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1. Out of Your Hands

There comes a time when a mom has no control over her child. When one of her babies makes a very adult decision that will alter your future relationship indefinitely. Mom feels hopeless, as if her hands are tied over this decision. Mom, while those hands are tied, hit your knees and pray like never before. Jesus is still on the throne. Maybe this decision was really an act of God and your child is following His lead.

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2. Guaranteed Rejection

Here are some way to almost guarantee that an agent or editor will reject your manuscript.


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3. Face-Lift 1259

Guess the Plot

A Fearful Brew

1. Was it a heart attack that killed that dinner party guest? Or was it poison in his soup? Inspector Snow is on the case, but can his scientific investigation reveal the truth before the society ladies' gossip destroys lives? Also, women's suffrage.

2. When amateur microbrewer Joe Bona creates what may well be the best beer in the world he's ecstatic - until he realizes that his creation is sentient . . . and it's got stage fright. 

3. John Longstein has had a good run as a serial killer. Now it's time to toss back a few brewskies. Just one last step. His last victim-to-be watches him prepare a batch of home-made brew with those "special" ingredients still to come. 

4. Celebrity, actress, chef, writer, model and lifestyle guru Gwen Patronal has a new beverage for the health-happy Hamptons set: a gluten-free, GMO-free, sodium-free, cruelty-free, fat-free, calorie-free, cholestoral-free, free range, organic, vegan beer she calls "Good". Will she clean up at the Sag Harbor Brew Fest, or will she fall to a *gasp* traditional ale? Also, hipsters.

5. High school student Taylor inherits her late grandmother's recipe collection and it includes a recipe for witch's brew. Is this the secret to getting that new boy Josh to finally notice her? Or will the concoction kill everyone who drinks it? Only one way to find out.

Original Version

A Fearful Brew

Inspector Snow thinks there is more to the death of Sir Atwood than the hasty verdict of heart attack. ["Hasty" because Atwood was a young man, and an athlete, and his head is missing.] [Assuming Atwood isn't the guy's first name, that should be Sir John or Sir John Atwood, but not Sir Atwood. I know this because on golf telecasts they always refer to Nick Faldo as Sir Nick.] ["Heart attack" sounds more like a diagnosis than a verdict. Has there been an inquest or was Atwood merely examined at the scene by a doctor?]

The hostess of the fatal dinner party fears the gossip will damage her social position. [Already there are whisperings that Sir Atwood's heart attack was caused by the Clams Casino.] Her guests, obligate [obligated] to attend, find their secrets at risk. 

[Guests: He had a heart attack. What do you want from us?

Inspector Snow: I want to know all of your secrets.]

Charlotte Magnolia, observes sagely from her husband's side, [Observes what?] with a flask of bourbon to keep her warm. [Is Charlotte Magnolia the hostess? A randomly chosen guest? I was convinced we were in London; now I'm thinking Mississippi.]

Jane Bradford, [no comma needed there.] fights her fear. She convinces her widowed sister, Lady Harrington, to help her start a suffrage group, [What is this "fear" Jane is fighting? I can't think of any fears that can be overcome by starting a suffrage group.] despite Aunt Edith's warning that it will ruin their chances of marriage. [Wait, are we in the same book?]

With only three recruits, her sister wavering, and Aunt Edith's smug reaction to their lack of members, Jane makes the radical decision to include the household servants in their group. The only one to object [decline?] is the cook, to everyone's surprise. [The surprise isn't that the cook didn't want in; it's that the butler did.] 

When news of the death of Sir Atwood reaches the group, the servants prove to be more than mere prop . The cook's knowledge of herbs, Maisy's determination to help a sacked maid, [Who is Maisy?] and tidbits of gossip from the society ladies, spark a transformation in an era that demand [demands] social correctness. 


What does Sir Atwood's death have to do with the servants in Jane Bradford's home?

Characters named in query: Inspector Snow, Sir Atwood, Charlotte Magnolia, Jane Bradford, Lady Harrington, Aunt Edith, Maisy. Add to that the hostess, the guests, Charlotte's husband, the cook, Jane's other household servants, and the society ladies, and we have a cast bigger than Downton Abbey. Which is okay for a novel, but way too many for a query letter.

Stating the title at the top isn't enough. We want a couple sentences in which you give the title, genre, word count, and anything else that might convince the reader to request your manuscript.

The first name mentioned is Inspector Snow, but he's never mentioned again. If Jane's cook solves the murder, we don't need the inspector in the query. 

You need to decide whether the main plot is Inspector Snow's murder investigation or Jane Bradford's quest for suffrage. The latter seems to get more attention, but as the suffrage group comprises only Jane and her sister (maybe) and her household staff, maybe the suffrage group is a subplot.

If the investigation is the main plot, tell us why Snow thinks there's more to Atwood's death than a heart attack, and name some suspects and their possible motives.

If women's suffrage is the main plot, open the query with Jane, tell us about her struggles to interest others in the cause, and mention Atwood's death only if you can explain how it's connected to the cause.

Don't name characters without also telling us who they are.

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4. Schooool's Out...for...the Summer!

Time to pack up that classroom or library and head to the beach! While you're relaxing, let us offer a little light reading with our recent goings-on.

Latest News

Emma Virján

Emma is pleased to announce that her latest book 
What This Story Needs is a Pig in a Wig is now officially on sale!
Publisher's Weekly has listed the book as one of the Best Books of Summer 2015, so be sure to pick up a copy for your trip to the beach.
A HUGE thank you to BookPeople for hosting Pig's fantastic book launch.
Learn more about the book and see the trailer here.
Thank you Texas librarians and teachers for your support!

Jeanette Larson

Jeanette was honored to receive the Texas Library Association's Distinguished Service Award, one of the state's highest recognitions for librarians and educators across the state, at the TLA Conference in April. 
Way to go, Jeanette!

P. J. Hoover

P. J. had a busy month filled with school visits, wrapping up a great year, including a highlighted visit to her own son's middle school (he wouldn't talk to her for a solid hour afterward!). 
During the 2014-2015 school year, P. J. visited over thirty schools, talking with kids from 3rd grade through high school. It was a blast, and she is looking forward to doing the same next year. Her schedule is filling up, so if you are interested in an author visit for the 2015-2016 school year, please contact P. J. as soon as possible. 
P. J. surprised students at Trinity Episcopal School in Austin for a Lone Star List celebration lunch.

Over Memorial Day weekend, P. J. banded together with Texas Writing Ninjas Mari Mancusi, Madeline Smoot, and Joy Preble for Comicpalooza in Houston. Aside from having fun at the booth and talking to book fans, she participated in panels on everything from YA Literature to Star Wars vs. Star Trek: It's on. (Star Trek, btw, is definitely the winner!)
P. J. ran into all sorts of awesome SFF icons at Comicpalooza.

K. A. Holt

Kari is excited to show you a sneak peek of the cover of her newest middle grade novel, RED MOON RISING. It will be released by McElderry Books (Simon & Schuster) in the Spring of 2016. 
Pitched as Firefly meets Little House on the Prairie, RED MOON RISING is about a feisty 13-year-old who becomes an unwitting pawn in the standoff between her struggling colony and an enclave of aliens who may be something quite different than they seem.

If you are going to be at ALA in San Francisco this June, Kari would love to see you. She'll be signing books on Sunday the 28th from 11:30-12:30, and she'll be on the Engaging Reluctant Readers panel at the Pop Top Stage on Monday 29th at 1 pm.

Don Tate

School Visiting
Don says: Thank you for your support, Texas librarians! Each month, I visit schools all over Texas, and beyond; it's because of you that I get to do what I love-create inspiring, important books for young readers. Thank you for taking the time to read our newsletters, and for all of the won
derful responses you've sent me throughout the school year. You rock!
Freedom Touring
Last week, author-illustrator Don Tate and his colleague, author Kelly Starling Lyons, forged the next leg of their Freedom Book Tour through the Washington D.C. area. The tour featured their books that celebrate inspiring African-American historical figures and their journeys to freedom. Stops included: a live taping of RIF Live!, to kick off RIF's (Reading Is Fundamental) 2015 Multicultural Booklist; a Diversity in the Classroom event sponsored by We Need Diverse Books; an Early Childhood Education Literacy Workshop with the National Black Child Development Institute; and a reading at the African-American Civil War Museum. A blurb about the event in Publisher's Weekly can be found here. 
Above: Don at RIF Live!
Below: Don speaks to students at Sherrod Elementary in Arlington, Texas.

Jessica Lee Anderson

Jessica Lee Anderson looks forward to sharing more details about her educational books in the pipeline soon!  She's now booking school visits for Fall 2015 and is currently offering a discount if the visit is booked by June 15, 2015.  You can visit Jessica's website for contact information and more details.

Jo Whittemore

Jo has been juggling working on the new Confidentially Yoursseries for Harper Collins, debuting January 2016, with teaching craft to her fellow writers. She's looking forward to a brief summer break between projects!

For some kids, reading is strictly a school activity, where books are abandoned once the last bell rings. Before they head out the door, why not suggest a summer reading program like theScholastic Summer Reading Challenge? Or create one of your own!


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5. Author Top 5 with Catherine Linka


Today we welcome Catherine Linka to YABC! Zinka's soon to be released sequel to A Girl Called Fearless, A Girl Undone, is sure to appeal to fans of Divergent and An Ember in the Ashes. The next installment in The Girl Called Fearless series will make its debut June 23rd and we can't wait! But for now, Catherine Linka is sharing the top five reasons why she'd like to have her main character, Avie, as her best friend!


Meet Catherine.


Catherine Zinka has been immersed in books her whole life, most recently as a writer and a bookseller. Her debut novel is A Girl Called Fearless, a young adult romantic speculative fiction/political thriller. Catherine lives in Southern California where she watches hummingbirds and hawks when she should be working.




Now meet Catherine's book, A Girl Undone!




From Catherine Linka, the sequel and explosive conclusion to A Girl Called Fearless.


Having survived a violent confrontation with the US government, Avie is not out of danger. Both she and the young man she loves, Yates, have been declared terrorists, and Yates is hospitalized in critical condition, leaving Avie with the perilous task of carrying information that can bring down the Paternalist party, if she can get it into the right hands.


Forced on the run with handsome, enigmatic woodsman Luke, Avie struggles when every turn becomes a choice between keeping the two of them alive or completing their mission. With her face on every news channel and a quarter million dollar reward from the man who still owns her marriage Contract, Avie's worst fears are about to come true. Equal parts thrilling and romantic, A Girl Undone is sure to keep your heart racing right until the very end.


**All writers fall in love with their characters, but after A Girl Called Fearless and A Girl Undone, Avie’s become really special to me. So here they are:



Five Reasons Why I’d Like My Character, Avie Reveare, As My Best Friend: 



1. She keeps your secrets safe.

Confide your deepest, darkest, most dangerous secret to Avie, and she will do everything she can to protect it. Whether it involves a forbidden romance, escape plan, or spy ring, her lips are sealed. 





2. She will never give up on you even when you’re messing up big time. 

If you’re obsessed with doing something incredibly stupid, like taking out revenge on one of the most powerful men in government, Avie won’t stop trying to steer you straight. Avie is with you all the way. 





3. She’s got mad survival skills. 


Break your leg on a snowy mountaintop? Need to outfox a private force of ex­military on your tail? Avie might be be small, but she’s smart and inventive, and she’ll get you both out of danger. 





4. She won’t cut and run. 

When things get deadly hot, you want a friend who won’t leave you to save herself. Avie’s the friend who only takes off if it will keep you safe. 




5. She gets knocked down and gets back up. 


Avie’s not perfect and she’s blown it plenty of times, but she owns her mistakes, and keeps on trying. She’s the friend who inspires you to be fearless, because she refuses to give up.


See what I mean? Don’t you want those things in a best friend? 


Thank you, Catherine!

We agree, Avie sounds like the perfect best friend! Don't forget to pick up a copy of A Girl Undone on sale June 23rd! And for more information about Catherine and her writing, visit her website HERE!


Read More

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6. Don Quixote Project Featured On Kickstarter

The Restless Books team hopes to raise $20,000 to publish a 400th anniversary edition of Miguel de Cervantes’ beloved novel, Don Quixote. This book, slated for release in October 2015, will be the first title from the “Restless Classics” program. We’ve embedded a video about the project above.

Here’s more from the Kickstarter page: “Our mission is to bring great books from overlooked corners of the world to American readers who are not content to limit their imaginations to our borders. We’ll be publishing English-language editions of fiction, nonfiction, graphic novels, travel writing, science fiction and more from everywhere from Cuba to China, Pakistan to Chile, Mexico to Uzbekistan. With Restless Classics, we want to bring older books that still speak to our time and place—and especially to our ‘restlessness’—back into the conversation.”

Welcome to our Kickstarter Publishing Project of the Week, a feature exploring how authors and publishers are using the fundraising site to raise money for book projects. If you want to start your own project, check out How To Use Kickstarter to Fund Your Publishing Project.

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7. A New Sport

Baseball season has begun. And it's a new sport to us!

B10 is really the only natural athlete in our family. All our kids have played soccer at some point and were pretty competitive, but B10 seems to be good at whatever he tries. And last summer he tried baseball, informally, at a picnic with a group of dads, who all urged me to get him into baseball.

So this year, we signed up. He couldn't make the tryouts for Little League because he was busy being a Monkey in Jungle Book, but the Boys and Girls Club has a league, and it's less competitive. Which is a good thing, since he has so little knowledge of the game.

A couple practices were rained out and we had a conflict for another one, so he only made one practice before the first game of the season. Our normally supremely confident son admitted he didn't know what he was doing yet and didn't feel ready for a game, but the coach assured me that he had a broad range of abilities on the team and B10 would be fine.

His inept parents could not find the field where the first game was played, so he arrived last--and they had run out of hats and jerseys. Mom didn't find out that pants weren't included with the uniform until a few hours before the game, but B10 assured her that sweatpants would be fine. So here he is at his first game--in sweatpants and somebody's jersey from last year (over the green t-shirt he arrived in).

I have to laugh. He's just so obviously not our firstborn.

Since we were late to the game, he only got up to bat one time. First he swung at one that hit the dirt. Then he watched another one do the same. And on the third pitch, he hit a line drive to the first baseman and was thrown out--but got an RBI when his teammate on third crossed the plate!

He didn't see much action out in right field, but he looked alert the whole time and snapped up a couple grounders that got through the infield.

I'm guessing baseball is not going to be his favorite sport, because there is so much sitting and standing around--but he'll be glad to know how to play it.

Now I need to go searching for those white baseball pants that somebody handed down to us! I just know they're in a Rubbermaid bin somewhere....

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8. Why You Should Create Art Everyday!

In this video I give reasons why I think you should set a schedule of creating artwork each and every day...oh - and I have fun drawing this hedgehog while I'm at it.

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9. New Voice: Laura Woollett on Big Top Burning: The True Story of an Arsonist, a Missing Girl, and The Greatest Show On Earth

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Laura A. Woollett is the first-time author of Big Top Burning: The True Story of an Arsonist, a Missing Girl, and The Greatest Show On Earth (Chicago Review Press, June 1, 2015). From the promtional copy:

Big Top Burning investigates the 1944 Hartford circus fire and invites readers to take part in a critical evaluation of the evidence

The fire broke out at 2:40 p.m. Thousands of men, women, and children were crowded under Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey’s big top watching the Flying Wallendas begin their death-defying high-wire act. Suddenly someone screamed “Fire!” and the panic began. 

By 2:50 the tent had burned to the ground. Not everyone had made it out alive.

With primary source documents and survivor interviews, Big Top Burning recounts the true story of the 1944 Hartford circus fire—one of the worst fire disasters in U.S. history. 

Its remarkable characters include Robert Segee, a 15-year-old circus roustabout and known pyromaniac, and the Cook children, Donald, Eleanor, and Edward, who were in the audience when the circus tent caught fire. 

Guiding readers through the investigations of the mysteries that make this moment in history so fascinating, this book asks: Was the unidentified body of a little girl nicknamed “Little Miss 1565” Eleanor Cook? Was the fire itself an act of arson—and did Robert Segee set it? 

Big Top Burning combines a gripping disaster story, an ongoing detective and forensics saga, and World War II–era American history, inviting middle-grades readers to take part in a critical evaluation of the evidence and draw their own conclusions.

How did you approach the research process for your story? What resources did you turn to? What roadblocks did you run into? How did you overcome them? What was your greatest coup, and how did it inform your manuscript?

Laura at the circus
When I wrote the first draft of Big Top Burning, a nonfiction account of the 1944 Hartford circus fire, I had only dipped a toe into the giant pool of research that was to inform the final book.

I began the project in graduate school as an independent study in writing nonfiction for young people. That summer, I researched and wrote the entire first draft!

Of course, this was before I was married, before I owned a house, and before I had a child. My research consisted of reading the three (at the time) nonfiction books for adults on the subject, and reading every newspaper article on the fire from 1944 to date that I could find – mostly from the "Hartford Courant" and the now defunct "Hartford Times."

The best thing I did was to interview a few survivors of the fire. They’d been children at the time and were so gracious in sharing the stories of their narrow escapes.

The interviews were gold. However, the newspaper articles, while primary sources, often held inaccurate information. The disaster happened quickly, and as reporters rushed to get information to the public, all sorts of false information found its way into their stories. And the adult books were secondary sources. I needed to form my own conclusions about the tragedy and the mysteries that surrounded it.

Then in 2009, I won the SCBWI Work In Progress grant for nonfiction, and that gave me the inspiration to keep going and to dig deeper. I used the money to travel to Hartford where I discovered the extensive circus fire archives at the Connecticut State Library. I spent several weekends at the library, diving into boxes of police records and witness statements, looking at crime scene photos, and even listening to a tape-recorded interview with the suspected arsonist, Robert Segee.

I’d be immersed for five hours at a time, and when I left I was exhausted, hungry (no food allowed in the archives area), and feeling victorious every time. I truly felt like a detective, collecting the clues to form a complete picture of the events that happened at the circus that day. Thank goodness for the librarians who collected and cataloged boxes and boxes of materials on the circus fire. It’s really due to them that authors like me are able to write such complete accounts of the tragedy.

As I continued to revise and send my manuscript to various agents and publishers, I interviewed more survivors. Interestingly, they seemed to appear wherever I went.

At the Boston Public Library, a gentleman who saw my research materials spread out on a table stopped to tell me his tale of survival. When my father was recovering from heart surgery at Hartford Hospital, he discovered his roommate was a survivor. My high school chemistry teacher (who always told us to keep our backpacks out of the aisles) shows up in one of the photos in my book. And I was able to interview my fifth grade teacher, who had been in the hospital having his tonsils out when they brought the first burn victims in.

I feel honored to be entrusted with their stories and proud to have written a book that will pass on the story of the Hartford circus fire to future generations.

Memorial to the Hartford circus fire victims, built on the former circus grounds. The bronze medallion indicates the location of the center pole of the big top tent.

How did you go about identifying your editor? Did you meet him/her at a conference? Did you read an interview with him/her? Were you impressed by books he/she has edited?

When I sent out my manuscript on submission, I had done my research. (I’m a member of SCBWI after all!) I began by querying agents who represented nonfiction authors, and I looked specifically at those who had worked with narrative nonfiction for older readers. I got some great feedback but no takers.

I turned to querying editors directly, trying all my contacts through writer friends and through SCBWI. Still lots of lovely rejections.

But I had my eyes open. I snoop in the backs of books to find out the names of the author’s agent and editors, which are often listed in the acknowledgements. I read quite a few blogs about writing and books for kids and always make note of agents or editors who publish work similar to mine, or work I think I’d like to write in the future.

It was on Cynsations that I found a New Voices post by editor Susan Signe Morrison, who with author Joan Wehlen Morrison, wrote Home Front Girl (Chicago Review Press, 2012), a diary of everyday life of an American girl growing up in the years leading up to WWII.

Because the book was for an older audience, nonfiction, and about the same era as mine, I thought I’d query her acquiring editor, Lisa Reardon at Chicago Review Press.

Two months after my query, Lisa sent me an offer letter.

After this experience I truly believe that if you write a good book, you will find a home for it—you just have to keep your eyes open and stay persistent. I wrote the first draft of Big Top Burning in the summer of 2005 and just a mere ten years later, I’m incredibly proud of its debut in 2015!

Cynsational Notes

For more information on the Hartford circus fire, visit circus fire historian, Mike Skidgell.

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10. #BookADay: SHADOW CHASERS by Elly McKay (Running Press)

‪#‎BookADay‬: SHADOW CHASERS by Elly McKay ( Theater Clouds on FB), published by Running Press. I love Elly's absolutely gorgeous paper-theater lightbox illustrations.

Synopsis: "Once evening paints the summer sky, shadows will come out to play. You must move fast, because as quickly as the wind blows, the shadows will be on their way. Chasing after our hopes and dreams may take many tries before we finally catch them. This magical nighttime story shows that the journey is just as remarkable as the destination."

Elly's new BUTTERFLY PARK just came out from Running Press!

You can find Elly on Etsy, on Twitter , on her website.

More about SHADOW CHASERS on the Running Press website.

More info: Donalyn Miller's Summer Book-A-Day Challenge | Archives of my #BookADay posts

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11. The best comics site out there, The Nib, is changing focus


The Nib is the best comics site out there, with new comics every day from some of the greatest cartoonists working. Edited by Matt Bors, it’s a model of how a comics site can be sharply observent and politically relevant, and yet still be good comics overal, with both editorial cartoons—Tis Modern World, Tom the Dancing Bug, Slowpoke, Bors own strip—and new work by folks like Emily Flake, Lisa Hanawalt, R Stevens, Ted Rall, Brian McFadden, Erika Moen, Shannon Wheeler and more more more. A whole generation of incisive non-fiction cartoonists, given a paying platform to work for.

Unfortunately, it’s not going to be around in the same form any more.

The Nib is part of Medium, a start up that is devoted to “long form reads.” Like many start ups, it doesn’t have any visible means of making money, so while the site employed Bors and paid cartoonists to create new work, as I all too presciently suggested, that model was too radical to work forever.

I should note that I have no idea what the changes will be. Assistant editor Eleri Mai Harris was let go a few weeks ago, the first warning sign, and now the cartoonists who were syndicated on the site, such as Tom Tomorrow and Ruben Bolling, as indicating they they will not appear there any more. Bolling wrote:

Hey, Tom the Dancing Bug ran regularly on Medium.com’s comic site, The Nib, for about a year and a half, but I’m told that due to changes at Medium, The Nib will be reinventing itself, and will not carry comics on regular basis anymore.
I’ve been tremendously impressed with Nib founder/owner Matt Bors and the way he built the site up.  I’d known him as a young, very talented editorial cartoonist, and a friend, but once he grabbed the reins of The Nib he proved himself to be an endlessly energetic, brilliantly innovative editor and comics impresario.  He developed a large, flexible roster of cartoonists and ran fascinating journalism comics, hilarious and fresh humor comics, heart-wrenching autobiographical comics, and on a moment’s notice he would figure out a way to round up local cartoonists to comment on international stories.  He also did all this with great organization, professionalism, integrity and respect for the artists he gathered.
My comic played a small part in Matt’s grand webcomics project, but I was proud to be associated with it.
The Nib is not going away, and I’ll be watching (and maybe even participating in small ways) how Matt reinvents it, quite possibly in ways that even better lend themselves to his unique editorial talents and vision.


Just as a reminder, here are the most recent comics to appear on the site, a look at the meat industry by Mike Dawson, Longstreet Farm, that will make you uncomfortable


And Eleanor Davis’s The Highgate County Fancy Chicken Show, which, like most of her work, is a multi leveled indictment of stereotypes, fat shaming and other shade we throw at people for no reason whatsoever.

These are good comics, and The Nib was full of them.

I’ve reached out to Bors for further information, but I do know that The Nib will be continuing, so let’s not write an obituary just yet. But everytime i clicked on the site, I thought “This is too good to last” and sadly…I was right.

Here’s a selection of twitter outrage over the change — even CNN’s Jake Tapper got in on the action.

I just interviewed Jen Sorenson about her similar gig at Fusion.net the other day. Hopefully this lasts a lot longer.

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12. Coding Concepts for Preschoolers

In my library, we’re a little obsessed with coding.  We’ve been working on a project to introduce computational thinking and free coding resources to kids called Coder Time. For over a year, we’ve been searching for ways to teach our audience some complex ideas by experimenting with apps, activities, and lesson plans to create library programs (you can learn more about it here). While these programs were always for our older kids and tweens, we’ve been amazed at our youngest participants’ enthusiasm to jump right in. As we work with this age group, we keep finding overlap between coder concepts and early literacy skills.  For example, play teaches symbolic thinking, a skill important for both reading and coding.  Narrative skills help children understand story structure, but also strengthen computational thinking.  I’ve recently started incorporating coding concepts into my preschool storytimes.  After some trial and error and a mobbed flannel board, here’s what I have in the works:

Coder Values: Collaboration, perseverance, imagination, it’s all about attitude!  My favorite book for this is Today I Will Fly! by Mo Willems.  Partner with your parachute and kids can work as a team to make Gerald, or your elephant puppet, soar.

Algorithms: An algorithm is the set of instructions you follow to complete a task.  Understanding this is the first step in writing a program.  I’m using Lois Ehlert’s Growing Vegetable Soup to introduce the seed planting activity found in Course One of Code Studio. I also adapted their “Happy Maps” activity for use with a magnetic whiteboard. In a very simple maze of boxes, we help Bingo find his bone.  Apps like Kodable and Lightbot Jr. are too advanced for my preschool audience, so this lets me control the level of difficulty, and give the kids a more tactile experience.

Conditionals: Conditionals are pieces of code that only run when certain conditions are met.  They are the If/Then parts of coding.  A good introduction is If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff.  In looking for other ways to teach this, I found Linda Liukas’s Hello Ruby’s paper dolls. This inspired me adapt our “Teddy Wears a Red Shirt” flannel board. Teddy’s wardrobe has grown to include pajamas, yellow boots and a bathing suit.  If it’s raining, Teddy wears his rain boots all day long.

coding concepts preschoolers

Photo taken by the author of this blog post.

Throughout this process, our approach has always been to give families a taste of the possibilities that are out there, and help them discover that coding can be fun and accessible regardless of your background. As a result, a lot of these are variations on program staples.  If you have ideas for other ways of integrating coding into programming for preschoolers, please share!

Brooke Sheets is Children’s Librarian at Los Angeles Public Library’s Children’s Literature Department and is writing this post for the Early Childhood Programs and Services Committee. 

The post Coding Concepts for Preschoolers appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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13. That ‘Wilson’ movie is on again with Harrelson and Dern


Daniel Clowes is the Mark Millar of the indie comics set, with two of his graphic novels—Ghost World and Art School Confidential—having been filmed. And now a third, Wilson, based on the GN of the same name, is back on track, with filming set for Minneapolis next month. The script is by Clowes.

The book was originally slated to be directed by Alexander Payne, back in 2010, and bounced around a bit before Fox Searchlight picked it up. If the Clowes tale—about a grumpy, socially awkward man who is painfully obtuse as he attempts to connect with other humans—was not written directly for Payne to direct, it night as well have been as all his films deal with familial estrangement. But it turns out the film will be directed by Craig Johnson, previously of The Skeleton Twins, and Woody Harrelson and Laura Dern will star as the misanthropic Wilson and his ex-wife/connection interest.

Payne will still produce, however, with his Ad Hominem Enterprises partners Jim Taylor and Jim Burke, Sam Raimi and Josh Donen all attached in some way.

I just happened to watch The Skeleton Twins the other night (it was edited and produced by Jennifer Lee, formerly of Vertigo, and an old Beat Pal.) It was a smart, deft film about…people awkwardly trying to connect with their true feelings, with Hader and Wiig shining. Harrelson and Dern are great 90% of the time, so this sounds like a quality project all around.

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14. D.C. Public Library Hosts Brian Selznick Exhibit

Brian Selznick (GalleyCat)One branch of the D.C. Public Library is hosting an exhibit called “Building Wonder, Designing Dreams: The Bookmaking of Brian Selznick.”

This display showcases the works of the Caldecott Medal winner behind The Invention of Hugo Cabret. It can be found inside the Great Hall of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library.

According to the organization’s website, visitors will be able to “enter Selznick’s books; the pages are 8’ tall and 18’ wide,” “open the drawers in the ‘Cabinet of Wonder,” and “play with a wooden automaton.” A closing date been scheduled for June 21st.

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15. Cinebook The 9th Art; Papyrus 6 - The Amulet of the Great Pyramid

  Papyrus 6 - The Amulet of the Great Pyramid
Author: De Gieter
Age: 8 years and up
Size: 21.7 x 28.7 cm
Number of pages: 48 colour pages
ISBN: 9781849182409
Price: £6.99 inc. VAT

Publication: February 2015

Drawn by strange cries coming from the necropolis at the foot of the pyramids, Papyrus comes face to face with Anubis, the god of the dead. The jackal-headed god, angered by a rash of grave robbing, orders the young Egyptian to enter the Great Pyramid and retrieve there the heart scarab of Kheops. But the pyramid is already 1000 years old to Papyrus, and robbers have long ago desecrated it. The young boy will have to search it from top to bottom.

I think this was one of the first European books I saw from Cinebook that showed a rather cartoony figure style could be employed in amongst wonderfully drawn Egyptian architecture and scenes from daily life.

Of course, there is some history thrown in, Anubis gets to appear in a comic (he complains so!) and young Papyrus has to face snakes and other dangers.  The series is very enjoyable and I would, again, write that this title is "suitable for kids of all ages".  And, incidentally, the colour work by B. Swysen is excellent and adds to each scene.

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16. Women in Animation Announces Annecy Animation Events

The organization has planned multiple panels and presentations related to the role of women in the animation industry.

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17. Dear Dragon Goes to the Beach - a bookwrap


Authored by Margaret Hillert
Illustrated by Jack Pullan
A Beginning-to-Read Book

Unwrapping the illustrations for you to take a peek...

About the book...

A family decides to take a trip and spend the day at the beach. Of course Dear Dragon is invited to come along too.  Together they  experience the sand, collecting seashells, and the water for the first time.  Illustrator Jack Pullan has done a fine job as the pictures are colourful and expressive dove-tailing perfectly with the text. I especially liked the part where they found litter and waste on the beach and cleaned it up.  What a great message to give to kids, that the world is our responsibility to look after and we (in matter how small) can pitch in and make a difference. 

"These Beginning-to-Read books capture the imaginations of beginning readers and help them on their way to independent reading.  Each book in this series includes a miniature teaching guide in the back with a note to the caregiver in the front that helps the reader take as much away from the book as possible, including phonetic and vocabulary exercise.  These books use text that is comprised of common, frequently used words to assist the reader with reinforcing illustrations to help he or she become an independent reader and develop comprehension.  A word list and activities in the back of the book are also included.

Use Dear Dragon books to:

* Practice reading high frequency words

* Expand comprehension

* Improve oral language skills."

I think these books would be perfect in a Kindergarten/Grade One/Grade Two classroom.  Libraries would also be a wonderful place to find them.  I highly recommend this book and this series.

About the author...

Margaret Hillert has written over 80 books for children who are just learning to read. Her books have been translated into many languages and have helped children throughout the world learn to read. She first started writing poetry as a child and has continued to write for children and adults throughout her life. As a first grade teacher, Margaret realized that the books available for students just learning to read were beyond their comprehension. She then began to write her easy readers and poetry for children. Her first collection of poetry Farther Than Far was published in 1969. Her many awards include the Chicago Children's Reading Round Table Annual Award for outstanding contributions to the field of children's literature. Other honors include the David W. Longe Prize and the Michigan Bookwoman of the Year Award. A teacher for 34 years, she is now retired and lives in Michigan where she continues to write stories and poetry. 

Read on and read always!

It's a wrap.

Contact me at storywrapsblog@gmail.com

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18. Hashtag is Word of the Year Among Youth

Hastag is the word of the year among children writers, according to a new study from Oxford University Press (OUP).

OUP examined 120,421 short stories by children between the ages of five and 13 that were submitted to the BBC’s 500 Words competition to see which words were most popular. The research found that words like Instagram, Snapchat and emoji are on the rise as words like email, mobile and Facebook are in decline.

The research also revealed that girls are often writing about princesses and royalty and using words such as “princess,” “charming,” “unicorn” and “majesty.” Boys on the other hand are more often writing about dinosaurs and super heroes using words such as “raptor,” “Jurassic” and “Batcave.”

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19. Cover Revealed for First Issue of New Jughead Series

Jughead Cover GalleyCat

After the executives at Archie Comics shut down their Kickstarter campaign, the team pledged to move forward with three new series projects: Betty & Veronica, Life with Kevin, and Jughead. The main cover for issue No. 1 of the new Jughead series has been unveiled. We’ve embedded the full image above—what do you think?

The first cover was designed by artist Erica Henderson. Illustrator Chip Zdarsky created a variant cover (embedded below). The publication date has been scheduled for October 7th.

Jughead Variant Cover GalleyCat

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20. Lee & Low's Diversity in Publishing Petition

Diversity is one of the issues we really care about at Finding Wonderland, and our eclectic reading list reflects that, we hope. That's why it's thrilling to see publishers Lee & Low really pushing the issue--not only promoting diversity in a... Read the rest of this post

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21. UK Comics -What Might Have Been: Maxwell Pergamon Publishing Vs News International

I have already written how, after late businessman Robert Maxwell had purchased Fleetway and made it part of Maxwell Pergamon Publishing, I met up with Maxwell.  He saw that comics could make money and I put a lot of proposals together.

Robert Maxwell

Very nice, genial and joking man but I recall as I left I WAS counting my fingers. There was something too "off" but if he had the money to back UK comics and re-establish the UK as a comic publishing nation who was I to complain?

But talking to an assistant, later, I learnt that, basically, Maxwell wanted his fingers in as many pies as News International boss Rupert Murdoch.  If Murdoch was involved in an industry -whether newspaper, media or sport then Maxwell had to try to outdo him.  And Murdoch vice versa.

I was told that if any representative of News International or Murdoch approached me regarding comic publishing I was to consider myself "being loyal to Mr. Maxwell -and let us know " -which had me imaging brown envelopes full of cash being handed to me in " special deals"  (I was in comics -come on, let me fantasize! )

I did discuss the matter with a couple of the higher ranking Fleetway people who were still at the company.  The advice was to go ahead -" it can't do any more harm can it?"

You see, only afterwards did I realise what was said: "It can't do any more harm..."

Well, we all know what happened to Robert Maxwell http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Maxwell

Oddly, even after Egmont took over Fleetway, things were shaky and I was left unpaid for work to the tune of £5,000.  And I was given the excuse that it was all "Maxwell's fault!"  But Maxwell had died years before and had nothing to do with Egmont-Fleetway!

But I digress.

Maxwell was paranoid about Murdoch who he said he knew -others confirmed it later- was going to jump into comic book publishing.  I even signed an agreement that I was committed to Maxwell Pergamon and would not discuss or advise on publishing comics in the UK (specifically) with News International representatives.

Rupert Murdoch - Flickr - Eva Rinaldi Celebrity and Live Music Photographer.jpg
 Rupert Murdoch

To be fair, at one point, while in London, I was approached by someone who said he was from News International but despite all his smooth talking I told him I was "under contract" -those magic words shut him up completely but he gave me a number to call "in case".

The interesting thing is that Maxwell had said that he knew Science Fiction (2000 AD) and super heroes were the best genres to jump in to.  He also wanted "the best" creators -"big names if possible but very talented if not".

How different the 1980s-1990s might have been with two battling media giants controlling rival comic publishing houses.  We might even have a comics industry today like any other in Europe. Of course, it would all  have depended on whether this was merely a one-upmanship deal or a serious business project. We'll never know.

This was all brought back to me as I looked through old papers.  I have a rule, based on my "other work", that any correspondence is strictly confidential for thirty years -unless it is needed to provide evidence in a legal case some how.  In fact, I have enough dirt on people in UK comics (letters, faxes etc) that I could quite easily cause them real problems!  The old joke of my body being pulled out of the River Avon and in my hand a note reading "Comic scandal if----" springs to mind.

But I have ethics.  And that makes me wonder how long I might have lasted in a Maxwell controlled comic industry.  Would have been interesting though.

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22. Katy O’Donnell Moves to Nation Books

Nation Books LogoKaty O’Donnell has been brought on to the Nation Books team.

O’Donnell will serve as an associate editor. She will work with editorial director Alessandra Bastagli.

Throughout her career, O’Donnell has held editorial positions at Overlook Press and Basic Books. Some of the books she has edited include Edward Baptist’s The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism, John Merriman’s Massacre: The Life and Death of the Paris Commune, and Eugene Rogan’s The Fall of the Ottomans: The Great War in the Middle East.

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23. Publisher & Ad Agency Create a Children’s Book That Can Transform Into a Tree

Mi Papa Estuvo en la Selva Cover (GalleyCat)Argentinian publisher Pequeno Editor and ad agency FCB Buenos Aires teamed up to launch the Tree Book Tree program. The mission behind this venture is to create books that can become trees once they are planted into the ground.

The Huffington Post reports that the “tree book” features a children’s story called Mi Papá Estuvo en la Selva (which translates to My Dad Was in the Jungle in English). Click here to watch a video to learn more about this program.

According to Adweek, the materials used to make these “”hand-stitched” books include “acid-free paper, jacaranda seeds, and ecologically friendly ink.” The executives hope “to teach kids 8-12 where books come from—not the Internet, as some probably believe.” (via Good Magazine)

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24. Productivity tip for writers: see how long you can stay offline

Know the difference between actually being productive and the illusion of productivity, especially when you're online.

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25. Whew!

I know it's been a while.  The last month has been a bit bonkers with the end of the school year looming, and a bunch of projects in the air.  One of the most exciting projects was moderating a panel during School Library Journal's Day of Dialog at the beginning of BEA!

Consequently, I was reading up a storm.  I'm happy to share a bit about the books that were represented on the panel!

Five, Six, Seven, Nate! by Tim Federle

I talked about this fantastic and hole filling title on this blog when it first came out.  I can tell you, if you ever get an opportunity to have Tim on a panel make it happen!  Stage presence times 1000 -- lovely, generous and kind, Tim speaks eloquently about his own books as well as the world of publishing.  He has also been a visiting author at our school and our kids still talk about him and his presentations!

Gone Crazy in Alabama, by Rita Williams-Garcia

I am going to dedicate a whole blog post to this one soon (if you can't wait follow the title link to the Book Smugglers review), but suffice it to say the Gaither sisters remain characters who I will always carry in my heart.  Rita makes each word in her books count, and these are titles I am going to listen to with my daughters this summer.  A fantastic panelist, Rita is willing to get real and share stories.  She speaks powerfully on her writing process and is willing the share the lessons she's learned about writing over the years.

Lost in the Sun, by Lisa Graff

This will get a Tweendom review soon as well. Feel free to follow the title link to the NYTimes review.  Lisa revisits the world of Umbrella Summer, this time focusing in on Trent -- the boy who shot the puck.  I quickly got sucked into Trent's world of broken family and friendships and was pulling for him as he tried to figure his way through his guilt and pain.  Lisa writes across ages and genres and brings keen insight to the conversation.  Lisa clearly remembers her middle school years and is willing to get personal! Such fun!

Goodbye Stranger, by Rebecca Stead

Again, one I will talk about more closer to the pub date. I have linked to Monica Edinger's review in the title.  I have seen Rebecca speak several times now (including being the lucky duck to be there for the presentation of the Newbery Award) and each time she comes fresh to the table. It's obvious she considers the questions, and her heart is in it for her readers. She speaks about middle school readers having the freedom of choice, and the many little deaths they experience as they grow up.  Goodbye Stranger does read a bit older than When You Reach Me and Liar and Spy and I can't wait to put it in the hands of my students and hear what they think!

The Looney Experiment, by Luke Reynolds

And last but not least we have The Looney Experiment, by Luke Reynolds. While relatively new to the world of middle school literature, Luke has been writing extensively on the world of education for some time.  His job as a 7th grade teacher obviously gave him the stage presence necessary to hang with the rest of the panelists!  His passion for literature and for kids is palpable and he reminds us that kids want us to notice them and see what is below the surface. His character of Atticus demonstrates this idea as there is so much going on in his mind that his classmates, and most of the adults in his life just don't see!

It was such an honor getting to moderate this panel, and I just wish we had more time.  I want to thank all of the authors for being so generous with their time, and also thank School Library Journal for allowing me to have this opportunity.  This was definitely a career highlight for me! This was the first time I had ever moderated, and I hope it won't be the last!

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