MYSTERY OF LONG SILENCE EXPLAINED!
My first two books, GROUNDHOG’S DILEMMA and
DRAW WITH A VENGEANCE (under the pen name, Helen Wrath), were published.
I had a stroke.
I was in Boston at the American Library Association conference, attending for the first time not only as a librarian, but as a published author. I had a line at my booksigning event, dinner with a book promoter, brunch with my editor, coffee with an agent – and just before leaving for the airport, I lost all the peripheral vision on my right side. My husband called an ambulance and I spent four days at Tufts Medical Center recovering from an ischemic stroke.
I seemed to be slowly healing well, but in April I started having tremors and seizure-like episodes, up to eight a day. The four Michigan neurologists I saw were stumped.
Dr. Leung, the neurologist who treated me at Tufts, emailed to ask if he could interview me – he’s conducting research on young stroke survivors and I just barely still qualify as “young”! After the phone interview, this kind and generous doctor asked if I had any questions for him. I described the weird episodes, and he said, “If you’re ever in Boston, I’d be glad to see you as a patient.”
Off we drove to see Dr. Leung. Turns out I have epilepsy and most likely I’ve been having small seizures for years, maybe decades. (My friends used to tease me in high school about how I’d zone out. I was even diagnosed with a sleep disorder years ago because I’d have these odd, trancelike episodes that left me exhausted.) Having a stroke lowered my brain’s threshold for tolerating these electrical disturbances, hence the new tremors.
Now I’m on anti-seizure medication, and I’ve had only 3 small seizures in 15 days. If I hadn’t had the stroke while in Boston, I wouldn’t have seen Dr. Leung, and I might have gone on battling seizures without medication.
To make a long story longer, I am gratefully on the mend and will soon be bombarding your computer with more picture books that are just right for preschool – grade 3. Putting my entire life on pause while I healed made me realize how passionately I love what I do – writing and sharing great books for kids. Thanks for reading with me!
Because I gave a presentation to awesome librarians this month and I couldn’t resist sharing all the great ideas we came up with, you get a bonus post this month! And because you’re getting a bonus post, I hope you’ll allow me to indulge in a bit of horn-tooting.
My debut picture book, GROUNDHOG’S DILEMMA, illustrated by Matt Faulkner (swoon!) will be published by Charlesbridge this December 1st, and it recently received a good professional review:
“Faulkner’s anthropomorphic animals and vibrant colors recall Uncle Wiggly, and the illustrations are packed with humorous details that repay rereadings. Remenar’s graceful prose and the subtlety of her message, pitched to older preschoolers and early-elementary students, are a good match. A sly and funny take on truth-telling and friendship.” – Kirkus, Oct. 2015
Ok, horn-tooting over.
I spent a morning with a roomful of youth librarians and bunches of new books. We came up with these activities revolving around the key early literacy skills: Talk, Sing, Read, Write, Play. (Look here for lots more good stuff from Every Child Ready to Read.) Many of our activities can be used with a variety of books. I’m including our list of ideas and the books we shared. Enjoy!
* Read Rufus Goes to School by Kim T. Griswell and talk about what you need for school, what you shouldn’t do in school, and favorite books you know how to read.
* Read Groundhog’s Dilemma by Kristen Remenar and talk about your favorite/least favorite parts of winter and spring. Talk about animals that hibernate and those that don’t. Talk about why the characters in the story wanted or didn’t want Groundhog to see his shadow.
* Read Clothesline Clues to Sports People Play by Andy Robert Davies and encourage kids to guess the sport. Discuss unfamiliar terms like foil and quiver.
* Use nonfiction books with photos of bees to go along with Bee Dance by Rick Chrustowski. Bring in a honeycomb and give kids bendy straws so they can act like the bees in the book.
* Read Pepper and Poe by Frann Preston-Gannon and discuss why Pepper feels the way he does.
* Discuss good and bad manners after reading The Entertainer by Emma Dodd.
* Encourage kids to respond to “which would you choose?” while reading Hot Rod Hamster by Cynthia Lord.
* Sing rhyming words, even nonsense ones, after reading Hi! by Ethan Long.
* Sing “Milkshake” after reading Lulu’s Party by Kit Chase.
* Sing the book Old Mikamba Had a Farm by Rachel Isadora.
* Sing “The Days of the Week” song after reading Pepper and Poe by Frann Preston-Gannon, or “If You’re Happy and You Know It”.
* Sing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” after reading Groundhog’s Dilemma by Kristen Remenar.
* Read nonfiction books about groundhogs and Groundhog’s Day along with Groundhog’s Dilemma by Kristen Remenar. (It delights me every time I type it!) Use puppets to help narrate/read the story.
* Use magnetic or felt letters to rearrange and read aloud, after reading Little Bird’s Bad Word by Jacob Grant.
* Kids can decorate the first letter of their name or make pictures with die-cut letters after reading Alphabeasties by Sharon Werner and Sarah Forss.
* Write your own “wumbers” inspired by Wumbers by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld.
* Draw or write about something you cherish after reading Thankful by Eileen Spinelli.
* Trace your shoes and decorate the tracings after reading Whose Shoe? by Eve Bunting.
* Write a letter or draw a picture to convince Groundhog to predict winter or spring after reading Groundhog’s Dilemma by Kristen Remenar. Kids can write and draw about a time when they’ve had to resolve a dilemma. Outside with chalk, or inside on paper, kids can trace their own shadows!
* Create maps of your playground, classroom, school, library, etc. after reading Henry’s Map by David Elliot.
* Paint Q-tip paintings of trees inspired by Fall is Not Easy by Marty Kelley.
* Write your own “word equations” inspired by This Plus That by Amy Krouse Rosenthal.
* Use a string and pin it to a world map to show all the places from Because Amelia Smiled by David Ezra Stein. Compare it to Madlenka and Nothing Ever Happens on My Block.
* Act out Uh Oh! by Shutta Crum.
* Play a version of “Going On a Bear Hunt” after reading In the Canyon by Liz Garton Scanlon.
* Incorporate different dances like The Hokey Pokey and The Twist and act out The Sky Is Falling by Mark Teague. Have a dance party!
* Create hand/body motions and make the sound effects for Niňo Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales. Come up with other characters who might want to wrestle!
* Move like cats and act out the emotions from Pepper and Poe by Frann Preston-Gannon.
* Have a storytime party where kids act out what should and should not happen at a party after reading The Entertainer by Emma Dodd.
* Paint small boxes like houses after reading Vincent Paints His House by Tedd Arnold.
* Rearrange letter tiles to show how one word can become another after reading One Boy by Laura Vaccaro Seeger.
* Act out Groundhog’s Dilemma by Kristen Remenar. (Still fun to type!) Little ones can curl up in a box and pop out for Groundhog’s Day to look for their shadows, or try making shadow animals on a wall.
During the “Moving Beyond the Basics… Reaching for More” conference on Aug. 11 at the Byron Center High School in Michigan, a roomful of teachers and I read through boxes of books. (Thank you, Annemarie Johnson and Kate DiMeo, for inviting me to share informational picture books and to talk about kids’ book publishing.) ((Have I mentioned that my first picture book, GROUNDHOG’S DILEMMA, will come out this December 1 from Charlesbridge?)) After browsing and brainstorming, we generated a list of 27 books with lesson ideas we can use this year in kindergarten through third grade. Feel free to share it!
|Title||Author||Illustrator|| Lesson Ideas
|Alphabeasties and Other Amazing Types||Werner Sharon||Forss, Sarah||alliteration, identifying letters in different fonts – visual learners|
|Aunt Ant Leaves through the Leaves||Coffelt, Nancy||homonyms/homophones|
|Bee Dance||Chrustowski,Rick||vocabulary, informational reading, chronological text structure, debate if it is “narrative” or “informative”|
|The Best of Times||Tang, Greg||Briggs, Harry||multiplication in third grade, rules for each and tables|
|Boy, Were We Wrong About the Weather!||Kudlinkski, Kathleen V.||Serra, Sebastia||compare/contrast what we once thought to what we now think, text features, weather in first grade, landforms in second|
|Families||Rotner, Shelley||Rotner, Shelley||“all about” writing at a simple level = great mentor text|
|Greedy Apostrophe: a cautionary tale||Carr, Jan||Long, Ethan||grammar – ways to use an apostrophe|
|Henry’s Map||Elliot, David||mapping skills lesson, pictures with labels = text feature, mentor tex for writing|
|How To Surprise a Dad||Reagan, Jean||Wildish, Lee||mentor text for “how to” writing that goes beyond basic instruction format, mentor text for incorporating all five senses in details|
|In Mary’s Garden||Kugler, Carson||Kugler, Tina||compare/contrast with “The Most Magnificient Thing”|
|The King Who Rained||Gwynne, Fred||homonyms/homophones/word play, figurative language|
|Lucky and Stu vs. the Mikanikal Man||Van Wright, Cornelius||reading for pleasure! Friendship themes and good “boy” book|
|Math Fables||Tang, Greg||Cahoon, Heather||number sense for youngers|
|Me, Too!||Dunklee, Annika||Smith, Lori Joy||opinion writing: “Reason #1”, friendship story to discuss|
|Messy Jesse||Bowles, Paula||writing prompt, “what I’m good at”, punctuation lesson|
|Nino Wrestles the World||Morales, Yuyi||using context to decode unfamiliar words, appreciation of other languages/cultures|
|One Boy||Seeger, Laura Vaccaro||finding words within words|
|One Word from Sophia||Averbeck, Jim||Ismail, Yasmeen||persuasive writing, writing for an audience, text features like glossary|
|Ostriches Are Not Pets!||Niver, Heather Moore||persuasive writing|
|Over in the Wetlands||Rose, Caroline Starr||Dunlavey, Rob||vocabulary – word choice and author’s craft, context clues, inferring, how do animals prepare for storms compared to how people prepare?|
|Rufus Goes to School||Griswell, Kim T.||Gorbachev, Valeri||use at the beginning of the school year, shows importance of learning how to read, point out persuasive reasons why pigs should (not) go to school|
|Simple Machines||Adler, David A.||Raff, Anna||use as a mentor text for flip books, compare/contrast, nonfiction with illustrations and not photos, text features, easy nonfiction that’s not about animals|
|Speed, Speed, Centipede!||Dahl, Michael||Trover, Zachary||early math counting by tens, shows 10 frames|
|This Plus That: Life’s Little Equations||Rosenthal, Amy Krouse||Corace, Jen||writing with math symbols|
|Water is Water||Paul, Miranda||Chin, Jason||“show, don’t tell”, art tells story as much as text does|
|Wumbers||Rosenthal, Amy Krouse||Lictenheld, Tom||lesson on speech bubbles|
|Zero the Hero||Holub, Joan||Lictenheld, Tom||higher math concepts, friendship, lesson on speech bubbles|
The perfectionist in me was upset to have missed posting last month, so as a reminder to be more patient with myself, I pulled out the very wise, very magnificent book, The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires.
The unnamed girl has an idea for a magnificent thing. She uses all kinds of cool tools like hammers, screwdrivers and wrenches (rock on, tool girl) but she just can’t make in reality the fabulous idea in her head. She works and reworks it, but “(h)er hands feel too BIG to work, and her brain is too full of all the not-right things.” So many kiddos can relate to this feeling, and to the ensuing meltdown. Her assistant (her dog) suggests she take a walk, where the girl gets a break and a bit of perspective. In the end, she’s able to see that a part of her original creation can be reworked into a wholly new, magnificent thing. LOVE!
This is a wonderful book to share at the beginning of next school year. You and your students can discuss the universal feelings of frustration during the creative process, comment on how the girl worked through her angst, and come up with ways you can handle it in your classroom (your Self Smart kids excelling with Key Ideas and Details? Score!) Then, get out recycled stuff like paper towel tubes and fun art stuff like pipe cleaners and challenge your kiddos to build their own most magnificent thing. Kids can write and draw plans before building, and write descriptions of what they’ve made at the end. (What is that, exactly? It’s magnificent!) Assisting others and taking breaks are encouraged as part of the process.
Bringing tools like screwdrivers into the classroom can be tricky, but one successful way to do it is to have a “take apart” center. Ask for donations of broken electronics and small tools, or scour your local thrift shops. It’s great for fine motor skills to unscrew those little screws, and examining the inner workings of an old alarm clock is real-life science!
I have a really exciting reason for why I missed May’s post, and I’m glad the ink is on the contract so I can share it with everyone now: along with my picture book, GROUNDHOG’S DILEMMA, my second book will be published in December, 2015, too! DRAW WITH A VENGEANCE is a grown-up book, and since it comes from my snarky side, I’m using a pseudonym – Helen Wrath. For those of you kid-lit lovers who enjoy a bit of dark humor, I hope you’ll check it out!Read More