Archive | January, 2014

Mercy Watson

31 Jan

DSC08555In keeping with my Kate DiCamillo theme this week, I want to review her Mercy Watson series.  Kate DiCamillo, author of Newbery Honor Winner Because of Winn-Dixie, and Newbery Winner of The Tale of Despereaux also wrote this enchanting chapter book series for young readers ages 6-8.  The second book of the series, Mercy Watson Goes for a Ride was the winner of the 2007 Theodore Seuss Geisel Award.


I’m glad I waited until I had all six books to read at once.  Although you don’t necessarily have to read them in order, I found it to be more fun to read like that because Kate DiCamillo builds on each character in each subsequent book.  Of course there is Mercy Percy, the butter loving – adventure loving pig, and Mr. and Mrs. Watson who would do anything in the world for their darling, dear, porcine wonder.  In the first book we are introduced to the Lincoln sisters, Eugenia and Baby, the Watson’s elderly yin and yang neighbors. Eugenia has an opinion on everything, and in her opinion pigs should not live in houses. She spends the next five books trying to convince everyone that her opinion is correct.  And then there’s Baby, who secretly likes Mercy Watson even though she always agrees with her sister Eugenia… it’s just easier that way.  Throughout the series we meet Ned and Lorenzo, the fire fighters who are called out for every crisis; Officer Tomilello who has the quirky habit of asking and answering his own questions out loud; Leroy Ninker, the little thief who really wants to be a cowboy and later becomes the reformed conession man at the drive-in theater who still really wants to be a cowboy; Frank and Stella, the neighborhood children who befriend Mercy; and Animal Control Officer Francine Poulet whose nose looks remarkably like a chicken’s beak.

Kate DiCamillo expertly weaves these characters in and out of the series always putting Mercy Watson’s love of butter at the center of her conflict and in every resolution.  How could one not adore a character who unabashedly follows her dream into wacky wonky misadventures?

Leave it to Chris Van Dusen to paint the story pictures so vividly on each page.  Each character’s personality and motivation is captured in their faces and their body language.  Chris Van Dusen extraordinary illustrations will leave you begging for more.  You might be interested in reading some of his other works as well.  Look for the Mr. Magee series of early readers and several other titles including The Circus Ship which looks amazing and is on my reading list!

You can learn more about Kate DiCamillo here.

You can learn more about Chris Van Dusen here.   


Kate di Camillo

23 Jan

Kate di Camillo has been named the National Ambassador for Young Peoples Literature for 2014.


The Library of Congress names a new ambassador every two years.  From their website, “The National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature raises national awareness of the importance of young people’s literature as it relates to lifelong literacy, education and the development and betterment of the lives of young people.”

As ambassador Kate de Camillo travels around the country promoting literacy.  She says, “When we read together, we connect. Together, we see the world. Together, we see each other.”

Kate di Camillo is the author of the 2004 Newbery Award winning book, The Tale of Despereaux, which was made into an animated film in 2008.

The_Tale_of_DespereauxHer first book, Because of Winn-Dixie, was given the  Newbery Honor distinction in 2001, and also made into a movie starring Anna Sophia Robb as India Opal in 2005.WinnDixie1

Kate di Camillo is also the author of the early reader book series, Mercy Watson.  DSC08555

Kate was interviewed on PBS News Hour on January 10, 2014.  Int this interview she talks about how telling stories helped her connect with the world.  She reminds us that kids’ books can be for adults too.  Kate sees her role as Ambassador as needing to remind people of all ages of the power of story.  ‘Story is what makes us human.  Story can be a powerful thing.’  Another message she wants to tell young people is be persistent, don’t give up on your dream.

You can hear the whole interview on PBS News Hour here…

You can see the movie trailers for The Tale of Despereaux here …    

and Because of Winn-Dixie here…                       

Visit her website at

Storyline Online

22 Jan

I was browsing pinterest this afternoon, just following a whim, and found a treasure trove of children’s literature read by actors and actresses on You Tube from Storyline Online, a part of the the Screen Actors Guild Foundation. Before I knew it, I had spent over an hour listening to some of my favorite books being read by some superb people.  You’ve got to hear Rainbow Fish read by Ernest Borgnine, Harry the Dirty Dog, read by animal lover Betty White, My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother read by one of my favorite redheads Melissa Gilbert, and Stellaluna, read by Pamela Reed.  And I also must admit, there were several titles I had never heard of.  My new favorite is To Be a Drum, read by James Earl Jones.  Who could pass an opportunity to hear James Earl Jones read anything?  Not me!  I’m so glad I did.  This is a fabulous book about slavery and freedom.  Take a minute or two, or sixty, and browse this site for yourself.  I’ll bet you find a new favorite too!


A to Z Book Directory

Natasha Wing

13 Jan

Today I have the honor of interviewing Natasha Wing.  Natasha has been writing for children since 1991, and is the author of over 20 books including Jalapeño BagelsGo to Bed, Monster! and An Eye for Color: The Story of Josef Albers.  But she is probably most well known for her popular ‘Night Before’ series.  The first book in that series, The Night Before Easter, was published in 1999.   Since then she has written several books in the series addressing a multitude of holidays, celebrations, and other major events in a child’s life, including The Night Before Kindergarten, The Night Before The Tooth Fairy, and the Night Before the 100th Day of School.  

The newest book to her collection, The Night Before My Birthday, will be available on January 16, 2014.  For this interview I am going to let the Birthday Kid from her upcoming book ask her a few questions about writing and her birthday.


The Birthday Kid:  I love my birthday!  Thank you so much for writing a story about my special day.  I’d love to talk to you a little bit about your birthday if you don’t mind.

Natasha Wing:  Sure!

The Birthday Kid:  First of all, I always have a hard time going to bed on the night before my birthday.  I’m just too excited.  Do you have any tricks for falling asleep quickly?

Natasha Wing: I like to read.  It relaxes me.

The Birthday Kid:  That’s a great idea! I might have some warm milk too.  Second question – I have lots of friends and my birthday parties are huge!  Who do you like to invite to your birthday celebrations?

Natasha Wing:  When I was young, I invited kids I was friends with at school and kids from my neighborhood.  Now I like to invite my girlfriends for a special night.

The Birthday Kid:  I’ve noticed from all the parties I’ve gone to that people like different types of cakes.  So I was wondering what’s your favorite cake?

Natasha Wing:  My favorite cake is carrot cake.  But I’m very picky.  It has to be moist with lots of carrots and walnuts, and have a thick-thick layer of cream cheese frosting – on top and on the inside.  No skimping on frosting!

The Birthday Kid:  Yum!  Some parties have themes.  If you could have any theme for your next birthday, what would it be?

Natasha Wing:  I love champagne and my birthday is a week before Valentine’s Day so maybe I  love Bubbly Birthdays!  I hope to spend one of my upcoming birthdays in Paris and then my theme will be Oo-la-la!

The Birthday Kid:  What is the best birthday present you’ve ever gotten?

Natasha Wing:  On my sixteenth birthday I got a wide sterling silver bracelet engraved with my initials which back then were NLL for Natasha Leigh Lazutin.  I still have the bracelet.  

The Birthday Kid:  I know you have written a lot of Night Before stories, do you have a favorite, and do you plan on writing any more?

Natasha Wing:  My favorite is The Night Before Easter since it was the first one and I also happen to love the Easter Bunny.  I do plan on writing more because my fans keep sending me great ideas!

The Birthday Kid:  Natasha, thank you so much for talking to me about your writing and your birthday.  Congratulations on the publication of this book! And Happy Birthday to you in February!  I hope you get your Oo-la-la birthday in Paris very soon!


You can win a free copy of The Night Before My Birthday until January 15th on Goodreads.

If you would like to learn more about Natasha Wing and her writing, please check out her website.

Versatile Blogger Award

11 Jan

Image I’ve just received the Versatile Blogger Award!

Wow!  Pretty Cool!  Look it up, it’s a real thing!  Actually, it’s a very nice way for people to recognize each other’s efforts in blogging.  Once you are ‘nominated’ by another blogger you are automatically a recipient of the award with all it’s fame and prestige.  It reminds me of the ‘Red Rose Awards’ we used to give each other when I was teaching.  During one of the last staff meetings of the year, our principal used to present us with several dozen roses.  Each of us, as the spirit moved us, would go to the front of room, pick up a rose, and present it to another staff member for some small favor or great help they had been to us during the year. Each rose was presented with a hug and a word or two about why it was being presented. It was always an emotional meeting and hopefully (but sadly, not always) everyone would return to work that morning with a rose or two and a wonderful feeling to start the day.  So receiving this award tonight is like getting a virtual hug and a bit of praise from another blogger on your work.

UnknownThank you to Orthodoxmom3, Carol, who is a wonderful mother and faithful servant, for nominating me for this award.  This award really is special just by being a confirmation of the time and effort put into my craft, and I do appreciate the recognition very much.

You can read more about Carol at her blog.


In the spirit of paying it forward, I would like to nominate the following 15 folks to receive this award.  I chose them based on my own interaction with them on my blog and through the various online workshops we have taken together.  I have gotten to know each one and value their input.  Take a moment and look them up.  These really are some amazing people!

versatile-blogger-award-trophyThe Versatile Blogger Awards go to:

Alayne Kay Christan at

Suzanne Morris at

Anonymous Author at

Jackie Wellington at

Patricia Tilton at

Meg Miller at

Angie at

Donna Martin at

Jane Heitman Healy at

Milka Pejovic at

Kristi Call at

Natasha Wing at

Jadi Campbell at

Joanne Sher at

Penny Parker Klostermann


As part of the deal in accepting this award, I need to let you know seven things about me that you may not already know:

1. I have a love/hate relationship with chocolate. I lied.  I have a love/love relationship with chocolate.

2. I do not get cabin fever, in fact I much prefer my own home to any other place.

3. I am non-confrontational, and you will never catch me engaging in a political argument.  That’s not the same as saying I don’t have opinions, I do, I just keep them to myself.

4. I find sports very soothing, in that I can completely ignore them and read quietly while my husband watches the TV.

5. My favorite movies make me laugh loudly or cry quietly.

6. I love/envy/covet large old home-libraries.

7. Making lists is not my thing, so this took an unnecessarily long time to complete.

The Book Thief

10 Jan

It’s not often that I enjoy a movie as much as I have enjoyed the book.  The Book Thief is an exception.  If you haven’t read the book yet, do so!  If you haven’t seen the movie yet, do so!

booksWithout giving away the whole book, or telling you more than you would see in any book review online, I will say that Markus Zusak tells a marvelous tale of a young girl growing up in Nazi Germany.  Liesel’s story is told by the narrator, Death, who has encountered her on several occasions before he takes her.  As a matter of fact Liesel steals her first book at her brother’s gravesite.  She is forced to grow up and learn the meaning of life amid death.

tbn_5efd39d99fa8ff14Emily Watson plays Liesel magnificently!  She is young, innocent, and beautiful.  She steals books, learns to read, and shares stories orally.  But more importantly, she lives, loves, and survives!

Both the book and the movie are a must.  Treat yourself and someone you love to both experiences.



3 Jan


Writing is my Passion.
I will embrace it,
nurture it,
and grow with it.

Happy New Year 2014

1 Jan


I’m not one for making new year’s resolutions, they always seem so cliched.  But that’s not to say that I don’t like to reflect on the past year and look forward to the next.  A few weeks ago I was challenged to write a list of 31 accomplishments of last year.  I was so excited about that because I had a wonderful year in 2013.  I actually only wrote accomplishments since my retirement in May.  And, guess what… I exceeded the 31 count in only the 7 months between June and December!   I was psyched!  And since I truly believe that the best is yet to come (yes, a cliche), I am super-psyched about 2014!

I have already lined up several workshops, groups, and writing activities for the new year.  Here are my top five for January:

1.  Rate Your Story

2.  Start the Year Off Write

3. ReviMo

4. 12×12 Workshop

5. Writing for Children

In addition, I plan on entering three writing contests this month.

(Highlights, AKC Family Dog, and Rate Your Story).

Here’s a little cartoon I copied just for chuckles.


So, time to get busy… Like the poster says, “the best days of my life are all ahead”!

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