Category Archives: For Kids

Happy Earth Day! Green Earth Book Award Winners Announced

Happy Earth Day!

My father was the organizer of our town’s Earth Day celebration the first year it was held in 1970, so it holds a very dear place in my heart. I was smack dab in the middle, too, at 10 years old. With that in mind, here is a news release from The Nature Generation. I wish these books had been available for 10-year-old me:

April 22, 2016 — The Nature Generation, a nonprofit that inspires environmental stewardship, announced today the national 2016 Green Earth Book Award winners. The literature award is recognition of authors and illustrators whose books best inspire young readers to care for the environment.  Second graders from Culbert Elementary School helped unveil the winners during a nature field trip at the Chapman DeMary Trail in Purcellville, Va.

 “This year’s Green Earth Book Award winners are particularly poignant, introducing young readers to the vulnerabilities of humanity in terms of our connection to the natural world.  In these winning books, the adversity and  the struggles to make sense out of life lead to hope and beauty and lay the foundation for stories that inspire us to greatness. They will motivate young readers to view their relationship with nature differently, and to become future stewards of the natural world we live in,” said lead review panelist Dr. Ernie Bond, professor at Salisbury University and leading specialist in children’s and young adult literature.

 Picture Book

The Stranded Whale, written by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Melanie Cataldo (Candlewick Press)

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Honor winners:

Crane Boy, written by Diana Cohn and  illustrated by Youme (Cinco Puntos Press)

The Seeds of Friendship,  written and illustrated by Michael Foreman (Candlewick Press)

Young Adult Fiction

The Beast of Cretacea, written by Todd Strasser (Candlewick Press)

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Children’s Fiction

The Thing About Jellyfish, written by Ali Benjamin (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)

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Honor winners:

Sydney & Simon Go Green!, written by Paul A. Reynolds and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds (Charlesbridge)

The Order of the Trees, by Katy Farber (Green Writers Press)

Children’s Nonfiction

Mission: Sea Turtle Rescue, written by Karen Romano Young and Daniel Raven-Ellison (National Geographic Society)

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Honor winners:

One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia, written by Miranda Paul and illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon (Millbrook Press)

Untamed: The Wild Life of Jane Goodall, written by Anita Silvey (National Geographic Society)

 

A Happy, If Somewhat Mysterious, Giveaway

Last year it was… cody cover… first book in my series for younger MG readers.  And as of today it’s…

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…book two! I’m headlong in love with these characters, so it’s wonderful to continue spending time with them ( two more books to come).

For me, writing early middle grade, which I think of as geared to roughly 7-10 year olds,  is a happy challenge. A maximum of 15,000 words— sheer torture for a meander-er like me. And while Cody and best bud Spencer deal with real-life issues including sibling problems, the ups and downs of friendship, succeeding (or not) in school,  deciding what is right and what’s wrong, and experience  feelings like jealousy, loneliness, confusion, frustration (whew! growing up is a lot of work)—their lives are more sheltered and innocent than the lives of older middle graders. So writing these books is a balancing act that requires  treating things that loom large in kids’ lives in a respectful yet light (never lite) way. These are books for kids who love to laugh and like happy endings.  Bonus: because they have lots of illustrations, they appeal to older, reluctant MG readers, t0o.  It’s a wonderful coincidence that Sarah Pennypacker, who wrote the brilliant Clementine series, is debuting a new young MG hero this month. I like to think that Waylon, of “Waylon! One Awesome Thing”, would hit it off with Cody if they ever met.

The Booklist review of “Mysteries of the Universe” really describes what these books are about  when it says they center on  “the ever-shifting questions asked by readers this age as their awareness of the universe around them grows in leaps and bounds. ” Oh what the heck, I’ll  blush and add the review’s last line: “Brimming with charm, delight, and a diverse cast of characters.”

To help celebrate Cody # 2’s publication, and Cody #1 being out in paperback, I’m giving away a signed copy of each. Please leave a comment below! (Only U.S. residents please).

 

Feeding the (Young) Artist Within: Books to Help Us Free Ourselves for the Journey

I’m very excited to teach another summer camp this year at the school where I retired two years ago. Last year, we took the students on a science and poetry journey, using the observational tools we honed in the school’s forest to inspire a variety of poems. That was a blast!

This year, I wanted to tailor campers’ experiences to the wider age range – because to be honest, though we had a great time, poetry was a tough thing to focus on for 5 days straight for the youngest kiddos, who really wanted to play all day in the gorgeous weather.

It’s nature art camp this year, and I’m pumped. My campers range from 1st to 5th grade, so I want to challenge those kids the best way possible, and there’s lots of opportunity for fun, sharing and exploration.

But here’s what I’ve learned about art and personal expression. What I’m about to share is true for writing, too, but there is an in-your-face thing that happens with visual arts in particular, and it’s called being afraid to fail. With writing, I can produce a cruddy draft and craft the heck out of it before I show it to anyone.

Visual art is really fun, and it’s messy, and sometimes, we really do have to accept that it’s more about the process than the product. That’s fine when you’re in your own studio, but in a group setting, a visual product is out there for everyone to see from the moment creation begins, and sometimes it’s hard to own the uncertainty of the process.

This means I have to be prepared for disappointment, and I have to help kids of all levels be prepared for mistakes and to help them figure out how to be okay with that.

My goal in our five days together is to expose the campers to several art experiences, and to give them a safe space to explore personal expression. We’ll play with watercolors and go to the splash park. We’ll do some rubbings and sun prints from pieces of nature we find in the woods. We’ll read  SWATCH: The Girl Who Loved Color (Julia Denos), about a girl who loves all the colors and wants to collect them, then play with colors and maybe adopt some for ourselves. We’ll make hand-felted flowers inspired by the school gardens, while we explore textures of natural fibers in the natural world with our eyes and hands.

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On the last day, we’ll work together to create a piece of Andy Goldsworthy -inspired art as a gift to those who come to the next week’s camp. Here is a link to a kid-friendly Andy Goldsworthy-type project, and here is one from the Eric Carle Musem, with a great lesson plan and information about the artist.

Every day of camp we’ll start with a read aloud – because where else can we spark imagination better than between the pages of a book? Here are some titles I’ve found that seem to launch a feeling of safety and support in personal exploration for kids (or adults!) of any age. I enjoy re-visiting these myself when I begin to worry too much about the product and forget about the process.

Beautiful Oops!, by Barney Saltzberg

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This is a board book even the grownups want to play with: torn pages, folded corners, crumpled bits of paper – what if we made even more art from our mistakes?

The Dot and Ish, both by Peter H. Reynolds

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I once read The Dot to my art and design classmates when we were deep in the very stressful process of preparing for an important exhibition – there was a ton of self-doubt making its way around the room, and we were all exhausted. Then we were all freed by my reading of this book, with its advice to “make a mark.”. Ish is another simple picture book created by Peter H. Reynolds, and I have helped students work through difficult feelings of perfectionism by sharing this one as well.

The Most Magnificent Thing, by Ashley Spires

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This book is all about trying, and failing, to make the thing that is in your mind, but embracing the importance of walking away so that you can return to try again with a new perspective.

For all my campers, a feeling of purpose can spark inspiration, as well. I’ll also be sharing Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood, by F. Isabel Campoy, Theresa Howell, and Rafael Lopez as we begin creating our community piece at the end of our week together.

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Have you ever thought of reading picture books to give your imagination some spark, or some creative support? I highly recommend it for any age!

 

 

In fourth grade, Valerie Stein touched an ancient artifact from an archaeological dig. Though she never got to travel the world in search of buried treasure, she ended up journeying to new and exciting places between the pages of books. Now she spends her time researching history, in museums and libraries, which is like archaeology but without the dirt. Valerie’s book, The Best of It: A Journal of Life, Love and Dying, was published in 2009.  Both her current work and an upcoming middle grade series are historical fiction set in Washington State. Valerie is Publisher at Homeostasis Press  http://www.homeostasispress.com/index.php, and blogs at Gatherings, the blog of Gather Here: History for Young People https://gather-here-history.squarespace.com/