr. was a Christian magazine, I didn't know anything else about the company behind it (Focus on the Family) at the time.  Since my story was published by them in 1998, I have learned more about the company, and no longer feel comfortable submitting any of my work to them.  (Though Christian myself, I do not agree with their exclusionary stance toward the LGBT community, among other things.)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Summer Stars

From the book Zoo in the Sky,
written by Jacqueline Mitton, illustrated by Christina Balit

Summer Stars

Bend low again, night of summer stars.
So near you are, sky of summer stars,
So near, a long arm man can pick off stars,
Pick off what he wants in the sky bowl,
So near you are, summer stars,
So near, strumming, strumming,
So lazy and hum-strumming.

by Carl Sandburg

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Origami BookWyrm

My creative daughter came up with another BookWyrm for me. :)  Isn't he cute?

(Back view)