Ramadan begins this year on March 22nd, and culminates with Eid al-Fitr on either April 20th or 21st. Here are books you can read with your children if you are observing Ramadan or if you are honoring Ramadan with your friends and family.
“Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.”
Tis the season to be…
It is hard to sometimes understand how difficult the holiday season will be this year. Although this is difficult, technology has made it possible for us all to connect and participate in holiday fun. For my article this month, I’ve listed activities that you can provide for families to do together during the holiday breaks.
When I was a young teenager my family made a road trip from Minnesota to Texas to visit my father’s parents. The long trip south mostly featured one kind of civil war: the endless bickering of my two brothers and the male cousin who’d come along for the ride. For the trip back north, I staked out a hidey-hole in the far back of the station wagon and crammed myself in amongst the luggage, still-wet-from-the-hotel-pool swimsuits, and snack foods.… more
As a kid I was the one who instigated a lot of the fun. It might be playing pirates in the tree house, or cops and robbers in my mom’s parked station wagon, or spies who wrote secret code in lemon juice (later revealing the message by holding it over the toaster). Often our make believe reﬂected whatever section of the library I happened to be working my way through at the time.… more
When I was a little girl and my Minnesota grandparents came to visit, we shared them around for sleeping purposes. One night I would share my double bed with Grandma, and the next night my brother and I would switch places, and I’d sleep on his top bunk while Grandpa settled into the bottom bunk.
Grandma was a bit of a night owl like I am, so it was never hard to keep her talking.… more
All freshmen at my college had to wear beanies at the start of school. Besides the obvious fashion quandary, the problem was that students from the town’s rival college gloried in stealing beanies.
And I knew if any of my upper classmates caught me sans beanie, they had the power to make me stand on a table in the cafeteria and sing my high school fight song.… more
I was thrilled when Teenage Nephew 1 grew old enough to mow my yard.
We negotiated a price and then headed outside. I knew that at his house, his father was King of the Riding Mower, so mowing was a completely new skill to Teenage Nephew. So I carefully reviewed the basics with him: mower operation, safety issues, how he shouldn’t plow over my rose bushes.… more
After my ﬁrst book was published, one of my friends gave me a knowing look and said, “I’ve ﬁgured out exactly what your story means.”
I nodded wisely, two of us in on the same secret together, but truthfully? I was eager to hear what she had to say. Because in all the time I’d spent writing, revising, and talking about the book to other people, it had honestly never occurred to me to ask myself what the story meant.… more
Whether you are celebrating Earth Day this week or next week or every week, there are books here that will enchant your students or your family, opening up possibilities for good discussions.
Earth: My First 4.54 Billion Years Stacy McAnulty, author
James Litchfield, illustrator
Henry Holt, 2017
primary and elementary grades
Told from the viewpoint of the anthropomorphic Earth itself, this book tells the life story of our home planet, introducing it to “alien visitors.”
So what’s the perfect game for somebody who lives in a state with lots of dairy farms, spends a huge hunk of her time writing or reading, and has been known to insert a butter head into a novel as a red herring? Why, it’s Cheese or Font, of course!
If you’ve never played, please remember to come back and ﬁnish reading after you’ve wandered here to check it out.… more
I’ve found there’s an alarmingly close correlation between the topsy-turvy emotions of a high school crush and a writer’s feelings during the process of submitting a manuscript to publishers.
As the writer waiting for an answer from The Perfect Publisher, you go through the same hopeful highs and “why doesn’t anyone love me?” lows. The manuscript that just last week looked pretty darn good has somehow overnight developed a hideous zit.… more
Some of the best advice you can give student writers is also some of the easiest for them to carry through on: to write better, they should read better.
Read better, as in: Read more. Read widely. Read outside their usual reading “type.” Read carefully. Read for fun.
Read ﬁrst for story, and then read as backseat writers.… more
Lisa Bullard is a well-respected writing teacher in Minnesota and beyond, having shared her wisdom and her sense of humor about writing with classrooms full of adults and children (usually not at the same time). She has two books on writing, one for adults (Get Started in Writing for Children) and one for children (You Can Write a Story!… more
It wasn’t so unusual that my teenage nephews were sending me signals that translated to: “Will you take us to the store right now so we can spend these Christmas gift cards from Grandma?”
What was new this year was that they also wanted to do the driving. Brand-new permits in their pockets, I agreed to let one twin drive us there, and the other drive us home.… more
You always hear it around the time of the first fall snowstorm in Minnesota: “It’s like people have forgotten how to drive!” It refers to the fact that even drivers who are diehard Minnesotans — as evidenced by the Minnesota Vikings flags flying from their pickup antennas — don’t seem to have the tiniest clue how to drive on snow-packed roads.… more
My dad has a passionate hatred of olives on, in, or even in the general vicinity of his food. He’s convinced their mere presence contaminates anything else on his plate. So when he eats at his favorite small-town diner, he’s always careful to tell the server that he wants his dinner salad without the black olives they usually include.… more
I think that what we mean when we talk about “writer’s voice” is a writer’s personality showing up on the page. It emerges through many diverse writing choices, ranging from word usage to tone to rhythm.
I’d heard my mom talk about “duck and cover”: hiding under her school desk from a potential nuclear attack. And I’d participated myself in tornado drills during my own school days, lining up in a basement hallway with our arms covering our heads.
None of that prepared me for a lockdown drill. I was on one of my regular gigs as a visiting author when the teacher pulled me aside and prepped me on what to expect.… more
The only argument I’ve ever witnessed between Teenage Nephew 1 and Longtime Girl-friend was a doozy.
And I couldn’t help chortling with glee because the basis of their disagreement was so close to my heart: What makes for the best possible story?
Actually, the way they put it was, “What’s better, ‘Star Wars’ or ‘Harry Potter’?” But don’t let the fact that they were comparing two fictional worlds fool you: this was a white-hot debate, the competitors more impassioned in their arguments than politicians at a pre-election picnic.… more
I was planning a road trip to Northern Minnesota to teach at a Young Author’s Conference and decided to include a small detour to my past: the town of Bemidji, where we lived when I was in 2nd through 5th grades. So after the conference wrapped, I spent a couple of happy days traveling down memory lane.
I was warmly welcomed at my old elementary school and then drove all over town taking photos and visiting my personal landmarks: our old house and neighborhood, the amusement park, the lake where we swam and went ice ﬁshing, the college campus where we went to hockey games.… more
You get a different view of the road behind you depending on which of your car’s mirrors you look into.
And writers can direct readers to a different outlook on their story depending on which point of view they use as the “mirror” for the events that take place.
I’ve found that point of view is a tricky thing for many writers, whether they’ve been at the writing game for ﬁve months or twenty-ﬁve years.… more
A few years ago, I remember Teenage Nephew 2 pointed out (from his newly gathered storehouse of driver’s ed wisdom) that I put my hands in the wrong positions on the steering wheel. The new placement, he told me, is either 9 and 3 or 8 and 4 on the clock face, to avoid breaking your arms if the airbag deploys.
It’s been a while since I’ve been in driver’s ed (in fact, to a teenage brain I’m sure it was so long ago that Teenage Nephew imagines my training included dinosaur-avoidance tactics), so I took it on faith that he was right.… more
As a follow-up to my last post, I wanted to offer you a downloadable version of one of the activities I created for my day in the Alphabet Forest: ”Make Your Own ‘Story Wheel.’”
The Story Wheel I brought for my day featured State Fair elements to fit my usual suggested story-starter mix of characters, settings, and conflicts. But as the download shows, your students can create their own simple Story Wheels to fit anyplace they might travel (in reality or in their imaginations): the beach, a ballgame, the backyard, the school building, the bottom of the ocean, even a black hole in outer space…
Check it out and see if it might work for your young writers.… more
Traffic signals don’t require a single word to send a clear message. Even small children can learn how to “read” them. Red reads “stop.” Green reads “go.” Yellow reads either “slow down” or “speed up,” depending on the “character” of the driver.
Even young students can also “read” wordless picture books. Because the artwork reveals its own narrative, young readers can follow the action, interpret the characters’ motivations, predict outcomes, and intuit the mood and emotions of the story.… more
Sometimes just a town’s name is enough to entice you. Who could drive past the exit for Last Chance, Idaho — or Hell, Michigan — or Happyland, Oklahoma — without at least contemplating how your life might be changed if you took that unexpected detour?
All on their own, names tell a story. That’s why I often do an online search to learn as much as I can about a character name that I’m considering for my writing — looking up ethnicity, variations, meaning — because many times, it opens up new insights into that character for me (or proves to be the wrong choice).… more
During one of my visits to see my Alabama brother’s family, we took a road trip to the Ave Maria Grotto. That’s where a Benedictine Monk named Brother Joseph Zoettl built over 125 Mini-Me versions of some of the greatest buildings of the world.
Artists are often inspired by someone else’s masterpieces. But in working with young writers, I’ve found that it’s easy to mistakenly swerve over the center line from the safety of inspiration into the danger of plagiarism (or trade- mark infringement).… more
Riding along with my dad was like going on a Midwestern safari. Even while driving, he had an amazing knack for spotting critters as they peeked out from behind trees, perched on phone poles, or slid along the roadside.
He didn’t seem to pay any attention to the makes of other cars, or billboard messages, or what other drivers were wearing.… more
A while back I was at my parents’ lake cabin with my extended family. My brother’s teenagers had all brought along friends, and on Saturday we packed everyone who fell into the “thirteen to fifteen” age range off to the late movie. As the resident night owl, I volunteered to pick up the kids when the movie was over so that the other grown-ups could make it an early night.… more
Driving through a tunnel effectively narrows our field of vision. The walls and ceiling restrict our view to only that which is inside the tunnel. It doesn’t matter if there’s a mountain parked on top of the roof, or an ocean of water being held back by the walls: when we’re inside the tunnel, those things are outside our view.… more
For this week’s writing road trip, I oﬀer you texture.
I aim for an abstract element of a realistic subject and use texture to add interest and suggest depth.
—a quote that to the best of my research abilities I ﬁnd attributable to artist Margaret Roseman.
I liked the way the above quote spoke to how texture can be used in visual art.… more
A few years ago, a country highway I regularly drive in the summer became part of a pilot program to stop tailgating. Large white dots were painted on the road, and new signs instruct drivers to keep a minimum of two dots between them and the car they’re following. Rear-end collisions are a danger on this roadway, and the program hopes to encourage drivers to leave enough room between cars so they can take corrective action if something goes wrong.… more
Most of my many school visits have been amazing, positive adventures (see my post titled “Traveling Like a Rock Star”). A few of my visits have featured minor bumps in the road. And one school visit — thank goodness, one only! — might be better described as a major traffic incident.
It happened when I was still a “newbie” to school visits.… more
as often as I tell students that I prefer to wait until I can see the entire shape of a piece before I title it, there are always those who ask me—beg me, really—for permission to write their title first.
I’ve tried to create a stimulating atmosphere in my home office. Works of art by the illustrators of my picture books adorn the walls. I have a Rainbow Maker in the window. There are blooming plants and inspiring sayings and a basket of toys to play with. There are birds chirping outside the window (even an occasional owl when I’m working at midnight).… more
When I was a kid, one of my neighborhood gang’s favorite summer games was to “play chauffeur.” We’d jump on our bikes and gather for shoptalk at chauffeur headquarters (a.k.a. the middle of our quiet side street). Then we’d race off in different directions to pick up members of the enviably wealthy and pampered (yet of course imaginary) families that utilized our driving services.… more
It’s amazing that I passed my driver’s test on the ﬁrst try, since I can see now that I was a pretty bad driver. But I was an excellent test-taker, and the State of Minnesota sent me home with a score of 96 out of 100. Mere weeks later I backed the family van into the mailbox.
It’s not that my parents didn’t try their best to improve my driving skills.… more
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