Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Introducing Judith Fradin

This month I interviewed Judy Fradin, author of dozens children’s and young adult non-fiction books. I met her recently at the 45th Children’s Literature Festival in Warrensburg, MO, forty authors and thousands of school children and adults meet every year. In the student center of CMSU all the authors books are displayed for sale and I found myself pausing to page through her beautifully designed books. Judy has written on a wide range of subjects from Who Was Sacagawea? (recently issued in Spanish) to the upcoming The Price of Freedom (illustrated by Eric Velasquez). She is a passionate cheerleader for non-fiction and enjoys visiting schools and talking with young readers. You can reach her at yudiff@aol.com . Her responses to my questions flowed together so seamlessly that I decided to present them without interruption.

My career as a writer was born of desperation.   In the mid-1990s my husband Dennis landed a contract to write the Sea to Shining Sea series of state books.  He had to deliver one book per month.   Halfway through this project he fell ill from exhaustion and begged me to help him.  I became his FrankenFradin, quickly writing the New Mexico and Louisiana books as he recuperated.  Thus was born our collaboration. 

We ultimately co-authored dozens of non-fiction books for children and young adults, many of them award-winners, on topics ranging from American history to biographies, from finance to natural disasters. 

Four Fradin books have been published within the past two years.  TORNADO! was released by National Geographic in 2011.  It opened with the story of a teenaged survivor of the Greensburg, Kansas F5 storm that annihilated hundreds of homes and businesses.  TORNADO! is one of the six books in our Witness to Disaster series.

 STOLEN INTO SLAVERY (also Geographic, 2012) recounts the drugging, kidnapping and sale into bondage of a free black New York family man named Solomon Northup.  Northup’s story of survival is currently being made into a movie directed by and starring Brad Pitt.  ( National Geographic has made a study guide that can be acquired from Bill O’Donnell (bodonnel@ngs.org).

THE PRICE OF FREEDOM (Walker, 2013) is a historical Fradin/Fradin picture book illustrated by Belpre Award winner Eric Velasquez.   This dramatic true story tells how the residents of two small Ohio towns rescued a re-captured slave, sparking the start of the Civil War.

Last but not least, ZORA! (Clarion, 2012) is our biography of Zora Neale Hurston, an early African American writer.  I wanted to title our book “The Nine Lives of Zora Neale” because this remarkable woman went from family outcast to nanny to manicurist to waitress to anthropologist to teller-of-tales with several other “lives” interspersed.

I especially enjoyed marrying text to image in our National Geographic Witness to Disaster series.  As I child I would spend hours poring through old National Geographic magazines.  I was always fascinated by the natural world—animals, weather, and natural geology.  I loved my college geology course and had been collecting rocks for decades.  For me, the series was a perfect fit. 

Non-fiction was a great genre for us.  Dennis was more focused and detail-oriented; I am more scattered and speculative.  Our contrasting approaches, I think, enhanced our books.  Our work has led us on unforgettable, intriguing hunts for information.   I know that truth is far more fascinating than fiction, and hope that we’ve enriched the field of children’s and YA non-fiction.

Below are book covers from The Price of  Freedom and Stolen into Slavery and a spread from Tornado.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Endings and Beginnings

As we are so often reminded, for everything there is a season.  And when the season of intense work on writing a manuscript and choosing dozens of photos to illustrate it ends, it’s time for a season of renewal.

Lucky me—I sent off my next manuscript and photos just a day before flying off to a beautiful spa in Mexico called Rancho La Puerta.  I get the best deal there is—for my husband’s efforts in planning and carrying out three cooking classes using ingredients from the rancho’s amazing garden, I receive a free week to do as I please in this lovely environment.  Opportunities to participate in all sorts of activities abounded, but I promised myself I would just live day by day, moment by moment, during our visit.  Time and experience have taught me this lesson.  As children’s fiction author Bruce Coville reminded fellow author Jeanette Ingold when she worried about not having any new ideas following submitting a manuscript, the well gets emptied and must be filled again before we can proceed.

Garden and dining hall at Rancho La Puerta
I believe this principle is in play for nonfiction writers just as much as for fiction creators.  We fill our brains with facts and images.  We struggle to find the best way to organize our material to present it to our readers in logical, easy-to-follow sequences.  We get tired!  Our minds need to rest, to clear out what we no longer need to remember and make room for the new information.  And perhaps most importantly of all, we need to let the enthusiasm for the next project grow and let the “old” enthusiasm for the previous project fade.

This gradual process actually serves a dual function.  Not only does it set in motion a new enthusiasm, it helps us distance ourselves from the previous project, knowing that soon an editor will be pouring over our manuscript with a highly critical eye, suggesting changes, preparing queries, and, most dreaded of all, making cuts.  We authors must be able to distance ourselves at least a bit from that “old” project so we can react calmly to our editors’ reactions.
"Iris" awaits her mate on her Montana nest

And while we await that inevitable pain, we plunge into the next project, becoming increasingly involved and excited as we see the new possibilities involved with a fresh, open-ended topic.  I want to share my enthusiasm right now with a new project, a book about osprey research.  To me the most exciting aspect so far is learning about wild bird web cams.  I’d known they existed but hadn’t paid much attention until I got going on this project.  Two of the osprey nests in the study have web cams that allow anyone in the world with internet access to “spy on” these birds as they conduct their daily lives. (http://tinyurl.com/6mcdgst and  http://tinyurl.com/dyj5ddf)

 Such cameras are working in countries around the world on many bird species, not just ospreys in Montana.  As I write this blog, I’m watching a pair of rare black storks in Estonia and listening to the unfamiliar calls of European forest birds in the background.  For a person like me, who identifies so strongly with the natural world, it’s the perfect background music for writing—one bird chirps a lovely song as a dove calls sweetly, then passing geese honk overhead.

Writers like me are truly blessed by the opportunities of delightful discoveries that our work gives us.

Friday, April 26, 2013

How to Empower Girls – Use Nonfiction, Not T-shirts

"Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” Harriet Tubman

In an April 11, 2013 Huffington Post article, Sexist'Avengers' T-Shirts Tell Boys To Be Heroes And Girls To Need A Hero, Christina Huffington draws attention to how products continue to be marketed differently for boys and girls. It is noted that the boy’s shirt is child-size and the girl’s shirt is junior-size. Compare the two shirts:

This week, a HuffPost Live segment titled Gender Equality? Keep Dreaming discussed the same subject - hosted by Josh Eppes with guests Cristen Conger @MomStuff Podcast host of "Stuff Mom Never Told You", Sarah Mulhern Gross @thereadingzone National Board Certified Teacher, Michael Riegel, Managing Director of Engineers Are People Too, and Charity Stewart @SpaceCampUSA Social Media and Advertising Manager, Space Camp. The live telecast brought to light many topics concerning the quest to bring more girls into STEM careers. The focus of the discussion concerned t-shirts sold at Space Camp, a champion for STEM careers for over 30 years. (The t-shirts have been removed from their site.) Compare the two shirts (Men's on left, Women's on right):

It has been over 20 years since Mattel Toys got into hot water for releasing the Teen Talk Barbie that uttered the phase, “Math class is hard!” We are getting better at creating products to encourage young girls into STEM careers, but we still have to stay on our path. Dr. Wilda V. Heard, writes about STEM careers and girls in her April 21, 2013 blogpost titled Reducing gender differences in STEM education , where she outlines what needs to still be done.
Interesting, for readers of this blog, Jonathan Olsen and Sarah Gross, in a April 16, 2013 guest post in an Scientific American article, site a 2006 research study that shows that "storys activate the brain and changes how we act in life."  In the article, To Attract More Girls to STEM, Bring More Storytelling to Science, Olsen and Gross, both teachers at High Technology High School in Lincroft, New Jersey, suggest that STEM be taught through the lens of a story - and they add "it sure beats a pink microscope".

As we approach the next decades, our world needs the ideas of all our young people - both boys and girls. Looking for a few good nonfiction STEM books to empower young readers? Here’s a few links I found on STEM nonfiction books, which include several excellent books written by our INK authors.
YALSA - STEM Resources
Carnegie Library of Pittburgh – STEM books – Great source for all things STEM
PBS Parents - Empowering Books for Girls 
STEM Nonfiction Reading (Middle Grade) via Goodreads
STEM Friday

I know I've left out some favorite links. Readers ~ please leave suggestions in the comments, I'll be sure to include them.

NOTE: Quote from the intro page of Anna's YA book Women of Steel and Stone: 22 Inspirational Architects, Engineers, and Landscape Designers, to be published by Chicago Review Press, January 2014.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Excerpt of Common Core guide for The Mighty Mars Rovers


I did not write The Mighty Mars Rovers with the Common Core standards in mind, but it turns out that all of my nonfiction books, and I would venture to say virtually all of the I.N.K. bloggers nonfiction titles, offer rich opportunities to support Common Core learning.  (Adopted in 45 states, the Common Core State Standards will be shaping teaching and learning across the country in years to come.)

But how exactly can teachers use high-quality nonfiction to support Common Core learning? Teacher Erin Dees and I collaborated on a Common Core guide to The Mighty Mars Rovers, which you can download for free here.  Before giving students these Common Core tasks, I hope teachers will first have students read and enjoy the book. I think being engaged in a book can inspire kids to be more interested in delving into how the book was researched and written.

What follows are some excerpts from our guide.  I hope to make Common Core guides for all my other nonfiction titles, so I would love any feedback from teachers, other educators, and other writers…

Craft and Structure

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.5 Describe the overall structure (e.g., chronology, comparison, cause/effect, problem/solution) of events, ideas, concepts, or information in a text or part of a text.
  • Ask students to describe the overall structure of The Mighty Mars Rovers and why author Elizabeth Rusch might have structured it that way. What are some other structures she might have considered? How would they have changed the book? What would be gained and what would be lost?
  • The author also uses all of the structures listed above within the main structure. Where? Why?
    • Chronology of events. EX: The book is written chronologically for each rover.
    • Comparison of ideas, concepts, and information. EX: The book switches focus from rover to rover in order to compare their two journeys.
    • Cause/effect & problem/solution. EX: Many obstacles cause the rovers to put their journeys on hold. The team works together to free/help the rovers.
  • The rovers encountered some obstacles along the way. Ask students to describe the cause and effect of each situation. Summarize how the JPL dealt with and solved problems the rovers encountered:
    • Opportunity’s jam in the Purgatory Dune on page 55.
    • Spirit’s stuck wheel on page 59.
    • Dust storm on page 64.
  • The book spans more than eight years, so some material was left out. Ask students to compare events in the book to those described in mission update on the website http://marsrover.nasa.gov/mission/wir/. What did the author emphasize and what did she leave out? Why? Do you think there was anything else she should have included? Why?
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.6 Compare and contrast a firsthand and secondhand account of the same event or topic; describe the differences in focus and the information provided.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.7 Interpret information presented visually, orally, or quantitatively (e.g., in charts, graphs, diagrams, time lines, animations, or interactive elements on Web pages) and explain how the information contributes to an understanding of the text in which it appears.
  • The book provides many opportunities to teach text features. It includes titles, subtitles, sidebars, maps, images, captions, maps, an index, a table of contents, and a glossary. Create a treasure hunt to help students find and understand these important text features.
  • Ask students to interpret the photographs of Steve Squires as a child and young man on page 8 and 9. What do they tell us about Steve? Why did the author include them? How will/do they help us understand the motivations and passions of Steve Squires?
  • What does the diagram of the solar system on page 14 tell us about the launch of the rovers? How does this diagram contribute to the understanding of the text on page 15?
  • Page 53 displays a map of Opportunity’s adventures. How does this map help the reader understand the journey of the rover?
  • Ask students to interpret the image on page 64. Ask students to explain how the information detailed in the image relates to the story on page 64, starting: “Suddenly, whoosh, a huge dust storm blew in.” What does the image show? Why did the author decide to add this image? How would the image affect your perception of the story if it was an image of only the last measurement?

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.9 Integrate information from two texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.4.7 Conduct short research projects that build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic.
  • Students may combine information from The Mighty Mars Rovers with information from other books on the same topic to compile research papers. Check out Cars on Mars by Alexandra Siy or Eyewitness Mars by Stuart Murray.
  • Have students pick a subtopic from the book to research. They may use the book and other resources to write short informational reports. Potential topics:
    • Early Mars exploration
    • Rover tools/parts of the rover
    • Life of Mars
    • Powering the Rovers
    • Landing rovers on Mars
  • The next Mars rover, Curiosity, landed on Mars in August 2012 and offers a great opportunity deepen students’ knowledge and understanding of space exploration. Send students to the NASA website on the mission: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/msl/ Ask students to compare the two missions. How are they the same? How are they different? How have rover design, launch, and landing changed? What are the biggest challenges of each mission? How were they overcome? What questions are the missions designed to answer? What tools do the rovers and scientists have to answers those questions? What questions might come next?
You can download the whole guide on my website: www.elizabethrusch.com or go here. We welcome any comments and suggestions!

Elizabeth Rusch

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

My Turn For The Next Big Thing

If you read Tanya Lee Stone’s INK blog in February, you know about The Next Big Thing. If you didn’t or if you forgot, it’s is an author blog tour. Each week a different author answers specific questions about his or her upcoming book. The answers are posted on authors’ blogs. Then we get to tag another author. On and on it goes.
I was tagged by Nina Kidd, member of my local critique group. She was tagged by Julie Williams. My tags are at the end.
And just in time because….  I’ve got a new book!
What is the title of your book?

The Wind at Work: An Activity Guide to WindmillsSecond Edition Revised and Expandedpublished by Chicago Review Press. For more on how I wrote the second edition click on one of my previous INK blog posts. 

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Way back in the mid-nineties, just when I started writing for children, I wanted to explore renewable energy.  Can’t remember why, but I chose wind energy and found a fascinating history of windmills that included not just the machines themselves, but the intriguing cultures of windmillers. They had their own idioms, jokes, folk tales, “signal codes,” and more.

What genre does your book fall under?

Nonfiction: part historical, part contemporary environmental, from middle grade to YA. Each chapter includes activities that can be performed at a younger or more advanced level.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

And Ed Begley, Jr., Mr. Green himself, could be a wind turbine!

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
1000 years of windmills: how they created a country, powered an industrial revolution, watered the American west, and offer a bright energy future.

Is your book represented by an agency?

I found Chicago Review Press on my own. They published the first edition back in 1997 and it has been in print for fifteen years! I can’t praise them enough. They have reprinted the book over and over, and were keen to do an updated edition. As well as the paper edition, they are publishing the new edition in three ebook formats: Kindle, epub, and pdf. 

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I had published short stories in Cricket and Spider, but The Wind at Work was my first book. These days a book can take me years to write, but as a naïve newbie I plowed through it in about three months, as I recall. The activities, all the appendices, and photo research took a few more months.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Chicago Review Press has published dozens of history/activity books similar to The Wind at Work. Friends of the Earth: A History of American Environmentalism by Pat McCarthy is a nice complement to my book.  I’d also like to recommend The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer.  This is the amazing story of a young African boy who built himself a wind turbine. It’s out in a YA/adult version  and a picture book.  Both tell a terrific story in very different ways.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
My interest in renewable energy got me going on the first edition. After the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster I contacted Cynthia Sherry, Chicago Review Press publisher, thinking that we’d have renewed interest in renewables. Cynthia reported that they were near to selling out the latest reprinting, and so I went to work. The difference between 1997 and today?  This time I did all the text and photo research online

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Check out the activities. I had so much fun with them. They range from science experiments to cooking, singing, writing, drawing, collage-ing, saving energy at home, researching local environmental issues, finding out how your politicians vote, and becoming a local activist. You can also plan a Global Wind Day celebration (June 15). There’s something for everyone here.

Now for the lucky taggee: Susan Kuklin

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Demise of Our Intellectual Playgrounds

This photo is my last look at my beloved local children’s bookstore. Like so many others, it will soon close and be gone for good. I mourn the loss of this important staple in the neighborhood. I really believe the slogan, “there goes the neighborhood” is apt in this case and throughout cities and suburbs across America as one way of life begins to all but vanish.

My kids and I went to this bookstore for a variety of reasons: to browse, to buy birthday gifts for friends, to get a long awaited book on its release date, and to meet authors in person. This was the kind of bookstore that drew in authors for presentations and then set them up to visit local schools. We met a great many interesting, friendly, famous children’s authors in this store. It was here that we admired Jacqueline Wilson’s rings on every finger, talked to Linda Sue Park about her recent carpel tunnel surgery, and chatted with Wendelin Van Drannen about the origins of her name.

I got all fan girl crazy a couple of times. I got to shake hands with Christopher Paul Curtis and I know we were smiling and chatting but I can’t really remember anything else clearly after that *swoon*. And after years of adoration I got to meet E.L. Konigsberg in person. (Who sadly passed away over the weekend after I originally wrote this). My kids now have a signed copy of “From the Mixed Up Files” It’s hard to think of anything much cooler than that. Soon there will be no place to meet favorite authors and nothing to sign. Typing an autograph on someone’s Kindle is just never going mean much.

 Not to sound like an amateur Jane Jacobs, but the bookstore closings show me that our environments are becoming wastelands for intellectual growth. Urban and suburban design are becoming devoid of places to meet and exchange ideas. If there are no places to browse for books, no places to meet like minded book lovers to chat about a book, no places to interact with actual writers, then there will be no place to grow as readers and lovers of books. The multifunctional nature of these spaces are not being replaced by anything similar but by clothing stores, juice bars, and the like. City neighborhoods and suburban communities thus both lose a key element of their successful design.

So what will our kids do instead? I guess they will run around on the artificial turf with shirts that say “play hard or go home.” And then they will go to their SAT prep classes so they can produce the results that our society seems to value. Clearly they will not buy books in the numbers they used to and they will not have the opportunity to appreciate the value of a society that supports intellectual curiosity, creative writers and thinkers, and reading for pure unadulterated pleasure. The demise of our intellectual playgrounds seems to be a done deal.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Guest Blogger Andrea Warren on Using Nonfiction to Help 5th Graders Think About Family History

I have asked author and journalist Andrea Warren to write in my place this month. Andrea has written seven esteemed books about young people who have experienced extreme personal challenges as a result of extreme historical circumstances that changed their lives. Andrea is a member of iNK's Authors On Call videoconferencing group, and she writes about her videoconference experience with a school in New York City.


What's it like to serve as an author-consultant in the schools? I’ve just completed my first experience, and I loved every minute of it.  

As one of the iNK “Authors on Call,” I worked with fifth grade faculty and students at PS 49 in Queens, New York, on a two-week study of the orphan trains. For those who don’t know, the placing out program that came to be known as the orphan trains was the brainchild of Charles Loring Brace and New York City’s Children’s Aid Society. CAS started a number of fine programs to assist poor children. Brace believed that every child needed a family. He did not like institutional care and was especially concerned about street children, many of whom were the sons and daughters of down-on-their-luck immigrants. He theorized that if he could get homeless youngsters to good-hearted farm couples who could afford to feed an additional child and could also benefit from another pair of hands to help with all the work, that they would step up to either foster or adopt one of the train children. A few experiments lent support to his notion, and thus started a movement that over a 75-year period sent nearly 250,000 children west via trains to new homes.

The 5th grade teaching team at PS 49 had each student read my book Orphan Train Rider: One Boy’s True Story. I suggested supplemental materials, including my young readers nonfiction book, We Rode the Orphan Trains.

We agreed that I would do four Skype sessions. The first was with the teaching team to discuss planning for the unit. They wanted students to understand the history, economics, and culture of the 1850s when the orphan trains began. I made some suggestions and then pulled together some research to assist them. When we had our second Skype session, they were further down the road with their preparation. They had used many of my suggestions and we had a lively discussion.

Then I had a Skype session with the students and talked with them about a variety of subjects related to the orphan trains. The students were well prepared with questions. Many of them come from immigrant families. We talked about the value of them interviewing family members whose stories they did not know. I gave them examples of how they could start their interviews and the importance of taping these to preserve their relative’s voice. The students were lively and engaged during our session. The teachers reported that they bubbled over with enthusiasm about doing interviews and were also excited that they’d met a “real” author.

Instead of a second Skype session with students, the teachers chose to have a third Skype session with me so they could review how the unit had gone. They shared essays the students had written and they reported that many students had gone above and beyond in their research and in buying books for themselves to expand their learning. Among their in-class writing assignments was one in which each student imagined being the eldest child in a large family who was told to go fend for himself or herself on the streets because the family had too many mouths to feed. This assignment helped students imagine how lost and helpless some of the children were who boarded orphan trains. The teachers had some additional questions about how students could interview relatives and asked how students could proceed if their relative was resistant. Again I offered suggestions.

Altogether I invested between 20-25 hours in my initial preparation, additional research to assist the teachers, participation in four Skype sessions, and all the e-mails and other communication that took place. After our final session, Paul Longo, who coordinated my work with the school, said that the unit was a professional high point for several of the teachers. He wrote, “I think this experience has confirmed some of their best instincts as teachers and that has been made possible by you and the good work you have done in your writing and sharing. The whole experience has been extremely positive for all of us on our end of the exchange.”

On my end, too! Should I have other opportunities to serve as a consultant, I will certainly do so. It’s one more way we authors can bring our work to educators and students, and assist in exploring and fulfilling the goals of the CCSS. And it’s a great way to connect with students in the classroom—which in my book is always a joy. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

Feed Your Brain: Eat Your Math! (A guest blog by Ann McCallum)

A guest post—with recipe!—by Ann McCallum, a pal of mine from the Children’s Book Guild of Washington, DC. Ann's latest book is Eat Your Math Homework: Recipes for Hungry Minds.

As a kid, I thought that math was bland—unappetizing worksheets and heaps of boring word problems. Those were the worst, the word problems: Disjointed scenarios that you had to sit with until you were done.

I fell in love with math after college. Not a case of love at first taste, it was more an awakening of the senses. A realization that there was pattern and meaning to all those seemingly random numbers. Like a well-made dish, the ingredients aligned so perfectly when I finally understood. The steps were meaningful, too—not a series of machinations to memorize, but a logical process of creating. With my new-found appetite for math, I knew I had to share.
Pairing food with math was a fluke, really. It started with a math project for my students (I was teaching 5th grade at the time). It was nearly winter break, and I had my students make mathematical gingerbread houses. I didn’t provide many instructions—just, you know, make one of those graham cracker houses glued together with icing and be prepared to talk about how you used math. The results were far richer than I had anticipated. Students shared innovations such as polygon windows and doors, candy tessellations, the perimeter of roofs, and the length of icing pathways. I was so excited, I went home and made multiplication meatballs! Okay, maybe not right away, but the idea was there. Food, I figured, was a perfect medium for getting kids to love math.
What followed was a series of yummy experiments: Estimation Cookies, Fibonacci Snack Sticks, Variable Pizza Pi . . . Fun, oh fun! Finally, here was a connection to some of math’s tough concepts, but with a delicious new twist. It made so much sense to learn math by using food.
Eager to share this idea beyond my students, I sent a book proposal to an editor and was accepted—but not for a math cookbook. Instead, I was engaged to write “The Secret Life of Math” which is a history/project book about math for kids (I was allowed one recipe:
Mayan Number Cookies). I went on to write two math fairy tales, but I still kept coming back to the math cookbook idea. I tried again. This time, a second editor accepted my proposal for “Eat Your Math Homework: Recipes for Hungry Minds” and I was thrilled. I went back to the kitchen to perfect my math recipes.
   One of my favorite math authors, Theoni Pappas, says it best: “The joy of mathematics is that it is everywhere.” I’ll add to that: Even in cupcakes!
Happy eating—happy math!
Recipe→ Common Denominator Cupcakes
These math goodies have a common denominator. Before baking, place an Oreo cookie in each cupcake cup, and then spoon the dough on top. Bake, bite in, and work out approximately what fraction of the cupcake is the Oreo cookie.
What you need:
½ cups butter
1  ¼ cups white sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ cup rainbow sprinkles
Oreos (one for every muffin cup)

What you do:
1.     Cream butter, sugar, vanilla, and eggs.
2.     Mix in flour, baking powder and baking soda, alternating with milk.
3.     Stir in the colored sprinkles.
4.     Grease a muffin tin (or use cupcake papers) and place one oreo cookie in every muffin cup. Pour dough on top so that each muffin cup is ¾ of the way full.
5.     Bake for about 30 minutes in a 350° F oven.