I was excited to hear that the NAEYC annual conference was scheduled for November, 2018 in my new home, Washington, DC and thrilled when my proposal for a workshop was accepted.
Wondering and Writing About Nature helps teachers create an environment of wonder for their students. I share tools to bring nature awareness into the daily classroom routine and innovative ways to investigate nature on school grounds – painter’s palette, sensory hikes and more.
Bring nature into the classroom with a wonder bucket and use it to inspire students to write wonder journals, poems and nonfiction nature books.
And no worries if the teacher doesn’t know the names of the animals and plants. In fact, names are rarely used as my focus is AWARENESS. With today’s kids spending 90% of their time indoors, they need help in getting in touch with nature. So the first step is helping them become aware of their natural surroundings.
Awareness is the first rung on the ladder to understanding, appreciation and ultimately, conservation of our environment.
Participants discover exemplary nature-themed picture books and biographies of noteworthy naturalists to enhance the science curriculum.
Each month, I will feature several books (especially nonfiction) to help you celebrate the special days.
November picks up where October left off with the Day of the Dead or El Día de los Muertos celebrated from Halloween to November 2, the feast of All Souls. This Mexican holiday focuses on remembering those family and friends who have died. Traditions include fiestas, papier-mâché skeletons or calaveras, and colorful altars decorated with candles, marigolds, butterflies, sugar skulls, fruit and pan de muerto or bread of dead. These offerings are put in homes to welcome the souls of the dead relatives.
Day of the Dead ABC book by Jeanette Winter
Day of the Dead by Tony Johnston and Jeanette Winter
Ghost Wings by Barbara Joosse and Giselle Potter
Inspired by a real Mexican family of artists, Calavera Abecedario – A Day of the Dead Alphabet Book, is a colorful look at skeletons that come to life for the fiesta; one skeleton for each letter of the alphabet from ángel to zapatero. The alphabet glossary and author’s note by Jeanette Winter offer additional information on this celebration.
Illustrator Jeanette Winter teamed up with Tony Johnston for another book on this Mexican tradition. In Day of the Dead, readers take a ringside seat during the preparation for and observance of Mexico’s three-day celebration of the dead.
“When you love someone they never really leave.” Barbara Joosse and Giselle Potter present a heart-warming picture book story, Ghost Wings. You’ll never look at a butterfly again without thinking about this book. It’s one of my favorites for any time of the year.
On a hill overlooking downtown Washington, DC stands Arlington National Cemetery, the last resting place of more than 300,000 Americans who have served their country. Author/Illustrator Chris Demarest shares that “every marker is a story unto itself.” Arlington – The Story of Our Nation’s Cemetery is a must read for children to understand the importance of Veterans Day, November 11.
Preschoolers will enjoy learning about all the preparations at colonial Plimoth and at a nearby Wampanoag village as ten little Pilgrims and ten little Wampanoag get ready for a wonderful harvest feast in One Little, Two Little, Three Little Pilgrims.
Arizona author BG Hennessy and illustrator Lynne Cravath create an accurate depiction of Pilgrim and Wampanoag life in 1621 in Massachusetts in this picture book. Check out the backmatter author and illustrator notes to learn about their research for this book. And yes, the Pilgrims and Native Americans did eat turkey during their three day feast that we know as “the First Thanksgiving.”
Do you start your Thanksgiving celebration by watching the Macy’s Parade on television? Then, enrich your experience with Caldecott honoree Melissa Sweet’s book, Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade.
This book earned top awards for nonfiction – the 2012 Sibert Medal and the NCTE Orbis Pictus award. Sweet’s brilliant combination of collage, illustration and text give this book an amazing richness. Comparing her illustrations to actual photographs of the parade show her attention to accuracy, an important characteristic of nonfiction.
Grab a piece of pumpkin pie and a good book and enjoy your holiday!
Are you a bibliophile on a tight budget? I love books and have a collection of over 2000 children’s picture books. As an author of children’s books, I hope you support your local independent book store. But sometimes the book you want is out of print so consider this website and trading for it.
Check out PaperBackSwap.com for the easiest way to swap the books you don’t need or read any more (cookbooks, craft books, even Cliff notes, anything with an ISBN!) You list the books and when someone requests one, you print the mailing label (and postage if you want) and mail it media rate. You’ll receive a credit when it’s received and you can then go swapping. You receive credit just for signing up and if you use my name as a referral, I even earn a credit. There is a small annual fee but well worth it.
Don’t miss out on this opportunity to enhance your knowledge of picture books. I participated in an intensive literacy workshop this summer at the Highlights Foundation in Boyds Mill, PA. At the helm was Rosemary Agoglia, the Senior Museum Educator at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, along with special guest illustrators Floyd Cooper and Vera B. Williams.
We experienced how to evaluate art using Visual Thinking Strategies, the Whole Book Approach as a story-time model and discussed elements and principles of book design in a session called Picturing Stories.
Vera B. Williams, the Caldecott Medalist, is the author/illustrator of many children’s books including A Chair for My Mother. If you are familiar with the book, you may recognize a similarity between the chair’s cover and Vera’s blouse.
Floyd Cooper uses an eraser to create his unusual illustrations. He takes away color and the results are amazing.
We tried his technique using chalk and gum erasers. I was so thrilled with all the new ideas that I learned at this workshop and want to share them to you. I presented the Power of the Picture Book at Gardner’s Book Service in October and will update this post with new dates and locations of future Power of the Picture Book workshops. Participants in my Power of the Picture Book workshop look at art with a fresh approach that will help link literacy and learning to picture books. Discover the power of picture books by exploring the illustrations and the messages they share with readers. I bring over 100 picture books for participants to explore in this hands-on workshop. Schedule this professional development workshop at your school for your staff.
“Everyone who reads with students should immerse themselves in this workshop.” Librarian, SS. Simon & Jude Cathedral School
R is for Rosary – a Catholic Family Alphabet is truly a collaborative effort involving my spiritual companion Sr. Patt, my critique group, art designer Lorien, business partner Debra LaPlante, and the Holy Spirit. Yes, I believe that! I remember how I felt after writing the text on the R page. I reread it and wondered where those words came from. Surely the Holy Spirit guided me. When it came to deciding how to illustrate the book, the Spirit was present again. I had just finished writing about St. Kateri Tekakwitha and was shutting the computer down when my photo library opened up. I clicked on a thumbnail (I have over 20,000 images in my library) and it was the photo of the icon of St. Kateri that I took at the San Carlos Mission on the Apache reservation. It was then that I had the idea to illustrate the book with images of sacred art. And to think that this book would still be packed away in a crate under the table in my office if it wasn’t for the 4th graders at Ss. Simon and Jude. I was visiting the school with my book D is for Desert and they asked if I was working on any new books. When I told them about R is for Rosary, they gasped as if I was writing this book for each one of them. And in a way, I did. I went home that day and started on it. I unpacked my research, wrote (and rewrote) the manuscript, and photographed sacred art wherever I could find it including Ireland. Upon completion, I dedicated the book to the students at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral School in Phoenix for inspiring me to finish it.
Each letter in the alphabet represents a facet of the Catholic faith. A rhyme, text and sacred art illustration along with a prayer written by a child complete the page. As Father Herb at Our Lady of Joy Catholic Church said, “R is for Rosary is a treasure for parents and children alike. The format is clear and concise. Every child learns the ABCs but these ABCs are special. This book teaches the gifts of our Catholic Faith to the young and will refresh the understanding of adults.”
Following the alphabet letters is a section called Family Faith Formation with stories about our Holy Father, Pope Francis, and ideas on how families can grow their faith. The book is interactive with places for photos, a family written prayer and even a child’s drawing of heaven.
Fr. Peter Kirwin, O.F.M., the rector at the Church of Our Lady of the Angels at the Franciscan Renewal Center shared this, “Barbara Gowan has brought together a stunning array of beautiful illustrations and meaningful descriptions of essential elements of our Roman Catholic faith in a unique manner to inspire all who read it. Students bring to each letter of the alphabet a prayer to help the reader focus spiritually on its meaning. To enjoy this book is to be filled with joy celebrating the gift of a relationship shared with our loving God and with each other.”
I am available for school visits and family literacy nights focusing on the creation of this book. Students at Ss. Simon & Jude brainstormed ideas for each letter and then learned about the writing process and the sacred art chosen for each topic.
R is for Rosary is the first selection in the Catholic Kids Book Club. Members join for three months at a time and receive a carefully selected book for their child based on the liturgical calendar. The theme of the CKBC is “faith formation through story.” To read reviews of the book selections and to sign up for the CKBC, go to the website www.CatholicKidsBookClub.com. And don’t forget to like Catholic Kids Book Club on Facebook!
CKBC is my latest adventure in literacy. Together with friend and librarian Debra LaPlante, we’ve started a new type of book club. We believe that the family is a child’s first teacher of faith. A natural way to start a child on the journey of faith formation is through story. We’ve selected outstanding picture books as the monthly selections for CKBC. Many will follow the Church calendar in theme. Parent information and ideas for family activities are sent with each book. The first book is R is for Rosary. We hope you will join the Catholic Kids Book Club today and experience the joy of faith formation through story!
Help spread the word about R is for Rosary and the Catholic Kids Book Club. Please share it with your church community. Contact me for a press release for your diocesan newspaper.
PD! What is PD? Professional Development! I’m a big fan of continuing education and love to share what I learn. This summer is one big learning experience and it started with the 21st Century Children’s Nonfiction Conference held in New Paltz, NY (took a plane, train and bus to get there!) in June. It was a gathering of writers, illustrators, editors and agents, all focused on the business of nonfiction. I attended seminars on everything from what’s new in digital nonfiction to how to brand yourself to how to write for the school market and even assessment tests. An editor from National Geographic Kids critiqued my proposal and motivated me when she announced that they are actively expanding their children’s book line. I love the Nat Geo tag line – “where curiosity runs wild” since that could be my motto too.
21st Century Children’s Nonfiction Conference
Roxie Munro and her 3D printed likeness
3D printing scan
I was especially curious about the demonstration of 3D Printing sponsored by the SUNY engineering department. Imagine scanning a person and then making that image in plastic. That’s what they did to one of the conference participants. 3D Printing is the theme for an upcoming issue of Odyssey science magazine for kids so I took lots of photos, asked lots of questions about this new technology and then sent in my query and received an assignment for the magazine!
The American Library Association held their conference in Las Vegas and it was two days of nonstop walking and talking to exhibitors. That translates to free books, free books and more free books as the publishers are busy promoting their new lists and giving away ARCs or Advanced Reader Copies. I signed my book D is for Desert – a World Desert Alphabet in the Sleeping Bear Press booth and then had a great dinner afterwards. What could be better than lively conversation with a teacher, librarian, authors and editors?
Deb LaPlante and Peggy Sharp compare new books
Sleeping Bear Press dinner
My goal at ALA was to meet editors who might be interested in my manuscript, How to Read a Building, and to look for books to offer to members in the Catholic Kids Book Club, my latest project. (post coming soon)
Next up on my “summer school” schedule is Honesdale, PA and the Highlights Foundation workshops – the Craft of Writing Short Nonfiction and the Power of the Picture Book. I’ll have the opportunity to work closely with award-winning nonfiction writers and editors. Two years ago, I met Candace Fleming and am thrilled to be able to learn from her again. There will even be a session on nature photography. The second workshop involves educators from the Eric Carle Museum and National Writing Project who will present sessions about visual thinking strategies and the whole-book approach. Illustrators Floyd Cooper and Vera B. Williams will be special guests at the Power of the Picture Book. A tour of Highlights and Boyds Mill Press is also part of the fun.
Tour of Highlights
Calkins Creek editor Carolyn Yoder
Nature author Larry Pringle
Highlights Workshop cabins
Ready, set, learn
The Highlights Foundation celebrating thirty years in service to children’s writers and illustrators offers a variety of programs, workshops, and retreats. If you are interested in learning the craft of writing for children, check out www.HighlightsFoundation.org
Last stop for the summer will be the National Book Festival in Washington, DC and a jam-packed day of author talks. (Check out my post from last year’s festival to discover how authors find their ideas.)
Imagine all the new information that I’ll be exposed to and then sharing it with you! I already have professional development workshops scheduled for the Paradise Valley Unified School District (teachers check out the Course Wizard site for 8 workshops this fall) and at Gardner’s Book Service in Phoenix.
Mark your calendar for Saturday, October 18and the Writer’s Toolbox: Strategies for Reading and Writing Nonfiction. Contact Gardner’s to register for this free workshop. www.gbsbooks.com
Special thanks to the Arizona Commission on the Arts for awarding me a Professional Development Grant to help defray the travel and conference fees for my summer learning experiences.
If you’d like to offer workshops to your staff, click on the header for my page – Professional Development Workshops for Educators.
What is TFOB and WOW? Tucson Festival of Books and Worlds of Words. Both are located at the University of Arizona. The Tucson Festival of Books is a weekend of author spotlights and presentations, kids’ activities, book vendors and displays, top notch entertainment, Science City and much more!
wishes for tree
wishes for tree 2
wishes for tree 4
wishes for tree 5
Children and Young Adult authors like Lois Lowry, Robert Sabuda, Cornelia Funke, Sy Montgomery and Jacqueline Woodson were just a few of the 2014 all-star authors. And of course, there were plenty of adult authors, too.
parks in focus
exhibits and vendors
TFOB signing areas
exhibit at TFOB
Wild Thing and Deb LaPlante
For me, it was a place to learn, a place to share and a place to renew. I attended presentations by nonfiction authors Sandra Markle and Kathleen Krull and also presented a seminar on Discovering the World of Science through Alphabet Books.
Nonfiction author Kathleen Krull
Paul Brewer illustrator
Kathleen’s Krull’s biographies
Nonfiction author Sandra Markle
Native American author Tim Tingle performed in one of the tents in the children’s area. Afterwards, we chatted about where he gets his ideas for his stories. Author Nancy Bo Flood also enjoyed his musical performance and was excited to meet him since Tim is one of the authors in an upcoming anthology of contemporary Native Americans that Nancy is editing. My biography of golfer Notah Begay will appear in the collection on athletes.
tim tingle performance
Authors Nancy Bo Flood and Tim Tingle
Tim Tingle and Barbara Gowan
Mark your calendar for March 14-15, 2015 and join thousands of bibliophiles at the Tucson Festival of Books. Follow all the activity on their website – http://tucsonfestivalofbooks.org
In addition to all the festival activities, I had the opportunity to tour the newly remodeled Worlds of Words in the College of Education at the U of A. The mission of WOW is to build bridges across global cultures through children’s and adolescent literature. The center is beautiful with specialized reading rooms, classrooms and workshop space plus an estimated 25,000 volumes focusing on world cultures and indigenous peoples.
World of Words
WOW Mary Wong’s Collection
WOW Kathy Short collection
WOW book shelf
WOW Culture Kits
U of A Ed bldg
Books for authors TFOB
Worlds of Words is offering free loan of language and culture kids around specific global cultures to K-8 classrooms and libraries. The kits contain picture books and novels, beginning language materials, and several cultural artifacts. In addition, the kits come with a guide containing inquiry strategies and curriculum resources. Contact Richard Clift, Coordinator of Collections and Outreach at WOW for information at email@example.com
Can I stow a saguaro in my suitcase? Or a tarantula in my tote bag? I don’t think so but I am packing some unusual items to share at my program and book signing at the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum. On Wednesday, August 13, I’ll be presenting my book, D is for Desert – a World Deserts Alphabet, in the Discovery Room at the museum. It will be fun to share my experiences of living in the desert with visitors to Washington, DC. I expect many will have never ventured into the land of sun, sand, and scorpions. I’ll do my best to introduce them to the wonders and beauty of this biome and how plants and animals are adapted to life in this arid environment.
Satellite view of the Sahara Desert
Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum
Desert storm coming
Healthy and dying saguaro
crestate cactus in Desert Botanical Garden, Papago Park, Phoenix
The event at the Discovery Center was a huge success with over 30 families taking a trip to the deserts of the world. Afterwards, my grandson Thomas helped me sell books in the museum lobby.
Thomas helped me sell books after the presentation
D is for Desert is now available at the Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian
Imagine my delight when I received an email from Shirley Berow and Kerrlita Westrick, co-chairs of the Grand Canyon Reader Award committee, announcing that D is for Desert – a World Deserts Alphabet is a 2015 nominee in the Nonfiction category. Wahoo! The Grand Canyon Reader Award is sponsored by the Arizona Library Association and is the state’s kids’ choice award. Nominated and voted on by Arizona’s children, the award is a special honor for an author. Ten books are in this year’s Nonfiction list. Kids must read or have read to them at least five of the nominees to have the opportunity to vote for their favorite. Competition for me is stiff this year as it is every year! Votes are due by April 1, 2015 so get started reading now. For the list of books in all categories – nonfiction, picture book, intermediate, tween and teen, check out the GCRA website. http://www.grandcanyonreaderaward.org
The website also has curriculum ideas, teacher’s guides, bookmarks and voting stickers. Consider inviting me into your class or to visit your school to share my presentation on D is for Desert. Check out the details on my SCHOOL AUTHOR VISIT PRESENTATIONS page.
Sharing the first pages of the book
Looking closely and carefully at a prickly pear pad
Sharing the rough draft
D is for Desert presentation at Ss. Simon & Jude Cathedral School in Phoenix
D is for Desert is an Outstanding Science Trade Book
Photos from the visit to Ss. Simon & Jude Cathedral School in Phoenix, AZ
Imagine a three week adventure in the rainforest. That’s how 22 future fourth graders at Cotton Boll Elementary School in Peoria spent their summer vacation. And they even wrote a book about it! I was invited to take students on a journey through the nonfiction writing process to create a class alphabet book. Everyone first learned about the biome they live in when I shared my book, D is for Desert – a World Desert alphabet and then it was off to the rainforest via a slide presentation of my photographs of the Amazon. It was a trip that didn’t require a passport or inoculations! Kids met in the library decorated as a colorful rainforest by library tech Margaret Crabtree. I visited four mornings and in that time we brainstormed and selected an animal for each letter of the alphabet, researched, wrote (and rewrote) and completed illustrations. Teachers continued the writing process (including peer editing) and also shared activities from rainforest read-alouds to tie-dying tshirts to puzzles and more on the other days. The books will be published by Vesuvius Press and distributed to the kids during a family literacy celebration in September.
Research – collecting awesome information
Writing using colored strips to help construct an organized paragraph
Illustrating ABCs – Accurate, Bold and Creative using oil pastels and background techniques like painting with bubble wrap
Thanks to Title 1 coordinator Kevin Adams and teachers Margarita Garcia, Linda Lavender, Amy Wallander and Sharon Stutzman.
To learn how to bring this writing workshop to your school, check out the Build a Book Writing Workshoppage. Other author opportunties are outlined in the School Author Visit Presentationsand Family Literacy Night pages on this website.