Saturday, March 30, 2013

Learning about Monarch Butterflies by Reading, Writing, and Crafting

I've been intrigued by the possibilities of presenting educational topics in alternate formats other than in books. Not that I have anything against books, obviously! It's just that the digital age we're in opens up the door to so many additional possibilities. My latest classroom resource focuses on one of our most beloved insects, the Monarch butterfly. Several printables are included, such as these in progress below.  Thanks go to my niece Anna for doing the coloring!

Shown is the pre-printed version for lower level students...the alternate version has blank areas for students to write in the facts on the wings as well as the labels on the diagram. There also is a version with the terms Caterpillar/Chrysalis rather than Larva/Pupa. Here is the finished Monarch, with a 3D Life Cycle "dangle" (if that's the right term!)
The back has the Body Parts diagram.
I wanted students to have realistic art to work with so they could create something beautiful to showcase what they have learned. There are several other activities that go along with the craft including an informational text selection, a Life Cycle poster with photographs of the four stages, fact vs. fiction cards, and more. If you'd like, please check out the Preview here.

Hope you're having a wonderful Spring!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Next Big Thing: A Global Blog Tour

The Next Big Thing blog tour started in Australia but has now gone global! The object is to bring awareness of the work of children's authors and illustrators. Extra “big” thanks go to Maryann Cocca Leffler for tagging me. She is a fabulous author, illustrator, and recently turned one of her books into a musical for the stage. Can the movie be far behind?

First I'lI answer these questions, then the next book artists will be tagged.

What is the title of your next book?
It's Jack & the Hungry Giant Eat Right with MyPlate, which will be available in Fall 2013.
Where did the idea for the book come from?
An existing picture book of mine (The Edible Pyramid) was an introduction to the USDA Food Guide Pyramid nutrition education program. It had been in print for many years and had been revised once already. My wonderful editor, Mary Cash at Holiday House, saw the news story about the new MyPlate program the day it came out. She immediately emailed me and we agreed there was no feasible way to revise Edible Pyramid, so it was back to the drawing board! I chose the Jack & the Beanstalk folktale as a starting point because of the visual possibilities...the food is so gigantic compared to Jack, which makes it fun.

What genre is your book?
It's a picture book with 32 pages for young readers from 4 to 8.

Which actors would you choose to play the characters in a movie version?
For the giant, whose name is Waldorf…a big guy who could appear fierce at first yet is really a big teddy bear. Preferably a red head. Though he is now deceased, Howard Keel from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers would have been perfect. So, somebody like him...maybe Tom Selleck? For Jack, a kid version of actor Shia LaBeouf (Transformers, etc.) would be fab.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Jack climbs the beanstalk to the giant's castle…just when he thinks he's lunch, the giant cooks a wonderful, healthy meal.

Who is the publisher?
Holiday House, who was the first publisher in the United States dedicated to publishing only books for children. They've been around since 1935 (wow!)

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
Since it's a picture book, I sketch and write the rough draft more or less together. I don't remember exactly how long it took, but it generally at least a month goes by while I'm making a dummy.

What other picture books would you compare this story to?
Currently there are no trade books related to the MyPlate program…there are several textbook-type books with photographs. Hopefully mine will be the first trade picture book! Jack and the Baked Beanstalk by Colin Stimpson is a take-off on the original story, so it has that in common with mine.
A few pages from Jack and the Hungry Giant
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Food, glorious food, of course! In all seriousness, I think nutrition is a fundamentally important subject—so many people are not eating properly and are unhealthy as a result. One big improvement would be to cook from scratch with actual raw ingredients, as highlighted by the illustrations in my book. And avoid eating the many highly processed factory foods that have taken over the grocery store...uh oh, don't get me started!

What else about the book may pique the reader's interest?
To my knowledge there wasn't a cat in the original story, but there is in my version! This furry feline bears a striking resemblance to a kitty from my childhood named Sandy Claws (we thought his name was so hilarious...!)
Thanks so much for stopping by...I appreciate it so much!

It's an honor to link to the book creators for Thursday, March 28th—click on their names or book covers to visit their blogs:

Patrice Barton, who illustrated The Year of the Baby and also won a Crystal Kite award in 2012:
Linda Shute, who is the Illustrator Co-ordinator of the Florida chapter of the SCBWI and illustrator of Captain John Smith’s Big and Beautiful Bay:
I'm looking forward to finding out about more children's books as the Next Big Thing blog tour continues…see you there!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Crazy about Similes: A Book Activity

Many of you are familiar with my picture book Crazy Like a Fox: A Simile Story. If you haven't read it yet, this video trailer gives the gist of it:
The book's premise is to illustrate the comparison used in the simile. So, because Rufus the fox is sleeping like a log…
 …he is transformed into a log on the next page. The entire story is told in similes, with additional similes added by side characters. The idiomatic title of the book is explained by the plot itself: Rufus acts “crazy” to provoke the sheep Babette into chasing him with the secret purpose of luring her to her own surprise party. Most readers agree that it's an engaging way to introduce these figures of speech to students.

Recently I made a free PowerPoint slideshow as an extension activity for this book. It reviews the similes that tell the story and uses real photographs to help kids understand  the comparison. Each slide also asks a question that refers to the book.
You can download it from my shop on TeachersPayTeachers.

Hope it's as much fun as a barrel of monkeys!
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