A blog for kids (and their parents) who love books, words, and dreaming big...
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Tuesday, October 29, 2013


Image courtesy of NYPL Digital Gallery

Halloween is this week, of course. I wanted to feature a word appropriate to the occasion and finally decided on one: cackle [kak-uh l].  This word can be used as a verb, meaning "to laugh in a shrill, broken manner" or as a noun, meaning "the act or sound of cackling".  I like the word because it is descriptive, it's fun to say, and it is an example of onomatopoeia -- it sounds like what it means.  I came up with a couple of sentences using this week's word:

From the open door of the abandoned, ramshackle house 
came an eerie sound like a witch's cackle.

She grinned broadly and began to cackle, 
her whole body shaking with laughter.

How would you use the word cackle in a sentence?  What other "Halloween-y" words can you think of?

Monday, October 28, 2013

House of Horrors

Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net

An excerpt:

     "How much money you got?" I asked Cecil. Cecil had thirty cents, too, which made us even. We squandered our first nickels on the House of Horrors, which scared us not at all: we entered the black seventh-grade room and were led around by the temporary ghoul in residence and were made to touch several objects alleged to be component parts of a human being. "Here's his eyes," we were told when we touched two peeled grapes on a saucer.  "Here's his heart," which felt like raw liver. "These are his innards," and our hands were thrust into a plate of cold spaghetti.

~ from To Kill a Mockingbird,
written by Harper Lee

Have you ever been in a "House of Horrors" like this?  I remember doing this at a friend's Halloween party once when I was young, only we were blindfolded.  I wasn't scared by it, but it was still a bit creepy to touch the various items when I couldn't actually see them.

Saturday, October 26, 2013


Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net


sweet apple,
what do you hide?
Wormy and
rotten inside.

sweet apple,
so shiny and red,
taste it,
don't waste it,
come and be fed.

one bite and
you're dead.

~ Eve Merriam,
from Halloween ABC

Are you ready for Halloween?  Our family loves celebrating the holiday and we "go all out" for it.  We just hosted a Halloween party last night and had a spooktacular time! :) Around this time of year, I also love to read deliciously dark and creepy poems like this one.  Hope you'll enjoy it, too!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

A good library...

Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net

"A good library 
will never be too neat, 
or too dusty, 
because somebody
 will always be in it, 
taking books off the shelves 
and staying up late reading them."  

~ Lemony Snicket

I love this quote -- and also the picture of the little boy, intently reading. :) 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net

Whenever I pick a word to share here on the blog, I always start seeing that word everywhere afterwards.  This week's is no exception.  I decided probably a month ago that I wanted to use "ethereal" for this week.  Soon after that, I started seeing the word in the books I was reading and hearing it used in conversations.  The director of the community choir I'm in even handed out a musical score with lyrics that contained the phrase "restless bones etherealize". *  Spooky, huh?  :)

Ethereal [ih-theer-ee-uh l] is an adjective that can mean "light, airy, or tenuous" or "extremely delicate or refined".  Here are a few sentences I came up with, using the word:

The spiderweb sparkled in the morning sunshine, 
an ethereal masterpiece of nature.

An ethereal specter floated in front of my eyes, 
confirming my suspicions that the house was haunted.

The young girl's pale face and large dark eyes 
gave her appearance an ethereal look.

How would you use the word ethereal?  Can you think of other synonyms besides the ones listed in the definition?

* From the song "Grim Grinning Ghosts"

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Pumpkin Picking

Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net

Pumpkin Picking

Let's go picking in the pumpkin patch.
Now we're jiggling the old gate latch.
Gate swings wide and we step inside.
Pumpkins spread like an ocean tide.
You take the one like a fat balloon.
I'll take the one like an orange moon.
Hike to the house in fifty paces.
Then we'll carve out the pumpkin faces.

~ Sandra Olson Liatsos

One of my favorite things to do in October is to pick out my pumpkin (either from a pumpkin patch, like Liatsos writes about in her poem, or from the store), figure out what kind of face it needs, and then carve it!  It's messy and slimy, but I love it anyway. :)  How about you?

Monday, October 21, 2013

Like lines of quiet people...

Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net

An excerpt:

[...] But real, live authors wrote every one of those books, so the shelves are like lines of quiet people, sitting up straight and polite, waiting to talk to me. Someday I'll have a book of my own.  Someday my book will talk.

~ from Sahara Special,
written by Esme Raji Codell

I just read Sahara Special this last weekend, and it is one of my new favorite books.  One of the things I enjoyed about it (there were many!) is how much the main character, Sahara, loves books, the library, and writing.  I definitely felt a connection with her!  I, too, hope that someday my book will talk....

Saturday, October 19, 2013

October Saturday

Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net

October Saturday

All the leaves have turned to cornflakes.
It looks as if some giant's baby brother
had tipped the box
and scattered them upon our lawn --
millions and millions of cornflakes --
crunching, crunching under our feet.
When the wind blows,
they rattle against each other,
nervously chattering.

We rake them into piles --
Dad and I.
Piles and piles of cornflakes!
A breakfast for a whole family of giants!
We do not talk much as we rake --
a word here --
a word there.
The leaves are never silent.

Inside the house my mother is packing
short sleeved shirts and faded bathing suits --
rubber clogs and flippers --
in a box marked SUMMER

We are raking,
Dad and I.
Raking, raking.
The sky is blue, then orange, then gray.
My arms are tired.
I am dreaming of the box marked SUMMER.

~ Bobbi Katz

I love the image of the leaves as cornflakes, spilled by a giant!  I remember many autumn days when I was young, raking and raking, just like in this poem.  (We don't get many leaves in the yard at our current home, thank goodness.)  My arms would get tired, too.  I don't know that I dreamed of summer while doing it, but I might have dreamed of winter and Christmas.  Nowadays I try to just enjoy whichever season I'm in -- though it's much easier to appreciate autumn now that I don't have to rake! :)

Friday, October 18, 2013

Websites for Young BookWyrms and Writers

Ben with the book he won in a raffle drawing.
Last night my son Ben's elementary school held "Family Reading Night".  (Personally, I think every night should be Family Reading Night, whether at school or home or wherever.)  The rest of our family was busy, but I took Ben to the 1-1/2 hour event.  He, like the other student participants, went dressed in his p.j.s.  He also brought his best friend (and stuffed rabbit) HopHop along.

There were different activities going on in various rooms throughout the school, including a book swap, a picture book reading and discussion about story elements, and some reading games.  And in the computer lab, the principal talked about various reading and writing websites that kids and their parents can use at home.

I thought I'd share some of those sites with you, since Ben and I found them interesting:

Book Wink -- Through podcasting and short book talk videos, this site aims to "connect kids in Grades 3 through 8 with books that will make them excited about reading."

Slime Kids Book Trailers -- Similar to movie trailers, these book trailers provide viewers with a brief peek into a variety of books and entice them to read.  In addition to the videos, each book listing also offers a description of the book and information about its author.

ReadWriteThink -- This site contains games & tools, tips & how-tos, printouts, and podcasts -- all designed to help parents help their kids learn to love reading and writing.

KidsReads -- On this site, you'll find book reviews, author interviews, contests, and more!

There was also a poetry site that Ben LOVED: ETTC's Instant Poetry Forms.

It helps young writers create poetry by filling in some boxes with their own word choices.  Ben composed two different poems and was so excited about them.  He even asked me if I would share them here on my blog, and I told him I would. :) I have a feeling we'll be logging on to this poetry site often from now on!

Ben composes a poem.

Here are Ben's poems, as promised:

I am a...

I am a snake,
green as a leaf.
I slither around.
I pounce on my prey.
I can camouflage myself.
I can curl around a branch.
I am a snake.

~ Ben H.


I Can't Write a Poem

Forget it!
You must be kidding.
I don't know how to spell.
I don't know what to write about.
All the letters come out sloppy.
I keep getting stuck.
I can't keep my eyes straight.
I'm busy.
My pencil keeps breaking.
Each day I have to go to bed and then I forget it.
Time's up? Uh-oh!
All I have is a dumb list of excuses.
You like it? Really? No kidding.
Thanks a lot.  Would you like to see another one?

~ Ben H.

Do you know about any other great sites for young writers and BookWyrms?  I'd love to hear about them and add them to the list here!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

I require books...

Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net

About the library:

"I love the place; 
the magnificent books; 
I require books as I require air." 

~ Sholem Asch

I feel the same way as Mr. Asch.  I NEED books, just as I need food, water, and air to breathe.  And, oh, how I love libraries!  How about you?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


Image courtesy of Clker.com

Last year when I asked my Facebook friends what their favorite words are, one friend said she'd always liked prestidigitator [pres-ti-dij-i-tey-tohr].  This noun is another word for magician or conjuror.  I don't know about you, but I have a hard time saying it!  It's a fun word, though.  I even heard it used in conversation a few weeks ago, at our local Pumpkinfest.  (Not surprisingly, it was used by a magician  during his show.)  Here are a few sentences that I came up with using this week's word:

The precocious child piped up, 
"I'm going to be a prestidigitator for Halloween!"

The professional prestidigitator performed 
incredible feats of magic for his amazed audience.

How would you use this word?  What are some of your favorite words?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Monster Home

Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net

Monster Home

A monster made its very home
Inside the middle of this poem.
This monster loved to gobble words --

Of this poor poem it ate two-thirds.

~ Douglas Florian, 
from Bing, Bang, Boing

I thought this was a fun little poem to share during the Halloween season, even though it's not really about Halloween.  Every time I read it, it makes me chuckle. :) Poor poem....

Sunday, October 13, 2013

One life to live?

Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net

"It is not true 
we have only one life to live; 
if we can read, 
we can live as many lives 
and as many kinds of lives 
as we wish."

 ~ S.I. Hayakawa

One of the reasons why I love reading so much is because of all the other lives that I get to "live" while doing it....

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Night Comes...

Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net

Night Comes...

Night comes
out of the sky.

Stars come

Moon comes

Who is

Who is afraid
of the night?

Not I.

~ Beatrice Schenk de Regniers

I love all of the rhymes in this poem, the verbs, and the image of night "leaking out of the sky".  It makes me want to sit out under the stars tonight.  (Too bad it's supposed to rain!)

Thursday, October 10, 2013

From a lawn chair to the clouds...

Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net

"To me, 
poetry is a marriage 
of craft and imagination.  
The making of a poem 
requires attention
 to form, sound, 
revision, and precision. 
But imagination lifts you 
from a lawn chair to the clouds.  
And this is the mystery of poetry." 

~ Christine E. Hemp,
 in The Place My Words are Looking For

Hemp's image of imagination lifting poets "from a lawn chair to the clouds" makes me smile and nod.  Yes, it's important for writers to pay attention to the actual crafting of their poems.  But if that's the only thing we focus on, we'll be stuck sitting in our metaphorical lawn chairs, feet on the ground.  To soar to the clouds with our poems, we also need a healthy dose of imagination.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


While this verb can also mean "to chew over and over" (often used with cows and other similar animals), ruminate [roo-muh-neyt] has another definition I want to focus on this week: "to meditate or muse; ponder".  After a little rumination (see what I did there?), I came up with these sentences using the word:

Walking alone in the woods each morning 
gives me a chance to relax and ruminate.

Why don't you ruminate on those facts for awhile 
and try to come up with a solution to our problem?

How would you use the word ruminate?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net


The morns are meeker than they were,
  The nuts are getting brown;
The berry's cheek is plumper,
  The rose is out of town.

The maple wears a gayer scarf,
  The field a scarlet gown.
Lest I should be old-fashioned,
  I'll put a trinket on.

~ Emily Dickinson

I love Dickinson's images of the world around her, decking itself out in its autumn finery.  What natural "trinkets" have you noticed so far this fall?

Monday, October 7, 2013

Sky full of wings...

Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net

An excerpt:

     All those golden autumn days the sky was full of wings.  Wings beating low over the blue water of Silver Lake, wings beating high in the blue air far above it.  Wings of geese, of brant, of ducks and pelicans and cranes and heron and swans and gulls, bearing them all away to green fields in the south.

     The wings and the golden weather and the tang of frost in the mornings made Laura want to go somewhere.  She did not know where.  She only wanted to go.

~ from By the Shores of Silver Lake,
written by Laura Ingalls Wilder

I go walking at a nearby forest preserve several days each week.  When I'm there, I always pass by a small lake that attracts all kinds of birds and other wildlife.  Now that it's fall, I often see the sky there filled with wings.  Flocks of birds stop at the pond for a break on their way south. When the birds are rested and take to the skies once again, I feel like Laura.  I want to go somewhere, too.

Sunday, October 6, 2013


Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net


Homework sits on top of Sunday, squashing Sunday flat.
Homework has the smell of Monday, homework's very fat
Heavy books and piles of paper, answers I don't know.
Sunday evening's almost finished, now I'm going to go
Do my homework in the kitchen.  Maybe just a snack,
Then I'll sit right down and start as soon as I run back
For some chocolate sandwich cookies.  Then I'll really do
All that homework in a minute.  First I'll see what new
Show they've got on television in the living room.
Everybody's laughing there, but misery and gloom
And a full refrigerator are where I am at.
I'll just have another sandwich.  Homework's very fat.

~ Russell Hoban

It's been awhile since I've had to do homework myself, but I remember how I'd feel on Sunday evenings when I still had work to finish.  Hoban describes it very well in this poem!  I like his image of all those papers and books squashing the fun out of Sunday.

My three children aren't procrastinators like their mom, so they're usually finished with all of their weekend homework on Friday night -- smart kids!  However, I bet they'd still agree that homework's very fat. :)

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Dear Diary...

Image courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net

"A great library 
contains the diary 
of the human race."  

~ George Mercer Dawson

I hadn't thought about it before reading this quote, but it's true.  The books in a library make up our diary, telling all about who we humans are now, who we've been in the past, who we want to be in the future.  They reflect our hopes, our dreams, our fears, and much more.  I wonder which diary volumes I'll check out and bring home next?

Friday, October 4, 2013

Just Keep Writing...

Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net

Even if you've never seen Disney's animated movie, Finding Nemo, you've probably heard its most famous line, sung by Dory the fish (and voiced by Ellen DeGeneres), "Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming."  In that scene, Dory is trying to encourage Nemo's father, Marlin, not to give up.

I've decided to take Dory's line, change it a little to fit my needs, and use it as my personal mantra:

Just Keep Writing.  
Just Keep Submitting.

It seems like obvious advice for a writer, I know.  One's work will never be published if one doesn't first write it and then submit it somewhere.  As I've written here before, however, it's so easy to get discouraged.  I did quite a bit of writing last year and quite a bit of submitting, but all I got in return was a pile of rejection letters.  It's easy to give up after that. I wouldn't say that I did give up, but I'll admit that I haven't been nearly as enthusiastic or motivated about writing and submitting this year as I was last year.  Until....

Until last month when, out of the blue, I received an email stating that one of the poems I'd submitted to Spider magazine over a year ago has been accepted for publication. (Insert happy dance here!)  That one little email changed my whole perspective.  While it's true that I still have to wait a few years to see my poem in print, the knowledge that someone out there liked it enough to accept it gives me hope. It also reminds me that I need to keep on writing and keep on submitting.  

In all likelihood, most of the poems and stories I write will never get published.  I need to keep on trying, though, and never give up.  Someday, when I least expect it, I will get good news again!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Autumn Night Music

Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net

Autumn Night Music

Summer is waning;
nights are gaining.
Evening trees have lost their song.
Katydids, the last to strum,
are packing up and moving on.

Music lovers, don't despair!
Autumn tunes are in the air.
Just tonight I heard a breeze
practicing inside the trees.

There is music after summer
with a different kind of strummer!

~ Constance Levy

I love the images (and the rhymes!) in this poem.  Days are getting shorter, we've said goodbye to summer, but there will still be music and beauty to enjoy now and in the months to come -- it's just a different kind of music and beauty than what summer brings....

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net

I can't believe it's October already, can you? One of my favorite things about this time of year is the rich, beautiful rainbow of autumn colors everywhere I look. There are the oranges, the purples, the yellows, the browns, and the reds. One of those reds is vermillion [ver-mil-yuh n], which is "a brilliant scarlet red". Here are a few sample sentences:

The trees on the hillside blazed with crisp vermillion leaves, 
brilliant against the blue October sky.

"Sweet ride," he said, trailing a finger 
along the vermillion hood of the car.

What other vermillion things can you think of? How would you use the word vermillion?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

We'll discover...

Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net

An excerpt:

     "It's Batty's fault," said Skye.

     "It is not," said Batty.

     "Of course it is," said Skye.  "We wouldn't be lost if Hound hadn't eaten the map, and Hound wouldn't have eaten the map if you hadn't hidden your sandwich in it."

     "Maybe it's fate that Hound ate the map.  Maybe we'll discover something wonderful while we're lost," said Jane.

     "We'll discover that when I'm in the backseat for too long with my younger sisters, I go insane and murder them," said Stacy.

~ from The Penderwicks,
written by Jeanne Birdsall

I just started reading The Penderwicks yesterday, and this humorous passage jumped out at me.  Maybe that's because our family just got back from a three-day road trip, and by the end of it I was wondering if one of my darling children was going to murder a sibling or two, LOL.  Have you ever been on a trip like that?