Monday, October 28, 2013

Halloween Hodgepodge

By Susan J Berger

October 28th calls for a Halloween post. I thought I would start with a little history.

 I Googled History: when did dressing in costume to trick or treat begin?  I got a number of vague and confusing answers. I left Wikipedia for last and I like it best. At least Wikipedia had footnotes. Although there are mentions of Halloween trick or treating and costumes as early as 1906, our modern trick or treating began after sugar rationing ended in World War II. This next bit is straight from Wikipedia

Early national attention to trick-or-treating was given in October 1947 issues of the children's magazines Jack and Jill and Children's Activities, and by Halloween episodes of the network radio programs The Baby Snooks Show in 1946 and The Jack Benny Show and The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet in 1948.[23] Trick-or-treating was depicted in the Peanuts comic strip in 1951.[24] The custom had become firmly established in popular culture by 1952, when Walt Disney portrayed it in the cartoon Trick or Treat, and Ozzie and Harriet were besieged by trick-or-treaters on an episode of their television show.[25] In 1953 UNICEF first conducted a national campaign for children to raise funds for the charity while trick-or-treating.[26]
Susan as Witch for the 4th time 1953
I know my brother and I were trick or treating in the early 1950's. He got to be Superman. I mostly remember being a witch and dreaming of being Cinderella. But I had been a witch in several school plays and no one spent a lot of money on costumes in my neighborhood. My Cinderella dreams remain just that. When I moved to Connecticut in 1956, my neighbors mom sewed awesome costumes. Simplicity or McCall's had lots of costume patterns ad she was a wonderful seamstress. I, however was still a witch. So here's my two year old son James' first costume.                                                                                           
James Barry Corbin Age 2

Later on I got more creative.
James and Christopher 1985

Costumes for sale have become more and more elaborate. There are whole stores devoted to costumes and decorations. I have to say that, as a child I would have sold my brother for the kind of princess costumes that are available now.  
Halloween has gone big time. Not just here in Hollywood, but everywhere.
I spotted this decoration in the window of a Halloween store in New York.

Yes, Zombies are big time. My neighborhood sports several ghoulish graveyards. 

My next internet stop was Amazon for Halloween books for kids. I thought I would do a simple "best of" list. Amazon lists 6,346 results. I linked you so you could look for yourself.

I reworded to Best Kids Halloween Books. That cut the list to 517. I know I have not read them all.

I scrolled through the list and realized Amazon included in the list many non Halloween books.

I hope you scroll through the lists and find a few you like. I found these.

Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds

In the Haunted House by Eve Bunting

The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury

Do you have a favorite Halloween book, or costume?
Sorry about the weird spacing, but my computer is haunted. 
Happy Halloween.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Dispatch #13: Comparative Titles

by Lupe Fernandez

During many a SCBWI conference or workshop, the audience is advised to use comparative titles when pitching their manuscript, such as Harry Potter meets Dr. Seuss or Curious George meets Twilight.

Here in the vast wilderness of the Northern Hinderlands, I have created a few modest comparative titles for future query letter.

Picture Books
  • Good Night Moon meets Apollo 13 (The Lost Moon)
  • The Story of Ferdinand meets The Jungle
  • Curious George meets Gorilla's in the Mist
  • Clic Clac Moo meets Animal Farm
  • Polar Express meets The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition

Middle Grade
  • A Wrinkle in Time meets Gone with The Wind
  • The Lightning Thief meets Like Water for Chocolate
  • Ella Enchanted meets The Handmaid's Tale
  • Charlotte's Web meets Pride and Prejudice
  • The Borrowers meets Atlas Shrugged

Young Adult
  • The Hobbit meets Valley of the Dolls
  • Lord of the Flies meets The Scarlet Letter
  • The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants meets The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  • Vampire Academy meets Fast Food Nation
  • The Forest of Hands and Teeth meets Anna Karenina

These are a few of my favorite comparative titles.
Do you have any?
Care to share?
If you dare...

Monday, October 14, 2013

New Teacher Blues Revisited

My room the day before I started teaching.
Really bare. And below, my room today.

by Hilde Garcia

Three years ago, I became a full time teacher and I wrote this post. What's amazing is that three years later, it still applies.

Now, this amazing room, pictured here will be reinvented in a new building this January.  And I will come up with new class procedures I am sure because it is a new space.  Things are bound to be different.
And here? My new sunny room, done quite done yet, but on its way!
What will it look like?

But I will still decorate it the way I want. I will still read aloud to my students and I will still wonder why the education budget in our country is always the first thing that is cut.

During this holiday season, think of one way you can support your local school, your neighborhood teacher, the kid next door.  You don't have to have a kid in school to make a difference. You can volunteer at a school, vote to help legislation, donate supplies or funds, or simply believe in your local school.

Some samples of stained glass art my
students did for this holiday art this year.

From all of us here at Pen and Ink, we wish you the merriest of holiday seasons and a safe and happy new year. We writers are a special group. We have so much power and can change the world one story at a time.

Thank you for your contributions to children's literature.

Reposted from 2012.

Five Best Things about Teaching
by Hilde Garcia

5. I have my own classroom. 
I was able to decorate it the way I envisioned amazing learning should look like. I love walking into it and smelling the wood floors, seeing the sunlight filter in through the 1920’s gigantic glass windows. I love the room best when it’s quiet, before my students arrive, and the lights are off. It reminds me of school days long ago.

4. Reading aloud to my students.
My sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Sybil Dobbs, would keep the lights off after lunch, have us sit and rest our heads, and then read to us. That was the year I went down the river with Tom and Huck, found a garden with Mary, and got into trouble as red heads often do, especially when they are orphans. Those timeless classics, Tom Sawyer, The Secret Garden and Anne of Green Gables have stayed with me throughout the years. So I too, now, turn off the lights and read a loud to my children. Old classics and new ones as well.

3. Teaching.
I love planning my lessons in my old fashioned planner. I love making up cool projects and assignments to inspire the kids. I love when I get notes from them on how much they love my class and how much we laugh. They think what I do is fun and they love learning. What could be better praise?

2. My colleagues.
They are truly amazing, each and every one. I am very fortunate to teach in a dual immersion language program and we have five languages at one school site- English, Spanish, French, German and Italian. On any given day, you can begin a conversation in one language and end in another. Our school-wide festivals are unique, bringing in every type of culture you can imagine. The warmth that permeates the hallway makes it a place I would go to even if I wasn’t on staff.

1. Knowing that I will make a mark on another human on the planet.
That has to be the best thing about teaching. It’s why I love to write, because I can touch someone like so many have touched me. My Kindergarten teacher left a indelible mark on me when she held up the color red and said the word red and the told me to color the apple red. I didn’t know English. I was scared. She was caring. The sunlight filtered into the room, through the big old-fashioned windows, and enveloped the room with a glow that made reading something special. She transformed my world and I have taken her gift with me. Now it’s my turn.

Five Worse Things about Teaching

5. Schedule.
Having a shortened school day and school year, but being expected to teach twice the amount of material in that time.

4. Support.
It’s lacking in some communities for education. It used to be that school was what you did as a child. Now, there are more options and it feels at times like teachers are fighting a losing battle against video games, television, marketing schemes, and parents who feel vacation has to happen during the school day. (I knew a parent that actually took the kids to Disneyland during the week because she felt like it- never mind that it was the week of our state testing.)

3. The technology gap.
It’s sad. Some schools have access to it and some don’t. Economics are not equal when it comes to schools, yet our government boasts that we give every child the opportunity for an education. But what type? If we want all our nation’s children to thrive and be ready for a 21st century world, then we have to educate them with 21st Century technology. A chalk and chalkboard will not do.

2. The lack of thematic integration.
We want the kids to connect with the world and work cooperatively with their peers, but we tell them to sit down, be quiet, look at page 50 and copy the questions. We are rigid with our curriculum, following one book, one style. With so many children and so many learning styles, we have to embrace more diversity in our teaching. Many schools are doing this now and it give s me hope that we will begin to see teaching that reflects the global interactions of our planet.

And the number one worse thing about being a teacher?

1. The budget.
Please stop cutting it. You can’t teach 40 kids in a class and expect that everyone is going to get one on one time. You can’t use most of your salary to buy supplies for your students, but we do. There are so many parents in public schools these days that donate constantly to their child’s class, establish booster clubs and foundations in order to raise money to provide art, music, and even paper. We have to find a way to cure the budget blues as a nation because our kids are worth it. They are us a few years ago. And there is no excuse for not having the money. We have to think creatively, like we are asking our kids to do. We should involve business, communities, volunteers. It does take a village. But it’s so well worth it. How do you stop unemployment? Begin educating students for the changes in the world so they can adapt and be employable in the future.

Monday, October 7, 2013

First Lines from Richard Peck's
SCBWI Breakout Session


By Susan J Berger

The are the first lines Richard Peck gave as examples in his Breakout session. I linked the titles to Amazon. I use Amazon because of the  Look Inside feature. But you can find all of them at IndieBound or your local library.

The cat had a party to attend and went to the baboon to get groomed.
Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk A modern Bestiary by David Sedaris.

School was finally out and I was standing on a picnic table in our backyard getting ready for a great summer vacation when my mother walked up to me and ruined it.

Dead End In Norvelt by Jack Gantos

Balthazar by Claudia Grey

The shaft of the arrow was black and fletched with crow feathers, but Hylas couldn't see the head because it was buried in his arm.
Gods and Warriors by Michelle Paver

Our Hamster is running but he'll never get elected.
Amelia Bedelia's First Vote by Harman Parish.

Will Sparrow was a liar and a thief and hungry.ill Sparrow's Road  by Karen Cushman.

I want a refund from
Ungifted by Gordon Korman

Minutes after the shootings, everyone's cell phone rang. We weren't supposed to have cellphones unless we had a note from our parents explaining why they had to reach us in a hurry/

After by Francine Prose

When all is said and done, killing my mother came easily.
The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold

Richard Peck writes wonderful first lines. Here is his latest:

We who live in The Royal Mews next door to Buckingham Palace-horses, humans, mice, one cat, a cow for the milk, and the occasional goat-were in the service of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, Queen of England and Empress of India.
The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail by Richard Peck

I hope some of these lines inspire you to pick up the book.
Happy reading and writing.