Sunday, March 29, 2009


Pamela J. Devor is a freelance writer who gets much of the material for her books from her childhood. Being the mother of four children and the grandmother of ten grandchildren gives her a lot of ongoing material. She has a great imagination & likes to add fun & magic to her books. Pamela also likes to fill her stories with good family values. Pamela is working on her 2nd book which will be a sequel to 'The Troll Door, The Trunk & The Compass'. She lives in Southern Illinois with her family.


“The Troll Door, The Trunk, and the Compass” is about five siblings who spend the summer with their Aunt on the farm. There are lots of fun farm experiences for the kids who are thrilled to be there. Their aunt has had a hard time for about six months because her fiancĂ© disappeared (literally). She needs the children to distract her from her problem.

Alexander explores in the attic & finds an old trunk. Inside the trunk is a diary from a scientist who lived in the house over 20 years before. In addition to the diary is a compass that the scientist invented. The compass has dials for different years and different worlds. Alexander tries it, travels back in time and meets the scientist. Then together they set off to try to rescue his Aunt’s fiancĂ© from another world, if it is not too late.


Thaddeus said, “Ok, Let’s go. He pushed the GO button and disappeared. The girls touched Alexander’s arm and he pushed his GO button and they seemed to be traveling fast through a dark tunnel. They stopped and it was still dark. It was not only dark, but also cold and damp. Minnie fumbled in the backpack and came up with a flashlight. She turned it on and handed it to Thaddeus. Then she got the other flashlights and gave one to her brother and sister.

This place was made of rock. There were rocks under their feet, on both sides, and over their heads. There were also stalagmites and stalactites everywhere. They were in a cave! There were some beautiful crystal formations also. And some creatures that looked like orange lizards. There was some funny spider looking things that jumped.

Thaddeus told them that the spider things were cave crickets.
Thaddeus said, “I just wanted to check here first. This is number one on my World dial. I call it Subterraneoid. In this world there is no life on the surface of the world, just under the ground in these caves. If Kevin came this way, we should be able to find a clue.”...

We are looking at a portal in another world and it is in my time zone. So Kevin would not have disappeared yet. And if we look in your time zone, the clues might be lost by now. I need to not only set the world but also the time zone for just before the time Kevin disappeared so we can see him if he comes through this world portal. In my explorations I have traveled to different times on our world, but only to the current time on different worlds. But what you say makes perfect sense. You are teaching an old scientist to stay sharp, young man.”
So Thaddeus got out a calculator and did some figuring. While he was figuring, there was a movement up ahead but Thaddeus didn’t notice. The children were looking hard to see what was coming towards them out of the darkness. It was a big brown bear with white eyes.

The girls both shrieked. Alexander said, “Mr. Worthington, Sir – we have to GO now!” Thaddeus looked up and pressed the GO button a ½ second before Alexander did. Minnie and Alicia both had a hand on Alexander’s arm but Alicia’s shoe slipped on the wet rocks under her feet and when she tried to catch her balance her hand flew off Alexander’s arm. She found herself sitting on the ground and watching the other three disappear. The bear was coming towards her closer and closer. She scrambled to get back through the three-foot tall opening because the bear would be too big to get through. Her feet kept slipping and then she felt something touch her arm and she screamed....

Pam Devor's book can be purchased on her website:
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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Great Writing Activity for Father's Day!

So many of the crafts we make for Father's Day are cute, but useless! Here's an idea that will be appreciated and treasured for years and years.

Every family has favorite memories of trips, birthday parties, or visits to the zoo or aquarium. Why not ceate a Dad's Memories Book? It will take some organizing, but it will be worth the trouble. Let photos tell the story! Follow these easy steps to success.

1. Ask the children to bring in four or five photos from home that show fun times with their dad. Include things like pictures of the day they were born, trips, holidays, birthdays, silly times, dad's activities like bowling, gardening, or fishing, dad teaching them something, the first day in a new house, getting a new pet, or dad's super qualities like his strength, woodworking abilities, or cooking abilities.

2. Glue each picture to a piece of construction paper. Write a sentence or two about each picture on lined paper. Cut and paste the sentence under the photo. You can do one page a day for a week, or space them out through a couple of weeks.

3. Have each child draw a picture of their dad for the book cover. Add a title like Dad's the Best, or Thank You Dad.

4. Arrange the photos in order. You might choose to use them in chronological order or by themes.

5. Be creative as you put the Dad's Memories Book together. Fasten pages together with staples, ribbon, rafia, or stitching. Try cutting the book pages in the shape of dad's head, golf clubs, or his fishing boat. Decorate the pages with stickers, rubber stamps, finger prints, magazine pictures or stencils. Use gel pens or glitter pens for sparkle.

This great writing activity will allow the children to practice their printing skills, inspire creative writing, teach them how to put a book together, and give them the opportunity to have fun.
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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Teaching the Main Idea!

Many children think that the first line of a story or essay is the main idea. To help them understand that the main idea is why you are writing the story you can tell them to “think of a story as a meal.” It starts with an appetizer whose job it is to entice the reader to continue. It’s followed by the side dishes which adds a variety of flavors to the story-the additional information to make it fuller. The main dish is the meat of the meal or the main focus, the main idea. Dessert is the final part of the meal where the story winds down to a conclusion.

What we are looking for in a main idea of a story is simply the main course of the dinner, the “meat.” A good way for children to start this process is by putting things in categories such as Things you Wear, Colors, Fruits, Vegetables, etc. Talk about how they are all clothing, food, but the broad term or main idea is that they are all vegetables, things you wear. Next, go into finding the actual main idea of stories. Start with non-fiction books, because they are much easier. Then, go into fiction stories.

Another great teaching tool to finding the main idea of a paragraph is to use the idea of a helping hand. Children can trace their own hand. The main idea goes on the palm. The topic sentence is written on the thumb. Four other details are written on the fingers. For the older students have them draw the wrist and a "bracelet" which has a summary sentence on it.

A topic sentence should set forth the main idea and purpose (implied or direct) of the paragraph. Here are a couple of games that will help children practice finding the topic sentence.


Write a paragraph that doesn't have a topic sentence and have the child guess the topic. Example: You write with them. Sometimes they have erasers on the end. You can get them in different colors. When they guess pencils, ask them if it would have been easier to start the paragraph with, "I love pencils?"


Understanding the main idea of a paragraph can be tough for beginning readers. Here's an exercise you can do to help them see the forest through the trees.
Write each topic sentence on a separate index card.

Topic: Dogs are loyal animals.
Topic: I love the summer.
Topic: Chocolate isn't good for you.

Write each detail on a separate index card.

Detail: They are always waiting for their owners to come home.
Detail: They want to sit with you.
Detail: There are a lot of fun things to do, like swimming and eating hamburgers.
Detail: We go on vacation.
Detail: Every time I eat it, I get a stomachache.
Detail: It's not good for my teeth.

Mix them all up, turn them face up, and match up a topic with two details.

Workbooks to practice finding the main idea:

“Main Ideas & Summarizing: 35 Reading Passages for Comprehension” by Linda Ward Beech
“Summarizing, Grades 1 to 2: Focusing on Main Ideas and Details” by Renee Cummings

“Teaching the main idea is useful for students in online schools too.”
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Friday, March 20, 2009


There's nothing quite like seeing a child's eyes light up with joy because he/she has finally read their first word. Having fun with language is the key you need to unlock the world of reading to your child. The following are tips for hooking kids on reading along with fun activities. Try them and see what works for you and your child.
1. Make reading a habit. Give your child lots of opportunities to read. Bring a book with you wherever you go. They can read in the car, or waiting in the doctor's office. Make a ritual of reading at bedtime.
2. Play a rhyming game with a puppet. Have the puppet say, "My name is Mark. Can you find words that rhyme with Mark?" If the answer is yes, jump up and down, and if the answer is no, squat down low. "Does park rhyme with Mark? Does ball rhyme with Mark?"
3. Trace and say letter sounds. Involving the senses of touch, sight, and speech is a powerful tool for learning letter sounds. Use a finger to trace a letter while saying the letter sound. Do this on a paper, in a sandbox, or on a plate filled with sugar.
4. Play sound matching games. Using a set of alphabet letters, have your child pick the letter that matches the sound you make. Start with five letters and add more letters when your child is ready. Visit for more phonics games.
5. Pick books that are the right difficulty level for your child. The aim is to give your child many successful reading experiences. Have fiction and non-fiction books available.
6. Have your child watch your lips to see how you make certain sounds. You can ask, "Can you see my tongue touch my teeth when I say (th)? Does it tickle your tongue?"
7. Play sight word concentration games. Make two sets of common sight words, and have them hunt for pairs. If they can read the word, it goes in their pile.
8. Point out words all around the town. (traffic signs, grocery signs, advertising signs)
9. Gently correct your young reader when the meaning of the story is lost..
10. Say silly tongue twisters, sing songs and say rhymes. This will help kids become sensitive to sounds in words.
11. While you read aloud, use musical instruments to create suspense, or a silly, happy or sad atmosphere. This can bring a story to life and keep your child engaged. You can even make simple shakers with beans or rice inside a can.
12. Create the atmosphere you find in the book. For example, use a poster board to build a rocket if the book is about outer space. When you read aloud, read with expression and proper phrasing.
13. Have the children act out what you read. If the character walks to the store, they should be able to walk in place as they reach a door and open it and grab some groceries. This should be fun and can help on those days it's raining out and their energy levels are high.
14. Use a prop bag to illustrate parts of the story. If you're reading, "Miss Spider's Tea Party," you might pull the following items out of the bag: rubber bugs, a tea cup, silk butterflies, or a handkerchief to wipe the spider's tears away.

15. Do a fun activity that relates to the book in some way. For instance, if the book is about a tall person, make your own stilts using metal cans. Punch two holes on either side of each can, near the bottom. Measure a piece of rope so it is the appropriate length for children. Thread one end of the rope into each hole and secure with a knot. To walk on stilts, children stand on the cans, holding the rope in their hands. (Verify that the edge of the can is not sharp, and add masking tape for extra protection.) If you read a book about lions or the circus, you can have your child jump through a hoop like a lion at the circus. This activity may be done indoors or outdoors. Add words of encouragement such as, "Come, my beautiful lions!" Continue raising the hoop, then alternate between high and low.
Keep reading fun! With activities like these you can inspire your child to practice every day. The more kids see and work with words, the more they are able to effortlessly decode them. Be patient and encourage them. This will give them the desire and confidence to continue to learn, and soon they will be hooked on reading.

It's finally done! The first issue is full of the latest information, activities, and games for the home or the classroom. This issue addresses topics like: "Why Use Movement to Teach?" "Musical Consonants in Action," and "Activities for Gross Motor Skills." Future newsletters will include book reviews and children’s author interviews. You'll be updated on educationtipster's upcoming events like the Virtual Book Tour and the FREE teacher teleseminars .

Just sign up on Kathy Stemke's blog:

Monday, March 16, 2009


Tune: Farmer in the Dell

A circle's like a ball.
A circle's like a ball.
Round and round
It never stops.
A circle's like a ball.

A square is like a box.
A square is like a box.
It has four sides,
they're all the same.
A square is like a box.

A triangle has 3 sides.
A triangle has 3 sides.
Up the mountain,
down, and back.
A triangle has 3 sides.

A rectangle has 4 sides.
A rectangle has 4 sides.
Two are long, and
two are short.
A rectangle has 4 sides.

A star has five points.
A star has five points.
They twinkle high,
in the bright sky.
A star has five points.

Movement activity:

1. Make a large outline of each of the shapes in the shape song on the floor with masking tape.

2. Have the children practice various locomotor movements (tip toe, walk, gallup, slide, skip, walk backwards, walk on hands and feet, walk on two hands and one foot, etc.)as they move along the outlines and sing the song.

Art project:

1. Give each child several shapes to create a picture of a strange animal.

2. Remember to vary the size and colors of the shapes.

3. Name the animal.

Writing activity:

1. Create a story about the animal in the picture.

2. Include things like where he was born, what special powers he has, an example of his actions, is he good or evil, Who does he help or harm, and a surprise ending.

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Monday, March 9, 2009

Author Marianne Berkes Books!

Over in the Ocean: In a Coral Reef Over in the Ocean: In a Coral Reef by Marianne Berkes

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
If you like marine life, music, or math, then this is the book for you! This is an incredible book with wonderful rhyme done to the tune of "Over the Meadow." Your children will want to read this book over and over again. Marianne has added some great activities and information at the end of the book.

She suggests some great finger play such as:

Octopuses "squirt": squeeze both hands
Parrotfish "grind": place thumbs under fingers and move back and forth grinding
Clownfish "dart": praying hands move quickly forward
Stingrays "stir": fists circle in a stir

I suggest you have the kids move around the room and imitate these great actions as well!

The illustrator gives lots of great techniques to use when working with clay. This book is a Benjamin Franklin Award Winner!

View all my reviews.

Going Around The Sun: Some Planetary Fun Going Around The Sun: Some Planetary Fun by Marianne Berkes

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is a beautiful book with outstanding illustrations. Kids love it because there are lots of things to find on every page. Marianne cleaverly calls the sun, mother, and the planets her children as she rhythmically takes you on a journey through our solar system. Children will learn their numbers as they discover interesting facts about each planet. This book is an iParenting Media Award Winner!

There are four additional pages of information about our planets as well as teaching tips from Marianne and art tips from the illustrator. One suggestion is to create a play using the rhymes in the book. Children can remember the names and the order of the planets from the sun by memorizing a simple sentence. "My Very Educated Mother Just Sent Us Nine Pizzas. Of course, that's if you want to include Pluto which has been downgraded.

Here's a great planetary art project:

The background of this book was created with a melted crayon project that you can duplicate in your classroom. Begin by sharpening crayons over a paper plate. Place the shavings between two sheets of wax paper and carefully set a warm iron on the wax paper for just an instant. The crayon will melt quickly between the two sheets of wax paper. When it cools, you can cut out shapes of the planets and tape them to a window or hang them from the ceiling with string.

View all my reviews.

Kathy Stemke's sites:
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Sunday, March 1, 2009


Thanks for stopping by Kevin. You have so many different books ready to be published with Guardian Angel Publishing. We are very excited for your success!

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I’m a writer and poet living in Yonkers, New York and I’ve been writing since I learned the alphabet. The first thing I remember writing is a poem in second grade. I always liked the creative writing assignments in school. As I grew up, I put writing on the back burner while I pursued other interests. But I discovered that the thing that I was getting the most recognition for at work was my writing (memos, proposals, instructions, etc.) Gradually I realized that I really was a writer. Writing has always been a central theme throughout my life.

To find out more about me, you can visit my website at or you can visit my blog at http://www,

What dream fulfilled would make you dance?

Cue the music, I’m already dancing. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a kid and I’m finally seeing that happen. I am, who I always wanted to be.

How would you describe your style of writing?

Most of my work consists of children’s picture books. Picture books by their very nature need to be short and to the point. Every word needs to move the story along. I do try to incorporate humor into my work whenever possible. I also try to write my children’s stories on multiple levels so there’s something entertaining for the parents to read as well. My goal is to create a story that children and adults would want to read together.

Can you tell us which is the most interesting book that you have
written and why?

I don’t know if I could single out any one of my books as the most interesting. To me, all of my stories were interesting, even the ones that I realized are unfixable. It’s all helped me to hone my craft and to become a better writer.

How do you come up with your characters?

Usually, I come up with a storyline first and then I create characters to fit the story. Being that I write picture books, my characters are action driven. Illustrations will show the characters’ physical characteristics and their surroundings. So I don’t really focus on those aspects. But I am very focused on the character’s behavior.

How do you come up with your stories?

All of my stories answer the question “What if?” Sometimes, I’ll overhear something that will start the ball rolling. Other times, I’ll just let my mind wander and a good idea will pop into it. When I was a child, I was a constant daydreamer and I still am. So, that seems to work in my favor when it comes to writing.

Do you have a favorite character?

I don’t think that I have a favorite. Every story that I’ve written had a character that behaved differently because that’s what the story called for. Some were silly and some were serious and they were meant to make you laugh or cry depending on what the story was about.

What projects are you working on now?

Right now, I’m trying to revise a rhyming picture book that I’ve been working on. I also have two other prose picture books that I brought to the writers’ intensive at the SCBWI Winter Conference. I received some great feedback on these manuscripts and I’m in the process of revising them as well. For the uninitiated, SCBWI stands for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating
your books?

How some stories take on a life of their own. More than once, my stories have taken a path that I didn’t originally choose for them. Sometimes I decide that a character wouldn’t act a certain way or take a certain course of action, and I wind up exploring the unknown along with my characters.

Which of your books is available now? Where can we buy it?

Unfortunately, my books aren’t available yet. I have six picture books under contract with Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. I expect my first book, The Sister Exchange, to be released within the next few months, and my next book, If I Could Be Anything, to be released by the end of the year.

Thank you for your contribution to the children's book market. We are all looking forward to the release of your books. Good luck.

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