Friday, July 1, 2016

Let's Celebrate Freedom!


Recently, while viewing a documentary film about the life of Benjamin Franklin, I was vividly reminded that our people have not always enjoyed liberty from a tyrannical government. Our forefathers shed their blood and literally risked everything they possessed to win our freedom. When the Constitution was written, James Madison (a great Virginian!) realized that certain freedoms needed to be specifically spelled out in writing in order to guarantee that they would not be usurped by a future not-so-good-government, and thus the Bill of Rights was born.

This year promises to be one of the most important election years in the history of our country. So much is at stake. Our children's future could depend upon whom we elect for the office of president. I am not going to spend my time telling anyone how to vote, but I will urge every American citizen of voting age, especially Christians, to consider your choice carefully and with much prayer and supplication. I do believe that God sets up whomever he pleases (and takes them down, too!), but it is still our God-given Constitutional right to make the best choice possible. That means we must get out and vote, not sit home on our couches and complain about our leaders. We are setting an example for our children. They are clearly watching us, and they are smart enough to tell the difference between what we say and what we do. So, set a good example. Do your research. Get down on your knees, pray for our country, and ask your children to join you in this prayer. Then in November, go to the polls and exercise your right to vote. You can make a difference!


The 4th of July Celebration is a good time to start afresh as a concerned citizen.
  • Buy an American flag and fly it (after boning up on the proper way to display and take care of Old Glory, of course!). Let your children help you with this. NOTE: The Boy Scouts manual has a wonderful description of the rules for caring for our flag.
  • Sing patriotic songs together. There was a time when every school child knew the words to "God Bless America", "America, the Beautiful" and "My Country 'Tis of Thee". I'm not sure if the adults could say the words today. It makes me sad. 
  • If you don't already have a family 4th of July tradition, start one. Make a date to go watch the fireworks. Plan a family cookout. Bake an apple pie. This is America, after all!
  • Buy patriotic t-shirts or wear red, white and blue. 
  • You might even plan to bury a time capsule, with each family member donating something that they think is important for the future to know about how Americans live. 
And since this blog is supposed to be about children's books, go to the library and find some patriotic picture books to read together. For early readers, I highly recommend Lynn Cheney's ABC book, America: A Patriotic Primer.

It is well written and illustrated and provides an easy segue to discuss your American heritage with your children. Talk about your ancestors. Dig out that family tree! My parents discovered that my mother's great, great, great Grandfather received a huge land grant from the King of England in the 1600s for his service to the king. What a way to introduce family history!

Another book series that I have come to appreciate, especially for middle grade levels, is the Rush Revere series written by Rush Limbaugh. No matter what your feelings about Mr. Limbaugh are, his books will captivate readers and give them a new appreciation for our history. After all, who wouldn't love to have a time-traveling, talking horse?!!! This is exciting to me, having grown up in Virginia where history was all around me. All I missed was Mr. Ed! (You youngsters may not know who Mr. Ed is...ask your grandparents!)


What has begun to terrify me, as a modern American, is the general lack of historical knowledge by our people. The subject of history, which should be one of the most exciting segments of the school curriculum, has been dumped on the bottom of the junk pile, along with cursive penmanship and recess--just not that important. And yet, not having an understanding of our past can lead to losing everything we hold dear as a nation. The stories of the starving days at Jamestown, the leadership of Captain John Smith, the importance of prayer in the lives of those first settlers--all of these things have impacted our nation's course. But the numbers of children, and adults for that matter, who are totally ignorant of what actually happened at Jamestown in 1607 and later with the Pilgrims in 1619, is massive. It wasn't just about Pocahontas or pumpkin pies. There were principles at stake, and events so harsh that more than half of these settlements perished in the first year of their existence. Scary! Most of us don't know what it means to miss a meal, let alone starve to death!

(Adults: You might enjoy reading The True Story of Pocahontas: The Other Side of History, written by Dr. Linwood "Little Bear" Custalow and Angela L. Daniel Silver Star. Chief Custalow is a member of the Mattaponi Tribe. They are direct descendants of Pocahontas. Using many of the stories handed down by his people, Chief Custalow has done much to fill in many of the gaps that other history books have left out about this special young girl who virtually changed the history of the world. This book is available on


Throughout history, there have been men who have risen up as leaders who have placed our country above their own personal needs and wants. We call such men statesmen (and no, I will not change that word just to be politically correct!). Patrick Henry, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln--they are all examples of such men. They were not perfect--but who is? However, they fashioned their lives in such a way that we still recognize their contributions to our society today. This summer would be a great time to introduce your children to these men by reading their biographies. It would be fun to make a scrapbook timeline and show when these men lived, plus identify the influence their lives had on our nation. Fewer women have been remembered for their deeds in the annals of our history, but they are still there. Look for them and include them in your study. One that I have recently enjoyed reading about is Betsy Dowdy. Her ride through the Great Dismal Swamp (on a previously wild mustang from the Outer Banks!) makes Paul Revere's Ride look like a cakewalk! You might want to read her story in this book, An Independent Spirit: The Tale of Betsy Dowdy and Black Bess by my friend Donna Campbell Smith. It is available on


Why not make a list of the characteristics of a statesman, and research the leaders of today to see which ones, if any, possess these time-honored character traits. (This could be enlightening!)

Whatever you choose to do this weekend, try to remember that our children are our future leaders. How will your celebration affect their future lives? Plan your actions accordingly. And may God bless you, your family, and the United States of America!


In closing, and for your enjoyment, please watch the following video of my dad's favorite comedian, Red Skelton:

You will be glad you did!

Friday, June 10, 2016

To Write or Not to Write. That is the Question!

Back in the Day:

When I was in elementary school, developing a nice handwriting was one of the most competitive skills in our curriculum. Our teachers would grade us meticulously, making sure that every little jot and tittle was true to form. My best friend, Susan, and I often compared our work. She was quick to point out my shortcomings. Unfortunately, she was right most of the time! But this competition between us and our classmates encouraged the development of not only legible handwriting, but beautiful print and script--so beautiful that I was sure Hallmark should hire us to pen their cards!

The years passed; I grew up and became an elementary school teacher. Everyday, I looked forward to the thirty minutes assigned for handwriting practice. I confess, my motives were quite selfish. During that time, the class was quiet and everyone was on task. I could sit down and take a breather! (Not a small thing!)

What's a Mother To Do?

But when I became a mother, my attitude changed. My oldest son is a lefty. I had never taught a left-handed person how to print or do cursive. To complicate matters, he was dyslexic. Fortunately, the public school he attended at that time utilized D'Nealian, a style of writing that combined cursive and manuscript. It is a derivative of the Palmer Method. The beauty of this style is that the child cannot reverse letters, so it is perfect for the dyslexic student. It also made for an easy transition into cursive. Chris flourished with this method and grew up to have a nice handwriting.

Geoff,  my youngest child, struggled with handwriting in school. Selected in fourth grade as one of the first students in our town to attend the talented and gifted academy, we were shocked when we received his report card and discovered that he had the equivalent of a C in Penmanship. In spite of having all A's in math, science, English, etc., he was prevented from being on the school honor roll because of his handwriting. After much discussion with his teacher, we gave up and resigned ourselves to his never being an honor student, at least in that environment. He just couldn't seem to improve. We were all frustrated.

Enter Home Schooling--Stage Write, er...Right!

Soon afterward we decided to home school. It was during this time that I discovered the real reason for Geoff's handwriting dilemma. The child was a perfectionist, and thanks to his experiences in the gifted academy, he hated handwriting. If he made a mistake, he would wad up his paper and throw it away in frustration, and then have to start all over. This eventually led to his having stomach aches and a phobia against handwriting. I puzzled about it for weeks, reading everything I could get my hands on about penmanship. I knew there had to be an answer. 

One day, while browsing in a small town bookstore, Geoff discovered a penmanship book that he liked and begged me to buy it for him. Upon careful examination, I realized why he liked it. This book did not require the child to write an entire page of one letter, which was totally boring. Instead, there was a simple five day plan. Instead of being cluttered with lines of dotted print, there was plenty of white space on the page, which made it less intimidating. The illustrations added to the book's appeal. Since it was a Christian book, it centered on a Bible verse for each week of the school year. On day five of each lesson, there was a coloring sheet for the child to decorate and pen the verse, perfect for display on the family refrigerator. That school year, my father, at age 79, also learned to write using this series. Together, he and Geoff practiced forming and connecting their letters until they had mastered the art of cursive handwriting. It was a very special experience! (Note: This series of penmanship books was known as A Reason For Handwriting, by Carol Ann Retzer, and is currently available for purchase on For those of you who remember The Classics Curriculum that I created for home schoolers, this is the series I recommended for the children who were in our program.

Modern Education

Unfortunately, today, thanks to Common Core, many primary and elementary schools are discontinuing the teaching of penmanship beyond first grade. With the onslaught of computers in our lives, those who support this "no handwriting" craze believe that cursive is as antiquated a skill as churning butter. (Common Sense is definitely NOT a part of the Common Core and it is obvious to me that they have NOT read the most current research on the topic!) Learning to write is not just a mindless task. It develops parts of the brain that increase learning abilities, which will never be accomplished by typing on a keyboard. We used to sum up elementary school curriculum as consisting of "Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic".  I'm not sure how one would sum it up today. Our kids struggle with reading, they don't learn to write (either handwriting or creative writing) and they cannot remember their math facts because they aren't required to memorize them either. My, but this soapbox is expanding!

What Can a Person Do?

As parents and teachers, it would behoove us to make sure that our children do not miss out on learning the skills necessary for life. If that means teaching your child to pen the letters of the alphabet at the kitchen table, so be it.

Which brings me to my book recommendation for the week. My dear friend, Peggy Borel, has written and illustrated a wonderful picture book entitled, Teach Me ABC. The illustrations alone are worth the purchase of this book. But the text is just as beautiful, employing alliteration to teach the letters in a very unique fashion. This book should be on every preschooler's bookshelf. 

And now, Peggy has produced an activity booklet to accompany her picture book. Filled with practice pages and artwork for the child to color, this booklet will delight children, teachers and parents alike. It is scheduled to be available for purchase within the next two weeks. To order your copies, or to contact this author, go to her website: or you can also find it on

Fun with Food: Have Your Cake and Eat It Too!

Practicing writing basic letters is not a new activity. Those of us who were classroom teachers have utilized all sorts of hands-on methods to help young children embed the shape of the letters of the alphabet into their brains, from using shaving cream to making macaroni letters. One of my favorites (although this is very messy) was to write words either in cursive or manuscript using liquid white glue and then sprinkle them with glitter. They always left a sparkle (sometimes in my eye!).

These kinds of activities help build connections for kids because they utilize the senses of sight and touch, in addition to invoking the creative side of their brain. But for an added advantage, food that helps a child learn to write adds a third sense to this equation. Here are some fun and edible things you can do:

1. Bake cupcakes together using a boxed cake mix. (This activity enforces many skills, from reading and following instructions for older kids, to measurements.) Frost with canned frosting. Purchase "Edible Pens" at the local grocery store and let each child write something on each cupcake. Little ones could write the letter of their first name.

2. Using a packaged mix or sugar cookies from the refrigerator section of your local supermarket, cut out and bake cookies in the shape of the letters of the alphabet (You can find alphabet cookie cutters on I liked the very inexpensive Wilton 50 Piece ABC & 123 Set.). Have the child/ren practice "writing" their initials or even messages using these cookie letters. (This could be a great spelling lesson too!) When the lesson is over, eat your cookies! Yummy! Alternate Idea: Make one huge cookie from the sugar cookie dough and use cake decorating frosting tubes (available in the baking section of the grocery store) to write a message, i.e. "Happy Father's Day" or "Hurray for Aidan!"

3. Purchase a package of blank cards. Practice writing thank you notes and invitations.  This doubles as a lesson in good manners.

4. Decorate a plain composition book using colorful Duct Tape and a favorite photo of the child and make it into a "Diary". Even preschoolers can practice their lettering skills. Older kids will enjoy making lists, writing short stories, or even drawing and captioning their own cartoons.

To Sum it Up

As a mother, educator and writer, I value the importance my parents and teachers placed on penmanship. I am capable of hand printing a beautiful poster, writing a legible thank you note and reading and comprehending the Constitution, all because of my past education. This is one skill that we must salvage from the brink of extinction for our children's sake. I challenge you to the task.

Friday, June 3, 2016

The Wild Horses of Kisatchie: Trouble at Fort Polk!

Yesterday, June 2nd, 2016, was the last day for the public to voice it's opinion to the U.S. Army regarding the fate of the wild horses that roam the forests and fields of Kisatchie State Park and often graze in the meadows that belong to the tank forces of Fort Polk. Many of us have expressed our sadness at the army's decision to remove these animals, which translates that they will probably be rounded up and sold to the kill pens. The army has recently denied having any responsibility for these animals, conveniently forgetting that when they transitioned from horse drawn implements and cavalry units to tanks and mechanized equipment, they turned their army horses loose to fend for themselves in the vast Louisiana forest, rather than to find them forever retirement homes. (Is this how we expect our veterans to be treated?) Like the wild mustangs of the Outer Banks that I write about, these Louisiana horses do not have the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) to take "care" of them, but depend totally on their own instinct and ingenuity as well as the kind hearts of horse-loving individuals who have tried to share the plight of these animals via Facebook and other social media sites.

A Living History:

One local author, Curt Iles, wrote a children's picture story book a few years ago to share the story of these horses and their importance to our American military history.

Written for children ages eight and up from the viewpoint of Uncle Sam, a cavalry horse, this story tells about his life and work in the army with his best friend, Sergeant Ed. In the months before Pearl Harbor, Sam and Ed participated in the Louisiana Army Maneuvers. As these maneuvers ended, Uncle Sam and some of his friends escaped into the piney woods known as the Kisatchie forest. There they lived and flourished, becoming the forerunners of the "wild horses of Fort Polk".

I highly recommend this book, not only because it sheds light on the history and plight of these horses, but because it is a good story and makes history come alive for children. I truly believe that our young people do not know our history today, much of which is our own fault for not giving this subject the respect and importance it is due, and partially because when it is taught strictly from a textbook perspective, it is lifeless and boring. But when students are introduced to characters, settings and events through colorful tradebooks, history and its players become alive and memorable. We may be unable to change the course of events for these wild horses of Fort Polk, but if our children learn to care about this issue then future issues, no matter where they originate, may be affected positively by their participation and voices. History is important. Our future depends on our children knowing where we came from and how we got to where we are, period. Without this knowledge, our future is shaky, at best. So take a moment to read this book and to reflect on our heritage. Then go to your local library and check out the children's history section. You'll be glad you did!


Search for a cause that your family supports. Even small children (K-5 grades) can benefit from learning how to protest in a reasonable and responsible manner. Here are some things good citizens of all ages can do:
1. Write letters to people who can make a difference, for example: the mayor, your congressman and senator, the governor, etc. This is a great exercise to learn the art of formal letter writing. (For ideas and information on how to write a formal letter, go to
2. Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper, explaining your cause and defending your position, pro or con. Before you write your letter, be sure to read several letters to the editor to see how others have composed their letters. For instructions and ideas, go to
3. Make a poster about your cause.
4. Create a petition for your cause. See how many signatures you can get. Send your petition to a person in charge or to one of your governmental representatives. To learn how to create a petition, go to:


To accompany this book, I am sharing my recipe for "Horse Cookies". Although they are designed for our equine friends, I discovered that they are very tasty--and enjoyed them too! I first made them for my own horse, Selah, a Polish Arabian mare that I loved dearly. Selah, however, did not like sweets of any kind, so this recipe was wasted on her. However, the horses that shared her pasture loved them--and followed me around every time I visited Selah, searching for horse cookies in my pockets.
You expect me to eat what?

For this recipe you will need the following ingredients:

2 cups steel cut oats
3/4 c. bran flakes
3/4 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. shredded carrots
1 c. shredded apple
1 c. molasses
1/2 c. applesauce


1. Mix ingredients in a large bowl. Preheat oven to 400 degrees (Fahrenheit). Spray a muffin pan with spray oil. Scoop dough into muffin cups, filling each cup half way. Sprinkle tops of muffins with a teaspoon of brown sugar each.
2. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Cool completely.
3. Store in an air-tight container (or plastic bag).

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Summer of the Wild Horses: Chapter 1

One of my mother's favorite things to do was to give us a "taste" of a new food. She said she was "developing our palate". Here is the first chapter in my new book, Summer of the Wild Horses. Take a few moments to read it. If you like this book, it is available for purchase on Enjoy!


Kayla adored horses. They were her life. She dreamed about them, read about them, drew pictures of them and thought about them all of the time.
“One day, I’m going to have a horse of my own,” she told her friends. However, inside, she knew her dream was only a fantasy. Where could she keep a horse? After all, her family lived in an apartment. They did not even have a backyard.
In school, some of the girls told her about a summer camp just outside of the city limits.
“They have lots and lots of horses,” her best friend Caron said. “Campers get to ride every single day.”
Kayla imagined herself going to summer camp and riding every day. She decided to ask her parents.
“We’ll see, dear,” Mother said when Kayla told her about the camp.
“It’s too early to plan your summer vacation,” Dad said. “Why, it’s not even Christmas yet!”
Halloween came and went, followed by Thanksgiving. When Kayla’s grandmother asked everyone at the dinner table to tell one thing they were thankful for, Kayla beamed.
“I’m thankful for the Double D Summer Camp, ‘cause they have lots of horses and let their campers ride every day,” she said.
Grandma just smiled and said, “That’s nice dear. Now Jimmy, it’s your turn. What are you thankful for?”
“Turkey legs!” her brother blurted out. That was the end of the discussion.

Making a Memorable Memorial Day!

Summer is just around the corner. For many, school is out, or it is nearing the end. Memorial Day is the holiday that usually signals the beginning of summer vacation. It was one of my family's favorite holidays. We usually got up early and headed downtown to get a good spot to watch the parade. Since we lived in a military town, the Memorial Day Parade was a very big deal. There were lots of floats, marching bands and military units. My brother even marched in it a couple of times with the Boys' Clubs of America (This was before it became the "Boys and Girls Club"). We were so proud of him. I was five years younger than Jim, so my dad would lift me up on his shoulders and hold me high so I could see my brother march by, holding the Boys' Club flag. It was a very special occasion.

After the parade, we would either go to the city park for a Memorial Day picnic with our church group or we would have a family cookout in our backyard. The menu was always the same: hot dogs, potato chips and watermelon for dessert. My dad always invited some of the sailors who were stationed in Norfolk and who didn't have families in town or homes, other than on board their ships. It was always interesting to visit with them and learn about where they were from and some of their holiday traditions.

Most of our family lived in North Carolina or Florida, but for a few years my Uncle Bob was the pastor of a church near us. It was always a special occasion when they would join us. Uncle Bob, Aunt Retha and their children, Carol, Bobby, Buddy and David were full of fun and energy. My parents would entertain my aunt and uncle and Jim and I would take care of the cousins. We would play outside all day, ending the evening with a rousing game of "Hide and Seek" and finally capturing lightning bugs and putting them in jars with the lids poked full of holes. It was indescribable fun. My parents, brother, uncle, aunt and two of my cousins are no longer with us, but Buddy and David and I try to get together on occasion, or at least stay in touch, even though we now live hundreds of miles apart.

Making memories is one of the most important things we can do as parents and teachers. In thinking about this post, I researched books about Memorial Day. Although there are books on the shelves that take on this topic, I did not find anything that I was thrilled about, which leaves an opening for a children's book author to pen a really good piece to fill this somewhat empty hole. Instead, I decided to concentrate on books for the summer.

As a child, one of the things I looked forward to in the summer was having the time to read to my heart's content. There are books that still touch my heart when I see their titles, simply because they helped fill my summer days with joy. I loved books about Spin and Marty and anything Disney. The day the Book Mobile arrived was a red-letter day. I was in total heaven! That is the euphoria I wanted my children to feel when they entered the library. Today, I want my grandchildren to experience that same feeling. Books are not just entertainment--they become personal friends, friends we will have for a lifetime.

So as you get ready to celebrate this upcoming holiday, make plans with your children to get library cards and schedule a regular date with the library. Your summer vacation will be enriched and your children will grow as a result.

If you should have a child who likes horses and is reading chapter books now, take a look at my latest book, Summer of the Wild Horses. Set on the Outer Banks, this story tells about one family's summer vacation and how an injured wild horse changed their lives forever. I do hope you will get it (available on and read it together.

I also hope you will do some research and share the story of Memorial Day with your kiddos so they will come to appreciate it's importance to our society. Plan a special day--have a picnic, go to a parade, have a pet parade (if you don't have any local parades to attend), but do something special to make a memory. Find some veterans and make "thank you" cards to take to them. If there is a military cemetery in your local, check with the caretakers to see if you can help place miniature American flags on the tombstones to celebrate the day. If you investigate this holiday, I'm sure you will find a very special way for your family to celebrate--something that can become a family tradition, and a memory that will last a life time.

Have a Happy Memorial Day!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Ode to a Bunny

Life Lessons:

Writing is hard work. I know, some of you are snickering and saying to yourself, "Sure it is, ha...ha!" But it is true. At the end of a day of writing, not only is my brain fried, but my body feels like I have been run over by a truck.

At the same time, writing is incredibly rewarding. Seeing your work in print is like having a sugar and adrenaline rush--it is addictive! That's one of the reasons writers, like myself, spend so many hours pounding away at the keyboard, or daydreaming in the porch swing. We love the process, from the first inspirational idea, to the tedious struggle with editing--it can be so rewarding.

I love to write for children. That is my passion, although I have tinkered with the idea of writing a couple of books for grown ups. Some of my friends think that writing for children is the easiest kind of writing. But, once more, they are wrong. Writing a compelling and heart warming story for kids is probably the hardest type of writing ever. So when an author gets it right, they should be praised.

That's what I want to do in this blog--give kudos to those authors who choose to write for our little ones, even though they may never be selected for the New York Times Best Seller List, or bring in the big bucks. This week I was inspired to choose my feature book by a painful incident in our home.
About a month ago, when coming home from work late one night, my son was greeted in our front yard by a little brown bunny. You guessed it--by midnight, we had a new pet. We did attempt to find its owner, but finally decided that Bunny had been turned loose by someone who had tired of taking care of it.
Thumper was a true Velveteen Rabbit.
Chris named it Thumper. Yes, literature has played a strong role in our household. Thumper hopped into our hearts with her sweet personality. Even my husband was enamored by this little fur ball. The only household member not impressed was our cat Rocket, who saw Thumper as her next meal.
Life for Thumper was good in the Hurst household. When Chris went on vacation, I took on the responsibility to care for our little Velveteen Rabbit. That was a big mistake.

To make a long story short, the day after Chris returned from his vacation, Thumper was taken ill. I offered to take her to the vet, who promptly informed me that Thumper was a "he" and not a "she"!
In spite of our vet's encouraging words, Thumper died that night. The entire house was heartbroken.

The next day, I bought a replacement bunny, who proceeded to disappear from his cage. We named him Houdini. He is skin and bones beneath a heavy fluff of soft brown fur. His future is unknown, other than we are happy to have him.

Houdini is a little ball of fluff!


This story brings me to my book recommendation for the week. Thumper, whose coat was a cocoa brown velvet, reminded us of one of our favorite children's books, The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams. This tender story tells about a little boy's love for his stuffed toy. It is truly a classic tale that is a must read aloud. In the same theme, Pat the Bunny, by Dorothy Kunhardt, and, of course, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, by Beatrix Potter cannot be forgotten. Then, we must not forget Margaret Wise Brown's book, The Runaway Bunny. The list goes on and on. Many authors have taken these characters and written new adventures for youngsters to enjoy.

Not to leave out the chapter book readers, we must include one of my favorite novels, Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery, by Deborah and James Howe. After reading this tale, Halloween will never be the same. 


Today, while taking a break from my keyboard and pile of dirty dishes in the sink, I sat down in front of the television. I had been thinking about recipes that could accompany books whose main characters were rabbits. Carrot cake immediately came to mind, but I decided that might be too complicated for some parents, let alone children--and their teachers! Then I thought about a simple veggie platter featuring carrots, radishes, and the kinds of foods mentioned in Beatrix Potter's stories. Ranch dressing makes them taste oh, so good, I was sure that children would love to eat them. About that time, a commercial came on and I knew I had hit the jackpot. Bluebunny Ice Cream! It was so simple--there are all kinds, from Popsicles to MooseTracks. The best part was all of the things that could come from eating this product!


Can't you see it now? "Bluebunny Meets The Velveteen Rabbit" or "The Runaway Bluebunny." What kid could resist writing a story about this character? The options are endless--and the ideas abundant with all of the examples of bunny tales in your local libraries. I would love to see the end results! For inspiration, check out this web site: 

Make a book! Trace a bunny shape on a piece of tagboard and cut out covers and pages to make shape books for these stories. Children will learn the Five Steps of the Writing Process by creating their own Bluebunny books. Display the finished books on your library shelves next to their kindred stories. This will do wonders toward helping your children fall in love with both reading and writing!

Plant a Bunny Garden: Research foods that rabbits love and plant a container garden. Children can enjoy both planting and caring for their garden. Older ones might enjoy keeping a garden diary where they record of how long it takes from the initial planting until they can eat the produce and other important information. Learning to garden is a science all its own. Linking it to literature makes it even more fun!


The ideas are infinitesimal! Beginning with sock puppets, kids could create their characters and retell their stories using these adorable homemade puppets. Here is a URL you might want to check out:

Piece de Resistance:

Lastly, since you have come this far with the bunny theme, why not check with your local animal shelter and see if there is a sweet ball of fur available for adoption. Kids in your classroom will do anything to get a chance to hold your live "Bluebunny" and read it a story--or better yet, read bunny THEIR own story! Bunnys are easy keepers--they don't need vacinations and are docile pets. They do require a bit of cage clean up on a daily basis, but kids learn a lot about life and responsibility from taking care of a pet. Many children do not have pets at home. Worse, many have never been taught how to care for a pet. It provides life lessons that you cannot find in a state curriculum. Those of you who are involved with Common Core--talk about "deep reading"-- have the kids research how to care for their pet. Motivation is key to learning--and Bluebunny activities offer enormous incentives for kids to engage in learning. It's a win-win opportunity!


If you do decide to take up the challenge, whether it is only to read these classic tales and write stories, please take a moment to share some of your experiences with me and the other followers of my posts. We are hoppin' to hear from you!


Friday, April 15, 2016

Louisiana Author, Lynda Deniger and her book, Patty Pelican and the Gulf Oil Spill

I have been neglectful of my blog recently, partially due to personal illness. But I wish to continue sharing with you some of my favorite authors and their books.

One of my favorite authors, Lynda Deniger, is a little-known story-teller from Abita Springs, Louisiana.

Lynda has written two books for children that tell about a little shrimp boat and his friends, Sammy Seagull, Patti Pelican and Dottie Dolphin. Lynda’s book bring Louisiana traditions to life and will delight children everywhere. Included with the books are CDs with songs children can sing along with about the stories. Lynda has been a performer since the age of three. Whenever she presents her books, she gets into character and grabs the audience’s attention with her whimsical showmanship.
One of her books, Patty Pelican and the Gulf Oil Spill, centers on that tragic event and teaches children about the ecological balance of animals, birds and fish that inhabit our coastlines. Her website contains lots of ideas and activities for teachers to incorporate into lessons about saving the environment.
Lynda’s books are available on Amazon and her website:

 Here are some activities you may wish to use with your children or students that coordinate with Lynda's books:
NOTE: These activities were designed/created by some of my former college students, Holly Duplechin, Felicia Morris, and Jessica Ford, who by now are full-fledged elementary teachers! Good job, ladies!

To Model an Oil Spill you will need the following materials:

  • Plastic bottle (half filled with water)
  • ½ cup of vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon of cocoa
  • Plastic cup
  • Funnel
Here are the directions to make the model oil spill:

  1. Mix the oil and cocoa in a cup.
  2. Add the oil mixture to already prepared bottle of water.
  3. Discuss what happens when the oil hits the water, how the water and oil react to one another, how this could occur, and what dangers do the students think could be caused by an oil spill.
  4. In closing, ask the children/students to share and discuss what they observed and concluded with the completion of this demonstration.

To simulate oil clean-up and determine the best material to use you will need the following materials:
    • Clear plastic tub 
    • Yellow vegetable oil
    • A Tablespoon to use for measuring
    • Cheese cloth or gauze
    • Cotton balls
    • Polypropylene cloth (used in sports clothing) 

    To simulate oil clean-up and determine the best material to use you will need the following materials:


    Use the tablespoon to add oil to the water until there is an oil slick.

    Record and discuss your prediction as to which item will remove the oil better.

    Use each of the items one at a time and try to remove the oil. Record your observations.

    Determine and discuss which item actually removed the most oil and the least water. 

    To observe the effect of oil in the water on bird feathers and simulate clean-up effort you will need the following materials:

    2 clear plastic tubs half filled with water
    1/2 cup of yellow vegetable oil
    1 Tablespoon cocoa powder
    2-3 craft feathers
    Dishwashing detergent

    Drop a feather into clean water and observe/record what happens and how the feather looks.
    Add oil and cocoa (mixed together) to one of the tubs of water.
    Record and discuss your predictions as to what will happen when the feather is dropped into the clean water; do the same for the oil/cocoa water.
    Discuss the effect this would have on the birds.
    Wash the oil/cocoa feather with dishwashing detergent.
    Record your observations.
    Discuss your findings.

    Make a list of your favorite seafood dishes. Look up recipes for these dishes on the web and create a cookbook together. Discuss how oil spills would affect the seafood industry. Choose one recipe to prepare and share together. Enjoy!