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By: Mary Ann Scheuer,
Blog: Great Kid Books
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Do you read aloud much nonfiction with your children? If they're reluctant, try reading them Marissa Moss's terrific picture book biography Nurse, Soldier, Spy -- The Story of Sarah Edmonds, a Civil War Hero
. Our students LOVED the way Moss drew them into Sarah's story with unexpected twists and turns. They especially commented on John Hendrix's art and design.
Nurse, Soldier, Spy
The Story of Sarah Edmunds, a Civil War Hero
by Marissa Moss
illustrated by John Hendrix
your local library
At age nineteen, Sarah Edmonds disguised herself as a man and joined the Union Army to fight in the Civil War. She took the name Frank Thompson, and headed off to battle the Confederacy with her Michigan regiment. Frank, as Sarah was known, was an outstanding soldier, brave and true, risking his/her life to help others.
My students loved the way Hendrix showed the battle scenes, using both color and dramatic lines to bring readers right into the scene.
Hendrix also makes the words pop out from the page with his dramatic design. My students found this particularly effective. I was very interested to learn from Elizabeth Bird's Fuse 8
post in the School Library Journal
that "Hendrix takes his hand-drawn letters from the illustrated letterforms found on broadside posters from that era."
You might want to share with older children Marissa Moss's novel A Soldier's Secret
. I have not had a chance to read this, but here is the publisher's description:
Historical fiction at its best, this novel by bestselling author Marissa Moss tells the story of Sarah Emma Edmonds, who masqueraded as a man named Frank Thompson during the Civil War. Her adventures include serving as a nurse on the battlefield and spying for the Union Army, and being captured by (and escaping from) the Confederates. The novel is narrated by Sarah, offering readers an in-depth look not only at the Civil War but also at her journey to self-discovery as she grapples with living a lie and falling in love with one of her fellow soldiers.
Using historical materials to build the foundation of the story, Moss has crafted a captivating novel for the YA audience.
All illustrations are copyright © John Hendrix
, 2011; see his website for more terrific examples. The review copy came from our school library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books
In case you missed it, a quick recap of the past week on WordPress.com.
By: James Gurney,
Blog: Gurney Journey
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Former Monty Python member Michael Palin has won a devoted following for his travel documentaries on BBC, and he has also presented a few shows about artists, notably about the Danish artist Vilhelm Hammershoi.
(Direct link to YouTube video) In this hour-long video, he takes a look at the world of the American painter Andrew Wyeth.
With his characteristic humor and humility, Palin begins the story at the Olson farm in Maine where Wyeth created his enigmatic painting "Christina's World" and then travels to the locations around Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania that inspired the artist, including Kuerner's Farm and NC Wyeth's Studio.
The documentary presents archival family films of NC Wyeth, and of young Andy playacting in costume. Instead of limiting his interviews to scholars and academics, Palin talks to people who knew Wyeth: the son of his model Karl Kuerner, the farmer who buried him, as well as Wyeth's niece, and his son Jamie. Wyeth's widow Betsy apparently declined to participate.
Palin conducts a sensitive interview with Helga Testorf, the model for the extensive series of figural works that Wyeth painted secretly over many years. Was Helga his mistress? Helga answers the tongue-waggers: "They didn't know any better. They did not know our language. We were not talking that way." Helga says that Wyeth wanted the work to be revealed after the artist's death, and that keeping their privacy during the ensuing scandal was a challenge.
The video was nicely produced, but I found the use of selective "artistic" blurring to be distracting and annoying—and unsuited to Wyeth, whose art was more about sharp focus, selective cropping, and limited color.
Thanks, David Steimel
Like pretty much everyone else out there, I love Khan Academy like whoa.
So much that I occasionally go on jags of PRACTICING MY MATH SKILLS, which is TOTALLY OUT OF CHARACTER. But for whatever reason, KA makes it fun, and I find Sal's videos to be both helpful and weirdly soothing.
Anyway, they've partnered with the College Board and created a whole new section devoted to the dreaded SAT. So that's rad.
Relatedly, mental_floss recently posted some excerpts from the very first SAT.
Last month's SCBWI Bulletin cover, step by step, by Maral Sassouni
Peruse it at your leisure over at the Guardian.
The Sesame Street gang stars in a parody of the Les Miserables film adaptation called “Les Mousserables.”
Cookie Monster plays Jean Bon-Bon; he and his friends sing hilarious versions of “Look Down,” “I Dreamed a Dream,” “On My Own,” “Do You Hear the People Sing,” and “One Day More.” We’ve embedded the short film above–what do you think?
New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.
Some of you know, the past few years I have been trying to be "a runner." Or jogger. Or, probably most accurately a plodder. Each year, I add a mile to my yearly goal and attempt it on my birthday in September.
My challenge: I live on a twisty, hilly dirt, and once winter sets in, it can be very difficult to run on, especially when we get a very snowy winter like the one we've had this year. The road narrows, it's icy, and it's really just not safe to walk on, much less run. In fact the last time I went for a walk I had a very graceless wipe-out.
But we've had a few warm days and the snow banks have receded and it looks like the ice is mostly gone. So today, it's time to get back out there. Last September, I was able to run 6 (very slow) miles. But I'm afraid after a few months of not running at all, I'm back to square one. This happened last year, too. It's a bummer.
But last week, in a moment of inspiration (and perhaps delusion), I downloaded the training schedule for the Couch to Half Marathon plan. I meant to do the Couch to 10K plan, but for "some reason" I clicked on the half marathon link instead. My goal is only to run 7 miles. But there's this little dreamer inside me that says, Maybe you could do more...
So it is 6:52 a.m. as I write this and the training schedule is staring at me with a photo of this very fit lady at the top running like the wind and even though I know I will never look like her, with my frumpy body and my slow shuffle, somehow I'm still inspired to try. Today is the day.
On a parallel line here, I have been in a bit of a writing slump. Specifically, with a book that was technically or maybe just theoretically due back in November. That was the date we chose for the contract but I have been silently hoping no one else will remember.
Because I still haven't managed to finish the very rough first draft.
Last year I took on a teaching position and I also began doing more speaking engagements and traveling to more conferences and I had revisions come in for another novel and... all this meant I kept getting interrupted. Every time I tried to get back into my work-in-progress I felt I'd slipped more and more behind.
Like my running, the days I could finally get out there I felt I'd lost so much I could barely make progress. It was getting more and more frustrating and stressful. Eventually it began to feel hopeless. Eventually I more or less stopped.
But that's not really an option, is it? To give up your goal, your dream, just because it seems too hard?
On Friday, I had finished my school visit duties for the week. I finished an essay I'd committed to. I was done with all my student packets. I had a full day to write. It was like looking at a flat, ice-free road on a perfect-weather day and just standing there thinking, This is probably going to hurt, but you've gotta start somewhere.
Sometimes, opening my file, or putting on my sneakers, is actually the hardest part of getting back to the task at hand. It's the final commitment to starting again. Starting from what feels like the bottom of a very steep hill. So I told myself:
Just write one sentence. It can be terrible.
So I wrote one terrible sentence.
And then I told myself:
Maybe you could do more.
So I tried.
And soon I'd written 500 words. And maybe not all of them were so terrible. I felt myself finally stepping back into the story.
Today, I will write 1,000 words.
I'm also going to find my running shoes, buried under piles of winter boots and mismatched winter clothes at the bottom of the closet. My instructions say to jog 30 seconds, then walk 60 seconds. Repeat until you've gone 2 miles. It doesn't sound so hard, when you break it up like that.
One sentence. 30 seconds. It's possible.
I know a lot of you struggle too, so I wanted to put this little phrase in your head this morning, just like it lodged itself in mine.
Maybe you could do more.
I'm pretty sure you can.
Monday Morning Warm-Up:
Write to the prompt: "Maybe I could do more..."
Over at the Los Angeles Review of Books, Jan Mieszkowski reviews The Death Penalty: Volume I, the latest collection of Jacques Derrida’s seminars to appear in print. Drawn from the first half of a two-year seminar he gave from 1999 to 2001, the book postulates the American position on capital punishment as complicit with a logic in which a sovereign state has the right to take a life. In this takeaway from his review, Mieszkowski positions Derrida within today’s academy:
Derrida’s prominence in North American universities has waned, at least superficially, in the decade since his death. A new group of European philosophers has supplanted him as the must-reads of the moment, including Alain Badiou, Jacques Rancière, and the Slavoj Žižek. In the intellectual circles in which Of Grammatology and Specters of Marx were once standard fare, the works of Gilles Deleuze or Giorgio Agamben are now more likely to enjoy pride of place. Perhaps most striking for those who remember a time when Derrida’s oeuvre was viewed as a fount of productive positions on virtually every philosophical topic, there is an increasing tendency to refer to his “one or two” major ideas, as if his thought were distinguished not by its range but by its lack thereof. Of course, fashions in academic citation practices may be poor measures of Derrida’s abiding influence, which makes itself felt in numerous contexts in which he is never mentioned by name, not least because so many of his strategies and positions are now widely taken for granted.
Taking off from this, it’s worth pointing the reader toward Arne De Boever’s interview with the translator and coeditor of Derrida’s seminars in English, Peggy Kamuf, which accompanies the review:
One other thing that struck me reading this course — and you’ve gestured to it already in several of your answers—is how US-focused it is. Derrida was of course teaching the course in both France and the US. But there’s more to it than that: he repeatedly states in the lectures that his topic, the death penalty, is particularly pertinent to the US and its demographic. Reading the course I wonder if we still think of Derrida too much as a “French” philosopher—he’s almost just as much an “American” philosopher, wouldn’t you say? Focusing on issues that are central to contemporary American life? “America” is certainly a recurring theme in his work.
Yes, it is, but nowhere perhaps as insistently as in The Death Penalty, for reasons that are obvious. As for Derrida being an American or “American” philosopher, I would say no. Which doesn’t mean he is therefore a French or a “French” philosopher. (Although his passport would have said otherwise.) True, he wrote in the language called French, but he also wrote in or with an idiom that would have been his own, all the while treating and translating texts from both other languages (German, Greek, Latin, or English) and other idioms. Insofar as philosophy passes itself down in writing, it has to contend with the problem of couching the universal in a particular language/idiom. The solution cannot be a set of philosophical nationalisms, “American” and “French” or even analytic and continental. On the contrary, philosophy has to suppose the possibility of translation. Either that or, as Hegel tried to show, all philosophers would have to learn to speak German. But is translation indeed possible? Derrida more than once has defined “deconstruction” as “plus d’une langue,” a phrase that English has to translate twice in order to capture the sense of “more than one language” but also “no more of just one language.” You could say that deconstruction is philosophy in the wake of the commandment at Babel to translate what is impossible to translate.
To read more about The Death Penalty: Volume I, click here.
A.S. King (we call her Amy) and I met a long, freaking time ago in a town call Lititz. She was wearing rubber boots and talking about chickens. She had interesting things to say, said them interestingly. I found her intelligence and wildly sui generis
life story daunting, frankly (especially as compared to mine), and I liked her all the more for being her.
In Philadelphia, at an NCTE cocktail party, there she was (What are you drinking? This is what I'm drinking.
). On an asphalt drive in Orlando (I'm heading that way? You heading this way?
). We took an epic drive across our sweet PA together. I found her flocked by loving fans in Boston (twice). At Chester County Books, at Children's Book World, at events large and small—there was Amy. She gives good readings. She gives thrilling talks. Ask any librarian at the fated event in western PA. I leapt to my two well-heeled feet. (Tears in my eyes.)
Today is Amy's birthday. Today we're celebrating this fearless writer with the legions of fans whose books have earned enough stars to fill a separate galaxy, whose talks get people going, whose very personage wakes up a room. A few days ago she wrote a blog post called "Who's Afraid of A.S. King"
that is so smart, so unafraid, so laying it on the line that it deserves many second readings.
Here's what we don't need in The Land of YA: Writers Who Write To Pre-Package-able Themes. Writers Who See Writing As A Halfway Step Toward Bigger Things. Writers Who Religiously Reproduce The Formula—Their Own Or Someone Else's.
A.S. King has never pre-packaged, gone halfway, fit a formula, and we love her for that. Check out that blog post. Check out her books. And wave her a happy birthday for me.
Pictured above: Yours Truly, A.S. King, and K.M. Walton, at Children's Book World.
In case you missed my review of The Year of the Book, I’m back with a review of its sequel, The Year of the Baby. In the first book, Anna discovered the joys (and tribulations) of authentic friendships. In The Year of the Baby, Anna gains new responsibility when her Chinese-American family adopts a baby girl from China. Anna loves her little sister Kaylee, and knows her role as big sister is important. So she feels helpless when the doctor announces that Kaylee isn’t gaining enough weight.
Everyone in the family is worried about Kaylee, and it seems they’ve tried everything to get her to eat, with no results. But Kaylee does finally begin to improve when Anna and her best friends decide to use Kaylee in their science fair project – knowing that Kaylee loves the songs Anna sings to her, the girls use the scientific method to study whether Kaylee will eat more when she’s being sung to. As it turns out, she will! She especially likes the Chinese songs that Anna, Camille, and Laura learned in Chinese language school, and the girls suspect that maybe it’s because they are songs that Kaylee heard before she was adopted by Anna’s family. Once Kaylee begins to eat more, it seems like everything comes together – she says her first words, and even attempts to sing her first song!
Author Andrea Cheng is remarkably good at capturing friendships, family dynamics, and the inner life of a sensitive child finding her place in these realms. As in the first book, The Year of the Baby is dotted with sweet illustrations by Patrice Barton. There’s also a guide to pronouncing some of the Chinese words that come up in the book, and a recipe for making steamed red bean bao zi (stuffed buns). This book, like the last, truly warmed my heart. I would recommend it to readers in 3rd grade and up looking for realistic fiction. The third book, The Year of the Fortune Cookies, will be coming in Spring 2014!
Posted by: Parry
Please join me in welcoming poet Sara Tracey to Poetic Asides.
Sara is the author of Some Kind of Shelter (Misty Publications, 2013) and Flood Year (dancing girl press, 2009). Her work has recently appeared in Vinyl Poetry, The Collagist, Harpur Palate, Passages North, and elsewhere. She has studied at the University of Akron, the North East Ohio Master of Fine Arts (NEOMFA) and at the University of Illinois at Chicago Program for Writers. Originally from Ohio, she has lived in Chicago since 2008.
Here’s a poem from Some Kind of Shelter
Donny Takes a Night Class, by Sara Tracey
There’s no time to shower
between work and school; he shows up
in boots, Wendy’s sack
in one hand, clipboard in the other.
He sharpens his pencil with a pocket knife,
folds like a love note
into a desk that wobbles, eats his burger
in three bites, wishes for beer.
He thinks the teacher’s younger
than his favorite bartender,
not nearly as smart.
What are you currently up to?
Today, I’m putting the finishing touches on a new online workshop I’ll be teaching in March for The Rooster Moans Poetry Cooperative
; it’s on found poetry, centos, erasures…experimental stuff that is very far from my usual writing habits. I’ve been having a ton of fun reading up on these forms and exploring a different kind of creativity. I’m also writing a narrative sequence that takes place in the 1940s and 1950s in Cleveland, Ohio, and tells the story of young mother whose husband is in prison.
As someone who grew up in Ohio, I could immediately identify with much of Some Kind of Shelter because of Ohio references and the working class themes. How much attention did you consciously give to locations in this collection?
I also grew up in Ohio (though I’ve lived in Chicago for almost six years) and I’ve always identified myself as a Midwestern or a Rust Belt writer. It was important to me from the beginning to capture a sense of place in these poems, and I very organically started using place names as titles (“Barberton,” “Medina Street,” “Garden Apartment, Tremont, Ohio”).
Location became even more important, though, when I received a Wick Summer Fellowship which allowed me to travel to Bisbee, Arizona for a workshop. I’d never been to the desert before, and the disorientation I felt being in this unfamiliar landscape made me ache for home even while I was having the time of my life. That sensation became an important part of the narrative arc of Some Kind of Shelter that was only intensified when I moved to Chicago.
Also, I love how these poems follow specific characters around. That, in combination with the first-person narratives, have me wondering where you stand on drawing a line between truth and fiction in narrative poetry. Are you more in favor of being 100% accurate or telling it slant?
I’m totally against accuracy. Or, rather, I’m against being controlled by it. That’s not to say there aren’t any true stories in my book—there are several—but I’m not terribly concerned with whether or not they’re recognizable as true.
People ask me all the time who Stella (a primary persona in Some Kind of Shelter) is. According to the narrative, she’s the cousin of the unnamed speaker of many poems (it’s safe to assume that speaker is a version of me). But in real life, I don’t have a cousin named Stella (this is especially confusing to people who know me and know my family, who try to place Stella in a real family tree), and if we’re being honest, many of the things that happen to Stella have happened to me.
I like to tell these people that Stella is my evil twin. But she’s not evil, she’s just broken. And for a long time, I romanticized the broken parts of me. Writing Stella gave me permission to lie, to make stuff up, and as a beginning poet, I really needed that.
These days, I tend to think of something Toni Morrison said: “facts can exist without human intelligence, but truth cannot.”
So, yes, I’m interested in the truth, but I don’t necessarily believe that truth and fiction are mutually exclusive.
Some Kind of Shelter is your first book of poetry. What was the biggest surprise in the process?
Before the book was accepted for publication, what surprised me most was how many possible books these poems could have been. I went through several titles, several sequences, several iterations of my first manuscript, many of which have surprisingly little to do with Some Kind of Shelter despite them being made up of the same poems. Each time I reordered the manuscript or changed the title, it felt like I’d made something brand new.
I noticed on your blog a post about student loan debt
. I don’t usually cover student loan debt on this blog, but I realize some readers are grad students—or considering that path. Could you give a snapshot of your experiences/thoughts on the whole process?
Oh, student loans! The bane of my existence!
I’ve been in grad school full time since 2005, and in that time, I’ve buried myself in over $100,000 in student loans (and I’m talking government loans, not those creepy private ones with super high interest). It’s embarrassing to say that in public, which is part of why I wrote about it on my blog (I know it’s counterintuitive, but I find the best way to dispel embarrassment is to make it public).
The thing is, when I started taking the loans out, I believed I was making a smart decision. I thought I had a sound financial plan. I’m almost done with grad school, and now that I’m faced with paying back these beasts, I realize I was misinformed. I’ll likely never pay them back. There’s a good chance I’ll never buy a house. I can’t imagine even being able to save for retirement, though I’m sure that’s just the fear talking.
I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me—I made my own bed, so to speak—but I do want people, especially those who are thinking about taking out loans to finance a PhD, to know what it feels like to have this financial albatross around your neck.
The system is broken—tuition costs too much and what grad programs call “full funding” just isn’t. That needs to change. In the meantime, folks who want to go to grad school ought to figure out a way to do it without borrowing against their future. At least that’s what I wish I would’ve done.
Which do you enjoy more: the writing, revising, or sharing of a poem?
I don’t think I can choose just one of these—they’re so very different, and I love them all. I think every poem is a tiny romance.
Writing a new poem is exciting; it’s like a first date: you don’t know how it’s going to go or where you’re going to end up. It might last 45 minutes and leave you with an awkward handshake outside a coffee shop in broad daylight, or it might go on until 3 a.m., kissing at the curb while a cabbie waits with the meter running.
Revision is like asking the poem to go steady. I know what I want from the poem, I know where I’d like us to go. But the poem has a say, too. Revision can be easy, a cause for celebration. But more often, it’s a negotiation. Sometimes it’s disappointing. The poem can’t be what you ask it to be and you have to let it go.
And sharing a poem? It’s like introducing your new sweetheart to your parents, or going “Facebook Official.” Everyone has an opinion, but most people will only say nice things to your face. It feels good to tell people you’re in love, and it feels good to offer up a poem I’m proud of so that others can read it. Hearing from people who’ve enjoyed my poems fills me with gratitude. I made this tiny thing and now it means something to someone else. That’s a miracle.
The thing is, you need all three. Can you imagine only ever going on first dates? Or asking someone to go steady and then never introducing him or her to your friends? Or going on a first date and changing your relationship status on Facebook while this relative stranger heads to the restroom? None of those scenarios is satisfying.
As a writer, I want to be in a relationship with my poems. I want the sparks in the beginning and the comfortable familiarity in the end. I want to walk into a party holding my poems’ hands and introduce them to everyone I know.
One poet most people don’t know but should—who is it?
Jennifer Moore. Her poems are whip smart and desperately beautiful. Here’s a poem of hers that I love
Who (or what) are you currently reading?
I’m reading Traci Brimhall’s Our Lady of the Ruins.
If you could pass along only one piece of advice to other poets, what would it be?
You’re a human first, writer second. Be part of the world. Yes, write and read as much as you can, but also: go to a roller derby bout, hang out with your sister’s kid or your spinster great aunt, have dinner with a friend and don’t once talk about literature, get a weird job working with weird people, walk a picket line, have a snowball fight. Then go home and write about it.
Life will bring you poems.
After life brings you poems, share them with the world!
How? Why with the 2014 Poet’s Market! It’s the best resource for finding publishing opportunities and filled with advice on the craft, business, and promotion of poetry. Plus, poet interviews, new poems, and more!
Click to continue
Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of Solving the World’s Problems
(Press 53). Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer
Find more poetic goodies here:
.Taylor Graham: Poet Interview
.2014 April PAD: Guidelines
By Linda Joy Singleton
for Cynthia Leitich Smith
Blame it on the SCBWI
(the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators).
When I joined SCBWI over two decades ago, I’d already sold a middle-grade and was interested in writing young adult books, too. Yet most of my writer friends wrote picture books.
Whenever I went to SCBWI conferences, I attended many presentations by talented picture book authors and illustrators. I listened to so many picture book talks that I joked I could teach a picture book writing class myself.
But write a picture book?
Nope. Not interested.
2009 was the year I sold my 37th book, Buried
, a YA mystery (Flux)—and the year I wrote a picture book. This picture book idea struck with no warning—like summer rain or falling in love.
I was driving to a SCBWI retreat with authors Verla Kay
, Danna K. Smith and Linda Whalen
when my thoughts jumped to the childhood photo Verla had showed me of a snow dog.
A word storm of inspiration flooded my head. When we stopped for lunch, I grabbed a napkin and wrote a story that began:
More than anything, Ally wanted a dog—but dogs made her achoo. So Ally drew pictures of dogs….
|37th Book by Linda Joy Singleton|
Jump five years and that napkin-scribbled book is now my debut picture book, Snow Dog, Sand Dog
, illustrated by Jess Golden
(Albert Whitman). And my box of author copies arrived last month (Yay!). But it’s not like I stopped writing middle grade/YA. I still do that, too.
How did this age-market hopping happen?
Thinking it over, it’s more of a surprise that I resisted writing picture books for so long. Whether I’m writing for big or little kids, I love the rhythm of lyrical, active and funny words. Studying the art of picture book writing has actually strengthened my novel writing. Sentences roll and sway like songs from thoughts to finger-tips.
For example (from a middle grade work-in-progress):
I’m squashed like a human pretzel and struggling not to sneeze at dog hair or freak out as I imagine creepy crawlies creeping and crawling all over me.
This is a sentence from a middle-grade book, yet fun words like "sneeze," "creepy" and "crawling" create a rhythm like when I’m writing picture books.
From Snow Dog, Sand Dog:
They heated popcorn and played fetch with straw brooms. They napped with a scarecrow then danced to the music of wind chimes.
I love the craft of word play; molding words like clay until they’re shaped into sentences that make children smile. Writing words for children brings out the child in all of us—and it’s fun.
|Snow Dog & Sand Dog|
But it’s hard work, too. I consider picture books the hardest format to write. There’s no room for even one sloppy word. Every word counts, and the story arc should rise and fall with character growth like a novel.
It took five years for Snow Dog, Sand Dog to become a published book. It went through editors, agents, rejections and rewrites. I rode a roller coaster of disappointments and hopes.
The day it sold, my agent told me, “You’re now a picture book author.”
And this middle grade/YA author is very proud to be a picture book author.
Recommended for ages 5 and up.
s most recent picture book, Mister and Lady Day
, an ode to jazz great Billie Holiday and her pet dogs, just arrived at my library in time for Women's History Month.
This is Amy's fourth book on prominent female figures in cultural history; she has also penned Me, Frida
(on artist Frida Khalo), Georgia in Hawaii
(on artist Georgia O'Keefe), Imogen
(on photographer Imogen Cunningham). She is currently working on a picture book on sculptor Louise Bourgeois.
Billie Holiday's tragic life. which included working as a prostitute, living in a workhouse with her mother, drug addiction, a prison sentence, and more, might not seem like a natural fit for a picture book for young children, and indeed, this side of Holiday's life does not appear in Novesky's book. Novesky focused instead on Holiday's love for her many dogs, and in particular for her boxer named Mister. Love for a dog, of course, is a theme that children identify easily with, as do many adults (OK, I'm a sucker for a good dog story).
We first meet Billie Holiday as a young girl, dreaming of being a star, singing on a borrowed gramophone. Illustrator Vanessa Brantley Newton
, whose charming illustrations are done with gouache and charcoal with collage elements, depicts Billie in a beautiful setting on a fancy chair, dressed up with a bow in her hair (perhaps a bit fanciful given the realities of her childhood!). The next spread shows her already a star, the great Lady Day. (Illustrated 2-page spreads from the book can be seen on Novesky's website
). Novesky introduces a note of melancholy in the text from the beginning, by explaining that even stars need someone to listen to them, and that's the role Lady Day's dogs played. We meet her small dogs, chihuahuas Pepe and Chiquita, her big dogs (a Great Dane named Gypsy, and finally her favorite dog of all, Mister, who we see in a fabulous illustration, walking with Billie on a leash wearing matching mink coats. Instead of a sidewalk, they are walking on a piano keyboard, with the buildings of New York in the background. Mister had the life of a star himself; he was so pampered he got to eat steak while she was performing in glamorous clubs, and he waited for her while she performed, even serving to keep eager fans at bay.
Novesky tells young readers that "Lady got into trouble. She had to leave home for a year and a day. And Mister couldn't come." In an afterword, she explains that Billie Holiday was in fact in jail during that time for drug possession. When she returned, Mister was there to welcome her, and even accompanied her to a grand concert at New York's Carnegie Hall. The story ends on a hopeful note, with Billie singing her heart out, and Mister listening in the wings.
An author's note gives some more background on Holiday's life, appropriately omitting some of the uglier facts, and provides additional sources and a web resource.
There's no CD with the book, but readers could easily find CD's of Holiday's unique singing style at the library or on YouTube, which would enrich the story.
This is a moving yet charming book about a difficult subject, and could be integrated into units on Black History Month, Women's History Month, or jazz.
By: Carter Higgins,
Blog: Design of the Picture Book
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by Cybèle Young
published 2014 by Groundwood BooksDon’t you hate throwing your ball out the window and being too short to see where it bounces? The worst.But the worst gets better, because in its place a spectacular parade clash-crashes by. Except when you’re a frantic, too-short creature, it’s really hard to see over the windowsill. Good thing you’re a clever whippersnapper, and push that chair up to take a peek.And just when you can finally see outside, the book tells you to turn around.
You’ll stumble smack dab into the spectacle.
Juggling shrimp on a unicycle! A bat on a hanging, clangy contraption! Pink swans pulling a turtle on a wagon! Thanks to this parade, you might just get your ball back. It’s one fantastic game of catch.
And check out this trailer to see the book in its glorious action. Mesmerizing.
P.S. – Remember the Twitter chat with Groundwood Books and Cybèle Young? The transcript is here, if you want to add to your art-to-study and books-to-love pile. It was such fun!
Tagged: board book
, cybele young
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Marvel announced some improvements to its AR app at SWSXi yesterday, including finally adding the audio components it talked about last year. It also has improved the panel flow and the AR extras will now be available in all digital comics. They also announced an Ultimate Spider-Man Infinite comic, to be aimed at younger readers. Ultimate Infinite Spider-Man — that sounds pretty indestructible.
The announcements were made at a panel that included Axel Alonso and Marvel’s vp of digital products Kristen Vincent, seen above in an Instagram by Michelle Singh. Seth Rosenblatt has details at CNET:
Marvel first revealed plans to bring audio to digital comics at last year’s SXSW, under the name “Project Gamma.” That name has been dropped, and previous technological partners Momentum Worldwide and CORD are no longer involved. For the current version of the project, Marvel has teamed with Emmy-nominated composer David Ari Leon’sSoundMind Music and Firelight Technologies. Leon has worked on multiple Marvel-related projects, spanning from the 1990s “Spider-Man” cartoon to “Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.” Firelight Technologies are the creators of audio content creation tools FMOD, used in multiple high-profile video games including the “BioShock” series.
In case you haven’t tried it, Marvel’s AR (augmented reality) technology allows supplemental pop-up elements, and now a soundtrack that starts when you load a comic in its Unlimited app, along with sound effects. So far only it’s only available on Captain America: The Winter Soldier comic. The new Infinite Ultimate Spider-Man is an attempt to reach kids with a digital native storytelling mode, Alonso and Vincent said.
Now what is most interesting to me about this story is how one website that has been predicting that Marvel would be moving all its digital comics to its own app and cutting out Comixology reported something very different:
This is a story that Bleeding Cool first reported on in November, the move to integrate Marvel’s digital services into one central App…
And its news that CNET has just announced, ahead of of today’s announcements at SXSW.
What was that “story first reported in November”?
That’s it. That’s the missing brick in this wall. Marvel Unlimited will feature ‘in app’ digital comics purchasing in addition to their ‘all you can eat’ Netflix model for older back issues. Porting over the Infinite comics, Project Gamma and Marvel AR will also happen. One Marvel digital comics app for an all immersive ‘unlimited’ Marvel experience. The Marvel Unlimited ‘Plus’ users will see this debut in 2014. And bringing the date at which back issues are available in the subscription price significantly forward. How much of a premium would you pay for day-and-date all-you-can-eat?
They’re not cutting out ComiXology per se. You’ll still be able to buy digital comics through them. But… would you?
Which is NOT WHAT WAS ANNOUNCED YESTERDAY AT ALL. Marvel basically announced some fancy tweaks to their Unlimited comics. In fact if you read the BC story first linked to, that’s what the story actually says, not some huge move for Marvel digital. I notice that some other websites picked up the inaccurate “Marvel moves its comics to Unlimited” headline. And as I suggested the other day
, perhaps that will someday be the headline but it isn’t yet. I can predict one thing with 100% certainty however. eve if it takes a hundred years, if Marvel ever does moves its digital comics to Unlimited, there will be a story about it that begins “As first reported at Bleeding Cool…”
It seems a mole—of moles—are passing along the “Digital Heroes World” doomsday scenario to several websites, hence all the crazy talk people have been floating for hits and attention. Sure maybe, Marvel has eventual plans to “cut out the middleman” of Comixology, but if you think that’s what happened yesterday, take a closer look at the photo at the top of this post.
Over the weekend there was a kerfuffle or two! Are you shocked?
These involved comic cons which had promotions that seemed to forget that about 40% of the con going audience is now female.
The first kerfuffle involved Capital City Con, which will be held in Austin, TX in July. To promote the show, they printed a bunch of postcards, and among them was the above. This was first noted by Texas retailer Richard Neal of Zeus Comics on twitter,
As I noted in my tweet, I’m sure a picture of giant breasts is a suitable promotion for some things—a plus sized bra store perhaps—but a comic con isn’t one of them. Women are going to be squicked out by this ind of promotion and it certainly doesn’t promote a family friendly image.
And then DC Women Kicking Ass got involved. You’d think when confronted with the obvious problems I mentioned above, they’d say, oops sorry we were just maing a joke and it was wrong, but…NO. Apparently, in a NOW REMOVED post on their FB page, this was their first response:
I wasn’t going to go into full battle rage over this but…”if you’ve ever been to a comic con?” WTF? These jokers think that a comic con is a place to ogle women and buy comics by Jim Balent? What year is this?
Luckily, a saner head prevailed and the following statement was issued by the Capital City Comic Con organizers, but only after several professionals said they were planning to withdraw from attending the show:
In response to our prior ad campaign, the proper steps are being taken in regards to this situation. Capital City Comic Con did not mean to offend or harm anyone, in any way. Our advertising department has been contacted and changes to our marketing material and plan are being made.
We respect everyone’s opinion. We are glad this issue was brought to our attention. We want everyone to feel safe at our convention and not feel offended. As a comic book convention, it is primordial that we do not send the wrong message to fans.
We were contacted by a few female fans who wish to support the distribution of our initial flyers, to which we respectfully declined. As for our future plans, we will no longer use the image of superheroes (or any character) in such fashion. We wish to apologize to anyone we may have offended with our initial promotional campaign.
We would like to invite all of you to comment on our new campaign once released. Your feedback is greatly appreciated.
From the staff and management
YA THINK? This story did require the use of our much-loved Citizen Steele image, above, and also this tweet:
BUT THAT WASNT THE ONLY CON KERFUFFLE!
Jill Pantozzi at The Mary Sue expressed alarm last week , about the Toronto Comic Con, which is run by the same people who put on the mega huge Fan Expo, when they sent out a promotional piece as seen below:
Now this may not seem like as clear a slam dunk of idiocy as the boob shot postcard, but several people noted that the “cuddle a cosplayer” contributed to the idea that it’s okay to touch cosplayers without their consent, or they are there to be grabbed, neither of which is true. However, the show organizers once again put their foot right in it with a leaden response as reported by Pantozzi:
They stated that their attendees and their team were adults, and it was all a bit of fun that people wouldn’t take seriously. A direct quote from the email ’We thought about clarifying that cuddles must come with consent, but we thought if we’re always putting the rules in front of the fun – well that hurts the spirit of Fan Expo as much as the people that try to abuse our rules.” They also stated that they hadn’t gotten around to putting their harassment policy up yet, but had made it a priority.
Eventually the show—which was just held this weekend—did put up their harassment policy
and I guess everyone had a good time
I think both these incidents show that some convention organizers are not hep to the fact that along with the growth of con culture, as more and more people attend these shows, and more and more attend to see the cosplay and the audience becomes more and more diverse, cons have become a big, hot petri dish of social interaction, with all the potential for disaster that entails. There have been rapes at conventions; there have been stalkers; there have been all kinds of harassment, and this is not an imaginary thing or crying wolf but real incidents.
Convention organizers need to get it into their heads that no one is trying to “stop the fun” by pointing out inappropriate promotions; what people who call them out on it are trying to do is MAKE SURE that everyone has a fun time, and it isn’t ruined by an ugly incident. That should be the goal of everyone in a position of authority at all times.
Just in case you can’t enough of a smiling Abe Vigoda, there’s a really nice Flickr set of the Old Jewish Comedians opening up at the Society of Illustrators page. With lots of old Jewish comedians and some great shots of the exhibit itself.
By: Seymour Simon,
Congratulations to all the students who entered the "My Favorite Seymour Simon Book" contest. We asked you to read my books, decide which one was your favorite, and give examples from the text to support your opinion. We received entries from 145 individual students and 11 first and second grade classes. That is really a LOT of participation from a single school! Good work, Franklin Elementary. We read every one of your entries, and enjoyed the writing very much. According to the rules of the contest we randomly choose one individual winner in grades 3-5 and one classroom winner from grades 1-2. The individual winner is Izzy from Mrs. Feeley’s class (5-FE). Izzy wrote: My favorite Seymour Simon book is OCEANS. I like the book Oceans because it tells lots of facts about ocean. For example, on page 2 it says "Echo soundings of the ocean floor show mountains more than twice as tall as Mt. Everest and 6 times deep as the grand canyon." The classroom winner was Mrs. Shaughnessy’s 1st grade class, whose favorite Seymour Simon book is CORAL REEFS. They wrote: Why we like it? We think it is a great book because it taught us many facts we didn’t already know. We liked Seymour Simon’s book because he talked about animals we had never heard of before. Example: We didn’t know that Sea Stars eat by turning their stomachs inside out through their mouths! First we said, "eww!" and then we said, "cool!" Also, we found out that some fish can turn into a darker color for camouflage at night. Izzy and Mrs. Shaughnessy’s class will each receive a copy of their favorite book, which I will autograph for them. Thanks again for all your great writing and very kind words about my books. It meant a great deal to me to read what you all had to say about my writing. Seymour
By: Tatjana Mai-Wyss,
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something fun and colorful to start off the week...
©copyright Alicia Padrón 2014
This tiny guy appeared in the corner of my sketchbook.
Thought I would post him to see if I could cheer him up a bit.
sx salon, issue 15 (February 2014)
Introduction and Table of Contents
Our first issue of 2014 tackles the concept of Chinese Caribbean literature with a special section of essays, interviews, and creative writing that approach this proposed literary category from different locations. Opening the discussion, Anne-Marie Lee-Loy asks the following “intrinsically intertwined” questions: “Is there such a thing as Chinese Caribbean literature? What would make such literature identifiably ‘Chinese Caribbean’?” And these questions haunt the other pieces in this issue’s special section. In the two included interviews, Easton Lee speaks with Tzarina Prater about his early years and the influence they now have on his work while Patricia Powell discusses with Stephen Narain the curiosity that led her to writing The Pagoda, a novel that Lee-Loy notes troubles the impulse to constitute Chinese Caribbean literature by author origins. Powell reveals:
The novel grew out of a desire to know more about home, to know Jamaica’s history, to understand the Chinese experience in Jamaica, the complexities of otherness for them—people who are neither black nor white. I wanted to know their particular experiences of exile and immigration and displacement, their experiences of community and home there on the island.
These complexities arise in the two creative pieces in the special section, both of which return to the ubiquitous, though often overlooked, Mr. Chin character. While Victor Chang’s short story marries the unimaginable and the expected occurring on and to Mr. Chin’s property, Staceyann Chin’s poem to her father voices Mr. Chin’s progeny, the daughter now diasporic citizen who refuses to forget. Tao Leigh Goffe’s article closes the section with a consideration of six writers, including Staceyann Chin, who are “thrice diasporized,” that is, “shaped by the experiences of the African diaspora, the Asian diaspora, and the Caribbean diaspora.”
Via the writers included in this special section, this discussion seeks to not only contribute to but also complexify the slowly growing acknowledgement of a significant body of work from the Caribbean and the Caribbean diaspora.
Our issue also features five new book reviews as well as creative work from Cyril Dabydeen, Colin Robinson, Reuel Ben Lewi, and Rajiv Mohabir. The table of contents is included below.
This issue of sx salon is dedicated to the memory and legacy of Stuart Hall (3 February 1932–10 February 2014).
Kelly Baker Josephs
Making art now means working in the face of uncertainty; it means living with doubt and contradiction, doing something no one much cares whether you do, and for which there may be neither audience nor reward…Making the work you want to make means finding nourishment within the work itself.
One of the basic and difficult lessons every artist must learn is that even the failed pieces are essential. People who need certainty in their lives are less likely to make art that is risky, subversive, complicated, iffy, suggestive, or spontaneous. What’s really needed is nothing more than a broad sense of what you are looking for, some strategy for how to find it, and an overriding willingness to embrace mistakes and surprises along the way. Simple put, making art is chancy — it doesn’t mix well with predictability.
Uncertainty is the essential, inevitable, and all-pervasive companion to your desire to make art. And tolerance for uncertainty is the prerequisite to succeeding. …Fears about yourself prevent you from doing your best work, while fears about your reception by others prevent you from doing your own work.
Artists get better by…learning from their work. They commit themselves to the work of their heart, and act upon that commitment. So when you ask, “Then why doesn’t it come easily for me?”, the answer is probably, “Because making art is hard!” What you end up caring about is what you do, not whether the doing came hard or easy.
The post Quotes from ART AND FEAR: OBSERVATIONS ON THE PERILS (AND REWARDS) OF ARTMAKING appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.
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I’ve finally received my May tour dates to support the fantastic finale to the WondLa trilogy.
My presentation includes drawing and discussing how the WondLa books came to be. Attendees will receive the third limited edition WondLa sketchbook for free. And, of course, I will sign just about any book (or gaming materials) that you bring – though different stores have different signing policies, so its best to check with them beforehand.
As well, Angela and I will both be attending the LA Times Festival of Books in April at the USC campus. Though The Battle of WondLa will not be available for sale then, I will be signing all my previous titles. Hopefully I’ll see you there!
PS – I am hoping to add some additional dates for our local friends in Massachusetts, so stay tuned…