Creativity Resolutions

Crayola Lincoln Logs Photo by Chris Metcalf

Creative people wonder, imagine, problem-solve, take risks, persist, and communicate in fascinating ways. Creativity is a wonderful quality that can be expressed by all of us. 

How can you nurture creativity in your children?  Raising Creative Kids by Susan Daniels and Daniel B. Peters offers plenty of suggestions for developing creativity along with methods for improving a child’s organizational and planning skills.  The authors also emphasize how important it is for parents and educators to encourage and support creative potential in their children – and themselves!  Especially helpful are the detailed descriptions of the traits creative people possess or demonstrate. 

How many of the following creativity characteristics does your child have?

Need for privacy and alone time
High energy
Risk taking
Sense of humor/playfulness
Attraction to complexity
Artistic interests and aesthetic perspectives
Sensitivity and intensity
Awareness of creativity

May 2015 be filled with creative inspiration.  Happy New Year!

Books as Gifts

While everyone knows books are great gifts, it can often be difficult to select a book for someone – especially if you don’t know his/her interests.  Over the past few months, I’ve read quite a few excellent books for readers in grades 2-6.  Download fifteen of my fiction suggestions (along with their annotations, written at a 4th-6th grade level).  Also consider titles suggested by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC).  Each year, the ALSC Notable Books Committee selects the best books published for children. 

What’s the best book you’ve received as a gift?

fiction suggestions for readers in grades 2-6
15 Fiction
Adobe Acrobat Document 803.7 KB

Outstanding Nonfiction

“Science,” by Millard Owen Sheets at the Department of Interior, Washington, D.C.

Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division


Children’s nonfiction includes biographies, historical books, and books about science, art, math, space etc.  In addition to information about people, subjects, places, and things, did you know that nonfiction also includes fairy tales, ghosts, poetry, and jokes? 

According to Reading Rockets, “nonfiction books present many opportunities to learn new concepts and vocabulary, as well as broaden a child's view of the world.”  Previewing the text and asking questions are two useful strategies when reading nonfiction texts with your children. Visit the Reading Rockets website to learn these strategies (and many more) to get the most out of nonfiction reading time. 

The attached bibliography of nonfiction books reflects a variety of interests and subjects.  The annotations are written on a fourth through sixth grade reading level, so children can select books that appeal to them.  While all the books on this list are outstanding, I especially enjoyed The Case of the Vanishing Honeybees:  A Scientific Mystery by Sandra Markle.  The book explores the mystery of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) and details what scientists and beekeepers are doing to solve it. 

Whether it’s vanishing bees or bursting volcanoes, the best way to get children excited about reading is to read with them, and let them see you reading too!

Nonfiction for readers in grades 2-6
19 Outstanding Nonfiction Books for Elementary Students
Adobe Acrobat Document 1.1 MB

 Also read the 20 Outstanding Picture Books

Libraries are Great!

Use Your Library

Work Projects Administration Poster Collection (Library of Congress)


Outstanding Books!

Wee Willie Winkie poster

Work Projects Administration Poster Collection (Library of Congress)


The following bibliography of 20 stellar picture books and easy readers reflects a variety of interests, cultures, and viewpoints.  The books also encourage reading for pleasure. Most titles are less than 4 years old. 

While some of the books are for readers in grades K-2, many also work for children in grades 3-5.  (Picture books are not just for the very young; many have topics suited for older children.)  The annotations are written on a fourth through sixth grade reading level, so children can select books that appeal to them. Allowing children the freedom to select what to read promotes self-reliance and self-exploration.

While all the books on this list are outstanding, I especially enjoyed The Boy Who Loved Math:  The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos by Deborah Heiligman - an amazing story about a gifted Hungarian mathematician.  Math was his passion - he didn't learn how to do much else.  The illustrations are filled with numerous mathematical references:  prime numbers, amicable numbers, theorems, proofs, etc.  If you're interested, read more about the book at the author's website

Reading aloud with your children has countless benefits - even for older children.  The best way to get children excited about reading is to read with them, and let them see you reading too!

Little Miss Muffet poster
Outstanding Picture Books

Download the complete bibliography of Picture Books & Easy Readers

20 Picture Books & Easy Readers
Picture Books2014.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 1.5 MB

Have You Friended Me?


I recently read a blog post about book characters who would make awesome friends.”  Since good friends are helpful in promoting lifelong learning, I immediately thought of Charlotte from Charlotte’s Web and how her sweet face could jump-start the following reading promotion. 

            The library media specialist (or teacher) would put up a large white board or a large piece of bulletin board paper in the media center or other communal area.  Students use the white board to share book characters they think would make good friends and why.  For example, “I think Deza from The Mighty Miss Malone would make a good friend because she is determined, funny, and loyal to her family and friends.” 

The media specialist could highlight a few entries every week to promote the books.  Students could share a few during the morning announcements too.  This medley of reading friends can be used to promote discussion, social interaction, and, of course, book circulation.  “Who Did You Friend?” cards can assess books read. 


Priddy, Brenda.  “10 Books Characters That Would Be Awesome Friends.” Nerdy Book Club.  30 August, 2014.  Web. 


Unwritten Rule

Revisit again and again.

Banned Books Week

Artwork courtesy of the American Library Association


"This year’s Banned Books Week is spotlighting graphic novels because, despite their literary merit and popularity as a format, they are often subject to censorship. Graphic novels continually show up on the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom’s Top 10 List of Most Frequently Challenged Books."      Source:  ALA

Read more here. 

Pages and Pages of Fun

Even though the 2014 National Book Festival is over, you can still enjoy all the author presentations.   They were videotaped and will be available soon on the Library's website.  I enjoyed listening to Jacqueline Woodson who shared writing tips, personal information, and excerpts from her newest book, Brown Girl Dreaming.  When a young writer in the audience asked for a few tips, Woodson's reply was "BIC" which is short for "butt in chair."  She also shared how, as a child, she told many lies.  One day a teacher suggested she write them down "which turned the lies into fiction. They are legitimate, and you can get paid for them."


Photo by Marty Umans

 Jacqueline Woodson has written more than 20 books; some of the most notable include Newbery Honor Medal winners Show Way, Feathers, and After Tupac and D Foster and the Coretta Scott King Award-winning Miracle’s Boys. Brown Girl Dreaming (Penguin), her newest title released this summer, recalls the story of her own childhood as a young African American girl growing up amid the Civil Rights Movement. Written in verse, each poem gives the reader a snapshot of a child’s effort to build a strong voice in the world.

Source:  National Book Festival author biography

National Book Festival



Get ready for another chapter of the National Book Festival -- perhaps the greatest book festival on the planet!  Just ask the Man in the Moon.  It is free and open to the public and will take place from 10 a.m to 10 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C.


If you plan on going with children, use the Festival's guide to help you.  For book lovers unable to attend, the Festival's website is filled with:



Author Videos

Creative writing and illustration tips by authors and illustrators


Suggested reading lists

"Eye Spy" poster activities

Writing contests

Much more




“The word gifted has never been applied to a kid like Donovan Curtis. It’s usually more like don’t try this at home. So when the troublemaker pulls a major prank at his middle school, he thinks he’s finally gone too far. But thanks to a mix-up by one of the administrators, instead of getting in trouble, Donovan is sent to the Academy of Scholastic Distinction (ASD), a special program for gifted and talented students.”                                                 — Gordon Korman, Ungifted

Ungifted, by Gordon Korman, explores what it means to be a troublemaker, a gifted student, and/or an outcast, and how we all have things to teach one another.  Told from various perspectives, Korman creates a funny storyline about building friendships in unlikely situations.  While I enjoyed the basic premise of this award-winning book, Korman used many stereotypes based on gifted children such as:


  • Gifted children are different.

“Normal!  We had a lot of talents in our homeroom.  Normalcy wasn’t one of them.”
“But to be stared at by these geniuses with their Coke-bottle glasses and analytical frowns — it was like being dissected and having your vital organs spread out on slides.”

  • Gifted children do not participate in normal activities. 

“Sports?  When?  And besides, why play when you probably stink?”
“What about TV or video games?  Oh, please.  You’re far too smart for that.  Pep rallies?  For what — the robotics team?  Forget it — and the same goes for school dances, funny-hat day, drama club, charity drives. . .”

  • Gifted children do not adjust socially.

“Noah’s IQ was off the charts, but he’d yet to hold a conversation with a real human being this year.” 
“Another thing about the Academy — being gifted rarely extended to social skills.”


While the book will "please Korman's fans and win him new ones," Ungifted is also a valuable resource to analyze examples of stereotypes.   Discussions about how stereotypes are harmful, how we are defined by others, and how we define ourselves would help children recognize the many stereotypes in books, the media, and in their daily lives.


  Upper Elementary/Middle School Audience


The Best Person to Sit Next To on a Plane

“Don’t worry, I’m well-behaved 90 percent of the time!”  That was the greeting from a twelve-year-old boy who sat next to me on a recent flight.  Traveling alone, and well versed in the art of making flight time pass quickly, he made our 5 hour flight fly by. 

His unsolicited advice about school life could have been a primer for the need for differentiation.  While he loved most subjects - especially math and science - he desired assignments based on “real projects” instead of worksheets. He didn’t have much to do in his “school downtime,” because he was a fast finisher who longed to select his own books to read, as well as the pace at which he could read them.

His backpack was filled with games, books, handheld devices, crafts, and intriguing snacks.  Exquisite literary taste was evident in his selections:  A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle and Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins.  Favorite books included:

  • The Alchemyst by Michael Scott
  • Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
  • Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales
  • The Complete Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson
  • The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
  • Divergent by Veronica Roth
  • The Harry Potter Books by J.K. Rowling

He also enjoyed playing the game, Pandemic, but I didn’t want to think about disease outbreak strategies while traveling at 35,000 feet.

Toward the end of our flight, he offered me some “strangely addictive” SeaSnax,  and we marveled at how atmospheric pressure expanded the bag.  He briefly discussed how to land an airplane, but I confessed to having little flight simulator experience.  That said, I certainly learned more than a few in-flight tips!  Happy adventures to him and to everyone pursuing summer adventures. 


Rules of Summer


Fans of Shaun Tan books know how he challenges readers.  Rules of Summer is no exception. Tan's imagination, wit, and captivating illustrations make Rules of Summer a book to revisit again and again. 

Rules of Summer is a deceptively simple story about two boys, one older and one younger, and the kind of ‘rules’ that might govern any relationship between close friends or siblings. Rules that are often so strange or arbitrary, they seem impossible to understand from the outside. Yet through each exquisite illustration of this nearly wordless narrative, we can enjoy wandering around an emotional landscape that is oddly familiar to us all.”               


For more information on Shaun Tan's recent projects, please visit The Bird King


Mind-Blowing Math


Engage mathematical minds with the Guinness World Records Officially Amazing 2014 edition.  This book’s “augmented reality” allows readers to virtually meet record holders.  Download the free app to see 3D animations, videos, and other interactive features.  (In the image below, I’m getting a little too close to the largest carnivorous dinosaur.)


The book creates a spirit of inquiry and is a fun resource for developing math problems, strategies, and wacky ideas.                                                                                                                                                             


World Records
Guinness Records.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 65.2 KB

Assessing the Learning Environment

Teaching gifted and talented children requires a flexible and supportive learning environment filled with interesting and challenging material.  The following list of questions is designed to help teachers assess the effectiveness of the learning environment for gifted students.  These helpful questions (and many others) can be found in the book, How the Gifted Brain Learns (second edition) by David A. Sousa. 

  • Have you helped students become more aware of their learning styles?


  • Have you asked students what helps them learn effectively?


  • Do you model the process of talking about how we learn, rather than just what is learned?


  • Have you established an environment in which wrong answers are a productive opportunity for learning?


  • Do you actively encourage creative thinking by asking open-ended questions to which there are no single right answers?


  • Do you encourage students to question themselves, each other, and other adults in the classroom?


  • Are students involved in self-assessment?


  • Do you encourage students through challenging and interactive displays?


  • Have you developed a resource collection including web sites and in-school and out-of-school resource centers, and how do you know if the resources are being well used? 


Get Sneaky!

Summer is ripe for opportunities to exercise creativity and fun. 

With the clever book, Sneaky Art:  Crafty Surprises to Hide in Plain Sight, your child can create art projects that she can sneak into unsuspecting places for others to discover and enjoy! 

“Each project is meant to be displayed in a public place, for people you may or may not know,

in a made-you-look-twice spirit of fun.”

Reading a Garden


Children adore planting seeds and digging in the garden.  Gardening is also a wonderful way to promote interest in nature.  The following books offer "fresh air" inspiration for young children (ages 1 to 6).  Consider reading them in the garden for the happiest of learning environments. 


In My Flower, In My Pond, and In My Tree by Sara Gillingham and Lorena Siminovich



Little Seeds by Charles Ghigna, Illustrated by Ag Jatkowska



Two Little Gardeners

Written by Margaret Wise Brown and Edith Thacher Hurd, Illustrated by Gertrude Elliott



Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert
Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert
Eating the Alphabet:  Fruits and Vegetables from A to Z by Lois Ehlert
Eating the Alphabet: Fruits and Vegetables from A to Z by Lois Ehlert

Miss Jaster's Garden by N.M Bodecker



First Garden:  The White House Garden by Robbin Gourley



How Did That Get in my Lunchbox?  The Story of Food

by Chris Butterworth, Illustrated by Lucia Gaggiotti




"Once Upon a Summertime"


While you're making vacation memories this summer,

boost your child's imagination through reading. 

In addition to imparting a love of learning,

reading leads the way to your child's academic success. 


On Kindness


There's a reason why everyone likes this book.  More importantly, there's a reason why you'll like it too.  And, yes, it would make a great gift for upcoming graduates.  Granted, graduates may be tired of reading, but is there a better gift than kindness?

A Whimsical Visit to the Museum


Prepare young children for a trip to the art museum with the delightful book, Meet Me at the Art Museum by David Goldin.  Readers are treated to a tour of the museum's inner workings by "Stub" the ticket stub and "Daisy" the docent name tag.  "From the curator's office to the library to the conservator's studio to even the loading dock, Stub discovers who does what and what goes on behind the scenes at the art museum." 

This book helps young readers learn the purpose of an art museum and is sure to spark interest in visiting one.  Adults will be reminded  of the four "B's" of museum-going (with young children) which are paraphrased here

Filled with artworks from around the world, Meet Me at the Art Museum also includes a glossary of museum terms and a list of the artworks shown in the book.  

Related Posts: 

Art Museums:  How to Engage Young Children
How to Visit a Museum with Children



Poem Crazy


In honor of National Poetry Month, why not try writing a few poems?


If you're looking for inspiration, it is everywhere!  Need a few exercises to get your creativity flowing?  Try poemcrazy by Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge.  It's a delightful book that brings out the poet in all of us.  It's also a helpful resource for classroom lesson ideas.  I used it often as the advisor of an after school Poetry Club.  Young poets looked forward to the activities and learned creative ways to enrich their lives. 

"poemcrazy is becoming increasingly well-known on campuses both to teachers and students of writing and creativity. It’s been used as part of the core curriculum in places ranging from the Denver and Rhode Island Public Schools to Brown and Evergreen Universities, the Virginia Writing Project and the Guggenheim Museum Curriculum online."  Susan G. Wooldridge


April 2: International Children's Book Day


"Every other year the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) presents the

Hans Christian Andersen Awards to a living author and illustrator whose complete works have made

a lasting contribution to children's literature."


The 2014 winners are:

Nahoko Uehashi (from Japan) winner of the 2014 Hans Christian Andersen Author Award.

Roger Mello (from Brazil) winner of the 2014 Hans Christian Andersen Illustrator Award.



Challenge Your Gifted Reader


Some of My Best Friends are Books:  Guiding Gifted Readers from Preschool to High School

(Third Edition) by Judith Wynn Halsted, M.S.

Now in its third edition, this resource is helpful in selecting a variety of books for your child.  In addition to discussing the social and emotional needs of gifted/talented children, there is information about choosing books that challenge readers.  The annotated bibliography, organized by grade level, also includes recommended books from earlier editions. 

“Because gifted students often intensely identify with characters in books, it is important for them to read well-written books with complex characters and plots. When the characters in the books face some of the same issues and concerns that the gifted reader is facing, the child gains new insights into his or her own problems or worries, as well as potential ways of handling them . . . Well-selected books also can help gifted children learn new social and emotional skills, while at the same time fostering intellectual and creative development."
                                                                                                                                         Great Potential Press, Inc.

Happy Birthday Wilson Bentley

Wilson Bentley was born in the season of winter, and snow, specifically snowflakes, became his passion.  A self-educated farmer, from rural Jericho, Vermont, "Snowflake" Bentley became the first person to photograph a snowflake on glass plate in 1885. His innovative process involved capturing snowflakes on black velvet and photographing the image via a camera connected to a microscope.  During his lifetime, Bentley amassed over 5,000 snowflake photographs!   These images are so beautiful, his book Snow Crystals remains in print today!

Snowflake Bentley's Snow Crystals


You can also see his stunning photographs and photography equipment in Jericho, Vermont, home to the Snowflake Bentley Exhibit at the historic Chittenden Mills. 


Children enjoy reading his life story in the Caldecott Award winning book, Snowflake Bentley

Mary Azarian's woodcut illustrations take you back in time and capture Wilson's wonder and perseverance.   Needless to say, it's an inspiring read - even for those who dislike snow. 


If you live in the greater Baltimore/Washington D.C. region, you can see a few of Wilson Bentley's snowflake photographs AND Mary Azarian's artwork and woodblock tools at the exhibit, Beyond Words:  The Artistry of Illustrated Children's Books.

Rice Gallery (Peterson Hall)
McDaniel College
Westminster, Maryland
January 27-March 6, 2014

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday 9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.,
Thursday, 9:30 a.m. – 8 p.m.,
Saturday, noon – 5 p.m.

Wilson's Bentley's beautiful snowflakes
Wilson Bentley snowflakes



 Today, the American Library Association (ALA) announced the top books for children and young adults including the Caldecott, Coretta Scott King, Newbery and Printz awards!  Thank you ALA and this year's creative winners for making reading fun.


The winner of the 2014 John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children's literature is:

Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures written by Kate DiCamillo

The American Library Association also named four Newbery Honor Books:

  • Doll Bones by Holly Black
  • The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes
  • One Came Home by Amy Timberlake
  • Paperboy by Vince Vawter


The 2014 winner of the Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children is:

Locomotive  written and illustrated by Brian Floca

Three Caldecott Honor Books were also named:

  • Journey written and illustrated by Aaron Becker
  • Flora and the Flamingo written and illustrated by Molly Idle 


The 2014 Coretta Scott King (Author) Book Award recognizing an African American author and illustrator of outstanding books for children and young adults is:

P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia

Three Honor Books were also selected:

  • March: Book One by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, illustrated by Nate Powell
  • Darius & Twig by Walter Dean Myers
  • Words with Wings by Nikki Grimes


The 2014 winner of the Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Book Award is:
Knock Knock: My Dad's Dream for Me  illustrated by Bryan Collier and written by Daniel Beaty

One Illustrator Honor Book was selected:

Nelson Mandela illustrated and written by Kadir Nelson


Visit the American Library Association for a complete list of ALA's 2014 Youth Media Awards. 



Caldecott Contenders

Mr. Wuffles is the cat's meow!

Who doesn't love Mr. Wuffles!, the creative story of a curious house cat's encounter with alien visitors?
Written and illustrated by David Wiesner (three time Caldecott Medal winner/two time Honor winner) this "almost" wordless book is clever and engaging.  I appreciate how Wiesner challenges readers to decode the aliens' language. Best of all, it is a story that "deepens with each rereading."   

There are quite a few "wordless" books contending for this year's Caldecott Medal.  Who do you think will win the 2014 Medal for "the most distinguished American picture book for children?" The winner will be announced Monday, January 27th. 


Mr Wuffles!

Book Recommendations for "Smart Teenagers"


"I need book recommendations for a smart teenager!"  My friend's plea didn't mention the teenager's age, interests, or even a specific genre.  Did he want a book that was fun, perhaps an escape into the world of fantasy, or maybe he wanted recommendations that addressed issues of self-identity?  I don't know. 

Without much to go on, the classic writers came to mind such as Charles Dickens, Edgar Allen Poe, Jack London, Ralph Ellison, Ray Bradbury, Mark Twain, Arthur Conan Doyle, Jane Austen, Isaac Asimov, J.D. Salinger, Agatha Christie . . .

If you need book recommendations for "smart teenagers," there are many helpful sources including the Teen Librarian's Toolbox where it's "Sherlock Week!"  "When looking for books for teenagers, don't forget the classic writers."



Play is Productive




In addition to fostering creativity and learning, play makes a child's life more fun.  Since children are naturally playful, their imaginations soar within environments that allow them to play and experiment without needless restrictions.

We know that all work and no play makes. . . 



Julia Cameron has information and many helpful suggestions about the value of play in her book, The Artist's Way for Parents:  Raising Creative Children.  In fact, she argues that we never reach an age where play is not productive.  Yes!

A puzzle game we've been making time for is Perplexus (we have the original version) - a three dimensional maze game where players move a marble through a series of clever twisting barriers.  The game allows children to "exercise their motor and dexterity skills, as well as improve their hand-eye coordination." It also promotes concentration and persistence.


Contact Information

Debra Lemieux

If Then Creativity


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