A Writer’s Phone Call to Santa

Santa-phone-call-300x169ROBIN: Hey Santa, it’s Robin Newman. How are you?

SANTA: Robin who?

ROBIN: Robin Newman, remember me from last year. I’m the author of The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake and Hildie Bitterpickles Needs Her Sleep.

SANTA: What time is it?

ROBIN: It’s 5:00 a.m. New York City time. What time is it on the North Pole?

SANTA: Much earlier.

ROBIN: Geez Santa, I’m sorry I woke you. I was just so excited to talk to you. I noticed that Starbucks started its Christmas season early and then every radio station is decking the halls, so I thought I might try to catch you a little earlier this year.

SANTA: Robin, have you been good?

ROBIN: Don’t you think “good” is one of those words that’s subjective and open to interpretation? You know it’s like an editor reading your story and hating it because she has a thing…

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A Great Read For Middle Grade Fashionistas by Margaret Gurevich

Are your children interested in fashion?  Or do they ever wonder what it might be like to work in the field?  You might want to get them a book that is set behind the scenes of a fictitious fashion house.  CHLOE BY DESIGN: BALANCING ACT is the second in the series by author Margaret Gurevich.

BalancingActimage16-year-old Chloe Montgomery beat out the competition to win Teen Design Diva, but she already has another challenge to face tackling her internship. After winning the first season of the fashion reality show, Chloe is ready to start her job with a famous designer, Stefan Meyers, in New York City. But with an old crush and new challenges to contend with, Chloe discovers that the fast-paced fashion industry isn’t for the faint of heart. Will she be able to make it work, or will the balancing act prove to be too much for this budding designer? 

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The Gift Of Shiloh.

I’ve recently been the lucky recipient of a free signed copy of PHYLLIS REYNOLDS NAYLOR’S  latest book: SHILOH CHRISTMAS (Athenium 2105)  Talk about an awesome gift!  Opening it was like getting a visit from an old friend.  I’ve loved the Shiloh stores and can’t wait to read this latest addition.     tulsa print 2010 056 Phyllis Naylor

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To read more about the book series, and see a great article about Phylllis, check out the link below.


If you’re looking for a perfect gift for a middle grade reader in your life, give the gift of Shiloh.

Talking Turkey.

As we celebrate Thanksgiving, I am reminded of the many blessings I am privileged to enjoy.  One of those blessings is the continued support of all of you who follow and contribute to this blog.  Thank you for your kind comments, interesting posts, enthusiasm and energy.  May your blessings be many!

While not all of us eat turkey on Thanksgiving, it is a popular choice for many.  Thought you might enjoy a few “turkey facts” as you prepare your feast.

  1. Male turkeys “gobble” while females “coo”.
  2. A turkey’s droppings are used to tell its gender: Males leave J shaped droppings, females produce spirals. (Who knew?)
  3. A turkey can run up to 25 mph and fly as fast as 55mph.

For more turkey facts visit http://www.Smithsonian.com


Help Young Kids Learn With Curiosityville.

As an educator and parent, I’ve seen many websites with activities for children.  Here’s one I came across recently that uses the Science Of Learning in it’s lessons for children aged 3-7. CURIOSITYVILLE Features an international cast of furry characters for children to get to know through various lessons.  This website for educators features hundreds of activities and lesson plans for online and hands on activities.  It is also great for parents with a Home Connection feature.

I am not endorsing this site…just thought you might want to check it out.  http://www.curiosityville.com

Celebrate Picture Book Month With 3 Great PB’s

If you’re looking to do some early holiday shopping or just want to get some of the young children in your life some great picture books, here are three from KidLitAuthors Club author Nancy Viau.

Nancy Viau and Alison Formento, members of the Kid Lit Authors Club

Nancy Viau and Alison Formento, members of the Kid Lit Authors Club

  1. LOOK WHAT I CAN DO! – Cheer for animals from the forest, field, and stream as they learn and grow in this gently affirming tale for young achievers.

Look What I Can Do! bookcover


2. STORM SONG – From the first BOOM to the last SPLASH, experience the sights, sounds, and excitement of a loud thunderstorm.          Storm Song bookcover


3. CITY STREET BEAT- Join two friends as they move and groove to the rock-n-roll and razz-ma-tazz of a city’s hip-hop beat.

City Street Beat bookcover
For more about the KidLit Authors Club please visit: http://www.kidlitauthorsclub.com                KidLit-logo jpeg

Bake it Forward: Make Some Treats and Help Feed the Hungry.

Help the Food Network and No Kid Hungry serve 1 Million Meals to children in need this holiday season.   Sign on to the Bake it Forward Promotion.

$1 donation will be made per post per unique author on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Post must be posted with proper hashtag during promo window.  #bakeitforward 

Maximum donation of $100,000. Promotion runs 11/1/15 12:01 am ET – 12/31/15 11:59 pm ET. Void where prohibited.

To get you inspired, here’s my recipe for OATMEAL FRUIT BARS

Filling: I C. of dried fruit. (I used dates. You can also use cherries, apricots or raisins.)
½ C. granulated sugar. 1 C. water. 1-1/2 tsp grated lemon peel.
Crust: 1 ½ C. flour ( I used whole wheat and regular)
2/3 C dark brown sugar. 1 ½ C. old fashioned or quick cook oatmeal (not instant).
½ C. chopped walnuts. 2 sticks melted butter ( or you can use 1 stick butter and ½ C canola oil)

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8 x 8 inch pan with foil. Grease or spray foil with non-stick spray.
2. Filling: Place diced fruit, sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat (NOTE: parents should assist children with this step). Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Cook for 12-15 minutes, until thick. Watch carefully toward the end; mixture may bubble and splash! Stir in lemon peel. Cool to lukewarm.

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3. Crust: Mix the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Stir in melted butter until well blended.
4. Remove one C. of crust mixture for later. Press the remaining amount evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Spread the fruit mixture over this. Then Sprinkle the reserved crumb topping evenly. Press gently into an even layer.       2014-10-24 03.38.59



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5. Bake 40-45 minutes or until bubbles form around the edges of the pan. Cool on a rack 45 minutes, then cover and cool in refrigerator at least 4 hours.
6. Turn onto a cutting board. Peel off foil. Cut into bars with a sharp knife. These bars can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for a couple weeks.

2014-10-24 20.00.09   Why not join the Food Network and No Kid Hungry and make something delicious to share this holiday season.  Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Get Ready To Audition: How to Prepare For a Play by Jenna Rentzel

“All the world ‘s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” or so said William Shakespeare.

Performing in a live show is thrilling! Finally we get to return to a world of imagination and play pretend like when we were little. Only now, instead of being teased for it, we are applauded!

Most middle and high schools have thriving Drama Clubs, often performing one or two shows a year. When thinking about auditioning for a show, they are a logical first step. However, many amateur theaters are often in need of younger cast members and can be a great outlet for your creative energy. Once you’ve found a play to audition for you will need to do a little preparation for it.

Learn as much as you can about the show and the potential roles you are auditioning for. A quick search of the play’s title will bring you the company that produces the script. There you will find detailed information about each character, giving you a sense of who you might want to audition for. Don’t feel you need to pick a character that is similar to you, this is acting! Go for it. Youtube also has many plays online. Check out the variety of ways other people brought the character to life, then prepare to give your version a twist. Do you want to play the character sillier? Angrier? Flamboyant or serious? Try it out as many ways as you can think of to find a character you will have fun playing.

Most shows require you to memorize a monologue. Sometimes the director will give out audition pieces before hand, while other times you may need to choose one for yourself. There are plenty of books chock full of juicy monologues but you can get some great ones for free at the following sites.



Try to pick one that is close in personality to the part you would like to play.

Now it’s time to trot out that old saying your teacher keeps harping on about, Practice Makes Perfect. Treat your audition as if it was a real performance for a packed theater and practice your monologue as many times as you can. Say it out loud in front of the bathroom mirror and try out different voices and expressions. Bug your Mom as she’s cleaning and follow her around reciting your lines. Call Grandma and Grandpa and practice it on the phone! Perform it for as many people as you can until you feel so comfortable saying it you could perform in front of a room full of strangers. Cause that is exactly what you are going to have to do!

Don’t be surprised when butterflies show up on the day of the audition to torment you. Everyone gets nervous even the pros. Just take a few deep breaths before starting and let all your hard work shine through. No matter what part you get, the one you were dying for or not, keep auditioning. The theater is a place where everyone is accepted and celebrated for who they are, and who they pretend to be!            




Jenna Rentzel is a theater nerd who regularly puts her acting skills to work in her third grade classroom. When not acting silly with her students or her own children she writes middle grade novels.

THE ORB WEAVERS by Shiela Fuller

Spiders are fascinating creatures.  On one hand, they can scare the dickens out of us; on the other hand, they create wondrous webs to behold.  and, they do a lot to reduce the population of pesky flies and mosquitoes.  Here is Shiela Fuller with an informative post on orb weavers:

The orb weavers are spiders that can be found throughout the world and as close as your own backyard. If you look outside your window at night, in late summer or early autumn, perhaps you will see their masterful web creation attached to your front porch or eave. This is because many orb weavers tend to build webs attached to human structures. Their webs are large and comprised of concentric circles that radiate outward with an occasional “zig zag” portion, called stabilimenta. Studies have shown that webs containing the stabilimenta catch 34% fewer insects but these visible decorations are damaged less frequently, keeping the webs intact longer.

If you’re familiar with the orb web-building spiders, did you ever notice that the web is sometimes gone during the day? That is because many orb weavers build a new web every day. Orb weavers are nocturnal hunters and as evening approaches they will come out from their hiding location, eat the old web, rest, and then spin a new web in the same location.
They may bite if they are forced to defend themselves but in general are a gentle spider. The bite is not poisonous and no more painful than a bee sting for most folks.
Orb weavers are often identified by their brightly colored, rounded abdomens, and some have angled bumps or spines. When visible in the web, the spider is usually resting head down and waiting for prey.     Triple oaks spider

This argiope photo is a good example of a common orb weaver found in the backyard garden. It’s brightly colored, its head is facing downward, and the stabilitmenta is clear to see in the web.

If you’re lucky enough to have an orb weaving spider building a web near or on your front porch, or in your garden, enjoy and marvel in the creation. The orb weaver rarely lives for more than one season and while they’re here, they’ll aid in reducing pesky insect populations like mosquitoes.


Shiela Fuller has been a Cornell University Project Feeder Watch participant for many years and an avid birder since 1988. Currently, she enjoys writing picture books, yoga, chicken raising, wildlife photography, and is the legacy keeper for her family.

As part of National Picture Book Month, here are two PB’s about some extraordinary Orb Weavers:

  1. The classic CHARLOTTE’S WEB by E B White tells the story of an amazing pig as seen through the eyes – and web designs – of Charlotte, a spider who weaves words into her webs.
  2.  A new take on “weaving outside the normal web design” comes from a delightful PB called SEAVER THE WEAVER by Paul Czajak  2014-08-25 02.30.30

Fall Into Fun With Nature Crafts and More.

Even though the weather is turning cooler, there is still plenty of fun to be had outdoors.  Why not make the most of a day outside by collecting some natural materials like leaves, sticks, and pinecones, and create some art.

For a simple leaf rubbing, all you need are some leaves, white paper and crayons.  2014-10-21 21.39.44

Arrange the leaves on a clean sheet of paper or cardboard.  Then cover them with a clean sheet of white paper.  Copier paper works fine for this project and even the smallest kids can join in.

Peel the paper off a crayon and then lay it on its side. As you rub it across the paper it will pick up the bumps, lines, veins and images underneath.

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You can use this paper to make place mats for Thanksgiving dinner, or to wrap small gifts.

For more leaf crafts try checking out this link: http://www.redtedart.com/2013/10/16/leaf-crafts/

Here’s a link to a great craft using pine cones. You can create a SNOWY OWL with some cotton balls and pine cones. It is especially great for children who benefit from some extra tactile practice.  http://www.redtedart.com/2014/10/16/pine-cone-crafts-snowy-owls/

The Red Ted Art site also has 20+ turkey crafts for kids of all ages.  http://www.redtedart.com/2015/10/27/20-turkey-crafts-for-thanksgiving/

So don’t let fall disappear without trying some cool crafts using items found in nature.  Get outside and create some fun!  What kind of crafts have you done?