Callie’s Prize-Winning Potion – A Halloweensie Story

It’s Halloween! And what better way to celebrate this holiday of bite-size treats than by writing a bite-size story. In fact, Susanna Leonard Hill has an entire bagful of these little tidbits over on her blog for her Halloweensie contest. The rules – write a story for children in 100 words or less, using the words cackle, spooky, and black cat. Yes – it’s spine-chilling. But I conquered my fear and brewed up a story. And I was quite honored to have an up-and-coming illustrator working with me. In between school, soccer practice, and pumpkin carving, he provided me with some drawings to bring this story to life.

So grab a bag of your favorite fun-size treats and enjoy the rest of the contest entries with me.

Callie’s Prize-Winning Potion witch1

By Carrie Finison (91 words)

Callie was a witch,

an unaccomplished witch,

who was never any good at being spooky.

When she cast a spell

she’d choke on smoke and smell…

If she tried a curse

the results would be reversed…

Her black cat thought her batty,

and moved to Cincinnati…

and the other witches called her Callie Kooky.

So Callie made a potion,

a green and gloppy lotion,

and she cackled at the notion she’d be scary.

And much to her surprise

she won the Spooky Prize

when that potion made her very, VERY hairy!


Perfect Picture Book Friday – Flight of the Last Dragon

Perfect Picture Book Fridays are the creation of the lovely children’s book author Susanna Leonard Hill. Check in each week on Fridays for new book reviews. Susanna also has a complete list (alphabetically and by theme) of all the book reviews. It’s a wonderful resource if you’re looking for activities for a book, or books focused on a particular theme.

flight_of_the_last_dragon_cover Flight of the Last Dragon

Author: Robert Burleigh

Illustrator: Mary GrandPré

Publisher: Philomel Books

Year: 2012

Genre: Fiction picture book

Ages: 3-7

Themes: Dragons; Space/Stars; Imagination


Come, if you dare,
Deep underground.
Make no whisper.
Shhh! No sound.

Below the city.
Far from the sun!
Beneath the subway,
Where sewers run!

Where mice squeak
And rats mumble,
And distant train wheels
Rattle and rumble.

For here is his home!
Oh, gaze upon
The last of the dragons—

Synopsis: (from publisher’s website) What if dragons were more than just imaginary creatures? What if long ago they soared through our skies? And what if there was only one dragon left? Where might it hide from our machines, from our technology, from us? And where would it go if it spread its wings for one last flight?

What makes it great: The unexpectedness of the story drew me in, and kept me turning the pages. First, there’s the unexpected setting – that the last of the dragons would be living in a cave below a modern-day city, in a weak and tattered body. Then there’s the unexpectedness of what this dragon does, and where he ends up.

What readers notice: I have no idea because my 8-year-old borrowed this book and had it in his room for 3 weeks. I saw him reading it at least twice in that time, so I think that says enough!

What a writer notices: 

The story takes place at night in the city, and the author could easily have told the story without incorporating people at all. However, on the ninth spread he gives us a glimpse of what Ultimon’s flight looks like from a human perspective:

A late-night worker
On the 90th floor
Spies a blur—
And nothing more.

A child turning
In her bed
Hears feathers whirring

This achieves this sense that the reader is in on a little secret that no one else notices. It also fires the imagination as young readers notice things in their own world. Is that rustling sound outside the wind? Or is it dragon feathers?

Activities/Links to Resources: 

Here’s a nice lesson plan about constellations for kids:

This website offers backgrounds on the myths and legends behind our constellation names:

The Crayola website has a nice craft activity for making your own constellation:

Being Busy

It’s nice to be busy. I’ve been busy with life, writing, and reading in the last few months.

Summer was busy with vacations, stay-cations, and explorations. I chased lots of story ideas and even caught some in my butterfly net. A few of them flew away by the time I went to write them down. I’m hoping some will come fluttering back during Picture Book Idea Month in November.

We’ve been busy reading. Old faves like Mike Mulligan by Virginia Lee Burton. New faves like Crankee Doodle by Tom Angleberger. As my 4-year-old said, we laughed our guts out over that one.

In September, I went to New York and stopped by the Brooklyn Book Festival. My husband came cheerfully along on this little side-excursion to our anniversary trip. It was so much fun to see some of the authors my kids and I have enjoyed so much. Jeff Smith (author of the Bone series) signed a book for my 8-year-old. We met Liniers at the Toon Books booth and he whipped off a little illustration for my 4-year-old. We saw Lois Lowry and Katherine Applegate speak. And Jasper Fforde! And Jarrett Krosoczka!

Now, I’m busy on a work-for-hire contract. I love it when I can get paid to write.

And I’m trying to write something for the Children’s Writer seasonal poetry contest.

And Susanna Leonard Hill’s Halloweensie contest.

And the Highlights Fiction contest.

And revise some picture book stories that have been sitting for way too long now.

What’s keeping you busy these days?