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.

If you enjoyed 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.


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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 does a Fairy Kingdom look like?

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!

  • fairylike brook in the forest
A carpet of flowers. ©Laurel Decher, 2020.

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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.

Boy holding leeks in a hot air balloon with dragon and fairy godfather overhead, sleigh chained to the hot air balloon basket

If you like Pfalzgrafenstein castle as much as I do, you might enjoy Prince Nero’s adventures.

It’s a way to spend a little more time in the Blackfly Kingdom.

Happy reading!

Click here for more about the book.


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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  — 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.