Saturday, December 31, 2011

Kid loves watching Sprout

Thanks for the guest post by Bradly Watkins

There are some things you never learn until you have kids. People can tell you, but you don’t understand or retain the information until you actually experience it. Some things are more important than others, but sometimes the simple things are equally important. My parents have always had all the channels direct tv offers. They watch a lot of television, which is fine, but we never thought we needed the channels. Well, then we had a kid. He has fallen in love with a channel called Sprout. Yes, this is an actual channel. It is completely geared for children and has all the classic kids’ shows. It can actually have some very educational shows, but it is in a package that we never needed or wanted. Well, at least we never needed or wanted it before kids. Now we are proud supporters of Sprout and ever PBS. My son is in heaven and to be honest it makes those rainy days a lot easier on me too. I never thought I would be adjusting my budget in order to have all the channels, but kids make you do crazy things.

Fish for a Free Book: December 31


Welcome to the New Year's edition of Fish for a Free Book! Hope everyone enjoyed their holidays and is looking forward to another new and exciting year!

If you are hosting a children's book giveaway, or if you found a giveaway somewhere on the net that you just have to share, I'd love to have you share your links with us here on our weekly giveaway linky so that we can all stop by and enter.

If you're looking for more children's book giveaways, be sure to visit
Brimful Curiosities' Full to the Brim,
Winning Readings (listings of adult and children's book giveaways),
and Got Great Giveaways? (linky of adult and children's book giveaways at I Am a Reader, Not a Writer)

Please post your links however you wish. Some like to include their blog name, some just want to leave the prize and the ending date. Post it whatever way you feel like, but make sure that the prize listing and the date the giveaway ends is listed. And make sure you post a link directly to your giveaway - not just to your main blog page.

Here's an example:
Your name: Lori Calabrese Writes--Two YA Novels--6/24
Your URL: http://loricalabrese.blogspot.com/2011/06/welcome-to-midsummers-eve-giveaway-hop.html

Now it's your turn. Leave your links here...
(If you're reading this in a reader, please click through to the original post)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Celebrating the New Year with a toast to champagne

wine.com infographic
Brought To By Wine.com, Purveyors of Fine Wine and Champagne

It's almost 2012 (that's really crazy by the way!) and millions of people across the globe will be popping a cork and toasting to a brand new year with a bottle of bubbly, so I figured to celebrate the New Year, we could have our own toast here at Lori Calabrese Writes and give a toast to champagne! I've always been a sucker for research and I must say I learned some things I never knew before. For instance, did you know that Dom Perignon was a monk and is credited for 'inventing' Champagne? The bubbly drink also played a large role in history from ending wars to being sipped by many royalty.

Turns out the bubbles in champagne were an accident and in Dom Perignon's day, bubbles were considered a serious wine flaw. But today, champagne bubbles are so popular, it's even a flavor for Jelly Belly jelly beans!! There's a good conversation-starter about sparkling wines for your New Year's Eve bash.

So here's to a great New Year and as Phyllis McGinley (a poet and writer of children's books) said...

Stir the eggnog, lift the toddy,
Happy New Year, everybody.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Fish for a Free Book: December 23

Welcome to the holiday edition of Fish for a Free Book! Hope everyone enjoys their holidays and is able to take advantage of some down time by picking up a good book!

If you are hosting a children's book giveaway, or if you found a giveaway somewhere on the net that you just have to share, I'd love to have you share your links with us here on our weekly giveaway linky so that we can all stop by and enter.

If you're looking for more children's book giveaways, be sure to visit
Brimful Curiosities' Full to the Brim,
Winning Readings (listings of adult and children's book giveaways),
and Got Great Giveaways? (linky of adult and children's book giveaways at I Am a Reader, Not a Writer)

Please post your links however you wish. Some like to include their blog name, some just want to leave the prize and the ending date. Post it whatever way you feel like, but make sure that the prize listing and the date the giveaway ends is listed. And make sure you post a link directly to your giveaway - not just to your main blog page.

Here's an example:
Your name: Lori Calabrese Writes--Two YA Novels--6/24
Your URL: http://loricalabrese.blogspot.com/2011/06/welcome-to-midsummers-eve-giveaway-hop.html

Now it's your turn. Leave your links here...
(If you're reading this in a reader, please click through to the original post)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Looking for that last minute gift?

The countdown is on! Only 3 shopping days left until Christmas. If you're looking for that last minute gift, why not consider an e-book--especially one that will explain everything your young readers want to know about those mischievous elves and the man with the white beard? This month Sourcebooks released an enhanced e-book of the picture book, MRS. CLAUS EXPLAINS IT ALL, complete with real kids asking questions.  It has risen to #2 in NOOK Picture Books at Barnes & Noble and it's currently on sale for $1.99! 

Be sure to read my review of MRS. CLAUS EXPLAINS IT ALL, then head over to the NOOK book store or Apple's iBookstore to get your e-book, complete with amazing
illustrations by David Wenzel, bestselling illustrator of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.Not only do you get the full original text, but you also get engaging audio that elevates the reader experience for both parent and child. Now don't you want to find out all of Santa's secrets?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

An endearing tale of friendship

Family and friends are the focus of the holidays and if you're looking for a children's book that reminds us how important our friends are, then check out JANE & MIZMOW by Matthew S. Armstrong.

Jane's best friend is Mizmow, a monster. Mizmow's best friend is Jane. It can be hard being best friends with a monster, but the two are inseparable and have lots of fun together. That is until one day, they fight over a warm cap fresh from the dryer and it rips. They're not best friends anymore. However, both Jane and Mizmow realize that things just aren't the same, and there's nobody to share things with. So how exactly can you get your best friend back?

The illustrations help tell the story in this endearing tale of friendship and kids will love watching the story play out in both the text and illustrations. Not only is Mizmow the monster absolutely adorable, I can see young readers wanting a stuffed animal of this little guy. The text is simple enough for emerging readers, but the message is powerful enough for readers of all ages. Can't wait to see another picture book by debut author/ illustrator Matthew S. Armstrong as his art is amazing!

Additional Information:
Reading level: Ages 3 and up
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins (October 11, 2011)
ISBN-10: 0061177199
ISBN-13: 978-0061177194
Source of review copy: Publisher
Disclosure: Some of the books I review are received from publishers , PR agencies, and authors, but it does not sway my opinion of the book.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Fish for a Free Book: December 16


Welcome to Fish for a Free Book!

If you are hosting a children's book giveaway, or if you found a giveaway somewhere on the net that you just have to share, I'd love to have you share your links with us here on our weekly giveaway linky so that we can all stop by and enter.

If you're looking for more children's book giveaways, be sure to visit
Brimful Curiosities' Full to the Brim,
Winning Readings (listings of adult and children's book giveaways),
and Got Great Giveaways? (linky of adult and children's book giveaways at I Am a Reader, Not a Writer)

Please post your links however you wish. Some like to include their blog name, some just want to leave the prize and the ending date. Post it whatever way you feel like, but make sure that the prize listing and the date the giveaway ends is listed. And make sure you post a link directly to your giveaway - not just to your main blog page.

Here's an example:
Your name: Lori Calabrese Writes--Two YA Novels--6/24
Your URL: http://loricalabrese.blogspot.com/2011/06/welcome-to-midsummers-eve-giveaway-hop.html

Now it's your turn. Leave your links here...
(If you're reading this in a reader, please click through to the original post)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Janet Halfmann's “Star of the Sea” Wins National Award from Science Teachers

I recently reviewed Star of the Sea: A Day in the Life of a Starfish, by Janet Halfmann and I'm excited to announce that the book has been named a 2012 Outstanding Science Trade Book for Students K-12.

The award is given by The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), in collaboration with the Children’s Book Council.

In its review NSTA said: “The book’s narration is full of descriptive phrases that paint a minds-eye picture of the daily life of a starfish in its natural environment. For example, “Beneath the crashing waves, another kind of star clings to the rocks with hundreds of sticky tube feet." The words set the stage for the visual imagery of the life of a starfish. The illustrations show the large view of a starfish as well as close-up images of its tube feet. The blend of words and art provides young readers with accurate scientific information and will inspire wonder in their minds.”

“Star of the Sea” is published by Henry Holt/Christy Ottaviano Books, for children ages 5-9. The illustrations are collage art by Joan Paley. The book is also a School Library Guild Selection.

Halfmann is the award-winning author of more than 30 children’s books, including “Good Night, Little Sea Otter,” “Fur and Feathers,” “Little Skink’s Tail,” and “Seven Miles to Freedom: The Robert Smalls Story.” She grew up on a farm in Michigan and now lives in South Milwaukee, WI.

A big congraulations to Janet and be sure to check out some of the other amazing titles that won the award.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Unwrap an app for the holidays with the Fancy Nancy Dress Up app

HarperCollins Children’s Books recently announced that the Fancy Nancy Dress Up – the first interactive app based on the beloved and bestselling children’s book – is available on the App Store for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch.

'Tis the season for apps, so it's no surprise to see Fancy Nancy make her digital game debut. With over 20 million books in print, Fancy Nancy has captured the hearts of young readers, which is why I'm sure this app will be a hit with Fancy Nancy fans.

Fancy Nancy Dress Up has hundreds of possible outfits, and fun and fancy backgrounds and stickers to choose from. Not only will Fancy Nancy fans love dressing up Nancy, they can create original pictures for an all-new Fancy Nancy storybook, save and share their fantastique creations, and insert Fancy Nancy into their very own photos

Other new apps out just in time for the holidays include Biscuit Gives a Gift and The Berenstain Bears Trim the Tree. Whether you are joining the Berenstain Bears as they decorate their Christmas tree or playing along as Biscuit finds the perfect gift for everyone he loves, you can now celebrate the holidays with your favorite characters in a fun and interactive way.

If you're looking for even more app ideas, be sure to check out my article at Education.com, Top 10 Holiday Apps for Kids.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Deadly Cool is just that- COOL!

The first sentence of Deadly Cool by Gemma Halliday will have you diving into this novel, wanting more.

Hartley Grace Featherstone is having a very bad day. First she finds out that her boyfriend is cheating on her with the president of the Herbert Hoover High School Chastity Club. Then he's pegged as the #1 suspect in a murder. And if that weren't enough, now he's depending on Hartley to clear his name. Seriously? Not cool.

But as much as Hartley wouldn't mind seeing him squirm, she knows he's innocent, and she's the only one who can help him. Along with her best friend, Sam, and the school's resident Bad Boy, Chase, Hartley starts investigating on her own. But as the dead bodies begin to pile up, the mystery deepens, the suspects multiply, and Hartley begins to fear that she may be the killer's next victim.

I fell in love with Hartley as she's punchy, to the point and laugh out loud. We hear a lot about voice when it comes to novels--specifically how hard it is to nail that teen voice in a young adult novel, but Halliday has it mastered. Add in a little murder mystery and you have the perfect read for a long weekend.

Additional Information:
Reading level: Ages 13 and up
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: HarperTeen (October 11, 2011)
ISBN-10: 0062003313
ISBN-13: 978-0062003317
Source of review copy: Publisher
Disclosure: Some of the books I review are received from publishers , PR agencies, and authors, but it does not sway my opinion of the book.

Monday, December 12, 2011

10 Best Holiday Apps for Kids

If you're looking to update your tablet, smartphone, or MP3 with some really cool holiday apps for kids, check out my latest article for Education.com, 10 Best Holiday Apps for Kids.

I loved writing this article because it gave me the chance to try out some apps I didn't even know were out there and we all know there are many to choose from. There's definitely an app for everything!

My new favorite? Definitely Grinchmas! Who doesn't love the Grinch?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Fish for a free book: December 9


Welcome to Fish for a Free Book!

If you are hosting a children's book giveaway, or if you found a giveaway somewhere on the net that you just have to share, I'd love to have you share your links with us here on our weekly giveaway linky so that we can all stop by and enter.

If you're looking for more children's book giveaways, be sure to visit
Brimful Curiosities' Full to the Brim,
Winning Readings (listings of adult and children's book giveaways),
and Got Great Giveaways? (linky of adult and children's book giveaways at I Am a Reader, Not a Writer)

Please post your links however you wish. Some like to include their blog name, some just want to leave the prize and the ending date. Post it whatever way you feel like, but make sure that the prize listing and the date the giveaway ends is listed. And make sure you post a link directly to your giveaway - not just to your main blog page.

Here's an example:
Your name: Lori Calabrese Writes--Two YA Novels--6/24
Your URL: http://loricalabrese.blogspot.com/2011/06/welcome-to-midsummers-eve-giveaway-hop.html

Now it's your turn. Leave your links here...
(If you're reading this in a reader, please click through to the original post)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

A classic Christmas tale is THE BEST CHRISTMAS PAGEANT EVER, first published in 1972 by Barbara Robinson. Not only was it made into a TV movie, but it is produced annually as a play in theaters, schools and churches all over the world.

Now, Robinson is introducing us to the latest picture book version of THE BEST CHRISTMAS PAGEANT EVER, illustrated by Laura Cornell.

We're introduced to the Herdmans, who just happen to be the worst kids in the history of the world. They lie, steal and play with matches and everyone stays away from them. However, one day they show up in Sunday school. Not only do they steal all the money out of the collection plate, but they draw mustaches on everybody in the Bible and take over the annual Christmas pageant (acting out the story of Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus). Everybody knows the story, except the Herdmans. In fact, everyone's convinced this is going to be the worst pageant ever, but when the pageant takes place and every wrong thing the Herdmans do seems right and natural, it might possibly be the best Christmas pageant ever.

The thought of six very unruly children teaching a whole church about the true meaning of the birth of Christ is what makes this a wonderful Christmas picture book to share with children and teach them the true meaning of Christmas. Cornell has updated the story with lively and vibrant illustrations, but the powerful message remains the same. A wonderful addition to your Christmas collection.

Additional Information:
Reading level: Ages 4 and up
Hardcover: 40 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins (September 27, 2011)
ISBN-10: 0060890746
ISBN-13: 978-0060890742
Source of review copy: Publisher
Disclosure: Some of the books I review are received from publishers , PR agencies, and authors, but it does not sway my opinion of the book.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

7 Things to Do When a Teacher Calls Home

Remember when you were a kid and your teacher threatened to call your mom? You couldn’t imagine anything else more terrifying and you probably begged and pleaded, “Please, please don’t call my mom. Anything but that.” Fast-forward a few years and now your son’s teacher is calling home and you're on the receiving end. You’re probably begging and pleading, “Please, please don’t call me. Anything but this.”

When a teacher calls home, it can be a scary experience for a child—and even scarier for a parent. Check out my recent article that I wrote for Education.com, 7 Things to Do When a Teacher Calls Home. Hopefully, if you ever do get that dreaded phone call, you'll be a little more prepared and know just what to do.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Carrier of the Mark hits the mark

Carrier of the Mark was one of the buzz books at Book Expo America this year and after hearing the story of how Leigh Fallon wrote the book, posted it to Inkpop (a website for budding writers of teen fiction) and within weeks, the manuscript hit the coveted top-five spot, I had to get my hands on a copy.

Let me just say, I'm glad I did. I mean, check out the cover. That's just one of the coolest covers I've seen in a long time.

Megan Rosenberg comes off as your typical teenager, but how typical can she be when she's transplanted from Boston to Ireland? Fortunately, after growing up in America, she's surprised to find herself feeling at home in her new school. She connects with a group of friends, and she is instantly drawn to darkly handsome Adam DeRÍs. However, as their relationship blossoms, Megan discovers a secret of the DeRIs family, bu how exactly does Megan fit in?

If you love mythology, you'll fall in love with the characters in this book. Fallon has captured the magic of Ireland, and dives into Celtic legend as we discover the amazing powers of Megan and Adam. There's so much action and intrigue in this novel, you'll find yourself ripping through it in no time, and biting your nails for the next installment.

Additional Information:
Reading level: Ages 13 and up
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: HarperTeen; 1 edition (October 4, 2011)
ISBN-10: 0062027875
ISBN-13: 978-0062027870
Source of review copy: Publisher
Disclosure: Some of the books I review are received from publishers , PR agencies, and authors, but it does not sway my opinion of the book.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Fish for a Free Book: December 2

Welcome to Fish for a free book!

If you are hosting a children's book giveaway, or if you found a giveaway somewhere on the net that you just have to share, I'd love to have you share your links with us here on our weekly giveaway linky so that we can all stop by and enter.

If you're looking for more children's book giveaways, be sure to visit
Brimful Curiosities' Full to the Brim,
Winning Readings (listings of adult and children's book giveaways),
and Got Great Giveaways? (linky of adult and children's book giveaways at I Am a Reader, Not a Writer)

Please post your links however you wish. Some like to include their blog name, some just want to leave the prize and the ending date. Post it whatever way you feel like, but make sure that the prize listing and the date the giveaway ends is listed. And make sure you post a link directly to your giveaway - not just to your main blog page.

Here's an example:
Your name: Lori Calabrese Writes--Two YA Novels--6/24
Your URL: http://loricalabrese.blogspot.com/2011/06/welcome-to-midsummers-eve-giveaway-hop.html

Now it's your turn. Leave your links here...
(If you're reading this in a reader, please click through to the original post)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Co-Authors & Dads Teach Kids Don't Be Afraid of Failure

I recently reviewed  THE GIRL WHO NEVER MADE MISTAKES by Mark Pett and Gary Rubenstein. I fell in love with this book and the illustrations and needed to find out more of how these co-authors and dads are teaching kids to not be afraid of failure...

What was the inspiration for Beatrice Bottomwell?
As a professional cartoonist (and former teacher), I’m often asked to visit classrooms to teach kids about cartooning. Invariably, there are numerous children who either won’t participate because they “can’t draw” or get frustrated that they can’t draw perfectly the first time.

This led to a thought experiment. What if there was a child who never made mistakes? What would her life be like? Enter Beatrice Bottomwell, celebrated in her town for having never made a mistake in as long as anyone can remember. In so many ways, her life is wonderful. She wins spelling bees. She gets perfect grades. She never spills anything, mismatches clothing, or colors outside the lines. What could be terrible about that?

The trouble, Beatrice increasingly discovers, is that she’s trapped in a box. Beatrice can’t try anything she doesn’t already know she’s good at. When her friends ask her to join them ice skating, she won’t because she might fail. She’s so attached to being The Girl Who Never Makes Mistakes that her range of activities becomes narrower and narrower.

This is the problem with the kind of perfectionism that virtually all of us experience. How many adults do you know who refuse to dance or sing or draw because that’s just not something they’re good at? Our children watch us and begin to do the very same thing.

Mark, How different was it creating a children's book than writing your nationally syndicated comic strip?

I've discovered that producing a daily syndicated comic strip was wonderful preparation for writing and illustrating a children's picture book. The principles are very much the same. In comic strips, the cartoonist uses art and words in tandem to guide the reader through the story and control timing.

My comic strip also did wonders to develop my work ethic. When you have to deliver a comic strip every single day (including a large full-color Sunday strip once per week), you learn to be creative on demand. I can't say I miss the brutal deadlines, but the newspaper comic strip is a wonderful medium that offers an intimate relationship between the creator and the reader. In creating a children's book, I've enjoyed a much slower pace, which has allowed me to edit more thoroughly and work in watercolors to produce the illustrations. I have to say, though, that I've missed the instant gratification that publishing in newspapers gave me. It's taken two years to see this book to print!

Gary, How did your teaching experience aid in writing The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes?
As a math teacher I've found that many students are intimidated by their perceived rigidity of the subject. The only way I'm able to get a good amount of participation is to tell the students, early on, that nobody will make more mistakes than me in front of the class this semester. Also, I like to sometimes ask questions that encourage the students to let go and just guess. Like "How likely is it that two people in this class have the same birthday?" I don't expect them to calculate it out -- it's too difficult. But if I can get them to take an educated guess and feel comfortable making it publicly, then I've done a good job at getting them to embrace the ideas we try to promote in the book.

Why do you think students are so concerned about making mistakes?
Students see many of the questions that are posed in school as either right or wrong, especially in math. Kids don't want to get the answer wrong in front of everyone since they feel that everyone else knows the correct answer, even when they don't. I've found that when it comes to the test, the kids who participated the most, even if they got answers wrong in that participation, do best on the unit test. That's why I really try to encourage kids to answer questions and try to be understanding when they get things wrong and not make them feel bad about it.

How did the collaboration process work and what were some of the challenges?
Mark and I have known each other for twelve years. We met at a Teach For America reunion in 1999 and would send one another projects we were working on, individually, to see what the other thought of it. Three years ago we both had daughters born and as we each read picture books to them, we started talking about working together on one.

Since he lived in Mississippi at the time and I was in New York City, we would Skype once a week brainstorming ideas for the book. We settled on a concept that Mark had about what it would be like to never make a mistake. I wrote the first draft and then we edited and rewrote for about four months. Mark drew up some pencil sketches for the artwork and we sent out the rough draft to agents until Kerry Sparks from Levine-Greenberg offered to represent us. The rest, as they say, is history.

Since Mark and I were very used to working on our own projects -- me on my other books and him on his syndicated comic strips -- it was difficult, at times, coming to agreement about how the story should go. Then, when you add in an editor, things get even more complicated. I think, though, that the collaboration process really enabled every possible kink to be worked out in the text and when I look at the final product I see some things that I know were my invention, some that I know were Mark's, but most of it I see as just what 'we' did together through the collaboration process.

-----
A big thanks to both Gary and Mark for taking the time to tell us more about the inspiration and collaboration process behind THE GIRL WHO NEVER MADE MISTAKES. Check out the book at Sourcebooks.com.