Good ideas are everywhere. ¶ Take, for example, Amy Krouse Rosenthal's snow-globe ring. ¶ A tiny plastic orb filled with sparkling dust that swirls when you shake it, the ring was a hit with third-graders at Bluff Creek Elementary in Chanhassen where she visited last week. ¶ The ring exists, she told them, because someone had a good idea to make jewelry out of a miniature snow globe.

You can find inspiration almost anywhere, she said, and it's what supplies the whimsical material for her books.

Rosenthal, the Chicago-based author of several children's books, is considered a rising star in the world of children's literature. She stopped in the Twin Cities recently to speak about the art of writing with students in seven elementary schools in the Eastern Carver County School District. Her visit culminated with an appearance at the county's fifth-annual Hooked on Books event last weekend, a communitywide celebration of books and reading that has become a model for other community book fairs. Co-hosted by the School District and Carver County's libraries, the fair is designed to promote reading through activities for the whole family.

"It's bringing a metropolitan experience to the suburbs," said Mary Erickson, a manager with the district's community education department who helped organize Rosenthal's visit and Hooked on Books.

For the past two years, visiting authors have played a key role in educating students, spending a couple of days in the schools reading from their books and sharing writing tips.

It's all part of the district's mission to stress literacy, a fundamental part of learning.

"It's the foundation for everything we do," Erickson said. "If kids can read, they can do just about anything."

School leaders bring in authors to show students the connection between their work and the final product -- the book they're reading. School officials also want children to view authors as celebrities in the same way they do sports figures or other role models.

Other authors who have visited are Debra Frasier, a local writer whose books include "On the Day You Were Born," and Allison Stoutland, who came with illustrator Cathy Hofher.

Organizers chose Rosenthal because her books fit this year's Hooked on Books theme: simple life lessons.

One, "Duck! Rabbit!" became a New York Times bestseller and Time magazine's 2009 Children's Book of the Year.

Another book, "Cookies: Bite-Size Life Lessons," teaches children the meaning of values using cookie-laden examples. For example, the word "compassion" is defined as what happens when one person gives half of a cookie to someone who has just dropped his cookie.

Lessons for kids

During her visit to Bluff Creek Elementary last Thursday, Rosenthal demonstrated for students how she plays with words, rearranging letters to create new words and write poems.

Playing with words is fun, she explained, and can lead to all kinds of possibilities. She scribbled the word "OLD" on a large scroll of paper and then drew a face of a bespectacled old man using the letters. The kids craned their necks to view the word picture and cried "ooh" in unison.

"People ask me all the time if I always knew that I wanted to be a writer," Rosenthal told the class, "and the truth is I did not know until recently. Here's what I have always known: I have always loved words. I can't explain why, but I have always loved words."

She then taught the children about anagrams, mixing up the letters in her own name to create new words. You try with your own names, she encouraged them.

Rosenthal's visit left quite an impression on 8-year-old Haven Stier, who marveled at all the different ways you can make new things out of letters.

Her classmate, Svana Torisson, asked Rosenthal which one of her books she liked the most. The writer answered that she had no favorite, because she worked hard on every one. Later, Svana said she asked the question because she wanted to know if the author's favorite was the same as hers -- "Duck! Rabbit!"

In the week leading up to Rosenthal's visit, the third-graders read some of her books and completed activities in class tied to the words and lessons from her books.

"They were really excited about connecting the face to the books they read and the activities they did," said Jody Tellinghuisen, a third-grade teacher at Bluff Creek.

One boy in her class left the presentation and immediately whipped out his spiral notebook and began writing his own book, complete with an "author's page," Tellinghuisen said, chuckling.

"I think it was a huge inspiration for a lot of our kids."

Allie Shah • 612-673-4488