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Word by Word

NEW CURRICULUM GUIDE

Download the curriculum guide on the parents and teachers page.
I've just added a free downloadable curriculum guide to my website.

You can find the guide by clicking the FOR TEACHERS tab, but it's not just for teachers. I hope everyone will check it out. I loved coming up with the activities in the guide--that's the teacher in me. In fact, I had to work hard just to limit it to nine pages. Maybe I'll have to do a Volume Two!

Some of the activities you'll find are:

How to make a Marshmallow Catapult
A Paper Airplane Contest
Postcards from Frederick and Ishbu
Mapping the Journey
A Recipe for Ishbu's Favorite Treat

In addition, I'd like to invite teachers to enter a drawing for free books. Details are available on the For Teachers tab under the link to the curriculum guide.

Find all this and more at www.judycox.net  Read More 
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Fleased as Punch!

I'm thrilled to announce that TIME Magazine listed PICK A PUMPKIN, MRS. MILLIE! as one of the top ten children's books for 2009!

The first Mrs. Millie book, DON'T BE SILLY, MRS. MILLIE! was named to the list in 2005.
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Behind the Scenes The Case of the Purloined Professor

If you've read the first book in The Tails of Frederick and Ishbu series, The Mystery of the Burmese Bandicoot, you know that Frederick and Ishbu are based on two real pet rats I had in my kindergarten classroom a few years ago.

Frederick was a slim gray rat, the color known to rat fanciers as "lilac". Ishbu was a hooded rat with a white body and black head. Both rats had round shiny black eyes and whiskers that vibrated with every motion. I spun tales of their imagined adventures to entertain my kindergartners. Many years later, I expanded the adventures and wrote them down.

Most of the places in the first book were researched through the internet, books, and magazines, but when it came time to write the second book, I wanted to recreate places I'd actually visited--my hometown of San Francisco, one of the world's loveliest cities; Loch Ness and Cawdor Castle in Scotland; Zermatt and the Matterhorn in Switzerland.

I don't know where the rats will travel to next, but I hope they will take me along.  Read More 
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Scholastic Book Club News

Exciting news for teachers and students--two of my books are available from Scholastic Book Clubs this Fall.

ONE IS A FEAST FOR MOUSE is available in the November See Saw book order.

THAT CRAZY EDDIE AND THE SCIENCE PROJECT OF DOOM is a December selection in the Lucky book order. It comes with a SLIME science project kit full of all sorts of interesting looking stuff! Read More 
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Sometimes Less is More

I don't plan to see the new movie, Where the Wild Things Are. I don't want to know Max's Freudian motivations for wearing a wolf suit or yelling at his mom. I don't want to hear the Wild Things talk. I don't want to see the island "brought to life on the big screen".

I adore the book; in my mind Maurice Sendak created the perfect picture book--short, spare, concise, and elegant in its design. (Have you noticed how the pictures take up more of the page's space as Max's journey evolves?)A good picture book--a great picture book--can say as much in a few words as a novel. Like a poem, much of the meaning is constructed by the reader. Movies tell too much. They leave nothing for the viewer to do. I want to participate in the creation of the story, bringing my own memories, fears, hopes, and dreams to my reading. In this way, each reader experiences the book in a unique fashion.

I haven't liked other movies that have been adapted from picture books because that inevitably means that plot is added, unlike a novel adaptation where plot is cut. Jumanji, for instance--where did that sad, lost hunter come from? Or How the Grinch Stole Christmas, a horrible movie which seeks to explain why the Grinch turned bad. I never had a problem accepting that he was bad because his heart was two sizes too small, did you? The only movie based on a book that I did like was Shrek, and I suspect that was because I had not read the book first.

Instead of movies, I prefer the richer, less limiting experience of my own "theater of the mind" where Wild Things do not need to talk, and the Polar Express is full of unexplained magic.

So, while other folks are in the dark theater, finding out what Wild Things do at a rumpus, I'll be at home, with a cup of tea, my cat at my feet, and a stack of picture books at hand. Relaxing, reflecting, watching stories come to life in my head.  Read More 
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Pick a Pumpkin, Mrs. Millie!

It's here! My new book, PICK A PUMPKIN, MRS. MILLIE! is now available in bookstores. It's always a thrill to get a new book. All those hours and hours of work have finally paid off.

I was sitting in my living room when the brown UPS truck pulled up. My husband and I tried to remember if we'd ordered anything, then I realized it must be my new book. What a thrill! I even told the UPS driver--"It's my new book!" He was underwhelmed. "Uh, uh," he said. Maybe he hears it all the time?

PICK A PUMPKIN, MRS. MILLIE! is the third in the Mrs. Millie series. In this adventure, she takes her kindergarten class on a field trip to the pumpkin patch. Every year I took my kindergartners to the pumpkin patch. The book is dedicated to Farmer Don. He and he wife, Jeanne, had a very small farm in West Linn, Oregon. Their barn was over 100 years old. Every year, they hosted hundreds of school children. Farmer Don picked us up at the gate in his tractor-drawn wagon and drove us to the patch to pick out pumpkins. His pumpkin patch was not the biggest, or the fanciest, or the most hi-tech--but I'll bet it was the sincerest patch in Oregon. Although the events and characters in the book are imaginary, it is this patch that inspired me. Thanks, Jeanne and Don!  Read More 
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Summer Reading, Part II

I bought a real treasure at the second hand bookstore yesterday. I found a copy of "Miracles on Maple Hill" by Virginia Sorensen. Published in 1956, this book won the Newbery Medal in 1957.

The book I found is not in mint condition, but condition doesn't matter to me. If it's readable--and a book I love--I'll buy it. This copy is a discard from the Wichita City Library in Wichita, Kansas. I know this because there is an imprint embossed on the title page. The book has a red library binding with an illustration on the front. It's been well-used. There are inked-out marks on some of the pages, and the cover and edges of the pages are worn. At some time during its life, the book must have belonged to the Wyoming Indian Elementary School Library, because there's a stamp from them. I don't know if that school was in Kansas or Wyoming--I'll have to search on the internet. This book is probably the same edition that my school library had. The only thing that's missing is the old library card pocket.

I don't remember reading this book as a child, but I think one of my teachers read it aloud to the class. I can't recall the story, but as I started reading it yesterday, the chapter about sugaring off sounded familiar. I look forward to reading the whole book.

One of the best things about this book is the charming pen and ink illustrations by Beth and Joe Krush. When I was a child, mid-grade books were nearly always illustrated. I loved Beth and Joe Krush's work so much that I would check books out from the school library simply based on their illustrations. They illustrated the Gone-Away Lake books by Elizabeth Enright, as well as the Borrowers series by Mary Norton.

We've been having a lot of summer rain showers this June, so I think I'll turn off my computer and go curl up with "Miracles on Maple Hill".

Happy Reading!
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Summer Reading

Summer vacation is coming! It's so close I can almost taste it. In fact, some of my favorite things about summer are tastes--Lemonade. Fried chicken. Watermelon. Cherry Popsicles. Books.

Wait a minute--did I just say books? That's right,books. Of course, I don't actually eat books. I don't even nibble them. But certain books just seem to have a kind of flavor--a flavor that puts me in a lazy summery mood. I try to reread a few of them every summer.

Some of my all time favorites are:

The River at Green Knowe by L. M. Boston

Thimble Summer by Elizabeth Enright

The Swing in the Summerhouse by Jane Langton

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall

I hope you'll savor a few of your favorites this summer, too!  Read More 
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