A Bonus Halloween Post!

Happy Halloween everyone! I’m not much into the gore of Halloween, but I am looking forward to taking my kids trick-or-treating tonight.

Susanna Leonard Hill is having another Halloween contest on her blog this year, and I had so much fun with last year’s contest, I wanted to do it again. It’s a Haloweensie contest, because it’s short and it’s for kids. We are challenged to write 100 words using the words spooky, black cat, and cackle. Here’s my contribution:

ARE YOU SCARED YET?

“I’m ready, ” said the little black cat.

“Let’s hear it,” said the big black cat.

“Booooooo,” said Little Cat.

Big Cat curled up. “Not spooky enough.”

“Ah ha ha ha,” she cackled, wrinkling her nose.

Big Cat yawned. “Not creepy enough.”

Little Cat bared her teeth. “Mwah ha ha,” she said.

“I’m still not scared,” said Big Cat, closing his eyes.

Little Cat took a deep breath and growled from her belly, getting louder until her body vibrated.

“Rawr!” she bellowed, and Big Cat jumped straight into the air.

“Not bad,” Big Cat said.

Little Cat smiled. I’m ready.

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Review: Room on the Broom and Contest Update

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Room on the Broom

Written by: Julia Donaldson

Illustrated by: Alex Scheffler

Dial Books, 2001, Hardcover Edition

Target Audience: 4-8 (and my 3 year old loves it too)

Genre: Fiction

Theme: Holiday/Seasonal

How We Discovered This Book: Grandma bought this for my daughter last Halloween, and it has quickly become our favorite Halloween book.

Summary: The story begins: “How the cat purred/ and how the witch grinned/ As they sat on their broomstick/ and flew through the wind.” A witch takes a broom ride and needs help from some animal friends along the way.

What I Liked: The rhyme is fluid, and never forced. I really admire writers who can write well in rhyme. I don’t attempt it, for fear of failing miserably. The story is cute and fun. At one point it could have gotten spooky, but a creative twist keeps it kid-friendly.

What Did My Kids Think? My kids ask for this book frequently, and sometimes they ask to read it again as soon as we’ve finished. I won’t spoil the twist for those of you who haven’t read it yet, but it gives the kids and me a chuckle every time.

Resources: Julia Donaldson has created her own companion book of activities with stickers, puzzles, and games. More can be found on the official Room on the Broom webpage.

The Tall Stories Theater Company has a study guide for teachers or homeschoolers to use, with activities like Mixing Up A Spell (literacy activity), Multi-Monster collage, story comprehension, and Rhyme Time.

Check out more picture book reviews each Friday at Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book Friday.

Last week I kicked off a Halloween sounds story contest. Unfortunately, we did not have any entries, so there is no prize to award. If you are interested in a Halloween story contest, but our contest was too long or too complicated for you, check out the Halloweensie contest on Susanna’s blog. It kicks off on Monday and runs through Halloween. I’m planning to enter again this year.

Halloween Sounds and a Contest

It’s only a few weeks until Halloween. Are you ready? Have you carved or painted your pumpkin? Have you bought candy for trick or treaters (only to have to buy more after you eat it)? Are you going to any fun costume parties?

No parties for us this year, which is a relief, after the so-called family party we went to last year. This year, we just have regular neighborhood trick or treating planned (if it doesn’t snow this year), and a school parade for each child. My daughter is dressing up as a fairy, which makes things easier since her Tinkerbelle costume is on regular rotation for dress-up. My son wants to be a bumblebee, so I have some sewing to do. I’ll share some pictures after the big day.

So in continuation of the last post, let’s have a little Halloween contest about sounds. Next week I will be reviewing Julia Donaldson’s book Room on the Broom. The winner of the contest wins their own copy of the book.

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Halloween is a season full of spooky, creepy, and scary sounds. Which one is your favorite?

Now write a short story of no more than 250 words, with your chosen sound as the first AND last word of the story. Use it as many times as you want (along with other sounds if you choose), but one sound must appear at both the beginning and end.

Here’s mine to get you started:

Creeeeek. I opened one eye. The room was pitch black, so I couldn’t see anything moving. I waited while my heart beat three times. Nothing. I closed my eyes again, and was dozing back to sleep when I heard it again. Creeeeek.

I sat straight up in my bed. I wasn’t imagining something in my room. Could I make it to the door before it got me? Maybe I could make it to the lightswitch instead. Creeeek. The sound was getting closer.

I felt inside my bedside table drawer for my flashlight. I squinted at the bright light as I switched it on, and then opened my eyes wide as I swung it back and forth across my room.

My desk covered in papers: check. My cars lined up on the block road I built: check. The pile of clothes mom keeps asking me to put away: check. Everything was where it should be.

I turned the light off and laid in bed looking out into the dark. Come on, whatever you are. I dare you. Make another noise. I counted to 20 and back. Nothing.

I grinned to myself. I must have scared it away! No sound is a match for me. I chuckled to myself. I bet my little brother would have cried.

I slowly drifted back to sleep, dreaming of lifting a car with my bare hands. Creeeeek.

Please submit your story:

1. In the comments

OR

2. Post it to your blog with a link back in the comments

by next Thursday, October 24th at 6 PM EST. Our panel of judges will choose the winner! Hint: We really like creativity, humor, and wit!

Good luck!

The Sounds of Poetry

I was sitting at baseball practice last evening, listening to the sounds of baseball:

the crack of the bat (hopefully)

“I got it!”

cleats pounding in the dirt

the thunk of the ball in the mitt

I love sounds. I think it’s my favorite evocative sense for writing.

Here’s a little exercise to help you write your poem for this week. What?  You didn’t know you were going to write a poem this week?

Pick a sound from the list below to get you started. What does your sound make you think of? Fill in the blanks in the poem form below. Feel free to elaborate!

bells ringing

pages turning

birds chirping

child singing

leaves rustling

lips smacking

 

I heard ___sound from list____________.

It started soft, and then it filled my ears.

It made me think of ____________, and ______________, and _________________.

And I ___1 or 2 past tense verbs_______.

 

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Here’s mine:

I heard the leaves rustling.

It started soft, and then it filled my ears.

It made me think of autumn, and blankets, and apple cider.

And I wrapped my sweater around my body and sighed.

 

Please share yours in the comments! Best wishes for a snuggly fall day!

Appreciating the Genres

As a children’s book writer, I have a good appreciation for the genres of our field. I began my journey in children’s book writing with picture books, and currently I am working on three middle grade novels. My critique partner Joanna rocks the young adult segment.

As my son gets older, he still enjoys having picture books read to him but his choices are different when he reads for himself. He is reading chapter books, but I am struck by the broad range of choices in this genre.

Aidan really skipped over the beginning chapter books, like Frog and Toad, or Nate the Great. They didn’t seem to be “meaty” enough for him. He enjoys adventures, especially those in far away locations or times. The Magic Treehouse books are right up his alley. He frequently connects things that he learns about (Ancient Rome for example) with what he read in a Magic Treehouse book. We are lucky to have a family friend that gave us a big collection of Jack and Annie books (thank you Chrissy!).

I read a Facebook post this summer where Moms were discussing chapter books with appropriate content for young kids. One mom suggested Geronimo Stilton. I had never heard of him. Luckily, our library had some of the books, so we tried them out. And Aidan fell in love.

The Geronimo Stilton books are written in first person by a mouse named Geronimo Stilton. He is the editor of the Rodent Gazette, and the books are told in his voice. He is the “author” ala Lemony Snicket. (Spoiler alert: the books are written by Italian author Elisabetta Dami, distributed by Scholastic in the US)

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The really creative part of the Geronimo Stilton books is how they bridge the transition from picture books to novels. I’m sure many children miss the rich images from picture books when they move to longer books. In the Geronimo Stilton books, there are plenty of illustrations, maps, and pictures. They also illustrate the text. Yes, the text. They use colors, different type faces, even illustration to further illuminate the words. This comes in quite handy for a child who is actively expanding their vocabulary. Combine all this with an exciting adventure story, and you’re on your way!

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If you haven’t yet checked out Geronimo I encourage you to give him a try. There are currently 55+ books in the regular series plus 7 graphic novels. He even has his own web page with games and videos, as well as places to draw and write.

What other chapter book gems would you recommend? Please share in the comments!