Penelope Anne Cole has taught at every grade level,K to 12 and community college. She enjoys writing children’s stories to be read aloud. “Reading to children is the best way to help them love literature.” When not writing or reviewing children’s books, Ms. Cole enjoys dog walking, reading, gardening, church, and choir activities. Ms. Cole is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, a member of the California Writers Club (Fremont Area Writers and South Bay Writers), and is a Reading Therapist with Read America. Ms. Cole reviews books at
See reviews of Ms. Cole's books at
Her website is www.penelopeannecole.com
Friday, January 31, 2014
Last week I subbed first at a middle school in Special Education. They were working on Reading Recovery, Algebra concepts, and reading Esperanza Rising, by Pam Munoz Ryan. It's a heart-tugging story for middle graders about a young Mexican immigrant farm worker who needs work to raise money to bring her grandmother from Mexico to California to help her mother, who's extremely ill with Valley Fever. It's a coming of age story and also a "riches to rags" story of how Esperanza's family goes from wealthy landowners in Mexico to poor immigrant farm workers in California in the 1930's, and how they -- especially Esperanza -- deal with their changed circumstances.
The title, Esperanza Rising, is a cross language and cross cultural word play. Esperanza means hope in Spanish and she has hope that she will get the money she needs. Esperanza is also rising to the challenge of helping her family. Be forewarned, there is brutality, tragedy, and a sober look into the harsh reality of labor camps. A very good read for 5th, 6th, and 7th graders, that can also be enjoyed by older readers.
In my second day of subbing, I was at an Elementary Special Education class and I got to read a couple of books that are perfect to discuss in my Wacky Wednesday post next week. So please return for There was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Rose, one of a series of themed books written by Lucille Colandro, and illustrated by Jared Lee.
I enjoyed my two days of subbing, but I got the "new school cold." Apparently, teacher "folklore" has it that one gets sick each time one goes to a new school. Since I went to two schools, it was bound to happen. Either that, or an attack of very bad allergies from the early blossoming trees hereabouts. While recovering, I wish you all a safe, restful, and pleasant weekend. Please return for more Monday Madness and angst in parenting an 18 year old.
Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Teachers, children, parents, and grandparents celebrate Dr. Seuss and his books (and children's literature) the first week of March. Thank you Dr. Seuss for bringing such fun to children's books. Here is the rest of the Dr. Seuss Biography (continued from Barnes and Noble website. Please note special insights and tidbits at the end):
Geisel faced another challenge in 1974, when his friend Art Buchwald dared him to write a political book. Geisel picked up a copy of Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now! and a pen, crossed out each mention of the name 'Marvin K. Mooney,' and replaced it with 'Richard M. Nixon.' Buchwald reprinted the results in his syndicated column. Nine days later, President Nixon announced his resignation.
The American Heritage Dictionary says the word 'nerd' first appeared in print in the Dr. Seuss book If I Ran the Zoo:
'And then, just to show them, I'll sail to Ka-Troo
And bring back an It-Kutch a Preep and a Proo
A Nerkle a Nerd and a Seersucker, too!'
The word 'grinch,' after the title character in How the Grinch Stole Christmas, is defined in Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary as a killjoy or spoilsport."
Tuesday, January 28, 2014
My Brother is My Best Friend, by Nicole Weaver, with illustrations by Clara Batton Smith, is the second trilingual book in Ms. Weaver’s “Twins: Best Friends” children’s book series. Yes, while most of us may struggle with reading, writing, and speaking one language, this series is written in English, Spanish, and French! Ms. Weaver’s first trilingual book, My Sister is My Best Friend, celebrates the joy of having a twin sister as a best friend. Now her second book, My Brother is My Best Friend, continues the fun with twin brothers who are best friends.
Nicole Weaver is from Port-au-Prince, Haiti. She came to the United States when she was ten years old. She is fluent in Creole, French, Spanish and English. She is a veteran teacher of French and Spanish. She is an award-winning trilingual children’s author. Her second book, titled, My Sister is My Best Friend, won the 2012 Creative Child Magazine Preferred Choice award and also a CLC Literary Gold Seal of approval 2012, in Female audience category. Follow Ms. Weaver on her blog:
Monday, January 27, 2014
My daughter is 18 -- going on 30, as they say. We have five more treasured months before she turns nineteen (will that be any better?)
To borrow from Dr. Seuss, It all started with . . . turning 18.
Hmmm, what can one do at age 18?
You can register to vote. So we hurried on over to the DMV to kill two birds with one stone. She'd get her 18 year old ID card (to see adult movies), and register to vote. While waiting there for her photo ID, I suggested (in as casual a fashion as I could muster), "Why don't you re-take your Driving Permit test while we're waiting?" We had to wait an hour or so, but that gave her time to cram. This was her 3rd charmed time taking the test, (after passing the online Drivers' Ed course). She'd failed the permit test twice, second time worse than the first. While agonizing over trying a third time, her time limit expired. But this time, she passed!
Next on the list of things you can do as an 18 year old: get a tattoo. Of course, I said "No way. Why would you ever want to deface your beautiful body with a tattoo? That's so, so, trashy. You know some employers still frown on tattoos." I sputtered in my losing battle. "Well, maybe if it's subtle, in good taste, and, hopefully, hidden." She chose a foot tattoo -- some say they hurt the most. To which I said "Good, I hope you have a lot of pain." She suckered me into it with a tattoo that reads, "I love you" in my very own handwriting! How touching is that! (Are you choked up -- I was, sort of.) And she even let me go with her and her friend to hold her hand.
Before graduating, we had to have The Eighteenth Birthday Party. Now how would this be different from any other teen party? Well, all of her friends would be 18 and they would all come with their very own lighters. Yes, you can't buy a lighter or cigarettes, until you turn 18. Nevermind that none of her girlfriends smoke cigarettes -- they all smoke flavored vapor. Yes, there they sat in the backyard, puffing away on their hookas and vapor pens with flavored vapor. (I wasn't there the whole time, but I sincerely hope it was only vapor that they smoked, he he.)
That was the first few months of parenting an 18 year old. Can you feel the underlying fear and angst in this lighthearted memoir? I really was afraid she wouldn't complete her graduation requirements in time to walk at graduation -- and I'd paid for announcements, cap and gown, and the graduation party, too. Which is a whole other story of way too much food -- which I gave or threw away -- plus a before and after graduation party -- when one party would have been enough. I made her go to Grad Night, too, to get her high school mug and pajamas, little knowing it was an agony for her because she'd broken up with her high school sweetheart of three years by then and he was there, too.
Back to the Driving, I was okay with her not having a driver's license at 16, since she needed more life experience and confidence before she was ready. But then the three months of summertime driving was very frightening -- and yes, I also paid for driving school. My thoughts and fears: if that's how she drives under supervision, what will she do on her own? What about the other crazy drivers we encounter each day, not to mention the drunks and druggies, and the sleep-deprived? But we made it through the summer of practice driving. She didn't have her behind the wheel exam appointment until after she started college. By the time she passed and got her license, I was so done with daily driving her everywhere.
I'd also said, no car until she got a part time job to pay for it. She did get a job and they were to give her 15-20 hours a week. So we went car shopping. Our mechanic said "No VW's, please -- too hard to work on." But that's what she wanted. Got a Jetta and our mechanic checked it out and told us there was an oil gasket leak, but it's not too expensive to fix. They reduced the price $250 and it cost over $350 to fix it. Then another $283, and now it's in the shop a third time. Next time we'll be looking for one with a good safety record, good maintenance record, and good gas mileage. Oh, and the 15 - 20 hours turned out to be 5 hours per week -- so I've been paying gas, car payment, maintenance, and insurance. At least I don't have to drive her everywhere -- but then I also don't see her much at all since she got her car.
More Monday Madness, of parenting an 18 year old, to come . . .
Friday, January 24, 2014
Since I had my first School Author Visit this week, and this is a Friday First post, I will tell you how it went.
It was also a first time Literacy Night for Montague School, so the Principal had no idea what would happen or how many would show up. She was a little nervous, but very warm and welcoming, so I was set at ease. We chatted as I set up my station and watched the kids and parents arrive and settle in.
When Dr. Wernick welcomed the group, and then introduced me, she emphasized how important it is to read to your children every day and how much fun it is to share stories with them. She held up some of the books she'd brought to share.
Her teachers set up their Literacy Stations: some stations with plastic letters to make words and sentences; some with phrases to make sentences. There were books to read -- one teacher read to a group of kids. I had my own table set up displaying my award winning books with their stickers, my bronze medal, bookmarks, coloring pages, flyers, and my business cards. Dr. Wernick had sent a letter home, but since this was a first, it was all new. About 40 people came, parents with kids, even both parents in some cases. It was a varied, multi-cultural mix typical of the Bay Area: White, Asian, Hispanic, and Indian.
Halfway through the evening the Principal called everyone over to my station to meet me. I talked briefly about my three books, Magical Matthew, Mágico Mateo (the Spanish Version), and Magical Mea, then read a few pages. I asked if they had questions and there were a few:
How did I get my ideas?
I told them about my neighbor's autistic son Matthew turning ten -- "double digits" -- being the inspiration for the first book, and how I gave him magical powers. Then the second book idea about Mea came because I wanted to showcase a "challenging child" -- one who liked to play tricks on people.
How did I find my artist and my publisher?
I related how I found Kevin Scott Collier, my artist, on the internet, and then persuaded him to do my books. I wanted a likeness of Matthew, but when he said he does more of a cartoon style, I said a blond blue-eyed kid would work just fine -- and it really looks like Matthew did at that age. Then I told them how Kevin introduced me to his publisher, Lynda Burch, of Guardian Angel Publishing, who became my publisher, too! (She thought Magical Matthew was a cute story that needed more work, and so I edited it some more!)
How long did it take you to write and publish your books?
I told them that the books wrote themselves very quickly, but required a lot of editing before publishing then waited in the various publisher's "piles"-- waiting for an artist, waiting for artwork, waiting for editing, waiting for proofing, then waiting to be published. It took about 18 months for the first book and the second book was published seven months after the first.
Then I gave every child 3 coloring pages from Magical Matthew, 2 bookmarks, and my business card. All the kids loved my business card -- I wonder if they'll all call me? Some parents also took the flyers (media releases). And I sold a few books! What was great about this event was how attentive they all were, smiling and supportive -- laughing at my witty jokes, -- very appreciative. It was all over in a few minutes, but a good experience so I'm looking forward to many more author school visits! I will even do Skype visits!
Thursday, January 23, 2014
Los hermanos son muy especiales: Conozca a dos hermanos que hacen todo juntos. Esta bella historia trasciende todas las barreras culturales. Tocará el corazón de todos los niños del mundo.
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
picture an ordinary bathtub, a window over the tub with the curtains softly blowing in the breeze, and several shoes piled in front of the bathtub. Got that? Makes you wonder. Did someone discard their shoes and jump in the tub, or did they leave the shoes, and jump out the window?
Shoes figured prominently in the beginning of Dr. Seuss' Wacky Wednesday:
"It all began
with that shoe on the wall.
A shoe on a wall…?
Shouldn’t be there at all!"
We celebrate Dr. Seuss in his March birthday month, but I have the rest of January and all of February to celebrate him. I'll share some Wacky Wednesday tips that others have shared. And if there's someone who hasn't heard of Dr. Seuss (think multi-cultural, multi-ethnic -- some foreign born/raised friends and their kids haven't discovered him yet), please share his books with them.
Okay, I admit it. I adopted my daughter just so I could read her children's books! I didn't grow up with Dr. Seuss books, but thankfully, she did, and loves them to this day. I grew up with fairy tales and myths and she loves those, too. We even got Dr. Seuss books for my nephew's boys, too. Wacky Wednesday ended up tattered from constant readings.
Editorial Review - Children's Literature - Marilyn Courtot
"Now another generation of kids can enjoy the craziness that happens one Wednesday morning. Each scene shows more wacky things for kids to find and count. In the bathroom there are four—a boy showering with a sock on one foot, a fish in a bottle, an upside down faucet and best of all a palm tree growing out of the toilet. Each scene presents more wacky things until readers reach the number twelve, and then the tale leaps to twenty. At this point Patrolman McGann announces that after counting twenty items and then going to bed, Wacky Wednesday will soon be at an end. The story is of course amusing as are the illustrations. It should be plenty of fun for young kids to find out what is wrong in each of the scenes."
Here's some more about Dr. Seuss from his biography on Barnes and Noble:
Meet the Author: Dr. Seuss
It’s difficult to imagine the children’s book landscape without Dr. Seuss, who is, almost half a century after The Cat in the Hat, the best-recognized children’s book writer in the country. But until Dr. Seuss -- a.k.a. Theodor Seuss Geisel -- reinvented the genre with his colorful and exuberant Sneetches, Grinches, Zaxes, and Zooks, children’s books were often little more than literal-minded lessons and cautionary tales intended to transform young readers into productive citizens.
Now that generations of readers have been reared on The Cat in the Hat and Fox in Socks, it's easy to forget how colorless most children's books were before Dr. Seuss reinvented the genre. When the editorial cartoonist Theodor Seuss Geisel wrote And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street in 1936, the book was turned down by 27 publishers, many of whom said it was "too different." Geisel was about to burn his manuscript when it was rescued and published, under the pen name Dr. Seuss, by a college classmate.
We get "wacked out" when we see things that shouldn't be. Or pleasantly surprised like when we see garbage cans topped with flowers, when we see artwork on power boxes, when we see pleasing images that tickle our fancy and make us want more.
I wish you all a wonderful and wacky week.
Monday, January 20, 2014
Many of you on your blogs, in emails and texts, and with friends and family have settled in to the new year with New Year's resolutions and themes: to be appreciative, to do better, to make some changes, to be positive, to enjoy life to the fullest, to accomplish more, to smile more. I'm making some changes, too.
I'm adding some features to my blog. I'll still write reviews of children's books. I love doing that -- sharing some lovely new books and reminding folks of old favorites.
Next, I loved the book Wacky Wednesday, and will plan to do something wacky on Wednesdays. Like find some wacky books to review, or post some things about books, writing, or literature that parents and teachers would appreciate. (If you haven't read Wacky Wednesday, by Dr. Seuss, I'll share it soon. )
Finally, Friday Firsts and Fancies will be about whatever strikes my fancy. You may not see it here as a Friday First, but my take on it may give you something to focus on, to fret about, to fuss over, to fume about, to figure out, to flirt with, to fixate on, to feast upon, to favor, to feed on, to fall to, to foresee, or to feel.
And if you're read all this way, I want to share news of my first School Author Visit tomorrow night. I'm the featured Author at Montague Elementary School's Literacy Night! I'll share my books and talk about what it's like being an author! I'll post here how it went. Wish me luck!