RSS

Blogs

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.)
"Budding Author"

Picture of The Children's Busy Book

A creative activity by Trish Kuffner

What you'll need:

Paper stapled together with a construction paper cover OR a small notebook with blank pages OR an inexpensive scrapbook OR a three-ring binder with plastic page protectors OR a hand-bound volume

Directions:

Let your child write a story along the bottom of each page and illustrate it with drawings, photos, or cut-out pictures.

© copyright Trish Kuffner from The Children's Busy Book with permission of its publisher Meadowbrook Press.

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.

Q&A: What To Do When You Have Trouble Conceiving

Picture of Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn

by Penny Simkin, PT; et al.

Q: If my partner and I have trouble conceiving, what can we do?

A: Difficulty conceiving a child can be frustrating. Visit our web site, http://www.pcnguide.com, for ways you can improve your health before conceiving and ways to enhance fertility. If you’ve been trying for more than a year, you may want to consult an infertility expert who can look for possible complications with ovulation or a low sperm count. If a problem is discovered, you may choose to use assisted reproductive technology (ART). To learn more about ART, visit http://www.cdc.gov/ART or http://www.marchofdimes.com/pregnancy/thinking-about-fertility-treatment.aspx.

Excerpted from: Pregnancy, Childbirth and the Newborn: The Complete Guide, Fourth Edition

© copyright 2010 by Parent Trust for Washington Children with permission from its publisher Meadowbrook Press.

Save 10% Off Your Order!

 code10

To celebrate the relaunch of our website, we are offering 10% off your entire order! Free shipping on orders over $25.

Please enter "code10" at checkout to take advantage of this deal.

Leaf Place Mats from The Playdate Busy Book

Picture of The Playdate Busy Book

by Lisa Hanson and Heather Kempskie

Autumn leaves will make beautiful place settings!

What You'll Need

On a pleasant autumn day, playmates can gather a variety of fallen leaves. When inside, cut paper grocery bags into eight-inch-by-eleven-inch rectangles for toddlers, preschoolers, and school-age children. Children can then glue leaves onto these homemade place mats or lightly paint a leaf and press the imprint onto their paper rectangles. When the finished place mats are dry, cover them with clear contact paper and trim the excess.

Babies

As older children make the place mats, make each baby a bib from the same materials. Cut a bib shape from a paper bag. Show the babies some brightly colored leaves and describe their colors: “This leaf is yellow; this leaf is orange.” See if they coo or reach for their favorites. Glue the leaves to the bibs, cover each bib with contact paper, and use ribbon and a hole punch to secure the bib around a baby’s neck. (Babies should wear the bib only under your close supervision.)

Toddler

Toddlers may enjoy gluing leaves onto the grocery bag with your help, but they may have an easier time creating their place mats if you skip the bag altogether. Instead, tape an eight-inch-by-eleven-inch sheet of clear contact paper sticky side up to the table and encourage them to stick the leaves directly to it. During this process, however, toddlers may discover that the dried leaves will often crumble if they try to pull them off the contact paper or if they press them on too roughly. If this happens, talk about the cause and effect—make sure they have lots of leaves! When they’re done, cover their work with another sheet of contact paper.

Preschoolers

At this age, preschoolers have the dexterity to paint one side of a leaf and press it onto their place mat. Encourage them to use different colors of paint and different shapes of leaves to create a design.

School-Age Children

For an added art challenge, encourage school-age children to incorporate the leaf imprints into a drawing on their place mats. For instance, they can turn an imprint of a maple leaf into butterfly wings or an imprint of an oak leaf into the flames from a rocket. 

Leaf Place Mats

© copyright 2013 by Lisa Hanson & Heather Kempskie from The Playdate Busy Book 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 GigglePoetry.com 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.

Signup to receive
news, specials & more!