Dressing up for storytime

May 14, 2010 at 11:59 am | Posted in Community groups, Kids and reading, Mystery books, Parents | Leave a comment
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One of the great things about books is how they open up entirely news worlds and how you can often find traits you can relate to in certain characters. It’s especially fun if you pretend you are one of those characters. Think about it. While reading Twilight who didn’t imagine that they were Bella in love with the mysterious Edward. Or in The Undercover Kids who wouldn’t want to be Katie or Jake traveling to another country whenever they wanted.

There are certain community events that encourage this type of imaginative play. Tomorrow, May 15th, there will be a “Fancy Nancy Fashion Show and Storytelling” event at the Albert Wisner Public Library in Warwick. Put on your favorite outfit and visit the library for a dressy show. Hear a story, make a craft, and enjoy a snack. For ages 3-6. Starts at 1:30pm. Keep on the lookout for more events like this. Even if you don’t find any other dress up events locally, try to make a storytime/dress up night of your own at home. It really helps bring books to life.

New writing games to share

April 13, 2010 at 12:37 pm | Posted in Education, Kids and reading, Mystery books, Parents, Writing | Leave a comment
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I hope that those out there who read this blog, have learned about some great activities that you can use in and outside the classroom. Reading and writing is fun and all you have to do is make a game out it! Here are some more ideas that may inspire your children to read and write:

  • Before beginning a creative writing activity, sitthe children down in a circle and start a story with a fun, silly sentence. Each child in the circle needs to continue the story with one more sentence. You could appoint one child to record the story. After creating this silly, group story, the children will be ready for creative writing.
  • Make three boxes with ideas plot elements. One box should have story starters, another box should have ideas for the middle and the third box should have endings. Ask the children to pick one slip from each box and write a story linking the ideas together. Children will love the random elements of this activity.
  • Enjoy and keep reading for more ideas and activities!

    Kindle in the classroom?

    March 24, 2010 at 10:22 am | Posted in Education, Educators, Kids and reading, Mystery books, Parent Teacher Groups, Parents | Leave a comment
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    Electronic books (eBooks) are becoming more affordable and with devices like the Kindle, Nook, and now the iPad, ebooks are also becoming more practical (as well as environmentally friendly as they save paper.) This trend is predicted to move full-scale into the college scene within the next 2-3 years. Do you see eBooks coming into elementary schools, jr. high’s or high schools too? When I was younger I loved nothing more than cuddling up on a rainy day with a new book and flip through the changes. And, what does this mean for libraries? Will you rent a computer chip instead of an actual book? I see both pluses and minuses to using eBooks, I don’t know what side I’m on yet. If you are a teacher, would you use eBooks in your classroom? What about if you just want to try an eBook for fun, would you get rid of all your books? As you can see, I am torn on the subject!

    The Undercover Kids Trivia Quiz!

    February 5, 2010 at 1:53 pm | Posted in crafts, Education, Educators, Kids and reading, Mystery books, Parents, Writing | Leave a comment
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    We know what you are thinking a quiz does not sound like fun, especially on a Friday, but quizzes can be fun! You learn new information, you can test your friends and turn into a game. Test yourself, how fast can you answer the questions, what about your friends, how fast can they go? Try turning the quiz into a race, the one who answers the most questions correctly and the fastest wins a prize. (I vote you make a batch of brownies before you play the quiz game and when you are done playing hand a brownie out to everyone, so everyone wins!)

    Try making your own Undercover Kids quiz about the book and hand it out to your friends. Don’t forget to tell your teacher about our downloadable teacher’s guide, where they can download even more fun activities!

    Post Card Fun!

    January 28, 2010 at 3:27 pm | Posted in Education, Kids and reading, Mystery books, Parents, Writing | Leave a comment
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    A great activity that incorporates a sense of travel is creating your own postcards. A postcard is used to carry a message, usually with a picture or a photograph on one side, that can be sent through the mail without an envelope. Just like sending a letter is an old-fashioned, so is sending a postcard. It can be a great way to keep in touch with friends or even as an art project! Get some construction paper, a ruler, colored pencils, crayons, and scissors. Cut out a rectangle out of your construction paper that is approximately 4×6 inches/10 by 15 cm, place divisions on the back of the card into message and address sections and the front is yours to decorate however you would like. You can draw on the front, place pictures of your family, or make a collage! Mail your creative postcards to a friend, a family member or another Undercover Kid. Write them a secret message or a simple hello, the choice is yours. Enjoy!

    Make Story Writing a Family Event

    January 14, 2010 at 12:04 pm | Posted in crafts, Education, Grandparents, Kids and reading, Mystery books, Parents, Writing | Leave a comment
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    Encourage time together with a homemade storybook! This is something that Jake and Katie would love to do with their parents or their Aunt Jean!

    Check out this craft from the great book “101 Great Gifts Kids Can Make” by Stephanie Mueller and Ann Wheeler.


    three-hole punch                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           white copier paper                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       three-ring binder                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      markers or crayons                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       black permanent marker

    Before beginning the activity: Use the three-hole punch to make holes along the sides of the white paper.

    What to Do:

    1. Think of a story and draw pictures to make a book using the white paper with the holes in the sides.                                                                       2. Dictate a statement or story about the pictures that were drawn. Write these along the top of the pictures that were drawn using the permanent black marker.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  3. Place the pages into the three-ring binder, along with 10 (or more) blank pages.                                                                                                               4. Decorate a white piece of paper without holes using the markers. Write “Family Story Notebook.” Many binders have a clear cover pocket in which the cover page can be inserted. If this is not the case, use clear contact paper to adhere this cover page to the front of the notebook (with adult help, as needed).                                                                                                                                                                                                       5. Once you complete one story, keep going until your binder is full. You will have a complete collection of family stories!

    Cold Winter Nights Don’t Have to be Boring!

    December 24, 2009 at 11:18 am | Posted in Education, Parents | Leave a comment
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    Ever since I was kid, I’ve always had an active imagination. Especially during the winter months, being cooped up inside all day led to some pretty crazy adventures. That’s why I cam relate to the Undercover Kids, they used their imagination and traveled. Lucky! Now that children have at least a week or two off from school, you can help them express their imagination by reading a book with them or even playing a game.

    Here’s an activity I found in Great Teacher Projects book by Laura Mayne (even though teachers might be too reminding about school, the project is fun trust me!)

    How to create your own country:

    This activity is a way for kids to act silly, have fun but learn at the same time.

    In this project, kids will be able to create their own country. Their imaginary country can be placed anywhere in the world, and must use information about the surrounding real countries to determine features such as latitude/longitude, native animals, climate and so on.

    Lead up activities to this project include a review of atlas skills and a whole-class study  of a chosen country that includes details such as:

    • name and meaning
    • geographical location
    • area
    • boundaries and surrounding countries
    • landforms
    • climate
    • native animals and plants
    • languages
    • natural resources
    • flag
    • government
    • currency (money)
    • time zone

    When children are done creating their own countries, have them create a map using crayons, markers, or whatever other craft materials they would like to use. They could even use Legos to create their own lands (I used Polly Pockets when I was a little girl). Have you children discuss their countries with you and share any stories they may create with this project. Maybe Katie and Jake could visit their country? Either way, let  imagination flow!

    Reflecting on the Past Year- An Undercover Kid Activity

    December 18, 2009 at 11:51 am | Posted in Grandparents, Mystery books, Parents | Leave a comment
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    As you may know, The Undercover Kids love to travel. What about you? Do you have the travel bug? Does your family? Well, even if your family just loves to travel to the store or maybe to more exotic places, we have a fun activity for you to do together to reflect on the past year.  This activity is a great way to think about any trips you went on during the year or even dream about where you would like to travel to in the future.

    Take some pictures of your family from the past year to make a scrapbook page. It’s an easy and fun way to remember the great memories you made in the past year and a way to reflect on the upcoming New Year.  You can also leave a space on the bottom of the page to  journal about what you and your children (or grandchildren, or nieces, nephews, etc.) have done this year so far. You can place the pages you make into clear page protectors and put them into a 3-ring binder for an easy homemade scrapbook. All you need is some simple art supplies to make a creative and interesting photo scrapbook. You can even decorate the pages with cutouts of Katie, Jake or Cooper taken from our website. Bake some cookies, drink some hot chocolate and most importantly have fun! Thanks for reading and stay in touch for more fun crafts and activities.

    How a book is born: Working with a distributor

    December 2, 2009 at 12:02 pm | Posted in Education, Educators, Kids and reading, Mystery books, Parents, Publishing your story, Writing | Leave a comment
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    I looked for distribution houses, even though I knew the liabilities associated with them: small financial rewards and many book returns. The larger groups don’t accept publishers like me with only one book under our belt. I was referred to Greenleaf Book Group. They work with newcomers. To be considered, you must complete a series of questions, which is essentially a business plan. Once you submit the information together with your manuscript, they promised to get back to you.

    And they did. First a received a series of emails telling me they were very interested in my manuscript. I was wary of this email communication approach and asked to receive a call. It took a while but finally a pleasant young man called saying they were very interested in sell my book and they will develop a comprehensive marketing plan. Great thought.  There is always a but. All promotional expenses are mine. I pay all shipping costs. I am responsible for returns. And the percentage they take (sorry, I don’t remember the numbers) is huge. So huge, that after I figured the numbers, I would owe them money for selling my book. No earnings for me.

    Now I am curious how this works. Who signs up for such a program? According to their website, the numbers are substantial.

    So I looked for answers to three questions:

    1.  How many children’s books have they promoted?

    2.  What would my marketing plan look like?

    The answer to the first question was, “Not many.”

    “Then how do you know your marketing strategies will work?”

    “We can’t offer any guarantee, but it has worked before.”

    “Not for children’s books!”

    “How about referrals? I would like to speak to someone you have worked with recently.”

    It took a while, but finally I spoke to an author in California. He confirmed my worst fears. He was spending promotional dollars and had not seen any return.

    I called Greenleaf back. “I would like to speak to someone in your marketing department to understand their approach to my book.” After all they are the ones who said they really liked the manuscript. The rep said he would get back to me.

    I’d like to insert a note: I own a marketing and public relations company. In my 36 years in practice I never found that a client stole my marketing plan ideas after I introduced the program. If they could do it on their own, they wouldn’t bother contacting me.

    The Greenleaf rep never got back to me. I let Greenleaf go. Or, maybe they let me go.

    How a book is born: Bringing the book to life with illustrations

    November 11, 2009 at 11:45 am | Posted in Education, Educators, Kids and reading, Mystery books, Parents, Publishing your story, Writing | Leave a comment
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    Our publisher Terrie Goldstein continues to discuss how she brought the Undercover Kids book series to life.

    I am still using my first rough edit to complete the initial layout with 11 chapters. Now I am ready to decide what illustrations will support the story. For this phase, my magazine publishing experience comes in handy. I grid the pages using ½ and full-page illustrations, as well as two full-page layouts and two half-page layouts. I decide not to use graphics for the chapter headings or to use spot illustrations which are placed anywhere on the page. (Although in the final layout I insert two spot drawings because it supported the story.)

    I decide how many illustrations I need and the sizes. And then I create a 5 page Request for Proposal, commonly called an RFP. But how much am I willing to pay? No idea! So I call some of my artist friends to discover the going rate and balance it with what I think I can afford.

    My author is local, so I would like a local artist as well. I sent the RFP to all the artists I know plus all the local art organizations. I get back 10 responses and contact five.

    I ask them to create their version of Katie and Jake. I wanted to make sure I had someone who understood Katie and Jake. Once that happened, everything else would be a piece of cake. Boy…was I wrong.

    I picked an illustrator and asked for he first full-page drawing. We went back and forth maybe five times before I realized that this just was not going to work. I paid for the illustration, even though I wasn’t going to use it.

    Now I am in trouble. I have no illustrator and my printing deadline is fast approaching.

    Phillip Ritzenberg, my book layout guru, comes to the rescue. Childrensillustrators.com shows great worldwide talent.

    Since I really botched my first attempt at hiring an illustrator, I call in the big guns…my husband, who is a fine artist. We go through the site together and we both realize from my first hire, that not all illustrators can draw people AND animals. For us that is important, because Cooper, Katie and Jake’s dog, plays an important role.

    While researching the illustrators on the web, I return to the library and the bookstore to find illustrators that I enjoy. For example, Dave McKean’s illustrations for Neil Gaiman’s book The Graveyard Book is one of my favorites. His black and white drawings set the stage for Gaiman’s wistful tale.

    Research done and I am ready to pick a new illustrator. Wish me luck.

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