Book Guide

Vampire Baby by Kelly Bennett

Click on image to purchase Vampire BabyThis picture book was written by one my most favorite authors, Kelly Bennett, and it is the perfect pairing for the upcoming season of blood-sucking fun! In Vampire Baby, the once sweet and cuddly Tootie has transformed overnight into a diaper-wearing vampire! Tootie bites all the time, and her favorite person to gnaw on is her older brother. He tires of being her perpetual victim and encourages a real vampire family to take her away. In the end, his protective nature takes over and he realizes that he loves Tootie, fangs and all.

Needless to say, creating a guide for this delightful story was great fun for me to do. I encourage you to check out the book and then review the guide. In it, you’ll see plenty of fun and games as well as an academically sound manipulative activity focused on teaching story structure. Folks, this concept is a tough one to teach. However, with some paper, scissors and Vampire Baby in hand, the heady literary elements of setting, character, rising action, climax, and resolution become less threatening and easier to comprehend.

Hope you have a safe and happy Halloween. I plan on it. Wish me luck keeping my hands out of the candy bowl. I'm a blood-sucker for candy corn.

One of My Favorites - Monster Stew

Click on image to purchase through IndieboundJust like teachers can't help but to have favorites, I feel the same way about the guide I created for this charming book written by  Stephanie Greene and illustrated by Stephanie Roth Sisson. The story tenderly depicts a young child's ambivalent fear of Halloween spookiness in a subtle and sweet way. I enjoyed creating this guide almost as much as I enjoyed reading the book.

There are plenty of discussion questions and fun lessons to choose from in the book guide. One the most enjoyable activities is the Black Cat Domino Game, and it's super easy to make, too. Just print the domino game pieces off on card stock. Trim around the edges of the domino cards and you're game-ready! The game can be played with one or more kiddos. Simply shuffle, stack cards face down, and begin matching the quantities of black cats printed on the cards.

 I do hope that you'll take some time to check out Princess Posey and the Monster Stew and then access the guide. Hopefully you'll find something in it that will compliment your Halloween festivities in a booo-tiful way!

A Book Trailer Construction Guide for Black Pool - An E-Book

Creating a guide for C. H. Garbutt's Black Pool: A Jack Flynn Adventure was a first for me in that this compelling story has been printed as a e-book by That's e-book enhanced by this really cool WeJIT technology that engages the reader's decision-making process throughout the story's progression. Neat stuff.

To access the guide, click on its cover.Being that Black Pool is digitally contrived, I thought it would be suiting to create a CCSS Annotated Book Trailer Construction Guide - one in which the reader can delve deeply into characterization, theme, setting, mood, and sensory detail. There are tons of graphic organizers in the guide, each designed to explore specific aspects of literature. Upon completion, students will have all that they need to craft a story board and create a book trailer script!

The best part of doing what I do is working with the variety of books that come my way. I love reading them, and then thinking of the various ways I can interpret the story's message in through discussion and hands-on activities.

What's next, you ask? Stop by next week and I'll tell you all about it!

Fab Guide for The 14 Fibs of Gregory K.

The 14 Fibs of Gregory K. is precisely the type of story I would have used in my classroom when I worked with those wacky upper elementary kiddos. It's funny and tender and intelligent and delicately didactic, in a super-subtle way.  Both boys and girls will enjoy this tangled tale of confusion, mild deception, pi (pie), and poetry.  

 Its a story about a boy who has a poet's heart and a father who is blind to the his passion. Author Greg Pincus nailed the voice of a conflicted, well-intentioned kid who, because of his desire to please others, gets caught in a web of lies - or fibs. Ultimately, through the study Fibonacci and his fascinating numeric sequence, the protagonist finds a way to be true to himself, as well be honest with his dad about his love of writing.

Fibonacci - and that ain't no lie.

In addition to being lively and full of comical action, this book is layered upon layer with depth of  that would reflect these literary elements and have some Fitheme and premise. I wanted to make a CCSS aligned guide Fibonacci fun, too! In it, along with gobs of discussion and writing activities, are three brainiac lessons that I had a total blast creating - The Pi Number Roll, Fibonacci Numbers in Excel, and - the all time classic - The Fractal Foldable! 

It's my hope that Pincus' The 14 Fibs of Gregory K. will become as timeless as the Golden Rectangle. I know it's tons more entertaining.

A Guide Celebrating America's Finest!

Author Patricia Newman deserves a 21-gun salute for penning two exciting titles. Navy SEALs: Elite Operations and Army Special Forces: Elite Operations are both part of the Military Special Ops series and are phenomenal.  Newman takes the reader behind the scenes to show what it takes to become some of America’s best. Full of action and ammo, young readers are sure to enjoy this engaging non-fiction.

The books are rich with well-crafted text, great glossaries, fascinating photos, plenty of interesting sidebars and quotes from servicemen of all ranks – a plethora for this book guide crafter to work with. Patricia asked that I make a joint guide, one that would encompass the integrity of both books in one. My intention was to design a make-shift scavenger hunt that would mandate that the reader would have to read carefully to solve the puzzle, of sorts. The mission was accomplished, I must say.

One of the most gratifying activity (and the most fun) to create was the Path to the Green Beret and Earning the Trident Foldables. Here, the reader must perform reconnaissance through the text to discover the steps a Special Ops hopeful must take to earn the high honor to serve our country as a Navy SEAL or in the Army Special Forces. The foldables earned a gold star. Check them out.

Whether by land, or sea, or air… I can tell you, after making this guide, I am so very glad that the Navy SEALs and Army Special Forces are here. God bless America and the fine men who serve her.

School Visit CCSS Coaching

Authors and Illustrators, it's time to get a winning school visit game plan in place. Anymore, though, schools are requiring more of you than simply inspiring kids to fall in love with the written word, aren't they? Yep. Educators want your presentation to be academically sound, too. And, furthermore, they want documented proof that you're going to deliver the goods.

Oh, man. What now?

Recently, a librarian asked author/illustrator Don Tate to present documentation showing how his school visit presentation aligned with the Common Core State Standards. "Not a problem," I told him. Together, he and I met this librarian's request with ease.

Don described his engaging, well-planned presentation to me, point by point. After spending some time analyzing and strategising, I comprised a detailed document  packed with CCSS annotations and follow-up activities that he can confidently take with him wherever he pleases.

The most satisfying part of this project was to witness the relief Don expressed when he realized that he wouldn't have to alter his presentation format one iota. Score!

Odette's Secrets: A Geographical Lesson of the Heart

Odette's Secrets is one of the most beautifully written novels I've read in a long while. Written in free-verse, author Maryann Macdonald captures the inner conflict of a young Jewish girl who, in order to survive, must keep her heritage secret. Nazis have destroyed her happy home in France. Her beloved father enlists in the French army. Her mother joins the Resistance, and Odette is taken from Paris live with Christians in the countryside. There, among other things, she questions what it really means to be a Jew, and wonders if she will ever be able to truly live as one.

Maryann thoughtfully explores the sheer essence of humanity while keeping the middle grade reader's sensibilities in mind. Through the eyes of this tender girl, we see the very best and the horrific in all kinds of people. Odette is trying to make sense of her world, which is sometimes warm and loving, yet primarily confusing and contradictory, all the while she must keep her heart shut tight with secrets.

The map foldable sans labelsLet me say that I consider it an honor to have created a guide for this important book and, most especially, for this delightful author. Like all of my guides, I wanted this one to be unique to the topic and theme. Not only did I hope to guide the reader in a deeper awareness of Maryann's intent for the story, I wanted memorable activities that would compliment the experience, as well. One activity is the Map Foldable, which I had a ball making!

The Map Foldable complete!On the map, I focused on the European countries in which Odette's Secrets were set. My hope is that, as the reader snips and tapes away at the simple craft, they will get a real sense of the distances Odette's broken heart had to travel. Follow up questions are included to help guide in this experience.

I maintain that it is the simple things that make a lasting impression. After engaging in heart-felt, introspective discussion about profound themes, such as those explored in Odette's Secrets, kids really enjoy making simple projects such as this. In fact, I think they're downright therapeutic!

Fueling Some Foldable Fun with Newman's Biofuels

Of late, I have been having a ball creating foldable activities for the guides I'm commissioned to do, adding a little bit of crafty, Simple Saturday-like flair to each. Patricia Newman's Biofuels (Cherry Lake Publishing) provided the perfect fodder for a terrific pocket sorting foldable. Kids love to learn while creating projects like these. Heck, I do, too, for that matter.

Biofuels covers topics such as gasification, non-renewable and renewable energy sources, carbon footprints and many others - heady concepts that kids are completely jazzed about, these days. While working on Patricia's guide, I discovered that I could create four basic categories by which kids could sort through and classify the Pocket foldable classified with four energy-specific pictoral categories terminology and ideas presented in her book.  Those categories are biodiesel, biofuels, fossil fuels, and biomass. (I told you this was heady stuff.)

You can access the guide by clicking HERE to get a sense of how the foldable is created. Basically, I printed key phrases from the text on small cards, each associated with at least one energy source. These phrases are to be classified by slipping each card into the proper pocket labeled with the energy sources presented in the book.

During the editing process, Patricia and I discovered something pretty remarkable - a number of the phrases printed on the little cards could be cross-referenced with two or more biofuel categories! For instance, the phrase "Carbon is a key ingredent in production" can be slipped into the fossil fuel and the biomass pockets. Or, both biodiesel and biofuels cut back on the need for non-renewable energy sources. This discovery makes me happy to think of the budding engineers and scientists deep in discussion as to what pocket the cards should be placed. Neat thought, isn't it?

In closing, I give Patricia's Biofuels a hearty thumbs up with an extra generous dose of biofuel made from algae oil on top! Yum.

Update! Chained Wins SCBWI Crystal Kite Award!

The guide I made for Lynne Kelly's amazing CHAINED  was such fun to make - as they all are in their own special way. Being that this book was extraordinarily rich with theme and culture, the ideas for this guide can spilling out of me. I wanted to create something that could easily be adapted into a classroom setting, something that met CCSS standards in a creative way. By George, I think I nailed it!

The guide includes academic activities in the study of point of view, summary, journaling, and group discussion. And, for a little of fun and flair, I added several arts and crafts activities, all of which are super inexpensive and easy to incorporate as a part of busy day at school. 

 For your viewing pleasure, I have moderately wrapped my brain around the basics of making a YouTube video featuring the crafts included in the guide. Folks, with the book CHAINED in hand, these projects will make perfect sense. 

So, buy the book. Read it. Then go and grab some scissors and glue and have some Simple Saturday-like fun!

I hope you enjoy yourselves with the projects half as much as I did making them. 

Call Me Oklahoma! - Simple Saturday Style

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One of my all-time favorite cheesy musicals is Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma! You see, when John and I were first dating, he took me to see it at the Dallas Summer Musicals. I'll never forget how I felt when the cast joined together and sang Oooooooo-klahoma. My heart raced. Tears puddled in my eyes. I wanted to be down there with them clapping and stomping and yee-hawing all around the stage. 

And, when I read the following quote, Miriam Glassman's  delightful story roped me in immediately. 

The show was called Oklahoma! and it was full of cowboys and spunky women twirling around. The musical had Paige bouncing in her seat, and at the end of the show, when all the people onstage waved their hats and yelled, “Yeehaw!” Paige felt so full of joy, tears sprang to her eyes. She longed to be the kind of person who yelled “Yeehaw! (4)"

Paige Turner, the protagonist in Call Me Oklahoma! , and I are soul mates. She and I share the same emotional connection to the musical. I've been in that moment, Paige. I was hypnotized by the surrey with the fringe on top, too. I know how you feel, Little Sister. I do.

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As with all of the guides I make, along with being academically sound, I wanted to do something extra - O.K. - special with this one. I strive to add components that keep the child engaged in the story long after they've finished reading the book. In this one, I made a game cube that corresponds to key plot points in the story. It's super fun. Check it out. A Simple Saturday project at it's best! Yee haw!!!!

Doggone Feet! A Toe-tappin' Guide Full of Fun

You know what a sucker I am for dogs, especially my dog, Tripod. So when my good buddy Leslie Helakoski started telling me about her latest picture book about a lonely pup who finds a home, I couldn't wait to get a look at it. And then, when she asked me to make a guide for it - well, I was tail-wagging happy! This book couldn't be cuter, and to think that she both wrote this and illustrated!

Doggone Feet is a story told from the point of view of a stray who finds a home with a long-legged, tambourine-totting musician. Because this "tail" is told from the dog's perspective, our vision is limited to that of the dog's - FEET! As time goes on, the dog's beloved master finds a wife and kid upon kid upon kid. As the family grows, the activity level in the home becomes very hectic. All the while, the dog is working hard to keep a sense of order in his world under the kitchen table. In the end, he surrenders to fact that, at the foundation of the chaotic craziness of family life lies joy, acceptance, a great love.

Because the story line offers so many charming angles to explore, I found creating the CCSS Annotated Discussion and Activity Guide a blast to do. Along with an extensive discussion question component, poetry writing, and story sequencing cards, the lesson that makes this guide extra special is a skip-counting activity. As a sparking plus, I was able to use Leslie's charming illustrations to add a little bit of pizzazz the the piece.

It's a fun guide for a delightful book. Pick it up. Pet it and give that pup a scratch behind the ears, while you're at it.

Noah Webster & His Words - CCSSI Annotated to the Max!

I love Noah Webster & His Words! I love, love, love it's historically layered sense of patriotism. Author Jeri Chase Ferris did an incredible job depicting Webster's vision of uniting the country through words! 

The CCSSI Annotated Discussion and Activity Guide celebrates Webster's passion with a number of  word games that can be played independently or with pals. Skills such as alphabetizing, syllabication, and searching for words in a dictionary can be practiced in a fun, collaborative manner. Kids can craft a historical timeline to study Noah's life achievements. And there is even a cross-word puzzle comprised of key words sprinkled throughout Jeri's clever text!

Included in the guide is a four-page annotation linking the activities to the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy suitable for K-5 students. The book and the guide are classroom-ready and super kid-friendly - the perfect combination, wouldn't you say?

CCSSI and Me

The rule seems to be that each guide I make offers new and interesting opportuntites for me to stretch and grow. My latest project was no exception the guide creating rule. I had a ball with it!

Poet and Author Eileen Meyer presents the coolest school visits, ever. For a wide range of ages, too. When she asked me to correlate the content of her presentations with the Common Core State Standards, I said sure, why not? 

I have to say that I really got into creating this document for her. She's got four great presentations involving writing, reading, public speaking, and craft-making. The lessons are vivid and lively. I wanted her CCSSI annotation documentation to reflect the energy she puts into her visits. So, I colored-coded those puppies. There is nothing boring about the school visits Eileen Meyer presents. Hopefully the CCSSI Annotation Documentation booklet I created for her reflects that.

Check out Eileen's school visit document by clicking here. Cool, isn't it?

You'll let me know if I can make one of these for you, won't you? We'll make yours rainbow bright, too!

New Guide for Tea Cakes for Tosh

I just put the finishing touches on a Discussion/Activity/Genealogy guide for this most amazing picture book, Tea Cakes for Tosh, written by the lovely Kelly Starling Lyons and illustrated by the phenomenal illustrator E. B. Lewis.

Starling's story is one of warmth, devotion, and confusion. In it, Tosh relishes in the retelling of his family's past told by his grandmother, Honey, while she makes tea cakes from a recipe passed on through generations. Like the familial stories, she recalls the recipe from memory. The recipe, like the stories, are an innate part of her being, and as Tosh discovers, an important part of him, too. When Honey's memory begins to fail, Tosh must assume the role of tea cake maker and family story teller.

The book is set to launch December, 2012. It's one to cherish, for sure!

One Day I Went Rambling Giveaway!

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Parents, teachers, and librarians! Take a moment to consider the absolutely charming premise of One Day I Went Rambling, written by Kelly Bennett and illustrated by Terri Murphy, won’t you? If so, you will be ever so glad that you did.

In the story, Zane, the protagonist sees magic in the mundane surrounding him. Pop tops are jeweled rings. Wooden crates hold the daring intrigue of a pirate ship. Nothing is normal. To Zane, everything is fantastical!  And, as life would have it, Zane is surrounded by nay-sayers, peers that poke fun and tease a child who dares to think as a creative individual. Yet, Zane stays true to his individualistic nature, and in turn, influences others to begin to celebrate the wonderful freedom of thinking outside of the boring, common, everyday box.

Kelly and Terri are over-the-top enthusiastic about this important tale. So much so, that they are offering a number of incentives to entice you to climb aboard the Rambling train. One is a discussion/craft guide in which directions for a variety of homemade band instruments are included – instruments that serve as props for a Reader’s Theatre interpretation of this unforgettable story. And, finally, the opportunity to participate in a giveaway! Yes! How wonderful is that? Link away today!

In closing, enjoy an excerpt from Bennett’s and Murphy’s One Day I Went Rambling:

Ahoy, mates, time’s a wasting.

Climb aboard! Let’s sail away!

We’ll explore the world together.

Finding adventure all the way.

Things to Love About One Day I Went A Rambling

When author Kelly Bennett asked me to create a guide for her latest picture book, One Day I Went a Rambling, I took a cheerful jiggity-jaunt down memory lane. For, you see, years ago I directed a summer arts and creativity camp for kids and this marvelous book is one that I would have centered the program's entire theme around, had it been in print at that time.

If I would have had this book in hand way back then, I'd have done exactly what Kelly asked me to to, which is to compliment the story's theme by creating a homemade band props out of everyday, commonplace objects like paper plates, plastic bottles, a shoe boxes. Then, as a program finale, I would have cast and performed a Reader's Theatre rendition based upon this wonderful tale. I believe in this story's the timeless inspirational message - when we have the eyes to see, anything is possible! 

One Day I Went Rambling is sensational. There is so much to love about this book. Below are three reasons why you should buy it, read it, and enjoy it. Order away. You'll be glad that you did!  

  • I love protagonist Zane's, unassuming, individualistic demeanor. In the story, Zane sees the fantastical creative potential in everyday items such as feathers, shells, a wooden crate. He's lost in a visionary quest for adventure. Way to go, Zane, my man. I love that. Way to go.
  • I love illustrator Terri Murphy's pictorial expression of the story's theme. Reader, once you have the book in hand, I encourage you to take a several slow, sweet moments to absorb her artistic interpretation of all of the characters involved in the story. Note the deep, emotionally subtle yet whimsical techniques of her masterful work. Absolutely amazing. And trust me, she is, too.  
  • I love that the story is founded upon the premise that magic that can be found in the mundane - a hubcap as a a flying saucer, or a pop top as a magic ring, or even Grannie's slip as a covered wagon top. This book illuminates the notion that all things are marvelous in the eyes of the beholder, if they're willing to see life in this way.

One Day I Went A Rambling speaks to the inherently creative nature that lives within us all. When we dare to let loose and dance to the beat of the unique drummer that resides in our hearts, others will sit up, take notice, and - maybe, just maybe - dance along beside us.


Up Next? Monster Stew by Stephanie Greene

My next guide project is going to be a fun one - Monster Stew by Stephanie Greene. It takes a great book to make a great guide and this one is sensational!

I love Princess Posey, in fact I met her double the other day while buying dog food at Petco. From time to time I take Tripod in the store with me. (He loves to sniff the cat nip!)

Anyhow, while there I met a chatty little girl about Posey's age. Her headband caused her hair to puff in the most ridiculous way. She asked about Tripod's missing leg, as they all do, and she stopped talking. Her entire body was wrapped in concern for him. After a bit, when she began to tell me about her terrier - oh my - she shuddered with delight. Chatting resumed.

When our all-too-short conversation ended, she put her arm around Tripod and gave him a hug. (He's a great hugger.) As I watched this silly, sweet, charming little thing bury her pale arms into Tri's chocolate fur a shudder came over me. I realized that she is who I write for. She is who I must work to meet at the page.

Guides and Goodness Galore!

 Today has been a thumbs-up kind of day!

First of all, an interview I did discussing teacher guides with the highly respected went live today. In it, I talked about my take on creating companion guides for books written for kids. Below is a wee snippet from today's post.

As a classroom teacher, I scoured countless guides and activity games in search of lessons that would enhance the reading experience for my students. I looked for clever games, interesting new ways to practice vocabulary, dramatic interpretation, and introspective discussion questions. And, when I connected with the content of a companion guide, I kept that particular book in a prominent place on my classroom bookshelf to be used time and time again. Like the good resources I used back then, I now work to create guides that will keep the book in the heart of the child reader and the hands of those who care for them – my mantra.

And then, if the post wasn't wonderful enough, a friend and fellow RA from LA, Alexis O'Neill acknowledged my work on the current SCBWI Bulletin. In her article "Creating Teacher's Guides for Your Books", she notes that I state that guides fall into three main categories: Teacher's, Activity, and Discussion guides - and I do! Alexis also touts the work my compadres and I have been doing at

Well, I've certainly been feeling the love today! Thanks,, Alexis, and SCBWI for the nods.

Today's been absolutely amazing. I can't wait to see what great things tomorrow will bring.

Trekking Down the Jes' Happened Timeline

With each guide I work to create something that will help keep the book in the minds of teachers and librarians for a long time. Something that they can easily pull up and reuse. Something that the kids can make by themselves. The objectives of teacher guide exercises must stem from the varied themes presented in the story. And, I try to create activities in which the kids must repeatedly refer to specific pages in the book. Gotta keep that book in their hands!  

The overarching theme in Don Tate's It Jes' Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw is the passage of time. It is a remarkable tale of a man who, while in his 80's, began to draw pictures depiciting the vivid memories of his life as a slave, a sharecropper, and a freeman. This great story is pieced together with multiple references of time and place, more so than in many picture books I've seen. So, I thought, since the aspects of time and place are critical to Bill Traylor's story, let's make a timeline!

 There is some assembly required to create this project. Not to worry, though. It's super easy to make. Everything you need is listed in the guide. With a little glue, some scissors, and the book in hand the incredible events of Bill Traylor's life and death can be chronicled over and over again.

 There are lots of other interactive activities in Don's guide. For instance, comprehension is reviewed by working an awesome crossword puzzle. There's a writing exercise built around writing in a character's point of view. And a poetry activity in which the students pull from their own memories as inspiration - the best kind.

So, get the book, download the guide, and have yourself some grand old fun! Make it jes' happen.

It Jes' Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw - A New Guide

It's an exciting new day in Debbie Land. I'm just about to dig in an create a new companion guide for my buddy Don Tate. His latest book, It' Jes' Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw, has already scooped up a ton of accolades. It's just that good.

So stay tuned to see just what I can come up with to do this great book justace. I'm crazy proud of Don, because the text mirrors his thoughtful and considerate nature. I swear I hear his voice as I read these moving words over and over again.

I can't show you the guide yet. For now, enjoy this video clip and I'll get back with you as soon as I can.