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Results 26 - 50 of 135,467
26. Turning Pages Reads: BLACKTOP BOOKS - JUSTIN, by LJ ALONGE

Welcome to another session of Turning Pages!I taught junior high/high school in a group home, just out of college. I was a coteacher who worked in a classroom with another teacher and an aide, mostly 1:1, since my students were at wildly varying... Read the rest of this post

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27. 10 interesting facts about the cello

Every summer since 1895, the Henry Wood Promenade Concert (commonly known as the BBC Proms) presents an eight-week orchestral classical music festival at the Royal Albert Hall in central London. This year’s Proms put a special focus on cellos.

The post 10 interesting facts about the cello appeared first on OUPblog.

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28. A flame as a moth: how I began chronicling the life of Harrison G. Dyar, Jr., Part 1

I first became acquainted with Dyar’s work on the moth family Limacodidae, my chosen entomology dissertation topic, in 1983 at the University of Minnesota. It was in the Hodson Hall library on the St. Paul campus where I noted how Dyar’s authorship dominated the Journal of the New York Entomological Society in the middle to late 1890s. Particularly notable was his running series from 1895-1899

The post A flame as a moth: how I began chronicling the life of Harrison G. Dyar, Jr., Part 1 appeared first on OUPblog.

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29. The Arms Trade Treaty and exports to Saudi Arabia: “Now is the summer of our discontent?”

For some campaigners, the acid test of the effectiveness of a putative global arms trade treaty was whether it would prohibit or somehow legitimize the selling of arms to Saudi Arabia. Of course, those who expected a total prohibition on arms trading were always going to be deeply disappointed, but many of us felt it similarly unlikely that an international instrument would ever make it impossible for internally repressive regimes to procure weapons on the open market.

The post The Arms Trade Treaty and exports to Saudi Arabia: “Now is the summer of our discontent?” appeared first on OUPblog.

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30. Remembering John Muir on the centennial of the National Park Service

This year, Americans celebrate the centennial of the National Park Service. On August 25, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed the National Park Service Organic Act. The bill culminated decades of effort by a remarkable generation of dedicated men and women who fought to protect the nation’s natural wonders for the democratic enjoyment of the people.

The post Remembering John Muir on the centennial of the National Park Service appeared first on OUPblog.

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31. Back through the Prickle Hedge

As an ex-bookseller, one of the things I miss is helping to reconnect people with “long lost” books. I still get the occasional request for help, and always enjoy the buzz of pointing someone in the direction of a book that has eluded them for years. This request from a couple of years ago was a little different;

When I was little my Mother used to read me a poem called "Through the Prickle Hedge" I found out after much searching that it was written by a lady called, Marion St. John Webb and that you are listed as someone who stocks her books so my question is this "How can I find the words to this poem" as I have forgotten all but the first line.


The Littlest One Marion St John Adcock Webb
Luckily, I recognised the poem and had the very book in stock. It’s from The Littlest-One by Marion St. John Adcock (Webb). It took but a minute to photocopy the words and send them by return mail. I wrote a blog post about it (here) and quickly received more requests for copies of the words. I was happy to oblige and continued copying and sharing until…disaster struck…the book sold. 



In hindsight, I should have shared the entire poem on my blog while I had the chance, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. Having found the book again, I can now do what I should have done then. I don’t sell books any more, but that doesn't mean I can’t share some of those in my collection. I hope you enjoy these words as much as I do. Some of the spelling might seem a little odd, but it is exactly as it appears in the book. 


Through the prickle hedge by Marion St. John Adcock (Webb)

While all the grown-up people sat an’ talked upon the lawn, we scrambled through the prickle hedge – and one of us got torn. 

And out into the lane we went, an’ passed the willow tree, Aunt Matilda’s child’en, Mr Peter Dog, an’ me.

Sue, Barbara and Tony Flitney with Peggy the dog
Me (the Littlest One), my sister Sue, brother Tony and Peggy our dog. 

We’d played about the garden all the kind of games we could, and so we went along the lane an’ down into the wood. But jus’ as we had got inside an’ one of us looked round – a little girl we didn't know had followed us, we found. 

Her hair was black an’ straggly, an’ her dress was old and worn, and she on’y had one stocking on, and that was very torn. 
And who she was, and where she came from, none of us could tell; and when we stopped and stared at her, she stopped and stared as well.

And one of Aunt Matilda's child'en shouted "Hullo, Kid" but she never answered anything, but stood and stared, she did. 
And Aunt Matilda's child'en said "perhaps she is a witch. Let's make a fire and burn her, like they used to, in this ditch!"

And they laughed and started picking sticks, an' threw them in a pile, and kept on singing, "Burn old Witch!" an' shouting all the while. I whispered, "Not a really fire? Of course it's on'y play?" But they shouted, "Yes, a really fire! Don't let her run away".

Sue and Barbara Flitney
My sister is the tall girl in the centre. I'm on her left-hand side (right of the photo as you look at it). Sadly, I can’t recall the names of our two playmates. 

Then she pulled a nugly face at us, and said "You'd better 'ad. My mother is a Gypsy, and she'd be most awful mad. And if I call, she'll her me - she lives inside this wood."  

Aunt Matilda's child'en whispered "let us run away. We mustn't talk to Gipsies they'll steal you if you stay." But the little girl was watchin', and she said "Oh no, you won't or else I'll call, now what you going to give me if I don't?"

And all of us were quiet again. Then some thing made a squeak so we gave her someone's brooch. An' then we heard the bushes creak and so she took a coat, a hat, an' Mr Peter's collar. "And now," she said, "You mustn't tell you promise - or I'll ollar." Then Aunt Matilda's child'en cried "It isn't fair a bit!" And snatched their things away an' said "Come on, let's run for it."

An' all of us began to run as quickly as we could. And as we ran she started shouting, shouting through the wood. And some of us fell over - scrambled up, and on again. And the wood was full of creaking's - but at last we found the lane. On'y some of us were crying', and we kept on looking round; But the Gypsies didn't follow, and we couldn't hear a sound.

Back through the prickle hedge
Me with my Grandad and Aunt Gladys. Could that be the Prickle Hedge?

Till nearly home - we heard the grown-ups talking on the lawn, so we scrambled through the prickle hedge - and two of us got torn. And out into the garden jus' as quickly as could be, Aunt Matilda's child'en, Mr. Peter Dog, an' me. 

Disclaimer!  The photographs in this post are from my own childhood. I have no connection to Marion St John Adcock (Webb). The photographs are simply for decoration. I’m happy to say my sister, brother and I were not involved in any of the incidents in the poem, although we often got ‘torn’ while climbing through hedges. Furthermore, burning of witches is not something we recommend!  Have a fun week...


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32. POETRY FRIDAY: End of Summer






Well, the hot days of summer...and endless hours of freedom are coming to a close for school-aged children. On the first day of school each year, I presented my students with little booklets of end-of-summer and back-to-school poems. For this Poetry Friday, I am posting some of the poems that I included in those booklets

Here is the first stanza of Eve Merriam’s poem  Leavetaking:

Vacation is over;
It's time to depart.
I must leave behind
(Although it breaks my heart)

Click here to read the rest of the poem.


Now
by Prince Redcloud

Close the barbecue.
Close the sun.
Close the home-run games we won.
Close the picnic.
Close the pool.
Close the summer.
Open school.


Here is the last stanza of Judith Viorst’s poem Summer’s End:

And all the shiny afternoons
So full of birds and big balloons
And ice cream melting in the sun are done.
I do not want them done
.

Click here to read the rest of the poem.


Here is the first stanza of Bobbi Katz’s poem September Is:

September is
when yellow pencils
in brand new eraser hats
bravely wait on perfect points–
ready to march across miles of lines
in empty notebooks–

Click here to read the rest of the poem.


From Aileen Fisher’s poem The First Day of School:

I wonder if my drawing,
will be as good as theirs.

I wonder if they'll like me,
or just be full of stares
.

Click here to read the rest of the poem.

**********

My granddaughter Julia is really enjoying her summer this year. She is learning how to swim...and loves jumping into the pool! 




**********


Heidi has the Poetry Friday Roundup at My Juicy Little Universe.


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33. Dodgy dossiers in the Middle Ages

Government advisers don’t regularly admit to handling doctored evidence. The extent to which the actions of recent governments may have depended on documents which had been ‘sexed up’ have—quite rightly—become matters for close scrutiny in recent decades. But the modern world has no monopoly over the spurious, the doubtful, and the falsified.

The post Dodgy dossiers in the Middle Ages appeared first on OUPblog.

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34. 10 facts worth knowing about the U.S. women’s rights movement

Today, August 26th, is Women’s Equality Day which commemorates the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920, granting women the right to vote. This day reflects the culmination of a movement which had begun in the 1830s when rising middle-class American women, with an increasing educational background, began to critique the oppressive systems of the early 19th century.

The post 10 facts worth knowing about the U.S. women’s rights movement appeared first on OUPblog.

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35. 15 surprising facts about Guglielmo Marconi, the man behind radio communication

Guglielmo Marconi is popularly known as “the inventor of radio,” a mischaracterization that critics and supporters of his many rivals are quick to seize upon. Marconi was actually the first person to use radio waves to communicate. His first patent was for “Improvements in Transmitting Electrical Impulses and Signals and in Apparatus Therefor,” and he considered what he was doing to be a form of wireless telegraphy.

The post 15 surprising facts about Guglielmo Marconi, the man behind radio communication appeared first on OUPblog.

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36. 10 interesting facts about criminal justice

And what is the best way to ensure an easy transition for offenders that are about to be released? Julian Roberts, author of Criminal Justice: A Very Short Introduction, tells us the top 10 things everyone should know about criminal justice, and what the chances and limitations of the Western system are.

The post 10 interesting facts about criminal justice appeared first on OUPblog.

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37. Jim Crow redux: Donald Trump and the racial fear factor

Donald Trump’s mantra, to “make America great again,” plays on the word “again,” and is presumably meant to evoke among his supporters a return to an earlier, more bountiful, time. To paraphrase Bill Clinton, it all depends on what the word “again” means. According

The post Jim Crow redux: Donald Trump and the racial fear factor appeared first on OUPblog.

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38. Not recommended: Michaela MacColl's THE LOST ONES

Right now, in my social media networks, private and public conversations are taking place. People are--to put it mildly--objecting to what Michaela MacColl has written in The Lost Ones. It purports to be a story about two Native children who ended up at Carlisle Indian Industrial School, and is told from the perspective of the girl, Casita.

MacColl's book is due out in October of 2016 from Calkins Creek, which is an imprint of Highlights. It is in their "Hidden Histories" series, which begs a question. Who is this history "hidden" from? The Lost Ones is being marketed as one in which MacColl (she isn't Native) and her publisher, are doing A Good Thing. They are Saving Native People and our history from being hidden.

I wonder, though, is MacColl the right person to write and tell this story? The two children in the book were real children. Does MacColl have what she needs to tell this very delicate story, with the integrity the children deserve?

My short answer is no. The promotional language for the book echoes what I found in the story, too. With The Lost Ones, we have a story about Good White People Doing Good Things for Native Kids. Yuck.

The Author's Note

People may argue that MacColl did her homework. In the Author's Note, she says that she reached out to "Richard Gonzales, Vice Chairman of the Lipan Band of Texas." He met with her and in that meeting, suggested she talk with Daniel Romero, who is "Chairman of the Lipan Band of Texas."

Sounds legit, right? Here's the thing, reviewers and editors, and writers, too! It can be very hard to determine if your sources are ok.

I wonder if MacColl knows, for example, that this "Lipan Band of Texas" is not recognized by the federal government, or the State of Texas, either. The one recognized by the State of Texas is the Lipan Tribe of Texas. See the difference? The first says "Band" and the second says "Tribe." Does that matter? I think so. I may return to that later.

For now, let's read more in the Author's Note.

In the first paragraph in the section titled "Lipan Apache or Ndé," MacColl writes that she uses Ndé in the story rather than Apache, because Ndé is what Casita would have used. That's right, but as I read the story, I saw one instance after another in which MacColl's outsider status was glaring. Using Ndé instead of Apache is an easy "fix" in a manuscript. All one needs to do is use those nifty word processing features that let you replace one word with another, in one fell swoop. I don't think MacColl did that, but when I read Casita thinking of Changing Woman as a goddess, I can't help but see MacColl's use of Ndé as superficial. Here's why.

MacColl uses an outsider word ("occupied") when she says, on page 236, that "Lipan Apache occupied southeastern Texas and northern Mexico." How does a people (in this case, Apaches) "occupy" their own homeland?

In the next paragraph, she writes that the Lipans conducted raids and often killed Texas settlers. She tells us that they "caused an estimated $48,000,000 worth of property damage (measured in today's dollars)" over a ten year period (p. 237). Most people reading this paragraph will be taken aback by that $48,000,000 of property damage. Sympathies will be with the White settlers. Where, I wonder, is her estimate of what the Lipans lost?

MacColl tells us that she's veered from the historical record as follows:

  • Casita and her little brother, Jack, were taken captive in 1877, but there's no record of it, so she uses details from an 1873 event in which the 4th Calvary went into Mexico, destroyed several villages, and took 40 captives.
  • Casita and Jack were taken in by "a military man and his wife, Lt. Charles and Mollie Smith" (p. 239) who traveled from base to base during the three years they had Casita and Jack with them, but for the story she chose to tell, MacColl kept the Smith's (and Casita and Jack) at Fort Clark. 
  • Because so little is known about Mollie Smith, MacColl created her as a Quaker interested in social justice, and writes that in her story "Mollie takes in two Indian children, despite the disapproval of her military husband, to prove the Quaker theory that the Indians can be tamed with kindness" (p. 239).

Quite honestly--I blanched when I read "tamed with kindness." This is in the Author's Note, where MacColl could discredit the "tamed with kindness" theory (I haven't looked it up), but she didn't. She lets it stand. The back cover tells us the book will be promoted at educational and library conferences, which means they plan to pitch it as something teachers can use to teach kids about these two children. As written, the note suggests that Native peoples needed to be tamed.

One could argue that the story itself is more important than the dates of when the children were captured, but would we make that argument about, say, a fictional work about Abraham Lincoln? I think not. And though the Author's Note tells us what MacColl did in writing the story, the language throughout the Note and the story itself, are ones that affirm and confirm a White perspective on Native peoples. In the note, MacColl wonders if Casita ever got to "perform" her "Changing Woman dance." Her use of "perform" is wrong. Our rituals are not performances. We wouldn't say that a girl performed her First Holy Communion, right? It is the same thing.

The Story

I finished reading The Lost Ones last night. As I read, I stuck tabs on pages. My copy has a lot of tags in it, see? I ran out of tabs, or you'd see more. (The different colored tabs mean nothing.)

Some of the tabs point to the places where the text reads "Changing Woman Goddess" or "the Goddess." One of them points to a part where Casita thinks "It seemed impossible that any ritual could really give someone as ordinary as herself magical powers" (p. 21). Because she is captured, Casita doesn't go through the ceremony. It is a recurring plot point in the story and is where the story ends, too, when Casita is at Carlisle. In the final chapter, a Lakota girl named Eyota is sick. The Lipan kids decide they can replicate the Changing Woman ceremony so that Casita can heal Eyota. The ceremony is described, in detail. That, I assume, is why the promotional material characterizes the story as one in which Casita tries to hold on to her Lipan Apache traditions. But there are problems with all of this! Neither "goddess" or "magical power" are appropriate! Remember in the author note, MacColl wrote about using Ndé because that is what Casita would use? I seriously doubt that Casita or her mother would use "goddess" or "magical power" and I strongly believe that the Lipan Apache people, today, would not be okay with the description of the ceremony. See, for example, a proclamation issued by the Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas that speaks specifically to ceremonies being done by the Lipan Apache Band. 

On page 27 when Casita's village is being attacked and she sees her mom standing defiantly with an axe, Casita "hollered a war cry" and "felt a thrill of pride; this was what it was to be Ndé!" MacColl, thru Casita, tells readers that fighting is what being Ndé is about?! That is definitely an outsider characterization!

On page 38, Casita "asked Usen, the chief of all the spirits, to bless this place" (the burnt village and bodies of her mother and others who were killed in the attack). I've never seen "chief of all spirits" used by Native people...

I could say a lot more about the book, but will stop. It is deeply flawed.

The book includes a two-page Afterword from Daniel Castro Romero. I wonder if he read the entire manuscript? Is he ok with the story that MacColl created? Did he think it okay, for example, for her to create Ndé women who use the word "goddess"? I hope not. But, as noted above, he's the Chairman of the Lipan Band, which is doing the ceremonies that the Lipan Tribe's proclamation is about. I think that MacColl was on a slippery slope from the very start. She wanted to do something good but there was far too much potential for this story to fail. And, for me, it did.

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39. The Picture Book in 2016: Social Themes and Lessons

I recently received a very interesting, if puzzling, question.  A friend of mine needed to know, for professional reasons, what I would consider the top themes in picture books these days.  By “themes” I don’t mean trends but rather emotional or social lessons for young readers.  You might even go so far as to call them the morals we’re trying to impart upon our 21st century offspring.

This is not as easy a question. While I attempt to take meticulous notes on every picture book I read, it’s far easier to keep track of, say, movie cameos in 2016 books than overarching societal anxieties.  Still, I managed to whip up a list and then thought, why not share it widely?

Here then are the top themes I’m detecting in picture books this year.


 

  • It’s Okay to Make Mistakes – Particularly as it applies to girls in science or math, but also to how kids do their own art.  I’ve seen a lot of books where a kid is making art, messes it up in some way, and then learns how to turn it into something new.  By the same token, a lot of books are about how you have to make mistakes to get better at something.  And it’s not about failing once or twice but a LOT.  Not mention asking as many questions as possible!  Hopefully those books where someone tries something three times and gets it done perfectly on the third will be a thing of the past soon.

A Good Example Would Be:

Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty, ill. David Roberts

adatwistscientist

Though you might just as easily apply this to Ada’s predecessor Rosie Revere, Engineer.


 

  • Gender Roles – Most notably when it comes to boys in dresses (though no girls identifying as boys) as well as just how kids interact with one another.  Kids learn gender roles VERY early and enforce those roles with one another.  There’s a great book call NutureShock for adults that talks a lot about this.  Picture books have always liked this theme (William’s Doll came out in the 1970s, after all) but now it’s ramping up again.

A Good Example Would Be:

I’m a Girl by Yasmeen Ismail

ImGirl

I was initially going to go with the new James Howe picture book Big Bob, Little Bob, but I already mentioned that one in an earlier post.  There are remarkably few books where gender stereotypes for girls are as thoroughly knocked to the floor and trampled upon than what you’ll find here.  It even saves space to kick to the curb some male gender stereotypes as well at the end.  I’m a fan.


 

  • Economic Disparity – We’re finally seeing some books that acknowledge that not all kids have the same resources at home.  Some kids have parents who lose their jobs.  Others have single family homes.  And not every kid you know has parents who can afford to buy them a bike.

A Good Example Would Be:

A Bike Like Sergio’s by Maribeth Boelts, ill. Noa Z. Jones

BikeLikeSergios

I think what I love so much about this is the easy breezy ignorance of Sergio.  He simply cannot conceive of a world where a boy’s parents wouldn’t be able to buy their son a bike if they wanted to.  Meanwhile the character of Ruben is placed in the awkward position of having to hide his family’s economic situation from his best friend.  And this is a picture book!  We’re finally seeing this topic handled in something other than a Charlie Bucket kind of way.  I’m very pleased.


 

  • Unplug – Possibly the MOST popular theme in the past three to four years.  Very Willy Wonka in the moralizing sometimes (imagine what Mike TeeVee could have done with a personal device), but important to adults. Many is the picture book where someone turns off all their devices and discovers the wide and wonderful world.

A Good Example Would Be:

Tek, the Modern Cave Boy by Patrick McDonnell

Tek

What I like about this book is that since you’ve got a caveperson with a cell phone, adding dinos to the mix really isn’t going to upset anyone.  You’ve already gone beyond the pale.


 

  • Try to See It Their Way (or, Everyone’s a Person – Even Mean People) – Picture books where you have to see it from another person’s point of view are becoming very sophisticated these days.  Some of them will also show that bullies sometimes have problems at home or at school that cause them to act out.  Though, if we’re going to get technical about it, even The Berenstain Bears and the Bully discussed this decades ago.

A Good Example Would Be:

Eddie the Bully by Henry Cole

EddieBully

Bully books aren’t going away anytime soon.  Nuanced bully books?  That might mark the second wave of titles.


 

  • Apologize When You’re Wrong – Oddly popular as a theme.  Owning up to your own mistakes is hard.  Books are making that infinitely clear, but also show the right way to do it.

A Good Example Would Be:

What’s Up, Chuck? by Leo Landry

WhatUpChuck

I think this might fall more into the “early reader” category vs. “picture books” but I care not.  The interesting thing about this storyline is that when our main character has acted like a spoiled brat for not winning a contest’s first prize medal for the first time in three years, the person who does win gives Chuck (our hero) an out.  But Chuck doesn’t take it, and apologizes like a pro.  It’s really well executed in a book this simple.  Check it out sometime.


 

  • Try Something New – Whether it’s food or school or new friends or whatever, trying something new is a big time theme.

A Good Example Would Be:

School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex, ill. Christian Robinson

SchoolFirstDay

So my daughter started Kindergarten this week and I figured this book might make a good gift to her Kindergarten teacher.  Turns out, it’s been a HUGE hit in the school, with other teacher vying to borrow it.  What I like about it, though, is that it takes time to acknowledge that when you try something new it isn’t instantaneously fantastic.  Things go wrong.  It takes time to enjoy something you’ve never done before.

And yes, you could argue that these are themes every year, but I feel like they’re particularly prevalent in 2016.  What are you seeing that I’ve missed?

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40. The importance of smell

The captivating scent of cakes and the compelling aroma of freshly brewed coffee attract you to a bakery in the morning. A male moth is flittering around, frenetically following the scent plume released by her female. What do these two phenomena have in common? Much more than we suspect, when we look at the molecular level. Imagine if we had a very powerful microscope enabling us to detect details

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41. Fascinating facts about man’s best friend

Dogs have historically performed many roles for humans, such as herding, protection, assisting police, companionship, and aiding the handicapped. The tale of "man’s best friend" is a lengthy and intimate history that has lasted for thousands of years, and transcends modern cultural boundaries. Canines appear as poignant characters with symbolic meaning in mythological stories, famous works of art, and religious texts.

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42. 10 Reasons to Celebrate Bilingual Books

Last year, we gave our 10 favorite reasons to read diversely. One reason being that we live in a diverse world, so why not the books that we read? Books help us see the world through someone else’s eyes, and in the case of bilingual books, through another language.

Here are our ten favorite reasons to read bilingual books!

Bilingual books…

  1. Teach us how to read in two languages.
  2. Celebrate the 22% of students who speak a language other than English at home.
  3. Develop strong critical thinking skills
  4. Keep our brains young, healthy, and sharp.
  5. Expose us to new ways of communicating.
  6. Make reading an inclusive activity for all students.
  7. Highlight the achievement of knowing more than one language.
  8. Encourage interest in other cultures and languages.
  9. Expand our vocabulary and lexicon.
  10. Bring readers together.

Lee and Low Bilingual Books Poster

Tell us why you read bilingual books!

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43. Ten underappreciated philosophers of the Islamic World [timeline]

In this timeline, Peter Adamson, author of the History of Philosophy series, highlights ten underappreciated figures of the Islamic world, during and well beyond the medieval era.

The post Ten underappreciated philosophers of the Islamic World [timeline] appeared first on OUPblog.

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44. Australia in three words, part 2 – “Kangaroo court”

A ‘kangaroo court’ is no more Australian than a Californian kangaroo rat. The term originated in the California of 1849, as a legacy of the summary and dubious efforts at informal justice on lawless gold fields. By contrast, the Australian gold fields of that period felt heavily the overbearing hand of the law. This contrast epitomes a larger paradox. Australians are seen as ‘disrespectful of authority’; the truth is they have, from their beginnings, been highly law-prone.

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45. Etymology gleanings for August 2016

There was a desperate attempt to find a valid Greek cognate for cloth, but such a word did not turn up. One way out of the difficulty was to discover a Greek noun or verb beginning with sk- and refer its s to what is known as s-mobile (“movable s”). Movable s is all over the place. For instance, the English cognate of German kratzen is scratch (the same meaning).

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46. Building community: lessons from swimming

What would be the impact if our current policy to insure safety and prevent drowning were to pay people to swim with each swimmer? No one could go swimming unless they had a paid professional, or paraprofessional, swim with them. Our present policy in human services and mental health is kind of like paying people to insure the safety and well-being of others.

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47. Turning Pages Reads: ONCE, IN A TOWN CALLED MOTH, by TRILBY KENT

Welcome to another session of Turning Pages!According to the PEW Research peeps, about 70% of people consider themselves religious in some fashion, whether through traditional Jewish, Muslim or Christian denominations or other neopagan practices... Read the rest of this post

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48. Protecting our children from profanity

We adults are careful about swearing around our kids. We don’t want bad language to confuse or corrupt or otherwise harm them. As Steven Pinker says in passing while talking about profanity in The Stuff of Thought (2007), “if some people would rather not explain to their young children what a blow job is, there should be television channels that don’t force them to,” and there are. We have every right to be protective of our children even if we don’t have a reason.

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49. Five crimes being committed by Pokémon Go players

Record-breaking mobile app Pokémon Go has been downloaded over 75 million times worldwide, a number set only to increase as the game is released in more territories. What five common crimes have police officers had to attend to as a result of this craze taking off?

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50. Review of the Day: Who Broke the Teapot?! by Bill Slavin

WhoBrokeTeapotWho Broke the Teapot?!
By Bill Slavin
Tundra Books
$16.99
ISBN: 978-1-77049-833-4
Ages 3-5
On shelves now

In the average life of a child, whodunits are the stuff of life itself. Who took the last cookie? Who used up all the milk and then didn’t put it on the shopping list? Who removed ALL the rolls of toilet paper that I SPECIFICALLY remember buying at the store on Sunday and now seem to have vanished into some toilet paper eating inter-dimension? The larger the family, the great the number of suspects. But picture books that could be called whodunits run a risk of actually going out and teaching something. A lesson about honesty or owning up to your own mistakes. Blech. I’ll have none of it. Hand me that copy of Bill Slavin’s Who Broke the Teapot?! instead, please. Instead of morals and sanctity I’ll take madcap romps, flashbacks, and the occasional livid cat. Loads of fun to read aloud, surprisingly beautiful to the eye, and with a twist that no one will see coming, Who Broke the Teapot?! has it all, baby. Intact teapot not included.

The scene of the crime: The kitchen. The family? Oblivious. As the mother enters the room it’s just your average morning. There’s a baby in a high chair, a brother attached to a ceiling fan by his suspenders, a dad still in his underwear reading the paper, a daughter eating pastries, a dog aiding her in this endeavor, and a cat so tangled up in wool that it’s a wonder you can still make out its paws. And yet in the doorway, far from the madding crowd, sits a lone, broken, teapot. Everyone proclaims innocence. Everyone seems trustworthy in that respect. Indeed, the only person to claim responsibility is the baby (to whom the mother tosses a dismissive, “I doubt it”). Now take a trip back in time just five minutes and all is revealed. The true culprit? You’ll have to read the book yourself. You final parting shot is the mother accepting a teapot stuck together with scotch tape and love from her affectionate offspring.

WhoBroke2Generally when I write a picture book review I have a pretty standard format that I adhere to. I start with an opening paragraph (done), move on to a description of the plot in the next paragraph (so far, so good), and in the third paragraph I talk about some aspect of the writing. It could be the overall theme or the writing or the plotting. After that I talk about the art. This pattern is almost never mucked with . . . until today!! Because ladies and gents, you have just GOT to take a gander at what Mr. Slavin’s doing here with his acrylics. Glancing at the art isn’t going to do it. You have to pick this book up and really inspect the art. For the bulk of it the human characters are your usual cartoony folks. Very smooth paints. But even the most cursory glance at the backgrounds yields rewards. The walls are textured with thick, luscious paints adhering to different patterns. There’s even a touch of mixed media to the old affair, what with cat’s yarn being real thread and all (note too how Slavin seamlessly makes it look as if the yarn is wrapped around the legs of the high chair). Then the typography starts to get involved. The second time the mom says “Who broke the teapot?!” the words look like the disparate letters of a rushed ransom note. As emotions heat up (really just the emotions of the mom, to be honest) the thick paints crunch when she says “CRUNCHED”, acquire zigzags as her temper unfurls, and eventually belie the smoothness of the characters’ skin when the texture invades the inside of the two-page spread of the now screaming mother’s mouth.

So, good textures. But let us not forget in all this just how important the colors of those thick paints are as well. Watching them shift from one mood to another is akin to standing beneath the Northern Lights. You could be forgiven for not noticing the first, second, third, or even fourth time you read the book. Yet these color changes are imperative to the storytelling. As emotions heat up or the action on the page ramps up, the cool blues and greens ignite into hot reds, yellows, and oranges. Taken as a whole the book is a rainbow of different backgrounds, until at long last everything subsides a little and becomes a chipper cool blue.

WhoBroke1Now kids love a good mystery, and I’m not talking just the 9 and 10-year-olds. Virtually every single age of childhood has a weakness for books that set up mysterious circumstances and then reveal all with a flourish. Heck, why do you think babies like the game of peekaboo? Think of it as the ultimate example of mystery and payoff. Picture book mysteries are, however, far more difficult to write than, say, an episode of Nate the Great. You have to center the book squarely in the child’s universe, give them all the clues, and then make clear to the reader what actually happened. To do this you can show the perpetrator of the crime committing the foul deed at the start of the book or you can spot clues throughout the story pointing clearly to the miscreant. In the case of Who Broke the Teapot, Slavin teaches (in his own way) that old Sherlock Holmes phrase, “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

I love it when a book turns everything around at the end and asks the reader to think long and hard about what they’ve just seen. Remember the end of The Cat in the Hat when everything’s been cleaned up just in time and the mother comes in asking the kids what they got up to while she was gone? The book ends with a canny, “Well, what would YOU do if your mother asked YOU?” Who Broke the Teapot?! does something similar at its end as well. The facts have been laid before the readers. The baby has claimed responsibility and maybe he is to blame after all. But wasn’t the mother just as responsible? It would be very interesting indeed to poll a classroom of Kindergartners to see where they ascribe the bulk of the blame. It may even say something about a kid if they side with the baby more or the mommy more.

WhoBroke3I also love that the flashback does far more than explain who broke the teapot. It explains why exactly most of the members of this family are dwelling in a kind of generally accepted chaotic stew. You take it for granted when you first start reading. A kid’s hanging from a ceiling fan? Sure. Yeah. That happens. But the explanation, when it comes, belies that initial response. The parents don’t question his position so you don’t question it. That is your first mistake. Never take your lead from parents. And speaking of the flashback, let’s just stand aside for a moment and remember just how sophisticated it is to portray this concept in a picture book at all. You’re asking a child audience to accept that there is a “before” to every book they read. Few titles go back in time to explain how we got to where we are now. Slavin’s does so easily, and it will be the rare reader that can’t follow him on this trip back into the past.

I think the only real mystery here is why this book isn’t better known. And its only crime is that it’s Canadian, and therefore can’t win any of the big American awards here in the States. It’s also too amusing for awards. Until we get ourselves an official humor award for children’s books, titles like Who Broke the Teapot?! are doomed to fly under the radar. That’s okay. This is going to be the kind of book that children remember for decades. They’re going to be the ones walking into their public libraries asking the children’s librarians on the desks to bring to them an obscure picture book from their youth. “There was a thing that was broken . . . like a china plate or something . . . and there was this cat tied up in string?” You have my sympathies, children’s librarians of the future. In the meantime, better enjoy the book now. Whether it’s read to a large group or one-on-one, this puppy packs a powerful punch.

On shelves now

Source: Publisher sent final copy for review.

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