Monday, May 24, 2010

The Story Behind the Story-Moira Rose Donohue

Moira Rose Donohue

What a pleasure it is to introduce Moira Rose Donohue, author of Penny and the Punctuation Bee and Alfie the Apostrophe.  We first discovered Moira while attending the Kidlitosphere Conference 2009 and are thrilled to tell you that her books are available at Grow Up With Books--the Netflix of children's books!

Reading her two stories was truly a pleasure and delight.  I read them to myself, my own children, my mom, my cousin, my husband, and more children...get the idea?  I believe  it was the crafty way she wove the topic of  "punctuation" within an engaging picture book.   It can be difficult to find a book that holds what the teacher needs to teach and what the parent/child needs for a meaningful experience all in one book.  Moira has been successful in putting that into not one, but two books.

After reading Penny and the Punctuation Bee and Alfie the Apostrophe to several elementary school classes, I began to wonder what questions the children might have.  Their questions and thoughts did not disappoint me or Moira Donohue.

Moira was kind enough to share her thoughts about these questions and GUWB is thrilled to share them with you!

The STORY behind the STORY from Moira Rose Donohue!

Would you tell us about your family?
I have a husband, Rob, and two kids who are now in college.  My son is majoring in architecture and my daughter is studying anthropology.  She is also a drummer.

Do you have a favorite hobby?
I always wanted to be a dancer/choreographer.  A couple of years ago, I took tap dancing lessons.  I wasn't very good, but I really liked it.  I was even in a couple of recitals!

What is your favorite food?
My favorite food?  French bread, with lots of butter.  And steak.  

Do you have another job?
Another job?  Not any more.  I practiced law for 20 years, took some time with my kids while they were in middle and high school, and now I write full-time!

What do you look like?  Do you resemble someone we might know?
Well, I'd like to tell you I look like Beyonce.  But I don't.  I don't think I really look like any person.  I do kind of look like a feather pillow.  

What was your favorite book as a child?  What is your favorite children’s book today, not including your own of course.
I had a lot of favorite books, and I still do.  But the one I remember the most was MISS FLORA McFLIMSEY'S CHRISTMAS EVE by Mariana.  I thought I had lost it until I found it at my sister's house.  She claimed it was hers.  But when I opened it, I had written my name in the front.  So she had to give it back.

Do you have any pets?  Would you ever include them in your stories?
I have two dogs – a pug named Sniffles and Quincy, who is half Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and half poodle.  I love dogs, so I try to include them, when I can, in my writing.  Remember ALFIE'S dog?  I wish I'd named him.  What name would you give him?
Looks like Sniffles has a story to tell!

Take a look at Quincy!

Will there be another year of the Punctuation Bee?
Why did you make Penny the main character rather than Elsie or Quentin?
I don't have any plans for another Punctuation Bee book.  I'd like to do a story about another punctuation mark.  If you have any thoughts about which one you'd like to see, let my publisher, Albert Whitman, know.  Then they might just ask me to do it!

How did you come up with the character’s names?
I love alliteration and rhyme, so I tried to think of names that started with the same first letter as their punctuation mark and, if possible, sort of rhymed with it ("Quentin" and "question").  "Marla the period" just doesn't have the same fun sound.

What might happen if someone asks Quentin a question?  Will he be able to answer without a question?
I don't know – I tried to phrase all of his responses in the form of a question, like on Jeopardy!

Could there be another story where they get their marks all messed up?  Kind of like The Scrambled States of America. 
Oh, that's a great idea!  I will seriously think about doing a story like that!

Where did you get the idea for Alfie’s name? 
How did you come up with punctuations as a topic?
Is “apostrophe” really Greek?
I picked "Alfie" because it sounded a lot like "apostrophe."  "Apostrophe" IS a Greek word.  I thought it was, but I looked it up in my dictionary to be sure.  

Thanks to my dad, I have always loved words, grammar and punctuation. Imagine how excited I was when I got to research a question about a missing quotation mark in a very old banking law back when I was a lawyer. Without the quotation mark, it looked like the law, which people thought had been around for almost 100 years, really didn't exist. The case ultimately had to be decided by the United States Supreme Court!

One day, while I was taking a shower (I always get my best ideas in the shower), I was imagining what talents punctuation marks might have, based on both their function and their appearance.  An apostrophe as a magician just came to me.  I ran to my computer and wrote my first draft that morning.

*QUESTIONS about Illustrations...
We noticed that the illustrations are done by different people, but look similar.  Did you have an idea for the illustrations and share them with the illustrators?
Why weren’t they the same person?

Interesting question.  My publisher, Albert Whitman, asked the illustrator of ALFIE, JoAnn Adinolfi, to illustrate PENNY.  Unfortunately, she had a lot of books she had promised to illustrate and couldn't do it for 2 years.  They didn't want to wait, so they asked Jenny Law to use a similar look.  She used only paint (JoAnn used some collage paper), but I think it looks a lot like ALFIE.  

I'm not very artistic.  I pictured the characters differently, but I like the way the illustrators painted them better than the way I saw them in my mind!

How many books have you written?  
I have probably written 25 books (the first when I was in 6th grade).  But I've only had two published, so far.  I have also published plays, articles and a poem.

What is the process for writing stories like these?  (This came from a 1st grader!!!!)
Super question!  First, you write the story.  Then you share it with your writer friends for suggestions, edit it and mail it to publishers.  In the case of ALFIE, several publishers rejected it. But one bought it and found an illustrator.  Then they gave me more edits.  I was lucky, because they showed me the sketches and drawings along the way.  I was able to comment when there was something in the picture and the text that didn't line up – for example, I had written that the cheerleading exclamation points did splits.  But the illustrator drew them without legs, so we changed it to "flips."

The book is then sent to the printer, who prints it on giant rolls of paper with eight pages on each sheet, which is why picture books are either 24, 32 or 48 pages – something divisible by 8!  Then it's bound and sent to bookstores!

Do you have a book waiting to be published?
I have several books that I have submitted to publishers, but nothing that they have agreed to publish yet.  Keep your fingers crossed!  And right now I am working on a middle grade novel.

Do you have a pen name?
No.  My name is unusual, so I just go with it!

Do you know Rick Riordan and J.K. Rowling?
No – I wish I did!  But I know Kathryn Erskine, whose latest book, MOCKINGBIRD, is probably going to win a lot of awards!

*COMPLIMENTS for Mrs. Donohue...
I loved how you described the “snow” in Alfie’s tummy when he couldn’t remember the words to the spell.
We love how you end both stories!
Thank you.  A writer once told me that you should end your stories with lots of lights and sounds.  I loved that idea, so I always try!!!

We like how Elsie looked like a question mark at the end.  Maybe she will start to see things differently.  Maybe the story could continue.  What would happen then?
Making Elsie droop until she looked like a question mark was actually my daughter's idea!  

I bet you can’t survive without apostrophes!
Here's a question for you to think about – if you were a punctuation mark, which one would you be and why?  I would be an asterisk, because it's sparkly and twinkly like a star (and its name comes from the Greek word "aster" meaning star.)

Thank you to Moira Donohue for taking time to share with us about these delightful books.  If you haven't read them, take the time to do it!  Check them out at GUWB--you and your children will be entertained for sure.  Take time to visit her website and the Punctuation Playground.  You can even listen to part of Penny and the Punctuation Bee read by Mrs. Donohue!

So, we leave you with that question from our featured author..."What punctuation mark would you be?  Why?"

Happy reading!
The GUWB Team

*Pictures used from Moira's website.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Partners in Education

Lara Ivey and Ray Heatwole
(Assistant Principal at South Anna Elementary)
Grow Up With Books has had the pleasure of being a Partner in Education with Hanover County Public Schools and South Anna Elementary. During our year with them, we have donated books, resources, consulting, and supported South Anna's First Annual Spirit Run! We are the Netfilx of children's books and are dedicated to putting education first.

As a sign of appreciation, Hanover County provided a lovely luncheon and presentation at King's Dominion yesterday. My husband and I were fortunate enough to be able to attend and connect with other business partners. It's been a true pleasure to help the community in this way. We look forward to making a difference in the lives of today's children--through partnerships like this as well as our online rental experience at GUWB.
Dr. Jamelle S. Wilson
 (Hanover County-Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Leadership)
Reach out and read,
The GUWB Team

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Celebrating Books!

Children's Book Week 2010
May 10-16

Mother and children (3-4) reading book, smiling

At GUWB, we celebrate books and children EVERY day and are behind Frederic Melcher when he declared, "A great nation is a reading nation." This week we would like to take a
moment to focus on Children's Book Week.

This tradition began way back in 1919 and was originally celebrated the week before Thanksgiving, being moved to May in 2008. Children's Book Council was in charge of the week from 1944-2008. In 2008, Every Child a
Reader began to hold the responsibility of this special week. Every Child a Reader is a philanthropic piece to the Children’s Book Council.

From The Children’s Book Council... “Through Children's Book Week, the Children's Book Council encourages young people and their caregivers to discover the complexity of the world beyond their own experience through books."

As a part of this week, Children's Choice Book Awards are given. In honor of this, we'd like to highlight a winner from each of our categories at GUWB...Seed (0-2 yo), Sprout (3-4 yo), Sapling (5-8 yo), and Young Tree (9-12 yo). You may be unfamiliar with some of these titles, but they are sure to be winners with your children. Check them out!

Look & See: Let's Count by La Coccinella

I Spy by Jean Marzollo

Andrew Lost #1: On the Dog by J.C. Greenburg

by Jody Feldman

To celebrate this week, check the CBC's website for fantastic posters, bookmarks, puzzles and other ideas to explore. There are even official events in which you can participate. Check it out and see what looks like a fit for your family. Visit the GUWB website and see what books you might like to have sent to you. Consider sharing some of your ideas for celebrating books with us. By sharing, you may inspire others to celebrate books in a special way!

Happy reading and celebrating!
The GUWB Team
submitted by Lara

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

What are People Saying About GUWB?

Wondering what subscribers are saying about GUWB? Wonder no more!
Man's hand giving thumbs up

Here is what Elaine Johnson has to say...
“I love Grow Up With Books! I’m a busy mom of three. I work at my own business, deal with two different schools, multiple sports teams, playdates, cooking, homework, etc. Education and a love for reading is a high priority for me. Fitting that around my schedule is difficult. I can’t get to the bookstore very often, the library has limited hours, and when I’m at those places, my kids always want a DVD rather than a book. Enter GUWB. It’s truly been a simple and very cost effective way for me to keep my kids interested in books. And it’s something I can do in the evening or early morning with them or late at night when I’m alone. I log-in, sort by what I need, add books to my queue, and I’m finished. It’s that simple – I’ve done it multiple times. If one of my children loves a book after we read it, I can easily purchase it. It’s so easy to mail the books back and get new ones when we’re ready. The packaging is included and again, very user-friendly. I’ve never had a problem with a return or getting the books I selected. The books are in great shape and the age appropriate categories are perfect for my kids. I get e-mails to alert me when my list is short and we go in and add some more. However, what truly sold me on the program was the sanitation. Having a son with asthma and allergies (and unable to get any flu vaccines) has made me more conscious of what I bring in the house. With GUWB, I don’t worry about who has handled the books before us.”

Blair Neher has more thoughts to share...
"Grow Up With Books offers a great alternative to the costly task of providing your child with quality reading. Now more than ever, every penny counts. Especially pennies and dollars spent on books that get read once and then put on the shelf to collect dust. GUWB has a great selection of easy to find books, broken down by age group, all available via Netflix style rental."

Here's YOUR chance!
Why not try our 1st and 4th month FREE trial? Just use code CEF9E5 when signing up as a subscriber to GUWB!

We look forward to hearing from you and helping you make reading a priority in your family.

Best regards,
The GUWB Team
Submitted by Lara

Sunday, May 2, 2010

What is your "Betty Doll?"

The second Sunday of May is the official time to remember our mothers.

One book that does an amazing job of this is Patricia Polacco's Betty Doll. This delightful picture book begins with a letter from Patricia Polacco explaining the history of Betty Doll from her mother, Mary Ellen. Due to a fire, all of Mary Ellen’s dolls were gone and her mother (Polacco’s grandmother) saw how much pain this caused her. Mary Ellen and her mother made Betty Doll and the story takes flight. Betty Doll goes to the first day of school, recites poems at tea parties, and even comes to the rescue on a frightful snowy day. These experiences help the reader to understand why Betty Doll is such a prized possession for Patricia Polacco and is a symbol of many things for her. Check out Polacco's website to see and hear more.

About her mother and the story of Betty Doll, Polacco says, "In this story I would like to share her words with you, for in the face of bitter grief, her sweet words brought comfort, insight and warmth that still linger in my heart...and will continue to, as long as there are children who tell children about mothers they love." I believe that Betty Doll holds the memories that it does because it was made with love. Made by Polacco's mother and Grandmother after a devastating event. Betty Doll is a symbol of love that connects generation to generation.

Our question to you is..."What is your Betty Doll?" While we didn't make this together, one of our's is the bed that my daughter sleeps in. My father bought it at an auction for me when I was two years old for $2.50! I slept in this antique bed (built around 1900) until I was in my twenties. Now my sweet daughter sleeps in this bed. I love that I am able to share this bed with her and I look forward to seeing her share it with her children...just like Polacco has done with the doll from her mother.

During this "Mother's Day" season, think about what your "Betty Doll" is at your home. It doesn't have to be a doll, it could be anything that shares memories or is a prized possession--something made with love, shared with love and above all elicits memories. Maybe it's a picture, a blanket, or a stuffed animal. We'd love to hear about your special items and the role they play in your family.

If you are looking for books (in addition to Betty Doll) that highlight mothers, check out the books below that are part of the GUWB offerings...

Sharing memories,
The GUWB Team
Submitted by Lara