School Visits

World Book Night & Early Childhood Authors Celebration

 

books-001
I recently completed a residency with Melissa Pellin’s Early Childhood Education class at the Region Two School of Applied Technology in Houlton, Maine. We worked over the course of the year on writing and illustrating a children’s book. The books were published in hardcover form,two copies each, complete with ISBN’s, and we celebrated on Friday with a book launch party, combined with a book give-away to each young author, courtesy of World Book Night. (The book: “local author” Steven King’s “The Stand.”).

It was an amazing experience for all involved, and kudos are owed to first-year-teacher Ms. Pellin for her hard work, and to last-year-Principal Michael Howard (he’s retiring) for his vision in making this happen. And, of course, to the authors and illustrators for their hard work and creativity.

I’m sure the future holds good things for Melissa, the graduating students, and Mr. Howard. Bravo!

Pictured here are eight of the authors with their books, and the gift they gave Mr. Howard to celebrate his retirement: a canvas covered in famous Maine children’s books, along with their books.

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“I like words”

Uncle Philbert & Aunt Mattie

“I like words.”

That’s how a would-be screenwriter once started a job application letter. “I like fat buttery words, such as ooze, turpitude, glutinous, toady…. I like spurious, black-is-white words, such as mortician, liquidate, tonsorial, demi-monde.”  Aside from landing the author a job, the wonderfully witty letter (here)  is a testament to the amazing richness of English, a language that combines the best of Anglo-Saxon’s bluntness (ooze), Greek and Latin’s multi-syllabic gravity (mortician), and the Romance languages’ elegance (demi-monde).

I too like words. For years I collected strange words: words I heard old-time Mainers use; words I gleaned from reading the dictionary (yes, I read dictionaries for fun; how else am I going to find a word like fubsy?); archaic phrases no longer in use; or nonsense words my mother’s family invented. My file bulged with weird words.

When I started my chapter book series (No More Nice, No More Nasty, Too Much Flapdoodle), I found the perfect use for them. I had created eccentric characters—Great Aunt Mattie and Great Uncle Philbert—and I wanted them to have distinct ways of speaking.  Mattie was somewhat refined, so I had her use my favorite archaic words, like Pecksniffian or rodomontade.  Philbert was a farmer, more earthy than Mattie,  so it was natural for him to use the old-fashioned Maine terms, like jizzicked.

Lastly I had Mattie and Philbert use some whimsical made-up words. Like Mattie, my mother used to greet her children each morning by asking “How does your corporosity seem to gashiate?” To which the answer was: “Very discombobulate, great congruity, dissimilarity.” I didn’t know what the words meant, it was just what you said in the morning. (Nor did I suspect that ours was the only family to greet each other this way.

   Favorite 5th grade words

Children, too, like words. Many children’s book writers are afraid to use language that is above grade level, but during school visits I’ve found that kids love the challenge of strange new words.  In fact, they liked the obscure words so much, they were doing things like searching dictionaries to find their own weird words (above).

The strange vocabulary did create some problems. I had to do battle with Flapdoodle copyeditors who insisted on changing downstreet into ‘down the street’ and putting a would in front of druther. I’ve also gotten lots of queries from readers about what the made up words mean (not to mention from the German translator having a, well, conniption, over how to translate gashiate). To all of whom I say: you’ll have to discombobulate an answer yourself.

Some favorites from Too Much Flapdoodle:

Flapdoodle: nonsense.

Fub: mess up or mess around.

Weewaw: crooked.

Muckle: grab.

Whiffet: a small, unimportant person.

Hole in the snow: worthless (like a hole created by, well, whatever).

Teakittle up: tidy up.

Gormy: slow-witted, clumsy.

As in: That gormy cuss has been fubbing around with my fence all morning  and it’s still weewaw. He’s a real hole in the snow. As for you, you young whiffet, cut out the flapdoodle, muckle onto that mop, and help me teakittle up.

Categories: School Visits, Too Much Flapdoodle, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Write Across America: celebrate with “The Seuss-inator”

Need a new angle for Dr. Seuss’s birthday? Tired of “Cat in the Hat” parties?  This year, celebrate the good doctor’s birthday and Read Across America by writing your own Dr. Seuss-style story.

As a Seuss fan and author of a half dozen of my own  rhyming books, I’ve developed a special “Dr. Seussinator” mini-writing workshop for elementary school children in which they write their own version of a Seuss favorite.

This year, send the kids home with their very own rhyming book. Make it  “Read AND Write Across America” Day!

Here’s my birthday wish to all children for this day:

One fish

Two fish

Here’s my

YOU wish:

Small tots

(all tots)

Read lots.

Write lots.

[Workshop details here.]

 

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Oh, Malese!

The third grade students at Northfield Elementary School in Murfreesboro, Tennessee made this book of Please, Malese! with their own illustrations. It is a thing of beauty.

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