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1. Revisiting Worthing Saga

The Worthing Saga. Orson Scott Card. 1990. Tor. 465 pages. [Source: Bought]

In many places in the Peopled Worlds, the pain came suddenly in the midst of the day's labor. It was as if an ancient and comfortable presence left them, one that they had never noticed until it was gone, and no one knew what to make of it at first, though all knew at once that something had changed deep at the heart of the world.  

This will be my third blog review for Orson Scott Card's The Worthing Saga. I reviewed this one in 2007 and 2012. It is one of my favorite, favorite books. And my FAVORITE Card novel. (Though I love Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead.)

I love the world-building. I find the three settings within the book to be fascinating. (There is Lared's home planet which is the present-day setting; there is Capital, the planet from Jason Worthing's memory and stories, Capital becomes "real" to Lared as he experiences Worthing's memories through dreams; there is Worthing, the planet that Jason colonized with a handful of colonists thousands of years before the novel opens, again this planet becomes "real" to Lared as he experiences other people's memories through Justice, Jason's descendent.) Readers get a taste of all these societies and communities. Capital is decadent and immoral and corrupt. It is obsessed with the notion of eternity--of living forever. It "lives forever" by drug use. Somec. You might be under Somec--asleep--for anywhere from one year to ten years, and then awake for anywhere from one day (like the Empress) to three years. But somec disrupts EVERYTHING good and natural about life. An example of the decadence and immorality can be seen in the "lifeloops." People filming/recording their "real" lives for everyone to watch. Most--if not all lifeloops--are graphic in nature. It's hard not to be disgusted by the depiction. (For example, one actress complaining to her agent that he better not hire any seven year old boys for her next film.) Closely connected to the world-building, is the mythology of it. How Abner Doon's name lives on. He IS the devil. How Jason Worthing's name lives on. How people see him as being GOD. Both men are very much human, having strengths and weaknesses, being oh-so-fallible. But they have become collectively so much more than that. They've lost their humanity. Truth has been shaped and reshaped too many times to allow for them to be just human.

I love the characterization. I love getting to know Lared, Sala, Jason, and Justice. Not to mention all the men and women from the memories and stories. (I have a soft spot for Hoom.) I love the storytelling. I love the dialogue. I love how everything is layered together. How the story all comes together. How Lared slowly but surely pieces things together and comes to understand--if understand is the right word--the world. Card's characters are so very human, so vulnerable, so fallible. Readers see humans at their best and at their absolute worst within The Worthing Saga. Moments of compassion and redemption make it so worth while.

I love the ideas. I love the depth and substance. That is not to say that I agree absolutely with every single philosophical idea within the book. But it goes places most fiction doesn't. It asks real questions, tough questions. It explores ideas. One also sees the consequences (or possible consequences) of ideas. But it encourages you to think about deep things, to explore questions like why is there pain? why is there suffering? would the world be a better place without pain, without suffering? Is pain a necessary evil? Do we only feel joy and happiness because we know about pain and sorrow? what makes life beautiful? do we become better people through our struggles with life?


I do enjoy the framework. The Worthing Chronicle (1982) makes up half of The Worthing Saga. This is THE story with Lared being visited by Jason and Justice shortly after the day of pain disrupts his community. (It really is a haunting opening.) The second half of the book consists of short stories. Most of these short stories were written years before The Worthing Chronicle and were previously published. Tales of Capitol (1979): "Skipping Stones," "Second Chance," "Lifeloop," "Breaking the Game," "Killing Children," and "What Will We Do Tomorrow." Tales from the Forest of Waters (1990, 1980): "Worthing Farm," "Worthing Inn," and "The Tinker." Of these stories, I find Skipping Stones, Second Chance, and Breaking the Game to be most memorable. After you've read these stories, you almost need to go back and reread the first section. I'm not sure you can fully appreciate the book without rereading it a few times and absorbing it. Most of the stories--but certainly not all of them--are emotional. I love that the book is a book to be EXPERIENCED.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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2. Smiley's people


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3. Motherhood Comes in All Shapes and Sizes

I love, love, LOVE this video. I’ve always had a problem with sanctimonious mothers who think THEIR way is the BEST way to raise a child.

I couldn’t disagree more.

I bottle fed my children and I’m not ashamed to admit that. I used to be ashamed to admit it because whenever I would mention it on this blog, or anywhere else, quite frankly, I would get the disapproving stink eye or a snarky comment. And then I would inevitably feel inadequate and guilty.

Not anymore, dude. I’m not even going to justify my decision – I did what I thought was best for my children and my sanity.

It always annoys me whenever people feel the need to justify their decisions. I’m sure you did what you thought best. End of discussion.

And that’s where I stand on motherhood issues.

Whether you bottle fed, breast fed, stayed at home, worked out of the home, used cloth diapers or disposable diapers – in the end, it’s really none of my business. As long as you’re doing what’s best for the child and your family, it really doesn’t matter. The ultimate goal is to raise our children to be responsible, educated, compassionate human beings; how you reach that goal is up to you. There is no “one size fits all” answer, no matter what you hear politicians, the media, or even other mothers try to convince us otherwise.

You do what’s best for you and your family and don’t you dare feel guilty about your decisions or feel like you have to justify your decisions.

Ultimately – it’s none of our business how you live your life.


Filed under: Life

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4. Father Fox's Pennyrhymes



Father Fox's Pennyrhymes
Clyde Watson ~ Wendy Watson ~ Scholastic, 1971

The beloved nursery rhyme classic written and illustrated by two sisters from Vermont about the stories a father fox tells his brood of 15 kits. We've always loved this book in our house because of how each rhyme is accompanied by an illustration that fully and precisely tells the tale, often starring one or many of the fox children. A small and busy feast for the eyes.

Mister Lister sassed his sister
Married his wife 'cause he couldn't resist her,
Three plus four times two he kissed her:
How many times is that, dear sister.



Belly & Tubs went out in a boat,
Tubs wore knickers & Belly a coat,
They got in a quarrel & started to shout
And the boat tipped over & they tumbled out.

Ride your red horse down Vinegar Lane,
Gallop, oh Gallop, oh gallop again!
Thistles & foxholes & fences beware:
I've seventeen children and none can I spare.



Thomas Thomas Tinkertoes
Upside down & away he goes!
He's off to call upon the Queen
In blue & crimson velveteen.








—————

Read along on FacebooktumblrTwitterEtsy and Graphic Novels My Kid Loves.


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5. I Have Been Writing for a Living for Nine Years: This Means I am Old and Lucky

In my quest to blog, and my inability to think of anything to blog about, I've been randomly looking at old blog entries. And I realized that it was at the end of January in 2006, halfway through my MFA program at Vermont College of Fine Arts, that I sold my first book, Tips on Having a Gay (ex) Boyfriend, which the awesome editor Andrew Karre took off the slush pile and made a million times better.

Anyway, this is weird.

It's weird because it:

1. Seems like two years ago and not ALMOST A DECADE!
2. Has made me realize that if I've been doing this for ALMOST A DECADE, I should not feel so bizarre when I write down AUTHOR as my profession when applying for a credit card or mortgage or something.
3. Made me realize that by now I should be better at copyediting my own blog posts and status updates and tweets and not have so many typos.

Also, it is weird because I was kind of calm about it when it happened. Here is the evidence in the form of the original blog post.

So, despite the fact tha)t I can't spell, the nice editor man called me back yesterday and talked to me for 40 minutes and told me all the good stuff about my book and what he thinks could get better. It was like talking to a Vermont College mentor. It was really cool. He was brilliant and really, really nice. And he's starting the book through the acquisitions process at his imprint, which is really cool...


But, I'm not getting my hopes up about it, until papers are signed.

Still, he had the best insight on the piece and I am so excited about working on it. So, that's what I'm going to do. I'm going to go work on it. He only wants another 10,000 words. Geesh. Piece of cake.
Ha.


I currently have six more books under contract. Now. In 2015. I am super excited about them. Three are middle grade with Bloomsbury. Three are young adult with Tor. And the thing is? It doesn't feel like nearly enough. When I was at Vermont, my advisors would laugh at me because I was:

1. Goofy and they liked goofy
2. Way too productive
3. Liked revision soooo much
4. Capable of telling a joke

But the thing is, I am so lucky. I might feel like six books under contract aren't nearly enough (my poor agent), but I will never forget how lucky and happy I am that I get to write AUTHOR on all those business forms. If you're a pre-published author, I can't wait for the day when you get to do that, too. Remember to post about it so you can look back nine years later and be all, "Whoa.... Did that happen? Wow."

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6. Illustration Friday: Passion


Her heart constantly fluttered like a swarm of butterflies because of her passion for life.

Digital collage, rubber stamps, colored pencil

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7. Weekend Links: Amazing Sources for #ReadYourWorld Books Ideas for Kids

We are just a few short days away from our second Multicultural Children’s Book Day and the WWW is BUZZING with great multicultural book information for young readers! Here are some of the highlights of the Amazing Sources for #ReadYourWorld Books Ideas for Kids  found this week.

12 Chapter Books About Diverse (and Loving) Families via What Do You Do All Day

12 chapter books about diverse families for kids.

12+ Books to Read Your Little in 2015 from Leah Pilhaja

51Eqy39bE6L._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_

25 Resources for Teaching Kids about Diversity-via @Multicultural Kids Blog

teaching Kids about Diversity-pin

Announcing our 2014 New Voices Award Winner Lee and Low Blog

New Voices Award seal

 

Children’s Africana Book Awards and Kid Lit Blog Hop at PragmaticMom

Children's Africana Book Awards and Kid Lit Blog Hop

At Maries Pastiche- West African Folktales

Another way to meet your world is through literature. Multicultural Children’s Books Day is such a celebration which has created a vast resource of multicultural books and authors on our website.

Multicultural Children Book Resources

My Gift to YOU!

Don’t forget to grab your FREE copy of my Read Your World Multicultural Booklists and Activities for Kids.

Read Your World Multicultural Booklist and Activities for Kids

The post Weekend Links: Amazing Sources for #ReadYourWorld Books Ideas for Kids appeared first on Jump Into A Book.

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8. Some New-ish Picture Books I Love Including A New Dr. Seuss: Horton and the Kwuggerbug and More Lost Stories; The Worst Princess; Drop It, Rocket!; and Mr. Wuffles!

Horton and the Kwuggerbug and more Lost Stories
Written and Illustrated by Dr. Seuss aka Ted Geisel
Published by: Random House Books For Young Readers
Published: Sept 9, 2014
ISBN-13: 978-0385382984
Ages: 4-8 (and up)
Source: Book obtained from publisher in exchange for an honest review.
My rating: 5/5

It’s incredible to me that we can read new Dr. Seuss stories after Ted Geisel died, but these Dr. Seus stories were “lost.” They’re treasure I’m glad was rediscovered: A new Horton the Elephant story, a fanciful story about Marco (from And To Think I Saw It On Mulberry Street) who arrives to school late and tells the tale about why; a police officer who saves the town; and a short grinch story featuring a different grinch than the one who stole Christmas. These stories have the same wonderful rollicking, almost perfect rhythm that Dr. Seuss is known for; twists and plot surprises that keep the reader interest; conflict that keeps us riveted; characters we care about, empathize with, and root for; and humor. I loved the satisfying ending, especially, in Horton and the Kwuggerbug where a mean-spirited character gets his just desserts; this was my favorite story in the book. I also love that the stories include fanciful made-up words and great imagination that fit his stories perfectly.

Dr. Seuss’ beautiful, strange, evocative, and trademark illustrations fit the stories perfectly, with crazy cliffs and strange-looking trees, emotionally expressive characters, and bright colors. They’re Dr. Seuss’ strong illustrative style that generations of readers have loved and been entranced with, and generations will continue to love.

The stories all have a strong emotional appeal, with conflict and psychological tension. These are pure Dr. Seuss, and they’re a delight. When I finished reading, I had Dr. Seuss’ rhythms and some of the rhymes running through my head–which shows how catchy they are; I think is a sign of greatness. I loved these “new” stories, and I think children and Dr Seuss fans will love them, too.

My only criticism is that Horton and the Kwuggerbug probably should have been published on its own; the other stories aren’t as polished or as captivating. For instance, How Officer Pat Saved the Whole Town is all about what might happen, not what is happening, so it’s not as dramatic or intense or fun, though it’s still enjoyable.

Also included is a long, detailed introduction by Charles D Cohen–an expert on Dr Seuss stories. It provides some fascinating detail for readers who love Dr. Seuss.

Highly recommended.


The Worst Princess
Written by Anna Kemp
Illustrated by Sara Ogilvie
Published by Random House Children’s Books
Ages: 3-7 (and up)
Source: Obtained from the publisher for an honest review.
My rating: 5/5

This is a refreshing tale about a princess who thinks she needs to be saved from her tower–until she realizes that getting “saved” just locks her up in a different tower. The princess makes friends with a dragon, and together they travel the world. In the end, the princess saves herself.

I love books that show girls being strong, not ruled by sexism, who are able to save themselves–especially when the books are written well, without being preachy or didactic. This book is a delight on all levels–the content, the way the story is written, and the illustrations.

Kemp’s rhyming text flows smoothly; there is rarely a rhyme that feels even slightly forced. The story is lively and entertaining, and the dialogue helps it move quickly. Humor permeates the story, from the names the princess and prince call each other (twit, turtledove), to the insults given (the prince telling her to twirl her pretty curls), to the dragon setting the prince’s shorts on fire. I love the princess making tea for the dragon, and the way they become friends who defend each other and travel the world together. Princess Sue is a strong role model that breaks out of the sexism she was trapped in.

Ogilvie’s illustrations are vivid and alive, quirky and expressive, and a delight to pore through, with a lot of detail to enjoy. The characters and the objects they interacting with have strong outlines which bring them into the forefront and focus, while backgrounds are more muted and blurry. I love the bold, bright colors. Princess Sue’s bright orange hair is echoed in the dragon’s bright orange-red scales, which visually and emotionally tie the two together even more. And the prince does look like the pompous twit he acts like, with his thin curly mustache, foppish hair, long narrow nose, and stuck up expression.

This is an important–and fun!–book for both girls and boys. None of us need be constrained by the gender rules for behavior that society sets for us. Girls can think for themselves, protect themselves and others, travel the world, and be outspoken. Boys can stay at home, cook, take care of children, or follow their dreams, whatever they might be. Though the book doesn’t show boys escaping their forced gender roles, it will make children (and adults) think, and it challenges sexism in a humorous way. We need more books like this.

If you love strong-girl characters, you have *got* to get yourself–or the kids in your life–a copy of this book! I think it’ll become a classic, like Princess Smartypants
and The Paper Bag Princess. This, for me, became an instant favorite.
.

Highly recommended! If I could give it a higher rating, I would. This is a keeper, and one to give away as gifts, too.


Drop It, Rocket! (Step Into Reading, Step 1)
Written and illustrated by: Tad Hills
Published By: Random House Books for Young Readers
Published: July 8, 2014
ISBN-13: 978-0385372541
Ages: 6-9
Source: Obtained from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. (As you may be able to tell, I only review books I love.)
My rating: 5/5

Rocket loves to find new words. He brings the little yellow bird many objects so they can make words from them. But when he finds a red boot he refuses to put it back down or trade it for anything–except for a book which the friends then pore over.

Hill’s sentences and words are short and easy for young readers to read, so that should bring a feeling of success, and yet they keep reader interest by telling a great story. The story moves quickly with a lot of dialogue, and there’s some great humor (with a set up of Rocket dropping every object he’s asked to, until he gets to the boot) and conflict. I love the focus on words and reading. It’s very feel-good and fills me with delight.

Hill’s illustrations are sweet, light hearted, and expressive, with great emotion, facial expressions, and body language. The illustrations perfectly compliment and enhance the text. I love how they work together so that the illustrations show things that the text doesn’t, such as how all the objects Rocket brought back are printed out as words. The great amount of white space around each illustration helps to add to the light, airy feeling of the illustrations.

If you love books about books or words, you’ll want to pick this one up! Highly recommended.


Mr. Wuffles!
Written and illustrated by: David Wiesner
Published by: Clarion Books
Published: October 1, 2013
ISBN-13: 978-0618756612
Ages: 4-8
Source: I purchased the book myself.
My rating: 5/5

I love David Wiesner’s books; he’s created some of my very favorites, especially Tuesday and Flotsam–so I look forward to each new release, and Mr. Wuffles! didn’t disappoint. Mr. Wuffles! is a Caldecott Medal Honor Winning title, and it deserves to be.

Mr. Wuffles doesn’t play with any of the toys his human buys for him. But when a tiny alien spaceship–the size and almost the look of a golf ball with protrusions–lands in Mr. Wuffles’ house, Mr. Wuffles goes crazy playing with it. The tiny aliens inside get headaches and feel sick from being tossed around, so when they think Mr. Wuffles is asleep they sneak out. Mr. Wuffles is about to attack them when a ladybug distracts him, and the aliens flee to safety–into the walls of the house, where they are greeted by ants and ladybugs who’ve all been chased by the cat (as evidenced by the paintings on the wall). The aliens and the bugs–who look similar in shape–become allies and friends, sharing food and ideas, and coming up with a plan for escape, while Mr. Wuffles watches them under the radiator. The aliens and bugs distract the cat until they get their spaceship working and fly away, out the window, while the triumphant bugs don some of the alien attire and add to their paintings on the inner walls of the house.

There are only a few short lines of text in the story; most of the story is told through the illustrations. But the sparse text works to emphasize certain details in the book, and bring the story full circle. In the first two panels, Mr. Wuffles’ human says “Look, Mr. Wuffles, a new toy!” and when the cat walks away, says “Oh, Mr. Wuffles,” which makes the reader notice all the toys Mr. Wuffles never plays with. Three quarters of the way through the book, we see Mr. Wuffles’ human asking him what is so interesting–while he stares determinedly under the radiator, where the aliens and bugs are–to Mr. Wuffles, they seem like living or animated toys. And then in some of the last panels, Mr. Wuffles’ human brings hima new toy–a rocket–while saying “Hey, Mr. Wuffles–blast off!” and then when Mr. Wuffles walks away, saying “Oh, Mr. Wuffles.” So we see again Mr. Wuffles snubbing toys for living creatures–bugs and aliens. And there’s also some humor with the rocket symbolizing outer space and exploration of the universe and other intelligent life–while real aliens have already visited Mr. Wuffles’ home. The text works well, emphasizing key story points.

The illustrations are what make the book. SO much is told through the beautiful, colorful illustrations–through body language, through action. The story is well paced and also holds a lot of humor, with a funny explanation for why some pets may prefer chasing after bugs and living creatures than playing with their toys, and humor that animals, insects, and aliens may be more intelligent than us or notice things that we don’t.

The illustrations are painted in various sizes of panels, almost like a comic book, some taking up a full spread, some half a page, some a quarter or a fifth or less, the action moving beautifully from one panel to the next. The viewpoint also changes, moving us from seeing Mr. Wuffles and what he’s doing, to seeing the aliens and bugs and what they’re doing. The bright, rich colors, realism, and strong storytelling bring the story alive. There is so much to see on every page–details readers will love to find–and fantastic expression and body language.

Anyone who’s owned a cat will also recognize the body language and behaviors of a cat–chasing after a fly, leaping up in surprise, swatting at moving objects, getting overwhelmed at too much stimuli, a swishing tail when wanting to pounce or annoyed at something–and refusing to play with some expensive toys while loving chasing after anything from nature.

This is a funny, light-hearted fantasy romp, especially for children with imagination and cat lovers. There’s also a bit of a fun surprise for readers who buy the hardcover; take off the paper jacket, and instead of the cover you see outer space. :) Highly recommended.

If you can, I hope you buy pick these books up at your local bookstore or library. They are well worth it, and will bring many enjoyable reads. I know I’ll be buying copies for gifts–they’re that good.

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9. Remembering South Street and celebrating Isaiah Zagar, in today's Philadelphia Inquirer

Last Friday I pushed away from the desk, went out into the air, and returned to South and Gaskill Streets. I rediscovered some of my own history. I talked with Julia Zagar about her husband's remarkable mosaics (Isaiah Zagar, Philadelphia's Magic Gardens). I remembered.

The story is here, in today's Philadelphia Inquirer. Huge thanks to Kevin Ferris and to Amy Junod, page designer, who used six of my photographs for this piece. I'm sort of overwhelmed. I'm very grateful. Thank you.

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10. Carter Finally Gets It Audiobook Review

Title: Carter Finally Gets It Author: Brent Crawford Narrated by: Nick Podehl Publisher: Brilliance Audio Publication Date: April 7, 2009 I listened to this as part of Sync's audio summer promotion (yeah, it took me awhile to get to it). But it was pretty damn funny. Carter is a freshman with ADD and a stutter, especially around girls. He, like just about any other 14 year old, thinks about

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11. READ!

I write never ever to send me pdf event/book press releases.  So what do I get? Zipped files I have to download and open to get to...pdf files.

Word doc and any images as jpegs. Next repeat offender is black-listed from EVER getting a mention in CBO again.

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12. Printmaking & a New College Blog

We've been learning printmaking at college ... and have, so far, worked on planographic, relief and intaglio prints. As part of my professional practise course, I've also started a blog to record my creative journey - it's brand spankin' new, so if you'd like to take a peek, click here.

Meanwhile, here's one of the prints from my first class:

 

Printmaking-floating-lemons

 

Yes yes yes, I'm loving it. How could I not be, I'm learning so many new, colourful creative things. Just ask me (again?) if I regret my decision to return to college. Go on, ask me ...

Have a fabulous week everyone. Cheers.

 

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13. Everything I Never Told You/Celeste Ng and Citizen: An American Lyric/Claudia Rankine

There are books that fill you with the clamor of something new—the risk of them, the innovation.

There are books that silence you—how honest and aching and true, how beautifully levered down into the soul.

This morning I am silenced by Everything I Never Told You, Celeste Ng's impeccable first novel about a daughter whose inexplicable death cracks open the vault of a family's secrets and regrets. A novel about children submitting to their parents' dreams for them, and the woeful consequences. Bill Wolfe had named this his favorite book of the year. So many others, too. Believe anyone who tells you that you must read this book. Believe me. You must.

Ng is a master of the omniscient voice. A brilliant webber of divergent perspectives. A calm creator of sentences. A woman capable of writing with enormous clarity and tenderness about racism, silence, the terrible burdens of doing one's duty, the steep weight of holding that science book in your hand because your mother wants you to, the wretchedness of being the less-loved child. How do you take a heartbreaking story and still leave the reader with hope? You do it by writing through a powerful knowing not just of the past but of the future, too.

I am one of those people who writes in her books—outlining, defining, questioning. I did not write inside Ng's pages, preferring to keep them pristine. I turned back the ear of but one, knowing it would be the page that I shared, the thing that lies most at the heart of this novel. That word "different" and how we use it or abuse it in our lives.

Sometimes you almost forgot: that you didn't look like everyone else. In homeroom or at the drugstore or at the supermarket, you listened to morning announcements or dropped off a roll of film or picked out a carton of eggs and felt like just another someone in the crowd. Sometimes you didn't think about it at all. And then sometimes you noticed the girl across the aisle watching, the pharmacist watching, the checkout boy watching, and you saw yourself reflected in their stares: incongruous. Catching the eye like a hook. Every time you saw yourself from the outside, the way other people saw you, you remembered all over again. 

I was reading Claudia Rankine's Citizen: An American Lyric the same time that I was reading Ng. I was thinking of how many times I have likely gotten it wrong in my own language—despite all these years now with my own Salvadoran husband, all these years fighting labels in life and on the page. Even those of us who should fully understand the nuances of prejudicial language can, horrifyingly, get it wrong, and will again. I mean to take nothing away from Ng's magnificent novel by including words from Rankine in this post, but they do, I believe, go together. They must—both these books—be read.

You are twelve attending Sts. Philip and James School on White Plains Road and the girl sitting in the seat behind asks you to lean to the right during exams so she can copy what you have written. Sister Evelyn is in the habit of taping the 100s and the failing grades to the coat closet doors. The girl is Catholic with waist-length brown hair. You can't remember her name: Mary? Catherine?

You never really speak except for the time she makes her request and later when she tells you you smell good and have features more like a white person. You assume she thinks she is thanking you for letting her cheat and feels better cheating from an almost white person.

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14. the characters of fall

From bound manuscripts to the National Book Award dinner, from home to far away, from family to friends to strangers to new friends, from schools to conferences, from high to low, from hard work to a few lazy days...










































































































































































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15. Jenni Desmond: delightful characters, striking atmospheres

Post by Heather Ryerson

Jenni Desmond

Jenni Desmond

Jenni Desmond

Jenni Desmond

Jenni Desmond

Jenni Desmond is a London-based illustrator who combines wet washed backgrounds with cut and collaged textures to create whimsical characters within evocative settings. Her technique has been used to great effect in her four published children’s books; two more—The Blue Whale and The First Slodge—are due out in spring 2015. In addition to books, Desmond’s work can be found on a range of textiles and stationary as well as adorning maps at the National Portrait Gallery.

Check out more work on Jenni Desmond’s website »

 

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16. Sub It Club Interview with Roberta Baird

sic-badge-square1Sub It Club is a blog/community that supports writers and illustrators to get their work “out there”. Whether you create illustrations or are a writer of kidlit, adult novels, non-fiction, screenplays, or poetry, Sub It Club provides the knowledge and inspiration to keep going strong.

In my interview, I get to talk a little about the process of creating a promotional postcard. If you’re interested, here’s the link!  https://subitclub.wordpress.com/2015/01/19/the-postcard-post-roberta-baird/

post card

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17. 2016 Books by Austinites

 Here's the preliminary list of trade picture books and novels scheduled for publication from Austin authors and illustrators next year!  And click the link for previous years' books by Austin authors and illustrators!


Middle Grade/Tween

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: DO ALL THE GOOD YOU CAN, by Cynthia Levinson (Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins 2016)

UNTITLED NOVEL, by Jo Whittemore (HarperCollins 2016).

CROSS MY HEART, by Mari Mancusi (Aladdin/Simon & Schuster 2016).

TO CATCH A CHEAT, by Varian Johnson (Arthur Levine/Scholastic, Spring 2016).

RED MOON RISING, by K.A. Holt (McElderry/Simon & Schuster, 2016).

BEYOND THE RAILS, by K.A. Holt (Chronicle, 2016).

DINOSAUR BOY SAVES MARS, by Cory Putnam Oakes (Sourcebooks, February 2016).

Young Adult

HIGH SCHOOL HORROR STORY, by Chandler Baker (Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan, Winter 2016).

Picture Books

CARROT HAWK, by Chris Barton, ill. by tbd (Hyperion, Spring 2016).

WHOOSH!, by Chris Barton, ill. by Don Tate (Charlesbridge 2016).

EN GARDE! ABRAHAM LINCOLN'S DUELING WORDS, by Donna Janell Bowman  (Peachtree, TBD)

STRONGMAN, by Don Tate (Charlesbridge, Fall 2016).

SUPER TRUCK, by Chris Barton, ill. by Troy Cummings (HarperCollins 2016)

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18. Picture Book Structure

Having an idea for your picture book is just the beginning.

http://www.scbwi-illinois.org/pub/PrairieWind/?p=592

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19. Interview with Grammarly


I recently received an offer to try out the grammar correction program called Grammarly. On their website, Grammarly claims to make you a better writer by finding and correcting grammatical mistakes.

I downloaded the software and tried it out, but instead of reviewing it, I thought it would be interesting to interview a representative of the company by email. Mr. Mager, an online marketing analyst, agreed to my request. Before he sent his answers, he said he checked them with a colleague to verify that they were accurate.

JG: Would you briefly describe how Grammarly is different from other grammar-checking programs?

Grammarly offers automated grammar, spelling, and plagiarism checking. Its technology catches 10x more mistakes than Microsoft Word, while also offering unique features such as writing enhancement and citation suggestions. Grammarly regularly conducts tests to compare our algorithms against our competitors including Google. Our continuously improving machine learning algorithm always wins. A more recent defining element of Grammarly is its Chrome extension that will soon be available for Firefox and Safari later this year. The extension allows our users to have a grammar checker wherever they go on the internet from their emails to Facebook comments.

JG: Do you recommend a different prose style for print settings than you do for online settings?
Our linguists approach Grammarly with a classical, academic approach. We realize that context is vital to proper communication. A properly written sentence or paragraph can make the difference in receiving a passing or failing grade, job offer, or a good story. When writing with Grammarly, we offer seven categories and 32 different document types that range from short stories to business emails. With each document type, Grammarly applies different grammar rules and suggestions.

JG: How does the reading experience differ when we read text on a computer screen?
Last year, the Grammarly team ran a survey to get more information about this topic from our community of word nerds about their reading habits. We found that out of 6,744 responses, 79% preferred to read printed books versus e-books. Another survey showed that of 1,929 responses 39% would prefer their children read printed books while 11% preferred e-books and 34% of respondents simply wanted their kids to read! It is clear that there is a more positive experience with holding a paper book than looking at a screen.

JG: Should those differences change the way we think about writing for the computer?

The most important thing, about writing for the computer or print, is that we write with clarity and creativity. If readers can’t understand what we are writing, then our message is lost on them - no matter what we’re saying. What I have personally noticed is that writing in print is often more formal than online writing and written in long form. Online writing tends to be more succinct, with more paragraphs and bullets to break up thoughts. This is likely due to our shorter digital attention spans.


JG: I allowed Grammarly to evaluate the first paragraphs from Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, and Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer. According to Grammarly, each of them has issues with wordiness. Is that a false positive, a change in historical standards or a valid objection to their style?

Grammarly is not meant to critique works of art or classic literature. It is built around a powerful and an ever-evolving algorithm designed to provide students, professionals, and advanced language learners with an automated, cost-effective, accurate, and always-available online tool to help improve their written English skills. Through contextual guidance, users are empowered to make the final assessment of whether the feedback they’ve received fits the material being reviewed, enabling them to learn from their mistakes.

JG: How has using Grammarly changed your personal experience as a writer?
For me, Grammarly serves as an extra pair of eyes on my work. It keeps me aware of some common issues that I have with my writing and explains the grammar rules that I miss. This feedback has been helpful with the accuracy of my writing even when Grammarly isn’t available. I find when I write to my boss, family, or friends I can have more confidence and credibility behind my message.

JG: Given that you work at a web company that ferrets out mistakes in writing, do you find that your friends and family give you a hard time every time you make a mistake?
Yes! So much so, in fact, that one of us wrote a blog post about it: http://www.grammarly.com/blog/2014/email-presents-major-challenge/

I appreciate the challenge though. My writing wasn’t the best in school so as I pay more attention to how I speak and write, I see my communication improving every day.

JG: Forgive me, but you did make an error in your cover letter to me, saying, “stuck a chord” rather than “struck a chord.” That’s a hard one to catch given that you spelled each phrase correctly, and it was grammatical. Would Grammarly be able to find such a mistake if it used the kind of statistical algorithms that Google uses when it prompts alternate search phrasing?

Grammarly is able to pick up “stuck and struck” a chord and other contextual errors such as “there, their, they’re”, however we are still adding to the contexts that they can be found in. Our program is constantly learning, similar to the way Google uses its statistical algorithms, and while Grammarly is not yet perfect, we are still the leader in writing enhancement software.

JG: What thinking did you give to the manner in which Grammarly points out issues to the writer? I notice that it has a polite and helpful demeanor. If you had designed it differently, it might have appeared obnoxious or pedantic. What thinking went into that interface?

Grammar rules can be confusing to many people and are constantly evolving. Grammarly was created to provide an easy way for students, professionals, job seekers, and English language learners to become better, more accurate English language writers and help them learn and understand the rules of grammar. We’re not here as a grammar judge; rather, we want to be a resource. Our world-class designers and UX experts have played a big role in this as they obsess over every detail to create an easy, understandable interface for our users.

JG: What happens behind the scenes when the little Grammarly logo starts spinning around? Is the text being uploaded to your computers? Do you keep a copy of the writing? Do you ever share it with anyone else?

Our policy agreement provides detailed information about how Grammarly stores text, but I can tell you that we never share any writer's text publically. Behind the scenes, Grammarly's learning algorithms are constantly reviewing whether our tool is being applied in the right context or not -- that is how we can make continuous improvements.

JG: Do you worry that the reliance on machine-based spell-check or grammar-check programs will blunt the attention that you devote to your writing or that it might sand off the corners of your personal style? (Grammarly didn't like me using the word "sand".)

Nice imagery. No, the great thing about Grammarly is that it was developed alongside English professors to be a passive learning tool. For each potential issue flagged by Grammarly’s algorithms, users receive a detailed explanation so they can make an informed decision about how, and whether, to correct the mistake. Our positive reviews from professional writers really speak for itself.

JG: How would you envision Grammarly five years from now? Please describe the kind of writing partner you’d like to see it become.

Grammarly’s core mission is improving lives by improving communication, and there is a lot in store over the next few years. One part of this is improving Grammarly’s algorithms to the level of a human proofreader. Every day, we get a little closer to that goal. The other part is integrating Grammarly more into people’s lives. This new plugin we recently launched for Chrome, and soon other browsers, is a big step to bringing our advanced grammar checker to where a majority of the world writes most. It is an exciting time to be here!
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20. Three Questions for Children's Book Author, Samantha Berger: SNOOZEFEST, advice for young writers and mystery fruit

I love children's book author Samantha Berger's enthusiasm and creativity. Have you seen her #ePUNymousPortraitSeries? In addition to writing wonderful picture books like CRANKENSTEIN (illustrated by Dan Santat) and A CRANKENSTEIN VALENTINE (sequel). Samantha has written cartoons and promos for Nickelodeon, comic books and commercials, movie trailers, theme songs, poetry, magazine articles. Not only that, but she's also a voiceover artist!

Samantha's newest picture book is SNOOZEFEST, a hilarious and endearing bedtime story written by Samantha and illustrated by Kristyna Litten, just out from Dial Books For Young Readers. It's perfect for anyone who loves sloths, music festivals and/or the joy of SLEEPING. If you're on FB, check out her hilarious #Snoozefest Countdown pics.

You can find Samantha at her website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Q: Could you please take a photo of a random object in her office and tell us about it?

 Yes indeed I can. I took a picture of this lovely grapefruit, that grew right in the back yard! I am working in a California office for a few weeks, and the owner of the house where I'm staying gave it to me. The idea of fruit growing on trees has always been MAAAAGICAL to me, and I may have missed my calling as a migrant worker. And I really want to eat this one, but I have one reservation.

The yard where it grew contains five dogs, using that tree as a bathroom. This grapefruit reminds me to ask the important question: Am I such a germ phobe I won't eat this grapefruit? Or is that grapefruit some kind of dog poo/citrus hybrid. A "pisstrus" fruit, if you will. Stay tuned.

Q: What advice do you have for young writers?

*I would say, if you wanna write, WRITE. WRITE ALL THE TIME, EVERY DAY. WRITE like a passionate discipline, like something you HAVE to do. No excuses. Write.

*Blather, blurt, and blab. Just keep writing. Do not write and edit at the same time. Write, write, write, then go back and read/edit, at a completely different time.

*Make your decisions, all of them, for a REASON. Make no choices arbitrarily. From dedication to author photo, every choice must be made with intent. That is what separates great writing from mediocre. Be prepared to defend every single word.

*Find your best way (pantomime wall building, pretending to erase, meditation) to block out any negators and nay-sayers. There will always be critics, opinions you don't agree with, and close minded haters. Don't engage, always ignore, keep being you, move on.

*Always find time to PLAY and HAVE FUN when you write. Pretend you're not writing for an audience, a paycheck, a critic, a career, a review, an award, an assignment, or whatever, just WRITING FOR THE SAKE OF WRITING, and go create. For the joy of it!

*Own your truth, speak your truth, and become brave enough to write about the things that terrify you the most to talk about.

*Don't dumb down words or ideas. Respect language. It's incredible.

*All writers, whether it's your first manuscript ever, or you're Judy "Prolifika" Blume, go through a perpetual pendulum swing, between excitedly exclaiming I CAN'T BELIEVE THIS CAME OUT OF MY BRAIN and a depressed disappointed "i can't believe this came out of my brain." There are days where we all feel like untalented hacks. All of us. And it's really important to remember this. If you didn't, you probably wouldn't be a writer. So cut yourself a break, go do something that makes you happy, such as a hot tub, a hot sake, or hot stones.

Photo credit: Leo MoretonQ: What are you excited about these days?

I'm excited for these spectacular Pacific Ocean sunsets every single night! I'm excited to read Kay Yeh's book THE TRUTH ABOUT TWINKIE PIE! I'm excited to be writing on two new preschool animated originals. I'm excited for karaoke, wigs and sunglasses, glitter-toes, oysters, using the word "smidge" more, and sea-frolicking with my dog Polly Pocket.

I'm excited my book Snoozefest came out this week, and that it has an anthem performed by Chubb Rock, and for the Pajama Party Snoozefest Boozefest I intend on throwing to celebrate. I'm excited about a new 2 book co-author deal with the amazing Martha Brockenbrough and the legendary Arthur Levine. I'm excited to see/conference with/laugh with/write with/ and dance with all my beloved book people and SCBWI-ers again, and for all the incredible books everyone has coming out right now (including YOU, Debbie! Cannot wait for WHERE ARE MY BOOKS!).

Thanks so much for asking me these questions 3 on inkygirl.

Book birthday doodle I did in celebration of the Snoozefest launch

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For more interviews, see my Inkygirl Interview Archive.

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21. Library Loot: Fourth Trip in January

New Loot:
  • Death in Disguise by Caroline Graham
  • Storm by Donna Jo Napoli
  • The Ship of Brides by Jojo Moyes
  • Devil at My Heels by Louis Zamperini with David Rensin
Leftover Loot:
  • Almost Super by Marion Jensen
  • Space Case by Stuart Gibbs
  • The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander
  • Socks by Beverly Cleary
  • The Midnight Dress by Karen Foxlee
  • On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
  • The Cat in the Hat Comes Back by Dr. Seuss
  • On Beyond Zebra by Dr. Seuss
  • Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Seuss
  • If I Ran the Circus by Dr. Seuss
  •  Copper Magic by Julia Mary Gibson
  • Death of a Hollow Man by Caroline Graham
  • The Blue Cotton Gown by Patricia Harman
  • The Midwife of Hope River by Patricia Harman
  • The Forgotten 500: The Untold Story of the Men Who Risked All for the Greatest Rescue Mission of World War II by Gregory A. Freeman
  • The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
  •  Quinny & Hopper by Adriana Brad Schanen 
  • Nuts to You by Lynne Rae Perkins
  • The Zoo at the Edge of the World by Eric Kahn Gale
  •  A Great and Glorious Adventure by Gordon Corrigan
  • The Upstairs Room by Johanna Reiss
  • Bo at Iditarod Creek by Kirkpatrick Hill
  • Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • Wars of the Roses: Stormbird by Conn Iggulden
  • The Foundry's Edge by Cam Baity & Benny Zelkowicz
  • Beyond the Laughing Sky by Michelle Cuevas
  • Red Berries, White Clouds, Blue Sky by Sandra Dallas
  • Girl from Yamhill by Beverly Cleary
  • My Own Two Feet by Beverly Cleary
  • Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
  • The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde
  • The Fourth Bear by Jasper Fforde
  • The Barefoot Queen Ildefondo de Sierra Falcones
  • Snow on the Tulips by Liz Tolsma
  • Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys
  • All Hail the Queen by Erica David
  • Memory and Magic by Erica David
    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.   


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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22. it had to happen: the fork poem

Tine After Tine

tuning fork for matching pitch
long-handled fork to scratch an itch
fork in the road to force a decision
(fork not as good as knife for incision)

garden fork for hard-packed soil
forklift spares your back the toil
bicycle fork suspends your wheels
favorite fork: the one at meals

HM 2015
all rights reserved

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23. Blizzard Warning

The sky looks clear and though the temps
Are not exactly warm,
The weatherman's predicting
There will be a major storm.

The blizzard warning's on the horn,
The airlines pulling flights;
Anxiety starts ratcheting
To Xanax-taking heights.

At times I wish for days gone by
When storms were a surprise.
We didn't have alerts
So then we couldn't agonize.

Of course we're better off today
So we can be prepared,
But being clueless, so much stress
Would happily be spared.


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24. Happy 2015!



A bit late, but I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and New Year!

I was a very busy bee at the end of 2014 working on a couple of exciting commissions, which I can hopefully share soon. In the meantime, here is a christmas illustration I did for my cousin's baby boy who lives over in New York!



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25. Revisiting To Dream in the City of Sorrows

To Dream in the City of Sorrows. (Babylon 5: Book #9). Kathryn M. Drennan. Based on the series by J. Michael Straczynski. 1997. Random House. 352 pages.  [Source: Bought]
"What are we to do with him her?" asked the Mole of the Water Rat.
"Nothing at all," replied the Rat firmly. "Because there is really nothing to be done. You see, I know him her from old. He She is now possessed. He She has got a new craze, and it always takes him her that way, in its first stage. He'll She'll continue like that for days now, like an animal walking in a happy dream, quite useless for all practical purposes. Never mind him her. ~ Adapted from Wind of the Willows
Me obsessed with Babylon 5?! Really?! Perhaps. 

I've read To Dream in the City of Sorrows three times now. I reviewed it in 2011 and 2012. I think it is a must read for fans of Babylon 5. In the introduction, J. Michael Straczynski writes, "What you hold in your hand is an official, authorized chapter in the Babylon 5 story line. This is the definitive answer to the Sinclair question, and should be considered as authentic as any episode in the regular series."

But where to place it?! That is the question. It's tempting to read it in between season one and season two. After all, most of the book's events are parallel to season two. Readers get a chance to read what Sinclair is doing in the meantime. But not all the events, and that is where it gets tricky. Reading To Dream In the City of Sorrows before viewing season three would spoil things for you. So reading it after you've seen the third season may prove best. Since I've seen most all the seasons multiple times, I read it when I like! [For the record, this time around, I've seen all of season one, and the first eight episodes of season two.]    

So the framework of To Dream In The City of Sorrows--the prologue and epilogue--take place shortly after season three's "Grey 17 is Missing," and are narrated by Marcus Cole. (I just LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Marcus Cole!) But most of the book focuses on what was happening with Jeffrey Sinclair after he left Babylon 5. (The gap between the last episode of season one, "Chrysalis," and the incredibly intense two-part episode "War Without End" of season three.)

Read To Dream in the City of Sorrows

  • If you want to know what Sinclair was doing in season two and three
  • If you want to know what became of Catherine Sakai, to learn if these two were able to make their troubled relationship work...with the added drama of Shadows and Rangers
  • If you want to know more even more about the Shadows' movements during this time
  • If you want to learn about how Sinclair became Ranger One and re-energized the Rangers (first started by Valen)
  • If you want to learn more about Minbari prophecies (also their culture and caste system)
  • If you want to learn more about the Vorlons; in particular readers are introduced to Ulkesh. (Loved Sinclair's first impression of him! And his insights about the Vorlons in general. How Kosh may not be the most representative of his race.)
  • If you want to learn more about Marcus. Readers meet William Cole AND Marcus Cole. Two brothers with an imperfect relationship. William is an eager ranger-in-training trying to get Marcus to join him, but, things don't always go as planned.
© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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