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1. Last Post!




Today is our last post on I.N.K. I am so relieved!  I’ve spent a lot of time working on this blog since I first had the idea in the Fall of 2007. Now I’m ready to move on to new things and perhaps give some neglected things another go (blows thick dust off of pile of unpublished manuscripts).

I’ve got to take this last opportunity to thank a few people who’ve been involved for quite a while, even though I’m likely to forget more people than I should.  Thanks to Loreen for all of her technical help with the blog and to Gretchen for organizing the News feature these last few months. Thanks to Vicki for finding the blog inspirational and for Roz for always being the voice unafraid to address the big issues. Thanks to Barbara for so much valuable information on the process of writing picture book biographies, Deborah for sharing so many links and insights into her creative thought process, and Steve for being willing to think things out about the bigger meaning of the smallest things in all of his posts.  Thanks to Sue for going so in depth about the work she does and to Jim for such thought-provoking posts that it got us mentioned in the New York Times.  Thanks to Jan for asking for tech help when she needed it and ultimately mastering the art of posting photos on blogger. Thanks to Susan G., Ann B., and Susan K. for the quality of their posts and their continuous and much valued supportive emails. Thanks to David for caring about getting his posts in on time no matter what continent he was on. Thanks to Cheryl for being every history nerds dream with her historical tidbits and witty repartee.  And thanks to Anna for sticking with me from the very beginning and setting a great example by achieving her publishing dream.

Thanks to all of our guest bloggers, our monthly bloggers, and our former regulars who all helped shape and maintain the quality of the blog. I think we’re all proud of the end result.


The blog ( and the Facebook page) will remain up and you can easily access all of the old posts. So take a look, it’s quite a compilation. I should know; I’ve read every single post and learned a tremendous amount along the way. 

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2. Writing Inspiring Nonfiction for Kids and Common Core

Two weeks ago when I read the latest article about the Common Core in the New York Times titled Common Core, in 9-Year-Old Eyes, I knew this would be the topic of my last post. Things have sure changed in the last six years. When Linda Salzman first started this nonfiction blog and invited nonfiction writers from all areas to write a monthly post, I was all about speaking out about art and creativity books for kids. Now, the popular nonfiction buzzwords are Common Core, STEM, digital publishing, marketing, and graphic novels. These were main topics discussed at last weekend’s Second Annual 21st Century Children's Nonfiction Conference --- as pointed out in this Publisher’s Weekly article about the conference.

In the aforementioned New York Times article, 9-year-old Chrispin Alcindor had been a star student but was struggling with math under the new Common Core teaching and was worrying about not passing to the next grade. I was drawn into his story by “his dream of becoming an engineer or an architect, to one day have a house with a pool and a laboratory where he would turn wild ideas about winged cars and jet packs into reality.” Chrispin’s excitement towards learning changed, as he grew frustrated by the new Common Core math. His enthusiasm was crushed. His dream of "walking across the stage at graduation in sunglasses and white sneakers, claiming his award and basking in the applause of the entire school" banished from his mind.

Trish Matthew, Chrispin’s teacher at Public School 397 in Brooklyn, saw the frustration in her classroom. The article continued, “Many struggled with basic math skills. Ms. Matthew, concerned about morale, called each student to her desk at the beginning of the year. “Please don’t think you are a failure,” she told them, one by one.”
I was so touched and moved by Ms. Matthew’s actions, which prompted writing this post and fueled my final comments. 

Last week, Arne Duncan went on CBS This Morning to talk about the Common Core. If you missed it, I’ll post it here.
And, if you're interested in reading a few pros and cons on the Common Core, check out the 505 comments on the New York Times article. Warning: it gets a little heated.

Recently, I've noticed while sitting down with editors to discuss new book projects, the Common Core is often mentioned. They highlight new book projects that have sold because they support the Common Core---fodder for reader discussions on why they thought the author wrote the book, compare and contrast aspects within the story, etc.
As I set off to work on the next chapters in my writing career, while the Common Core and their writing strategies will be in the back of my mind, inspiring young readers will be my main focus. Inspiring them to think. Inspiring them to achieve whatever they want to be. Inspiring them to be creative. Inspiring them to dream.
I will be continuing my blog posts on my website: AnnaMLewis.  Please check there for my next posts and the latest book news.
Here’s to Interesting (and Inspiring) Nonfiction for Kids!

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3. Till We Meet Again

In April I reminisced about six + years of blogging with this wondrous group of authors. I've so appreciated the opportunity to come up with something every month at least vaguely related to this quirky profession we’ve chosen.

For my last go-round, I’ve decided give a glimpse of one writer's life day-to-day. It’s not all creating deathless prose. So here's as much as I can remember of my to-do and have-done lists in the last two weeks.  

Revise my next book. It’s a middle grade group biography due out in 2016.  I’ve been working on this book since 2009 and so last week I decided to google one of my subjects once again. I found a 2011 book I hadn’t seen before, with a chapter on my subject. I couldn’t find the book in the Los Angeles system, so I consulted WorldCat: The World’s Largest Library Catalog and found that six miles away, Mt. St. Mary’s College had an ebook copy.

• So up up up into the Santa Monica Mountains I drove, to a beautiful Spanish-style library. Well, I drove to the parking garage and then hiked up some more steep hills to the library. I had the complete attention of three librarians, it being summer break. They all worked to figure out how to print a few pages from the e-book, but in the end, job done. This research yielded details and quotes I hadn’t found elsewhere.


• Reviewing my original research, I found a tidbit I’d not included in the manuscript.  My subject inspired a minor character in an 1828 adventure-romance novel.  Being a lover of tidbits, I ordered an interlibrary loan of the book on microfilm through my public library. This last week I spent part of two afternoons skimming through this forgettable tale of a beautiful and virtuous heroine whose romance with a worthy suitor is thwarted by a dastardly villain. My ‘subject’ helped to save said heroine from said villain, as well as perform some brave deeds in American Revolution. The hours spent skimming added three sentences to my manuscript.

• Chapter completed, I emailed it to my critique group who will meet this week and tell me how to make it better.

• I’ll critique their work as well.



• I’m meeting my editor at ALA in Las Vegas this weekend. She wants to read my revised chapters on the plane flying west, so I emailed her to ask about the last moment I can send her those chapters.

• Speaking of ALA, where I’ll be signing at two booths on Saturday (see below,) I must remember to call my trusty auto mechanic (named Toolsie!) to fix my failing a/c. Will need all I can get for the drive to LV.

• Made arrangements to meet with Starwalk Kids Media at ALA about signing up an out-of-print book for their e-book list.

• Confirm ALA meeting for coffee with INK Author Jan Greenberg.

• I’ve been a member of the Authors Guild for decades. They offer so many benefits to their members, one of which is a free legal critique of contracts. I finally got around to integrating their suggested changes to my contract for the above book and sending it back to the publisher. The Authors Guild also hosts my website for pennies, but perhaps their most important mission is their lobbying on our behalf to Goliaths like Google and Amazon.  Support yourself – and them – and join!

• I’ve nudged an editor who has had a ms. of mine for months and promised to give me an answer last week. Still waiting. I need to nudge a couple more editors who are sitting on my middle grade novel.

  Last month I reported on the excellent BIO conference (Biographers International Organization) in Boston.  There I met Dorothy Dahm, creator of Kids Biographer's Blog, a first-rate collection of reviews and interviews.  She reviewed Mumbet’s Declaration of Independence, and asked for an interview.  I wrote that last week and it’s here

• I’m returning to London again in the autumn for another three-month home exchange. I’ve got some fans in Yorkshire, so I emailed four schools about return author visits. Have confirmation for two already.

• I wrote this INK blog.

The World Cup: I’m trying to limit myself to one game a day, or two halfs of different games.  It’s hard though. Drama is building every day!


Traveling to libraries, reading, marketing, contracts, nudging, emailing, critiquing, blogging, and, yes, writing.  On and on it goes.


Finally, to quote my favorite English major: “Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.”

My ALA Signings: Saturday June 28 
• 10-11am: Boyds Mills/Calkins Creek
• 2-3 pm: Lerner/Carolrhoda

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4. INK STEM

No, this is not some type of plant that produces ink. This is the last of the INK Recommends lists, focused on STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Because we have previously compiled lists that focused on math and science, I have tilted this list toward the technology and engineering side of things.

This list is also a bit different from other STEM lists you might find in two ways:  While animals show up on this list, they do not dominate it the way they do many science lists (unless they have something to teach us about engineering). And while there are some hands-on activities found in some of these books, many are what I would call storytelling STEM in the sense that they delve deeply into a STEM topic by telling gripping stories of people who have done something compelling in a STEM field.  The books on this list that don’t take this approach have found other clever ways to bring science, technology, engineering and math to life.

Happy reading. Thanks for reading. Linda, thanks for everything.

Elizabeth Rusch

PreK-5 STEM

Animals in Flightby Steve Jenkins

Dreaming Up: A Celebration of Building by Christy Hale

The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdosby Deborah Heiligman

Building our House by Jonathan Bean

Energy Island: How One Community Harnessed the Wind and Changed Their World by Allan Drummond

Electrical Wizard: How Nikola Tesla Lit Up the World by Elizabeth Rusch

Lifetime: The Amazing Numbers in Animal Lives by Lola Schaefer

Marvelous Mattie: How Margaret E. Knight Became an Inventor by Emily Arnold McCully

Rosie Revere, Engineerby Andrea Beaty

Snowflake Bentleyby Jacqueline Briggs Martin

Things that Float and Things that Don’t by David Adler

Toilet: How It Worksby David Macaulay with Sheila Keenan

The Shocking Truth about Energy by Loreen Leedy

Middle Grade STEM

A Black Hole is NOT a Hole by Carolyn DeCristofano

Birds: Nature’s Magnificent Flying Machines by Caroline Arnold

Earth-Friendly Buildings, Bridges and More: The Eco-Journal of Corry Lapont by Etta Kaner

How Do You Burp in Space? And Other Tips Every Space Tourist Needs to Know by Susan E. Goodman

The Mighty Mars Rovers: The incredible adventures of Spirit and Opportunity by Elizabeth Rusch

Team Moon:  How 400,000 People Landed Apollo 11 on theMoon by Catherine Thimmesh

Technology by Clive Gifford

Try This!  by Karen Romano Young

Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (with a few flat tires along the way) by Sue Macy

Young Adult STEM

Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream by Tanya Lee Stone

Bomb: The Race to Build – and Steal – the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin

The Boy who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer (also available in a young readers edition)

The Boy who Invented TV: The Story of Philo Farnsworth by Kathleen Krull

Junkyard Science  by Karen Romano Young

The Longitude Prizeby Joan Dash

Something out of Nothing: Marie Curie and Radiumby Carla Killough McClafferty

Steve Jobs: The Man who Thought Different by Karen Blumenthal

The New Way Things Work by David Macaulay and Neil Ardley

Women of Steel and Stone: 22 Inspirational Architects, Engineers, and Landscape Designers by
Anna M. Lewis  

Not enough STEM titles here for you? Check out Bank Street College of Education’s STEM list at:

Or the annual lists of Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12 put together by the National Science Teachers Association and the Children’s Book Council:



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5. The Writing Life


I came late to the family of I.N.K. bloggers, and the fatigue of posting hasn’t quite caught up to me yet. Even so I’ve marveled at the creativity and fortitude of the old-timers. You’ve made it look easy to create fresh, thought-provoking material. Well done, everyone!


One frequent question children ask me during school visits is, “Do you get writer’s block?” Even young scribes have heard of this affliction.

“No,” I tell them. “I’ve got deadlines to meet. I don’t have time for writer’s block,” and I’m not just cracking a joke.

So here I sit, writing later than I’d like because I spent the day working on a deadline. Now, with the windows open and darkness newly upon us, I’m thinking about all the places where I’ve created books. Tonight I write from my fourth office space, a second-floor chamber with a wall of wooden window portals that became my creative home last year. It and my life today are miles away from the country home where I started writing when my children entered school.

I remember feeling slightly superstitious when our family moved out of this home a dozen years ago. Would I be able to write as well, or even ever again, away from the nature-inspired views of my original office? Maybe the two books I’d written from that site would become my entire body of work. When Book Number Three took forever to take form at our new city dwelling, all my anxieties seemed about to come to pass. And yet, after settling in to that 2nd-floor tree house of an office, I managed to birth not just a third book but five more.

Then came another move and another office, this one located without countryside panoramas or a tree house perch. Yet even from there, with my sons off in college and beyond, the books continued to flow. Others have followed since from my latest roost. May it always be so.

Wherever I land next, I’ll maintain a home on the Internet. These days you can find me post-I.N.K. through my website, www.AnnBausum.com, and at my Facebook author page. Plus you can watch for my upcoming title about gay rights history and the Stonewall riots of 1969, to be published next year by Viking. A 50th anniversary look at James Meredith and the 1966 March Against Fear will follow from National Geographic.

And so the writing life continues. For me. For other I.N.K.ers. For the rest of those folks who feel most at home when they ignite paper or pixels with words.

Thanks Sue Macy, Marfé Ferguson Delano, and Linda Salzman for encouraging me to join the I.N.K. family, and thanks to everyone for creating such a valuable body of work.

May the words just flow and flow for all.

Submitted by Ann Bausum

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6. A New Constellation



Despite George Washington's shivering Victory or Death brinksmanship in New Jersey at the beginning of the year, 1777 was wicked tough for the Americans' rebellion. Still, the gents at the embattled Continental Congress found time 237 years ago this week to take care of a particular bit of business. For one thing, they appointed John Paul Jones to captain the USS Ranger and use her eighteen guns to hassle the hell out of England. For another, the Congressmen, in a stripey and stellar bit of acting 'as if ye had faith,' came up with happily worded resolution. On Saturday, June 14, they "resolved that the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white, that the union be thirteen stars, which in a blue field, representing a new constellation."  

I bring this up for a couple of reasons, maybe more. 
                                                              As they occur to me. 
(1.) "A new constellation" is such a beautiful, artful phrase, written at such a God-almighty high stakes harrowing time. 

(2.)  My post is due in the morning. What could I write about? As it has more than once, the calendar came in handy. At his writing, Flag Day was yesterday. And Flag Day was a bit of a big deal in our house because it was on another Saturday, June 14, 1947, that my folks met, on a blind date. (Got married two months later.) And did you know that it was on June 16, 1858 that Abraham Lincoln gave his House Divided speech? And the 17th will be another anniversary of the Battle of Bunker Hill and the 18th will mark ten years since my one novel got accepted? Or that next September will make 200 years since Francis Scott Key wrote the words to the
 the Star-Spangled Banner? Well, there you go. The calendar is absolutely stiff with junk worth remembering. A veritable parade full of floats, history-wise.] 
And there's going to be a book of mine [about the history of flags, as a matter of fact].

(3.) Do I write about what's really on my mind? Don't think you want to hear about the diet I need to be on or any of my get-rich-slow schemes, including my half-written murder mystery. You don't need to know my thoughts on Amazon's megalomaniacal practices [except, well, if you've got a local bookstore, by God support it!] This isn't the place to discuss the sickening, scary situations in Iraq and Syria or the toxic, constipated condition of the present-day Congress or our country's plague of guns, and most of its treasure going to the wealthy, who've managed - guess what - to hijack our secular/sacred, hard-won system of government. The Game of Thrones? (Thank God for artful escapism. Never followed the series until here lately when I've seen almost every available episode.) The I've been picture book I'm trying to design? Speaking of which, you knew, right? That James and Dolley Madison gave Wednesday evening "Drawing Rooms" at the White House? All sorts of people showed up - Washington Irving, for instance. 
Dolley Madison


(4.) I could write about the end of this particular collective. That would be timely. It was at the U. of Central MO's annual children's literature festival where clever, stylish Jan Greenberg asked if I'd be willing to contribute to a group blog. Bless her and I was so pleased. Had I not said yes, you all would have missed some this and that. But what would I have lost? These chances to really think about what my various subjects. To get to know some of my fellow writers a little better. To have a better sense of who all's out there: Readers and toilers in the messy gardens of teaching and learning to the constant geek chorus yammer  beyond the garden walls, bless your sturdy hearts and minds. And so we bumble onward.

Long live books. 
Long live the republic.
May our constellation shine as long as the stars. 

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7. Fearless Women

I am not a fearless woman. I’m actually quite timid. I like order and predictability and rules. When I was a magazine editor, I started each editing task by making sure the fonts and margins and other formatting issues were right. Only then could I tackle the content.

I’ve been thinking about this lately because in the author bio of my most recent book, Roller Derby Rivals, my editor at Holiday House wrote, “Sue Macy loves to write about sports and fearless women.” And it’s true. Nellie Bly got herself committed to an insane asylum so she could write an expose. Cyclist Dora Rinehart rode more than 17,000 miles in 1896 through the muddy, rocky, mountain roads around Denver. Midge “Toughie” Brasuhn (right) regularly careened around Roller Derby rinks with no concern about injuries—and ended up with eight broken noses during her career. To me, these accomplishments are alternately inspiring and terrifying.

As someone who was trained as a journalist, I find it perfectly acceptable observing and writing about fearless women while remaining out of the fray myself. I am moved by women who have the drive and determination to overcome society’s taboos or their own fears in order to follow their dreams. I’ve listened to scores of women who played in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League talk about their motivation, and the common thread among all of them is the passion they had for the game. Over and over again, they’ve said, “They were paying me, but I would have played for free.”

When people are really passionate about what they’re doing, they grab my attention. At the start of my research on Roller Derby history, I went to a contemporary bout between the Garden State Rollergirls and a visiting team from Maryland. I barely knew the rules of the game at that point. What’s more, the announcer was muffled by an inadequate sound system and the action was so fast and furious that it was hard to follow. But one woman stood out. She was a New Jersey skater, covered with tattoos on just about every visible patch of skin, and she was magnificent. She wove in and out of the opposing skaters, lapping the field and then passing her opponents to score points. Her Derby name was Jenna Von Fury and her skill convinced me that Roller Derby was indeed a sport worth writing about.

Late last year, the computer search engine Bing produced an awesome TV commercial highlighting some of the female heroes of 2013. To the tune of Sara Bareilles’s song, “Brave,” Bing celebrated several fearless girls and women, among them the young Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai; marathon swimmer Diana Nyad; and Edie Windsor, who brought the Supreme Court case that that struck down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act. It was an impressive example of the never-ending parade of fearless women whose achievements have made an impact on the world, and a virtual shopping list of topics for a writer seeking to be inspired.

So as I finish my final post for I.N.K., I promise to continue producing books about women who made their mark as they challenged the status quo. I'll also occasionally blog on my Web site, suemacy.com. Check it out when you get the chance. Or follow me on Twitter @suemacy1. And thanks for reading.

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8. Old Friends

   On May 10, 2014, Larry McMurtry wrote a bittersweet but not sentimental New York Times, Sunday Review article about a visit he made to New York City back in 1965.  He had traveled from Houston to buy books for a bookstore he worked at and visited many of the famous bookstores that then existed, but, sadly, now don't.  It was fun to remember some of those overstuffed bookstores, books piled on books, signs pointing to narrow dark stairways to the basement where thousands of additional books waited to be visited.  But I smiled at the black and white photograph that took up most of the page on the print version of the paper I was reading.
   It was a beautiful photo of Scribners Bookstore from 1984 that was taken from across the street, the sidewalk bustling with people, the streets busy with cars.  It made me recall the very first time I saw Scribners.
   It was back in 1959 or 1960 when I was around thirteen.  My friends and I gathered at around 7 AM one day to talk over what we would do that day.  Baseball over in the Meadowlands?  Penny poker on Philip's porch?  Then one kid (I think it was Bobby who was quiet with a wild streak) suggested we take the train to New York City.  So we did.
   No one asked their parents for permission (it really was a different time) and we all had enough money (according to Bobby) to get to the City, take the subway uptown, then wander around before heading home.
   I don't recall all of the travel details.  We caught the train, got onto a subway, maybe two, and ended up somewhere between 120th and 130th Street on the West Side.  All fifteen of us.  Yes, we traveled in a pack, a bit noisy and goofy.  No one, not even Bobby, really knew where we were.  But we were on an adventure, so location wasn't a priority.
   Someone, probably Bobby, suggested that we find 5th Avenue and stroll downtown.  We asked some kind folks for directions and eventually found it.  First, were the people who crowded the sidewalk -- all colors, all sorts of fashions, some very exotic hairstyles.  I noticed after a few blocks that people would see our group and move to get out of our way.  Fifteen annoyingly active boys can take up a lot of space.  And some people looked nervous.  This made me chuckle.  Here's what an intimidating bunch we were.  At one point a very elegant woman was coming toward us wearing a long, mink coat.  One kid at the front of our group pointed at her, jumped up into another kid's arms (I'm not kidding) and said, "Eeek, a bear!"  The woman was nice enough to laugh, while the rest of us apologized with "Don't mind him.  He's a jerk" or "He hit his head last week and hasn't been the same since."
   Next came the smells, of food (delicious and changing from block to block.  Though we didn't stop to eat since we hand limited resources and were saving our dimes for a big, salted pretzal) and the less savory odor of the streets. 
   Down we came, past giant churches, apartment buildings with doormen who we said hello to one after another, Central Park, St. Patrick's Cathedral (where a wedding was going on) and stores of all kinds.  The highlight for some of my friends was going round and round in the revolving door of a department store.  But for me it was Scribners.
   The moment I saw it, took in the beautiful pillors, the intricate grillwork, the neatly displayed books lined up like soldiers, the golden glow coming from the other side of the giant windows, I wanted to stop and visit.  No such luck.
   The rest of the guys were marching on and I didn't have a clue on how to get home.  I started to follow, stopped to look back, and saw something I remember to this day very clearly.  An elderly man in an impeccable seersucker suit was leaning over studying the books in the window.  Behind his back he held a spiffy straw hat with the fingers of both hands.  Norman Rockwell could not have painted anything so enchanting.  Yes, I said enchanting.  I was just beginning to love reading at this time and I was amazed at how carefully that man was looking at the books and how refined he seemed.  I wanted to know what he saw in them and only later realized the only way I'd find out was by reading them.
   On we went, buying our pretzals and catching a bus back to dear old Kearny.  We were back by around 6 PM and as far as I know none of our parents ever found out about our day's journey.  But my Mom knew something had happened that day that was unusual.  I told her that I'd seen this book in a bookstorre window and wondered if she could get it for me.  She looked at me, said "a bookstore?" and I said yes.  You see, there were no bookstores in Kearny.  The nearest ones were in Newark.  But since getting me to read was a mission of hers, she didn't question me at all.  And I still have my illustrated copy of The Old Man and The Sea she managed to get me the following week.  And the price is old-time and somehow comforting: $5.00.  And I can still she that elderly gentleman leaning in to study the illustration on the cover.          
             

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9. Girl Geek Chic: --Let's Change What's Cool


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Last month on National Astronomy Day, I was at the Clay Center Observatory signing copies of How Do You Burp in Space? And Other Tips Every Space Tourist Needs to Know.  After inscribing a copy for a young boy, I looked up at his older sister.  
“Do you want to go to space, too?” I asked.

“I did once,” she said.

“What happened?”

She gave me a small smile, a Mona Lisa smile—that is, if Mona L. were a just-budding adolescent proud of her newly acquired sense of condescension. 

“Oh…other things took over,” she said in a tone that implied I couldn’t possibly know what she meant.

Oh…but I do. Having been there and done that, I was actually thinking about something else.  Do these other things that "take over" really have to edge out wanting to go into space or a daily check on favorite animal cams?  Is this really an either/or situation? Do the hormones make us want to pack away those childish things?  Or, despite so many strides, do we still think there’s only one type of girl that does those hormones justice?

This last question still on my mind, I later googled “nerds becoming popular” and immediately clicked on the images page.  I already knew that Sheldon’s chic and Zuckerberg’s billions have brought those three words in close company.  What I wanted to know was how many pictures of girls I would see sprinkled in among the guys wearing pocket protectors and suspenders.

Discounting “popular” girls torturing geeks, here’s the first “nerd girl” picture I came upon.  I was hopeful.  What a fool I was.  Once I clicked through to its home site, here are the words I found:  Who would have thought that being a nerd would be cool?  Well the time has finally come. There is nothing more fashionable that an over-sized pair of geeky glasses.  PS-When I saved the picture to my computer to easily transfer to this post, I noticed it was labeled, "pretty nerd."

Little Mona Lisa Girl at the Clay Center, the deck has been stacked against you.  Come on, STEM books, cool geek girl role models, Neil Degrasse Tyson.  Help girls aspire to go to space and wear cool nail polish in orbit, if that’s what they want.  Help everybody feel as if science and smart is back in fashion and sexy.

I spoke to astronaut Sunita Williams when writing Burp in Space, but never asked her if she felt she had to choose between lipstick and her dreams.  I wish I had. Maybe I would have been primed to say something to this young girl.  Even if she couldn’t hear me now, perhaps it would plant a seed. I know lots of girls get reacquainted with previous interests as women, but I hate to think of what has been lost in the meantime because their intellectual passions couldn’t coexist with the teenage definition of femininity.


On June 20, Liz Rusch is publishing I.N.K.’s last recommended booklist.  This time it focuses on STEM-related topics.  Let’s all take a second look.

 * * * * *



Thank you, Linda.  Thank you, I.N.K. Thanks to all of our readers. It’s been a pleasure.

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10. NEWS FOR JUNE (and beyond)




NEW BOOKS FOR 2014




 David Schwartz has entered the world of e-publishing with
The Hidden World of the Forest
•The Hidden World of the Pond
The Hidden World of the Meadow
These are close adaptations of print books with way cool interactive features including audio, slide shows, zoom, etc., Galloping Turtle Books.

Marfé Ferguson Delano, Explore My World: Butterflies, National Geographic, June

Marfé Ferguson Delano, Explore My World: Frogs, National Geographic, June


Sue Macy, Roller Derby Rivals, Holiday House, July

April Pulley Sayre, Rah Rah, Radishes board book, Little Simon, July 15

Karen Romano Young, TRY THIS!, National Geographic Kids, August

Cheryl Harness, Flags Over America, A Star-Spangled Story, Albert Whitman, September

Sue Macy, Sally Ride: Life on a Mission, Aladdin, September

Steve Sheinkin and Jim Murphy have stories in Guys Read: True Stories
Walden Pond Press, September



Dorothy Hinshaw Patent, Super Sniffers: 
Dog Detectives on the Job
Bloomsbury, September

Steve Jenkins, Creature Features
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, October

Elizabeth Rusch, Scientists in the Field: The Next Wave: 
The Quest to Harness the Power of the Oceans
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, October
             • Junior Library Guild selection

Dorothy Hinshaw Patent, Decorated Houses, Charlesbridge, January 2015

April Pulley Sayre and Steve Jenkins, Woodpecker Wham, Holt, Spring 2015

April Pulley Sayre, Raindrops Roll, Beach Lane Books, Spring 2015


AWARDS

Steve Jenkins: 2014 Boston Globe/Horn Book Honor book for Nonfiction for The Animal Book

Dorothy Hinshaw Patent: The 2014 Edward O. Wilson Biodiversity Technology Pioneer Award For Exemplary Advocation of Biodiversity Through the Authorship of Children's Science Literature from the American Computer Museum

Dorothy Hinshaw Patent: Dogs on Duty: Soldiers’ Best Friend on the Battlefield and Beyond
            • ALA Notable Children’s Book
            • 2013 Best Children’s Books, Children’s Book Committee
            • 2013 IRA Teachers’ Choices Reading List
            • 2013-2014 Great Lakes Great Books (Michigan Reading Assoc.)
            • NYSRA 2014 Charlotte Award
            • Rebecca Caudill Young Readers’ Book Award 2015 list (IL)
            • 2015 Bluestem Award list, Illinois School Library Media Association


APPEARANCES

June 14 Sue Macy, Susan B. Anthony Birthplace Museum, Adams, Massachusetts, 3 p.m.

June 20-22 Vicki Cobb and Dorothy Hinshaw Patent are presenting at the Children's Nonfiction Conference, New Paltz, NY. 

June 22 Susan E. Goodman, Picture Book Project Seminar, The Narrative Arc of the Nonfiction Picture Book, Lesley University, Cambridge, MA, 12:00-1:30

June 24-25 Deborah Heiligman: 2014 Children's Literature Conference, Shenandoah University

June 24 Steve Jenkins: 2014 Children's Literature Conference, Shenandoah University

June 28 Gretchen Woelfle: ALA Conference, Las Vegas, NV: signing Write on, Mercy! The Secret Life of Mercy Otis Warren at Boyds Mills booth, 11-12; Mumbet’s Declaration of Independence at Lerner booth, 2-3

June 30: Jan Greenberg: ALA Conference, Las Vegas, NV, ALSC Book and Media Awards Program, including Sibert Awards 8:30-10; signing The Mad Potter: George E. Ohr, Eccentric Genius at Macmillan Booth 10:30-11:30.








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11. Dipping a Toe into Marketing Waters

As a charter contributor to this blog, I’m really going to miss it.  I have gained so much from this participation, including the discovery of my “inner blogger” which lives on with my contributions to the Huffington Post.  I hope you will follow me, like me and comment. 

Mostly, I’m grateful for the wonderful community this blog has created.  It has expanded my horizons—I have read books by everyone who blogs, and more.  What an amazing group of writers!

However, this is NOT the end of iNK Think Tank, which is gaining a head of steam.   Last week, Dorothytalked about our new endeavor The Nonfiction Minute  It is a legacy of this blog.  What are its chances—this new communal brainchild—of making its way in this world successfully?

I decided to find out by sending out an email announcement to the iNK mailing list—people who are interested enough in children’s nonfiction to have registered in the iNK database of our books in print.  I wrote a personal email (we know that people are more likely to open an email with a name on it) rather than a press release or corporate announcement. I quoted Alex Siy’s concept for it and gave them the link to the seven Nonfiction Minutes we have published as a sample of what will come in the fall. 



Within seconds I had a letter of congratulations from Nick Glass, president and founder of TeachingBooks.net.  Then I started checking the stats page for the NM website. I watched with amazement as the graph spiked.  I ran a report on the mailing.  The average mass mailing has an open rate of 8%--This one is 11.89% with a 53% click-through to the site.  As of early this week there was a total of more than 1300 page-views.  Since the number of page-views exceeds the number of clicks from the mailing list, I conclude that people are sending the link around.   In addition, our Nonfiction Minute Facebook Page is open for comments and I received a lot of personal emails:

“I really enjoyed these Nonfiction Minutes.  I could definitely use them in my classroom.  I teach second grade and my district will not invest in a reading series.  This has it's good and bad points as you can imagine.  It is tough to write lesson plans when there are no materials.  Some supervisors want text in the kids hands which can be tricky without many books, especially nonfiction.”

“Wow is all I can say. I loved the stories and I know my struggling readers will too. I used to do ‘The Reading Minute’  and it took time to find the articles or write my own, but these are done for me. These will be great for writing constructive responses on theme as well.”

“These sound bites are delightful.They add information and satisfying detail to topics that should be of interest to all.I will recommend them in the upcoming presentation I will be giving at the Ohio Association of Gifted Children (OAGC) this fall, and to my elementary school teachers in my school district.”
“This is spectacular!! I love it! I just wrote a short piece about Stubby, the dog. Funny coincidence.Your work never ceases to amaze me.”

“I love this! I am a special education middle school teacher and can't wait for this to come out in Sept! The kids can read and hear and then see a picture to help them remember it. I would make up one or two test questions that would be on our standardized tests for each one.”
  “Love, love, love the nonfiction minute.  Great choices and thank you for the audible for each as well which permits all learners equal access. My students adore learning facts as relayed to them by talented storytellers.I am now thinking differently about each potato chip I eat.
"Thanks for being inspired and then actually executing your great idea.  I will share with my librarians and they will pass it on.”
The Nonfiction Minute is a blog for kids about the various aspects of the world the fuel our passions as authors.  It is our opportunity to show (not “tell”) the world why we win awards.  It will lead to interest in us as brands—people who write about the real world through the filter of individual minds rather than adhering to the text-flattening guidelines for textbook writers.  Feel free to spread the word.

This mailing was a tiny test of the marketing waters. The idea is to do a soft launch—build a buzz before we go live in September.  In August we have a marketing plan to reach 13 million teachers. I’m fastening my seat belt.  Stay tuned.......This is only a "see you again, soon!"

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12. GOING AWAY PRESENT

Hello and goodbye everybody—
Thanks for tuning in all this time. As part of my 70th and final post for I.N.K., I thought you might like to visit a few great folks who made a bow on these pages at one time or another.  And as an extra added bonus, a wondrous going away gift awaits you at the bottom of the page.  It should take you straight to the most high-tech source of nonfiction on Planet Earth, and I promise you'll like it.  So let’s begin with……

100% TRUE FACTOIDS FROM RANDOM BLOG POSTS:

Before he was saved by a bald 10 or 12 year old Indian girl named Pocahontas, Captain John Smith had already won a Turkish fortress by stuffing a bunch of explosives into metal pots and catapulting them into the Turks’ camp while they slept. He was also great at making fireworks, but that didn't keep him from being captured and enslaved by Turks or being kidnapped by pirates.

When the California Gold Rush was in full swing, a single piece of paper cost $150 but you could get 12 shirts washed and ironed at the Chinese Laundry for $3. One time a chicken gizzard panned out at $12.80.

Here's what a couple of guys said on board the sailing ships headed for the gold fields:
“The water is becoming bad. I don’t mind it much. I have a way of killing the bugs before drinking them.” Anonymous

The journey by land wasn't much better: “Hail exceeded anything I ever saw, being as large as pigeon eggs. There may be fun in camping, but we haven’t discovered any.” Elisha Douglass Perkins

During the Lewis and Clark Expedition, Meriwether Lewis wrote that: "the musquetoes continue to infest us in such manner that we can scarcely exist; for my own part I am confined to my bier at least 3/4ths of my time. my dog even howls with the torture and we frequently get them in our thr[o]ats as we breath."

Lewis also included a couple of fashion statements showing how the Chinook Indians flattened their infants' heads so much that they measured only 2 inches from front to back and were even thinner at the top. (Head flattening didn't lower the babies' IQ’s one bit....but don't try this at home.) Their moms wanted to look good too. They made their legs fashionably fat by tying cords so tightly around their ankles that the circulation was cut off and their legs swelled right up.

When the American Revolution was heating up, Patrick Henry famously said:
“Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God!—I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”

Whereupon Samuel Johnson, the greatest English writer of his day, made this response:
How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty from the drivers of Negroes?”

Thomas Jeffersonsecretly hired a Scottish scandal monger named James Callender to write scurrilous tales about John Adams, so Callender obligingly called Adams a repulsive, hideous, mentally deranged hermaphrodite who wanted to crown himself king.  (Later Callender got so mad at Jefferson that he printed the story of Jefferson’s affair with his slave, Sally Hemings.) 
This time our target audience chimes in….

REAL LIVE KIDS WHO ARE AUTHORS:

In one blog, I mentioned showing a bunch of fourth graders some fun ways to do interviews and write the stories they uncovered. The big idea was to tell how their own families came to America, whether they got here last Wednesday or 300 years ago. All of their stories were wonderful, but here are some excerpts from two funny ones:

“During the first year of medical school, my mom had to dissect a human body.  It was a smelly task and after they were done for the day, they would be smelly too.  Something that she thought was pretty funny was the comments that people would say and the funny faces they would make when they would smell the anatomy students.”

“dad was such a dare devil that he went car surfing with his friends. His friend tried to throw him off!, but my dad was good at staying on.  He only fell off a couple of times! ...my dad thinks cliff jumping is the most fun stunt because he loves the rush of falling through the air!”  (the author included lots more stunts his dad’s mom didn’t know about plus a photo of Christopher Reeve as Superman.)

SOME FAN MAIL REAL LIVE KIDS SENT AFTER SCHOOL VISITS:

I had a good time.  I liked your book.  Thank you for comeing.  I was not here that day I whish I was.

We really like reading your books they are geater then all of the books I’ve readed  Because it is most funny. But it is not geater then pokemon but I still like it

The ting I liked best about your books are the pictures.  I was wondering how do you paint your pictures without going out of the lines.

Thank you for letting us talk with you!  Even though I cannot pronounce your name.

I love your books.  I wish I had all of them. Truth is I do nat have any.

I wanted to order one of your books but my dad wouldn’t let me.  Por me I really wanted one.

When I grow up I might make books or be a vet I’m not sure about that yet.

If I were an author I would write about a little girl that was an orfin.  I think that idea I gave you was a good idea.  Write me back if yo use my idea. 

Well, I promise to write you back one way or another, so keep in touch.  But for now, that’s all, folks.  Many thanks to Linda Salzman for putting this blog together, and to all the rest of our amazing authors and readers as well. I've enjoyed meeting you enormously.   And now, HERE'S YOUR PRESENT (just skip the ad).www.youtube.com/watch?v=YhcPX1wVp38 (or if any of those don't work, try this:   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YhcPX1wVp38

Adios muchachos-

Roz 

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13. Our new iNK endeavor

As most visitors to this blog know, we are "closing shop" at the end of this school year.  I've enjoyed being part of this wonderful endeavor, sharing my thoughts and ideas and reading those of my colleagues over the years.  And I'm very glad that while this is the end of the iNK blog, we will continue to share our passion for nonfiction with others through our new blog, the Nonfiction Minute (www.nonfictionminute.com).  Here we will share interesting tidbits of knowledge that are no longer than 400 words, a perfect length to generate interest in a subject readers may not have known about before.  We've also set up a Facebook page (www.facebook.com/nonfictionminute) so people can share their comments and ideas about the blog posts.  For now, we have a few samples posted on the blog, but when school starts up again in the fall, we plan to post a new "Minute" every school day.  We hope you will check out our samples and join us in the fall.

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14. A Vernal Interlude Eastward

I wouldn’t trade Los Angeles winters for those on the east coast, but spring is another matter.  In May, when most of the trees in Central Park and Brooklyn’s Prospect Park shimmer in palest green and the rest of them bloom white, pink, and magenta, there’s not a nicer place to be. And so I was. 


Lunch in Manhattan with fellow INK bloggers Sue Macy, Susan Kuklin, and Deb Heiligman brought forth nonstop chatter about the sublime, ridiculous, frustrating nature of our profession….Two author talks to the classrooms of my great-niece and nephew at Luria Academy in Brooklyn. (I forgot to take my camera.)


Barely a hint of green on the trees in the Berkshires where Alix Delinois, illustrator of Mumbet’s Declaration of Independence,  joined me at Ashley House in Sheffield, Massachusetts. As Alix and I talked about our book in the kitchen where the enslaved Elizabeth “Mumbet” Freeman tended the fire and cooked the meals, a brisk wind blew through the room.  Mumbet herself coming to call?

[Note to authors: when presenting and selling books to adults, try announcing "If you don't have school-age children or grandchildren, consider buying a book to donate to a local school or library."]



Then to Boston (and rainstorms) for the fifth annual conference of the Biographers International Organization (BIO.)  I first learned of this group several years ago when Marfé Delano Ferguson blogged about it here


What a treat! On Friday we had to choose only two of eight guided tours of the area’s many libraries and archives. I chose the Schlesinger Library at Harvard.  Several years ago they sent reels of microfilm across the country to me, relating to Jeannette Rankin, and finally I got to see a smidgeon of their vast repository of American women’s history, and hear about new technology that makes research easier.


In the afternoon I traveled across the river to the Atheneum in Boston, a venerable private library filled with donated antique furniture, rugs, portraits and, of course, books.


A full day of panels on Saturday covered all aspects of the biographical craft from research to publishing to marketing. Again the biggest problem was choosing among so many delectable delights. Talks on writing a group biography; finding the balance of a subject’s life, context, and work; and writing about place gave me some new ideas, and validated what I’m already doing.


Networking proved to be the surprise of the weekend. Few children’s authors attended. Nearly all were academics or independent scholars, but all were as friendly as children’s authors. I made some good connections for my current research and contacts for possible author visits. It’s so easy to break the ice with a biographer.  All you need ask is “Who are you working on?” and you’re launched into an animated conversation with a new friend. In fact, it's often hard to get a word in to brag about your "baby."

I recommend the annual BIO Conference to any and all biographers. History writers and writers of historical fiction will also find it useful. And lots of fun. I'll be going back to another conference…..


…..and to New York in the spring.


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15. Arts in the Schools and INK (Interesting Nonfiction for Kids)

While writing today’s piece, I anxiously checked news feeds regarding the fire at the Glasgow School of Art’s Mackintosh Building. By the end of the day, the fire service reported they were able to save 90% of the building and about 70% of it’s contents. Just thinking about the possible loss turned my stomach. Started in 1897, the Mackintosh Building was designed by Scotland's most influential architect and designer, Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Opened in 1909, the art nouveau building signaled the birth of a new style in 20th Century European architecture. A 2009 poll by the Royal Institute of British Architects voted it the best British building of the last 175 years. Imagine what we could have lost today.

About six and a half years ago, Linda Salzman contacted me. She asked if I’d be interested in writing for a kids’ nonfiction blog she was creating. Evidentially, someone noticed all the blogging I’d been writing promoting of art books for kids.  Today, in preparing to write this second-to-last post, I reread all my pieces and perused the books I’ve promoted. I was curious if there has been any change in the educational world in regard to the arts. Here's just a few items that I found. There are many more. I wonder where we will stand in another six years. 

In the last six years, we’ve become accustomed to the terms Common Core, and STEM and STEAM.
  • Common Core State Standards now aim towards a 50% nonfiction and 50% fiction classroom reading text; previously the classroom reading text was around 80% fiction.
  • In 2009, President Obama started White House Science Fairs as part of his Educate to Innovate campaign to inspire more girls and boys to excel in STEM subjects. Next week, on May 27, the 2014 White House Science Fairbegins. This year’s fair will include a specific focus on girls and women who are excelling in STEM. The Administration’s $4.35 billion Race to the Top competition grants states competitive preference if they demonstrated efforts to close the STEM gap for girls and other groups that are underrepresented.
  • In February 2013, the bipartisan Congressional STEAM Caucus was created, co-chaired by Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Congressman Aaron Schock (R-IL). “We frequently discuss the importance of STEM education, but we can’t ignore the importance of engaging and educating both halves of the brain,” Bonamici maintains. “Creative, critical thinking leads to innovation. The integration of the arts into STEM curriculum will excite creativity in the minds of our future leaders.”
  • Stanford University began requiring all undergraduates to take two units of "Creative Expression" classes, including design, dance, music, fine arts, drama or creative writing.
  • Sesame Street officially expanded its STEM-themed programming to include arts.
  • Last week, Actress Kerry Washington wrote an impassioned plea for arts in the schools in a Huffington Post blog column titled How to Save Our Schools: The Arts and Music are No Fairytale.

Art-themed nonfiction books introduce young people to the passion and inspiration of artists and creators. Years ago, reading Frida by Jonah Winter to an elementary class was an eye opener for me. The text and illustrations presented the art of Frida Kahlo flawlessly, complimenting my presentation. And, the book even caught everyone's attention in a room full of kindergarteners and a class of fifth graders – no small feat.

As the support for arts in the schools continues to grow, I’ll continue to spread the word about nonfiction art books, including STEM/STEAM, activity and creativity books. Tragically, we could physically lose our treasures, but the passion and creative inspiration is what stays in our hearts. That is what art books set out to accomplish.

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16. Stretching, Soaring and Singing, by Marfé Ferguson Delano

 In this, my last blog for I.N.K., I'm happy to announce a first, a couple of firsts, actually. They're my first picture books for the 3- to 6-year-old set, Butterflies and Frogs. Never before have I written for such a young audience. It was so much more satisfying than I expected it to be! It was also much, much harder than I thought it would be. But hard in a good way, in a stretch-your-wings way, in a let-your-heart soar way, in a let-your-words sing way. All while sticking to the facts.

 Of course, writing these books wasn't all stretching and soaring and singing. There was a lot of sighing and groaning and wheel-spinning, a lot of self-doubt and frustration. There were lots of half starts and restarts and false starts. There was a lot of popcorn and chocolate. Not that there's anything wrong with that.


 But back to the soaring and singing. I got back to nature and paid attention to it. I visited butterfly gardens and spent hours in my own back yard, watching swallowtails and monarchs and fritillaries flutter and feed on Joe Pye weed, which is rightly called a butterfly magnet. I listened to spring peepers chirp peep-peep-peep and bullfrogs bellow jug-o-rum. I kept my eyes peeled for frogs snuggling into squishy, squelchy mud by streams or ponds. I looked and I listened. And I marveled.

Linda Salzman, thank you for creating this marvelous I.N.K. blog and for inviting me to be a part of it. I have learned so much from this experience and all the I.N.K. contributors. It's been great. Bye, y'all.




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17. Bumbling On to the End of Another Fair Day in May




So, kindly allow me to point out that it was on this day in 1536 that 35-year-old Anne Boleyn, met her end. Her daughter Elizabeth was not quite three years old when Henry's 2nd wife exited the world's stage through the door marked May 19. Of course, several notable spring babies entered by way of the same passage. Nellie Melba, in 1861, of the battleship-bosom and silvery soprano pipes. Ho Chi Minh (1890), Vietnamese nationalist,  just 29 when he showed up in a rented suit at the post-WWI Peace Conference at Versailles, to plead for his countrymen's fair treatment by their French overlords. [Good luck on that.] Witty Nancy Astor (1879), that American-born Parliamentarian, who famously declared to Winston Churchill, her political adversary, that if he were her husband, she'd poison his coffee. "Madam," he replied, "if I were your husband, I'd drink it." Isn't history adorable? That is, when it doesn't make you sick and want to fill your pockets with rocks and head for the nearest river? 

If you're reading this, you may well be thinking that when I sat down here at the keyboard, I hadn't actually settled upon a topic and of course you would be correct. Certainly all manner of memories and topics are fluttering about in my belfry. Driving about Hannibal, MO a few days ago, climbing the 274 steps up to the "Mark Twain Memorial Lighthouse.
 It stands atop Cardiff Hill, where red-headed Sammy Clemens used to play with his buddies. Finding my way through the raucous traffic in St. Louis on Saturday, to get to the fancy meeting of the MO Humanities Council. Manuscripts I've been trying to conjure into existence - these are what most occupy my mind these days, but what good do these batty notions do you, Dear Reader, in their half-baked condition? What would you like and/or need to know that I could tell you, that you don't know already?  That, story-wise, history is full of buried treasures, remarkable people, rollicking, ill-conceived, harrowing, bloody adventures, and one damned thing after another? That when it comes to historical knowledge and awareness – without which we humans are a bunch of heedless, uninformed dopes, careening for the brink – story is the sugar that helps the medicine go down? That when it comes to historical awareness, most people in this here vale of tears are too witless to know its worth. Shoot, if you're reading this, you know that.  So I'll close as ol' Winston Churchill did more than once: "We bumble onward."

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18. Research Journeys--Hard Work, Yes, But Don't Forget the Luck!


Stubby's story appeals to all ages, from young...

One of the best parts about researching a book is that I don’t know what I’m going to find. Each project is like a mystery, and I have the fun of solving it. Researching my new twin titles about a World War I service dog named Stubby proved especially challenging because so much of his historical trail had gone cold. 

This stray dog turned soldier had gone from being one of the most celebrated participants in World War I to being forgotten by almost everyone. A few loyal fans have kept his story alive on the Internet--alive and evolving, I should add, which created one more layer of mystery--but most people who happen across Stubby's remains, which are mounted and on display at the Smithsonian, have no idea of his exploits. It became my job to sort fact from legend as I worked to revive the war hero's story.

...to young at heart (above, adult title).
My favorite surprise by far during my journey as history sleuth was the discovery that Stubby's best human friend, a fellow soldier named J. Robert Conroy, had descendants. When I began my research, I asked Smithsonian curators what they could tell me about Conroy. The answer, basically, was nothing. The museum had lost track of him after he’d donated Stubby and his belongings to the museum in 1956, and they’d barely learned anything about him even then. Other people had tried to trace him, I was told, but with no luck.

Research is not a particularly linear process. True, I may read a reference book from front to back, but the research threads I pick up in one source tend to fan out like rays to countless others. By the time I’m done, I haven’t so much connected the dots; I’ve more nearly created a web of facts. The stronger that web—the more connections and overlap that I uncover—the better I understand the history.

Those web-like rays inevitably lead me to unexpected places. One day a package of clippings arrived in my mailbox, as promised, from a librarian in New Britain, Connecticut. I’d tracked down the librarian by contacting the New Britain Public Library, and I’d contacted the library because New Britain was the city where J. Robert Conroy had grown up. I wasn’t the first person to inquire at the library about Stubby, and Patricia Watson kindly sent me her usual packet of clippings. One of those articles had been published in the 1990s and featured a quote from a man named Curtis Deane, who was cited as being the grandson of J. Robert Conroy.
Stubby on parade, 1921. LC-DIG-hec-31070

This was news. Up until that time, I’d found no references whatsoever to Conroy having any descendants. Now I’d found one, or at least found out about one. Fortunately, Curtis Deane hadn’t moved since he’d been quoted in that story almost two decades ago (a minor miracle, really, given how mobile people are these days). Before too long, I had been able to track him down by phone. “Can I call you back?” he asked, after confirming that, yes, he really was the grandson of J. Robert Conroy. He was digging out from three feet of snow, he explained, and he had been without power until that hour. “Sure,” I said, having learned that patience is an important part of the research and writing process.

True to his word, Curt Deane called me back the next day. We talked for 45 minutes and agreed to speak again soon. A number of conversations followed, and before long we’d made plans to meet in person. Other meetings followed as one thing led to another. The threads for that web stretched farther and grew thicker. Eventually Curt Deane introduced me to other family members, and I met more descendants of the soldier whose history I had set out to find. As we became better acquainted and I heard stories about the man these people had known as Grandfather Bob, Stubby’s best friend became as real to me as the dog that he had helped make famous. Their story became richer, and so did my ability to share it with readers. Best of all, I had made new friends—one more surprise, one more bonus, during the adventure of researching my books.

Posted by Ann Bausum during the release week for Stubby's new books. Follow his return to the limelight on my Facebook page.

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19. Navigating the Dangers of Research




Today's guest post is by Karen Blumenthal—author of YALSA Nonfiction Award finalists Bootleg and Steve Jobs: The Man Who Thought Different—and a committed researcher. Or, maybe, a researcher who should be committed? Read her post and decide for yourself!


 
One evening during a research trip to Washington, D.C., I missed the hotel’s revolving-door entry and slammed into a glass wall schnoz first.

While I reeled in pain, the guests in the lobby eyed me as if I'd enjoyed the happy hour a little too much. Embarrassingly, I was suffering instead from a wicked case of microfilm myopia.  I had only been researching drinking, not actually doing it.

In writing nonfiction for young people, I know the quality of the research drives the story. But that all-important work, I've concluded, may be dangerous to your health.

Other afflictions from recent research were less painful, but almost as embarrassing:

Quarter hoarding: My obsession won’t make great reality TV, but I have stashed quarters everywhere, in pockets, wallets, and tote bags, and I won’t share them with you, even for a desperately needed soft drink. They’re crucial for parking meters, copiers and lockers for stashing your stuff while you research Al Capone at the Chicago History Museum. 

Research fog: An ailment closely related to microfilm myopia, this dense stupor sets in around the fifth hour of reading, especially if you skip lunch to squeeze in more work during a research library's limited hours. As you emerge from the fluorescent-lit haze, jabbering about what you have learned, it slowly becomes apparent that no one you know cares that Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton and Penney founder James Cash Penney had similar backgrounds.

Library breath: What is it about libraries that makes your mouth feels like a herd of camels just ambled across your tongue? Spend too much of the day inside one of these important (and low-humidity) places of knowledge and you'll find that your newfound trivia isn't all that will knock people out.

Chronic nerditis: Finding some new gem online can lead to mysteriously intense, heart-pounding excitement that will surely bore your family to death. You mean you can read 1920s magazines online? Find newspapers stories back to the 1850s? Look at a database instead of those fat green Reader's Guides to Periodicals?

Score!

Waitwhat? You've never heard of the Reader's Guide to Periodicals?

“Just one more” syndrome: Now this is when things get really ugly. Researching is fun; writing, for me, is difficult. So why in the world should I want to stop searching for good stuff? What if there’s a better anecdote out there? What if I’ve missed a great example? If only the deadline wasn’t approaching!

Of course, the paper cuts and smudges on my clothes from newspapers and fresh photocopies are all worth the trouble when I finally sit down at the computer. Having great stories and specific detail is crucial to writing for young people because the story must crackle and pop, and every idea must be crystal clear for readers who have little experience or context to bring to a subject.

Just try not to get behind me when I take a break at the coffee shop. I may be paying with quarters.



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20. Engineering Careers for High School Students

This week, I went back to high school. I was part of a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) panel for career day. The other two members on the panel were nuclear engineers, having just graduated from college last year. We had seven sessions, so I listened to their presentation seven times. And, I still couldn’t tell you what a nuclear engineer does. At the very least, there is no way that I could explain it to a group of teenagers. My left brain almost exploded.
STEM Presentation Panel- with 2 Nuclear Engineers 
My author presentation audience is usually elementary and middle school students, and 40-45 minutes long with about a 15-minute question period. For this high school crowd, I had to shorten it to less than 10 minutes and tailor it more towards STEM. And, present 7 times, once every half hour. 

The high school students seemed very interested in engineering fields --- even asking very complicated questions about nuclear engineering, which showed me that they understood the material presented to them. If these are the hands and minds that will create the future, then it looks like we are in great shape.  

I love this quote:
“If we’re going to out-innovate and out-educate the rest of the world, we’ve got to open doors for everyone. We need all hands on deck, and that means clearing hurdles for women and girls as they navigate careers in science, technology, engineering, and math.”
 -- First Lady Michelle Obama, September 26, 2011

With all the media attention that has been given to engineering, I thought I’d share a part of my introduction to the Engineering chapter from Women of Steel and Stone here to explain the engineering field and the current statistics, and also mention the different areas.

Soon, I will have PDF handouts of the introductory chapter on my website for teachers, librarians, and students. The handout will explain all 12 of the engineering categories and the disciplines, and the top engineering schools at the moment.

Women in Engineering
from Women of Steel and Stone: 22 Inspirational Architects, Engineers, and Landscape Engineers, Chicago Review Press, Jan 2014

Today, engineers apply scientific, mathematical, economic, social, and practical knowledge to design and build structures, machines, devices, systems, materials, and processes. There are 25 different engineering and engineering technology majors offered in American universities. 
Engineering used to be dominated by men, and though the statistics are getting better, there is still a long way to go. The National Science Foundation’s Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering report reveals that in 2008, 41 percent of male incoming college students planned to major in science and engineering, compared to 30 percent of incoming female students. In 2010, the numbers remained similar: 44 percent of men and 33 percent of women planned to major in the sciences. In biology and social and behavioral sciences, there are more women enrolled than men; whereas in engineering, physics, and computer science, men greatly outnumber the women. 
In addition, the Congressional Commission on the Advancement of Women and Minorities in Science Engineering and Technology Development reported in September 2000 that women are about twice as likely as their male colleagues to leave the engineering workforce after a few years (25 percent compared with 12 percent). Of the 60 to 80 students who take professor Angela Bielefeldt’s civil engineering class at the University of Colorado at Boulder, she says, only 10 to 12 are generally women.
While master’s degrees in engineering awarded to women hovered at 22.6 percent in 2010, a slight dip from 2008 and 2009 levels, bachelor’s degrees in the engineering field among women climbed to 18.1 percent, and more engineering doctorates—22.9 percent—were awarded to women than any time in the past, according to the American Society for Engineering Education.
With a rapidly growing population and aging infrastructure, our nation needs all our creative and technical minds, male and female. As the pioneers in these pages prove, women can build too. 
 
Engineering and Engineering Technology College Majors

The National Academy of Engineering has organized 12 engineering categories. Members are required to select a primary and, if needed, secondary affiliations. The scope of each discipline incorporates a diverse area of work.

Four main disciplines account for two-thirds of the degrees handed out each year: civil, computer, electrical, and mechanical engineering. The next four disciplines account for one-fifth of all degrees handed out each year: aerospace, biomedical, chemical, and industrial/manufacturing engineering. Fewer than 10 percent of engineering degrees handed out each year include those in agricultural, architectural, engineering management, engineering physics/engineering science, environmental, general engineering studies, materials, mining, nuclear, and petroleum engineering.


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21. OUT AND ABOUT WITH INK AUTHORS IN MAY

NEW BOOKS

Ann Bausum, Stubby the War Dog: The True Story of World War I's Bravest Dog (National Geographic for Kids)



Ann Bausum, Sergeant Stubby: How a Stray Dog and his Best Friend Helped Win World War I and Stole the Heart of a Nation (National Geographic, YA)





Steve Jenkins, Eye to Eye: How Animals See the World (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)




            Dorothy Hinshaw Patent, Dogs on Duty: Soldiers' Best Friends on the Battlefield and Beyond (paperback, Walker)
            • Flicker Tale Award in nonfiction, Dakota Library Association (Childrens' Choice Award)



AWARDS

Cheryl Harness, 2014 Missouri Humanities Award: Distinguished Literary Achievement for writing and illustrating historical non-fiction books for children, (see Events below)

Elizabeth Rusch, Eruption!: Volcanoes and the science of saving lives (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
            • YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction nominee
            • Orbis Pictus recommended
            • Pennsylvania Readers Choice Award nominee

Elizabeth Rusch, Electrical Wizard: How Nikolas Tesla Lit Up the World (Candlewick)
            • CBC/Bank Street College Best Book 2014

Deborah Heiligman, The Boy Who Loved Math (Roaring Brook)
            • Winner, 2014 Cook Prize for best STEM picture book, Bank Street College

Melissa Stewart, No Monkeys, No Chocolate (Charlesbridge)
            • Honor book, 2014 Cook Prize for best STEM picture book, Bank Street College


EVENTS

May 4 – Susan Kuklin: Cooper Union, New York, NY,  PEN/World Voices Literary Festival YA/Children's Panel

May 10 – Gretchen Woelfle: Ashley House, Sheffield, MA, with illustrator Alix Delinois, presenting Mumbet’s Declaration of Independence.

May 14 – Susan Kuklin: Simmons College, Boston, MA, CBC/CBB Diversity Committee Children’s Book Week
                                               
May 15 – Vicki Cobb: White Plains, NY, PACE University School of Education Conference: Rethinking STEM-D Education: Innovative Practices from the Field; Videoconferencing with Alexandra Siy, Dorothy Hinshaw Patent and Carla Killough McCafferty, in a panel discussion: Science That's Fun to Read and Teach

May 17 – Ann Bausum, author program and family event "Stubby the War Dog and his Favorite Doughboy," Westport Public Library, Westport CT

May 17 – Ann Bausum, Booksigning and reception West Haven Veterna’s Museum & Learning Center, West Haven, CT.

May 17 – Cheryl HarnessMissouri Humanities Council, St. Louis, MO., presentation of 2014 Humanities Award: Distinguished Literary Achievement

May 17 -- Deborah Heiligman: Gaithersburg Book Festival, Gaitherburg, MD, Writing Picture Book Biographies

May 18 -- Deborah Heiligman: Temple Emanu-El, New York, NY, Conference on Jewish Story

May 18 – Barbara Kerley: Concord Bookshop, Concord, MA, with illustrator Edwin Fotheringham, presenting A Home for Mr. Emerson

May 22 -- Deborah Heiligman: Cook Award presentation, Bank Street College, New York, NY

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22. Starting a Movement

In late 2007, I received an email from Linda Salzman asking if I would contribute to an idea she had.  She wanted to start a group blog of nonfiction authors to talk about our work, our process, or anything else that was on our minds.  Why was she asking me? She said she was approaching the nonfiction authors she admired most. Hmmm....flattery certainly creates openings. I was definitely interested.  Naturally, my first question was, “Is there any money in this?”  When she said, “No,” I said, without hesitation, “OK, I’m in.”  You see, I thought she had a really good idea and my mantra for my life, whenever an opportunity arises, is:
  1. I might learn something.
  2. It might lead someplace.
  3. It pays well.
If the opportunity met two out of the three criteria, I did it.  My first post “Information Is the Least of It” was published on the third day of this blog.  In many respects it is shameless self-promotion, but hey, I assumed that it was allowed, part of the deal.

Looking back, I realize how much courage is needed to start something and Linda certainly faced rejection early in her enterprise.  Recently I saw this hilarious and strikingly insightful video about what it takes to get something off the ground:.   



In hindsight, I see that I was a first follower of Linda.  But, in July of 2009, I became the shirtless dancing guy when I woke up one morning with the idea of organizing the community of authors who contributed to the I.N.K. blog into a company called  iNK Think Tank.  The mission of iNK Think Tank is to get nonfiction literature into classrooms; to educate the world about our genre. To this end we provide a free database, which helps teachers and others find books on subjects that can fit into curricula.  Last month, without promotion, we had 500 new registrants for the database and the site is averaging about 5,000 visitors a month with a high of 8,000 last November..

But our books are still excluded from most classroom work. There are all kinds of reasons for this.  Some of them include the fact that there is the hegemony of textbooks as the source of content, the notion that the quality of writing doesn't matter as long as the subject is “covered,” and that efficiency in education means that everyone is literally on the same page often at the same time. (A text book is not the Bible!) Teachers do not know our work by our name and it would help if we defined ourselves by brand..  In fiction, the author’s name becomes the “brand” because the name is used to catalogue and shelve the books.  In nonfiction, we are cataloged and shelved by subject matter. At a time when the CCSS require that 50% if all reading in elementary school and 75% in high school be nonfiction, teachers still don't know about our books.  And, according to Roger Sutton, this demand for nonfiction reading is not translating into more nonfiction publishing.  iNK is  not going to take this situation lying down.

Alexandra Siy gave us an idea on how to get our literary foot in the classroom door. Again, I’m in the familiar role of first follower taking Alex's lead.  This summer iNK is launching a program for students, called the Nonfiction Minute, of very short (400 words max), stand-alone entries, which teachers will be able to use in their classrooms to introduce students to top nonfiction authors.   The writing will showcase the many voices and topics that fuel our passions.  For the moment, we will offer the Nonfiction Minute free.  I have every confidence that we’ll learn a lot and it will lead someplace.

I'm still walking the path Linda Salzman started me on so many years ago.  As this I.N.K. blog becomes an archive, I can only say a heartfelt thank you to Linda. iNK Think Tank would not exist if not for you.

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23. Nonfiction then and now and...?



I started writing for I.N.K. in March 2008.  With nostalgia and curiosity, I went back to look at some of my initial posts.  I kept on reading and realized that I was also looking at a history of what has happened in the field of kids’ nonfiction from then to now.  At least, some of its zeitgeist, its ups and downs. 

By 2008 we nonfiction writers had had time to road-test our liberation from straitjacket association with encyclopedic information.  We had seen or written books such as Dance, Actual Size, and Action Jackson, celebrating the changes that came with cheaper color printing and more experimental styles and formats.  It was no wonder my second post for I.N.K., A Rose by any Other Name? bridled against the confines of the word used to describe our field.  I wrote: 

As we all know, words matter. So what about the one that describes our genre of writing: nonfiction. I used to feel just fine about it, but now I have a slight twinge. After all, it does have a negative point of reference. The “I’m not fiction” instead of the “I am something” kind of writing…

If you link to the post you can see a discussion of the issue and the difficulty I and other  commenters had trying to find a good solution.

Artistically booming , we were about to take a fall. In June 2008, however, most of us didn’t know that. I’m a glass-half-full-AND-half-empty type, perhaps I had a premonition.  In The Lucky Thing about Friday the 13th(prompted by my assigned post date) I amused myself with cheerful grumbling about the luck factor (or lack thereof) in writing nonfiction for kids.  Here is part of it:

The lucky thing is that schools and libraries can always use a well-written book to update their collection on a particular subject.
The unlucky thing is that they can’t afford to buy them.
The lucky thing is that you can create books on subjects kids will love.
The unlucky thing is that many publishers can’t imagine marketing nonfiction to the trade market, so the kids don’t find them.

If you click on rest of the post, please note I do end with the lucky side; I love what I do and have, luckily, managed to make a living at it.  

Nevertheless a few months later, the fan was hit plunging us into the biggest fiscal crisis since the Great Depression.  It hit the book industry the same way it affected the nation at large.  I know many people whose completed, even paid-for manuscripts were dropped by publishers looking at a shriveling market with no immediate change in sight.  One of my own was pushed to a pub date over a year in the future so it could be “supported more successfully.”

Happily unagented for most of my career, I began to think about the comfort of having an ally.  I started a search for an agent and was shocked by what I found on their web sites.  Another post, Agents-Agents of Change was born. 

A personal nadir perhaps, but hope springs and swings eternal along with changing fortunes for people and professions.  In other words, if you stick around long enough, the pendulum swings.  On a personal level, I had three books come out in 2012.  More globally, picture books, declared a dying form, managed a “rebirth.” YA nonfiction is growing. Nonfiction books are more frequent winners and honor winners of the Newbery, Printz and Caldecott. 

I’m not exactly sure when the phrase Common Core first appeared in I.N.K. posts, but it increased exponentially in 2012.  My book Skyscraper was included in Math Reads, Marilyn Burn’s series using actual books to teach math; and I posted about future models of using our books in the classroom. When Penguin combined The Truth About Poop and Gee Whiz in a new edition, I wrote about what was lost and gained by very intelligently reissuing these books in black-and-white digest form for the burgeoning middle grade market. 
 
I wasn’t the only one commenting on the Brave New World of nonfiction’s role in education.  I.N.K. devoted the whole month of October 2013 to Common Core and nonfiction in the classroom with a spirited discussion about the author’s role in the process.

Is Common Core going to change the role and status of nonfiction in our culture?  Who knows.  I know more imprints are opening their lists to it.  And I wish we’d have more time and posts to report on what happens as a result.  But it’s been great to have an opportunity to think and write about all things nonfiction until now.  Thank you, I.N.K.

This post, in fact, my tenure at I.N.K. is dedicated to Linda Salzman, without whom…

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24. A Celebration of the Arts


As I look back over the last five years of posts by I.N.K. bloggers, I’ve discovered what I suspected all along, which is that this group has covered in our books for young readers an astonishing variety of non-fiction subjects, ranging from biographies of the famous to the obscure to great and small moments in history, from science and math, to inventions, food, and the environment to the wild and wacky. The list is endless. Along with these books we’ve shared our back stories, challenges, classroom activities, some pet peeves and we’ve recommended lists of excellent non-fiction books by other authors. Today, in celebration of us, since the work I do concentrates on the arts, I’d like to offer an I.N.K. blogger feast of books that do the same in dance, music, and visual arts. Since I haven’t read all of them, I’ve  researched reviews and descriptions on Amazon.com and will include some excerpts here.

The Young Musician’s Survival Guide: Tips from Teens and Pros

by Amy Nathan

Learning to play an instrument can be fun and, at times, frustrating. This lively, accessible book helps young people cope with the difficulties involved in learning a new instrument and remaining dedicated to playing and practicing. In this revised and expanded edition, Amy Nathan has updated the book to address today's more technologically-minded young musician. Expanded sections cover the various ways students can use technology to assist in mastering an instrument and in making practice time more productive, from using the Internet to download pieces to be learned and playing along with downloaded tunes to practicing with computer-based practice programs, CDs, and videos/DVDs of musical performances. The book's updated Resource Guide suggests where to get additional help, both online and off.

Meet the Dancers: From Ballet, Broadway and Beyond

By Amy Nathan

Lots of kids enjoy dancing, but what motivates them to push past the sore muscles, early-morning technique classes, and crazy schedule required to become a professional dancer? In this book, dancers from many backgrounds talk about their different paths to success in ballet, modern, jazz, Broadway, and hiphop.
They also share advice and helpful tips, such as:  
 practice interpreting the music and the mood of a movement, even when you’re doing a standard warm-up exercise
• try to be in the front row at auditions so you can see what’s going on and so the judges know you’re eager to be seen

Clara Schumann Piano Virtuoso

By Susanna Reich

A piano prodigy, Clara Schumann made her professional debut at the age of nine and had embarked on her first European concert tour by the time she was twelve. Clara charmed audiences with her soulful playing throughout her life. Music was a constant source of inspiration and support for this strong and resilient woman. After the death of her husband, Robert Schumann, Clara continued her brilliant career and supported their eight children. Clara Schumann's extraordinary story is supplemented with her letters and diary entries, some of which have never before been published in English. Gorgeous portraits and photographs show the members of Clara's famous musical community and Clara herself from age eight to seventy-six. Index, chronology.


Painting the Wild Frontier: The Art and Adventures of George Catlin




By Susanna Reich


George Catlin is one of America’s best-known painters, famous for his iconic portraits of Native Americans. He spent much of his life in the wilderness, sketching and painting as he traveled. A solo trek across 500 miles of uncharted prairie, an expedition to the Andes, harrowing encounters with grizzly bears and panthers, and tours of the royal palaces of Europe were among his many adventures. In an era when territorial expansion resulted in the near annihilation of many indigenous cultures, George Catlin dedicated himself to meeting and writing about the native peoples of the western hemisphere. With his “Indian Gallery” of paintings and artifacts, he toured the United States and Europe, stirring up controversy and creating a sensation.
Award-winning author Susanna Reich combines excerpts from Catlin’s letters and notes with vivid depictions of his far-flung travels. Generously illustrated with archival prints and photos and Catlin’s own magnificent paintings, here is a rollicking, accessible biography that weaves meticulously researched history into a fascinating frontier and jungle adventure story.

Jose! Born to Dance: The Story of Jose Limon

By Susanna Reich

José was a boy with a song in his heart and a dance in his step. Born in Mexico in 1908, he came into the world kicking like a steer, and grew up to love to draw, play the piano, and dream. José's dreaming took him to faraway places. He dreamed of bullfighters and the sounds of the cancan dancers that he saw with his father. Dance lit a fire in José's soul.
With his heart to guide him, José left his family and went to New York to dance. He learned to flow and float and fly through space with steps like a Mexican breeze. When José danced, his spirit soared. From New York to lands afar, José Limón became known as the man who gave the world his own kind of dance.
¡OLÉ! ¡OLÉ! ¡OLÉ!
Susanna Reich's lyrical text and Raúl Colón's shimmering artwork tell the story of a boy who was determined to make a difference in the world, and did. José! Born to Dance will inspire picture book readers to follow their hearts and live their dreams.


Sandy’s Circus: A Story about Alexander Calder

By Tanya Lee Stone and Boris Kulikov

As a boy, Alexander (Sandy) Calder was always fiddling with odds and ends, making objects for friends. When he got older and became an artist, his fiddling led him to create wire sculptures. One day, Sandy made a lion. Next came a lion cage. Before he knew it, he had an entire circus and was traveling between Paris and New York performing a brand-new kind of art for amazed audiences. This is the story of Sandy’s Circus, as told by Tanya Lee Stone with Boris Kulikov’s spectacular and innovative illustrations. Calder’s original circus is on permanent display at the Whitney Museum in New York City.


A Look at Cubism

By Sneed Collard

Cubism was one of the most influential visual art styles of the early twentieth century. The Cubist painters rejected the inherited concept that art should copy nature, or that they should adopt the traditional techniques of perspective. Picasso and Braque, the pioneers of Cubist painting are highlighted in this title, as well as the evolution of the Cubist art form. This title will allow students to distinguish their own point of view from that of the author of a text.

A Listen to Patriotic Music

By Sneed Collard

Patriotic music helps us feel pride for our country. The songs bring a unity and sense of togetherness to the people who live there. Written for many different reasons, and sung everywhere from baseball games to presidential elections, this title lists examples of some of our country's most cherished patriotic songs and information on the people and events that inspired them. This title will allow students to explain events, procedures, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text, including what happened and why, based on specific information in the text.

Books by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan

The Mad Potter: George E. Ohr Eccentric Genius

Age Level: 7 - 11 | Grade Level: 2 - 6

When George Ohr's trove of pottery was discovered in 1967, years after his death, his true genius was discovered with it. The world could finally see how unique this artist really was! Born in 1856 in Biloxi, Mississippi, George grew up to the sounds of the civil war and political unrest. When he was 22, his boyhood friend introduced him to the pottery wheel. The lost young man suddenly found his calling.
"When I found the potter's wheel I felt it all over like a duck in water." 
He started creating strangely crafted pots and vases, expressing his creativity and personality through the ceramic sculptures. Eventually he had thousands at his fingertips. He took them to fairs and art shows, but nobody was buying these odd figures from this bizarre man. Eventually he retired, but not without hiding hundreds of his ceramics. Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan, authors of the award winning Ballet for Martha,  approach this colorful biography with a gentle and curious hand.

Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring (Illustrated by Brian Floca)

Martha Graham : trailblazing choreographer, Aaron Copland : distinguished American composer, and Isamu Noguchi : artist, sculptor, craftsman  Award-winning authors Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan tell the story behind the scenes of the collaboration that created APPALACHIAN SPRING, from its inception through the score’s composition to Martha’s intense rehearsal process. The authors’ collaborator is two-time Sibert Honor winner Brian Floca, whose vivid watercolors bring both the process and the performance to life.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Through The Gates and Beyond

In 1981 two artists -- Christo and Jeanne-Claude -- proposed an installation in New York’s Central Park that would span twenty-three miles. They received a 185-page response from the Parks Department that could have been summed up in one single word: “no.” But they persisted. This biography of contemporary artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude is a story of the power of collaboration, and vision, and of the creation of the spectacular Gates and other renowned artworks.Christo and Jeanne-Claude is a 2003 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.

Action Jackson (Illustrated by Robert Andrew Parker)



One late spring morning the American artist Jackson Pollock began work on the canvas that would ultimately come to be known as Number 1, 1950 (Lavender Mist).
Award-winning authors Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan use this moment as the departure point for a unique picture book about a great painter and the way in which he worked. Their lyrical text, drawn from Pollock's own comments and those made by members of his immediate circle, is perfectly complemented by vibrant watercolors by Robert Andrew Parker that honor his spirit of the artist without imitating his paintings.

Vincent Van Gogh: Portrait of an Artist

 Vincent Van Gogh: Portrait of an Artist was named a Robert F. Sibert Honor book by the ALA. This is the enthralling biography of the nineteenth-century Dutch painter known for pioneering new techniques and styles in masterpieces such as Starry Night and Vase with Sunflowers. The book cites detailed primary sources and includes a glossary of artists and terms, a biographical time line, notes, a bibliography, and locations of museums that display Van Gogh’s work. It also features a sixteen-page insert with family photographs and full-color reproductions of many of Van Gogh’s paintings. Vincent Van Gogh was named an ALA Notable Book and an ALA Best Book for Young Adults and has been selected as a Common Core State Standards Text Exemplar (Grades 6–8, Historical/Social Studies) in Appendix B.

Andy Warhol: Prince of POP

The Campbell’s Soup Cans. The Marilyns. The Electric Chairs. The Flowers. The work created by Andy Warhol elevated everyday images to art, ensuring Warhol a fame that has far outlasted the 15 minutes he predicted for everyone else. His very name is synonymous with the 1960s American art movement known as Pop.
But Warhol’s oeuvre was the sum of many parts. He not only produced iconic art that blended high and popular culture; he also made controversial films, starring his entourage of the beautiful and outrageous; he launched Interview, a slick magazine that continues to sell today; and he reveled in leading the vanguard of New York’s hipster lifestyle. The Factory, Warhol’s studio and den of social happenings, was the place to be.
Who would have predicted that this eccentric boy, the Pittsburgh-bred son of Eastern European immigrants, would catapult himself into media superstardom? Warhol’s rise, from poverty to wealth, from obscurity to status as a Pop icon, is an absorbing tale—one in which the American dream of fame and fortune is played out in all of its success and its excess. No artist of the late 20th century took the pulse of his time—and ours—better than Andy Warhol.





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25. More Wonderful Books on Dance


Here are two additional books, two great favorites of mine, that somehow feel off my post.

Beautiful Ballerina

By Marilyn Nelson and photographed by our own Susan Kuklin

 


 
A talented team of children's book creators craft a beautiful, stirring tribute to the grace and power of prima ballerinas everywhere.
Every little girl has the dream to become a prima ballerina! On today's ever-changing cultural stage, ballerinas come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and abilities. To celebrate the beauty of black ballerinas, here is a lush photographic picture book with a brilliant poetic narrative, brought to young readers by two amazing talents. The minimal text balances the harmony of the photos and demonstrates the joy of movement.

The photographs in this award-winning book took my breath away. I hear a wonderful presentation Susan did at an award panel several years ago.

 

 

Reaching for Dreams: A Ballet from First Rehearsal to Opening Night with the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater

 


Go backstage with dancers from the world-renowned Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater as they learn and perform a new ballet. Drawing on hours of conversation and observation, Susan Kuklin gives a private look at the dancers goals, disappointments, and triumphs; the endless hard work; and the tension and magic of opening night.

I have a special feeling for this book as my grandson Benjamin Avram at age ten  went to the Alvin Ailey School to do African Dancing and ended up taking dance classes in ballet, tap and modern through his senior year in highschool.

 

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