Photo Booth Fun

By now most of us are familiar with the Photo Booths at wedding and graduation receptions.  You get to pose with props and have fun making pictures and memories.  Why not try the same kind of thing at the next family gathering?  With graduations, confirmations, and summer vacations around the corner, there is a site that has free downloadable templates for props such as mustaches, glasses, lips, etc.  You can trace them onto card stock and color, embellish with glitter, feathers, fake fur, and then mount them to wooden dowels.

Take photos of your party guests posing with the props, then print them out or e-mail them as a thank you for attending.  Download your sign, prop templates for your very own photo booth at:


A Taste of the Tropics

If you’re looking for a healthy dessert or side dish that you can bring to a pot luck, buffet or picnic, try making this version of AMBROSIA using tropical fruits.

To make the fruit salad pictured you’ll need the following:  One cored, peeled and cubed pineapple (canned will work as well), two cans of whole mandarin oranges, one ripe, diced mango, two peeled and sliced kiwi fruits, dried cranberries for color and shredded coconut to sprinkle on top.  Mix all the fruit in a large bowl. Chill and serve.

You can also try a citrus version using                                                  tropical fruit salad

pink and yellow grapefruit, oranges,  and mandarins. Try toasting the coconut for a slightly different flavor.

Math Fun For All Ages.

For those who enjoy the fun and challenge of solving math puzzles, problems and activities, there are a number of awesome math sites to try.  Here you’ll find lessons  about MONEY, ALGEBRA, GEOMETRY, and just plain fun broken into grade levels K – 8.  There are also worksheets, quizzes and videos to watch.

2. Everything you can think of using numbers in fun and interesting games and activities can be found here.

3. Offers homework help, games, problem solving activities and number fun. There are lots of games for practicing fractions.

Celebrate Spring with Crafts

My blogging friend Gail Terp has a wonderful post full of websites that have kid friendly spring crafts and activities.  Most require everyday materials you would have around the house.  Freshen up your home or make some gifts for grandparents and loved ones that will be treasured.

 Check out these sites:

 Spring Crafts from Kaboose:  Watering cans, bonnets, Earth Day crafts

 Spring Crafts from Martha Stewart:  Flowers, umbrellas, cards…

 Spring Crafts for Kids from Busy Bee: Butterflies, flowers, birds…

 Spring Craft Ideas for Kids from DLTK: Bunnies, insects, flowers…

 Spring Crafts from Spoonful: Windchime, scarecrow, food…

 Spring Crafts from First Palette: Bean bags, puppets, hats…

 Spring Crafts for Kids from Activity Village: Candy, flowers, refrigerator magnets…

 Kids Spring Crafts from All Kids Network: Caterpillars, rainbows, flowers…


Happy Earth Day!

Celebrate Earth Day on Monday, April 22, by planting a tree.  The Arbor Foundation will send free seedlings to anyone who wants them. Go for your 10 free tree seedlings.

If you have no place to plant a tree but would like to honor the day, take the kids to a local park or playground and pick up trash for disposal and recycling. Everyone gets a good feeling knowing they are doing something positive to make a local spot better.

Here are some green things you can do to celebrate Earth Day.

1. Use less paper. Copy on both sides of the paper or use blank side as scrap paper.

2. Buy copy paper that is made from recycled content. RECYCLE used paper and magazines.

3. Wrap gifts in re-usable gift bags or newspaper.

4. Use washable rags/cloths to wipe hands or spills instead of paper towels. Saves money and trees.  Cloth napkins are also better for the environment and are easy to wash in a machine.

5. Try going Screen Free for the day. Avoid TV, video games, computer and unnecessary texting.  Discover the world outside.  Learn a skill like pitching a tent, building a tipi campfire, planting a herb garden or identifying plants/trees in the neighborhood.

Enjoy the fresh air and beauty of “nature’s air conditioners”. Hug a tree and have a Happy Earth Day!


To get into the spirit of National Poetry Month, here are some wonderful books I’ve recently read written in verse.

1. Love That Dog written by Sharon Creech tells about a young boy’s introduction to poetry and how it doesn’t have to rhyme.  He gets the hang of it and writes some verse of his own.

2. May B written by Caroline Starr Rose takes us to the Kansas prairie in the mid 1800’s as a young girl struggles to survive through a cold, lonely winter.

There are also some great websites for young poets. offers readers a chance to submit poems based on monthly topics.    At  written by Randi Lynn Mvros and Irene Roth, readers ages 5-12 can read book reviews, poetry, and fiction.  They can also try illustrating their favorite stories in this interactive site.

Don’t forget to check out some poetry books from your local library.  Shel Silverstein, Ogden Nash, Emily Dickenson, Walt Whitman, and many others have books for children of all ages.

Then, why not try writing a few poems of your own.  Here is one I did to celebrate the wonder of lightening bugs.


 Signals flashing

Blinking lights

Diamonds on the fly

 Tiny torches

Winking, glowing

Neon of the night

 Fairy taxis

Hailed to a stop

                                                       Caught in a cave of flesh

A piece of moonlight

Clutched in a fist

Fingers tickled open

Signals flash again

Captured prisoners

Set free


Happy Poetry Month!

Another Surface Tension Experiment

Here is a variation of the Rainbow experiment I posted last month. Check out this blog for other science activities.


This is an experiment that kids love!!!!!  you need a small flat dish, food coloring, 1/2 cup of room temperature whole milk (the fat content is important),a small amount of liquid dishwashing soap and a toothpick or cotton swab.

Pour the milk into the dish. Put a drop (or two) of a different color in each corner of the dish.  Using the toothpick or swab, place a drop of the liquid soap in the center of the milk ( you can even insert the end of the toothpick into the milk).  WATCH THE COLORS ROLL!

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Interview With Children’s Author Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich

I met Olugbemisola (Gbemi) Rhuday-Perkovich at an Intensive four hour NJSCBWI writer’s workshop in 2011. She – along with fellow writer Audrey Vernick and Agent Marietta Zacker – hosted the presentation on how to write funny.  Gbemi’s infectious smile and warm, welcoming personality made me instantly feel at home as she shared her knowledge and insight with fellow attendees.  Her Middle Grade novel: 8TH GRADE SUPER ZERO (Scholastic 2010) is a funny, thoughtful, and heart-warming story of finding one’s place in junior high and how even making a small difference is big stuff.

Thanks so much for joining us today Gbemi.

Gbemi (second from left) with Audrey Vernick, Marietta Zacker, and Me.

Gbemi (second from left) with Audrey Vernick, Marietta Zacker, and Me.

8TH GRADE SUPER ZERO addresses bullying, social cliques, and fitting in in Junior High/Middle School.  You’ve written about these serious topics with such humor and sensitivity.  Where did you get the idea for the story?

A lot of the story came from my own experiences in middle and high school, and from my work with children and teens over the years in youth development and literacy programs. It’s fascinating how much of this stuff doesn’t change!

 The back of the book lists ways readers can make a difference in their own communities.  What kind of responses have you gotten from readers regarding this section?

Each time I meet or talk to young readers and writers, I’m re-energized. The different ways that they connect to something in my work fills me with gratitude. The idea that “doing a small, big thing can be a really big deal” is one that seems to resonate, and has sparked so many wonderful conversations and relationships since the book was published.

Some especially memorable visits (in person and via Skype) were with students at St. Patrick School in Long Island, Brooklyn Junior High School in Minnesota, Aaron Academy in New York City, and Emerson Middle School in New Jersey. The young people did all sorts of creative projects inspired by the book, and were just so thoughtful about their work and some of the issues raised — bullying, hunger, homelessness, jobs and the economy.  The teachers and librarians who supported them were phenomenal, and you could see their work just shine through their students. I am truly floored by the wonderful things they do every day. I wish our elected officials would spend more time in classrooms and school libraries, and reading children’s literature–they might see how wrongheaded some of these policies are.                                    gbemi book

Tell us about your background and what brought you to the field of writing books for children.

It might not surprise you to know that I was an exceptionally nerdy kid. I carried a backpack the size of an igloo and tripped over my own feet at least twice a day. I always did the extra credit. I was shy, and I was a big reader. Books were my lifeline through all of the moving around my family did. When I was reading, I could transport myself to different worlds, I could be anyone I wanted to be. I’ve always enjoyed writing, and in high school thought that I might like to be a playwright (dialogue was my favorite) or glamorous magazine editor. Through my college years, I worked for a variety of teen-oriented publications, entertainment companies and worked with children and families on different literacy projects in New York City. I kept writing, just about anything — grants, curriculum materials, entertainment and sports profiles, speeches, ads — whatever I could. I went to graduate school and got my Master’s in education, but I always held onto those childhood reading experiences that meant so much to me. Finally, I decided that I didn’t want to be a person who was “going to write a book one day” anymore.

Do you write full-time or balance writing with another career? Tell us about your typical writing process.

I write, and I teach a writing course (fiction and memoir) online.  I don’t know if I have a typical writing process! I drink a lot of strong black tea. I walk a lot. Walking helps me work through story problems, think through a scene or motivation. I spend a long time thinking through stories, usually starting with a character and a question that I mull over for a while. The first draft is the hardest for me, and I’m an obsessive reviser. I have to keep relearning the lesson that I can’t hold on to a story until it’s “perfect”, because then I’ll be holding onto it forever, and I won’t make room for the new ones.

Where do your ideas come from?

Every day and everywhere! Sometimes from people I see on the subway, snippets of conversations that I overhear, things that I read, conversations that I have with my daughter…and especially those why/what if questions that I have.

What projects are you currently working on?

I’m working on a middle grade book about four homeschooled (they prefer “freeschooled”) sisters who are a family band; the shy sister must put herself front and center in order to save a beloved community organization. And another about a girl trying to come to terms with her guilty feelings about the death of her brother. She must choose between an opportunity to see her brother again and apologize for what she’s done, or switching places with her “self” in a parallel universe where her brother’s death never happened. I’m also trying my hand at biography, a book about Ella Josephine Baker.

I have two things out this Fall (September): OPEN MIC: RIFFS ON LIFE BETWEEN CULTURES IN TEN VOICES, edited by
Mitali Perkins, and featuring Francisco X. Stork, Debbie Rigaud,
Cherry Cheva, David Yoo, Varian Johnson, Naomi Shahib Nye, G. Neri.
and:  BREAK THESE RULES: 35 YA Authors On Speaking Up, Standing Out, and
Being Yourself, edited by Luke Reynolds and featuring Kathy Erskine,
Sara Zarr, Josh Berk, Francisco X. Stork, Gary D. Schmidt, Neesha
Meminger, Lisa Schroeder, Mike Jung, Anna Staniszewski, Jen Nielsen,
Mitali Perkins, Sayantani DasGupta, Tamara Ellis Smith, and more. All
proceeds will go to the Children’s Defense Fund.

What authors/books do you most admire in the field of Children’s Literature?

AARGH!!! is my first answer.  J  This question knots up my heart. Off the top of my head, here are some recent ones…Rita Williams Garcia’s One Crazy Summer, Francisco X. Stork’s Marcelo in the Real World, Sherman Alexie’s Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Frank Cottrell Boyce’s Framed and Cosmic,  Y.S. Lee’s The Agency, Atinuke’s Anna Hibiscus series, Patrick Ness’ A Monster Calls, Marguerite Abouet’s Aya series, Audrey Vernick’s Water Balloon, Grace Lin’s Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, Maile Meloy’s The Apothecary, Don Tate’s It Jes’ Happened, and Anne Ursu’s Breadcrumbs. I have to stop.  If I start with the started-in-childhood-but-still-favorites, we’d be here forever.

You’ve traveled to Nigeria and Kenya.  How have these places influenced your writing?

I think that the places that I’ve lived have become a part of me, and that living in different communities has sharpened my observation skills, and my ability to listen for stories. I’m also grateful for the way those experiences gave me childhood opportunities to read literature by African and Caribbean writers.

Did you sell your book through an agent?  What advice do you have for writer’s looking to be published?

I sent my book in through the slush pile–I was a fan of Cheryl Klein’s blog, and really liked the books that she’d worked on and her way of thinking about story and structure, which in some ways was similar to mine, but in many ways very different — she seemed like a wonderful match. Someone in a writing group sort of dismissed the possibility that she would be at all interested in my book, so of course I sent it to her right after that. Luckily, she saw enough that she liked, and I spent a little over a year working with Cheryl on revisions, and then got a wonderful agent, Erin Murphy.

Some of my advice would be the same that I give to my students: read, pay attention, write, and be open to surprises. Don’t avoid discomfort in the process, and remember that nothing is wasted. (Even if you work for years on something and then decide that, 200 pages in, you need to start from scratch (ahem), that time and effort were a vital part of the process and will make the story richer in some way.)   Maybe also don’t pay too much attention to advice, and follow your instinct.

What is something readers might be surprised to know about you?

I was an obsessed Knicks fan in the early and mid-90s. I had a single season ticket and would go to games alone…I have this fantasy of doing voiceover work, and wish that I could have a career as a puppeteer.

Any final thoughts?

Thank you, Darlene!

You can find Olugbemisola’s books at_ Contact her at

A Closer Look at Complementary Colors

Thanks for visiting my site. I really enjoyed this site and want to pass it along to all those out there with artistic children, or anyone who loves art and creativity.

Outside The Lines

Take a close look at Matisse’s painting The Dance, shown above. What is it about this painting that makes it “pop”? The dancers seem like they’re almost floating on top of the background. Why is that?

Matisse was a master colorist, so he chose his colors carefully. He knew that when orange and blue are placed next to each other, they each appear brighter and more intense. Here’s why:

Orange and blue are complementary colors. Complementary colors have a special relationship because they are opposites on the color wheel. Take a look at the color wheel below:

You’ll notice that yellow and blue are also complementary colors. Red and green make up another complementary pair.

When complementary colors are placed next to each other in a painting or drawing, the artwork seems to vibrate. Complementary pairs can make an artwork more eye-catching and dynamic. For this reasons, many…

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Welcome Spring With Sprouted Seeds

Here is a fun way to get ready for spring. Try sprouting seeds for planting later on.  I saved the seeds from a grapefruit.  Then I placed them on a wet paper towel and covered them with another wet one.  Set on a dish.  (see photo 1)   Then cover the entire plate with a plastic bag and keep closed.  (photo 2)  Set it in a warm place and check every couple of days.  I put it on the dryer, so every time I dried clothes it got a warm boost.  DO NOT set it on a hot water heater or stove where it could catch fire. After a week or 10 days, you will have sprouted seeds ready for planting.  (photo 3).  Try it with oranges, apples, dried beans,or another seed of your choice.         

3. seed sprouts with root and stem

3. seed sprouts with root and stem


1. Keep paper towels moist.

1. Keep paper towels moist.

2. Placing wet paper towels in a plastic bag keeps them moist for sprouting.

2. Placing wet paper towels in a plastic bag keeps them moist for sprouting.