Nancy's Books

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Environment, Theme, Contests

This week I’m continuing to spotlight themes in children’s literature. The themes of The Munched-Up Flower Garden and Trouble in Troublesome Creek focus on the environment and ecology. Children's books need strong, universal themes. And what is a universal theme? It’s an underlying message—subtle, not preachy—that children everywhere can respond to.

Many children’s books deal with such universal themes as loneliness, new school, new pet, new baby, moving, and friendship. These themes can work whether the characters are people or animals.

Don’t worry about developing a never-before-seen theme. Instead, work toward a fresh and unusual approach of a tried-and-true theme. Think of the books you read as a child or to your child. Throw around ideas, mix them up, and turn them topsy-turvy as you place your unique spin on the tale. Have fun writing a new story with an old theme.

Classroom activity:

Promote student observation and descriptive language through the sense of touch. Allow students to explore various textures of items found in the environment. Examples: ground coffee, pebbles, sand, leaves, twigs, tempera paint, grass, string, pieces of construction paper, crumpled paper, cotton balls, bits of cloth, and other convenient items. Students sort items into groups by similar texture and discuss the way the items feel: This feels smooth or this feels rough. Use a variety of descriptive terms: bumpy, soft, silky, coarse, fluffy, etc. Students will glue items of a similar texture onto construction paper to make a collage. Combine the collage pages into a book and again discuss the textures of the different collages. Students may label each collage with a descriptive word or phrase.

No-Fee Contests:
1. Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest
Deadline: April 1, 2010

"Now in its ninth year. We seek today's best humor poems. Total cash prizes have been increased to $3,600, with a top prize of $1,500."

2. The Smories Prize
Prize: $1,500.
Submission is free. All rights will remain with the writer. Entries accepted from anywhere in the world.
Not be longer than 1,000 words.
Text only, in English.
Must be fiction for children from 3 to 8 years old.
Poetry & rhyming stories may also be submitted.
Deadline for this month: 31st March 2010
All other details on the site:

3. The 4th Annual Cheerios® New Author Contest will be open for entries on 3/15/2010. For more information on the Cheerios New Author Contest, please visit


  1. Nancy, this is sound advice for any genre--to write a new story on an old theme. Children's literature can probe deeply, and I enjoy reading these books now that I'm an adult.

    Your classroom learning activity is such a service for teachers. These tactile textures provide much-needed contact with the natural world.

    Janet Riehl

  2. Great blog! I will pass it on to some teacher friends of mine :-) thanks for the writing resources as well - greatly appreciated.

  3. Nancy, what a lovely blog you have, seems the perfect spot for parents and teachers of young children.

  4. Thanks, everyone. I like to include no-fee contests. Contests encourage writers to write and submit.

  5. Very neat thoughts & ideas, thank you so, so much!! Jess

  6. I like that really cool slide show feature you have on your blog, Nancy.


  7. I, too, will pass this on to my teacher friends and friends with young children. Thanks for the great info!

    Happy Friday,
    Allison Maslan