Friday, October 19, 2018

Review: SAVING WINSLOW by Sharon Creech

Saving Winslow
by Sharon Creech
Joanna Cotler Books

When Louie has the opportunity to nurse a struggling new born miniature donkey back to health, he doesn't let his not-so-successful track record discourage him. He names the donkey Winslow, and despite the pessimistic outlook of family and friends around him, Louie dedicates himself to making sure Winslow grows to be strong and healthy.

But this story is about much more than a boy nursing a donkey back to health. It's a story of a growing friendship between Louie and his new friend Nora. It's a story about family bonds that stay strong over long distances. It's a story about defying the odds, and being neighborly, and learning to let go.

Saving Winslow has a cast of characters that are believable and relatable. Though the story's resolution is a bit predictable, the book has a quick and easy pace, and the plot feels natural, not overly dramatic. The author approaches the topic of death in a delicate, yet realistic way that is ideal for the middle grade audience.

I recommend Saving Winslow for anyone who enjoys stories about relationships between children and animals, for those who has a soft spot for animals in general, and for people who enjoy simple, feel-good stories that make them smile (and maybe cry a little). If you enjoyed books like The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, Charlotte's Web by E.B. White, or any of Sharon Creech's earlier books, then you will enjoy Saving Winslow.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Read, Discuss, Do! Activities that You Can Do Anywhere


Read, Discuss, Do! is an initiative that encourages parents to take simple steps to extend the benefits of story time beyond the last page. These steps are:

1. Read a book
2. Discuss the book
3. Do an activity related to or inspired by the book

If you search "story time ideas" online, you will find a lot of projects ranging from the simple to the complicated. There are many fun, creative ideas out there! However, it can be a bit overwhelming, and possibly even discouraging for those short on time and craft supplies. So the primary purpose of Read, Discuss, Do! is to present simple, book-specific ideas that can be done without a lot of fuss or fanfare, with items that are commonly found around the house.

Sometimes, though, even that isn't convenient. You could be in the car, on a plane, or sitting in the waiting room at the doctor's office. Or you might just want to stay curled up on the couch! But that's no reason to cut story time short. After reading the book and discussing the story in general, try going further with one or more of these activity ideas:

1. Make up alternate endings.

2. Ask your child to relay the story to you in their own words.

3. Act out the story in part or in whole.

4. Use context clues to define new and unfamiliar vocabulary.

5. Investigate the illustrations for additional layers to the story.

6. Look through the text for examples of literary devices, such as alliteration, rhyme, and simile.

7. Tell personal stories that relate to the text of the book.

8. Examine your immediate surroundings and compare/contrast them with the book's setting.

9. Have little ones explore the text to find familiar letters or words.

10. Go back through the illustrations and count repeating elements.

11. Play a game of charades based on the book's characters and events.

Are you interested in book-specific ideas or more inspiration on other ways to extend story time beyond the last page? Check out these Read, Discuss, Do! craft ideas here on my blog, and search #ReadDiscussDo on Facebook and Twitter!






Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Ten Rhyming Picture Books to Read if You Like WHAT ABOUT MOOSE?!

I love a good rhyming picture book. To me, nothing is more fun to read than a book with flowing rhyme, interesting language, and a fun story. Many people have said that those qualities are what they love about What About Moose?! If that includes you, I have a list of books that I think will you will be happy to add to your read-it-again shelf.

Each of these books has earned a rare 5-star rating on my Goodreads shelf because they are so much fun to read aloud. And more than half of them (so far) have even made it onto the picture book shelf in my family room. I hope you and yours enjoy them as much as I have!



1. Teeny Tiny Toady by Jill Esbaum

An adorable story about a teeny tiny toad's efforts to rescue her family from a bucket.

2. A Hippy-Hoppy Toad by Peggy Archer

Who doesn't love toads? This is a fun and bouncy little adventure.

3. The Forgetful Knight by Michelle Robinson

Join the knight on his hilarious adventure. With a dragon!

4. Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse by Laura Sassi

A sweet story about learning to accept help.

5. The Prince and the Porker by Peter Bently

In case you can't guess by the title, this is a hilarious romp.

6. Simpson's Sheep Just Want to Sleep by Bruce Arant

A funny and colorful story about sheep who don't want to wake up.

7. It's Only Stanley by Jon Agee

A clever, amusing story about an ingenious dog.

8. Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beaty

A funny story about a boy destined to be an architect.

9. Twinderella by Corey Rosen Schwartz

Cinderella has a twin?? And math!

10. The Pomegranate Witch by Denise Doyen

What child hasn't imagined that there is a witch in their neighborhood?

Friday, September 07, 2018

Custom PJs: A Read, Discuss, Do! Activity

WHEN YOUR MONKEYS WON'T GO TO BED is the fourth in a series of board books by Susanna Leonard Hill, illustrated by Daniel Wiseman. When your monkeys won't go to bed, what can you do? You may need to trick them into feeling sleepy. But be careful. Getting your monkeys to go to bed might make you sleepy too! WHEN YOUR MONKEYS WON'T GO TO BED is a (slightly) wild and fun read that is perfect for bed time, play time, or any time!


READ: WHEN YOUR MONKEYS WON'T GO TO BED by Susanna Leonard Hill

DISCUSS: What kind of pajamas do you sleep in? If you could have any PJs that you want, what would they look like? What would they feel like? 

DO: Design your own custom pajamas!

Print out the pajama or nightgown pattern (or draw your own), then use crayons, markers, or colored pencils to design your own PJs! Add to your design with glitter, stickers, and other extras if you want. 

Check out the ones my niece and nephews did below!

For more information or to buy the book visit: 










Saturday, August 25, 2018

Top Ten Ways to Read Books for Free (without Stealing)



Recently I read an article online about book piracy. In this article were quotes from people who had the audacity to complain when authors were successful in shutting down book piracy sites. Book piracy sites offer unauthorized free downloads of books, often in the form of PDFs. They lure people in with "free trial memberships" and the promise that they "don't sell books." And they don't. Rather, for the price of a monthly fee, they simply give books away.

In case you don't see anything wrong with that, think of it this way. Imagine a shoplifter came up to you and said, "If you pay me a monthly fee, you can have your choice of the goods I swipe!" Would you take them up on it?

Now, if you've ever downloaded an unauthorized "free" copy of a book, I'm not judging you. But I am asking you not to do it again. Even though some may shrug their shoulders and think no harm done, the truth is that book piracy does cause harm. It hurts authors because it reduces book sales, and reduced book sales lower authors' incomes and hurt their chances of publishing more books. And, you know, it's stealing.

That doesn't mean you should have to pay for every book you want to read. Very few people could afford that even if they wanted to. But there are lots of ways to get books to read for free without hurting the authors whose books you are so hungry to pore over.

I'll start with the obvious:

1. Check books out at your public library. I know...libraries might not always have a specific book you want to read. But you can usually request that they be added to your library's collection. Many libraries offer e-books and audio books too!

2. Borrow books from friends or family members.

3. Sit at a book store and read.

Still need more?

4. Some publishers offer free e-books periodically to their newsletter subscribers. One example is Tor. Find them and subscribe! Plus, newsletters are great ways to learn about new books.

5. Visit a Little Free Library or find a cool coffee shop that has a book exchange shelf.

6. Enter giveaways. Publishers, authors, illustrators, and book bloggers run giveaways all the time as a way to promote books. I've gotten many free copies of books this way. Check out Goodreads as well as authors' and publishers' blogs and social media accounts for giveaways to enter.

7. Search your e-reader platform's store for free electronic copies of classics.

9. Take advantage of NOOK Free Fridays.

9. Become a book reviewer. Parchment Girl has a great post explaining how to get started.

10. Join BookBub and let them find free or steeply discounted books for you!

With all the options out there, it should be no problem for you to get your hands on plenty of free books while doing no harm to the authors, illustrators, and publishers who put so much work into creating them.



Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Where I've Been, Where I'm Going

Last week I dragged my husband and son on a road trip through Nebraska for my first official research trip. We traveled the Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway, stopping at museums along the way, and ended up at Scotts Bluff National Monument, an area of stunningly beautiful rugged bluffs in western Nebraska.

From there we drove southeast, enjoying the scenery of rugged hillsides, then east along Interstate 80, stopping at various state parks and recreation areas along the way.

This literal journey is part of a figurative journey I have been on for the past several months, researching and planning for a historical verse novel I am going to write this year, as well as a modern fairy tale retelling. Both set in Nebraska, and both for middle grade readers.

I came home from this trip with a wealth of information and inspiration, as well as two new books, a dozen postcards, lots of notes, and over a hundred photos on my iPhone. There is nothing now to stop me from writing that historical fiction verse novel besides my own fear of trying something new.

Like the pioneers that settled Nebraska well over a century ago, I will forge ahead, using their strength, resilience, and determination as my fuel.

Here I go!


Thursday, July 19, 2018

The 100 Day Project...and Beyond!

If you've been following me long enough, you know that I love art and that I've dabbled a bit in illustration in the past. I've even had a few illustrations appear alongside my writing in children's magazines over the years. However, I've never really had the guts to truly pursue illustration as part of my career in children's literature. I've told myself that it's because, no matter how skilled an artist I am, those skills don't translate well to illustration.

But the truth is, I've just been a big chicken. 

Something happened recently that changed that. Over the last few months I participated in a creative challenge on Instragram called The 100 Day Project, during which I illustrated one poem a day for 100 days straight. It was a way for me to get outside my comfort zone and begin to test my skills as an illustrator.

Admittedly, there were a few flops. And some days I barely had ten minutes in which to create and share my illustration for the day. But overall, I felt it was a big success, mainly because, at the end of the 100 days, I was less afraid to try.

My goal is to transform "less afraid" into boldness. There is no reason that my art can't be something more than a creative hobby. Does that mean you will one day see written and illustrated by Rebecca J. Gomez on the cover of a book? I don't know. But one thing is certain: that will never happen if I don't take the first steps.


Click here to see all 100 illustrations

So, what's next for me? I'm taking it slow, but I've already given myself another challenge. The other day I took a pile of blank cards and divided it into two stacks. On one stack of cards I wrote down various character types. On the other I wrote down various activities. At least once a week I plan to pull a card from each stack and then draw a picture of the result. The first time I did this the result was "toad" and "holding a balloon." Here is the resulting illustration:


I think he turned out pretty great! 

How have you challenged yourself to get outside your comfort zone lately?