Meet Jeff Kinney!

March 17, 2010 at 10:41 am | Posted in Kids and reading, Publishing your story, Puppets, Writing | 1 Comment
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After self-publishing a children’s book we know the struggles and hard work a writer has to go through to make their book come to life. We made the Undercover Kids come to life by creating puppets, but often books are turned into movies or television shows. Here at the Exciting Read Publishing group we are always so excited when we get the chance to speak to authors and hear their stories. Last year, we were luck enough to speak to author Jeff Kinney at the 2009 National Book Festival in Washington, DC. Kinney wrote the very popular book  “Diary of a Wimpy Kid.” Jeff’s book was made into a movie and it comes out this Friday. It looks like a lot of fun. We would like to thank Jeff for speaking with us and say good luck with the movie. Did you read “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” and will you be checking out the movie?

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!

Use your imagination to create your own an Undercover Kid Play

January 28, 2010 at 3:26 pm | Posted in Education, Kids and reading, Mystery books, Publishing your story, Puppets, Writing | Leave a comment
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Did you like to act? When I was younger, I loved to act out plays and create my own  characters in those plays. Once we created the Undercover Kid’s puppet show and started taking it around to schools, I started to notice what a great play this book would make. There’s adventure, comedy and suspense all these things make for an exciting play. (It would be really funny to see Cooper running around on stage). What if the Undercover Kids ended up on Broadway? I’m getting ahead of myself. But I could definitely see the Undercover Kids on Stage.

Do you think that you could write your own play involving the Undercover Kids? What would happen? Where would they go? Would you be in the play too? Write your own play (it could even be a page), then act it out for your friends and family. Post it on YouTube with your parent’s permission and maybe you will become an internet star!

Word Art: How to Combine pictures and illustrations!

January 21, 2010 at 11:17 am | Posted in crafts, Education, Kids and reading, Writing | 2 Comments
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Here’s a fun activity that allows you to write and draw at the same time! In this activity, instead of coloring in shapes or shading them, students will print and repeat words related to the picture to fill in the area.

Grades: 3-8

Materials: Paper and coloring materials


Draw a picture (outline only) of a cartoon character (Like one of the undercover kids!), still life scene, person or any idea the child has. Fill in the open area with printed words related to the object or letters of the alphabet. For example, if you draw an outline of an apple you can fill in the picture with the words: seeds, red, the letter “a”, etc.

Be sure to print in medium to large letters/words inside the outlines, or the project will take too long. Before you know it you will have a creative art project with both words and illustrations! Very cool!

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!

How a book is born: Who prints books?

December 9, 2009 at 11:07 am | Posted in Educators, Kids and reading, Mystery books, Publishing your story, Writing | Leave a comment
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Now I am really immersed in the book, the copy, layout and illustrations. It is time to find a printer. The printer we use for our magazines does not have book printer contacts. Many of the publishers I spoke to used niche printers that were not appropriate for me: like soft cover printers, picture book printers and oversees printers.

I looked on the web, but felt that it would be a crap shoot picking someone blind, even with references. So I kept looking. Finally, I found Woodstock Press with offices in upstate New York and in Manhatten. I was lucky to be referred to Olivia Blanchflower from Overlook Press. She put me in contact with printers that Overlook Press uses. Her support was invaluable.

I found that the book publishing industry is a new world with a new language. Trade book page. Linen embossed gloss. Head and foot bands. Bar code labels. Burst casebind. Kappa board. And the list goes on.

Some printers do covers only. Others only do paperback or the inside guts. I chose two printers who could do it all. And then I tried to get the best deal. I was told that the best prices come through China but I decided to stay in the states so I could have more control over the process.

I used Berryville Graphics in Virginia. They delivered what they promised. There were several things I learned. First, the output of the pages for books is very different from magazines that are printed on newsprint. The copies from our printer look great. But the proofs we got back did not match. Their output is more sensitive to the blending of grays, and we had to change our pages so the grey backgrounds for captions did not overwhelm the copy. And second was the issue of price and how many books to print. But that I will deal with in another blog.

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. 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.

The Undercover Kids Journey Continues: Alden Place Elementary

November 9, 2009 at 4:23 pm | Posted in Education, Educators, Kids and reading, Librarians, Mystery books, Parent Teacher Groups, Parents, Puppets, Writing | Leave a comment
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The Undercover Kids have now performed at three schools and we are practically pros. Last week we visited Alden Place Elementary with Gloria and The Undercover Kids  (Katie, Jake and of course Cooper). The performances went well. But while we were at the school, I couldn’t help but think about how whirlwind these past couple of months have been. As I started looking back towards our past, I couldn’t believe how far we’ve come. Two months ago we didn’t have our puppets or even a script and now as almost through magic we have managed to visit three schools and provide a show for children. I think this is a testament to how hard work can pay off and if you put your mind to it you can accomplish anything. Another thing that surprises me about our performances is the reactions from the kids. So far, every school has been different. Some groups are rowdy and some are more reserved, but they are always full of curiosity. For example the children really enjoy interacting with Gloria (Katie and Jake too!) and asking her questions. My favorite question and answer interaction between Gloria and a student would have to be when a young boy from Alden Place asked Gloria if she could write a book about a car and when Gloria said sure what kind of car, The boy replied, “A 1969 Ford Mustang.” As funny as that response was it really made me think that kids really know what they want and we really have to listen to them. We will have to keep that in mind for any future performances we have in the future. Until next time!

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