Hard Work, Persistence, and a Little Luck

I double checked the content, took a deep breath, and clicked Submit. The first 50 pages of my middle grade novel and a synopsis went whizzing off to the inbox of an agent.

As you regular readers will know, I am referring to my beloved first novel that I have labored over for the last two years (ugh- has it really been that long?). Through hard work, persistence, lots of herbal tea, and much support from my critique group it is finally ready.

So now what? It is out of my hands and hopefully an agent will fall in love with it. All I can do for the next 4 weeks (their typical response time) is cross my fingers, pray, and hope. Any good thoughts you can send my way would be much appreciated.

Now that I have finally finished the synopsis and submitted the novel, I have no more excuses for putting off writing new stories. Sure, I have another novel to revise but what I really need is a creative jumpstart. My journals are bursting with ideas – perhaps the next book is just waiting to be freed from the pages.


Review: The Pirate’s Parrot

The Pirate’s Parrot

Written by: Lyn Rossiter McFarland

Illustrated By: Jim McFarland

Tricycle Press, 2000, Hardcover

Target Audience: Ages 3-8

Genre: Fiction

Theme: Bravery, Strength

How We Discovered This Book: This book has been on my “To Read” list for a while. I believe Joanna recommended it to me. We borrowed it from our library.


Captain Cur’s parrot dies, and his monocle is stepped on. How can he be a proper pirate captain without them? His crew finds him a replacement parrot, who is really a stuffed girl teddy bear. The crew teaches her to be a proper pirate, who bites, spits, swashbuckles,  and perches on the captain’s shoulder. But she proves she’s really a proper pirate when they encounter another pirate ship and she saves the day.

What I Liked:

This book is funny, and is immensely fun to read aloud. My kids thought my teddy bear and pirate voices were hilarious. Who doesn’t love to do a good pirate voice?

What Did My Kids Think?

Both of my kids enjoyed the story. My son liked that it was different from other pirate stories. He thought the funniest parts were when the bear talked and tried to be a pirate. In simplest terms, TEDDY BEAR + PIRATES + HUMOR = GOOD STORY in our house.


In searching for resources related to this book, I discovered that the mascot for the Pittsburgh Pirates major league baseball team is called the Pirate Parrot. Go figure.

Pirate Crafts, Coloring, and Printables

Declare it Pirate Day in your house: Dress up like pirates (a scarf, a striped shirt, a belt, and a quick paper eye patch will do), talk like pirates, and use your imagination to turn your couch into a pirate ship set for plunder.

Whether it’s Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 19th) or not, you can always integrate pirate-based lessons into your classroom.

Book Recommendations for Children 1 Year Old and Under

One of our critique group members recently became a grandma, so we were discussing our favorite books for very young children. Each of our personal lists brought back many memories, and we ended up with a solid list of quality books. So we thought we’d share them with you!

Here are our favorite books for children 1 year old and younger, in alphabetical order by author:

Hug, Jez Alborough

Sandra Boynton Books– including Pajama Time; Blue Hat, Green Hat; Moo, Baa, La la la!; Barnyard Dance!

The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eric Carle

Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type, Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin

Are You My Mother? P.D. Eastman

Time For Bed, Mem Fox

Orange Pear Apple Bear, Emily Gravett

Cowboy Small, Lois Lenski

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?/ Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See? Bill Martin and Eric Carle

Guess How Much I Love You, Sam McBratney

Blueberries for Sal, Robert McCloskey

Good Night Gorilla, Penny Rathmann

Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever, Richard Scarry

I Am A Bunny, Richard Scarry

Sheep in a Jeep, Nancy Shaw and Margot Apple

I Love You Through and Through, Bernadette Rossetti Shustak

Hop on Pop, Dr. Seuss

Owl Babies, Martin Waddell

That’s Not My Puppy/ That’s Not My Car/ That’s Not My Dinosaur, Fiona Watt and Rachel Wells

Knufflebunny, Mo Willems

Goodnight Moon, Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd

Runaway Bunny, Margaret Wise Brown

Do have other favorites not on this list? Please share!

When Books are Made into Movies

Recently, me and my children read a few books together that were eventually made into movies. We read the books first, and then we watched the movies. I’m a believer that most books are better than their movie counterparts. It is nearly impossible that the images I create in my mind can be recreated on screen. However, a movie adaptation still has a chance to wow me. If it makes a very literal translation to the screen, then the movie might be okay. But if the movie brings something new to the interpretation of the material- a new perspective, a creative visual twist, the intriguing portrayal of a highly complicated character- I might enjoy the movie just as much as the book.

The first book we read was The Borrowers, by Mary Norton. It is the story of a family of tiny people who live under the floor of a house. A teenage girl named Arrietty lives with her mom and dad under the kitchen. They “borrow” just what they need, and only those things the residents won’t miss. It was published in 1952 (and won the Carnegie Medal and other awards) but it has a timeless quality to it. There were several movies made from this book, including an American live action version with John Goodman. The movie we saw was The Secret life of Arrietty, which is a 2010 Japanese anime film dubbed in English.

We enjoyed both the book and the movie. It is a fanciful story, but set in everyday environments. It draws on a common human premise: where do things go when I can’t find them? The movie was different in many details and subplots from the book, but it deftly visualized the core elements. Each of the characters was presented slightly differently, but in most cases the changes smoothed over parts of them that I found mildly annoying in the book. For example, Arrietty’s mother is whiny and neurotic in the book, which is switched to concern and worry for the well-being of her family.

The second book we read was Holes, by Louis Sachar. This book tells the story of Stanley Yelnats, a boy who is always in the wrong place at the wrong time. He gets sent to a juvenile detention camp in the desert, where each boy is tasked with digging a large hole each day. It was made into a movie in 2003 with Shia LaBeouf in the lead role. The movie sticks fairly close to the book, but changes some of the details. My son was wondering why some parts of the movie felt so different from the book. The book is written in first person, from Stanley’s perspective. We get to hear his thoughts directly – how he feels about a situation, what he worries about, etc. I explained that if they directly translated it, we would be spending a lot of time watching Stanley think, or listening to an annoying voiceover. The film makers chose to use the parts of the book that had the most visual potential, and focused on those.

I especially enjoyed this book. There were details thoughout the book that seemed to be character or setting description. When you get to the end, you realize that everything the other has included is important to the resolution of the story. As a writer, I was amazed at how tight the writing was, while being so descriptive and creative,

I was also interested to see how each of these books were adapted, given that The Secret World of Arrietty is screenwritten by someone other than the author. The screenplay for Holes was written by the author, Louis Sachar. I was impressed with the restraint he showed with the source material, only including the parts that would best tell the story on screen. I was also impressed with his ability to write a screenplay, which to me requires a different skill set than writing a novel.

I would recommend both of these books and movies. Me and my kids are so enjoying this process, I think we’ll keep it going. We have already read Charlotte’s Web and seen the movie. I’m waiting until they are older for necessities like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. Any recommendations for other book and movie combos? Please share in the comments!