The Tyrant's Daughter

The Tyrant’s Daughter:

A Global Perspective

The following is a review of J. C. Carleson’s The Tyrant’s Daughter, a remarkable new novel that blends personal and political aspects into a spellbinding story.

Here is a unique, compelling narrative that exposes what an immigrant thinks and feels and wants. Laila is the precocious 15-year-old daughter of the ruler an Arab Spring country, whether despot or benign ruler we don’t know. What we do know is that Laila, once a member of a royal family, now lives in the Washington DC suburbs with her mother and brother. Her father is dead and the family has run for its life. Through Laila’s eyes we see the struggles of a young woman of a different race and culture plopped down into a typical American suburb and typical American high school. And we glimpse sideways the politics of a war-torn country from whence she comes. Her six-year-old brother, Bastien, still dreams of becoming king one day. Her mother believes she can find a way to return to her former position as Queen.

The writer skillfully uses the minor issues and conflicts of school and family life to lead us ultimately into tribal tensions, global politics, and Machiavellian plot twists. The shadow side of America’s treatment of immigrants is vividly and graphically “outed” in this well-paced story. Don’t miss the postscript essay by Cheryl Benard, Ph.D., on “Truth in Fiction: A Commentary.” More than just a flight of fancy, this novel provides a window into serious geo-politics, women’s rights, and immigration policies. Strong story-telling, keen insights into intercultural relational dynamics, and very believable characters make The Tyrant’s Daughter a must-read for anyone who cares about modern racial and cultural conflicts.

Featured Library of the Month: Fort Garry Library

Featured Library of the Month

Fort Garry Library

Every writer has an ingrained love of books.

Most can remember which story hooked them, drew them in, and branded them a reader for life. Many writers also have someone integral to their writing journey. Often it is a parent, grandparent, or best friend who was an avid reader who introduced them to the world of make-believe. For writers, libraries are our second homes. Libraries provide easy and free entry to new worlds, adventures, and new friends both similar and dissimilar to us. As a child, that gateway to lands unknown was a two minute walk from my front door–30 seconds if you raced your brother to ensure you snagged the best reading nook.

The Fort Garry Public Library was my “home library” and it was my sanctuary. My brother and I would spend several week nights hunkered down amongst the stacks, or up in the loft with piles of books, and hours of time before us.

The Fort Garry Library emerged from humble beginnings.

In 1945, thanks to a generous collection of donated books, it found space in the Fort Garry Community Club. By 1956 the collection had grown and was moved to a rent-free room in the Municipal Hall. Within four years the library again required more room and in 1960 the current library was built. It was a brown and orange, flat, cubic shape with an open floor plan; a mid-century Modern masterpiece. This is the library of my childhood.

Much has changed over the past 50 years and the library needed to keep pace with the changing needs of its readers.  After an extensive six-month-long renovation, the library reopened and I had the pleasure of speaking with Anne Edwardsson, Fort Garry’s infamous Assistant Branch Head, about the recent improvements.

Anne has been with the Winnipeg Public Library since 1981, shifting back and forth between city branches, always adding her flair for drama and excitement to entice children to read, and drawing heavily on her theatre background. Since 2000, Anne has called Fort Garry home and has visited countless schools, encouraging kids to join the library’s summer reading program. She is wildly successful as she has no qualms dressing up to fit the reading theme of the year. Whether costumed as a spy in trench coat, fedora, and briefcase, or a unitard-wearing super hero with lightning bolt emblazoned flowing cape, she lights students’ imaginations on fire!

It is people like Anne who make libraries come alive for burgeoning readers.

The biggest change to the library’s physical appearance is in the children’s area. Gone are the computers, long desks, and librarian station. In its place is a world of interaction and creativity in a space that encourages families to stay longer and learn more. Now the community room has doubled in size and a Literacy Play Centre has been installed, with interchangeable play boards that meet the needs of children of all ages. For the staff it was a huge improvement as it frees up time to specialize, work more effectively, and directs all inquiries to a central hub.

The library of the future includes not only the current and changing collection of paper books, but the “unseen collection” of eBooks, magazines, databases of consumer report materials, and Tumble Books. Now entire magazine subscriptions can be downloaded through Zinio, and movies and TV shows through Hoopla. All you need is a library card!

“The Library is not a museum, or an archival institution. We are not fixed in the past. We need to update our materials and change with our readers.”  – Anne Edwardsson.

And they’re not done yet! Still to come are further updates to the loft to include a “bring your own device” (BYOD) counter and lounge space for teens to come study, work on projects, or merely hang out. The library has a long-established Youth Advisory Committee (YAC) and with membership, teens can earn volunteer credits towards high school graduation. The YAC has been given the green light to fully design the annex under the loft stairs as they see fit. Exciting times, indeed.

Fort Garry Library continues to grow beyond its brick and mortar walls into our community, our schools, and our festivals, to engage children in reading and enrich their experiences before they enter the front doors.

What will be the next brain child of Anne and her team at Fort Garry? Will it be an art, photography, or short story writing contest? Possibly.  Will there be another “I Spy” contest in the display case? Likely. Will Anne be in costume? Most definitely.

Come on down to Fort Garry and share in the wonders that await you, or find them online. You can also check the library’s online newsletter.

You don’t have to live in Fort Garry, Winnipeg, or even Manitoba to join in the Fort Garry Library’s summer reading program! It’s available Canada-wide and sponsored by TD Canada Trust.

And remember, peeps, an hour with a book is never an hour wasted.

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Featured Young Writer of the Month: Why Do Kids Care About our Planet?

Each month at Little Pickle Press, we invite young writers to share a part of their world with us. As we celebrate and love our planet this April, we’ve invited an 8th grade student to share with us about why kids should care about our planet. Please help welcome young writer Sarah Marjorie as she shares this passion with our readers. 

By Sarah Marjorie

Why do kids care about our planet? We care because it’s our future. The planet Earth is our home. It supplies us with the water we drink, the air we breathe, and the nutrients that are necessary for us to survive. At my school, which is a three-year middle school, we spend each year focused on one part of the Earth. In sixth grade, we studied the global water crisis and raised money to build a well. In seventh grade, we studied land and how it is changing. This year, in eighth grade, we studied the air and atmosphere around us. Just yesterday, I finished my final project, an iBook about global warming. Every student that attends this school comes to care about the Earth in his/her own way.

Adolescents care about our world because we want to change it. Everyone dreams of it, from toddlers to teens. We want to make a difference for the better. Whether our impact is on one person’s world or an entire nation, kids care about the Earth because it is our home and we hold the power amend, modify, and redesign it the way we want. We need to live here and future generations do, too, but we’re responsible for taking care of it to live naturally and in harmony with nature.

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With all the talk of global warming and climate change, kids feel like the Earth is theirs to take care of, and it is. We are the Earth’s future, and if we don’t take care of it, everything we know and love could possibly be effected. Due to the fact that kids care about the planet, we have the power to change it and use our knowledge and technology to keep it safe. We know this and that’s why we care about the Earth.

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Earth Day isn’t the only day when the world can and should celebrate the planet we all share. We believe that Earth Day Every Day should be a way of life. With 5 days of fun and educational activities designed for grades K-2, this booklet will assist you in helping your students understand the cycles of life and how we must all be protectors of the Earth, water, and sky . . . because we are all connected. And if we take care of our environment, we can all live healthier, happier lives. 

  • Monday: Water
  • Tuesday: Fire
  • Wednesday: Earth
  • Thursday: Air
  • Friday: Spirit of Life

Don’t forget to download our Earth Day booklet to use with your children!

photopin cc NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center via photopin cc

5th Birthday Photo Contest

Who Will Win Our 5th Birthday Photo Contest?

A picture is worth a thousand words, and it could be worth one of five $50 LPP gift certificates! We want to see how you make Little Pickle a part of your life. Post a picture of your kiddo enjoying an LPP title to our Facebook or Instagram pages (tagged with #LPPBDay), and you’ll be entered in our 5th Birthday Photo Contest. The contest ends on April 30th, so get those cameras ready.

Not sure how to spend that $50? How about on something for your older kids? We’re growing with our readers, and we have two chapter books and one middle-grade novel to prove it. Visit littlepicklepress.com today to see our entire award-winning line.

Andean Naturals

Featured B Corp of the Month: Andean Naturals

Andean Naturals

Little Pickle Press is proud of its continued certification as a B Corp. Not only does it tell the world about our commitment to environmental responsibility, it also makes us part of a growing community of small but mighty businesses that are dedicated to “B-ing” the change they seek in the world. One of our fellow B Corps, chosen along with LPP and others as “Best for the World 2014,” is Andean Naturals.

As consumers expand their culinary horizons, they’re looking for healthier choices for their diets. One of those choices is the use of quinoa, a grass seed that is gaining notoriety as a nutrient-rich grain replacement. Andean Naturals was created as a way to bring quinoa to North America via sustainable, Fair Trade practices. It now supplies a third of all the quinoa consumed in North America, helping to provide income and stability to more than four thousand family farmers in South America.

In addition to their Facebook and Twitter feeds, Andean Naturals has a website that showcases their offerings. Although they aren’t currently geared for direct-to-consumer sales, they do offer a list of ways that you can support Fair Trade practices in your daily life. When you combine that kind of dedication with biodegradable and recycled packaging (and soy ink), you can see why Andean Naturals was certified as a B Corp, and why we chose them as our B Corp of the Month.

Every Turtle Counts

First Friday Book Review:

Every Turtle Counts

Mimi is like many little girls; she loves to run and play, has deep-seated interests, and sometimes makes choices that confuse the grownups in her life.

She also happens to have Autism.

In Sara Hoaglund Hunter’s Every Turtle Counts, when Mimi discovers a nearly-frozen sea turtle on the beach near her home, no one can understand her immediate devotion to her new friend. No one, that is, except Mr. Prescott from the Audubon Society. His explanation that Mimi has discovered one of the rarest creatures on earth sets off a chain of events that opens up Mimi’s world and the eyes of those around her.

As the mother of an amazing little boy who has been diagnosed with Autism, I can relate to this story. I’ve heard the exasperated comments, I’ve watched my son’s accomplishments with pride, and I’ve rejoiced with each new discovery that he’s made. Every Turtle Counts is a beautiful little time capsule, gathering snapshots of life in a spectrum family and using them to tell a story brimming with sweetness and wonder. The lively and lifelike illustrations by Susan Spellman bring the reader directly into Mimi’s world.

As perfectly suited for Earth Day as it is for Autism Awareness Month, the message in this wonderful children’s book is twofold: every turtle counts, and so does every person.

A Connection to the Environment.

A Connection to the Environment:

My Best Friends Are Trees

A friend recently read my debut historical fiction mid-grade, A Bird on Water Street, and said, “… one of my very, very favorite scenes was with the maple tree at Rock City and how Jack touches it and feels it hum and thinks the experience is holy. Simply beautiful! I love that scene.”

It reminded me of why I wrote it. When I was a kid, I used to claim my best friends were trees. I would lie underneath them and “talk” to them. I swore I could feel their spirits. At the very least, I felt they had a language; it was spoken by the wind gently blowing through their leaves. And I was plugged into that—I could hear it.

As an adult, I sadly lost the ability to hear the language of trees. I spent years hiking and living in the woods, trying to get that feeling back—that feeling of being connected to all things, to trees. Every now and then when I’m extremely relaxed, I can get a sense of it again, especially on a quiet and beautiful day. But mostly, I miss the sensation and I think it’s partly why A Bird on Water Street is so important to me.

A Bird On Water Street

It’s because I think most adults have lost that feeling of connection to the environment. As a result, people don’t respect our natural resources. They don’t recycle or they use too much electricity and water, or they produce too much garbage, because they don’t think one person can really make a difference or have a serious impact on the environment.

And yet, that is the path that led to the devastation of the environment in Copperhill, Tennessee. Over a century of miners using every tree in sight to fuel the smelting heaps, which separated the copper and chemicals from the mined ore, left 50-square-miles of the southern Appalachians completely denuded. There were no trees, no birds, no bugs; nothing was left except for the people who lived there. If the people had felt that connection to the environment, to the trees they cut down, perhaps they would have done things differently, in a more sustainable, less damaging way. I like to think so.

There is reason to believe man has it in him to be more mindful, because today, most of the denuded landscape of Copperhill and the surrounding areas has been reforested. Some of the most severely damaged areas have been turned into wetlands, where grasses and reeds act as nature’s filtration system to return the environment to a more natural ecosystem. Trees are back, and I like to believe that people are starting to listen to them.

Elizabeth O. Dulemba is an award-winning author/illustrator of two dozen titles, Illustrator Coordinator for the southern region of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Board Member for the Georgia Center for the Book, and Visiting Associate Professor in the Writing and Illustrating Children’s Books program at Hollins University. A Bird on Water Street is her first novel. Visit www.dulemba.com or www.ABirdOnWaterStreet.com to learn more.

Harnessing Inspiration in Bologna!

Harnessing Inspiration & Sparking Creativity:

The Bologna Children’s Book Fair 2014

I am writing this post during the last of my three flights home from the Bologna Children’s Book Fair 2014. Lufthansa went on strike and wreaked havoc on travel throughout Europe. I feel fortunate to be getting home to my family today, albeit a little later and wearier than I’d hoped.

I attended the Bologna Children’s Book Fair for the first time in 2010. I wrote a post about my first impressions that made me smile to re-read today. While all of my initial observations are still relevant, on the threshold of my company’s fifth birthday, I feel as though I have a much deeper understanding of the children’s publishing industry, the participants who make it flourish, the passion it takes to do so, and the importance of the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. This month on our blog we are exploring the topic of harnessing inspiration and sparking creativity. I thought I would apply the theme to the Bologna Children’s Book Fair.

To take full advantage of the Fair, I approach it with a learner’s mind and childlike wonderment. I walk the halls quickly at first (my usual gait) and then quite slowly to see what speaks to me. I admire the extraordinary creativity that pervades the environment—whether it is the booths themselves or the books that decorate them or the eclectic fashion of the attendees.

Harnessing Inspiration in Bologna!

Of course, I take special care to notice the books—the trim sizes, the covers, the end sheets, the paper, the layout, the fonts, the stories, the illustrations, the color palettes … and the thoughts and emotions they evoke. I think about and admire the sparks of creativity that set the books in motion, and then the harnessing of inspiration to produce the first drafts. I know well, and respect deeply, all of the many other steps in the process necessary to get the books published and to the Fair for us to appreciate.

I also spend time perusing and enjoying the illustrators’ display walls and selecting cards and samples. The walls evolve each day. They’re organic, vibrant, and aspirational—a metaphor of the artists themselves.

Harnessing Inspiration in Bologna!

I meet with passionate people who give their time and talents to making children’s media the best it can be—authors, illustrators, editors, publishers, printers, rights agents, professional association leaders, developers, film makers, etc.

It’s not until my plane flies back that I synthesize all of these inputs and begin to incorporate them into the colorful mosaic that is Little Pickle Press. I am grateful for the opportunity to attend the Bologna Book Fair each year, and I look forward to harnessing my newly acquired inspirations into distinctive children’s media for you to enjoy.

 

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Tap Book Author: Technological Creativity

I have always loved creative people. In high school, I hung out with the singers from show choir, the actors from drama club, and the most incredible Goth girls who taught me how to shop at thrift stores to score vintage dresses. As I got older, I found myself surrounded by designers, artists, actors, and musicians; I finally admitted to myself that I really love creative people.

One of the things I like doing at Little Pickle Press is finding creative things associated with technology, media, and books, and one of the companies we’ve partnered with fits the bill of All Things Creative: TapBook Author. I spoke via Skype to one of the founders, Sondre Bjørnebekk. Sondre contacted me from Norway after meeting our founder, Rana, at the San Francisco Books & Browsers event.  Sondre is an engineer, but he calls himself a “programmer with an MBA.” He enjoys working with the creative, but he’s one of the people who brings the creations to life.

While we focused on some technical parts to their company, we also addressed the creative side of things to help explain what their company does.

It can be very challenging, writing and drawing and building your own journal. Even small stuff like animation or support details takes a lot of attention. Finding inspiring and energetic new salespeople can be difficult, but the search is ultimately rewarding. We try to allow people to be creative; give people freedom and encouragement, and it’s amazing to see creativity it unleashes.

For example, TapBook Author has a new workbook concept: completely paper-free, it uses an all-digital format. It includes basic stuff for animation, and an innovative app that connects image with words for language training. The idea was sold just a few weeks back, with the intent to launch in August.

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Schools are a priority for TapBook Author. Although not yet in the hands of pupils, enriched textbooks and multi-media libraries for German language classes will offer read0aloud text, quizzes, and video.

Q: Talk about the creative work you did with one of our newest titles, Catching Fireflies.

A: Fireflies is an app that started out on Skype with Rana. At first we thought, “Is this a crazy idea?” It’s not that it was complicated or hopelessly expensive. I traveled to San Francisco in December and talked to her about it and then we went back with the rest of the team to develop an early prototype. Then we imported pages for print. The questions we ask are: What can we do to enrich the digital form? Although, we sometimes hold back so as to not overdo it.

We can do things with audio greetings and short phrases. Once we’re done with that we can insert pages for writing note pages, but TapBook still kept the product imprint free and allowed for drawing and text where it was a specific challenge. (i.e. draw something about your first school, write about someone you care about)

Q. How will technology change over the next decade?

A. It’s going to be interesting to see how apps and apps stores (and the web in general) change over the next decade. Books will be battling with pure games, but TapBook Author intends to enrich the content. It’s important to reach those kids who don’t want to read by trying to engage and balance the book experience.

Anyone who is interested in working with TapBook Author is more than welcome to contact us. Our potential clients should be ready to experiment with tools, content, e-books, and other digital media options. The goal is not to become too advanced. In terms of interface, the goal is to make it simple and approachable so people can get started.

What I learned about creativity, from talking with Sondre, is that they’re excited to work with creatives to see the vision through until production. The technological pieces of the work is the bulk of what they do, yet they enjoy clients who come with an idea that “sounds good” and their business does what it takes to make that come to fruition.

Sondre told me, “What we do that really helps people be creative is that we can make the site really short. You can see it immediately and it’s not just a matter of money, but about the process.”

With indie publishers, like us here at Little Pickle Press, working hard to overcome the hurdles posed by lack of big budgets and branding, TapBook Author offers the creative edge needed to build a following and share your words with the world. You can see our newest app that we worked on with TapBook Author here. Check out the Catching Fireflies app today!

Catching Firefly Ideas

Catching Firefly Ideas

Author Coleen Paratore has shown us that being BIG is more than a matter of size. Now she’s back to tell us that creativity is  spark that can be captured by anyone. Read on to learn more about Fireflies, her new (and inspiring) writer’s journal, and about catching those firefly ideas.

1. “Fireflies” is an apt image for ideas. Is this a mental picture you’ve always had, or is it a recent development?

The notion of ideas sparking inside us like fireflies has been with me for nearly a decade now. After my first book was published in 2004, I was preparing for a school visit and wanted a visual way to demonstrate “catching inspiration.” I bought a plastic jar with a bright yellow top and then found little gummy rings that blink-blink-blink when pressed to use as props. At the opening assembly I asked the students how many had ever caught a firefly in an empty jar on a summer night. Many had. “It’s just that way with ideas,” I said. “You never know when they will spark. Now, if I’m a writer and I get a great firefly idea, what should I do fast as I can before it flies away?” A few students shouted out, “Write it down!” I nodded, “Yes! Say that again … now three times to remember.”

“Write it down, write it down, write it down.”

Throughout the afternoon as I did grade-level breakout sessions, several students came running up to tell me how they’d already “caught a firefly idea!” A third grade boy was particularly excited about the concept and wrote me a note saying “you should write about the fireflies.”

For the past ten years, I have taken that yellow-topped jar and the blinky ring to every school I visit. When I run into teachers and librarians at conferences, they tell me students always remember “catching the firefly ideas.” When Fireflies, my eighteenth book, pubs this summer (my tenth birthday as a published author), in the acknowledgements there is a thank-you to the boy who told me to “write about the fireflies.” It would be so cool if he’s still as excited about writing as he was that day in third grade.

2. Fireflies is full of, shall we say, creative tinder; lots of prompts and helpful tips. Do you see these tips as geared for a specific age group, or is this a journal that anyone can use and enjoy?

Fireflies is a writer’s notebook for all ages. The “invitations to write” that I have sprinkled throughout Fireflies are the same prompts I use in the classes and workshops I teach for adults. The key to powerful writing is to travel inside to the firefly fields of our own minds and hearts. Naming the things we love, what we know about, feelings, memories, wounds and wishes; writing these down, catching them on paper, and then reading them over to see which are sparking brightest for us … which we have the most passion, the most excitement for writing about.

3. It’s not uncommon for people to convince themselves that they’re not creative or artistic. Can Fireflies help show them otherwise?

Everyone has creative ideas. Unfortunately some of the most artistic writers begin to question their talent when they are graded against formulaic rubrics in school. With all the “rules” of writing young people must learn, my hope is that Fireflies will be the “write your heart out … have fun and explore” companion piece that will keep writing exciting and meaningful … a place where they can discover who they are and very much like who they see.

4. What’s the most inspirational piece of advice you’ve received, and how would you pass it on to others?

The most comforting and inspirational bit of advice I have written and taped above my computer screen: “The work knows more than I do.” I’m not sure who said it (I’d like to think it was a firefly idea of my own), but what it means to me is that we have to trust that if we show up on the page to write, the work will take us where we need to go.

To learn more about Coleen and her own collection of “fireflies,” visit her website. Tell her Team Pickle sent ya!

Top Ten Pinterest Boards: Let's Get Creative!

Top Ten Pinterest Boards:

Let's Get Creative!

I’m just about convinced that winter is going to hang on forever. Is anybody else tired of looking at the same four walls and bundling up against the cold? If you are, this is the post for you. We’ve come up with a list of our top ten Pinterest boards for creativity. If you’re ready for a splash of fun and a dash of inspiration, follow along!

10. Great Ideas for Families – North Shore Country Day School: When winter weather enforces togetherness, you might as well make it a dream instead of a drag. This board has lots of ideas for your Family Fun Night, and for quite a few fun afternoons, too.

9. Creative Ideas for Recycling Common Household Items – Courtney Lambert: When real spring finally does arrive, spring cleaning will come with it. Before you start pitching things left and right, check out these ideas for putting old pieces to new use.

8. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – Elaine Bernard: While we’re in the mood for makeovers, this board showcases ideas for bigger items such as old doors or furniture that might be taking up space in your shed.

7. Creative Ideas for Kids – Tracy Wilson: After spring, we have summer. When we have summer, we have the dreaded refrain of, “I’m bored!” Bust that boredom before it begins with these fun projects for the younger crowd.

6. Creative Ideas for Kids – Kara Dokter: Same name, different board. Geared for slightly older kids, it’s loaded with ideas that are guaranteed to get your brood off of the couch and into the creative zone.

5. Creative Organization for the Home – Jennifer Bass-Trull: Okay, so you’ve recycled and reduced the clutter; now it’s time to organize what’s left. Go beyond boring storage with these handy hints for giving yourself some space.

4. Creative Ideas for Gifts – Donara Mkhitaryan: After getting organized, did you re-locate your calendar? Did you suddenly remember that you have birthdays and such coming up? Instead of a boring box and store-bought bow, try a few of these creative ideas for giftwrap that really stands out.

3. DIY for Pets – Adopt Pets: If you’re looking for creative things for the family, you can’t leave out the furred, feathered, and finned members. This board will show you some interesting ideas for enriching the lives of your critter friends.

2. Creative Ideas for Meals – Amanda Sidock: You can’t follow up a burst of inspired activity with a boring meal. Check out this board for your creative culinary needs.

1. Library Spaces – Laura Mielenhausen: So now you’re inspired, organized, and well-fed; it’s time to curl up with a good book. Hey, we’re a publishing company. You knew books would enter into it sooner or later. This board features ideas for reading spaces, book-related crafts, and subtle ways to get people in the reading mood.

And there you have it! Our top ten Pinterest boards for getting creative. If you’ve got a favorite board that you’d like to share, please let us know in the comments. You can never have too many ideas!

Featured Customer of the Month

Featured Customer of the Month:

Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom

The Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom program combines the efforts of the Illinois Farm Bureau, Illinois Commodity Groups, Illinois Agriculture Education Programs, University Extension, and other agribusinesses to help infuse agriculture into the curriculum of students across the state. It was founded in 1981 as USDA Secretary John Block and the Reagan administration realized that fewer and fewer people were familiar with the sources of their food and fiber.

The goal of the Ag (Agriculture) in the Classroom (AITC) program is to use agriculture as a springboard to help teachers teach science, math, social studies, and language arts.  There is an AITC program in every state and a national website provides broad-scale information. One way to help infuse agriculture into existing classroom curriculum is to find great pieces of literature that help showcase the ‘farm to plate’ scenarios that exist all around us.

A great example of this is the newly released The Cow in Patrick O’Shanahan’s Kitchen by Diana Pritchard. Although cows don’t show up in our kitchens, the rich vocabulary used in the book makes for an excellent comparison with the Illinois AITC Ag Mags, four-color tabloids related to specific agricultural commodities. These Ag Mags (available to teachers across the state of Illinois at no charge) provide teachers with a non-fiction resource to pair with fiction resources to allow students to gain a better understanding of agriculture related topics.

Featured Customer of the Month, IAITC, uses "The Cow" to promote ag awareness!

The Cow In Patrick O’Shanahan’s Kitchen

The Cow in Patrick O’Shanahan’s Kitchen is currently finding its way into classrooms and libraries across the state of Illinois thanks to generous benefactors that are placing the books in celebration of National Ag Day on March 25!

Illinois AITC has a rich tradition of finding outstanding sources of literature to showcase agriculture and develops lesson plans related to these sources. The current companion guide for The Cow in Patrick O’Shanahan’s Kitchen is called A Bowlful of Agriculture and features all things breakfast. The lessons and activities are correlated to Common Core State Standards and can be found here.

The Illinois AITC Program is excited to work with Little Pickle Press, and looks forward to more books featuring the stories of food and fiber, because just like Patrick O’Shanahan, as you wake up in your flannel pajamas (cotton), and enjoy a nice French toast breakfast (wheat, eggs, milk), and drive to work in a flex fuel vehicle (corn), you certainly can’t have a day without agriculture!

Learn more about how the Illinois AITC Program reaches teachers and students across Illinois on Facebook at Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom!

Kevin Daugherty became Illinois Farm Bureau Education Manager in April 2000.  In that role he is responsible for the IFB Board’s Expansion Plan for Agriculture in the Classroom.  He was named Education Director June 1, 2009

Kevin came to Illinois Farm Bureau following 10 years as a classroom teacher and work as a marketing and implementation specialist for an educational materials publishing company. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education from the University of Illinois and a Masters in Technology with focus on human resources and training from Eastern Illinois University. He and his wife, Katherine (Senior Marketing Research Analyst for GROWMARK), and their three children live in LeRoy, where he is active in church and serves as President of the LeRoy School Board. 

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5 Ways to Spark Creativity in Children

As we continue to think about sparking creativity it got me thinking about the things I’ve done with my children when I heard the dreaded, “Mom, I’m bored.” comments from them during the times when they had off school. Summer months, especially, seemed to be loaded with times when our schedules were blank and our time was spent far more leisurely than when we adhered to the strict schedules of school hours. Getting kids to be creative when you know that’s their default mode should be easy, right?

Wrong. Most children find that time to complain about all the things they’re not doing, but once they realize that they had hours to play something without being entertained by a television or game console they certainly aren’t shy about telling how much they’re not doing. With children comes creativity and most parents know this. But sometimes we find ourselves with coming up with ideas that will get them to reach their fullest creative and innovative selves. Some of the things I’ve done with my own children that put that spark back are rather simple, somewhat time-consuming, and always enjoyable once you see where it takes their brains.

1. Homemade Rorschach tests. The original Rorschach tests were designed to consider personality characteristics, but it’s also a great tool for use of storytelling purposes. When I was a kid, we used to do this while looking up at the clouds or just looking at paintings from the Masters. But with a few sheets of paper, some paint, and the ability to fold and smash it together, you can find yourself with a great way to get children to be creative. For smaller children it’s fun to use food sources (though a good idea would be to remind them that they can’t eat off the paper) and older kids can handle using the paint on their own. Voilá! Instant creativity and endless interpretations.

2. Creative Cooking. My mom is a great good and always allowed us to bake with her or watch her make meals. She didn’t balk at letting us take turns at stirring batter or carefully slicing fruits. But the best thing she did was allow us to mix together ingredients to create something new. Set out ingredients for children and give them a number of bowls and spoons and ask them to create a new dish. It will make them practice combining tastes and you can discuss sweet, salty, and savory in ways that might spark a creative new dish for the family. At least, that’s how we came up with Popcorn Surprise at my house. (For the curious, it’s popcorn in multiple bowls with different seasonings on top. My favorite? Truffle oil and seasoning salt.)

3. Story Starters. Like most children, mine are natural story-tellers. As children, they enjoyed coming up with imaginary beings and creating story lines that helped them navigate the world around them. Sometimes, in the car, we would use a story starter and then everyone would have to pitch in with the next line of the story in a round-robin fashion. It’s great for brain development and creativity.

We found this fantastic story starter from Creative Writing Help.

Thunder clapped against the sky. The girl shuddered. She knew something was out there in the night. Something that shouldn’t be.

4. MadLibs. Fun Brain has some great Mad Lib activities online as well as the book edition that is easily portable. Not only is it a fun word game but it helped me teach my young children about parts of speech and stretched their vocabulary skills so they didn’t use boring, old adjectives to describe how awful mom’s hair or outfit was. Instead of saying, “Mom, your outfit is bad” they learned to express themselves with “Mom, your outfit is atrocious. (This is an old family joke that they still like to perpetuate. Since they all have wonderful vocabularies I let them continue  the tradition.)

5. Taking photos. When my youngest was still in a stroller our family took an outing to New Salem, Illinois which is a state historic site. Everyone wears period costumes and plays characters from the time of Abraham Lincoln. As a family we walked around the site and I had given all the children a disposable camera to take as many pictures as they wanted. What was really creative about this was perspective. My daughter, the oldest, was 10 and could take photos pretty well from her perspective and height, but it was really funny to see what the 3 year old in the stroller was taking pictures of from where he was. Everything was from the knees down and lots of pictures of the ground. After getting them printed, we played a creative game of recollecting what we had seen and talking about history. I think you’ll be surprised to see how creative kids are when pointing the camera at things. It was about that time when I realized one of them had “the eye” and could always use the Rule of Thirds when taking photographs.

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Thumbnail photo courtesy of kevin dooley via photopin cc

There are many more ways to spark creativity in children and these are just a few that parents might start with when they get the urge to create with their kids. More than anything, it’s good for their development and imagination, but it’s also a worthwhile way to spend time and get to know just how amazing their brains are. What do you do with your children to pull their innovative sides out?

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In other fantastic news, Little Pickle Press has been nominated for Best for the World by the B Corporation for the third straight year! We’re honored to have this distinction and to be a B Corp!

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Sparking Creativity: Insights from Team Pickle

It’s hard to know just when inspiration will strike or in what direction it’ll take you. As Little Pickle Press moves onward and upward, we thought it might be nice to take a moment to reflect on some of our secrets to sparking creativity and harnessing inspiration.

Chief Pickle Rana DiOrio offered up her three favorite ways to get her brain in gear. “Walking, especially by water, taking a shower, or drinking wine. True story!” Talk about keeping your ideas fluid, eh?

Our resident Designing Mind Sarah Seward has her own ideas about sparking creativity. “Three things that fire up my brain? Coffee, running, and inverted yoga poses. One method I love to use to generate creative ideas is mind-mapping. It’s essentially putting pen to paper to associate seemingly unrelated concepts, words, themes, and images to explore a concept. It’s so dang fun!”

As for moi, it’s kind of a running joke around our house that I’m inspired by deadlines. I work so well under pressure that I should be a diamond by now. In truth, though, my imagination is set to “high” by three things: flour, music, and color. A bag of flour makes me think of baking, and creating breads and desserts is a specialty of mine. Music gets me moving, and moving sets off a mental chain of events that usually ends in inspiration. And color? I’m a knitter and weaver. I love to take those little threads of color and turn them into something new and beautiful.

Hey, that’s nine ideas for sparking creativity right there, from just three people. If everybody reading this shares their own three ideas, we could have enough mental starter fluid to spark the world.

Ready? Set? GO!

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A Bird in the Hand Is Worth Two on the Shelf

If you’re a reader, you need to know about ForeWord, a print and web-based review journal. Started on a shoestring, ForeWord is a literary force to be reckoned with, providing quality services and reviews to hundreds of independent publishers every year. Is it any wonder that LPP is excited to tell you about ForeWord’s review of Elizabeth O. Dulemba’s A Bird on Water Street?

If you haven’t taken a look at this soon-to-be-printed novel, now is the perfect time. In advance of its May release, A Bird on Water Street has been chosen by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance as an Okra Pick for 2014. You can be among the first to read this story of hardship, hope, and environmental resilience when you take part in LPP’s Pubslush campaign.

Such a unique book deserves special attention. Much like in a public television campaign, your pledge is your vote for an important principle; in this case, you’re making a stand and spreading the word about environmental stewardship. When you click on the “Support This Book” button, you’re offered your choice of buy-in levels, each with its own rewards. The Solo, Buddy Reader, Book Club, and Educator levels range from $10 to $249; every level includes a specified number of books, bookmarks, and autographed bookplates, as well as free shipping. The Book Club and Educator levels (perfect for libraries and schools) include Skype or FaceTime with author Elizabeth O. Dulemba.

The powerful eco-message in A Bird on Water Street will stay with you for a lifetime, but this special pre-press offer only lasts until March 17th. Visit the Pubslush page today to bring Birds to your street.

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Wonder by RJ Palacio: A Book Reviewed by Ryan

This is a cross-post from the ONE blog that features Ryan Stretch, one of our Featured Young Authors!

Wonder is a book about a boy named August who has never been to school before starting in the 5th grade. August was born with a genetic facial disorder. His eyes were positioned one inch below normal. When he was born, he didn’t really have a chin, so one of his many surgeries was to take some of his hip bone and put it in the normal chin area. The reason he couldn’t go to school before the 5th grade was because he was often recovering from surgery, and his mother wanted to protect him from the world.
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This book taught me so many important lessons. Most importantly, accepting people for who they are, instead of how they look, can make life so much better for everyone.   Put yourself in their shoes. Imagine how it would feel to be them. Would you like everybody to stare and point? Or to be friendly and kind? A little kindness goes a long way. When you are kind to someone, you can make that person’s day.

Another lesson Wonder taught me is to be brave. If someone brings you down, do something about it.  Tell them to stop.  Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself. I think people bully because they have been bullied themselves and want others to feel their pain.

August started school with two new friends . . . and lots of bullies. As he showed people that he wasn’t a “freak” or a “zombie”, more and more people wanted to be his friend. At the end of the book, August achieved two of his dreams. First, he started his summer break with loads of friends. And second, he got a standing ovation.

I wish that we could all be kind and accept each other just the way we are. There would be no bullying or taunting, no intolerance or ignorance. Instead, there would be more compassion and empathy, more smiles and laughter. The world would be a better place.

I loved Wonder and recommend it highly for readers of all ages.

By Ryan Francesca Stretch (age 10)

photo provided by Rana DiOrio

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Featured Library of the Month: Yuma County

The Yuma County Library in downtown Yuma, Arizona is a library with a plethora of programs, activities, and hustle and bustle. Don’t get me wrong. That is a high compliment from me for a library. Hustle and bustle is the order of the day for a good library and Yuma fits that criteria. I enjoy a community place that involves all members and offers enough activities that keep people involved in the art and joy of reading. Yuma is a busy library with 8 locations such as Foothills, San Luis, and the Somerton locations.

Among other features, their online site features links to GoodReads for their Book Letters project, a Resources of the Month tab (this month they’re featuring indiflix where you can watch 1,000s of independent movies) and a Health Insurance Marketplace to help customers and community members navigate the often difficult insurance questions.

Each month the Yuma County Library conducts a  Virtual Book Club. For the month of march, they’re reading A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash. The link to the Virtual Book Club is at the top of Yuma County Library’s Facebook page, found here, where they offer reviews and interviews about the featured authors. One of the things I enjoy about their interactive library services is that they’re so active in social media but also leave room for the more traditional library customers by offering copies of the book at the Main Library first floor Information Services desk.

Their online site map is easily navigable and helpful in that they showcase each of their branches. We especially love the Yuma County Libraries because they have specific activities each month for kids and teens. Take a look at their Greenlight Film Festival schedule. It’s heartening that libraries like this continue to offer programs and ways to get their community members involved. For instance, check out their extensive audio and e-book collections that can be accessed online with a library account.

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If you are ever in the area, drop in and see for yourself how the Yuma County Library is leading the charge for all community libraries! Be sure to check out their Facebook page, too.

Featured image screenshot credit to the Yuma Library Facebook page.

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First Friday Book Review: Creatrilogy

The other day, I walked into my son’s Kindergarten class with a very special book in hand. With a nod from the teacher, I pulled Junior into my lap and opened the book. His piping little voice filled the room as he read the story to his class.

“Marisol was an artist. She loved to draw and paint …”

The book in question is Sky Color, one of the stories in Peter H. ReynoldsCreatrilogy. More than just a series of touching, sweetly illustrated children’s books (which they are), the books in Creatrilogy are a source of inspiration for anyone who has ever had their heart stifled.

There’s Ish, the story of Ramon. A careless comment from an older brother convinces Ramon that the drawings he loves to make aren’t good enough. In The Dot, Vashti sets out to convince her teacher of what she herself has always believed: that she can’t draw. Rounding out the trilogy is Sky Color. When Marisol offers to paint the sky for a class mural, she is brought up short by the lack of blue paint.

You know there has to be a happy ending for each of these children, but it’s the way these endings come about that makes each story so unabashedly delightful. Geared for the preschool to third grade set, the stories in the Creatrilogy series make an excellent reminder for dreamers of all ages to believe, to try, and to think outside the paint box.

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Marc Guberti: Sparking Creativity & Harnessing Inspiration

This month’s guest contributor for Little Pickle Press’ Central Article is a phenomenal young entrepreneur who captures the creative and inspirational all in one package. Marc Guberti is a 16 year old Social Media enthusiast (over 41k Twitter followers), author, blogger and speaker. He blew us away with how he runs his business and how he unlocked his own potential and took down roadblocks. We wanted to share more about him with our readers. Welcome, Marc! 

There are many entrepreneurs in the marketplace competing for attention. Some entrepreneurs are in their 30’s while others are older. There are not many entrepreneurs who are teenagers, but I happen to be one of them.

I created my first blog in 2011. I enjoyed writing blog posts right from the start, but in 2012, I realized that blogging could result in a strong income. I was only 14 years old when I saw the opportunity that blogging presented. However, my mind was already set on the goal. Instead of thinking of waiting to become 18 years old to start a business, I thought, “Why not now?”

It was at that moment when I learned there is no one is stopping us from accomplishing our goals except ourselves. In order to accomplish our goals, we need to be faithful in our ability to accomplish those goals. Learning this lesson has allowed me to accomplish many of the goals that I have set for myself.

Immediately when I created my first blog, I started to use Twitter. I eventually used other social networks as well, but Twitter is the social network that most people know me from. Using social media resulted in my learning a lot about social media. I compiled all of this knowledge into multiple books and a blog that gets updated twice a day.

As my business started to grow, I began giving myself a vision. Some of the things in my vision are being a bestselling author in 2014, have over 200,000 followers by the end of the year, and create multiple training courses.

If I decided to start when I became 18 years old, I still wouldn’t have started. I would have to wait 2 years before I could start. After planning gets done, it is more important to take action than it is to wait. There is something special about being bold that allows people to stand out.

As a teenage entrepreneur, I will continue to learn more information about my niche and reach more milestones. There are many people who are not sure of their ability to become successful. We all have great potential, but not all of us are using that potential properly. In order to unlock your potential, simply ask yourself, “Why not me?”

We all have the power to accomplish anything we put our minds to. I put my mind towards becoming a teenage entrepreneur. By putting your mind to your goals, you will be able to accomplish them. The goals that once looked impossible will be a lot easier to accomplish than ever before.

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Marc Guberti authors a blog, Social Media, Blogging, and Business Tip, and wrote the book How to Be Successful on TwitterOn his blog, his bio includes the following:

I am constantly experimenting with different ideas that can help my business grow while sticking with what already works. I am working on training courses, membership sites, books, and more. When I think about something, I write it down in my notebook. When one of my ideas pops out from the rest, I don’t hesitate. I start working on that idea right away. I may not be a New York Times bestselling author just yet, but I plan to be able to put that down on my college application.

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Featured B Corp of the Month: World Leadership School

Welcome to March! Did it come in like a lion or a lamb? That always confuses me because March in the midwest pretty much does whatever it wants to do. (It’s roaring, in case you were wondering.) This month the theme at Little Pickle Press is all about harnessing inspiration and sparking creativity. As we look towards being inspired in all manner of ways, we’re featuring our favorite B Corp of the Month: World Leadership School. Every thing they’re doing speaks to inspiration, creativity, and innovation in the 21st Century.

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What does 21st Century learning look like? I work in a technology magnet school where students each receive a laptop computer. At first glance, this looks like we just give computers to kids, but in reality what we’re teaching them is how to research. Every student receives a laptop for their learning at my school and they use the applications to express their mastery of skills and knowledge. For instance, each 8th grade student must complete a History Fair project whereby they research primary source documents, write an 8-10 page paper on their findings, and properly cite sources. Instead of the typical book report that’s written out our students may use Garage Band to create a podcast using music and their voices to express their learning.

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If you ask me, this is the perfect way to harness inspiration in those who would seek to affect change in the world. Students with access to technology and global learning are using their skills to present and retain knowledge about issues that affect them and their environment. World Leadership School’s mission is to seek out those new and innovative approaches to solving the world’s problems by using global education as the catalyst. In a student-driven learning environment they have found that secret sauce of getting students to passionately seek out knowledge of what is happening around them as well as what is happening throughout the world.

World Leadership School partners school institutions with NGOs and research institutions around the world to facilitate the learning. Working with the “whole school” approach, they help administrators change the culture of learning within the building and also work with teachers on vision, pedagogy, and practice. In a world that’s become increasing larger to students who can see the real-world applications of their learning, it’s a remarkable thing to connect students to the global environment in which they live. Everything that World Leadership School is doing helps to harness inspiration and spark creativity. For someone in education to see this happening, it’s extremely exciting for me to know this is available to educators.

To learn more about what they do, visit the World Leadership School here.

Why programs like the World Leadership School is important to us: Certified B Corporations meet rigorous, independent standards of social and environmental performance. B Corps create greater economic opportunity, strengthen local communities, and communities, and preserve the environment.

B Corps voluntarily meet higher standards of transparency, accountability, and performance. We distinguish ourselves from the cluttered marketplace by offering a positive vision of a better way to do business. Certified B Corps want you to be inspired, not just by their vision, but by the movement’s ability to translate ideas into action.

Image via the World Leadership School website.

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The Significance of the Sweet Potato

This month, as Little Pickle Press has explored ways to be sweet, we’ve come to understand that life’s sweetness comes in many forms. Whether it is with music or reading or simply making a sweet treat for our loved ones, we can do things every day to celebrate people. Sure, Valentine’s Day is just one day, but loving people is something that occurs the other 364 days of the year as well.

Looking back on our month we kicked it off with advice from Nancy Stampahar who showed us ways to make our lives sweeter. Then, we featured Fearless Chocolate, a fantastic B Corporation that we hope you’ll check out. Anna Broyles reviewed our latest book, Elizabeth Dulemba’s A Bird on Water Street for those who would like to check that out. In fact, we also pushed out a PubSlush campaign that comes with a new way to purchase our books in addition to the traditional avenues. We took a look at the Daniel Boone Regional Library, shared 5 fantastic Pinterest boards, and shared 10 tunes to sweeten your day.

Do you have a cavity yet? Because there was a lot of sweet content this month.

Our friends over at the ONE campaign shared some great information with us and it’s pretty sweet: did you know that sweet potatoes are a highly-nutritious crop that can be used as a potent force in the fight against the vitamin A deficiency that happens in many developing countries? Sweet potatoes, as it turns out, are an ideal crop because they don’t require fertilizer nor are they adversely affected by changing rainfall patterns. What makes them so sweet is that they’re easy to plant and grow and they serve as as source of nutrition.

The World Food Programme uses sweet potatoes as their “go-to” crop because of their heartiness and the diversity used in recipes. Agriculturally speaking, many countries use the crop to supplement the other foods related to the region. Places like sub-Saharan Africa and Indonesia are using the vegetable in local schools for their lunch programs. Most of these initiatives help to revitalize the local economy, promote nutrition education, and increase opportunities for the most poverty-stricken people who can use the sweet potato as a means to make money and feed communities.

As we look back on the sweetness of February, we’re encouraged by programs and initiatives like this that are helping the world’s poorest get healthy and find ways to boost local economies. That’s just about the sweetest deal of all.

Be sure to check out the ONE Campaign’s Best Sweet Potato Recipes on Pinterest!

Photo credit: Stephanie Savariaud/ WFP