Coming From The Back Of Beyond And Taking You By Complete Surprise…!

Happy Monday, Folks!

Ooh!  Startled you, did I?

Sly as a fox!  Silent as a snake!  Stealthy as a panther!

And you didn’t think I could be stealthy! 🙂

Admit it.

You doubted my ability to sneak up and take you by surprise!

But, by George!, I believe I may have pulled it off today!

Because guess what?

It’s Monday and I’m unexpectedly posting.

And the thing I’m unexpectedly posting about is the upcoming, eagerly awaited, highly anticipated and yet still managing to come barreling at you sideways from out of left field announcement of the. . .

The 6th Annual Holiday Contest!!!!


WA-HOOO!!!! 🙂

The Contest:  Write a children’s holiday story (children here defined as approximately age 12 and under) using the basic format/concept of The Twelve Days Of Christmas!  Your story may be poetry or prose, silly or serious or sweet, religious or not, based on Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or whatever you celebrate, but is not to exceed 300 words (I know!  So much freedom after the Halloweensie Contest 🙂 )  (It can be as short as you like (the judges will be grateful 🙂 , you are welcome and encouraged to write shorter, but no more than 300!  Title not included in word count.)  The field is wide open!  Have fun!  The more creative the better!  No illustration notes please. (And yes, if you feel compelled to submit more than one entry you may, just remember you’re competing against yourself!)


Post:  Your entry should be posted on your blog between 12:01 AM EST Thursday December 8 and Monday December 12 at 11:59 PM EST, and your post-specific link should be added to the link list on the official holiday contest post which will go up on my blog on Thursday December 8 and remain up through Thursday December 15 for your reading pleasure (no WYRI or PPBF during that week.)  If you don’t have a blog but would like to enter, please copy and paste your entry into the comments on my December 8th post.  (If anyone has trouble commenting, which unfortunately happens, please email me and I’ll post your entry for you! But please don’t send attachments!  Just copy and paste your story into the email.)  Also, please only post your entry once – either in the comment section of my blog or on the link list.  Also please do NOT send me entries before December 8!


The Judging:  My lovely assistants and I will narrow down the entrants to 10-12 finalists (depending on the number of entries) which will be posted here on Friday December 16 (or, if we’re desperate for a little extra time, Saturday December 17) for you to vote on for a winner.  The vote will be closed on Sunday December 18 at 5 PM EST and the winners will be announced on Monday December 19.  Whoever gets the most votes will be first and so on down to tenth place.  Judging criteria will be kid appeal/kid-friendliness, creativity, quality of story, quality of writing, and originality.


The Prizes!:  Ok, so as usual I’m still working on the prize list and will have to update, but here are some of the prizes that will be offered, and I think we’re going to have some additional awesomeness to add!:

A Picture Book Manuscript Critique and Chat with Sarah (Miller) Rockett of Sleeping Bear Press (ms due January 1st, chat in February) kindly donated by Jodell Sadler and KidLit College

– Enrollment in literary agent Jodell Sadler‘s Pacing Picture Books 2 WOW picture book writing class!


– A Picture Book Manuscript Critique by the fabulous Cori Doerffeld, author/illustrator of Penny Loves Pink, Little Bunny Foo Foo, and many more…!

– A Picture Book Manuscript Critique by the awesome Vivian Kirkfield, author of Show Me How: Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting And Cooking, and the forthcoming picture book from Creston Books, Sweet Dreams, Sarah.

– A Picture Book Manuscript Critique by talented agent Jodell Sadler (or other staff of Kidlit CollegeKidlit College)

– Enrollment in Making Picture Book Magic (my online picture book writing class – in January or a later month to be mutually agreed upon by the winner and me)

 2017 Children’s Writer’s And Illustrator’s Market  and a $25 Amazon Gift Card.

– a pack of Susanna Leonard Hill’s amazing What’s The Story Cards  (scroll about 1/2 way down the page…)

– . . . and more to come . . .!

I can’t thank these authors and other industry professionals enough for their incredible generosity!  Please visit their sites, buy and recommend their books and services to your writer friends and/or friends with kids, write them nice reviews on Amazon, GoodReads etc if you’ve read and liked their books, and show your appreciation to them in any way you can!

And now!  Sharpen those pencils!  Top off those coffee mugs!  Get those derrieres in your chairs!  And start writing those prize-winning entries!!!  You’ve got 2 1/2 – 3 weeks (depending on if you post on the first or last day of the contest 🙂 )

I can’t wait for the festivities to begin! 🙂

Halloweensie Contest 2013 WINNERS!!!


What are you all doing here?

Don’t you know it’s Thursday?

I don’t post on Thursdays.

Go home.

I’ll see you tomorrow for Perfect Picture Books.


You’re here for a reason?

Well, I’ll be darned!

You must have all come over to hear about my hangnail!

Aren’t you just the sweetest to be so concerned!

Let me tell you, it’s a doozy.  It started on Monday when I was washing the dishes.  It was just that little tiny painful beginning, you know?  And I noticed it when I went to dry my hands and that painful little poinky end got caught on the dish towel and I was like, “Oh, man!  Not a hangnail!”….

Wait a minute.

You’re all managing to look very patient.

But I heard yawning…

…and I see some eye-rolling in the back over there….

You didn’t really come over to hear about my hangnail, DID you!

I KNEW it!

So why are you here on a Thursday?

Go home, I tell you!

Jeez Louise!  You’d think I had nothing better to do than to entertain you lot with the


Heeheehee!  I’m sorry!  I just can’t help myself.  Heeheehee.  I don’t even HAVE a hangnail!  Heeheeheeheehee!

Okay, really.  I’m sorry for tormenting you with my juvenile behavior.  Let’s start with a few surprises, shall we?

As you are all aware by now, we had a record turnout for the Halloweensie Contest – 79 entries!

I was thrilled beyond measure to see so many wonderful stories!

But with large entry numbers come hard choices.  My assistant judges and I worked hard to winnow the total down to a manageable number of finalists that we felt were truly all-around deserving of that distinction, and those were the ones we presented to you on Monday for your vote.

There were, however, many other entries that were outstanding in certain areas even though they might not have qualified all-around for one reason or another.

So my assistant judges and I would like to award recognition and a small prize to the following authors for the following merits:

1.  For Honorable Mention In The Competition As A Whole:
     Vivian Kirkfield for Halloween Dance Party Countdown
     Carrie Finison for Callie’s Prize-Winning Potion
     Lauri Meyers for White Cat’s Halloween
     Suzy Levinson for Black Cat Goes To Spooky School

2.  For Best Use of Poetic Language:
     Kathy Moncrief for Halloween Night!
     Heather Greene for Untitled (Hallowed Eve)
     Julie Rowan-Zoch for Halloween Comes To The Farm
     Bradin Farnworth for The Witches’ Song
     Kimberley Moran for Black Glass Cat

3. For Spookiest Entry: (not already in the finals)
     Teresa M.I. Schaefer for Grim Concoction
     Laura Shovan for The Old Hotel
     Jackie Wellington for A Disappearing Act
     Deirdre Sheridan Englehart for The Spookiest Night!

4.  For Funniest Entry: (not already in the finals)
     Mike Allegra for Spooky Piggy
     Janet Johnson for Brewster’s Trick
     Sheila Renfro for Helga’s Black Cat Search

5.  For Sweetest/Cutest Entry: (not already in the finals)
     Deb for Boo: The Scaredy Halloweenie Cat

6.  For Great Kid Appeal: (not already in the finals)
     Michelle Barnes for The Witching Hour
     Meg Miller for The Halloween CAW Ball
     Kirsten Bock for Scare D-Cat

7.  For Most Original Format:
     Nancy Hatch for Cackle… The Spooky Black Cat – in rap! 🙂

8.  For Best All-Around Entry By A Newcomer To The Blog: (not already in the finals)
     Juliana Lee for Sleepless Hallow’s Eve
     Doris K. Stone for The Fat Black Cat Sat

9.  For Favorite Character:
     Stacy Couch for her Ninja Ballerina in Olivia vs. The Witch 🙂

Congratulations to all of you for fantastic elements of your stories!  You may all email me at susanna[at]susannahill[dot]com to collect your prize, which is your choice of one of the following: (the titles are all links so you can go see what they’re about)

For Kindle:
The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Expression by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi , OR

The Postitive Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Attributes by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi, OR

The Negative Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Flaws by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi, OR

In paperback:
Show & Tell In A Nutshell: Demonstrated Transitions From Telling To Showing by Jessica Bell

And now…

…the moment you’ve all been waiting for…

…a picture of my hangnail!

… THE WINNERS OF THE 2013 HALLOWEENSIE CONTEST ACCORDING TO THE POPULAR VOTE!!! (which did not have the consideration to work out very neatly as you will see…)

In First Place, winner of a picture book manuscript critique from Corey Rosen Schwartz (celebrated author of The Three Ninja Pigs and other wonderful picture books) AND a copy of Linda Ashman’s brand new Nuts & Bolts Guide To Writing Picture Books


Nata Romeo
for Drusella, The Black Spooky Cat

Congratulations, Nata!!!

In Second Place, winner of a picture book manuscript critique AND a query letter critique from Heather Ayris Burnell, author of Bedtime Monster,

Marcie Rinka Wessels
for Miss Sadie

Congratulations, Marcie!!!

In Third Place, we have a tie between

Eric Weibel          and          Margaret Greenias
      for The Dare                  for One Ghostly Halloween

One of them will win the signed copies of Halloween Hustle by Charlotte Gunnufson, The Monster Who Lost His Mean by Tiffany Haber, and Marathon Mouse by Amy Dixon, which was the original 3rd prize.  The other will win The Writer’s Workout: 366 Tips, Task andTechniques From Your Writing Coach by Christina Katz AND Rip The Page: Adventures In Creative Writing by Karen Benke – they will have to fight amongst themselves and/or come up with a way to split and share the spoils 🙂

Congratulations, Erik and Margaret!!!

In Fifth Place, we have another tie! between

Laura Renauld          and          Cheryl Secomb
for Foe or Friend?                     for On Halloween

Since I didn’t previously announce prizes past 3rd, I’m going to keep this tie fair by awarding both Laura and Cheryl a $20 Amazon Gift Certificate – that way they won’t have to fight like Erik and Margaret 🙂

Congratulations, Laura and Cheryl!!!

All the winners should email me at susanna[at]susannahill[dot]com with the subject heading Prize Winner so we can work out details for you to receive your prizes!  Finalists who did not finish in the top 6 (Joanna, Nancy, Katie, Donna and Buffy) may also contact me for their choice of the Kindle or paperback prizes listed above.

Congratulations again to all our winners – it was a stiff competition!! – and congratulations to EVERYONE who wrote and entered a story in the contest.  You all deserve a huge round of applause, a confetti parade, and a large amount of chocolate cake 🙂

Thank you to everyone who helped make this contest SO MUCH FUN, whether by writing an entry, reading people’s stories, leaving comments for the authors, and/or voting in the finals.  It’s because of all of you that this contest was such a success, so many, many thanks from the bottom of my heart!

And before we go, I will give you all advance warning so you can start planning a little time into your December schedule…

The 3rd Annual Holiday Writing Contest will be coming up sometime in the neighborhood of December 11-18.  I’m running it a little bit earlier this year so we can all fully enjoy it and still have time for last minute holiday things.  And to whet your appetites and get your thinking caps on, I will tell you that first prize is something AWESOME!  A picture book manuscript read and critique by an actual editor at an actual highly regarded publishing house!!!  But that is all I’m saying for now 🙂  You will just have to stay tuned for more details as the Holiday Contest approaches.  And I will do my best to post the rules well in advance so you all have time to work on your stories!

Have a terrific Thursday everyone, and thanks again for making the Halloweensie Contest such a wonderful time for all! 🙂

Holiday Contest Finalists! – Vote For Your Favorite!

The 2nd Annual Holiday Contest!!!

I don’t know about you, but I am completely floored by a) how many entries we got for the Holiday Contest (40!!) and b) how good they all were!!!

What a job it’s been trying to winnow down 40 fantastic entries to a manageable number of finalists!  It’s actually a great exercise in understanding what editors must go through.  I could find at least something to like about every entry – it was a question of weighing and balancing strong points and weaker points and overall impression – and it gives me an appreciation for the subjectivity aspect of editorial choosing – it’s entirely possible that some of the finalists my assistant judge and I settled on are not the same ones you would have chosen.

All of this to say that everyone really did a wonderful job.  It was a pleasure to read every entry, and even if you didn’t make the list of finalists, please know that our decision was agonizing and there were many great things about every single story – we really wrestled with choosing the finalists and went back and forth for a LONG time! – so you should feel good about your effort no matter what!  And my assistant judge and I, as well as ALL the readers (there were over 1200 views of the Holiday Contest post alone, not to mention how many visits you all got on your individual posts) got loads of enjoyment and entertainment out of your wonderful stories, so thank you all so very much for participating and sharing your creativity with us all!

In the final analysis, though, the finalists were chosen on the basis of 1) kid appeal (it is a children’s story after all!) 2) originality/creativity 3) writing quality and story quality, and 4) if you chose to write in rhyme we were pretty strict about how well you did it since there was a prose option (although of the 40 entries, only 15 were in prose.)

Please review the finalists’ entries below and then vote for the one you think should win!  You have until midnight Christmas Eve to vote (December 24 11:59 PM EST.)  There are 10 finalists (I know!  I’m sorry!  But I did get it down to 25% of the entries, and a lot of you will have read them all already and there will be 5 prizes given!) and they’re all fantastic, so we’re going to need all the votes we can get! 🙂  Oh, and one more thing – if you make it all the way to the bottom, the girls and I have a special Holiday message for you and I really don’t think you’ll want to miss it 🙂

#1 Dashing Through The School

Dashing through the school,
The bell’s about to ring,
I can’t be late again,
And disappoint Miss Sing.
I’ve got the leading role,
The play’s about to start,
Through the doors and up on stage,
I’m born to play this part!

There’s the bell, there’s the bell,
I’m in the nick of time,
The auditorium is packed,
And the curtains start to climb.
“Jingle bells, jingle bells,”
The chorus sings in tune,
My tummy’s feeling funny,
‘Cause I know it’s my turn soon.

I take a big deep breath,
Step forward on the stage,
Look out at the crowd,
Is that my Aunty Paige?
The lights shine in my face,
This costume’s far too hot,
The words catch in my throat,
An actor, I am not.

Jingle bells, jingle bells,
They’re ringing in my head,
At practice I was doing fine,
But now I’m filled with dread!
I’m not well, I’m not well,
I’m really feeling ill,
I wonder if it’s not too late,
To swap my part with Bill.

I take another breath,
Deliver my first line,
The butterflies are gone,
Suddenly, I’m fine.
When the play is done,
Applause rings ‘round the hall,
I take my final bow,
I’m an actor after all!

I did well, I did well,
My heart is beating fast,
I never thought I’d feel this way,
The day that I was cast.
“Jingle bells, jingle bells,”
I’ll sing it loud and clear,
I wonder if they’ll let me play,
This part again next year.

#2 Christmas Bash-A-Roo

Tromping through the pines
In their woolen socks with toes,
Yetis march in lines
Grunting Ho, Ho, Ho’s!
They meet their Sasquatch friends,
And Bigfoot buddies too.
The time is here to all attend
The Christmas Bash-A-Roo!
Bigfoot tap, Yeti rap,
Sasquatch line dance too—
Gathered in the forest
For their Christmas Bash-A-Roo!
High up in the sky
A flash caused them to pause.
“Could this be the guy?
Could this be Santa Claus?
We’ve heard the tales of old.
We’ve heard the human lore,
But never has he joined our fold
At Christmas time before.”
Bigfoot tap, Yeti rap,
Sasquatch line dance too—
Gathered in the forest
For their Christmas Bash-A-Roo!
They heard a Ho! Ho! Ho!
And saw a red-nosed gleam.
Coming through the snow
Was Santa and his team.
“I think we can agree—
Though sightings have been few
It can be reality—
Yes, legends can be true”.
Bigfoot tap, Yeti rap
Sasquatch line dance too—
Gathered in the forest
For their Christmas Bash-A-Roo!
Santa flashed a grin
And said, “Hey guys, let’s bop.”
The reindeer joined right in
And did the Reindeer Hop.
He handed out sweet treats
To each and every beast.
Then said, “Let’s dance a few more beats
Before we fly on east.”
Black-boot tap, Santa rap
Reindeer line dance too.
What a holly-jolly,
Hairy Christmas Bash-A-Roo!
Santa waved goodbye
And headed to his sleigh.
He winked a twinkling eye
As he flew away.
Oh, what a joyful night—
A Santa Claus debut.
Oh how merry! Oh how bright!
The Christmas Bash-A-Roo!
Bigfoot tap, Yeti rap
Sasquatch line dance too—
Gathered in the forest
For their Christmas Bash-A-Roo!
Tromping through the pines
In worn out socks with toes
Yetis march in lines
Grunting Ho, Ho, Ho’s!
They wave at Sasquatch friends
And Bigfoot buddies too.
And say, “We’ll see you all again
At next year’s Bash-A-Roo.

#3 Garbage Truck, Garbage Truck

Trashing through the snow, in a noisy garbage truck,

The bins are hard to empty, with boxes getting stuck.

Crumpled wrapping paper, chunks of Styrofoam,

Packing peanuts everywhere are blown from home to home.

    Oh, garbage truck!  Garbage truck! After Christmas trash.

     Load it in the garbage truck and watch it mash and smash.

    Garbage truck!  Garbage truck! Haul it all away.

    What looked so festive yesterday is now J-U-N-K.

Dried-up wreaths with bows, Lights that didn’t light,

Toys already broken, clothes that got too tight.

The garbage man is tired.  He’s handled lots of stuff.

He wishes folks could see that they already have enough.

          Oh, garbage truck!  Garbage truck! After Christmas trash.

          Load it in the garbage truck and watch it mash and smash.

          Garbage truck!  Garbage truck! Haul it all away.

          What looked so festive yesterday is now J-U-N-K.

The garbage man goes home, and hugs his kids and wife.

They eat and read together, a calm, uncluttered life.

He’s happy with his job, but wishes people knew

That things don’t bring you happiness, but times together do.

        Oh, garbage truck!  Garbage truck! After Christmas trash.

          Load it in the garbage truck and watch it mash and smash.

          Garbage truck!  Garbage truck! Watch it blend and mix.

          So much turns to garbage on December 26.

#4 The Tree

Sliding through the snow
in Granddad’s beat-up truck,
Looking for a tree.
  Not having any luck.

Evergreens galore.
The Spruce and Firs abound
Nothing fits our search –
too dense, too big, too round.

Finally I spy
the perfect Christmas tree.
Granddad swings his axe,
“Ready. One, two, three!”

“Granddad, stop!” I shout,
“I see a mouse nose there.
Don’t you see that nest?
And isn’t that a hare?”

Thoughts swirl round my head.
I tell Granddad my plan.
He wags his graying beard,
then shakes my mittened hand.
Singing as we drive,
we race back to the farm.
I raid the kitchen store,
while Granddad raids the barn.

Night begins to fall.
We truck back through the snow –
find our lonely tree,
lit up in starry glow.

Stringing beans and hay,
instead of paper chains.
Nuts and seeds in fat,
we cover all in grains.

Then we sit and wait.
and slowly they appear.
The bestest gift and tree
from any Christmas year.

#5 Humphrey The Humbug

Dropping through the mail slot in a BAH-Mobile, came Humphrey. Humphrey was no ordinary bug. He was a Humbug. And being a Humbug, Humphrey had to follow one simple rule: ‘Make Christmas cheer disappear.’
It was Christmas Eve. Humphrey’s well-trained eye zeroed in on the slightly tilting Christmas tree. “All I have to do is give that tree a push, knock over the glitter, and let the cookies burn and the Holly Household’s Christmas cheer will soon melt into the Grinchy grumps,” Humphrey said to himself.
But I can’t wreck another Christmas, thought Humphrey. The truth was, Humphrey was a half-hearted Humbug. He secretly liked everything about Christmas: the tree, the lights, and especially the music.
He poked his head out of his BAH-Mobile.  The coast was clear. First, he made his way to the tree but, instead of giving it a push, he made it stand taller, tightening the bolts in the stand.  Next, he took the jar of glitter and tightly screwed on the lid. Finally, he set the kitchen timer so the Holly’s would take the cookies out of the oven. 
Humphrey settled down inside his BAH-Mobile, happy for the first time. I spread Christmas cheer this year, he thought, as he drifted off to sleep.
Humphrey awoke to a laugh. “Ho, Ho, Ho,” chuckled Santa. “I’ve caught a Humbug!”  He gently placed Humphrey on his knee.
“I know I’m on the Naughty List, Santa, but let me explain,” started Humphrey.  Santa held up his hand.
“You are mistaken, Humphrey.  You are on the Nice List this year.”
“I am?”
“You, my friend, have had what is called a ‘Change-of-Heart.’
“Yes!” said Humphrey. “I don’t feel like a Humbug anymore.”
“Did you know,” asked Santa, “that Humbugs are very musical?”
“I do like to hum,” said Humphrey.
Santa handed Humphrey a small package. “My first present!” he shouted. Tearing it open, Humphrey found a book of Christmas carols. “Oh, thank you!” he beamed.
Now, at Christmastime, Humphrey, the humming bug, follows his own rule: “Hum carols far and near to make Christmas cheer appear!”  

#6 That’s Not Santa!

Walking through the mall,
In my brand new Christmas Shoes,
Look at that kid bawl,
I have got the blues!
My mom smiles at me,
She wants this photo,
Can’t anybody see,
His beard is fake,
His eyebrows snake,
His mustache is dark brown,
I feel bad for the lad,
That Santa just put down!
He has a belt,
It’s made of felt,
That just makes me pause,
His suit’s off-red, like I said,
(Second Verse)
I don’t have a choice,
Four more kids to go,
I hear Santa’s voice,
He says “Hoo Ha Ho”?
The girl on Santa’s knee,
Looks as scared as she can be,
The camera makes a flash,
The girl makes a dash!
His beard is fake,
His eyebrows snake,
His boots are made of plastic,
I’m ahead and my mom said,
“This will be fantastic”!
He has no belly,
That shakes like jelly,
I am feeling sick,
On his lap is when I yap,

#7 Jingle Sheep

Tiptoeing through the fog
On teeny tiny feet,
Six hundred wooly sheep
Were sneaking down the street.
Poor Santa had the flu.
His temperature was high.
His doctor told him, “Stay in bed
And stay out of the sky.”
Wooly sheep, sneaky sheep
Come to Santa’s aid
Wearing beards and Santa hats
And antlers that they made.
Wooly sheep, sneaky sheep
Glad to help St. Nick
Spreading joy and happiness
With a festive, merry kick.
The sheep tried very hard
To visit every child.
They tried to keep it quiet
But soon got very wild.
The children did not dream
Of sugarplums and toys.
They peeked out of their bedroom doors
To wonder at the noise.
Wooly sheep, sneaky sheep
Come to Santa’s aid
Wearing beards and Santa hats
And antlers that they made
Wooly sheep, sneaky sheep
Glad to help St. Nick
Spreading joy and happiness
With a festive, merry kick.
At first the children stared
And some began to cry.
They then began to giggle
And not be quite so shy.
The sheep shared all their hats
And danced around the tree.
The children shared their gingerbread
With shouts of happy glee.
Wooly sheep, sneaky sheep
Come to Santa’s aid
Wearing beards and Santa hats
And antlers that they made
Wooly sheep, sneaky sheep
Glad to help St. Nick
Spreading joy and happiness
With a festive, merry kick.
The sun began to rise.
The party had been grand.
The gifts had been delivered,
Though not like Santa planned.
He thanked them just the same,
The dear sweet, sneaky sheep.
He asked them what they wanted.
They asked for sixty jeeps.
Wooly sheep, sneaky sheep
Come to Santa’s aid
Wearing beards and Santa hats
And antlers that they made
Wooly sheep, sneaky sheep
Glad to help St. Nick
Spreading joy and happiness
With a festive, merry kick.

#8 New Skates Please, Santa!

Wobbling on the ice
In my sister’s worn-out skates,
I might as well be wearing
Great big wooden crates!
The blades are really dull,
They’re too big for my feet,
and when I try to glide along
I end up on my seat!
Scrape, scrape, scrape,
Skid, skid, skid,
I do a crazy dance,
I can never learn to skate
While sitting on my pants!
Thump, thump, splat,
Ow, ow, drat,
Falling’s not much fun,
I’d really rather glide and twirl
And whirl like everyone.
My friends all have new skates
They glide around with ease
While I just watch them swish right by
Me, fallen on my knees.
It’s almost Christmas Eve,
I’ve wished upon a star,
I hope that Santa hears my plea
And brings skates from afar.
Scrape, scrape, scrape,
Skid, skid, skid,
I do a crazy dance,
I can never learn to skate
While sitting on my pants!
Thump, thump, splat,
Ow, ow, drat,
Falling’s not much fun,
I’d really rather glide and twirl
And whirl like everyone.
The presents are unwrapped,
No shiny skates in sight,
Just sweaters, hats, and oranges –
but what about tonight?
My sis hands me a box
and much to my surprise
Bright shiny skates, the kind I wished,
And look! They’re just my size!
Swish, swish, swish,
Zip, zip, zoom,
My skates are really fast,
I can whirl and twirl all day
And never be outclassed.
Swoosh, swoosh, swoosh,
Jump, twirl, spin,
Across the ice I glide,
This is better than I dreamed,
I’ll never go inside!

#9 How The Grinch Spends Christmas

Dashing through the snow
In Santa’s stolen sleigh
Over Santa’s toe
Laughing all the way. MUA-HA-HA!
Flying snowballs sting
I’m not at all contrite
How fun it is to toss and fling
The gifts into the night.

Oh, bah humbug, Christmas, ugh!
Mischief saves the day
Trouble making – Reindeer MUSH!
In Santa’s stolen sleigh
Bah humbug, Christmas, ugh!
Mischief saves the day
Trouble making – Reindeer MUSH!
In Santa’s stolen sleigh

This morning when I woke
I thought, “The fun begins,”
I’ll lick the cookies clean
Return them to their tins
Pluck festive door wreathes bare
Chop down Christmas trees
Cram stockings — not the kind you wear —
With coal lumps to the knees

Oh, bah humbug, Christmas, ugh!
Mischief saves the day
Shelf Elf shaking, snow globe breaking
Reindeer led astray
Bah humbug, Christmas, ugh!
Mischief saves the day
Snowman baking, present taking
In the mall Santa’s toupee.

Whooshing far and near
Dropping water bombs away
Then, Santa calls his deer
And rats! They do obey
He hums a little tune
Shakes his head so slight
Nails me with the last balloon
And flies into the night.

Oh, bah humbug, Christmas, ugh!
Santa made my day
I think I saw him gloating
As he rode his sleigh away
Bah humbug, Christmas, ugh!
Mean is in my genes
I can’t wait for him to find

I fed his reindeer beans. 

#10 Dashing Through The Snow

“Dashing through the snow in a one horse open sleigh…” The song floated from the kitchen radio. Holly heard her neighbor, Mrs. Frost, humming along.
Holly stared out the window at the snowless neighborhood and sighed. Would she ever have a white Christmas? She picked up the snow globe from the table and shook it. Tiny white flakes swirled about the miniature horse pulling a sleigh with two riders.
Mrs. Frost poked her head into the living room and smiled. “The first batch of cookies is almost done. Once they’re cool, you can help me ice them, okay?”
Holly grinned. “Sure!”
Mrs. Frost was Holly’s favorite grown up…besides her mom and dad, of course. There was something kind of magic about her, especially at Christmas. Her house glowed with red and green lights and holiday decorations. She even had a Christmas name. Like Holly.
Holly shook the snow globe again and set it on the window sill. She watched the tiny flakes spiraling inside. The song continued to play. “Dashing through the snow…” Her eyelids drooped. “I wish we had snow,” she whispered.
Suddenly, wind whipped through her hair, and she squinted as wet flakes splattered her face. “What?” She gasped in the chilly air. “Where am I?”
“Dashing through the snow, of course!” Mrs. Frost sat beside her, chuckling. She held the reins to a horse covered in white. Its neigh echoed like laughter.
Holly glanced down. Tiny houses flickered with Christmas lights far below. “We’re flying!” she yelled.
Snow flurries danced around them. “We’re dashing!” Mrs. Frost snapped the reins.
“It’s time,” she said.
Someone gently shook Holly’s shoulder. She opened her eyes to see Mrs. Frost standing beside her. “It’s time to ice the cookies.”
Holly blinked. A dream? She shivered. But it felt so real.
“Oh, look!” said Mrs. Frost.
Holly peered out the window. “It’s snowing!” Fluffy white flakes tumbled down.
She turned to Mrs. Frost and spotted something sparkling in her hair. Could it be?
Mrs. Frost’s eyes twinkled.
Holly was sure she saw a snowflake…before it melted away.

I told you it was going to be tough!  Ready, set, VOTE!

And my assistant judge and I felt we really must give Honorable Mention to Julie for Splash! Crash! Dash! – sibling Christmas vacation, very well written!, Renee for Holidaze – quite possibly the cleverest entry and amazingly well done, Carrie for Christmas In Lights which had a wonderful message about helping neighbors, Maria for Elmer The Christmas Sprite – a lovely, original, quiet story, and Linda for In A Daddy Open Buggy – excellent, excellent small child POV!  Oh, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Jill whose story I Believe brought tears to my eyes with its wonderful ending, and Delores’s A Christmas Memory with it’s evocative writing and lovely nostalgic feel…  And now I’m going to stop before I’ve got the entire list up here 🙂

Have fun voting everyone!  And here’s a little holiday message from me and the girls 🙂

P.S.  I wasn’t going to post on Monday… and I still might not… but there may be a special surprise post going up that day if I can get it written and organized and if the stars are properly aligned… 🙂  If I can’t pull it off, then I’ll see you on Wednesday the 26th with the winners.  Happy Holidays Everyone! 🙂

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Rocking Horse Christmas

Hurray!  It’s Perfect Picture Book Friday!

Since I didn’t post a holiday book last week, and next week we’re doing our tribute to Universal Children’s Day, this may be my only holiday title for the year.  It’s a very special one.  I hope you like it 🙂
Rocking Horse Christmas
Written By: Mary Pope Osborne
Illustrated By: Ned Bittinger
Scholastic Press, 1997, Fiction
Suitable For: ages 3-8
Themes/Topics: beloved toy, Christmas, love, tradition
Opening: “The boy found the rocking horse under the tree.  He pushed it softly and made it rock.  “I’ll call you Shadow,” he said.  Then he climbed on Shadow’s back and they took off.
Brief Synopsis: One Christmas, a boy found a rocking horse under the tree.  He named him Shadow, and together they had many wonderful adventures.  But the boy grew up, and Shadow was carried to the attic and forgotten.  From the attic window Shadow watched and waited for his boy…
Links To Resources: HERE are some images you can print out, color, and cut out to make ornaments; have kids draw a picture of their favorite toy, or write a letter to their favorite toy telling why they love it and what makes it so special.  Discuss: do they think they’ll ever outgrow the toy? forget it? why or why not?
Why I Like This Book: This is a story that embodies the spirit of Christmas.  It’s a story about love, a little bit reminiscent of The Velveteen Rabbit, about that special bond between a child and a toy that feels so real in childhood but grows vulnerable with maturity.  On that first Christmas, the boy is delighted with his horse.  He makes him a little stall beside his bed and feeds him hay, and for years they lasso outlaws, joust with knights, go on safari, and race in the Kentucky Derby.  “Every night, before sleep, the boy touched Shadow’s mane.  ‘Ride you tomorrow,’ he’d whisper.”  Doesn’t everyone remember the toys they had that felt like real friends?  But the boy grows up, and Shadow is put away in the attic.  “Year after year, the rocking horse stared out the window, looking for his boy.”  One Christmas Eve a blizzard knocks out the window.  Shadow is covered in snow and his spirit begins to fade… until he’s discovered by a boy.  “What is it, Dad?”  The man wipes the snow from Shadow’s head.  Shadow looks into his eyes and recognizes him at once.  “He’s my oldest friend in the world,” the man said.  I cannot get past this part without tearing up.  If you can, you’re made of sterner stuff than I 🙂  And so Shadow is brought downstairs to delight a new generation, not forgotten any longer.
For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.
A quick reminder for anyone who might have missed the announcement: At the suggestion of Pat at Children’s Books Heal and Vivian at Positive Parental Participation, on Friday December 14, which is the anniversary of the date in 1954 that the UN General Assembly recommended there should be a Universal Children’s Day, we are going to be doing our part to raise awareness of the plight of children around the globe and to promote the welfare of children in the world by posting books which focus on multicultural/multiracial issues, human rights, and/or children who have helped to change the world in some way.  For example, Pat plans to post the picture book version of The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind.  Beatrice’s Goat and Wangari’s Trees Of Peace are other examples of books in this category (although they’re already on our list.)  Please join us if you’d like to!  But of course, if you’ve already got a book in mind and would like to post a regular PPB that is fine too – all picture books are for children 🙂

Also, due to the Holiday Contest (please click HERE for details so you can start writing your story :)) and the fact that we will all no doubt be insanely busy with the holidays, there will be no PPBF on Friday December 21 – instead the finalists for the Holiday Contest will be posted that day for you to vote on.

Before we go, I just want to thank Vivian at Positive Parental Participation for giving me the positive Parental Participation Blog Award.

This award means a great deal to me because it recognizes bloggers who “encourage children to love books and reading, believe young children need to play in order to learn, and support positive parental participation” and I am honored that she feels I fit in this category.  Thank you so much, Vivian!  Vivian’s blog, and her book Show Me How, are wonderful resources for parents, and I encourage anyone who isn’t familiar with her to go see all she has to offer!

I can’t wait to see what fabulous books everyone posts this week!  PPBF bloggers, please put your post-specific link below because ready or not, here we come 🙂

Have a great weekend everybody! 🙂

Monday Short And Sweet AND The 2nd Annual Holiday Contest!!!

I hope you’re ready because boy are we going to have fun today!

badge created by the uber-talented Loni Edwards

First off, we’ll be having birthday cake because we have a birthday in our family today 🙂  Happy Birthday, Justin!  Cake anyone?

Yum!  Now that we’re all supplied with a nutritious breakfast (why do you think I put strawberries on?), we’ll have a Short & Sweet to get our writerly gears turning for a week of exceptional productivity.

For today’s Short & Sweet we’re going super simple:

There’s been some kind of holiday mishap, mix-up, miscommunication, mistake, or potential disaster.  Write the newspaper headline (and a couple lines of the article if you like)!

(Admit it.  You didn’t think I could come up with anything that simple!  Well, I’m giving you a break after my very long-winded post on Friday 🙂  Also, my mouth is full of cake :))

Here are a couple examples 🙂

Santa’s Letters All Delivered To South Pole Penguins!  Postal service blames malfunctioning GPS.  The penguins only comment was, “Hrowrrk, Hrowrrk!”

Viking Delegation Arrives At Rockefeller Center.  “We thought you asked for a Norway Truce!” exclaims Harald V whose senior advisor is looking into new hearing aids for the king.

Monopoly Dispute May Ground Sleigh!  “I called first dibs on the shoe!” Dasher yelled as he was hauled off to time out.  Dancer was quoted as saying, “You poopy head!” which earned him a stint in time out as well.  A spokesman for the Clauses said, “This is trouble.  The sleigh won’t fly with only 6 reindeer!”

Post your headline (and as much article as you like :)) in the comments and hopefully yours or someone else’s will give you a great idea for a story!

And finally!!  The moment you’ve all been waiting for!!  Announcing….

The 2nd Annual Holiday Contest!!!
The Contest:  Write a children’s holiday story beginning with any version of “Dashing through the snow in a one horse open sleigh.”  You may use that actual opening, or you may change it to any similar version “[Verb of your choice]ing through the [any substance you choose] in a [conveyance of any kind].”  For example, “Dashing through the sand in a two-wheeled donkey cart” or “Sloshing through the swamp in a green and white canoe” or “Flying through the air in a striped hot air balloon…”  You get the idea, I’m sure 🙂  But “Dashing through the snow in a one horse open sleigh” is completely acceptable too – whatever works for you 🙂  Your story may be poetry or prose, silly or serious or sweet,  religious or not, based on Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or whatever you celebrate, but is not to exceed 350 words (because I have to read them all in the week before Christmas! :))
Post:  Your entry should be posted on your blog between Saturday December 15 and Wednesday December 19 at 11:59 PM EST (no WYRI that day), and your post-specific link should be added to the link list on the official holiday contest post which will go up on my blog on Saturday December 15 and remain up through Wednesday December 19 (no new post on Monday December 17).  If you don’t have a blog but would like to enter, please copy and paste your entry into the comments on my December 15th post.  (If anyone has trouble commenting, which unfortunately happens, please email me and I’ll post your entry for you!)
The Judge:  My lovely assistant and I will narrow down the entrants to seven (or possibly a couple more :)) finalists which will be posted here on Friday December 21 (no PPBF that day) for you to vote on for a winner.  The vote will be closed on Christmas Eve and the winner(s) will be announced on Wednesday December 26 (no WYRI that day).  Whoever gets the most votes will be first and so on down to fifth place.
The Prizes!:  When I said the prizes were fantastic, I wasn’t kidding.  In the spirit of the holidays, winners will be named for 1st – 5th place, and will each receive a picture book manuscript critique AND a $20 Amazon gift card to spend on the reading material of your choice AND the incredible fame of being able to say you won (or placed in) the Pretty Much World Famous 2nd Annual Holiday Contest!  The critiques have been generously donated by the following fabulous children’s authors (in alphabetical order by first name :)):
Alison Hertz: author and illustrator of FLAP! (Magic Dreams Publishing, November 2012)
Amy Dixon: author of MARATHON MOUSE (Sky Pony Press, October 2012)
Corey Rosen Schwartz: author of Hop! Plop! (Walker Children’s Books, April 2006), THE THREE NINJA PIGS (Putnam Juvenile, September 2012), and the forthcoming GOLDIROCKS AND THE THREE BEARS and NINJA RED (both coming from Putnam).  Corey also writes the Meter Maids blog with Tiffany (below).
Sarah Frances Hardy: author and illustrator of PUZZLED BY PINK (Viking Juvenile, April 2012)
Tiffany Strelitz Haber: author of THE MONSTER WHO LOST HIS MEAN (Henry Holt, July 2012).  Tiffany also writes the Meter Maids blog with Corey (above).

Wow!  Would one of those critiques be an awesome prize to win or what?!  And $20 to spend on a book you wanted but didn’t get for the holidays?  Plus bragging rights?  So put on your thinking caps!  Sharpen your pencils!  Fire up your imagination!  And start writing those holiday stories 🙂  You’ve got 2 whole weeks! 🙂

Just to be clear, in case it wasn’t above, in the interest of leaving time and space for the contest and giving y’all time for the busy-ness of the holidays and all the things I know you have going on in your homes and lives at this time of year, my usual posting schedule will be in a complete shambles between Dec. 15 and 26.  I will have a special post on Saturday December 15 (not a usual posting day for me) to kick off the contest, there will be no new post on Monday Dec. 17 (so we can keep posting and reading each other’s stories), no WYRI on Wednesday Dec. 19 (so we can finish posting and reading each other’s stories), no PPBF on Friday Dec. 21 (so I can post the finalists and you can vote), no new post on Christmas Eve (because it’s Christmas Eve :)) and no WYRI on December 26 (so I can post the winners!)  Hopefully that will free you up to write, read all the wonderful entries I sincerely hope we’re going to get, because with 5 such fabulous prizes to give away it would be very sad if we only got 3 entries :(, vote, and still have time for your families 🙂  I think we got somewhere between 30 and 35 entries last year – I hope we can meet or exceed that this year so our critique donors will feel loved and appreciated 🙂

I can’t wait to read your Short & Sweet headlines :), and then I guess I’d better get to work on my sample entry for the holiday contest since I have absolutely no idea what I’m going to write! 🙂

Happy Monday, Everyone!  And please spread the word of the Holiday Contest to anyone you think might be interested.  It’s a chance for some writing fun, lots of blog visits, and maybe even a prize 🙂

Perfect Picture Book Friday – First Snow (And Some Other Odds And Ends!)

Well, you guys are in for it today!

After several brief (for me) posts in a row, I’ve used up my ability to be short-winded and I have so much to tell you today I can’t even believe it.  I’ll try to be succinct 🙂

First, my Perfect Picture Book, because I like that to be at the top on Friday.

First Snow
Written & Illustrated By: Kim Lewis
Candlewick Press, 1993, Fiction
Suitable For: ages 4-8

Themes/Topics: kindness, helping others, friends, pets, farm life, beloved toy, loss

Opening: “Wake up, Sara,” whispered Mommy.  “Daddy’s not very well today.  I’m going to feed the sheep on the hill.  Would you and Teddy like to come?

Brief Synopsis: To help Daddy, Mommy and Sara and Sara’s bear, Teddy, go up the hill to feed the sheep.  It’s a long climb, and while they’re up there, the first snow of the year begins to fall.  Hurrying to get home before they can’t find their way, no one notices that Sara’s beloved Teddy has been left behind.

Links To Resources: The Working Sheep Dog (video), Sheep Herding Demonstration (video), Fun Sheep Facts For Kids, Facts About Border Collies Talk about what you could do for someone that would be nice or help them in some way.

Why I Like This Book:  I love that whole story takes place because Sara and her mom are trying to do something nice for Daddy.  As they hike, you can feel the steepness of the hill, the cold air, the first tentative snowflakes followed by the real snow.  For children who may never have been out in the real country, the book gives them a taste of it.  The sense of wanting to get back to their cottage pulls the reader along, but on the whole it’s a fairly quiet book.  The art is gorgeous.  It’s drawn in colored pencil and the little cottage where Sara’s family lives is so warm and inviting, and the vistas of the English hills so lovely it makes you want to step right into the pages of the book.  The sheep are beautiful, the border collies exceptional.  But maybe the thing I love most about the book is the understanding it shows between a child and her pet.  It is not Mommy or Daddy or Sara who recovers Teddy 🙂

For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

Next, two things that kind of go together.  When Beth asked to interview me about Perfect Picture Books I was happy to do it to raise awareness of this resource that we all work so hard on (and because Beth is nice and I like her :)) but I never in a million years expected the kind of response we got.  So I wanted to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for your wonderful comments.  They meant so much to me.  I really can’t find words to tell you how much… which is bad for a writer!  But it was an unexpected gift for which I am truly grateful, and it just makes me value this wonderful community even more.  I wasn’t kidding when I said I was going to print out that post and stick it on my wall to read on days when I feel low 🙂  So thank you.

In the same vein, Randy over at Author In Training very kindly gave me the Addictive Blog Award.

In addition to linking back to him (and I hope you’ll go visit him if you haven’t because he does great writing prods and is currently writing a YA novel that you get to read a bit of every Friday and just has an all around great blog!) I am supposed to list 10 blogs I am addicted to.  But I can’t list only 10.  Especially after being reminded Wednesday of just how wonderful you all are.  So consider yourselves all recipients, and feel free to take the award badge and post it on your blog!

The next item I wanted to mention is that tomorrow, December 1 (a Saturday so I don’t post) marks my 2nd Blogiversary!!!  I can’t believe it’s been 2 years.  I have had so much fun here, getting to know you all and dragging you into all my hair-brained schemes!  Anything that’s good about this blog is good because of you, so please give yourselves all a big pat on the back and a round of applause!  Some confetti would be nice, too.  And of course, I think we should serve Something Chocolate, even though it’s not Wednesday 🙂  I would also like to give you A PRESENT!  Of course, I’d really like to give you ALL a present, but I don’t have the resources, so two (that’s 2!) lucky random commenters today will receive a packet of 5 assorted hand-drawn greeting cards by our own superbly talented  Tracy Campbell!  Here’s a little sample:

copyright Tracy Campbell 2012 used by permission

copyright Tracy Campbell 2012 used by permission

copyright Tracy Campbell 2012 used by permission

Aren’t they gorgeous?  Please click on the link to her blog and explore and you can see many other cards!

Second to last (see? there’s a light at the end of the tunnel :)), I wanted to let you all know ahead of time about a special PPBF.  At the suggestion of Pat at Children’s Books Heal and Vivian at Positive Parental Participation, on Friday December 14, which is the anniversary of the date in 1954 that the UN General Assembly recommended there should be a Universal Children’s Day, we are going to be doing our part to raise awareness of the plight of children around the globe and to promote the welfare of children in the world by posting books which focus on multicultural/multiracial issues, human rights, and/or children who have helped to change the world in some way.  For example, Pat plans to post the picture book version of The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind.  Beatrice’s Goat and Wangari’s Trees Of Peace are other examples of books in this category (although they’re already on our list.)  Please join us if you’d like to!  But of course, if you’ve already got a book in mind and would like to post a regular PPB that is fine too – all picture books are for children 🙂

FINALLY (here we are! this is the end!) I’m hoping to post the rules for the Holiday Contest on Monday.  Of course, that will depend on whether I make up my mind about what it’s going to be by then 🙂  But here’s hoping 🙂

That’s it!  Go forth!  Run free!  Go see all the wonderful picture books that have been chosen this week!  And have a GREAT weekend! 🙂

(PPBF bloggers, please remember to add your post-specific link below!  And don’t forget, 2 lucky commenters will win beautiful cards, and the winners will be chosen totally by and not at all based on how nice the things you say about me or my blog are :))

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse

Hurray!  It’s Perfect Picture Book Friday!  And today’s Perfect Picture Book is one of my all time favorites.  (So is next week’s and really I wish I could have put them both up in one day but all in good time…!)  Assuming even 9 people besides me post books today, our archive list will be over 100 books already – isn’t that great?!  It’s becoming a real resource! 🙂  Thanks SO MUCH to everyone who is participating!

Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse
Written and Illustrated By:  Kevin Henkes
Greenwillow Books, 1996, Fiction
Suitable For: ages 4-8
Topics/Themes: following the rules, consequences
Opening:  “Lilly loved school.  Lilly loved the privacy of her very own desk.  She loved the fishsticks and chocolate milk every Friday in the lunchroom.  And, most of all, she loved her teacher, Mr. Slinger.”

Brief Synopsis:  (From Review)  Lilly loves everything about school, especially her teacher, Mr. Slinger–until he takes away her musical purse because she can’t stop playing with it in class. Lilly decides to get revenge with a nasty drawing of “Big Fat Mean Mr. Stealing Teacher!” but when she finds the kind note he put in her purse, she’s filled with remorse and has to find a way to make things right again.

Links To Resources: Lilly Classroom Activites, Color Lilly, Lilly Maze, Lilly Dot-to-Dot, Make Your Own Purse & other activities, more Lilly activities (please scroll down past Chrysanthemum)

Why I Like This Book:  Kevin Henkes perfectly captures the excitement of having something new and treasured to share with friends and the overwhelming difficulty of staying within the rules on such an occasion.  Lilly’s exuberance feels so perfectly real.  Without preaching or moralizing this story shows the importance of behaving properly, that actions have consequences, and that it is within a child’s own power to correct a mistake – that just because she didn’t handle a situation quite right the first time doesn’t mean she can’t do it better tomorrow.

I love Lilly… 🙂

For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

(And if you posted a Perfect Picture Book, please don’t forget to add your link to the list below!)

Now, then, onto a couple other things.

First, the results of the contest poll have shown conclusively that you are inconclusive 🙂  Only “No thank you I’m too busy” got only 1 vote 🙂  Since everything else was pretty evenly split across the options, including the easy-going types who were willing to do whatever worked for everyone else, I think we’ll do a contest every 2nd or 3rd month.  We’ll skip January to give everyone a rest, and then do one in February (Groundhog Day and Valentine’s Day leap instantly to mind :)) and see where we go from there.  Sound good?

Second, when I started my blog last year, I did a few author/illustrator/author-illustrator interviews along with book giveaways that people seemed to like.  (Karen Orloff, Cori Doerffeld, Ryan Sias…)  I’d like to get back to doing some of those because I always like meeting the creative minds behind the picture books we all love and we can learn so much from them!  So once a month on Saturdays we’ll have someone awesome over to chat.  Of course there will be delicious breakfast items on offer (aren’t there always?)

If there are any particular questions you’d like answered by our visiting authors or illustrators, please be sure to let me know!  What are the things you secretly wonder about while browsing through the bookstore?  I want everyone to get the most they can out of the interviews, so please don’t be shy – shout your questions right out! 🙂

Have a great weekend, everyone!  (And don’t forget to post your Perfect Picture Book Link below if you have one!)

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Four Feet, Two Sandals AND The Holiday Contest Winner!

I know.  Things have gotten just a tad out of hand this week.  Monday’s post barely made it in under the wire, and I skipped Wednesday’s altogether to give everyone more time to vote during this busy week when lots of people are off their normal schedule.  But now it’s Friday and we’re back on track with Perfect Picture Books!

(Oh.  And by the way, in case you’re interested, we’ll get around to the winner of the Holiday Contest too! :))

But no skipping ahead!  Or at least, if you do, please come back, because this is a wonderful book and I don’t want you to miss it!

Four Feet, Two Sandals
Written By:  Karen Lynn Williams & Khadra Mohammed
Illustrated By:  Doug Chayka
Eerdmans Books For Young Readers, September 2007, Fiction
Suitable For: ages 7-10
Themes/Topics:  Friendship, Sharing, Refugees, Loss, Separation

Opening:  “Lina raced barefoot to the camp entrance where relief workers threw used clothing off the back of a truck.   Everyone pushed and fought for the best clothes.  Lina squatted and reached, grabbing what she could.”

Brief Synopsis:  In a place where people have very little, two girls each get one of a pair of sandals.  They could have fought, but instead they share the sandals.  As they go about their routines, waiting and hoping for their names to appear on the list for a new home, the sandals remind them that friendship is the most important thing.  And when one girl gets the chance to live in a new land, the bond of their friendship remains.

Links To Resources:  Teacher’s Guide, Discussion Guide, author’s note at back of book adds extra information.

Why I Like This Book:  This story gives children a glimpse of a very different kind of life.  For children who are fortunate, this book may help them not to take things for granted so much.  For children who are less fortunate, this book may help them see that they are not alone.  Told gently and with hope so that it is appropriate for children, this book nonetheless opens the way to important discussions about refugees, having and not having, war and peace, loss, and separation.  But the underlying message is one of love and friendship, something all children understand and can relate to.

For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.
(For those of you also posting a Perfect Picture Book today, please remember to put your link on the list below.)
Okay, so I’ll see you all on Monday.
Oh, wait.
Hang on.
I guess a few of you are wondering who won the Holiday Contest 🙂
(You didn’t really think I’d leave you hanging, did you? :))
As you all know, the entries were outstanding.  There were several – I’d go so far as to say at least 6 (since that’s what I put in the finals :)) – that could have won.  I’m glad I didn’t have to make the ultimate decision!  But the voters have spoken clearly.  And the winner is…
with ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas: Rudolph Goes Green!!!
Congratulations, Miranda!  And congratulations to all who entered!  (And Miranda, please email me and let me know if you’d prefer the gift card or the childrens writer’s market guide!)
Because we had so many amazing entries, I will mention that second place went to Penny for ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas On Mars, and third place went to Joanna for The Plight Before Christmas.
Thanks to everyone who entered.  You are all so talented, and you made the contest so much fun.  I think everyone had a great time hopping from blog to blog reading the stories (I know I did!) and everyone was so supportive of everyone else.  Maybe you made some new friends in the process too!
Happy New Year, Everyone!  I wish you all the very best in 2012 – love, health, happiness, peace, and great writing!  See you next year! 🙂
(PPB posters – don’t forget the link below!)

‘Twas The Day After Christmas – Holiday Contest Finalists!

HINT For Beth’s Birthday Hunt Clue #12

If you still don’t get it, email me 🙂

Yes, I realize it’s getting on for midnight – about 18 hours later than I usually post and way past my bedtime 🙂  But I promised to post the finalists on Monday December 26 and By Gum I’m going to deliver as promised!

(I’ll confess, however, that I have absolutely NO IDEA what I was thinking when I promised that.  All these fabulous entries, which required reading and rereading and rereading to narrow down to finalists in the midst of wrapping and baking and celebrating Christmas and my nephew’s birthday which was today… I think the fact that I accomplished it, albeit on the late side, proves that I have actual magical powers!)

Before I put up the poll for you to vote for the winner, I just have to say a couple things:

First, I was so gratified by how many people entered the contest – 29 in all!  All you amazing writers took the time to think and create, write and revise, and bravely post your entries for the world to see and me and my trusty assistant to judge, all for my little contest.  You ALL deserve a pat on the back, a round of applause and a celebratory slice of hot apple pie with a big dollop of homemade whipped cream!

Second, I was so impressed by the overall quality of the entries!  So many wonderful ideas, and all so different!  Such creativity!  And some very talented rhymers!  You have no idea how hard it was to have to set wonderful stories aside, one by one, based on relatively nitpicky things because I really couldn’t have 29 winners!  Please know that there were many things I loved about the entries that didn’t make the final cut.  Finalists were chosen based on originality, quality and appeal of story, and precision of rhyme and meter.  They had to have everything to make the cut.  One or two were culled because they had one but not the other, or because of inconsistency of mood or story.

Third, I realized part way through reading the entries that I did not specify this was meant to be a kids’ story.  My mistake, but it made the judging even harder because there were some entries that were clearly intended for children and some that were written from a much more adult perspective.  So you will note that of the six (not three) finalists that I’m posting, 4 are kids and 2 seemed (at least to me) more adult, but all were great stories.

So, enough with the explanations!  On with the voting!

I will post below the 6 finalists (you’ve noticed, no doubt, that I can never narrow it down as far as I say I’m going to – I’m clearly not cut out to be a judge – I’m not cutthroat enough :)) in no particular order followed by the poll.  I’m also giving three Honorable Mentions (I told you it was really hard to pick and I’m not cut out to be a judge :))


#1  (Mars)

Removed per author’s request.

#2 (Fishmas)

“Twas the Night Before Fishmas”
Twas the night before Fishmas, when all through the sea,
Not a flipper was flapping, it was still as can  be.
All the fishies were snoozing, snug in their sponge-beds,
As sweet dreams of earthworms, just squirmed through their heads.
When all of a sudden, through seaweed so thick,
Poked the jagged white teeth, and sly smile of Shark Nick!
And straight through the waters, he darted so fast,
He filled every conch-shell with treats that would last.
Chocolate worms, shrimpy-canes, plankton cakes for each fish!
Every conch over-flowed with each sea creature’s wish!
“Merry Fishmas,” he whispered and gave each a pat.
Eat up, little fishies and get plentifully fat!”
Every Fishmas I visit, I happily treat you!
So you’re portly and plump, when I happily eat you!”
Then as quick as he came, he was gone in snap
He shot through seaweed, with a single tail-flap.
But they all heard him snarl, as he swam out of sight,
Go ahead little fishies….Go ahead…Take a bite!”

#3 (Flood)

T’was the eve before Christmas and down by the stream,
the moles squealed and scrambled, as in a bad dream!
The snowstorm that blasted the valley that day
had flooded the tunnels; all nests flushed away.
Mama mole bundled her babies up tight,
shivering, “Where can we spend this cold night?”
Papa mole helped them climb out of the mud.
On mounting the bank, they heard a great ‘thud’.
The family looked up, OH, what a surprise –
a laughing old man dressed in red, filled their eyes.
He knelt in the snow, scooped them up with such love,
gently, he slipped them inside his warm glove.
He’d finished his rounds, then heard of the plight
of riverbank creatures that wet, snowy night.
They swooped on upstream calling out in the dark,
“Any need help? We’re the Santa’s Sleigh-Ark.”
As the sleigh flew along, they gathered a crew,
of rats, otters, mice, and a soggy duck too.
They pulled tight the scarves, all snuggled together,
so grateful for safety from treacherous weather.
The sleigh landed, CRUNCH, on North Pole’s ice strip.
The river crew marveled at their first sky trip.
The reindeer were settled in stable with straw,
but Santa had plans for the damp, homeless poor.
He kindled the fire, put chestnuts to roast,
he smothered with butter and honey, the toast;
he brewed pots of tea, and laid out the mince pies,
then chuckling, he pulled out his festive surprise.
How could he know? Had he planned more to share?
Santa had presents for each of them there.
From wee smallest mole to old grandpa Duck;
they shed a few tears, overwhelmed with their luck.
They pulled Christmas crackers, told jokes old and new,
sipped their mulled wine; hummed yule carols too.
“Three Cheers to Santa, for saving the day!”
The riverbank creatures raised loud their Hooray!

#4 (Rudolph)

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas:  Rudolph Goes Green
‘Twas the night before Christmas when there on the screen
Played an eco-documentary with ways to be green.
On the sofa sat Rudolph who suddenly froze
And pulled his front hooves right in front of his nose.
“I’ve got to replace this old iridescent
With an LED light–or at least a fluorescent!”
At once Rudolph dashed to the D.I.Y. store,
And the reindeer pack gasped as he clopped out the door.
“Don’t leave us,” yelled Comet. “You’ll make us all late!
It’s a good thing you’re doing but…Christmas WON’T WAIT!”
“C’mon” scoffed ol’ Blitzen, “Let’s get up and soar,
We can fly without Greenie–we’ve done it before!”
Then up flew eight reindeer with no glowing light,
Leading Santa’s big sleigh on a cold, wintry night.
But the wind and the storms blew a blinding, wet mess
So Donder unwrapped Yumi’s new G-P-S!
Their troubles were past them until Tokyo,
When Santa reminded, “That gift’s gotta go!”
Then Dasher discovered an oversized candle
In shimmery paper with a tag that read: Randall.
In a flash went their stress ‘til they flew o’er Khartoum,
When that “oversized candle” exploded…KA-BOOM!
It kicked up a sandstorm so Prancer thought quick,
Unwrapping a flashlight for young Dominic–
But the batteries died just past the Sahara,
So Vixen dug up Amy’s light-up tiara!
“You hold it,” he bickered, “Too girly for me!”
And they pawed it and clawed ‘til it fell in the sea!
“Now stop it, you guys!” bellowed Santa in back.
“We’ve got presents to give, so no talking smack!”
They straightened right up and squinting their best
Took strange routes from Cape Town to old Budapest.
Eventually they made it, but sore and pooped out,
And when they got home they gave Rudolph a shout:
“You lazy, green-washing…WAIT…that’s the SAME nose!”
Rudolph casually shrugged, “Yeah…the merchant was closed.”
“Well I guess we don’t need you!” the reindeer yelled, peeved.
And to their surprise, Rudolph felt…quite RELIEVED!
“That’s perfect!” he sang, then rushed out the door.
“See you guys in two years, I’ve joined the Peace Corps!”

#5 (parents)

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, and all through the night,
We parents were wrapping with all of our might.
The stockings were stuffed but the presents were bare.
“I’ll be more organized next year… I swear!”
We prayed that the children would stay in their beds,
Snuggled in tight with the spreads on their heads.
While Daddy with his screwdriver and I with my tape,
Settled in to the task to make Christmas take shape.
When all of a sudden the dog began barking.
The reflection of bows on the ceiling were sparkling!
I sprang from the couch and led him away –
Into his crate to await Christmas Day.
At last we were ready to load up the tree.
Poor Daddy endured sharp instructions from me.
First this one!  Now that one! Put this one on top.
Be CAREFUL! It’s fragile!  Be sure it won’t drop.
And then we collapsed, exhausted and frayed.
“Oh please let the kids sleep ‘til eight,” we both prayed.
One blink of an eye and we heard the kids cheer,
“Come look at the tree, ‘cause Santa’s been here!”
We groaned in our beds, our eyes red and puffy.
The kids both looked glowing, while we looked quite scruffy.
I brewed us some coffee and scorching hot tea,
Then readied myself for the festivity.
One blink of an eye and the presents were done.
The kids were quite eager to play and have fun.
But as they were cleaning up ribbon and wrapping,
I lay my head down and soon began napping.
As I slipped into dreams, I heard a soft voice
Remind me to savor the day and rejoice.

#6 (school)

‘Twas the week before Christmas when all through the school
The children excitedly prepared for Yule.
The choir sang carols of joy and good cheer,
And how they’d behaved for their parents all year!
The students drew snowmen and reindeer and elves
Which teachers hung proudly upon all the shelves.
My class in pajamas, and I with my book,
Read about the adventures that Santa Claus took.
When out in the hall there arose such a roar
We jumped from our seats and ran to the door.
We peeked ‘round the corner to see what was there,
For a moment the children could only stare.
I cried tears of joy when I saw their bright eyes
The volunteers planned an amazing surprise.
Hot cocoa they poured for the girls and the boys,
And parked in the hall was a train full of toys!
The kids-how they squealed! Their faces aglow
As each took his present tied up with a bow.
This Christmas each angel received a new gift
The worries that this special day would sure lift.
They returned to our classroom so happy to be
Heading home with these gifts to put under the tree
When I opened the door, all the children said “Look!”
On each little desk sat a shiny new book.
“Do you like them?” I asked,  I brought them for you
From every direction came hugs, how they flew!
This Christmas was special, I knew right away
For as long as I lived I’d remember that day.

I’d also like to give Honorable Mention to Erik for his story about the shelter dog – excellent story just right for this time of year! – Cathy for her lovely bear story, and Donna for her barnyard Christmas story, all strong entries!

So here’s the poll.  Please vote for the number you feel should win.  I’d love it if you could vote by midnight tomorrow (Tuesday) so I could post the winner Wednesday, but i realize I haven’t given you much time.  So if not enough people have voted by midnight tomorrow, I will extend the voting and post the winner Friday with Perfect Picture Books.

<a href=””>Holiday Contest</a>
Thank you all for writing, reading, and voting, and making this contest SO MUCH FUN!

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Knut: How One Little Polar Bear Captivated The World

This is one of my favorite things about the holidays: getting up in the dark and turning on the Christmas tree lights, then sitting with a book (or in this case my computer as I write my blog :)), the dogs, and a cup of coffee, enjoying the beauty and peace while the rest of the house is still asleep.  There’s something lovely about having a tree in the living room 🙂

I’m going to be brief (for me :)) today, because visiting family is here, and I’m way behind on baking and wrapping, and I’m guessing you all have important people and things to get to also.  So first, my Perfect Picture Book and then just one other little thing 🙂

Knut: How One Little Polar Bear Captivated The World
Written (Told) By: Juliana, Isabella, and Craig Hatkoff and Dr. Gerald R. Uhlich
Photographs By: Peter Griesbach, Andre Schule, Sean Gallup,  Rainer Jensen and others.
Scholastic Press, November 2007
Suitable For: ages 5 and up
Themes/Topics: animals, endangered animals, caring, environmentalism
Opening:  “One December afternoon, in a cozy, dark enclosure in a zoo in Berlin, Germany, a polar bear cub was born.”
Brief Synopsis:  This is the true story of Knut, a newborn polar bear whose mother was unable to care for him.  Thomas Dorflein, a bear keeper at the zoo, became Knut’s “foster father” – bottle feeding him, bathing him, sleeping beside him and teaching him to play and swim.  Knut was loved the world over, and helped bring recognition to the plight of polar bears, endangered by the potential loss of their habitat.

Links to resources:  Knut Teaching Resources.  This link has subsequent links to activities, video clips, articles, and other animals-against-adversity stories.  The back of the book also has lots of information about polar bears, how they are threatened, and how you can help.

Why I Like This Book:  It’s a true story, and a deeply touching one, that is also educational and informative.  The photographs are gorgeous and very appealing.  It shows that there are people in the world who care enough to sacrifice a great deal to help someone else – even if that someone else happens to be a baby polar bear.  The book brings attention to ecological concerns, the environment, and caring for all species, and lists ways kids can help.

For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

(For those of you also posting a Perfect Picture Book today, please remember to put your link on the list below.)

And now, for the one other little thing.

The Holiday Contest is officially closed with a grand total of 29 fabulous entries (28 on the link list and one in the comment section.)  I will post finalists on Monday (and yes, Penny and Cathy, I will probably be needing some of that Red Bull because I was very ambitious thinking I was going to have time for this on top of all the other Christmas activities!!)  Of course, I’ve read them all already, but making decisions about which are best is going to be VERY hard. You guys have cut my work out for me 🙂

And now, Happy Holidays to everyone!  I wish you all love, health, peace and joy 🙂