Weird Stories from the Lonesome Cafe

Fall 2013

Coming soon--Ukulele Hayley!

Chicago Public Library Best of the Best list 2012

Oregon Book Awards 2012

Ukulele Lady

Bank Street College of Education, Best Books of 2011

200,000 people attended the National Book Festival.

Each state had a table at the Pavilion of States. Look closely, and you'll see CARMEN LEARNS ENGLISH.

Everyone got a map. Kids took the maps to each state's table to get it stamped. I helped stamp using Oregon's Ramona Quimby stamp (because Beverly Cleary is an Oregon author.)

We saw Giant Pandas at the National Zoo in Washington, D. C.

After visiting Washington, D. C. we took the train back to Portland, Oregon--from sea to shining sea!

After three days on the train, I look a little bit tired. But happy!

Move over Rock Bottom Remainders! Here comes "Banned"! From left to right: Neysa, Monelle, Michelle, Judy (not pictured: Docena, Lucinda)

Keynote address at SCBWI--Southern Idaho/Northern Utah April 2011

Bank Street College of Education, Best Books of 2011

Prince George, B. C. gets a lot of snow!

Fleur in Aberglen Castle (Div. 6 Highglen Elementary)

At Heather Park Elementary with Ishbu the rat puppet.

Frederick and Ishbu's first adventure!

The second book in The Tails of Frederick and Ishbu

Summer Reading

Word by Word

The Important Thing about Picture Books

October 12, 2010

Tags: New York Times, picture books, brain development, emergent literacy, reading, child development, language development, wordplay, teaching, parenting

Recently, an article in the New York Times (see link on sidebar)
stated that picture books seem to be on the wane, as parents and teachers push children into reading “harder” books in order to make gains on reading tests. This is such a mistaken notion.
Picture books far are more than easy books with pictures as a crutch. Like learning to crawl before learning to walk, picture books serve an important function in a child’s language development.
I hope we as a culture haven’t forgotten that picture books:
• Develop vocabulary. Because picture books are meant to be read by an adult to a child (and not the other way around) the author is free to use any words at all—including made up words and words in other languages. There are no restrictions. The level of vocabulary in a picture book is much higher than in a leveled chapter book.
• Teach an appreciation for language. Picture books sound best when read aloud. They use playful, tongue-tickling language. Picture books teach an appreciation for all the fun of English, including alliteration, onomatopoeia, puns, and word play. No where else, aside from poetry, will you find such joy in words.
• Visual interpretation. The pictures in a picture book often tell a companion story to the text, so the reader learns to interpret visual clues—like facial expressions and body language. In our graphics-heavy culture, the ability to “read” visuals is a key skill.
• Shared experience. A picture book, shared by an adult with a child, is an interactive experience. It gives the child a chance to ask questions, and make comments. It gives the adult a chance to listen, guide, and direct. The interaction leads to increased receptive and expressive language.
• Brain development. A picture book read by an adult to a child engages more centers of the brain than a video. (see link on sidebar)

I remember hearing about a grandmother who was concerned when her grandson entered school, and was labeled as language delayed. She promptly put him on a “diet” of fourteen picture books a day. Imagine—she read fourteen picture books every day (not in a row) to her grandson! Within months, he had caught up to the rest of the children in his class.
So snuggle up with a child today and share a picture book. You won’t regret it.

Carmen Learns English

July 24, 2010

Tags: Mexican-Americans, English, Spanish, teaching, children, kids, education, second-language learners, teaching, immigrants

Carmen Learns English
A lot of people ask me if I get my story ideas from my experiences as a teacher. Mostly, my answer is no. Most often, my ideas come from my own childhood, recalled to mind by observing and listening to my students.

But in CARMEN LEARNS ENGLISH, I used some of my teaching experiences in a more direct way. Because this book springs from my personal experience, it's particularly dear to my heart.

In 2003, I got a job teaching kindergarten at a school that served a migrant farm-worker population. I was hired two days before school started, with no time to prepare. My class consisted of nineteen kindergartners. Fourteen of my students didn't speak English, and my Spanish (like Ms. Coski's) is muy terrible! Somehow, we muddled through.

To teach my students, I used puppets and stories and songs. I tried to build on familiar knowledge--like colors and numbers and the alphabet. But the single most powerful thing I did was to use my terrible Spanish. It made the kids laugh to hear my horrible accent, my mispronunciations, my wrong words. My students realized that it was okay to make mistakes--okay to try--when I was learning, too.

One day Maria held my hand as we walked to the bus to go home. We'd been singing "The Wheels on the Bus" and she was still singing the song when she caught sight of the school bus. Suddenly, I could tell something clicked for her. "Amarillo!" she shouted. "Chellow!"

I was so impressed with the patience, determination, and persistence of these children as they made their way through the school year, in a foreign country, in a foreign language. I dedicate this book to them.

Selected Works

Picture Book
Animal Adventure
A stand-alone companion volume to "The Mystery of the Burmese Bandicoot" and "The Case of the Purloined Professor" also by Judy Cox.
Award
Bank Street College of Education Best Books 2014
New Books
Join Mouse on his fourth adventure--a romp in the snow!
Mrs. Millie's Kindergartners surprise her with a pun-filled birthday party!
Mouse is back in a Halloween adventure.
Nora's rowdy cousin from Texas is coming to stay. Is Ellie as bad as Nora remembers? Junior Library Guild Selection
Award Winners
Oregon Spirit Award
Bank Street College of Education, Best Books of 2011
Bank Street College of Education Best Books of 2011
TIME magazine Best Children's Books of 2009
Anne Izard Storytellers' Choice Award 2009
Children's Choices list 2009
TIME magazine Best Children's Books of 2005
Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award 2004
Nevada Young Readers Award 2002