Cake in the Pan #flashfiction

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about the cooking show. It can be any cooking show, real or imagined. Who is there? What happens? Make it fun or follow a disaster. Go where the prompt leads!

This is my response. I hope you like it.

Cake in the Pan

Deidre laughed, sang and clapped on cue at her first-ever real live Christmas pantomime, until … the clowns prepared the cake. Deidre knew how to make cakes — she’d made them with her mum. The clowns obviously didn’t — tipping more flour over each other than into the pan, splashing the milk, and cracking in eggs, shells and all. The audience roared as the clowns placed a lid on the pan, shook it vigorously, then tipped out a magnificent cake. When offered a slice, Deidre folded her arms and clamped her lips. A cake made like that could never taste good.

👩‍🍳

This story is inspired by a true event. However, the only thing I remember is being horrified at the way the clowns put everything into the pan, including the egg shells, and turned out a cake. In writing, I tried to get back to what an expanded memory may have included. I hope it has worked.

The thought of being horrified at everything going into the pan in which the cake is to be cooked is now quite funny, as I know there are quite a few recipes made that way; including one of my favourites to make with children. If I was to ever be in a cooking show, this is what I’d make. And there’s not even an egg in sight.

Moon Cake

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups plain flour

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

4 tablespoons cocoa powder

5 tablespoons butter, melted

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon bi-carbonate of soda (baking soda)

1 tablespoon white vinegar

1 cup milk

2/3 cup miniature marshmallows

Utensils

A cake pan

A cup measure

A mixing spoon

A tablespoon

A teaspoon

Method

1.         Preheat the oven to 180° (350⁰F, Gas mark #4)

2.         Put the flour, sugars, salt and cocoa in the cake pan. Mix them carefully. You will have the light brown moon sand.

3.         Use the mixing spoon to make a big crater in the middle so the bottom of the pan shows through. Make another medium-sized crater and a little crater.

4.         Put the baking soda in the medium-sized crater.

5.         Pour the melted butter into the big crater.

6.         Pour the vanilla into the little crater.

7.         Pour the vinegar onto the bi-carb soda in the medium-sized crater. Watch it become a bubbling, foaming volcano.

8.         When the volcano stops foaming, pour the milk over the moon sand and carefully mix it all together until it looks like smooth moon mud.

9.         Scatter marshmallow rocks over the surface.

10.       Bake it for around 35 minutes, or until a toothpick stuck in the centre comes out dry. Let the cake cool in the pan.

This recipe is available in different formats on my website readilearn and there are also some suggestions for science discussions while making the cake.

Enjoy a slice!

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The Winners! — Environment Award for Children’s Lit, 2021 – #readilearn

The winners of 2021 ENVIRONMENT AWARD FOR CHILDREN’S LITERATURE have been announced!

Recently, I shared with you the shortlist for the Environment Award for Children’s Literature. Today it is my pleasure to let you know the winners in each of the three categories: Fiction, Non-Fiction and Picture Fiction.

Over to the Wilderness Society for their announcement:

The winners for this year’s Environment Award for Children’s Literature have been announced by the Wilderness Society during Nature Book Week, which runs between 6 – 12 September.

Now in its 27th year, the Wilderness Society shortlists the best children’s nature books before a panel of judges crowns a winner for three categories: Fiction, Non-Fiction, and Picture Fiction. The award showcases and celebrates some of the best writers and illustrators working in children’s literature.

Continue reading: The Winners! — Environment Award for Children’s Lit, 2021 – readilearn

The Importance of the Early Years – #readilearn

Note: This article was first written for and published at the Carrot Ranch Literary Community as part of a series supporting parents with children learning at home. The focus of the article is early childhood development and contains information and ideas that teachers and schools may find suitable for sharing with parents.

The early years are crucial to child development and what happens in those years can be used to predict, to some extent, what will happen in that’s child’s future.

I had already intended sharing videos about early childhood development in this post, and still will. But when my sister told me about this Ted Talk by Molly Wright, a pretty amazing 7-year-old, I just knew I had to share it first. She does a great job of summing up the importance of the early years. I’m not going to summarise her talk for you as it’s only 7 ½ minutes long and I’m sure you will enjoy it more coming from Molly.

For me, the only thing she leaves out that I wish she had included is reading stories. Although it’s probably understood, I would like to have heard it mentioned.

Now back to my original plan of sharing two Ted Talks.

(Tip: I understand that watching talks can be time consuming. I find I can often follow them just as well, or better, when I watch them at increased speed. In case you don’t know, to do this is easy. Click on the Settings cogwheel, select Playback speed and choose the speed that suits you. I often try 1.75 first and adjust down if necessary.)

The first talk is Lessons from the longest study on human development by Helen Pearson.

Continue reading: The Importance of the Early Years – readilearn

Dressed for the Prom #flashfiction

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story to the theme, “not everyone fits a prom dress.” You can take inspiration from Ellis Delaney’s song, the photo, or any spark of imagination. Who doesn’t fit and why? What is the tone? You can set the genre. Go where the prompt leads!

While prom is not ‘a thing’ here in Australia, our graduating students have formals and semi-formals, we all know what it is from television shows and movies.

Dressed for the Prom

She surprised them when she emerged, resplendent in formal gown, announcing, “I’m going to the prom.” With a smile as wide as a rainbow after rain, she twirled for them to admire her from every angle. Gorgeous, they agreed, though it was a little wide in the shoulders and a little long in the hem. The neckline would be revealing without underclothes. Someone suggested the beads were overdone, that one or two strands would suffice, but the decision was made. As soon as Billy arrived in the limo for big sister Maud, she was ready. What was keeping him?

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The Environment Awards for Children’s Literature — Shortlist 2021 – #readilearn

When I was recently approached by the Wilderness Society to Share information about this year’s Environment Award for Children’s Literature, I didn’t hesitate. I have previously interviewed two authors whose books have won Environment Awards: Rebecca Johnson and Aleesah Darlison. I have also published a list of picture books with environmental themes and am keen to promote the environment and what we can do to preserve and protect it. Picture books and the environment — what’s not to love?

Now, over to the Wilderness Society — the following information was provided by them.

Every year, the Wilderness Society celebrates Australia’s finest children’s nature authors through their “The Environment Award for Children’s Literature.”

2021 shortlist is now out, with 13 books ranging from the fiction, non-fiction and picture fiction genres.

These books tell stories that encourage children to appreciate nature, take action and feel proud in understanding the great movement they all are a part of.  Each author in this shortlist has crafted unique stories that celebrate their love for children, the environment, country, space, wildlife, and story-telling!

Continue reading: The Environment Awards for Children’s Literature — Shortlist 2021 – readilearn

Flying Pigs #flash fiction

The phrase ‘when pigs fly’ means that something is impossible, it will never happen. The phrase is an adynaton — don’t you love that word? I just learned it — an exaggeration, hyperbole. I seem to think I heard the term many times growing up, though I can’t recall about what in particular. Maybe it was life in general.

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a flight of pigs. It can be farm or fantasy-related. The idea can be a tale, poem or memory. You can use the phrase as an expression. Go where the prompt leads!

The first thing I thought about when reading Charli’s prompt is a hilariously delightful picture book by the fabulous author-illustrator Mo Willems: An Elephant and Piggie Book Today I Will Fly!

If you don’t already know the story, I suggest you acquaint yourself with it with this video. It will only take a couple of minutes.

I remember when I was first introduced to Mo Willem’s work. A colleague came rushing into my room one morning and pushed Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! at me, saying, “You’ve got to read this!’

I would have to say, the book didn’t have instant cover appeal, but she left it with me, and I continued with my preparations for the day. Later, when I sat down to read, I knew this book was something special. I loved it and the children loved it. We read it and read and read it. It had us in stitches. Unsurprisingly, it was a Caldecott Honor book.

After that, we read all the Mo Willems books we could get our hands on. The children brought in those they’d purchased or borrowed from the local library, and I couldn’t resist buying additional titles whenever I saw a new one in a book store I just happened to be passing.

When I visited New York in 2016, I was delighted to find an exhibition of the Art and Whimsy of Mo Willems at a museum not far from my accommodation. I couldn’t go through the exhibition shop without purchasing a book or two or more and also came home with a pigeon and a duckie soft toy. I am, unreservedly, a Mo Willems fan and I have the enthusiasm of my colleague to thank for that. If you would like to find out more, please visit the Mo Willems website.

And Mo is not just for little kids. He is for big kids (like us) and writers too. He has wonderful advice for teachers and writers alike when he discusses creativity, the need to play and the ever-present failure. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of meeting Mo, please watch his video on The Joy of Creation. It will inspire you.

In another video on his website, Mo explains how to draw a piggie from the Elephant and Piggie books. The inspiration for my flash came from this video. The flash is also a nod to my favourite ever principal Peter Kidston who not only valued my work as a teacher, he respected it enough to provide me the freedom to teach how I wanted, knowing that the children and their learning was at the centre of all I did. I wrote about Peter in this post.

I hope you enjoy my story.

Flying Pigs

Children’s squeals drew the principal to the window. Ms Irena’s children were running about the yard tossing bits of paper in the air. What were they up to this time?

“We read a book about a flying pig,” explained Ms Irena. “The children decided to make their own pigs and see if they could fly. Then they wanted to see whose would fly the farthest or highest. After, we’ll write stories about our pigs. So, it’s literacy, art, maths and science rolled into one — STEAM!”

The principal smiled. “A flight of pigs. With Irena, even the impossible seems possible.”

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Finding ‘Home’ — a new picture book by Karen Hendriks – #readilearn

Today I am delighted to share with you Karen Hendriks’s recent picture book Home as part of a Books On Tour promotion.

Home, published by Daisy Lane Publishing, is a story of hope for a brighter future.

I previously introduced Karen to you when we explored how creativity was celebrated in her picture book Go Away, Foxy, Foxy. I am also pleased to say that, in some way, Karen and I are writing buddies. We both have stories in last year’s anthology Tell ‘em They’re Dreaming as well as in this year’s anthology to be released next week Once Upon a Whoops!

About Karen Hendriks

Karen Hendriks is a children’s author who lives in a small seaside village in Shellharbour, New South Wales. Picture books are her favourite kind of books. Karen adores how words and pictures join together to create story magic in picture books. Karen is very passionate about writing quality stories for children.

About Home — the blub

War ends, yet its dark shadow remains.

A family is forced to flee their home.

As they journey through hunger, long cold nights, and homelessness,

a heart locket whispers words of hope.

And a country that’s far away,

calls for those that are no longer wanted.

It offers new beginnings and a precious place, once more to call home.

As explained in an interview with Romi Sharp on the Just Kids’ Lit blog, the book was inspired by a journey taken by Hendriks’s own family after the Second World War. It is a slice of history of which many are unaware.

Hendriks writes:

Between 1945 and 1946, three million Sudeten Germans were expelled from the Sudeten Mountains to Germany, Austria and the Soviet Zone. It was the largest forced refugee movement of a single population in the 20th century. I always felt the deep sadness inside my Oma about the loss of her family home. This pulled at me to write about losing home. When researching for Home I discovered that my Mum, Oma and great Oma and Opa were Sudeten Germans.  My Mum was a baby when they were forced to leave their mountain village called Wunschendorf, in Czech. It is now known as Srbska. My great Opa was in still in a concentration camp for opposing Hitler. So it was my Mum as a baby, Oma and Great Oma and they walked from their village to East Germany. This story is so important to me because the plight of the Sudeten Germans is not really known and their story is my story, too.

You can read more about Hendriks’s family and the illustrator in this post on Just Write for Kids.

What I like about Home

Continue reading: Finding ‘Home’ — a new picture book by Karen Hendriks – Readilearn

Stars in the Sand #flashfiction

When I read Charli’s prompt at the Carrot Ranch this week, to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using the phrase, “stars in the sand.” Your story can be any genre (or poem) and can use realism or fantasy. It’s a dreamy prompt. Go where the it leads!, all I could think of was the story about the boy and the starfish. I’m sure you know the one, written by Loren Eiseley.

It’s about a boy who was walking along the beach one day when hundreds of starfish were stranded on the sand and the tide was going out. The starfish would die if left on the sand. The boy picked up the starfish, one by one, and gently threw them into the water. A man walking by asked him what he was doing and suggested he couldn’t make a difference as there were too many starfish. The boy continued to pick up the starfish and throw them back into the ocean. “I made a difference to that one,” he said.

It’s a beautiful story with a wonderful message. What seems like a small act to one, a drop in the ocean, can make an enormous difference to another. We may never know what impact our actions, even a smile, can have on another.

Then there were the beautiful little origami wish stars that Bec and I used to make when she was young. We’d make them in all sorts of colours and fill jars with them (well, one or two at least). I don’t think we ever hid them in the sand, but we could have. What fun it would be to have a treasure hunt in the sand for stars.

This video explains how to make those little wish stars. Maybe you have made some too.

And of course, just like Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, stars were always popular in early childhood classrooms to denote good work, good effort or good behaviour, and classes often had a ‘star of the week’ for special recognition and privileges. And at the collage table, glitter and glitter stars were always popular. A little glitter and few stars did wonders to enhance any work of art.

The image in my title is of one such artwork created for me by my granddaughter when she was still in her pre-school days. It is called ‘Starry Night’ and hangs proudly beside a print of the other more famous ‘Starry Night’ in my dining room.

The collage table is where I’ve gone with my response to Charli’s prompt. I had wanted to write about someone with stars in her eyes but feet in the sand but couldn’t quite pull it off. Perhaps it was too autobiographical. I had big plans for what I wanted to write but the sand kept shifting beneath my feet and I couldn’t grab hold of anything. Anyway, this is my response. I hope you like it.

Stars in the Sand

Works of art, created from random pieces of this and that, were incomplete without a generous sprinkling of glitter. When stars were available, the children were in heaven. Though insignificant to others, the works held meaning for the artist, at least for a moment like a particle of glitter passing through a sandglass. Peta watched George painstakingly place his stars. She turned his paper around. “Stars don’t go in the sand, silly. They go in the sky.” George turned it back. “They’re starfish. Starfish go in the sand. Don’t you know anything?” “Oh,” said Peta. “They are beautiful starfish!”

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Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

Happy 5th Birthday, readilearn! – #readilearn

Today. Tuesday 24 August 2021, is readilearn’s fifth birthday. Thank you for joining our journey.

A birthday gift for you

To help us celebrate, we have a readilearn birthday gift for you.

For the next ten days, until Friday 3 September 2021, two of our birthday resources are available to you, absolutely free.

Happy Birthday — an interactive resource to personalise (usually $2)

The Birthday Bundle includes 8 birthday-themed printable resources in one easy-to-download bundle (usually $2.50, or $8.50 if purchased individually)

These resources include:

Continue reading: Happy 5th Birthday, readilearn! – readilearn

I Wonder… a book for our planet by Allison Paterson – #readilearn

Today it is my pleasure to introduce you to Allison Paterson and her delightful new picture book I Wonder with illustrations by Nancy Bevington and published by Big Sky Publishing. This post is part of a Books On Tour promotion.

I previously introduced you to Allison when I interviewed her about her non-fiction book Australia Remembers: Anzac Day, Remembrance Day and War Memorials.

About Allison Paterson

Allison Marlow Paterson is an Australian Author who writes stories for children and adults.

Allison’s writing reflects her passion for the past. In addition to creating books for adults and picture books about growing up on the farm, she is the author of the ABIA and CBCA notable title Anzac Sons: Five Brothers on the Western Front.

Her 2018 release Australia Remembers: Anzac Day, Remembrance Day and War Memorials heralded a new non-fiction series, with the next – Customs and Traditions of the Australian Defence Force – arriving in 2021. Allison’s first novel for young adults – Follow After Me – was created while undertaking a May Gibbs Children’s Literature Trust Fellowship.

I Wonder is Allison’s latest picture book for children and is inspired by Australia’s beautiful beaches and her concern for the environment

The Sunshine Coast is where Allison enjoys life as a writer, presenter and publishing consultant.

About I Wonder

The little wooden boat has been left behind in the sand dunes. Odd things pass it by, tumbling and floating into the ocean – a chip packet, a takeaway cup and a plastic bag. The little wooden boat wonders and worries … Is it a forgotten thing? Is it just rubbish now? Will it ever find a home again? This delightful tale will inspire readers to take the small steps needed to care for their world – no matter how young they are!

What I like about I Wonder

Continue reading: I Wonder… a book for our planet by Allison Paterson – Readilearn