Early Readers

Happy New Year!

In our house, we are at the stage of needing early readers. My kindergartener needs to read books to us to meet one of his school’s requirements. Thank goodness for Dr. Seuss and early readers created around favorite (and some new) characters!

Here are some of the books my five-year-old has read recently (and oh you should see the look on his face every time he finishes a book that he has read himself!):

One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish and The Foot Book by Dr. Seuss – One Fish Two Fish was quite a challenge for a new reader, but the rhyme and repetition helped my son get through it. It took several days. The Foot Book, on the other, hand, is a nice, short read, with even more repetition.

Splat the Cat Sings Flat by Rob Scotton – HarperCollins turned a popular series of picture books into a popular series of early readers. My son didn’t know these books before, but he loved that Splat’s name is also a sound and that the illustrations sometimes included more words for him to read.

Mac and Cheese by Sarah Weeks and illustrated by Jane Manning – Another early reader from HarperCollins. My son will be happy to know there is another book about the two cats named Macaroni and Cheese, and that Sarah Weeks has published a number of early readers, picture books, and chapter books (among other things).

What is your five-year-old reading?

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Twas the Night before Chanukah

Here’s my seat-of-the-pants entry to Susanna Leonard Hill’s Holiday Contest. Check out her blog for the other entries. She will list semi-finalists on her blog on Monday, December 26th, for readers to vote on a winner. Enjoy!

Twas the Night Before Chanukah
And all through the night
There was much wrapping and grating
And finding the light.

Gifts for the much-loved children,
Each labeled by day,
For there must be eight piles or
The piper to pay.

Potatoes for crisp latkes
And onions and meal,
Shredded and grated and
The rest of the spiel.

Many candles are needed
In the menorah,
Lighting the house, guarded by
A mezzuzah.

A miracle happened there
So long ago
And now we remember and
Set houses aglow.

We play dreidel and trade gelt,
Always remember,
And delight in our families
Every December.

So, light the Chanukah candles,
Eat all the fried foods,
Celebrate the oil lasting,
And keep a light mood.

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Indie Kids & Anathema

So I did it again. I disappeared on y’all. I didn’t mean to, but life caught up to me. Medical issues and writing and work. You know—stuff.

Anyway, I’ve decided that rather than focus this blog on writing, I’ll focus on reading. Specifically, picture books, early readers, chapter books, and indie reading. I download a lot of kidlit onto my Kindle and quite a lot of it has been independently published (*cough cough*).

Today I’ll start with Anathema by K.A. Tucker, a YA paranormal in the Causal Enchantment series. Go to the author’s site for the complete synopsis. But, in a nutshell, orphaned Evangeline is desperate to make a personal connection when she stumbles into beautiful and mysterious Sofie. Sofie offers Evangeline a job that takes the two to New York City to stay in the luxurious home of friends, Viggo and Mortimer. But every night Evangeline seems to travel to an imaginary world filled with danger, and a beautiful young man she can’t resist. Evangeline must figure out how to do what everyone wants her to do without getting herself killed.

I enjoyed this story. The two worlds felt real, as did the characters. I wanted Evangeline and Caden to get together. I wanted her to figure it all out and get “home” safely with Caden and her other new friends in tow. And there were few typos or errors to jolt me out of the narrative.

However, Anathema has one of those endings. You know the ones—the kind where you’re so invested in the story and how it ends, and then it leaves you hanging. Big sigh. I’m all for hooking a reader and making her want to read the sequel, but not by leaving the main character in a huge cliffhanger that makes your reader close the book (or turn off the Kindle) in disgust.

Does that mean you shouldn’t give it a try? Absolutely not. If you like young adult paranormal, then go for it. Tucker kept me turning pages. I just wish there had been more of an ending.

Will I read book 2? Probably. I do want to know how Evangeline gets out of the predicament she finds herself in at the end of book 1. There’s more I want to know, but I can’t write it here because I don’t want to spoil the ending for anyone else.

I’ll be talking about more indie YA and MG novels in the coming weeks, but what are you reading right now? Have you read Anathema? Would you?

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The Only One Club

In The Only One Club by Jane Naliboff, a little girl discovers she is the only Jewish child in the class, so starts a club to make herself feel special. She soon learns that everyone wants to feel special, and that everyone is special in their own way. The entire class ends up in the Only One Club, each for their own, special reason.

My kids are not the only Jewish kids in their class, but they are one of only two Jewish kids in their class. This has always been the case for them, it is not surprising to them, it is their normal.

Their normal is so different than mine was. At least a third of my class (and school and neighborhood) was Jewish where I grew up. I was able to car pool to Hebrew School. A large number of my Hebrew School friends went to elementary or high school with me.

Where we live now is obviously different. My kids will get used to being the only ones, until they get older and make more friends through Hebrew School.

I guess my Only One status hinges on having lived in Africa for a few years. No one else I know here has even visited the continent of Africa.

How about you? What would get you into the Only One Club?

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Elephant & Piggie

I can’t just single out one title – we love all the Elephant & Piggie (by Mo Willems) books we’ve read so far. And the most exciting thing right now, is that my 5-year-old wants to read them himself.

He’s starting to understand the concept of sight words and almost gets having to sound things out. It’s like solving a math problem. He looks at the word, he looks at the picture, he thinks about the context, and he makes a guess. Sometimes he’s right, sometimes he’s not. But it’s beyond-words-awesome that he wants to try.

My older son was not reading at this point in kindergarten – not until Spring Break – but the older one is now an avid reader. I think that’s my little guy’s motivation. He knows what fun books his older brother is reading and he wants in on it. He wants to read Percy Jackson and Harry Potter and Jacob Wonderbar himself. Hearing about the books and seeing the movies isn’t enough for him anymore.

Like I said, we are really at the beginning of this. He really isn’t sounding out and blending yet, just taking guesses based on first letter, context and picture. For example, tonight he read the word “need” twice with no problem, but the third time he said “know.”

I’m amazed at how much patience he has for this, too. I get a little frustrated and want to say, “Okay, enough for tonight, let Mommy read the rest,” but he wants to keep trying, and trying, and trying.

It’s just so unexpected. We didn’t think lightning could strike twice and we’d have two awesome readers. But it looks like we are about to have two awesome young readers in the house. Watch out libraries and bookstores, the Rousseaus are coming!

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First Campaign Challenge

I’m a little late with this, but I wanted to post it anyway, just for the experience (I’m not going to officially sign up on the Linky over at Rach Writes).  The challenge was to write a 200 word (exactly, if possible, otherwise under 200 words) flash fiction piece that begins with the phrase, “The door swung open.”

This is adapted from my book, The King and the Calico…in Paris, with my two favorite cats, Pompidou the pampered Siamese, and Suzette the stray calico.

The door swung open into Pompidou’s room.  He showed Suzette the tiny mouse toy he used to escape, and Madame’s room, and the bright kitchen that held lots of cat food.

“Here, have some tuna,” he offered.

Suzette ate her fill.  A warm sensation began in her belly and spread throughout her fluffy white, orange and black body.

“So, what do you think?” Pompidou asked.

Suzette’s eyes flicked from the many tall windows to the dainty figurines on Madame’s shelves to the Tiffany lamps in the salon.  Then she shrugged.  “Nice place.”

Despite pretending indifference, she thought the apartment was beautiful.  A place filled with warmth, light and love.  But it wasn’t her home.  “I kind of like my freedom.  Coming and going when and where I like.  Eating what I what, when I want.  And the Eiffel Tower looks beautiful all lit up at night.”

Pompidou nodded a white and gray head.  He wanted her freedom too, but he also liked his comfort.

“Guess we’ll just have to keep meeting outside this apartment to go on adventures,” Suzette said.

Pompidou meowed his agreement.

Suzette headed to the door of the back bedroom.  “See you tomorrow?”

The door swung shut.

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Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten?

Is Your Buffalo Ready for KindergartenFrom Goodreads:  Your buffalo is growing up. He plays with friends. He shares his toys. He’s smart! But is he ready for kindergarten? (And is kindergarten ready for him?)

Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten? is a hilarious look at first-day-of-school jitters from author Audrey Vernick and illustrator Daniel Jennewein.

My about-to-be-kindergartener and I stumbled serendipitously upon this book and he loved it.  Well, we both did.  I think it’s adorable.  Not only did it give my son an idea of what to expect from school, he also got the hint that it’s okay to be himself, to be special, to be whatever and whoever he is.

Now tomorrow won’t be so scary for him!

What’s your favorite book for a potentially scary transition?

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While I still have no news about the release of my next book, The King and the Calico…in London, all kinds of ideas are pinging around in my brain. 

I’ve posted before about my crazy dog, Miss Fee, and recent events have only proven I’m on the right track.  She is just full of personality.  And seriously, sometimes when I’m writing, she comes up next to me whining, and it’s like she’s saying, “Come on, Mama, put me in a book.”

My publisher also plans on the King and the Calico books being a series set in the most tourist-attractive cities in the world.  So, you can expect my odd couple cats to appear in such places as New York City, Rome, Munich, and I-don’t-know-where-else (yet).  My kids would like me to set my cats in Montreal, because they loved it so much when we visited this summer.  And some friends suggested Athens.  Who knows?

Our school year begins next week, which means I’ll have much less time to write, and will have to be very organized about all those pings.  A few secret projects are pinging around too.  You’ll just have to wait for those.  I haven’t yet decided how much and if I’ll share.  *rubbing fingertips together*  Yes, I’m being mysterious.  I love mysteries.

Hmm, there goes another idea.  *furious scribbling*

What’s pinging around your writerly brains, my writerly friends?

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I’m a Campaigner

Once again, the wonderful Rachael Harrie is hosting a platform-building campaign. I started blogging too late in the Spring to take part in the 2nd Writers Platform Building Campaign so I’m so excited to be able to do this 3rd one.

Basically, this is a way for blogging writers to find each other, make friends and support each other. I am still pretty new to all this social media stuff, so I look forward to making new friends and learning some new tricks.

For all the details, and to join in, please click here. Be sure to join before Rach closes the list on August 31st!

Okay, see you all around!

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Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

The first line of this picture book is one of my favorite first lines of all time: 

I went to sleep with gum in my mouth and now there’s gum in my hair and when I got out of bed this morning I tripped on the skateboard and by mistake I dropped my sweater in the sink while the water was running and I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

Haven’t you had a day like that?  This one line really sets the scene for the rest of the book.  Alexander woke up so grumpy, his sentence doesn’t even have punctuation!

Published in 1972, written by Judith Viorst and illustrated by Ray Cruz, this book is still relevant today.  I first bought it for my older son, now 8, the spring before he started kindergarten.  He had been very emotional and displaying a lot of anger, but couldn’t talk about his feelings or the reasons for those feelings.  I spoke to our local librarian about books that dealt with emotions and she recommended this marvelous book.  Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, along with Mercer Mayer’s I Was So Mad and Betsy Everitt’s Mean Soup, really helped us a lot.

Now I read it to my younger son who is about to start kindergarten and who is experiencing similar anxiety, although displayed in a different way.  This child has become clingier.  He claims to miss me anytime I go anywhere, including when I leave him alone in his own bed at night.  Multiple sighs.

Expect posts soon on books to help prepare you child for kindergarten (I’ll take recommendations)!

What books have helped you and your children get through a difficult or unusual time?

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