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.

Were you ever a Junior Ranger?

I’ve been doing a little more research for the next Seven Kingdoms Fairy Tale. Look what I found! 🙂

Did you know you can get a Junior Ranger badge and book for your kids (ages 5 to 13+) at all of these National and State Parks?

If the list of 400+ parks overwhelms you, try this map to see what’s near you.

map of the United States of America showing states

(If you’ve read LOST WITH LEEKS, you know we’re all about maps around here. I may get lost, but I always have ALL the maps. 🙂

Do you have a 4th grader at your house?
Did you know 4th graders can get a free pass for the whole school year and the summer that follows? Sounds like adventure to me!

image of 4th grade pass to parks


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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.

Lost in a Campground

Stone castle walls with skinny steep wooden staircase (half-covered with wooden roof)
This rambling castle with ruins and tunnels is the inspiration for the Saffron Kingdom. A tunnel is an easy place to lose your sense of direction. Burg Rheinfels, (literally “Fortress Rhine Cliff”) in the central Rhine valley. © Laurel Decher, 2019, St. Goar, Germany.
Do you have a good sense of direction? How about the rest of your friends and family?

The second Seven Kingdoms Fairy Tale, LOST WITH LEEKS, is all about getting–you guessed it–lost. Prince Nero has a magically magnetic personality. He’s charming, but he wrecks compasses and maps.

I don’t know about charming, but I’m an expert at getting lost. One of the worst times as a child was in a huge campground.

I found the shower building. No problem.

But when I came out again, nothing looked familiar.
Hundreds of tents and campers stretched out in all directions. The sunset showed me West, but that didn’t help me. I didn’t know where I’d come from.

I also didn’t speak any French. By filling my hands with water from the wash room sink, I tried to mime that our tent was near the lake. *blushes* Needless to say, that didn’t work.

The colors of the tents all faded with the light. Finally, I walked out from each side of the building. In straight lines, so I couldn’t get MORE lost.

Eventually, I tripped over our tent lines and recognized where I was.
The arctic explorer returns to base camp. I could have died out there!
*cue Star Wars theme*

My family was unfazed. *Okay, it was July.*

How about you and yours? Do you have a story about getting lost? What helped you get “found” again? What are your favorite tips to keep your kids from “staying lost”?

P.S. Today is the last day for the free Seven Kingdoms short story TROUBLE AT THE CHRISTMAS FAIR. You might get lucky if the price hasn’t changed everywhere yet.

If you missed it, you can sign up for my Reader’s List and get the first five chapters of TROUBLE WITH PARSNIPS free. (That’s the first Seven Kingdoms Fairy Tale, about the magic of speaking up.)

Each Tale stands alone, so they can be read in any order.


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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.

tablet phone ebook hardcover images of LOST WITH LEEKS

If you get lost as much as I do, you might enjoy Prince Nero’s adventures in LOST WITH LEEKS

Click here for more about the book.

Have you read LOST WITH LEEKS? Or another great book? :) Leave a review and help other readers :)

book cover showing boy in hot air balloon with leeks and a dragon flying overhead
Prince Nero is a trouble-magnet–for compasses, maps and magical creatures.

After an author spends a few months or years working on a book, it’s always SO exciting to find out what readers think.

If you’d like to support your favorite author, leave a review and/or rating on BookBub, Goodreads, or your favorite online retailer!

If you’re looking for more books to keep your readers busy, check out my reviews for 9- to 12-year-old readers (or 8-year-old super readers! 😉 in my downloadable guide. The handy downloadable guide links to all of my GoodReads reviews.

The first review for LOST WITH LEEKS!
Thank you so much for taking the time to share your honest experience with others.
First GoodReads review for LOST WITH LEEKS!
Don’t you love the pillow?
I think Prince Nero will be honored to meet the grandchildren.

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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.

tablet phone ebook hardcover images of LOST WITH LEEKS

If you somehow missed out on LOST WITH LEEKS, click here for more about the book.

A magical gift for you!

“Trouble At The Christmas Fair” is free at online booksellers during the holidays! It’s perfect for ages nine to twelve.

(December 2019 through a little bit of January 2020.)

Get your magic here.

Book cover for bonus story Trouble at the Christmas Fair shows snow on German Christmas market
This complete short story is a heartfelt THANK YOU to faithful readers.
Or an appetizer for those of you who’d like to check out the Seven Kingdoms.
For ages 9 to 12.

TROUBLE AT THE CHRISTMAS FAIR

Eleven-year-old Prince Nero has got his hands full! His royal mother wants to solve their kingdom’s money problems with her Quality Blackfly Gingerbread.

The problem is. . .not everyone agrees with her ideas of what “Quality” means.

The gingerbread oven isn’t the only thing heating up!

This complete short story is an appetizer (22 pages) for the magical world of the Seven Kingdoms.

TROUBLE WITH PARSNIPS and LOST WITH LEEKS are much longer. Tales can be read in any order. 🙂

WHY READ SEVEN KINGDOMS FAIRY TALES?


In each Tale, a fairy godparent gives one lucky child the perfect leadership gift. Abracadabra!


If only they’d remember the training wheels! Yiiiiiiikes!


Whether it’s speaking up at a feast, or reading a map in a strange kingdom, these Tales are all about finding more magic in your life.

Get yours here.


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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 tests do you need to pass to become a. . .?

What careers have you always wondered about?

The next Seven Kingdoms Fairy Tale stars the Saffron twins, Magellan and Saffy, so I’m thinking about what kinds of things they might want to do in the future. No promises and no spoilers. 😉

This video is about what surveyors do and how to become one.

The graphic novel-style WikiHow guide to becoming a surveyor is more informative:

cartoon image of a surveyor
How to become a surveyor

https://www.wikihow.com/Become-a-Surveyor

Would you have thought of a park ranger as Criminal Justice Career?

Did you know there was an International Ranger Federation?

The advantage of the reading and writing life is that you catch a glimpse of other peoples’ lives. 🙂


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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.