Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Enzo - the Dog with a Serious Need for Speed

As part of the festivities for my son's Christmas party at school, they will be having a book exchange. Yes, this is music to an author's ears. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE children's literature, and his teacher basically gave me the lovely excuse to buy another children's book. This meant perusing the book aisles with an excited four-year-old.

There is no better time had by anyone, anywhere.


At the end of our book hunt, our shopping cart held a copy of Garth Stein's Enzo Races in the Rain! This picture book really is a joy to read. It's told in an adorably busy puppy's perspective. He loves racing and all that is fast. Early on, Enzo is paired with an equally adorable girl who loves everything her new puppy does. That is until he squeezes through a hole in the backyard fence and quickly gets more of an adventure than he bargained for. Thankfully, he does find his way back home. I'm such a sucker for racing lingo and a happy ending. And it just so happens that this story has both.

My son was silent during the entire story, completely taken in by sweet, little Enzo and Stein's dynamic storytelling. If you have a little one who likes excitement, this might just be the perfect Christmas present.

Happy reading!!

If your little one isn't quite so little anymore--like maybe 7-9 little--and he or she still loves a good adventure, boy, do I have a story for you!!
Axel and Theo

Monday, November 10, 2014

A Dog From a Faraway Galaxy--No Way!

In honor of the countdown to the release of my new children's chapter book, "Axel and Theo: My Dog is the Emperor of a Faraway Galaxy," today I'm answering the number one question I'm asked about the story.

Can you believe the book will be released in four days??!! 


Back to answering this number one question. So, the number one question I’ve been asked so far is, “Where did the idea for a dog emperor come from?”

Well, the answer is actually kind of a complicated one.

Industry professionals have said for a long time that authors should write what they know. I learned pretty early on in my writing career that this is sound advice. Once, many moons ago, I tried to write based on a submission call from a publisher. The topic was one I knew little about and wasn’t really that interested in. The result, as you may have guessed, was totally disastrous.

Yes, to write what you know is definitely sound advice. I’m sure you know that I’ve never discovered one of my dogs was the emperor of a faraway galaxy—although, that would be epically cool. 

But in a more roundabout way, I did write what I know, because animals, fantasy and adventure are actually some of my favorite things. Let’s dive a little deeper into that.


Because they’re my favorite things, of course.

I grew up in a log cabin on about eight acres of land in the country. Honestly, it was even dreamier than it sounds. We didn’t have a farm, per say, because, well, when I think of a farm, I think of a place that sustains itself with food and milk from the animals. My family didn’t make money from our animals or even produce our necessities. We had animals more for fun. And have animals, we certainly did. We had cows, goats, donkeys, horses, chickens, cats and (surprise, surprise) dogs.

My sister has one of the biggest hearts of anyone I know, especially for animals. Since many of her friends lived in the city, every time they would find a stray animal, my sister brought it to its new home—ours.

I remember sitting on the porch swing, cradling our newest puppy, telling him about my day. I really think this is where I discovered the bond between a puppy and a kid. It really is a special thing. An animal doesn’t care if you’re decked out in the latest fashion or if your hair or teeth are perfect. And in my case, if your eyes shake uncontrollably. Yeah, it’s called nystagmus. Look it up—interesting stuff.

The point is that one thing I know and love is animals, and this passion is why my character, Axel, exists (in the pages of my story, at least).

You might be thinking, “Hmmm…I get the animals thing, but what about the whole emperor thing?” To that, I’d say, “Great question!”

First, my dad is awesome. I’m just going to throw that out there. As a pre-teen and teenager, I LOVED to watch The X Files with him. It was kind of our thing. The writing on that show was witty, exciting and, many times, hilarious. I was also a huge Buffy fan. If you don’t know who I’m talking about, a quick “Buffy” and “90s” search should catch you up real quick. And don’t even get me started on The Labyrinth. How can a tiny worm be so creepy and adorable at the same time?

Anyways, basically, I’m a huge science fiction-fantasy-adventure nut. Hence, much of the story of Axel and Theo takes place on a planet named Doglin in a galaxy named Thars with acid-spitting monsters, strawberry soda oceans and dog technology that is actually light-years ahead of our own.

Whew! Major mouthful there.

I bet now you can see why this story is so near and dear to my heart. It’s this wild combination of so many things that I love, and if you, your child, your students, your nieces and nephews, or just any young person you know, loves these same things that I love, I think you just might have finished your Christmas shopping.

Okay. Maybe it’s more like a dent in your Christmas shopping.

Enjoy the wild ride and I’d love to hear from you after you read it,
Amberly K. Clowe 


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Summer Reading Thoughts

I'm sharing a few thoughts on summer reading today. As a former teacher, and, now, parent and author, I have a few ideas that may help the young readers in your life enjoy a summer full of wonderful reading.

As a former teacher, I'd like to remind parents how important it is to encourage summer reading. I know we teachers are constantly shouting, "Read, read, read over the summer!!" But it's true. I taught second grade for several years, and the second grade reading level begins on an 18 and ends on a 28 (at least it did a few years ago). So, that meant that the first grade teachers worked very hard to help their first graders end on an 18 to be ready for the following year. However, students that did zero reading over the summer would actually regress, usually to a 16. This happens because without regular reading, their fluency falls, and when their fluency falls, they read slower. When they read slower, by the end of the story, they can't remember what the story was about. So, back to the new second-grader. This student begins the year at a 16, and although this is just one level below where they should start, the student spends the next year just a little behind all year. This can be super frustrating for the student. Kids are smart. They know when their friends' books are getting thicker and thicker and with fewer pictures, and they know when the books they read aren't. They hear their friends read (even in smaller groups), and they hear themselves struggle. And don't get me started on when they end just a little behind and then don't read the next summer. It's a very sad road to travel. Luckily, this is the end of May, and you have a whole summer to keep that child reading. Do it!! :)

As a parent, I'm going to challenge you even a step further. Don't just have your child read, help them choose quality reading. One of my pet peeves is kids reading poor quality literature. There are so many books out there with rich language and engaging storylines. I know sometimes the kids want to read the latest fad, but sometimes the latest fad isn't really all that great. Every so often my son will choose one of those books that was a movie first. I cringe, but I grit my teeth and get through it. The book reads like a laundry list. This happened, and then this, and then this, and so on and so forth. There is no authentic voice, very little humor (for a kid who adores humor), and the vocabulary is often quite disappointing. Of course, I do like that he is choosing his own books, and I will continue to encourage that, but I also continue to place books that promote quality storytelling in his at-home library.
I know someday, at some point, he'll stare down at a page, telling him to write an essay, and I want him to have a rich storytelling foundation to help him do this. I also, and more importantly, want to encourage a love of reading in him to last a life time. So, please, don't waste a ton of time, gritting your teeth and, instead, encourage the stories that will change a life. Yes, that means if you aren't a big reader, you may need to do your research, but it will be so worth it.

As an author, yes, this is a shameless plug, but I really am proud of my picture books. Katie Ling Fashion Queen positively promotes individuality and fluency while I Really Love You, Ava helps children better understand and appreciate their families and in a truly fun and meaningful way.

Let's encourage summer reading together!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Story of Two Brothers Who Were Meant to Fly

The other day George and I read Allan Drummond's The Flyers. This is a whimsical tale of the Wright brothers and their twelve-second flight in 1903. Allan's story is truly fun and inspiring for all ages.

George and I also made a paper airplane to accompany our lovely story. He had so much fun with this quick lesson that it didn't really feel like a lesson at all!

*Update on this year's book list*

Emma and George both LOVE the classic, Time for Bed, by one of the most amazing storytellers ever, Mem Fox.

Happy reading!!

Monday, January 27, 2014


There are so, so, so many books I want to read with my kids! I’ve decided to make a few lists of some we will definitely be reading this year. George is three and Emma is one. So, yeah, reading these will be a ton of fun. If you think of one we just can't miss, post it in the comments! We'll read it, and I'll let you know how it goes!

For George:

The Giving Tree 
A story about love by Shel Silverstein, one every child a parent should read. I’m a total sucker for the sentimental lesson stories. I’ll be interested to hear what George has to say about this one.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, Very Bad Day
This book will help a child get through a tough day and maybe even find the humor in it. George has tough days now and again. Maybe we can learn to laugh about them. 

Press Here 
I haven’t read this book yet, but I have heard great things about it. I think George will love the idea that it all begins with one simple, yellow dot.

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! 
George is all about humor these days. He will think this is hilarious, and I can’t wait to read it with him.

Good Night Gorilla 
My little guy will love another funny one. Silly gorilla.

Click Clack Moo: Cows That Type 
George is all about Doreen Cronin’s duck series. He’ll love this one too.

Richard Scarry’s What Do People Do All Day 
George is always wondering why Dad has to go to work. Maybe this will help.

Sheep in a Jeep
I used this story to teach force lessons in second grade. I know George will think sheep driving a jeep is hilarious.

What Do You Do With a Tail Like This? 
George, like many kids his age, thinks his body is pretty awesome. This will be fun.

The Story of Ferdinand
This will be a sentimental read. My mom-in-law talks about how much George’s dad loved this story when he was little. It will be fun to see if George likes it too.

For Emma:

The Very Hungry Caterpillar
A beautiful and classic read. George loved Eric Carle’s work, and I have a feeling Emma will too. The illustrations seem to really speak to young readers.

Guess How Much I Love You
A sweet story I can’t wait to read to my little Emminator.

Peek-A Who? 
I haven’t read this story yet, but it looks fun and educational. Emma will like finding the animal on the next page.  

Press Here 
This story was also on George’s list. I haven’t read it yet, but it does have rave reviews. I think both kids will like how the dot changes.

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom 
I did a lesson plan with this story during my student teaching. The kindergarteners seemed to really enjoy it. Emma will like the silly story.

We’re Going On a Bear Hunt
This is such a fun classic. I can’t wait to see Emma’s silly reaction.

Where is Baby’s Belly Button? 
Cute! Cute! Cute! I think I see tickling in Emma’s future!  

Kitten’s First Full Moon
I adore the simple black and white illustrations and Kevin Henkes. 

Time For Bed
This is a very sweet bedtime story with momma animals and their babies. I will have fun with this one too. 

Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site 
As much as Emma loves cars, trucks and tractors, I know she’ll love this story as much as her brother.