Friday, April 22, 2011

Easter Gift

Remember Easter’s not just about bunnies
and the colored eggs they hide,

 or the pretty Easter baskets
with plenty of treats inside,

a day for families being together
with fun for each girl and boy, 

but there is a very special reason
for so much Easter joy.

Jesus, God’s son, came from Heaven
where He had lived before,
 died because of all the sin,
then rose to life once more.

That’s the reason for Easter joy,
the gift God sent from above,
the gift of life that Jesus gives
and the wonderful gift of love.
 Connie Arnold, 2011
Happy Easter!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Klutzy Kantor Fun with J. Aday Kennedy

It's my pleasure to share with you a little about author J. Aday Kennedy and Klutzy Kantor, the star of one of her children's books, and his theme song, "Go Me!"

Aday describes herself as a "differently-abled" writer and speaker. Being a ventilator dependent quadriplegic doesn't stop her from being an accomplished author, motivational and inspirational speaker, and a whiz at creative marketing ideas, which she shares with other authors. I never cease to be amazed at what she can accomplish and her quick wit and wonderful sense of humor.

That great sense of humor is evident in Klutzy Kantor, a fun story about a clumsy flying horse who is, as you might guess, a complete klutz! He is also quite clever and must come up with the answer to a riddle to get a leprechaun to grant his wish to stop being so clumsy. Klutzy, like his author, teaches a good lesson about dealing with life's challenges. Delightful and colorful illustrations by Jack Foster add to the great appeal of this book, which is published by Guardian Angel Publishing.

You can visit to learn more about Aday's writing and books on her website and blog.

Here is a video for your enjoyment featuring Klutzy Kantor and his song, followed by a dance activity. Have fun!

Story Time Stomp Activity
Divide the students into three groups.
¨ Group 1 – Begin chanting the rhyme and snapping their fingers on each syllable.
¨ Group 2 – Begin chanting after Group 1 completes the first sentence then group 2 can begin to chant and clap each syllable.
¨ Group 3 – Begin chanting after Group 2 completes the first sentence then group 3 can begin to chant and stomp each syllable.

Do you have ants in your pants?
Do the Klutzy Kantor dance.
Come along and follow me,
But watch out for that big tree.
It’s the Klutzy Kantor beat.
My hooves are like four left feet.
I fly and splat into trees.
Clap your hands and stomp your feet
It’s the Klutzy Kantor beat.
Clap your hands and stomp your feet
It’s the Klutzy Kantor beat.
Clap your hands and stomp your feet
It’s the Klutzy Kantor beat.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Interview with Author Margot Finke

I'm pleased to share with you an interview with a special lady, Margot Finke. She is the author of many great books for children, including her two recent releases, Horatio Humble Beats the Big D and Taconi and Claude - Double Trouble.
Margot Finke is an Aussie transplant who writes midgrade adventure fiction and rhyming picture books. For many years she has lived in Oregon with her husband and family. Gardening, travel, and reading fill in the cracks between writing. Her husband is very supportive, though not interested in children's books . Their three children are now grown and doing very well.

Margot didn't begin serious writing until the day their youngest left for college. This late start drives her writing, and pushes her to work at it every day. Margot said, "I really envy those who began young, and managed to slip into writing mode between kid fights, diaper changes, household disasters, and outside jobs.  You are my heroes! "

Margot, how long have you been writing for children, and what encouraged you to begin doing so?
I have always written “stuff,” but it was my stint as a teacher’s aide that encouraged me write down the stories I told the different classes about Australia, and their weird and wonderful animals.  However, it wasn’t until our youngest went off to college that I buckled down and became a serious writer. 
When we first arrived in Oregon from Australia, I didn’t want our children to forget their Down-under heritage. I put a map showing Aussie animals on our kid’s bedroom wall. Every night I told them a story about a different critter.  These are the stories I told the school kids too, only sometimes I changed them around, and the children noticed the different endings. A teacher suggested I write them down. I did, and  they became my  “Wild and Wonderful” series: 7 rhyming picture books about animals from the US and Australia.
Those sound like some fun and exciting stories, Margot! You have several books published by Guardian Angel Publishing. Would you tell us a little about these and your reasons for writing them?
My two latest rhyming picture books, Horatio Humble Beats the Big D, and Ruthie and the Hippo’s Fat Behind, have  sneaky hidden agendas.  They were both born due to what I learned as a teacher’s aide.
Many kids suffer deeply due to big changes in their lives. Changes they have no control over: like a death, a divorce, a move far from friends and family etc. “Ruthie” is such a child, and she reacts with snotty behavior and tantrums her parent find hard to manage. Finally, something wonderful happens to change her back to a sweet and loving girl.  Kid friendly and fun to read, the parent/teacher guide offers a helpful Q and A plus links to more serious help.
It seems that Dyslexia and other learning problems beset many of today’s children – especially boys. “Horatio Humble” is a smart boy, yet he can’t read.  He thinks going to Special Ed classes will brand him dumb. However, go he does, with amazing results.  The story encourages these kids that they CAN learn to read. The parent-teacher guide suggests early diagnosis + links to helpful websites and advice.
Like a lot of boys these days, my son was a reluctant reader. This prompted me to write books with a WOW factor that grab their attention. I wrote  “Taconi and Claude– Double Trouble“ with boys (and tomboys) in mind.  Plenty of action, fast pace, an Aussie outback setting, + the surprise and mystery of an aboriginal tribe and its Dreamtime beliefs.  This historical novel, set in the early 1950’s, would make a great home school or class history project using the help in my Teacher’s Guide:  

I also include a glossary of fun and interesting Aussie sayings, words and names.
It's a wonderful thing to encourage children to read and enjoy books. Do you think it will make it easier for them with the growing popularity of e-books?
I think anything that encourages children to quit watching junk TV, and playing mindless and often violent computer games, is absolutely wonderful!  And kids today are computer savvy – unlike many of their parents.  They jump at the chance of books read on an eReader,  PC or laptop.  These books are cheaper, greener, and you can carry dozens around in a lightweight and very cool reader.  Computers and all their adjacent technology are the future – like it or not.  And the youth of today are ready to jump on it.
This isn’t to say that paper books are defunct.  NO WAY.  It just means there is room for more than one way to enjoy reading books, magazines, newspapers, or technical data for college or school.

I shared some e-books on my new e-reader with my grandsons on a recent visit, and they loved it! I notice on your website that you provide helpful information and critique service for other authors. Would you tell us something about that?
Manuscript Critiques are something I love doing.  When I started out, I was lucky enough to be mentored by several wonderful writers in an online list.  I have never forgotten the time they took to guide me, point out my strengths and weaknesses, and help me tighten and improve my writing skills.  Later I did critiques for free.  I felt it was a way to pay back the tutoring I had received.  When many more writers approached me for help, I started to charge a fee.  These days, I sometimes have so many critique clients it’s often hard to find time for my own writing, not to mention promoting my latest books.  Yet the thrill of hearing that a book I helped polish has been published never fades.  This is always a YIPPE moment for me.
If there is one thing I would advise new writers to do it’s join a really good critique group.  Then read lots-and-lots of books.  This will give you a feel for the genre.  Write, rewrite, and then rework it again until it is as good as you can make it. The two things I see most often in manuscripts is wordiness (overwriting) and weak, verbs.  Make your writing as tight as granny’s new girdle, and dig deep for active and powerful verbs.  Follow this with a fast pace and rich characters that readers can identify with.  Finally put the manuscript aside for a month or so.  When you reread it again, with fresh eyes, you will be amazed at what jumps out at you needing attention.
 And always remember that two small things often play a big part in your success – luck and patience.  Those who have the patience to stick with it, no matter how large the flood of rejections, are the writers who finally become published.  LUCK?  That’s sending the right book, at the right time, to the right publisher.  Or, meeting the right editor at a conference you almost didn’t attend, with exactly the MS she was looking for.
I benefited from one of your workshops at the Muse Online Conference where you helped me polish up Animal Sound Mix-up and encouraged me to submit it to Guardian Angel Publishing. Since it was accepted and published, you can have one of those YIPPEE moments over it! What led you to submit to GAP, and what has been your experience there?
I knew one of their Illustrators, Kevin Scott Collier, who has since won several illustrating awards, and now has his own children’s animated TV show.  He recommended me to the CEO, Lynda Burch.  He also illustrated “Rattlesnake Jam,” my first book with them. This is a fun rhyming romp, with a crazy Gran cooking up rattlesnake jam, and Pa, who caught the rattlers and longed for Rattlesnake Pie.  A great book for boys – all that yuck!!
As a publisher, GAP is very hands on, eager to find new ways to promote our books, and new outlets where they can be sold.  They encourage the writers and illustrators to share promotional ideas,  and team up to do book signings and virtual book tours.  They are growing fast, yet maintain that personal touch.

Thank you, Margot, for sharing with us. It has been delightful! Readers, please hop in with your comments and questions for Margot! Here are some links where you can see more about Margot and her books: 

Margot’s Magic Carpet:
Taconi Sample Chapter

Taconi Reviews:
Down-under Fun – information about the Aussie animals in my books:

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Spring Rejuvenates the Soul

This is a news release from Donna McDine, Editor-in-Chief, Guardian Angel Kids Ezine
 Spring Rejuvenates the Soul: Get Healthy with the Guardian Angel Kids April 2011 Issue
 Spring is beginning to awaken and what better time to get your body moving and grooving than through the April 2011 issue of Guardian Angel Kids Ezine. Healthy living and eating is always important to one’s well being for both mind and body so come along and spring on over to Guardian Angel Kids and find out what is in store for you this month
Without further ado we invite you to come explore the April 2011 issue of Guardian Angel Kids Ezine through poetry, short stories, non-fiction, and a parent/teacher article. To add to your child’s learning enjoyment be sure to partake in the interactive activities, games, and videos.
Featured Books:
Ouch! Sunburn, by Donna J. Shepherd, snappy rhymes along with the 15 colorful and fun illustrations by Kevin Scott Collier helps children see the need to protect their skin in the sun.
Sarah’s Socks My World of Autism, by Litsa Kamateros and Nia Morfonios. Sarah has autism and hates socks. Thanks to an understanding teacher and her helpful classmates she is better able to cope...until she's asked to wear socks.
Children poetry, stories, and articleS:

“The Runner,” by Debra Mayhew provides insights to what makes a runner tick.

“Does Noah Wash His Hands,” by Connie Arnold – the day in the life of a young boy.

“The Sleepover,” by Jennifer Gladen – the biggest spoiler of all, a cold before a sleepover. Jack Foster brings to life with his delightful illustration the fun of a girl’s sleepover.

“Finding Ideas,” by Cathy C. Hall – inspiration can be found in the ideas around us. We need to take the time to notice the simplicity of life around us. Samantha Bell’s charming illustration catches the essence of the imagination.

“Yum in the Tum,” by Jennifer Buchet - your mouth will water with these delicious and healthy recipes for the young and old to enjoy.

“Teach Your Child to Eat Healthy,” by Jacqueline Seewald – important tips to guide you to a healthy way of eating not only for your child, but for the whole family.

We look forward to your visit. Thank you for your time and interest.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

International Children's Book Day

Did you know that April 2 is International Children's Book Day? I just learned that myself. It has been celebrated for over 40 years on the birth date of Hans Christian Andersen to encourage the love of books and reading in children. There are so many wonderful children's books published around the world, and this is a great day to share a variety of books with the children in your life!

My husband, Tom, helped me make a short video of us sharing an excerpt from Animal Sound Mix-up, which we do for readings at preschools, children's museum, for our grandchildren, etc. I posted it on Facebook, and it was much enjoyed. Perhaps you'd like to join in the fun too. It was suggested that Tom might find a job doing his animal sounds. What do you think?

(See an excerpt from Animal Sound Mix-up and illustrations on my Children's website.)