Saturday Photo Prompt | Can you hear me now? Good.

jmspp_logoLook at the picture below and write a 100 word story. It really is that simple.

If you care to share, either post a link to your story in the comments, or post the whole story.

I can’t wait to see what you write!

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Friday 5 | Click-worthy Links

Wireless Computer Mouse with Wheel

Here are 5 more places online worth checking out:

  1. If you’ve ever wondered how world travelers make money to travel the world, here are 42 answers for you.
  2. In case you missed it amid the release of the Jurassic World trailer, scientists are actually considering bringing extinct species back to life. The future is now.
  3. We have it so good with our public library systems. Some kids only have a guy on a camel. Seriously.
  4. Looking for a belated Christmas gift for your creative youngster? Check out Budsies, a company that creates plush toys based on the pictures drawn by your kids. The upside is that they are cool. The downside is that we are way to close to Christmas in order to get them made in time.
  5. What would my link page be without something fantasy-related? Thus, have some behind-the-scenes photos from the Harry Potter film series.


What does Mary Had a Little Lamb have to do with Thanksgiving?

So what does the popular children’s rhyme, “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, have to do with Thanksgiving Day? The answer is Sarah Josepha Hale.

Sarah_Hale_portraitSo who was Sarah? She was a teacher, a writer, an editor (though she preferred the term “editress”), and the person most responsible for persuading Abe Lincoln to declare Thanksgiving to be a nationally recognized holiday.

As a writer, she found overnight success with her novel, Northwood: Life North and South, published in 1827. As such, Hale was one of the first successful American female authors, and the first to write about slavery in a novel. With the popularity of her novel, Hale was tapped by Reverend John Blake to be the editor for his journal, Ladies’ Magazine, from 1828 to 1836. In 1830, she published a collection of poetry for children, including “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, originally titled “Mary’s Lamb”.

In 1937, the owner of Godey’s Lady’s Book, Louis Antoine Godey, wanted Hale for its editor so he bought the Ladies’ Magazine and merged it with his own. As Godey’s had no significant competitors, Hale exercised considerable influence as the arbiter of style, fashions, even architecture. She remained editor of Godey’s until she was nearly 90 years old.

Around 1846, Sarah Josepha Hale began advocating for Thanksgiving to be a national holiday. At the time, Thanksgiving was celebrated primarily in New England, though states differed in when it was scheduled, and it was virtually unknown in the South. Hale petitioned five Presidents of the United States over 17 years before her pleas fell on Lincoln’s ears.

So in 1863, Lincoln supported legislation that made Thanksgiving a national holiday. It was considered a day of unification after the Civil War. And it was only the third national holiday to be recognized.

Thanks for joining me for this bit of historical fun. Now get back out there and eat some turkey! Happy (American) Thanksgiving!

On the Origins of Eleven & Twelve

1172271_94041011A while back, I explored the origins of first, second, and third place due to the fact that they are so different from one, two, and three (unlike fourth place and the number four which are pretty obviously connected). At the end of that post, I teased that we were soon going to delve into the mysterious origins of the numbers eleven and twelve.

Well, better late than never!

So, why do we say eleven instead of one-teen, or twelve instead of twelve-teen? Where did eleven and twelve even come from in the first place?

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the word “eleven” is from 12th-century Old English “enleofan” which translates literally to “one left over”. Likewise, “twelve” translates to “two left over”. And that makes sense, given that ten is the number that most people can count to using their fingers. If you get all the way up to ten and you still have one thing left, then you have eleven. Two left? Twelve.

Simple as that.

Then why don’t we continue with “threlve” for thirteen? Maybe there were never three things left over. Who knows? But I kind of like the word “threlve” so I’m going to start using it anyway. After all, that’s the real way that words come into being. Just by using them, regardless of whether they make sense or not.

An Open Letter to Potential Children’s Book Writers


Dear writer,

Good choice on deciding to write for kids! The written word can be a powerful influence in a child’s life. That’s why it is your responsibility to do it well.

Some people think that because kids books are short, often illustrated, and easy-to-read that they must be simple to write. I hope that you don’t think that this is true. If you do, you will probably find the truth to be uncomfortable.

The good news is there are some resources out there to help you on your journey. No one can walk it for you or write the book that lives inside of you, but there are some places online that can point you along the road to success. Whatever point you are at in your book-writing endeavor, take a look at the links below. Maybe you’ll find some answers to questions that you didn’t even know to ask.

  • Who Publishes Children’s Books? This link is simply a list of publishers that have (at one time or another) published books for kids. This list doesn’t seem to be super up-to-date though, so you may be better off going to a library and browsing the children’s book section to see which books catch your eye. If you see something similar to your book project, open the cover and write down the name of the publisher. Most publishers have submission guidelines on their websites.
  • How Do I Submit My Book for Publication? Once you are ready to submit a proposal (and this will need thorough research on its own), this link has some good advice for what to do and what not to do when sending things in to a publisher.
  • What Are Some Common Misconceptions about Writing Children’s Books? This link is just a good overview of some common myths about children’s books and the truths that combat them. Don’t let it discourage you. Let it make your writing better.

If you get a chance and are serious about getting your stories published, it is always a good idea to attend a writers’ conference or two and start rubbing elbows with other writers and publishers. The book business (like most businesses, I suppose) is largely driven  by relationships. It always helps to know the right people, though this will only get you a foot in the door. In order to get something published, it always comes down to the writing.

So get out there and write something great! You can do it.

I am Not from the Deep South

My brother, his wife, and their two boys (who are comparably aged to our girls) are in town for the Thanksgiving holidays. Yesterday, we decided to get our families together at Catch Air, an indoor playground for the 4 foot tall and under crowd.

catch_airThe kids had a sweaty good time running around and sliding down the inflatable equipment, but that doesn’t have anything to do with the title.

You see, the whole drive over to Catch Air, I kept needing to correct my youngest daughter.

“We’re going to go see our husbands?” she would ask.

“No,” I would say. “We’re going to see your cousins.”

“Husbands?” she would reiterate.

“Cousins,” I would say. “We don’t marry our cousins. Some people do, but not us.”

My apologies to anyone I may have offended with this post.

But seriously, there’s a lot of people in the world to whom you are not related. Maybe you should have married one of them.

Friday 5 | Click-worthy Links

Wireless Computer Mouse with Wheel

Here are 5 more places online worth checking out:

  1. Do you ever wish you could play Rock, Paper, Scissors against a computer that learns how you play? Wish granted!
  2. What if trash was useful? Once upon a time, it was. Imagine building a house out of empty beer bottles.
  3. Awesome flipbooks. That is all.
  4. Here’s a cool old story about a guy who made a deathbed confession about playing a stolen Stradivarius violin for 50 years.
  5. First there was the hoverboard. Now science has done it again! Back the Future fans rejoice. The auto-lacing sneaker is here!


Reading Time at Baker Book House

A week ago, I was asked to step in for the Children’s Reading Time that happens at 10:30 every Thursday morning at Baker Book House. Miss Penelope (everyone’s favorite story-time friend) was out-of-town, so I volunteered. I set reminders for myself so I wouldn’t miss it, but I didn’t even need them because I was too excited to forget. I picked out five books to read, all of them fantastic.

These were the books that I chose:


Circle, Square, Moose by Kelly Bingham and Paul O. Zelinsky


Waiting Is Not Easy! by Mo Willems


Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed by Mo Willems


King Arthur’s Very Great Grandson by Kenneth Kraegel

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and How to Be a Baby… by Me, the Big Sister by Sally Lloyd-Jones

If you haven’t read these, you should. They are all genius.

But back to story-time. I walked out with my books and a blanket (to put the train table to sleep so the kids listen to the stories instead of playing with the trains), my chest puffed out with anticipation. And what did I find?

1 kid.

Just one child and mom team showed up to hear me read. We waited for a few minutes, but it was soon clear that no one else was coming. It was the first day of snow and people were scared to leave home.

So I read King Arthur’s Very Great Grandson and Waiting Is Not Easy! Then I asked the boy if he would like me to read another one or if he’d like to play with the train table. You already know which one he chose.

I was sad, but I moved on. I went home and read stories to my kids. We don’t have a train table at home, so they had nothing better to distract them.

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Out of curiosity, would any of my readers be interested in something like a story-time live-stream where you could be part of Baker’s story-time while sitting at home with your kids?

10 things to do that aren’t shoveling the driveway.


If you live where it snows, you have my condolences. Pretty much all of the schools in the area were closed yesterday due to the amount of heavy snow that we got. And while I understand the value of going to work and earning a living, when the prerequisite for driving to work is shoveling many inches of snow off your driveway (just so you can avoid getting stuck in the yet-to-be-cleared road), actually showing up to your job seems a bit less important.

So here are some things you can do instead:

  1. Make hot cocoa. The good kind. The kind where you heat milk and real chocolate on the stove. Maybe add some mint and blow your mind with deliciousness. And don’t skimp on marshmallows. Do it right.
  2. Color a picture. Coloring is fun. Sometimes people forget about it, but I’m a huge fan of coloring.
  3. Read all of my blog posts. Every last one of them. Seriously, that would help me out a lot.
  4. Make a movie. With just about every phone and kitchen appliance having some kind of camera now, you might as well shoot a family movie. Who knows, you could upload it to YouTube and make millions of dollars or something.
  5. Write a letter. I’m quite fond of the letter “M”.
  6. Write a team story. This is where you start a story and someone else writes a line and passes it on. I’ve been doing this with my kids lately and they love it.
  7. Reminisce about life before there was a foot of snow (or more) on your driveway. How sweet life used to be.
  8. Clean your bathroom. Seriously. Have you seen the toilet lately? Gross.
  9. Read a book. A nice long one.
  10. Bake something. Apple crisp, cookies, some cinnamon rolls. Not only are these things tasty, but the oven will help heat your house. Nice bonus!
  11. Get your buns in some snow pants and shovel the driveway. What? I only said there were 10 things that weren’t shoveling the driveway. This is the 11th thing.

Sometimes, you can’t avoid responsibility. So maybe you should stop procrastinating and get out there.

And when you are done with yours, please come do mine.