Books by Michael Strickland That Celebrate the African American Experience

Families: Poems Celebrating the African American Experience

511KF9CYyBL._SY346_Family relationships are explored and affirmed in this joyful anthology of poems celebrating the diversity of African American families. Michael Strickland, has collaborated with his mother, noted educator Dorothy Strickland, to bring us this warm collection. Rich and powerful poems by Eloise Greenfield, Lucille Clifton, and others are rooted in deeply felt values of belonging and mutual respect.

From Publishers Weekly

Using works by Lucille Clifton, Nikki Giovanni, Langston Hughes and other African American poets, this determinedly upbeat collection focuses on happy childhood experiences-getting hugs and kisses, going on family outings and saying a tender good night. The poems selected are rarely representative of the poets’ best writing; moreover, they tend to stereotype pretty little girls and big strong boys. The larger problem, however, is that in “celebrating the African American experience,” the editors try to be both inclusive and exclusive at the same time. Little here suggests either the uniqueness or the variety of black culture; conversely, the Stricklands’ own initial poem extolling “all kinds of families” and poems that applaud children of “every color skin” seem at odds with the uniformly black faces Ward depicts in his acrylic paintings. But even though the focus is blurred, many teachers and parents will welcome the volume for its use of an African American cast in paying tribute to middle-class family values. Ages 5-8.

  • Age Range: 5 – 8 years
  • Grade Level: 2 – 3
  • Paperback: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Wordsong (February 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1563975602
  • ISBN-13: 978-1563975608
  • Product Dimensions: 0.1 x 7.8 x 10.8 inches

From School Library Journal

Grade 2-5-A fine collection of 23 poems that feature African-American families. Youngsters’ voices come through vibrantly in these traditional and contemporary works that express the joy, sorrow, and excitement of childhood. Gwendolyn Brooks’s “Andre” is about a boy who dreams of having to choose new parents; Eloise Greenfield’s “Missing Mama” poignantly expresses a child’s sorrow at the death of his mother; and Lindamichellebaron’s “Hugs and Kisses” is a delightful selection about a boy’s hidden approval of his mother’s affection for him. Other poems are by Arnold Adoff, Lucille Clifton, Nikki Grimes, Nikki Giovanni, Langston Hughes, Naomi F. Faust, Julia Fields, and E. Alma Flagg. Black characters are depicted in the attractive acrylic illustrations, and some poems express themes directly related to African-American culture; however, the verses represent and impart universal feelings and moments, making this a book to be shared and enjoyed by all children.

Haircuts at Sleepy Sam’s

From Publishers Weekly

Three brothers take a Saturday morning trip to Sam’s barber shop in this affable if slim story, narrated by the youngest sibling. Though their mother sends them with a note instructing the barber not to trim her sons’ Afro cuts too short on top, the boysAand SamAhave a different style in mind. Strickland, who has compiled several poetry anthologies for children, shapes credible dialogue and gives his narrative a bouncy cadence: awaiting their turn in the barber’s chair, the brothers “watch the men cut hair and talk, cut hair and joke, cut hair and argue, cut hair and laugh, cut hair and boogie to51QCGZY852L._SX260_ the oldies on the radio.” Holliday’s (First by Secondhand) 1970s’ palette underscores Mom’s old-fashioned ideas and the barbers’ banter about boxers Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. Rendered with airbrush and pastel chalk, his pictures showcase the animated expressions of the characters with close-to-photographic clarity against faded backgrounds of chartreuse, mauve and beige. Ages 4-8.

  • Age Range: 4 and up
  • Grade Level: Preschool and up
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Boyds Mills Press; 1st edition (September 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1563975629
  • ISBN-13: 978-1563975622
  • Product Dimensions: 10.3 x 9.4 x 0.4 inches

From School Library Journal

Kindergarten-Grade 3-It’s Saturday morning and haircut time for three African-American brothers. While their mother insists on natural Afro cuts, the boys yearn for the contemporary shorter styles worn by their friends. Readers follow the children as they walk to Sam’s Barbershop where they give Sam the envelope from their mother that contains instructions and money for the haircuts. Three barbers work on the siblings and when they are finished, the boys have the haircuts they wanted. The pastel and airbrush illustrations lend a light, cheery tone and portray a lively community. The photographic quality of the facial expressions invites readers to join in the joking and horseplay at the barbershop. Both the first-person narrative and the illustrations reveal the close-knit relationships of the brothers and their surroundings. The text flows well and is a good choice for reading aloud. For similar books, see Margaree King Mitchell’s Uncle Jed’s Barbershop (S & S, 1993) and Natasha Tarpley’s I Love My Hair (Little, Brown, 1997).
Shawn Brommer, Southern Tier Library System, Painted Post, NY

African-American Writers: A Dictionary

A timely survey of an important sector of American letters, African American Writers, examines a multitude of black cultural leaders from the eighteenth century to the present as it focuses on novelists, essayists, scholars, activists, critics, teachers, poets, playwrights, and songwriters. Biographical information covers important events in a writer’s life, education, major works, honors and awards, family and important associates, and more. Includes illustrations, bibliography, and index.

From Library Journal

This unique title profiles several hundred African American fiction and nonfiction writers from Colonial times to the present. The table of contents lists the authors alphabetically and then divides them into 17 categories (novels, short stories, slave narratives, etc.) and nine themes (Folktales, the Harlem Renaissance, Trickster Tales, etc.); authors whose 415372WY1YL._SY300_work spans several categories are listed separately under each. The profiles themselves, presented alphabetically and ranging from a paragraph for less well known writers like Ai Ogawa to three pages for writers like Ralph Ellison or Terry McMillan, are both biographical and critical, although the amount of criticism varies. Included in each entry are the writer’s birth and death dates, the categories into which he or she fits, and any pseudonyms. Black-and-white illustrations, references, genre lists, a comprehensive index, and chronologies of the writer’s life dates and of African American literary firsts complete this impressive title. Hatch, a freelance writer, and Strickland (creative writing, Boise State University.) are to be commended; no other single work seeks to include all past and present African American writers of significance in such an affordable format.

  • Series: Literary Companions (ABC)
  • Library Binding: 484 pages
  • Publisher: ABC-Clio Inc (June 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0874369592
  • ISBN-13: 978-0874369595
  • Product Dimensions: 10.3 x 7.3 x 1.7 inches

From Booklist

Finding information about African American writers has always entailed searching in a variety of resources. Children’s writers, political writers, poets, songwriters, novelists, and speechwriters are covered in different sources, some easy to find, others not. Information about some writers, such as Toni Morrison and Phillis Wheatley, is readily available. Information about other, more obscure writers, such as Abby Fisher, who authored the first published cookbook by an African American woman, is harder to locate. And unearthing facts about those who penned comic strips, compiled bibliographies, or wrote scripts or political columns is even more challenging.

This very complete and readable dictionary helps to meet that challenge. Spanning the entire history of African American expression, it covers more than 530 individuals, including writers of commercials, hymns, newspaper editorials, and rap songs along with screenplays, novels, autobiographies, essays, and poetry. Publishers, editors, and patrons of the arts are included as well. Entries vary from just a sentence for actor Laurence Fishburne to 10 pages for Richard Wright. A handful of important movements, publications, and genres (e.g., Harlem Renaissance, Negro Digest, Spirituals ) are also treated.

Each author entry begins with the author’s birth name, followed by pseudonyms or alternative names and birth and death dates if available, as well as the genres appropriate to the individual. In addition to biographical facts, the editors have included information about what inspired the authors to compose their works, in the hope that the volume would be a springboard for further investigation or even a source of ideas. Cross-references are in bold type, and each entry ends with abbreviated source references. The book is sprinkled with photographs and concludes with an appendix of writers by genre, a chronology of writers and a chronology of  firsts, full bibliographic references, and an index.

The Club 51V34KHK01L._SY346_

… And

Shells Gold

Reading levels are inviting to reluctant readers.
– Each series features a multicultural cast of characters with strong group friendships.
– Engaging plots deal with peer rivalry, mystery, virtual reality, and much more!

The Club:

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Series: Summit Books
  • Paperback: 119 pages
  • Publisher: Perfection Learning (August 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0789155427
  • ISBN-13: 978-0789155429
  • Product Dimensions: 0.3 x 4.2 x 6.6 inches


If you have kids or teens who are reluctant readers because they read below grade level and can’t find books they can read that interest them, try some of these hi-lo books. The Hi-Lo reading lists focus on books at the reader’s interest level (“Hi” stands for “high interest”) but written at a lower reading level (“Lo” stands for “low readability,” “low vocabulary,” “lower reading level”) to encourage reading. Kids and teens reading below grade level are more apt to want to read a book if it is not only at their reading level but 51D47VDB53L._SY346_also at their interest level.

  • Shell’s Gold:
  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Series: Summit Books
  • Hardcover: 117 pages
  • Publisher: Perfection Learning (August 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0756908558
  • ISBN-13: 978-0756908553

A hi-lo book, broadly defined, is a title that offers highly interesting subject matter at a low reading level, according to Publisher’s Weekly. A number of publishers have focused on producing these books, though they often take slightly different approaches to creating the products that best fit a particular market. The abiding goal, says Arianne McHugh, president and co-owner of Saddleback Educational Publishing, “is to offer age-appropriate content—something that will grab [readers’] interest—at a readability level that is accessible.” As examples, McHugh notes that for a struggling reader in middle school or high school, although The Hunger Games would generate enormous interest, it would be a discouraging undertaking. On the other hand, “You can’t give them Clifford; we don’t want to embarrass them,” she says. Somewhere in the middle is the book that’s just right, she says.

African-American Poets (Collective Biographies)

51CtPUje71L._SY346_This book  profiles the lives and work of ten African American poets: Gwendolyn Brooks, Haki R. Madhubuti, Rita Dove, Eloise Greenfield, Langston Hughes, Imamu Amiri Baraka, Maya Angelou, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Phillis Wheatley and Nikki Giovanni.

From School Library Journal:

Gr 7-12. ‘Ten African Americans are highlighted in these essays. Each 7-to-10 page sketch contains basic biographical information about the poet, showing how the African-American experience affected their work, along with a portrait (usually a photograph) and one of their poems. The writers range from former slave Phillis Wheatley to contemporary authors such as Maya Angelou, Eloise Greenfield, and Rita Dove. Also included are Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Nikki Giovanni. The clear, focused writing makes this a solid choice for reports, especially in multicultural units.‘

A to Z of African American History

512QEKG4G7L._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Illustrated throughout, here are more than 500 entries about people, places and events in African American History.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Maya Angelou, Tuskegee Airmen, Slavery, Blacks throughout U.S. wars, the March on Washington, Sojourner Truth, Carl Lewis, Jim Crow Segregation, Langston Hughes and other topics are explored.

  • Hardcover: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Gramercy (January 9, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0517163004
  • ISBN-13: 978-0517163009

 Further Reading: How I Published All of My Books

      Education, arts, culture, and entertainment are topics that drive most of my writing. My work often demonstrates a special emphasis on the incomparable quality of life in and around Boise, Idaho. See my

articles on Yahoo!


And on the international level, the Black diaspora, see my book, Black Snake and the Eggs: A Tale Told in Liberia illustrated by Siri Weber Feeney.

Guest Post: Failure Should Be Mindful Not Mindless, by Chris Wasden

Last week I did an interview for a Podcast with Dr. Travis Good. He kicked off the interview by asking the following question:

In your book, you talk about failure being the spark that ignites the innovation cycle. Since more than half of all digital health companies fail in the first two years, are you suggesting that these founders get right back on the saddle and develop their next idea? 

Here are my thoughts on failure.

There are two different kinds of failure: mindless and mindful. The difference between mindful and mindless failure is the former occurs based upon continuous questioning and testing of hypotheses and learning where you were wrong in your assumptions, the later occurs because you failed to really question and think before you leapt off and started your venture. The cost of developing solutions, such as apps, has collapsed in recent years and is now so cheap that we don’t have to think before we start building something.


Rediscover and Liberate Your Creative Genius

I think the key point about failing is that it forces learning in powerful ways that then leads to new actions that are generally more successful because they overcome the failure that was at the root cause of the problem. If we are more mindful about our failures we focus on identifying the root cause of a problem we need to solve by addressing the underlying failure and pain that caused it. We then create a hypothesis as to how we can innovate to remove the tension that the failure and pain cause, we then test that hypothesis as quickly as we can, fail fast, quickly learn from that failure, adjust our hypothesis, modify our innovation, and then try again.

It is interesting to see how the country of Singapore is applying this approach to the teaching of math. In a recent article that outlined their approach, teachers purposely design in failure in to the teaching of math. That is, they give the kinds a math problem to solve before they teach them how to solve it, requiring the student to try their best with their current knowledge. Then after they fail, the teachers instruct the students as to the best way to solve the problem. This approach causes the students to be more engaged in learning because now they know why they need to apply this new approach to solving a math problem and they learn it faster and remember it longer. This forces mindful failure.

Recommended Reading: Tension: The Energy of Innovation by Chris Wasden and Mitch Wasden 

The problem with the 70,000+ digital health apps and devices out there is that most of their efforts seem to be mindless. That is, they don’t really understand the root cause of the problem, they are not innovating in ways that remove tension, and they are failing without learning much because they never had a clear hypothesis to begin with.

To really become innovators we must first acknowledge that we don’t know much, we are not the experts we think we are, and we need to undertake exploration and discovery to better understand the problem we want to solve – to quote Einstein “The important thing is to never stop questioning.” This means we must apply the three process of innovation to interact with many people in the world that share a variety of experiences and opinions about the problem we are solving and then select those ideas that seem to make the most sense to solve the problem and design an experiment to test our hypothesis.

It is estimated that 80% of all digital health apps that are downloaded are used only once and then deleted, and only 16% are used twice.  Another studyindicated that of the 43,000 digital health apps only half had any legitimate health function. Five apps accounted for 15% of all downloads. Over 90% of the apps tested scored a 40 out of 100 on the IMS Institute of Healthcare Informatics quality scale.

I have personally looked at and evaluated hundreds of digital health apps and companies with my students at the Sorenson Center for Discovery & Innovation and I would argue that the reason most of them fail is that they haven’t applied the Innovation Cycle to innovate by understanding the root cause of the problem (failure and pain). They didn’t identify a key failure and important pain point that needed to be addressed. They failed to innovate in such a way that they could eliminate the tension that arose from the failure and pain. Unless these failed digital health companies have learned something valuable from their failure, then they shouldn’t get back in the game and perpetuate their mindless failure. If you want to play the innovation game, then apply the Innovation Cycle to fail mindfully.

It is estimated that there are over 400 diabetic apps you can download from the app stores, and over 99% of them are awful because they have weak value propositions (or more likely none at all) and don’t follow what I call the Six Principles of Digital Success to mindfully develop their app and business. They lack Integration into the lifestyle and workflow, they are not Interoperableacross multiple technologies, they are not Intelligent in guiding new behaviors, they are not Social to include broader communities, they do not deliverOutcomes of improvement and they are not Engaging enough to bring you back again and again.

I am familiar with one of the best diabetic apps in the market that follows all six of these principles. Unlike nearly all of the diabetic apps out there, WellDoc , has applied mindful failure and has invented not just new technologies but also a new business model to increase its success in the market. Despite its innovative efforts, WellDoc still struggles because of the inertia of the status quo in healthcare that rejects novel solutions. Healthcare is the toughest market in the world to innovate in, which means that you must be even more effective at applying mindful failure than in any other market.

As I wrote in my blog last week, I am now a mentor in an NSF I-corp innovation program. As part of this program we must do 100 face-to-face interviews with prospective stakeholders in seven weeks. The purpose of these interviews is to apply the three process of innovation to push us towards mindful failure. I can guaranty you that the vast majority (like over 90%) of these digital health companies, which create apps that are never used, didn’t do 100 face-to-face interviews, the failed to seek many points of view that would cause rejection and tension to their ideas in order to improve them before they built their product and launched their business.

Innovation requires failure, but let’s have it be mindful not mindless by never stop questioning.


chris arms folded_croppedDr. Chris Wasden is the Executive Director of the Sorenson Center for Discovery and Innovation at the David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah. He is also an Associated Executive director at the Center for Medical Innovation at the medical school, and a professor in the Entrepreneurship and Strategy Department. He also continues to work with PwC where he was the Global Healthcare Innovation Leader. As a global thought leader on Digital Health and the role that Social, Mobile, Analytic and Cloud technologies are transforming healthcare and other industries he has written and published over 60 articles and reports on the topic, and he speaks at over 30 events each year on how Digital Health is transforming the practice of medicine, the delivery of care, and the creation of an entirely new wellness paradigm based upon objective measures that lead to greater engagement and changes in human behavior. He is a named inventor on 20 issued patents and has been a leader in 11 different startups where he developed many of his ideas around the innovation cycle and lifecycle and how fast, frequent, frugal, and failure accelerates innovation. Dr. Wasden has a doctorate in human and organizational learning from George Washington University in Washington, DC, an MBA from the UCLA Anderson School, and bachelor degrees in accounting (BS) and Asian studies (BA) from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.

SCHOOLS ON TRIAL: How Freedom and Creativity Can Fix Our Educational Malpractice

Schhols On TrialAre America’s schools little more than cinder-block gulags that spawn vicious cliques and bullying, negate creativity, and true learning and squelch curiosity in their inmates, um, students? Nikhil Goyal, a journalist and activist all of twenty years old whom the Washington Post has dubbed a “future education secretary” and Forbes has named to its 30 Under 30 list, passionately thinks so, and in this book he offers both a scathing indictment of our teach-to-the-test-while-killing-the-spirit educational assembly line and maps out a path for all of our schools to harness children’s natural aptitude for learning by creating an atmosphere conducive to freedom and creativity. He prescribes an inspiring educational future that is thoroughly democratic and experiential, and one that utilizes the entire community as a classroom.

SCHOOLS ON TRIAL: How Freedom and Creativity Can Fix Our Educational Malpractice will arrive this spring (Doubleday; February 16, 2016) — an all-in attack on the American way of education and a hopeful blueprint for change by one of the most passionate – and certainly youngest – writers on the subject.

Until recently, Nikhil Goyal was a typical student at a large public high school – a model pupil plucked from the No Child Left Behind generation and Race to the Top era. Since graduating with the class of 2013, however, Nikhil has pursued a less-traditional path, traveling the country – from Chicago and the Mission District, to Brooklyn and beyond – to visit other kinds of learning communities, whose methods opened his eyes to the astonishing potential of what a sea change in education might look like. In Schools on Trial, he introduces readers to some of these less familiar environments that operate beyond the narrow spectrum of current education reform strategies to reveal the ways that seemingly radical methods of education that emphasize creative play and self-learning are in fact more closely aligned with the way human beings have learned for thousands of years, before compulsory education was ever invented.

Conventional debates on school reform frame the discussion in polarizing terms. Advocates are either for or against issues ranging from charter schools and testing to Common Core standards and teachers unions – pitting one side against the other, while ignoring the vastly more important issue that Schools on Trial tackles head-on: the anti-democratic and inherently cruel nature of contemporary schooling itself.

In Schools on Trial, Nikhil Goyal shines a light on the most extraordinary models of learning around the country today, offering stories of people who have bypassed formal institutions in favor of self-education. Goyal presents an eloquent, detailed, and persuasive case that schools are exhausting the gifts of creativity, curiosity, and zeal that all children bring to the classroom and explains why there should be less difference between living and learning inside the classroom and out. His research helps tackle the core questions facing parents and students today and provides a persuasive path forward toward schools that nurture children’s creativity and love of learning, rather than squelch them.

EXCERPT from Neverseen (Keeper of the Lost Cities) by Shannon Messenger

Read the full excerpt from Neverseen (Keeper of the Lost Cities) 

51MSjq-PDFL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_WE HAVE TO go,” Fitz said, bursting through the doors of Everglen’s upstairs guest room.

He found Sophie sitting alone on the edge of the giant canopy bed, already dressed in some of her old human clothes.

“I thought we were waiting another hour?” she asked, glancing out the window at the endless black sky.

“We can’t. The Council is already convening to vote on our punishments.”

Sophie took a slow breath, letting the words pulse through her veins, steeling her nerves as she reached for her purple backpack. It was the same bag she’d used when she’d left her human life nearly a year earlier. And now she would use it again to leave the Lost Cities.

“Is everyone ready?” she asked, proud of her voice for not shaking. She also resisted the urge to tug out an itchy eyelash.

This was not a time for nervous habits.

It was time to be brave.

The Council had vowed to punish anyone associated with the Black Swan—the mysterious organization responsible for Sophie’s existence. But Sophie and her friends knew the real villains were a group called the Neverseen. Fitz, Keefe, and Biana had even tried to help the Black Swan catch the rebels on Mount Everest. But the Neverseen guessed their plan and turned the mission into an ambush. Sophie had discovered the trap in time to warn her friends, and they’d escaped with their lives—and managed to capture one prisoner. But they’d each broken numerous laws in the process.

Shannon Messenger
Shannon Messenger graduated from the USC School of Cinematic Arts where she learned–among other things–that she liked watching movies much better than making them. She’s studied art, screenwriting, and television production, but realized her real passion was writing for kids and teens. Her middle grade series, KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES, is published by Simon & Schuster (Aladdin) and her YA series, SKY FALL, is published by Simon Pulse. She lives in Southern California with her husband and an embarrassing number of cats. Find her online at

Guest Post: Why Special Needs are So Special to Me by AXS CEO Troy McClain

Troy and Kid sisI have learned there is nothing more rewarding than giving back through teaching, educating and inspiring others to do great things. I’m blessed that I have the chance to follow the lead of some great practitioners in both business and life. But there is a beautiful flip side to the concept of “learning from the best.” Sometimes the best people to learn from are among those we least expect.

If you’ve been following my story you’re probably well acquainted with my kid sis, DoraLynn and our families’ love for the gifts she shares with us every day. While she is profoundly deaf with special needs, she has more love, energy and inspiration worth experiencing than anyone I know.

I hired DoraLynn to work in my office years ago. Our team members remember her as always doing her job with a smile, a little sass, and good humor, Over the years I have wished she could hear my laughs and hear the enjoyment she has brought to our friends and family and experience the sounds of the world around her.

I immediately sensed something very special about my sister. Eventually, we became best friends, and her influence has been a major factor in my becoming the successful CEO of AXS. This little girl was a warrior who taught us how to live. Today, everybody wants to know where I learned my business principles. They think Trump, Bill Gates or Warren Buffett taught me (I’ve met and worked with all three). But I acquired my acumen from leaders like DoraLynn.


I learned from her ability to listen. She is the most proficient person I’ve ever met in terms of nonverbal listening skills. For instance, she taught me how to read people in business settings in which they were telling me one thing verbally and their body language was saying something different.

Special needs are special to me. Since 2010, it’s been my pleasure to be an Ambassador to Buddy Cruise, Inc. – a nonprofit organization that provides educational opportunities and resources for families of special needs children. So, it was an honor to be named to their Board of Directors in 2012. We increase awareness, acceptance and inclusion. The educational programs and the keynote speakers that accomplish all this are pretty amazing.

We take so many things for granted. For example, we forget just how special the littlest sounds truly are. The sound of leaves blowing in the wind or birds chirping in the trees. At first glance it may not mean much to those who possess the sense of hearing but to those who don’t it would be life changing.

I’ve always held the belief that in order to get ahead you must give back. Giving back to the special needs community is something that I am very passionate about.


Read more about AXS CEO Troy McClain:
– Proven Success With AXS CEO Troy McClain: Revisiting the First Season of Donald Trump’s Apprentice 
– A Look at the Enduring, Positive Reputation of AXS CEO Troy McClain
– Lessons from AXS CEO Troy McClain Forum » Topix

Pre-PiBoIdMo Day 6: Let’s Get Visual with Mike Ciccotello (plus a prize!)

Originally posted on Writing for Kids (While Raising Them):

Today’s post comes from the mind (and pencil) of illustrator Mike Ciccotello.

Inspiring minds wanna know!


Mike is an aspiring children’s book illustrator. He received a BFA with a concentration in painting from Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University. He has 13 years experience working as a motion graphic designer at CNN and Fox Business Network. Mike is currently the Art and Design Director at Telos Corporation. He is a contributing member of and a member of SCBWI. You can see more of Mike’s art online at

He’s also on Facebook, Twitter @Ciccotello & Instagram @Ciccotello.  

PrizeDetails (2)

Mike is giving away this original art! YES! THIS!!! (Scroll up!)

Leave a comment below to enter. One comment per person, please.

This prize will be given away at the conclusion of PiBoIdMo. You will be eligible for this prize if:

  • You have registered for PiBoIdMo.

View original 17 more words

You have to write! by Janet Wong Can “Inspire a New Generation of Writers”

I’m hoping that this book will inspire a new generation of writers to tap into their own everyday experiences and family stories! (this book was dedicated to Carol Jago, who invited me to the conference where I sat and listened to teachers who convinced me I needed to write it) – Janet Wong, on my Facebook writing and publishing page.

I was looking for an additional author of contemporary realistic fiction to add to a study module for my university children’s literature class, so I asked around to a group of authors and experts. One name came through with resounding recommendations: Janet Wong. After experiencing her book You Have to Write, I can see why so many people love Janet’s work.

It’s a class assignment. But you have nothing to write about. All the other kids seem to have something to tell because they start in right away. What can you do? Stop and think. No one else can tell your stories — about your family, your dog or cat. No one else can tell how it was when your library book got soaked in the rain.

But what if you don’t like what you write? There are all sorts of ways to change it, to make it better. Keep on playing with your words, putting them together in different ways. You want whatever you write to be good. It will get better and better as you work on it.

This is an encouraging book, sympathetically illustrated by Teresa Flavin’s charming pictures, for all young readers who worry when they’re told to write something.

The work has great potential to aid young learners and address some common struggles. It can help them find their own voices.

Janet’s voice was developed through a fascinating and highly unlikely path: Her career switch was so dramatic that she was featured on a segment of The Oprah Winfrey Show. When Wong left her job as Director of Labor Relations at Universal Studios in Hollywood, she dreamed of becoming a children’s book author. Janet tells her story in this video.

According to School Library Journal:

Through free-verse poetry, Wong targets a group of youngsters looking for good topics for a writing assignment. “You want it to be good, to make us cry or bust up laughing when the room is quiet.” They are encouraged to look around, and not to beJanet discouraged by the worldliness or experiences of others. “Wait. Did you forget who you are? Who else can say what you have seen? Who else can tell your stories-.” A photo albumlike page shows a variety of pets, holidays, hobbies, vacations, and family outings that could be possible topics. “Reach inside. Write about the dark times. -Write about the bright times. -Take your mind for a walk back to this morning, back to yesterday-.” Examples are given of parents fighting, a wet library book growing mildew, childhood fears of storms, and taking out the trash. For “Weave them together- half of Draft 1, a word from Draft 4, a whole line from number 5. Try. Because you have to write, and you want it to be good,” the illustration shows each child laying out stretches of many drafts on the floor. The simple realistic gouache paintings are rather ordinary but appropriate for the “writing from life” philosophy that is espoused.

“You Have to Write is a must for every teacher who teaches writing, wrote Petra Siprian. “It is perfect for generating ideas. Students will identify with the struggle of what to write.”


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