Summer Reading, Websites, and Recipes for Kids

Holly and I took a field trip to the dog park today. There we met Joey and his mom and their beautiful and friendly Irish Setter, Flash. After Holly showed Joey all the cool tricks she can do, we humans eventually got around to the really fun stuff–talking about books.

Joey was on the lookout for some good summer reading. I offered him a couple of favorites:
The Gollywhopper Games received the 2008 Midwest Choice Book Awards Honor for Children’s Literature. And the book is also up for possible readers’ choice awards in both Alaska and Texas.
The Graveyard Book won this year’s Newbery Award as well as honor book in the recently announced Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards. Follow the link for the other selections.
Of course, a library is a great place to visit this summer for expert advice on good books. Plus, they usually have special programs designed for kids of all ages. 
Some other fun things to do this summer can be found online. Visit the AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION’s list of great websites for kids. I’ve mentioned a few of the websites before, like
ReadKiddoRead and Giggle Poetry. But there are lots more suggestions for summer adventures from math to art to science to film making.
Joey also shared with me that he enjoys cooking. Yum! Yum! Don’t forget that I have some tasty recipes on my website. Dirty Worms seems like an appropriate dish for summer fare. For more recipes, click on this link. There you’ll also find games, crafts, puzzles, and more reading adventures.

National Gaming Day at Your Library

This Saturday libraries across the United States are sponsoring a NATIONAL GAMING DAY.  Of course, we all know how much fun it can be to visit a library on a regular day–with all the books, magazines, computers, videos.  Not to mention story times, book talks, and special programs.

NATIONAL GAMING DAY will be “the largest, simultaneous national video tournament ever held.” How cool is that? This could possibly make it into Ripley’s Believe It or Not, don’t you think?
And Hasbro has donated a PICTUREKA game to every public library branch in the U.S. so board games can be played as well. They’ll try to set a record for the most people playing a board game in the U.S. as well as a video game. It sounds like your local public library is the place to be this Saturday.
To find out more information about NATIONAL GAMING DAY at your library, call your closest branch. Or click on the link above and read all about it. There is an online map you can use as well.
If you can’t join in the fun on this Saturday (or if your library isn’t taking part in National Gaming Day), you can try The Library Camp Out game at my website.  Or the Breezy Geography Match Up game would be great one to take along to the library. And if you want to check out one of the coolest stories about gaming, try Jody Feldman’s THE

Here’s to good games and good reading!

A Contest for Kids & A Contest for Children’s Authors

Please check out these fun contests:

To celebrate her new release of The Gollywhopper Games (HarperCollins/ Greenwillow) , Jody Feldman is holding a contest for kids from 8-15 years old and a drawing for authors and others. Kids who send in the correct solution to the puzzle posted at the Contests link at can win a Nintendo DS Lite or The Gollywhopper Games T-shirt. And if you post this info on a blog or pass it along to a family with age-eligible children or to an elementary or middle school teacher, you’ll be entered to win a signed copy of The Gollywhopper Games and a T-shirt. But you’ll need to let her know you’ve done so by sending in an email at to enter.

Spoonfuls of Stories
This contest is looking for children’s authors who have not been previously published. The deadline for entering is July 15, 2008. Win $5,000 and the chance to have your story published by Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing.
Look for the official rules at the Cheerios website.

Ready! Set! Start writing!!!

Interview with JODY FELDMAN

Author of The Gollywhopper Games, HarperCollins, 2008.
ISBN: 0061214507
320 pages
Yesterday I had the wonderful opportunity to catch a quick lunch with author Jody Feldman, whose new book—THE GOLLYWHOPPER GAMES—has just been nominated for the American Library Association’s 2009 Best Books for Young Adults.

Jody was on her way to a school visit and feeling in a bit of a whirl from her busy personal life and recent book promotion events which have offered numerous travel opportunities.

As we munched on our Asian-flavored entrees, I asked if she knew that THE GOLLYWHOPPER GAMES was being considered for the YALSA list.

“I had no idea,” she said. “The book is listed by my publisher for ages 10-14. I guess that makes it borderline young adult.” She explained that she’d been in total shock for at least 10 minutes when she first heard the news.

“How has your life changed since your book has come out?” I asked.

“I’ve not been able to write,” she said immediately. “I’ve been spending more time on publicity, but I’m really looking forward to getting back to writing.” She told me of her new plan to write every morning and leave her afternoons open for publicity work.

When I asked her what had been the most fun and exciting part of her book’s release, Jody said, “Being here and seeing it all happen—the whole bundle of going through what a regular author does. Holding the book in my hand. Getting that connection with the kids. The sense of fulfillment.”

Jody has waited a long time for her well-deserved fulfillment. The idea for THE GOLLYWHOPPER GAMES first entered her mind nearly 20 years ago as she overheard an unhappy child in the school library trying to find another book with the same feel as Roald Dahl’s CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY. She became determined to create a book for adventure-minded young readers. Readers who like puzzles and games and quick-witted contests.

THE GOLLYWHOPPER GAMES’ journey to print was itself a great adventure—not for the weak of heart. Jody wrote and rewrote the story; she submitted it and received rejection after rejection. She put the story away for a long time, until finally she joined an online writers’ group and began revamping the story yet again. When she finally found an interested agent, Jennie Dunham of Dunham Literary, Jody still had to wait another three years before an editor, Virginia Duncan, at HarperCollins’ Greenwillow imprint ultimately perceived THE GOLLYWHOPPER GAMES’ great potential and helped Jody shape it into the amazing story it is today.

Currently, Jody is working on a new middle grade/young adult book with another seventh-grade boy main character. The book will border on the fantastical—“like you might experience in dreams,” she said.

As we wrapped up our lunch, I asked, ”What advice do you have for writers?”

“If you don’t really, really want to do it (write), don’t do it! Find something else.” She explained how determined writers have to be. “Willing to get down on their knees and scrub the floor sometimes”—knowing that there will be lots of hard work involved in the publishing process. It’s not the glamorous lifestyle so often portrayed in the media.

“And a writer needs to be open to knowledge from wherever you can get it,” Jody said. She likes to listen to kids and adults, to those who like and don’t like her stories. She explained that using all this information can help her write a better story.

I said my goodbyes to Jody as she refilled her to-go cup, fueling up for her school visit in just 15 minutes. She seemed a bit harried but quite happy with her new role as successful children’s author.

Super Saturday

On Saturday, I had the privilege to hear Allyn Johnston, Editor-in-Chief at Harcourt, and Marla Frazee, children’s author and illustrator, give a presentation on picture books in Washington, Missouri.

Ms. Johnston spoke of “the power of picture books.” She said she believes good ones have “the ability to affect lives.” She also referred to a picture book as “a piece of theater on a 32-page stage.” She looks for the rhythm and repetition in a well-written picture book. “Perfect words in perfect places.” She said the last line of the story should resonate and the story should come full circle. To find out more about Allyn Johnston, here’s a link to an interview with her:

Ms. Frazee spoke of the physical structure of a picture book–the 32-page format. She said it is the combination of words and pictures that tell the complete story in a picture book. She emphasized her respect for children as her audience–how well they “read” her pictures. She stressed that picture books need to have an emotional component–even humorous ones. For more information on Marla Frazee, you may visit her website at

What a great opportunity this was to hear these special insights from two such knowledgeable women in children’s literature.

The other excitement I was a part of on Saturday was Jody Feldman‘s premeir of her first children’s book, THE GOLLYWHOPPER GAMES, at Left Bank Books in St. Louis. Jody’s idea for THE GOLLYWHOOPER GAMES began many years ago when she was volunteering in a school library and witnessed a boy unable to satisfy his book thirst after finishing CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY. Jody wanted to write a book that would be similiar to Roald Dahl’s masterpiece. Her love for word games and puzzles led her to create this story featuring the Golly Toy & Game Company. For a read filled with interactive adventures, be sure to find a copy of Jody’s new middle grade novel. The official release of THE GOOLYWHOPPER GAMES is tomorrow, March 3. And to read more about Jody, you may visit her website at