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Two years ago I wrote a piece called The Scourge of Upside Down Knitting in which I raged unto the heavens against picture books where the artists put little work into bothering to figure out if knitting needles should be held up or down. Well, it’s time for me to apologize to those illustrators. If depicting knitting needles with the ends to the sky is irresistible to you, you’re in good company. Seems that every picture book illustrator of the past put you on the wrong path early.
Today, we rank the great illustrators history and see how precisely they’ve chosen to portray knitters. As a refresher, here is how you hold knitting needles:
The method of holding them with the ends up is not unheard of, but it is rare. For example, I tried to find a Google Image of that particular style for the piece and failed utterly.
From Worst to Best: Knitting in Children’s Literature
To be fair, I know very little about the fibers of Truffula Trees. It is possible that one has to . . . um . . . Okay, I’m not entirely certain what the Onceler’s family is doing here. They appear to be stabbing the fibers in a downward manner with their needles, miraculously producing thneeds. This exact image isn’t exactly from the book (I think it’s wallpaper) but it’s an accurate depiction of what Seuss drew. Whatever floats your boats, guys. Just don’t call it knitting.
Et tu, Eastman? I was merrily reading Robert the Rose Horse when I saw this image. I may have to give Eastman points for the inherent humor of it, though. Knitting without digits. Think about it for a moment.
I’m with you, kitten. Shocked SHOCKED that the great Garth Williams failed to get this right.
No word on whether or not Moominmamma . . . oh, wait.
Darn it. No pun intended.
Wait! This just in! I believe this is an image from Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. If so, then this cat isn’t knitting but tatting. And if she is tatting then it’s possible the needles go up, right? So let’s just find an image of someone tatting.
So much for that.
I think we may have a winner. Yes, it looks like it. Granted, she’s put the knitting down on her lap to whisper “Hush” to the bunny in the bed, but I think it very likely that the needles were held correctly before then. Shall we give it to him?
Okay. Enough with the deceased. Let’s see how some of our contemporary masters fare in this game.
Didn’t see that one coming.
YES!! And Pinkney for the win! The cat’s needles are down, I REPEAT! The cat’s needles are down!
Paul O. Zelinsky
Considering how much work Paul put into getting the spinning wheel right in Rumpelstiltskin, it’s little wonder he’d get the knitting right in Swamp Angel.
Cheating a bit here. This is from one of Sophie’s Missed Connections pieces and not from a children’s book, but it at least proves that if knitting ever does come up in one of her books, she’ll know what to do about it.
I suspect I would have had a small heart attack if it turned out that Ms. Brett didn’t know knitting. She has, after all, portrayed some of the greatest illustrations of stitching ever seen in a picture book.
Notable missing illustrators aren’t listed here simply because I couldn’t figure out if they ever depicted knitting in their books. Hence the lack of John Steptoe, Maurice Sendak, Trina Schart Hyman, Grace Lin, Tomie de Paola, Yuyi Morales, and others. If you’ve inside knowledge on the matter, have at it. Other contemporary illustrators like Lauren Castillo or Jon Klassen can be found on the previous piece about knitting books in 2014.
Have a favorite I didn’t include? Let me know!
Alcatraz Versus the Shattered Lens. Brandon Sanderson. 2010. Scholastic. 294 pages. [Source: Library]
First sentence: So there I was, holding a pink teddy bear in my hand.
Premise/plot: The fourth book in the Alcatraz fantasy series for children. Is Alcatraz brave or stupid in this one? He insists that bravery and stupidity are essentially the same. The free kingdom of Mokia is in danger of falling. Their capital city seems doomed to fall within days...if not hours. The royal family has been evacuated, so we're told, and unless a famous person whose life is so very, very, very valuable is there to be saved, no knights or soldiers will be endangered or sacrificed recklessly. Alcatraz's scheme? To go to Mokia so that the KNIGHTS will go to Mokia. Once he arrives, he learns, well, that would be SPOILERS. But he learns that he isn't the only person with Smedry blood to be stupid or brave. Bastille is along for this adventure....Kaz as well.
The new character introduced in this one is Aydee, and, her talent is being BAD AT MATH.
My thoughts: This one is definitely the best of the series perhaps. Or rereading all four books within two weeks has made me care so very much about these characters?! Either way, I recommend the series.
This book left so many unanswered questions. I had almost come to terms with having no true answers...when I learned that the fifth book will be released this year. So after years, I can finally know what happens next!
© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
Title: The Taming of the Drew
Author: Stephanie Kate Strohm
Summary: Headed out to play Kate in a summer stock theatre's production of The Taming of the Shrew, Cass runs afoul of her very own Petruchio . . . who of course turns out to be playing Petruchio in the show. Drew is a persnickety know-it-all who's just begging for a setdown - and Cass is more than up for the challenge.
First Impressions: A cute but slight retelling of Taming of the Shrew. The ending came way too fast and I didn't quite believe it.
Later On: The more I think about this book, the more I'm coming down on the "meh" side. While Drew was pretty obnoxious at times, some of the pranks Cass played could have been genuinely dangerous, such as the one that irritated his extreme allergies. (As someone with allergy-related asthma, I got really worried that he was going to wind up in the hospital.) If I were a guy who'd been having a really awful summer and found out that one girl was behind my inability to sleep because of phantom noises, my clothes all being dyed pink, and other annoyances, I wouldn't be kissing her at the end.
At least some of that emotion is probably my feelings about the source material, which with its themes of emotional and physical abuse, is one of the Shakespeare plays that make modern audiences very uncomfortable. There's some attempt to examine the complexities of putting on the play in a time of wildly different gender roles, but Strohm mostly abandons that in order to uncomplicatedly replicate the original with a gender reversal.
Still, the summer stock theater tropes (wacko director, varying stereotypes of actors) are pretty funny and Cass does have an encounter with fame that forces her to rethink who and what is worth being attracted to. If you can switch off your brain and your nitpick engine (not my strength, obviously), you could probably enjoy this novel.
The Scourge. Jennifer A. Nielsen. 2016. Scholastic. 368 pages. [Source: Review copy]
First sentence: Few things were worth the risk to my life, but the juicy vinefruit was one of them. Even more so today because I was long past hungry. If I didn't eat something soon, my life was in danger anyway.
Premise/plot: Ani and Weevil are best, best friends who will face much DANGER together in Jennifer Nielsen's newest fantasy book, The Scourge. It has been hundreds of years since the plague--the scourge--has devastated their country. The scourge has left its mark on their history. And the fear of it has never completely gone away. Now, it seems, almost out of nowhere, the scourge is back. Those who test positive for the scourge are sent to an isolated island--a former prison--to live out the rest of their lives. Ani and Weevil end up there. (It's complicated to try to summarize). And they will spend most of their time a) trying to survive b) distinguishing between lies and truth c) trying to change the way things are.
My thoughts: If you love Shannon Hale's fantasy novels, you MUST read The Scourge. I greatly enjoyed this one. And I think it has a similar feel to some of Hale's novels. This one is, however, different from Nielsen's other series. It is perhaps slightly less action-packed than her previous books. And it is written from a female perspective.
© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
Ape and Armadillo Take Over the World by James Sturm is my new favorite book. I fell in love with TOON Books when I discovered them in 2008, just around the time my youngest was learning to read. Having been through this process with my two older children, I was not looking forward to the tired old leveled readers that we were left to slog through after classics like Frog & Toad, Little Bear and Poppleton. Françoise Mouly and her quest to bring engaging, marvelously illustrated graphic novels into the world of beginning readers has meant that there are now over 50 fantastic books to take your new reader from sight words to chapter books.
If you have read even a few beginning readers, you know that unlikely friends and the complexities of friendship are the staple of this genre. With Ape and Armadillo, Sturm has created the only duo who could even remotely rival Frog and Toad. And an armadillo! How many armadillo characters are there in kid's books to begin with? Happily, the title page shows Ape juggling, a curled up Armadillo among the balls in the air. Sturm's illustrations are superb - crisp and colorful and filled with motion and emotion.
Armadillo is a little guy with big ideas. Ape, his opposite, is more thoughtful and compassionate. When Ape and Armadillo Take Over the World begins, we find Ape taking issue with Armadillo's plan for world domination. While Armadillo does things fly away on the royal Pegasus, Ape has to distract a spitting serpent, fight an army of robots and escape through the sewer tunnels of the castle. Armadillo counters, saying that he is the one who thought up this plan and having ideas is not so easy. When Ape tries to come up with a plan (that involves kids, an ice cream shop, juggling Armadillo and hiding in tubs of ice cream) Armadillo shoots him down. But, like all good friends, the two manage to find common ground, coming up with a phenomenal plan for world domination that involves special suits, magic wands, creating a zoo filled only with really cool animals like griffins, dinosaurs and giant bugs and ending with ice cream. Because, as Ape points out, he likes a lot of the people in the world and doesn't want to rule it or blow it up.
The best part of Ape and Armadillo Take Over the World? Sturm includes bonus comic strips that run at the bottom of every page, giving readers a glimpse into the personalities of the main characters. Ape and Armadillo embody the creative imagination of kids, a creativity that is not bound by logic or physical limitations.
Read my reviews of the Adventures in Cartooning Series here
Even if you're one of the very few who gets a six-figure book deal, you might want to keep your day job.
By: Becky Laney
Blog: Becky's Book Reviews
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Alcatraz Versus the Knights of Crystallia. Brandon Sanderson. 2009. Scholastic. 299 pages. [Source: Library]
First sentence: So there I was, hanging upside down underneath a gigantic glass bird, speeding along at a hundred miles an hour above the ocean, in no danger whatsoever.
Premise/plot: This is the third book in the Alcatraz fantasy series. IN this one, Alcatraz and company arrive at last in the Free Kingdoms, in Nalhalla. Alcatraz wrestles with fame and ego in this one. Though raised in the Hushlands in a Librarian-controlled nation, he's FAMOUS in Nalhalla already, even starring in his own book series. (The book series being written by the Prince himself). Open up one of his books, and his theme music plays. You don't really get more famous than Alcatraz Smedry, of course, it's not really, truly HIM that is famous, more an idea of him. Also in this one, Bastille is put on trial. Will she be stripped of knighthood? How long will her punishment last? I should also not forget to mention that the LIBRARIANS want to come to peaceful terms and end the war at last. But Alcatraz and his friends suspect the WORST. But so many people want peace that they seem willing to give the Librarians the benefit of the doubt....
My thoughts: This one is an action-packed read full of fun and humor. I love this series. And I think I enjoyed this third book even more than the first two books. Folsom was a great new character to introduce--loved his talent, by the way. And it was nice to meet a librarian who wasn't evil for a change!!!
© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
|Roxie Munro & Julie Gribble shooting Ready Set Draw!|
By Roxie Munro
for Cynthia Leitich Smith
In August of 2014, I traveled from my Long Island City studio to downtown New York City, lugging KIWiStorybook
frames and rolled-up giant walk-in picture books, about to be the first author interviewed for the media start-up, KidLit TV
The film crew, lighting technician, makeup artist, sound engineer, and Julie Gribble, founder, and interviewer Rocco Staino, of School Library Journal and the Huffington Post, were ready.
Four hours later we had a wrap, edited into a lively eight-minute piece, which aired that November, launching one of the most original concepts in the world of children’s literature in years.
That popular interview feature of KidLit TV is called StoryMakers
. Every month Rocco chats with several prominent authors and/or illustrators, like Paul O. Zelinsky, Pat Cummings, Hervé Tullet, Sophie Blackall, Tim Federle, Mo Willems, Rosemary Wells, and Aaron Becker. We get a peek into their creative process - making mistakes (and fixing them!), creative tricks and habits, childhood inspiration, and exciting news about upcoming projects.
Although most of the content is accessible to any literate person, there can be a lot of fun esoterica. For example, librarians may talk about how award committees work or recommend seasonal books; for the 2015 StoryMakers Holiday Special, Maria Russo (New York Times), John Sellers (Publishers Weekly), and John Schumacher (Scholastic) discussed their favorites with Rocco. Other children’s literature movers and shakers are featured, like Lin Oliver and Stephen Mooser, talking about founding SCBWI
, and Judy Blume and Neil Gaiman discussing censorship.
|Jerilyn Williams of TLA interviewed by Rocco Staino|
Aimed specifically at children is the Read Out Loud
show where authors engage kids with lively readings from their books. On Ready Set Draw!
, illustrators inspire viewers to do art and show details on how to draw characters from their books. Dan Yaccarino taught kids how to make Doug from “Doug Unplugged”; Nick Bruel drew Bad Kitty; I showed children how to draw the owl from “Hatch!”
and how to make a maze
Children send in their own drawings based on the videos, and KidLit TV posts them online in their new Fan Art Gallery
section, using #ReadySetDraw to share fan art. KidLit Radio
is launching podcasts for children, filling an important niche. Radio is as popular as ever, and podcasts are gaining ground. Audio is an important medium – many children learn, and are entertained, by listening. Recently Barbara McClintock and Peg + Cat creators Jennifer Oxley and Billy Aronson did podcasts.
KidLit TV also covers events under their Red Carpet feature, like the Eric Carle Awards, interviewing such luminaries as Jerry Pinkney, Roaring Brook’s Neal Porter, and Hilary Knight. The most recent Field Trip is a six-minute video of the 4th Annual 21st Century Children’s Nonfiction Conference
, with uber librarian and reviewer Susannah Richards doing the interviews, including one with Steve Sheinken about his process and his next book.
|Founder Julie Gribble & Dan Yacarrino|
All of this content is found on the main KidLit.TV site; there’s also a robust social media presence and an extensive YouTube
channel. It’s the go-to place for kid friendly videos about favorite authors and illustrators, book-based crafts and activities, and to check out content dear to the hearts of children’s literature aficionados. Not to mention how to draw a Great Horned Owl!
So how did this come about? Well, multiple Emmy-award-winner and Stony Brook Children’s Literature Fellow, Julie Gribble, who worked in the television industry for years, founded KidLit TV to create fun new ways to reinforce an appreciation of reading that children will carry with them for the rest of their lives– it’s the first online resource of its kind for kids, parents, librarians and teachers. She’s an author in her own right, with Bubblegum Princess
, illustrated by Lori Hanson (NY Media Works, 2013)(based on a true story about Kate Middleton) and another picture book out soon.
Julie’s KidLit TV family of teachers, librarians, authors, illustrators, and tech folks are all deeply committed to working together to bring great books to kids. Cynsational NotesRoxie Munro
, Julie Gribble, and Sarah Towle
(Time Traveler Tours & Tales) will be doing several pro-grams, including “Promoting your Library Community through Social Media & New Technology: Cutting-Edge Techniques,” at the Texas Library Association Conference
in April 2017 in San Antonio.
In addition, Julie and Rocco Staino are doing a KidLit TV presentation. KidLit TV will cover the conference, doing author and librarian interviews, live-streaming events, and attending award presentations. Come visit Booth 2301!
And Roxie has contributed a piece to TLA’s Disaster Relief Coloring Book
, which will be available at the Conference.
This week has seen the first inklings of the new TV season, as the US networks start trotting out shows in the hopes of success, legitimacy, or even the tiniest bit of attention. And yet here I am, still talking about some of the shows of summer. This is partly because, as we've all more or less accepted, network shows just aren't where it's at anymore, and there isn't that much to say about
Whether you're a pantser or a plotter, a scene list will help keep your novel on track.
Beth, Dana, and Deb will be live at 1:00 EST today
Rising from the dead here to post this little tidbit from Tomi Ungerer's social media feed. Phaidon is releasing a single slipcased volume of eight of Tomi's newish and classic books, The Three Robbers, Moon Man, Otto, Fog Island, Zeralda's Ogre, Flix, The Hat, and Emile. Psyched! And in case you missed it a million years years ago, travel back in time to my interview with Tomi himself!
I miss you guys. I always have new stuff to share, but never enough time to share it. (And for those who are interested, check out my storytelling piece on Texas Public Radio.)
Happy Monday kids!
By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for CynsationsAuthor Interview: Guadalupe García McCall: Remembering What Has Endured, What Has Been Lost
by Justin Barisich from BookPage. Peek: "It takes a lot of courage to let the world see your heart, to lay it down on the ground in front of the enemy and say, 'This is it. This who I am. This is what I’ve got,' and that is what Dulceña does."How to Find and Reach Influencers to Help Promote Your Work
by Angela Ackerman
from Jane Friedman. Peek: "Because if you truly appreciate what they do, you will naturally want to help them further succeed. And while of course you hope they’ll return the favor, that’s not your endgame. Creating a relationship is."Seven Surprising Facts About Creativity, According to Science
by John Paul Titlow from Fast Company. Peek: "In the face of a major loss, our brains often explore new creative outlets as part of the 'rebuilding' process of our lives, especially as our perspectives, priorities, and ways of thinking about things shift around. " Note: the observation about teachers at the end of the post does not apply to me.Ten Tips for Video-Chat School Visits
from Christine Kohler. Peek: "Although my stress-level skyrocketed that morning when my PC’s operating system corrupted, I thought other authors might benefit by what I did in pre-planning to ensure 'the show must go on,' and on schedule."Children's Literature as a Vehicle for Peace
by Summer Edward
from Medium. Peek: "Is social justice an elite weapon to be wielded in the hands of a few acclaimed activists or is it a human imperative to which each individual is called?"Series Beginnings
by Mary Kole
from Kidlit.com. Peek: "By providing this context but weaving it into the first few chapters of the story, you will be welcoming your existing readers back into the story while simultaneously giving new readers a chance to catch up. All without info-dumping."Interview: Dean Gloster on Dessert First
by Adi Rule
from VCFA Launchpad. Peek: "...with all the intensity of residency, my constantly emailing documents to myself to print out in the library, and my mostly using my VCFA email address, I actually missed the message from the editor saying they were buying my book...."No One Gets a Pass When It Comes to Writing Multicultural Books
from Grace Lin. Peek: "I get a fair amount of flack for portraying light-skinned Asians or Asians in the stereotypical haircut of heavy bangs."What I Leaned About Publishing an #OwnVoices Book with a Latinx Heroine
by Valerie Tejeda from Bustle. Peek: "I've learned a lot about what it means to be an #OwnVoices author — the good, the bad, the ugly — but here are a few things that have stuck out to me the most..."Four Ways "Stranger Things" Gets Middle Grade Right
by Mary E. Cronin
from Project Mayhem. Peek: "Kids are the stars of this show, and middle grade writers can draw much inspiration from it. Here are four ways that the creators of 'Stranger Things' totally nail middle grade...."Give Your Characters Roots
by Dave King
from Writer Unboxed. Peek: "Growing up in Mordor gives you a very different outlook on life than growing up in New England."What's In a (Character's) Name?
by Olga Kuno from Becca Puglisi from Writers Helping Writers. Peek: "Coming up with just the right name can be daunting. I’d like to share some ideas on how to simplify the process."Winnie The Pooh Makes Friends with a Penguin to Mark Anniversary
by Alison Flood
from The Guardian. Peek: "Sibley, who was asked to write a new Pooh story to mark this year’s anniversary, said that the photo of the author and his son with the penguin toy came to mind while he was 'pondering what other toys Christopher Robin might have owned but which were never written about'."
We Are Still Here: An Interview with Debbie Reese
|Native American Contemporary YA Novel|
from NCTE. Peek: "I wish that teachers would do all they could to push against that monolithic 'primitive' and 'uncivilized' depiction that is so pervasive and damaging to our youth, but all youth, too, who play and learn alongside our children."Why I Write About the Immigrant Experience
by Reyna Grande from CBC Diversity. Peek: "I read and I read, though I’d always felt a void—a yearning, a missing piece that I desperately wanted to find. What I wanted most of all: to not feel invisible." How to Write a Latinx Character & Other Questions
by Yamile Saied Méndez
from The Che Boricuas= A Puerto Rican + An Argentine + 5 cute kids. Peek: "...this list isn't all inclusive. I just wanted to show all the aspects in which culture affects a person. The ways in which it will affect your character. The reader will notice if the only thing the writer did was slap a Spanish-sounding name and dark skin on a character."Black Girl Magic: Black Girlhood, Imaginations and Activism
by Dhonielle Clayton
from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: "I hope a new generation of black girls can cling tight to the novels of the ladies below and start to find themselves in interesting and dynamic new media. I know that if I had had even a few of these books and role models, the teenage me wouldn’t have felt so invisible."Share Your Voice
by Dan Blank
from Writer Unboxed. Peek: "A voice without action, is silence. In that silence is the potential where you could be connecting with people who will be moved by your stories."Cynsational AwardsThe 2016 Kirkus Prize Finalists
: "Winners in the three categories will receive $50,000 each, making the Kirkus Prize one of the richest annual literary awards in the world."Little, Brown Launches New Award for Illustrators
by Sally Lodge from Publishers Weekly. Peek: "Caldecott Medalist and five-time Caldecott Honor artist Jerry Pinkney
will act as a judge and the inaugural artist mentor for the first annual Little, Brown Emerging Artist Award, recognizing new illustration talent and encouraging the development of high-quality picture books that resonate with readers of diverse backgrounds."
Children's Book Author Ann Bausum
Wins 2017 Nonfiction Award from the Children's Book Guild of Washington, D.C.
Peek: "In recognition of her 14 nonfiction books and the way her work has enriched the minds of our children and the life of our nation, Bausum has been selected to receive the 2017 Children's Book Guild Nonfiction Award. The award is presented annually to an author for a body of work that has contributed significantly to the quality of nonfiction for children."
Congratulations to Don Tate, recipient of the Illumine Award for children's literature from the Austin Public Library Friends Foundation
Reminder: The deadline for the Lee & Low New Voices Award
is Sept. 30.This Week at CynsationsMore Personally
My heart is heavy this week, Cynsational readers. I was saddened to hear of the death of Dr. Ernie Bond of Salisbury University. He was a tremendous educator, and I am grateful to him for his support of inclusive children's-YA literature. Moreover, the eighteen-year-old daughter of a high school friend and classmate has taken her own life "after a long battle with PTSD, depression and anxiety." Please continue to support teachers, support teens and consider donating to the Lane Marrs Memorial Fund
The Link of the Week: Perceptions of Diversity in Book Reviews
by Malinda Lo
from Diversity in YA. Peek: "...it is basically common knowledge among minority authors that including more than one minority identity in a book is a huge risk for your career. In the real world, plenty of individuals deal with more than one minority identity at the same time, every day." See also Kick off Bisexual Awareness Week with 12 2016 YA Books
by Dahlia Adler from Barnes & Noble.
Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries
- Stories from the Life of Jesus by Celia Barker Lottridge
- Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
- It's Not About Perfect by Shannon Miller
- Won Ton by Lee Wardlaw
- The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest
- Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott
- Louise & Andie: The Art of Friendship by Kelly Light
- Won Ton and Chopstick by Lee Wardlaw
- This Is My Dollhouse by Giselle Potter
- March: Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin
- March: Book Two by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin
© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
Marilyn Singer, author of many wonderful picture books and books of poetry for children, and Greg Pizzoli, superb illustrator and author of picture books and non-fiction picture books, have teamed up for two books that are perfect for toddlers and emerging readers. What's a Banana? and What's an Apple? combine Singer's silly, sing-song-y rhymes with Pizzoli's playfully silly illustrations for two very fun books.
Singer begins What's a Banana? like a playground chant, "You can grip it and unzip it. You can mash it with a spoon. You can trace it. Outer-space it - make believe that its' the moon." Pizzoli's illustrations show a boy, a girl, a dog and a cat, doing all these things with a banana, which is sometimes actual size and more often oversized, adding to the silliness. What's a Banana? wraps up with a reminder not to forget that it's a fruit.What's an Apple? follows a similar path, although focuses a bit more on this versatile ingredient, reminding readers in words and pictures that you can juice it, peel it, bake it and, "caramel it." What's an Apple?, which also features a different boy and girl and the same cat and dog, ends with the kids in space suits on the moon, about to enjoy and apple "any place."The trim size of What's a Banana? and What's an Apple? are small and square, a bit bigger than a board book. Perfect for little hands, but definitely for readers who know how to handle a book. I hope that Singer and Pizzoli have more foods to explore...
This week I’ve been checking and monitoring my students’ work and making plans. I’ve been delving into some fun lessons from, The Big Book of Details by Roz Linder for inspiration and using… Continue reading
By Cynthia Leitich Smith
Author Lois Duncan
, died in June while Cynsations was on summer hiatus. Lois Duncan Obituary: Bestselling author of fiction for young adults, including the thriller I Know What You Did Last Summer
by Julia Eccleshare
from The Guardian. Peek: "She was born Lois Duncan Steinmetz in Philadelphia, and grew up in Sarasota, Florida. Lois wanted to be a writer from childhood, and submitted her first typed manuscript to Ladies’ Home Journal when she was 10."Obituary: Lois Duncan
by Shannon Maughan from Publishers Weekly. Peek: "After attending Duke University
for a year... She entered her YA project Debutante Hill in Dodd, Mead & Company’s Seventeenth Summer Literary Contest and earned the grand prize: $1000 and a book contract."Lois Duncan, 82, Dies; Author Knew What You Did Last Summer
by Daniel E. Slotnik from The New York Times. Peek: "Though her books had their share of violence, Ms. Duncan said she was 'utterly horrified' when she saw the  film adaptation of “I Know What You Did Last Summer,”
which...turned her novel, about a group of teenagers desperately trying to conceal an accidental killing, into a horror tale in which the same teenagers are systematically dispatched by their hook-wielding victim." Note: To clarify, I heard Lois speak about this at an SCBWI conference. It wasn't the violence per se but rather the way it was trivialized for cheap thrills. Her novel had a strong moral center that was absent from its film adaptation.I Know What I Read That Summer
by Carmen Maria Machado from The New Yorker. Peek: "Her prose is unfussy and clean. She centered her books on young women, and her writing considers themes that have come to obsess me as an adult: gendered violence, psychological manipulation, the vulnerability of outsiders."
So I’m no longer in New York City anymore as you might have noticed but that doesn’t meant there aren’t some fantastic events going on there. Free events. Free events at my old stomping grounds, NYPL. It’s all in conjunction with Banned Books Week and the guests are a bit on the famous side. Gene Luen Yang. Katherine Paterson. Rita Williams-Garcia. STRANGER THINGS!!! *ahem* In any case, behold below. I give you one heckuva fantastic week.
Banned Books Week annually celebrates the freedom to read. Highlighting the value of free and open access to information, Banned Books Week brings together librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types in shared support of the freedom to seek, to publish, to read, and to express ideas. The Library is hosting a series of events September 25-October 1 celebrating the freedom to read with some of your favorite children’s authors!
Join the New York Public Library in partnership with Sesame Workshop (the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street!) on Sunday September 25 from 10:30 AM-12 PM (doors open at 10:15 AM), as we welcome the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, Gene Luen Yang, joined by his furry friend, Sesame Street’s Walkaround Grover, to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the Sesame Street classic storybook,The Monster at the End of this Book. Yang will read aloud this time-honored tale (first published in 1971 by Little Golden Books) and will discuss his ‘Reading Without Walls’ initiative, which encourages readers to explore books of diverse voices, genres, and formats.
This ticketed event is free and open to the public. Registration required.
Presented in partnership with iLoveMG please welcome the following guests* to the library Wednesday September 28 from 6-8 PM:
- Paul Griffin: When Friendship Followed Me Home
- James Howe: The Misfits series
- Kathleen Lane: The Best Worst Thing
- Nora Raleigh Baskin: Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story
- Rita Williams-Garcia: Gaither Sisters series (One Crazy Summer, P.S. Be Eleven, Gone Crazy in Alabama)
With special Guest Moderator author Phil Bildner.
*Author Panel subject to change due to author availability
This ticketed event is free and open to the public. Registration recommended.
Presented in partnership with iLoveMG please welcome the following guests* to the library Thursday September 29 from 6-8 PM
- Tracy Baptiste: The Jumbies
- Kelly Barnhill: The Girl Who Drank the Moon
- Max Brallier The Last Kids on Earth series
- G.D. Falksen: The Transatlantic Conspiracy
- Chris Gabenstein: Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library and Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics
- Doogie Homer: Kid Legend series (Kid Presidents, Kid Athletes, and Kid Artists)
With Moderator Christopher Lassen from the Brooklyn Public Library and New York Public Library.
*Author Panel subject to change due to author availability
This ticketed event is free and open to the public. For more information visit: https://goo.gl/iLW2ND
Join the New York Public Library Saturday October 1 from 2-3 PM as we welcome Katherine Paterson and her sons, David and John, to discuss Ms. Paterson’s enduring young adult classic THE GREAT GILLY HOPKINS and new feature film version of THE GREAT GILLY HOPKINS debuting in theaters and On Demand October 7.
This ticketed event is free and open to the public. Registration recommended.
We have been on pins and needles over here at Two Writing Teachers as Stacey’s due date approached. We have all been anxiously checking our email and text messages for news. Today we… Continue reading
Check out these quick, easy grammar lessons that will clean up and power up your students' writing.
By E.M. Kokie
for Cynthia Leitich Smith
From the flap copy of Radical
by E.M. Kokie
(Candlewick, 2016):Preppers. Survivalists. Bex prefers to think of herself as a realist who plans to survive, but regardless of labels, they’re all sure of the same thing: a crisis is coming. And when it does, Bex will be ready. She’s planned exactly what to pack, she knows how to handle a gun, and she’ll drag her family to safety by force if necessary. When her older brother discovers Clearview, a group that takes survival just as seriously as she does, Bex is intrigued. While outsiders might think they’re a delusional doomsday group, she knows there’s nothing crazy about being prepared. But Bex isn’t prepared for Lucy, who is soft and beautiful and hates guns. As her brother’s involvement with some of the members of Clearview grows increasingly alarming and all the pieces of Bex’s life become more difficult to juggle, Bex has to figure out where her loyalties really lie. In a gripping new novel, E. M. Kokie questions our assumptions about family, trust, and what it really takes to survive.
Determined to survive the crisis she’s sure is imminent, Bex is at a loss when her world collapses in the one way she hasn’t planned for.
Before writing Radical, I had never touched a gun. I had never wanted to touch a gun.
But in the early drafts I was struggling to get to the heart of my main character Bex. Then I realized I hadn't really thought about how Bex would feel about guns. It was a blind spot caused by my own discomfort with guns. Once I had that realization I could see all the ways I didn't yet know Bex.
Bex wouldn't just shoot or possess guns. She would have spent most of her life shooting them. They would be part of her family tradition, part of her social life, and part of her identity. She would love her guns. She would be proficient. She would be responsible in their care and maintenance.
In order to understand Bex, and to write her with any kind of accuracy and credibility, I needed to understand guns.
I started with online and print research -- reading about different kinds of guns, popular makes and models, shooting ranges and training programs, and eventually gun laws and the tradition of gun ownership within families and communities.
Then I moved on to watching online videos about everything from training techniques and amateur shooting videos, to videos about comparing models, and cleaning and maintaining firearms. I was fascinated by the many videos of girls and women shooting guns, and handling knives, bows and arrows, and other weapons.
But reading and video research could only take me so far. I needed to understand the tactile and visceral details of how a gun felt in my hand, the heft, and texture, and kickback. The tang in the air after shooting. The smell and feel of cleaning different models. I needed to have a vocabulary and understanding that gave her character depth and provided context for the plot.
But I also needed to get inside of how she would feel, physically and emotionally, about her guns and while she was shooting.
For Bex, shooting guns would be about more than fun or competition or even defense. It is part of who she is.
I was lucky to connect with some people who let me shoot their guns on their property, in an outdoor setting with a dirt berm and a pond, much as I pictured Bex and her brother shooting in their woods.
We started with a small, light gun that even felt small in my hand, and then worked up to larger and more powerful firearms. Then I got a crash course in cleaning and maintenance, sitting on the side of a porch, much as Bex does in the book.
I left with all these sensory details, insights into how shooting could be fun and cause a sense of competition or accomplishment, and bruises in several places.
Even the ride out to the shooting site on a homemade cart attached to an ATV unexpectedly informed the setting and context for my story.
During the writing process, I also reached out to some firearms experts online to answer questions and to seek input for crafting certain plot elements and scenes. And once Radical was in the last stages of the editorial phase, my publisher hired one of those experts to perform a content read to make sure we got the details right.
The research didn't change my mind about my own potential gun ownership, or how I would feel about having a gun in my home. But it did help me better understand Bex and her world, and, hopefully, helped me craft more organic and believable characters and scenes.
Author: Alex Gino
Source: Local Library
A note: While she's called George through most of the book, Melissa is the name she's chosen for herself, so that's what I'll use in this review. Please see: How to Talk About George at AlexGino.com
Summary: Melissa knows she's a girl, even if the whole world seems to think she's a boy named George instead. She's scared to tell anybody - her mother, her brother, even her best friend - the truth that she knows in her heart. But when the chance to play Charlotte in Charlotte's Web comes her way, she realizes that this may be a way to be who she is.
First Impressions: This was so quietly sweet, and yet so comprehensive in how the world was enforcing gender on her. I keep getting the sniffles over it. I also loved how unexpected some of the reactions were.
Later On: The thing that kept running through my head was how thoroughly this is a children's book. Melissa is in the fourth grade. The class play is Charlotte's Web. There's little to no discussion of sexuality or attraction - it's this vague, misty thing that feels as far away as the moon. There's a little discussion of genitalia: she hates taking a bath and having to see "what's between her legs", and she talks briefly and vaguely about transitional surgeries and medication with her best friend. But Melissa is primarily and appropriately concerned with a child's world - her family, her friends, school woes, why nobody seems to know who she really is.
Her gender is a source of constant stress - not confusion. I think it's important to clarify that. She knows her own gender, even though everything from the bathroom pass to the play's casting call conspires to shout at her, boy boy BOY BOY BOY. It's this constant screaming that makes her miserable. When she gets the chance to be her real self, in public, with her loving and accepting best friend at her side, I swear that I felt a weight lift off my shoulders.
I know that strictly because of the topic, this will be shelved in some YA sections. That's the wrong place for this book. This is a tender, beautiful, relatable book for children of all gender identities.
More: Waking Brain Cells
Interview with Alex Gino at School Library Journal
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The director at one school told me, "My main priorities are these: 1) being outdoors, and 2) reading and writing." My kind of place!