The Senses of Spring

BaseballSpring is a time of reawakening. New animal babies are born and buds pop out on the trees. I found that it is the time for my senses to reawaken, too.

At my son’s first baseball game of the season last night, I was acutely aware of the smell of the freshly cut grass while I watched the boys hold their caps over their hearts for the National Anthem. I could hear the boys laughing from the dugout, and the crack of the wooden bat successfully hitting the ball. My daughter was not watching the game, but was busily digging in the dirt next to the bleachers, bringing me handfuls of craggy, bumpy rocks. And we finished the evening off with a tasty celebratory frozen yogurt.

This inspired my idea for a writer’s exercise, or game to play with your kids (when you can’t possibly play another game of iSpy).

Family Version: At the park, on a car ride, at a sporting event, waiting for the doctor/dentist, taking a nature hike, or anywhere else you might be, challenge your family to describe where they are with all five senses. It may inspire some interesting conversations about WHY the doctor’s waiting room smells like bubble gum.

Writer’s Version: During similar situations as above, or sitting on the porch having a cup of coffee, or people watching at the mall (or wherever else you are), take out your journal and see if you can describe the environment with all five senses. Extra bonus points for the more descriptive and creative you are with your answers. This exercise also works as a “jump starter” for your writing day, or a break exercise when you are stuck while writing. Reflect back on a situation, and see what sensory descriptors you can conjure up. Don’t worry… even if “the smooth stickiness of peanut butter on the roof of my mouth” never makes it into any of your manuscripts, it WILL open your mind to the things that might pass by unnoticed.

Feel free to share your examples and what your senses revealed to you. Happy Spring!

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Through the Eyes of Children

I spent this week on the dream vacation of most American children. My family and I travelled to Florida, went to the beach, spent 2 days at Disneyworld, and stayed at a fun hotel with waterslides and a pool. Between the hotel and Disneyworld, a parent could have felt overwhelmed with all the characters, from princesses to Mickey Mouse to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It could really feel over-commercialized.

While my children loved meeting their favorite characters, what we really enjoyed was being surrounded by stories. There were stories everywhere, behind each of the rides and experiences. We immersed ourselves in Pooh’s Hundred Acre Wood. We flew on a Rebel Spy mission past the Death Star and back to base. My son was chosen to play the Beast in a special story with Belle. We even made some of our own memories and stories to share for years to come.

This trip has reminded me of the stories behind the places we experience everyday- both fantastical and ordinary. And it reminded me why I (and many of you) write for children: for the chance to give a child joy and laughter, and to help them dream.

Lights, Camera, Action!

ImageLights! Camera! Action! How a Movie is Made

Written and Illustrated By: Gail Gibbons

Thomas Y. Crowell Publishing House, 1985, Hardcover

Target Audience: Ages 6-9

Genre: Non-Fiction

How We Discovered This Book:

My son is very interested in how movies and television is made. Some of this probably stems from the natural process of learning what is real, and what is not. However, he takes a distinct interest in “peeling back the curtain” and figuring out how things are accomplished. We have watched videos on movie makeup, special effects, puppetry, and techniques like green screens and stop motion animation, but I was in search of a good book to explain the big picture of making movies and television.

What I Liked About This Book:

Even though this book was published almost 30 years ago, it covers the broad process in such a way that it does not feel outdated. The whole process is covered from the writing of the script all the way to opening night. We get to see all of the preparation involved, and the many people needed to make a movie.

What Did My Son Aidan Think?

He enjoyed this book much better than several others we read, which were way too general or outdated. This book seemed to have just the right amount of detail without getting bogged down in it. After reading this book, my son wants to learn more. Any suggestions on this topic? I have my eye on a Klutz book on stop-motion animation, but I’d love any suggestions for picture books.

Resources:

Teaching Resources: This site has TONS of ideas for teaching kids about television and movies.

Write Your Own Activity Script: This site walks you through how to write a script with kids, and then mount a production. They base the script on Jon Sciezka’s The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, so it sounds extra fun.