James Dean and Pete the Kitty

James Dean, artist and creator of the Pete the Cat series.

 One cool cat!

Guess who stopped by Words Bookstore in Maplewood, NJ? James Dean who, along with his wife Kimberly, writes and illustrates the Pete the Cat series! He enthralled a whole lot of children (and adults) with his blue Cat in the Hat hat and down-to-earth personality. Dean read from his new picture book, Pete the Kitty and the Groovy Playdate, sang the song from Pete the Cat, I Love My White Shoes, and drew Pete and Grumpy Toad. Fun!

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Pete the Kitty is super excited to visit his friend Grumpy Toad’s house for a playdate! Grumpy Toad has all the best toys: a truck, building blocks, and a superhero cape. Far out! It’s going to be cat-tastic!

But when Grumpy Toad refuses to share any of his cool toys with Pete, neither of them are having any fun. Will Grumpy Toad ever share his toys with his friend Pete?

In this easy-to-read and engaging picture book, little readers will learn all about sharingwith their favorite blue kitten!  Goodreads

A bunch of years ago, when visiting Cheekwood Botanical Garden in Nashville, TN, I came across a not-so-scary scarecrow of the famous blue cat. Meow!

Pete the Cat scarecrow.
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The One and Only Ivan, Book Review

When you read a story, how does it make you feel? 

THE ONE and ONLY IVAN, a middle grade novel written by Katherine Applegate, illustrated by Patricia Castelao, and named the 2013 winner of the Newbery Medal made me curious (Will Ivan and his friends ever live a different life?), chagrined (“I was born in a place humans call central Africa, in a dense rain forest so beautiful, no crayons could ever do it justice.”), and introspective (“Humans waste words. They toss them like banana peels and leave them to rot. Everyone knows the peels are the best part.”). The story is layered and poignant. I cried.

“The One and Only Ivan is a work of fiction, but the inspiration for this imagined tale lies with a true story. Ivan, a real gorilla, lived at Zoo Atlanta, but on the way to that happy ending, he spent almost three decades without seeing another of his own kind before being moved to Zoo Atlanta in 1994.” (from The One And Only Ivan website.)

Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.

Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.

Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.

Katherine Applegate blends humor and poignancy to create Ivan’s unforgettable first-person narration in a story of friendship, art, and hope.   Goodreads.

Have you read this book? How did it make you feel?

Ravenclaw Knit Scarf

Ravenclaw scarf.

My kids are crazy for Harry Potter and if my youngest went to Hogwarts, she’d be in the Ravenclaw house. She asked if I’d knit her a scarf for Ravenclaw Pride Day. It was easy, peasy and I learned how to carry up yarn.

Happy knitting, hon!

Ravenclaw Scarf

Materials:

–blue and tan or goldfish yarn, (I used Red Heart Soft, colors Navy and Wheat, 256 yds/234 m each. In the end, I used approx. 1 1/4 skeins of Navy and 1/2 skein of Wheat.)

Tips about yarn: The yarn I used was 100% acrylic which, it turns out, did not block, so the sides of the scarf curl in. If wool or cotton is used, the scarf can be blocked. If you  used acrylic, I suggest adding a seed stitch or some other stitch on each side so that the scarf lays flat.

Straight or circular needles: size of needle will be determined by the weight of yarn used. (I used size 8/5mm circular needles.)

Tapestry needle

Gauge: not important, the scarf can be either fine, chunky or in between.

Finished size: 7 inches x 8 feet (I wasn’t planning on the scarf being that long, but when it didn’t block and I steamed it, it grew!)

Instructions:

Cast on 32 stitches of blue yarn.

Using stockinette stitch (alternate rows of knit and purl stitch) and carrying both color yarns up while knitting*, create scarf following pattern.

Pattern:

  • blue yarn, 6 inches
  • tan yarn, 4 rows
  • blue yarn, 4 rows
  • tan yarn, 4 rows

Repeat pattern 8 times total (or less depending on desired length of scarf).

After repeating pattern 8 times, end with 6 inches of blue yarn.

Bind off on knit row.

Block and add fringe*. I alternated between blue and tan fringe on each end (blue, tan, blue, tan, blue, tan, blue).

*Click here to watch a video on how to carry yarns up.

*Click here to watch a video on how to make and add fringe.

P.S. Use different color yarns for other schools, real or imagined.

A Book Called Love

Valentine’s Day is the perfect day for Love, a new picture book written by Matt De La Peña and illustrated by Loren Long. Although this exquisite book is for children, it resonates with all ages. I had the opportunity to see Matt and Loren at Words Bookstore in Maplewood, NJ on the second day of their book tour. When they read Love, I choked up. It’s that beautiful.

“In the beginning there is light
and two wide-eyed figures standing near the foot of your bed
and the sound of their voices is love.

A cab driver plays love softly on his radio
while you bounce in back with the bumps of the city
and everything smells new, and it smells like life.”

In this heartfelt celebration of love, Matt de la Peña and illustrator Loren Long depict the many ways we experience this universal bond, which carries us from the day we are born throughout the years of our childhood and beyond. With a lyrical text that’s soothing and inspiring, this tender tale is a needed comfort and a new classic that will resonate with readers of every age.  (Goodreads)

Interestingly, the book has a controversial scene. In it, a child and his dog hide under a piano while the boy’s parents fight. In an interview, Matt said he and Loren were told this scene was too raw and should take it out. Matt and Loren insisted the scene stay. Matt said that a child going through something similar might recognize himself in the picture. If not, where better to explore scary emotions than in the lap of a caregiver? As a response to the controversy, he wrote an excellent article, “Why We Shouldn’t Shield Children From Darkness,” in Time magazine.

Click here to see a beautiful 4 minute video where Matt and Loren talk about their book. Hon, have you read it? Do you have a favorite scene?

Amazon Rapids, “Turning Green on Halloween” is Published!

Headless horseman carved pumpkin c/o Hubby.
My youngest as Cinderella, age 4.
Cinderella carved pumpkin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Witch carved pumpkin.
My youngest as a witch, age 5.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mwahaha! My third story on Amazon Rapids has been published.

In “Turning Green on Halloween,” Carla wants her brother Pablo to help decorate her wheelchair so she can enter the Halloween Parade. Pablo wants no part of the first prize–a ride on the Screamin’ Skyscraper–because he has a secret. Pablo is afraid of heights. Once Carla finds out Pablo’s fear, and convinces him that he doesn’t have to go on the ride, he decides to help…on one condition. Carla has to overcome claustrophobia by dressing up as a vampire in a coffin. In the end, Carla and Pablo both face their fears…and plunge ten stories in broken elevator filled with zombies. Fun!

Happy Halloween, hon!

Short, illustrated stories on Amazon Rapids, an App for ages 7-12, “are told through the lens of characters chatting with each other. The app is available for iOS, Android and Amazon Fire devices, and offers hundreds of original stories, with dozens of new ones added monthly.”

Amazon Rapids Includes: 

Unique chat style — Stories are told through the lens of characters chatting with each other, letting stories come to life one message at a time.

Hundreds of original stories — Kids can explore a large and growing library that’s filled with original stories spanning adventure, fantasy, humor, mystery, science fiction and sports.

Age-appropriate content – All content is thoughtfully edited to be appropriate for kids ages 7-12.

Built-in glossary — Kids can easily look up the definition and pronunciation of words to help build their reading confidence. Each time they look up a word, it is automatically added to their personal glossary for easy reference. 

“Read to me” —Kids can have stories read aloud to them while they follow along with the text. “Having been a teacher for over a decade, I’ve learned to write stories in a way that compels kids to dive in and the Amazon Rapids format is a perfect way to make that happen,” said Raymond Bean, best-selling children’s author. “In my first Amazon Rapids story, Alien Invasion, a boy named Gordon and an alien connect via a misdirected text message and hilarity ensues as they discuss the aliens’ plans to land on earth.”

Parents can visit http://rapids.amazon.com to download Amazon Rapids today.

Related Posts: Amazon Rapids Press Release–My 1st Fiction Story is Published!, Amazon Rapids, “The Easter Beast” is Published!

 

Amazon Rapids, “The Easter Beast” is Published!

Wild bunny, Florida.

Woohoo! My second story on Amazon Rapids has been published.

In “The Easter Beast,” Bun Bun and Chewy Chirp, the last chocolate bunny and marshmallow chick on the shelf, desperately want to go on an Easter Egg hunt, but the store’s about to close and they are being stalked by the Easter Beast, aka the store clerk, who craves chocolate and marshmallows.

Short, illustrated stories on Amazon Rapids, an App for ages 7-12, “are told through the lens of characters chatting with each other. The app is available for iOS, Android and Amazon Fire devices, and offers hundreds of original stories, with dozens of new ones added monthly.”

Amazon Rapids Includes: 

Unique chat style — Stories are told through the lens of characters chatting with each other, letting stories come to life one message at a time.

Hundreds of original stories — Kids can explore a large and growing library that’s filled with original stories spanning adventure, fantasy, humor, mystery, science fiction and sports.

Age-appropriate content – All content is thoughtfully edited to be appropriate for kids ages 7-12.

Built-in glossary — Kids can easily look up the definition and pronunciation of words to help build their reading confidence. Each time they look up a word, it is automatically added to their personal glossary for easy reference. 

“Read to me” —Kids can have stories read aloud to them while they follow along with the text. “Having been a teacher for over a decade, I’ve learned to write stories in a way that compels kids to dive in and the Amazon Rapids format is a perfect way to make that happen,” said Raymond Bean, best-selling children’s author. “In my first Amazon Rapids story, Alien Invasion, a boy named Gordon and an alien connect via a misdirected text message and hilarity ensues as they discuss the aliens’ plans to land on earth.”

Parents can visit http://rapids.amazon.com to download Amazon Rapids today.

Related Post: Amazon Rapids Press Release–My 1st Fiction Story is Published!

 

Wonder-ful Event

Wonder, a middle-grade novel by R.J. Palacio
Wonder, a middle-grade novel by R.J. Palacio
Event at Millburn High School in Millburn, NJ
Event at Millburn High School in Millburn, NJ

“Choose Kind” in Action and Spirit

On January 24, I was lucky to hear R.J. Palacio speak about her middle-grade novel Wonder, which I had just finished reading. The book has sold over 1.5 million copies since it was published in 2012. The event was sponsored by The Education Foundation of Millburn-Short Hills and held in Millburn High School’s auditorium. I couldn’t wait to go! (shout out to my SCBWI critique group writers who joined me)

Palacio said:

  1. Becoming a mom led her to rediscover her love of children’s books. (same with me!)
  2. Inspiration for the book came from a “true event” where she hurried her sons away from a little girl who looked like Auggie, the main character in Wonder. She said, “I had blown it” and couldn’t shake the the way she had handled the encounter.
  3. She and her husband made their own trailer for the book, which was considered mid-list and not projected to sell well.
  4. A picture book based on the novel is due out this spring
  5. A movie based on the novel is opening the spring.
  6. Her mom told her, “You’re going to be a writer one day.” (same with me!)

The Ed Foundation’s site says

R.J. Palacio addressed a full house on Tuesday, January 24th, 2017 at the Millburn High School discussing how she came up with the idea for her book and how the message of the book has launched an international revolution inspiring all to embrace the theme of choosing kindness everyday.

Over 700 people listened intently to how a book about an ordinary 10-year old boy with a facial deformity resonated with tens of thousands of readers of all ages.

Ms. Palacio passionately spoke to the audience on the virtues of respect, tolerance, and inclusion as a means to heal a world so often divided by cruelty, judgment, and bullying. She shared examples of what students across the country are doing to show empathy and kindness in everyday life.

Click here to see kids activities based on the book.