Monday, November 30, 2009

Jingling Bells!

It's not quite December, but the Christmas season is already jingling in at my house. My husband loves Christmas and I'm doing good to get him to wait until December to start the Christmas carols. He plays them in his truck year round, but I make him wait in the house!

Our "stereo system" is a single CD player. We haven't mastered the whole ipod thing yet. The CD he puts in in the morning generally plays all day. Christmas CDs tend to be short, so by evening I've heard the same songs over and over all day. My patience for Frosty the Snowman wears thin and silence feels comfortable.

Picture books can be like that, too. My kids wanted the same ones over and over again. I can still quote the first few pages of Daisy Dog, a Little Golden book that my firstborn loved. That doesn't mean I loved reading it, though. For a picture book to stand constant re-reading, it needs to delight the reader, as well as the listener. It needs a theme that touches the heart. It needs rhythm, even if it's prose. It needs characters you love to come back to, again and again. Not an easy task.

One of my favorite Christmas picture books is Patricia Polacco's The Christmas Tapestry. I've read it many times and it never grows old. Of course, I'm a sap for a happy ending, and this one certainly delivers. A lovely blending of two families who celebrate both the Jewish and Christian heritage in the holiday season.

I highly recommend this one for reading aloud during the Christmas season.

For pure fun, you just can't beat Dori Chaconas' When the Cows Come Home for Christmas. Chaconas is a master of rhythm and rhyme. A delightful twist at the ends makes this one a keeper for Christmas story time.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


I'm going to have a house full of people next week. I'm looking forward to sharing Thanksgiving with so many good friends and family. Things I'm thankful for:
  • My sweet husband who has loved me for 34 years.
  • My precious children scattered across the four corners of the U.S.
  • My five delightful grandchildren, and the one on the way.
  • Good friends, though I wish some of them were closer by.
  • A small house with a creek in the backyard.
  • A job I enjoy that lets me meet some really wonderful people.
  • Books, home, hot tea and scones.
  • Freedom, to be completely me, to live where I want and worship as I choose.
Some of my favorite Thanksgiving books:

This is the Feast by Diane Z. Shore
Diane's exquisite rhyme brings the story of Thanksgiving to life.

Journey by Joseph Bruchac
A lovely retelling from Squanto's perspective.

I Know an Old Lady Who Sw
allowed a Pie
by Alison Jackson

Pure fun!

Happy Thanksgiving! Enjoy the holiday.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Readers Theatre Project

I've missed a few Monday posts. I hurt my shoulder and have been babying it. In the meantime I've worked on three more readers theatre scripts for my book on explorers. My wonderful critique group has helped me find the balance between information overload and story.

The research required for one of these things is prodigious. I end up with facts in my head, notebook, computer, on paper scraps and napkins, the back of envelopes, sticky notes, etc. Then do I organize all those notes? Not really. Usually I am much more organized, but because there are so many of these little scripts to write, I have approached this project a little differently. I accumulate all these facts and then let my brain sort for story, conflict, and humor.

My first draft is almost always too fact heavy, so I look again for the heart of the script. What is the teaching point? How can these characters I've pulled together interact, react to each other, with enough conflict and humor to make a middle grade reader willing to recreate this tiny piece of history? There's the challenge that keeps a writer plugging away on a project.

If you haven't used readers theatre in your classroom or library before, check out the variety of topics and grade levels published by Libraries Unlimited. There's something here for everyone. And next year, mine will be on the list.