Graphic Novels About Growing Up

Graphic novels are so hot right now. When I was growing up, I only remember reading Maus, a story about mice in World War 2. But now graphic novels about growing up are all the rage.

Graphic Novels We Have Loved

My oldest first read a graphic novel version of The Red Pyramid, then dove into a graphic novel version of A Wrinkle in Time. Then we both loved Roller Girl and El Deafo. After that, both boys plowed through all four Reina Telgmeier books: Smile, Sisters, Drama, and Ghosts. For Christmas, my oldest got the first book in the Amulet series. He said it was scary, but wants to read the rest of the seven book series. We also read American Born Chinese, but I think a lot of the elements of that book were over the head of my middle son.

Reading Reina’s books helped my fourth grade identify which kids in his class thought it was ok to make fun of gay people. I love that the majority of the graphic novels they have read have female protagonists. And in some cases, the books don’t tell incredibly grand stories. Instead they highlight the everyday challenges of growing up.

Now I am no illustrator, but for fun I’ve decided to create an graphic novel of my sixth grade year.

I’m aiming for six pages that highlight six things from sixth grade. I know many of my memories aren’t going to be positive, because sixth grade was a tough year.

I don’t have a catchy title yet, so for now I’m calling it 6th. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s honest.

6th

A graphic novel about sixth grade.

(Remember, illustration is NOT my forte.)

graphic novels

Friendships are hard in sixth grade.

 

graphic novels

So is fashion.

 

If you had to pick one year to make a graphic novel about from your life, what would it be?

Reading Newbery Award Books

So I’m going to try and read as many Newbery Award books as possible this year! What is the Newbery? It is an award given to children’s literature by the American Library Association. Here’s the blurb from the website:

“The Newbery Medal was named for eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.”

The website also has a list of books that have won, but it’s a pdf and not very handy for online use and checking things off.

After a bit of searching, I found a Buzzfeed quiz (of course) that allows you to see how many winners you’ve read. I’ve read a paltry 16 out of 93. That makes me feel so unread. On the plus side, though, I’ve read a fair share of Honors books, so that’s a good point in my favor.

17% of Newbery Award Books

Only 17% of Newbery Award Books

It looks like I’ll turn to Goodreads to ‘collect them all.’ There’s a good list there that shares both winners and honor books, dates of publication, and records for me when I’ve read something so I don’t have to worry about duplication.

On a side note, I’ll be working hard to only get these books from only the library and not buying them. If I must, I’ll try and buy them from used book dealers if I can’t get them from the library. If I’m going to read a lot of books then I might as well do it on a budget.

Right now, my favorite Newbery Award Book might be When You Reach Me (Yearling Newbery). It’s based on Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time (Time Quintet). Who knows what new favorite I will discover as I read through this huge list?

How many Newbery Award books have you read?

Tomboys or Sissies: Which do you want?

boys sculpture tomboys

My boys view Miro’s sculpture “The Caress of a Bird” described as a “totem of female sexuality.”

“I’m pretty sure my daughter will be a tomboy,” my friend, father of a nine-month old girl, proudly announced. I automatically smiled, because I think my friends would describe me as more tomboy than girly-girl. My sons are often surprised when I wear a dress. Because girly-girls wear dresses, right?

But then I started thinking about my three boys – and how the male equivalent of the word “tomboy” is not nearly as kind. If I said to another parent, “I’m pretty sure one of my boys will be a sissy!” I doubt they’d smile and congratulate me.

Books for Tomboys? Or Sporty Kids?

Recently I received an email from Kara Thom, the author of Hot (Sweaty) Mamas: Five Secrets to Life as a Fit Mom announcing her new book series Go! Go! Sports Girls! The series really interested and excited me, but it also made me wonder what comparable series would be written for boys.

To be fair, Thom does state the series is for children – not just girls. And my boys willingly read books about boys and girls, so they’d probably love the books about soccer, swimming and running, three sports they really love. Here’s what Go! Go! Sports Girls! is about, according to Thom:

The 32-page illustrated books explore social-emotional growth through sport in engaging stories that empower children to “Dream Big and Go For It!” The titles are:

Soccer Girl Cassie’s Story: Teamwork is the Goal
Swimmer Girl Suzi’s Story: Winning Strokes
Runner Girl Ella’s Story: Family Fun Run
Gymnastics Girl Maya’s Story: Becoming Brave
Dancer Girl M.C.’s Story: One Step at a Time
Cheerleader Girl Roxy’s Story: Leading the Way

This project has been a passion for me as I raise three young athletic daughters, but also because I’m part of a movement to give girls better choices. Girls need more than the stereotypical options packaged in pink, as well as options other than over-sexualized toys such as Bratz, Monster High, and their ilk.

Go! Go! Sports Girls are age-appropriate, proportioned to a real girl’s body, project a positive image, and deliver a healthy message. The Go! Go! Sports Girls better reflect our family’s lifestyle and values. Girls play sports and so should their dolls. My daughters McKenna, Kendall, and Jocelyn have grown up playing with Go! Go! Sports Girls, and still do. I might add that my son, Blake, who has no concept that his mom is the author, is a fan of the books as well.

To be clear, I completely agree with Thom’s goal of motivating and inspiring young girls in a different way than lots of popular media representations of girls. But what about my boys? How can I encourage them to follow their interests and passions if those interests aren’t typical “boy” activities? And how come we don’t have a cool word for boys who act like girls? It’s so unfair that girls can be cool tomboys but boys acting like girls is labeled an insult.

I’ve been trying to come up with examples of behaviors that are frequently seen as feminine that I’d want my boys to feel free to adopt in a world without gender stereotypes. Maybe being more empathetic? I wasn’t sure that what I thought was feminine was feminine, by social standards. I found this on Planned Parenthood:

WORDS COMMONLY USED TO DESCRIBE FEMININITY
dependent
emotional
passive
sensitive
quiet
graceful
innocent
weak
flirtatious
nurturing
self-critical
soft
sexually submissive
accepting

I wasn’t really thrilled when I read some of the items on the list. Because I’m certainly not graceful or quiet. But I would totally love it if my boys learned to be quiet sometimes! Maybe that would be one of the books in my series about boys exploring new behaviors: Little Tommy Learns Not to Scream Every Word! I could get behind a book for boys focusing on that. But I’m not really thrilled about a lot of those qualities on the list. And I think that’s why lots of parents are proud of having ‘tomboys.’ But they wouldn’t love it if their boys were described as weak or passive.

To be fair, Planned Parenthood didn’t make that list to say how women should behave. They follow the lists with this:

“Clearly, society’s categories for what is masculine and feminine are unrealistic. They may not capture how we truly feel, how we behave, or how we define ourselves. All men have some so-called feminine traits, and all women have some so-called masculine traits. And we may show different traits at different times. Our cultures teach women and men to be the opposite of each other in many ways. The truth is that we are more alike than different.”

What could we write?

But I’m really serious in my question here! I’m all for tomboys and girly-girls doing what they love most. And I love that these books for girls are about social-emotional growth through sports (traditionally and still a heavily male arena) because sports and physical strength are a key part of my happiness.

What series of books could we write about boys embracing traditionally female activities for social emotional growth?

Homework for Writers

Writer's Digest magazines

Great info for writers

There are many excellent books, blogs and conferences available to writers. One resource I find particularly helpful, especially in my fiction writing, is Writer’s Digest magazine. My writing partner recently gave me a hefty stack of back issues bulging with funny articles, useful tips and excellent revision guidance, not to mention the lists of agents just waiting for that next best-seller to land on their desk!

In order to gain what knowledge I could from each issue, I have embarked on a self-directed learning course. I read an issue in one sitting, take notes, and publish the notes on my blog. This helps me because I can refer back to my notes if I’m looking for something specific. This helps you because you can get a quick overview of each issue and decide if you want to research a topic deeper. If you read a post and want more info, just let me know! I can either send you the issue or send you the complete article.

Homework for Writers Links

Here are the issues I’ve already covered:

September 2010 – The Big 10 Issue

September 2011 – Best Selling Secrets

October 2011 – Get Your Agent

Classroom Workshops featuring The Bumpy, Grumpy Road

DSCN0311I love visiting schools and sharing The Bumpy, Grumpy Road with kids. They all understand exactly the challenges that the main character Dylan faces – siblings who borrow their toys, sibling who don’t listen. And they all struggle with how to handle those challenges.

I recently spoke with a parent who shared that she wants to give her children good advice on handling the rough patches in life but isn’t sure how to tell them in words they can understand.

The Bumpy, Grumpy Road shows kids that life’s challenges are better handled with positive words and calm feelings. My classroom workshops give them a chance to tell their own story of challenges and solutions.

Does your child struggle with grumpiness or frustration? Is your child’s classroom looking for a great program to discuss the tough times kids face and how to handle them? I’m happy to visit and share The Bumpy, Grumpy Road and simple activities to encourage positive behavior! 

 

Grumpy Kid? Angry Kid? You’re Not Alone

I’m a mom of a grumpy kid. Like other moms, I was looking for ways to help my grumpy kid not be so grumpy. In the search for a way to help understand that he could choose to be grumpy or choose to be happy during his days, I told him a little story.

What started as a story just for my son Dylan turned into the children’s book The Bumpy Grumpy Road. And now other moms are telling me it’s helping their grumpy kids, too.

After I wrote it and read it to Dylan, I mentioned the story to a few close friends. They shared it with their kids and told me the idea helped them, too. So, I wrote an essay about our family’s struggle and slow road to success and sent it to one of my favorite magazines,Family Fun It was a delight to learn they also enjoyed the story and published it in their April 2012 issue.

Not long after the issue came out, I received notes from other moms who said reading my essay felt like they were reading about their own families. I received emails, Facebook messages, even a handwritten note from a mom!  It was a relief  for all of us to know we’re not alone, and that’s something I try to remind my own children – they are never alone when they feel sad, angry or frustrated. We’re always there to help them find their way back to the smooth, fast road.

“Steering Clear of Grumpiness” (page 1)
“Steering Clear of Grumpiness” (page 2)

Grumpy Kids? Not these Kindergarteners!

This post originally appeared in June 2012. 

Kindergarten Thank You Notes

At the end of May, I read The Bumpy, Grumpy Road to two kindergarten classes here in Pittsburgh. At first they laughed with delight when they saw Dylan, a little boy, driving a car. They were impressed! But then Dylan started to use grumpy words. In each of the classes, a child called out, “The sky is getting darker!” They were worried for Dylan. One girl even shook her head when Dylan shouted at his brothers.

I continued reading and we got to the page where Dylan sees the first sign. In each of the classes again, a child called out “That stop sign says “Sorry!” They watched with relief and amazement as the sky brightened and the road got smoother with every good choice Dylan made. At the end, they were beaming and laughing again.

Those children traveled the bumpy road with Dylan and sped down the smooth one with him when he learned that he can choose his words and attitude.

I love the fact that not only did I get to share my book with two wonderful classrooms, but that one class of children decided to make their own books! These thank you notes are actually small booklets complete with author’s names and a few pages inside with words and illustrations! Is there a future writer in this class? Possibly!

These thank you notes are the first I received from children, but I hope not the last. Of course the best thank you came from Dylan the night I read him the story, and he cried and said “That’s me, Mommy. Sometimes I am on the bumpy road and don’t know how to get off.” I’ll never forget that moment and hopefully the children who heard this story will remember they, too, can choose which road to drive!

Review for “The Bumpy, Grumpy Road”

Is there anything nicer than a great review from a expert in the field of dealing with emotions? 

I’m lucky enough to be part of an amazing group of women as a contributor to  30 Second Mom. I found many other moms running their own businesses, writing books and dealing with grumpy kids! Dr. Christina Hibbert, a psychologist focusing on women’s health, postpartum health, and parenting issues. Her post on handling whining really hit home with me.  She was kind enough to review a copy of The Bumpy, Grumpy Road and sent me her thoughts:

The Bumpy, Grumpy Road is an adorable book that will help children of all ages learn to navigate feelings of anger, frustration, sibling rivalry, and plain old grumpiness. It not only entertains, it teaches practical skills children can apply to help them overcome their “big feelings” and find their way back to the “smooth path” of sharing, caring, and feeling happy again. I will read the book to my younger kids. I particularly loved your “signs”–what a great way to teach kids how to stop and change their behavior. A really great idea!”

Thanks Dr. Hibbert!

 

Best Children’s Books

I would say the best children’s books are the ones that keep kids reading. As an author of children’s books, I’m always looking for ways to learn what my children and other children love about books to help me write better books.

Lots of character, no plot

Lots of character, no plot

But what makes some books better than others? And what do children value in books that adults overlook? Is it the magical illustrations? Gripping true-life tales? Otherworldly or down-to-earth story lines? I know a lot about what makes my three boys tick, but I needed insight into other children…and girls. I needed a focus group.

So I worked with the director of our local KinderCare and created their first-ever Summer Book Club! I’m a volunteer, totally unpaid, but like most volunteer experiences, I expect I’ll get a ton out of my weekly commitment. I get share my love of books and reading and I also hope to learn more about what little ones love in books. This will help me, as an author, create books that other children will adore.

Our director sent home a note inviting kids ages 5-7 to join the Book Club, and for our first meeting we had 10 members! (Yes, that includes two of my own kids.) But I recently learned we have 2 more kids who will be there next week!

I put together a schedule featuring two books a week. Our wonderful center director ordered journals and fun pencils for the Book Club attendees. After we read the books and discuss them, I’ll make a suggested assignment for the kids to do on their own. There are no grades, no requirements, it’s just a sort of writing prompt for them to complete if they want. We had our first meeting this past Thursday and read two of my personal favorites: Wild About Books by Judy Sierra and The Crocodile Blues by Colemon Polhaus.

This children loved The Crocodile Blues because there are no words and I asked them to tell us what they think was happening in the story. Some answers were serious and scary while others were just silly but regardless, the children were totally engaged. As we read each book, I’m not only watching how the children react and listening to what they say, but I’m analyzing the word choice of the authors, thinking about how they stayed focused on their storyline, trying to study the construction of each sentence. I’m using this as a writing boot-camp.

I can’t wait to see the results of their first writing prompts, if there are any. But I do hope at least one Book Clubber puts pen to paper. I have this feeling their writing will inspire and enrich my own.

I’m not bringing The Bumpy, Grumpy Road to Book Club, but we will be discussing emotions at the end of July when we read Where the Wild Things Are. Writing and storytelling are time-tested and effective ways to deal with difficult emotions. I hope the children choose to write their own stories to help them handle strong feelings, just like the story I wrote for my son Dylan.

If you have a favorite book from your childhood that you would’ve put on our Book Club list, share it here!

Your Kids Are Watching

Do your kids copy you?

They want to be like you!

Of course they do!

I was reminded of how much my children copy my behavior and choices this summer when I trained for triathlons. I usually run every day, but suddenly I was biking and swimming twice a week. And then my children started riding their bikes more, every sunny day. When we went to the pool, my children were eager to swim. My seven year old learned to go underwater and leapt off the diving board! My five year old, who last year could not be bribed to dip even his toes in, was practicing putting his face in the water!

It was great that they copied my triathlon training because we were all active and having fun. Good times.

But kids also copy how we act when we’re angry and frustrated.

Do you shout? Are you rude to the people you love? Do you refuse to calm down and carry a grudge for hours? Days?

Maybe you need help getting off that bumpy road, too. I did. When’s the last time you took a look at the signs and followed them off the bumpy, grumpy road?