Thursday, December 13, 2012

Big News!!!

You've probably already guessed it from the title. So there's no use beating around the bush.  Here's the big news:


Miranda Paul's ONE PLASTIC BAG, inspired by a true story, chronicling the grassroots effort of five young Gambian women who, despite ridicule and hardship, take up a creative recycling project that brings beauty and prosperity back to their village, to Carol Hinz at Lerner Publishing, by Karen Grencik at Red Fox Literary (World).

YAY doesn't cut it, but. . .


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Happy Birthday to...Me!'s only 9:30 a.m. but I'm having a GREAT birthday already. 

Last night, I received my first piece of fan mail.  My Gambian folk tale, Kumba Am and Kumba Amul (available at iStorybooks) is a six-year-old Australian boy's favorite book.  I'm thrilled!

This morning, I got a very lovely card from my kids (and a bright-and-early wake up call).

But I also received a special birthday feature on Eric VanRaepenbusch's awesome Happy Birthday, Author Blog! My name, alongside authors such as Denise Fleming, Jane Yolen, Mo Willems and Susanna Leonard Hill?! Wow!

If you want to read a really special birthday memory from a few years back when I was living in Gambia, Africa -- go on over to Eric's blog and read all about it.

As for's time for cake and family time.  Then hubby's building me a new, bigger office for my birthday!  Thank you everyone for the birthday wishes.  It's going to be an amazing day!



Friday, September 28, 2012

Presentation at the Wisconsin Writers Association

I know...I've been a little absent from my own blog.  But it's because I've been very active in submitting and publishing a lot of work.  Yay!

This weekend, I hope to see many of you at the Wisconsin Writers Association (WWA) Fall Convention.  I'll be delivering a pirate-themed presentation all about tips I've learned from being on the editorial side of the publishing game, through my gigs as founder of as well as the editor for several independent children's app publishers and small presses.

If you're a writer actively submitting to the slush, I believe my presentation will be worth your while.  However, there are several other awesome keynote speakers and presenters, as well as breakout sessions.  Wish me luck!  Read all about the conference here.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Saint Martin Pizza / Sint Maarten Pizza - and a Book

As promised, this pizza is pretty ridiculous.

Not necessarily for what's on it, though.

I came up with the idea for today's pizza after getting an email from one of my favorite scuba dive operators -- Octopus Diving in Saint Martin.  Every time Sally and Chris send an email, I remember our trip there almost two years ago when we held urchins, spied lobsters, stirred up a ray off the sea floor and made sure to stay far away from the fire coral.

Photo from:

While driving back to my sister-in-law's house (she lives on sunny Sint Maarten), I realized how dramatically different the two sides of the island were.  In case you're not familiary, Saint Martin / Sint Maarten is divided in half.  The French own one side, the Dutch the other.  And you can tell.

Map of the Caribbean island of w:Saint Martin divided between French and Dutch halves. Made in Corel Painter IX by User:Astrokey44. Category: Saint Martin

The Dutch side is dramatically built up with casinos, cruise ports, and shopping centers.  It's a bit of a concrete jungle in some areas, actually.  The French side, in contrast, is wildly green.  Charming cafes dot the roadsides, but the biggest draws are nature sites like the Butterfly Farm.

So, in honor of the strange, divided geography of Saint Martin / Sint Maarten, here's a pizza in the shape of the island.  One side is built up with modern toppings like pepperoni.  The other is full of fresh green herbs and leaves from my very own backyard garden.

To be quite honest, the reason it took me so long to post this was that I needed to find a book with both French and Dutch connections.  And it just so happens that the YA novel I picked up last week fills the need.

I'll let you read it to find out the Dutch connections :)

Happy eating, happy reading!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Potato Pizza? A Cultural Mash-up

It's Worldly Wednesday! 

Today, I'll get straight to the point - our summer of pizza is a mash-up today.  When I called out for suggestions, a good friend from Japan indicated that he liked some pretty unusual toppings, and his wife led me to this site.

Now, her husband's favorite is the fish egg pizza, but I couldn't find fresh Japanese fish eggs at the farmer's market.  So, I went with the cultural mash-up of potatoes and bacon.

So, this week's pizza is a German-Japanese hybrid.  Here are both flags, for your reference:

And, here is the pizza!  (Note: make sure potatoes are boiled until soft before putting them on the pizza, or it's a gamey starch-fest in your mouth.)

Along with the dually-inspired ingredients, I welcome two stories as well.

I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU by Hans Wilhelm (German-American author) and 

GRANDFATHER'S JOURNEY by Allen Say.  Have you read these books?!

Happy reading, happy eating, and see you next Wednesday for an even crazier pizza!  Yes, that's right.  The hardest one I'll probably ever make. 

Comments open!  Thanks for stopping by and having a slice with me!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Peanut Butter Pizza - Inspired by The Gambia

The pizza is (finally) here!

Inspired by my favorite Gambian dish, domodaa, this pizza is probably the most unique yet!  Since domodaa is traditionally made with tomato paste, onions, peanuts, oil, spices and meat - it's really not all that much of a stretch to imagine it on pizza.

Here's the Gambian flag:

And here's a photo of groundnuts in Gambia (they are not called peanuts).  And peanut butter is called degee. (Deh-GAY).

Here is a photo of my own homemade domodaa.  You can click here for a recipe.

And...the peanut butter pizza!  (which tasted better than it looked)

Accompanying this gooey-ooey pizza is the most beloved Gambian folk tale: Kumba Am and Kumba Amul.  This version is the kid-friendly rewrite co-authored by Cornelius Gomez and me.  Over the last decade, I've probably heard/read more than a dozen versions of this story!

Click here to read this Gambian Folk Tale!

So, enjoy another slice of peanut butter pizza and then join us next week for a cultural mash-up: a German-Japanese hybrid.  If you think that sounds strange, the week after is pretty unbelievable, too.

Comments open!  Happy 4th of July!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Where is the Pizza?

Sorry, guys!  It's coming soon.

But while you're waiting for the Peanut Butter Pizza inspired from Gambian domodaa, check out the awesome things going on at Rate Your Story.  New logo and a vote!

I'll post photos of the pizza when I can. Thanks for holding tight! Miranda

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Hummus Pizza, Jordan, and The Sandwich Swap

It's the Summer of Pizza!

In case you missed it, here is the opening post and here is last week's post about Tuna pizza, inspired by the tastebuds of Saint Lucians.

Today, we travel East, however - to the Middle East!  This pizza was inspired by a book my daughter and I love, called THE SANDWICH SWAP, by Queen Rania Abdullah of Jordan and Kelly DiPucchio (scroll down for more info on this book, a "Perfect Picture Book.")

Anyway - back to the pizza.  Instead of sauce, I plastered it with hummus (I must admit, mine was tahini-based hummus, and some research has indicated that real Jordanian hummus includes yogurt, not tahini).  I also made the crust a little more like pita or flatbread and laced it with garlic.  On top, goat cheese and red peppers.  Yum!  My favorite pizza thus far!

While eating it, I also re-read a book we own called THE SANDWICH SWAP, and decided not only to share it, but to declare it a "Perfect Picture Book" and include it in my usual Friday postings (visit Susanna Leonard Hill's blog for more info on Perfect Picture Book Fridays).

Title:  The Sandwich Swap
Authors:  Queen Rania Al Abdullah (Jordan), and Kelly DiPucchio
Illustrator:  Tricia Tusa
Publisher: Hyperion, 2010
Genre: Picture Book
Ages:  4-8
Themes/Topics: Diversity, Tolerance, Friendship, Multicultural, Picky Eaters/Food
Opening lines:  "It all began with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich...and ended with a hummus sandwich."
Synopsis (paraphrased from Amazon):  "Lily and Salma are BFFs and they always eat lunch together at school. Lily eats peanut butter and Salma eats hummus, which seems fine until each girl can't hold in their disgust and spill out what they really think about each other's lunches. As a food fight begins, will a sandwich come between them (and the entire school cafeteria)?

Why I chose this book:  It's well written, multicultural, and simple.  It also got my daughter to try three different kinds of hummus (and she's a picky eater!).

Resources:  This book won a Children's Choice Award here, so click for some activities and resources here or here. No sense doing what's already been done!

I hope you'll join me next week for SPICY PEANUT BUTTER PIZZA - inspired by West African cuisine!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Tuna Pizza - Saint Lucia - Worldly Wednesday

The Summer of Pizza has officially begun! 

Saturday's opening ceremony was a success – 29 pizzas and a calzone :)  Our yard and house was filled with more adults kids than I could ever have imagined, all in the name of peace, love, and pizza.

And, as promised, I'm firing up the pizza oven each week and baking a unique pizza inspired by ingredients or the pizza-stylings of a particular country.  This week, I took inspiration from my husband's homeland (and one of my adopted homelands), the island of Saint Lucia!

About ten years ago, I experienced tuna on pizza for the first time at a place called Shernell's down in Vieux-Fort, Saint Lucia (right near where Phyllis was spotted several weeks ago on her World Tour).  At first I thought that the restaurant owners were strange to offer tuna pizza, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized it was a pretty normal (and clever) ingredient choice if you lived on an island!

So, have a virtual taste of my tuna and cheddar pizza. 

You and your kids can also enjoy the flavor of the Creole language by picking up or requesting a copy of this book - ALL KINDS OF...

It's a tri-lingual board book, offering short phrases and vocabulary in English, Spanish, and Creole.  My husband and I love it because books in Creole for our kids are very few and far between.  And we know the thousands of parents and children who visit Saint Lucia (and the other islands where Creole is spoken, like Haiti) would have an interest in learning a few words too!

Until next week...Where we'll be traveling to the Middle East for a special hummus pizza!

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Crossing by Donna Jo Napoli - Perfect Picture Book Friday

The weather in Wisconsin has been rather strange this week–moving from hot to cold, with gale-force winds.  Let's hope the weather turns a little warmer for my SUMMER OF PIZZA kickoff tomorrow. 

But the chill of these last few days (the ones before kids are released for a summer of exploration), has reminded me how powerful and varied the American climates can be–especially in the Midwest and West.

What if I were to trek the country and experience that power and variety firsthand?  
What if I explored the landscape through the eyes of a child?  
How might young eyes and ears describe the vast and challenging land that is the United States of America?

Donna Jo Napoli poetically answers those questions through the eyes of Sacagawea's son in THE CROSSING.  So, I've chosen it for today's Perfect Picture Book pick (visit Susanna Hill's blog if you want to learn more!).


Donna Jo Napoli

Jim Madsen

Atheneum Books for Young Readers (S & S)


Poetry, Nonfiction, Picture Book

 Exploration, Cultures/Multicultural, History (U.S), Lewis & Clark

"Experience the majesty of the young United States of America...all through the eyes of a small boy safe on Sacagawea's back."

First Page:  
Rolled in rabbit hide, / I am tucked snug / in a cradle pack / in the whipping cold / of new spring.  / ROAR, ROAR! Grizzlies stand tall in my dreams.

Why I chose it:  
So many reasons!  I hated learning history as a child...but if books like this had been around, I'm sure I would have been captivated.  Not only is Napoli's text simple and inviting, Madsen's illustrations are absolutely astonishing.  Together, they highlight the sights, sounds, and feelings that must have accompanied such a trek–something I never got in my fact-based history lessons as a child.  My favorite page is actually (I think) the center spread, in which the explorers are around the campfire with a group, and the old chief speaks Chinook to a prisoner who speaks Shoshoni...and the message goes around the fire in five languages.  It's just a groundbreaking book in so many ways.

Donna Jo Napoli includes an Author's Note in the back of the book highlighting each part of Lewis and Clark's journey in prose.  In addition she lists a neat website in the back which is a English to Shoshoni dictionary:

And National Geographic has an online game for kids about the Lewis & Clark Expedition:

Montana Kids also publishes a biography of Sacagawea that readers of any age will find interesting:

Well, whatever you're exploring this summer - pizza, or America, or the world - I hope you find an adventure and a story worth telling again and again.

Comments are open!  And swing on by Wednesday's post if you've got a pizza topping suggestion for me.  I need at least six more!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Pizza Around the World - Worldly Wednesday Summer Project

I shared on Facebook, but didn't share the good news here:

For Mother's Day, my husband and kids built me a stone pizza oven in the back yard.  

That's right.  A stone pizza oven.  WOW!

Beginning next Wednesday I am exploring the world via pizza.  Call it Pizza Around the World, or the Summer of Pizza, perhaps.  Twelve weeks of global toppings.  But it's not all fun and games–– it's delicious research for a manuscript I'm working on!  And, I'll pair each pie with a good book.

Basically, each "Worldly Wednesday," on my blog I'll explore new toppings or styles of pizza based on ingredients from different countries around the world.  That means I'm firing up the oven once each week and eating a new kind of pizza!  From mouth-watering to maniacal, there's no topping suggestion I won't consider...we'll see what the SUMMER OF PIZZA brings!  And as I mentioned, I'm going to share a book from, about, or set in that country.  So, pizza and a book!

But I need YOUR help.
I've got a few ideas already from the various countries I've traveled, but need to explore new toppings or pizza styles to cover 12 weeks of summer. What do people eat on pizza where you live?  Or, what do you IMAGINE would make a great pizza?   Please email me at mirandapaulbooks [at] gmail [dot] com and I might feature your pizza + country idea...and make it in my oven!


Next week, on my 6/6/12 Worldly Wednesday post, we'll "travel" to my husband's home island of St. Lucia via one of the most unique pizza toppings I've ever seen -- Tuna!  That's right, Tuna Pizza will be the week #1 Kickoff.  I hope you'll join us next week for Worldly Wednesday's Pizza Around the world with Tuna Pizza from Saint Lucia.

Peace, Love, and Pizza.  Comments are open!

Friday, May 18, 2012

PPBF - Grace for President by Kelly DiPucchio

Any one else sick of campaigning? 


In my state, there's a lot of polarization and bickering going on (I was actually hired to write a summary article about some of it last year.  Wisconsin has been making political history with the governor and recall situations here -- but I'll admit, I don't feel like living here is synonymous with being involved in breathtaking historical moments.  It's just tiring sometimes.

Perhaps one of positives that is emerging from all of the elections and campaigning, however, is that people are beginning to learn about politics, voting, and civic duties earlier on in life.

And since it's an election year, I'm sharing a Perfect Picture Book that delightfully introduces American politics to kids!  Plus, when I met the illustrator, she drew (on the spot) a picture of my daughter inside as President.   My daughter was so excited that she changed the title character's name to hers and did a school project on the book.

Today's Perfect Picture Book is...


Title:  Grace for President (or, if you were in my daughter's class, SOLEIL for President)

Author:  Kelly DiPucchio

Illustrator:  LeUyen Pham

Publisher:  Hyperion, 2008

Genre:  Picture Book

Ages: 6-10

Topic/Theme:  Politics, Elections, Gender Roles, Leadership

First Page:  One Monday morning in September, Mrs. Barrington rolled out a big poster with all of the presidents' pictures on it.  Grace Campbell (or, Soleil Paul) could not believe her eyes.  "Where are the GIRLS?"

Why I like it:  I've often asked the question "where are the GIRLS?" myself.  I also think that it's important that kids learn about politics and voting long before they're able to vote as well -- and this book teaches it in a way that is NOT BORING AT ALL!!

I also love it because my Grace looks a lot like my daughter.  And, to be honest, it's not easy to find picture books where the main characters look like my kids.  It's important to show them more than a single story (something I blogged about when I shared Chimamanda Adichie's TED talk awhile ago).

Resources:  Becky at 2nd Grade Rocks has an awesome comprehension guide and worksheet about Grace for President.  You can also teach your kids more about the electoral college at this website.  I'm sure you'll have no trouble coming up with even more resources by surfing the US government's website.

Here's the awesome drawing LeUyen Pham put of my daughter inside the book.  Pretty good, huh?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Perfect Picture Book Friday - Monsters Eat Whiny Children

It's been one of those weeks.  
You know, those weeks.

A cat-poop-on-the-couch, 
kind of week.

Today, all I want is to do is laugh.  Until I pee my pants.

So, I scoured the library for the most hilarious book I could find.  I found several funny ones, but the rip-roaring gut-buster that has become my Perfect Picture Book Friday pick is...


Title:  Monsters Eat Whiny Children
Author and Illustrator: Bruce Eric Kaplan
Publisher:  Simon & Schuster
Year: 2010
Opening Line:  "Once there were two delightful children"
Genre:  Picture Book, Humor
Theme/Topics: Behavior, Monsters, Food/Cooking, Humor
Age:  This is a tough one.  Too young = kids might be a little afraid of the premise.  But I'd say 4+ and you're good.  But this book is probably not for every household. 

Synopsis:  Dad has warned Henry and Eve: If you whine too much, monsters will eat you.  And lo and behold, the monsters come.  Will it be a whiny child salad?  Whiny child burgers?  The hilarity of the story is not in the pictures, but in the comic text that's, at times, clearly written for adults.

Why I like it:  It's probably written more for adults than kids, so of course I enjoyed it as I laughed my head off.  The writer, Bruce Eric Kaplan, was also a screenwriter for the series Seinfeld, which is obvious in the writing style of this book.  When you get to the page about Indian food, you'll know what I'm talking about.  And, to be fair, my daughter did love it (after first almost coming to tears that I wanted to read a book where whiny children are about to be eaten).  So, it's a parent-love, children will "probably" love kind of book.  But above all, it's FUNNY.

Resources:  Inside the book, there's a great recipe for cucumber sandwiches.  But I found one online, too!  You can also visit the author's Simon & Schuster biography page here.

Laugh on, people.  It's FRIDAY!!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Worldly Wednesday: Where in the World is Phyllis?

Phyllis has landed!

Where, you ask?

In paradise, of course!

She's making new friends at the preschool in the mountainside village of Grace, on the lovely island of Saint Lucia.

Word on the street is that she's been to the beach, the bus stop, up the mango and banana trees, and inside the local rum shop (but we couldn't confirm what she was doing in there).

Now...onto the weather report.  Though a typical weather report from sunny St. Lucia would include "seeing one's shadow," the day Phyllis picked to do her shadow-spotting (yesterday), it was all clouds and rain (check out the pic below of the storm clouds)!  Though that might sound like a downer, the cozy 88-degree (F) temperature was a nice consolation prize.  And this morning, Phyllis is predicting only a few showers that the Trade Winds will quickly usher past the island so she can have plenty of fun making shadow puppets on the beach this afternoon.

Enough talk, let's see photos of Phyllis on her most relaxing leg yet of the World Tour!
Check out those storm clouds!

Phyllis headed inside the preschool in Grace to take cover!

But when the rain stopped, it was time for a mango!

And a nap on the beach - right where the Atlantic meets the Caribbean Sea!

Phyllis is patiently waiting for these bananas to turn yellow...

Want to see more photos from Saint Lucia?  Friend Miranda Paul on Facebook to see my Saint Lucia photo albums.  I've been there nearly a dozen times!

(If you don't know what this is all about, visit Susanna Leonard Hill's Website - she'll explain all this groundhog mayhem.)

Comments are open!   Leave Phyllis a message and she'll get it in Saint Lucia.  Please note, however, she probably can't send a postcard to each and every one of you... :)

Friday, April 27, 2012

Focus Friday: Backstory and Perfect Picture Books

I have to admit–these days I'm all editor.  Revising and editing other's work, as well as studying some published titles have been taking precedence over NEW writing.  I've also taken on a couple of  editing projects, and while taking a peek at submissions was very quickly reminded of how difficult it can be for authors to weave in backstory.

As part of my SCBWI mentorship with Lisa Moser, we did a picture book study of On Sand Island by Jacqueline Briggs-Martin.  Lisa had mentioned the book was groundbreaking–and it is in many, many ways.  Martin's ability to seamlessly weave in backstory is amazing.  She thickens the plot (Carl building his very own boat start to finish) with the backstory of his Norwegian heritage and the longing for his late mother, and connects us to Carl, his sister without the reader even realizing they've slipped for a moment out of the present action of the story.

Too many times I read drafts of picture books or MG/YA novels and the backstory is literally "plopped" into the manuscript.  This pulls the reader out of the story, reminding them that they're reading something made up, and can break that emotional connection or building tension that is so important in gripping a young reader.  I encourage writers to weave the backstory into the scenes of the present story when appropriate.  How?

There's no one recipe, but some of the ways Briggs-Martin does it are:

1.  Through an object from the past; a physical thing that serves as a reminder
2.  A comparison of something current to something in the character's past experience
3.  A saying, phrase, custom, or tradition that lingers from past to present (or has changed now)
4.  A character who is older, sharing their story (or journal/timeline) with the main character
5.  Clever dialogue that allows the reader to discover something that has happened
6.  A place - (in Martin's book there is a cave with drawings from the First People)
7.  An author's note at the end (if you've got non-fiction/historical context to add as backstory)

When you're weaving in backstory, I think the key is to feed it a little at a time.  Think of unfolding a character's past rather than unloading it.

And check out this Perfect Picture Book if you'd like inspiration on how to weave in backstory!  If you're not familiar with Perfect Picture Book Fridays, hop on over to Susanna Leonard Hill's blog.

Title:  On Sand Island (A Golden Kite Honor Book)

Author:  Jacqueline Briggs Martin

Illustrator: David A Johnson

Publisher:  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2003

Genre:  Picture Book

Ages: 6-10

Subjects:  Fishing, Historical Fiction, Wisconsin, Death/Grief/Loss (Mother), Community

Description (from Amazon):  In the deep blue waters of Lake Superior lies a small island of hummingbirds, rabbits, and hardy Norwegian fishing folk. On that island lives a boy named Carl who wants nothing more than to be out on the water in a boat of his own making. So this is a story of sawing, nailing, and sanding. But because Sand Island neighbors are closer than cousins, this is also a story of picking strawberries, moving rocks, and mending fishing nets fine as lace.

Why I chose this book:  See above.  But also because I am from Wisconsin and enjoy learning about the history of our fishing communities and immigrant experiences.  And also because it's Friday of EARTH WEEK!  I love sharing great stories for kids about our natural world.

Additional Resources:  
Jacqueline Briggs-Martin's website has many shots of the inside of the book and a curriculum connections page.  For more about the Apostle Islands, of which Sand Island is a part, visit this National Lakeshore website.  You could also plan your own canoe/kayak trip there with the kids!

 Comments are open!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Worldly Wednesday: My PB Subject Goes Viral!

Those of you who know me know my long-standing relationship with the country of The Gambia, and how I consider it 'home away from home.'  And one of my recently finished PBs (though in the works for five years), is based on the true story of Isatou Ceesay and the recycling women of Njau, Gambia.

Just before and right after Earth Day, I got an unusual amount of YouTube comments and subscribers.  I logged in to see what was up and learned that a 10-minute video I filmed and edited about Isatou and how she recycles plastic bags into purses had more than 7,600 views!  I have no idea which celebrity, organization, or blogger who promoted it (it had less than 1,000 views for the longest time), but thank you!

As for my picture book manuscript, it's still sitting with an editor...and it received one of those "near-miss" personal note passes from an agent.  Here's hoping this stroke of luck helps the women gain more exposure for their amazing environmental efforts, and possibly the marketing oomph needed to get their story published!

Happy Earth Week!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Kidlitosphere Progressive Poem - Day 23

The 2012 Kidlitosphere Progressive Poem is here today, gone to Linda at TeacherDance tomorrow! 

Thanks, Irene Latham, for sparking this – it has become quite unique and beautiful.

Yesterday, Earth Day, Pat posted the first line in a new stanza...and gave me a lot to think about.  After thinking, and thinking, and worrying, and worrying, and considering all kinds of angles, I decided I was over-thinking it.  But Laurel Snyder's post over at Katie Davis's blog reminded me that great poetry is and should be accessible, and this is a kidlit poem, after all.  So I told myself to stop fretting and go with the simple flow of the poem on its "path of truth."  And I hope Linda and the others who follow will find this line a good segue into what is the "last leg" or the "beginning of the end" as April comes to a close in one week.  Yes, yes, my line has a dash...what does that mean?  Oh, punctuation can mean all the difference...can't wait to see what you come up with next.

If you are reading this
you must be hungry
Kick off your silver slippers
Come sit with us a spell
A hanky, here, now dry your tears
And fill your glass with wine
Now, pour. The parchment has secrets
Smells of a Moroccan market spill out.
You have come to the right place, just breathe in.
Honey, mint, cinnamon, sorrow. Now, breathe out
last week’s dreams. Take a wish from the jar.
Inside, deep inside, is the answer…
Unfold it, and let us riddle it together,
…Strains of a waltz. How do frozen fingers play?
How do fennel, ginger, saffron blend in the tagine?
Like broken strangers bound by time, they sisterdance…
their veils of sorrow encircle, embrace.
Feed your heart with waltzes and spices.
Feed your soul with wine and dreams.
Humble dust of coriander scents your feet, coaxing
seascapes, crystal sighs and moonshine from your melody

Beware of dangers along the path of truth
And beware, my friend, of too much bewaring–

(Except for being wary of leaving a comment, of course.  If you're reading this, thoughts welcomed.  Thanks for stopping by the 2012 KidLitosphere progressive poem.)

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Kidlitosphere Progressive Poem is coming!

Sunday is Earth Day!  Hooray!  And then comes Monday...

When IT will be here on my blog.

What is "IT?"

The 2012 Kidlitosphere Progressive Poem!  

Watch for Miranda Paul's line on April 23.
Thank you to Irene Latham at Live Your Poem for coordinating this project during National Poetry Month. If you don't know what this is all about, click the link above for tons of info or view the posting schedule here.

Because of the big event, there will be no posts in between now and then.  I'll resume Perfect Picture Books next week Friday and Worldly Wednesday the week after.  Hope you'll stop back on April 23rd to read my contribution to the 2012 Kidlitosphere Progressive Poem!

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Day Tiger Rose Said Goodbye - Perfect Picture Book Fridays

This Friday is no ordinary Friday.  It's a solemn day, yet part of a deep and radiant story rich with meaning.  The painted blue sky and beaming sunshine happen to be in full force here, a reminder to me that life goes on brilliantly after death.  And without suffering, our great moments wouldn't seem so great.  

It is with these thoughts that I share a picture book with you my daughter has read every night this week–one that has challenged her and gripped her emotionally.  It's a soft book, a "quiet" picture book, yet captured my daughter's attention easily.  Last night, she finally realized what it was all about: saying goodbye at the end of life.  And I realized again how powerful picture books can be.

In conjunction with Good Friday, our household is celebrating our kittens' first birthdays–an event that recently sparked my daughter to ask, "How many years do cats live, exactly?"  

Today's Perfect Picture Book doesn't answer that question, but has taken my daughter and I through an emotional journey of one cat's last moments in the most beautiful way possible.

Today's Perfect Picture Book is...

The Day Tiger Rose Said Goodbye

By Jane Yolen

Illustrator: Jim LaMarche

Publisher: Random House, 2011

Age: 5-12

Category: Death, Loss, Pet, Nature

From Amazon:  "Not since The 10th Good Thing About Barney or I'll Always Love You has there been such a peaceful and inspiring book to help children and adults cope with the loss of a pet...Tiger Rose's kitten days are long gone and she's grown too tired to stay, so she says her goodbyes to all the creatures and the joys of her natural world—from the scolding blue her favorite shady patch under a piney bush.

Opening Page:
The day Tiger Rose said goodbye
was a soft spring day, the sun only half risen.
Little brilliant butterflies,
like bits of colored paper,
floated among the flowers.

Why I chose it:  See above.  But I also chose it because it's written boldly.  Every word used is used on purpose.  Jim LaMarche's colored sketches are beautiful as well.

Resources:  Please see Patricia Tilton's website for more resources.  She also chose this as a Perfect Picture Book in 2011.  You can learn more about Perfect Picture Book Fridays at Susanna Leonard Hill's blog.

Comments are open.
Happy Easter, everyone! 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

It's Poetry Month - No April Fool!

For Poetry Month 2012, I'm participating with some awesome well-known poets around the world in a progressive poem!  I hope you'll all check it out.
Miranda Paul will add her line on April 23rd!

My line will be APRIL 23rd, so be sure to check back!  Here's the lineup:

2012 KidLit Progressive Poem:  watch a poem grow day-by-day as it travels across the Kidlitosphere! April 1-30
1  Irene at Live Your Poem 
2  Doraine at Dori Reads
3  Jeannine at View from a Window Seat
4  Robyn at Read, Write, Howl
5  Susan at Susan Taylor Brown
6  Mary Lee at A Year of Reading
7  Penny at A Penny and her Jots
8  Jone at Deo Writer
9  Gina at Swagger Writer's
10  Julie at The Drift Record
11  Kate at Book Aunt
12  Anastasia Suen at Booktalking
14  Diane at Random Noodling
16  Natalie at Wading Through Words 
17  Tara at A Teaching Life
18  Amy  at The Poem Farm
19  Lori at Habitual Rhymer
21  Myra at Gathering Books
22  Pat at Writer on a Horse
23  Miranda at Miranda Paul Books 
24  Linda at TeacherDance
25  Greg at Gotta Book
26  Renee at No Water River
27  Linda at Write Time
28  Caroline at Caroline by Line
29  Sheri at Sheri Doyle
30  Irene at Live Your Poem

For more info on the Progressive Poem, please visit:

Friday, March 30, 2012

Me...Jane - Perfect Picture Book Friday

It's Friday!!!

While I have a busy day ahead, I'm excited about today's perfect picture book.  Not only does it tie in to Africa...a continent I've fallen in love with, but it showcases one woman's potential to change the world.  And, it has animals!  (Not crocodiles...but if you want to see me with crocs, click here.)

Today's Perfect Picture Book Is...

Me. . . Jane

Author/Illustrator:  Patrick McDonnell
Category:  Picture Book (Non-fiction)
Ages: All
Subjects:  Nonfiction, Biography, Nature, Animals, Primates, Dreams

Description: Award-winning picture book author Patrick McDonnell tells the inspiring story of the young girl who would grow up to be Dr. Jane Goodall–primatologist, environmentalist, humanitarian, and United Nations Messenger of Peace.

First Lines:  "Jane had a stuffed toy chimpanzee named Jubilee.  She cherished Jubilee and took him everywhere she went.  And Jane loved to be outside."

Why I chose this book:  Me...Jane is such a well-written biography for kids in that it's not a timeline of facts.  It's poetic, and above all it's written as a story.  My daughter was captivated as it begins with a young girl about her age who is curious about where eggs come from, and how a wish/dream Jane has comes true.  Unlike other biographies and non-fiction books, the soft language and wistful drawings inspire the reader to dream bigger and believe anything is possible (my daughter, for example, is working on making her dream of becoming a mermaid and a fairy true now). 

Resources:  In the book, Jane Goodall herself writes a note at the end, plus there is a link to her Roots & Shoots program (  You can also learn more and see photos of Jane at

Comments are open, and in case you missed my awesome interviews earlier in the week, scroll down to see interviews with YA multicultural author Ruth Tenzer-Feldman and picture book author/illustrator Eric VanRaepenbusch!  You can also see my interview with picture book author Lisa Wheeler over at Rate Your Story.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Worldly Wednesday: BLUE THREAD Author Ruth Tenzer-Feldman

It's Worldly Wednesday!  Normally, it's my favorite day of the week because I love all things global.  But this week is extra special because I got to read an Advanced Copy of Ruth Tenzer-Feldman's debut novel BLUE THREAD while I was in Gambia–and today, she's "here!"

BLUE THREAD is published by Ooligan Press
BLUE THREAD tells the story of Miriam Josefsohn, a sixteen-year old Jewish girl living in 1912 Portland–who is thrust even further back in history to biblical times thanks to a fantastical prayer shawl that her father and uncle kept hidden from her. 

That's right folks, BLUE THREAD in a nutshell is historical fiction of the women's suffrage era meets Exodus, with a romantic plot twist and plenty of feminine perspective (my kind of story!).  Just a few chapters in, the pacing quickens as the plot thickens and I found myself unable to put it down for the latter half of the book.  It's one of those quotable books with several amazing lines, and for me, reading it in an arid Sub-Saharan climate with the "lingering smell of goats" constantly wafting,  the book seemed to come alive (plus in Gambia I'm known as "Mariama Sibo" so I kept getting interrupted with "Mariam! Mariam!").  The depth of Tenzer-Feldman's knowledge of the historical subjects combined with her clever imagination and good character dialogue makes for a fantastic read that I would definitely recommend to anyone interested in history, fantasy, religion, and other cultures.  Oh–and antique hats (which I used to collect, ironically enough).  Five stars, five stars, five stars.

Now that I've told you about her fantastic historical fiction/fantasy novel...welcome, 


Photo courtesy Ruth Tenzer-Feldman

About Ruth Tenzer-Feldman
Ruth is an award-winning author of books and articles, mainly for children and young adults. She has been an attorney, editor, research analyst, ticket seller, and keypunch operator. Her 10 nonfiction books focus on history and biography, while her articles range from leeches to Einstein’s refrigerator.  Blue Thread, her debut novel, entwines the struggles of two teen girls across the millennia. Ruth lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband, dog, and innumerable dust mites.

Miranda:  Welcome, Ruth!  So nice of you to agree to do an interview.  As it's Worldly Wednesday, I'll start by focusing on 'place.' Your novel is set in two distinct and very different places. Where did you get the idea for each? What was it like to write a story with two different settings?

Ruth:  Blue Thread grew in part out of the photograph of a banner in a woman suffrage parade in Boone, Iowa, in 1908. The banner reads: LIKE THE DAUGHTERS OF ZELOPHEHAD WE ASK FOR OUR INHERITANCE. The daughters mentioned on that banner come from a story in the Bible set near the Jordan River at the time of Moses and the Exodus from Egypt. The parade was in early twentieth-century America. Two distinct times and places. I knew little about Boone, Iowa, in 1908, but I did know about the successful 1912 campaign to give Oregon's women the right to vote. So Iowa 1908 became Oregon 1912.
            Writing the story in two distinct times and places required more mental gymnastics than I had for my other nonfiction books. I found it easiest to take a writing break (at least an hour) between settings. 

Miranda:  Mental gymnastics!  I bet!   Did you travel anywhere to get a sense of place while writing this story, too? Or had you traveled somewhere in the past? 
Ruth:  I live in Portland, in virtually the same neighborhood as my protagonist. Years ago my family and I traveled to Israel/Palestine, with a trip to Petra in Jordan. That was extremely helpful to get a sense of place.

Miranda:  I see.  Now let's talk 'character.' Your main character is a bit rebellious. Were you like that as a teen?
Ruth:  I was the opposite of rebellious, at least outwardly. If my mother told me to put on a sweater when I went outside, I did. And then, when she wasn't looking, I'd take it off. I usually tried to stay under the radar screen. I am much more rebellious now than I used to be!

Miranda:  Aren't we all?  Too funny.  On the more serious, grown-up side of things,  let's talk research.  Did you know all that about Hebrew before you wrote the book? How about printing presses? 1912 Oregon? Tell our readers (many of whom are writers) what the research process was like.

Ruth: Research. Oh, my, did I do research! Before I started Blue Thread, my Hebrew was rudimentary, and my knowledge of printing presses was nonexistent. I had a handful of facts about Oregon in 1912, and knew practically nothing about the 1912 campaign. 

I devoured books and tapped into the expertise of others via the Internet.  And I found two gems along the way. The first was Edmund Gress's 1910 typography book, which Miriam refers to in Blue Thread. []. The second is the letterpress print shop not far from me. One of the printers who works there has an old [small insertion] press of her own, and I spent a couple hours at her studio doing some hands-on research. []

I was also lucky enough to look through Portland's city directory for 1912, as well as insurance maps form about that time. Just to make sure I'd gotten everything correct, I sent relevant portions of the draft manuscript to a professor of women's studies in Oregon, a professor of Jewish studies, and my professional printer.

Miranda:  And it shows in the book you've done your homework as the facts and setting are integrated seamlessly into the plot.  Which brings me to wonder something... If you had a prayer shawl with a blue thread, and got to CHOOSE exactly which place and time, to where/when would you travel and why?
Ruth:  Yikes!  This is the most difficult question any interviewer has asked about Blue Thread. My first thought is that I'm quite happy to be where I am right here and right now. But there is another time and place that haunts me. I am named for my Jewish great-grandmother, who was very much alive in Poland or Hungary in 1936, but was not heard from since then. By the time I was born after World War II, it was assumed that she was dead, and it is a custom among some Jews to name a child for a loved one who has died. I would use my blue thread to locate my great-grandmother, to find out the true circumstances of her death, and to tell her that she has not been forgotten.

Miranda:  Amazing and chilling - wow, wow, wow.  I have goosebumps right now!  Quick, can you tell us something fun or silly so we can end on a lighter note?  Like random things about yourself?

1. When I go into hat stores, I put on the zaniest hats I can find, and then pretend to be the person who would wear them.
2. I adore Daddy Long-Legs "spiders" (they are technically arachnids but not spiders).
3. I learned to knit when I was eight years old and haven't stopped since.
4. I love the smell of coffee, but I don't drink it.
5. A food parody I wrote to the French national anthem was once aired on National Public Radio.
 Miranda:  Great!  You're such an interesting and inspiring person, Ruth.  Thanks for stopping by.  And if my readers want to meet you and learn more about BLUE THREAD and your other books, where can they 'find' you?

Ruth: (has a reader's guide in the blog)
Twitter: @ScrivaRuth
FB: Blue Thread

Comments are open!  Please feel free to leave a question or message for Ruth Tenzer-Feldman.

BLUE THREAD is published by Ooligan Press

Monday, March 26, 2012

Mommy Monday: Meet Eric VanRaepenbusch

It's spring break here in the Paul household, which means time with the kiddos, seasonal changes, and new arrivals.

In the spirit of all of these things, my Mommy Monday is following suit.  I spent some time with the kiddos over the weekend checking out two new apps.  Then I decided, with a seasonal change, that today's Mommy Monday will actually be a Daddy day--featuring author Eric VanRaepenbusch, who just welcomed the new arrival of his first two iBooks for kids...AND (drum roll) his lovely new baby, Kate!

About Eric's New Arrivals:  While his new baby girl really takes the cake in terms of cuteness, his digital iPad stories come close.  The first one, Three Ghost Friends - Learn About Colors was an instant hit with my just-turned-three-year-old (who took over the iPad and delayed my games of Words with Friends).  What's really fun about this iBook is the fact that it's got some unexpected surprises, and young children won't instantly understand everything the first it's a book that will get read over and over, and truly has learning potential. The second book, Three Ghost Friends - Learn About Opposites, was just as simple as the first.  But an image of ghosts eating pizza is, apparently, hilarious to kids and keeps attention perfectly!

About Eric VanRaepenbusch (yes, he takes second to his books and babies): Eric is a stay-at-home dad of four children, a blogger (Happy Birthday, Author), and a self-proclaimed read-aloud extraordinaire. 

Miranda:  Thanks for agreeing to interview, Eric.  You're one busy daddy these days with kiddo #5 in tow!  So, let's talk about colors since your first Three Ghost Friends iBook is about colors.  How did you learn about colors?

Eric: Colors were a breeze.  Learning to spell my last name was problematic.

Miranda:  Too funny.  I guess I don't have that problem (and my maiden name was just as easy). It seems pretty interesting that a book about three white ghosts becomes a book about colors.  Where did your idea come from?

Eric: My 1 year old son loves ghosts. He frequently asks me to draw them for him — happy ghosts, sad ghosts, nice ghosts, mean ghosts.  One day I was fumbling into the house after celebrating Kate McMullan’s birthday at my oldest son’s preschool.  I got my 1 year old son into the house.  Then, I was  bringing in all the materials from the lesson when the markers, paper, glue bottles, and scissors spilled all over the floor. He saw the markers and the paper and asked me to draw ghosts.  Instead of getting mad about the mess, I started drawing ghosts using the markers that fell on the floor. This got me thinking about colored ghosts.

Miranda:  So you're not scared of ghosts?

Eric: Ghosts, not so much.  Monsters and aliens... A little bit!  Zombies though, freak me out!

Miranda: You self-published this book for the iBookstore.  I know a lot of Moms and Dads who want to do that.  Can you tell us about the process, and what you wished another author would have told you first? 

Eric: I used iDraw on my Mac to make the illustrations. Then, those illustrations were imported into Book Creator on my iPad.  Book Creator is where the pages were arranged and text is added.  Meanwhile, I set up an account to publish the book with Apple, which was very simple. Then, I needed to purchase an ISBN number for my book, which is required by Apple.  I chose to buy 10 numbers for $250 which was better than paying over $100 for just one number.   Once the book was finished, I sent the .epub file that is generated by Book Creator to Apple for approval.  My first book took over two months to get published, but was hung up with a technical error on my part. 

Miranda:  Sounds like a process!  Now let's pretend that parenting and writing kids' books didn't suck all of your time.  In this ideal world, how would you spend your time (i.e. what else are your hobbies or ventures)?  

Eric: I always have to feel productive.  I also like to try new things.  And being outside is important.  You put all those things together and you get something like beekeeping.  I am trying it for the first time this Spring.  

Miranda:  Oooh!  Send me some honey if you do!  And you are one of the busiest bloggers I know - tell us more about your birthday blog?

Eric: Happy Birthday Author is a blog I started over two years.  My children and I celebrate the birthdays of children’s authors and illustrators.  We read as many books as we can find for an author and then do an activity based on the books together.  I put these experiences, along with a little information about the author, into each post.  We have celebrated over 130 children’s authors and illustrator birthdays.  I have even received over 50 birthday memories from the authors and illustrators too! 
Miranda:  So...when is YOUR birthday? And who gives you shout-outs?
Eric: My birthday is March 29th! This year we will be celebrating my birthday on my blog! My friend Colleen Kessler, a fellow 12 x 12er, has volunteered to guest post on my birthday which should be fun.
Miranda:  HAPPY BIRTHDAY, AUTHOR!!! What a timely interview.  Wouldn't it be a nice birthday present if we all bought them?  Where can we get your books?
Eric:  Three Ghost Friends: Learn About Colors is available for iPad, iPhone, iPodTouch at the iBookstore  --

On Wednesday Night, my second book Three Ghost Friends: Learn About Opposites became available --

Miranda:  Great!  And where can we stalk you?

Miranda:  Thank you so much for stopping by!  Congrats on all the new arrivals.  I'm sure this is going to be a great spring for you, Author Dad!
Comments are open!  And don't forget to stop by on Wednesday when Ruth Tenzer-Feldman, author of the newly released YA novel BLUE THREAD is here for Worldly Wednesday on the blog!
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