You are now entering the world of my thoughts.

This blog is my diary of works in progress. The only way a writer can improve upon her skill is to practice, practice and practice some more. Here, in this place of quiet peace, I pen to paper my thoughts and creativity. Welcome to my world.

Copyright © 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 SN Taylor, All Rights Reserved

Friday, March 30, 2012

Perfect Picture Book Friday: In My Flower


Title: In My Flower
Author: Sara Gillingham
Illustrator: Lorena Siminovich

Publisher: Chronicle Books; Board book edition (December 30, 2009)
Suitable for age: 1 - 4
Opening
In my flower, I scatter pollen with my wings.

Brief Synopsis: Turn the colorful die-cut pages of this irresistible board book to discover just what makes little butterfly's flower so cozy. Bright pictures, sweet reassuring messages, unique layered pages, and an adorable finger puppet combine to create interactive reading and playtime fun!


Resources and Activity Ideas:
There are so many things you can do to expand on the ideas of this book. You can study butterflies and flowers. I used it during our week learning about spring and gardening.  Observe flowers bloom, watch butterflies in your garden (if you don't have a garden, visit a butterfly garden/observatory), butterfly life cycle, and raise your own butterfly. Learn about butterfly rearing here.  Here, here and here are some flower and butterfly coloring pages as well. Here are some cute butterfly craft ideas. Butterfly hand prints are fun and easy. DLTK has a bunch of fun flower and butterfly related crafts and art activities that I have tried out in my classroom with much success and I work with one year olds! :D


What I like about this book:


 My toddlers love this book especially when I stick my fingers in the butterfly puppet and make it fly. This book was added to our spring curriculum as we talked about flowers and things associated with flowers. The last page reinforces family as the butterfly is seen with her family. The thick pages are great for young hands just learning how to turn pages (and teething). It is colorful and simple to read, which is great because it will quickly become a favorite and you will have to read it over and over and over again! :D

Kick Butt Character Winners!


The winners of the Kick Butt Character blog hop are;

Kristen @ Blood Sweat and Books - winner of Arctic Drift

and

Sweety - international winner of the Amazon gift card.

Congratulations to you both!!!!! :) 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Choose Your Own Adventure: Nod and flee

Welcome to Choose Your Own Adventure
IF you are just starting please click on the link here to start at the beginnng of the story :) Enjoy!


You nod and flee the instant its back is turned

The dragon's penetrating eyes glare at you as it pulls you closer. Your feet brush against the top of its lips. A plume of smoke nearly chokes the life out of you. Your eyes sting and begin to water. You gulp and nod your head. You don't dare breathe or cough for fear the dragon will swallow you whole. The dragon drops you to your feet.

“Wise choice," it says licking, its lips. "Get on, the master is out right now. You can retrieve the relic from his dojo."

You take timid steps onto the dragon's back.

"How can I hear it," you think to yourself. "Am I 'tele....'

The dragon turns to look at you. A sinister curl in his lip.

"You are not telepathic," it says.

Before you can respond, it leaps from the ground and you are airborne and soaring above clouds. The rush of wind blinds you. It is not long before you feel an abrupt jolt and thump.

"Get off," the dragon demands. You fall off as it jerks its body. You see sensei's dojo up ahead. You dare not smile for fear the dragon would understand your plan.

"Where is the relic," you ask not looking at the dragon.

"He keeps it inside his study. Now go!"

You run up the last flight of stairs. You burst through the doors and shut them close. You look around, pounding on the walls.

"Where is it," you think. "Where is the hidden panel that leads to the secret escape tunnel to the forest behind the dojo."

"Human!!" the dragon shrieks.

You panic. It knows. You scramble to find the panel. You hit a back wall and it shifts. You push it open with all your might. You stumble into the dark and the door shuts behind you. You feel your way to the end of the tunnel. When you emerge, you are in a clearing surrounded by thick brush and old trees. You take a deep breath and nearly choke with laughter. You start to take off when suddenly the ground underneath you shakes violently, throwing you off your feet. You  roll over onto your back to catch your breath. Staring down at you, the dragon screeches at you. Its razor teeth comes inches from tearing you apart.

"Vile creature," it spits, then snatches you up and takes flight.

The dragon takes you to its lair. You pass by a shimmering curtain of mist protecting a deep cavern. Beyond the mist you see four large eggs. The dragon mournfully looks at the eggs.

"As long as I am imprisoned by sensei, I can not get to my young ones. They will hatch soon but have no hope of survival if I can't enter the protected cave.”

A tear rolls down the dragon's face before it glares down at you. You feel bad for the dragon. You are placed in a dark dungeon. Maybe you should have helped the dragon after all. In the warm dank cell, your feet are chained to a wall. As you think of a way to escape, you hear distant chains rattle. The sounds get closer. Out of the pitch blackness you hear a voice.

"Did you give it to her?" it asks.

You are startled. "Sensei?" You feel his hands grip your shoulder. You flinch.

"Did you give it to her?" he asks again more sternly.

"Give who what?" you answer.

"Did you give the dragon the relic?"

You shake your head then remember it is dark.

"No," you say out loud. "I never looked. I tried to escape through the woods but the dragon caught me. After all I have learned, I should have helped."

In the dark, your hands stay busy.

"She? The dragon is a she?" you ask.

You don't wait for an answer, you are just buying time. You are angry that your master would keep a mother from her children. Sensei had always taught you to respect others including animals. And here he was, committing a serious offense. You accusingly ask him questions about the relic and why the dragon was kept from her eggs. Clink. Your feet are free. You make a run for it.

"Wait," your sensei calls after you. "Help me. Set me free, and I will tell you everything. The dragon is not what she appears to be."

You pause. You are conflicted. You want to return to the dojo and find the relic to free the mother dragon so she can reunite with her eggs before they hatch. But you also want to know the mystery of the dragon and the relic.

Do You: Abandon sensei to help the dragon?
Do you: Free sensei and find out more about the mysterious dragon and relic?
Start over

Choose Your Own Adventure: Run out of the Japanese Tea Garden


You run out of the Japanese Tea Garden and take cover at the Bison Pavilion
You watch the large beast flap away then collapse flat on your back. You count to ten before getting up and making your way out of the Japanese Tea Garden toward the Bison Pavilion. There is a security guard station there where you can report the dragon. You start running then stop. 

Are you out of your mind? Who in their right mind would believe you? Dragons in San Francisco. Yeah, that will get you thrown in the looney bin faster than you can say....... before you can complete your thought, the ground shakes again. Oh no, you think, it is the dragon again. 

You duck behind a tree and scan the sky but don't see anything. You step out from behind the tree then all of a sudden six dragons drop to the ground surrounding you. Their chest rising and falling and their snouts puffing like a chimney. The smoke swirled around you, you can feel the heat of their breath burning your skin underneath your clothes. A low, trembling grumble sounds deep in their throats. These beast were mad. Fire raged in their eyes.

"Is this the human," you hear one growl. 

You turn in circles trying to locate the beast who was talking. Two massive beasts separate to allow another beast through. Well what do you know, it's the little dragon. On his back is a little girl who managed to talk the big dragons out of beating up the little dragon and accept him as he is. You give a weak chuckle. 

"He, he, hey," you say, How's it going?" You try to smile but your lips press to a grimace.

The dragon narrows his eyes at you and frowns.

"Yeth," he says looking up at the biggest of the dragons, 'Heeth, the one. Heeth the mean humanth who abandoneth me to my demeyeth. I athked for help and he juth ran away. He wath going to let you rip me aparth. Heeth juth rude and unfrienthly." 

The dragons roar.
"No one can be mean to our little dragon brother and gets away with it," the dragons bellow and begins stomping the ground around you. You fall to your knees. This is the end. You are going to die.

"Please don't eat me," you cry out. "I was afraid, I didn't know what else to do?" You are trembling, your face in your hands.

"Good heavens we aren't going to eat you," one of the big dragons says rolling his eyes.

"We don't eat meat," another says.

"Yeah, especially a scrawny pint like you," another dragon says flicking you onto your back with his claw.

"No, we have something special for you," the biggest dragon says with a sneer.

The dragons circle you, laughing and puffing smoke on you.

"The next time someone comes to you asking for help, you better think twice before running away," they taunt before flying off, leaving you hanging from the flag pole by your underwear just as the high school bell rings.
The End

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Monday, March 26, 2012

Book Review: The Silent Sea Clive Cussler

The Silent Sea (The Oregon Files, #7)The Silent Sea by Clive Cussler

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


The story starts off with five brothers making a discovery, a discovery that leaves one dead and the older three brothers shamed by their family. In the present, Juan Cabrillo, the chairman of a private corporation that does military operations and recons for the CIA/government as well as they hire themselves out as security for the insanely rich. Juan and his men of the Oregon, are sent on a secret mission into Argentina to recover a downed satellite that landed within Argentine border. They discover an old blimp that went missing many years back and decide to explore it before pressing on. After losing one of their own, Juan makes the decision to find the last remaining Ronish brother to deliver a message he found on the blimp. That meeting ends horribly with the Argentines hot on their tails. Juan and his crew discover that the Argentines are in Antarctica and have built a massive base there. And then there is the Chinese government who has an interest in the downed blimp, the Argentine presence in Antarctica AND the Ronish brothers discovery, a discovery that could change history as we know it.

The Silent Sea was a very interesting read. Mr. Cussler did a great job keeping me in the dark about what the Ronish brothers found and how it tied into the devastating world affairs that panned out in the story. He also opened my eyes to some very cunning and deceitful actions that governments can or may do to keep secrets and world affairs straight and out of the public's eye. Yikes!

As with all his books, The Silent Sea is packed with action. I think that is one of the main reasons I his books. I like constant action and entertainment. Even when the action was low, there was a lot of fun banter between the mc and his crew. There is a lot of gun fights and shooting in this book. I'm pretty sure it is the same in his other books but for some reason, it seemed like a LOT of shoot outs and dead bodies. I always get real tense when important people (or people close to the mc) die in stories. I wonder how things will turn out. *Spoiler Alert* When the last surviving Ronish brother is killed by the Argentine force who are looking for answers to a major mystery, I kind of lost hope that Juan Cabrillo would put all the puzzle pieces together. I have to say though, I just loved Cabrillo. He was a well-balanced character. He reminded me of a veteran GI Joe that is humble enough not to turn me off with his arrogant I can survive/do/defeat any and everything/one but cocky enough to show everyone who's the boss and command respect.

Cussler's heros always seem to survive and save the day at end of the story so when it got to the second to the last page and Juan was "dead" I was shocked and a little sad. But then I find out he did survive and how he managed to survive the "big fallout" and then I was a bit under-whelmed by the good news. I guess I wanted to "see" his escape. I mean, if a hero is going to beat the odds, I should at least see how he does it. :D But in all, it was a great read. I'm on to my next Cussler book, Spartan Gold. A Fargo Adventure. I love the Fargos :D



View all my reviews

Spring Cleaning Book Giveaway Winners!


Yay! I am happy to announce the winners of the Spring Cleaning Book Giveaway! There are three winners in all :D

Sara Kovach - Classified as Murder

Marybelle - Mr. Monk on the Road

Valerie - The Hunger Games

Congratulations ladies! I hope you love the books just as much as I do :)
Will contact you all soon via email.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Perfect Picture Book Friday: Going to Mecca by Na'ima B Robert








Title: Going to Mecca

Author: Na'ima B Robert

Illustrator: Valentina Cavallini

Publisher: Frances Lincoln 


Suitable for ages: 5 and up

Opening:
"Come with the pilgrims 
As they set out on a journey,
A journey of patience
To the city of Mecca..."

Synopsis:

We are led on the journey of a lifetime to the city of Mecca - the pilgrimage known to Muslims as the Hajj. The pilgrims walk with heads bare and feet in sandals; they call to Allah; they kiss or point to the Black Stone, as the Prophet did. Arriving at Mecca, they surge round the Ka'aba, shave their heads and travel to Mount Arafat. Finally, though their bodies are tired and aching, their spirits are uplifted, knowing that with thousands of others they have performed the sacred pilgrimage.

This is a window on to a sacred journey for Muslims the world over - beautifully described and illustrated for younger children.

Resources:

Hajj Activity Bank  Find a variety of ideas arranged by curriculum subjects.


Do the Hajj count Down  A variety of fun activities that relate to hajj.



Coloring pages here and here


What I like about this book:

I have not read too many books geared for children, especially for Muslim children, about Hajj that I really like. Most are boring with stiff text and the illustrations are unattractive. I was greatly relieved when I came by Na'ima Robert's book. Going to Mecca is a wonderful children's book that teaches little ones about the rites and rituals of Hajj. Na'ima Robert's lyrical prose invites the reader (parents and children alike) on a journey right along side the pilgrims on the page. I love the collage/textured feel of the illustrations. They are simple yet fun and child-centered. The illustrations bring alive the basic but important information in the text. This book can be a wonderful resource and introduction to learning about Hajj in both Muslim and non-Muslim classroom settings. It is especially ideal to include in multicultural curriculum. There is a glossary at the end of the book that explains important arabic words in the book. I highly recommend this book for every home and classroom.



Friday, March 23, 2012

Kick-Butt Characters- Giveaway!


Yay for another blog hop giveaway! This hop is hosted by Good Choice Reading and I Am a Reader, Not a Writer. Up for grabs is one of my Clive Cussler books. He is a wonderful author and all of his characters (MC) are awesome! Or, a Five Dollar Amazon Gift Card.

Rules:
Must be a blog follower
Must be 18 or over
Must reside in the US if you choose the book prize.






As always, this is a blog hop so please hop on and discover some other awesome books and giveaways!






Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Coming Soon! A Choose Your Own Adventure Tale!


Coming Soon!!!

It is time for another "Choose Your Own Adventure" and yours truly will be participating again. I had so much fun last year add to the fun tale that I just HAD to join in the mystery and adventure. If you like dragons, adventure and mystery, you are going to love this adventure we are putting together for you! :D 

Looking forward to sharing our tale with you all. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spring Cleaning Giveaway Hop!


Yay!! I have not participated in a blog hop in a looong time!!! So here it is "Spring Cleaning" time and boy do I have a lot to clean out! Thanks to Kathy over at "Spring Cleaning" Giveaway Hop for this wonderful idea :D What better and fun way to clean off the bookshelf than to giveaway unused/unread books. I love my books, don't get me wrong, but if I am running out of space or all the new ones coming in and I need to find loving homes for the older less used books. I hate to see them collecting dust and all. :(

So here it is. The rule is simple, all you have to do is leave a comment below with the book you would like, a way for me to contact you and a promise to give my babies a good home. That's it! Easy-peasy!  

The Hunger Games Suzanne Collins
Polaris Jack McDevitt
Classified as Murder Miranda James
Catch Me If You Dare & Gotcha L.D Alan
Mr. Monk On The Road Lee Goldberg

As always, this is a hop! So be sure to check out the blogs below for some more exciting finds! :D

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Book Review: Wonderstruck Brian Selznick

Wonder Struck by Brian Selznick

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Wonderstruk was a good read, not as good as The Invention of Hugo Cabret, but still a wonderful read. It is actually two stories that eventually converge into one. One story about a girl name Rose which is told in pictures and the other story is about a boy name Ben told in text.

Rose is a girl searching to find her place in a society her family is thinks is too dangerous for a girl with her condition. But Rose is determined not to let a disability rob her of living out her dreams.

Ben lives with his aunt and uncle after the passing his of mother. When he loses his hearing after being struck by lightning, he leaves his family in search of the father he never knew he had. His search takes him to New York where he meets a boy who teaches him how to sign. Ben struggles in the busy city and disappointment after disappointment leaves him exhausted and defeated. But his struggles are not for nothing, he finds not only friendship but the family he did not know he had. I gave this story three stars because while the two stories converged nicely in the end, I found the pictorial story of Rose distracting at first. And I missed seeing the illustrations for Ben and his story at the beginning. Brian Selznick is an amazing illustrator so I would have loved to see more illos of Ben's struggle in his hometown and then in the city. But I would still recommend this book to anyone who enjoys light reading with a sort of happy ending! :)



View all my reviews

Friday, March 16, 2012

Perfect Picture Book Friday: Miss Nelson is Missing! by Harry Allard


Title: Miss Nelson is Missing!

Author: Harry Allard

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company, September 9, 1977

Suitable for: 4 and up

Themes/Topics: Respect, School Behavior, Humor

Opening:
The kids in Room 207 were misbehaving again. Spitballs stuck to the ceiling. Paper planes whizzed through the air. They were the worst-behaved class in the whole school.
 Brief synopsis:

Miss Nelson is the nicest teacher in the school. But her naughty, misbehaving students of Room 207 don’t care. They are rude, don’t listen, make faces and just plan goof off in the classroom. That is, until the day Miss Nelson does not come to class one day. A substitute comes in and immediately things change. She is mean and does not let the kids be themselves.

Links to resources:

There are quite a few resources to go with this book I think parents and teacher will find very useful. Activities and Craft ideas can be found here, here and here.
  
Why I like this book:

This book is a classic in my heart!! I was at the library and passed by it and nearly died! Oh the memories!!! :D This was one of my favorites to read growing up. I thought Miss Nelson was very clever in getting her kids to behave properly in class! I love that the point of the story, the message or the moral is clear but not overbearing. Children will love this story and understand the importance of good behavior in class and respect for their teachers. :D

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Author Interview + Book Giveaway: I Love My Hijab by Fatimah Ashaela Moore Ibrahim

Happy Thursday, everyone! Today I would like to introduce a good author friend and illustrator, Fatimah Ashaela Moore Ibrahim.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Fatimah Ashaela Moore Ibrahim and I am a writer and illustrator living in Houston. I went to Boston University and majored in Advertising because it was creative. I was always into writing and doing all kinds of art. After school, I was offered a position as an Animator. After a couple of years, I decided to do Art freelance so that I could use my talents on projects that could benefit the ummah. I began a company called Aakifah, where I began designing Islamic designs for t-shirts. I began illustrating for Creative Education and Publishing about a year ago??(I think!) and illustrated a number of books before saying to myself,,,,"you used to be a pretty good writer back in school....why don't you combine both talents?" And that is how I Love My Hijab was born!
What do you consider yourself first and foremost, an author or an illustrator? 
I honestly have to say both!!!! I was into both heavily in high school (winning competitions in both!) ...but then focused on the art side more in college and beyond because I was able to make money doing it. Writing I Love My Hijab has just allowed my love of writing and art to come full circle.
What were your earliest memories of writing?
LOL! I used to write and illustrate books as early as 4th grade....I even remember writing one where a girl who had a beautiful horse had an accident and had to take medicine....my family got a kick out of that one!
What was your favorite children’s book growing up?
Wow...good question.....I loved books that had awesome illustrations. As a younger child, I loved books by Richard Scarry---awesome detailed drawings (I think that is how you spell his last name,,,I will check on that)...and as I got older, I had TONS of young adult novels that I would read...some of my favorites were Little Women and The Gift Of Magic...(I can get authors for you for these!)
Were you encouraged to write or was it something that came natural?
My mother was an absolute rock star of seeing things that I showed interest in and finding ways for me to express and develop those talents. Growing up, all I wanted to do was go either to the book store or the art store.....that was my candy store right there!!! She also found competitions for me to get involved in as well.
What inspired you to write "I Love My Hijab"?
I Love My Hijab is actually based on the true story of my daughter's experience of wearing the Hijab to public school for the first time. There was real apprehension, and we talked about everything, and made dua about everything too. Without giving anything away, some of the imagery from the story is from me seeing her wearing the hijab, and also how it makes me feel as well.
Tell us a little bit about your story?
I Love My Hijab is about a young girls first day wearing the hijab to a public school after her parents convert to Islam. She has real worries about how she will be accepted, and if she will be treated differently. In it, she learns about faith, change, and confidence.
What was the road to publishing "I Love My Hijab" like for you?
It was absolutely fantastic. Alameddine Kaddoura, who is the CEO of Education and Publishing Inc was wonderful in working with me. I had already been working with him as an illustrator, and when I approached him about writing a book, he just told me to submit it and we could go from there. Alhamdulilah, he liked the story. Writing and illustrating it was truly a dream come true, as well as post production and working with Br. Kaddoura and Sr. Azra Momin who did the book's layout. They were awesome!
What do you hope children and adults will take away from your book?
I hope that this story will warm the hearts of Muslims and non Muslims alike. The themes are things everyone goes through....learning to deal with change and finding confidence in different situations. I hope Muslims will find a story that will make them love Islam even more, and that non Muslims will find a story where they learn about Islam and have an appreciation for it.
How can your book be used in the classroom?
Absolutely! It is an awesome teaching tool to use for children. Kids deal with these issues all of the time....wearing braces for the first time....or glasses,,,,anything that might make them different. I think it is important to show kids that change can be a positive thing.
What do you feel is the most challenging obstacle in the publishing industry?
I would have to say the advertising of your book. I have been working hard to create a presence on Facebook as well as do book fairs/signings/readings at local schools, contacting magazines, and trying to get my book into bookstores. It takes a lot of time and dedication, but it can be done.
What has been your most rewarding experience since being published?
Oh, that would have to be receiving my copies in the mail......there is no feeling like it. It is one thing to see the book on the computer screen as you work on it.....but when you see it in book form,,,,,it is amazing.
What do you do when you’re not writing or promoting your books?
I am taking care of my family. I have two children and one on the way:) It is challenging trying to balance it all, but I just keep everything in prayer and take one thing at a time. Having the support of my awesome family is important too.
Are you working on a new book?
Yes!!!!!! I Love My Hijab is the first book in a series of 5 (The name of my series is "True Heart Series") the next four books are already laid out on paper....and will hopefully be following soon, InshaAllah!
What advice would you give parents on selecting the right books for their children to read?
Get books that deal with real issues....This way, they will see the way other kids deal with situations. Get books that interest them as well! They will be more likely to start a habit of reading rather than getting bored.
  
What advice would you like give to new writers who wish to follow in your publishing footsteps?
Write from the heart. Draw on your experiences. Those are the stories that will really touch others.

    Thank you so much for joining us today Fatimah and sharing your publishing journey with us.
And thank you SOOO much for having me!!!! I am truly honored and hope you all love the book as much as I do!

Member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators