Frankenstein ALIVE

Who wouldn’t love a face like that?

Okay, so I’ve been hanging around with monsters for much too long–and I LOVE IT!

AUGUST 30 is Frankenstein Day!

So you still have time to put on your costume and monster mash the night away!


FRANKENSTEIN FRIGHTFACE GORDON from my upcoming MG fantasy novel FROM THE GRAVE (October 18, 2016) is not a typical Frankenstein–he’s blue, prefers a crisp white button-down shirt, and the quiet life.

Still he’s full of surprises, the best of friends, and can certainly pull his weight in a tough situation. BLUE is COOL!

Preorders are happening right now–and an amazing giveaway! Don’t miss your chance to win a MONSTER OR DIE T-shirt.


Follow the link and learn how to make a FRANKENSTEIN CAKE–perfect for today’s celebrations or anytime you want to Monster On!!!


And if you want to make your Frankenstein cake look like my character FRANK, just switch blue icing for the green. Remember, BLUE is COOL!

April News

April has been a busy, crazy, fun, busy, poetical, busy, bunny business month–and it’s not over yet.
So before it gets any crazier, I’ll share what I’ve been reading, doing, writing…

Who says libraries are just for books? Not the Lorain, Ohio children’s librarians! They are encouraging kids to explore their creative side in fashions with “Sew Lorain Kids.” A long time ago I worked in a couple of libraries in the Cleveland area. I’m so glad to see that the librarians there are continuing to be innovative. There are so many great craft how-to books in libraries, but why not give kids a chance to actually put the lessons into practice. My hats off to all of you in Lorain!!!

 I’ve been working on a variety of writing projects–one of them is an easy reader narrative nonfiction book on stars. So I was delighted to see a new book by Kathleen T. Isaacs which highlights picture books dealing with nature: BUGS, BOGS, BATS, AND BOOKS. Young readers–as well as their parents–often need help in finding age-appropriate books on various nonfiction subjects. This title also including science activities relating to various topics in the book. Look for this book at the library or ask your librarian to help you find some delightful nonfiction books to share with your children.

Kuddos to another librarian–this time with the focus on poetry. Thinking totally outside of the norm, Cathy Jo Nelson, a South Carolina educator, blogs about “The Unexpected Perks of Poetry.” She and a teacher collaborated on a poetry assignment–encouraging the students to create poems from words in book titles: spine poetry. Ms. Nelson elaborates in her blog about the many bonuses of this activity for both students and faculty. Poetry always seems to expand the world for us.

I’m writing the rough draft of chapter book with a poetic ghost in it. Although the story didn’t start out with a lyrical ghost, she just appeared out of thin air–so to speak. And who am I to tell her that she doesn’t belong in this story. I might be haunted for eternity…so I continue writing.

 Apparently April is also NATIONAL HUMOR MONTH. Although I was unaware of this, I have been reading some humorous picture books of late. A couple of favorites are CREEPY CARROTS by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Peter Brown. Here is a video by the illustrator explaining how he envisioned the sneaky carrots. My two-year-old grandson loves this books. We’ve read it over and over again. I’ve even made him his own creepy carrots with real carrots and a black sharpie. Beware biting into that next crispy, orange carrot! There may be many more lurking in the shadows–just waiting to pounce!!!

The other fun picture I’ve been studying of late is WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN by Jodi Moore, illustrated by Howard McWilliam. The author uses the “what if” storyline to create an elaborate beach day fantasy complete with fire-breathing dragon. And the illustrator brings the creature to life with humor and charm, sure to entertain children of all ages. But of course, there is the dilemma–once a dragon moves in how do you get him to move out??? Rather like the moles in my backyard, I’m afraid. 🙂

So here’s hoping April is poetically humorous–and beware of carrot-eating dragons, or something like that!

Writing and Drawing

I’m in the middle of revising one of my fantasy novels. This one involves fairy tale characters, so there has to be at least one castle, right? And a giant and…yeah, lots of fun characters and settings.

When one of Rich Davis‘ drawing posts came into my mailbox last week, it reminded me how fun the illustrations will be for this story I’m working on. Too bad I’m not a super illustrator like Rich. But with his step-by-step instructions, most anyone can become an artist.

Here’s the link to his “Draw a Castle.”  I hope you’ll give this picture a try–or try one of the other drawing lessons on Rich’s site.

As you can see below, I truly do have a CASTLE in my very own backyard. And a friendly GIANT lives there. He loves to go sledding with the children who drop by. 🙂

Holiday Poetry

A fun way to celebrate the holiday season for children of all ages is to create poetry. The poetry could be part of a Christmas card greeting, or a decoration to hang on the tree, or just a celebration of the winter season.

For young children, the poem can be a simple free verse phrase or two.
For older children, rhyme and rhythm can be incorporated.
For all, the choice of subjects abounds from wintery scenes, to well-known Christmas themes, or  even end of year reminiscing.

A simple poem exploring a winter scene is Winter Treats, found on my website. Use this poem to encourage children to look outside and describe a scene they see. Can they bring the scene to life with their words?

An example of a Santa poem at Essential Learning Products is Hip! Hip! Hooray! by Beverly McLoughland. This poem could be used with children to jump start their poetry writing. It also could be used as a geography lesson, traveling the globe with Santa.

For a more spiritual poem, read Christmas Day, also found on my website. Have the child find a Christmas card picture or perhaps an ornament that he likes. Then have the child use this image to create a poem in rhyme, free verse, or haiku.

Poetry should be a fun and creative process. There are no rights or wrongs–only writes!

October Reading Fun

Here it is October already and, of course, Halloween is just around the corner. But if you are looking for some fun reads besides ghosts and goblins, then Guardian Angel Kids new online magazine is waiting for you!

In the DOWN ON THE FARM issue, you’ll find chicks, and pigs, and even alpacas. There are stories, poems, and articles about farming and farm animals. Plus, a recipe for making your own butter–no churn required! You’ll find lots of other activities included as well–games, videos, and coloring pages to download.

October Fun

HIGHLIGHTS Magazine has some fun October online activities.
Try your skills at Build a Scarecrow. Create the scarecrow of your dreams, then print your creation.

Or there is JACK-O-LANTERN MAKER. You can even make it glow.

While you’re there, read a spooky story. MYSTERY OF THE HAUNTED HOUSE by Ellen Javernick is sure to scare you silly.

And if you want a snack to go with your story, mix a batch of SPIDER SNACKS. They’re frightfully delicious.

Halloween Coloring Page

Here is the link to a fun Halloween coloring page by illustrator, Jack Foster.
The characters are from Donna Shepherd’s POODLE AND DOODLE picture book.

I know it’s early yet, but have you decided what you’re going to be for Halloween?
You know what would be fun…read a Halloween book every day until the big day on October 31.
Here is a good one to try: J IS FOR JACK-O-LANTERN: A HALLOWEEN ALPHABET by Denise Brennan and illustrated by Donald Wu.

Game Day

I just discovered some very cool word games at Merriam-Webster’s Word Central. The games are specifically designed for kids with fun sounds and cool graphics.

In Alpha-Bot, a robot challenges you to a spelling contest.

In Robo-Bee, a bee sends you flying after just the right word–synonyms, antonyms, and more.

Bigbot involves hand-eye coordination as well as a good command of vocabulary, as you try to feed the ravenous robot.

And finally, my favorite game–JUMBLE KIDS. I tried to do my own version on July 27.
You’ll love the Merriam-Webster version. You earn puzzle points and play against the clock.
Don’t wait to explore the possibilities…

Picture Adventure

Summer is already over for many students, but there is still time to enjoy the August HIGHLIGHTS Hidden Picture

This beachy scene will help children enjoy the sand, surf, and sun for perhaps one last time this year. What a great way to help expand your child’s vocabulary and reading skills, along with puzzle-solving practice.

Some suggestions for using the Hidden Picture:

For younger students
–look for the pictures that have “b” in them; or “s” or “p”, etc.
–have child write out each picture word he finds in the puzzle
–count the seashells in the picture
–discuss what is happening in the picture
–can the child explain how to build a sand castle?

For older students

–alphabetize all the hidden picture words
–have the child select 1-3 of the words and use them in a story
–have the child write the directions for building a sand castle
–have the child give the pictured children names and create a story about them
–can the child draw her own illustration with one or more hidden pictures?

Character Talk

If you, or someone you know, is looking for a summer activity, why not try writing a story. When I visit schools, I’m always amazed at the students’ creativity. They invent some of the most fun, unusual, and truly interesting characters. I just help them along a bit with some suggestions.

How can you get started with a story? One good way is to get to know your main character. Take a peek at these pages on my website to help you.

Character Description
A girl
A boy

When you flesh out your character, more than likely you’ll discover what her problem is. You’ll know which characters will help and which will stand in her way.

The biggest improvement needed in the student stories I review is usually dialog. Too often students’ stories have little or no dialog, yet dialog is one of the easiest (and I think) most fun ways to reveal the characters in your story. Here is an example of boring dialog:

“Hi! How are you?”
“Fine. How are you?”
“Ok, I guess.”

This is chit-chat. Readers want more than chit-chat. They want interesting, quirky, humorous, adventurous, tension-filled dialog to emphasize what’s happening in the story. Dialog which shows how the characters react.

Here is a better example of dialog:

“Come over quick,” cried Angela into the phone. “Mosby has escaped again. I don’t know how long he’s been free.”
“Not again,” said Ginger with a huff. “I thought you fixed the holes in the fence.”
“I thought I did too, but he must have found a new way out.”
“He’s a dachshund magician,” said Ginger with a sigh. “Ok, I’ll come help…again.”
“Hurry! We’ll need to scout the neighborhood. He’s so little. A car will never be able to see him until it’s too late.” Angela jammed the phone in her pocket and shot out the front door.

Just from this short conversation what did we discover about Angela?
*She has a dog–a dachshund–who escapes quite often from her backyard.
*She sounds like she is very concerned about him getting hurt.
*She’s enlisting the help of her friend, Ginger, who has helped her numerous times in the past.

What do we know about Ginger?
*Although she’s Angela’s friend/neighbor, she’s not exactly eager to help find the lost dog.
*Even though she seems a bit upset at Angela for letting her dog escape again, she does agree to come help. We assume she must be a pretty reliable friend.
*She sees a bit of humor in the situation, when she calls the dog a “magician.”

Now suppose Angela and Ginger encounter the boy character from the character studies as they search for Mosby.

*How will he react to them? You should know if you’ve fleshed out his character.
*What is his name?
*How will he talk?
*Will he be helpful or rude?
*What secrets does he have?
* Will his secrets impact Angela or Ginger or even Mosby?

Give it a try. Then you can finish the dialog below:

“Hey,” yelled Angela. She waved her arm at a lanky boy ahead. He was walking a pudgy brown dog. “Have you seen a miniature dachshund?”