Santa Barbara County Education Office's Breakfast with Authors

It was such a treat to be part of the Santa Barbara County Education Office’s Breakfast with Authors. This was the 57th annual breakfast. What a fabulous tradition. My thanks to Rose, Steve, and all the others in Instructional Media Services who work together to make this successful event fun and informational.

Children's Museums

Sometimes you just get a great surprise e-mail. I just heard the National Children’s Museum will be using the cover and a description of S IS FOR S’MORES in their “Family Literacy Projects on a Budget: Trainer’s Toolkit.”

This is especially exciting news for me. I was a Founding Friend of the Children’s Museum of San Diego over 25 years ago. How fun my book can now be named in a children’s museum publication. Just WOW.

The National Children’s Museum website is:

Cozy as Spring

I found this lovely entry on a "Cozy as Spring" blog in the "New Picture Books" entry. Doesn't "Cozy as Spring" sound inviting?

"I recently ordered S Is for S'mores: A Camping Alphabet (Sleeping Bear Alphabets) for my children. I love the layout of these books - the main text is suitable for all ages and older children can peruse the side sections for additional details. There really is a lot of good camping advice included. I immediately liked this take on the alphabet book because it so fit with all our camping experiences. It's beautifully illustrated as well. A hit all around."

—from Cozy as Spring blog

Thank you for the kind words "Cozy"!

As for me, I've just finished reading hundreds of books. (More about that later!) And, now I'm headed for some camping time.

Happy Trails to You!

S’more toasty campfire reading

A big "HI!" to those of you I met at Barnes & Noble in Grossmont Center, La Mesa today! Thank you Russell and Stephanie!

I also found this lovely article celebrating s'mores today and thought I'd share it with you. It's from Shari Transue at the "Allentown Children’s Books Examiner." (Thank you Shari!) Here goes . . .

If you are going on that last family vacation, September is a good month to take the family camping. Also Labor Day week is a nice time to take advantage of a camping trip. As the weather cools off and as the crisp air of ‘Indian Summer’ wisps in, pack your tent and your camp chair. Don’t forget your cozy, toasty campfire reads.

Also, check out these titles for s’more campfire reading as you hear the crackle of your Jiffy Pop and savor the crunch of your toasted, warm and melted marshmallows. For some of your little ones, your old favorite Maisy and friends, try their hand at camping in "Maisy Goes Camping" (2004) by Lucy Cousins. See if they make fun of their time camping or if they all fit into the tent. For some of your younger children or beginning readers Usborne Farmyard Tales has a collection of books, including, "Camping Out" (2004) by Heather Amery. This cute little story about Poppy, Sam and their dog Rusty, tells about their cozy farm yard camping adventure. In this and all Usborne books there is a Notes for Parents section. So, guide your children through this read and see if you can find the little duck hiding on each page.

Sleeping Bear Press has a great collection of Alphabet books, from states to history and even camping in their "S is for S’mores; A Camping Alphabet" (2007) by Helen Foster James. For the poet, A – Z walks you through camping, nature and rustic literature. For the logical, the sidebars are informational on many topics. The back of the book has recipes, camping ideas, supplies and smart, clean camping for keeping parks and sites pollution free. If you’re a singer pick up the guitar and put some music to the words in "Toasting Marshmallows; Camping Poems" (2001) by Kristine O’Connell George, another poets camping read.

Before it’s too late, make that trek to the great outdoors and breathe in that fresh natural air, start that campfire crackling, light that lantern, toast those ‘mallows, perk that coffee and relax by that fire. Savor those memories . . .

Warm front, cold back…
I lean against Mom,
My head on her shoulder.
Warm all over.
River Messages
River words run
in scallops and scribbles,
scrolls of eddies
and watery ripples…
Pulling Up the Stakes
The fire is doused,
the coals are cold,
the tent collapsed…

I find two rocks –
one to keep,
one to hide,
in my secret place,
to say: I was here.
to say: I’ll be back next year.

Excerpts from Toasting Marshmallows by Kristine O’Connell George

National S'mores Day

August 10 is National S'mores Day . . . Yes, there really is a day to celebrate S'mores!

Are you ready for the big day?

Mineral King

We just got home from our annual camping trip in Mineral King. It’s located in Sequoia National Park and campers must make a 90-minute drive with almost 700 curves to arrive at a beauty of a campground.

Nearby is Silver City Resort and I’m pleased to say that they carry S IS FOR S’MORES: A CAMPING ALPHABET. A BIG thank you to Forrest, the manager of the resort.

Happy Trails to you!

More Summer Reading


I found this article at

A big thank you to them for mentioning S'MORES. Happy Summer Reading!

What’s on Your Child’s Summer Reading List?

June 14th, 2009

Even if the thought of summer reading is daunting for your child, it doesn’t have to be painful, or the grounds for arguments at home. You can help your child create a plan for completing his or her summer reading list. Here are a few tips:

Make a Plan. Whether it’s in the morning, as an afternoon break or a way to wind down after dinner, try to set a structured reading time for your child every day.

Read Together. You can read aloud, or you can both read the same book silently, stopping to discuss as you go. When reading together, you can help make sure your child is grasping the basic storylines and plots and demonstrate that you enjoy reading too!

Compromise. Allow your child to take a break from “required reading” by selecting a book, magazine or journal of their own choosing.

Here are a few suggestions if your child needs a break from required reading:

Kindergarten: Mud Puddle by Robert Munsch

1st Grade: S is for S’mores: A Camping Alphabet by Helen Foster James

2nd Grade: See the Ocean by Estelle Condra

3rd Grade: A Mirror to Nature: Poems About Reflection by Jane Yolen

4th Grade: Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

5th Grade: A Week in the Woods by Andrew Clements

Middle School: The Ghost in Allie’s Pool by Sari Bodi

High School: Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson

Summer reading is an important part of wrapping up the school year and segueing into the next. So, encourage your children to keep reading this summer!

Summer Fun Reading

I found this article at Always fun to find some great summer reading books, including S'MORES. A big thank you to the author, Skila Brown.

Under the Sun: Best Books for Outdoor Summer Reading

by Skila Brown

There’s nothing better than a book on a leisurely summer day, and that's why summer is prime time for reading. With warm weather fun on the horizon, however, it’s sometimes hard to convince kids of the joys of summer reading.

One strategy to renew summer reading is to take books outside! Reading doesn’t have to always occur inside closed doors: in fact, reading in the summer is best enjoyed in the grass, under the sun, or beside the pool or ocean.

If you and your child need some inspiration for sunny summer reading, here’s a list of 18 books that are perfect for reading outside.


Little Cloud by Eric Carle – Prop this one up on the blanket on a cloudy day and see what shapes you and your little one can find in the sky.

Pop! A Book About Bubbles by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley – Simple sentences and lively photographs will inspire your preschooler to enjoy some bubble play outside. It even includes a recipe for making your own bubble solution, leaving no excuse not to join in the fun!


Mud Puddle by Robert Munsch – Every time Jule Ann tries to play in her backyard, a giant mud puddle appears to attack her and soil her plans. A perfect backyard read-aloud for muddy, dusty kids.

Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert – How colorful is nature around you? Take this book outside and get inspired to see the rainbow you may have growing in your own backyard.

1st grade

S if for S’mores: A Camping Alphabet by Helen Foster James – Is there a better book to read aloud around a campfire? This could be a perfect choice to bring out to the tent and pitch it in your own backyard. After all, s’mores can be made in the microwave too!

Looking Closely Through the Forest by Frank Serafini – Each page of this book brings a new puzzle for the eye. Look closely to see which forest item is featured up close on each page.

2nd grade

See the Ocean by Estelle Condra – How would you describe the ocean to someone who was blind? The amazing illustrations and powerful text will inspire your family to think about ways to ‘see’ other parts of nature with your eyes closed tight.

If you Find a Rock by Peggy Christian – Beautiful photographs and lyrical words describe the simplistic beauty of rocks of all shapes and sizes. A perfect inspiration to treasure hunt for special rocks as a family.

3rd grade

A Mirror to Nature: Poems About Reflection by Jane Yolen – This new collection of poems by a truly gifted writer is paired with breathtaking photographs of scenes from naure. Take it outside to read and then get inspired to write nature poems of your own.

Sky Tree by Thomas Locker – There is absolutely no better set of illustrations and descriptions of trees in various seasons.

4th grade

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder – Summer is the perfect time to introduce your child to this classic series. Outside is the perfect setting to read this first book aloud together, as you look out and imagine Laura’s life in the wilderness.

Maroo of the Winter Caves by Ann Turnbull – Beat the summer heat by reading about Maroo and her brother Otak who brave the winter blizzard in search of food for their family.

5th grade

A Week in the Woods by Andrew Clements – What starts out as a class camping trip turns into a dangerous tale that's full of suspense! Mark is new to school and not finding his niche, when he suddenly finds himself lost in the woods for a week’s time. Send your child out in the woods (but within sight) to read this one in solitude.

The Complete Book of the Flower Fairies by Cicely Mary Barker – This is the end-all book about fairies. Full of poems, rhymes, stories and more, your fairy-loving reader will be entranced with the illustrations and engrossed in the magical world that surrounds her.

Visit for the middle school and high school list.

And, a big thank you for remembering S'mores!

Fun in the Summer Sun

I just noticed this article from the North Bay Nugget, North Bay, Ontario, Canada and thought I'd share it with you.

"Hooray! Summer is finally here! This week's Getting the Word Out features books about the joys of sunny days, warm weather, and outdoor fun, all of which can be found in the Children's Department of North Bay Public Library.

Summer Beat by Betsy Franco(Margaret K. McElderry Books, ages three to six) is a bouncing, swinging tribute to the best sounds of every child's favourite season.

Clackity-clack, clackity-clack. A skateboard flies over sidewalk squares." So begins a catalog of summer activities and their sounds, as shared by happy children. A girl and a boy enjoy playing with the sprinkler, blowing bubbles and sitting in a hammock before having a cookout, compete with three-legged race, balloon toss, and sparkler. After watching Fourth of July fireworks, the children sleep in a tree house. The artwork combines fine crayon-textured line work with digitally produced patterns. Each page resonates with sound words and rhymes in this symphony of summertime.

Loudmouth George Earns His Allowance by Nancy Carlson(Carolrhoda Books, ages four to eight) is a tale of shirking chores on summer vacation. A mother rabbit gives each of her five sons a daily chore. Young readers will understand when George decides to swim, watch television and build a fort instead. Now the house is a mess and his mom won't let him go to the movies. So George comes up with a brilliant plan. He promises to bring his brothers to the movies too--if they do his tasks for him. Surely they will be too tired to go after all that work, won't they? But somehow, George's no-fail plan backfires, and one begins to wonder just who will have the last laugh. Colourful, busy scenes show all the action and underscore the clean up your act" message.

Toy Boat by Randall de Seve(Philomel Books, ages three to seven) is a glowing picture book parable of a first solo venture into the big wide world. A young boy has made a toy boat from a can, a cork, a yellow pencil and some white cloth. The boy loves the boat and takes it everywhere, keeping it close on a string near open water. But one day he drops the string and the toy ventures far out on the lake. The boat had often wondered what it would feel like to sail free but now, far from home, it faces the perils of high waves, stormy skies and large, mean-spirited sailing vessels. Finally a humble little fishing boat takes pity on the toy and guides it to shore, where it is reunited with the boy. The story ends with the boy occasionally letting the string go when they are at the lake since the toy boat now knows to come back home again. Radiant acrylic artwork shows the homely toy and its young owner, resplendent against the sunlit lake.

Ella Sets Sail by Carmela and Steven D'Amico(Arthur A. Levine, ages four to eight) follows everyone's favourite little elephant as she discovers the real meaning of luck. Ella loves the annual Elephant Island Carnival for its rides, its cotton candy and the fun she has with her friends. As always she wears the lucky red hat her grandmother gave her. But this year things aren't going well for her at the fair. Belinda is being a pest, Ella's allowance is all gone, and one of her friends loses the hat just when Ella needs it most. And when Ella chases it out to sea--braving a fierce storm and an unfamiliar island--she wonders if her luck has finally run out. As in previous Ella books, the charm comes from both the spunky heroine and the glorious illustrations with a Mediterranean background that is her playground.

We Love the Seashore by Kate Tym (QEB Publishing, ages three to eight) introduces young children to a popular summer holiday destination. Busy watercolours images capture the joy and chaos of a seaside outing with four children. We wake up in the morning / and it's a sunny day. / Mommy grabs the cooler, / and we know just what she'll say: / 'Get your things together kids, / swimsuits, towels, and inflatable rings; / buckets, shovels, and sunhats, / all your seashore things.' The bouncing rhyming text takes readers along on a family's excursion, through getting ready to go, squabbling with siblings on the car ride, exploring the beach, making sand-castles, visiting the amusement park and a quiet ride home with sleeping children. A concluding page suggests activities on a seaside theme for parents and children to try together.

Sizzle! A Book About Heat Waves by Rick Thomas(Picture Window Books, ages four to eight) gives a first look at a summer weather phenomenon. Bright computer-generated images and a brief text introduce young readers to the topics of water shortages, city and country heat, fire hazards, drought and how to survive in a heat wave. Complete with a glossary, index, and some suggested titles for learning more, this book is part of the Amazing Science series.

S is For S'mores by Helen Foster James (Sleeping Bear Press, ages four to nine) is a camping alphabet book. Next to picnics and fireworks, nothing else says summertime fun as mush as the family camping trip. Tackling such topics as unique camping environments, equipment necessities, famous conservationists and national parks, this abecedarium explores this popular outdoor pastime. With the alphabet as a backdrop, beginning readers can enjoy the simple rhymes that accompany each watercolour painting of common camping scenes. Older children can discover facts about each letter topic in the accompanying sidebar expository. Informative and fun, this is a perfect book for parents to share with their children, whether they are backyard tenters or experienced campers.

Welcome to summer!"

The Bookman

On Friday, the Greater San Diego Reading Association ( had their annual Recognition Dinner. GSDRA honors teachers and literacy leaders from throughout San Diego City and County at the event. I was honored to present four of the Celebrate Literacy Awards.

The Celebrate Literacy Award recognizes organizations, institutions, and individuals making significant literacy contributions at the local or state level.

I met the Bookman!

Irwin Herman retired in 1988, but he found a new vision and gave us “The Bookman,” a wordwide charitable organization based in San Diego. It started one day when Irwin went with a friend who does outreach visits in local jails. He learned the inmates needed books. He gave some books and noticed how grateful they were.

An idea sprouted. Now Bookman organization provides books for free to anyone who asks. Can you imagine having such a vision? The bookman warehouse contains over 50,000 books with a daily turnover of 2000-3000 books. He enlists the help of Lenny the Elf (aka Leonard Pearlman) and other faithful elves including Tony Ross, a retired publishing executive, and Don Schultz, a retired bookstore owner.

The bookman’s motto is ”Providing books to anyone who wants to read and learn.” Please visit their website at to learn more about this fabulous project.

The bookman has given away an estimated 8 million free books to people in San Diego, every state, and seventy countries.

International Reading Association

I was at the International Reading Association conference in Phoenix in February, and I just received this photo from Michael Shoulders of the Sleeping Bear Press dinner with authors and illustrator. From left to right: Michael Shoulders, Eve Bunting, Barbara Gowan, Rick Anderson, Helen Foster James, and Tony Johnston. What a fun event.

Four Kids in 5B and 1 Crazy Year

I participated in San Pasqual School’s Teachers As Readers (TAR) group on Thursday. We read FOUR KIDS IN 5B & 1 CRAZY YEAR by Virginia Frances Schwartz. It's about students and their writing quest. Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:

“I wish I could sit in my own grandmother's kitchen like the author Cynthia Rylant. No wonder these authors can write. Their grandmothers’ stories fill them up like fresh baked bread.”

“I love how you tell your story You use specific words that make pictures in a reader's head. you write what you know That’s what all good writers do.”

“September is a fresh start. You are like poems still unwritten.”

“I wonder again—how did those words come to me? Will they come again another time?”

“She worked in a hurry as if her pencil was leaking memories about to evaporate.”

“Writing makes you drift and dream and say things you don’t even plan on.”

“I just have to show up with my pencil.”

“Ms hill says writers write about what’s in front of them.”

Book Info:
Holiday House Publisher Hardcover 0-8234-1946-3
Scholastic Canada Ltd. (available only in Canada) -
Paperback 0-439-93568-5
Also available Scholastic Book Clubs US

Temecula Public Library

I had a great time Wednesday evening at Temecula Public Library's "S is for S'mores: Indoor Author Camp-Out." Miss Ginger coordinated a lovely event complete with tent, lantern, bear, and, of course, some yummy s'mores. What a fun time. Ginger organized the event to celebrate Children's Book Week. It was my first visit to this library and it's an amazing beauty of a library with fabulous resources.

Temecula Public Library
30600 Pauba Rd.
Temecula, CA 92592
(951) 693-8900

Thank you Ginger!

Lilac Time

Time in the mountains is always time well spent. Here is a photo of lilacs outside our cabin.

Temecula Visits

I'll be visiting Temecula Public Library tomorrow and the visit reminded me of visiting Pauba Valley Elementary in Temecula earlier this year. I thought you'd enjoy this adorable photo. The Library Queen set up a lovely camping environment for my visit and the kids thought it would be great fun if this camping bear read my book.

A big Thank You! to Toni Klym McLellan for mentioning S IS FOR S'MORES: A CAMPING ALPHABET in the article "Parents Magazine Offers Ideas for Outdoor Time" at The article has a wealth of information about getting kids to explore the great outdoors. You can read the entire article at:

Thanks Toni!

New Hampshire School Visits

I'll be visiting New Hampshire during late September and early October. If you are interested in me visiting your school, library, Girl Scout troup, etc., please email me at I'd love to hear from you. And, be sure to visit my website at to learn more about me and my books.

Yosemite Visit

On Saturday I had the pleasure of signing my book, S IS FOR S'MORES: A CAMPING ALPHABET, at the Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite National Park. What a treasure! I met lots of fun people. A big thank you to the Gallery for providing me with the opportunity.

Yosemite's waterfalls were wild with water and the dogwood was in bloom. Yosemite is one of my very favorite places.

Author Visits

I found a treasure of a blog about children's book authors who visit schools at It's children's book author Kim Norman's blog. The authors are listed by state with a link to their website. How helpful is that! I appreciate her listing me. There's a long, long list of Californians, but I'm happy to be among them.

Thanks Kim! Here's Kim's website:

And, be sure to visit her blog at:

School Visits

I was just thinking that I haven’t given a big shout out on my blog for “School Visits!” And, yes . . . I love to visit schools and talk with students about writing.

I’ve been been a teacher, media specialist, and a coordinator of library media services. I have a doctorate from Northern Arizona University. Now I am a writer and traveler. I’d love to visit your school or library. E-mail me at and let’s talk.

My nonfiction books are bi-level with four line rhymes for younger students and expository text that explores the concept for older students. This format makes my books accessible and interesting to a wide range of readers and they spark creativity in students to explore their own writing using the ABC format.

Alphabet books provide students with a model for writing their own books individually or as a class. The format can be adapted for every grade level or subject area. A first grade class visited me recently at the San Diego County Office of Education/Greater San Diego Reading Association’s Authors’ Fair. They wrote “G is for Games: A Playful Alphabet” featuring all the ways they enjoy playing. It was adorable and the students loved the topic and were thrilled with their final writing project. Other popular topics include writing an ABC book of their classroom, school, or town.

Teacher Activity Guides for each of my books are available for a free download at (I didn’t create the activity guides, but there are some fine activities.)

So, if you are thinking about a children’s book author visiting your school this year or for the 2009-2010 school year, think of me. I’d love to participate.

Book Signing at Grand Canyon

Thanks to the wonderful Grand Canyon Association, I was able to participate in a book signing of S IS FOR S'MORES: A CAMPING ALPHABET at the Yavapai Observation Station. I signed a book for three-month-old Sabrina. Her mother and grandmother confirmed that it was her first autographed book. How cool is that? I also met a teacher who bought S'MORES and happily announced "Instant Lesson!" I met lots of great people including three families from San Diego. Can you say "Small World?"

I had a lovely time visiting the Grand Canyon, signing my books, and I had a super visit with first graders at the Grand Canyon Community Library. Thanks Mindy!

I'm already planning next year's visit!

S'more Reviews

S IS FOR S'MORES: A CAMPING ALPHABET is part of a series with Sleeping Bear Press. Here are some reviews I wanted to share with you.

“Working her way through the alphabet, James uses each letter to highlight a different aspect of the camping experience, including animal tracks, fire safety, navigation and snow shelters. The enthusiastic approach and diverse information will excite children about camping and help them feel comfortable whether they find themselves sleeping in the backyard or the backcountry.”
—Blake Anderson, ALASKA AIRLINES in-flight magazine

Wilderness Camping from A to Z

“Did you know that the first female park rangers were hired in 1918, and were called “Rangerettes”? Or that a camping shelter built of snow is called a “quinzhee”?

You can find these fun facts and other camping trivia in the new book S IS FOR S’MORES: A CAMPING ALPHABET by Helen Foster James, illustrated by Lita Judge (Sleeping Bear Press, 2007; $17.95). James, an avid camper, WILLA Literary Award Finalist, and National Parenting Publications Awards judge, weaves a tapestry of camping fun that will get kids excited about hitting the trails.

Emphasizing respect for the environment and the beauty of nature, S IS FOR S’MORES breaks down camping topics alphabetically and accompanies each topic with an explanation or instructions—for example, a short essay on national parks or a list of essential camping gear. There are even a couple of essential recipes for s’mores and trail mix included at the end of the book. While this is an alphabet book, the language and facts will engage children as old as 10.”
—Dana Morgenstein, BAY AREA PARENT

“For some people, nothing says summer like a camping trip. This nicely illustrated book covers everything about camping, from A is for adventure, to Z is for zipper—as in the zipper on a tent or sleeping bag. In between is a wealth of information—snippets about the attractions at various national parks and recreational areas, a discussion about the different gear needed for camping and what to carry in case of emergency, food that’s fun to cook and eat outdoors, and of course, a reminder on how to prepare that quintessential camp food, s’mores. The oil paintings, mostly of children enjoying the outdoors, might even inspire you to break out the old backpack and stir up some trail mix.”