Happy Birthday to the Queen! (And to a brand new winter squash!)

It’s a brand-new, baby squash seedling! Hooray!!!

Why all the excitement? I don’t know how things are going at your house, but I re-planted three times this year. I’d given up hope.

Wishing you lots of hope this summer–we’re getting lots of chances to re-plant our lives in 2020! May they bear good fruit for all of us.

Dear friends, 

You are invited to a royal tea party. . .with little boats carrying cakes, cream puffs, and eclairs for you to choose from!

It’s a challenge to celebrate, but we must be inventive together–like the nameless princess. 🙂 

Queen Elizabeth is very different from the Blackfly Queen! (Those Corgis would have been handy with the croquet fever.)

As a party favor, TROUBLE WITH PARSNIPS will be discounted from June 11-16th on Kobo, Apple iBooks, Amazon, and many other stores in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the UK.

Could you all help spread the word? Queen Elizabeth will be 94 this year. I’m planning a special surprise for you as a gift if we reach 94 downloads.

So, if you have friends in Commonwealth countries, spread the word! 🙂

Thanks very much for your help!


Happy Reading!

Laurel

P.S. The next Seven Kingdoms Fairy Tale is getting underway! Keep reading below for more details and the beautiful submarine on the cover.

P.P. S. If you want to take the virtual Tour of the Saffron Kingdom, check it out here.

It’s the Queen’s* Birthday Sale!

ebook reader showing Trouble With Parsnips cover

To celebrate, the nameless princess’ got all dressed up in a brand new cover. (Print editions coming soon!)

How do you like her new outfit? 🙂

GO TO KOBO ‘s online store for the Birthday Party Sale!

*No, not the Blackfly Queen’s–her birthday parties aren’t safe.

If you don’t read on Kobo, you can choose your favorite online store here: https://books2read.com/TroubleWithParsnips

New book cover for TROUBLE WITH PARSNIPS ebook and Kindle editions. Print coming soon. Princess with toolbox on top of burning tower.

If you’re a fan of Rheinfels castle, you might enjoy the next Seven Kingdoms Fairy Tale: UNDER PRESSURE WITH A SQUASH

For eleven-year-old Princess Saffy, tests ARE the point. Her twin, Prince Magellan, thinks tests are pointless.

But when their beloved dragon gets them into trouble with the Fairy Kingdom. . . the Saffron twins must face the ultimate test–together!

How can they beat the pressure? Get on board the Hubbard submarine and find out!

Preorder or sign up to my Reader’s List, so you don’t miss it!


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If you’d like to stay in touch, sign up for my Reader’s List. Once a month, I share a new book recommendation for readers ages 9 to 12, story-related freebies, and/or related blog posts. If it’s not your thing, you can unsubscribe at any time.

Tour the Saffron Kingdom: Burg Rheinfels

Burg Rheinfels is the next stop in our Tour of the Seven Kingdoms! The Saffron Kingdom!

The Seven Kingdoms fairy tale world is inspired by real castles in the Rhine and Mosel River valleys in Germany.

Stone castle walls with skinny steep wooden staircase (half-covered with wooden roof)
Burg Rheinfels (Fortress Rhine Boulder) is the inspiration for the Saffron Kingdom. ©Laurel Decher, 2020.

Clip the map below to find all the tours:

Cartoon drawing of the Seven Kingdoms with locations on Rhine and Mosel Rivers marked by colored towers
Click the map to tour the Seven Kingdoms: Cochem, Marigold, Magenta, Indigo, Saffron, Rose, and Blackfly.

Feel like playing hide and seek? Take a mini-tour of Rheinfels castle in Germany. Extensive tunnels, ruins, and a gorgeous view. It’s the inspiration for the Saffron Kingdom in the #SevenKingdomsFairyTales.

A terrible video by me. You can watch a more professional one below. (Mine is better than it was–I cut out a passing family’s long argument about ice cream cones. :)) It shows the Rhine River from the top of the Saffron Kingdom. Burg Rheinfels means “Castle Rhine Boulder”. ©Laurel Decher, 2020
If you want the feeling of flying over the Saffron Kingdom on a dragon–like Princess Saffy or Prince Magellan–here’s a professionally made video with twinkly music :). The first 3 minutes and the ending show close-ups of the castle and the part in the middle shows all the houses in the valley.
New book cover for TROUBLE WITH PARSNIPS ebook and Kindle editions. Print coming soon. Princess with toolbox on top of burning tower.

If you’re a fan of Rheinfels castle, you might enjoy the next Seven Kingdoms Fairy Tale: UNDER PRESSURE WITH A SQUASH

For eleven-year-old Princess Saffy, tests ARE the point. Her twin, Prince Magellan, thinks tests are pointless.

But when their beloved dragon gets them into trouble with the Fairy Kingdom. . . the Saffron twins must face the ultimate test–together!

How can they beat the pressure? Get on board the Hubbard submarine and find out!

Preorder or sign up to my Reader’s List, so you don’t miss it!


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If you’d like to stay in touch, sign up for my Reader’s List. Once a month, I share a new book recommendation for readers ages 9 to 12, story-related freebies, and/or related blog posts. If it’s not your thing, you can unsubscribe at any time.

Click here for more about the Seven Kingdoms Fairy Tales (for ages 9 to 12).

Tour Magenta Kingdom: Festung Ehrenbreitstein in Koblenz

Koblenz is the next stop in our Tour of the Seven Kingdoms! This fairy tale world is inspired by real castles in the Rhine and Mosel River valleys in Germany.

When you take the train, you can look up and see the fortress as the train pulls into the station. The big, hulking rock towers way up above the city of Koblenz.

We took a “crooked elevator” [Schrägaufzug] up to the youth hostel in the fortress. *Entertaining but bring exact change*

In normal times, you can also go by aerial tram. This site is in German but it’s worth checking out for the overview photos. *Gorgeous!*

Gate in giant stone wall of Festung Ehrenbreitstein
Ehrenbreitstein Fortress guards the Rhine and Mosel Rivers from above. ©Laurel Decher, 2020.

Clip the map below to find all the tours:

Cartoon drawing of the Seven Kingdoms with locations on Rhine and Mosel Rivers marked by colored towers
Click the map to tour the Seven Kingdoms: Cochem, Marigold, Magenta, Indigo, Saffron, Rose, and Blackfly.

From the water, the Rhine valley feels like a river surrounded by high hills. But from the top, you can see that it was a meadow carved by a river. ©Laurel Decher, 2020.

Feeling cooped up? Take a mini-tour of Ehrenbreitstein Fortress in Germany. People have been defending this rock for 5,000 years. It’s the inspiration for Magenta Kingdom in the #SevenKingdomsFairyTales.

The flat top of the fortress means there’s plenty of room for marching bands. From the air, the paths in the huge green field draw a lovely star-shape.

The real fortress is big enough for five museums and lots of gardens.

Plus the youth hostel. If you stay overnight, you wake up inside the museum. It’s a good idea to get the map the night before. 🙂 Because the museum might not be open yet!

Just for fun! Marching bands and people dressed up for Prussian Day at the Ehrenbreitstein fortress. I especially like the part with the merry-go-round. (starts at 12:00)
Book cover for bonus story Trouble at the Christmas Fair shows snow on German Christmas market

If you like Ehrenbreitstein fortress as much as I do, you might enjoy Prince Nero’s adventures at the Christmas Fair.

This short story is an appetizer for the full-length Seven Kingdoms Fairy Tales.

And a way to spend a little more time in the Magenta Kingdom.

Happy reading!

Click here for more about the short story.


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If you’d like to stay in touch, sign up for my Reader’s List. Once a month, I share a new book recommendation for readers ages 9 to 12, story-related freebies, and/or related blog posts. If it’s not your thing, you can unsubscribe at any time.

Click here for more about the Seven Kingdoms Fairy Tales (for ages 9 to 12).

Tour Cochem Kingdom: the real home of TROUBLE WITH PARSNIPS

Steep vineyards up to Reichsburg Cochem, the inspiration for the Cochem Kingdom in the Seven Kingdom Fairy Tales series. © Laurel Decher, 2020.
Want to take a mini-cruise on the Mosel River? I still have to learn how to delete the noisy audio so you get authentic boat cruise sounds and me getting my camera explained to me. ©Laurel Decher, 2020.
The trailer for TROUBLE WITH PARSNIPS, the Seven Kingdoms Fairy Tale that starts all the trouble in Cochem Kingdom! ©Laurel Decher, 2020.
cover image for Trouble With Parsnips shows girl with toolbox on top of burning tower

If you enjoy visiting Cochem castle as much as I do, you might like the story of this inventor princess.

It’s save-the-kingdom time. . .

Can she finally use the one tool that’s never worked. . .her quiet voice?

It’s a way to spend a little more time in the Seven Kingdoms.

Happy reading!

Click here for more about the book.

Cartoon drawing of the Seven Kingdoms with locations on Rhine and Mosel Rivers marked by colored towers
Click the map to tour the Seven Kingdoms: Cochem, Marigold, Magenta, Indigo, Saffron, Rose, and Blackfly.


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If you’d like to stay in touch, sign up for my Reader’s List. Once a month, I share a new book recommendation for readers ages 9 to 12, story-related freebies, and/or related blog posts. If it’s not your thing, you can unsubscribe at any time.

Tour a Fairy Kingdom???

fairylike brook in the forest
What does fairyland look like to you? Clear, rushing water and green leaves under the trees.
Near Kell, Rhineland Pfalz. Germany. ©Laurel Decher, 2020.

Yesterday, we walked for five or six hours and I got buckets of new ideas about the Fairy Kingdom.

I love the “Traumpfad” hiking trails that we’ve already been on. This one is special for its caves and variety! Here’s a virtual dream hike for you:

A carpet of flowers. ©Laurel Decher, 2020.
Cartoon drawing of the Seven Kingdoms with locations on Rhine and Mosel Rivers marked by colored towers
Click the map to tour the Seven Kingdoms: Cochem, Marigold, Magenta, Indigo, Saffron, Rose, and Blackfly.


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If you’d like to stay in touch, sign up for my Reader’s List. Once a month, I share a new book recommendation for readers ages 9 to 12, story-related freebies, and/or related blog posts. If it’s not your thing, you can unsubscribe at any time.

Tour the Blackfly Kingdom: Pfalzgrafenstein Castle

How about a tour the Blackfly Kingdom? My favorite castle on the Rhine: “Pfalzgrafenstein” is kind of a mouthful, so people call it by the name of the nearest village, Kaub. ©Laurel Decher, 2020.

When we travel these days, we often drive or fly.

In earlier times, the rivers were the highways. Big and long rivers, like the Rhine River in Germany were important for delivering people and things.

[Is that why Amazon is named after a river in Brazil? I don’t know, do you?]

If you visit, you can stay at the nearby youth hostel or the YMCA hotel in another castle, high up in the village of Kaub. Down at the Rhine riverbank, you take a small ferry across to the island.

This castle is the perfect place for collecting tolls from ships bringing cargo up and down the Rhine River. If you’ve ever seen a modern tollbooth, you’ll agree that this is about the fanciest tollbooth ever!

Modern tollbooth for cars.
Source: Shutterstock Royalty-free stock vector ID: 683431282

The first tolls were collected almost 800 years ago in 1257. The castle changed hands several times and new parts were added and reinforced. The Prussians finally stopped charging ships tolls here in 1866. Since 1946, the castle belongs to the state of Rhineland Pfalz in Germany.

Tired of the view from your window? Take a mini-tour of an 800-year-old tollbooth. #SevenKingdomsFairyTales

tablet phone ebook hardcover images of LOST WITH LEEKS

If you like the Blackfly Castle as much as I do, you might enjoy Prince Nero’s adventures in LOST WITH LEEKS

Click here for more about the book.

Cartoon drawing of the Seven Kingdoms with locations on Rhine and Mosel Rivers marked by colored towers
Click the map to tour the Seven Kingdoms: Cochem, Marigold, Magenta, Indigo, Saffron, Rose, and Blackfly.


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If you’d like to stay in touch, sign up for my Reader’s List. Once a month, I share a new book recommendation for readers ages 9 to 12, story-related freebies, and/or related blog posts. If it’s not your thing, you can unsubscribe at any time.

More school resources from wonderful children’s authors: Justine Laismith

mounted archer from Chinese painting
STAG HUNT attributed to Huang Zongdao (Northern Song or Jin Dynasty 96-1234) from Metropolitan Museum of Art online collection. More great materials after your students have “used up” Justine Laismith’s!

Author Justine Laismith has a great page of school resources introducing Chinese culture for ages 9 to 13 years. The videos, activities, and photos are related to her book SECRETS OF THE GREAT FIRE TREE.

These wonderful activities cover lots of interesting topics:

  • Chinese culture and diversity: (make a dragon boat out of paper!!)
  • Literacy (story setting, media, book trailer)
  • STEM (science of some fascinating trees)
  • Art/Craft (sketches, Chinese dress, vehicle design)
  • Drama (celebrity interview, Chinese Opera)
  • Humanities (History, Geography, Religious and Moral Education)
  • Wellbeing (Absent parents, treasures, needs and wants, bullying)

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If you’d like to stay in touch, sign up for my Reader’s List. Once a month, I share a new book recommendation for readers ages 9 to 12, story-related freebies, and/or related blog posts. If it’s not your thing, you can unsubscribe at any time.

Are you a parent, teacher or librarian? Enjoy these free online materials from children’s authors and illustrators!!!

Illustrator and author Debbie Ohi posted a great Tweet the other day. I haven’t had a chance yet to meet her personally, but I love seeing her doodles and illustrations on social media. Check out her website and you’ll see what I mean.

Vermont author Kate Messner has a marvelous collection of author videos!!!!

(I watched Grace Lin’s “How to Draw A Chinese Dragon” right away. 🙂 The site has such great stuff for kids that I have to spread the word.

Debbie Ohi has promised some more videos for educators to use on her Youtube channel.

If you use Flipgrid, Debbie Ohi also made this offer:

Offer for schools closed or about to close because of COVID-19 concerns (until April 2nd, 2020 – I may extend this date):

If you are an K-8 educator affected by COVID-19-related school closures who uses Flipgrid and are interested in having me do a free Flipgrid Q&A with your young readers, please fill out my form. New to Flipgrid? Check out their Getting Started Guide.

Please note that in order to accommodate as many schools as I can, I am limiting this offer to 1 video per class and total video question time per class to 1-2 minutes. I will try to respond with a video within one day, but it depends on the number of requests I receive, and my own work/travel schedule.

Suggested format which has worked well in the past:

Educator takes ONE video of the class (does not have to be fancy, an iPhone works just fine) and picks a few students to ask their prepared questions about any of my books. I will respond with one video. 

If your school has ALREADY been closed, then students could send you questions and you could read those questions aloud OR send me the questions, and I’ll post a private video reply just for your class.

The process:

Once you fill out the form, I will email you my Flipgrid educator email address so you can invite me to your Grid.

If you are interested in one of my regular paid virtual visits that involve an art demonstration (including my found object art), talking in more depth about writing and illustrating picture books, a writing or drawing workshop, or addressing other topics/books, please use my regular visit inquiry form: https://inkygirl.typeform.com/to/SjevbK. 

For all other inquiries (including career advice etc.), please use my regular contact form at http://debbieohi.com/contact – thanks!


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If you’d like to stay in touch, sign up for my Reader’s List. Once a month, I share a new book recommendation for readers ages 9 to 12, story-related freebies, and/or related blog posts. If it’s not your thing, you can unsubscribe at any time.

How do Grades Hurt Us?

A vending machine for art. It looks like it was re-purposed from a cigarette vending machine.
This re-purposed vending machine is all about external motivation–which piece of art would you like to buy? ©Laurel Decher, 2020.

Reading an article about how it hurts kids to focus on “grades” instead of “learning”: “Grades vs Learning: Shifting Attention to What’s Important

“Drafts, re-dos, and ‘evolving assignments'” may help students to focus on getting better at something instead of getting a good grade.

Hmm. That sure sounds like writing a book! Everybody write a book! *just kidding*

Creativity is supposed to increase when the motivation comes from inside the art instead of from outside. Poet and counselor Mark McGuiness’s MOTIVATION FOR CREATIVE PEOPLE is a wonderful exploration of this.

It’s hard to do your best work when you’re thinking about losing points.

The truth is: we all get grades. Adults have workplace evaluations, product sales, reviews, raises, etc. We all have to learn to use both kinds of motivation. 

At the Festival of Faith and Writing in 2004, beloved children’s author Katherine Patterson told a story about being stuck on a novel. She told a writing friend, “I haven’t learned anything!”

The friend said, “You’ve learned that novels can be finished.”

Listen to Katherine Patterson’s wonderful keynote speech here.

To me this means,

“Panic doesn’t mean anything. It’s a normal part of the process. It’s noise. It’s trying to keep you from playing with your work until you get something you like.”

How can we remind ourselves of this more often? How can we teach kids to work with both kinds of motivation? (Or how can they teach us?)


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If you’d like to stay in touch, sign up for my Reader’s List. Once a month, I share a new book recommendation for readers ages 9 to 12, story-related freebies, and/or related blog posts. If it’s not your thing, you can unsubscribe at any time.

What is International Book Giving Day?

This beautiful poster was created by Sanne Dufft, an illustrator and picture book author from Germany.

What is international book giving day? https://bookgivingday.com/about/

Get the poster, bookmarks and bookplate here.

The website suggests 6 ways you can get involved:

14th February is about getting books into the hands of as many children as possible on 14th February #bookgivingday

“1 in 8 disadvantaged children in the UK don’t own a single book” [source: National Literacy Trust, Dec 2017]

6 Ways You Can Get Involved in International Book Giving Day!

  1. Subscribe to our website, join over 14,000 already committed to #bookgivingday.
  2. Leave a book for a child to discover, donate to a local charity.
  3. Connect with others celebrating International Book Giving Day via Facebook, Twitter  and Instagram #bookgivingday
  4. Download and print an International Book Giving Day bookmark and/or bookplate to attach to a book you give. They’re free!
  5. Share a photo of yourself celebrating International Book Giving Day. Use #bookgivingday on social media so we can find you.
  6. Invite your community to celebrate International Book Giving Day. Proudly display the #bookgivingday poster.

In addition, we encourage people to support the work of nonprofit organisations (i.e. charities) that work year round to give books to children. See the links in the side bar. This is not a comprehensive list, by any means.

International Book Giving Day has continued to grow & grow since it began in 2012.

International Book Giving Day is celebrated by people in over 44 countries, including – Ukraine, Czech Republic, Croatia, Cyprus, Australia, Canada, South Africa, France, India, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, the Philippines, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, Nigeria, Nicaragua, Brazil, Egypt, Poland, Greece, Portugal, Mexico, Macedonia, Malawi, Hungary, Malaysia, Israel, Denmark, Sri Lanka, Serbia, Thailand, Indonesia, Jordan, China, Puerto Rico and Bulgaria.

We hope that people around the world will think about the best ways to help children in need in their communities.

International Book Giving Day is a 100% volunteer initiative aimed at increasing children’s access to and enthusiasm for books.

International Book Giving Day is run by Emma Perry (My Book Corner, UK) and brilliantly supported by Catherine Friess – Story Snug (Germany) on Twitter.Contact: Emma Perry . email: emperry @ gmail dot com  â€” general enquiries


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If you’d like to stay in touch, sign up for my Reader’s List. Once a month, I share a new book recommendation for readers ages 9 to 12, story-related freebies, and/or related blog posts. If it’s not your thing, you can unsubscribe at any time.