Category Archives: Children

Pete the Katniss or One Book, One School

Hi there!   J Monkeys coming to you from a Monday morning.  Woot!   For any who don’t know,  I’m a parent who studied literature in college and writes children’s books.  I’m excited to put those experiences together as a member of the One Book One School selection committee for my children’s school.

One Book One School is a program where a school selects one book and assigns it to every student with projects and activities that cover a variety of disciplines.   Now depending on the age range of students at the school, selecting a title can be tough.  Is there a book that is appropriate to both a kindergartener and a sixth grader?   Even in my children’s primary school (kindergarten to 2nd grade) it’s wicked hard. 

Kindergartners are only just learning to read.  They are memorizing sight words and beginning to understand phonetic pronunciation.  By the end of second grade, most students can read pretty well.  Finding a book that is challenging, interesting and appropriate for these disparate needs is tough.  

pete the catTrust me.  I’ve read a dozen books over the past week looking for something to recommend.  I’m calling it my quest for Pete the Katniss. 

Pete the Cat is a series of picture books that follow the antics of a cat named Pete.  His stories are simple, repetitive and often set to music.  

Katniss (in case you live under a rock) is katnissthe oft-violent heroine of The Hunger Games, a young adult distopian political thriller type romance.

For my school’s One Book One School program, I need to find a title that is as interesting as The Hunger Games, but has material that is age appropriate for five year old kids.   And, of course, it’s top secret.  I can’t disclose the titles I’ve been reading.

“But J, there are thousands of books to choose from,  how hard can it be to pick one?” you ask.   Surprisingly difficult.  After the committee’s first meeting, I stopped at the library to get the five books we had selected.  I read them, all children’s books that I had read decades ago, assuming that they would be good choices.  WRONG!

I read those five, and seven more, looking for books to recommend.  It turns out that books published before 1955, as three of them were, are often sexist, racist, xenophobic, use outdated language that can be considered inappropriate now, and/or often have a heavy handed sentence structure that would be completely over the heads of my kindergartners. 

One was too anti-school.  A couple of others were too short – the committee is looking for a chapter book in the neighborhood of 200 pages long.  Obviously, it’s an assignment for the parents as well as the students. 

Another betrayed the truth about a certain holiday gift-giver in such a way that I’m concerned the parents would set the building on fire.   There was a trio of books that are intended for a slightly older audience (really all of these are for an audience older than our students) and might just be a bit over the heads of these 5-8 years olds. 

I did find two that I wholeheartedly recommend, although one of them is a pretty popular series and might be disqualified for that reason.  The committee is looking for something that would be new to most everybody. 

I’m left with one; one book to recommend out of a dozen Middle Grade books read. 

What would you recommend?  I’m looking for something that would appeal to both boys and girls, is a chapter book, and is not likely to offend the parents with subject matter that they would deem inappropriate for a young child.  Bring ‘em on.  I’ve got a follow up meeting this week.   I’ll let you know how it goes.

 

Who wants a mean Santa? by J Monkeys

Good Morning Scriblers!  J Monkeys here.   I’m so sorry that I’ve missed the last two weeks!  Would you believe that I’ve been so busy, I forgot it was Saturday?  YIKES.

Today, in honor of the upcoming holiday, I wanted to take a moment to talk about a film that used to be a favorite of mine, but which I now loathe.  Yes, I’m talking about the clay-mation classic: Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.

Rudolph the red nosed reindeerHave you watched this movie as an adult?  If you are responsible for the care of children, then you will be even more horrified.  First, Rudolph’s own father basically calls him a freak for having an unusual nose and makes him hide it.  Then Santa, that paragon of kindness and joy, sees it and tells Donner that his son’s not good enough to schlep a ton of toys through the sky.  Then of course the flying coach, their pal, gets all the other children to join him in mocking one of the little yearlings. That’s some really awful bullying.  Only when Rudolph’s nose becomes useful to Santa is he finally accepted onto the team. 

It’s no better for the elves.  Setting aside the terrible treatment of Herbie, watch what happens when the elves perform for Santa.  They sing their little hearts out, only to have the head elf (Santa) grunt at them and dash away.  What a jerk!

Even Yukon Cornelius gets in on the nasty action.  Once he defeats the Bumble, he taunts him, forcibly removes his teeth, then puts that wild beast on a leash and drives him around the north pole. 

I find that whenever my kids watch this movie, I have to stand there commenting how “We would never behave this way, would we!”   It takes something away from the viewing experience, I think.

Both the Year Without a Santa Claus and Santa Claus is Coming to Town are better, although the later has that whole disturbing song about how if you sit on a strange man’s lap and pay the price of a kiss, you’ll get gift. 

But no matter how you like your holiday movies, I wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanza, Happy Boxing Day, Festive Solstice and Safe New Year.

~ J

 

 

Harvest Fair is Here!

PJ Sharon here. After record breaking temps the past week here in New England, followed by a rainy, wet and seasonably chilly weekend, I’m hoping for something in between for next weekend’s Granville Harvest Fair. If you’ve never been, it’s a wonderful time. The leaf peeping is superior this year and will be in full show this coming week. You won’t want to miss it.

Granville, Massachusetts is one of those idyllic little towns in the foothills of the Berkshires, the perfect place to celebrate autumn and harvest time. Granville Country storeCentered in front of the Granville Country Store—world famous for their outstanding homemade cheeses—several hundred vendors set up tents and show their wares. This is one of the best fall fairs in New England in my opinion. There’s everything from crafts and pottery, to hand crafted jewelry and woodworking. They have face painting for the kids, a pumpkin contest, and a free bus ride up to the top of the hill where you can enjoy apple cider and baked goods at the orchard, and see the magnificent quilts hanging up at the Old Town Meeting House. The little ones love the scarecrow and tractor display, and there’s nothing like a piece of warm apple pie with a slice of Granville country cheddar cheese on top and a cup of cider. My mouth is watering already!

As for me, I’ll be sharing a tent with J Monkeys, and signing books down in front of the library, right across from the country store.  You have to try some of their homemade pies and cheese bread…yum! I hope if you’re in the area, you’ll stop by and say hello. I’ll need someone to bring me a piece of pie.

Anyone in the area going? Are there other harvest fairs you’ve been to? Traditions you love this time of year?

Writer’s Cave, Here I Come! by Katy Lee

It’s crunch time. With a deadline looming for my third Love Inspired Suspense novel I need to say goodbye to my family and friends. I need to bid adieu to my social life. (Ha…like I have one of those anyway, but if felt good to say.) I need to prepare my home for a disappearing mama. But I can’t just hole myself into a room with no preparation. So here is my checklist before I shut that door.

1) Food Shopping – My pantry is stocked with easy meals the kids and husband can makeFODR-00015873-001 on their own. If they’re at a loss, there is always cereal. I bought thirteen boxes of their favorite varieties. And of course, I bought chocolate for me.

 

 

list2) The house is clean and chore lists are given out. I do love writing those lists. It could be the writer in me, or it could be the fact that I’m getting a month off. Yippee!

 

3) Special one-on-one time with each child, and of course husband, has been dispersed. Love banks are full.cats

 

a sign4) The talk has been given. The sign is in place. You know the sign. Do not disturb unless someone is bleeding…a lot. They’ve been reminded that a closed door means I love you.

 

 

5) My Whack-a-Doubt Monster club is by my chair. I’ve batprepared well. I’m ready to go. I’m sure not going to let that creepy thing ruin it all. Nuh-Uh. No way.

That’s all, folks. I’ll see you all on the other side. But please do tell if you have something to add. Is there a certain thing you do to make your cave experience a success?

Ups and Downs by Vivienne Lynge

Good Morning!  Vivienne Lynge here.  Happy Saturday.  I’ve had a week of ups and downs. Some pretty high ups and some pretty low downs.  Ok, well, now that I’ve typed that, I guess my lows weren’t really that bad, certainly when compared with people who are living through serious problems like death, illness or stuff like that, but when measured on my blessedly even-keeled life, there was turmoil!

The lowest point of the week came on Tuesday, the first day of summer vacation.  I love my kiddos, but they are a handful.  During one FB vent this week, a friend turned me on to Glennon Melton.  If you have young children and worry that there’s something wrong with you because all you really want out of life is a couple of days of peace and quiet, quite possibly where you are not required to prepare food or clean anything, then you need to read this article.  I love my children, but the first day, The FIRST DAY! of summer vacation ended with me making a calendar that counts down the remaining days until school starts in September.  Seriously.  65.  Sigh. 

Tuesday was not a gold-star mommy day.  Not only did I drop the f-bomb on one of my kids, something I’m very much against, I did it while naked, dripping and covered in soap and shampoo.  My 5 minute shower was just too long for the angry horde and immediate mediation was required of me.  I was not happy.  Neither was Princess Second Grader.  I should probably start saving now for the future therapy bills.

But we lived through the week (yippeeee!) and have enough planned that I imagine we’ll live through next week too. 

On a high note, I’ve managed to clean 5 rooms this week.  My goal for these two weeks between school and the start of summer camp was to clean the house.  Rein in the clutter and general what-not that has clouded up Casa Lynge with its noxiousness.  I have trouble working in high amounts of icky.  Moderate ickiness is fine – but when things reach a certain threshold, all creativity is sucked out of me, along with the ability to accomplish anything other than burying my head in a good book. 

Beginning July 8th, I need to bury my head in Sometimes, my WIP.  I’m going to write 45,000 words in 3 weeks.  That’s how much time I have whilst the kiddos are all at camp and 45k will get me to the so-exciting-it-almost-writes-itself part of the book.  Yeah – that’d be the last 10,000 or so words.  I’ll need to focus and I can’t do that with broken CD players, bins full of winter jammies, and miscellaneous boxes of crap in my office. 

So, 5 rooms done, 5 to go.  Success!  PSG, Jester and Minx all live to see another week with only minor psychological scarring due to sudsy nakedness.  Another success.  And, just in case you wondered what happened after last week’s saga, Hubby deLuxe built the stairs to the pool deck.  Oh the luxury!  We’ve been in the pool every day this week and it has been so convenient!  Thank you HdL – you are the BEST!

Today’s secret: Isn’t the life of a romance writer glamorous?   Do you have needs in order to access your creativity?  Other than chocolate, of course.

The Untranquility of Three by Vivienne Lynge

Good Morning, Scribblers.  Vivienne Lynge here.  Does this every happen to you?  You wake at five minutes before the sun crests the horizon because your son, Minx, is poking you with a finger to find him dry jammies?  Then 30 seconds after you fall back to sleep, Jester comes along and needs the same thing.  Then at the unGodly Saturday morning hour of 6:00am, you wake to Princess Second Grader screaming that she wished Minx and Jester were never born…

Ahhhh, parenting.  Good times.  Why oh why would anyone willingly have three children?  It seems to be a horrible idea.  I think children should just arrive in even numbers.  I don’t know if this is true for everyone, but when I have two children (if one is at the coveted G-Mom’s house) things are much quieter.  Of course, it’s usually Princess Second Grader who goes to G-Mom’s, and she’s a girl.  Quite loud.  And a bit bossy.  napoleonI sometimes call her Napoleon.  To her face, even.  She hasn’t studied enough history to realize the implication…yet.  I look forward to that day in high school or whenever when she comes home and says, “Dude – that Napoleon guy wasn’t very nice.  Why do you call me that.”   Is it wrong for me to dream about that moment?

Lest we forget, Jester and Minx are boys.  Even though we are a rabidly anti-gun household (I won’t even allow squirt guns – it’s not the water I object to, it’s the distribution device.  They can dump all water and stuff on each other all they want – just no gun!) these little fellows make a gun out of everything!  Sticks, pencils, train tracks.  Sometimes they add extra train tracks to make some kind of riffle thingy.  And then site down the barrel.  How do they even know about that?  They have seen exactly two movies with guns in them, The Incredibles and Wall-E.  Ok, and Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back – hey it was 100 degrees here last summer and I needed to imprison them…I mean keep them…in the basement where it was cool.  The VCR is in the basement and the VHS selection is very thin these days.  I couldn’t face Thomas the Train again.  If you’re a mom, you’ve been there.

So they’ve seen 4 movies with guns but honestly, they were making things into guns long before they ever saw those.  How do I stop it?  All the old guard moms in my family (my mom, my aunts etc) say not to worry about it – their kids all played with guns (cap guns and air rifles mostly) and turned out fine.  Then there’s the other side of things where two kids were suspended from elementary school for playing soldier with each other when one’s father was a US Marine!  They weren’t threatening anyone – they were PLAYING!

Lordy-be…Princess Second Grader is bugging me again…something about Minx not feeding blueberries to a plastic snake, only to the actual children.  These kids have a lot of rules…no wonder they’re always fighting.  Where was I?  Oh yes…Society today has so many conflicting expectations…let children play and be children…but not too creatively lest we have to punish them for role playing.  Ahhh, what’s a mom to do?  Immerse herself in romance, of course.  When I can find the time.

Today’s secret: if at all possible, don’t have 3 children.  Have 4 or 2 or 6.  Not 3…I gotta go…Minx seems to have thrown a cardboard brick at PSG and she’s expecting some kind of consequence.  I’d better get in there before she takes matters into her own hands.  She might find an actual brick and throw it back…

Speaking Engagements

Hiddey-ho Scribblers!  J Monkeys here – on a short vacation from my vacation!  I had an exciting first yesterday and I wanted to come back to the land of bloggers and tell you about it. 

Y’all know I write children’s books, right?  Heavens, if not, click here to see my bookshelf.  Well, all of the indie pub’d children’s authors I’ve met tell me the same thing, “We’re not getting any of the e-book love because our audience doesn’t have access to spend their own money.”  Too true – children’s authors need to appeal to kids and parents both.  One drives the demand for the book, the other holds the purse strings. 

One way to get books in kids hands is by going to their school and speaking with them, while at the same time, getting the school to allow a flyer to go home to the parents to sell books.  This happens with some regularity, my niece brought home at least 3 author visit book order forms this year.  But the trick is, to get the PTO or whomever, to select you out of the giant pile of authors who want to visit.

Big name authors charge big bucks for the speaking engagement as well.  I know of one author who charged my school $900 as a speaking fee, plus sold books for a whopping $14.95 a piece.  Not a bad haul for a day’s work.

While I know that getting into schools is a good way to market to my audience and I’m pretty comfortable talking in front of a crowd, I haven’t made much progress at this goal until yesterday. 

Yesterday was my first in-school author visit.  I spent the day in a K-2 school.  I gave 2 forty-five minute presentations to 150 kids at a time.  I talked about the things you need to write a story – and idea, characters, conflict and plot.  And I did a creative writing project with 40 kids where we wrote a story together and the children illustrated it. 

All in all it went very well.  I knew that the creative writing project was going to be a for a smaller group, but didn’t realize until the day before the event that “smaller” was 40 kids!  I had envisioned like 12 kids.  But even that piece went really well.  The kids were attentive, excited and seemed to really enjoy it. 

I was a bit worried that my explanation of the 3 types of conflict would be boring or over their heads, even though I used examples that I knew they would be familiar with, but I don’t think that it was.  They seemed engaged, and were able to answer questions.

In the end, it was quite a fun experience.  I got paid to speak, nothing like $900, but enough, and I sold 30 copies of Brook the Fish.  Once I put it together, I’ll have an example of the classroom creative writing project that I think could be a good selling point for other schools.  And most importantly, I’m over the hurdle of the first one.  While I was never nervous about speaking, I had been procrastinating this whole school-speaker thing because I hadn’t done it before and didn’t know if it would work or if it would be a disaster.

So here’s a secret for you: don’t procrastinate because you don’t know if something will go well.  Just jump in and do it.  If you have a disaster on your hands, you’ll likely get some insight into how to fix it, but you might surprise yourself and have a win.

Do you like to try new things?  What kinds of things scare you?