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Word by Word

Happy Spring

Make these cute chicks after reading THE SECRET CHICKEN SOCIETY
My new book, The Secret Chicken Society is now available from your favorite bookstore. Here's a brief description:

When Daniel finds out that his class is going to hatch chicks as a science project, he is thrilled. He's sure that his parents will let him adopt Peepers, who is his favorite. But who ever guessed that chicks could run amok and get into so much trouble? This warmheated chapter book about an environmentally-conscious family's experiment with poultry farming will provided plenty of clucks and lots of chuckles for young readers.

I've always loved the little bitty chenille chicks that you find at Easter, and here's a way to make your own. It's a fun and easy art project for kids to go with the book.

1. Use two yellow pom poms from the craft store. Glue them together. I used Alene's Tacky Glue. It's nice and thick and doesn't take long to dry.

2. Glue to a paper base. I punched a flower shape out of orange paper and then cut off two of the petals leaving two in front for feet and one in the back to help stabilize the chicks.

3. Cut a beak from a piece of orange construction paper. Glue to the top yellow pom pom.

4. Glue on two wiggly eyes, also from the craft store. You can use tiny black beads or pom poms instead.

5. Add a feather tail, or wings if you'd like.

6. Done! I told you it was easy!

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The Snuggle Factor

Bookends!
Baby, it’s cold outside! I’m watching snowflakes drift past my window, a mug of steaming hot chocolate in my hand, carols on the radio. Time to cuddle up with a good book.

Speaking of cuddling, I have a theory about how children learn to read. I’m a reading specialist. Over the years, I’ve come up with a completely unscientific hypothesis about why some children learn to read seemingly without effort, while some children struggle. I have no evidence or proof—it’s just a gut feeling.

I call it the “cuddle factor”. Maybe children who love to read have somewhere, sometime, been cuddled as they read or were read to-- heads bent together over a favorite book, sitting on grandma’s or grandpa’s lap, curled up with mom or dad or a favorite aunt or uncle—even a caring babysitter.

I have no basis for this theory, but I like it. You don’t get cuddling from a video game, the computer, or TV screen! So while I’m teaching phonics, or decoding, or any of the thousand required reading skills I’m employed to teach, I make it a point to sit close to my students and share a silly poem, a nursery rhyme, a funny song, or a favorite book, in the hopes that some of my love of reading will “rub off” on them.

So on these cold, dark winter days, do yourself and your little ones a favor--cuddle up together with a good book!  Read More 
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Oregon Book Award Finalist

I'm thrilled to announce that NORA AND THE TEXAS TERROR has been named a finalist for the Eloise Jarvis McGraw Award for Children's Literature, one of the Oregon Book Awards, for 2012!

Many of the other nominees in my category are good friends and colleagues, so it's a double thrill to see my name on the same page with writers I admire: Nancy Coffelt, Eric Kimmel, Cynthia Rylant, and Graham Salisbury.  Read More 
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Highlights of 2011

Visit to Kenwood School
This has been an amazing year for me, both personally and professionally! Here are some of the highlights:

January--I sold a new Mouse picture book to Holiday House, tentatively titled SNOWMOUSE. It will release in Fall 2012.

I taught "Writing Your Life Stories" for Treasure Valley Community College. The senior citizens have amazing stories to tell, and I was proud to help.

February--My first International school visit to Prince George, BC was a lovely experience.

March--I taught a poetry workshop for Oregon Writing Project at Eastern Oregon University.

April--My mini-book tour of Oregon and Washington included school visits to Lincoln City, Dallas, Tacoma, and Vancouver, WA.

My first keynote speech for the Boise SCBWI conference

May--A trip to England with my sisters and their daughters! We visited Bath, Glastonbury, York, the Cotswolds, and London. More story material!

June--My son graduated from college. I am the proud mom of a college graduate!

July--August--Lots of belly dance performances, including my first solo veil dances. Also, lots of kayaking (lots of Advil, too!)A trip to Coos Bay, Oregon for a family wedding and a short story, "Dustbowl Journey", published in Cricket Magazine cap the summer.


September--National Book Festival. My husband and I flew to Washington, DC where I hosted the Oregon table. DON"T BE SILLY, MRS. MILLIE! was listed as a "52 Great Reads" book by the Library of Congress. We took the train home--a memorable trip across the country. Look for it to show up in a book someday.

October--HAUNTED HOUSE, HAUNTED MOUSE was released to good reviews. School visits in Sonoma, CA and the Humboldt County Author's Festival in Eureka, CA. A short story, "Dad Battles the Bat" published in Ladybug magazine.

November--A school visit to tiny Harper, Oregon, home of the Harper Hornets. My husband and I played lots of music gigs with "The Swingin' Four". Thanksgiving with our son.

December--I got the advance readers copies for "THE SECRET CHICKEN SOCIETY" (releasing from Holiday House in February) and "HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MRS. MILLIE!" (releasing from Marshall Cavendish in May). Christmas in Portland, OR with our son.

What a year! I hope your New Year is filled with joy, good health, and happiness!

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THE TWELVE BOOKS OF CHRISTMAS

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
When my son was young, our holiday tradition was to buy a new Christmas book every year. That, coupled with the books other people gave us, and all of the I-can’t-resist-this-one extras that I bought, soon led us to a HUMONGOUS collection. We kept the books in a special, decorated box (which soon became two boxes, and then three….). We got the books out every year on December 1st. In an effort to keep the holidays somewhat scaled back, we didn’t decorate our house until around Dec. 10, so the books were the only evidence of Christmas-is-coming for nearly two weeks.

Last year, I posted a list of my top favorite Christmas books. In the spirit of the season, I rummaged through my boxes again and came up with 12 more favorites:

1. Santa’s Beard is Soft and Warm by Bob Ottum and Jo Anne Wood. Remember “Pat the Bunny”? This is the Christmas version of a touch-and-feel book.

2. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson. Great family read-aloud about the true spirit of Christmas.

3. Baby’s Christmas by Eloise Wilkin. This is OLD. I’ll bet I had this as a baby, too!

4. The Twelve Days of Christmas Dogs by Carolyn Conahan. This is NEW. I bought it to give as a gift, and then couldn’t bear to part with it.

5. Cookie Count by Robert Sabuda. I love anything with mice. And cookies. Yum!

6. It’s Christmas by Jack Prelutsky. Jolly Christmas rhymes and jingles to read aloud.

7. The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree by Gloria Houston, illustrated by Barbara Cooney. A beautifully told story of wartime (WWI) Appalachian Christmas. I choke up every time I read it.

8. The Mole Family’s Christmas by Russell Hoban. What would a mole want more than to see the stars? Russell Hoban is a genius.

9. The Story of Holly and Ivy by Rumer Godden. An unabashedly sentimental tale of dolls and their wishes.

10. Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree by Robert Barry. Found in the library discard pile, this one’s a keeper!

11. The Wild Christmas Reindeer by Jan Brett. I love the other stories told within Jan’s illustrated borders. A good one to pair with The Mitten.

12. The Mitten by Jan Brett. There are other versions of this classic winter folk tale, but her charming illustrations are not to be missed.

What books are on your Christmas list?
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The Important Thing About Picture Books

November is Picture Book Month! In honor of the occasion, I am re-running a blog post I wrote last year.

THE IMPORTANT THING ABOUT PICTURE BOOKS

Recently, an article in the New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/08/us/08picture.html
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. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2848291/

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.

Find more great posts from picture book authors and illustrators at www.picturebookmonth.com

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Thanksgiving Giveaway

Win a Signed Copy!
Just in time for Thanksgiving! Because I'm feeling grateful for all my readers, I'm giving away a signed copy of the first Mouse book--ONE IS A FEAST FOR MOUSE.

Enter to win. Send me an email at Gtrmouse@​aol.com with the subject line: THANKSGIVING GIVEAWAY. I'll draw the winner's name on November 17 and contact the winner for his or her mailing address. Good luck and Happy Thanksgiving! Read More 
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October is National Bullying Prevention Month

October is National Bullying Prevention Month
October is National Bullying Prevention Month. Several of my books are used in school anti-bullying programs as discussion starters. At the heart of my chapter books, I write about relationships--how to get along with others,treat one another equitably, make friends, deal with conflicts. Fiction is a great way for children to experience another child's reality and learn empathy. There's an old saying, "You don't really know someone until you've walked a mile in their shoes". Stories take you on that walk.

Here are some of my books that are used in anti-bullying programs: (Note--some of them are no longer in print, but available at libraries)

Mean, Mean Maureen Green
Puppy Power
Nora and the Texas Terror
That Crazy Eddie and the Science Project of Doom
Third Grade Pet
Butterfly Buddies
Carmen Learns English

How can you help? Sign the anti-bullying pledge on NEA's website, pledging to be a caring adult. Be a role model for treating people with kindness and compassion. Share books with your children that open discussions on how to treat others. If we all work together, we can stop bullying.  Read More 
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My Trip to the National Book Festival , or Tim and Judy's Excellent Adventure

Author Judy Cox with Sara, Katie and Susan at the National Book Festival
Wow! What a stupendous trip! My husband and I flew to Washington, D. C. on Friday, September 23. Picture acres of white tents pitched on the National Mall between the Washington monument and the Capitol building. Like the book lover I am, I'd seen the festival on C-SPAN's BOOK TV channel, and it gave me thrills to be there in person.

I helped to host the Oregon table and the Pavilion of States. Every child (adults, too) attending the Festival got a paper map (with MY book, "Don't Be Silly, Mrs. Millie!" listed on the back). The kids took the maps around to each state table, plus Guam and American Samoa to get them stamped.

After the even, we met the librarians, Sara and Katie, and Oregon children's author Deborah Hopkinson and her son for a crab cake dinner at Union Station.

The next couple of days were packed with sightseeing. I'd seen the White House on an earlier visit, so my husband and I opted to visit the Giant Pandas at the National Zoo instead. We watched the pandas do what they do best--eat and sleep. An adult panda can eat up to 40 pounds of bamboo a day!

A few days later, we boarded the Amtrak train and took trains all across the entire country. We traveled through fourteen states! We got to eat in the dining car and sleep in teeny-tiny berths in a roomette. What an amazing trip!

Thanks to everyone at the Library of Congress and Oregon Center for the Book for inviting me!  Read More 
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Mrs. Millie Goes to Washington, D. C.

Mrs. Millie is going to the National Book Festival!
Mrs. Millie is going to Washington, D. C.! I've been invited to help host the Oregon table at the Pavilion of States at the National Book Festival in Washington, D. C. on Saturday, September 24, 2011.

Each year, a different Oregon author is invited, and I'm so proud and excited to have been chosen. What an honor to represent Oregon literature! My book, "Don't Be Silly, Mrs. Millie!" will be listed on the map of the states. Participants take the map to the state tables and get them stamped. I'll get to visit with readers from all across the country. Maybe I'll even see the First Lady and her children--or the First Grandma!

I'm thrilled to be going to Washington, D. C. I haven't been there since 1965--when my whole family drove from California to New York to see the World's Fair. I'll bet things have changed just a little bit! Who knows, maybe I'll have material for a new book when I get back!  Read More 
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