What is a Copyright?

We’ve all seen the symbol of the letter “c” inside a circle on the first page or two of books, but what does it mean?

A copyright is like a bank vault or locker for writers, musicians and artists. It protects songs, poems, novels and paintings from being stolen. As soon as something is created, it belongs to the person who created it. Nobody can use it without permission.

If someone shares, borrows or steals any part of a book, song or illustration, they are no different than a bank robber who has broken into the vault and stolen money.

You see, authors, musicians and artists get paid when they sell their work. If someone takes any part of that work without paying (or asking permission), money does not exchange hands. The work has been stolen.

Most people don’t realize that recording a song from the radio onto their ipod or their phone is breaking copyright. They don’t think anything of reposting a picture on the internet that someone else made. They have no idea that copying someone’s writing makes them a thief. But doing all those things can get people into big trouble. If they try to pass off someone else’s work as their own, they can get fined, kicked out of school or fired from work.

So, how do we copy the right way? Get permission. Pay for your own copy of a book, a picture, a movie or a song. And always give the creator credit. For instance, the image used above came from Classroom Clipart, a source of cool pictures that are available to members. I can use the pictures from their website for some things, but I can’t sell the pictures or anything with their pictures on it. 

Authors, musicians and artists don’t like to work for free. Would you?

Curious minds want to know.

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Posted by on September 15, 2014 in Cat's Lexicon, Daily Log


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Bike Meet Forehead: writing the half truth

Back in the day, when I still wore pigtails and forgot to brush my teeth every morning, my sister and I were playing in the alley behind our house. I’m not quite sure exactly what happened, but all of a sudden, I was on the ground. Flat on my back. I looked up just in time to see my sister’s bike barreling toward me.

Forehead, meet tire.

My sister ran over my head, not once, but twice. Both her bike tires thunked over my forehead. Thunk. Thunk. I had tire tracks on my head for a week.

Okay, maybe not a week. In fact, I’m not even sure you could see the tire marks of her blue banana seat bike at all. However, the story sounds way cooler if my battle wounds remained visible for a whole week…or was it a month?

You see, that’s the amazing thing about being an author. It’s my job to make stuff up. I can pull ideas right out of thin air like a magician, I can embellish (which means to exaggerate the details), or I can tell half truths. As long as it makes sense and adds to my story, I can write just about anything.

Fast forward a few light years to my middle grade novel, Abigail Bindle and the Slam Book Scam. My main character Abi gets plowed over by the bullies–an event that inadvertently (which means in a round about way) helps her solve the mystery and clear her name.

When my sister ran over my head, I never solved a mystery, but I did call her a name or two. One for each tire track!

What unbelievable things have happened to you? As a writer, how can you make boring things sound better? When do things sound too crazy to be true?

Curious minds want to know.

p.s. In just a few short months, you’ll be able to read how I snuck my bike accident into a novel about boys, bullies and dirty tricks.

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Posted by on September 12, 2014 in Abigail Bindle, Daily Log


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What Does It Mean To Be Older Than Dirt

Did you know that six people in the world are more than 114 years old?

According to a story by USA Today (a very popular newspaper), six people were born in the 1800s and are still alive. Most of you who read this blog were born in the 2000s. That means the women featured in the story are more than 100 years older than you. (Click to read the article.)

Anyone who has lived in three different centuries should be older than dirt, and they just might be. You, on the other hand, are probably only as old as soil.

So, what’s the difference between dirt and soil? The following answers come from Popular Science, Discovery Education, A Microherder’s Manifesto and Science News. I combined their explanations to make it easier to understand.

  • Dirt is dead. It is made up of clay, sand and silt. Which basically means it is composed of crushed up rocks of different sizes.
  • Soil is dirt, plus living material like bacteria and decaying plants.
  • Soil is only about a foot deep: dirt goes all the way down to the bedrock. 

So, how is dirt made? Dirt happens when natural forces break down rock. Glaciers, earthquakes, rainfall and wind all play a part in crushing rock into smaller and smaller bits. When these bits get mixed with elephant pooh, rotting leaves and living organisms, dirt becomes soil.

In this way, soil is much fresher than dirt, and takes less time to make. But, it is impossible to have soil without dirt. In human terms, without the experiences of people way older than us (dirt), we wouldn’t be around today (soil).

People need other people. And even though old people can be scary, we should talk to them and learn about their lives. Sharing life stories makes our lives a much richer and fresher kind of soil.

My great aunt was raised in a cave. Because of this, she taught everyone around her to love nature and live off the land…er, soil. She lived to be 94 years old.

Who is the oldest person you know? What kinds of cool things happened in his/her life? How has that impacted you?

Curious minds want to know. 

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Posted by on September 10, 2014 in Daily Log


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(Freak) The Mighty Review

In the movie, The Mighty, Maxwell Kane is a seventh grader whose body grew faster than his brain. The kids at school pick on him. They call him names, they push him around, and they threaten to beat him up. Even the gym teacher is mean. All this bullying makes Max feel stupid and worthless.

That changes when the new boy moves in next door–a boy the bullies call Freak. Freak was born with a birth defect. He can’t walk without braces, so he’s learned to live in his own brilliant mind. Once Freak becomes Max’s reading tutor, he introduces Max to the medieval world of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.

Max and Freak are two misfits who just want to be normal. They both want to be more than what other people see them as. Max has all the physical power that Freak’s broken body does not, while Freak’s got the brains that Max doesn’t realize he already has. Together, they follow a code of honor from the dark ages: A knight proves his worth by his actions.

Just like Freak and Max, we have a choice in the way we treat others. While we can’t make people like us, we can make people feel good about themselves by being nice. We can also make them feel ugly or stupid or worthless.

So, watch the movie, The Mighty. Or, read the book, Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick. I have watched The Mighty twice in one month. It rocked both times. It was easy to see myself in all the characters–even the bullies. I gave the movie four gold stacks because it made me think about the way I treat others and because I love King Arthur.

What actions define you? What can you do to prove your worth? If you have read the book or watched the movie, what is your favorite part?

Curious minds want to know.


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Posted by on September 8, 2014 in Book Reports


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To Write or Not To Write: letters, that is

I don’t live anywhere near my nieces and nephews. In fact, the closest ones live three hours away. Some are more than six. Since I don’t always see them as often as I would like, I sometimes send them a card or letter in the mail.

 When I was a kid, letters were the only way we could “talk” to family and friends from far away without actually talking to them on the phone. Now, there is texting, email and all sorts of cyber (which means technology and computer based) ways to stay in touch. But, that doesn’t mean we should stop sending letters. There is something exciting and magical about ripping open an envelope and trying to read a letter in someone else’s handwriting.


  1. Ancient letter writers used cloth, animal skin and leaves to wrap up messages for people. Some cultures even enclosed messages in clay pots. These packages were then carried by a messenger from the sender to the recipient. Depending on how far apart the people lived, it could take months or even years for the message to get where it was supposed to go.
  2. In 1837, the first adhesive stamps were created in England by schoolmaster, Rowland Hill. Everyone thought stamps were so awesome, they started sending letters by the gobs. Because he changed the European postal service for the better, Mr. Hill was eventually knighted. So, does that make him Sir Hill?
  3. The Pony Express opened in America in 1860. It was like one giant relay race with the carriers riding as fast as they could on horse from one stop to the next and handing over packages to the next rider. The 2,000 mile journey across the country used many different men and horses to keep the news fresh and fast. It took about ten days to get from one side of the United States to the other and was very dangerous.
  4. The Pony Express, which lasted only 19 months, was never part of the United States Postal Service (USPS). But, that didn’t stop the Albany, New York, Post Office from having an unofficial animal mascot. His name was Owney, a stray mutt who liked to sleep on the mailbags. He sometimes traveled with the mail on rail cars across the state and the country, and even took a trip overseas in 1895.

What kinds of things do you get in the mail? Would you rather get a text message or a letter? Why?

Curious minds want to know.



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Posted by on September 5, 2014 in Daily Log


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The Salty Slug and Other Slime Stories

While weeding the garden right around sunset, I noticed a few globs of white in the soil by a decorative log. After a few minutes, they started moving. As they stretched out, they became brown, slimy little feet with two antennae.



As I watched, about two dozen slugs slithered up from the soil and out of the log. No wonder I had so many holes in my rhubarb leaves. Every night, the slugs were leaving their hotel and dining on my plants. Unknowingly, I had created the perfect slug habitat with that moist, half rotted log.

So, what do I know about slugs?

  • They are basically snails without shells, but luckier, because their cousins got brought over from France in the 1850’s so people could eat them. Snails for dinner are called escargot.
  • They dry out when sprinkled with salt (I know, because I was mean enough to do this as a kid in my uncle’s radish patch with my cousins). The process for which they dehydrate, or dry out, is called osmosis.
  • All slugs can lay eggs, which means they are hermaphrodites. In other words, there are no boy slugs or girl slugs. Just different kinds of slugs.
  • Slugs hate the heat. It dries them out almost as fast as salt does. So, if you want to catch a slug, you should do it just as it starts getting dark.
  • When it’s cold, they hide in the topsoil in gardens–or in logs that people think look nice, but really make a great slug hotel!
  • I have eaten a snail once, but I have never eaten any slugs.

So, if snails were brought over from a foreign country because the French people thought they were so yummy, why don’t people eat slugs? I mean, wouldn’t it be easier without the shell and all?

I had to look the answer up. People don’t eat slugs because they are much slimier than snails. Without a shell to protect them from the sun and the salt shaker, slugs have to produce gobs of slime to keep themselves from drying out and dying.

So there you have it. Slugs are more pesky and less tasty than snails.

Have you ever eaten a snail? If you have a garden, how do you take care of the slugs so they don’t ruin your plants?

Curious minds want to know.


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Posted by on September 3, 2014 in Daily Log


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Fantasy Math Class

Ready, Set, Add!

On the radio this morning, an announcer talked about bringing Fantasy Football into math class. The idea is that kids care about sports, so they would actually care about their math problems. Also, Fantasy Football is filled with numbers. Kids would get to draft a team of professional players and then get to earn points based on how well their players did.


Consider this:

  • Quarterbacks earn 3 points for every yard passed.
  • Receivers earn 5 points for every yard ran.
  • A touchdown earns players 6 points.
  • Kickers earn 2 points for every field goal.

My Quarterback threw a 30 yard pass to your Receiver. Your Receiver ran it from the 20 yard line to the one yard line. On the next play, my quarterback dives over the line for a touch down. Your Kicker follows with a fabulous, between-the-posts field goal. Who has more points?

Go ahead, figure it out before you peak at my answer.

  • Let’s see, my QB got me 3 points for each of his 30 yards, so I’ve got 90 points so far.
  • Your Receiver caught 95 points for your team at 5 points times 19 yards.
  • Luckily, my QB earns me 6 more points for his touchdown, and I end up with 96 points.
  • By adding your Kicker’s field goal, you have now earned 97 points.

In regular class, this same problem would look something like this:

Which is bigger, 3 x 30 + 6 or 5 x 19 + 2?

In other words, some educators believe that bringing the field into the classroom will make those boring math problems easier–or at least, more fun–to do. I tend to agree. I tutor math to 3rd graders and we spend most of our time playing games like this. We roll dice, shuffle cards and do everything they never teach you to do in math class. And even though we are having fun, we are practicing math skills by the gobs. By the end of the year, my students are way quicker at math facts than when they started.

I can only imagine how much better they would be if we had a Fantasy Football team to cheer on.

What games do you play that use math? Would you like to add Fantasy Football to your classroom? Why or why not?

Curious minds want to know.

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Posted by on September 2, 2014 in Daily Log