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, September 29, 2010

In Your World of Make-Believe

We read stories everyday that takes us to a world of make-believe. Sometimes the story takes us to a far off land where boys never grow up, like in "Peter Pan" or tumbling down a rabbit's hole to have tea, like in "Alice in Wonderland."

Have you ever wondered how the author creates their stories? Many times they are from a dream they had or an event that really happened. The author takes that dream or event and places make-believe characters that remind them of someone they knew that was in the dream or at the event.

Today write your story from your own make-believe world. Not sure what to write about? Here are a couple of ideas. Pretend that a porcupine is doing the laundry at your house. Write about what happens while the porcupine does the laundry. Another idea, pretend a watermelon seed is growing from the drain in your bathtub. Write about what happens.

Don't forget to share your story with me or with a friend or two!

Happy writing!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Danny Diamondback: A Jewel of a Book Review

By Barry E. Jackson

ISBN-13: 9780061131844, 2008
Fiction: Picture Book, Humor, Snakes, Friendship, Diversity, Music

Publisher: Harper Collins: NY ; $16.99
Author site: Barry E. Jackson

Danny Diamondback is an orphaned snake who searches for a new family. From the first family of jackrabbits to the sparrows, Danny is not accepted. Danny’s parents forgot to tell him that he is a dangerous poisonous snake. Then one day he happens upon a community of prairie dogs and they too scatter like fluff on a seeded dandelion, except for visually impaired Pablo. Pablo talks his grandmother into letting Danny stay with them. Pablo and Danny get to know each other through their musical talents. Pablo talks his family into letting Danny play in their band with a disguise. Danny feels accepted until his true identity comes out during a band concert and the desert animals scatter in fear. Danny finds himself alone until he notices a pack of hungry coyotes headed toward the prairie dog community looking for some chow. Are the coyotes equally afraid of Danny? Will Danny find a new home?

Barry E. Jackson’s animated illustrations are realistically entertaining, which softens the fear factor associated with the story. The southern drawl may put some off, but shows diversity in cultures. Leaving the “g” off of words or using a colloquial speech, like “y’all” to promote inflections may make it difficult for young readers to read alone.

What I liked best about the story was Jackson’s encouragement to the reader to look beyond differences of individuals and look for something in common. Never give up in finding that place where you can fit in by being kind and open to discovering new things about new acquaintances. Equally important, Jackson tells the reader that the rattlesnake is nothing to play with by gently squeezing in important facts, so the young reader does not go away thinking that a rattlesnake is something to play with.

Some topics drawn from this story for discussion include: orphans, friendship, fear, poisonous snakes, desert wildlife, talents, tolerance, cultural diversity, visual impairment, and music.

Reviewer recommends Danny Diamondback for preschool through elementary grade libraries and homes.

Reviewed for Jewel of a book by Jewel Sample--Award-winning author of Flying Hugs and Kisses. To learn more about Jewel Sample visit her at

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Jewel of a Book Review: Dazzling Dragonflies

By Linda Glaser

ISBN-13: 9780822567530, 2008
Nonfiction: Picture Book, Lifecycle, Dragonflies, Science, Nature, Entomology

Publisher: Lerner Publishing Group, Inc.: MN; $22.50

How are dragonflies born? Where do they live? Will they hurt people? These are some of the fascinating questions Linda Glaser answers in her easy to understand and entertaining lifecycle story of the dragonfly. Pasoda’s realistic illustrations follow the life cycle, which helps the beginning reader learn what the dragonfly’s life cycle looks like from the egg stage through the adult stage.

What I liked best about this book is it teaches the early reader that there are more than one type of dragonfly, first in illustration and then at the end with typical question and answer pages. The thought-provoking questions introduce the reader to the critical thinking process.

Dazzling Dragonflies is recommended as a great nature resource for the elementary level reader.

Reviewed for Jewel of a book by Jewel Sample--Award-winning author of Flying Hugs and Kisses. To learn more about Jewel Sample visit her at

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Kid’s Oral Book Review of OK GO

By Cheyenne, age 6 and Gramma

Gramma: What is the name of the book you read today?
Cheyenne: “OK GO”

Gramma: What’s the person’s name who wrote the book?
Cheyenne: First--C-A-R-I-N --then, B-E-R-G-E-R. I only know a few words because I am just learning to read. But I know my letters really well.

Gramma: Did you like the story?
Cheyenne: uh-huh

Gramma: What did you like about the book?
Cheyenne: I can read some of the words by myself. That was really fun.

Gramma: Learning new words is fun.
Cheyenne: I am learning to read. I am growing big. Now I know what “OK” looks like and I know “GO” too. I say those words a lot.

Gramma: Did you learn a favorite word?
Cheyenne: Yeah, Screeeech. Cars do that when they S-T-O-P, stop really fast.

Gramma: What did you learn that you did not know before?
Cheyenne: I saw Kate roller skating. I have never done that before. I want to learn to do that because when you skate you save gas.

Gramma: Is there anything else about the book that you want to tell kids?
Cheyenne: I saw the word Uh-oh! That’s a mom’s word. Mom says that a lot. Kids can see what that word looks like. Okay The End.

Kid's Oral Book Review by Jewel Sample--Award-winning author of Flying Hugs and Kisses. To learn more about Jewel Sample visit her at

Friday, September 10, 2010

OK GO Jewel of a Book Review


ISBN-10: 0061576662, 2009
Fiction: Juvenile Literature, Ecology
Publisher: Greenwillow Books; Harper Collins: NY; $17.99

OK GO hooks the reader with attention-grabbing illustrations made from recycled items as the story unfolds with a twist by using catchy poetic phrases about reducing waste. A brilliant way to playfully model and teach the importance of caring for our ecosystem to the beginning reader.

OK GO is an excellent ecological and art resource for the home and school library. Parents and teachers can talk about ways to recycle, reduce energy, and make up catchy phrases to help remember to stay green or how to make art with reusable items.

Reviewed by Jewel Sample--Award-winning author of Flying Hugs and Kisses. To learn more about Jewel Sample visit her at

Monday, September 6, 2010

Jewel of a Book Review:The Princess and the Pee


By Susan A. Meyers

ISBN-13: 9781933831121, 2010
Fiction: Chapter book, Juvenile

Publisher: Blooming Tree Press: Austin, TX ; $8.95

Author site: Susan A. Meyers

Princess Pia Scarlet lives in a castle with her older sister, Darling Millicent and her baby sister, Angelica. Not all is perfect in the royal household. Pia grudgingly listens to her older sister tell her about all the events happening on the castle grounds that she sees from her top bunk. The best is the nightly firefly show. Princess Pia Scarlett yearns to sleep on the top bunk and watch the fireflies herself. Darling Millicent refuses to switch until Pia stops wetting the bed. Pia makes a bet with her sister that if she stays dry for seven nights they will switch beds. Pia searches the castle over for ways to help her stay dry. Does Princess Pia Scarlett find a way to win her bet?

Meyers writes an entertaining medieval tale that takes into account a sensitive issue faced by today’s early childhood children. What I liked best is the author’s gentle reassurance that someday the bedwetting can be conquered by the child.

Manelle Oliphant’s black and white illustrations bring the story alive with engaging humor.

THE PRINCESS AND THE PEE is a great resource for the early elementary grade reader who may be dealing with the bedwetting issue or has a sibling who is facing this typical early childhood developmental challenge.

Reviewed for Jewel of a book by Jewel Sample--Award-winning author of Flying Hugs and Kisses. To learn more about Jewel Sample visit her at

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Jewel of a Book Review of Chicken Dance by Tammi Sauer

By Tammi Sauer
ISBN-13: 9781402753664, 2009
Fiction: Juvenile, Picture Book, Talent Show
Publisher: Sterling Publishing Co, Inc.: NY; $14.95
Author site: Tammi Sauer

Sauer and Santat portray memorable characters in an entertaining barnyard production starring Marge and Lola, who hang out together where Elvis Poultry is top bird. The two best friend chicks almost lose their cluck when they read the Barnyard Talent Show poster. The grand prize is two tickets to the final multitalented doodle doo of the season. Lola and Marge set out to snag the prize, but first they have to test their talents and score higher than the other animals in the barnyard.

What I liked best about Chicken Dance was its humor in text and illustrations, which made it easy to keep the attention of a kindergartener and for them to identify with the characters. For instance, when Lola and Marge tried to swim the kindergartener laughed and said they had sunk like the chickens once.

A minor downside to the story is when improper expressions are used in a scene where the chicken friends are called a name, “Drumsticks” and the use of the word “losers.” If the expressions were not used it doesn’t appear to this reviewer to take away from the story.

Chicken Dance is appropriate for the early elementary grade reader. Parents and teachers can glean themes from reading this book for further discussion like friendship, name calling, favorite music, sportsmanship, diversity in abilities, what do farm animals really do or farm animal jokes.

Reviewed by Jewel Sample--Award-winning author of Flying Hugs and Kisses. To learn more about Jewel Sample visit her at

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Hungry Critters

Hello writing friends!

Welcome back to the adventures of Jewel of a Book. I hope your summer brought you many things to write about.

School is now in full swing. Vacations have come to a slow grind and your body is almost use to getting up at the crack of dawn to get to school on time. Just as you are about to turn off the news on the television, there is a News Alert. "Rumor has it a group of hungry rodents chewed through a fiber-optic line at the high school. The critters endeavors managed to knockout the complete public school security system, as well as the telephones and internet service."

Write about it!

In real life, things happen when you least expect them! We can take those events and turn them into great stories.

Choose your own setting: school, hospital, bank, museum or parent's work.

Choose the kind of critters that you want in your story (rats, rabbits, squirrels & etc.).

Take a picture or find one in a book of the setting or the animal for your story.

Rumors spread, how does your rumor get everyone's attention?

How do you or your characters react to the rumor?

Does the rumor hold true?

Share your story by placing it in the comments below! Be sure and stop back by to see what others have written.

Happy writing!

Writing prompt by Jewel Sample---award winning author of FLYING HUGS AND KISSES.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

CHASING LILACS: Entertainingly Riveting and Unforgettable


By Carla Stewart

ISBN: 9780446556552

Fiction: Young Adult

Publisher: FaithWords; a division of Hachette Book Group:NY

Chasing Lilacs is a fast paced 1950's coming of age story of an early adolescent girl named Sammie Tucker, who is growing up in a Texas Utility Service camp alive with human strengths, weaknesses, and secrets. Sammie is faced with typical adolescent issues of self identity, friendship, religious beliefs and love. which are complicated by her mother's "nerve" condition and sudden death. Sammie's childhood friend is sure an alienating aunt has come to take Sammie's mother's place. Sammie must choose whom to trust with her deepest fears as she walks through her own deep pain and heartfelt injustice, while uncovering bewildering community secrets.

What I really liked about Chasing Lilacs is when I was done reading about Sammie Tucker, I wished I could call the author up on the telephone and talk about the characters as if they were real people. Stewart skillfully entertained and engaged me with each character's personal pain, coping skills and sometimes unpredictable behavior in a community she brilliantly portrays with the belief that it takes a village to raise a child. Just when I thought I had figured out the next twist, Stewart surprised me with the unexpected, which kept me reading until the very end.

Similar to the writings of J.D. Salinger in the Catcher in the Rye, without the profanity, Stewart's themes and symbolism evoked many questions for future discussion. I found myself returning to read certain passages over and over, only to discover another theme or symbol to mull over. A welcomed benefit is the discussion questions at the end, which encouraged me to come up with unlisted questions for further discussion.

Chasing Lilacs is a great read for the high school or college level classroom, as well as the young adult heart.

Reviewed by Jewel Sample--award winning author of FLYING HUGS AND KISSES. To learn more about Jewel Sample visit her at