Kid Lit Love: How Long is Forever

Happy Monday and welcome to Kid Lit Love where new release children’s books and book creators are featured weekly. Today we feature HOW LONG IS FOREVER by Kelly Carey, illustrated by Qing Zhuang, published by Charlesbridge. This book was just released April 7, 2020! The title is a question many of us can relate to around the world as we wait for our isolation period to come to an end.

HOW LONG IS FOREVER?

Synopsis: In How Long Is Forever?, Mason is waiting for the first blueberry pie of the season and it’s taking forever. At least that’s what Mason thinks, until Grandpa asks him to prove it and sends Mason searching the family farm to find the meaning of forever.  

Fans of Guess How Much I Love You will love figuring out how long forever is alongside Mason and Grandpa.

Kelly Carey

It was a pleasure to connect with Kelly through social media and she agreed to answer a few questions about her experiences as a writer.
  1. Tell us how you came to write books for children.

Once upon a time there was a girl who was obsessed with Dynasty and when she graduated from college she thought she was destined for chunky earrings, power suits, and the thrillingly creative field of …insurance. I ended up working with actuary tables, deductible formulas, and stop-loss policies. I learned about big business, marketing, and customer service, but I was miserable.

Enter motherhood and suddenly I was a happy stay-at-home mom rediscovering a joy in books and in picture books in particular. My own mother encouraged me to apply for a course at the Institute of Children’s Literature. Best decision I ever made! (Thanks Mom!)

I loved the feeling of crafting a story and creating characters, and I found that magical space where time stands still because you’re in the zone. Writing was my zone. My power suits were donated and I turned my attention to writing and finding the KidLit community through groups like SCBWI, Julie Hedlund’s 12×12, Storystorm, ReFoReMo, and The Writers’ Loft.

2. Tell us how you came up with the idea for your book.

            The nugget that inspired How Long Is Forever? happened when I was a teenager. A song I loved came on the radio and I excitedly squealed, “Turn it up! This is the best song ever.” My friend’s Dad scoffed, “Really? This is the best song ever?”.

That exchange stuck and launched the interaction between Mason and his Grandpa in How Long Is Forever?. Mason is waiting for the first blueberry pie of the season and it’s taking forever. At least that’s what Mason thinks, until Grandpa sends Mason searching the farm to find the meaning of forever. I loved the idea that what can seem like the best song ever to a teenager or feel like forever to an eight year old can be very different for an older adult.

The idea for a story can come from childhood memories that linger in your brain. Those standout moments that hold a reserved space in your mind, are probably the moments that will resonate with a reader. Those are the archives I love to mine when looking for a book idea.

By the way, my friend’s father was right. Thomas Dolby’s, She Blinded Me With Science was NOT the best song ever! And Mason is going to find out that waiting for a blueberry pie to bake is not forever.

3. Share a piece of advice for children’s writers.

The best thing I ever did for my writing was to really immerse myself in the KidLit community. My advice would be to take a class. Check out the offerings at the Institute of Children’s Literature, and join The Society of Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI). Both offered me a wonderful way to get feedback on my work and to improve my craft. It was through SCBWI that I met my first critique partners and we started 24 Carrot Writing a blog for writers, that has been offering help and advice to fellow writers for over five years.

My advice to other writers, based on my journey, would be to get out into the writing community. Meet fellow writers, take classes and workshops, offer your own help and advice, listen to editors and agents, and become a part of the community. I think the community will reward you for your efforts – it did for me.

You can connect with Kelly here:

website:http://www.kcareywrites.com/   

twitter: https://twitter.com/KCareyWrites

instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kellycareywrites/

facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KCareyWrites

Look for more Kid Lit Love posts on Mondays! Want to have your book featured? Send an email request to authorcynthiamackey@gmail.com

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Thank you for stopping by my blog. You are welcome here any time!

Connecting Families With Nature

As you may know, I’m living in beautiful British Columbia and if you listen to Dr. Bonnie Henry, she reminds us daily about how going outdoors is so important for our mental health, particularly during this time while we are in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. It will be Earth Day on Wednesday so there’s no better time to connect with nature.

Nature is Open to You!

You’re Invited to the Challenge!

I’d like to challenge you and your family to connect with nature in some way. This blog is small, so I know the comments may be limited but I would LOVE if people would be willing to share examples of how you connect with nature. These posts will give you a prompt to go out and try. After you try it, I hope you will share your experiences.

For those who love technology but haven’t yet discovered nature, here is a bridge to get you there. Look for nature apps for your phone. This is a great way to take your love for technology outside and see what you can learn. You will be truly amazed!

Seek by iNaturalist is one such app. You will love the immediate results. As you photograph plants, birds, and flowers, the name appears. Sometimes the app only gives a more general idea and sometimes more specific identification but it is a cool way to get kids involved in looking more closely at plants, flowers and really everything in nature. You can identify wildlife too and there’s a way to earn badges if that appeals to your children. I know the former girl guide in me would have loved this though I must say that girl guide badges were MUCH more difficult to earn.

Seek by iNaturalist
A Few of My Observations
Celebrate Earth Day by searching for signs of spring!

Here are a couple I haven’t tried yet…

There’s also Outdoor Family Fun with Plum. This offers family activities to explore nature in your neighborhood. It is a PBS Kids project. Get new missions each day!

PBS Kids offers another app called Nature Cat’s Great Outdoors. There are more than 100 nature prompts offered. Adventures get saved in a journal and kids can go back and view past adventures. There are opportunities to draw, paint, take photos and record sounds.

Have you tried any of these apps? Share your experience in the comments!

Thank you for stopping by my blog. If you stop by on Mondays, you’ll find more new children’s book releases, both fiction and non-fiction. You are welcome here any time!

Sign up for my newsletter, Cindy’s Book News, and learn about release dates, pre-orders and free offers.

Kid Lit Love: Rachel Carson and Ecology for Kids

I am happy to continue the Kid Lit Love series featuring new release children’s books from members of the Kid Lit Community! Today’s book, recently released in February of this year, is Rachel Carson and Ecology for Kids by Rowena Rae. It is published by Chicago Review Press.

What makes this post extra special for me is that Rowena Rae is part of our Vancouver Island Children’s Writers and Illustrators group and it is so thrilling to share her success… AND because I am a teacher of preschool who loves to take children outdoors, this book will be practical for me personally as I will be able to use the activities and biography of Rachel Carson as a teaching tool.

Rachel Carson and Ecology for Kids: Her Life and Ideas by Rowena Rae

Synopsis:

Rachel Carson was an American biologist, conservationist, science and nature writer, and catalyst of the modern environmental movement. She studied biology in college at a time when few women entered the sciences, and then worked as a biologist and information specialist for the U.S. government and wrote about the natural world for many publications. Carson is best remembered for her book Silent Spring, which exposed the widespread misuse of chemical pesticides in the United States and sparked both praise and fury.

Carson’s personal life and scientific career were rooted in the study of nature. Using examples from Carson’s life and works, Rachel Carson and Ecology for Kids  introduces readers to ecology concepts such as the components of ecosystems, adaptations by living things, energy cycles, food chains and food webs, and the balance of ecosystems. This lively biography includes a time line, resources, sidebars, and 21 hands-on activities that are sure to inspire the next generation of scientists, thinkers, leaders, agricultural producers, environmental activists, and world citizens. Kids will:

  • Collect a seed bank of local plant species
  • Chart bird migration through their region
  • Make birdseed cookies
  • Model bioaccumulation and biomagnification
  • Build a worm farm
  • And more!
Rowena Rae, author

1. Tell us how you came to write books for children.

I’ve always enjoyed writing, but I didn’t start writing for children until I had my own children and read out loud to them. I loved the picture book format and began jotting down ideas. I also enrolled in local children’s writing classes and online classes, and I heard about Highlights Foundation, in Pennsylvania, which holds workshops for children’s authors and illustrators. In 2013, I took their nature writing and science writing workshops and, two years later, their middle grade nonfiction workshop. That’s when I realized that my writing voice was older than picture books. I became hooked on writing about science and nature for middle grade readers!

2. Tell us about the inspiration for your book.

In 2015, I met Amy O’Quinn (at Highlights). She was writing a book about Marie Curie for Chicago Review Press (Marie Curie for Kids), and when the book came out, I bought and read it. I loved learning about Curie’s personal and work life, and the book design and photographs were gorgeous. I told Amy how much I’d like to write a book for the same series, and she encouraged me to submit a proposal to the publisher. But who would I propose writing about?

I didn’t have to think for long. I had discovered Rachel Carson’s books when I was studying biology at university. Her descriptions of sea life and other organisms captivated me. Later, I went to Johns Hopkins University (where Carson had studied biology) to do an MA in science writing and rediscovered Carson’s books, this time appreciating her lyrical writing style. So when I was thinking about who to write a biography of, it seemed obvious: I should write about a woman who had been both a biologist and an author. The fact that Carson also has a fascinating life story kept me enthralled throughout the many months I spent researching and writing my book, Rachel Carson and Ecology for Kids.

3. Please share a resource for children’s writers.

Everyone approaches things differently, but what’s worked for me has been to take classes and workshops (in-person, online, self-directed), to read books and other resources (mentor texts, books on craft, blogs, etc.), to connect with other children’s writers (both published and aspiring), and especially, to write as much and as often as I can.

Right now, during the rather strange time we’re living through with the COVID-19 pandemic, Highlights Foundation is offering a series of free craft webinars. (I know I keep mentioning Highlights in my responses. No, I’m not on their staff! Yes, I’m a huge fan of their workshops and the inspirational setting where they hold their in-person workshops in rural Pennsylvania.)

Contact Rowena:

Rowena is having a productive year with three more books soon to be released! Look out for these titles:

  • Meg and Greg: A Duck in a Sock (April 14; fiction for struggling readers ages 6-9, first in a series); 
  • Chemical World: Science in Our Daily Lives (May 12; nonfiction for ages 9-12); and 
  • Meg and Greg: Frank and the Skunk (August 18; fiction for struggling readers ages 6-9, second in the series).

Thank you for stopping by my blog. If you stop by on Mondays, you’ll find more new children’s book releases, both fiction and non-fiction. You are welcome here any time!

Sign up for my newsletter, Cindy’s Book News, and learn about release dates, pre-orders and free offers.

Reading for Research: Reforemo Challenge Wrap Up

At the beginning of March, when I began the Reforemo challenge, I had no idea that the libraries would be closed and much of the world shut down. Here’s my March 7th post, before the world changed. The first half of the month, I was able to check out many of the books and I still have many of them at home with the library currently closed and the loan period extended. Honestly, the whole world pandemic thing threw me for a bit of a loop, how about you?

Thank you Carrie Charley Brown and Kristi Call for doing this challenge; I hope to catch up and read through the daily posts I’ve missed over the coming weeks.

Here’s a list of the books I’ve read over the past 2 weeks, some of which I’ve researched using You Tube read alouds:

  1. Professional Crocodile by Giovanna Zoboli
  2. Vroom by Barbara McClintock
  3. Twinderella by Corey Rosen Schwartz
  4. Here We Are by Oliver Jeffers
  5. The Bear’s Garden by Marcie Colleen
  6. The Curious Garden by Peter Brown
  7. Maybe Something Beautiful by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell, illustrated by Rafael Lopez
  8. The Gardener by Sarah Stewart, illustrated by David Small
  9. Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold
  10. Truman by Jean Reidy
  11. How to Catch a Star by Oliver Jeffers
  12. Nine Months by Miranda Paul
  13. Pirasaurs! by Josh Funk
  14. Whale in a Fishbowl by Troy Howell and Richard Jones
  15. On Gull Beach by Jane Yolen
  16. Little Frog and the Scary Autumn Thing by Jane Yolen
Truman

How did I do with the challenge?

So keeping it real, I didn’t quite make it through the Reforemo challenge to read 100 picture books in the month of March, but I did discover a bunch of fabulous picture books in my research and what strikes me above all is the sheer diversity and variety of books out there available to children. It opens up new possibilities for creating books for young children and inspires me to keep writing as each writer has a unique voice that contributes to our diverse and changing world.

Sign up for my newsletter and learn about release dates, pre-orders and free offers for my picture books, including my 2020 release, The Lullaby Monsters.

Thanks for stopping by my blog. You are welcome back any time!

Supporting Play/Learning at Home: Water Play

To help parents of young children who are stuck at home due to COVID-19, I am beginning a series of posts with ideas to support your children as they learn through play.

Water play is an activity that can keep children occupied for long periods of time. It can be calming for children who are working through powerful emotions and is appropriate for a wide age range.

Do you have a small baby bath tub or a similar sized plastic container? Fill it with one-two inches of water; it doesn’t seem like much but it is all you need! Lukewarm water is probably best.

Glitter bottles
Use sequins, oil, water and food coloring to make these. Glue the lids tightly.

Each time you put the water tub out, you can try something new to use with the water. Observe your children to see what they enjoy the most. Repeat the favourite items. If your child put things into his/her mouth, avoid smaller items. Consider asking your children for ideas.

Here are some of my favourites for water play:

  • -a drop of food colouring, sequins, and strainers
  • -a few drops of dishwashing liquid and whisks
  • -plastic sea creatures or animals
  • -rocks or pebbles and bowls
  • -measuring cups and spoons
  • -plastic containers of various sizes
  • -bath toys
  • -ice cubes or freeze coloured water in yogurt containers with plastic animals inside
  • -flexible tubing to pour water through with turkey basters and spoons or scoops
  • -plastic greenery or flowers
  • -plastic babies and wash cloths to give baths
  • -any plastic toys or dishes that need washing plus small tooth brushes for scrubbing
  • -for children who love to paint place the tub of water outdoors along with paintbrushes. Paint the shed/house/sidewalk/driveway. Bonus: easy clean up AND learn about evaporation.
Kitchen items are great for water play
A drop of dish washing liquid and a whisk provides tons of fun.

If you are feeling concerned or frustrated with water spilling, here’s a tip. Give your children sponges, show them how to soak up the water and wring it out to refill the tub/bin. If they are working on a clean surface, they can replace the water themselves as it spills with repeated wiping up and wringing out. They will learn not to waste the precious water you give them if you refuse to refill and put the responsibility on them to savour the water they’ve got. It also helps our planet to use moderation with all things and this is a good opportunity to talk about water conservation.

If you want to take this further, have a look at Tom’s Sand and Water Play website for ways to really kick it up a notch. Keep it simple or go all out but water play is wonderful for young children in so many ways.

Want to make more connections to learning? Ask some questions. If your child is age 4+ these would be appropriate. Give your children a chance to experiment and find their own answers. Help your child record their discoveries:

  • What do you already know about water?
  • What do you want to learn about water?
  • What have you learned about water so far?
  • What do you need to help you explore further?

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Thank you for stopping by my blog. You are welcome here any time!

Online Workshops for Early Childhood Educators

Early Childhood Educators are dedicated to the work we do. With the wages we earn, we absolutely must have passion for our work. Now that many child care centres are closed, due to COVID-19, this could be a great opportunity to improve your professional practice by taking an online course. Or to join a profession where you can use your passion to make a difference in the lives of young children and their families.

Here are some opportunities that may be of interest:

Understanding Cognitive Knots by Frog Hollow Neighbourhood House

April 16, 2020 6-8 pm PDT

Learn about cognitive knots their role in the process of learning. Consider how educators can use these “knots” to expand learning opportunities.

Fairy Dust Teaching has many opportunities including a workshop from Teacher Tom on the topic of Partnering with Parents, beginning on March 28, 2020.

Art Exploration

Diane Kashin shares her powerpoint on Process Art including videos for you. All this is free of charge!

If you are in British Columbia and you wish to complete your ECE certification through distance learning, check out the following approved institutions:

  • Coast Mountain College
  • College of New Caledonia
  • College of the Rockies
  • Lethbridge College
  • Northern Lights College
  • Pacific Rim Early Childhood Institute
  • Stenberg College
  • University of British Columbia
  • University of Victoria

Our province needs more Early Childhood Educators so if you feel passionate about young children and want to support and promote their healthy growth and development, this could be a great career for you.

If you know of other online opportunities for Early Childhood Educators, please share in the comments.

Sign up for my newsletter and learn about release dates, pre-orders and free offers.

Thank you for stopping by my blog. You are welcome here any time!

Reflecting on the Hundred Ways of Thinking Conference

Inspired by the Reggio Emilia Approach, Suzanne Axelsson, from Sweden, shared her ways of approaching early learning with a group of 250 Early Childhood Educators from various parts of British Columbia. The conference organizer, Marayam Nadaaf, was passionate about finding ways to allow people to travel to the conference and thanks to the travel bursary, I was able to attend as were many others who came from outside of Vancouver.

Suzanne explored the idea of weaving dialogue and technology with young children. She showed us her journal of questions, and in the same spirit, I’d like to share some of the questions that came up for me including some questions posed by Suzanne.

Conference Room at Croation Cultural Centre in Vancouver, B.C.

What does it mean to wonder? How can we encourage a sense of wonder in children?

How to we develop curiosity in children? Is curiosity different from wonder?

Suzanne argued that if we set up just the right challenge for children; find the sweet spot between too easy and too difficult, then children will become curious and engaged.

In our play experience with the marbles and clothes pins I became that curious learner as we attempted to create a marble run that would last exactly 5 seconds. Participating in the experience was like being a child when all sense of time falls away and your parents call you for dinner and you think it couldn’t possibly be dinner time already but it is.

I believe it is helpful for us as teachers to put ourselves in the shoes of the children from time to time as we did here at the conference. It gives us a greater understanding of what we ask of them when the play session ends and it is time to move to something new.

More questions that came up…

What does it mean to slow down and focus on children? What more can we learn by slowing down? How can we find opportunities for joy? How can we allow children to explore all of their emotions in a safe environment?

In what ways might children use these loose parts? How might we challenge children with these materials?

What if instead of talking to parents about risky play we talked about play with uncertain outcomes? How can we find ways for children to do their own assessment of outcomes? What kind of social or emotional challenges can be set up with uncertain outcomes? Where is the sweet spot for learning?

What would happen if we try new ways of offering paint? Can we offer 1 color for each child (but not the same color)? What other new strategies or ways of offering materials can we come up with? How will those limitations or different ways of offering support finding the sweet spot for learning?

How do children come to know things? What forms of knowledge might we pursue with children?

“Play is needed to convert facts into knowledge.” – S.A.

What are some of the ways children can use imagination? How might we bring more opportunities for imagination?

“If knowledge is an island, imagination is the coastline.” – S. A.

It flows from this that helping children gain knowledge can assist with their developing imaginations. I think of a child I currently work with who loves animals. She recently told me she was pretending to be “a horse on the Savannah.” To me this illustrates the example as her understanding and knowledge of what it means to be a horse is extended by her understanding of the habitat of the Savannah.

I recognize that my post is full of questions but that is what being a reflective educator is all about. I hope these questions helped bring new insight into your thinking about young children and how they learn, particularly for people who wished to attend the conference but were unable to be there.

Oh, and in case you were wondering. I still have my cold; I think I just need a few more days and it will be gone.

Sign up for my newsletter and learn about release dates, pre-orders and free offers.

Thank you for stopping by my blog. You are welcome here any time.

Have a wonderful day!

Sidney, B.C. Two Hundred Boxes!

About 5 years ago, when I first began working at Sidney Preschool, I introduced a new and special day to our program. I called it our Cardboard Box Extravaganza! We had our parents collect and bring in boxes and the children were give some simple materials to work with as well as an opportunity to use their creativity to go wherever their imaginations may take them with the collection of boxes. This was a huge hit! And each year proved to be a little different as new children and parents brought their own unique ideas to the event.

Small boxes can be great for creative minds as well.

And that is why it does my heart such good to see this event taking place in Sidney. Two Hundred Boxes is an event for the whole family and takes place February 16th from 10 am to 4 pm at the ArtSea Gallery in Tulista Park. I have no idea how this event came to be but what a wonderful opportunity for family and community engagement. Castles, towers, tunnels, neighbourhoods, forts, planes or trains could all be part of your experience as you work with the boxes. This event is totally free of charge. Kudos to the Community Arts Council for organizing!

And because I am a huge supporter of children’s literature, let me add a couple of great picture books that encourage creativity with cardboard boxes. Not a Box by Antoinette Portis and What To Do With a Box by Jane Yolen. Do you know some other great books on the same subject? Have you and your children created something amazing and wonderful with a cardboard box? Share in the comments.

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Thank you for stopping by my blog! You are welcome any time.