Wednesday, October 16, 2013

If I weren’t married to Susan, would simply be a website full of cute drawings.

When an artist marries a teacher, the teacher is always going to get some free art. Year after year, they are likely to work on one little project after another. The teacher will build a collection of custom-made materials and the artist will begin to understand the resource needs of teachers. Over time, they are likely to produce better and better work for children. Now and then, highly effective learning tools will emerge.

In the past, those custom-made learning aids would only be used in that one teacher’s classroom. Today, they can be shared with teachers, parents and children around the world via the Internet.

Susan’s years of experience in Pre-K, K, and early Primary classrooms, in administration, and in teacher education provide her with invaluable insights into what’s effective, practical, and fun. I write, illustrate, and design. Together, we are building an online resource parents and teachers can use to help young children build early learning skills.

Our site will celebrate 18 years on the World Wide Web at the end of October. It now offers more than 150 unique online activities and stories for young children. Its content is free for use in any home or classroom with Internet access. We also sell downloadable materials to print and use in situations where a computer is not available or practical.

Topics include: Color, Counting, Emotions, Grammar, Holidays, Matching, Mouse Skills, Observation and Discussion, Riddles, Shapes, Spatial Concepts and Opposites, Special Projects, Vocabulary, Weight, Length, and Size, and Writing and Reading. There are also guides for parents and teachers, to help them understand early learning and the active roles they can take in helping children build essential skills.

Educators recommend our site. Parents praise it. Children enjoy it. We invite you to visit and sample our content. You may find many useful ideas and activities to use with your children. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Banana Festival Returns!

Fans of our story But That Wasn't The Best Part may recall that the 30th and last Festival was held in Fulton, KY, and South Fulton, TN, in September of 1992, The two communities used other themes in following years, but none were as popular as the Banana Festival. The theme has been revived and this year is the 50th anniversary of the very first Banana Festival. 

Fulton and South Fulton served as a railroad distribution point for bananas for many years. Shipment would arrive from Gulf ports and be sent off in different directions throughout the country. 

I heard about the festival on National Public Radio in 1991 and vowed to attend the following year. In 1992 Susan and I and our son Michael drove to Fulton to see the big parade and taste the giant banana pudding. We had a great time (and the pudding was good!). 

The parade was longer and more fun than we expected. It inspired me to write and illustrate But That Wasn't The Best Part a couple of years later. After a few impatient submissions to children's book publishers, I published the story on Since then, I added a Spanish-language version and worked with Toni and Jacob Rhodes to create apps for the iPhone/iPod Touch and the iPad.

The story has been read and enjoyed by countless children around the world since it first appeared online in 1995. It's simple and fun. Young children enjoy reciting the refrain as each parade entrant passes by, eager for the one-ton banana pudding to arrive for all to share. It's a good story for beginning readers.

This year's festival events began last Friday and conclude with the famous parade and a concert Saturday, September 29. For more information, see the Banana Festival website at Check the site in coming months to learn the dates for next year's festival. You should go.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Young Writers Workshop Publishes 100th Work

In 2004, Susan heard well-known early childhood guru Bev Boz urge teachers to encourage children to tell stories. It would be great for their language development and fun, too. Susan returned to her classroom, anticipating joyful creative exercises, but when she asked one of her three-year-old students to tell her a story, tears welled up in the little girl’s eyes.

“I don’t know any stories,” she cried. This wasn’t going to be as easy as Susan expected.

She told me about the incident. I offered to create a few illustrations and accompany them with an unfinished sentence or two that could serve as a “story starter”. I made several and Susan tried them in her classroom. The children liked them. They gained confidence in their ability to dictate stories. Their parents were pleased to learn that their children were authors. Our simple tool worked well.

I created more story starters and added them to the Meddybemps website in 2005 on a page titled Young Writers Workshop. They were free for people to print and use with young children. Children who were too young to physically write the stories could dictate them to someone who could. 

I invited parents and teachers to mail their children’s stories to us. We would pick one or two each month, publish them on the site for others to see, and send those young writers a T-shirt proclaiming the wearer to be a “Published Author.”

In Oct, 2005, we selected and published the first work, a story by Isabella, from Bradenton, Florida. Since then, we have published a total of 100 stories and poems. Most authors used our story starters. Some wrote and illustrated from scratch. All composed delightful tales. 

Submissions have come from around the world. 18 of the 100 published works came from outside the United States. Teachers have submitted envelopes full of stories from their entire class. Sometimes parents have sent stories written by two or three children of  different ages. Of course, many people use our Story Starters without submitting stories to us. Story Starters are also useful for ESL language classes (English as a Second Language). 

We tried to represent different ages and skill levels in our selections. Sometimes we chose a story because of a child’s sense of humor or the timeliness of the topic. We picked some works because the writer was clearly talented and others because the writer simply made a great effort. Several times, we chose multi-page stories from older children who provided their own illustrations.

Three-, four-, and some five-year-olds will dictate stories. Five-, six-, and seven-year-olds will write using our illustrations and text prompts. Older children are likely to write and illustrate their own stories. Links to all 100 published works appear on our site on the Young Writers Workshop page ( They are grouped according to the authors’ ages.

Forty-eight free Story Starters appear on our site. Another 101 are available for purchase on a CD-ROM through our online store ( 96 of those have recently been grouped into four sets of 24 which may be purchased and immediately downloaded.

Our Young Writers Workshop page is one of the most popular pages on the site, often viewed 10,000 or more times per month. A Google search for Chateau Meddybemps Young Writers Workshop reveals more than 3,000 links to our page. What started as a simple aid in Susan’s classroom has become an effective and popular tool for teachers and parents. We are proud of our Story Starters and our “Published Authors”, and pleased to have published our 100th work this September, Jamie Bakes A Cake, written and illustrated by eight-year-old Lucy G.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

In Production

Harry and Larry
were curious apes.
They wondered about
the things we call shapes.

Harry and Larry will soon be helping young children identify basic shapes. This is one of many exciting projects underway in the new Chateau Meddybemps® production center and studio.

Even bigger news is the fact that Professor Susan Bailey Jindrich will be retiring from her position as the Early Childhood Program Chair at IVY Tech Community College. Susan will embark on new adventures, including contributing more time and energy to (effectively doubling our current staff of one). Watch for new content for teachers and parents and new learning activities and stories for young children.

Susan was recently named IVY Tech Teacher of the Year at the Evansville campus. She is a tireless educator, dedicated to her students and determined to help them become the best possible teachers of young children. She has countless admirers among IVY Tech's students, graduates, faculty and staff, and the local community of early childhood professionals, but I will always be her greatest fan.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

On creativity and puppies

What could be more fun than a room full of puppies? How about a room full of young children investigating, playing with, and "chewing on" new words?

Word Puppies have sniffed and bounced and tumbled their way onto this month. If you wonder, “Where did that idea come from?”, here’s the answer.

The creative process works for me in fits and starts. Sometimes a concept will evolve in a straight line from vague idea to finished artwork and text. More often, I have to work at it for a bit, let it simmer subconsciously while I attend to other projects, and then work on it some more (perhaps several times) until it finally takes shape. Sometimes I start off in one direction and end up somewhere else.

I was trying to develop more voyages for the Three Pumpkin Pirates and their ghost ship Compass Rosie. While looking through photos from Alaska, I happened to think about unusual words associated with that state. Maybe the voyage could also be a vocabulary lesson. Maybe the focus should be on teaching new words with the Pirate voyage merely supporting that idea.

What would be an interesting way to do that in a classroom? How could I make it really fun for young children? What if...? What if the children were thought of as “word hounds”, searching for new words. A quick look on Google® showed me that that name was already in use.

How about “Word Puppies?” Sounds younger and much more playful. Yes. The words could be written on “bones” and served up in a pet feeding dish. Hmmm. I could adapt my miniature village template to make little dog houses where the students could keep smaller copies of the “bones” as they add them to their vocabulary. What fun!

You can see that my original goal had nothing to do with puppies, but look at the results: If you are a parent or teacher, give it a try.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Hot off the press!

When we publish stories from children in our Young Writer’s Workshop, we send them a “Published Author” t-shirt. This year, we earned a few shirts ourselves. We signed agreements with five different publishing companies.

But That Wasn’t The Best Part was made into an iPhone/iPod Touch app and later an iPad app by U.S. publisher, Reading Rhino.

Frogwart and the Easter Eggs was licensed by a publisher in Portugal. Art Is For Everyone was licensed by a publisher in India. Edgar’s Easter Eggs was licensed by publishers in Austria & Germany.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sound comes to

Since we launched our site in 1995, the stories on have not included audio. We continue to recommend that parents and teachers read them aloud to young children who cannot read for themselves. Watching you read aloud helps their language development more than listening to recorded stories.

We have had many requests for stories with sound, however, and since part of our mission is to share our characters and stories, we decided to add narration and sound effects to some works in an effort to satisfy more of our visitors.

Recent advances in technology made this fairly easy. First, we partnered with the folks at Reading Rhino to bring But That Wasn't The Best Part to the iPhone/iPod Touch and iPad (more about that in an earlier post). Now, Susan and I created a video version of Two Brave Pixies with narration, music and sound effects and posted it on YouTube.

Please let us know what you think of it.