Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Snow Challenge for January

by Janie Reinart

Grab a cup of hot chocolate and embrace the snow and cold for inspiration. We have five inches of snow and ice in Ohio, today. Write a story using the elements as your setting.

 The snow blows white on the mountain tonight
Not a footprint to be seen...
The wind is howling like the swirling storm inside. . .

According to Rebecca McClanahan’s "Word Painting," setting includes time and place, as well as the accoutrements therein such as a waterfall in a jungle or clock ticking by a bed (McClanahan, 171).

Emily Jenkins uses lyrical language and the snowy setting to help Plastic ( the Red Ball) change from being bookish to becoming poetic.

When asked what snow is Sting Ray says, "It's a blanket of peace over the world."

"No, it's frozen water," says Plastic. "I read it in a book."

Are We There Yeti? by Ashlyn Anstee casts Yeti as the school bus driver.  The children ask where
they are going and Yeti tells them it is a surprise. After a long trip, they end up in the snow covered
mountains and find...

"Now what?"

"Go have fun!"

Salina Yoon tells a tale of friendship. Penguin wants to know whats wrong with his friend.

"It's too cold here," said Grandpa.  "Pinecone belongs in the forest far, far away. He can't grow big

and strong on the ice."

What are your favorite mentor texts that use snow and ice as the setting.  Please share in the comments. Stay warm and write your snowy story.


Tuesday, January 9, 2018

THINK QUICK with Author Katey Howes

Hi Katey!  I love how Magnolia Mudd and the Super-Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe shows kids the fun of inventing and being your own person.  Thanks for visiting ReFoReMo! 

Let's see which way you lean. Remember, THINK QUICK!

On inventions:
Superfluous or Super-jumptastic?

Super-jumptastic, of course! I love that there’s more than one solution to any problem – and while a  simple solution might be most efficient, it’s rarely the most fun!

On bachelor uncles:
Fun or Boring?

Fun. Sometimes too much fun.

On creativity:
Flowing or Fits and Spurts?

I have to admit, I’m a Fits and Spurts writer. But when it’s on, watch out! Creativity all over the place. Kind of like Magnolia’s henna tattoo machine…

On launchers:
Dangerous or Essential?

*With proper safety precautions!

On opposites:
Attract or Repel?

Attract. Magnets, subatomic particles and friendships all stick together better when opposites are involved. 

On science:
Love it or Leave it?

Love it, obviously! I’m especially fascinated by physics, biology, neuroscience and space exploration.  

On weddings:
Exciting or Stressful?

Stressful – I’m not a fan of crowds OR high heels.

On wedding traditions:
Essential or Extra?

Essential –especially when you put your own twist on them.

On problem solving:
A fun puzzle or a frazzling predicament?

Fun puzzle! I love a Rubic’s cube or puzzle book – but put me in an Escape Room and I stress out.

On mud:
 Throw it in the laundry or make it into pies?

Pies! And mud volcanoes and mudball fights.
(Followed by lots and lots of laundry.)

On books:
Magnolia Mudd and the Super Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe or
Magnolia Mudd and the Super Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe?

Great choices! Anything with a feisty protagonist, a loving family, and a lot of laughs will do for me.

Thank you, Katey!  

Review by Kirsti Call

Magnolia Mudd loves to create and invent--and she has an incredible Uncle Jamie who experiments with her weekly. My kids have an incredible Uncle Jamie that they adore, so this story resonated with us from the start. 

I love this book on so many levels. Magnolia is an endearing girl who loves science and isn't afraid to be herself. Uncle Jamie is the kind of Uncle who encourages her to solve her own problems and experiment. Although Magnolia doesn't like Uncle Jamie's fiance, she accidentally finds something she has in common with her and realizes that we can't really judge someone until we know them. Themes of family, love, STEM, creativity, being ok with our differences, and problem solving make this the kind of book that will evoke discussion with your kids. And the bright and emotive illustrations only add to a zany and re-readable story! This book is filled with humor and heart. LOVE.

Katey Howes is the author of GRANDMOTHER THORN and MAGNOLIA MUDD AND THE SUPER JUMPTASTIC LAUNCHER DELUXE. Katey loves physics and biology, reads everything from classic children’s lit to modern neuroscience, and has strong opinions about commas. A former physical therapist specializing in brain injury, Katey now divides her time between writing and raising kids with a love of books. Katey is a team member at All the Wonders and contributor to websites like The Nerdy Bookclub, STEAMpowered Family, and Multicultural Parenting. You can often find Katey in her basement, where there is a small office, a large castle, and a medium-sized trebuchet. Or find her online at www.kateyhowes.com

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Mentor Text Study: Johnette Downing

Johnette Downing is an award winning singer, songwriter, and author. A native of the Pelican State, her books highlight the culture and traditions unique to south Louisiana. 2018 is a special year because it’s the 300th anniversary of the founding of the city of New Orleans.  A great way to celebrate this tricentennial with books is sharing a taste of Louisiana through Downing’s work.

Downing received the 2017 Louisiana Writer Award. Her book, Petit Pierre and the Floating Marsh, represented the State of Louisiana in the Pavilion of States at the 2016 National Book Festival. This story addresses conservation in the Louisiana wetlands and was created in partnership with the Audubon Nature Institute and the New Orleans Pelicans professional basketball team.


When thinking of the advice often given to writers about writing what you know and writing what you love, Johnette Downing is an author who does that quite well and can always come up with fresh ideas. Her books, Chef CreoleMumbo Jumbo, Stay Out of the GumboToday is Monday in Louisiana, My Aunt Came Back from Louisiana, all feature Louisiana’s unique culture and traditions using Johnette’s amazing musical talent.



Watch her perform Today is Monday and you'll understand why she's called the "Pied Piper of Louisiana Music Traditions" and the "Musical Ambassador to Children"Her “Today is” book series include Texas, Kentucky, and New York.


Pourquoi means "why" in French. Passed on through a culture via oral storytelling. The plot tells why or how something changed from the way it was to how it is today.
Why the Crawfish Lives in the Mud, Why the Oyster has a Pearl, are origin tales and Why the Possum has a Grin, based on a Louisiana Choctaw tale, includes two origin tales in one.


Will o' the wisp tales told around the world are about supernatural spirits, mischievous fairies, pirates, aballoflightorperson as a spirit carrying alight that entices and misleads a traveler. In the bayou, this light is known as the fifolet. Louisiana legend says it will mislead anyone who tries to follow it. The Fifolet, is based on folklore told in the bayou by Louisiana Cajuns and native Louisianans, the Houma Nation. The story is about a greedy fisherman who follows the fifolet in hopes of finding a treasure. It's an eerie, spooky, ghostly tale!


Downing not only writes in different genres, she also illustrates.

Amazon Alphabet is a nonfiction concept book with facts about the diverse environment and animals in the rainforest. Back to her Louisiana roots in How to Dress a Po’ Boy, Downing uses lyrical text to explain what goes inside these New Orleans style sandwiches. A cut-paper collage technique is used to illustrate both books.

In addition to her storytelling, musical ability, and talent for illustration, Johnette Downing is a champion of children’s literature. She creates books that engage kids beyond reading. Her young audience is able to see, hear, boogie, and sing to her words. Reading is a tasty treat too! Downing delights in her delivery and approach to promoting literacy. 

As we start a new year in search of mentor texts to study, let's heed her words, pick up a book and READ!


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

ReFoReMo's Best Mentor Texts of 2017

I'm not sure where it went, but 2017 has flown by faster than a fence post in a tornado. Here's where the post lands. We have a tradition of ending our year with what we know best: mentor texts. And best is subjective, of course.

Without further ado, may I present our...


After the Fall: How Humpty Got Back Up Again by Dan Santat

It's unanimous! We all chose After the Fall as our top pick due to the fresh, unexpected, masterful content. With most fractured tales being humorous, we were not expecting to crack open a layered, emotional, theme-packed tale. A huge dose of perspective and scale increases the interplay impact. On almost every page, there are bird images foreshadowing what is to come. To top it all off, this mentor text infuses an amazing surprise ending!


Carrie's Best

Life by Cynthia Rylant and Brendan Wenzel

Concept Book + Bibliotherapy = Fresh. Life packs a punch using sparse texts and layers. This one had me thinking about it long after I walked away; mainly about gratitude and getting through life’s struggles and chalking them up to something that will change (something our world desperately NEEDS right now!) And yet, the theme still has an underlying quality because of stellar interplay between the text and soft nature illustrations. Wenzel's animal characters are tender-hearted and relatable.

Kirsti's Best

Not Quite Narwal by Jessie Sima
This story is beautifully illustrated with clever text.  It's the perfect story to evoke discussion on what it means to be different and how to find your place in the world.  This is a great mentor text for making a point without being didactic. The story makes it clear that differences are wonderful without making us feel like it's a teaching moment.

Janie's Best

 Before She Was Harriet by Lesa Cline-Ransome and James E. Ransome

The story of Harriet Tubman starts at the end of her life and moves to her childhood using the phrase “Before she was…" The author also uses a list format to sum up the circular story and return the reader to where the story started. I enjoyed the free verse style.

Keila's Best

Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai and Kerasco√ęt

This book is an excellent example of how to tell a difficult story to a young audience. Malala uses her memory of a magic pencil to introduce children to hope in a story that includes despair and violence. And the illustrations are magical.

Furthering our tradition, we take leave for a holiday break with our families. We'll resume our regular posting schedule on January 2 and it won't be long until the 4th annual ReFoReMo challenge. We have an excellent team of presenters lined up, so stay tuned for announcements in the new year. 

Which 2017 mentor texts did you learn most from this year?

May all of your 2018 writing goals come to fruition!

Carrie, Kirsti, Janie, & Keila

Your Reading for Research Blog Team