Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Monthly Challenge Under My Umbrella

By Janie Reinart
Embed from Getty Images

Bus stop, wet day

She's there, I say
Please share my umbrella

     No matter what you call it--brolly, bumbershoot, gamp, 

     parasol, parapluie, or sunshade--your challenge this month 

     is to write a story about an umbrella.

The author/illustrator Amy June Bates and her daughter, Juniper Bates collaborated on the story

The Big Umbrella.

"By the front door...

there is an umbrella. 

It is big. 

It is a big friendly umbrella. 

It likes to help.

It likes to spread it's arms wide. It loves to 

give shelter."

By Jackie Azua Kramer

What happens when several animals claim they've had exciting adventures with Elephant's 

umbrella? More exciting than walking in then rain?

"One rainy day an Elephant was taking a walk with his green umbrella.

Along came a Hedgehog.

"Excuse me," said the Hedgehog, "I believe you have my boat."

"Your what?" asked the Elephant.

By Jennifer Lloyd

Ella's umbrellas fill the house.What happens when she has to give them away?

"Ella had big umbrella and small umbrellas. She had umbrellas in pink, turquoise, and 

tangerine. She had them in every color, even jellybean green. 

Several were stripped and a few speckled with spots. A sprinkling had sparkles. A handful 

had hearts.  Some opened slowly and plenty went POP! 

By Shirin Yim Bridges

When Noot is finally allowed to paint umbrellas, she secretly hopes to be chosen as the 

umbrella queen. But what happens when her imagination takes over?

"High in the hills of Thailand, there is a village where everyone does the same thing, the 

same thing  the people in the village have been doing for hundreds of years; making 

umbrellas. Big umbrellas, small umbrellas. Paper umbrellas, silk umbrellas. Red, blue,

yellow, pink, green umbrellas--all of them painted with flowers and butterflies by the women 

and girls of the village."

Don't wait for a rainy day. Have some drizzly fun...

under my umbrella.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

THINK QUICK with Author Vivian Kirkfield

Hi Vivian! Sweet Dreams, Sarah is beautifully written. I love how you show Sarah's passion and grit.  All of the THINK QUICK themes below appear in your book.  Let’s see which way you lean.  Remember, THINK QUICK!I

On emancipation:
Freedom in your pocket, or hope in your heart?

Hope in your heart. For me, freedom without hope is a road that goes nowhere, but hope without freedom contains all the possibilities in the world. So I vote for Hope in your Heart!

On dreams:
Impossible or necessary?

Necessary. Dreams are the foundation upon which we build our realities. They are totally necessary and definitely NOT impossible.

On family:
Privilege or obligation?

Privilege. Hahaha…I guess, depending on the moment, they are a privilege if everyone is getting along and obligation if everyone isn’t. Seriously though, I believe they are privilege – and I am privileged to have my actual family and my kid-lit family.

On carpentry:
Creative fun or drudgery?

Creative fun. I’ve built a few minor items and fixed several others – the feeling of accomplishment meant a lot to me: so, I’ll say, creative fun!

On furniture stores:
Love to shop or avoid at all costs?

Love to shop – not sure I love to buy. It’s fun to look at all the possibilities, but I don’t have that visual eye that tells me what the room will look like if I buy this or that. Therefore, I’m a bit indecisive and encourage opinions of my more creative friends/family when making a purchase.

On invention:
Miraculous or expected?

Miraculous – because so many variables go into inventing something – change just one and the invention won’t work.

On folding beds:
Blessing or curse?

Blessing. Quick story about my favorite folding bed. Many years ago (1986) when my husband and I moved into a beautiful 1870 Victorian, we chose a sleeper-sofa from local store that sold a lot of Thomasville furniture. I loved the lines...so classic…and I picked a beautiful floral print in the Jacobean style with dusty rose and blue flowers on a background of cream. It was custom-made…our biggest splurge on furniture yet (I still remember the price - $1600 which was quite a lot in 1986) and it took many, many months to build. And then it arrived! And the delivery people placed it in the living room! And it looked…AWFUL! The colors were so wrong for the room. What should we do?

We changed the rug, the wallpaper, and everything else in the room. And for ten years, until we moved to Colorado, I loved that room and so did everyone else. We took the couch with us to Colorado and it served us well there whenever family or friends stayed (my son and his wife spent their wedding night on it). And when we moved back to the east coast, we carted it along and it sits in what is now the guest room/library and still provides a comfortable and welcoming rest for all who visit.

On patents:
Necessary evil or just plain necessary?

Just plain necessary…just like copyrights for books and art. If you create something new, you deserve to get the credit and hopefully, the profit, if there is any.
On persistence:
Easy or difficult?

Easy. It’s in my DNA to be persistent…my husband used to say I was the most tenacious person he’d ever met. For me, persistence is easy because I don’t think I can be anything but that. In fact, my kids will attest to the fact that I never ever give up looking for something if someone needs it or working all night long if something needs to be finished. In my case, I guess I see it as a personal challenge to do whatever needs to be done.

On books:
Sweet Dreams, Sarah or Sweet Dreams Sarah?

Good question!
Without a doubt, it is Sweet Dreams, Sarah. As I dug deeper into the research when I first set out to write Sarah E. Goode’s story, I felt more and more compelled to honor this courageous forward-thinking young woman and the title is a bit of a conversation I’m having with her…I am wishing her an eternity of sweet dreams because she earned them!

Thank you, Vivian!  I wish we could get Sarah's answers to these questions also :)  

Writer for children—reader forever…that’s Vivian Kirkfield in five words. Her bucket list contains many more than five words – but she’s already checked off skydiving, parasailing and banana-boat riding. When she isn’t looking for ways to fall from the sky or sink under the water,she can be f ound writing picture books in the quaint village of Amherst, NH where the old stone library is her favorite hangout and her young grandson is her favorite board game partner. A retired kindergarten teacher with a masters in Early Childhood Education, Vivian inspires budding writers during classroom visits and shares insights with aspiring authors at national writers’ conferences. She is the author of Pippa’s Passover Plate (Holiday House); Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting Book (Pomegranate); Sweet Dreams, Sarah (Creston Books); Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe(Little Bee Books); and From Here to There: Inventions That Changed the Way the WorldMoves (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). You can connect with her on her website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Linkedin, or just about any place people with picture books are found.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Mentor Text Author Study: Anika Aldamuy Denise

Author Anika Aldamuy Denise may live in a tiny town in the tiniest state but she has giant talent. Denise writes picture books in prose and rhyme and both as well as fiction stories. She and her illustrator husband, Christopher Denise, have collaborated on several books.


Kids love books about monsters and books about trucks and books about Halloween. And there's plenty of each on the market. In Monster Trucks, Nate Wragg (Illustrator), Denise combined monsters and trucks to create trucks that are monsters that go out for a nighttime race on a spooky speedway. Clever rhyme and character names like Frankentruck, Vampire Truck, Zombie Truck, and Werewolf Truck pull the readers into the story packed with action. When readers are introduced to the Little Blue Bus described as perky…and cute they learn she can take care of herself adding an element to girl power to the story.


Baking Day at Grandma's, a story about food and family with a heaping spoonful of heart is a collaboration between the author and her illustrator husband, Christopher Denise. The rhyme, rhythm, and refrain flow perfectly making this a fun read aloud. And the illustrations will make you want to hug a bear.

"It's baking day!
It's baking day!
It's baking day at Grandma's!"

Pigs Love Potatoes, Christopher Denise (Illustrator), is another story about food and family but it's also a rhyming and counting book that adds another layer of educational content.


Writers often hear that a well-developed character is important to a story and character driven stories are popular with editors. In Starring Carmen!, Lorena Alvarez Gomez (Illustrator), everything about Carmen shouts DIVA!
Any young extrovert with a flair for the dramatic or the exhausted parents of one will appreciate how Denise developed the character of Carmen. And the character’s personality is further developed with the help of her supporting cast, her brother Eduardo and her parents. Everything Carmen says and does show a star is born!

"Later, at dinner
Carmen announces an ENCORE!
“You wear us our, queridia,”
says Carmen’s mom.
Sí, Carmenita, we need a break
from show business,” says Carmen’s dad."

In the sequel, Lights, Camera, Carmen!, Lorena Alvarez Gomez (Illustrator), Carmen’s character expanded her aspirations. And in staying true to her character, a disappointment only leads Carmen to a new opportunity in entertainment.

Hermanito, I’ve made a decision. “I’m
Taking a break from the theater to pursue and film career.
“What’s a film career?” asks Eduardo.
“My destiny!” says Carmen.
“All I have to do is win the Dino-Krispies contest.”

Bella and Stella Come Home, Christopher Denise (Illustrator), is about a little girl named Bella who is filled with apprehension as she explores her new home on moving day. Stella is her stuffed elephant who turns into a real elephant at the new house. Written from the point of view of Bella, the main character speaks to the reader. Through the stuffed elephant Stella, Bella compares her old home with the new. The illustrations bring the elephant to life and Bella’s fears. When Stella expresses a concern, Bella is the one that provided comfort. Anika Denise creates a character that is very relatable to children and especially those who have had to deal with the emotions of leaving familiar surroundings behind.

“We look out the screen door into the garden.
Our old garden had an oak tree in the back.
This one only has shrubs and grass.
Stella thinks every garden should have an oak tree.
I agree.”


Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré, Paola Escobar (Illustrator) is a narrative nonfiction picture book biography about the well-known librarian, Pura Belpré’, the first Puerto Rican librarian in New York City who brought diverse stories to her library. Denise begins the story with Belpré leaving her home in San Juan and traveling to New York on a visit bringing her words and memories of her abuela’s folktales she heard around a tamarind tree. Planting story seeds is the metaphor used throughout the book to show how as a librarian Belpré’s storytelling grew into books and as a published author her stories spread throughout New York and beyond reaching more and more children.

“When Pura’s story is done,
each child makes a wish on the candle,
and, with a wisp of air…
La vela is blown out.
Now Pura has a wish too:
to plant her story seeds throughout the land.”

This book is beautifully illustrated; the endpapers and backmatter are also a work of art.


Look for these books from Anika Aldamuy Denise releasing later this year. Bunny in the Middle celebrates middle children which is a great hook and character to develop. IThe Love Letter, best friendHedgehog, Bunny, and Squirrel each find a love letter... 

Both books are certainly on my reading for research booklist.