Sunday, February 27, 2011

Michelle Schaub and The Little Green Pen Blog

It is my good fortune to have as my guest today, Michelle Schaub, author of The Little Green Pen blog.  This is a blog I follow on a regular basis.  Michelle has lots to say, particularly now with our planet in peril.   I know you'll enjoy getting to know her!

NS:  What inspired you to start a blog focused on green literacy?

MS:  A few factors came together. The first was my journey as a mom to raise environmentally-responsible children.  Our family has made many changes over the past few years to reduce our carbon footprint.  Sometimes I get overwhelmed by all of the environmental problems our planet is facing, and I wonder if my actions even count.  When this happens, I go back to the story of the mouse who was watching snowflakes land on a branch. (You can read my first blog post for the full story.)  Eventually the snowflakes, which weigh “nothing next to nothing”, cause the branch to snap.   I think of my blog as one of those snowflakes.  By sharing my ideas , I hope to inspire others to drop their own flakes onto the branch and maybe the ripple effect will carry the weight of change.
The second factor involves the research I’ve done as a teacher, parent, and nonfiction writer.  In preparing articles on various eco-conscious topics, or looking for good books to share with my kids and students, I’ve built up quite a bibliography of green reads.  There are some beautiful, inspiring books out there that help readers connect with and care about nature.   I’m using my blog to share the book’s I’ve discovered (and continue to discover) with others.
NS:  Who is your target audience?
MS:  Teachers, parents, and anyone looking for simple tips to live a greener life.

NS:  What benefit will teachers get from reading your blog?

MS:  I’m building an inventory of “Good Green Reads.”  Teachers looking for a book on a specific environmental topic, say water conservation, can visit my site to find a list of quality nonfiction and fiction focused on that topic.  In addition, I regularly feature author interviews and book giveaways.  This is a great opportunity for teacher to build up their classroom libraries and connect students with authors.

                                                              "I think it's important to
                                               give young readers a
                                               sense of empowerment."       
NS:  What benefit will parents get from reading your blog?

MS:  Besides taking advantage of the book reviews and giveaways, parents will find plenty of ideas for living green.  As a mom, I am constantly looking for fun, eco-friendly activities for my children, as well as ways my family can leave a gentler footprint on the planet.  I share my ideas and experiences in my blogs. I also welcome input from other parents.  I hope to create a forum where ideas are exchanged that interest children in environmental issues.

NS:  How has your concern for the environment influenced your own writing?

MS:  I am definitely drawn to topics that focus on nature and ways we can protect it.  The challenge I find when writing about the environment is to present my topics in ways that inspire readers to care and act, without sounding preachy.  I think it’s important to give young readers a sense of empowerment.  The overarching message I try to convey in my writing is that small steps can make a big difference.  

NS:  How do you incorporate your love of green issues into your teaching? 

First, I think leading by example is a powerful teaching tool.  When I’m working in local schools, I continue to do the simple earth-friendly actions I’ve integrated into my life, like  riding my bike, bringing my lunch in reusable containers, turning off the lights, etc.  When kids ask me about these things, (and they do because kids are oh-so-curious), it gives me a chance to talk about some of the green choices I’ve made.

Also, I am strong believer in John Muir’s idea that people who spend time in nature are much more likely to care about it.  I try to connect students to nature whenever possible. One of my favorite classes to teach is nature writing.  When kids have the opportunity to sit quietly in a natural habitat and let their senses soak in their surroundings, they begin to notice things they would normally overlook.  Their observations lead to wonder, a desire to protect, and some great writing! 

NS:   Where can students take your nature writing classes?

MS:  I’m really excited about the next nature writing class I’ll be teaching at the Mayslake Peabody Estate in Oak Brook, Illinois.  The Peabody Mansion, once the home of coal magnate Francis Stuyvesant Peabody, is a beautiful setting.  Students taking the class with have the chance to explore the some of the amazing habitats on the grounds (pond, prairie, marsh, savanna) with a staff naturalist.  We’ll have great fun writing about our discoveries.   Here are the details: 

When:  Mondays, May 2nd- 23rd.
Where: Mayslake Peabody Estate, 1717 W. 31st Street, Oak Brook, Il.
Time:  4:15-5:00 pm
Ages: 3rd-6th graders
To register: call 630-206-9566, or visit for more information.

NS:  Thank you so much, Michelle, for agreeing to appear on my blog.  It was fun and enlightening as well.  All best wishes for your ongoing writing classes and everything you do for kids and parents.  I know my guests have enjoyed getting to know you better.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

One Pelican at a Time Virtural Book Tour, April and May, 2011

Bella, Britt, Pelican and I will virtually tour the blogosphire, beginning  April 4 through May 27, 2011 on my first virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book! And, of course, none of us would be touring without the marvelous artwork by Samantha Bell.

About One Pelican at a Time

Bella and Britt love living by the beach. When they find oil washing to shore from a gulf spill, they want to help but are told there is nothing for kids to do. But when their old friend the crooked beak pelican, becomes covered with oil, they help save his life by their quick thinking and action.

Read the Excerpt

The girls waited and watched while adults tried to fix the problem. That is, until they saw the old pelican leave his perch and plunge into a patch of blackened sea.

Britt gasped.  "Will he come back up?"

"If he does, how can he live? Bella asked.

But he did come to the surface, covered in heavy tacky oil. After seeing his oily feathers, the girls took action.

"Help! Help us help the pelican! both girls screamed.

Normally on such a hot summer day, the beach boy would be renting colorful umbrellas to his customers. Instead, he sat alone on the sand. "What's wrong?" He jumped up and ran toward the girls.

"The old pelican! The old pelican! We have to save him! Bella sobbed.

"Come on. No time to lose!" The young man sprinted down the beach toward the clean-up crews.

"Ah, I know that old bird," nodded the crew chief. "Let's go get him."

                       One Pelican at a Time coming soon!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Five Published Book Ends All in a Row!

Cole Gibsen, Jonathan Schkade, Louann Brown, Nancy Stewart, Jeff Weigel

Book Ends, my southern Illinois chapter of SCBWI (Society of Children's Bookwriters and Illustrators) have some great news to share.

The five of us pictured here have recently had manuscripts sold to mainstream publishers.  Several of the books are already in publication.

Cole Gibsen's book, "Katana," is a young adult urban fantasy novel with elements of action, romance and

comedy. It is to be published by Flux Press in the spring of 2012.  Cole's web site is:   Her blog site is:

Jonathan Schkade's most recent books, "Icky, Sticky, Hairy Scary Bible Stories" and "The Father's Easter Story," were released in January, 2011 by Concordia Publishing.  Jonathan is a former teacher and copy editor.  His web site is:

Louann Brown's book, "How to Make Spectacular Halloween Costumes," was released in January, 2011 by Capstone Press.  Louann is a retired art teacher from the Southwestern School District in Piasa, IL.

Nancy Stewart's series of children's books, published by Guardian Angel Publishing, will be released in 2011.  "One Pelican at a Time," to be released in February, is the first US children's book to address the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010.  Her other two books in the series are, "Sea Turtle Summer" and "Bella Saves the Beach."  Nancy's web site is:   Her blog address is:

Jeff Weigel is both author and illustrator of "Thunder from the Sea:  The Adventures of Jack Hoyton and the H.M.S. Defender," a graphic novel for upper elementary school readers.  It was published by GP Putman in May, 2010.  Jeff's web site is:

And this is just part of the gang!  This group of writers collaborate, critique in a constructive manner and is supportive at all times.  As I said in a previous post, I don't make a literary move without them!
For those of you who'd like to know more about SCBWI, here is the link:

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Interview with Michele Elliott, Founder of British Charity, Kidscape

It is my distinct pleasure and honor to interview Michele Eliott, OBE, founder of the British charity, Kidscape.  It is also my pleasure to call Michele a dear friend of over twenty years, and I welcome her warmly to my blog.

NS: Please tell us how and when Kidscape came into being?   

ME:  Kidscape came into being around our kitchen table when I found out from working with children and their families that nothing was being done about sexual abuse and other issues like bullying.  This was back in 1984, and in the UK there was denial about both issues.  I went to the National Society for Protection of Children and the police and the Home Office, but they all said that these things were not happening or that they were rare or that they were happening in other places, like the USA.  That is because I am American but living in London, so they heard my accent and concluded that this was an imported problem.  So that night around the kitchen table, I founded Kidscape.  Kid for children and scape for escape or landscape- kids looking over things.

NS:  What are the main goals of the charity?

ME:  Our major goals are preventing children being harmed and giving them practical ways to keep safe.  We say: preventing bullying protecting children.

NS:  How far reaching globally is Kidscape?

ME: Kidscape has been adopted in Portugal, Spain, Greece and our books are in 16 languages, including recently into Spanish in Chile.

NS:   I know you are a prolific author.  Please tell us about your books as they relate to Kidscape.                                                                
      ME:  Somehow I had published 26 books over the past 25 years, ranging from children's color picture books about keeping safe, to books for older children and teens, parents, teachers, and other professionals.  I didn't plan for that to happen - it just grew 'like Topsy.'  I have also written a column for Family Circle magazine in the UK, which taught me a lot about how to write using stories in an accessible style - that took me quite a while and the editor was extremely patient.

                                                                                                "preventing bullying
                                                                   protecting children"

  NS:  What do you see for the future of Kidscape?
       ME:  I am retiring from Kidscape but staying on as an author and consultant.  I did not want Kidscape to be Michele Elliott but to be about children.  We now have a fabulous team headed by Claude Knights, who has been with Kidscape for 10 years.  She and the staff are carrying Kidscape into schools, holding free courses for severely bullied children and young people and sending the messages worldwide.  I am very proud of them all - some have been with Kidscape for nearly 20 years - the staff is very loyal and committed to helping children.

     NS:  Your were recently awarded a great honor by the Queen of England.  Please tell us about it and what it means to you personally.

      ME: When I received the letter from the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, saying he was 'minded' to suggest to the Queen that I be given an honor', I thought it was a practical joke!  But it was real, and the letter asked if I was willing to accept.  WILLING????  Thrilled, delighted, excited would be more like it.  Of course that kind of enthusiasm is from the American half of my personality (my mother had a British passport).  Anyway meeting the Queen was one of the highlights of my life - she was so gracious, and I was terrified that I would trip while approaching or genuflecting.  She put me and all the other recipients at ease with her friendly manner and questions.  Being in the palace and getting to wear a lovely hat were the other highlights.  By the way, the queen is quite tiny and she does carry a handbag.  xxx

      Many thanks, Michele, for your insightful-and fun-answers!  It's always such a pleasure to hear about Kidscape and its history.  You can be so proud of your accomplishments, and what you have modestly said here is only a tiny part of the story and of your achievements.

      For those who would like to know more about this important charity for children, the link is:

Friday, February 11, 2011

One Book at a Time May Help Save Our Planet

A Deepwater Horizon drilling rig was rocked by an  explosion and fire on April 20, 2010.  It sank into the Gulf of Mexico. Tragically, eleven crew members died. Multiple attempts to completely shut off the flow of oil failed. On September 19, 2010, BP announced that its well was permanently sealed.

The spill caused extensive damage to marine and wildlife habitats as well as to the Gulf's fishing and tourism industries.  This kind of catastrophe should never occur again anywhere on our earth.

To this end, I've written a  children's picture book, One Pelican at a Time, to help put a face on this disaster.  One old, crooked beaked pelican helps Bella and Britt point the way to what even kids can do in such a tragedy.

Pelican will be released in the coming weeks.  This is the first children's book dealing with the Deepwater Horizon spill to be published in the US. 

Children want to know what they can do in such times.  One Pelican at a Time empowers kids to help in a real and meaningful way.  I hope they, and you, enjoy it.  And if it becomes a teaching moment tool, how wonderful is that?

Pelican Cleaning from Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

The Beautiful Brown Pelican

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Green Sea Turtle Rehab at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium

While we and our friends, Ed and Michele, were watching the inspirational Winter the dolphin at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium last Sunday, a Green sea turtle was brought in and readied for surgery.  He is a young turtle who had been hit by a boat propeller and suffered a cracked shell. 

We all watched as his beautiful shell was cleaned and glued together.  Lucky for guests, there is a large glass window where surgeries can be viewed. 

This fortunate turtle will recover and be released back into the gulf, but it will take a year before he's ready to return to his home.  In the meantime, he will live at the Aquarium, where he can be monitored in safety. Without the support and loving care of the Marine Aquarium, his would have been a far different story.

Green sea turtles evolved on land and took to the ocean about 150 million years ago.  They are one of the few species so ancient that they watched dinosaurs evolve and become extinct.

What a terrible tragedy, then, that these marvelous and dignified creatures are now on a worldwide endangered list.  We humans must be aware of and sensitive to the animals with whom we share this planet.  If we do not, we will all be diminished.