Blog posts tagged with 'Bruce Lansky'

“Can You Solve the Mystery?” Free Giveaway!
The Case of the Furious Fire

A Two-Minute Mystery from the Can You Solve the Mystery? series created by Bruce Lansky

The Case of the Furious Fire

Click here for the answer!


© copyright 2013 from the Can You Solve the Mystery? series with permission of its publisher, Meadowbrook Press.

Place Names That Work Well as Names for People

by Bruce Lansky

Place names usually fit into three categories. The first category covers most place names: They probably wouldn’t work well for people. For example, Monongahela (the river in Pennsylvania), Sheboygan (the town in Wisconsin) and Georgetown (the neighborhood in Washington, D.C.) aren’t names you’re likely to hear in a kindergarten classroom. The first two names lack the romantic appeal of Paris, the charm of Siena, or the “trendy” image of Brooklyn. They’re also rather long and hard to spell. Georgetown is easy to spell and has appeal—it’s a cool, upscale neighborhood (and outstanding university)—but the suffix    (-town) makes it less appropriate as a name for people.

The second category contains place names that are often used for people—even though they still sound more like names for places. Brooklyn is one example and London is another. Both are gaining in popularity as baby names, though they may not seem as appropriate as, say, India or Georgia. Of course, perceptions can change over time. “Indiana Jones” is probably the reason Indiana is considered an acceptable name for people. Before the movie, few people thought of Indiana as a person’s name. For that reason, I think it’s in that mezzo-mezzo (or comme ci, comme ca) category—it might sound cool to some people, but not to others. Ditto for Boston and Denver.

That brings us to the third category, place names that seem to work easily and well for people. By that I mean, they’re quickly recognized as baby names and don’t cause most people to think, Are you talking about a city or a girl? They’re usually short and sweet and many of them (like Charlotte and Virginia) were names for people before they were place names. Here are some examples:

Names of Countries:
For Girls: India, China, Kenya For
Boys: Cuba, Chad

Names of States and Provinces:
For Girls: Alberta (Canada), Dakota (U.S.), Georgia (U.S.)

Names of Cities and Towns:
For Girls: Charlotte (North Carolina), Florence (Italy), Madison (Wisconsin), Savannah (Georgia), Siena (Italy), Sydney (Australia)
For Boys: (San) Diego (California), Frisco (Colorado), Reno (Nevada), Rio (Brazil)

Names of Bodies of Water:
For Girls: Bristol (Bay), (Lake) Louise
For Boys: Hudson (River and Bay), Nile (River), Rocky (Mountains)

Two observations:

  1. I think you can easily see the difference between the names in the third category (place names that work well for people) and the names in the first category (place names that don’t).
  2. I hope you can see that the names in the second category (place names commonly used for people that are kind of, sort of, pretty good for people) don’t work quite as well as the names in the third category.

I want to encourage you to think about the difference in suitability of place names for people—and what factors make them work (or not work). Does the place sound like a name for a child? Does it make a positive impression? Will it lead to teasing? Is it easy to spell and pronounce?

My son, a travel writer, was born in the U.S. and now lives in Sweden. When thinking of names that would make a positive impression in both countries for his three daughters, he selected place names that were easy to spell and pronounce, and familiar to people in both countries, and they’ve worked very well.

So if you’re thinking of picking up a globe, spinning it, and finding a city, state, country, body of water or group of mountains for your child’s name, keep in mind that most place names don’t make comfortable, charming, cool names for people. And clunky place names, like Turkey or Greece (even though you may love visiting those places) could turn out to be a bad trip for your baby.

© 2013 Bruce Lansky from Baby Names in the News

How to Write a Girls to the Rescue Story

Picture of The Best of Girls to the Rescue—Girls Save the Day

by Bruce Lansky

I came up with the idea of writing Girls to the Rescue stories because so many of Grimm's fairy tales portray girls as beautiful but helpless wimps. So, the main challenge in writing a story of this type is to create a story that showcases a main character who is clever, courageous (rather than witless and helpless). I'd like to suggest that you have your class read some Girls to the Rescue stories, so they'll be familiar with the unique stylistic requirements described below:

1. Main Character: Ask the students to think of ideas (brain storm) possible main characters for their stories. They can use:

  • famous fictional females (e.g., the further adventures of Maid Marion)
  • famous historical females (e.g., a particularly heroic incident in the life of Joan of Arc or Kate Shelley, a brave Iowa girl featured in ("Railroad Through and Through" in Girls to the Rescue #5 - Where There's Smoke There's Fire!)
  • girls from some other country or culture (from anywhere on earth or in the galaxy, for that matter)
  • someone they know (a friend or relative)
  • themselves (something real or fictional that they did or wish they could do)

2. Rescue: Ask the students to come up with ideas for who/what their main character will "rescue". Note that we use a very broad definition of rescue. (It doesn't have to be an action/adventure story. Read "Grandma Rosa's Bowl" in Girls to the Rescue #1 - The Royal Joust for a very emotional rescue.) For example:

  • Maid Marion could trick the Sheriff of Nottingham (as in Young Marion's Adventures in Sherwood Forest)
  • Kate Shelley crawled over a wrecked bridge to warn a train that the bridge was down.
  • A big sister could rescue a cat from a tree.
  • A popular student could help a shy student become accepted by the group.

3. The "Crux":

a) Because the heroine is not only courageous but smart, the rescue should be accomplished in some clever, surprising way. For example:

  • In "Sarah's Pickle Jar" (Girls to the Rescue #3 - Hidden Courage) Sarah used a pickle jar to win a court case for her father.
  • In "Lisa and the Lost Letter" (Girls to the Rescue #2 - Lion on the Prowl), Liza wanted to return a valuable letter to Princess Margaret, but had to figure out a way to get past the gatekeeper and the princess' secretary, both of whom wanted a bribe.
  • In "Carla and the Greedy Merchant" (Girls to the Rescue #1 - The Royal Joust), Carla had to come up with a way to trick a greedy merchant who had cheated her father out of his horse and wagon.
  • In "Temper, Temper" (Girls to the Rescue #4 - Fishing for Trouble), Franceska had to come up with a way to trick the crooked farmer who had taken advantage of her brothers and gotten them to work for nothing.
  • In "Kim's Surprise Witness" (Girls to the Rescue #2 - Lion on the Prowl), Kim proved that a greedy landlord had promised not to evict her family when her parents couldn't come up with the money to pay the rent--even though there was not human witness present.

Needless to say, if the main character is clever, then her "rescue" should contain an element of surprise to the reader.

b) However, some of the Girls to the Rescue stories feature courage beyond what anyone thought the main character could do. For example:

Suggest that your students read these stories so they can understand how important it is for Girls to the Rescue main characters to be clever and/or courageous.

4. Suspense: To build suspense, it's important that the main character not make the rescue quickly or easily--otherwise the rescue wouldn't demonstrate her brains and courage. Suggest that your students' main characters use the "rule of three" to build suspense. For example:in "For Love of Sunny" (Girls to the Rescue #1 - The Royal Joust) Princess Meghan has to do kill the giant troll, kill the dragon and then answer three difficult questions to prove herself to the mean queen.

5. Plot Outline: After selecting a main character and a clever or courageous rescue, ask your students to outline a story idea that shows what happens in the story. This is a good stage at which to test whether the key elements outlined above (an appropriate main character, an appropriate rescue, an appropriate crux) have been established.

6. First Draft: When the main elements have been included in the plot summary, your students are ready to write a first draft. Make sure they understand that you expect them to read this draft to friends and/or family for feedback before writing a final draft which takes advantage of constructive criticism they've received.

7. Publication: Here are some fun ways for your students to share their creative work:

  • Ask them to illustrate their stories (or find art or photos from various sources for that purpose. (No use discouraging kids who aren't confident of their artistic skills.)
  • Ask them to read their stories (or perform their stories as "readers' theatre") for a small group of students or for the entire class.
  • Invite parents or another classroom to enjoy the performances.
  • Donate the books your students have made to the school library, so others can enjoy them. (You might want to find an inexpensive way to "bind" the books so they last for more than a few readings.)
The Case of the Chocolate Snatcher - Goodreads Giveaway

We're running a book giveaway on Goodreads this week for Can You Solve the Mystery? #2 The Case of the Chocolate Snatcher! If you're a Goodreads member you can enter with the link below. If you're not a Goodreads member, be sure to check back for more upcoming giveaways!


Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Case of the Chocolate Snatcher by M. Masters

The Case of the Chocolate Snatcher

Giveaway ends October 23, 2013.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win
Can You Solve the Mystery? - Two-Minute Mystery

Here's a fun and quick Two-Minute Mystery kids will be sure to enjoy!

The Case of the Clever Marathon Cheat

Click here for the answer!


© copyright 2013 from the Can You Solve the Mystery? series with permission of its publisher, Meadowbrook Press.

Can You Solve the Mystery? - Goodreads Book Giveaway

We're running a book giveaway on Goodreads this month for the first title in the Can You Solve the Mystery? series! If you're a Goodreads member you can enter with the link below. If you're not a Goodreads member, be sure to check back for more upcoming giveaways!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Secret of the Long-Lost Cousin by M. Masters

The Secret of the Long-Lost Cousin

Giveaway ends October 24, 2013.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win
How Can You Get Kids More Excited About Poetry?

by Bruce Lansky

The single most important thing a teacher can do is teach his or her attitude. That is, if a teacher loves poetry or is excited about poetry, it is very likely that kids will pick this up. The main thing is to make the entire process of reading and writing poetry with students fun.

A teacher who loves poetry will:

1. Select poems that kids will enjoy--either to read and discuss or use as a model for writing.

2. Include poetry in the classroom every day or every week--with a daily or weekly poetry break.

3. Recite poetry to celebrate birthdays, holidays, and special occasions.

4. Have a wide range of poetry books in the classroom for kids to access.

5. Promote poetry projects such as:
-compiling a book of your students' favorite poems
-compiling a book of poems students have written
-inviting parents in for a poetry recital
-requiring students to recite poems for show and tell (e.g., if they didn't go anywhere fascinating for summer vacation, they can recite a poem about a trip or activity they wished they had taken).

6. Invite kids to perform poetry as duets or trios. (They can use the poems on in the Poetry Theater section.)

7. Invite any mothers, fathers, principals, or superintendents who visit your classroom to recite a poem.

If a teacher starts with a love for poetry and makes the process of reading and writing poetry fun, the ideas above are just a few ways to encourage students to love poetry, too.

Naming Siblings: 6 Ways to Come Up with Compatible Names

by Bruce Lansky

To name your first baby, your assignment is simple: Pick some names you and your spouse or partner both like, decide how well each will work for your child over his or her lifetime, then choose the best one.

When you name your second baby, however, there’s one more step: Consider how well that name “goes” with the name of your first child. Think ahead to a time when you’re discussing your children with a friend or calling your kids to dinner. Do the names sound as though they belong to kids in the same family? Names that “go together” create a sense of unity, and many parents of siblings seem to follow unifying strategies when naming their children. These strategies are especially common among parents of twins, but they easily extend to parents of children of all ages.

1) Use names that start with the same letter.

For many of the most popular pairs of names for twins (see list below), the paired names start with the same letter (like Hailey & Hannah, Jacob & Joshua, Madison & Matthew). In my own case, I gave my son and daughter names that begin with the same letter to help create a joint identity for them as siblings in our family—not that it did much to prevent sibling rivalry.

2) Use names that contain sound-alike elements.

Many people find rhyming names (like Jaden & Braden) off-putting. But giving siblings names that contain sound-alike elements can convey unity while promoting individuality. You can choose names that begin with the same sound (like Andrew & Anthony or Isaac & Isaiah). You can choose names that end with the same sound (like Gabriella & Isabella or Olivia & Sophia). Or you can choose names that share the same sound in different locations (like Emma & William). One more caveat: Avoid names that sound too similar (like Taylor & Tyler). They can have the same off-putting effect as rhyming names.

3) Use names with the same origin.

Jacob & Jessica have Hebrew origins and are important figures in the Old Testament. Kevin & Caitlin have Irish origins. Ramona & Carmen have Spanish origins. These names all pair well together because they share the same origins. Conversely, Jack, Mario, Gustave, and Jorge all have different origins. None of them seem to pair particularly well together.

4) Use names with a similar theme.

Faith & Hope are inspirational names. Ava & Sophia have famous movie-star namesakes. Other thematically paired names include: Harry & Hermione (Harry Potter characters), Jason & Juno (mythological characters), Lily & Holly (flowers), Sienna & Sydney (cities), Derek & Alex (New York Yankees), Edward & Bella (Twilight characters). Pairing names based on themes is lots of fun, but watch out: It’s easy to get carried away and wind up with silly pairs like Ben & Jerry, Bonnie & Clyde, Jack & Jill, Dick & Jane, or Bert & Ernie.

5) Use names with clear gender associations.

Janessa is a name clearly used for girls, but Jordan is used for both girls and boys. So, it can be awkward to be the sibling whose gender isn’t obvious to most people who hear the two names together. For that reason, it makes sense to give siblings names with clear gender associations. Examples of gender-shared names used more for girls than boys are Bailey, Taylor, Tracey, Harper, Whitney, and Jamie. Examples of gender-shared names used more for boys than girls are Corey, James, Colby, Mason, Terry, and Parker.

6) Use names that are of the same vintage.

George, Walter, Ethel, and Dorothy were all popular in the first half of the twentieth century, so they don’t go well with contemporary names like Logan, Tyler, Madison, and Lindsay.

These naming strategies contribute to the style or “vibe” of names. While using them isn’t mandatory by any means, stylistic differences among siblings’ names may raise questions or call unwanted attention to those whose names don’t fit the unifying style.

For example, imagine a family whose children’s names are Kevin, Brian, Katie… and Ichabod. For his entire life, Ichabod—and his parents—may have to explain why his name isn’t Irish like his siblings’ names. Is this a debilitating situation? Probably not. But it may be an annoying one, especially if Ichabod doesn’t enjoy being singled out.

To start thinking about names that share a style, check out the following lists of the most popular names for twins.

Twin Girls
Gabriella, Isabella
Faith, Hope
Mackenzie, Madison
Hailey, Hannah
Olivia, Sophia
Ava, Emma
Megan, Morgan
Makayla, Makenzie
Natalie, Nicole
Abigail, Emily

Twin Boys
Jacob, Joshua
Daniel, David
Isaac, Isaiah
Landon, Logan
Ethan, Evan
Alexander, Benjamin
Caleb, Joshua
Jayden, Jordan
Elijah, Isaiah
Alexander, Nicholas

Twin Girl & Boy
Taylor, Tyler
Madison, Matthew
Emily, Ethan
Madison, Mason
Emma, Ethan
Natalie, Nathan
Zoe, Zachary
Sophia, Samuel
Emma, Jacob
Emma, William

For Bruce's latest musings on names and naming check out his blog, Baby Names in the News.

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