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1. Whoopee!


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2. Sometimes, reading the book just isn’t enough – LeakyCon Lit

leakycon Sometimes, reading the book just isn’t enough – LeakyCon LitWell, after the glorious, gleeful exhaustion brought on by the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, your intrepid intern still had a whole conference to attend.

For those of you who haven’t heard of LeakyCon, it originally started as a Harry Potter–themed fan conference in 2009, but has since morphed into an all-out geek-fest in which fan communities from all kinds of media platforms come together to celebrate the power of story and fandom. In fact, the conference has been renamed and will be known as GeekyCon from here on — opening up to the wide, wide world of geekdom!

It will not surprise any of you that I spent most of my time at the conference at the LeakyCon Lit panels. Organized by YA authors Maureen Johnson and Robin Wasserman, LeakyCon Lit brings together YA authors from all over to talk about writing, their books, and plenty of weird, awesome, totally unrelated things. This year’s speakers were Stephanie Perkins, Laurie Halse Anderson, Malinda Lo, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Holly Black, Gayle Forman, John Green, Varian Johnson, Kazu Kibuishi, Lauren Myracle, Rainbow Rowell, and Scott Westerfeld. With such a diverse group presenting, we got to hear about everything from designing love interests to killing off beloved characters, from graphic novels to world-building, from Stephanie Perkins’s morning jigsaw puzzle routine to Alaya Dawn Johnson’s near miss with quicksand.

The programming ranged widely between serious panels (such as “Diversity in YA” and the “War Against YA Lit”) to game shows (including Jeopardy and a variation on The Lying Game, an old British game show). Maureen Johnson interviewed John Green in a Between Two Ferns–eqsue style, providing a hilarious exposé of their friendship. Johnson also moderated the panel about killing off characters — which meant, unfortunately, that the audience didn’t get any new information about a certain beloved [spoiler] she killed off in [spoiler]. But we did have the opportunity to harangue some of the other authors, who discussed the tension between emotional attachment and resonance and deciding when a character’s death serves the story best.

The panel centered on diversity in YA was especially powerful. The panelists discussed YA literature’s erasure and misrepresentation of people with diverse gender identities and sexuality, people of color, and people with disabilities — as well as the kind of backlash faced by authors who create those characters. I found it provocative when the authors on the panel discussed a question they often get regarding their characters of color: “Why did you make that character a specific race if your story isn’t about racism…why bother?”  The discussion which followed emphasized the importance of recognizing the bountiful diversity of experience in the world and the role literature plays in representing that diversity to its readership.

While most of the programming at LeakyCon Lit this year was phenomenal, a couple of the panels were better in conception than they were in execution. One panel called “I Made You, You’re Perfect” focused on romance in YA and how to construct romantic relationships and compatible characters. The panel, however, was comprised entirely of straight women; this lack of diversity was particularly apparent during a mishandled question on asexuality. The “War on YA” panel was concerned with the way that YA as a genre has been either denigrated by the media as too sweet and too small (especially for adult readers) or lambasted as the source of all evil for young people. Rather than exploring this phenomenon and its impact in depth, however, the speakers on the panel mostly reiterated what many of us had seen them write on Twitter and their blogs in recent months.

Overall, however, LeakyCon Lit was a perfect mix of whimsy, banter, and critical discussion. The authors are all knowledgeable and engaging, and their comments and discussions were accessible and enjoyable. I’ve been attending this track for the past four years and I can say with certainty that there is plenty to enjoy for both teens and adults.

The rest of the LeakyCon is not devoid of book-related fun for kids and grown-ups, of course. The subjects of the panels range from investigations into Harry Potter canon and characters to sing-alongs and debates. Each night there’s a concert by bands who get their material from Harry Potter (or The West Wing, or Doctor Who, or a whole host of other awesome platforms and stories). Pemberly Digital, a production company which creates modern adaptions of well-loved classics, premiered the first two episodes of Frankenstein, M.D., which follows Victoria Frankenstein, a young doctor determined to prove herself in a male-dominated field. Pemberly Digital is the same group who created the Emmy award–winning adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. Which you should watch right now. Don’t worry. I’ll wait!

Seriously though, they are really good – as is Emma Approved (adapted from Jane Austen’s Emma), which is currently airing on Pemberly’s YouTube channel.

By the time we woke up on Sunday morning, we were about ready to lounge the day away by the pool. But we were in Orlando, and there is no such thing as a trip to Orlando without a visit to the Magic Kingdom. We did have to put down all our new books and our new geeky swag…but books are always there when you get back!

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The post Sometimes, reading the book just isn’t enough – LeakyCon Lit appeared first on The Horn Book.

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3. Thank you, Nate Williams. Illustrationmundo.com was a magnificent site…

Illustrationmundo.com no longer exists: http://www.n8w.com/news/vuvapt8798vei1wtk076ifq61p51cl

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4. Why Nick’s Pitch Program Doesn’t Work

Why Nickelodon's public pitching spectacles are a disservice to the network and to the artists who work there.

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5. Rupert Grint Discusses "It's Only a Play," Broadway Debut

Rupert Grint, who will be making his Broadway debut in "It's Only a Play," was recently interviewed about the play and about how acting on stage differs from acting for a film:

Tell me about this guy you’re playing, Frank Finger.
It’s a type of character that I’ve never had the chance to play before—he’s someone very complicated and deeply troubled. That’s really what attracted me to him. The play is amazing, it's so funny and such an interesting insight into the theater world from behind the scenes.

You starred in Mojo in the West End. Did you pick up any tips you want to remember for this time?
That was different because it was my first ever taste of theater in any form, really. Before that it was just school plays and pantomimes, so it was a big learning experience. [Mojo and It's Only a Play] are very different shows. But I find keeping the concentration quite hard, just being in character for so long. I’m used to dipping in and out. On a film set you’re in character just for a few seconds, then you walk away. So with this, you have to be in the moment for the whole two hours, so it’s hard, but it’s great fun.

Is this your first time living in New York?
Yes, and I love New York. I've only ever been here for like two weeks at a time, so I never really got to know the place, but I'm loving it. It’s such a great place. I went to a Yankee game the other day.

...

The Harry Potter wizards are all getting on the Broadway train—you, Daniel Radcliffe, and now Tom Felton wants to. Why do you think that is?
New York just feels like the place to be. I’ve seen some amazing shows here, and there’s such an incredible energy to the city. It’s so exciting, even just walking down the streets. The West End is great as well, I love that, but New York City a really special place.

You can read the rest of the article here. "It's Only a Play" opens on August 28th.

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6. Geek Sublime review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Vikram Chandra's Geek Sublime, due out shortly in the US from Graywolf (after being published in the UK and India earlier this year).
       This was published under the same title by Faber in the UK, but the Indian edition was titled: Mirrored Mind.
       More bizarrely, each edition has a different subtitle:

  • US: The Beauty of Code, the Code of Beauty
  • UK: Writing Fiction, Coding Software
  • India: My Life in Letters and Code
       Publishers -- gotta love 'em.

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7. ‘LOL Romantic Comedy Anthology’ Self-Published Bestsellers List

 LOL Romantic Comedy Anthology Collection leads the Self-published Bestsellers List this week.

To help GalleyCat readers discover self-published authors, we compile weekly lists of the top eBooks in three major marketplaces for self-published digital books: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. You can read all the lists below, complete with links to each book.

If you want more resources as an author, try our Free Sites to Promote Your eBook post, How To Sell Your Self-Published Book in Bookstores post and our How to Pitch Your Book to Online Outlets post.

If you are an independent author looking for support, check out our free directory of people looking for writers groups. (more…)

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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8. Aunt Cybil Wants You

The Cybils folk sent out the call for judges this past Monday. I can't find anything about a deadline.

Can't commit time to judge? If you're a blogger, you support the Cybils in other ways.

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9. The Summer Sun

The summer sun was once my friend;
I basked beneath its glow,
But friendships often fade and this
Was one that had to go.

The younger me enjoyed a tan
On smooth and unlined skin,
But lately that is not the shape
My sagging self is in.

And danger lurks when sunshine
Causes cancer cells to bloom
So by soaking up some rays
I might be guaranteeing doom.

There was a time Apollo
Earned my every accolade,
Yet today I turn my back on him
And settle for the shade.

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10. Book board games and my failure as a parent

This summer we’ve been lucky enough to chance upon some children’s book inspired board games as we’ve trawled our way through charity shops.

Now I have a confession to make: I’m not a fan of board games.

I play them because I know as an engaged parent I’m meant to play them with my kids but I’ll be honest, it’s always a struggle for me when the kids ask to play such a game.

However, if anything will get me willing to give a board game a go, having a link to children’s books is a good start.

First we found this Peter Rabbit game. We hadn’t looked out our Beatrix Potter books in ages (even though we have teeny-tiny 5cm ones which I just adore) so it was a perfect opportunity to revisit Jeremy Fisher and Hunca Munca (in the Tale of Two Bad Mice) – both favourites from when the girls were little.

bookboardgame3

Next we found a Princess and the Pea game, which has been a huge hit because the game pieces are so very lovely – real little pillows, mattresses and blankets.

bookboardgame2

Our two favourite traditional re-tellings of The Princess and the Pea are both published by Floris books: The Princess and the Pea, illustrated by Maja Dusíková (here’s our review, plus an activity which my girls still rave about to this day), and their forthcoming An Illustrated Treasury of Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales, illustrated by Anastasiya Archipova. Both books have classical, romantic watercolour illustrations, with a vintage feel, and the anthology in particular would make a great present.

Our star find this summer, however, has been an Asterix board game, complete with menhirs and rotten fish.

bookboardgame1

This game not only has really fun pieces, I’ve even (moderately) enjoyed playing it, at it requires more than just rolling the dice, combining memory with luck and plenty of opportunities for mental arithmetic.

This flavourwire article has 10 more literary themed board games, including ones inspired by Animal Farm, The Little Prince, Moby Dick and Beowulf!

I’ve also come across…

  • Tales of the Arabian Nights board game:
  • Robinson Crusoe board game:
  • Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective board game:
  • Lord of the Rings board game
  • Vintage Wizard of Oz board game
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid Cheese Touch board game
  • Room on the Broom Dragon Chase Board Game
  • We’re Going on a Bear Hunt board game
  • Monopoly: The Marvel Comics version
  • Do you have a favourite board game inspired by a children’s book? Have you any tips for turning me into someone who will willingly play board games ;-) ?

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    11. Choose Your Own Adventure, Part 3

    Adventure Books Bash

    Welcome back to Choose Your Own Adventure! In a choose-your-own-adventure story, you read a chapter and then you get a few choices of what the character should do next. For the STACKS Adventure Books Bash, we’re celebrating adventure with a choose-your-own-adventure story written by me! Have you read Part 1 and Part 2 yet? Pay attention to your answer choices because when the story is done, your answers will reveal the adventure hero you are most like. Are you ready???

    Part 3

    You know it’s going to be dark soon, and also time for dinner, but you are mesmerized by your new discovery. Curiosity gets the best of you, and you reach out and pull on the knob.

    Nothing budges.

    You try twisting and pushing, but nothing happens. The door is totally stuck. Frustrated, you plop down on the grass and watch the last rays of the sun as it slides behind the horizon.

    After a while, you start to feel chilly and kind of hungry, so you decide to go home. As you stand up, though, the ground beneath you starts to tremble. As the trembling intensifies, you hear a loud rattling noise. You look over and see that the door is shaking and bright light is seeping out from the edges.

    Scared, you start crawling backwards. The sky, which was completely clear only a moment ago, is full of dark clouds. With a loud CRACK, rain begins pouring from the sky. The wind picks up and intensifies until you feel like you’re being battered by rain on all sides.

    You start running towards a large tree in the middle of the field, thinking you can hide in it, when suddenly a bolt of lightning slices through the air and strikes the tree, exploding it. Screaming, you start running back towards the woods and your house. The ground is getting muddy and you are slipping and sliding, so it’s taking you a long time to cover the last twenty yards. Before you can process what’s happening, another bolt of lightning strikes a small shrub only a few yards to your left.  You keep running and lightning strikes another patch of grass to your right. You’re about a foot away from the door, which is still shaking violently like someone—or something—is trying to escape.

    You . . .

    A) knock and see if anyone answers.

    B) keep running for a place to hide!

    C) try to remember everything you learned in wilderness safety class. You remember something about lying face down on the ground. That might not be the most accurate memory, but it’ll do—so you do it.

    D) know that metal conducts electricity in a thunderstorm so you do NOT touch that metal doorknob.

    E) pull on the knob! You need to get indoors and you need to get indoors NOW!

    What would YOU do? Share your answer in the Comments below! And check back for the next installment of the story.

     Also, please plan to come to the Readathon!

    See ya next time,

    image from kids.scholastic.com — En-Szu, STACKS Staffer

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    12. slow and steady....

    slow and steady
    ©the enchanted easel 2014
    not only wins the race...but the heart of a beautiful, strawberry pink haired mermaid. :)

    these two cuties were shipped off to new york this past monday and are ready to be welcomed into their new home in a baby girl's nursery.

    {that pink hair...be still my heart. ;)}

    PRINTS AVAILABLE THOUGH THE SHOP LINK FOUND HERE:

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    13. Publishing Jobs: Macmillan, Crown Publishing, Countryman Press

    This week, Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group is hiring a production editor, as well as a senior production editor. Meanwhile, Crown Publishing Group is seeking a marketing manager, and Countryman Press needs an editor. Get the scoop on these openings and more below, and find additional just-posted gigs on Mediabistro.

    • Production Editor Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group (New York, NY)
    • Senior Production Editor Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group (New York, NY)
    • Marketing Manager Crown Publishing Group (New York, NY)
    • Editor Countryman Press (New York, NY)
    • Project Manager Greenleaf Book Group (Austin, TX)

    Find more great publishing jobs on the GalleyCat job board. Looking to hire? Tap into our network of talented GalleyCat pros and post a risk-free job listing. For real-time openings and employment news, follow @MBJobPost.

    New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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    14. Rashid al-Din in Edinburgh

           A neat-looking exhibit at the Edinburgh University Library: The World History of Rashid al-Din, 1314. A Masterpiece of Islamic Painting; see now also Si Hawkins piece in The National on it, Edinburgh University gives visitors rare chance to see the 700-year-old The World History of Rashid Al-Din
           It's on through 31 October -- sounds like it is definitely worth a look if you're in the neighborhood.

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    15. New York City…






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    16. A Field Guide to Getting Lost

    Rebecca Solnit has gone on my list of authors whose work I’d like to own and read all of. It started off with her newest essay collection Men Explain Things To Me and was cemented by A Field Guide to Getting Lost. Field Guide was on my TBR list for years but I just never got around to it. Why did I take so long? I am a believer that every book has the right time and for whatever reason the right time wasn’t until now.

    How to describe the book? Essays? Yes but not really because each one is connected. But it isn’t straight up nonfiction either because there is no real “plot” other than the theme of getting lost. Which makes it very much a long meditation. But yet there is a direction of sorts because four of the chapters/essays are called “The Blue of Distance” and these alternate with chapters called things like “Abandon” and “One-Story House.” The blue chapters all tend to be outward facing, about someone — the artist Yves Kline for instance — or about something — a certain color of blue or country western music. The other chapters tend to be more personally reflective and wide-ranging discussing things like leaving the door open for Elijah during Passover dinner, hiking in the wilderness, and family history. But even the distinction between the blue chapters and the named chapters blurs as Solnit will include personal reflection in the blue chapters and quotes Meno, Simone Weil, and a Tibetan sage in the personal chapters. I found all this intermingling to be satisfying and wanted the book to be longer than it is. A Good sign, right?

    A Field Guide to Getting Lost is about many things, but at its core it is about stories:

    A story can be a gift like Ariadne’s thread , or the labyrinth, or the labyrinth’s raving Minotaur; we navigate by stories, but sometimes we only escape by abandoning them.

    Stories anchor us, tell us who we are or point to who we want to be. We can become lost in our stories. We can also be oppressed by our stories and only find out who we are by giving them up and losing ourselves. Trouble is, we think of being lost as a bad thing, but when we are lost we are more open to possibility than we are when we are sure of ourselves and our stories:

    Never to get lost is not to live, not to know how to get lost brings you to destruction, and somewhere in the terra icognita in between lies a life of discovery.

    Even when we are sure of our stories, we still change over time and lose the person we used to be. When it happens so slowly we don’t even notice it we are not bothered by it until we are startled into awareness by an old photograph or letter, or a person we haven’t seen in many years. Sometimes, of course, loss happens very fast and unexpectedly and we are thrown for a loop. Not only do we write the story of our past but we write it well into the future and a sudden loss throws us into uncertainty, a place in which we do not feel comfortable spending time. And so we worry:

    Worry is a way to pretend that you have knowledge or control over what you don’t — and it surprised me, even in myself, how much we prefer ugly scenarios to the pure unknown. Perhaps fantasy is what you fill up maps with rather than saying they too contain the unknown.

    In the last chapter there is a beautiful piece of a lecture Solnit shares that she heard given at the Zen Center in San Francisco. Zen, you may know, is all about mindfulness, paying attention, living in the hear and now not dwelling on the past or projecting into the future. And this lecture coming as it does nearly at the end of the final chapter, serves to sum up much of the whole book. It is such a wonderful story it is hard to pick out an exact sort of summary quote, but this might give you and idea:

    ‘Maybe if I really paid attention I’d notice that I don’t know what’s going to happen this afternoon and I can’t be fully confident that I am competent to deal with it. Maybe we’re willing to let in that thought. It has some reasonableness to it, I can’t exactly know, but chances are, possibilities are, it’s not going to be much different than what I’ve usually experienced and I’ll do just fine, so we close up that unsettling possibility with a reasonable response. The practice of awareness takes us below the reasonableness that we’d like to think we live with and then we start to see something quite fascinating, which is the drama of our inner dialogue, of the stories that go through our minds and the feelings that go through our heart, and we start to see in this territory it isn’t so neat and orderly and, dare I say it, safe or reasonable.’

    The story goes on to remind us that it is okay to not know; okay to be uncertain; okay to run into a barrier and ask for help. It is okay to be lost. Because we can only really find what we need if we are lost:

    That thing the nature of which is totally unknown to you is usually what you need to find, and finding it is a matter of getting lost.


    Filed under: Books, Essays, Nonfiction, Reviews Tagged: Rebecca Solnit

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    17. Meet the Hero Designer Who Publicly Shamed Showtime for Asking Him to Work for Free

    Apparently, I am told, I am "unemployable" as an artist/creator because I insist on being paid when asked to do a graphic novel or draw a comic series. Well, no money from not working is the same as no money from doing A LOT of work.

    The creator involved in this online article simply did what a lot of us have been doing over the years: outing these creeps who want work for free.

    So, not an original stand but very worthwhile!

    http://www.adweek.com/adfreak/meet-hero-designer-who-publicly-shamed-showtime-asking-him-work-free-159579

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    18. Writing Is Like Chili

    I love chili.

    I love eating chili. I love smelling chili. I love cooking chili. I know a thing or two about chili, I like to think. In fact, I know enough about chili to know better than to call myself an expert, because there's always going to be somebody else who is a bigger expert, even if only in his or her own mind. That's because we chili-heads are passionate about our chili and can argue for hours about which of the many styles of chili is the only kind of chili that counts. It's kind of like pizza or barbecue that way.

    Or like writing. A lot like writing, actually.

    When I make chili, it's a long-term, complicate procedure. Why? Because I throw in a ton of ingredients to try to achieve a complex, interesting flavor. Chili doesn't have to be complicated. There are very easy recipes that satisfy a chili craving just fine.

    But when I cook it, it's an event. If not for the consumers, then for the chef. Because I never make it the same way twice. People have asked me for my recipe, but I don't have one. I just do stuff.

    I've been known to combine as many as 12 different kinds of chile, as well as other spices and ingredients, in a single pot of chili, because each ingredient adds a unique element to the complex formula.

    One of the most important elements for a good pot of chili, I believe, is time. When I want to go all-out on a pot of chili, I think about it for a while. I let it cook in my mind for a while while I figure out what this particular batch is going to be made of.

    There's a lot to consider. I consider the chili I want to make, first of all, the experience I want to create for my own benefit as a chili artist. I'd love to cook exactly the chili I imagine. See, I like my chili hot. Hot is not the right word. Scorching. Explosive. Intense. Even violent. I want the chili to be an experience as much as a meal. But searing heat alone is boring. It is only effective when combines with those complex flavors I mentioned. Problem is, if I make it exactly like I would for myself, I'll be the only one who eats it and I'll be stuck with a big pot of chili, because a small one is not possible. I have to think about my audience. I have to tone down the heat and be somewhat moderate in any experimentation because, ultimately, I want to see my audience enjoy and appreciate the end result of all the work I put into it.

    So, once I figure out what I'm going to put in my chili, I start making it. Making a good pot of chili is an exercise in constant tweaking. I want to get the flavors just right, which means constant tasting and adjusting, realizing that with every adjustment, the end result will be different than it seems the moment I make the change, because the flavors change and deepen during cooking.

    Which brings me back to time. To meld all those flavors requires time. I believe in cooking my best chili all day. Again, there are plenty of recipes that can be prepared quickly and many of those are tasty. But if I cook mine quickly, all those spices will still be separate because they need time to come together for the rich, deep, flavor I crave. It's as much about patience as it about the right mix of ingredients.

    Of course, not every chili is as successful as every other. That's the risk of making it differently every time as I try to learn to be a better chili cook. I can accept that. I don't think I've ever made a bad chili, and my audience has always seemed appreciative, but as the person who made it, I can be tough on myself, dissatisfied by the smallest things.

    Finally, I want my chili to stay with my audience after they've eaten it. Sometimes, people remember it as something that, if not life-changing, at least improved their lives for a little while. Other times, the chili stays with them in other ways, which probably don't need to be discussed here. My chili has sometimes kept me awake all night, contemplating each and every ingredient. If you know what I mean.

    And that, you see, is how writing and chili are very much the same.

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    19. International Night

    Every year schools everywhere hold an International Night.  I am always thinking to myself can the school get a new idea.   Today, my interest in International Night event was renewed at a booktalk on a new release called International Night by Mark Kurlanksky and his daughter Talia Kurlansky.  Kurlanksky expressed during the talk that the title had to be International Night because it was inspired by a game his family played by the same name.  No other title would work.  They game involved spinning a globe once a week and where ever Thaila's finger landed they would cook a meal from that place on Friday.  For each country in the book(Hawaii and New Orleans are also included) they made an Appetizer, Main Course, and Dessert and Drink.   Her father took notes and soon discovered this could be an idea for a book.   Mark Kurlankshy work as a journalist has also allowed him to travel to many of the countries in the book and he loves to share stories about the countries which are included in the book.  


     
     

    This is a great way to introduce a child to many different types of food.  It is also a fun way to introduce a food project to a class.   Thalia expresses in her introduction to the book, "It is adults that think children cannot enjoy sophisticated cuisine.  Restaurants often give children a "kids menu."  She hopes children will be able to taste these foods as they learn about the cultures. 




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    20. Poetry Friday - A review of On the Wing

    Douglas Florian is a poet and artist who has created poetry picture books that explore a wide variety of subjects. Over the years I have greatly enjoyed reading these books, and it is interesting to see how he applies his considerable talent to take on a new topic that interests him.

    Douglas Florian
    Poetry Picture Book
    For ages 6 to 8
    Harcourt, 1996, 978-0152023669
    Birds truly are remarkable animals. They come in a dazzling array of colors, live on every continent, and make their homes in all kinds of places. In this wonderful picture book Douglas Florian pairs short poems with his artwork to give readers a true celebration of birds.
       Over the millennia birds have evolved to suit many kinds of environments. Some birds, like the egret, sail on water and then rest on the beach making it seem as if there is a “feathered hat” lying on the sand. Dippers love to dip and dive in waterfalls. They are so aquatic that one wonders if they would be happy to “trade / Their oily wings for flippers.” They are such good swimmers that it is possible that the little birds might “think that they are fish.”
       Birds come in all shapes and sizes. The spoonbill is tall and thin with a beak that does indeed look like a long-handled spoon. In his poem about this rather odd looking species, Douglas Florian wonders if the spoonbill uses its bill “for stirring tea” or does it “use it as a scoop / For eating peas and drinking soup.”
       The stork has a bill that is perfectly suited for the environment it lives in. Wading through shallow water, the bird uses it rapier like bill to stab frogs and other creatures. Woodpeckers also have beaks that are perfectly adapted so that they can get to their chosen food - insects that live in wood and sap that runs through wood. Not only are these beaks perfect for creating holes, but woodpeckers also use them to communicate.
       With clever touches of humor and insightful descriptions, this collection of poems will give young readers a colorful picture of twenty-one bird speci

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    21. Edward Teach

    As a follow-up to my last post about Queen Anne’s Revenge, here is the man himself—the terrible Edward ‘Blackbeard’ Teach. I show him in close-up so you can see the slow-match fuses he used to weave into his whiskers and set alight before attacking a ship. You can find him in P is for Pirate, now available in bookstores—or drop me a line in the comments for an autographed copy.

    Pirate captains were elected by their crews and could be voted out. To keep his crew in line, Blackbeard constantly showed himself to be more fierce, more outrageous than anyone else on board. Seated with his rogues during dinner, Blackbeard fired a pistol underneath the table and wounded one of the crew, just to remind them who he was.

    Blackbeard had to be mindful of his crew’s appetite for liquor—for rum, an ardent spirit distilled from molasses. Without rum, a crew would mutiny, as this excerpt from Blackbeard’s log attests:

    ‘Such a Day, Rum all out: – Our Company somewhat sober: – A Damned Confusion amongst us! – Rogues a plotting; – great Talk of Separation. – So I looked sharp for a Prize; – such a Day took one, with a great deal of Liquor on Board, so kept the Company hot, damned hot, then all Things went well again.’

    thumbnail sketch tight sketch color sketch IMGP1670 IMGP1671 IMGP1672 IMGP1673 IMGP1676 IMGP1676 IMGP1677 Teach

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    22. Camping in England

    I was driving around England on sulphate. Everyone was doing it. Housewives, carpenters, people who worked in the London Zoo and the parks. Everyone I knew. Everyone was into it. My other major concern was the horses. Yes, I was hooked on the ponies. One Scottish woman made a pointed remark about her friend, “the bookie’s boy” when she obliquely criticized my obvious weakness for gambling on the races. To me there was nothing like going down to Ladbroke’s on Saturday mornings and placing a few small wagers on combinations and parlays then walking home to eat breakfast while watching the races on tv. Leisurely gratification. Not many winners but many hangovers were nursed that way. I know it happened in England and Scotland and I suspect it’s still the same in Ireland and Wales as well. To be able to afford the life I was living on my two weeks onshore and in preparation for the upcoming two weeks offshore on a drilling rig, I started sleeping in the white Ford van I bought. Not a big van, a small one. An Escort I think. With Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA and Bruce Cockburn’s Lovers in a Dangerous Time on my tape deck, I drove around to different races. The sound of horse’s hooves on cobblestones as I parked and the sight of the sleek hind end of a thoroughbred disappearing around a corner as I ducked into a pub in Newbury or Cheltenham stuck in my memory. It didn’t help much with the feelings of disappointment as I tore up the last of my losing bets at the end of another day, but as I followed the stoic bookies into the parking lot while they carried their signs and platforms and bulging briefcases. I realized that I was certainly doing something different. If I was at home I wouldn’t be doing this. Sulphate was called “the poor man’s coke”. It had a energetic buzz and, like coke, it enabled you to drink all night without getting sleepy. It was probably crushed up speed of some kind. It came in aluminum paper and everyone was doing it. Two guys in Aberdeen, a Dutchman and a South African, quit their roustabout jobs on a drilling rig because they could make much more money selling sulphate to the welders who worked long shifts for big money on pipe laying barges. They had a connection in Amsterdam and captive customers. For North Americans in England learning how to drive on the opposite side of the road than the side you’re used to is easy once you’ve negotiated the first stop sign and then the first stoplight then the first roundabout. After that it’s easy. Once you begin to drive in England or Scotland, you are convinced that Monty Python is alive and well and exists every day, all around you and it is like a weight lifted off your shoulders. There is less pressure to be perfect. It was probably a race which drew me to the south of England but it could have been an escape from the urge to spend uncontrollably when I got to London from Aberdeen and the North Sea. Robert, a Swedish derrickman I had worked with, lived somewhere in the south. He wasn’t home when I called so I gave the tip I had for him to the woman I talked to and he later got a job out of it. I was savvy enough by this time to find a campground near the Newton Abbott track and set up my one man tent before I found the nearest pub. I had entered Scrumpyland. That part of the country was known for its Scrumpy Cider and I vaguely remember one pub which had seatbelts on the barstools for the customers’ safety. Naturally I overindulged in the Scrumpy and when I was too drunk to care, asked a few of the shadier looking characters if they knew where I could score some sulphate even though I still had some. I was lucky: everyone ignored me. I later heard the saying “Beer on cider makes a good rider but cider on beer will make you feel queer’. It’s true. Queer meaning ill. Somehow I drove to the campsite when the pub closed and prepared to read Aleister Crowley’s Moonchild by the light of several candles in my pup tent. I woke up with a headache and burped up the smell of Scrumpy cider. It had defeated the sulphate in my system and knocked me out. When I opened my eyes I was looking at the sky. Then the bent aluminum tent pole appeared. I looked upward down by my feet. Another tent pole arching over me. The skeleton of my tent. I sat up when I realized that only charred pieces of fabric hung from the poles. The candles were pools of wax. Somehow the candles had lighted the tent around me, burnt it up and died out as I slept. There was not even a burn on my sleeping bag. I staggered to the Escort and drove away silently in the dawn. I drove North, glad of a hangover for a change. If I didn’t see it for myself, I wouldn’t believe it. This wasn’t what camping in England was supposed to be like. Forget the races. I knew a sign when I saw one. The image of the tent skeleton and the perfect pile of ashes circling the spot where my sleeping bag had lain kept recurring as Dancing in the Dark and If I Had A Rocket Launcher played on my tape deck and I headed for Scotland.

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    23. The Rest of the SLP Prizeless Story



    Image via
    Yes, we've been as anxious as you to find out what effect our decision to stop giving out weekly prizes for summer would be.  Today we shook out the preliminary stats and....


    wait for it......


    wait for it....


    wait for it....


    wait for it....


    wait for it....


    ...no difference!!!!!!!!!!!

    We had as many preschool and school-agers coming back for return visits this year when we built our robot as we did when we gave out weekly doo-dads.

    Score!!!!

    The team felt that with the simplified program we had more time for interactions with the kids and a less stressful summer.  We already have plans in mind for next year to help increase interest in the donation part of the program (three caped superheroes representing three different charities for kids to choose to put their sticker on).

    It's good to see these results and put the final cap on a busy summer and great to know our adventure was successful. Onward!

    You can read about our journey here, here and here!

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    24. Teaching translation

           At Words without Borders' Dispatches weblog Margaret Litvin offers a look Between Love and Justice: Teaching Literary Translation at Boston University.

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    25. NOVEDADES 2014

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