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HoodooAuthorPic (1)


How can you not like a character named Hoodoo, who can’t cast a spell? Now that’s what I call creative!  Our spotlight is on an amazing writer, who has written a debut novel that awarded him the 2016 Coretta Scott King, John Steptoe Award for new Talent!  We not only applaud you, but The Brown Bookshelf is honored to spotlight , on this 11th Day of February,

Ronald Smith


Please tell us about “The Journey.”
I’ve wanted to be an author since I was a child. I grew up reading fantasy and sci-fi stories, and loved creating imaginary worlds. As an adult, I found my way into advertising, and became a writer of TV commercials. It was a lot of fun for a long time, and writing fiction fell by the wayside. “At least I’m getting paid for writing,” I often told myself.

Then one day, my younger brother, who was working at a Barnes & Noble at the time, turned me on to some great books for young readers: The His Dark Materials books by Philip Pullman, The Sabriel Trilogy by Garth Nix. Harry Potter, of course. That’s when I realized I wanted to write stories again. There was a period of a few years where I was writing very literary short stories, but seeing these great kid’s books inspired me to write what I loved to read as a kid: tales of adventure and other worlds.

Once I decided to focus on children’s lit, I found my voice. Several years later, I was signed by an agent and got a book deal

How about “The Back Story?”
I was fortunate in that I queried an agent who liked Hoodoo, but felt it needed some work. She told me what she thought wasn’t working, and asked if I’d be open to revise and resubmit. She didn’t have to do this, and most agents don’t. I agreed with her advice, and when I sent the manuscript back months later she signed me.

A few days after going on submission, I had offers from several publishers and the book went to auction, which, well, was pretty awesome, to say the least. I signed with Clarion, a division of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

What does your Writing Process look like?
I write organically, without an outline or scene-by-scene plan. Only once I get a few chapters down, can I really see where the story is going. It takes shape as I write. It’s fun, because I am discovering it along the way, just as a reader would. I’ve tried writing programs like Scrivener but they just confuse me. I do outline a little, once I know where the story is going, but mostly it is all part of what John Gardner called “The Fictive Dream,” that place you go in your subconscious when you are really in the zone. It is a type of fugue-state.

I no longer work in advertising, and write every day in my favorite coffee shop. Some days I write at home, but I like having some background white noise, so the ambience in a coffee shop fuels the creative process. Plus…caffeine.

ron smith's book

The Buzz on “Hoodoo.”

2016 Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Author Award

A Junior Library Guild Selection

Cooperative Children’s Book Center’s 2015 Choices List

“The authenticity of Hoodoo’s voice and this distinctive mashup of genres make Smith one to watch. Seekers of the scary and “something different” need look no further.”

“The chilling supernatural Southern Gothic plot action is enhanced by atmospheric description of rural life in Depression-era Alabama…Readers will particularly enjoy Hoodoo’s authentic and engaging narrative voice.”
School Library Journal

“Hoodoo’s first-person narrative, which flows beautifully, has an appealing and natural cadence…Through his protagonist, Smith demonstrates an eye for detail and a knack for evocative imagery as well as for telling a riveting story with a dollop of southern gothic appeal.”

“Filled with folk and religious symbols, this creepy Southern Gothic ghost story is steeped in time and place. Hoodoo’s earnest first-person narrative reveals a believable innocent who can ’cause deeds great and powerful.'”
Horn Book Magazine

“What a splendid novel. Reader, be prepared to have your foundations shaken: this is a world that is deeper, more wondrous, more spiritually charged than you may have ever imagined.”
Gary D. Schmidt, two-time Newbery Honor medalist and author of The Wednesday Wars

“Oh, wow! Hoodoo may just be the perfect book for a rainy day. Find a dog that will sit with you . . . and read on to your heart’s content. What a fun discovery!”
Nikki Giovanni, poet and award-winning author of Rosa

What are your thoughts on the State of the Industry

Shortly after Hoodoo was accepted by my publisher, the We Need Diverse Books movement took off. I think this is an exciting time to be writing children’s books, especially if you are writing about characters that fall outside the mainstream. I think publishers want these books, and are eager to find those that tell a great story. Has it come too late? Perhaps. But change takes time, and thanks to the voices of a few tireless advocates—booksellers, librarians, authors—diverse books are beginning to really be noticed. Every kid needs to see him or herself reflected in books. It’s simple. Seeing yourself, or someone who looks like you or talks like you or lives where you live, makes reading relatable to kids.

My website is http://www.strangeblackflowers.com
Twitter: @ronsmithbooks

Thank you, Ronald Smith, for your contributions to children’s literature!

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2. The Unlikely Adventures of Mabel Jones by Will Mabbitt, illustrated by Ross Collins, 290pp, RL 4

I have had The Unlikely Adventures of Mabel Jones by Will Mabbitt with illustrations by Ross Collins on my To Be Read shelf for a year now. The impending publication of the second book in this series, Mabel Jones and the Forbidden City, combined with the possible chance to have author Will Mabbitt visit here lit a fire under me and got me reading. Once I started, I couldn't stop! The Unlikely Adventures of Mabel Jones is every bit as absurd and adventurous as the title, illustrations, blurbs and reviews promise. As one reviewer touted, Mabbitt's book is a bit like Monty Python meets Jack Sparrow. While this is definitely accurate, for me Mabel Jones and her crew call to mind the brilliant, equally creative but darker work of two of my favorites, Chris Riddell and Paul Stewart and their series, The Edge Chronicles. Mabbitt's story and Collins's illustrations are perfectly paired and the design of the book is fantastic. There is a great mix of fonts and font sizes and one fantastic spread where, in the midst of a massive storm at sea, the text slips and slides off the page! Mabel Jones's richly illustrated, patently hilarious adventures are an absolute MUST READ for everyone.

When an  omniscient (and very talkative) third person narrator first introduces us to Mabel Jones, she is about to be bagged by the kidnapper Omynus Hussh. Hussh, a slow loris who was kidnapped by Captain Idryss Ebenezer Split at birth, is a "dastardly breed: quiet as a peanut and sneaky as a woodlouse in a jar of raisins." Even if you have no idea what a woodlouse in a jar full of raisins is, it SOUNDS funny! And the names of the all animal crew! Mabbitt is a master of names. Besides Hussh and Split, there is Split's boat, the Feroshus Maggot, a pipe smoking goat pirate named Pelf, a mole who is the "best shortsighted lookout ever to have mistaken a pirate ship for an optician's shop," McMasters, and Mr. Clunes, an orangutan who is the strong and silent type. Finally, there is Old Sawbones, a crocodile who has a certificate in Advanced Nautical Surgery from the Butcher's Guild.

And how does Omynus Hussh know that Mabel is good for bagging? She was observed doing THE DEED - the deed that shows she is a pirate in the making. And what is this deed? Well, Mabel was observed picking her nose and eating her booger. And thus she was bagged. But not without some distress. Mabel got a good chomp on Hussh's paw, causing it to go septic, necessitating an amputation by Old Sawbones. Being fresh out of hooks, Sawbones attaches a doorknob to Hussh's stump in what has to be one of the funniest and saddest moments ever in a kid's book. And boy was Hussh sad - so sad he kept is paw with him, cradling it and talking to it like a friend (and a bit like Gollum with his Precious) while also harboring an increasing grudge against Mabel.

Of course the crew is outraged by the presence of a girl on board and they promptly prepare for her to walk the "greasy pole of certain death." But, this wouldn't be a story without Mabel and she manages to become part of the crew once they learn that she can read! Mabel becomes the key to helping the crew find a buried treasure by reuniting the pieces of the X that marks the spot which just happen to be in the hands of a handful of pirates who were once marooned with Captain Split's father.

The mystery of the missing X is actually pretty mysterious with an edge of creepy, reminding me of Stewart and Riddell's books all the more. There is a Haunted Sea, a sunken city and an army of the dead to contend with before the very dramatic and a tiny bit sad ending that also includes time travel. Happily, I get to dive right in to the next book in the series . . . 

Source: Review Copy

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3. Locker Decoration Ideas

Rainbow PenEpic Locker Decoration Ideas

For those of you who have a locker at school, do you decorate it? With what? Share your ideas here! Target had a really cute locker disco ball. I was tempted to buy it. Then I remembered I don’t have a locker!

Read other kids’ ideas in the Crafts/DIY Message Board and then tell us how YOUR locker is decorated!

Moderator Katie, Crafts/DIY Message Board

Locker photo courtesy The Container Store

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4. My Writing and Reading Life: Carole Estby Dagg, Author of Sweet Home Alaska

Sweet Home Alaska, by Carole Estby Dagg, is an exciting pioneering story, based on actual events, and introduces readers to a fascinating chapter in American history, when FDR set up a New Deal colony in Alaska to give loans and land to families struggling during the Great Depression.

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5. #823 – Here Comes Valentine Cat by Deborah Underwood & Claudia Rueda

Here Comes Valentine Cat Series: Here Comes Cat Written by Deborah Underwood Illustrated by Claudia Rueda Dial Books for Young Readers    12/22/2015 978-0-525-42915-9 88 pages     Ages 3—5 Junior Library Guild Selection “Cat is no fan of VALENTINE’S DAY, especially when it brings a new dog to the neighborhood. “Ouch. I’m sorry, Cat. …

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6. A Moment with Rachel Isadora’s Art

I’ve got some art today from Rachel Isadora’s I Hear a Pickle: (And Smell, See, Touch, and Taste It, Too!), published last month by Nancy Paulsen Books, as a follow-up to the Q&A I did with her last week at Kirkus. Enjoy!     * * * * * * * I HEAR A PICKLE: […]

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7. Out-of-Print Diversity

There is a perception that we’re all very sophisticated and educated these days, as opposed to the past.  That older books for children have a tendency to be racist or contain outdated ideas.

Not so.

In my *does the math* thirteen years as a children’s librarian I’ve discovered that you can find some real gems if you just dig deeply enough into a library’s backlist.  And just because a title came out twenty or thirty years ago, that doesn’t mean it’s any less forward thinking than our books today (in some cases, more so).

The other day someone asked me a very specific question:  If you could bring back in print any diverse out-of-print children’s book titles, what would they be?

Now the crazy thing is that the first two books I thought of are actually still in-print, albeit in ebook form.  I’ll put them here anyway since they deserve a wider readership.  The first is the delightful Lavender Green Magic by Andre Norton.  Considering the fact that even today I can count the number of middle grade fantasy novels starring African-American characters on one hand, Norton’s book deserves to be better known.


The other novel is Sweet Whispers, Brother Rush by Virginia Hamilton.  A slightly more difficult sell as a YA (a genre that I believe dates more quickly than its younger counterparts) it’s still a compelling read.


Both of those are available through Open Road Media as ebooks, of course.  You know one book that isn’t?  A book that’s about a black, female, space explorer with art from the Dillons?  I’ve mentioned it once before but it bears repeating:


An interior image:


Get more information on the book at Stephanie Whelan’s blog Waiting to Tesseract.

And just to make myself feel old, I’m including here a book that was in-print when I first reviewed it back in 2006 but has since fall out.  The delightful early chapter book Younguncle Comes to Town by Vandana Singh.


I know that there are many other out-of-print diverse books out there.  Can you think of any favorites of your own?


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8. Parent Teacher Collection Re-Organization

Earlier this year, I took over the responsibility of the Parent Teacher Collection at my library. It was a natural fit since I had to keep bringing picture books to my boss and spending time together to figure out what collection a picture book like Todd Parr’s The Goodbye Book really belonged in.

I was also asked to re-organize the collection by de-Deweying and creating browseable subjects.

Instead of writing through every step, I made a quick infographic detailing my process:

[An infographic about developing a Parent Teacher Collection created by the author using Piktochart.]

[An infographic created by the author.]

Up-close photo of the spine labels of our Parent Teacher collection. [Photo courtesy of the author.]

Up-close photo of our spine labels. [Photo courtesy of the author.]

Collection Facts:

  • Collection has ten shelves; roughly 650 books.
  • Books are a mixture of adult books and children’s materials.
  • We decided on seven main subjects: Development, Health, Relationships, Safety, School, Special Needs, and Travel.
  • There are sub-subjects under every main subject except Travel.
  • While the collection is mostly comprised of books, it does have some DVDs and software.
  • At the bottom (in the red polka dot totes) are our Parenting Packs, which are kits geared towards parents/caregivers to use during milestone events.
  • Books show up in the catalog with the full call number: PARENTS DEVELOPMENT POTTY WILLEMS.

Our Parent Teacher Collection new materials shelf -- shows the range of what we're buying. [Photo courtesy of the author.]

Our New shelf — shows the range of what we’re buying. [Photo courtesy of the author.]


  • Books are purchased by the Kids & Teens staff members from the children’s non-fiction budget line.
  • Generally, books that are used WITH children are shelved in the Parent Teacher Collection. Books about child psychology, parenting memoirs, and academic materials are shelved downstairs in the Adult Services collection.
  • I consult with the Adult Services librarian who selects for the 600s. We have determined that we are okay with purchasing doubles of materials.


Up-close picture of a Parenting Pack from the Parent Teacher Collection. [Photo courtesy of the author.]

Up-close picture of a Parenting Pack. [Photo courtesy of the author.]

  • Every time I walk past the section, the shelves need to be straightened. This means that they’re being used!
  • I’m seeing 40% more of the collection moving based on recently returned books.
  • I see more browsers which is GREAT and the reason why we decided to de-Dewey the collection. Caregivers are often dealing with a difficult problem when they are looking in the Parent Teacher Collection. They might not be comfortable asking for help and may also want to get their information quickly. This project makes that possible.
  • A parent thanked me for integrating the picture books and parent books. It made finding the right resources a one-stop shop for her.
  • Another parent expressed gratitude that the subject she was looking for was all shelved together and easy to find.
  • Half of the Parenting Packs are currently checked out.

It’s only been a few months, but I think this is one of the best things I’ve done at the library. My co-workers are probably getting tired of hearing me squee every time I see the return cart packed with Parent Teacher Collection books. (I kid — they are all incredibly supportive!)

I’m still not 100% done and I never will be. I need to continually evaluate this collection and actively seek out new materials since they aren’t always readily available in traditional review journals. We’re also preparing a new marketing campaign to help show the organization of the shelves, as well as a brochure to help parents/caregivers navigate the section.

Do you have a Parent Teacher Collection? Any tips or tricks to share? Any questions for me? Let’s talk the comments!

– Katie Salo
Early Literacy Librarian
Indian Prairie Public Library

The post Parent Teacher Collection Re-Organization appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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It's black history month and my friend Don Tate has a truly special book out that I have to share with you. It's called POET: THE REMARKABLE STORY OF GEORGE MOSES HORTON and it's published by Peachtree. (Gads, they do some good-looking books!) I emailed Don for a full on guest post, but he is riding high right now, super busy. As he said, "...things are so crazy right now. I'm on deadline to finish sketches for this next book before next Wednesday (when my travel schedule kicks in), and I have to start over on the sketches." So, I asked him some quick questions...
Me: How did you learn about George Moses Horton
Don: I wish I had a more interesting or profound answer to this question, but I learned about Horton through a writing partner, Chris Barton. I started researching Horton on that same day. I knew from day one that Horton's story would be loved by readers, but because of my heavy illustration schedule, I didn't know when I'd find time to write it. And then I had this fear that someone else might publish the story before I had a chance to start writing, so I found the time. Several years and many, many revisions later, the book was acquired by Peachtree Publishers.
Me: What was your medium for this book?
Don: Initially I wanted to illustrate "Poet" digitally. I'd just purchased a Cintiq, and I was anxious to put it to use. I did all of the line work on my Cintiq, but I think it freaked out my art director, who had another look in mind. She loved my hand drawn artwork, as done in the book "Hope's Gift," so I decided to use the same medium, acrylic watercolor washes and ink (Micron) lines on watercolor paper. Acrylic dries hard and allows for layering without disturbing under painting. And I used colored pencil in places. I also wanted to find a way to include Horton's poetry, since I'd not included any in the text (intentionally). So I hand lettered portions of his poetry and worked them into the illustrations using Photoshop. I did eventually get to put that Cintiq to work on my following book, "Whoosh!"
Me: With your busy schedule, how do you fit in creative time?
Don: Balancing creative time with travel can be a challenge. To help, I recently purchased a Surface Pro 4. It's a tablet that allow me to sketch on it using Photoshop or Manga Studio. I completely sketched and laid out my last two books on it. It's not great for creating final art, but totally saved me with my last two books. I also have a great booking agent who helps with the details of travel, so that I can spend that time in creative mode. I take it one day at a time.
Me: what are you working on next?
I have five more books under contract, and one to be announced soon. Most of them are nonfiction and involve little-known historical figures. I'm especially excited about an opportunity to work with Eloise Greenfield. That will be so cool!

Learn more about Don at http://dontate.com.

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10. SXSW 2016: Competition Shorts, ‘Powerpuff Girls’ Premiere Announced

Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup are joining the party in Austin next month.

The post SXSW 2016: Competition Shorts, ‘Powerpuff Girls’ Premiere Announced appeared first on Cartoon Brew.

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11. Mabel Jones and the Forbidden City by Will Mabbit, illustrated by Ross Collins, 304pp, RL 4

Mabel Jones and the Forbidden City is the second book in Will Mabbitt and by Ross Collins's superb new series and, if possible, it's even better than the first, The Unlikely Adventures of Mabel Jones. In the first book, Mabbitt introduced our hero who is conscripted into the life of a pirate because she was caught doing THE DEED (picking her nose and eating it) and allowed to stay (despite being a girl) because she can read. The Unlikely Adventures of Mabel Jones is a panoramic sweeping story packed with richly detailed and very imaginative characters and places. With Mabel Jones and the Forbidden City, the story becomes more personal and urgent for Mabel.

When we see Mabel again, she is in her room, scratching her armpit and staring at a "funny-looking thing, all fat and helpless. Like a beetle grub. Kind of slimy, but kind of cute, too." It's Mabel's baby sister Maggie, and mere minutes after this sweet scene of sibling love, Maggie is taken out of her room by a nasty tasting, powerful creeping vine. Mabel grabs on to the last bit of the disappearing vine and finds herself in a wardrobe in another time and place - the Noo World, specifically, the City of Dreams, a sort of post-apocalyptic, dangerous civilization built upon the remains of New York City.

 Mabel in in America - and once again having an adventure in her pajamas, and this time bunny slippers as well. Once she gets her bearings, she heads off to the dwelling of Mr. Habib, a beak-collecting fortune teller who might be able to tell her where to find Maggie. Mable almost gets her nose snipped off to add to the collection, but she does get a lead and soon she in afloat again. This time, she has secured a position on a little paddle steamer, the Brown Trout, upon which she will be cruising down the Great Murky River to the Forbidden City, rumored to be under the thrall of a wicked sorceress. This expedition is being headed (and funded) by Professor Carruthers Badger-Badger, Phd and Timothy Speke, an otter who enjoys sketching and loves his damson jam. They are journeying to the Forbidden City to find a diamond the size of a gorilla's fist, seen in a faded advertisement from a magazine.

Mabel Jones and the Forbidden City finds the return of old friends, some of whom are now enemies, a flock of zombified egrets under the sway of the Witch Queen, a sunken high school full of skeleton students and the Scuttling Death, rival adventurer Sir Gideon Scapegrace and an epic climactic scene that will have you on the very edge of your seat as Mable prepares to make a huge sacrifice.

Not to fear, there will be another book in the Mabel Jones series! Without giving too much away, Mabel Jones and the Forbidden City ends with her staring out over the vast wasteland that was once New York City, picking her nose and wondering what happened to all the "hoomans."

The Unlikely Adventures of Mabel Jones

A few of the many books by Ross Collins!

Source: Review Copy

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12. Fine Art America.....

does it again! another beautiful (tote) bag!

i have yet to find another vendor who does as FABULOUS of a job as FAA. in my on line travels, i have seen many vendors/POD (print on demand) companies that offer tote bags but with the image only sitting as a small rectangle/square in the center of the bag therefore leaving the rest of the bag as just bare canvas. what i love most about FAA's bags is that the image/painting encompasses the whole entire bag. they offer 3 different sizes~13x13, 16x16 and 18x18. the bag above is 16x16. it's the perfect mid size bag for me to cart around my pencils and 9x12 and 11x14 sketchbooks. in the pic below, the mermaid is the 13x13 size and the fire goddess is 18x18. i have several of these bags and they are gorgeous...every single one of them. good quality canvas and excellent printing quality. clear and precise and the color is spot on.

so, click on over to my shop at FAA and get one for your little girl or even for yourself. oh, and don't let my horrendous photography skills scare you away. i'm just a painter. :)

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13. Snyder Exits Batman with April’s Issue #51

batman51-32b5dWith rumors circulating across the internet, Scott Snyder has confirmed his departure from Batman in April’s issue #51. The writer announced that the issue will be his last comic with artist Greg Capullo for six months. Truth: I've been delaying writing the last pages of Batman #51 – my final issue on the series & last comic […]

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14. The Absolute at Large review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Karel Čapek's 1922 The Absolute at Large.

       I actually received my review copy of this book 3815 days before the review went up -- so, yes, sometimes it takes me a while .....
       (This is actually the third from this University of Nebraska Press Bison Frontiers of Imagination-series that I had previously read (all in German, all decades ago) and eventually got around to re-reading and then reviewing, in each case 2000 or more days after getting the UNP edition of the book. I guess they just have to be lying around long enough until I finally can't resist any longer .....)

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15. What I Read in January

I'm kind of sad to report that my January reading got off to a rocky start.  I read very few books and even fewer pages last month.  It was a sad reading month, but we had a lot of other things going on - my brother and his family were in town, we threw a surprise 60th birthday party for my dad, I threw a baby shower for a dear friend, and, of course, hung out with my book club friends.

Between the crazy amount of driving places, playing with my niece and nephews, and loving my favorite people, I did manage to fit in a few books:

Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart
Winter at the Door by Sarah Graves
Slade House by David Mitchell
Humans of New York: Stories by Brandon Stanton
Sex, Lies, and Online Dating by Rachel Gibson
Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin
The Little Men by Megan Abott
The Girls She Left Behind by Sarah Graves
The Substitute by Denise Grover Swank
Giant Days, Volume One by John Allison
Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin

Total books read: 11
Of those books, four were audiobooks - because of all the driving I was doing I had plenty of time to listen in the car!

What did you read in January? 

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16. Book reviews in ... German(y)

       At the German Perlentaucher site they've long been collecting book review coverage from the major German-language dailies of books appearing in German(y), and Thierry Chervel now looks over the numbers and some other analyses in Kritische Zahlen, to see whether --or rather just how much -- book review coverage in German newspapers (plus the Swiss NZZ) has declined since 2001.
       Short -- and disturbing -- answer: a lot.

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17. Fight Stories

Link vs. GanonMy son is really into fighting. He watches shows like Power Rangers and Ninjago. He likes superheroes and video games. I think his favorite thing right now is to watching Daddy guide Link through a boss level in a Zelda game. (Fortunately for Daddy, the games are very forgiving). I think that he might be… resolving something? Working something out, mentally and emotionally? Maybe it empowers him to see the snake people get beat? I dunno. I know he likes fighting and no stern look or lecture from me is going to change it.

Of course he wants books about fighting, but apart from uninspired picture books derived from superhero movies, the children’s book industry has been derelict in providing books featuring hand-to-hand combat for kids like B.

JabberwockySee a need; fill a need. I’ve tried, in fits and starts, to create characters that fight, and to give them monsters to fight, but I lapse back into my muddled view of the universe. The monsters in my imagination develop a point of view; not one I particularly agree with but one I can at least comprehend. The heroes are timid and do a lot of soul searching instead of slaying. They argue with the monsters but never raise a blade. By the end of chapter 3 they’ve become friends and have no antagonist to deal with.

This whole business is against my grain. I lack moral certainty. I am against violence, having been on the wrong end of it. At the same time, I can see the satisfaction to calling up your fears and giving it form and cutting its head off. From Beowulf to Star Wars, that’s a story form that will never go out of fashion. I think humans crave it, and especially little ones. Oh, it’s, you know. Profitable. Cough.

But I can’t do it. I don’t know why. It looks easy. Walk on the muscled hero, have him say something clever. Walk on the snarling beast. Have it spit and snarl. “He swung his sword and pierced the wretched creature’s neck.” Fanfare and big advances. The end.

I’ll keep trying. You know, for the kid.

Filed under: Miscellaneous

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18. Íslensku bókmenntaverðlaunanna

       As Vala Hafstad reports at Icelandic Review, Icelandic Literature Prizes Presented, as the country's major literary awards have been handed out, with Hundadagar, by Einar Már Guðmundsson (several of whose works have been translated into English) taking the fiction prize -- beating out, among other finalists, Hallgrímur Helgason and Jón Kalman Stefánsson. See also the Forlagið publicity page for the book.
       The prize is worth an impressive(-sounding) ISK 1 million -- though apparently that's now only the equivalent of ca. US$7,800.

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19. Maine To Kansas

At Whittier Middle School, I get to be a part of great things.  Recently, Mrs. Shanning’s class and I connected with Ms. Loy’s Kansas Classroom during a Skype visit.  We gave them all kinds of facts about Maine, as they were about to launch into Cooper and Packrat’s  Mystery on Pine Lake  adventure.

We sent some postcards and a calendar with Maine animals to help them connect to the story . . .

and our beautiful state.



And this week, we’re connecting again!  Through www.edu.buncee.com, we’re making Virtual Valentine’s with a camping and nature theme!  Oh my goodness, they’re so much fun . . . I quickly became addicted.  You start with a background picture from their stock, or upload your own (I used my own photographs of the campground).  Then you add text, stickers, audio, and animation. Pretty cool!

Here are two of the Valentines we received from the class. Each student was assigned one of our students and vice versa.

iPhone Image E153C4

Check out the foxes!  And the tents!  Those campfires?  They flicker!  The hearts?  Float on the wind.

iPhone Image E153D5

Technology in education is amazing!  Our students have learned so much by connecting with the students in Kansas .  . . their small world is growing leaps and bounds!

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20. Super Quick-Fire Review of RIDERS by Veronica Rossi (With Longer Video Review Option)

Review by Elisa   RIDERS by Veronica RossiPublisher: Tor Teen (February 16, 2016)Publication Date: February 16, 2016 Sold by: Macmillan  Goodreads  | Amazon For eighteen-year-old Gideon Blake, nothing but death can keep him from achieving his goal of becoming a U.S. Army Ranger. As it turns out, it does. Recovering from the accident that most definitely killed him, Gideon finds himself

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21. WWF Assignment to Capture Rare Camera Trap Images

In August last year I undertook an assignment for WWF in the Zambezi Region of Namibia. Our aim was to obtain high-quality images of elusive animals, some of which had only ever been photographed on research cameras before.

The Zambezi Region is a narrow strip of land, formerly known as the Caprivi Strip, that runs between Botswana and Angola, all the way to the Zambezi river in the East. It is the heart of the Kavango – Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area, otherwise known as KAZA, which links wildlife populations in Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia. WWF works with the governments, local communities and species conservation programmes throughout the KAZA region.

Sunset in Bwabwata National Park

For many years, Lise Hanssen has been studying wildlife populations in the region, with a particular focus on the carnivores. Her research utilised over 100 research camera traps to build up a picture of predator populations for the first time. She was able to identify the ranges of leopards, lions, hyenas and African wild dogs. Her findings prove how vital this area is to carnivore populations and movements throughout the KAZA region.

I teamed up with WWF and Lise to try and get high-quality photographs of her study subjects. However, it quickly became apparent that this was not going to be easy, as the carnivores are extremely elusive and hard to see. I spent two weeks in Namibia trying to find and photograph them but didn’t catch a glimpse of a single one!

Fortunately, we had foreseen this challenge and I had come prepared with five Camtraptions camera trap systems. These are similar to the Lise’s research cameras but incorporate a high-quality DSLR camera instead. You can watch my short video blog showing one of my camera trap set-ups below.

I relied on Lise’s research and expertise to identify several promising sites for my traps. These included locations both inside and outside the national parks. At the end of my trip, I left my cameras in place so they could continue working for a further ten weeks.

Lise’s predictions were spot on and over the following weeks my camera traps started capturing images of the key species we were after including leopards, hyenas, African wild dogs and even a serval cat.

Serval Cat
Wild Dog at Night

Of course, my traps also photographed many other creatures. One trap in particular, positioned near a waterhole in the Mashi Conservancy, captured an incredible number of animals including elephants, giraffes, eland, wildebeest and bushpigs. It also took thousands of photos of guineafowls. In fact, I estimate that I had ten images of guineafowls for every other animal photographed. Sorting through them all took a quite a while!

Guieafowl and Eland at a Waterhole
Eland at Sunrise
Mud Party!
Elephants in the Waterhole
Elephants Mudbathing

The greatest challenge of all was photographing the lions. These cats spend much of their time outside the national parks and are extremely shy. Even Lise has never seen them other than on her research cameras. I set up two camera traps near waterholes that the lions sometimes visit. In the three months that my traps were operating, the lions passed by twice, resulting in some very rare shots of these secretive big cats.

A young male lion caught on camera trap.

I hope that my images, in combination with WWF’s efforts and Lise’s valuable research, can help inspire conservation action in this important part of the KAZA region.

You can find out more about the camera traps used in this project at Camtraptions. You can follow Lise Hanssen’s research on the Kwando Carnivore Project Facebook page. You can find out more about WWF’s work in the KAZA region and see more of my images from the project here: Photographing Africa’s Most Elusive Animals.

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22. Giveaway: Nothando's Journey by Jill Manly (US Only)

Nothando's Journey by Jill Manly Release Date: February 2016   About the Book Nothando’s Journey is a journey in self-discovery told through the eyes of a young girl named Nothando. The book tells of the Reed Festival, an important celebration in Nothando’s country of Swaziland in Southern Africa. Nothando and her brother...

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23. Bob Persichetti Out, Lino DiSalvo In As Director of Playmobil Movie

Lino DiSalvo, the head of animation on Disney's "Frozen," will make his directorial debut on the toy-based movie.

The post Bob Persichetti Out, Lino DiSalvo In As Director of Playmobil Movie appeared first on Cartoon Brew.

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24. Natasha Wimmer Q & A

       Alicia Kennedy has a(n awfully-titled) Q & A with translator Natasha Wimmer at Broadly.
       (I just picked up a copy of the Wimmer-translated Enrigue, Sudden Death, at the library, and look forward to getting to it soon. (Get your copy at Amazon.com or pre-order it at Amazon.co.uk.))

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25. ‘Symphony No. 42’ by Réka Bucsi

Forty-seven observations in the irrational connections between human and nature.

The post ‘Symphony No. 42’ by Réka Bucsi appeared first on Cartoon Brew.

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