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Just in time for this weekend’s unofficial “start of summer” gong, Nature (yea, that Nature—though also, ostensibly, “nature,” the wilder of nouns, not that other one qua Lucretius’s De rerum natura) came through with a review of Lisa-ann Gershwin’s Jellyfish: A Natural History. Stuck behind a paywall? Here it is in its glory, for your holiday reads:
One resembles an exquisitely ruffled and pleated confection of pale silk chiffon; another, a tangle of bioluminescent necklaces cascading from a bauble. Both marine drifters (Desmonema glaciale and Physalia) feature in jellyfish expert Gershwin’s absorbing coffee-table book on this transparent group with three evolutionary lineages. Succinct science is intercut with surreal portraiture — from the twinkling Santa’s hat jellyfish (Periphylla periphylla) to the delicate blue by-the-wind sailor (Velella velella).
And here is another fun reading activity you can do with a friend. Print the Scholastic Summer Reading Mad Libs story starter, grab a friend, and crack yourselves up filling in the story with your answers. If you have never played Mad Libs before, here is what you do:
Print the sheet and don’t let your friend read it first.
Ask your friend to give you words for each blank space on the sheet. The clues in parentheses under the blanks tell you what words your friend should say. For example, the first blank asks for a name, so your friend would tell you any name.
Write down the word your friend says in the space, NO MATTER WHAT the word is!
When you have filled in all the blanks, read your story out loud.
Summer time is right around the corner! You may want to imagine the sun, sand on the beach, and fun doing outdoor activities. However, the dangers of tornado season continues on. In the United States, tornado season typically occurs from March through June depending on the region. The South and the Midwest are the areas where tornadoes occur the most often. Other countries around the world also endure these storms such as South Africa, Argentina, China, and the United Kingdom. Our book Tornado Tamer takes on the re-imagining of the tale, “The Emperor’s New Clothes” where a weasel weaver tricks a whole town into believing an imaginary cover can protect them from tornadoes. Though it is a hilarious situation within our book, tornadoes are a serious danger in real life. Tornadoes can go up to 300 miles per hour and can last up to 1 hour. The wind speeds alone can cause a lot of destruction including the loss of homes, businesses, and the lives of people and animals. To keep you informed and aware, these safety tips are important to know what to do in case the need to use them arises.
Before a Tornado:
Practice tornado drills to know what to do in case one comes.
Listen to local news or radio outlets to stay informed about tornado watches and warnings.
Pick a safe room in your home or nearby building. Preferably a room that is underground without windows. An example is a basement.
Board up windows if at your home and secure any items outdoors such as trash cans and furniture that can be picked up by the high speed winds.
Prepare a disaster kit for your home or car if travel is necessary: First aid kit, flashlights, food, water, and a battery-operated radio/television if the electricity goes out.
During a Tornado:
Go to the safe room that was chosen that is windowless.
Get under a sturdy piece of furniture such as a table.
Do not stay in mobile homes or cars because they offer minimal protection and immediately find shelter in a sturdy building.
If stuck in a vehicle, keep your head down with the seat belt on below the windows and keep yourself covered with your hand.
If stuck outdoors, find a low-lying area and lie flat away from roadways.
Stay away from damaged areas.
After a Tornado:
Check on others that are with you for injuries.
Use the phone only for emergency situations.
Stay tuned to news/radio outlets for updates and new information.
Stay inside until it is reported safe to come out.
Avoid power lines that were knocked down or submerged in water.
Use a flashlight to inspect your home or building for damages.
Stay safe out there and use these tips!
Find out more about tornadoes and other kinds of storms with these books!:
In this adaptation of “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, Mayor Peacock declares he will hire a tornado tamer to protect the town. After a long search, Travis arrives to fill the position and this weasel has a plan. He will build a very special, transparent cover to protect the town. Travis’ magical cover is so transparent that only those smart enough and special enough can even see it. Mouse is doubtful, but his questions are brushed off. Months later, the cover has been hung and Travis has been paid a hefty sum, but a tornado is in the distance and the town is in its path. Will the magic cover protect the town?
Hurricane . . . just the word brings to mind the power of these natural disasters. Humans watch the news and know of impending arrival. We board up windows and gather supplies. We might huddle in our homes or go inland. Then we wait for the storm to arrive. But what do wild animals do? Do they know when a storm is coming? If so, how do they prepare? This book explains how nine animals sense, react, and prepare for a hurricane. Based on research or observations, the brief portraits are explained in simple, poetic language for children of all ages.
Cozy up for this great rainy day read! Prairie Storms gives you a front row seat to learn about a year of ever-changing prairie weather, and how the animals living in these grasslands adapt and survive in this harsh climate. Each month, read about a new animal, and learn about everything from how a prairie grouse can survive the January snows to how an earless lizards escapes the harsh, unrelenting drought of August. Told in lyrical prose, this story is a celebration of the great American prairies. See more about Prairie Storms at http://prairiestorms.com/.
Memorial Day weekend is upon us and we can’t think of a better way to remember and celebrate than with some of our award-winning books!
Teachers- Looking for a way to talk to your students about war this Memorial Day?
Parents- Trying to make your kids understand the importance of remembering those who gave their lives for our country?
We have some great titles that will get your kids interested and help them understand the great sacrifices made by our men and women at arms, what really makes someone a hero, and the impact of war on a level they can relate to.
Set during the ’60s with the Vietnam war going on and World War II popular in the media, Japanese American Donnie Okada always has to be the “bad guy” when he and his friends play war because he looks like the enemy portrayed in the media. When he finally has had enough, Donnie enlists the aid of his 442nd veteran father and Korean War veteran uncle to prove to his friends and schoolmates that those of Asian descent did serve in the U.S. military.
A biography of Ira Hayes, a Pima Indian who was one of the six soldiers to raise the United States flag on Iwo Jima during World War II, an event immortalized by Joe Rosenthal’s Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph.
Through rhythmic words, photos, and original art, this collection of poems about children throughout history focuses on their perceptions of war and how war affects their lives. A great way to introduce the topic of war into discussion with your children and the ramifications they may not have considered.
For some insight from the author, take a look at this interview with Eloise Greenfield. Purchase the book here.
Be sure to leave comments below on how discussions about war went in your classroom or with your own children; we’d love to hear from you!
The Sykes-Picot Agreement, ratified on May 16, 1916, was a concord developed in secret between France and the UK, with acknowledgement of the Russian Empire, that allocated control and influence over much of Southwestern Asia, carving up and establishing much of today’s Middle East, along with Western and Arab sociopolitical tensions. The real reason for the divide? The region’s petroleum fields, and the desire to share in its reserves, but not its pipelines. Rachel Havrelock’s book River Jordan: The Mythology of a Dividing Line considers the implications of yet another border in the region, the river that defines the edge of the Promised Land in the Hebrew Bible—an integral parcel of land for both the Israeli and Palestinian states. With her expertise in the ideologies that undermine much cartography of the region (her book includes a map of the Sykes-Picot Agreement’s splitting of territories), Havrelock understands how the demarcation of influence was central to the production of very specific oil-producing nation states.
In a recent piece for Foreign Affairs, appearing a century after the Sykes-Picot Agreement, Havrelock writes about the potential for the region to remake itself, in the self-image of its peoples and their local resources:
The dissolution of oil concessions could hold the key to this transformation. Consider the Kurdish case. Following the Second Gulf War, private oil companies flocked to Iraq. Iraq’s national oil company reserved the right to pump existing wells with partners of its choosing, but local bodies such as the Kurdistan Regional Government were allowed to explore new wells and forge their own partnerships—a boon to the Kurdish economy.
Kurdish oil shares made all the difference when ISIS emerged in 2014. The largely effective Kurdish Peshmerga fight against ISIS owes to Kurds’ desire to protect not just their homeland but also the resources within it. Kurds harbor longstanding desires for autonomy, but their jurisdiction over local oil is a form of sovereignty—over resources rather than territory—that models a truly post‑Sykes–Picot Middle East. Because Sykes–Picot divided territory in the name of extracting and transporting oil to Europe, reforming the ownership of oil is the first step in dissolving the legacy of colonial administration and authoritarian rule.
Ideally, people across the Middle East should hold shares in local resources and have a say in their sale, use, and conservation. In an age of increased migration, this principle could help people inhabit new places with a sense of belonging and stewardship. Of course, local officials will still need to partner with global firms to drill, refine, and export oil, but such contracts will work best when driven by local needs rather than corporate profits. The Kurdish case proves that local stakeholders will raise an army where oil companies will not.
To read Havrelock’s piece in full at Foreign Affairs, click here.
An art bot is a thing that uses a motor to in some way create art with drawing implements attached to it. There are many different possible designs. This is a guide to make the one I made, which does not require any expensive or hard-to-get materials. Make sure you read the entire procedure before attempting.
You will need:
A large paper or plastic cup that you can cut
At least three markers or colored pencils (markers work a lot better because colored pencils don’t have enough pressure to draw well and need to be sharpened)
An electric toothbrush (you can get really cheap ones at the dollar store)
If they’re not included in the toothbrush, batteries
Remove the motor from the toothbrush. I’m not sure what brand I used, but the motor came out easily. If there aren’t any, put in batteries.
Cut a hole in the bottom of the cup that the motor can fit halfway into. Turn it over so the hole is on top, and tape the motor in halfway so that the end with a button on it is sticking halfway out. If the button is in a different place, find a way to arrange it so it is reachable from outside.
Tape your pencils or markers around the outside of the cup, drawing ends down (away from the motor end). Make sure they are evenly spaced and the drawing ends are the same distance away from the rim of the cup.
Place the art bot on a piece of paper with the motor on top, and turn it on! If not every marker/pencil is drawing, adjust them so that they are all touching the paper.
If you used markers, make sure to cap them when you are done.
From “Live through This,” by Catherine Hollis, her recent essay atPublic Books on how much of our own lives we construct when we read and write memoirs:
In The Dead Ladies Project: Exiles, Expats, and Ex-Countries, Jessa Crispin, the scrappy founding editor of Bookslut and Spolia, finds herself at an impasse when a suicide threat brings the Chicago police to her apartment. She needs a reason to live, and turns to the dead for help. “The writers and artists and composers who kept me company in the late hours of the night: I needed to know how they did it.” How did they stay alive? She decides to go visit them—her “dead ladies”—in Europe, and leave the husk of her old life behind. Crispin’s list includes men and women, exiles and expatriates, each of whom is paired with a European city. Her first port of call is Berlin, and William James. Rather than explicitly narrating her own struggle, Crispin focuses on James’s depressive crisis in Berlin, where as a young man he learned how to disentangle his thoughts and desires from his father’s. Out of James’s own decision to live—“my first act of free will shall be to believe in free will”—the rest of his life takes shape. Crispin reconstructs what it might have felt like to be William James before he was William James, professor at Harvard and author of The Varieties of Religious Experience. If he can live through the uncertainty of a life-in-progress, so too might she.
But not before checking in with Nora Barnacle in Trieste, Rebecca West in Sarajevo, Margaret Anderson in the south of France, W. Somerset Maugham in St. Petersburg, Jean Rhys in London, and the miraculous and amazing surrealist photographer Claude Cahun on Jersey Island. Through each biographical anecdote, each place, Crispin analyzes some issue at work in her own life: wives and mistresses, revolutionaries with messy love lives, and the problem of carting around a suicidal brain. Crispin travels with one suitcase, but a good deal of emotional baggage. While she focuses on each subject’s pain, what she’s seeking is how these writers and artists alchemized their suffering into art, and how that transmutation opens up an individual’s story to others. . . .
In the end, learning how other women and men decided to live helps Crispin decide that suicide is a failure of imagination. “Here is something else you could do,” Crispin’s ladies tell her; here is some other way to live.
To read the piece in full at Public Books, click here.
To read more about The Dead Ladies Project, click here.
The topic of reading levels is always contentious for librarians, educators, booksellers, and authors. A recent article by author Sergio Ruzzier argued against the merits of using reading levels to determine which book is right for a child. In this guest post, author and bookseller Rosanne Parry offers her thoughts on why reading levels can be valuable, despite some of the drawbacks. Welcome, Rosanne!
Reading levels posted on trade fiction for children are a bit of a hot-button issue for those who work in the book world and periodically I hear calls for their complete abolition. I agree that people use reading levels on books unwisely all the time. I believe that in general kids ought to have the widest possible access to the books they choose for themselves. I think there are many mistaken assumptions about what those reading levels mean. However there are useful purposes for reading levels on books.
I started my career as a teacher with a specialty in reading. I did most of my work with learning disabled students. If you are choosing books to use in school for instruction with children who are struggling, then keeping them within the parameters of a book that is just challenging enough but not too frustrating gives optimal progress toward reading fluency. An accurate reading level, manageable book length, accessible font, generous leading and kerning, and affordable price all help a teacher choose useful material for each student.
The temptation to make reading instruction leak over into at-home recreational reading is very strong for a highly motivated parent who is ashamed of a child’s low reading level or overly impressed with a high one. Sometimes this prompts a parent to steer their child away from high quality books that would be developmentally appropriate and captivating, and push them toward books that are decodable but outside the child’s emotional sphere and therefore not very engaging.
Most of the reading levels that publishers put on books are there as a shelving aid for booksellers, rather than a prescription for readers. They have almost nothing to do with the readability of the text and much more to do with the maturity of the content. To be perfectly honest, the vast majority of adult books are written at a 5th-6th grade reading level. The current literary fashion is toward a plain-spoken prose style and simple sentence structure. This drives down the reading level of adult books. But it doesn’t make adult content in a book appropriate for children.
Here’s an example of where I think the publisher’s reading level is helpful. Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit is a short novel about a seven-year old girl. At first glance a bookseller might just toss it on the shelf with Clementine and Captain Underpants. Fortunately, the reading level says 7th grade and up (12+ years). It’s a story about the atrocities of WWII. The seven-year old girl is a fugitive on the run with an adult of dubious motives. She steals from battlefield corpses; she is raped; the ending is ambiguous and not particularly hopeful. It’s a stunning piece of writing and will likely be in the buzz come book award time and rightly so. Nevertheless it’s not a book that serves a second grader well. The reading level helps us get the book in the right spot in our store and because it’s at a discrepancy with the outward appearance of the book, it encourages us to read the whole book and figure out where to best recommend it.
Sometimes we decide to ignore the reading level on a book. When we got Symphony for the City of the Dead by M.T. Anderson last year, we opted to ignore the grade level recommendations and shelve it in adult history where our avid World War II buffs and professional musicians were most likely to find it. It would be less work for the bookseller to shelve all of an author’s work in one spot. But if the author is Ursula LeGuin or Suzanne Collins or Neil Gaiman, the reader is better served by having the adult, young adult, middle grade, and chapter books shelved in separate areas.
Reading levels are one tool among many a bookseller can use. Even in a small bookshop we get in hundreds of new books a week in addition to the classics we always carry. There’s no way even a cohort of dozens of booksellers can analyze every book we carry. So I’m glad there’s a reading level marker that we can use or ignore as we see fit. I’d love for it to be in a magical ink that only a bookseller can see, but until then, part of a booksellers job is to help anxious parents feel good about the quality of books their child is choosing and help them anticipate other books that will give their family joy.
About Rosanne Parry: Rosanne Parry is the author for four middle grade novels from Random House, including her most recent title, The Turn of the Tide. She has been an elementary teacher and is now a part-time book monger at the legacy indie bookstore Annie Blooms. She also teaches children’s and YA literature in the Masters in Book Publishing program at Portland State University. She lives in Portland, Oregon and writes in a treehouse in her back yard. You can find out more about her online here.
Nine is a really rad number, and a really rad age. And here are nine great books that every nine-year-old totally MUST read! From wacky to wild, these books will take you on some seriously awesome adventures.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney Middle school is full of drama — just ask Greg Heffley. After his mom forces him to keep a diary, he starts writing down all the (really hilarious) misadventures and happenings from his school year. Greg and his BFF Rowley get into all sorts of sticky situations that will keep you laughing until your sides hurt. Middle school may be full of drama, but, man, the drama is funny!
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling Nine is the BEST time to start reading Harry Potter (though I strongly believe it’s never too late, even if you’re 119). Harry has had a miserable life so far, losing his parents when he was just an infant and being raised by his dreadful aunt and uncle, but things are about to get pretty magical in his world. When he finds out he’s actually a wizard, he is whisked away to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where all kinds of life-changing adventures await him.
Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren Pippi is the new girl in town, and boy, is she wild! She may have no parents, but she DOES have a pet monkey and a pet horse . . . and a knack for living life freely. The sky’s the limit when it comes to Pippi, and her new neighbors Tommy and Annika are in for a whole lot of wacky surprises!
Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli There seems to be nothing the unusual orphan Maniac Magee can’t do: outrun dogs, untie impossible knots, hit a homerun . . . the list is endless. When Maniac Magee arrives in the town of Two Mills, he hopes to find a home, but it’s not that easy. The troubled small town is very divided, and tensions are about to reach a fever pitch. But Maniac Magee might just be the key to helping everyone find peace.
Time Warp Trio: The Knights of the Kitchen Table by Jon Sciezska and Lane Smith When Joe and his two friends are transported back in time to King Arthur’s court by a magical book, they accidentally defeat the dreaded Black Knight and are mistaken for heroes by King Arthur’s knights. But what will they do when they are confronted with a (really gross) giant and an attacking dragon? And how will they get home?! This super-funny book will keep you guessing — and laughing — as the trio blunder their way from one adventure to the next.
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster Milo is really bored by everything, but that’s all about to change because a mysterious and magical tollbooth has suddenly appeared in his bedroom. Out of boredom (of course), Milo hops into his dusty old toy car, pays the toll, and finds himself driving directly into a wild, wacky world in which each adventure is even more bizarre than the last!
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick Hugo, a young orphan living in the Paris train station, is an expert at staying invisible. But when he meets a most unusual girl and a mysterious toymaker, his life changes. Hugo finds himself thrust headfirst into a mystery that will force him out of hiding for the first time, and reveal more of his own secret past.
Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume Nine-year-old Peter Hatcher has THE. MOST. ANNOYING. BROTHER. EVER. Little, two-year-old Fudge gets away with everything, including tormenting Peter’s pet turtle, Dribble. But one day Fudge’s antics go too far — will Peter ever be able to forgive him?
My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George Have you ever wondered what it might be like to live in the wild? Sam Gribley is fed up with living in a cramped apartment with his parents and eight (Eight!! Can you imagine?) siblings in New York City, so he runs away to his grandparents’ home upstate. What he’s not ready for is the harsh wilderness living he encounters, but armed with the survival skills preparation and endless curiosity, Sam just might have what it takes to last the winter..
Which books from this list have you read? Which books do you think every nine-year-old should read? Share your thoughts in the Comments below!
Okay, but when she dismisses a detractor’s charge that “nothing happened in France in ’68. Institutions didn’t change, the university didn’t change, conditions for workers didn’t change — nothing happened,” I have to wonder. Yes, something happened in the moment, with echoes that went on resonating for a few more years — but really, what long-term upshot did it have? That it’s hard to point to one is sobering, and to brush that aside seems to me too much like turning an uprising into (an unfortunate understanding of) a work of art: useless, complete in and of itself, to be admired, wondered at, and taken as exemplary. From May ’68 to the Arab Spring and Occupy, these beautiful apparitions, so easily quashed, can seem in retrospect a great argument for Leninism, and I can’t help sympathizing with, of all people, the embittered Maoist veteran of May, quoted by Ross, who came away from it with the lesson: “Never seize speech without seizing power.” Except that anyone who thinks they know how to do that is probably deluded.
To read the Hyperallergic piece in full, click here.
To read more about May ’68 and Its Afterlives, click here.
Baseball is America’s pastime and millions of people watch the Super Bowl every year. While these mainstream sports get all the attention, there are super-wacky sports played all over the globe.
Every year, Port Lincoln is home to the Tuna Tossing World Championship. The rules are simple: contestants try to toss a 10 kilogram tuna as far as they can. The world record is 25 meters.
Cheese rolling may sounds like a simple sport, but is actually very dangerous. Participants chase a wheel of cheese down a steep hill and the first person to grab the cheese wins. While the rules are simple enough, most people end up falling head over heals in their attempt to catch the coveted cheese.
Bun climbing is an annual competition held at the Cheung Chau Bun Festival in China. Men compete in a race to climb towers decorated in steamed buns and bamboo. The person to collect the most buns wins.
Bossaball is a wacky sport that combines soccer, volleyball, gymnastics, and a trampoline. The game is played a lot like volleyball, but teams can use their feet, head, and hands to touch the ball. Also, the court has a giant trampoline in the middle to help people get giant jumps.
Quidditch is the flying sport played in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Although they can’t fly, Muggles actually play Quidditch by running around on a field with brooms between their legs.
It seems like every year someone is inventing a new wacky sport. What wacky sports would you like to play? Tell us in the Comments!
Go nuts for acorns in the new Ice Age movie! Ice Age: Collision Course is out this summer—check out the cosmically crazy trailer.
“Who’s dumb enough to think they can stop an asteroid?”
Comedy and cosmic craziness is the order of the day in Ice Age: Collision Course, the newest addition to the fun films in the Ice Age family from 20th Century Fox and Blue Sky Studios. Featuring the voices of Ray Romano, Jennifer Lopez, and more, Ice Age: Collision Course crashes into theaters on July 22, 2016.
A prehistoric saber-toothed squirrel named Scrat ventures out on an ongoing quest to track down and bury an acorn. Seems easy, right?
Things never quite go as planned for Scrat, and the chain of events that he sets off are at the center of the trouble in the new movie. It’s up to the whole herd to save the Ice Age World from meteorite madness, but THAT’S WHAT FRIENDS ARE FOR! AM I RIGHT, SQUAD?
Check out the trailer, and let us know what adventures you’ve gotten into lately with your “herd” in the Comments section below!
We can hardly believe how fast the year is flying by! Memorial Day weekend is just around the corner, which means summer is officially here. We’re looking forward to nice weather, beaches, and of course, our new titles out this month!
We’re very excited to introduce our new May releases – there’s sure to be something for everyone!
By Sylvia Liu, illus. by Christina Forshay
Hardcover, 32 pages
Ages 5 to 8
A curious and active Chinese American girl spends the day learning tai chi from her grandfather, and in turn tries to teach him how to do yoga. Winner of our New Voices Award.
“Debut author Liu scores with a sweet story about the joys of intergenerational relationships. The love between the two shines through in both text and illustrations. A fine example of contemporary multicultural literature.” —Kirkus Reviews
By Gwendolyn Hooks, illus. by Colin Bootman
Hardcover, 32 pages
Ages 7 to 12
The life story of Vivien Thomas, an African American surgical technician who developed the first procedure used to perform open-heart surgery on children.
“Beyond the crucial message of perseverance and spotlight on prejudiced attitudes that still resonate today, this middle-grade picture book illuminates the life of little-known man whose innovations continue to be essential to modern medicine.” —Booklist, starred review
By Kimberly Reid
Hardcover, 384 pages
Ages 12 and up
Andrea Faraday, a society girl with a sketchy past, leads a crew of juvie kids in using their criminal skills for good.
“Crime, intrigue, and deceit abound in this novel about a biracial teen embracing her criminal instincts in order to thwart a treacherous plot. Gripping, suspenseful, and refreshingly diverse.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review
You may know that Scholastic has Message Boards where you can sign on and post messages to other kids like you. It’s a great place to go and (safely) meet other kids who read the same books as you, like the same things, and have the problems.
1.What do you do in your free time? A) Write stories. B) Read books. C) Play video games. D) Make stuff. E) Play outside.
2.What is the best gift you have ever received? A) A new notebook. B) A signed book by my favorite author. C) An Xbox. D) Arts and crafts supplies. E) A pet.
3.What is your favorite book about? A) It’s blank. B) Something fictional. C) Minecraft. D) How to make homemade cards. E) Animals.
4.Where is your dream vacation spot? A) Unlimited time at my desk. B) A cozy villa with a library and an oceanfront view. C) The world’s largest arcade. D) Art camp.E) The Rainforest.
5.What is your favorite snack? A) Pretzel sticks. No mess on my papers, please! B) An ice cream sandwich . . . when I finish my book, of course. C) Goldfish crackers. D) Homemade cookies with rainbow icing. E) Fruit.
6. Favorite drink? A) Water. B) Hot chocolate. C) Soda. D) Fruit smoothie. E) Lemonade.
7. How would your friends describe you? A) Creative. B) Bookwormy. C) Boss. D) Crafty/creative. E) Caring.
8. How do you wear your hair? A) Long braid out of my face. B) Ponytail/bun/down. It’s gonna come undone anyway, C) C I don’t care! I’m about to beat this level! D) Different ways. I like to experiment with my style. E) Loose and natural.
9. What is the most important piece of furniture in your bedroom? A) My desk. B) My bookshelf/comfy reading spot. C) My tv/Xbox. D) My craft bin. E) My bed because that’s where I snuggle with my pet.
10. If there were only one store on your planet, what would it be? A) Office Depot. B) Barnes and Noble. C) GameStop. D) Hobby Lobby. E) PetSmart.
Mostly A’s: Fan Fiction Board!
You should spend all your time there, writing stories and giving suggestions to other writers.
Mostly B’s: Reading Buzz Board!
Get and post book lists, reviews, and talk to other book-obsessed kids!
Mostly C’s: Stack Back!
You can talk about pretty much anything here, games, school, friends, and life stuff. You also need to check out the Minecraft forum!
Mostly D’s: Crafts & DIY all the way!
Post your ideas and read other peoples
Mostly E’s: Save the Planet Board!
This Board is for people who love planet Earth and want to save the environment for ALL creatures.
Which Board did you get? No matter what, you will be welcome on all the Boards! Go and introduce yourself. And say a special “Hello!” to ReadingBrainy 26 who wrote this quiz. I promise you will meet lots of new friends!
My wife and I sit all by ourselves at the table for 10, awaiting Monsieur Scorsese. Around us, desperate and harried waiters ricochet from table to table with steaming tureens of fish soup and groaning platters of whole lobster, grilled fish, garlic paste, crisp toast, boiled potatoes, and the other accoutrements of a bowl of bouillabaisse. To occupy an unused table in a busy French restaurant is to be the object of dirty looks from every waiter; if you are going to be late, be late—don’t be the ones who get there early and take the heat.
Around us, tout le Hollywood slurps its soup. There is Rob Friedman, second in command at Paramount. Over there is Woody Harrelson, who explains he partied till 6 A.M. and then slept two hours, and that was 15 hours ago. He wears the same thoughtful facial expression that his character in Kingpin did when his hand was amputated in the bowling ball polisher. Next to him is Milos Forman, who directed him in The People vs. Larry Flynt. Across from him is director Sydney Pollack (Tootsie). Across from him is director John Boorman (Deliverance). All of these people regard their bouillabaisse like poker players with a good hand.
“It is no more, sorry, impossible! You must now to go outside!” cries the owner. He wrings his hands with anguish. “The people who are waiting, they are very angry! I cannot wait them no more! Impossible! Monsieur Scorsese plus tard! Monsieur DeNiro, etc., etc.”
We are banished from the table and go to wait outside in the road. Tétou is so small that you are either seated at a table or standing on the curb dodging Renaults and motorbikes. The Scorsese table has been given to angry patrons who have been waiting outside for, one gathers, days or weeks. I picture them in pup tents. Immediately after we are evicted, Monsieur Scorsese arrives—but not in time to beat out the new occupants of his table, who sit down with the air of wronged exiles returning to their ancestral homeland.
“Jeez, what are we, 15 minutes late?” asks Scorsese. His party includes his agent Rick Nicita, his collaborator Rafael Donatello, his friend Helen Morris, his agent Manny Nunez, Touchstone execs Jordi Ross and Mimi Hare, his producer Barbara de Fina, and his assistant Kim Sockwell. Counting us, there are 11, not 10. No problem, since there is no room for any of us.
Four of us are parked at a table in the corner while the rest of the party hovers uncertainly beside the traffic lanes. We are promised seating in five minutes. Well, not precisely five minutes, but cinq minutes, which is a French expression translating as “five unspecified units of time.”
I do my imitation of the restaurateur saying “impossible.” Scorsese is delighted: “He sounds exactly like Susan Alexander’s vocal coach in Citizen Kane, telling Orson Welles that his wife will never be an opera singer.”
To read the excerpt in full at Esquire, click here.
To read more about Two Weeks in the Midday Sun, click here.
Tu Books, the middle grade and young adult imprint of respected multicultural children’s publisher LEE & LOW BOOKS, is thrilled to announce that author Supriya Kelkar has won its third annual New Visions Award for her middle grade historical fiction novel, Ahimsa.
The award honors a middle grade or young adult novel for young readers by an author of color who has not previously published a novel for that age group. It was established to encourage new talent and to offer authors of color a chance to break into a tough and predominantly white market.
Ahimsa takes place in 1940s India, an era of great change as Indian citizens fight for independence from British colonial rule. When ten-year-old Anjali’s mother announces that she has quit her job to become a Freedom Fighter following Mahatma Gandhi, Anjali must find her place in a rapidly changing world.
The story was inspired by Kelkar’s own great-grandmother, who joined the freedom movement against the British. “She worked alongside Gandhi and spent time in jail, too, for her part in the nonviolent movement,” Kelkar says. “I hope that readers can be inspired by the fact that people were able to make such a huge impact on their world not through war, but through non-violence.” Kelkar will receive a cash prize of $1,000 and a publication contract with Tu Books.
One manuscript received the New Visions Award Honor: Alexandra Aceves’ young adult horror story Children of the River Ghost. Set in contemporary Albuquerque, Children of the River Ghost is a unique reimagining of the la llorona myth told through the eyes of La Llorona herself. “I wanted to give her a voice, to give her the opportunity to tell her side of the story,” Aceves says. Aceves will receive a cash prize of $500.
There were three New Visions Award finalists: Alex Brown (Hate Crime), Hilda Burgos (The Castle of Kings), and Elizabeth Stephens (The Rougarou).
Last year, books by authors of color comprised less than eleven percent of the total number of books published for young readers, according to the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The annual New Visions Award is a step toward the day when all young readers can see themselves in books.
Congratulations to all of the New Visions Award winners and finalists — we look forward to seeing your future books!
There is an open audition in Anaheim, CA on May 15. If you want to prepare at home, here’s the script:
PEYTON (MORNING, getting ready for school)
It’s like the adults had a meeting and said: “You know how teenagers have a biological need to sleep late? Let’s make them go to school super-crazy early!” Luckily I’ve got sports to keep me going. My family moves a lot for my dad’s job. Not great for making friends. But sports? They’re always there for me. I’ve got a jersey for every mood. Am I feeling Basketball “FUN,” Football “TOUGH” or Soccer “FOCUSED?” Which one says, “Today’s the Start of Something New…YET AGAIN”….??
(Pretends to hold up Soccer jersey) So “Soccer,” you gonna help me “Get My Head in the Game?!”
Sometimes to save the day, a good girl’s gotta be bad.
White Collar meets Oceans 11 in our new YA novel, Perfect Liars. We interviewed author Kimberly Reid on how to craft the perfect heist novel, her writing tips, and breaking stereotypes.
Why was it important to you to depict an interracial relationship in your story?
In the real world, interracial relationships exist. I’ve been in one with my Korean husband since college. Teen readers may not think this is a big deal, but when we met in the late 1980s, long before K-pop, K-dramas, and Korean fusion food trucks made the culture more accessible to Americans, it was kind of a big deal. Back then, as Koreans immigrated and settled into traditionally black neighborhoods of large cities, relations between our communities were tense. I wasn’t quite as young as the characters in Perfect Liars, but I remember what it was like to be young and in a relationship for which I had no model, one that was seen as “exotic” at best and flat-out wrong at worst. The world has shifted a lot in thirty years, and kids have more models now but it’s still important to me that my books reflect the real world. And unfortunately, we’re often reminded how little shift there has been. Just last week, people lost their minds over an interracial Old Navy ad.
What research did you do to create a convincing heist novel?
That aspect of the book probably took the least research since the heist isn’t a huge player in the story, though I had to do a lot of Googling on the high-end antiques business. I didn’t want the target of the thieves to be the usual things—money, jewelry, art—though that’s in there, too. So I decided to go with fine antiques. The legal aspects took up most of my research time. Luckily, I come from a law enforcement family so it was fairly easy to ask any question that popped into my head. When I was writing the book, my much younger sister had recently passed the bar exam and she’d also been an English major in undergrad, so she was the perfect person to help. The law was really fresh for her, and she didn’t get bored with all my writerly talk of plot and motivation.
Who are your favorite heist writers? What are some of your favorite heist movies or shows?
I don’t really have a favorite heist writer, but I have watched many heist movies, like The Italian Job and Ocean’s Eleven (the original and the newer versions), Rififi, The Score, and Inside Man. But it was actually a TV show called Leverage that gave me part of the inspiration for Perfect Liars. The main premise came from an alternative school in my town that is run by a juvie court judge and was once housed in our city’s justice center, along with courtrooms and the sheriff’s office. But I needed to turn that into a story and decided to have former juvie kids use their criminal skills for good. In Leverage, a band of criminals, led by a former investigator, use their various talents to help people in need.
How is writing fiction different than writing a memoir (No Place Safe)?
The biggest difference is telling the truth versus making stuff up. With fiction, you can make the story go the way you want. Writing memoir is all about the truth and sometimes the truth hurts. No Place Safe is the story of growing up during the two-year-long Atlanta Missing and Murdered Children investigation, on which my mother was a lead investigator. I was thirteen when the murders began, and I wrote the story from my thirteen-year-old’s perspective, but with the insight of an adult looking back on that time. It was my first published book, and writing it helped me figure out what I wanted to do from that point on. I like writing from a teen point of view (but I find it more difficult than writing for adults!). Though I write crime fiction, I prefer using humor in my stories rather than a darker voice. Most importantly, I’d much rather invent stories than tell the truth.
What advice would you give to writers that want to write heist novels?
In a heist novel, the entire book is about the planning and execution of a heist, and then how the characters deal with the fallout. There is some of that in Perfect Liars, but it isn’t really a heist novel. Publishers Weekly calls it “a socially conscious crime thriller” and I like that description. The heist more or less sets up the story; it isn’t the story. If I had to give it a subgenre, it’s probably more con artist than heist. But I’d give the same advice I’d give a writer of any genre: do your research. I do lots of research and still miss something every time. And your readers will call you on it every time. I can be a little Type A and used to think, “Oh, no! How did I miss that?” Now, I realize I can’t change the book once it is out in the world, so I view it as, “I have some really smart and observant readers. They’ll keep me on my toes as I research the next book.”
A few months ago, LEE & LOW released the Diversity Baseline Survey, which revealed that a significant percentage of publishing staff is comprised of white women. Were you shocked by these numbers? What is a way publishing might be able to improve these numbers?
I’ve been black all my life, and a traditionally published writer for nearly a decade, so no, I wasn’t surprised. More surprising—and heartening—was the response to the survey from the participants. I was glad to see Big Five publishers participate. As sad as the numbers are, I think being truthful about them and willing to contribute honest data is a good start. As far as improving the numbers, I think decision-makers need to make an aggressive effort to recruit diverse employees. I don’t mean run job ads on sites focused on minorities or maybe participate in diversity job fairs for new college grads. I mean start early, show marginalized high school students the possibility of publishing as a career through education and internships. The science disciplines are doing this through STEM program education and recruitment as early as middle school. Another suggestion is to let go of the idea that everyone must work in Manhattan, which puts a publishing career out of economic reach for most. The film industry has figured that out. While Hollywood may always be the headquarters, lots of movies are being made in studios in lower cost cities like Atlanta and Vancouver, and using local production talent. Maybe have self-contained imprints, from acquisitions to sales reps, as field offices. I think this would also help publishing become less New York-centric and keep publishers in closer touch with what’s going on in the rest of the country in terms of demographics, cultural trends, and social movements. And to loop back to my first suggestion, publishing needs more decision-makers from marginalized backgrounds. It’s hard to acknowledge there’s a problem when you’ve never experienced the problem, and you can’t fix what you don’t perceive as broken, or at least, fully understand how broken the thing is.
Many of the juvenile delinquents that Drea works with challenge her assumptions about what they are truly like. Why is it important to challenge Drea’s (and the reader’s) assumptions about these characters?
I won’t lie—I can be judgey. A big part of being a writer is watching the world and trying to understand people, and hopefully, attempting to empathize with some of what we see. It’s hard to do that if you aren’t willing to see there’s more than one perspective. So I brought a lot of that to Drea’s character. I also wanted to show that we are not monolithic. Of the relatively few books that are published with brown or black leads, the odds favor us being depicted as broke, oppressed, undereducated, and in need of salvation. Drea is the opposite of these things despite being a racial minority. And also despite that, she views the world from a place of privilege. Part of her evolution is seeing that she has obtained her privilege in a questionable way, and also that, when it comes down to it, some people will always see her the way they want, no matter her money, class, or education. She learns this by seeing how others like her are treated and eventually realizes she has the means to help correct some of that.
The push for more diverse books has increased in the past two years. What do you hope to see from forthcoming books?
I’d like to see more fun books with racially marginalized characters. While these things are huge aspects of our past and, unfortunately, what still lies ahead, we aren’t always trying to throw off the yoke of oppression, dealing with the legacy of slavery or the marginalization that comes with being immigrants. Books from white writers with white leads don’t carry this burden. They can be fun for entertainment’s sake, and that’s just fine. Historically, publishing hasn’t given the same freedom to writers of color. We have had to come with the deep and profound, or not come at all. Kids of color should have a variety to choose from, should be able to walk into a library or store and pick the thing they’re dying to read, not the thing an adult (publishers, teachers, librarians, parents) has deemed they should read because of what they look like or where they came from. That choice can include a history of their people, but let them also have a fun mystery, an interracial romance, a fantasy in which a kid who looks like them is the slayer of dragons. Every young reader deserves that.
What’s one of your favorite sentences, either from your own writing or from someone else’s?
Can I give a few? I love this description of a season’s change from Toni Morrison’s Sula:
“Then summer came. A summer limp with the weight of blossomed things. Heavy sunflowers weeping over fences; iris curling and browning at the edges far away from their purple hearts; ears of corn letting their auburn hair wind down to their stalks. And the boys. The beautiful, beautiful boys who dotted the landscape like jewels, split the air with their shouts in the field, and thickened the river with their shining wet backs. Even their footsteps left a smell of smoke behind.”
I bow to Ms. Morrison.
If you were putting together your own team to pull off a heist, who would be on it and why?
I’d need a computer genius. I once worked in the tech world—which is increasingly becoming the world—and computer geeks make it go round. I’d want a great con artists or two because I wouldn’t want to use brute force. If I’m going to be a criminal, I’d rather manipulate people into giving me what I want rather than physically hurting them into doing it. They’re both bad, but for some reason, the con seems less bad than the violence. Certainly I’d want someone who could break into anything, probably two thieves—one high tech, one old school because you never know if you’re going to run into an antique safe or something. Those would be the minimal requirements. Nice-to-have additions would be a chemist, physicist, and an engineer. They are like the MacGyvers of the world. Between them, when all else fails, they could probably figure a way out of any jam.
American history + rap music + clever, story-telling lyrics = Hamilton. Alexander Hamilton has an amazing story to tell, and his life is brought to life by the Broadway musical, Hamilton. It’s already won the Pulitzer Prize and was just nominated for 16 Tony Awards – the most in Broadway history! Tickets are pretty much impossible to get, but you can listen to the amazing soundtrack to get a taste of what it’s like. (I’m totally obsessed!)
A little backstory . . . Alexander Hamilton was born in the West Indies around 1755. His father abandoned him, and his mom died when he was 12. After a hurricane destroyed his town, he jumped on a boat to New York and carved a name for himself. He was rejected from Princeton University, faced discrimination as an immigrant, but used his strong personality and “power of the pen” to get ahead. He became General Washington’s right-hand-man in the Revolutionary War, part of the new U.S. Government Cabinet, helped write the Federalist Papers, founded the NY Post newspaper, the first bank in the U.S. and basically established the American banking system. He died in a pistol duel with the U.S. Vice President Aaron Burr. Lots of other drama too!
Catch a beat with our Hamilton Trivia Quiz based on Hamiltunes from the musical soundtrack.
1. What song has these lyrics?
“As a kid in the Caribbean I wished for a war.
I knew that I was poor;
I knew that it was the only way to
The elephant is in the room.
The truth is in ya face when ya hear the British cannons go . . .
2. The song “You’ll Be Back” is sung by King George of which country?
Hint: He is not happy over the colonies wanting to break up with him, so he sings madly . . .
“Time will tell.
You’ll remember that I served you well.
Oceans rise, empires fall.
We have seen each other through it all.
And when push comes to shove . . .
I will send a fully armed battalion to remind you of my love!
Da da dat dat daaaaa . . .”
3. Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr are long-time rivals. Hamilton loves to taunt Burr with the phrase: ”If you stand for nothing, Burr, what’ll you_________?” A) Fall for? B) Eat for dinner? C) End up doing for the rest of your life?
4. What song has these lyrics?
“I’m not throwin’ away my shot!
I’m not throwin’ away my shot!
Ayo, I’m just like my country;
I’m young, scrappy, and hungry.
I’m not throwin’ away my shot!”
5. When Thomas Jefferson comes home from Paris, he sings a song “What’d I Miss?” about which state?
“So what did I miss?
What’d I miss?
___________ , my home sweet home, I wanna give you a kiss.”
Name that state! A) Oregon B) Virginia C) Texas
6. Was Alexander Hamilton Secretary of State OR Secretary of the Treasury?
Look at the lyrics from the song “Schuyler Defeated” for a clue:
(Sung by Aaron Burr to Hamilton) “Oh, Wall Street thinks you’re great. You’ll always be adored by the things you create.”
7. In the song “The Room Where it Happens”, Aaron Burr sings, “Or did you know, even then, it doesn’t matter where you put the U.S. Capital?”
Hamilton answers, “Cuz we’ll have the banks, we’re in the same spot. And I wanted what I got.”
What city instead of Washington D.C. was the U.S. Capital supposed to originally be in? (But Hamilton made sure the banking center of the nation was there, which he thought was just as important).
8. In the last song of the show “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story,” who is credited for telling the story of Hamilton’s life? A) George Washington B) Aaron Burr C) His wife Eliza
Did you score front-row answers? Check below to find out:
ANSWER: “Right Hand Man”: the song where General George Washington (later to be President) picks Alexander Hamilton as his right hand man in battle.
ANSWER: King George of England. (The King George songs are hilarious – some of my faves!)
ANSWER: “Fall for.” (Oooh – take that Burr!) Alexander prided himself on being a man of strong opinions. He thought Burr was always too afraid to take a stand.
ANSWER: “My Shot” (possibly my favorite song on the soundtrack).
ANSWER: Secretary of Treasury.
ANSWER: New York City.
ANSWER: His wife Eliza. They had mad drama, but she forgave him and interviewed soldiers he fought with, went over thousands of pages of his writings, carried on his fight against slavery, and established the first orphanage in New York City.
What do you guys think of Hamilton? Has it gotten you interested in American history? What are your favorite songs? Let us know, in the Comments!
Captain Underpants and the Sensational Saga of Sir Stinks a Lot
I’m sure you’ve all heard about the Captain Underpants series, right? Well, the newest 12th novel of the series is out, and I LOVE it! I really like this story because it has a lot of humor; it is really action-packed, and I love the characters. The main characters are George, Harold, Mr. Meaner, and Captain Underpants. Their characters make the story really fun and interesting to read. The characters are very funny, in particular Captain Underpants and the teachers. If you see Mr. Meaner at all, watch out! He might spray you with a little something . . .
Not to spoil the story, but here is the main gist of what goes on. A planet just like Earth, but called Smart Earth, explodes (Read the book to find out how and why . . .), and a small piece flies out and lands on Earth, right in front of Mr. Meaner (the notorious gym teacher), and let’s just say things don’t work out very well! After EATING the piece of Smart Earth, he becomes really smart, obviously. He invents a spray called Rid-o-Kid 2000 and bad things happen, very bad things.
Dav Pilkey is a great author and really makes this story come to life. He does this by being very descriptive with his writing, and he uses this thing called Flip-O-Rama. Flip-O-Rama is a special comic book type of animated pictures. By flipping pages back and forth a certain way, Flip-O-Rama™ makes the pictures look really cool and animated.
I would highly recommend for all of you to read this great series, Captain Underpants, if you want to get lost in a great sea of awesomeness. Read a sneak peek here.
Staying outside of that mainstream, Crispin said, had some professional costs. “We didn’t generate people that are now writing for the New Yorker,” Crispin said. “If we had, I would have thought that we were failures anyway.” She’s bored by the New Yorker. In fact, of the current crop of literary magazines, she said only the London Review of Books currently interested her, especially articles by Jenny Diski or Terry Castle. Of the New Yorker itself, she said: “It’s like a dentist magazine.”
Crispin’s general assessment of the current literary situation is fairly widely shared in, of all places, New York. It is simply rarely voiced online. Writers, in an age where an errant tweet can set off an avalanche of op-eds more widely read than the writers’ actual books, are cautious folk.
And Crispin can’t stand the way some of these people have become boosters of the industry just at the moment of what she sees as its decline. “I don’t know why people are doing this, but people are identifying themselves with the system,” Crispin said. “So if you attack publishing, they feel that they are personally being attacked. Which is not the case.”
It’s not that she doesn’t understand these writers’ reasoning. “Everything is so precarious, and none of us can get the work and the attention or the time that we need, and so we all have to be in job-interview mode all of the time, just in case somebody wants to hire us,” Crispin added. “So we’re not allowed to say, ‘The Paris Review is boring as fuck!’ Because what if the Paris Review is just about to call us?” The freedom from such questions is something Crispin personally cherishes.
I left it slightly ambiguous in the book, on purpose, because it feels like we know it when we see it. Traditionally, we think of patterns as something that just repeats again and again throughout space in an identical way, sort of like a wallpaper pattern. But many patterns that we see in nature aren’t quite like that. We sense that there is something regular or at least not random about them, but that doesn’t mean that all the elements are identical. I think a very familiar example of that would be the zebra’s stripes. Everyone can recognize that as a pattern, but no stripe is like any other stripe.
I think we can make a case for saying that anything that isn’t purely random has a kind of pattern in it. There must be something in that system that has pulled it away from that pure randomness or at the other extreme, from pure uniformity.
Why did you decide to write a book about natural patterns?
At first, it was a result of having been an editor at Nature. There, I started to see a lot of work come through the journal—and through scientific literature more broadly—about this topic. What struck me was that it’s a topic that doesn’t have any kind of natural disciplinary boundaries. People that are interested in these types of questions might be biologists, might be mathematicians, they might be physicists or chemists. That appealed to me. I always liked subjects that don’t respect those traditional boundaries.
But I think also it was the visuals. The patterns are just so striking, beautiful and remarkable.
Then, underpinning that aspect is the question: How does nature without any kind of blueprint or design put together patterns like this? When we make patterns, it is because we planned it that way, putting the elements into place. In nature, there is no planner, but somehow natural forces conspire to bring about something that looks quite beautiful.
To read more about Patterns in Nature, click here.