Thanks so much for visiting HipWriterMama, my blog about children's books, authors and readergirlz!

It's time for a change. I've decided to focus my attention on my writing blog, www.vivianleemahoney.com. Hope to see you there!


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Cybils 2007

I'm excited to announce that I'll be helping out with the 2007 Cybils. I'm on the Nominating Panel of Jen Robinson's MG/YA Non-Fiction Committee. Other members of this cool committee are:

Nominating Panel:
Mindy (Propernoun.net)
Susan Thomsen (Chicken Spaghetti)
KT Horning (Worth the Trip)
Vivian (me!) (HipWriterMama)
Becky (Farm School at Home)

Judging Panel:
Tracy Chrenka (Talking in the Library)
Emily Mitchell (Emily Reads)
Camille Powell (Book Moot)
Alice Herold (Big A little a)
Jennie Rothschild (Biblio File)

As described in the Cybils blog: "The public nominates their favorite children's books from 2007 in seven categories: Picture Books; Non-fiction Picture Books; Middle Grade fiction; Poetry; Young Adult fiction; Non-fiction (YA/MG); and Graphic Novels. Nominations open on October 1.

When we say "the public," we mean it. Anyone with an e-mail address may nominate one book per category. Then groups of bloggers get to work. First, a nominating committee reads ALL the titles in a given category. After nearly two arduous months, this committee winnows the nominees to five finalists. A second committee of bloggers considers the shortlist and, after
much debate, chooses the best of the best for 2007. "

In case you're wondering about the rules for the Cybils nominations, here they are. Remember, nominations start October 1st, over here!

If You're Having Writer's Block...

Here's a little something to make you laugh. Liz, thanks for finding this gem.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Inspiration Monday: 30 Day Challenge: Time to Report on Progress

When every new week starts, do you sigh and wonder why you didn't follow through on your new habits on a regular basis? Or, are you pleased with your progress, gearing up for a whole new week? I hope, I hope, you're all going to say you've been happy with your progress, and this exercise has helped you move toward your goals.

And if you're in the camp that's wondering how you're going to get to your dreams, if you haven't been able to work daily on your habits for the past three weeks, don't despair now. Let's take a few moments to examine what it was you wanted to accomplish. Remember, the purpose of this 30 Day Challenge was to take one thing--one little habit that will help you work toward your goal, and do it everyday.

Did you choose one little habit? Something simple like: I will throw out the junk mail every single day. Or did you decide to conquer the world: I will separate my mail out into a junk pile, bill pile and social piles then throw out the junk mail, write checks to pay all my bills and mail them, and write letters to all my family and friends. Everyday. Whew...just writing all that down is pretty exhausting.

So, which type of habit did you choose? Something that was entirely doable everyday? No matter what was happening in your life? Or a huge task, that is really much easier to put aside and let stagnate until you're overwhelmed with the stink of the mess created since you've avoided it for so long and you realize the project is too big and you're going to fail, and there's no way you can do it and while you're at it, just forget about your dreams anyway.

Okay, let it all out. It's okay to mope for a little bit. Now get back up, shake all those negative thoughts out and rethink how you're going to get to your goal. Remember, little steps, little steps. Now, go back at it. You can totally do it!

I'm writing all about this because I kind of faltered this past week. I wrote three days of the week. Then my little one celebrated a birthday, my middle one was sick, life's moments happened and before I knew it, the week was over. And I only wrote three days rather than everyday. Though I did think about my WIP, and wrote short notes throughout the week. Good yes, but not the half hour of writing I had wanted to do everyday. Here's to a better week.

Now it's your turn to report in. How did you do?

Book Giveaway Winner: Emily's First 100 Days of School

NoWheyMama! You won a paperback copy of Emily's First 100 Days of School. Send me an e-mail with your address, and I'll send it along to you. Congratulations!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

It's All In The Instructions

You know how in all the Harry Potter books, the young wizards all follow the same instructions from their books to brew those potent potions or weave one of their powerful spells...but only a select few, ever create the right potion or spell the first time around? Let alone, the second or third time. It takes practice or sometimes luck, the right flick of the wrist, the exact pinch of this and that, and then...BAM! Magic.

SPOILER: Well, I'm in the middle of reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Book 6) right now, and have found it pretty interesting that Harry has discovered a book with handwritten notes jotted next to the potions and spells. These notes, left by the mysterious Half-Blood Prince are very exact and sometimes contrary to the book instructions. But, Harry gets perfect results the first time around. ***TINY SPOILER ENDS.

I was thinking about Harry's book on Friday, when I was trying to put together my eldest daughter's new desk from IKEA. I'm a big believer in cool desks for kids, but when the price tag for some of the dreamy kid's furniture out of those catalogs is more than my monthly car payment, I get a bit stressed and start looking for other alternatives.

A friend told me about IKEA and how it was amazing and all, so I had to go see for myself on Friday. And I found the perfect desk with cool shelve spaces that my daughter was drooling over when she looked at the said catalog. Did I mention you have to put the furniture together? That didn't scare me. I'm actually have my own tool box. Three packages and one desk leg later, I came home, looked at the instructions, and started to assemble Box #1.

Now, the people at IKEA either don't have faith that people are going to read the directions the right way, or think the visual illustrations are easier to understand, or both, because all they give you are drawings. No written instructions. Just a couple pages of drawings showing what tools you need, and what goes where. All the pieces are predrilled. No phone number for customer service, in case there's a problem. Clearly, they're pretty confident in this method.

Fifteen minutes later, I'm cursing myself, wondering why the pieces aren't lining up properly. I'm looking at the drawing, then at how I put things together, when the lightbulb went off in my head. I took everything apart, then tried to take out all the screws and nails that I already had in the thing. Thirty minutes later, I finally was able to start again. And I scrapped those visual directions and put together the thing the Half-Blood Prince's way, tweaking things here and there to get the right results. I finished the first desk shelves in twenty minutes.

It was so much easier to put together the second set of shelves. Fifteen minutes and on to the next step. Fifteen minutes later, the whole desk was assembled and ready to go. Here's the finished desk.

This desk is plenty big enough for when I sit with third grader and review her homework. Or if she has a friend over and they work on their homework together. I'm not going to stress if I see dings on the desk, or stickers, or dried up glue, or pen marks, or drawings or whatever on this desk. Perfectly functional, which I love. Though the best part is...my third grader loves this desk! She loves how she can do all her homework on the desk and all her big artwork without the paper falling off the table. The perfect creation!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Poetry Friday: Two Books, One Book Giveaway and a Picture Book Carnival

I had a little nut-tree,
nothing would it bear
But a silver nutmeg and a golden pear;
The king of Spain's daughter came to visit me,
And all because of my little nut-tree.
I skipped over water,
I danced over sea.
And all the birds in the air
couldn't catch me.

-Mother Goose

My four year old just learned this rhyme in preschool and has been entertaining us at dinnertime with this song. Every day for a whole week. She loves rhymes and if you can put it into song, it is even better.

A few weeks ago, I came home to find a surprise package from a publisher. I was pleased to see Mother Goose's Little Treasures by Iona Opie and Rosemary Wells, pictured on the left. Thank you, Candlewick Press.

Iona Opie is considered to be a world authority on children's rhymes. She has collected some little known treasures for this lovely book. These sweet rhymes are perfectly paired with the charming illustrations of Rosemary Wells. My children have all grown up with Rosemary Wells--they are huge fans of Max & Ruby and Timothy Goes to School.

I have to admit, I've never heard of most of these nursery rhymes, so it was interesting to read them. Children who are learning to read will enjoy following along with the large, easy to read type in a color similar to this. Children will delight in the charming watercolor illustrations, many which have the sweet animal characters Rosemary Wells does so well. Now I have to figure out if we can put any of these into song.

Mother Goose's Little Treasures
by Iona Opie and Rosemary Wells
Published: August 2007
Book received from Publisher


When we went to our favorite bookstore last week, my first grader immediately saw this paperback book, Emily's First 100 Days of School by Rosemary Wells and really wanted it. MC is a numbers girl and couldn't wait to dive into this book. This oversized paperback picture book is jam packed with learning opportunities for math, reading and writing. Add the colorful drawings and delightful stories, and your kindergartener or first grade child will discover how fun the first 100 days of school can be.

My child really loves this book, so I went and picked up another copy for my book giveaway. Comment below for a chance to win this delightful paperback book! Edited to add: I forgot to add the deadline for this, which would be helpful, wouldn't it? Comment by Sunday, September 23rd at 11pm EST to be entered into this Book Giveaway.

Emily's First 100 Days of School
by Rosemary Wells
Published: September 2005
Purchased this Book


For those of you who love all things picture books, Literacy Teacher is organizing the third Picture Book Carnival. Submissions are due by October 5th. So round up your posts and send them in!


Sara Lewis Holmes is hosting Poetry Friday today. Go on over, submit your Poetry Friday post, and read away. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

More Books on Cliques, Friendship and Self Esteem

We're already halfway through September and hopefully by now, all the children out there have adjusted to the school routine. Earlier this week, I reposted my book list for Cliques, Friendships and Self-Esteem. Today, I have some more books that would be great for boys as well. Keep in mind that adults should read these books first, and then use them as tools to help their children.

The Unwritten Rules of Friendship: Simple Strategies to Help your Child make Friends by Natalie Madorsky Elman and Eileen Kennedy-Moore: This book describes the different ways children interact with their friends, along with guidelines for parents to help their child understand their strengths to help nurture friendships.

Raise Your Child's Social IQ: Stepping Stones to People Skills for Kids by Cathi Cohen: This book is based on social skills training programs to help with social skills and awareness.

The Bully, The Bullied and the Bystander: From Preschool to High School -- How Parents and Teachers can break the Cycle of Violence by Barbara Coloroso: Learn how the bully, the bullied and the bystander all feed into each other's reaction; how to identify signs; and how each type of child can be taught to change their part in this destructive cycle.

Some light hearted books to read with your children:

Cliques, Phonies and other Baloney by Trevor Romain, ages 9-12: This easy to read book keeps it silly while exploring a tough subject for kids.

Bullies are a Pain in the Brain by Trevor Romain, ages 9-12: The colorful drawings, fun style, and question and answer section are great to open up a conversation with your child.

King of the Playgroud by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, ages 4-8

The Recess Queen by Alexis O'Neill, ages 4-8

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

If You Want to Know More About Me....

If you want to know more about me...then head on over to 7-Imp. Jules and Eisha interviewed me and thought my interview was interesting enough to post. I still feel like I won the lottery -- I mean, they featured me in their incredible blog! And I'll tell you a secret...I'd date and marry their blog in a second. It's that awesome. Thank you, Jules and Eisha!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Cliques, Friendships and Self-Esteem

Note: Now that school has started again, I thought I'd repost this for those who might need these resources... The orginal post date was May 6, 2007.


A friend of mine has been concerned with how the girls in her daughter's second grade class interact with one another. Seems like there are cliques, there is exclusion, and quite a few hurt feelings. For both daughter and mom.

My friend thinks second grade is too young for cliques and exclusion. While I agree second grade is too young for the cliques and exclusion, I'm not surprised to hear about it. I've been shocked and horrified by a few of the antics from girls in my children's classes over the past few years. And there's a nagging voice inside me that keeps asking, "Isn't this supposed to happen in middle school?"

When I first observed some of this incredulous behavior, I went in search of advice and books. Seems the topic of cliques creates alot of discomfort. In light of all my informal research, I believe as adults, we relive our childhood friendships when we deal with our children's friendship problems. It doesn't matter whether we were popular or the class nerd, all of us had issues we had to deal with when we were younger. And it unwittingly shows when we help our children navigate the uncertain waters surrounding friendships and cliques.

Most children's self esteem is strongly tied to their friendships and how others see them. I believe as parents, if we can help our children through their friendship problems with ease, we can keep our children confident with good self esteem.

I've come up with a short list of books and websites parents can read to understand how to keep your girls strong through their friendship difficulties. While most of this information is applicable to the middle school and high school years, as kids sometimes act older or mature faster, you may still find it helpful for your elementary age child. If you have anything else to add, please let me know, and I'll add them to the list. Also, I'll research some books and websites for boys and post them next week.

And now, A Sunday's List:
1. Queen Bees and Wannabees by Rosalind Wiseman -- The movie Mean Girls was based on this book. This book should apply to middle school and high school age girls. It will give you insight to cliques, friendships, gossip, boyfriends, and other stuff the girls will eventually go through. It a tougher world out there than I remember.
2. Odd Girl Out by Rachel Simmons -- This book explores friendships and bullying by middle school and high school girls. Some cliques lead to targeting and bullying, so it's important to know how to handle if your girls turn out to be the instigators or the recipients.
3. Odd Girl Speaks Out: Girls Write About Bullies, Cliques, Popularity and Jealousy by Rachel Simmons, middle school and high school level.
4. Friends: Making Them and Keeping Them (American Girl Library) by Stacy Peterson, Erin Falligant, Michelle Watkins, and Chris David, ages 9 - 12
5. Cliques: Eight steps to help your child survive the social jungle by Charlene Giannetti, middle school level.

Here are some interesting links:
1. Coping With Cliques, age 8-9
2. Parenting of K-6 children, ages 5-12
3. Girls Cliques: What Role Does Your Daughter Play?, ages 10 and up. This takes an excerpt from the book Queen Bees and Wannabees on the structure of cliques.
4. Girl Power!, ages 9-13
5. PBSKids: It's My Life, ages 9-12
6. Girls Health:Real Life Friendships, ages 12 and up
7. Helping your Pre-Teen Survive Teenage Fights, ages 9-12

Let me know if you have any other suggestions. Thanks!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Inspiration Monday: Half Way Point: 30 Day Challenge Check In Time

We're halfway there to the finish line. Only two more weeks to go to perfect those daily habits that will help us kick butt towards our dreams.

Okay, I must confess, I wrote only during the weekdays. This weekend, we were so jam packed with family activities, I decided to give myself a break. I just didn't have the energy to write. And you know my thoughts on this, right?

I've written down great stuff--character motivation, plot ideas, snippets of dialogue, a couple of chapters. Now I've got to tie things in together this week.

How did you do?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Writing Tip: One Way to Tackle Writer's Block

I have a few manuscripts laying around that I started quite some time ago in the rush of a great idea. I'd write on and on and feel like I had wonderful moments of brilliance, and then, my creativity would kind of fizzle away and turn into writer's block.

Most writer's get writer's block. Or so I've heard. And it kind of makes me feel better...that I'm not the only one. It helps me kind of plow back into the land of writing, rather than moping around acting all helpless and all.

I'll share one thing that has helped me along the way--after I've finished perfecting my procrastination efforts. I have a conversation with my protagonist and ask alot of questions. Okay, before you think I'm totally off my rocker, let me explain a little more what this means.

I write down the key personality traits of my protagonist, and make sure I've captured the essence in my writing. I might have to ask a few more questions to better hone in on something. Sometimes all I need to do is tweak a few things about how my protagonist would react to a situation or talk in a conversation, and I'm all set to go again. Because there are certainly times, when my adult reaction is written in, rather than my protagonist's teen view. I also think of how my protagonist views other people or situations and it helps me focus and write again. And then, I have to take another look at what the other characters think about my protagonist.

Once I've finished rewriting a few chapters, I read them. Out loud. Personally, I think there's nothing like reading out loud to catch the various nuances of dialogue, plot development and pacing. It helps me decide whether the writing sounds natural or if it sounds forced and needs a complete overhaul. Which gets me thinking. And back to writing.

What do you do to really tackle writer's block?

Friday, September 14, 2007

Poetry Friday Roundup is Here!

Okay, everyone. Poetry Friday Roundup is here! I've got Mr. Linky down below. So leave a comment with your link. I'll be adding submissions to the Roundup throughout the day -- so do not despair! Add your post, hang out with me for awhile, and check out everyone's submissions. You'll be so glad you did.

If you're new to Poetry Friday, and wonder whether or not you can participate...the answer is a resounding Yes! For detailed information on what Poetry Friday is all about, check out Chicken Spaghetti's most excellent explanation.

And for anyone who may have missed this very important appeal to bloggers, please visit 7-Imp to find out how you can help spread the word and highlight some phenemomenal children's book illustrators who graciously donated their talents in creating some eye-popping snowflakes for the Robert's Snow:Cure for Cancer Snowflake Auction.

Take me out to the ballgame...Kelly Fineman is in with a book review of Baseball Haiku: The Best Haiku Ever Written About the Game.

Fall is fast approaching...Kira shares a little Robert Frost.

MsMac is in with Gary Soto's Ode to My Library.

Suzanne is in with some sheer unmitigated silliness and some John Baillie.

Apparently, this poem was meant for my family. Michele is in with some Roald Dahl and Television.

When a brown truck drives up to your home, do you run to the door with a huge smile on your face? If so, read Mary Lee's post: Why I Have a Crush on You, UPS Man by Alice N. Persons.

"When thoughts of young John Lennon and "The French Connection" collide..." Slatts explains the references to this poem in his comments.

Angsty graffiti, finding brilliance and keeping poetry. Thanks, Sara Lewis Holmes.

Tricia is in with an original poem about the Rainy Day Blues.

Laura Salas wrote in the comments: Wordy Girls is in with 15 Words or Less poems written in response to a dog pic. Come add your own! Aww...this is a great picture to express in 15 words or less.

John Mutford is in with a classic poem, "My Papa's Waltz" by Theodore Roethke.

A stunning book cover...Jama Rattigan shares "Boss of Food" by Lois-Ann Yamanaka.

Literacy Teacher is dreamin' about sunny, warm California.

Here's an amusing analysis about a preachy, preposterous Old (Sunday) School rhyme from "Bee" Happy. Thank you, Sam Riddleburger. Great header on your blog, by the way.

Karen Edmisten is in with a poem about the changing weather by Robert Finch.

The Old Coot (oh my, I feel so irreverent typing in your moniker) is in with a poem for those in a silly mood...Carmen Possum.

Anne Levy is in with "Mrs. Biddlebox: Her Bad Day ... and What She Did About it!"for some witchy fun.

Oh, to be back at the beach! Cloudscome has a great poem, "Jetty" by Andromeda Jazmon.

Elaine Magliaro shares a lovely poem she wrote for Grace Lin's husband, Robert Mercer, in honor of their plans for the first Robert's Snow.

Crispus Attucks shares a poem, "Freedom's Plow" by Langston Hughes. Powerful stuff.

Semicolon is in with Indwelling by T.E. Brown.

What is an onion? AmoXcalli shares the Spanish and English version of Pablo Neruda's beautiful poem, Oda a la cebolla/Ode to an Onion.

Cuentecitos is in with Rafael Guillen's El Cafetal and a video on Aztec dancing and Mexican Independence Day.

TadMack shares an imaginative poem called "Sunflakes" by Frank Asch.

The Simple and the Ordinary is in with a lovely poem, "Evensong" by Robert Louis Stevenson.

Liz Garton Scanlon has a cool poem, "Baby Doll Dress" by Lorna Dee Cervantes.

Melissa Wiley is in with "The Solitary Reaper" by William Wordsworth and a passage from his sister Dorothy's journal about the inspiration for the poem.

Charlotte is in with a little Ted Hughes.

Alkelda the Gleeful shares "Bric-a-Brac" by Dorothy Parker.

"I'm checking in with the prog rock stylings of Vonnegut this week," writes David Elzey in the comments. "Nice, Nice, Very Nice."

Oooo, another library poem! Becky shares "At the Library" by Nikki Grimes.

"Some Things Don't Make Any Sense At All." Thanks Susan for sharing some Judith Voirst.

Busy days and lots of cooking over at Becky's farm. Oh, it sounds so good and healthful. I'll have some pie and fun limericks.

These poems are for Sylvia's dog and dogs everywhere...

Blog from the Windowsill reviews The Twelve Days of Christmas: a Pinata for the Pinon Tree by Philemon Sturges.

Maureene has some Sneezles and a poem by the same name by A.A. Milne. Feel better!

What do Dylan Thomas, Robert Frost, Shakespeare, Rodney Dangerfield, Charles Bronson, and Porky's II have in common? Oh, this is too fun, Nancy!

Katie has a fun poem, A Fairy Went A-Marketing by Rose Fyleman.

Another sweet fairy poem! Miss Erin shares some Joyce Kilmer.

Summer is Gone. As translated by Kuno Meyer. Thanks, Liz.

Ponies! My kids would find that "A Blessing"--with a capital B. Thanks Eisha for sharing a little James Wright.

Linda Acorn shares Live With Me On Earth Under the Invisible Daylight Moon by Milton James Rhode Acorn.

Little Willow shares A Dancing Girl by Frances Sargent Osgood. Lovely.

Stacey Shubitz shares a holiday celebration poem...Rosh Hashanah by Alicia Ostricker.

World of Wands has a beautiful haiku inspired by the lotus flower from Thailand.

What child wouldn't love a Sugar Plum Tree? Cay Gibson shares this sweet poem by Eugene Field.

Gwenda is in with "No World is Intact" by Alice Notley.

A talented twelve-year-old poet. Thank you, Katied, for sharing Chapters.

Sarah Miller shares In the Land of Words by Eloise Greenfield.

Crystal J. Gillis submits a new set of original poems.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


The Prayer by Josh Groban and Charlotte Church is simply beautiful and fills the need when I need to hear words of comfort. I offer you this breathtaking duet of grace and faith.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Inspiration Monday: 30 Challenge Check-In

Time for the first check-in for the Get Back on Track 30 Day Challenge. I can't believe how quickly this past week went.

Talk about busy. Two of my children started school last week. There was much to do to make sure homework was done, schedules kept, study areas organized, errands completed. I kept thinking I'd have time to write while the kids were in school, but settled for working in the evening, as I tend to do, once everyone was asleep.

Of course, this wasn't a foolproof plan. Because I was tired. So tired, I fell asleep while reading bedtime stories to the little one, two nights in a row. So tired, that when I woke up, I thought about getting up to write, but decided my beauty sleep was far more important.

But, instead of 30 minutes of writing each day, I managed to write an hour for five days. So technically, it averages out like I wrote each day...nothing like a little justification. I'm pleased with my progress so far.

How did you do?

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Writer's Tip: Read, Read, Read

Here's a simple writing tip: Read. Read as many books as possible in the genre you're interested in. And then read other genres, even though they aren't as appealing. And then, keep reading. Read. Read. Read.

Why, you ask? Here are just a few things I learn from reading:

1. I get a sense of what other people are writing. An obvious one, isn't it? But not only that, I get an idea of what storylines are overdone or maybe, one that hasn't been done before. This helps when deciding which manuscripts would be good to send out...or which ones are simply best kept in my secret file.

2. I learn what kind of books I enjoy and what kind of books I don't like. Write what you enjoy reading.

3. I revel in the amazing writing out there and study every genius sentence, in the hopes that perhaps some of it will rub off on me. I even study the type of writing that simply makes my skin crawl. And I'm not talking about the scary, ghost stories out there. I'm talking about bad writing, which is a horror genre of its own kind, isn't it? Learn what constitutes bad writing, and you'll figure out what not to do.

4. Knowledge of different genres helps me experiment with my writing. Which for me means I practice writing in different voices for a story I'm thinking about, until I get the right narrator to tell the right story. And then, I can write away.

5. Reading gives me incredible lessons on pacing, character development, writing style, dialogue, plot development, and so forth. It's another thing to actually work it in my writing--that takes alot of work and time--but at least I know what works and doesn't work for me.

6. I get an idea of the publishers out there and the types of books they publish. This helps when I research publishers and identify the publishers I think and hope would be most interested in my work.

7. And, it's fun!

Do you have anything else to add?

Friday, September 7, 2007

Why You Need To Know Physics

Thanks to Sara Latta for this pointing out this incredible show of ingenuity. Nothing like real life applications of Physics to make life a little fun and crazy.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Great Books for Boys: Meet Alfred Kropp

If you're looking for a good action-packed adventure book with sword wielding monks, high speed car chases, lots of blood and gore, sweeping helicopter rides, and an unexpected hero who gives you a few laughs and manages to save the world from destruction, look no further. Alfred Kropp is here. Oh, yeah.

This fifteen-year-old oversized underachiever, who is self-admittedly "not too quick on the uptake," will make you smirk and cheer as his bumbling ways turn into pure heroics through chance and necessity.

Rick Yancey, author of Book 1: The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp (2005) and Book 2: Alfred Kropp: The Seal of Solomon (2007), has written entertaining books boys are just gonna love to read. The cool thing was I felt like I could be watching these books in a movie...these books clip along at a fast pace with definitive action. Reluctant readers, awkward teens and dreamers will be encouraged by the "cinematic" thrill of Alfred's adventures and heroics. I was a little shocked when I first started reading the descriptions of the gruesome gore, but once I got past that, I realized much is still left to the imagination.

I have to admit, I couldn't wait to read The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp, once I found out that Arthurian legend would be infused throughout the book. I loved King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table as a kid. How cool is it that Alfred, a fifteen-year-old oversized "loser", is the one who easily manages to get Excalibur, King Arthur's magical sword, out of a secure location. You just know he's destined for something big, whether he's ready for it, or not.

Book 2, Alfred Kropp: Seal of Solomon, is not for the faint of heart. Even though Alfred saved the world in Book 1, he's considered to be a crazy misfit in school. Luck is on his side when a beautiful girl befriends him in school. Unfortunately for Alfred, he gets kidnapped and thrust into the center of a world crisis. The Seal of Solomon has been stolen. Demons, cooped up for thousands of years in the Holy Vessel, are released and ready to annihilate the world.

I have to say, despite the violence in both books, I enjoyed reading them. Alfred's wisecracks, his hearfelt sincerity and his willingness to go above and beyond to do right by his blunders, make Alfred an endearing and cool hero. Yes, these books are a little over the top and at times the storyline falters, but, overall, what boy wouldn't love to visualize being the hero who makes specially trained adults look like idiotic buffoons, and while he's at it, saves the world from total destruction? Oh, and by the way, on his way to saving the world...becomes a great sword fighter, finds out he's the last son of Sir Lancelot, inherits a gazillion dollars, drives the fastest car in the world, hurtles at break neck speed in a death defying sky dive...each adventure is just as thrilling as the next. Reluctant readers, hero wannabees, boys and some girls will enjoy reading Alfred Kropp's adventures. And really, isn't that ultimately what we want for our children? To enjoy reading?

And that is what Rick Yancey does well. He draws the reader into the total reading experience, so the action unfolds right before your very eyes. Who wants to read hum drum books, if you can read a fun, action-packed adventure book? James Bond, make some room...Alfred Kropp is here to stay.

The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp
Author: Rick Yancey
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's Books (September 15, 2005)
Recommended for Ages: Grade 8 and above
Reading Source: Borrowed book from the library

Alfred Kropp: The Seal of Solomon
Author: Rick Yancey
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's Books (May 1, 2007)
Recommended for Ages: Grade 8 and above
Reading Source: Borrowed book from the library

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Top 100 Song Meme

Chris from The Simple and the Ordinary tagged me for this fun meme. But...it's suppose to be for what songs you liked the year your graduated from high school. Ack! To be seventeen again...Let's see how many I remember.

If you're interested in playing along, find the list of songs at this site. Enter your graduation year in the right hand search button, and voila, the top 100 hits.

Bold = I loved it.
Blue = I liked it.
Red = I hated it.

Top 100 Hits of 1981/ Top 100 Songs of 1981
1. Bette Davis Eyes, Kim Carnes
2. Endless Love, Diana Ross and Lionel Richie
3. Lady, Kenny Rogers
4. (Just Like) Starting Over, John Lennon
5. Jessie's Girl, Rick Springfield
6. Celebration, Kool and the Gang
7. Kiss On My List, Daryl Hall and John Oates
8. I Love A Rainy Night, Eddie Rabbitt
9. 9 To 5, Dolly Parton
10. Keep On Loving You, REO Speedwagon
11. Theme From "Greatest American Hero", Joey Scarbury
12. Morning Train (Nine To Five), Sheena Easton
13. Being With You, Smokey Robinson

14. Queen Of Hearts, Juice Newton
15. Rapture, Blondie
16. A Woman Needs Love, Ray Parker Jr. and Raydio
17. The Tide Is High, Blondie
18. Just The Two Of Us, Grover Washington Jr.
19. Slow Hand, Pointer Sisters
20. I Love You, Climax Blues Band
21. Woman, John Lennon
22. Sukiyaki, A Taste Of Honey
23. The Winner Takes It All, Abba
24. Medley, Stars On 45
25. Angel Of The Morning, Juice Newton
26. Love On The Rocks, Neil Diamond
27. Every Woman In The World, Air Supply
28. The One That You Love, Air Supply
29. Guilty, Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb
30. The Best Of Times, Styx (Theme song to my high school senior prom)
31. Elvira, Oak Ridge Boys
32. Take It On The Run, REO Speedwagon
33. No Gettin' Over Me, Ronnie Milsap
34. Living Outside Myself, Gino Vannelli
35. Woman In Love, Barbra Streisand
36. Boy From New York City, Manhattan Transfer
37. Urgent, Foreigner
38. Passion, Rod Stewart
39. Lady (You Bring Me Up), Commodores
40. Crying, Don Mclean
41. Hearts, Marty Balin
42. It's My Turn, Diana Ross
43. You Make My Dreams, Daryl Hall and John Oates
44. I Don't Need You, Kenny Rogers
45. How 'Bout Us, Champaign
46. Hit Me With Your Best Shot, Pat Benatar
47. The Breakup Song, Greg Kihn Band
48. Time, Alan Parsons Project
49. Hungry Heart, Bruce Springsteen
50. Sweetheart, Franke and The Knockouts
51. Someone's Knockin', Terri Gibbs
52. More Than I Can Say, Leo Sayer
53. Together, Tierra
54. Too Much Time On My Hands, Styx
55. What Are We Doin' In Love, Dottie West
56. Who's Crying Now, Journey
57. De Do Do Do, De Da Da, Police
58. This Little Girl, Gary U.S. Bonds
59. Stop Draggin' My Heart Around, Stevie Nicks With Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers
60. Giving It Up For Your Love, Delbert McClinton
61. A Little In Love, Cliff Richard
62. America, Neil Diamond
63. Ain't Even Done With The Night, John Cougar
64. Arthur's Theme, Christopher Cross
65. Another One Bites The Dust, Queen
66. Games People Play, Alan Parsons Project
67. I Can't Stand It, Eric Clapton
68. While You See A Chance, Steve Winwood
69. Master Blaster, Stevie Wonder
70. Hello Again, Neil Diamond
71. Don't Stand So Close To Me, Police
72. Hey Nineteen, Steely Dan
73. I Ain't Gonna Stand For It, Stevie Wonder
74. All Those Years Ago, George Harrison
75. Step By Step, Eddie Rabbitt
76. The Stroke, Billy Squier
77. Feels So Right, Alabama
78. Sweet Baby, Stanley Clarke and George Duke
79. Same Old Lang Syne, Dan Fogelberg
80. Cool Love, Pablo Cruise
81. Hold On Tight, ELO
82. It's Now Or Never, John Schneider
83. Treat Me Right, Pat Benatar
84. Winning, Santana
85. What Kind Of Fool, Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb
86. Watching The Wheels, John Lennon
87. Tell It Like It Is, Heart
88. Smoky Mountain Rain, Ronnie Milsap
89. I Made It Through The Rain, Barry Manilow
90. You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin', Daryl Hall and John Oates
91. Suddenly, Olivia Newton-John and Cliff Richard
92. For Your Eyes Only, Sheena Easton
93. The Beach Boys Medley, Beach Boys
94. Whip It, Devo
95. Modern Girl, Sheena Easton
96. Really Wanna Know You, Gary Wright
97. Seven Year Ache, Rosanne Cash
98. I'm Coming Out, Diana Ross
99. Miss Sun, Boz Scaggs
100. Time Is Time, Andy Gibb

A Blessing: Anticipation for a New Beginning

My eldest child is counting down the moments until she is a third grader. Literally. She woke me up at 5:45 am today. No sleeping in for me, thank you. Although, I was given the courtesy of a quick shake and an urgently whispered, "Mom," in my ear. Nothing but the best from this sweet child of mine.

My eldest was never one to sleep in. Not even as a wee baby. No delightful three hour naps...myths I decided...even if my friends were the ones Luck smiled upon. I would have been satisfied with the customary two hour naps, but lo and behold, my eldest was one of those twenty minute to an hour long nappers. Oh, yeah.

Ferber. Room darkening shades. Co-sleeping. And more. Tried it all. Nothing worked. Seems my eldest just doesn't need much sleep. Yay, me.

But what she traded in for sleep was much more precious to her. Life's experience beckoned to my eldest, sweeping her away in a myriad of sights, smells and tastes. What's not to love about a babbling baby, determined to reach for a colorful pile of toys beyond her grasp? When her parents are asleep? And the toys are across the room from her crib? Or a child who wakes up her daddy to steal some private biking and breakfast time before her siblings wake up? Or a child who has trouble sleeping because she can taste a win for the next day's swim meet? Or a child who wakes up early every morning so she can get ready to seize the day?

I admit, I was anxious for today. The first day of school was my dangling carrot of hope, helping me survive some of the most brutal days of unrelenting whining from three children with nothing exciting to do. This hope was what got me out of bed this morning, rather than grabbing a few extra Zzzz's. The first day of school. The first day of school. The first day of school. Yes!

My third grader and first grader wanted me to drive them to school this morning. Too many school jitters flew into their thoughts. What if I don't know where my class is? What if I miss my bus? What if my sister isn't on the bus? What if I have no friends? What if nobody wants to sit with me at lunch?

They checked their crisp backpacks, making sure all their school supplies and lunches were in place, then climbed into the car, jousling and nudging each other, smoothing out their clothes and hair. Silence during the five minute car ride. No smiles. Nothing.

As we meandered over to the school yard, eldest one's face brightens. Her best friend shrieked out her name, and ran over. Each one hugged the other for dear life. Then, they disappeared into the crowd. No goodbye. No kisses. Nothing.

Abandoned by her sister, first grader clutched my hand. We ventured closer. And an angelic face appeared. A friend. Unlike the older girls, first grader and her friend stayed right by my side as we found their class line. I got my hug and kiss from my little one. Happy first grader. Happy mom. For a moment. Because in the back of my mind, I felt sadness because my third grader went off to conquer her day. Without me.

It just so happened that I had to pass third grader's class line. Really. And there's eldest and her best friend, chattering and heading up the line. Ready to seize the day. I stayed at the fringe of crowd, unsure of whether third grader wanted me to be there, but willing her to notice me. Was I ever thrilled when eldest and her best friend ran over and gave me hugs.

Even though I was waiting for this first day of school, I must admit, I shed a few tears. In my car. At home. It's quite the bittersweet moment for me. My girls are growing up. Waiting to experience life, and at times, impatient to grow up.

I'm not a poet, but I couldn't help but write this original poem. If I can't be there with my kids, every step of the way, I might as well bless them. This is dedicated to my incredible children, and yours.

Please watch over these children,
Bless their sweet little faces,
Protect them, shelter them,
from any hurt that may come their way.

Bless these lovely children,
Inspire them with every new beginning,
Bring them joy and laughter,
Good friends, true and kind souls.

Let them seize the day,
Each bright and shining moment,
Never let them rue the day,
Hesitate or submit to the I can't do its.

Bless these amazing children,
Give them determination and hope.
Help them through every obstacle,
Guide them along the way.

Let them smile and grow,
Experience all that life has to offer.
And know within their hearts
All the power that is within them.

Please, bless these children.
watch over them with all your soul.
Let them capture each moment,
and seize the day. Seize the day.

(all rights reserved)

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Get Back on Track 30 Day Challenge Starts Today

Summer vacation is almost over...the kids start school tomorrow and it's time for me to get back on track with my writing. I was getting too soft over the summer. It was so easy to maintain my writing discipline when the kids were in school. In hindsight, so easy.

And of course, I slipped. It's easier and more fun to hang out with the kids. Who wants to write in a sweltering house? Yeah, yeah...I could've taken my laptop over to the library and worked there...but I didn't.

So. It's time for a Get Back on Track 30 Day Challenge. I'm so psyched. Quite a few people signed up for it over the past week, and there is still time for anyone else to sign up today. Just think. 30 Days to get your good habits back. 30 Days towards your goals. 30 Days of support from me and anyone else who is on with this challenge.

Remember, this is a habit you will commit to everyday for 30 Days, so you'll end up with a productive new daily habit that is as natural to you as brushing your teeth or checking your e-mail.

The rules:

1. By the end of today, 12 midnight EST, write a comment below and be specific to the habit you will work on every day. If you already commented in the last post, no worries.

2. There will be a weekly check-in to make sure you're accountable to the challenge. Check-in dates will be September 1oth, September 17th, September 24th and the final day, October 3rd by 12 midnight EST. The winner will be announced on October 4th.

The best part of this Challenge is the automatic 2 prize combination package for everyone -- 1. A productive new habit for you; 2. Increased motivation to reach your goal. The prize for the person's whose name I'll select at the end of this challenge will be a cool motivational sign. Once I pick it up, I'll post a picture of it.

My 30 Day Challenge is writing everyday for at least 30 minutes. Okay, what's your 30 Day Challenge gonna be?