This was first posted on my Starborn Revue blog in 2016. I wanted to share these two books with you here. It's Thanksgiving Day in the United States, a day …
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Two Books to Help Develop an Attitude of Gratitude!

This was first posted on my Starborn Revue blog in 2016. I wanted to share these two books with you here.

It’s Thanksgiving Day in the United States, a day in which to remember what you’re grateful for in your life. These two books help us think about gratitude in a fun but meaningful way.

Title: The Very Fairy Princess: Attitude of Gratitude

Authors: Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton

Illustrator: Christine Davenier

Publisher: New York, Boston: Little Brown & Co, 2016

Genre: Picture book fiction

Audience Age: 4 and up

Themes/Topics: Giving thanks, gratitude, coping with setbacks

Opening Sentences: Hooray! It’s Gratitude Day! At school, we’ll be practicing an Attitude of Gratitude by showing kindness and appreciation all day long! Well…NO ONE has a fuller heart or is more appreciative than a fairy princess. That’s me! Gerry, the VERY fairy princess.

Synopsis: Gerry is looking forward to Gratitude Day at school, and plans to be the most grateful, appreciative, kind and caring kid (oops, fairy princess) that anyone could hope for.

But things start to go wrong as soon as she gets on the school bus. Her best friend is sick, and won’t be at school. She has to work to maintain her Gratitude Attitude when she has to sit beside Connor on the bus instead. Things just keep getting worse and worse. It gets harder and harder to have an attitude even CLOSE to gratitude, until it’s practically impossible.

However, fairy princesses never give up. Gerry has to find a way to get that Gratitude back. How she does it demonstrates resilience, imagination, and of course a LOT of SPARKLE. (Fairy princesses excel at SPARKLING in the face of adversity.)

I’m sure you’ll find this book delightful – and if you read it to a younger sibling or cousin, they’re sure to feel an attitude of gratitude toward you!

And just for fun, here’s a link to an interview with the authors! Click here.

~ ~ ~

Title: Grateful: A Song of Giving Thanks

Author: John Bucchino

Illustrator: Anna-Liisa Hakkarainen

Publisher: New York: HarperCollins, 2003

Genre: Picture book, song lyrics

Audience Age: Any age at all!

Theme/Topic: Gratitude

Opening Sentences: I’ve got a roof over my head. I’ve got a warm place to sleep. Some nights I lie awake counting gifts instead of counting sheep.

Synopsis: Through his gentle lyrics, John Bucchino celebrates the gift of gratitude, remembering all the things there are to be grateful for, including having “a heart that can love” and “a mind that can think.” He also acknowledges that there are times when gratitude is difficult, but somehow remembering the things there are to be grateful for, like people and friends around him. That helps lift his spirits up and make him even more grateful!

And there is a bonus – a CD at the back of the book that features Art Garfunkel singing this lovely song. (John Bucchino wrote both words and music.)

Activities/Resources to help develop an attitude of gratitude:

Make a poster or collage (using old magazines for pictures) of things to be grateful for.

Do something for someone else – Gerry, the Very Fairy Princess in the book above, gave things to the food bank. Some families help serve Thanksgiving dinner (or some other holiday meal) at a homeless shelter.

Learn to sing John Bucchino’s song. The music and lyrics are at the back of the book, as well as the CD. Maybe sing it around the table when you’re gathered with your family.

Talk about things you’re grateful for – I bet someone is grateful for YOU!

Have a happy Thanksgiving!

        
 
 

THE LONGEST LETSGOBOY by Derick Wilder, illustrated by Catia Chien — Book Recommendation

Title: THE LONGEST LETSGOBOY

Author: Derick Wilder

Illustrator: Catia Chien

Publisher: San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books, October 2021

Genre: Picture book

Audience Age: 3 to 8 years

Themes/Topics: dogs, dying, love, pets, hope

Opening Sentences: 

Mewmew wakes me, rumbledrumming my tummy.

I strrrrretch my oldbones.

Synopsis: This lovely, moving, heartfelt story tells of a much-loved old dog’s last day, from the dog’s perspective. The author, Derick Wilder, uses created words and phrases to enhance the feeling that this truly is the dog telling his story. The dog’s foreverfriend, Little, “holds out a tastytreat, letting me know I’m a gooddog, oh yes I am.”

When they go on a letsgoboy (a walk), he feels like an awwwpuppy again, but soon his oldbones tell him that he needs to pull back his pace. He slowly sniffs his way through the forest, saying goodbye to all the places, animals, smells, and sights that he has experienced with Little all his life. The reader can tell that he knows that the end of this wonderful life is near, but even so, there is hope that all will be well. The reader is not left desolate. The ending (which I will not give away) leaves you smiling through your tears.

And yes, there will be tears. Make sure you have tissues handy, and if you’re planning to read the book to your own Little or Littles, you might want to read it alone first. But please do read it with your Littles. It is such an amazing depiction of a pet’s love for his Little, and a Little’s love for her pet, that it must be shared. And the hope at the end is something that needs to be experienced.

Derick Wilder has written a winner. It will burrow its way into many hearts, bring back memories of awwwpuppies and mewmews of the past, inspire many joyful letsgoboys with goodboys and goodgirls, and leave wistful smiles on many faces.

Catia Chien’s soft smudgedreams of illustrations are perfect for this book.

I highly recommend it.

For Further Enrichment: 

About the author: Derick Wilder has been a technology consultant, has volunteered at wildlife sanctuaries, and is an educator and the founder of several programs to enhance kids’ lives. THE LONGEST LETSGOBOY is his debut picture book, with two more picture books on the horizon – both very different from his debut. He is obviously versatile! You can read more about him, his books, and his initiatives on his website.

About the illustrator: Catia Chien has illustrated several picture books, comics and other pieces. Her work shows her versatility and her heart. A video on PBS News Hour’s “Brief But Spectacular” will take you into her world. You can see her work at her website.

Activities: This would be an excellent book to introduce a conversation (or conversations) about death and dying. It also lends itself to conversations about caring for aging pets – and by extrapolation, aging loved ones. The publisher’s website lists other conversations that this book could facilitate.

Availability: Keeping in mind the current supply chain issues in the world, this book should be fairly readily available, although you might have to be patient. It is worth the wait. Check with your local (or online) independent bookseller.

        
 
 

November 11, 2021. We Will Remember Them

Red poppy lapel pin on suit jacket for Remembrance Day

I first posted this on November 12, 2018. I have updated it slightly. It is a long post, but I hope you will read it, and find meaning in it.

Today is the 103rd anniversary of the signing of the treaty that ended the 1914-1918 war, usually called World War I, known then as “the war to end all wars.” We all know now that although that name was filled with hope, that hope was quickly dashed.

Today, in ceremonies in small towns, in cities, at cenotaphs, in hearts, those who fought in that war and those who didn’t return will be remembered. We also remember those who fought in subsequent wars. We hope that someday there will be peace on earth.

There is also another group who made an enormous sacrifice during the bleak days of World War I, and who continue to sacrifice much every time soldiers are called to battle anywhere around the world – those who are left at home to carry on “normal” life.

It was true then. It is true now. And it is also true that often the sacrifices and courage and fears of those on the home front are not recognized, or are taken for granted.

There has been a great deal written about the battles of the First World War, about the soldiers on both sides, about the conditions, about all that happened on those muddy battlefields “over there.” There are official accounts, there are novels, there are small personal memoirs and diaries.

Not as much has been written about the home front, either officially or in fiction. One particular book in Canadian literature stands out, and has been called by some the best account we have of home life in Canada during that war. Once the modern reader gets past the decidedly different style of a book written in 1921 – 100 years ago – the story takes hold of the emotions and the intellect, and takes us into the heart of what daily life was like in that difficult time.

Rilla of Ingleside, by L.M. Montgomery, is the last of the beloved Anne series that begins with an eleven-year-old Anne in Anne of Green Gables and continues through Anne’s growing up years into her maturity. In Rilla of Ingleside, Anne is verging on middle age, and most of her large family have grown up.

The reader’s focus is turned to Rilla, the youngest of Anne and Gilbert’s children, who is fifteen at the beginning of the book. She is, as her mother laments, not ambitious at all. She’s only interested in enjoying life. Storm clouds on the horizon indicate that is about to change.

The author herself wrote later

In my latest story, “Rilla of Ingleside,” I have tried, as far as in me lies, to depict the fine and splendid way in which the girls of Canada reacted to the Great War—their bravery, patience and self-sacrifice. The book is theirs in a sense in which none of my other books have been: for my other books were written for anyone who might like to read them: but “Rilla” was written for the girls of the great young land I love, whose destiny it will be their duty and privilege to shape and share.

–L.M. Montgomery, from “How I Became a Writer,” 1921

Into the joy of a shoreside dance, a young man comes with the announcement that England has declared war on Germany. Some of the young men present are eager to prove themselves, seeing the possibility of fighting overseas as “a jolly adventure.” Others know, deep in their hearts, that there is nothing jolly about war.

One of the advantages to writing a novel about a period of history, even just a few years later, is that one can view the entire experience in its entirety, and one’s characters can seem more prescient than was likely in real life back then. Even realizing this, it is moving and heartbreaking when Anne’s son, Walter, speaks of the fulfillment of a vision he had in his childhood, of the Piper piping and all the youth following spellbound…

Young and heedless Mary Vance speaks for many as she says,

“What does it matter if there’s going to be a war over there in Europe? I’m sure it doesn’t concern us.”

Walter looked at her and had one of his odd visitations of prophecy.

“Before this war is over,” he said—or something said through his lips—”every man and woman and child in Canada will feel it—you, Mary, will feel it—feel it to your heart’s core. You will weep tears of blood over it. The Piper has come—and he will pipe until every corner of the world has heard his awful and irresistible music. It will be years before the dance of death is over—years, Mary. And in those years millions of hearts will break.”

Walter was right. And Rilla felt it as she lived through those years, and as she changed through those years: as she started a Junior Red Cross group in their village; as she took care of her ‘war baby,’ whose mother had died and whose father was at the battlefront; as she learned to follow every scrap of news avidly; and as she learned to check the published lists of those missing or killed.

What Rilla went through in fiction mirrored what countless families in Canada and elsewhere went through as they watched from afar. They were helpless to do anything but their best, and to hope it would all end soon, that peace would again come, though it would be a peace in which the world would no longer be the same.

We owe L.M. Montgomery our gratitude for giving us this glimpse into the world of those left at home. We can show that gratitude by being understanding and caring toward those who are dealing with the same griefs and heartaches and hopes in our time. And we can hope for peace. Someday. True and lasting and overarching peace.

~ ~ ~

To set Rilla’s story in the timeline of history, the event that set off the escalation of the conflict, the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo, took place on June 28, 1914. Britain declared war on August 4, 1914, and all colonies and dominions in the British Empire – including Canada – were immediately and automatically plunged into the conflict.

Canada’s population in 1914 was a little less than 8 million. By the end of the war, 619,000 Canadians had enlisted in the fight. Hundreds of thousands worked on the home front to help the cause.

At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month – November 11, 1918 – the treaty was signed that ended the “dance of death.” And every year since, we remember, and we remember those who have served since then, both those who have returned, and those who have not.

Let us also remember their families.

You can read more about the history of World War I at the War Museum of Canada website.

You can read more about Rilla of Ingleside as a depiction of home life during that war at the following links:

Rilla of Ingleside: An Account of Canadian Women and War by Jennifer Spiteri

From “The Conversation,” Anne of Green Gables Goes to War

A podcast, Rilla of Ingleside and the World War I Homefront

From Great War 100 ReadsRilla of Ingleside.

Peace to you. Peace to all.

        
 
 

Laura Backes Bard and Jon Bard are FOR WRITERS!

In the Writing Room

Laura Backes Bard and Jon Bard are the forces behind the Children’s Book Insider (CBI), a monthly magazine/newsletter for children’s book writers and illustrators, and the CBI Clubhouse, which is a fabulous online one-stop-spot for all things kidlit. If you have a question about the process of creating children’s books, chances are there’s an answer in the Clubhouse.

Children’s Book Insider and the goodies available in the Clubhouse are available by subscription at a decidedly affordable rate. You can find out more about joining the Insiders here.

That’s not all Laura and Jon do, though. Something I particularly appreciate is their bi-monthly KidLit Social. When the pandemic hit in March 2020, and most of us were suddenly at home, wondering what was going to happen and how we were going to continue to be creative, Laura and Jon began offering free online gatherings every week called (then) The KidLit Distancing Social. There we had a chance to gather with other creatives, celebrate good news that folks had sent in, learn about opportunities, and experience a live interview between Laura and another member of the creative kidlit community.

It has now morphed into an event called the KidLit Social, taking place on the first and third Tuesday of each month. It still offers fabulous learning experiences with an expanded interview segment, and it’s still FREE! I highly recommend you check into it. A bonus is that all previous socials are archived on their site, and you can view them at any time. You can find that archive here. The topic for the coming social is generally posted on social media the day before, in Facebook groups such as the Children’s Book Insider group, KidLit411, and the Children’s Book Hub, among others. If you’re signed up for the CBI newsletter, you’ll get an email telling what the next Social’s topic will be, usually the day before the event.

And that’s still not all!

They, along with colleagues in the kidlit writing world, have developed a series of courses for kidlit creatives known as Writing Blueprints, which you can find at this link. There is a cost for each course, but the content looks well worth every cent. You can try out the free sample for the Blueprints to see if that’s what you’re looking for.

They offer occasional webinars, at an affordable cost, on various topics of interest to kidlit creatives, taught by key people in the field.

They are co-founders of the wonderful one-day online conference, Picture Book Summit, along with Emma Walton Hamilton, Julie Foster Hedlund, and Katie Davis. Picture Book Summit also has a podcast, occasional posts about key issues in the kidlit world, even a free taste of PB Summit prior to the conference itself. Here’s the link to the Picture Book Summit website and the link to a post I did about the conference earlier this fall.

As you can see, Laura and Jon are definitely FOR WRITERS! I hope you’ll take a look at all they have to offer, and I hope you’ll find something that’s just right for you.

        
 
 

It’s Halloweensie time! Here’s my story…

Whose cat is that?

It’s past the witching hour on Friday, October 29, and that means it’s time for…

HALLOWEENSIE!

Yes, it’s time for Susanna Leonard Hill’s fabulous Halloweensie contest, in which writers create Halloween-themed stories for kids using 100 words or fewer (not counting the title), and including special words selected by Susanna. This year the words that must be present are goodies, glow-in-the-dark, and goosebumps (or any variation thereof). Without further adooooOOOOoooOOOOoOOOOooo, here’s my story. You can read all the stories (including this one) on Susanna’s blog, at this link. It’s going to be spine-shivering, bone-rattling fun!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Whose Cat is THAT? by Beth Stilborn (100 words exactly)

“Cassie! Stop petting that cat!”

“It shouldn’t be outside on Halloween.”

Cassie picked it up, along with her witchy broom and treat bag.

The door opened.

“Trick or treat!” yelled Willow.

“Is this your cat?” asked Cassie.

“Here are your goodies, but it’s not my cat.”

Every house, same question, same answer. Cassie’s arms ached. The cat yowled.

One house left. The SCARY, glow-in-the-dark house.

“I have goosebumps,” said Willow.

“I’m knocking anyway,” said Cassie.

The door creaked.

An old lady pounced.

Willow screeched.

The cat purred.

 “You’ve brought my Tabitha back!”

Cassie cheered. “That’s the best treat of all!”