Top 10 Things Picture Books Taught Me by Beth Shaum

Love this post and the books reviewed in it!

Nerdy Book Club

What “counts” as reading? Well it turns out that lots of people have an opinion on that question, or more accurately, what doesn’t count as reading. Here’s what I’ve been told doesn’t count as reading, either explicitly or implicitly:

  • Picture books
  • Audiobooks
  • Graphic novels
  • YA lit
  • Choice reading in class
  • Anything other than the canon of old, dead white guys
  • Anything a kid might actually enjoy

As recently as just a couple weeks ago, I was celebrating the number of books I’d read in 2013 and someone told me that picture books don’t “count” as books. I probably shouldn’t have been so indignant about such a statement since only a few years ago, I felt the same way. But thanks to this wonderful community of readers known as Nerdy Book Club, I have since seen the light.

So often picture books are looked upon as a lesser form of reading…

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Children’s Literature – In 10 Objects…

Sommer Reading


It’s a snow day! School is cancelled, and I’m having a cozy day catching up on my reading – magazine articles from my “to read” stack, e-mails, and even a real book. My husband is reading a book called The First World War in 100 Objects. And we were just talking about how many of these “history through objects” books there are: The Beatles in 100 Objects, A History of the World in 100 Objects, The Smithsonian’s History of America in 101 Objects, and lots of others for the list-oriented reader.

Naturally, I began thinking about important objects in children’s books. I don’t have time to list 100, but if I was limited to 10 significant and influential items in children’s books, I would choose:

Max’s Wolf Suit (Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak)

Max’s suit is his bridge between Home and the Wild Things. If…

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Today’s post is from guest blogger Cindy Williams Schrauben on a new way to approach writing reports or essays for school projects.  Here’s Cindy:


by Cindy Williams Schrauben

So, you have to write a report, huh? What do you think of when you hear that word… report? Do you start to sweat? Does your brain go into panic mode, sending flashing lights from your eyes and steam out of your ears?

The idea of writing an essay, composition, story, report, whatever you want to call it, doesn’t have to make you crazy. If you learn the process, you might actually enjoy it. Or at least not hate it so much.

How ?  By learning to take it one step at a time. Instead of thinking, “I have to get this three page paper done today,”  think, “I need to complete step #1 in the next hour: get some ideas down on paper. Period.”

I know, everyone tells you that you must have a goal. And that’s true, BUT, those goals can be broken into smaller goals to make them less overwhelming. When you concentrate on the end goal alone, you don’t enjoy the process, which leads to an unbelievably rotten experience and usually a pretty boring story.

I know what you’re thinking… “I just want to get this story done and turn it in. I’m not doing this for fun.”  So, I’m going to give you a few suggestions on how to make writing easier and more enjoyable.

 I call the technique Polymorphic Brainstorming – haha, just kidding. All it means is that your ideas are coming from many places and take many forms. Let’s call it Brainblasting. This process works really well for creative stories, but will help with anything you write. It definitely won’t work if you start at nine o’clock the night before the paper is due, though. Hint: start early!

 We’ll begin with brainstorming. If you are ready for this stage, you already know your topic, the form your writing will take, and your audience. Now, for the fun part.

Let’s pretend your topic is about animals that live in the jungle.

What’s the first thing you do to start gathering ideas? You go directly to the web or library and look for facts, am I right? STOP! Step out of that box, first, and try this, instead.

Step #1 – Jot down what you already know. And what you want to know.

Step #2 – Experience the jungle and the animals that live there: Okay, you probably can’t take a visit to the jungle, so give these a try instead: videos, photos, music, fun books. Jot down anything that comes to mind as you do. I love to look at YouTube videos or Google images to help me get rolling. To really get into the jungle, you could even study the best story tellers out there and watch Disney’s Tarzan movie (fun homework, huh?). Watch, carefully, and ask yourself some questions:

What do I see?  What would it sound or smell like to be there? How do the animals move? What colors do I see? How does the music make me feel?

Use as many senses as possible. Movies and picture books often magnify important information. As readers we are told to visualize a story while we read; the setting, characters, etc. As a writer you should help the reader with details and language that will help them “see, feel, hear, smell or even taste” the story.

Remember, at this point, you just need ideas, impressions, and observations, they don’t need to be organized or developed. You might not use all of your ideas, in fact, you probably won’t, but they will help put your mind in the right place.

Step #3 – Now, look for facts in the normal places – they’re important too, of course.

Step #4 – Stop and do something physical to get your juices flowing and let your ideas soak in before you start to write. Shoot some hoops, take a run, whatever. Sometimes taking a step back from your writing is the best thing you can do.

Have you ever been interrupted in the middle of a video game? You were frustrated, right? Sometimes, when you go back, though, you see something – a solution or a move – that was there all the time, but you were too engrossed in the game to see it. The same thing is true of writing – you can’t “see” what you need to write next because your brain is bogged down in the details. Step back, take a break and come back with fresh eyes.

The most important thing to remember, before you go any further, is this: don’t try to write, revise, and edit your paper in one sitting.  I know that’s what you want to do. I was just like you once. And I hated to write. Now? I can’t go a day without writing. I learned to take it one step at a time and challenge myself. If you go at it with different eyes, you just might surprise yourself and enjoy it, at least a little!                cindy photo

As a former educator, magazine editor/writer, Cindy is consumed by a life-long passion for the written word. Following her belief that books can guide and nurture a child for the rest of his or her life, she is now embarking on a journey to write for children.  It is her desire to facilitate a love for books in her readers. Her projects range from picture books to young adult novels as well as adult non-fiction. Writing for children also provides her with another excuse to spend time in the children’s section of the bookstore.

            Cindy is a member of SCBWI and will be attending its Annual Winter Conference in New York City in February. She participates in many online writing communities including 12×12 Gold, PiBoIdMo, WOW Non-fiction, and WriteOnCon, taking advantage of the wealth of knowledge and expertise that her fellow authors have to offer.

            You can find Cindy on twitter @CindySchrauben and at her blog The Journey of Writing for Kids at