Kids Blog

The Wonders of Eleanor Cameron

“Any memorable children’s book will possess drama, vitality, vividness, possibly wit and humor, and its own dignity—that is, a deep respect for the child’s quick and devastating perceptions.  As for the story itself, it will convey a sense of complete inevitability, a feeling of rightness throughout the whole structure.  This can only be attained by the writer’s evoking the true aura of childhood through re-experiencing that emotional state he lived in as a child, a state composed of delight in the simplest, most secret, sometimes the oddest things, of sadnesses and fears and terrors one could not or would not explain, of a continuing wonder about much that seems drab and familiar to adults” 

--Eleanor Cameron writing in The Green and Burning Tree: On the Writing and Enjoyment of Children’s Books, pg. 14

Eleanor Cameron was capable of doing all these things, whether writing science fiction, fantasy or more everyday stories.  She was a celebrated children’s writer of the 1960s and 1970s and was known for her lyrical style and the honesty with which she told her tales. A mature reader of That Julia Redfern, featuring an aspiring young writer living in the 1910s Berkley, can easily find grown-up themes that are layered into the story and come to fruition in books about an older Julia, such as A Room Made of Windows.

Great Grammar

Do you know the difference between a subject and a predicate or between a compound sentence and a simple one? How about the differences between capital and capitol, color and colour, action verbs and passive verbs? Do your subjects and verbs agree?

Learning how to diagram a sentence will not teach you to be a great story writer, any more than learning to read music will guarantee you fame and fortune as a lead singer. However, understanding grammar will show you how English language works, which is certainly handy for every writer.

Cookiebot! A Harry and Horsie Adventure by Katie Van Camp and Lincoln Agnew

Cookiebot! A Harry and Horsie Adventure

Harry and Horsie have a serious problem in Cookiebot!: A Harry and Horsie Adventure, by Katie Van Camp and Lincoln Agnew. Horsie’s stomach is making funny gurrrrrgle sounds, and he really needs a snack. But not just any old snack, like apples or carrots. Harry and Horsie want cookies. Sadly, the cookie jar is way up high, on top of the refrigerator. What’s an enterprising boy and his stuffed horse to do? Why, build a cookiebot of course, who can retrieve the coveted sweets.

Early Literacy

Books for early literacy

Much to my husband’s amusement, I’ve recently had homework!  I took my first ever online class on early literacy and the components necessary for every child to learn to read.  This wasn’t the first time I learned these concepts, but as I did my homework I was reminded that many believe reading is a one-sided activity.  It shouldn’t be.  Whether a baby wants to stop and chew on a certain page or a preschooler wants to talk about the pictures, pausing a story to meet that immediate need is an important and often fun experience!  Here are some great read alouds with ideas for how to bring stories to life outside the text.

Bread to Bake

March yourself into the kitchen, and start making some delicious bread! We have recipes for kid favorites teamed with fun books for a smart, sweet weekend treat.

The Liberation of Gabriel King by K.L. Going

The Liberation of Gabriel King by K.L. Going

Gabriel King is scared of everything. His many fears include spiders, loose cows, and even his best friend Frita's basement. Frita Wilson is a tough girl and she has every intention of helping Gabriel overcome his fears, especially when one of those is going to the fifth grade. The year is 1976, Frita and Gabriel have just graduated from the fourth grade, and they only have one summer to get rid of all of Gabriel's fears. The Liberation of Gabriel King, by K.L. Going, is about a boy who attempts to be brave with the help of his best friend.

African-American Folktales

African-American Folktales

Although I grew up with the traditional Grimm fairy tales, when my son was young, it was folktales that we read most often.  Passed down from the oral tradition, they’re perfect for children either as a read aloud or a story you retell together.  In honor of Black History Month here are a few of my favorite from the African-American tradition.

Although a picture book, “The People Could Fly” by Virginia Hamilton, is recommended for older children and teens.  The narrator tells us that in Africa, some of the people “would walk up on the air like climbin on a gate,”  but when they were captured, they forgot that magic.  Sarah, a young woman in the fields, was “standin tall, yet afraid” and had “a babe tied to her back.”  That didn’t stop the cruelty of the Overseer or the one who called himself their Master and she turned to fellow slave, Toby, for help.  He told her, “go, as you know how to go” and Sarah “lifted one foot on the air; then the other.  She flew clumsily at first...then she felt the magic, the African mystery” and was gone.  The next day, a young man fell from the heat.  Toby came and spoke words to him and he flew away.  One after the other, slaves fell and there was Toby helping them soar like birds, towards freedom.  Of course, the Overseer came after him, but Toby just laughed and said “we are the ones who fly” and a group of slaves rose and “flew in a flock that was black against the heavenly blue” with old Toby flying behind them towards freedom.  

Breaking Stalin’s Nose by Eugene Yelchin

Breaking Stalin’s Nose by Eugene Yelchin

“When hunger gnaws inside my belly, I tell myself that a future Pioneer has to repress cravings for such unimportant matters as food. Communism is just over the horizon; soon there will be plenty of food for everyone…I wonder what it’s like in the capitalist countries. I wouldn’t be surprised if children there had never even tasted a carrot.”

More than anything, 10-year-old Sasha Zaichik wants to be a member of the Young Soviet Pioneers in Breaking Stalin’s Nose, by Eugene Yelchin. Sasha can hardly wait for tomorrow’s Pioneer rally, when all of his dreams will be realized. However, as the big day gets close, things go terribly wrong for Sasha. First, his stalwart father is taken away by the State Security in the middle of the night. As Sasha’s mother had died under mysterious circumstances some time before, this leaves Sasha frighteningly alone. He is no longer welcome in the komunalka that he shares with 48 other citizens, so he is put out into deserted and icy streets in the middle of the night.

A Day of Knights

What is a knight?
The simple answer would be a soldier who fights on horseback while wearing armor, but there’s much more to being a knight.

Who were the first knights?
There have been soldiers on horseback for thousands of years, but what we think of as medieval knights first came into being during the time of King Charlemagne (Charles the Great). Charlemagne was a Frank (Frenchman). His knights kept him safe in battle and won him many victories. Chanson de Roland (Song of Roland) was written about Charlemagne’s most famous knight.

Sidekicks by Dan Santat

Sidekicks by Dan Santat

Metro City’s very own superhero Captain Amazing is getting too old for his job, so he’s going to need some backup. Sidekicks is the journey of some die-hard hero wannabes who wish to join the captain for one very simple reason: They are his pets, and he hasn’t been paying them any attention lately.