Monday, June 30, 2014

Moosey Monday: Moose Tracks!

Today's Moosey Monday post features two things that happen to have the same name: Moose Tracks!

Moose Tracks, the book by Karma Wilson

I bought this book for my kids a few years ago at a book fair (or maybe it was a book order?) It's a silly, rhyming mystery that asks the question, "Who left the moose tracks all over the house?" It's fun to read aloud, and kids will enjoy the rhyme, the bright illustrations, and the surprise ending.

Moose Tracks, the ice cream flavor.

If you are a fan of ice cream, and chocolate fudge swirls, and little bits of peanut butter and chocolate, then you will love this ice cream. It is the flavor most commonly purchased our house, because it is the only one that everyone consistently agrees upon! Yum yum!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Impossibility of Picking Favorites

I'm not good at picking favorites.

One of my best friends' favorite color is green. It has always been green. No doubt it will always be green. But my favorite color? Um...yellow. No, hot pink! No, look at that lovely shade of turquoise!

Favorite movie? Stranger than Fiction. No, Independence Day. Or maybe I Am Legend! The Fellowship of the Ring?

I can't tell you what my favorite food is, what my favorite dessert is, or what my favorite animal is at the zoo. My favorites are always shifting.

But I do love books. Books are possibly my favorite thing ever. Even better than new boots. Even better than kittens. Maybe even better than chocolate!

Do I have a favorite book? I can't say...

There was a time when I might have said my favorite book was Watership Down. Another time when I might have said it was Clan of the Cave Bear. There was a time when my teenage self would have said my favorite book was The Hobbit. But the more I read, the more books I love, and the harder it is for me to nail down a title that has earned the rank of My Favorite Book.

Each of those books is beloved. Each of those books deserves a place on my favorites shelf. But that shelf is also filled with titles like The Wind Singer by William Nicholson, Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse, Heartbeat by Sharon Creech, The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale, The Lunar Chronicles (series) by Marissa Meyer, Everfound by Neal Shusterman, Across the Universe by Beth Revis, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle, Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers, and so many more. How can I pick just one from a list like that?

I guess that's why I have such a hard time getting rid of books. They are all my favorite. They all deserve a special place in my heart and on my shelves.

What about you? Can you narrow down your favorites to one book? Or one author? Or even one genre?

Monday, June 16, 2014

Moosey Monday: Updates about WHAT ABOUT MOOSE?

It has been about a year since Corey and I sold our picture book manuscript, WHAT ABOUT MOOSE? What has happened in that year?

The first few weeks were spent on REVISIONS. The story was great, but it was too long. We had to tighten a story that we had spent months and months tightening and polishing! It was no easy feat, especially considering that WHAT ABOUT MOOSE? is told in rhyme. We spent hours in google docs, and even had a conference call with our editor, Emma Ledbetter, in order to work out the kinks. In the end, the story was tight and polished and still 100% adorable.

After that were discussions and daydreams about who might be chosen to illustrate it. Corey and I had ideas about who we thought we be perfect for the job, and Emma was very open to our suggestions. We saw some adorable art samples from a few talented illustrators, and the folks at Atheneum finally settled on Keika Yamaguchi to illustrate our little Moose. Keika's art is colorful and  vibrant, and her characters are adorable (check out PUDDLE PUG, which she illustrated--too cute!).

Approval of the final text was next, and then...we waited.

In November we got to see some rough sketches and offer any feedback we had. I was surprised and delighted to be included in the illustration process in this way.

In January we sent in our bios and dedications.

In February Emma showed us the flap copy (the little description of the story that shows up on the jacket flap of the book).

In March, we got to see final sketches--the whole book drawn out in pencil from beginning to end. Overall, I was very pleased with how it was turning out. Keika's illustrations are very active and fun, she's added her own little extras to the story, and the characters are darling!

More waiting.

And then, last week we got to see jacket art! It isn't quite final, but the cover is colorful and adorable and captures the feel and theme of the story perfectly.

No, you can't see it yet. Patience!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Five Terrible Reasons for Your Kids to Read Fiction

I love reading. I love having kids that love reading. I know that reading has a lot of benefits for my kids' well-being (and my own too). But I also know that sometimes we overthink things, and therefore suck some of the fun right out of them! Sometimes we need things to be good and fun simply because they are good and fun. So, in the spirit of letting fun things be fun, here are five terrible reasons for your kids to read fiction:

1. It will teach a life lesson.

In almost any good work of fiction, the reader will walk way having learned something. But if a "good moral" is your primary factor in choosing a book for your child, chances are your kid is going to miss out on quality writing. It may seem like a good idea for your kid to read books that "teach lessons," but authors who write those books too often do so at the expense of a good story. STORY should always come first.

2. It's educational!

There are a lot of educational benefits to reading. But again, reading should be fun. The fact that reading helps your kid learn about WWII or do better overall in school is a bonus, one that perhaps should be kept a secret until they're a little older... So encourage your kids to choose books that interest them, even if there doesn't seem to be anything educational or "valuable" about them. When my son was little, I grudgingly allowed him to read books about Spongebob. He was reading, and he was having fun! That's what really mattered.

3. It's a...punishment?

Okay, so you might get lucky and your kid will end up an avid reader because he spent so much time alone in a corner being forced to read a book. But I believe reading should be a natural, pleasant part of a child's life from the day they're born (and even before!). You don't want your kid to associate reading with something negative.

4. It fills up their free time!

I'm all for kids spending lots of time reading, especially on road trips, rainy days, lazy evenings, or times when Mom simply needs some peace. But there can be too much of a good thing. My two oldest kids are super readers, and there were lots of times when they were younger that I had to force them away from their books and into the outdoors. Adventures on the page are great, but no amount of fiction can replace the value of real life experience.

5. It helps them learn empathy.

It is true that reading about a variety of people and cultures may help your kids learn to appreciate and empathize with people who are different from them. And it is true that they can meet a lot more people in books than they will ever have a chance to meet in person. But even the best, most moving story can be closed and put away. Books keep real people at a distance. For your kids to truly learn empathy, their lives need to be touched by real people, not just well-written, multi-faceted book characters.

My advice? Read with your kids when they're tiny. And when they're bigger, let them make their own reading choices, with minimal interference from you. Don't worry about what lesson they'll learn, or how diverse the book characters are, or whether the books will help them in English class. The more your kids read--and enjoy reading--the better they'll get at it, the more it will enhance their lives, and hopefully, the better their reading choices will be. 

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Road Trips, Family, and Monster Mosquitos

The St. Croix River
We are one week into summer, and it has been a full week indeed!

It began last Saturday, May 31, 2014, with a 7+ hour drive to my folks' place in Minnesota. They live in a small town about an hour north of the Twin Cities, and their house is miles from anywhere and surrounded by vengeful swarms of large Minnesota mosquitos!

Seriously. Monstrous mosquitos. These insanely large blood suckers swarmed around our minivan the  second we pulled into the driveway, bumping into the windshield and hovering near exits so that we had to make a mad dash for the front door as soon as the van doors were flung open. It was like something from one of those corny horror flicks I saw as a kid. Run, or the mosquitos will drag you into the woods! Of course we knew in advance about the mosquitos. But wow! All that rain they've been getting in that part of the world has sure helped the mosquitos thrive!

You may be happy to know that I received only about 8 or 10 bites. That's without using bug spray AND without keeping myself locked up indoors. What can I say? They just don't like me that much.

The mosquitos were almost tame compared to the swarm of people that joined us for dinner on Wednesday night. Three of my siblings came (there are seven of us in all), and between us we had   18 CHILDREN in attendance. Add a couple of cousins (one with a baby in tow) an aunt, all our spouses, and a sprinkling of family drama, and you have one crazy party! It was madness, but it was fun, and I was so happy to see all of the beautiful people--especially tiny people--who were able to come.

And then there were the road trips. We drove down to the cities to visit the Mall of America (really just Lego Land) and Ikea. Another day we went north to do a little rock picking on the shores of Lake Superior, and another day we headed out to Taylor's Falls to hike around Interstate State Park and check out the glacial pot hole, watch rushing waters of the engorged St. Croix River, and enjoy a frosted mug of root beer at The Drive Thru!

It was a beautiful trip. But I am glad to be home where I can sleep on my own comfy bed, where chaotic family parties are a blissful memory, and where the mosquitos are a more manageable size and quantity!