Tuesday, June 21, 2016

THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY of Maxfield Parrish: Painter of Make Believe by Lois V. Harris

Art pulls me toward the subjects of my books. While researching for my second book, Charlie Russell: Tale-Telling Cowboy Artist, I learned Charlie was impressed with Maxfield Parrish’s use of color. I was not familiar with Parrish’s art, but if Russell, who is considered the greatest western artist, was affected by Parrish’s work, I would look for it when I finished the Russell project. In 2009 I located an 1897 copy of L. Frank Baum’s Mother Goose in Prose in the University of Washington’s Special Collections Library. The book was the first Parrish would illustrate. I sat in the library turning the yellowed pages admiring the illustrations. Parrish’s imagination showed in his characters’ medieval costumes backed by turrets and forts. But it was the colors in the illustrations that impressed me, like Russell. Parrish’s colors were bold and strong as though they were finished yesterday. I decided to research Maxfield Parrish and his art and soon knew I had the subject of my next inspiring life story. Maxfield Parrish: Painter of Magical Make-Believe, filled with colorful art images, was published in 2011.  

Lois V. Harris is the author of children's magazine articles and stories. Her books are Mary Cassatt: Impressionist Painter, Charlie Russell: Tale-Telling Cowboy Artist, Maxfield Parrish: Painter of Magical Make-Believe and coming in Spring 2017, "Lotta Crabtree: Gold Rush Fairy Star." Lois is a member of The Authors Guild, the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators, and a Writing Instructor at Skagit Valley College, Mount Vernon, Washington. She lives in Anacortes, Washington, and writes to inspire children to follow their dreams. Check out her website at www.loisharris.net

Maxfield Parrish: Painter of Magical Make-Believe, the inspiring life of the popular artist known for his imagination and style who helped develop the future of visual arts. Colorful images of his ads, calendars, landscapes, murals, posters, and illustrations for children's books accompany the story.  
NOTE from REVIEWER: If you are an author or illustrator who is interested in having your book reviewed on this blog, please e-mail LiterallyLynneMarie@Gmail.com for hard copy address. We would be glad to review your book, and if possible, include an activity for readers. We are also interested in Guest Blog Posts and select Interviews. Thank you for supporting My Word Playground in it's goal to spread the Word about reading and children's writing. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

WRITING TIP : Occupy Your Body by Mimi Cross

It may sound obvious, this idea of staying in the body—I mean, where else are we going to go? We live in our bodies. But as writers, we often hang out in our heads. As a result, we need more grounding than most folks. Walking, running, swimming, dancing—even working around the house can help ground you. Yoga works best for me. 
Yoga is a body, mind, spirit practice—an extremely powerful practice—so it’s not just for the body. Yoga postures can be simple or complicated, easy or difficult, or sometimes all of these things at once, but as they ground the participant in physicality, they also help quiet the mind and magically nurture the spirit. (Yes, for me anyway, magically really is the right word.)
Besides asanas (postures) yoga involves breath work and meditation. Bringing pranayama (breath work) and meditation (stillness—or, an attempt at stillness anyway) into your yoga practice often manifests in daily life as a turning inward, which works well with visualization. This is of course what writers do all the time: we visualize our characters, or imagine the details of a setting, or literally picture plot points, the action.
In a yoga class, visualization might be different, might be used for relaxation, or healing. But it’s still the same mental muscle, so visualizing in yoga class or during your own personal yoga practice will help you in your writing. Visualization, of course, happens in the mind, and so you need a physical activity to bring you back into your body . . . And so the cycle goes, and before you know it, your novel—or picture book, or middle grade series, or screenplay, or song—is finished.
Our bodies hold our stories, sometimes in an obvious way. A sprained ankle in Paris, for example, has all the makings of a good story. But there are hidden stories too, that our bodies carry. Secret stories. Yoga can help writers access those stories.
Any type of writer—any type of artist—will benefit from practicing yoga, whether it’s at the beginner, intermediate, or advanced level. So spend time with your body on a yoga mat, or in the garden, or at the gym. Breathe, and listen. You might hear something that surprises you. When that happens, I know you’ll write it down.
 Mimi Cross is an author, singer, and songwriter. She received a Bachelor of Music from Ithaca College and an MA from New York University. She has been a performer, a music educator, and worked briefly in the music industry. She is the creator of Body of Writing, a practice combining yoga and writing that boosts creativity. 

"Mimi fuses delicacy and power, heart and gut. Her writing and singing are inspiring, evocative and refreshing."
--Grammy award winning artist Rosanne Cash

Mimi's debut novel, Before Goodbye, was published by Skyscape Books. She resides with her young son in New Jersey.  Shining Sea, her second novel, was published in May and is set on the coast of Maine. Perfect beach read! 

SHINING SEA by Mimi Cross * 
Price: $9.99 paperback, $5.99 eBook * Skyscape

About the Author

Mimi Cross is an author, singer, and songwriter. Grammy award–winning artist Rosanne Cash has described Cross’s writing and singing as “Fusing delicacy and power, heart and gut. Inspiring, evocative, and refreshing.” Cross received a bachelor of music from Ithaca College and an MA from New York University and is the creator of Body of Writing, a practice combining yoga and writing that boosts creativity. Her debut novel, Before Goodbye, was published by Skyscape. She resides with her young son in New Jersey.

Visit Mimi online at www.mimicross.com or follow her on Twitter @mimicross.

Friday, June 17, 2016

PPBF: Lorenzo the Pizza Loving Lobster by Claire Lordon

Written & Illustrated By: Claire Lordon
Little Bee Books, 2016 
Suitable For Ages: 2-5
Themes/Topics: Persistence, Fun with Food
Opening: Lorenzo was an adventurous lobster who loved discovering new foods and exploring fun places. 
Brief SynopsisWhen Lorenzo, an adventurous lobster, experiences Pizza for the first time, he rushes off to share his new discovery with his best friend Kalena. Despite being unsure of the ingredients, Lorenzo and Kalena attempt to make their own pizza pie, with comical results. Seaweed Sand Dollar Pizza, anyone? 
Disappointed with their pizza failure, Kalena leaves Lorenzo's home in search of lunch when she finds the perfect solution. This time, they study every little bit so that they can cook their own and make it right! 
Links To Resources
Read the book, and then have fun and make your own pizza!
Why I Like This Book:   LORENZO THE PIZZA-LOVING LOBSTER is a fun and engaging book for little ones. The illustrations are cute and colorful. We also thought the book inspires a multitude of art projects, one of which we have produced and featured here. 

My daughter and I look forward to more of Lorenzo's adventures from Little Bee Books (a division of Bonnier Publishing). 

Because I thought this book is perfect to read to little ones during a class or library story time, I designed a puppet that can be copied and used during those times. 

I used glue, one sandwich bag, three pieces of red construction paper, one scrap of blue construction paper, one scrap of white construction paper, one scrap of yellow construction paper, one scrap of pink construction paper and one scrap of black construction paper. 

To make the lobster back, I placed a brown paper sandwich bag in the center of a full red sheet and traced it. I then drew a lobster back around it. Cut out and paste on. In addition, I cut strips to cover the front, a head, two lobster arms and a tail, all  using the paper back as a guide for sizing, and glued them all all. I also free cut the hat, the eyes, whiskers and tongue and glued them on as well, and voila, a story-time pal! 

REVIEWER NOTE: If you have a book that you would like to consider being reviewed by Kayla and me for this blog, please message me at LiterallyLynneMarie@Gmail.com. We may even include an activity or craft to go with your review. Thank you!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

TWO FOR ONE REVIEWS: Eat Your US History Homework: Recipes for Revolutionary Minds, Written by Anne McCallum

 I'll admit I was looking for this book because it was illustrated by Leeza Hernandez and I just adore her quirky art. But boy was I in for a tasty surprise!

I agree that, as this book says, "History is full of flavor."  And there's no better way to see just how flavorful than to "eat your history homework!" My only regret is that this book only covers the revolutionary period.

Included, along with fascinating history, are historical timeline, kitchen tips, historical background, diagrams, historical review, glossary and "recipes for revolutionary minds." Recipes represent a span of people from the Native American tribes to the earliest British/Dutch settlers, which are known as the pilgrims (which makes it a great Thanksgiving book as well).   

Whether your child is a history lover or a history avoider, this is the perfect book to serve up during a meal. The text is engaging, the illustrations and modern and entertaining, and, after all, who wouldn't enjoy a bowl of Independence Icecream or Colonial Cherry Berry Grunt? 

My daughter also read along in this book -- as a lover of picture books, picture book art, history and baking, she devoured each and every word.  And she said -- who doesn't love bunnies? She loved the art and the fun details it included, as did I.  

So now's your chance to serve up a plate of history that all will enjoy! And for me, I have two parting comments. One is YUM! And the other is that I hope the Charlesbridge decides to release more books for more historical periods. 

Now pardon me while I go off and eat some history homework! 

NOTE from REVIEWER: If you are an author or illustrator who is interested in having your book reviewed on this blog, please e-mail LiterallyLynneMarie@Gmail.com for hard copy address. We would be glad to review your book, and if possible, include an activity for readers. We are also interested in Guest Blog Posts and select Interviews. Thank you for supporting My Word Playground in it's goal to spread the Word about reading and children's writing.

Monday, June 13, 2016

TWO FOR ONE REVIEWS: Hildie Bitterpickles Needs Her Sleep, Written by Robin Newman & Illustrated by Chris Ewald

From the first time I laid eyes on this book, I loved it. First of all, who wouldn't enjoy saying Hildie Bitterpickles? It's easy to love -- the quality cover with engaging art promises a fun cast of characters - at the very least, a witch, a cat and other witchy friend. But that's not all, there are more surprises inside.

So we know from the the title that Hildie needs her sleep and suspect that a problem is brewing. I can totally identify with Hildie -- I remember long summer nights of insomnia during my childhood summers as crickets created a ruckus outside my window. But Hildie's problem is MUCH bigger than crickets. It's a giant with a clangity, clanky, clunky beanstalk elevator.

Hildie's problem becomes worse as other fairy tale characters turn up, which promise less chance of Hildie sleeping, but more fun and entertainment for the reader.

Finally, Hildie gets fed up enough to take matters into her own hands and uses her head to make everyone happy in a clever and satisfying resolution.

Kayla adds that she too, liked the art and thought it was a very fun read. She loved the fairy tale references, and especially liked the way Hildie solved her problem at the end.

There's so much that we both loved about this book, that I was inspired to create my own Hildie Bitterpickles puppet!

This paper bag puppet is made using a lunch-sized paper bag, construction paper (off white, purple, orange and red), scissors, glue stick and a few strips of scrap book paper for the hatband and belt. Paper Hilde can easily  be reproduced by tracing a paper bag as a guideline and using that page to guide the size of Hildie's face, dress, mouth, hair and hat.

If you make your own Hildie Bitterpickles Paper Bag puppet, please send your picture to: LiterallyLynneMarie@gmail.com so that I may share it, either on my blog or other social media. Sending me the photo is your express consent to publish it.

To the left is a picture of my daughter with my puppet creation. We hope to use it in a Library Story Time Presentation.

We would like to thank Robin Newman for writing such a fun book, Chris Ewald for illustrating it, and Creston Books for publishing it.

For more info on Robin, go to:

For more info on Creson, go to:

REVIEWER NOTE: If you have a book that you would like to consider being reviewed by Kayla and me for this blog, please message me at LiterallyLynneMarie@Gmail.com. We may even include an activity or craft to go with your review. Thank you!

Monday, June 6, 2016

FICTION CRITIQUES 101 by Charisse Floyd © 1999


 A well-rounded critique can be an invaluable tool for any writer who seeks publication. Often, it takes the keen eyes of a peer group to see the strengths and weaknesses of a manuscript. However, the beginning writer may feel inadequate or unprepared to view another’s work from a critical standpoint.

     Balanced critiques create a stimulating environment of clarity and growth for all critique partners involved in the process. The following guidelines for fiction critiques should add a flexible degree of structure for those who are new to the forum.

A.     Appropriate Genre Guidelines
1.       Is the title both appealing and compelling?
2.       Is the subject matter age and genre appropriate?
3.       Is the word count in compliance with guidelines?
B.      Style
            1.   Are there grammar or structure problems?
            2.   Are sentence structures varied? (too long, too short, awkward)
3.   Are there smooth transitions between thoughts, paragraphs, and scenes?
            4.   Does the tone of the story match the intensity of the story’s conflict?
            5.   Do the five senses play on the reader’s imagination/emotions?
                        (see, taste, hear, smell, feel)
C.     Setting
1.   Is the setting clear in each scene?
            2.   Does the setting come alive for the reader?
D.    Point of View
1.   Is the POV choice effective for the story?
            2.   Is the POV consistent throughout the narrative?
            3.   Would the story be more interesting from another POV?
E.     Hooks and Cliffhangers
1.   Does the opening hook sell the book or the story?
            2.   Does the story/chapter opening catch the reader’s attention?
            3.   Does every chapter end with a cliffhanger?
F.      Plot
1.   Is there a beginning, middle, and end?
            2.   Is the plot unique and interesting?
            3.   Is the conflict clear to the reader?
            4.   Does the story begin at the right moment?
                        (too much pre-story/too far into the action)
            5.   Does every event move the story forward?
            6.   Is the action credible and age appropriate for the characters?
7.      Does the pace feel comfortable?
(moves too slow or too fast/sags in the middle)
            8.   Is the ending a natural progression of character growth and plot development? (makes sense, satisfying, falls short, an unrealistic surprise)
G.    Characterization
1.   Is the main character (MC) clear to the reader?
            2.   Does the MC grow by end of the story?
            3.   Does the MC resolve the story’s conflict?
            4.   Are the traits of each character balanced and believable?
            5.   Are the character names appropriate or distracting?
H.    Dialogue
1.   Does the dialogue flow smoothly?
            2.   Is the dialogue essential to the plot?
            3.   Does the narration add to the dialogue or merely reiterate?
            4.   Is there a good balance between narration and dialogue?
            5.   Does the dialogue and action fit each character’s profile?
I.       Feedback
1.   What are the strengths of the manuscript?
            2.   What are the weaknesses of the manuscript?

            3.   Can you offer suggestions to strengthen the story?

NOTE: This is a reprint of an article by Charise Floyd for Writer's Moon in 1999. Although she showed such talent and promise, she has dropped off the grid.  If anyone knows a current e-mail, facebook or other contact method for Charisse, please let me know, so that I can send her a link. Thank you!