Posts Tagged ‘children’s book’

Meet Author Michael Samulak

Posted on September 29th, 2016 by Carolyn Hart

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Michael SamulakMichael Samulak has almost twenty years of experience teaching, mentoring, and engaging youth both in and outside of the classroom. Mr. Samulak visits schools, learning centers, and daycares to read and present his stories and world adventures. His goal is to inspire youth to dream big. Michael’s teaching and classroom experience help him to fill his award-winning picture books with fun opportunities for learning.

Michael resides in the City of Cleveland, Ohio with his wife and four children.

He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Michigan State University (’96) and finished his Master’s in Education at Cleveland State University (’12). He has been working as a full-time youth minister and educator for close to 20 years.

Author Facebook Page

Author website

Tell us about your latest published children’s book. Who do you think should read it? What are you most proud of?

A Wonderful Day! is my latest picture book about going to the zoo. This is actually my first traditionally published title and I am so excited to be able to share it with everyone! It is an early reader, great for emerging readers, or those who are working toward fluency and need that extra support from a fun book that can reinforce those early sight words and phonics skills that they have been working on.A Wonderful Day! by Michael Samulak

I generally recommend a target audience to be 3-6 years old, but as many of the educators and parents will tell you, this totally depends on your reader. My nephew is 2 and he loves to make all the animal sounds as he flips excitedly through the pages. My brother sent me a picture of him sneaking a read after he had “thought” he put him to bed. He was “reading” under the covers, flashlight and all. I couldn’t have been more happy to see someone getting that kind of joy from one of my books.

I am probably most proud of the way the book has been put together with little learning moments laced throughout the manuscript. Besides being written with a gender-neutral text, you also have a good amount of questions and statements that can be thought-provoking and interactive. This kind of anticipatory exercise is very important for young readers as they are learning and beginning to understand that text has meaning. I love that the book helps young readers make text-to-self-reflections; putting their own experiences and prior knowledge front and center while reading in order to develop and expand the whole experience of reading. We all do this as accomplished readers, and generally forget that somewhere along the line we were helped to understand and realize that reading is so much more than decoding and applying the known rules of phonics.

A Wonderful Day! was recently Awarded the Gold Medal for Children’s Picture Books (Animals) by the Mom’s Choice Awards.

A Wonderful Day! at Amazon.com

A Wonderful Day! at Amazon.ca

When did you realize that you would be a writer? Is there a particular person who has inspired and/or supported your work along the way?

This would have to be when I would ask my mom if I could stay home from Jr. High school, maybe about 6th or 7th grade so I could keep working on my first chapter book.

I think that it is safe to say that I still consider myself to be a work-in-progress, and so it is crazy to think that my books can now be found in libraries, schools, and peoples’ homes.

For those still-aspiring writers I always have the same words, “Don’t ever give up!” That choice has a guaranteed outcome. Don’t stop. Keep going, keep writing, keep up the inquiring: There is story that you have that the world needs to read. Keep putting yourself and your work out there and it will happen, even if it seems that things are tough or impossible, as long as you are moving and working on your dream, something can happen.

A is for Africa by Michael Samulak

If we were watching over your shoulder as you work on a book, what would we see? Where do you work? What does your writing process look like?

Generally speaking, one of my five children climbing on my back or sitting in my lap. Don’t get me wrong; I love all of the kids. They are a big source of inspirations for many of my books, so I can’t complain, but finding that quality, uninterrupted time is tough.

I am always writing, or at least thinking about writing. My note app on my phone is filled with bits and pieces, lines, thoughts: unpublished titles, I’m always trying to think of what may be a good title for a book. I think that has replaced a lot of my early days of notebooks, scrap paper, napkins from a dinner table, whatever was there really: Crayon, pencil, that piece of fruit my daughter had finished with…whatever worked to get that word down before it was gone. I’m sure some out there can relate.

I suppose once it is time put all of those bits and pieces into something “final” that I then print out or send to an actual human being, my laptop and a local coffee shop are where I land. But, the process, yeah, that’s a lot messy for me.

Tell us about your experiences sharing your book with children. Has anything unusual / endearing / funny / unexpected happened?

What hasn’t happened? Tears, fears, in appropriate laughing; farting, burping, teasing, and a lot of smiles and wide-eye stares that keep me coming back for more.

I love reading my work and interacting with the children at schools and learning centers the most. I think it is the father and educator parts of me. I have come to expect the unexpected and it is this color and variety of the trip that make it so worthwhile.

If I had to pick one particular event I am particularly found of, it would be that one I often remember this one time when I visited one schools and one of the students in the sea of faces piped up matter-of-factly after I held up my book, “Hey! I have that book at home! I love that book! Oh Boy!, this is gonna be awesome.” I had to take a moment to hold back the tears on that one. It was one of the first times that I really felt accomplished as an author: Like my dreams of being able to write for children were coming true.

How do you stay connected with your readers? Have you gone on book tours? Do you engage on social media or through a website? Do you visit classrooms, libraries or bookstores?

Everything goes when it comes to connecting, networking, and staying engaged with readers. So, yes to all!

I love to network and feel that it is so important to staying relevant to my audience. I often will bring “finished” works to the schools and classrooms that I visit to get fresh feed back from the audience that I feel matters most – the one that I am writing for. I try to stay active on social media platforms, but since I write for a younger audience, like, they aren’t quite there yet when it comes to literacy fluency, let alone responding to a FaceBook post; I generally am reaching out and interacting with parents, other writers, educators, etc. on those platforms. With that in mind, I am generally looking for opportunities related to a visit or to network, or generally showing off my beautiful family and our recent life adventures together.

What are the biggest challenges of being an author?

Juggling work, family, wife, kids — oh yeah, and then there is writing. I would have to say time – quality time to get to the end part of that process of writing in order to cross that finished line where an actual tangible piece is produced that then can be reworked, critiqued, rejected, reworked again…really, do I need to go on.

I know others may have other struggles, and I’m not at all saying that those aren’t real or deep, but for myself it would have to be finding the time to “gett’er done”.

“Just keep swimming” often does become my own encouraging theme song on those days when I feel like throwing in the towel. And so I try to just keep moving, even if it is just one sentence or phrase that I can work on; not even finish per say, but to mark progress. Yes, seeing progress helps to keep me going and eventually cross that finish line.

When I go to schools or libraries I love to read my picture books and share my inspirations and experiences that they are based on. Generally speaking, this makes for great laughs as I share my adventures with my children. I also have brought back some native items from Africa and do a sort of “Show and Tell”. The kids love to see and feel these native artifacts. The African Drum is usually the biggest “hit”.

Pumpkin Patch Fun! Picture Books and Free Printables

Posted on October 20th, 2015 by Carolyn Hart

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Storytime Standouts shares pumpkin patch picture books and free printables for preschool and kindergarten

We live very near to several pumpkin patches. At this time of year, the leaves have died away to reveal gorgeous orange fruit. If you and your family have an opportunity to trudge through muddy fields to select just the right pumpkin, be sure to extend your child’s learning with pumpkin theme picture books and printables.






The Biggest Pumpkin Ever written by Steven Kroll and illustrated by Jeni BassettThe Biggest Pumpkin Ever written by Steven Kroll and illustrated by Jeni Bassett
Preschool picture book about growing pumpkins published by Cartwheel Books, a Division of Scholastic

Clayton and Desmond each fall in love with the same pumpkin and are soon working night and day to water and fertilize it. Before long, it is absolutely enormous! One night, as they work to protect the pumpkin from frost, the two young mice meet and discover that they have both been working on the same pumpkin project. Before long, it is time for a pumpkin contest and, together, the new friends enlist the help of dozens of field mice to transport the pumpkin into town.

With only a brief reference to carving a smiling jack-o-lantern face, this story is primarily about caring for the growing pumpkin, discovering a new friend and working cooperatively together. The Biggest Pumpkin Ever is a great opportunity to explore the life cycle of a pumpkin. It will be enjoyed by preschool, kindergarten and early primary age children.

The Biggest Pumpkin Ever at Amazon.com

The Biggest Pumpkin Ever at Amazon.ca

Pumpkin Town written by Katie McKay and illustrated by Pablo BernasconiPumpkin Town written by Katie McKay and illustrated by Pablo Bernasconi
Preschool picture book about growing pumpkins published by HMH Books for Young Readers

José’s family grows pumpkins and usually they are very careful to only grow the best. One day José and his five brothers discard some ‘lesser’ seeds carelessly. The seeds are blown into town and land on straw roofs and in soil. When spring arrives, the seeds began to grow. Soon intrusive vines push through windows and heavy pumpkins threaten to drop out of trees and off rooftops. José and his family are blissfully unaware of the problem until the brothers venture into town.

Acknowledging their mistake, the boys set about harvesting the pumpkins and returning the town to normal. Observant readers will accurately predict the impact of rewarding the brothers’ hard work by giving them watermelons to eat.

Very good fun for preschool, kindergarten and early primary age children. No reference to Halloween.

Pumpkin Town! Or, Nothing Is Better and Worse Than Pumpkins at Amazon.com

Pumpkin Town! Or, Nothing Is Better and Worse Than Pumpkins at Amazon.ca

Sixteen Runaway Pumpkins written by Dianne Ochiltree and illustrated by Anne-Sophie LanquetinSixteen Runaway Pumpkins
Rhyming, counting picture book about harvesting pumpkins written by Dianne Ochiltree and illustrated by Anne-Sophie Lanquetin

Sam Raccoon is confident when she heads out to the pumpkin patch. She pulls a large blue wagon behind her and she is soon filling it with big, lumpy pumpkins. At last the wagon is stacked with sixteen bright orange pumpkins that wiggle and wobble as she pulls it down the bumpy road. Soon, the pumpkins tumble out of the wagon and roll and bounce down the hill to the farmhouse.

Sam runs after the tumbling pumpkins and is disappointed when some are cracked but Grandpa knows exactly what to do with cracked pumpkins. The family gets to work and soon enjoy a delicious dessert.

Engaging illustrations, rollicking rhymes and the chance to count along will have great appeal for preschool, kindergarten and early primary age children.

Sixteen Runaway Pumpkins at Amazon.com

Sixteen Runaway Pumpkins at Amazon.ca

Pumpkin Theme Free Printables

image of PDF icon  Five Little Pumpkins

Use as a action chant or a felt board story

image of PDF icon  Writing paper for kids - Pumpkin

Fall theme interlined paper for beginning writers.


Extra Yarn written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen

Posted on December 2nd, 2014 by Carolyn Hart

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Extra Yarn written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen is the first in our series of posts looking at the 2013 Caldecott Medal and Honor Books

Extra Yarn written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon KlassenExtra Yarn written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen
2013 Caldecott Honor Book published by Balzer & Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers





When young Annabelle finds a box of yarn and knitting needles, she begins by knitting herself a colorful sweater. Once the sweater is finished, she looks for friends and neighbors to outfit in warm wool creations. It is not long before she transforms her dreary, wintry grey town into a cheery, cozy world using the apparently endless supply of yarn. When an archduke arrives and offers to buy the magical box and its contents, Annabelle refuses him. He decides that he must have it and sends robbers to get the box from her. Extra Yarn spread

A fascinating fairy tale that explores generosity and community, Extra Yarn is best suited to children aged four years and up. Fans of Jon Klassen will enjoy spotting some of his trademark characters wearing Annabelle’s cozy gifts.

2012 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award

Extra Yarn at Amazon.com

Extra Yarn at Amazon.ca

Classic Picture Book: Go Away Big Green Monster! by Ed Emberley

Posted on September 23rd, 2014 by Carolyn Hart

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Storytime Standouts shares classic picture book Go Away Big Green Monster! by Ed EmberleyGo Away Big Green Monster! written and illustrated by Ed Emberley
Die Cut Classic picture book published by Hachette Book Group





Bold colors and clever die cuts highlight this simple, classic picture book for children aged three years and up. When we first meet Big Green Monster, we see only his large yellow eyes. A turn-of-the-page later and we are staring at his large nose and his eyes. Enthusiastic children will “read” along as white teeth, small ears, purple hair, and green face are added to the monster’s visage.

But… YOU DON’T SCARE ME!
So, GO AWAY, scraggly purple hair…
.

A happy conclusion allows youngsters to ensure the monster disappears as quickly as he arrived. Great fun for all and a good opportunity to extend the learning by exploring colors and descriptive words.

Lesson plan from UNC School of Education – Describing Words

Read Write Think lesson plan

Scholastic Reading Club lesson plan

SMART Exchange lesson

Go Away, Big Green Monster! at Amazon.com

Go Away, Big Green Monster! at Amazon.ca

Check our Pinterest Board for Teaching Ideas and Ways to Extend Learning for Go Away, Big Green Monster!




Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? A Classic, Must-Read Picture Book

Posted on June 10th, 2014 by Carolyn Hart

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Our goal with this new ‘Tuesday’ series is to introduce wonderful, classic picture books that are readily available in community libraries, in classrooms and in school libraries. We hope this on-going series will help families to discover outstanding stories and illustrations that have stood the test of time. We also hope that, through this series, young children and their caregivers will discover the joys of the read aloud experience.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? A Classic Must-Read Picture BookBrown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? written by Bill Martin Jr and illustrated by Eric Carle
Classic, Must-Read Picture Book published by Henry Holt and Company





Gorgeous, bold tissue paper collage illustrations and simple rhyming text will have broad appeal for infants, toddlers and preschool-age children. It will not be long before youngsters will know the text from beginning to (satisfying) end. For some children, this will be the first book they ‘read.’

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? is a picture book that provides opportunities for young children to learn about colors and animal names while gaining phonemic awareness. The repetitive and predictable text includes some alliteration.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? was named one of School Library Journal’s Top 100 Picture Books.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? at Amazon.com

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? at Amazon.ca

Some related picture books that young readers will enjoy

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? – read by (author) Bill Martin Jr.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? – with musical accompaniament

– lyrics refer to “a mother looking at us.”

Follow Storytime Standouts’s board Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? on Pinterest.

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