Saturday, December 31, 2016

Celebrating Successes from 2016

If you are looking for an alternative to setting New Year's resolutions, you might want to try this idea from children's author and entrepreneur Julie HedlundJulie’s approach is an alternative to traditional New Year’s resolutions that stem from negatives, like 'what I didn’t do last year' or 'what I need to fix about myself.'
Her suggestion is to review your successes and achievements, and then use them as a foundation for setting goals. To me, this makes a lot of sense. I've been thinking about mine. Here are a few of my reading- and writing-related successes from 2016:
1. I was one of the judges for the final round of the Cybils Awards for Fiction Picture books last January & February. Despite the nail-biting moments of struggling to decide on a winner, the process of discussing picture books with others who love them as much as I do was great and I learned a lot.
2. I participated in the 12 x 12 Picture Book Challenge again (writing 12 picture books in 12 months). I didn't write any more picture books than last year but it was a good way to stay motivated.
3. I worked on revisions to one of my middle grade novels and my agent sent it out on submission before the end of 2016. 
4.  I revised several picture book manuscripts.

5.  I attended a few local SCBWI meetings and I also participated in a book club (adult literature) at my local library. So much fun to meet more people who also love writing and books!       

6. I read over 150 children's and YA books in my personal reading challenge.

Some years it's easy to find successes, but this year I was a little afraid there wouldn't be any. I experienced several life-changing events in my personal life that made it hard to focus on writing or reading. But no matter how small, celebrating successes is important. I urge you to give it a try. Head into 2017 on a positive note!
What are you most proud of this year? I hope you feel good about your successes!

Friday, December 9, 2016

Learning from Picture Books – I Am Josephine (And I Am a Living Thing)

I've never seen a picture book that talks about this idea of classification before. A simple but unique story.

Summary from the Publisher:

Meet Josephine: a spirited and curious girl, a big sister, and a human being. She’s also a mammal, an animal, and a living thing—all identities she explores with readers in this simple informational picture book.

Josephine presents her family (and herself) as examples of human beings, and then familiar creatures like her dog and her mom (and herself) as mammals. Next, she adds whales, lobsters, hummingbirds, and elephants (and herself) as examples of animals. Finally, she shares examples of living things, including moose, foxes, butterflies, flowers, and bugs… and, of course, herself!

Inspired by science and nature writer Jan Thornhill’s many classroom visits, this book is intended to help children recognize themselves as part of the natural world, with an emphasis on how all living things share similarities.

Playful, kid-friendly illustrations in vibrant colors paired with minimal text make this an easy introduction to the classification of living things. Endmatter goes into further detail about the unique characteristics of humans, mammals, animals, and living things.

I am Josephine (and I am a living thing), was written by Jan Thornhill and illustrated by Jacqui Lee, was published in 2016 by OwlKids.


“I am Josephine. I am Josephine, and I am a human being.”

My Thoughts as a Writer:

I really loved the concept of this book, and the simple kid-friendly text and illustrations. The repetitive style creates a rhythm and expectation for the reader. I also liked the places where readers are invited to find or count examples of each concept.

The illustrations are cartoon-like and fun, but also make it easy to identify each animal or being.

My Thoughts as a Teacher:

I haven’t seen a book that explains these categories to young children before and I really love it. I think it could provoke a lot of discussion. What is a living thing? I liked the lists at the end to explain the concepts.

Ages: 3 - 7

Grades: K - 2

Themes: living things, mammals, classification of animals


Provide pictures of different kinds of living things for children and have them decide which group(s) they belong to.

Draw a picture of yourself and write your answer to the question on the last page of the book: What makes you different from other human beings?

Think about how you fit into other groups (e.g., immediate family group, relative group, friend group, class group, school group ) etc. and write an “I am ______ story of your own.