Lists resources

Books for Kids Who Want to Write

Books for Kids Who Want to Write

If you know of a kid who is an aspiring writer or a kid who just likes to write, I’ve got a surprise for you. Inspired by all the fun I had during NaNoWriMo and Camp NaNoWriMo I thought it would be fun to speak directly to the kiddies to see what they’re excited about when it comes to getting their thoughts down on paper (or computer).

I decided to host a writing workshop just for kids. It’ll be fun and funky and I hope to inspire kids to find their inner voice and put it to good use. All kids have a story to tell and I feel like maybe they just need a vehicle to help bring it out.

Here are the links to my writing workshops. They have online components, so location is no problem!

Fun and Funky Kids Writing Workshop I 

Fun and Funky Kids Writing Workshop II 

Depending on your child’s interest, you can enroll in a one day session or a more indepth two week session. Students will have homework. Click the links or the images to register or for more information.

And now on to the books! Here’s a list of books that your budding writer might enjoy reading to help them hone their craft.

Out of Wonder by Kwame Alexander 

This is not a primer on how to write, but rather inspiration. Alexander and friends have written poetry celebrating famous poets. You might just find the inspiration you need!

My Weird Writing Tips by Dan Gutman

Dan’s the man when it comes to weird. Kids familiar with the so famously funny My Weird School series will love seeing their favorite characters help them with grammar and other writing tips. His explanations are funny and SO accurate.

Writing Magic by Gail Carson Levine

The (marvelous other princess type books) author provides homework assignments and tips for getting your story to shine. I liked this book so much I bought it in paperback and Kindle so i’m always near a copy when I need ideas. Her tips are good for grownups too.

The Best Story by Eileen Spinelli

I’m anxious to read this because I love LOVE Eileen Spinelli and i think she will be a great person to help kids find their writing voice. Everyone gives our heroine an opinion of what makes a good story, but she’ll have to figure it out for herself, right? Plus? There’s a pirate on the cover and you know how we feel about pirates.

So. You’re all set. If you want to work on your next magnum opus (thats fancy latin for BIG WORK) start with these books. If you’re ready to get started, think about signing up for my workshop. I guarantee we will have fun!


#Kidlitcon is the New Beyonce

This past weekend I took a trip to Wichita, Kansas to help facilitate Kidlitcon. And you heard me right, folks, forget that Beyonce; she’s yesterday’s news. Kidlitcon was Lit! Turnt! Off the Chain! Fabulous!

Never since that time at band camp have I had such a good time. I met some super nice locals. Heck, ALL of the locals arcamp have I had such a good time. I met some super nice locals. Heck, ALL of the locals arKidlitcon 2016e nice; which is kind of off-putting when you’re from the East Coast and no one  really cares how your day is going or why you’re in town. Aside from meeting nice locals, I met my tribe. My squad. My pack. I’ve known the organizers of Kidlitcon/Cybils marginally for a couple years now but in Kansas, we became friends. How can you not become friends with people who share your understanding of Heathcliff, Harry Potter, and Lemony Snicket? Ok maybe I was the only one who liked Heathcliff, but whatevs. These people let me fly my bookfreak flag high and didn’t judge.


If you want to know what we talked about and who we talked to, follow these two hashtags: #kidlitcon16 and #kidlitcon.  We spent time with AS “My book won a Cybils Award” King, C. Alexander “I write for all genres” London, Clare “I have a Newbery Award” Vanderpool, and TONS of other authors whose names I will mess up if I try to remember them without checking Twitter. But just know that if you didn’t attend you missed OUT. Just like how Beyonce dropped her last album and people lost their minds? That’s how it went down in Wichita.

We were WILDIN’ !

Shout out to Drury Inn for comfy beds, the Arkansas River for being all quiet and pretty, and for Wichita, for being home of the super nice people and yummy food. OMG who knew that Wichita could do BBQ? Super shout out to the nice dude with the Tom Selleck ‘stache from Drury hotel who helped with conference set up. He was a superstar for making things possible for us.

Even though it wasn’t on the agenda, diversity was prevalent in practically every conversation. It was the elephant in the room that we couldn’t ignore.  We celebrated diversity of many different types: racial, religious, ability, socioeconomic, etc. I was really amazed at how chill and woke everyone was about diversity.

Woke. Yes I said it. The kidlit community is WOKE. We are aware of the need for diversity, we want it, and we want our diversity to be diverse: not everyone’s story is the same nor does everyone react the same way and that’s important. I feel good about the bloggers, librarians, and authors I met last weekend. I feel like I have a squad of folks who will stand with me as I fight for more diversity in kids’ books.

I have a SQUAD. A posse. A tribe. A gang. A group of diverse bookish folks who are just like me.

And it feels AWESOME.

There’s room for you at the kidlit diversity table.

Join us! (bring your own wand)


P.S. Jonah Winter is a yinzer.

P.P.S. We learned about Occam’s razor. Or was it Shroedinger’s window?

P.P.P.S. Phil Binder is RAD.



CoSchedule it and Forget it: A Tutorial for Organizing your Book Reviews and your Life

Seems like every week I’m finding new ways to use CoSchedule (CS).


I love Co Schedule because as a book review blogger, I need to stay organized. Not sure what Co Schedule is? Check out their video.

I am in the middle of multiple projects at the same time and CE helps so much with that. If I’ve just received a book, I will want to schedule a book review date. So I open CE and choose a date for my review.

coschedule example 1

As you can see from the photo above I have scheduled two book reviews. They are on the left side of the image in a light yellow. We’ll get to the images on the right later.

I generally schedule reviews three months out so it’s helpful to be able to put them in the calendar right away and not try to remember when something is due.

While I’m scheduling future reviews, I’m also in the process of writing reviews for books I’ve just read.  Again, CS comes in handy for that.

coschedule review post

After I’ve read the book, I open up the draft post I made 3 months earlier. I type up my review, add tags, change the title if necessary and other tasks. When I’m finished I’ll go to my CS calendar and open up that post. I’ll check the score of my title, see the yellow 60? If you hover over that number you’ll get your headline score. Mine says B+!


CE Headline analyzer

Depending on your grade and your preference, you can choose to keep or edit your headline. Since I schedule my posts in advance, I usually only use the title and author of the book as the blog post title. That’s not very fun and doesn’t usually acquire a good grade. So, I’ve learned, thanks to the headline analyzer, that I need to rewrite my headlines into something that people will actually want to read. This headline has been rewritten and since it’s a B+, it’s a keeper. Here’s the link to the CS Headline Analyzer if you want to try it for yourself.  Be sure to stay there and study up. Very helpful information there!

After I’ve checked my headline, it’s time to write my social media messages. You can write as many or as few as you’d like, so use what works for you. Look for the multi colored bullseye. Just underneath that is where you’re going to do your work.

Screen Shot 2016-08-21 at 4.42.47 PM


Click on the large white plus sign under the bullseye. To the left of the plus sign you’ll see Same Day as Publish and the publish date. What you want to do is write a social media message for that date so you’ll click the appropriate social media profile you want the message to go to and you write your message.

co schedule social media message

The message defaults to the title that you’ve written and it automagically includes the blog link. Choose the time you’d like your post to publish and click Add Message. You can send multiple messages multiple times and on multiple days: day after publish, week after publish, month after publish, etc. The options are endless. ENDLESS, like the ocean. It’s awesome! What this means is you can schedule your posts to be sent out to the social mediasphere 6 months after you’ve originally published it! Keep reading, mkay?

Now here’s where Co Schedule gets SUPER AMAZINGLY COOL. Remember in the first photo I told you to ignore the images in purple? Go ahead and scroll up and come back down when you’re done. {Waiting}

Did you see them? If you’re looking in the correct place you’ll see a few titles and although they are partially cut off in the image they look like: Let’s Get Started…How to Get Started…I’m super e…  Did you see those? Wonder what those are about? ‘Course you do.

So, what you wanna do is, after you’ve scheduled all the social media for the post you’re currently working on you’ll want to change tacks and become Grand Goddess of the Schedulephere. Well not Grand Goddess, cuz that’s my title, but you can be Associate Grand Goddess or make up your own dang title, whatevs. How’s that?

Go to a post that you’ve got scheduled for the future (beam me up Scotty). Note, it will NOT be purple. Purple is in the past, like Prince (sad panda). Stick with me, here. Go to the future post and click on it so it opens up.

Screen Shot 2016-08-21 at 5.01.25 PM

So, hey, you’ll notice that the future looks just like the present. Don’t be disappointed there’s no Jetsons in the future, which is A OK because what you’ve got here is a template that you’re super familiar with. You’ll see the headline grade up top and the Same day as publish dealy toward the bottom of the photo. There’s more to it, but this pic doesn’t include it, to save space. Look up 3 photos and you’ll see the same example. So what can you do with this? Why you can manipulate the future, Grand Goddess of the Schedulephere, that’s what! Just like you did with an original blog post, you can edit future posts as well. Say you want to change the blog post title, you can do that here. Why would you want to change the blog post title? Because maybe in the future that post will be tired and not as relevant as it was when you published it originally. Make it freshy fresh and change it. Also? If you’re using an auto scheduler like Buffer or the like, it will alert you when you’ve published multiple posts with the same title. NO matter how good your title is, no one wants to see the same title 40 skillion times. It’s boring. So be like Madonna and change with the times.

So go to the Same day as publish date and click the super size plus sign. You know what to do here, dontcha? Yep, been there, done that, snagged that t-shirt. Since you know how to work this part, why not change the title here too? You can make it super new, super fresh and  super relevant to what the world is talking about (or WILL be talking about). This function is great for example, if I read a book about a duck running for president and reviewed it several months ago but also want it to run in the weeks before the election. Why would I want to do that, Grand Goddess? Great question! Let’s say that the world will be buzzing with election talk leading up to the elections. Parents, teachers, and librarians might need books for little kids but might not know of any. But aha! I have read and reviewed one that would be perfect for the little ones and now they too, can participate in election talk, but at their own level. So, your future titles might not mention the name of the book but rather something that has to do with elections or presidents or etc. Geniusness.

So friends and fellow future travelers, that’s how I use Co Schedule. Got questions? I got answers. Hit me up or check out Co Schedule and use my referral link.






Books Diversity Reading Challenge resources

Hola Let’s Learn Spanish by Judy Martialay

“The whole world does not speak English”

Think about that statement for a second. What do you mean the whole world doesn’t speak English? Well, if you’re a kid, you might not have ever thought about that. And if you’re not a kid, maybe you didn’t realize it either. Regardless of your age my new friend Judy wants to help you learn Spanish.

And I think learning Spanish is a great idea. I learned French growing up and while it was fun to practice the language in France, I rarely use it. I lived in Texas for 10 years and would realized how much better off I would have been if I’d learned Spanish instead. So, here I am, a grown up, trying to learn Spanish.

Fortunately, my friend Judy has this great book called Hola! Let’s Learn Spanish.

Hola! Let's Learn Spanish by Judy Martialay

I love this way of learning because along with a book there’s a website to help you practice your Spanish speaking. So, if you’re a visual learner or an listening learner, you’re sure to learn from this book. The lessons are given in story form: Pete the Pilot takes you on a journey to Mexico and teaches you the things you’ll need to know in order to function on your trip. On the website: you will hear Maria, a native Spanish (Mexican, not Spain) speaker, pronounce the words for you.

It’s a super easy way to learn Spanish! I love the book because the story contains friendly, child like illustrations, and easy sentences with words we will actually use if we were in Mexico. During the book, we attend a party with a pinata filled with los caramelos and meet a new friend, Panchito, the jumping bean. So much cute! The back of the book is like a glossary with conversational skill practices to help you use the words you heard in the story.

I had a jumping bean when I was a kid so meeting Panchito in the story was a cute little bit of nostalgia. The back of the book also contains vocabulary words, geography, and other resources to extend your learning.

It’s muy bien!


I’m talking kids, books, & diarrhea on Capitol Hill with [email protected]

If you’re new here, you might not know that I LOVE to talk about diarrhea.


Thanks to my volunteer work with [email protected], I am able to help future little readers all over the globe grow up to be healthy readers.  In the photo above, I talk to new [email protected] champions about how to find their platform by looking inside themselves and seeing where their passion lies. Turns out, mine happened when my toddler became dehydrated from a case of rotavirus and we had to take him to the ER. Twenty three years later, he is a grown man, all because we had access to health care. But there are many mothers who don’t have access to care for their infants. And that knowledge hurt me. In all my inexperience raising my first child, I knew one thing: when all else fails, call a doctor. A doctor is just a 10 minute car ride away.


But as I learned through [email protected], a doctor visit is often 3 miles away. On foot. In the heat. That knowledge tore me up.  No child should die from dehydration caused by diarrhea and the rotavirus. That’s why I love to talk about diarrhea; I want everyone to have the same options I do. And so I will discuss diarrhea with anyone who will listen. Children who are sick can’t read.

Thanks to [email protected] I can make a difference.


Ask me how you can too.



Go to for Thanksgiving

I thought it might be fun to share a new recipe for Thanksgiving. This one, from Food caught my eye:

Thanksgiving with


It’s turkey roulade with cranberry-apricot stuffing.  What’s a roulade, you ask? Think of a roulade as like a meat roll up or a meat Ho Ho. You’ve seen a Yule Log at Christmastime, right? That’s a roulade. So this roulade contains turkey and the stuffing is rolled on the inside.

Check out the recipe here or click the pic to go to Food You can find additional Thanksgiving ideas there too. I might look for an additional side dish idea as well. How about you?

What are you cooking for Thanksgiving?


Books resources

You Can Be a Cool Kind Kid by Barbara Gilmour, an anti bullying book for the littles

Although October is winding down, it’s still important to remember that it’s Anti-Bullying Awareness month. I’m a firm believer in anti-bullying campaigns. Is there anyone who is pro-bullying? If so, I want nothing to do with them.

But I ramble. Here’s an anti-bullying book for the littles. It’s actually a series of books along with items that can be used for a school curriculum: a cd, wristbands, bookmarks, word charts, flash cards (yay!), etc.

You Can Be a Cool Kind Kid by Barbara Gilmour

In the first book, we meet Tanner, he thinks everything is cool. Except bullying. Bullying is not cool. Neither are bad words or being rude. During the rest of the book, Tanner illustrates ways to be cool, by using good manners, helping people, being polite, etc.

The book is a great way to teach self-respect and respect for others. Little ones will get it AND the characters inside the book are a good diverse representation!

BTW I ADORE their slogan: Social Skills that break the cycle of bullying by redefining cool.


Check out their website:

Teachers, get you some of this!




Books Lists resources

An Unconventional Librarian Holiday Gift Guide

The holidays are just around the corner (eek!) and now’s the time to start thinking about gifts for the bibliophile on your list.  I’m compiling my list and I’m checking it twice, making sure Santa knows what book goes to which lucky reader.
An Unconventional Librarian Holiday Gift Guide
I am now curating books in the following categories:
Cookbooks make great gifts: aka cookbooks for the terrible cook (COOKBOOKS)
Books Dad wants but doesn’t know it (HISTORY, BIOGRAPHY, ROCK AND ROLL)
Books that will keep the little ones busy on Christmas morning and out of Mom’s hair (MIDDLE GRADE AND PICTURE BOOKS)
Books Mom will curl up under the blanket and enjoy: aka Mommy’s Day off! (CHICK LIT, MYSTERY, POP FICTION)
Book related items: bookmarks, book themed clothes, jewelry, etc.
Want your title in this list? Email me at [email protected] SUBJECT: 2015 Holiday gift Guide

Distinctive Bookmarks for Distinctive Readers @CogworksLtd #ad

Every reader needs a bookmark! Why is it though, that no matter how many bookmarks I acquire (usually free or cheap) I can never find one when I need one?

I think I can’t keep up with my bookmarks because they are forgettable. But I’ve found some bookmarks that will help me keep up with them.  My friends at Cogworks make beautiful things out of trees.  And there are only a few things that I like more than trees: books, kids, and cake.  I love trees because kids can climb them, you can curl up under them and read, and of course, The Lorax! The cool bit about Cogworks is that the company realizes the beauty and individuality of each piece of wood and matches the wood with the project. Kinda like what I do with a book. So making bookmarks out of wood is a natural complement. Here’s an example of a bookmark by Cogworks.

Distinctive Bookmarks for Distinctive Readers @CogworksLtd


These bookmarks are so distinctive that I can’t possibly lose them!  See? PI reminds me of pie which reminds me of cake. And besides look how cute those teeny weeny numbers are! Edges and curves, people, not just cute little stampy fake wood feeling thingies.

Here’s another one that I love:

Distinctive Bookmarks for Distinctive Readers @CogworksLtd

Sugar-maple bookmark, meet my friends. Sugar is in cake so I think you know where I’m going with this.  I love love love the delicate little tree branches! I can almost smell the sugar dripping from the tap or joint or whatever it’s called.  Spile!!! That’s what it’s called. Thanks Katniss!

So, now you know what I want for Christmas. Get one for yourself while you’re over there.

I mean come ON, how cute is that PI bookmark? We all have a math geek somewhere who would love it!


Books resources Young Adult

If You Feel Too Much: Thoughts on Things Found and Lost and Hoped For by Jamie Tworkowski

I know you’re wondering: what this book is about? This title is not my typical read. But you see. dear reader, it IS. I like to read books about people like me. And Jamie, sometimes, feels like me.

If You Feel Too Much: Thoughts on Things Found and Lost and Hoped For by Jamie Tworkowski

As I sit here on a beautiful patio overlooking a beautiful Sioux Falls, South Dakota, I’m enjoying the sun and the breeze and being outside. Alive.

And many people, because of heartache, trauma or other circumstances don’t get to be alive for very long.  The author, Jamie Tworkowski, suffers from depression. And he’s met many people in his young life who suffer also. Some from depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, cancer, negativity, you name it. Young Jamie started an organization called TWLOHA in response to a young woman he encountered who was a cutter.  Jamie and his friends successfully kept this woman alive until she could enter rehab.

This experience encouraged Jamie to to want to encourage others. To tell them that they are not alone and that they matter. That they have a friend; in him and in the other people who believe the same things he believes.

It’s nice, this book. It’s a compilation of Jamie’s  blog posts. It’s like insight into his brain. Jamie’s not afraid to admit that he’s sad, confused, and cries alot. Most people suffering from depression do. But they’re afraid to admit it.

That’s why I chose to review this book.  I want you to know that if you’re struggling with something: depression, suicidal thoughts, addiction, cutting, ANYTHING, that there is hope and that you have a friend.

You have me. I’ve been there.

You have Jamie.  His non profit movement, To Write Love on Her Arms can help you get started. Its located at 

Jamie and I want you to remember that you’re not alone.

Please remember that.

Teens, especially, who feel different, marginalized or for whatever reason feel like they don’t fit in, might need to know this.  You matter.

To me.