Happy Anniversary to Amy’s Choice! It’s been just over a year now since Amy’s Choice was released. It’s fitting that the sequel to Call Me Amy was published in November since the final chapter takes place on Thanksgiving day. And what better location to spend a cozy holiday than in a little fishing village on the coast of Maine. The first snowflakes are falling as guests arrive with pumpkin pie, cornbread, and a bag of still-warm roasted chestnuts.
Here’s an excerpt from Amy’s Choice:
Thanksgiving day dawned bright and chilly. Smells of turkey and turnip wafted through the house all morning. Mom was in her element, bustling about the kitchen in her holiday apron. I made little name cards shaped like turkeys to put at each place setting. And then I stuffed dates with walnuts and rolled them in white powdered sugar. In a special long dish that had belonged to my grandmother, I put celery sticks with black olives nestled in the hollows. I was excited, though nervous, too. Would everything go all right? Would everyone get along okay?
Later in the story, Amy teaches her guests how to make turkey apples for table decorations. For further instructions, please click on the Recipes & Crafts tab in the menu.
Not only did my own children, along with nieces and nephews, enjoy making turkey apples each Thanksgiving, but we also had holiday stories to pull out and revisit every year. Without a doubt, one of our favorites was the humorous Thanksgiving at the Tappletons’.
For years I made the usual sweet potato casserole—orange and covered in marshmallows. But ever since switching to yellow-fleshed sweet potatoes, I’ve lost all interest in the orange variety. I also try to stick with healthier recipes that work for guests on special diets. Marshmallows not only don’t work for vegetarians, but they’re loaded with corn syrup, so who needs them? Instead, try this delicious easy dish.
Last year’s Thanksgiving post included the origins of the song: “Over the River and Through the Wood.” You can revisit that blog post here.
Does your family have any Thanksgiving traditions?
To those of you in the states, have a wonderful, peaceful Thanksgiving. And to all of my readers, near and far, please know I am grateful for all of you. Without readers, there would be no reason to blog and I’ve got to admit it’s become a fun habit. Thanks!
Once upon a time, when I first started out writing for children, it was picture books I wanted to create. I wrote numerous manuscripts, polished them, and sent them out to publishers. But for many of us authors, 32-page picture books can be an even harder sale than novels.
Picture books may look easy to write, but not only does every single word have to be perfect, nowadays these word-counts are getting shorter and shorter.
Quite a few publishers limit their picture book submissions to less than 500 words. 500 words!
And with so many wonderful picture books already on the market (often they don’t become dated as quickly as children’s novels) the competition is steep.
I’m not a wordy writer (my novels are usually under 40,000 words), and my picture book manuscripts used to come out to around 1200 words.
In the same way I feel there should be a Tween age group in between Middle Grade—or Juvenile, for you librarians :) —and Young Adult, I also feel we should bring back picture story books.
Yes, kids may be ready to move on to early chapter books at a young age, but nothing beats cuddling up on the couch while a special adult reads a picture story book that lasts longer than a few minutes. Wouldn’t you rather read one or two in-depth stories to your kids than ten quickies with funny punch-lines over and over?
There are plenty of families out there still reading to their school-aged children and I would think we’d want to inspire this activity rather than risk pushing children through reading levels too fast. Sure, kids have shorter attention spans due to fast-paced media and parents may have less time to read to their kids, when attached to their own electronic devices, but do we really want to encourage this further?
Many 3rd and 4th grade teachers love to read picture books to their students (and the kids love them, too!). Teachers often have to resort to books with older publication dates since so many of the newer books are aimed at the preschool set.
With picture story books, you’ll find the language more sophisticated and the sentence structures more complex than in early chapter books which are for kids to read themselves. It’s good for new readers to have books with simple language while they’re learning, but why not keep them interested in picture books at the same time?
Of course there’s definitely a need for concept books and very short picture books, too, and there are some amazingly popular ones being released every day—Mo Willems comes to mind.
Hopefully these simple, yet never slight books will be read over and over, with readers slowing down enough to take in the beautiful artwork flashing past.
I’m learning to get with the current picture book trends, to chop my word counts, but still…I love my copies of the classics shown throughout this post (and I’m thrilled to have most of them signed!).
What about you? Do you have a favorite picture book that might be a little longer than today’s standards? Or maybe you prefer shorter? As for me, I like both and I’m hoping there will soon be room in the market for longer picture books again.
Word Counts for the books shown in this post are below.
A Baby Sister for Frances—1358 words. Published in 1964.
Farmer Palmer’s Wagon Ride—1809 words. Published in 1974.
Strega Nona—1245 words. Published in 1975.
Miss Rumphius—1243 words. Published in 1982.
The Polar Express—1054 words. Published in 1985.
Oma and Bobo—1091 words. Published in 1987.
Chrysanthemum—1141 words. Published in 1991.
The Girl in the Golden Bower—2829 words. Published in 1994.
Library Lion—1378 words. Published in 2006.
Since we’ve got our last supermoon of the year going on, it got me to thinking about how many great songs include the moon in their lyrics. A supermoon is a new or full moon which occurs with the moon at or near its closest approach to Earth in a given orbit (which makes it look extra big). Today’s particular supermoon is also known as the Hunter’s Moon, because it’s the first full moon after the Harvest Moon we had back in September.
Here are a few of my favorite songs about moons. Click on the album covers to watch original live versions of each song. (Except for the first sheet music picture which leads to a remarkable recording from 1909).
“Shine On, Harvest Moon” –click to listen!
“Moon River” written by Henry Mancini and made famous by Audrey Hepburn  and South African singer Danny Williams, also in 1961. Later, American singer Andy Williams recorded a popular version of the song that you can hear here.
“Fly Me to the Moon” made famous by Frank Sinatra 
“Moondance” by Van Morrison 
“Moon Shadow” by Cat Stevens 
“Dancing in the Moonlight” by King Harvest 
“Harvest Moon” by Neil Young  <3 this video!
I also like “Shoot the Moon” by Norah Jones, but I couldn’t find a good live recording. What about you? Got a favorite moon song?
Be sure to look up in the sky tonight to find your own full moon!
Here in New England we’re having a glorious autumn filled with crisp vivid colors. Since a picture’s worth a thousand words, I’ll let these photographs write the post.