Posts Tagged ‘Dr. Seuss’

Today is March 2nd and the good Dr.’s birthday, so of course I had to make a Dr. Seuss selection.  Today is also Read Across America Day, and Teaching Authors has a fantastic post about Dr. Seuss and how to celebrate.  Fox in Socks doesn’t seem to get the same kind of love as Seuss’ other books, but it is definitely one of my favorites just because it is SO FUN to read aloud.

Fox in Socks
Written and illustrated by Dr. Seuss
Random House, 1965
Suitable for:  Ages 3 and up
Themes/Topics:  Tongue twisters, Rhyme, Humor, Silliness
Opening and brief synopsis: “This Fox is a tricky fox. He’ll try to get your tongue in trouble.” Dr. Seuss gives fair warning to anyone brave enough to read along with the Fox in Socks, who likes to play tongue-twisting games with his friend Mr. Knox.
Activities: Just trying to read it out loud without making any mistakes is a great activity! It would pair well with other tongue twister books.  Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Eric Van Raepenbusch’s fantastic post on his blog, Happy Birthday Author, with amazing ideas for celebrating Seuss in general.
Why I Like This Book: Talk about a book that’s fun to read over and over!  That’s because you can seldom read it perfectly, so it becomes a challenge.  And the rhyme is mesmerizing for kids.
Finally, check out this video of a woman speed reading Fox in Socks.  It is unbelievable!

For more books with resources please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog and find the tab for Perfect Picture Books!

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It’s getting late, but I couldn’t let the day go by without tipping Cat’s hat to the legendary Dr. Seuss.  Happy Birthday to the one and only.  Here is my own poem in his honor.

Ode to the Agent Search

Would you like to read my book?

Come on, take it! Have a look.

You can read it in the car.

In your bed or at the bar.

Read it with a glass of wine.

Tell me now you won’t decline.

Would you? Could you?


I will give you

Ten percent.

You could sell it in your sleep.

You could sell it in a jeep.

For I’m sure you can deduce

I am the next Dr. Seuss!


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Welcome to the second post in my new Gratitude Sunday series.  I found that I really enjoyed mulling over what I wanted to include in this list as the week progressed.  Before the list, though, a story.

I went to the library one morning this week and stopped at the little coffee shop to get a tea to fortify me in my work.  Standing at the register, I noticed a little jar with a sign that read, “Food for Thought.  Take a thought.  If it speaks to you, put it in your pocket.  If it doesn’t, put it back in the jar.”  Inside the jar were little scrolls of white paper tied with black curling ribbon.  ‘Why not?’ I thought.  I put my hand in the jar and pulled out a scroll.  Here is what it said:

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.  It turns what we have into enough, and more.  It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.  It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.  Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”Melody Beattie

Amazing how just putting more focus on something makes it land right in your lap.  Here are a few more quotes for the week, followed by ‘The List.’

Quotes on Gratitude:

“I see skies of blue / clouds of white / bright blessed days / dark sacred nights / and I think to myself / what a wonderful world”Louis Armstrong (singer), Bob Thiele and George David Weiss (Music & Lyrics)

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.”Cicero

“Wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving.”Khalil Gibran

Gratitude List for the week ending February 28th

  1. Completing my Write-a-thon and meeting my 30-hour writing goal!!!
  2. The generous donations for the American Heart Association received from friends and family in sponsorship of the write-a-thon.
  3. My sainted mother taking the kids for the night on Friday so I could finish my writing.
  4. A Dr. Seuss marathon with the kids in honor of his birthday on March 2nd, kicked off by Em reading Green Eggs and Ham to Jay and me.
  5. Having FIVE manuscripts in varying stages of completion (started the week with three)
  6. Sunny, 50 degree weather all week.  Spring is nigh!
  7. Going for a run outside with Rocky.
  8. Coffee (tea for me) date with a new friend.
  9. A PTO that has the cash flow to stem some of the impending budget cuts at Em’s school next year
  10. Greeting Olympic athletes coming home from Vancouver at Chicago O’Hare airport.

What are you grateful for this week?

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Okay, I’m finally going to discuss my writing in more detail.  Shocker! Supposedly the blog is, at least in part, about my journey as a writer.   Looking back through my posts so far though, I realize I’ve been quite cryptic about my works in progress.  My stomach churns when I think about pressing the “publish” button, but it’s time to practice bravery.

My current projects are two children’s picture books.  I’ve completed one manuscript – a rhyming book that teaches children the group names of animals.  The title (which is bad but I can’t think of anything better yet) is A Troop is a Group of Monkeys.  After careful research, I sent it to four publishers.  So far two have sent back rejection letters (although one was very nice and handwritten!).  Here are a couple of sample verses:

A parliament of owls hoot in the night.

A bouquet of pheasants begins to take flight.”

another verse:

“An ostentation of peacocks parade their bright plumes.

A surfeit of skunks spray their stinky foul fumes.”

The second story is still very much a draft, and features a girl who has “magic” in her body from eating her fruits and vegetables.  Her name is Virginia Belinda Marinda McPhee.  Sample verse (keep in mind still in draft form): *FYI – I am still working on this manuscript, and this sample bears no resemblance to the current draft.  I cringe when I read it now, but I’m keeping it in because it helps me see how far I’ve come in my writing already – note included 4/12/10

“Above all other things, I love the monkey bars.

I watch kids swinging round and round like gymnastics stars.

I tried to swing myself, but found I couldn’t move

I hung straight down and looked at the ground

Without a single groove.

Then I found my inner monkey!

I ate a whole banana, then climbed back up the bars.

I swung so fast and high I think

Next time I’ll swing to Mars.”

Many people think writing books for young children is easy.  Any decent writer should be able to write a book that is 500 words or less in a day, right? In fact, the exact opposite is true.  Writing picture books in verse is not about the “word count” but whether the “words count.”  A Troop is a Group of Monkeys is only 252 words – about 3-4 paragraphs of prose.  So, what’s the problem?

Here is the challenge:  with only 252 words, every word is critical.  Each word in the story must be held up, examined, and polished to a shine.  If, at the end of that process, the word is not brilliant and sparkling, it must be discarded and replaced with another word.  The new word must face the same scrutiny.

Then there is the rhyming bias.  The number one rule for a new children’s book writer is: don’t write a rhyming book.  As one agent put it at the Rocky Mountain chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference I attended (paraphrasing), “if you’re writing a rhyming book you’re competing with the likes of Jane Yolen and Mem Fox, who can rhyme their grocery lists in their sleep and wake up with a masterpiece.” (P.S. Yolen is equally gifted at prose, non-rhyming poetry or any type of writing – she’s a genius!).

The problem with rhyme is that when it goes wrong, it goes horribly wrong.  There’s nothing more cringe-inducing than reading really bad rhyme.  It’s the equivalent of the early regional auditions for American Idol.  Furthermore, aspiring writers inundate editors and agents with submissions containing bad rhyme.  So even though young kids love rhyming stories, editors hold rhyming manuscript submissions (especially from new authors), to the very highest standard.

Thus my hurdles are higher than most.  You see, I like writing children’s books in rhyme.  Rhyme helps me structure my stories.  In addition to my own children, Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein are my heroes and my inspiration for writing children’s books.  I know I can’t write like them (yet), but I like to think I’m not horrible.  If I find out I am, I’ll move on.

I stand to find out more next weekend when I attend the national SCBWI conference in New York.  I decided to sign up for a writer’s intensive the day before the conference so I could get direct feedback from a few editors and agents.  I’m so nervous I find myself reworking my verses in my sleep, unfortunately not waking up with masterpieces.

At the very least, I will have learned something along the way.  Case in point: I was at the dog park the other day and eavesdropping on a group of people discussing which dog parks had good fence barriers against prairie dogs, potential carriers of the bubonic plague.  While describing a nearby park, one guy said, “There’s a whole group of them… I can’t remember what a group of prairie dogs is called, but…”

“I know!  I know!” I said, jumping up and down like a first-grader.  “A group of prairie dogs is a coterie.  I know because I’m writing this book…”

Blah, blah, blah.  Eyes glaze over.  I walk away with my tail between my legs.  So if the publishing thing doesn’t work out, at least there’s still Trivial Pursuit!

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