Halloween Treats and Fun Activities.

Looking for something to keep your little ones busy before or after Trick-or-Treating?  Check out these ideas from BRIGHTLY.  Plenty of activities and coloring pages for all ages.


You can also make some yummy BITE SIZE HONEY POPCORN BALLS to keep or give away as treats.  Here’s the simple recipe.

  •  Bite Size Honey Popcorn Balls
  • 20 cups air-popped popcorn (from 2/3 to 1 cup kernels; see Notes) $
  • 1 1/4 cups butter, cut into chunks, plus more for your hands $
  • 1 1/4 cups honey
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract        temperature-popcorn-pop-120x120


  1.  Preheat oven to 325°. Put popcorn in a large roasting pan. Line a large baking sheet with waxed paper.
  2.  In a medium saucepan over medium heat, use a heatproof spatula or wooden spoon to stir together 1 1/4 cups butter, the honey, and salt until butter is melted. Increase heat and boil honey mixture gently 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in vanilla.
  3. Carefully pour honey mixture over popcorn in roasting pan and stir gently to coat. Bake popcorn, stirring every 5 minutes, until deep golden all over, about 25 minutes.
  4.  Let popcorn stand 5 minutes, or just until cool enough to handle. Working quickly with lightly buttered hands, press small handfuls of the mixture into 1 1/2-in. balls, occasionally loosening popcorn from bottom of pan with a spatula. If mixture cools too much to be malleable, return it to oven for about 45 seconds to soften.
  5.  Put popcorn balls on prepared baking sheet and let cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.

Note:  If you don’t have an air popper, you can pop the popcorn in the microwave: Working in 2 batches, put kernels in a brown paper bag (any size). Do not add oil. Fold the bag’s opening several times to seal, then microwave at full power in 1-minute increments, checking popcorn and removing popped kernels as you go (they burn easily). Be careful when opening bag; it will release steam.



Carol Simon Levin Celebrates Women’s History + Win a Free Book!

In honor of an historical moment in our US history, this post is brought to you by CAROL SIMON LEVIN  – just in time for the 2016 Presidential Election. Here’s Carol:

I was working on a coloring and activity book for “Bridge Builder in Petticoats” then realized we were at a historic moment in our country — 240 years after Abigail Adams wrote her husband John to “remember the ladies” when the founding fathers drafted the laws for a new nation and warning that “If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice or Representation,” 168 years after the Seneca Falls Convention calling for women to get the right to vote, 96 years after the passage of the 19th Amendment actually granting women that right, we finally have a woman presidential candidate from a major party.  

I got the idea on June 8, 2016 (my birthday and the day Hillary got enough electoral votes to become the nominee), postponed working on “Bridge Builder” and have been burning the midnight oil (and then some!) working with 35 talented illustrators who created images for the 64 women I eventually profiled. The whole project was completed in just under 4 months so it would be out well in time for the 2016 election! 

carol-bookMy motivation is to help girls and women (and sympathetic guys) recognize that the vote is precious and we shouldn’t take it for granted.  I chose to do it by creating a unique coloring book with the hope that coloring might spur curiosity, and that reading the facts, fascinating factoids, and quotes from these amazing women would motivate the people to exercise their voices and their votes alongside their colored pencils!  As Carrie Chapman Catt wrote when the 19th Amendment finally passed, “The vote has been costly. Prize it.”  

Carol Simon Levin is a Youth Services Librarian, author, storyteller and program presenter based in Bridgewater, New Jersey. Whether she is impersonating the woman who helped to build the Brooklyn Bridge, telling the amazing stories of early women in aviation, engaging families in a rousing Halloween Hootenanny of songs and stories, expanding on the mathematical and artistic possibilities of a simple square, or sharing the story of a dolphin who learned to swim with an artificial tail (along with activities to help children understand what it is like to live with a disability), she always strives to create exciting programs that engage her audience’s interests and expand their horizons. 

imageShe is happy to bring her presentations to libraries, senior centers, historical societies, schools, camps and other venues. She has always been particularly fascinated by the history of technology and women’s history. Visit tellingherstories.com or facebook.com/TellingHerStories for more information on her books and presentations. 

Additional programs and resources for children and teachers can be found at: carolsimonlevin.blogspot.com.

Carol Simon Levin is a member of the New Jersey Library Association, the New Jersey Storytelling Guild, and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.     carol-red-jacket-library


Winner will be announced here on 11-9-16.

Happy 50th Birthday Great Pumpkin!

Can you believe that this year marks the 50th birthday of that iconic Halloween special: IT’S THE GREAT PUMPKIN CHARLIE BROWN?  To celebrate such a milestone birthday, why not “get lost” in a pumpkin-patch inspired corn maze.  THE MAIZE INC has created Great Pumpkin inspired corn mazes on more than 80 farms across the US.

Visit: http://www.parade.com/cornmaze  to find one near you.  You can also see a gallery of Halloween mazes from around the country.


Author Terry Jennings Has Magnetism + A Free Book!

My author friend Terry Jennings has a new book out about magnetism that she wants to share with you.  Here’s Terry.

Who wants another book on magnetism? Like poles repel and opposites attract and that’s the way it is, right? Kids already know all about it.

            So why did I write another book on magnetism? It’s so much more than the dance between the poles! And that’s what I love about writing non-fiction and creative non-fiction. You find out so much cool stuff.

When I wrote Gopher to the Rescue! A Volcano Recovery Story, I never planned to have a gopher as the main character. But those little diggers (8-12” long) helped Mount St. Helens (9600 feet tall before the eruption) recover. They dug up the ash and softened it so that seeds could sprout. They brought up nutritious bacteria from below. What could be cooler than that?

With Sounds of the Savanna, I learned all about prey and predator interactions. I learned that everybody’s gotta eat ‘cause everybody wants to live! That does mean that sometimes another animal has to die, but it’s surprising how unsuccessful predators are. I also heard that predators cooperate. That makes sense, right? Hyenas and lionesses, they cooperate. But what about prey? Zebras, wildebeest and antelopes all eat the same plant. Zebras eat the old, tough stuff—their teeth are made for it. Wildebeest like the next part. Antelopes love the tender new growth but they can’t get to it until the zebras and the wildebeest have grazed. Wildebeest hide within zebra herds because zebra stripes confuse predators. Cool too, right?

So what was cool about Magnetic Magic? We all do know that like poles repel and unlike attract. But did you know that inside a totally unmagnetic copper pipe a magnet can create both a current and a magnetic field? You can also try it with a totally unmagnetic aluminum pipe. Check it out in my website: http://www.terrycjennings.com/Teacher-Guides-and-Activities-Magic.html give it a bit of time to load and click on the You Tube “Is aluminum magnetic?”      magneticmagic_120

But the coolest thing of all, is that the earth’s magnetic pole shifts. It wonders, from the north geographic pole to the south geographic pole and to places in between. Magnetic North changes from year to year and from place to place. So if a treasure map from a hundred years ago gives coordinate directions from a fixed geographic point and we try to find the treasure this year, we won’t be able to, unless we know the magic number. The magnetic declination. It’s a number we add or subtract from the coordinates (depending on whether the declination is east or west that year). With that number, we can find the treasure. Check out the book and activities at http://www.terrycjennings.com/Teacher-Guides-and-Activities-Magic.html        

author-pic-snow-canyonWant to win a copy of Magnetic Magic? Here’s how:

Tell us your favorite recent Non-fiction picture book and why you like it.  I’ll put your name in a hat and draw a winner who will receive a signed copy of Terry’s new book MAGNETIC MAGIC.   WINNER WILL BE ANNOUNCED ON THIS BLOG ON WEDNESDAY, 10-26-2016.

Laurie Calkhoven’s New Ready-to-Read Non-Fiction Books.

Meet the women who programmed the first all-electronic computer and built the technological language kids today can’t live without in this fascinating, nonfiction Level 3 Ready-to-Read, part of a new series of biographies about people you should meet!

In 1946, six brilliant young women programmed the first all-electronic, programmable computer, the ENIAC, part of a secret World War II project. They learned to program without any programming languages or tools, and by the time they were finished, the ENIAC could run a complicated calculus equation in seconds. But when the ENIAC was presented to the press and public, the women were never introduced or given credit for their work. Learn all about what they did and how their invention still matters today in this story of six amazing young women everyone should meet!   eniac-cover


Meet Mae Jemison, the first African-American female astronaut! Did you know before Mae was an astronaut, she went to medical school and joined the Peace Corps? But she never forgot her childhood dream to travel to outer space. So in 1985 she applied to NASA’s astronaut training program. On September 12, 1992, Mae flew into space with six other astronauts aboard the space shuttle Endeavour and made history just like you can if you follow your dreams!


American Girl’s Ultimate Visual Guide will be a treasured addition to every American Girl fan’s bookshelf. With gorgeous images of every Be Forever and Girl of the Year doll, an expanded section on the Truly Me dolls, a detailed timeline of the company, and tons of exclusive behind-the-scenes information, this book takes readers on a wonderful from the start of The Pleasant Company all the way through to present day.

Did you know American Girl creator Pleasant T. Rowland first described her idea for a line of dolls on a postcard to her friend, Valerie Tripp? Or that the first American Girl pet, Coconut the white Westie, was introduced in 2000? Find out all about your favorite characters and their lives, historical eras, outfits, pets, accessories, and more with the American Girl Ultimate Visual Guide. (Written with Erin Falligant and Carrie Anton)   ag-ultimate-visual-guideLaurie Calkhoven has always loved books and reading. She has written six novels for American Girl as well as historical action/adventure novels for her own series, Boys of Wartime. She loves reading and writing about ordinary people (both fictional and real) who have the courage and the strength to become extraordinary. That’s especially true of the people featured in the You Should Meet series. She lives in New York City and can frequently be found at the library.


Little Free Libraries

I’ve always wanted to add a copy of my book to one of these. I hope to do so in the future.

Marcia Strykowski

little-library-public-domainHave you run into any Little Free Libraries in your travels? I love these little boxes of delight scattered across the country and I hope to unveil one of my own someday. In 2009, Todd Bol built a tiny one-room schoolhouse for his mother, a teacher and avid reader. He attached it to the top of a post in his front yard in Wisconsin. Then he filled the little building with books and added a sign saying: Free Books. His little schoolhouse received a very positive response with requests for more. Inspired by this and those who came before them in support of free libraries and ‘take a book, leave a book’ collections, Todd and colleague Rick Brooks soon saw the full potential of this worthy enterprise. From this humble beginning there are now over 40,000 Little Free Libraries across the globe.little-free-lib-1Note the boogie boards used in this little…

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Book Giveaway – Bella’s Fall Coat

Here’s a perfect book for Fall!

Writing and Illustrating

Lynn Plourde has greed to do a book giveaway for her new book, BELLA’S FALL COAT. Susan Gal illustrated the book and was feature on Illustrator Saturday on Sept. 26th. All you have to do to get in the running for Lynn’s book giveaway is to leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know the other things you did to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you. Check back on October 26th to discover the winner.


Bella loves the sights and sounds of fall–the crinkle-crackle of fallen leaves, the crunch of crisp, red apples, the honking and flapping of migrating geese. She wants the season to last forever. She also wants her fall coat–the one her Grams made especially for…

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Great Fall Crafts For Kids From Pre K – Teens.

I’ve mentioned the awesome website Red Ted Art many times on this blog. The wealth and variety of craft information and ideas makes me visit it again and again.  And what better time for “crafting” than the fall season?  Take the kids on a NATURE WALK and collect leaves, pine cones, acorns and sticks, and you’ll have all the makings of some great crafts to decorate your home for the fall, Halloween and Thanksgiving season.

You’ll find plenty of things to do with LEAVES, ACORNS, PINE CONES, such as an adorable Pine cone Hedgehog.  Origami Bats will fly at Halloween, and Cork Penguins can hang around through winter.  Check out the site and have some family fun creating great fall crafts.


Vernick & Rhuday-Perkovich Present TWO NAOMIS + A Free Copy

I asked two of my favorite authors, Audrey Vernick & Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, to talk about their new MG book TWO NAOMIS, which was a first time collaboration for both.  Here they are.

How it All Began: by Audrey Vernick & Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich

We met at a New Jersey SCBWI conference in New Jersey and became fast friends. A few years later we co-taught a humor workshop at another NJ SCBWI conference and Darlene was one of our wonderful students.

And now here we all are! We have co-authored a middle-grade novel! Two Naomis is out and we’re visiting Darlene’s blog to ask each other some weird questions and give away a signed copy of our book.      two-naomis-cover-402x600

What books that you read when you were of middle-grade age stayed with you the way memories of time spent with good friends do?

Olugbemisola: This is a hard one, because I read a lot of not-MG books when I was MG-age, especially in order to read as much as possible that featured Black characters. So the African Writers Series was one of my favorites in those days, but those books were meant for adults. I loved I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings from 5th grade on. And I was remembering recently that when I was ten I thought Burr by Gore Vidal was one of the best books EVER. I need to read it again to see what I think now. In 6th grade, a friend introduced me to “Harlequin Presents” romances. I remember that she brought a huge trash bag full of them onto the school bus for me to take home; it felt so illicit. Then I read the Flowers in the Attic books for a while…But, between 2nd and 6th grades, a few MG favorites were…all of the Streatfeild Shoes books, Elizabeth Enright’s Melendy books, Black Folktales, A Wrinkle in Time, The Friends, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, Harriet the Spy, Ramona and Her Father, Pride & Prejudice, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler, David Copperfield, Jane Eyre.  Oh! I loved books by Norma Klein, Hila Colman, and Hilma Wolitzer…There were a lot more. I can’t really do this sort of thing, it’s too hard.

Audrey: I know I was a reader and a rereader, and yet I can’t think of more than a dozen books I read, which feels like heresy. Harriet the Spy, about a character who was fantastically imperfect. I loved the friendship between Victoria North and Marcia Sherman in Ursula Nordstrom’s The Secret Language. I think of many Judy Blume characters as people I kind of went to summer camp with–I knew lots of things about them and remember them fondly. The same with Paula Danziger’s The Cat Ate My Gymsuit. I loved Freaky Friday and A Billion for Boris and I wrote to Mary Rodgers to tell her and she sent me a letter back. The closest thing I had to a trash bag of Harlequin Presents romances was a book my mother bought for me that delved into territory she had no idea I’d be reading about–They’ll Never Make a Movie Starring Me by Alice Bach. I remember sitting at the kitchen table, reading, while she was talking to my aunt, and asking questions that were, at the time, quite shocking for her. It opened the door to books for older kids–I was possibly a little obsessed with Paul Zindel, especially The Pigman, for some time.

Have you ever been out in the world and seen someone who reminded you of one of your characters? Or has it ever worked the other way—do you develop a character based on people you know?

Olugbemisola: Absolutely! I’ve seen a lot of boys who remind me of Reggie in 8th Grade Superzero, and I know a lot of lit-from-within, socially conscious girls like Naomi Marie (Two Naomis) and Ruthie (Superzero).

I think I base just about all of my characters on people I know or have met, a lot of the time I don’t do it consciously. I love to eavesdrop (or, as I like to call it, pay attention), and a lot of writing about kids for kids requires me to recall my own memories, so a lot of that is layered in there. Sometimes there are actual people, places, things, and situations that are rendered very much as they are/were, and sometimes it’s more of the sensibility, or the emotion, or mood.

Audrey: I think I’d enjoy it if I saw someone random out in the world and felt inspired to use something about that person for a character but it hasn’t happened yet. And I haven’t based a human character on anyone I know. The only time someone from my life showed up in one of my books was in my first novel, Water Balloon. The dog in that book, Rig, is based on our beloved dog who died in August, Rookie. But I also had another crazy Water Balloon experience in the old Yankee Stadium. A girl with very cool sneakers was waiting in line for the women’s room and I thought, “There’s Marley!” In the few waiting minutes we had left, I just stared. I wonder if she saw. And was terrified. I hope not.

Hey blog readers! We’d be interested in your answers to these questions too (if that’s okay with Darlene).  Absolutely OKAY!

Audrey Vernick is the author of Brothers At Bat: The True Story of An Amazing All-Brother Baseball Team, a New York Times Notable Book. In addition to Two Naomis, her 2016 picture book releases are The Kid from Diamond Street, I Won a What? and Unlike Other Monsters. Audrey visits dozens of schools and is a frequent speaker at conferences for writers, librarians and teachers. A two-time fiction fellowship recipient from the NJ Arts Council, she lives with her family near the ocean. Visit her online at    audrey-vernick-author-photowww.audreyvernick.com.

Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich is often asked about her name; she is the daughter of a Nigerian father and a Jamaican mother, and married to a man of Croatian descent. She was born in New York City, and was the ‘new kid’ many times over, in more than one country. Her first novel, 8th Grade Superzero, was named a Notable Book for a Global Society by the International Reading Association, and a Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People by the National Council for the Social Studies and CBC. She has contributed essays and stories to The Journey is Everything: Teaching Essays that Students Want to Write for People Who Want to Read Them, Open Mic: Riffs on Life Between Cultures in Ten Voices, Imagine in Better: Visions of What Schools Might Be, and other collections. She has a MA in Education and holds a Certificate in the teaching of writing from the Reading and Writing Project at Teachers College/Columbia University. She lives with her family in NYC where she writes, makes things, and needs to get more sleep. Find her online at olugbemisolabooks.com.

guysmileyclosefinalThanks so much for hosting us, Darlene!   It was a pleasure Audrey and Gbemi!

To be in the running for a copy of TWO NAOMIS, leave a comment at the end of this post.  I’ll put your name in a basket and pull out the winner on 10-19-16.