HEN HAD HER HAM

HENHADHERHAMKristi, Elise, and I have an easy reading assignment for those following our KEM book reviews. July’s selection features early reader Hen Had Her Ham.

We wanted to show that learning to read is no longer limited by dry and out-of-date Dick and Jane book selections. The simple text and storyline of Hen Had Her Ham may deceive people into believing easy readers are easy to write. Anyone who has tried it knows that writing with short, easy to sound out words in a pleasing way is no easy task. We formed KEM GEMs to learn from the masters.

Join the conversation. Read our Hen Had Her Ham reviews and share your thoughts in the pertaining KEM GEMS COMMENTS section. We’ll post a new book recommendation on the 15th of every month, so come and visit often. We’re excited to observe and learn with you!

KEM GEMS

ON DECK (Posted on the 15th)

Distance

Sometimes we can see more clearly from a distance.

When my daughter was in her early twenties, she handed me a photo of twelve dashing young men. She contemplated dating one of them and asked me to pick “the one”.

“Him?” I pointed.

“No.”

“Him?”

“No.”

“Him?”

“Sigh. No.”

Finally there was only one guy left.

“Never mind.” She snatched the photo and marched to her room.

In hindsight, the young man she picked turned out to be a great catch, but not for my daughter. They just weren’t right for each other. Even in a photograph, my mother’s intuition told me he wasn’t “the one”. Luckily, they never dated. And she found her true love.

This is how it is with my writers’ groups. I can become enamored with weak characters, silly gags, lame story lines, and superfluous sentences, but my writing friends aren’t so blinded by infatuation. From a distance, they can see what’s not right for me and my story.

I wouldn’t trade my critique partners for anything. They will save me from settling for the wrong manuscript.

Now if they could just help me choose broccoli over chocolate.

One More Moment, Please

“We’ll be friends forever, won’t we?” asked Piglet.
“Even longer,” Pooh answered.
~A.A. Milne, WINNIE-THE-POOH

FIXMEUP600Piglet and Pooh’s thoughtful exchange opens the “Fix Me Up” music video featuring Zach Sobiech, Sammy Brown, and Reed Redmond of A Firm Handshake.

The “Fix Me Up” soundtrack sprouted from the trio’s resolve to bring beauty and goodness out of 18-year-old Zach’s terminal diagnosis and impending death from osteosarcoma. In “Fix Me Up” Sammy pleads, “One more moment, please.” The Piglet/Pooh dialog fittingly echoes Sammy and Zach’s heartache, love, dread, and hope. By communicating their conflicting emotions with such urgent truth and transparency, the life-long friends remind us that sooner is better. Their message has hit a universal cord, as proven by Zach’s #1 hit single “Clouds”.

Bestselling children’s book author Kate DiCamillo uses music to create a specific mood in her books. In 2006, a New York Public Library Author Chat participant asked,”Which music would be the best soundtracks to accompany your books?”

DiCamillo answered,  “I wrote Despereaux to Bach, Winn-Dixie to Van Morrison, Edward to Rachmaninoff. Does that help?”

I’ve toiled to find the perfect songs for my work.  For children’s books, I’ve found that Veggietales Radio produces better results than Etta James. For my family memoir, baroque keeps me serious, but too stuffy. Buddy Holly helps me remember, but I find myself dancing instead of writing and regressing to an age nobody else remembers.  Colbie Callait helps me forget, but that’s not good when you’re writing a memoir.

I could waste a lot of time selecting songs and never do the work. My distracted mind needs music of focused urgency. Tuesday, my craft received a defribulating jolt when I won the “Fix Me Up” Deluxe Edition CD and music video DVD in a door prize drawing.

I’d already received a what-are-you-waiting-for kick in the pants while laughing, crying, and crying some more through Zach’s mother Laura Sobiech’s memoir, Fly a Little Higher.

Laura wrote Fly a Little Higher  in only twelve weeks, just months after her son’s death–with no lack of professionalism or clarity. I hadn’t been so inspired by a family story since Atticus raised Scout and Jem in To Kill A Mockingbird. And I’d never experienced such a graceful, life-giving death in someone so young–or old–ever. The Sobiech experience spoke to me. It said, “What are you waiting for?”

I bought extras for gifts. Shhhh.

I bought extras for gifts. Shhhh.

 

Zach (and Laura) raised the bar to billowy heights, but Zach’s short life reminds us to share our talents, not hide or waste them. And now we have his music to encourage and inspire us to reach higher in whatever we’re doing.

Now my favorite ear candy while writing for children: “Sandcastles” and “Star Hopping”. For living, breathing, memoir writing, and everything else: the “Fix Me Up” soundtrack set to repeat.

A Firm Handshake‘s melodies soar; their words stir, yet fill you with hope. By baring and sharing the fruit of their young, wise souls, the trio challenges others to be real, to step into the unknown despite our fears, and to live while dying.

“Because, let’s face it–we’re all dying.” ~ Laura Sobiech.

To experience more of this story, go to Zach Sobiech’s Page on the Children’s Cancer Research Fund website, especially SoulPancake’s  documentaries preceding and one year after Zach’s death.

Other links for you

I’ll leave you with KS95′s Largest Choir’s singing “Clouds” .

Zach Sobiech-RIP
May 3, 1995 – May 20, 2013

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying good-bye so hard.”
~A.A. Milne, WINNIE-THE-POOH

EVERY SOUL IS A STAR

EVERY SOUL A STAR

Did you know that some people call the total solar eclipse Nature’s Greatest Coincidence? During this phenomena, the moon and the sun look the same size from the earth. But the moon is 400 time smaller. Coincidentally, (or not), the sun circles the earth 400 times as far away as the moon. That’s why they seem the same size to us. If the moon were even a few miles smaller in circumference, it wouldn’t hide the face of the sun.

If these amazing facts eluded you and you snored through the first lunar eclipse of 2014, you can redeem yourself by reading and reviewing our June KEM GEM, Every Soul a Star by Wendy Mass. Learn with us about Saturn, Polaris, and the Big Dipper while experiencing a total solar eclipse.

Before this middle grade novel, I didn’t even know the difference between a lunar and solar eclipse. My knowledge of astronomy consisted of other people’s experiences and a dimming childhood memory of staring at a slit in a black piece of construction paper toward a darkening sky while saying “ooh and ahh” because everyone else said “ooh and ahh”.

Sadly, the song “You’re So Vain”, had tainted my galaxy-gazing experience. Carly Simon reprimanded a guy who probably thinks this post is about him. He flew his Lear Jet up to Nova Scotia to see the total eclipse of the sun–while jilting her. I adored Carly Simon. You can understand my pain.

Every Soul a Star Book trailer by Sarah Simmons

Wendy Mass broadened Kristy’s, Elise’s, and my world. Please, join the conversation. Read our Every Soul a Star reviews and share your thoughts in the pertaining KEM GEMS COMMENTS section. We’ll post a new book recommendation on the 15th of every month, so come and visit often. We’re excited to become better observers with you!

KEM GEMS

ON DECK (Posted on the 15th)

  • July 15 – Hen Had Her Ham by Meish Goldish; illustrated by Andy San Diego
  • August 15 – Kira-kira by Cynthia Kadohata
  • September 15 – 1 Zany Zoo by Lori Degman; illustrated by Colin Jack

Oh, the Places You’ll Go

2014MayEliseIIOur vowel is moving. Elise Parsley, the “E” in KEM and our dear friend and critique partner, will ride off into the sunset with her husband, Jarrod, to experience new adventures in the far-off land of eastern Minnesota.

She’s become like family to us, so it’s painful to let her go.

Elise started preparing me and Kristi and her other critique comrades months in advance. “This isn’t good-bye,” she assured. “We’ll see each other again soon.”

I wasn’t so sure.

Her consoling words came to  mind last night while I babysat my grandchildren. After story time, prayers, and last-minute water refills, I slipped downstairs to quietly pick up the house. As I washed the kitchen counters, huge five-year-old eyes peered around the stairwell.

I’m accustomed to at least one bed-time rebel. This one excelled in the charm department. She hugged my neck and sniffled as I carried her to her bed. “I can’t sleep. I’m afraid I won’t see you again.”

Little one still hadn’t succumbed to sleep when her parents arrived home. Instead, big tears welled up in her eyes. “I want Grandma to stay.”

“Oh, silly,” I said, as I kissed her soft, salty cheeks. “Wherever I go, I’ll be right here, in your heart. And, besides–this isn’t good-bye. We’ll see each other again soon.”

Then we planned picnics and play dates and parties. Just like Elise had promised me–picnics and play dates and parties–and so much more.

Today, I came across some photographs from a recent family excursion. This artwork adorned the walls of the Fort Meyers airport. The creative masterpieces put this moving business all in perspective.

OhThePlacesYouWillGoIIOhThePlacesYouWillGoWe’ll remain in each others’ hearts. And our work will keep us close. We are aunties to each other’s book characters. And Elise has promised to keep in touch–no matter how famous she becomes And there’s social networking and the old-fashioned cell phone and conferences and work shops and book signings and tours . . .OhThePlacesYouWillGoIII

Thanks to Dr. Seuss, I, too, can go to sleep now.

Oh, the places we’ll go.
Oh, the stories we’ll tell.

We love you, Elise!

Photos of our farewell SCBWI-MN meet-up

An interview with Elise about her three-book deal

Grow with GRANDPA GREEN

GRANDPAGREENIIMacMillan Children’s Publishing Group calls Grandpa Green “the book grownups read to those still growing”. Now that we press forward into the emergent season of Spring, the Caldecott Honor book by Lane Smith sprouts to the top of our list for the perfect May KEM GEM recommendation.

GRANDPAGREENBanner

Here’s a peek at my favorite pages.

If you’re new to KEM GEMS, two friends and I developed this monthly book recommendation exercise to grow as children’s book creators.  Learn more about how this originated via the KEM GEM tab.

Please, join the conversation. Share your thoughts with us in the COMMENTS section at the bottom of the page. We’ll post a new book recommendation on the 15th of every month, so come and visit often. We’re excited to become better writers with you!

KEM GEMS

ON DECK (Posted on the 15th)

Autism and Disney

“I am not the hero. I am the sidekick. I help others fulfill their destiny.’” ~ Owen Suskind

To those in the business of creating stories for children, your work has the power to impact lives in ways you’ve probably never imagined. In Life, Animated, a memoir, Pulitzer Prize-winning Ron Suskind shared how Disney movies provided the key that unlocked his autistic son from a prison of silence. Suskind’s book led CBS Sunday Morning to feature a report on this remarkable family by 60 Minutes journalist Leslie Stahl.

Watch “Breaking through autism with Disney movies“, produced by Sari Aviv and edited by David Ehagat. It’ll make your day.

Thank you, Ron and Cornelia Suskind, for raising the bar on parenting; to Owen Suskind, a hero in my book, for celebrating quality children’s stories with others; and to CBS Sunday Morning, for drawing attention to this positive and enlightening story!

Studies show that autism afflicts 1 out of 68 children in the U.S. - up 30 percent from 2013. Learn more about animation’s effect on this disorder through the official Life, Animated website.