Perfect Picture Book Friday – Harry The Dirty Dog And International Dot Day And The Summer Contest Winner!!!

Holy Dot Day, Batman!

If you managed to read the whole title of this post, you know we have a lot on the agenda for today!  And it all has to do with dots – either directly or in a more roundabout way 🙂

We’ll start with Perfect Picture Books, which I like to put on top so it’s easy to find when people click over from the master list.  I’ve chosen a book about a dog with spots… which are a lot like dots.

Next up will be my Dot for International Dot Day.

Finally, just when you think you can’t bear the suspense for another second, I will announce the winner of the Summer Send-Off Contest… before you go dotty!  (OK.  That was a reach :))

Ready? Set. GO!

Harry The Dirty Dog
Written By: Gene Zion
Illustrated By: Margaret Bloy Graham
Harper & Row, 1956, Fiction

Suitable For: ages 3-8

Themes/Topics: bath time, behavior (rebelliousness), facing consequences, problem solving, animals (dogs)
Opening: “Harry was a white dog with black spots who liked everything, except… getting a bath.  So one day when he heard the water running in the tub, he took the scrubbing brush… and buried it in the back yard.”

Brief Synopsis:  Harry doesn’t want a bath, so he hides the scrubbing brush and runs away.  All day long he plays happily, getting dirtier and dirtier, until finally, when he returns home, he’s so dirty his family doesn’t even recognize him.  What’s a dog to do?

Links To Resources: Harry The Dirty Dog Activities, Harry The Dirty Dog read by Betty White with pictures and tasteful animation (delightful!) as well as activities.

Why I Like This Book:  I not only like this book, I love it.  I loved it as a child.  I loved it with my children.  I love it as a writer because to me it’s a story that does everything right.  I think children (and adults :)) can relate to Harry’s story because we all have the urge to rebel from time to time but, like Harry, in the end what we want most is to be safe and loved… even if it means having a bath 🙂  The art is delightful, depicting Harry as lively and lovable, culminating in the sweet last page where Harry is curled up, happily asleep and dreaming, but leaving you to wonder whether he hid that scrubbing brush to make sure he was always clean so his family would always recognize him, or whether he hid it to avoid another bath any time soon 🙂

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

Moving on, it’s time to celebrate International Dot Day!

Following the lead of Patricia Tilton on her wonderful blog Children’s Books Heal, I am joining in on International Dot Day, based on Peter H. Reynolds’ picture book The Dot.  The idea is to encourage people not to be intimidated and to create their own art in the form of a dot.  This year over half a million people will participate – primarily children in classrooms – but lots of other people as well.  Celebri-dots features dots created by well-known authors and illustrators.  (Dot Day is actually September 15, but I don’t post on Saturday so mine is going up today :))

I am not particularly artistic, but I had an idea for a dot.  The lovely and talented Beth Stilborn, whose computer skills leave mine in the dust, turned my idea into reality.  Thank you, Beth! 🙂

My dot is about love.

Love comes in many shapes and sizes.  For my daughter it comes in the shape of a polka-dot pony.  The pony is not fancy or highly bred.  She’s 14.1 hands* of fine, cinnamon chip fur, with a sturdy build, a velvet-soft nose, one brown eye and one blue, and though she might not appear to be anything special, she owns my daughter’s heart.  And it just so happens that two of those cinnamon dots that sprinkle her fur so liberally are heart shaped.  I am not making this up.  You can see one of them in the dot 🙂
(for those who might not be horse people, a hand is  the unit of measure for horses and is equal to 4″. 14.1 hands means that the pony stands 57″ at the withers.)

And just for fun, another dot… 🙂

Here is the special pony those dots and that heart belong to 🙂

my daughter counted the pony’s spots one day and in case you’re wondering, she has 791! 🙂

and the poem my daughter wrote about her:

Chestnut, chestnut, chestnut spots
Appaloosa polka-dots.
How many little chestnut spots?
Lots and lots and lots and lots!
                    by Little Hill 5

So there you have it.  My polka-dot pony love dot 🙂
So I guess that’s it, right?  We’ll wrap up and head out to read everyone’s Perfect Picture Books….
OH!  You want to know who won the contest?
Well.  Okay 🙂
I’ve got to tell you, somehow this turned out to be the closest contest we’ve ever had here and that’s saying something because everyone is so talented that the contests are always close.  In this case, however, the contestants were literally neck and neck.  First one would pull ahead, then another.  It was  a serious nail-biter!  In the end though, we did have a clear winner.  And that was…
Congratulations, Erik!  Well done!
And to all the other finalists, excellent job as well.  And to everyone who entered, you are all amazingly talented and creative people and it was a joy to read every single entry!  Thanks to everyone for participating.
Erik, you may email me at your convenience and choose your prize 🙂  And since we only had 15 entries, I’m only giving a prize for first place.  (If we’d had over 20 entries I would have included 2nd and 3rd place prizes, but now you’ll just have to wait for the Halloweensie Contest on October 31st for that! :))
Although I don’t usually add the placement of all the finalists, in this case it was such a close race that I thought you (and they) might like to know how well they did:
1st: Erik
2nd: Sidney
3rd: Vivian
4th: Romelle
5th: TIE: Jess and Lauri
So now, my lovelies, if all the PPBF bloggers would kindly leave their post specific links in the list below, we shall all come visit – the best part of Friday 🙂
Have a great weekend, everyone! 🙂

Summer Send-Off Contest Finalists! – Vote For Your Favorite!

Yee-haw!  It’s voting day!  Fun for you, but let me just say I haven’t slept in 5 days sweating over who to choose as a finalist!

illustration copyright Heather Newman 2012 used by permission

I love contests.

I love writing for them – the challenge of trying to come up with a story that fits certain parameters!

I love hosting them – it’s so much fun to read everyone’s creative entries – there is just so much talent out there!

But of course when I host them, I have to judge the entries, and that is always the hard part!  I don’t like having to cut anyone!  This contest was no different – everyone’s stories were terrific!  From undercover spies, to damsels not in distress, to People For The Ethical Treatment of Dragons, to the origin of ‘smores, to heroes who do hero work to pay the writing bills, to knights and fair maidens, witches and sorceresses, in rhyme and in prose, they all had something wonderful, creative and entertaining to share!  It was cruel to have to choose!!

It would have been far, far easier to post all 15 and make you guys do the choosing!  But I figured that would be a long blog post, even for me 🙂  So for better or worse, my assistant judge and I have winnowed the field down to the following 6 entries (I told you I’d never make it down to only 3 finalists :)).  The three main judging criteria were creativity, child-friendliness (would a child really love to read it?), and whether you stayed within the 250 word limit.

Thanks to everyone who participated.  I think I speak for us all when I say we loved getting a chance to read your incredible writing.

Please enjoy reading (or re-reading!) these fabulous entries and cast your vote for your favorite!

#1 – Avery’s Fairy Tale by Sidney – 247 words

“Once upon a time, a princess lived in a castle tower.”
Avery stopped writing and pondered the sentence. She glanced at her dresser mirror and wrote “raven-haired” in front of princess.
“Avery! Are you doing your homework or goofing off?” her mother called from the kitchen, where she was cooking dinner.
The girl grimaced and wrote a new sentence: “Once upon a time, a raven-haired princess was trapped in a castle by a mean old witch.”
Her dog, Trixie, sleepily raised her head and sniffed. “Do you smell that, girl?” The odor of burned toast wafted into the room. Avery picked up her pencil.
“Once upon a time, a raven-haired princess lived in a castle surrounded by fire and guarded by a dragon named Trixonia.”
Avery looked over the pictures taped to the dresser mirror. One pictured her little brother in his goofy outfit from Colonial Day at school. Another showed her grandmother in her favorite apron. Avery blushed when she looked at the third photo.
“Once upon a time, an evil witch trapped a raven-haired princess in a castle tower by stealing the key to her heart. Only the bravest of men could battle the fierce dragon guarding the
fire-ringed castle and free the princess with true love’s kiss.”
“Avery! Time for dinner,” her mother announced.
Sighing dreamily, Avery blew a kiss to the boy’s face on her mirror. “Goodbye!” she said. “And start thinking about how you are going to save me from that dragon!”

#2 – Untitled by Jess – 250 words

Nora was a lonely princess.
There were no princes professing love or fire-breathing dragons.
She just sat alone, wishing that one day things would change.
Then, one morning, she awoke to find a rose at her window.
She picked up the flower, curiously.
“If only a handsome prince had brought me this rose!” she thought
as a petal slipped from the flower, falling toward the ground.
Then, a puff of smoke! And there below her was a dashing prince.
“Did you see that?” the princess whispered to herself, “My
flower must be magic!”
“Then…. he shall have a horse !“ she thought as another
petal fell.. Puff! A valiant steed appeared.
“And of course, what is a prince without a dragon?” Puff! A
roaring beast appeared.
“And a moat of fire!”
This was all becoming too much fun. The petals were dropping
like raindrops as Nora dreamed bigger and bigger.
Suddenly, Nora looked down , realizing the chaos below her.
The dragon licked his chops, ready to
devour the horse. The prince, forlorn, was trying to jump the fiery mote. Soon,
both he and the horse would be dragon barbeque!
In horror, Nora threw her flower to the ground, yelling “au
revoir!”, and wishing it all would just disappear.
Then Puff! In a whisp of silvery smoke everything had
There were no more princes professing love or fire-breathing
Instead she sat alone. And, for the first time, she was satisfied
that things were just as they should be.

  • #3 – The Dragon Prince by Romelle – 250 words

    Prince Nogard lived in Castle Alder for as long as he could remember. But today, unlike any other day, he smelled trouble.
    Fifer, the mischievous fox, strutted in.
    “It’s time you knew,” said Fifer. “You’re not a prince. You are just a dragon.”
    Prince Nogard fumed. “How dare you say such a thing.”
    Prince Nogard has been treated like royalty, sleeping on fluffy pillows, and dining on the finest steaks. His loyal servant, Crocker, groomed him daily.
    Fifer snickered. “Crocker is not your servant. He is your master and Prince is your nickname.”
    Prince huffed and puffed. “That’s not true,” he said in a faint voice. He wondered about his walks with Crocker. “Could he be walking me?” Prince dismissed the thought, but it kept burning in the back of his mind until he finally made a disturbing discovery.
    “I’m not just a dragon…I’m a pet dragon!” Prince felt like a lizard. He decided to leave Castle Alder.
    “Where are you going?” asked Fifer.
    “To find my real family,” said Prince. “Farewell.”
    “I’ll walk you out,” said Fifer with a smirk.
    Prince hadn’t gone too far when he heard a cry. “Do you hear that?”
    Prince’s heart ached. He and Crocker were inseparable. He hurried back.
    When Prince arrived at the castle, he found Crocker sobbing. “I thought you left.”
    Prince rubbed his cheek against Crocker. “I will never leave you,” thought Prince.
    Prince Nogard may not be a prince, but he was the happiest pet dragon around.

    #4 – Another Princess To Save – by Lauri – 221 words

    Moats were pretty common in the land, but this river of fire was overkill.  The dragon’s red hot scales and sharp horns were frightening enough.  His snake eyes followed me as I searched for a place to jump to the castle.  

    I could see the captured maiden over the tips of the flames.  She was pretty, but not the fairest of them all.  Princess Gwen’s gold hair dangled to her knees, and I only had to save her from a single ogre.  I battled trolls with foul-smelling warts to rescue Princess Amelia, and you could see the ocean waves in her eyes.  

    This maiden focused on her knitting.  When she finally noticed me, she sprang to the window and said “oh help me brave knight.”  After a moment she returned to her work.  I supposed I should save her from the dragon, but she seemed calm enough. 

    The dragon moved, and I noticed a boy peeking out behind him.  The dragon’s lips curled up in a wicked smirk.  My horse reared up to run, and she was never wrong.  Sayonara, fair maiden.

    “Did you see that?” the maiden yelled to her brother.  “That knight just turned and ran the other way!”
    “You could try brushing your hair every once in a while,” her brother yelled back rubbing the dragon’s empty belly.

    #5 – Dragon! by Erik – 250 words

    Once Upon A Time, in a land far away (depending on where you are), a princess named Violet was high in a tower. She wasn’t trapped there, mind you. You see, Violet wasn’t an ordinary princess.
    One day, Violet heard a commotion outside her window.
    “He lit the moat on fire again!” Shouted the stable-boy to Josi, the princesses’ faithful servant.   “I already asked The Pale Sorceress to cast an extinguishing spell!”
    Josi yelled up to Violet’s window. “Did you hear that? Your parents will banish us all! What kind of princess has a pet dragon anyway?”
    “But Cuddles is just a baby!” was the reply.
    “A BABY? He’s about 15… Oh-no, here comes Timothy!” Josi groaned. Violet rolled her eyes at the approaching figure.
    As Timothy got closer he boasted, “I shall smite thee, foul beast and save yonder fair maiden, Violet! Oh dear Violet, I hath come hither to rescue thee!”
    Violet felt her face get red with anger as she screamed back. “First of all, don’t talk funny. Smite and hither, who talks like that? It’s weird. Second, Cuddles is my PET! I DON’T NEED RESCUING!”
    Just then, Sorceress cast the spell to blow out the fire. As the gust came, it lifted Timothy and blew him back to his kingdom!
    “Farewell!” Timothy called as he faded in the distance.
    “Will he be alright? Josi asked.
    “Don’t worry, he’ll be back. He always comes back.” Violet sighed.
    And they all lived happily ever after…well, until next time.

    #6 Boot Camp At Old Dragons-Lair by Vivian – 240 words

    The first day of boot camp at Old Dragons-Lair
    The white witch decided to darken her hair.
    So tired was she of her colorless locks
    She lifted the red from the tail of the fox.
    “Did you see that?” all the campers cried out.
    “I’ll do as I please!” the witch said with a shout.
    “I don’t like how I look…I’ll take what I wish
    The tail of the dragon…the eyes of a fish.
    “You can’t take from others”, the raven explained.
    Your magical powers should be more restrained.
    You’re leader of boot camp at Old Dragons-lair
    You can’t create havoc and cause such a scare.
    The black bird continued, “It’s what people do
    That shows their real beauty…believe me, it’s true!”
    And nodding her head, the witch waved her thin wand
    Her hair began changing from red back to blonde.
    The campers all gathered around the white witch
    And loudly applauded the spell-binding switch.
    She’d learned to treat others with love and with care
    You don’t bully people at Old Dragons-lair!
    The last day of boot camp at Old Dragons-lair
    The campers took part in a Renaissance Fair
    The white witch placed first in the costume parade
    And raven won gold in the gaming arcade.
    The campers were packed and excited to go
    The sky was alight with a fiery glow
    Each clambered to mount his own flying gazelle,
    And said to the raven and witch,”Fond farewell!”

    And I do want to give honorable mention to Joanna for Cedric’s Cold, which was fantastic, but at 438 words it would have been unfair to choose it as a finalist when others fought so hard to stay within the 250 word limit, and to Hilary for her real estate twist which was SO funny and well-written, but maybe a bit more suited to older audiences.

    Now then, please cast your votes!  You have from now until Wednesday September 12 at 11:59 PM EDT!

    The winner will be revealed on Friday!

    And thanks again to everyone for a great contest!  It’s been a privilege to read your work! 🙂

    (And if you love contests, save the date – October 31st – for the Halloweensie Contest!!!)

    Summer Send-Off Writing Contest!!! – And A Short & Sweet Update

    If you’ve arrived in the middle of the adventure, you may start at the beginning by going HERE.

    Erik and Josie head for home
    Benton and the black horse trotted eagerly side by side toward home and supper.
    “So I’m assuming you were responsible for my birthday gift going missing?” Erik asked Lady Josie.  He still had not seen what she carried, but the clues had all led him to believe she had his gift.
    “Yes,” admitted Josie.  “It wasn’t perfect, and it has to be perfect.”
    “What is it?” Erik asked.
    “It’s a surprise,” said Josie primly.
    Erik could see he wasn’t going to get any more information out of her.  Lady Josie was maddening that way – if she decided she wasn’t telling something well then by golly she wasn’t telling!
    His stomach grumbled, reminding him that he was starving.  He bent over and took a small nibble of the cake he carried.  It was apple-y and delicious, full of cinnamon and topped with a creamy brown sugar-caramel icing.  YUM!
    “I saw that,” said Josie.
    Erik wiped frosting off his nose and chin and licked his fingers and didn’t care.
    Just then, Benton’s steps quickened and when Erik squinted into the deepening twilight he could just see the lights of the castle.  They were nearly home!
    They slowed the horses to a walk so that they could catch their breath and not be too hot when they reached the stable.  A few minutes later they crossed the drawbridge.  The horses turned without prompting toward the barn, knowing the way.  A groom took Lady Josie’s black horse, and Erik removed Benton’s saddle and bridle, gave him a quick rub-down, and fed him a measure of grain and a flake of summer-sweet hay.  “Good boy,” he said, giving his pony a fond pat.  Then he headed for the castle with what was left of his cake.
    Lady Josie was waiting for him just inside the castle.  “Come with me,” she said, leading him toward the Great Hall.
    Erik followed her through the huge doors, thinking about some hearty stew and crusty bread to go with his cake when suddenly…
    The Great Hall was decked out with garlands of flowers and streamers and candles, and everyone from the castle was there!  The lords and ladies, most of the guards, the jester, the cook, the knights, even the king!  All dressed in their festive best and waiting for him, wishing him Happy Birthday!
    Erik didn’t know what to say.  He’d never had a birthday like this.
    “Come forward, young Erik,” said the king, “and tell us of your adventures this day!”
    So Erik stood before the king and all the assembled dwellers of the castle and told of the woodcutter, and following the black horse, of the Brownie at the bridge, the tinker at the ford, Berwyn, and Greta, the ogre, the Seer, and everything else, and how eventually he had faced Cuddles the dragon and returned safe and sound after all of it with the Lady Josie.
    “Well done,” said the king at the end of Erik’s tale.  “I believe it is time for your present.”
    Lady Josie and Sir Lionel stepped forward, holding the box from the long-ago morning between them.  “Happy Birthday, Erik,” said Josie.
    Erik opened the box.
    And this time, when he looked inside there lay a shining silver sword, its edges honed to perfection, a star-shapped ruby glinting richly from its exquisitely wrought handle.
    “Oh…!” Erik breathed, scarcely daring to touch it.
    It was the king who reached forward and lifted the sword from it’s resting place.  “Kneel,” he said solemnly.
    Unbelieving, Erik sank to his knees before the king and bowed his head.  The king laid the gleaming sword first on Erik’s right shoulder then on his left.  “I dub thee knight,” he said.  “Rise, Sir Erik!”
    And Erik stood.  A knight.  At last, a real knight!
    The king handed him his sword and Erik took it, feeling the weight of it, and how the hilt fit his hand perfectly.
    The Great Hall erupted with applause and cheering.
    “And now,” said Erik, who was determined in this venture, “let’s have some CAKE!!!”
    And so they did.
    And forever after, Erik proclaimed that to be his Best Birthday Ever!

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ERIK!  And for your actual present which is not a sword or a knighthood but is hopefully still fun, please Email Me!!! 🙂

    To start the adventure again and choose different options, go back to the beginning! HERE

    *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

    Well, my friends, somehow or other it’s the last week of August.  When I think of everything I’ve done this summer – life in general, writing, blogging, getting a new washing machine (yes! it’s true! and so pretty :)), applying my black thumb to the butterfly bushes (apparently when they say full sun they mean, like, ALL THE TIME!) and a few Secret Projects (details coming possibly soon… or possibly later… depending how long it takes to get things finished up :)) all stuck in around the edges of 21 college visits in about 14 states and DC – it makes sense that it’s nearly September.  But on the other hand, the start of the new school year always seems to catch me by surprise…. probably what some would chalk up to not being the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree 🙂

    In case anyone is feeling a little down about summer drawing to a close, and because thanks to Short & Sweets our writing gears are still finely tuned :), and because we really SHOULD finish Summer Shorts up with a bang, and because we haven’t had a contest since MAY!, I thought this would be a good time for some fun – so let’s have a contest!  (You all know how much I love contests! :))

    illustration copyright Heather Newman 2012 used by permission

    Contest Rules:
    The contest will be for a children’s story of 250 words or less based on the picture above and in which somebody somewhere in your story says, in dialogue, “Did/do you see that?” (you may substitute any of the other senses – “Did/do you hear/feel/taste/smell that?”) and somebody somewhere in your story says, “Goodbye!” (you are allowed to substitute “Farewell!”, “Au revoir!”, “Sayonara!”, “Ciao!”, or “So long!”)

    Entries must be posted on your blog (or, if you don’t have a blog but would still like to enter, in the comment section of the official contest post on my blog which will be up on Friday August 31 and stay up through Tuesday September 4) between Friday August 31 and Tuesday September 4 at 11:59 PM EDT.  (I’m giving you an extra day to post, because I realize it’s Labor Day weekend!)

    Once your post is up you must add your post-specific link to the linky list that will be up (or, if you don’t have a blog, copy and paste your entry into the comment section as mentioned above.)  Special note:  I know some people have been having trouble commenting on my blog since disqus updated.  If anyone has trouble, please email your entry or your link or whatever you need to me at susanna [at] susannahill [dot] com and I will make sure your link gets linked or your comment gets posted!!!

    Finalists – we’ll say 3, but you know me… it’s more likely to be around 6 🙂 – will be chosen by me and my assistant judge and posted for you all to vote on on Monday September 10.  I’m guessing we may not get tons of entries, what with it being Labor Day weekend and all (although I’m hoping I’m giving people enough time to plan ahead that they might still be able to pull it off! :)), so we’ll probably only have one winner.  But if perchance we get lots – more than 20 say 🙂 – we’ll expand out to 1st , 2nd and 3rd places.  Prize choices will be:
    1.  A PB manuscript critique by yours truly 🙂
    2.  Your choice of 2 picture books.
    3.  Your choice of 2 paperback middle grade books.
    4.  Your choice of 1 paperback YA book.
    5.  Your choice of 1 writing craft book.
    and whoever wins will get their first choice of those options, whoever’s second will get second choice, etc….  Hopefully there’s something in there that will appeal to every writer! 🙂

    Now, onto the other business at hand.  I wanted to share a little Short & Sweet update, now that the Summer session is officially ending.  Summer Short & Sweets was 8 weeks of fun and games, and to qualify for a prize, you had to provide at least one entry for every week.  As of this writing, we had a total of 51 people enter at least one of the weeks.  The week with the most entries was Week 1, with 36, and the week with the fewest entries was Week 7 with 17.  (Actually, Week 8 is about even with Week 7, but I’m pretty sure a few more entries will be trickling in over the next couple days.)  By my reckoning, 12 people are currently qualified for a prize (Delores, Vivian, Romelle, Heather, Robyn, Laura, Karen, Jennifer, Erik, Cathy, Penny, and Tracy), 2 people are only one entry away (Renee and Jarm), and 1 person is only 2 entries away (Pam).  I realize that a few of you have been having trouble posting comments lately, so feel free to email anything to me that you couldn’t post and I’ll copy and paste it for you in the appropriate spot.  Looks like I’m going to have to part ways with disqus…. but that’s another story 🙂  If you think you posted an entry a week for 8 weeks and should be qualified and don’t see your name here, please let me know!!!  The last day you can post entries on any of the weeks is August 31.

    All in all, I think it was a success, and I really hope everyone had fun and got some good ideas out of it!

    Short & Sweets will be continuing on alternate Mondays starting September 17 (because I forgot last week when I said September 10 that we need a day to vote on finalists for the Summer Send-Off Contest!) and we’ll see how that goes 🙂

    Now fire up those imaginations and get started on those contest stories!  Good luck and have fun!!!