Discover here interesting children's books and fun activities that S-T-R-E-T-C-H your mind. Explore great places for kids to visit. Write and share your own ideas, great books, or subjects you want to know more about with Jewel. Check out Jewel Sample's writing for kids adventures.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

What’s that lurking under your bed?

October seems to be the time of year when many thoughts about what could be lurking under our beds occurs more often than other times. Have you ever thought the creeping about was a ghost or a monster? Did one of your parents get out a can of “Ghost-buster Spray” or “Monster Repellent?” At my house we used what my young son called the Ghost-buster Spray. He believed there were ghosts lurking in the closet or under his bed. Sometimes I would spray the hard to reach places and he would spray under the bed.

Recently I read a book titled, Trockle to a mixed group of elementary and middle school children. In reading Trockle we find out, like most young children, Stephen’s imagination gets the best of him as he finishes his bedtime snack. He is sure there is a monster under his bed. His Mom tries to comfort Stephen by reminding him that she had used her reliable “monster repellent” just the week before, so there are NO monsters under his bed. Stephen is sure that this monster was not like the others. He even has a name, Trockle. And he snores! How can Stephen convince his parents this is one REAL MONSTER?

Meanwhile, amidst the dust bunnies, chocolate wrappers, and carpet fuzz Trockle is also getting ready for bed. He too is afraid to go to sleep because he believes there is a BIG monster over his bed. What else can be making the ceiling noises in the dark? His Mother held his fears as NONSENSE. How can Trockle convince his Mother this is one BIG MONSTER?

Stephen and Trockle can not stop thinking about each other as they are trying to go to sleep. What will they do next? Will they become friends or will Stephen’s Mom get rid of Trockle once and for all? Be sure and read Trockle to find out what happens next.

The other day I had a chance to meet up with Holly Jahangiri the author of Trockle to ask her some questions our group had about Stephen and Trockle. This is what Holly had to say.

Jewel: Hi Holly, thank you for agreeing to meet up with me to answer some elementary and middle school children’s questions.

Holly: Sure, my pleasure. I love to talk with kids.

Jewel: My first question comes from J., “Where does Stephen live?”

Holly: Stephen lives in the suburbs of a very large city. There are lots and lots of things to do, but his house is in a quiet, friendly neighborhood. He can walk or ride his bike to school, but he takes the bus.

Jewel: Awesome! Stephen lives on the edge of a large city like many children who read this blog. R. asks, “Does Trockle go to school? If he does, what grade is he in?”

Holly: No, although he’d love to go with Stephen, now that he’s learned human boys are more fun than scary. His mom “homeschools” him, teaching him all a little monster needs to know.

Jewel: I hear home schooling is a lot like public school when it comes to having to do schoolwork like math and spelling. A. wants to know, “What does Trockle like to do for fun?”

Holly: He loves to ride around in Stephen’s remote-controlled monster truck. He once curled up inside Stephen’s baseball glove, and Stephen mistook him for a little orange ball. Trockle was literally bouncing off the walls for a while, and enjoying every minute of it. Sounds painful to me, but he couldn’t stop giggling when he told me about it.

Jewel: Sounds like something Trockle would love to giggle about his orange ball ride again. T. has this question, “Does Trockle speak Trockle language? If so, what does it sound like?”

Holly: Probably, but Trockle and his mother have learned English (you pick up a lot, living under the bed and in the walls) and that’s the language in which they told me their story.

Jewel: Wow that is remarkable! Trockle and his mother learned a new language. They are smart monsters. E. asks, “Are Trockle and Stephen only children? Are they adopted?”

Holly: Trockle is an only child. Stephen has an older sister. Neither of them are adopted.

Jewel: S.’s question is, “Has Stephen and Trockle ever gotten into trouble together?

Holly: You know, they’re really good kids. They haven’t gotten into much trouble at all – alone or together. But as they get older, I imagine they’ll test the limits just like all kids do.

Jewel: Yeah, sometimes when kids get to know each other things happen unexpectedly that gets them into trouble. The nest question comes from C, “Does Trockle’s sock stink like smelly stinky feet?”

Holly: It’s Stephen’s sock, and Trockle’s happiest if he gets it straight from Stephen’s foot right after a soccer game. I don’t know how he’s going to feel about it when Stephen gets a bit older and his feet really start to stink. But, you know, Limburger cheese stinks – some people say the worse it smells, the better it tastes. To Trockle, it’s a good, night-time smell. (You have to remember, too, that Trockle’s favorite treat is Brussels sprouts. Those don’t smell too nice, either.)

Jewel: Indeed Brussels sprouts can smell up a room while cooking. T. had another question, “Does Trockle and Stephen have future plans for letting us know other things about them, and like is it hard for Trockle to read since he only has one eye? I know a kid who has dyslexia. It is hard for him to read. Or does he wait for Stephen’s mom storytelling to learn and understand stuff?”

Holly: Trockle and Stephen have been very excited by the idea of a sequel, ever since someone brought that up during the first book tour. Trockle doesn’t really have a lot of trouble reading, but he does have a little bit of a challenge with depth perception and his mother has been thinking of getting him a monocle. She first noticed it when he ran Stephen’s monster truck into the corner of the wall – to him, it was on a plane with the wall on the far side of the hall. Stephen, on the other hand, has 20/20 vision but draws all his letters and numbers backwards. They look right, he just draws them backwards from the way everyone else does.

Jewel: Sounds like Stephen has writing problems like most kids learning to read alphabetic letters and write them. Our last question is from J. He asks, “Is Trockle part rodent?”

Holly: No, Trockle is 100% under-the-bed monster. Rodents don’t like under-the-bed monsters, so you should consider yourself very lucky if you have monsters under your bed.

Jewel: Whew! I am so glad Trockle is not part rodent. Stephen and Trockle’s mothers’ don’t have to put up with rodent smell that way.

Holly: Yeah, that would be a stinky smell worse than soccer socks or Limburger cheese.

Jewel: Thank you Holly for stopping by Jewel of a to tell us a little more about your characters in Trockle. Come back and visit us again sometime, especially if you have an update about Trockle and Stephen.

Holly: My pleasure. Those were great questions by the way. I will be sure to let you and your blog reading kids know when the next book is out about Trockle.

To learn more about Holly Jahangiri visit her here.

If you have a story to share about “what’s lurking under your bed” post it in our comments below. Jewel would love to read them.

Until next time happy writing!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Happy Birthday Forever Day

Wouldn’t it be awesome if people celebrated your birthday forever? Well that very thing is happening for Noah Webster. October 16, 2008 marked Noah Webster’s 250th birthday. Can you imagine 250 candles on a humongous cake? I would have to invite the whole neighborhood over to help blow out the candles. It would be fun finding out if we accomplished getting the candles out before the icing melted.

Why do we celebrate Webster’s birthday? What do you do when you don’t know the meaning of a word you see? You probably use a Webster’s Dictionary. According to The Noah Webster House & West Harford Historical Society, Noah Webster wrote two of America’s most influential books, The Blue-Backed Speller (1785) and the American dictionary (I didn’t know about the speller either). Where would we be without a dictionary? Yup! I am thanking him too. Besides who hates a party with food?

So, what was life like for Noah Webster growing up? Noah was born in West Hartford, Connecticut in 1758 to farming parents. He had two brothers and two sisters. Noah spent his childhood on the farm until he was old enough to go to school. Then like most children born in the era of the 1700s when school was out, he worked on his family’s farm. Sure enough, parents’ gave children chores then too. I wondered where the chore idea came from when I was a child.

Noah did something at sixteen years old that most teens cannot do today. He went to Yale College, now known as Yale University. Upon graduation he wanted to go to law school, but his father could not afford the tuition. So Noah taught school until he could afford to attend law school. He eventually opened a law office and wrote in his spare time. He was 27 years old when his first book, The Blue-Backed Speller was published. Noah was 43 years old when he began writing his dictionary. An American Dictionary of the English Language was completed in 1828, twenty-seven years later. To work on a writing project for 27 years is incredible. Clearly he loved writing. Do you think you would have the patience to keep working for that long? I am so glad he did.

There is so much more to know about Noah Webster. For example, did Noah publish other writings than what are mentioned here? Who prepared Noah for college? How did he come up with all of those words in the dictionary? Where did he spend Thanksgiving?

Another interesting thing about Noah is he worked on copyright legislation. A copyright is defined as an individual right of an author to his original writings or artistic work for a certain amount of years. Noah’s legislative work is still important for writers today. I wonder how long he served in his state legislature. To learn more about Noah Webster and check out a picture of a page of his Blue-Backed Speller plus his childhood home visit The Noah Webster House & West Harford Historical Society. Indeed Noah Webster deserves a Happy Birthday Forever Day!

Would'nt it be great to have a birthday forever day? Write about what your birthday forever celebration would be like. Please share your birthday story by posting it in the comments section.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Jewel’s Delectable Edible Pizza Puzzle

An edible pizza puzzle is made by taking a mixture of ingredients from different places and putting them together to form something that represents all the ingredients as a complete piece that you can cut into shapes and eat.

Makes 8- 8 inch pizzas

What you need

8-large flour tortillas
1-8 ounce can of tomato sauce
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
½ teaspoon garlic powder
Parmesan cheese

Pick one or two of your favorite meat/protein toppings:
1-package of sliced Pepperoni
1 pound of Italian sausage, cooked and drained
1 pound of hamburger meat, cooked and drained
1-8 ounce can of chicken, shredded or diced
2 cups or 16 ounces of shredded cheddar cheese
1 can of red kidney beans, drained
1 can of refried beans

Pick one or more of your favorite vegetables:
1-can or fresh sliced mushrooms
1-chopped green pepper
1/2-chopped Onion
1-can of large pitted black olives.
1- 8 ounce package of Shredded Mozzarella cheese

What to do:

Mix together in a small bowl or measuring cup the tomato sauce, Italian seasoning and garlic powder. Set aside.
Place one flour tortilla on a microwavable plate.
Spread 2-3 tablespoons of the pizza sauce over the tortilla.
Sprinkle 1Tablespoon Parmesan cheese over the sauce.
Distribute evenly 6 slices of pepperoni or ¼ cup (2 ounces) of your meat/protein choice over the parmesan cheese.
Scatter a few of your vegetables choices over the meat/protein.
Top it by spreading out ¼ cup Mozzarella cheese over the meat and vegetables.

Place in the microwave and cook for 3-4 minutes on high or until the cheese is melted.
Cut the pizza into various shapes for your edible puzzle.


While making your edible pizza puzzle were there conversation that gave you a story idea? Write about your edible pizza puzzle and share your story with us by posting it in the comments below...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

How old is Pizza Anyway?

I have been writing in my notebook ideas for new children’s stories. One story idea came from a question my granddaughter asked me at a family gathering. She sat holding her pizza up into the air with her hand and asked, "Just how old is pizza anyway?" I answered, “I don't know how old pizza is. Maybe they made pizza during the covered wagon days.” My grandson joined our conversation by stating, “Maybe during the caveman days.” Everyone laughed.

After our meal I couldn’t get her question out of my mind. I thought maybe this would make a great story. So, the next day I checked out pizza history on the internet and then went to the library.

I discovered the history and legends about pizza can be traced all the way back to the Roman days. The words for pizza often spelled bizzo or pizzo were found in Europe and the Mediterranean. Pizza dough was known as flat bread used as a plate dressed with olive oil, herbs and honey baked on hot stones. Then around the first century A.D. pizza had meat, herbs and cheese. Now how’s that for not having to do dishes? Isn't that cool?

But wait, what about books about pizza? How many people have had the same idea as mine? I found piles of books have been written in several different ways about pizza. For example, to name a few there are children’s fiction stories, mysteries, nonfiction books and cookbooks, so I don’t think I am going to write a pizza story anytime soon. But I found some great books to read!

Writing about my family’s pizza conversation was fun. Making an idea into a story for publication is tricky because there may be books already in libraries just like my idea. So the first things I do before spending a lot of time on writing and editing my story is write an outline about my story idea. I make sure I have a beginning, middle and an end. Then I get on the internet and go to the library to research how many books are written on the subject. I choose several books from various age groups like preschool, elementary, and middle school from the books I find. I write down the titles, authors, and a two to three sentence summary about each book I read in a notebook. All of this information helps me remember what I did about my story idea.

Have you thought about writing about a certain food or an idea from a family occurrence while eating? What food would you write about? Share your story with us by clicking on “comments” below and placing it in the comments box.

Remember I said I found some great books to read while researching? Here is my list of authors who used very creative ways to tell a pizza story!

1. Using pizza as a game.

Pete’s A Pizza
By William Steig
ISBN: 0062051571, (1998)
Fiction: Juvenile, Pizza, Games. Imagination
Grade Range: Birth-Pre-K
Publisher: Harper Collins $16.99
Author site:

October 24, 2008

Pete is not having a good day. Pete’s father decides to have a pizza party to cheer him up. First they must make a pizza. His father pretends to turn Pete into a pizza. After Pete is made into a pizza he runs away and his father chases after him. Does Pete get captured? Is Pete cheered up?

Pete’s A Pizza is a great game story to act out with children.

2. Using pizza in a humorous and unusual adventure.

Curious George and The Pizza
By Margret and H. A. Rey’s
ISBN: 0395390338, (1985)
Fiction: Juvenile, Pizza, Monkeys, Curiosity
Grade Range: Birth-Pre-K
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company; Boston $3.95
Publisher site:

October 24, 2008

Curious George visits a pizza shop with his friend and creates chaos when his curiosity about how to make a pizza gets the best of him. When he discovers he is in big trouble George runs away and hides in a pizza delivery truck. Tony the baker asks George to make an unusual pizza delivery. Will George make up for all the trouble he caused and get to eat some pizza?

Curious George and The Pizza is a wonderful anytime story for children to learn about the natural consequences of curiosity.

3. Using Pizza in a puzzle.

The Pizza Puzzle
By Susan Beth Pfeffer
ISBN: 0440413912, (1997)
Fiction: Pizza, Mystery, Divorce, Friendship. School, Honesty, Self-responsibility
Grade Range: 6-8 (Middle school)
Publisher: Yearling $16.00
Author site:

October 24, 2008

Seventh grader Taryn Powell wonders if her parents are getting a divorce. After all they have been arguing and whispering a lot lately.

At School Taryn’s selective listening in class and her preoccupation with what is going on with her parents gets her in trouble with her English teacher, who is the meanest teacher in the entire school. Her teacher orders her to stand and face the class so she can tell the whole class exactly what is so important for her not to pay attention. Taryn didn’t want anyone to know about her parents and refuses to tell as tears trickle down her face. As punishment her teacher gives her an assignment to write a thousand word essay about what she was thinking about. In her anger Taryn spouts off at lunch about pulling a prank on her teacher to get revenge.

The next day she finds out someone pulled the prank. Taryn is held responsible. How is she going to clear her name? She knows it wasn’t her; she was doing something important and very secret. Who will believe her?

Taryn discovers she has a new friend when a classmate named Lexi helps Taryn out by providing her with an alibi. Taryn is relieved. Her secret is not exposed. She becomes obsessed with finding the prankster and clearing herself. Taryn soon learns the value of friendship when she finds herself in more hot water when she decides to lie again to keep her secret from being exposed. Will she decide to tell the truth?

In reading the title the author gives a clue that her book is about a mystery using a series of clues like fitting a puzzle together. Pfeffer brings into play twists and turns as she gives the reader clues to pace her story with the main character portrayed as the underdog. A fun and adventurous story that helps the reader learn through her characters about jumping to conclusions, honesty, friendship and accepting self responsibility.

4. Uses the word "pizza" in the title.

Peppers, Popcorn and Pizza
By Cleste A. Peters
ISBN: 0739801368, (2000)
Non-Fiction: Juvenile, Nutrition, Food Science, Pizza,
Grade Range: 3-5
Publisher: Raintree Streck-Vaughn

October 26, 2008

The title is memorable and ambiguous because Peters does so much more than what the title implies. Peters extensively links technology, careers, society, and the environment by showing how Food Science is used in our everyday lives. She answers some interesting questions through the use of scientific facts. Some of the fascinating questions are where did food originate? Where does food come from today? Can an apple a day keep you healthy? Why is it important to cook food? Do we put fungi in our food? Can our small intestine cover a football field when split open and laid out flat? What do smelly stinky feet and cheese have in common?

Peppers, Popcorn and Pizza is an entertaining food facts book that evokes more curiosity about food beyond her presented facts. One intriguing question was about eating popcorn for breakfast. In colonial times popcorn was indeed served for breakfast with sugar and cream. Today we eat popcorn as a nutritional snack and cook it in the microwave or in a hot air corn popper

If you’re wondering about the stinky smelling feet question, Peters points out that when we eat cheese the enzymes used to make the cheese break down fats and proteins into smelly molecules are the same molecules that cause feet to smell. I will have to remember this one when I am eating pizza. Will my feet stink? Check out her book for the answers to her other questions presented here.

The trials of listing internet resources in a book are that you can never tell how long the sites will be available. Two of Peter’s listed Internet resources that I checked are Kids and The Popcorn Institute. The is no longer available. The Popcorn Institute is a fascinating place to find out more about America’s longtime favorite nutritional snack.

All Reviews by Jewel Sample, Award-winning author of Flying Hugs and Kisses, also translated: Besos y abrazos al aire (Spanish edition). To learn more about Jewel Sample visit her at

Resources: To learn more about Pizza history and legends visit here

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Dragonflies and Butterflies: Jewel Chats with Clea and John Adams

Recently I read The Dragonfly Secret: A Story of Boundless Love by John and Clea Adams. It is the continuation story of Lea from John’s first book The Dragonfly Door. Lea is now a Dragonfly, in her new world. Lea makes new friends and likes to play hide-and-seek with Tess who is a butterfly and a boy. As they play Lea wonders why the boy has not told her his name or where he lives. The boy offers to tell Lea a secret but first she must do three things for him. Lea wants very much to discover the mystery behind his secret, so she agrees to fulfill the boy’s requests. With each request Lea meets people who need her help and she discovers something about herself.

I also read The Dragonfly Secret to a group of first, second and third graders. The kids had some questions for John and Clea, so I decided to contact them for a cyber-chat.

John and Clea agreed to chat with me about writing for kids and to answer some questions kids asked when they read the story too. Here is what they had to say.

Jewel: Thank you John and Clea for meeting up with me to chat about what you have been up to lately and your new book, The Dragonfly Secret: A Story of Boundless Love. To start things off I would like to ask how you got started in writing.

Clea: For me, I got the writing bug early when I won a couple of writing contests while in elementary school. That motivated me to take writing classes.

John: That’s not to say writing is easy or comes naturally. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication. Carefully crafting a quality story takes perseverance and a willingness to have your work critiqued by a professional editor.

Jewel: Absolutely, hard work, determination, and the willingness to have your stories checked out by someone other than a teacher or a friend are important. Sometimes writing has to be fit into a crammed schedule. Do you juggle your writing with a job or other interests like volunteer work or a hobby?

Clea: John and I juggle both writing and running our publishing company. Because we are a two-person company, we have to wear many hats – from authors one minute to other areas such as marketing, finance, operations and mail carrier.

John: In addition to that, we have 4 children between us (2 adult boys, one high school student and the youngest is 10 years old). They keep us fairly busy. We are also volunteers at our church and at a grief support/outreach organization called The Dragonfly Project. In our spare time we also enjoy going on long walks or bike rides.

Jewel: Whew, running a book company seems to keep you two very busy. Scott, age 7, has a question for you. He asks: “Lea likes to play hide and seek. What was your favorite game when you were a kid?

John: When I was growing up, I loved playing catch with a baseball or football. I grew up on a farm in Kentucky so we had lots of space for outdoor games.

Clea: My neighborhood used to play a game called “kick the can” which is a little like hide and seek and a little bit of the game of “tag”.

Jewel: “Kick the Can” reminded me of the games I used to play too. We played “King of the Hill.” Playing outside was our favorite pastime. Alexie, age 9 would like to know, “Did you tell secrets when you were a kid? If you did, then how did you keep the secret when other kids try to trick you into telling it?”

Clea: What a great question! I grew up with 3 sisters, so we were always telling each other secrets. When you are young, it is tough not to give a secret away. I think once or twice I told the secret to someone else, and I felt horribly about it! The best thing to remember is that someone has put a lot of trust in you and trust is tough to win back once it has been broken.

Jewel: Lea discovers a secret by trying new things. What writing secrets do you have for new writers?

Clea: Writing takes persistence. You have to be patient because crafting a story takes time and work. Never give up trying though.

John: Yes, read other good literature, especially some of the classics that have been around for generations. Our editor frequently refers to Charlotte’s Web as one of the best stories to help writers understand the use of good story structure, problem solving, obstacles, character flaws, and life lessons.

Jewel: In The Dragonfly Secret Lea goes to her new home. Jason, age 8 asks, “Where do dragonflies sleep and what do their houses look like?”

Clea: Dragonflies typically have homes near lakes, ponds or wetlands. Some will return to the same habitats where they were water nymphs. They rest on trees, tall grasses and plants. Dragonflies also like to land on rocks that are warmed by the sun.

John: There are lots of other interesting facts about dragonflies. Dragonflies are found all over the world (except Antarctica). In fact, there are over 4,500 different species. The largest dragonflies lived with the dinosaurs in prehistoric times and had a wing-span of 24 inches (about the size of an owl or hawk).

Jewel: Wow! The dragonflies that lived with the dinosaurs were big. I wonder if you could hear their wings flap. Emily, age 6 has our last question. She asks, “Do you have a dragonfly coloring sheet?”

Clea: We plan to add some coloring sheets soon to our website. Please check back. In the meantime, Jewel has a great dragonfly ring art project on her website that we think you will enjoy.

Jewel: Thank you so much Clea and John Adams for stopping by “Jewel of A Book” and sharing a little about yourselves. Please stop by anytime and shout a “howdy” to us.

To keep up with Clea and John Adams visit them at Feather Rock Books.
Dragonflies are amazing insects to study. To view real dragonflies up close and personal from around the United States visit The Digital Dragonfly Museum.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

How To Make A Dragonfly Ring

Did you know Water Nymphs transform into Dragonflies? John Adams' book titled The Dragonfly Door shows how two nymphs named Lea and Nym go through friendship and change. At the end of the book he explains in real life that during the summer months a female dragonfly lays her eggs in mud or attaches them to underwater plants. The eggs are about the size of a grain of rice.

When the egg hatches, the Nymph lives in the water for about one to six years. It eats other water creatures and uses the gills in their tail to breathe and to swim. As the Nymph grows up it sheds it skin for a new larger one.

When it is time for the Nymph to leave the water it climbs a reed growing out of the pond water into the air. It skin will split open, but this time the Nymph is transformed into a Dragonfly. The Dragonfly is warmed and dried by the sun as blood flows through it's body and helps straighten it's wings, so it can fly and find shelter among the tall grasses and food, like Mosquitoes. Eventually it will find a partner to lay eggs, just like it's mother did years before.

Here is How To Make Dragonfly Rings!

Time: 1-1 ½ Hours
Grade Level: Pre-K & up

One piece of construction paper per child.
Crayons, markers and pencil.
Glue Stick.
Blunt end Scissors.
One twelve inch ruler or a straight edge object like the side of a spiral notebook.

What to Do:

1. Lay your pointer finger down on the center of the paper.

2. With a pencil trace around your finger.

3. Close the bottom opening to make the body of the Dragonfly.

4. Turn you paper sideways and spread your pointer and index fingers over the side of the body.
5. Trace around both fingers to form the wings on one side of the body.
6. Turn the paper the opposite direction and spread your pointer and index fingers over the other side of the body.
7. Trace around both fingers to form the wings on the opposite side of the body.

8. Draw bug eyes and an antennae on the head

9. Draw five-eight half circles to lengthen the tail.

10. Draw two 1 ½ inch parallel lines between the wings on each side of the body to make strips for the ring.

11. Color your dragonfly with markers or crayons.

12. Cut out the dragonfly along the penciled outer lines being careful not to cut off the strips between the wings.

13. Bend the strips between the wings downward.

14. Place glue on the upper side of one strip.

15. Overlay the strips together to form a ring, adjusting the ring to fit your finger before the glue dries.

16. Place the Dragonfly ring on your finger and pretend it flies through the air.

Let's Write About An Adventure!
While playing with your Dragonfly ring and making motions in the air with your hand to pretend it flies, your mind goes to an adventure. Write and share with us your adventure by asking your parent to leave your story in the comment section!

Resource Box: Jewel Sample is an award winning writer of the children's book, Flying Hugs and Kisses. To learn more about Jewel visit her at Jewel’s Sand Box News