Wednesday, October 31, 2012

NaNoWriMo NaPiBoWriWee PiBoIdMo

Is it the fact that National Novel Writing Month is has a nickname - NaNoWriMo - that belongs in a picture book that inspired National Picture Book Writing Week and Picture Book Idea Month? Probably.

National Novel Writing Month is exactly what it sounds like - write a novel (50,000 words or more) in the month of November.

Simple enough, but a whole slew of resources have grown up around it. The official website of NaNoWriMo includes tools to find participants in your area, connect online, chart progress, get tips and visit virtual pep talks. Plus, many authors go from that first manuscript to a book for publication. Click here for some YA and children's book examples from that list.

There's also a young writer's program for National Novel Writing Month - click here for that website. It includes an educators section. 

National Picture Book Writing Week happens in the first week of May, the goal is 7 picture book manuscripts  in 7 days. Click here for a blog post from the kick off of last year's event by organizer Paula Yoo. 

In preparation for May, why not participate in November's Picture Book Idea Month? That's an idea a day during the month of November, and it's run by National Picture Book Month co-founder Tara Lazar. Read more here. Just like National Picture Book Month it features a line up of a different blogger for each day to share their thoughts.

Need some inspiration to get started on these projects? Come by Bear Pond Books on November 3rd at 11:00 am for a morning of picture books and early literacy, more details here.

Then check the Bear Pond Facebook page daily in November as we take the Picture Book Idea Month challenge! We can't guarantee good ideas, but we can guarantee 30 of them - and even more if you add your own in the comments. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

What is National Picture Book Month?

On November 3rd at 11:00 am, Bear Pond Books kicks off National Picture Book Month with Leda Schubert, Grace Greene, and David Martin in the Children's Room (read more here).

National Picture Book Month is not a passive declaration of our love for picture books. There's a lot to learn every day in November.

First off, check out the folks behind this celebration - they've got some great sites with resources of their own that they update throughout the year.

Every day in November you can check back to the main webpage of National Picture Book Month ( for a new post from a Picture Book Champion (the schedule is here). For those so inclined, you can also follow their Twitter account @picturebkmonth.

What's most worth exploring on this site, though, is the extensive list of online resources for learning about picture books and engaging kids in reading. The info ranges from suggested activities to sources of book reviews to author / illustrator pages.

And when you're ready to get an actual book to read, check out our virtual display of recommended reads, with online ordering options, here.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Recommended Read Aloud Books & November 3rd

On November 3rd, Bear Pond Books welcomes Leda Schubert, Grace Greene from the Vermont Department of Libraries, and David Martin to the Children's Room for a picture book event that kicks off National Picture Book Month.

Drop by the bookstore at 11:00 a.m. to hear Leda, Grace and David talk about picture books and early literacy. Share ideas for incorporating inspirational picture books into the school curriculum. Enjoy coffee, good conversation, and a 25% discount off of your purchases.

We've asked our speakers to send ahead a list of their recommended books to feature in the store during their talk. If you can't make it to the event (or if you're just impatient) you can browse Bear Pond's virtual book display here and order from the store online.

We can also recommend the Red Clover Picture Book Award books, which are one of Grace's projects at the Vermont Department of Libraries.

There are lots of picture book resources out there - and luckily we have a whole month to explore them. Join us on November 3rd to start the celebration!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Wordly Writing Exercises

Playful words make learning writing fun.

Just ask anyone who has discovered The Transitive Vampire (a handbook of grammar for the innocent, the eager and the doomed) which includes dissections of such sentences as:
Meet me under the magnolia at twilight without your wig
The robot and the dentist tangoed beneath the stars
Leopold's bloomers are lost!

Some of the earliest poetry we encounter is nonsense verse, like the Jabberwocky from Alice Through the Looking Glass, or the poems of Edward Lear. And of course we can't forget Dr. Seuss.

The poetry of make believe words may seem silly, but learning the cadence of words is an important part of writing. As former poet laureate Billy Collins said in one interview:
Another [influence] is my interest in bridge columns. I don’t play bridge. I have no idea how to play bridge, but I always read Alan Truscott’s bridge column in the Times. I advise students to do the same unless, of course, they play bridge. You find language like, South won with dummy’s ace, cashed the club ace and ruffed a diamond. There’s always drama to it: Her thirteen imps failed by a trick. There’s obviously lots at stake, but I have no idea what he’s talking about. It’s pure language. . . 
Of course, coming up with useful nonsense words isn't always easy.

The blog Pen to Paper offers up this intro to inventing your own way of saying things in Juxtaposition or Just Plain Silly. Or try this exercise from the book What If? - simply invent names for the following (examples taken from the book):
  • Desert Town (Drymouth)
  • Race Horse (Windpasser)
  • Planet (Pica)
  • Chihuahua (Bruno's Lunch)
  • Poetry Collection (Camphor, Floral, Mint, Musk)
  • Burglar (Nick Spieze)
  • Lipstick (Screaming Salsa)
  • Polluted River (Floop River)
  • Summer Cottage (Bric-a-brac)
And finally, you can always turn the tables by choosing real words to receive imaginary definitions through the dictionary game. This game has multiple forms (including on the radio program Says You and the board game Balderdash) but the rules are pretty simple, outlined here.

Have fun!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Backseat Book Club: Black Beauty

For over a year, National Public Radio has been exploring children's books with the Backseat Book Club. This program encourages kids, and their families, to read selected books and send in their questions for the featured author. This series has covered a wide range of different books (including a personal favorite The Graveyard Book).

Next up for October is Black Beauty, with author Jane Smiley - listen to the NPR interview here.

Jane Smiley is best known for her adult fiction, but has recently published a series for middles grades starting with The Georges and the Jewels. Read an interview with the author about her story of horses and growing up in the 1960's from Publisher's Weekly here

Interested in other horse related books for young readers? Here are some recommendations from Jane in the Bear Pond Children's Room:

Riding Freedom, Pam Munoz Ryan-- a fictionalized biography of equestrian Charlotte "Charley" Parkhurst who lived her life disguised as a man and was the first woman voter in the U.S.A. Ages 9 up.

Paint the Wind by Pam Munoz Ryan-- set in Wyoming and told in alternating voices; that of 11 year old orphan Maya and of a wild mustang mare named Artemesia. Ages 9 up.

The Horse Diaries series by various authors, published by Random House. This series for early readers is unique; each book is told through the voice of a particular horse, set in a different time in history. The second book is set in Vermont in 1850 (written by veteran Alison Hart) at a time when it is unlawful to help runaway slaves. Very useful in educational settings. Ages 7 up.

Raja, Story of a Racehorse, by Anne Hambleton, is told through the eyes and ears of Raja the thoroughbred. The author is an ex-steeplechase jockey from Vermont. Ages 10 up.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Popular Math

This week, regular RadioLab guest, TED speaker and New York Times blogger Steven Strogatz's new book about math hit bookstore shelves. The Joy of X is, in fact, a fun read that's a "guided tour of math from one to infinity."

What about fun math for younger readers? 

Looking around for options quickly turns up Danica McKellar. If you don't recognize the name, you'll probably recognize her picture (if you were watching TV in the late 1980's) - she played Winnie Cooper on The Wonder Years. Turns out, once she was done being a child star she graduated from UCLA with highest honors in Math.

Her math series is pitched at middle school girls in a way that applies not just the style of Seventeen magazine, but also many of the same topics, to the purpose of teaching math. Titles and their listed ages are:
It's a different sort of math book - and it's not going to be everyone's cup of tea. But, of course, not everyone has found math appealing either. According to the reviews, this new approach is prompting more girls to master math early and perhaps continue on to more advanced studies. . . which has to be a good thing.