Happy National Bacon Day from Otis!

It’s another all-American day of observance to pay homage to something fun for everyone… and this time, something delicious!  It’s National Bacon Day… and it’s also the first weekend of college football.  Coink-y-dink? Surely not!  

We’ve already shared a pic of our family with Otis (via Twitter on Thursday), displaying the football team to whom we pledge our loyalty… (click here to see our Rebel family).

So now, here’s Otis and his tribute to Bacon Day.  He’s really a good, sweet and patient dog.  He deserves every bite, don’t you think?  Pick up a copy of his book and find out just how great he really is!

Happy Bacon Day

 

 

Hey Nashville Dog Lovers… Strutt Your Mutt!

Did everyone have an awesome National Dog Day?  Right on the heels of such a fun phenomenon comes this event you won’t want to miss…

Otis proudly invites you and every fabulous fido fan you know to join him at Nashville’s 25th Annual Dog Day Festival on Saturday, September 20, 2014, at Centennial Park!  We will be there, and we’ll be donating a portion of all book sales to the Nashville Humane Association.

Click here to visit the Festival link.

Click here to visit the Festival link.

This charity is close to our hearts because Otis was once a lost dog, waiting on his forever family.  He was a pound puppy (originally named, Bear), adopted by some college guys who changed his name to Otis, but did not set out to find him when he wandered off one summer.  Otis found us, nosing under the wobbly fence plank that had been weakened by the Nashville floods.  A week of searching for his owner concluded with the discovery that his previous owner was neither looking for him nor concerned for his well being, and if Otis came back, he would be returned to the pound for the convenience of the previous owner.  Of course, the rest of the story is the beautiful history of how Otis became ours, and we became his.  It’s all within the chapters of Otis Goes to School.

Come out and meet this courageous canine at the Dog Day Festival… you’ll love him from first sight!

From now through the day of the Festival, we will be selling special edition bookmarks for $1 each, or any donation you’d like to make, and all the profits will go to the Nashville Humane Association.  We will also be hosting book sales to donate part of the proceeds (and 100% of donations) to the NHA.

Comment below or email ashleybramlett.author@yahoo.com to make a donation and receive your books and bookmarks.  Or, give us a shout on Facebook or on Twitter @OtisGoes!

Here’s the first of several special edition bookmarks… who wants one?  You do!

OGTS DogDays 2014 bookmark

Epiphany

How about an uplifting, encouraging, jump-start-to-gumption word-of-the-day for a Monday? Straight from the Vocabulary of Otis: EPIPHANY.

EPIPHANY: a sudden understanding of something

Chapter 11 of Otis Goes to School is entitled, “Kindergarten.”  On his mission to find out what happens at school all day, Otis peers through a window pane and observes a classroom of these baby students:

“He saw his smiling girl in the bunch of fledgling readers, all focused together, waiting for the teacher’s approval in their discoveries of letter sounds that were turning into words before their very eyes. He was witnessing an epiphany, at the spellbinding hands and wise ways of this gentle lady who cared for his girl everyday at School.”

Of course, as one might expect, these young ones are learning to read.  Some of them will pick it up quickly, as a second-nature sort of hobby (I have one child who loves to lose himself in words unfolding like a magical red carpet across the page, and has since he began to string letter sounds together.).  Some of them might have known how to read before Kindergarten even began.  Some will take their sweet time, a gift enjoyed only by children, and pined after by those of us who have braved the phenomenon of adulthood.  There will also be those who find no interest at all in the reading skill just yet, who would rather build with blocks, win imaginary Matchbox car races, paint or daydream… at least, for a while (Another of my children fit this bill at this tender age.).

Imagine those precious Kindergarten teachers, evaluating and discerning each child’s reading level, taking those darling little hands at the door as Mom or Dad say goodbye for the day, and leading them into a brand new phase of life.  These are days that they will grow exponentially–not always necessarily in body, but in mind.  Given the chance to bloom at their own pace, they all will blossom into gardens unimagined, save by the superior and unmatched, imaginative design of the Creator who knit each of them carefully, with more precision than our human minds could possibly comprehend. (Psalm 139:13)

The way the mind of a child works is magnificent, and to witness the lighting of a flame, the flipping of the switch, the lightbulb going on–to see sheer delight spread from ear to ear when those funny-shaped, quirky letters finally jump in line to make a word–is to observe an epiphany.

My child who has the gift of being in this moment and taking her sweet time, reading to her little brother on the first day of summer.  This was an epiphany on many levels! Brother realizes sister can read; Sister realizes how happy Little Brother is when she reads to him; Mommy enjoys a flash in time she won't forget!

My child (who has the gift of being in this moment and taking her sweet time), reading to her little brother on the first day of summer. This was an epiphany on many levels! Brother realizes sister can read; Sister realizes how happy Little Brother is when she reads to him; Mommy enjoys a flash in time she won’t forget!

That said, let us not neglect the many other epiphanies in our little folks’ lives, and mistakenly deny the joy deserved therefor.  I have seen such happiness on the face of one proud little fellow at figuring out how the lunch line actually works, and getting it right for the first time.  High five, whippersnapper!

I have seen a little girl stand with a bit more confidence, and maybe even a bit taller, when she received an unexpected compliment for her politeness and ability to follow directions and set a fine example.  Keep smiling, my dear!

I have watched some pretty fast legs push the limit of “walking” in the hall, out of the pride that comes with the authority to venture all the way to the library alone, choose a book, check it out, and return to class on time.  Knew you could, bud!

I’ve hugged one little darling whose tears showed her uncertainty about when Mom would arrive for afternoon pick-up, and then her elated heart and wide spread arms when Mom’s familiar car just so happened to be first in line.  So thankful your school day ended with joy, beautiful child!

And how about the dreamy little artist-the one who paints watercolors with a little bit of fairy dust, who can fashion a flower uncannily like Monet?  Or, the speedy-footed athlete who can somehow recall more stats than an ESPN commentator on Monday morning?  Or, the shy little elfkin who figured out how to string clovers together without breaking a stem?  No doubt I could share endless examples worthy of such a word-of-the-day.  But you get the picture.  Have you experienced the epiphany…?

Could you figure out the lunch line, the library and the pick-up line, all while being polite, following directions, setting an example, painting, playing, keeping your energetic legs from running in the halls, AND learning to read?  Could you do it all at age 5 or 6?  The fact is, we all had to try, didn’t we?  We’ve all been through what our children are learning at this age, though we might not remember it all.

If we were afforded the chance to BE these children, way back when it was our turn, then we were the lucky ones.  If you are encouraging and celebrating these childish epiphanies with your children, be they of your own household or your classroom, then your children are the lucky ones.  It’s a big deal when they can brush their own teeth.  It’s amazing when they spread butter on their own toast.  It speaks volumes of their character when they summon the confidence to read in front of the class.  And when they learn the joy of showering others with kindness, even before they are asked–well–that epiphany drops seeds that spread like wildfire in the way the Good Lord intended.

It’s a sudden understanding of something.  It’s the “sudden” ingredient that makes it stick.  Let us celebrate in what seems to be “little things” to us wise-ol’ adults, but what are, to our children, brilliant discoveries of the ways their world works.  Let us allow them their epiphanies, and be so very proud of their abilities, personalities and talents.  It is ground that must be broken again and again, to each his own path, in his own time.

Sweet, sweet time… would that we all take it like children… and Otis.

Here’s hoping for beautiful epiphanies in your world today, and may you find joy therein. We hope you’ll stay with us as we see just how far @OtisGoes!

 

Catching the breeze on the way to drop the children off on their first day at school.

Catching the breeze on the way to drop the children off on their first day at school.

Otis goes to the Southern Festival of Books!

That’s right, folks!  That is the great news we received just last week.  Otis, Yours Truly, and this book that was born out of the true story that is our family life (Otis Goes to School)–we have been blessed with an invitation to attend, present and sign at the acclaimed and celebrated Southern Festival of Books in Nashville, Tennessee, October 10-12, 2014.  We are filled with joy and thankfulness, and we hope to see you there.

Spread the word… it’s a fabulous event for all ages.  Otis will be there graciously accepting all the petting you can share.  Otis Goes to School will be available for purchase (by the official retailer of the Festival, Parnassus Books), and I would dearly love to meet you, sign your books and give you the latest bookmark featuring our star, Otis.

Thank you, again and always, for joining us on this never-fails-to-be-interesting journey!

Southern Festival of Books announcement

*Isn’t the poster for the Book Festival just wonderful?!  This year’s Festival art was created by Cage-Free Visual.  Here’s an up close look…

Southern Festival of Books poster image 2014

Please do stay tuned for more specific details about the Festival, our popular words of the day, our school appearances coming up very soon, sneak-peeks of the latest Otis bookmark, and all things literarily-Otis-related.

As the caption of the Festival encourages: celebrate the written word!

 

Never Give Up.

EVER.  

Do.Not.Ever.Give.Up.

Sir Winston Churchill, picture from Wikipedia

Sir Winston Churchill, (picture borrowed from Wikipedia)

The courageous concept might have been best addressed by British statesman and historical pillar, Sir Winston Churchill, in his commencement address to the graduating class of Harrow School on October 29, 1941:

 

“Never give in, never give in, never, never, never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.”

Those might be the greatest exceptions, indeed.

And for all the glorious phrases, the delightfully lyrical strings of bolstering, commanding words and the theoretical questions with the stronghold answers of this political powerhouse, the crux of the speech’s message can be summed up in one quality, one adjective, one “way-to-be” in the face of whatever hand life deals.  It is less dramatic and carries less flair, but it’s a fantastic word, nonetheless:

TENACIOUS.

There’s your word for today, straight from the instructions of Sir Winston Churchill, himself… and one soft and furry black dog. (Click here for more vocabulary from Otis Goes to School.)

Of course not.  No, I am not comparing the rollicking adventures and narrow escapes of the loving and lovable Otis to the tumultuous encounters of Churchill and his contemporaries.  But truly, no one explains the meaning of the word, TENACIOUS, better than Churchill.  (For the record, I think Churchill would really like the gumption and moxie of our Otis.)

With respect to Otis Goes to School, the word “tenacious” is found in Chapter 10, “The Playground,” when Otis investigates the goings-on of kindergarten kings and queens, merry maids and pirates.

“Children hid behind Oak tree trunks and appeared again as a burst of energy in a race to make it to the day’s designated home base, safe from tenacious taggers.”

These are taggers who don’t give up!  Reading further, you’ll find these “boisterous boys… chasing imaginary bad guys with convincing hoots and hollers and curved stick-pistols…”

When kids play tag, they absolutely do seem tenacious.  They put their heart into the game, full force, top speed, no-holds-barred.  They do not give up.  They do not give in, but for conviction (when it might not be fair–such as, when playing tag with a younger sibling), good sense (when mom says stop, or the teacher confiscates the stick-pistol, as in Chapter 10)… or if they tag their target!

I think this word is an absolutely perfect word.  It even makes the speaker growl a bit when the word is spoken, perhaps gritting one’s teeth when sounding out those lush syllables of the word.

Let us be tenacious in things worth doing.  

My precious grandaddy always said, “If you are going to do a thing, do it right, do it well, do your best.”  That’s being tenacious.

Otis did not give up in finding a forever family when his former owners had the pound in their plans.  He might not know it, but he was tenacious.

Yours Truly has knocked on many a proverbial door (and some literal ones, too!) to get this book in the hands of someone who could take it to children around the world.  I’ve heard “no,” or “not at this time.”  I’ve heard silence as a gaping response, my least favorite, actually.  But by the grace of God and a boatload of tenacity–those grand moments of being tenacious–Otis Goes to School is really going places!  Good places, like the Alabama Book Festival last spring and bookstores like Landmark Booksellers and Parnassus Books.

And upcoming in October, 2014, Otis Goes to School is appearing at our most exciting break yet.  We will share details as they become available… but you can head on over to our Facebook page for a less-than-subtle hint! (And “like” us while you’re there!)

One thing worth doing, doing well and with all our might: introducing children to their own imaginations, and to the power of beautiful, sensational words to describe their explorations therein.  What would Churchill think of that?  Why, he would most certainly agree, for in the same speech of 1941, he declared, “…without imagination not much can be done.”  Of course, he was specifically referring to the imaginations of the people of his day who would lift the world from its own peril in the battle-ridden years which then lay before him and this class of graduates on the brink of their lives.  (You can read this famous speech in its entirety, and learn all about Sir Churchill by visiting the website, www.winstonchurchill.org.)

But the sentiment remains, and is worth pursuing, today and always.  BE TENACIOUS.

Tenacious

 

 

 

Noisy Vocabulary

For those of you who enjoy words of the day… here’s a fun one!

CACOPHONY

School age kids love Chapter 14 of Otis Goes to School.  Midway through the chapter, Otis follows his expert olfactory tracker along the trail of the alluring scent of chicken nuggets and fresh baked cornbread.  Throwing all concerns of remaining undiscovered on his Schooldays investigations, he gobbles up tasty morsels of carelessly dropped lunch crumbs and blows his own cover, much to the glorious shock of a lunchroom full of chatty children:

“The news of a dog in School had spread to the other tables, and the cafeteria cacophony had become an uproarious frenzy.”

Much of the fun of Otis Goes to School is inseparably and entertainingly mingled with the introduction of new words to young readers… exciting words, silly words, fun-to-say words, imagination-stretching words.  To tell a story is one thing, but to tell it with words that catch the reader by surprise and invite them to know more–that is literature.

It is my hope that Otis Goes to School will become a part of the beautiful scores of children’s literature that seamlessly blend reading into the fabric of their personalities, and make them reach for more.

Be sure you are ready for reading with your favorite Otis bookmark, free with any book purchase!

Be sure you are ready for reading with your favorite Otis bookmark, free with any book purchase!

Otis the Mustang – Part TWO

Following our fine experiences as Chapel guests of the Lipscomb Academy pre-K/K and third grade Book Day readers (click here for Otis the Mustang, Part ONE), we found ourselves welcomed with a perfect poster and sweeping seas of smiles by the seriously sensational second graders (Don’t you love alliteration?  I do, dearly, for double the delight and dazzle… click here for more Vocabulary of Otis.).

Welcome, Otis!

Welcome, Otis!

The absolutely fantastic Mrs. Lankford of second grade made us feel quite at home… and a homecoming, indeed, it was, as our oldest is a graduate of her class.  If every elementary ankle-biter could experience a Mrs. Lankford, somewhere along the way of their schooling, well… this world would just be a finer place all together!  She inspired Chapter 16, near the end of the book, because my oldest was wrapping up his second grade year with her when I completed the manuscript for Otis Goes to School.

All four classes of second grade, and all their amazing teachers, filed into our hostess’s classroom.  They spotted the star–Otis, of course–and there was immediate mutual love between these children and this canine.  After a little background about creative writing, book planning and production, and the sentimental history of Otis, we dove into two of the chapters between the front and back covers of Otis Goes to School.

Hands of the sensational sea of second graders!

Hands of the sensational sea of second graders!

I chose Chapter 13, “Pond-Dog,” for this bunch.  There is a particular water feature around which the happenings of this chapter take place, and it sits just behind the second grade classrooms, so I knew Otis’s discoveries thereabout would prove extra special, and would ring that bell of familiarity with ease and recognizable description.

And just as I suspected, they did not disappoint.  They recognized the pond immediately, and that perfect likeness to Otis therein, as well.

Otis sat, and then stood, and then sat and stood again, and Pond-Dog did the same. Otis panted and sneeze-barked, and snorted a friendly hello, and Pond-Dog did the same. A lovely water-butterfly danced in the air just above Pond-Dog’s ears, and much to his surprise when he looked up, there was a Monarch dancing above his own ears! Otis watched his cotton-ball clouds float to the east, and noticed the pond-clouds did the same. He wondered if they eventually met somewhere far away on the horizon, wherever it is that clouds go.

“…wherever it is that clouds go.” Ahhh, these little ones, they went right along with us, searching our imaginations for those very clouds.  We deeply enjoyed all the interest and intensity these second graders exuded.  For the Lipscomb set, they might just take the cake for “most into-the-story!”

Of course, we topped it off with Chapter 14, “Lunch.”  And good timing, because that’s just what they were ready for!

Distracted from his stealthy-ness by his newfound buffet line, Otis brushed against the legs of the cornbread girl, and his soft fur tickled her knees. She lowered her head and peered under the table, still laughing along with her friends, and spotted Otis, who paused with a deer-in-the-headlight expression.

“A dog!” the girl called loudly to her friend. “Y’all look at the dog under the table!”

And they all swiveled and twisted on their stools to crouch down for a better look, raising the noise-level all the while.

“Oh my, it IS a dog!” one girl exclaimed.

“He’s cute!” another declared. Well that was surely a nice thing to say.

“Dude, that’s awesome–a dog in School. Hey, feed him my carrots!” a goofy boy insisted, holding down a bright orange carrot between his finger and thumb.

“Hey, that’s that dog that hangs out the window every afternoon in the pick-up line!”

“Naw, can’t be, somebody tell the teachers…”

“Here boy, have a nugget!”

Otis grabbed the carrot and the nugget and kept moving forward under the table. Yep, he had been discovered, but it was worth it. Lunch had been spectacular. Students petted him and scratched his ears as he stepped over feet and lunchboxes. The commotion had drawn the attention of the teachers at this point, but it was nearly impossible to contain the excitement of children who had just found a big black dog under their lunch table.

There were squeals and hollering and he knew he heard his name several times. More food appeared under the table, served in the palms of chuckling children. “That’s Otis!” someone insisted…

See you in the pick-up line, second-grade.  You are always the BEST at waving to Otis in the afternoons.  He’s extra happy and shows off that polka-dotted pant in a large way when you greet him coming around that curve.

Mrs. Lankford's 2014 second graders!

Mrs. Lankford’s 2014 second graders!

Otis enjoyed every second of the second grade’s petting.

To the First Grade!

And less than 24 hours later, we were welcomed into the first grade classrooms, and into the extra huggable arms of these bright and dear young ones.  You do know, first grade is training ground for the best huggers of the future.  I don’t remember when I’ve received better hugs than in first grade classrooms.  These students are still the age of love in its most pure, childlike form, and they give it freely to those who look upon them with likewise admiration and appreciation (…and they do admire alliteration!).

Perhaps all the hugs are why these teachers smile so easily, so readily, even (perhaps, especially) upon the little learners who might challenge the very patience of Job with their wiggly-ness and unable-to-stop-talking-for-one-blessed-moment-ness.  There are first graders who follow the playbook as though life depends upon successful tippy-toeing between the clearly explained bylaws of first grade.  And then… and then… they are those who run haphazardly through the bylaws, past all the exceptions and clear into the unchartered territory of the first grader’s inquisitively insistent, “…but why?” (Thank you to my children’s Uncle LaGard Smith, for that succinct yet ridiculously accurate two-word summation of the ever wondering six-year-old’s favorite question.)

How do I know, you ask?  Let’s just say, the blessing of raising three children (three vastly different little Bramletts, who artfully resemble each other in looks, yet somehow encompass the full spectrum of personality possibilities within this gene pool) comes with the revelation that truly, no two children are alike, nor should they be.  They definitely approach the playbook from all angles.  And first-grade-caliber hugs help smooth those angles, no doubt here.

How else do I know?  It might be duly noted that Yours Truly, when in first grade, loved school deeply, and was often ready with some profound (wink) answer and exuberantly raised hand… it is possible that said hand might have been waving rapidly back and forth with ferocious first-grade fervor, and that the thumb and tall-man finger may have been snapped a time or two (or three) to grab my dear Mrs. Snellgrove’s attention, so that the enlightened answer/revelation/story might gush forth from the two little pink inward-squeezed lips of this overly excited only-child who scoffed at by-laws and exceptions where spotlight was available.  But I gave great hugs, and Mrs. Snellgrove was always smiling!  

Yours Truly, sometime around my first grade year.

Yours Truly, sometime around my first grade year.

(Thank you for your patience, Mrs. Snellgrove!)

First graders are exceedingly different and beautiful, but they all hug with wild abandon, with tremendous gusto… and with some pretty strong muscles, too, I might add!  These first graders lived up to their high heights of huggability, and ended our 2014 Lipscomb Academy visits with love to last us through the summer.

We were hosted by the very sweet, very gentle and dear Mrs. Woodard, who blessed our oldest two children with her knack for encouraging young readers, her soft voice, and her ever-caring gaze upon the lot of those under her tutelage.  Her wonderful, fellow hugged-to-the-max teachers and all the first graders joined us for a reading of the Spring volume of Ella and the Little Red Wagon (quite special, since this was a visit to our very own Ella’s classroom and grade) and Chapter 12, of Otis Goes to School: “The Spelling Test.”

This chapter is based on Mrs. Woodard and her classroom specifically, so these darlings followed right along with all the rituals of the spelling test described… all the knee-bouncing, eraser-to-the-forehead thinking, the clock ticking, the bottom-lip-biting and uplifting teacher-given winks of encouragement.  They were right there with me, right there with Otis as he reassures Chapter 12’s first-grader in his spelling of the last word of the test… “DOG.”

Otis was glad the word had not been CAT, as he would have been no help there.

The first graders!

The first graders!

I was so happy to know that just about all these students were ready to get to work on their own stories, their own written adventures of imagination.  They also shared much with us about their own dogs and other pets who resemble Otis.  And the beauty in that strong compulsion to share the first thought that comes along is the innocent and immediate reminder that children of this age have their worlds before them.  They are sitting at start, fumbling for their own sets of keys to the ignition of imagination, and all their engines are Formula-One-worthy.  Their potential is boundless, untold and yet-to-be.

That’s why they hug with all their might… because they don’t know “can’t.”

It’s a great thing not to know the meaning of the word, “can’t.”  Personally, and in my house, it’s the equivalent of a forbidden four-letter word.  “Can’t,” just provokes me, really, and I’m sure my patient husband–who would make Job proud–would agree wholeheartedly.  To me, “can’t,” evokes the opposing response of, “wanna bet?”

Actually, the more typical response of this author to the atrocious contraction, “can’t,” is more along the lines of a raised right eyebrow, an ever-so-slight smile with a set jaw and hidden, clenched teeth, nose flared in the fashion of family decent, eyes flashing and scarcely squinted, excessively focused and bluer than before the inherent challenge.  I think my husband concurrently shows both eyebrows raised high to wrinkle his concerned forehead, a gritted smile in the oh-boy-here-it-comes fashion, and a tense oh-man-what-path-are-we-about-to-embark-upon sensation.  It always works out swimmingly, though, because “can’t,” just won’t do.

These first graders have the right idea.  Keep hugging with all your heart and might.

Keep answering that call to tell your own tale, and tell it well (don’t forget your adjectives!).

Never learn the meaning of the word, “can’t.”  Step right over it, because you can.

Otis time is special time.

Otis time is special time.

I look forward to keeping up with all the Mustangs.  And I can hardly wait to see how you’ve all grown by next year.  It’s summertime, so I’m hoping your adventures are laying ground to stories you’ll share with me, upon our next gathering together.

To all of the Lipscomb Academy teachers who invited me, my husband, our dog, family and book into your classrooms, bless you and thank you.  Thank you all for what you do everyday, for showing up with excitement, for inspiring our children, for being everything that you are to your own families and then pulling even more from your hearts to share with your students and all their families.  Our experiences with your students shall be forever treasured, keeping our hearts full with happy thoughts.

And selfishly, we can’t help but hope for more of the same.

God bless you Mustangs, as you have all greatly blessed us.  Have a summerload of fun!

 

Two of my sweets: Robert and Otis.

Two of my sweets: Robert and Otis.

 

For more excerpts from Otis Goes to School, click here!

To find out how/where you can purchase a book or schedule an appearance, click here!

UPDATE: Here’s a couple of treasures given to me by students after our first grade visit… I love the artwork, and the thought behind the stories!  Thank you to Scout and Esme for sharing your talents with me!  I’ll treasure them always.

Thank you for the colorful picture, Esme!

Thank you for the colorful picture, Esme!

 

Great story, Scout!  I love the way you describe your day with Ella at school.  I know you have fun!

Great story, Scout! I love the way you describe your day with Ella at school. I know you have fun!

 

Otis the Mustang — Part ONE

*Please click here for Otis the Mustang — Part TWO, the second and first grades.*

Lipscomb Academy–to which my family still fondly refers as David Lipscomb, to pay homage to the school’s history as well as my sweet husband’s “Lifer” status (K-College)–has all but made a Mustang out of the certain canine for which this site is particularly designed to promote.

This spring found Otis at many an elementary school, even more than once at a couple of them… and Lipscomb invited Otis to visit almost every grade!  He made appearances for the pre-K and Kindergartners, and the 1st – 3rd grades.  The only students we missed were the pre-1st students (most of whom met Otis last year when he visited the Kindergarten), and the 4th graders (who all met Otis at last year’s Book Day).  Needless to say, though say it we must… Otis feels right at home in the classrooms of the Brewer Campus of Lipscomb Academy (David Lipscomb Campus School, for the Mustangs who go back that far.).

All dressed... white fur tie in place under the Lipscomb jersey, of course.

All dressed… white fur tie in place under the Lipscomb jersey, of course.

Of course, Lipscomb is quite special to our family, and to the book, Otis Goes to School.  After all, the chapters describe the very walls and halls of the building, the trees of the playgrounds, and even the goldfish pond behind the second grade classrooms.

When Otis goes for a ride to gather the two oldest of his three favorite children, it’s the Lipscomb pick-up line he knows best.  It’s the scents of lunch from waving hands and post-P.E. students that he recognizes.  He knows the security guards and teachers, and when to brace for the sharp turn to enter/exit the parking lot.  Lipscomb is another home for this dog, and because we live so close, he can probably smell it with his expert olfactory tracker from his very own backyard.

So we thoroughly enjoyed all the familiar faces (and new ones as well) that we saw at our first spring visit to Lipscomb: pre-K and Kindergarten Chapel!  Because this set was much younger, and because this was time set aside for a message sharing God’s love and creation, we read from the Ella and the Little Red Wagon series.  It being spring, we of course chose the Spring volume.

Ella and the Little Red Wagon - SPRING COVER

Ella and the Little Red WagonSpring (Not yet in stores, but coming soon!)

Lucky for me, my Ella’s first grade teacher let her tag along and introduce the book (and Otis) to the nearly 80 students present that day.  The little ones loved making the connection between a character in a book, and their real-life versions right in front of them.

The Ella series is all about discovering God’s world around us. With Otis as her faithful sidekick, Ella finds outdoor treasures of all sizes and shapes, and gathers them in her wagon.  She finds that these gems are sent to us as little reminders of the current season, and how much care God puts into each detail.

Ahhh… if He puts such focus into the tiniest of dappled freckles in the center of the tulip, or the dash of red on the robin’s breast, or the perfect pop of yellow on the bumblebee’s stripes, then how much–oh, how very much–love and attention and care He must put into each one of us.

No doubt, Ella’s favorite treasure in the book is Otis, so she gives him a ride in the wagon, too… a point certainly not lost on our very sharp and attentive pre-K/K audience.

We also read from Hello World, and remembered the importance of noticing everything around us.  It is most refreshing to see through the eyes of the youngest readers… these wide-eyed, clean-canvassed little thinkers.  Our youngest son, now age 3, says “Hello,” to everything… “Hello airplane, hello school bus, hello cloud… hello, Otis!”  Therein lies the inspiration for this picture book.

Hello World Book Cover

Hello World (Not yet in stores, but also coming soon.)

HW pgs34-35

Oh, these pre-k/K-ers had such wonderful questions!  We chatted about how to make a book, how to put all the pieces together, how to know what to write about, and when the story is finished.  We talked about Otis, and his history before joining our family.  And we talked, of course, about writing our own stories.

Who has a story?  Who has an imagination?  That’s right, littlest Lipscomb darlings… just like Haywood and St. Paul and Judson realized… we ALL do.  And I thank you so much for being a part of mine!

We made it into the grades' newsletter for May, put together by the teacher who so graciously invited us to speak in Chapel, Mrs. Austin!

We made it into the grades’ newsletter for May, put together by the teacher who so graciously invited us to speak in Chapel, Mrs. Austin!

 

The children were so patient and tender with Otis, and he loved every moment of lovin' these students could share!

The children were so patient and tender with Otis, and he loved every moment of lovin’ these students could share!

THANK YOU to the Mustang pre-K and Kindergarten classes!!  We had a wonderful morning with you, and we hope you’ll have us back next year!

***

THIRD GRADE BOOK DAY

Numerically speaking, 1st grade would come next… but Otis made the leap to third grade for the calendar’s sake.  For the second year in a row, we were invited to speak and read for Lipscomb Academy’s Third Grade Book Day!  This year was extra special, because our oldest son, Paul Kent, was an official third grader.  Students and teachers celebrate the day by dressing as their favorite storybook character, and my boy went as “himself.”  He is, after all, the “oldest boy” in Otis Goes to School.

Another reason for the extra special-ness of the day is that last year, when I read this book to the then-third graders, it was in the form of a 3-ring binder.  I had written the full manuscript in ink/pencil/crayon/marker–whatever I could grab that would write at the time–and I typed it into my computer, printed it out, punched holes with my lawyer-husband’s three-hole punch, clicked the rings closed, slapped a title page on the front and made my way as a fledgling author with tummy butterflies and a here-goes-everything approach, to my first appearance at Book Day.

Last year's Third Grade Book Day (2013)... a helpful parent keeps Otis in check while he gets his first dose of lovin' as a real life storybook character.

Last year’s Third Grade Book Day (2013)… a helpful parent keeps Otis in check while he gets his first dose of lovin’ as a real life storybook character.

This year, I was able to show the students a real book.  I held in my hands many months of work, of late hours, of doing and redoing and scrapping and re-redoing until the cover was just right.  I held in my hands the finished product of last year’s infant of a book, in its cradle of a binder closed with crossed fingers, hopes and prayers.  Last year’s third graders are this year’s seniors of the elementary school, and I remember them listening intently, responding to the character of Otis, and high-fiving me in the halls for the remainder of last spring, saying, “Hey, you read about Otis to us!  Is it in the library yet?”

Those comments encouraged me forth, and made me unable to hide a smile that foretells what I do hope for: that this book, all my books-in-the-works and books-to-be-thought-of, might be in that library, in libraries everywhere, in bookstores everywhere, in homes around the world, and most importantly for my children’s books, at home in the hands of a little one learning to follow the call of his or her imagination.

I brought the 3-ring binder and the finished, bookstore-ready copy to share with this year’s third grade… my oldest sitting close beside, my supportive husband keeping Otis calm, and my sweet girl beaming at being included in big brother’s class event (Preston was having a big time on a playdate with a pal, having had plenty of personal Otis-time before breakfast). Joy, it was, to hold proof in hand (there’s the lawyer in me) that hard work really does what the old saying indicates… it pays off.  It makes a difference.  It means everything.

Thank you, Mrs. Sanders and all the third grade teachers and students, for inviting us to return to Third Grade Book Day!  I’m hoping to share something brand new next year, if you’ll have us back!

This year's Third Grade Book Day (2014).  Now this is a bunch of characters!

This year’s Third Grade Book Day (2014). Now this is a bunch of characters!

Pre-K/K and Third Grade Book Day… Otis was just getting started!  There’s more?  Why of course, there’s always more in the experience of the long-winded writer.  Second and first grade stories are coming up… in that very order.

Please click here for PART TWO of Otis the Mustang, the second and first grades.