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1. Kevin Henkes Talks with Roger

kevin henkes twr

Talks with Roger is a sponsored supplement to our free monthly e-newsletter, Notes from the Horn Book. To receive Notes, sign up here.

kevin henkesYou ask some very great writers and illustrators about how they do what they do, and it can seem as much a mystery to them as it is to you. But Kevin Henkes is one of the most astute and articulate observers of his own artistic choices I have ever met, and it was a pleasure to talk to him about the creation of his latest picture book, Waiting.

Roger Sutton: This is probably the fourth or fifth picture book I’ve seen this year about waiting, and I want to know: What’s in the water?

Kevin Henkes: I don’t know! But in my work life, waiting has been very big. My next book is called When Spring Comes, illustrated by my wife, Laura Dronzek. It was originally called Waiting for Spring, and the word wait is in it seven times, which is quite a lot for a picture book. Then after that I have a picture book coming out called Egg, and the word waiting is in that one seventeen times. Children spend a lot of their time waiting. They wait in line. They have to wait their turn. They wait for their birthdays, holidays, weekends, the end of the school day. They seem to be waiting quite a lot, so I thought it would be a good idea for a book.

RS: How do you handle waiting in your own life? Are you good at it?

KH: If I’m working on a book and it’s going well, that’s a real anchor in my life and it makes everything else okay, including waiting. And I do love the time between when I’ve finished a book and when that book comes out in print. I use that time to come up with an idea for the next book, so I don’t mind it being stretched out. I know some people ache to see their book after they’ve finished the art, but I enjoy that lovely stretch of waiting. It’s a year, usually.

RS: Your work is done. It’s out of your control at that point.

KH: And it hasn’t hit the world yet, so it can still be the lovely thing that I think it is.

RS: Waiting can be nice if it’s something nice that you’re waiting for, like your little guys in this book, the pig with the umbrella waiting for rain. She knows it’s going to rain eventually, and she likes rain. It’s always good to have something to look forward to.

KH: I was at a bookstore in Minnesota, and the bookseller who introduced me said to the group of children sitting on the floor, “This book is about waiting. Does anyone like waiting?” One lone hand went up, a little girl about six who said, “I love waiting.” I noticed her throughout my presentation, because she was very present. If I said something that was mildly funny, she laughed hysterically. She was there. Then I noticed her again near the end of the signing line.

RS: Waiting.

KH: Waiting. And then she got to the table. She put her arms on the table. She leaned in to me. She narrowed her eyes, and said, “Okay, I changed my mind. I do not like waiting.”

RS: How do you prevent a book that is about anticipation — and now of course I’ve got that damn ketchup ad in my head — do you remember that, with the Carly Simon song?

KH: Yes.

RS: When a book is about anticipation, and the setting is essentially a tableau that doesn’t change, how do you prevent it from being static? Did you have to think about how to keep it dynamic?

KH: No, I thought, how do I keep this clean and simple? It was a conscious choice to not show a child in the illustrations. I wanted to keep it simple in its design, universal in its scope. There are no references to a home other than the window. There’s no wallpaper, no floor, no carpet, no furniture. At one point I toyed with the idea of having either the tail of a dog or a cat, or a dog or a cat itself coming in and out, but a lot of the work was just scaling back. I pictured this as a book in which the reader and the listener would have a lot to talk about. Where do you think the elephant came from? Or who do you think put the gifts on the windowsill? Is someone moving the figurines?

RS: You know, I do have to ask about that elephant. Jumped or pushed?

KH: I think it was an accident with the child owner. I was at the Brooklyn Book Festival, and a person came up and asked, “So, did the elephant die? Isn’t that dark for a children’s book?” And I said, “Well, no. It’s a broken figurine.” Children are people, and people deal with all kinds of loss. Some children deal with huge losses. Even if they haven’t, they’ve dealt with a popped balloon or a dropped ice-cream cone. And I think that children are good at taking from a book what they need, or not taking what they don’t need. If you’re a child who has suffered a big loss, you might interpret that spread differently than a child who has not.

RS: Or if you’re a black-hearted Irishman like me, you think the owl pushed him off the ledge.

KH: Someone else asked, “On the page where the elephant arrives, why does the pig have a come-hither look?”

RS: Wait, I have to look.

KH: I said, “Really?” This person had a whole scenario.

henkes_waitingRS: It is amazing what you can do to express motive and emotion with the placement of those little dots for eyes.

KH: Yes. The book started because I began going to my local clay studio in 2006. I make little animal sculptures. I have many of them in my studio. One day I looked at the ones on the windowsill, and they really seemed like they were looking out the window, waiting. Originally I thought I would use my figurines and photograph them, but I decided that I’m much better at drawing and painting than I am at sculpting. And actual figurines would be fixed in a certain way, and I wanted to be able to at least change their eyes or the tilt of their heads.

RS: You do a really great job of having them retain their figurine nature, but giving them just enough movement to provide a story and emotions.

KH: That was tricky. I didn’t want them to be moving all over the place as if they were living, breathing beings, but I did want them to have enough life to make the story work. Some move more than others.

RS: When creating the groupings, was it in your mind that someone was moving them or that they were moving themselves?

KH: Oh, I always imagined a child who owned them and loved them playing with them. I guess there is always that question of what happens when you turn the light off.

RS: It’s kind of like that old science-fiction story, where people realize they’re just bugs and that someone’s controlling them from above.

KH: That whole idea plays into this story, I think. One could interpret this book many different ways.

RS: The toys are never described as waiting for their owner. It’s not a toy longing to be played with. They have each other.

KH: And it’s not a toy longing to become real.

RS: Right.

KH: Probably in the child owner’s eyes, they are real.

RS: I want to talk for a minute about my particular obsession with picture books, which is page turns. When you’re creating a book, when are you thinking about the page turns of the finished book?

KH: I always write the words first. I get them to the point where I think they’re perfect, and then I dummy, cut up the words and start playing around with them. That might be the point where I really see the physical page turns, but I’m already thinking about page turns when I write.

When I’m writing — and particularly when I was writing this book — I wanted there to be a real pattern to the words. In the beginning I’m playing with the pattern. “When the moon came up, / the owl was happy. / It happened a lot. / When the rain came down, / the pig was happy. / The umbrella kept her dry.” It sets up a series. After the characters are introduced, there’s the section where we’re getting more information about their lives. “Sometimes one or the other of them went away, / but he or she always came back. // Sometimes they slept. / But mostly they waited. / Sometimes gifts appeared.” So you have sometimes, sometimes, sometimes. And then to heighten that little series, once, and it’s big: “Once a visitor arrived…” When I wrote the line “They saw many wonderful, interesting things…” I remember thinking, oh, this is my chance to have a wordless section. Trying to decide how many wordless pages there would be and how the pages would play against one another—that was a long, hard process of decision-making.

RS: One thing I love about this book is that it keeps confounding us as to, well, what kind of book it is, exactly. Do you know what I mean?

KH: Oh, I do. Most of my books are about something small writ large: girl has purse, wants to show it to the world, and has to wait. The waiting again. When I decided that I wanted this book to be about waiting, I didn’t want it to just be about a child or a character waiting for something. I wanted it to be bigger than that. I was thinking about the changing of the seasons, the wonder of nature, sudden sadness and disappointment, those unexpected moments of joy or sadness that crop up while you are waiting for something. And I wanted it to be big enough to include birth and death.

RS: Ah, so the elephant does die.

KH: Well, of course that’s what I was thinking about. And with the matryoshka cat at the end, it’s birth.

RS: But it’s never a “you’re getting a baby sister” book either, though.

KH: No. Although — so far I’ve read it about twenty-five times across the country, from New York to California. With the elephant, there’s usually a collective “awww.” And with the cat, there’s usually an “aaahh.” But one little boy — he was about three — grabbed his head and said, “Oh, no. Not more babies!” I overheard someone saying he had newborn twin siblings at home. It was poignant and funny and I loved it. And again, it made me think everyone sees what they see. It might not be what I intended at all. But waiting for a baby is another big wait.

RS: This book swims against the tide of thinking we need a lot of action, that we need a child or at least personified animal characters. We need a big plot. I wouldn’t say yours is a particularly plotted book in the way we traditionally think of those.

KH: I would agree, but I would also say I think there is a lot going on.

RS: There’s a ton going on.

KH: For a young child, there’s a lot to talk about. I recently spent some time with my niece’s two-year-old daughter. I’m amazed at her ability to imagine and play with just about anything. And at her willingness to stay on one page of a book and really talk about it with an adult who’s asking questions. I think of this book as being pretty packed. I was a little surprised when I read a couple of reviews — which have been lovely — that said not much happens. I think a lot happens.

RS: But it’s not happening in a traditional plot trajectory.

KH: I’ll give you that.

RS: Do you think, as you’re creating a book for young children, about how it’s going to be read? Do you assume the kid is looking at it by him or herself? Do you assume an adult and a child together?

KH: I hope it works all ways. With this book I was thinking about an adult and a child, and thinking about an adult asking certain questions. But I think a child could do that on his or her own as well. I also wanted there to be a lot of space between the words, between the sentences, between the thoughts. I give space to the reader or listener to fill it in. I think that’s important. Even in books without pictures, I think we need a space between chapters. We need a space between paragraphs sometimes. It can be really powerful. What you leave out can be pretty dynamic.

RS: There’s so much mystery in this story. How did these particular figurines get there? Are they toys? Are they alive? What’s going on with them? Is there anybody else in the world besides them? I think you echo that mysteriousness by giving lots of room around each picture, around each sentence. Don’t you think that, visually, that encourages someone to wonder?

KH: I do. I used white space with this book in a way that I never have before. Both with the words — space between the words, the sentences — and the white space with the design of the book. And yet I wanted it to be very grounded. I wanted the illustrations to work together. I think of them as being echoes of each other. When I introduce each of the characters, there’s a double-page spread. “The owl with spots was waiting for the moon. / The pig with the umbrella was waiting for the rain.” And then: “The rabbit with stars / wasn’t waiting for anything in particular. / He just liked to look out the window and wait.” He’s in the lower right-hand corner of the right-hand page. When the cat comes, and the text goes through the whole series of questions — “Was she waiting for the moon? / No.” And then when I say, “She didn’t seem to be waiting / for anything in particular,” I’ve echoed the position of the rabbit. It creates a rhythm. There’s a reason to it. That part of bookmaking is what I love most. Thinking everything through and making it work together in a certain way.

RS: And then making all that work disappear.

KH: Yes. There’s that great M. B. Goffstein quote from her picture book An Artist: “You should work and work until it looks like you didn’t have to work at all.”

A spread that really pleased me when I came up with it was one of the wordless ones — the one where on the left-hand side of the page is the window with frost and on the right-hand side are the fireworks. I remember thinking the fernlike pattern of the frost was a great way to segue into the feathery nature of the fireworks. One is natural, and one is not. There’s a similarity, but there’s a tension. You could compare it; you could contrast it. You could talk about it; you don’t have to talk about it; you don’t even have to notice it, but I did, and that’s what matters. Those are the kinds of things that, when they happen, I think: I love my job.

More on Kevin Henkes from The Horn Book

The post Kevin Henkes Talks with Roger appeared first on The Horn Book.

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2. Interview with Dicksy Wilson and D.B. Sanders

book bites for kidsListen to Book Bites for Kids on Tuesday, December 8th at 2:30 central time when authors Dicksy Wilson and D. B. Sanders will talk about their new book, A Caterpillar, a Bee, and a VERY Big Tree.

To listen to the live show on December 8th, at 2:30 central, just go to www.bookbitesforkids.com.

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3. The Wind in the Willows

The Wind in the Willows. Kenneth Grahame. Illustrated by David Roberts. 1907/1983. Simon & Schuster. 244 pages. [Source: Library]
I loved, loved, loved rereading The Wind in the Willows. I wasn't exactly planning on rereading it this year. I wasn't. But. I was looking for a good audio book to check out from the library. I saw Wind in the Willows on the shelf; I checked it out. I listened to it. That could have been the end of it. But, of course, it wasn't. I had to read it too. I just had to. I could no more resist rereading the book than Toad could resist driving an automobile.

What do I love about the book? Well, many things. I love the characters. I love, love, love the relationships between the characters. And the adventures!!! Plenty happens in this one! Does Toad deserve all that he gets? Maybe, maybe not. But Toad is, without a doubt, unforgettable!!!

The edition I read had illustrations from Ernest H. Shepard. The illustrations were great: some were in color, others were in black and white. They made a great book seem even greater.

Would I be hosting the Edwardian Reading Challenge if it wasn't for me "having" to read The Wind in the Willows right NOW? I'm not sure. But I'm so glad I followed my heart!!!

My favorite quote:
"What are we to do with him?" asked the Mole of the Water Rat.
"Nothing at all," replied the Rat firmly. "Because there is really nothing to be done. You see, I know him from old. He is now possessed. He has got a new craze, and it always takes him that way, in its first stage. He'll continue like that for days now, like an animal walking in a happy dream, quite useless for all practical purposes. Never mind him."

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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4. So, Who Should Play Clea In Dr Strange?

I was asked whether I had hear if the character Clea would be in the new Dr Strange movie?  Well, believe it or not, I do not get consulted on these things!

I mean, if I were then there are two actresses I'd say ought to be in the running for the part of Strange's "love interest" and they are....

Essie Davis (Miss Fisher Mysteries)

Before you say a thing, Davis is a blond...or she was last week, I think.  But what the hell. Great actress and incredible cheekbones.


The other, obviously, is Cate Blanchett.  Also a great actress and, just realised, also has great cheekbones.   Theme somewhere here.
And I know everyone will have their own opinions so, without being rude about either of these two actresses -who would you choose?

And, Subzero, Ya Ya Han is not a contender.  NO.

Oh, and, yes, I am old enough to still say "actor" (male) and "actress" (female) especially after seeing a recent conversation in which a person could not remember the name of the "actor" and kept shaking his head as his friend kept offering names -"Mel Gibson?" "No!" "George Cloony?" "No!  The one with the legs!" And "The one with the legs? WTF you talking about???"  long pause....."Oh -a woman?"


I come from the past.

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5. If Mr Bunny Doesn't Get Up In Five Minutes I'm Slapping Him!

I know I've been ignoring you all.  I missed you.  I love you all.  Anyone buys any of that crap needs certifying. 

Word to the wise: you are not in a free country! Example:

I looked at the smiling snowman and art and I turn around: "So, nice, friendly smiling snowman? Really? Compacted snow with a hat and carrot nose and stone eyes is normal? Its supernatural. It is possessed by a dark entity or demon and it wants to subvert your mind, possess you. You'll do what it tells you to -it might even tell you to gouge out peoples eyes, slaughter your family, burn the house down. It'll possess your body until you are an inhuman, smelling, rotting corpse and die -or some decent soul kills you -and that will NOT be pretty!  Not such a lovely, cheerful character now is it?"

Point made I turned and left.

Apparently, according to police, I am never to go back to that nursery school.

EU bureaucracy at its worst!!!

Need to get my ears syringed, too.  I went into a rage for ten minutes yesterday asking why we have to vote to "bum" someone.  My sister pointed out the word was "bomb".

Still, Tennis, hey?  Why are spectators to that, ahem, "sport", becoming such loud mouthed, noisy yobs? Even rugby crowds are better behaved...rugby fans are good folk at heart and its why you find fans from opposing teams mixed up in stands, still holding their drinks and lots of friendly banter.

Black Friday is now, through sheer business greed, "Black Friday Week" and even "Black Friday Fortnight"?  Why?

Small shopkeeper opposite gets a loud of complaints because something he sells is "Ten pence cheaper at Asda!"  and to follow that they say "Might as well get in the car and go there!"  So, the item he is selling is 75p.  You can buy it in Asda for 65p.  Fair enough.  Asda is about three miles away and if you catch the bus that's £1.50 there and £1.50 return.  £3.00. Or by car -how much fuel are you using trying to drive around winding, busy roads?  To save 10p?  I know small shops charge more but that is because they cannot dictate terms to suppliers.

And a tax on Tampons "because they are a luxury item"???  Worst thing is I bet a woman was probably one of the people who approved that.  I'm guessing because, usually, when you write or say that this is a typical moronic, arse-headed male thing to do someone says: "the decision was approved by Lady Shave's committee" -utter arse-headed morons. 


I've taken two -TWO- of those tablets and Mr Floppy still hasn't woken up yet. No more buying meds from Kenyan Pharmacy Online.


The saints are crippled
On this sinners' night
Lost are the lambs with no guiding light

The walls come down like thunder
The rocks about to roll
It's The Arockalypse
Now bare your soul

All we need is lightning
With power and might
Striking down the prophets of false
As the moon is rising
Give us the sign
Now let us rise up in awe

Rock 'n roll angels bring thyn hard rock hallelujah
Demons and angels all in one have arrived
Rock 'n roll angels bring thyn hard rock hallelujah
In God's creation supernatural high

The true believers
Thou shall be saved
Brothers and sisters keep strong in the faith
On the day of Rockoning
It's who dares, wins
You will see the jokers soon'll be the new kings...


Why aren't you singing??

Wonder what these new meds do?

Let's get Christmassy -a classic!
Sadly, folks -I SHALL RETURN!!

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6. The Good Gift - a bookwraps

Everyone needs a best-est friend.  What is that you ask? It is someone you love being with, playing with, and simply just hanging around with.  Today's great book shares the value of friendship and how true friendship will always put a smile on your face and warmth in your heart. 


Authored by Michele Toland

Illustrated by Marianella Aguirre

Unwrapping the illustrations... I love them... take a peek!

About the book...

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7. Alive by Scott Sigler

Random House, 2015

Em woke up panicking in the dark.  She doesn't know where she was, doesn't know who she is, doesn't know why she is here.  Frantic, she broke out of the coffin she was in to find even more coffins in the same room. 
Some survived, others didn’t.  Those who did survive have five things in common:   

The last thing thing remember is their age: 12 years old
They are all wearing the same uniform, now too short on their grown bodies
Today is their birthday
They only know their last name (because of a label on the caskets)
They are all branded with a unique circle on their foreheads.

Savage.  Spingate. Bello. O’Malley. Yong.  Aramovsky.

The survivors find their way out of the enclosed room they came from only to find themselves in another terrifying mystery.  Outside, there is death and complete destruction.  Nothing is alive as they look at their escape route – a long hallway to nowhere containing other halls and rooms filled with the same details as the one they escaped.  Only no one in those rooms survived.  Then begins their walk to find their way out. 

Questions and memories begin to start conversations.  They remember vague things like their parents, a particular food, or a talent they possess but have no idea how.  The biggest question looming is who could possibly want to bury them alive for years and try to keep them alive?  They have so many things in common, but commonality doesn’t always weave a perfect pattern.

Long hallways and five strangers begin to strain their tenuous hold with each other.  Who can they trust?  Who should they follow?  Which one is dangerous?  But more importantly, where can they find food and water? 

Scott Sigler knows how to grab readers’ attention and hang it by a thread.  The readers follow these survivors on their harrowing journey knowing only what they know.  There is no omniscient perspective allowing the reader to know more, which makes this book such a suspenseful thrill ride.  We are more like the tail end of the line, watching what happens next, and what the reader does see are the personalities of each survivor coming more into focus.  One is the leader, the other is the lieutenant; the others are followers, willing or not.  It’s not until the reveal that the reader finally understands what is happening and why survival is so important.  The first chapter will grab you, the next ones will keep you in the story.  And then BOOM….realization finally happens and you’ll race to the end to find out the final ending.  First in a trilogy. 
Recommended upper JH/HS

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8. Foliage is Lightest at Its Outer Edges

In indirect light, foliage tends to be lightest at its outer and upper edges, and darkest at its base or its core.
Micronesia foliage from U.C. Berkeley
This is true at the level of individual leaves or fronds, such as these leaves in a rain forest. Note the gradations within each leaf, with the lightest values at the tips of the leaves and the darkest values at their bases where they attach.

With transmitted light, this darkening at the proximal end is a consequence of both the greater material thickness at the base, and the lesser amount of light arriving at the top surface due to occlusion from nearby forms.

In this painting from Dinotopia: First Flight, I was conscious of varying the color and value of the leaves and making them lighter at the tips, especially when we see them illuminated by the yellow-green transmitted light. 

The principle is also true on a larger scale, not just at the level of a leaf, but also at the level of entire trees when you look at them in indirect light. 

James Perry Wilson, Summery Showers
In this 12x16 inch oil study by James Perry Wilson (1889-1976), note how each tree silhouette gradates from darkest at the base of each tree or bush to lightest at the outer and upper edges.
Blog posts about James Perry Wilson

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New Faces

Brighton Faces

Breakfast Faces

Busy with lots of fun projects that I'd love to share but they all have to stay under my wooly hat for the moment!

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10. confessions of an obsessive sketchbooker

It started with a girl on a train. I had to start it somewhere, so it started there.
Then I got into work and it grew (I still have to pinch myself that I go into work to draw).
I was trying to cover up the mess of the marker pens that had bled through the previous and following pages. I love marker pens, they are my new favourite thing. But they do not like sketchbooks. They do make a right old mess. Although I kind of like that. I like the challenge and, actually, you could look at it in a totally different way; the stains/mess give you something to work with.
Yeah. Plus, it really suits the way I like to create my sketchbook drawings these days. You see, this chaos and mess expresses much more about what goes on inside my head than any of my earlier 'perfect', serene, calm sketchbook drawings did. Sure, I get that I was looking for that at the time - a kind of peace - and that's what I was hoping to achieve from drawing, but, for along time I denied the mess. Not any more.
There are no rules to this kind of drawing. Nor rules or restrictions to making these kind of spreads. They're just a sprawling stream of things that are happening multiplied by a stream of consciousness. That, at this present moment in time, is my favourite way to create my sketchbooks. And, is the most interesting way too.
Okay, there's just one rule. Spotted it?
Yeah, never leave one millimetre of paper untouched!
There is still a little time to order from my shop for Christmas. Inspire someone you know, to draw their lives, with my zines or books. Or treat yourself. You can find my goodies, all created with love, HERE.

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11. Believe in the Magic of Christmas -Send someone a magical Christmas card and matching Postage Stamp

Add a little bit of magic to Christmas by sending someone one of these sweet Christmas cards, and matching Christmas postage stamps. 

0 Comments on Believe in the Magic of Christmas -Send someone a magical Christmas card and matching Postage Stamp as of 1/1/1900
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Children love Christmas and Santa. And together the combination can’t be beat. Put Santa in a unique setting (a concert stage), give him Mick Jagger’s sunglasses, Steven Tyler’s scarf, and a rockin’ reindeer band and you’ve got the makings of a fun Christmas story that puts a whole new spin on what happens Christmas Eve.

It’s Christmas Eve. The tree is lit and children await Santa’s arrival, only they’re not tucked snuggly in their beds dreaming of sugarplums. They’re stomping and clapping at a Christmas rock concert, where Santa is the “star.” Santa’s snow-white hair is in a ponytail and he’s ready to rock. The rowdy reindeer band includes Donner on electric bass, eerily resembling Keith Richard. Blitzen has a Paul Stanley-like star painted on his eye as he plays the drums, and you can’t help but notice the resemblance of Comet to Slash, as he shoots across the stage. It’s an original, modern day retelling of a Christmas classic, but what happens on this night before Christmas is rockin’.

ROCK STAR SANTA is proud to take his place among real ROCK STARS. The powerful sound of electric guitars, pounding bass, and crashing drums inspired Rock Star Santa’s birth.
Author with Rock Star Santa Fans and Santa Doll

Shortly after attending a Trans-Siberian Orchestra Christmas concert, I penned the verses for Rock Star Santa—my interpretation of a rock concert of kids. Written in lyrical rhyme, it’s a rollicking night before Christmas with a surprise twist.

Rock Star Santa has fans around the world. He performed over 157,000 concerts in the United States, Canada, England, and the Caribbean.

He was even portrayed by a “real-life” rock star at his performance in Montserrat, British West Indies. Peter Fileul, keyboard player for the Climax Blues Band, so graciously agreed to be the “real-life” ROCK STAR SANTA. And this year he’s the star of the Kindergarten holiday performance in Melbourne, Australia. QUOTES & REVIEWS HERE:

Rock Star Santa by Gayle C. Krause (Author), Will Terry (Illustrator)
Reading level: Ages 3-7
Paperback: 32 pages
Publisher: Scholastic
Holiday themes to expect: Santa
TCBR analysis: Kids will really enjoy the energy from this wildly fun take on Santa Claus.
Publisher’s synopsis: Santa Claus Live In Concert, One Night Only!

Gayle’s short stories and poems can be found in Hopscotch for Girls, Boy’s Quest, Highlights and various anthologies. She’s the author of Scheherazade’s Secret, a retelling of the Arabian Night’s Tale, and RATGIRL: SONG OF THE VIPER.

RATGIRL: Song of the Viper – a retelling of The Pied Piper set in a dystopian future with global warming. Available from THE Amazon Link below:

The book trailer can be viewed at:

Are you ready to rock? Santa and his rowdy reindeer band bring down the house on Christmas Eve! If you'd like to purchase ROCK STAR SANTA as a Christmas present, you can order it through Scholastics Book Club. http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/book/rock-star-santa#cart/cleanup

So what do you love most about Christmas? If you like the exact same thing Rock Star Santa does, he’ll be sending you a signed copy of his book. Just leave your comment below for a chance to win and have a “Rocking Christmas Eve!” The Winner will be announced on Saturday, December 5th. Thanks for stopping by!!!

You can contact Gayle at the links below:
Author Gayle C. Krause

Website – www.gaylckrause.com
Twitter @GeeCeeK
Blog – http://thestorytellersscroll.blogspot.com

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13. What's New in YA--December 1, 2015



Are you wondering what's new in YA today? Check out these wonderful new releases! 



For fans of Simone Elkeles and Courtney Summers, this haunting debut novel is about two teenagers battling their inner demons as they fall in love for the first time.

When Marion Taylor, the shy bookworm, meets sexy soccer captain Kurt Medford at a party, what seems like a sure thing quickly turns into a total mess. One moment they’re alone in the middle of a lake, igniting sparks of electricity. The next, they’re on dry land, pretending they’ve never met. But rather than the end, that night is the beginning of something real, terrifying, and completely unforgettable for them both.

As Marion and Kurt struggle to build a relationship from the fractured pieces of their pasts, every kiss they share uncovers memories both would rather keep buried. Marion desperately wants to trust Kurt and share the one secret she’s never told anyone—but some truths aren’t meant to be spoken out loud. Kurt is also still haunted by his mother’s death, by the people he hurt, and by the mistakes he can never take back.

Explosive together and hollow apart, Marion and Kurt seem totally wrong for each other—but could they turn out to be more right than they ever thought possible?






When sixteen-year-old Eden Munro agrees to spend the summer with her estranged father in the beachfront city of Santa Monica, California, she has no idea what she’s letting herself in for. Eden’s parents are divorced and have gone their separate ways, and now her father has a brand new family. For Eden, this means she’s about to meet three new step-brothers. The eldest of the three is Tyler Bruce, a troubled teenager with a short temper and a huge ego. Complete polar opposites, Eden quickly finds herself thrust into a world full of new experiences as Tyler’s group of friends take her under their wing. But the one thing she just can’t understand is Tyler, and the more she presses to figure out the truth about him, the more she finds herself falling for the one person she shouldn’t – her step-brother.

Throw in Tyler’s clingy girlfriend and a guy who has his eyes set on Eden, and there’s secrets, lies and a whole lot of drama. But how can Eden keep her feelings under control? And can she ever work out the truth about Tyler?

Did I Mention I Love You is the first book in the phenomenal DIMILY trilogy, following the lives of Eden Munro and Tyler Bruce as they try to find their way in an increasingly confusing world.






In early-nineteenth century Scotland, sixteen-year-old Josie, an orphan, is sent to live with an aunt and uncle on the rocky, stormy northwest coast. Everything and everyone in her new surroundings, including her relatives, is sinister, threatening, and mysterious. She’s told that Eli, the young man she’s attracted to, is forbidden to her, but not why. Spirited, curious, and determined, Josie sets out to learn the village’s secrets and discovers evil, fueled by heartless greed, as well as a ghostly presence eager for revenge. An author’s note gives the historical inspiration for this story.






Years before, a gateway opened between their world and ours. Sending one young woman through may be the key to survival for the kingdom of Fourline.

Strapped for cash, college student Natalie Barns agrees to take a job at a costume shop. Sure, Estos—her classmate who works in the shop—is a little odd, but Nat needs the money for her tuition.

Then she stumbles through the mysterious door behind the shop—and her entire universe transforms.

Discovering there’s far more to Estos than she ever imagined, Nat gets swept up in an adventure to save his homeland, an incredible world filled with decaying magic, deadly creatures, and a noble resistance of exiled warriors battling dark forces. As she struggles with her role in an epic conflict and wrestles with her growing affection for a young rebel, Soris, Nat quickly learns that nothing may go as planned…and her biggest challenge may be surviving long enough to make it home.






A world on the brink of war.

All Avaline Hall wants is to enjoy her senior year at Blythewood Academy, the boarding school where she’s been trained to defend humankind from forces of dark magic. But when Ava is shown a glimpse into the future in the enchanted Blythe Wood, she discovers that the evil Judicus van Drood is rallying nations into a war that seems destined to destroy both the human and faerie worlds. Only Ava and her allies have a chance at stopping van Drood, but how many must die in the process? And how can Ava and the boy she loves be together when everything around them is falling apart?






From the author of the Escape from Furnace series, an explosive new horror trilogy about an ordinary American kid caught up in an invisible war against the very worst enemy imaginable.

There is a machine from the darkest parts of history, concealed in an impossible location, that can make any wish come true, and the only price you have to pay is your soul. Known as the Devil’s Engine, this device powers a brutal war between good and evil that will decide the fate of every living thing on Earth. When a 16-year-old asthmatic kid named Marlow Green unwittingly rescues an ass-kicking secret soldier from a demonic attack in the middle of his Staten Island neighborhood, he finds himself following her into a centuries-old conflict between a group of mysterious protectors and the legions of the Devil himself. Faced with superpowers, monsters, machine guns, and a lot worse, Marlow knows it’s going to be a breathless ride—and not just because he’s lost his inhaler along the way.






In the domed city of Evanescence, appearance is everything. A Natural Born amongst genetically-altered Aristocrats, all Ella ever wanted was to be like everyone else. Augmented, sparkling, and perfect. Then…the crash. Devastated by her father’s death and struggling with her new physical limitations, Ella is terrified to learn she is not just alone, but little more than a prisoner.

Her only escape is to lose herself in Nexis, the hugely popular virtual reality game her father created. In Nexis she meets Guster, a senior player who guides Ella through the strange and compelling new world she now inhabits. He offers Ella guidance, friendship…and something more. Something that allows her to forget about the “real” world, and makes her feel whole again.

But Nexis isn’t quite the game everyone thinks it is.

And it’s been waiting for Ella.






The Rules:

Don’t deceive me. Ever. Especially using my blindness. Especially in public.

Don’t help me unless I ask. Otherwise you’re just getting in my way or bothering me.

Don’t be weird. Seriously, other than having my eyes closed all the time, I’m just like you only smarter.

Parker Grant doesn’t need 20/20 vision to see right through you. That’s why she created the Rules: Don’t treat her any differently just because she’s blind, and never take advantage. There will be no second chances. Just ask Scott Kilpatrick, the boy who broke her heart.

When Scott suddenly reappears in her life after being gone for years, Parker knows there’s only one way to react-shun him so hard it hurts. She has enough on her mind already, like trying out for the track team (that’s right, her eyes don’t work but her legs still do), doling out tough-love advice to her painfully naive classmates, and giving herself gold stars for every day she hasn’t cried since her dad’s death three months ago. But avoiding her past quickly proves impossible, and the more Parker learns about what really happened–both with Scott, and her dad–the more she starts to question if things are always as they seem. Maybe, just maybe, some Rules are meant to be broken.







Freedom comes at a cost…

Ella was genetically engineered to be the perfect pet—graceful, demure…and kept. In a daring move, she escaped her captivity and took refuge in Canada. But while she can think and act as she pleases, the life of a liberated pet is just as confining as the Congressman’s gilded cage. Her escape triggered a backlash, and now no one’s safe, least

of all the other pets. But she’s trapped, unable to get back

to Penn—the boy she loves—or help the girls who need her.

Back in the United States, pets are turning up dead. With help from a very unexpected source, Ella slips deep into the dangerous black market, posing as a tarnished pet available to buy or sell. If she’s lucky, she’ll be able to rescue Penn and expose the truth about the breeding program. If she fails, Ella will pay not only with her life, but the lives

of everyone she’s tried to save…









Jacob Reckless continues to travel the portal in his father's abandoned study. His name has continued to be famous on the other side of the mirror, as a finder of enchanted items and buried secrets. His family and friends, from his brother, Will to the shape-shifting vixen, Fox, are on a collision course as the two worlds become connected. Who is driving these two worlds together and why is he always a step ahead?
This new force isn’t limiting its influence to just Jacob’s efforts – it has broadened the horizon within MirrorWorld. Jacob, Will and Fox travel east and into the Russian folklore, to the land of the Baba Yaga, pursued by a new type of being that knows our world all to well.






A year ago, Flynn Cormac and Jubilee Chase made the now infamous Avon Broadcast, calling on the galaxy to witness for their planet, and protect them from destruction. Some say Flynn’s a madman, others whisper about conspiracies. Nobody knows the truth. A year before that, Tarver Merendsen and Lilac LaRoux were rescued from a terrible shipwreck—now, they live a public life in front of the cameras, and a secret life away from the world’s gaze.

Now, in the center of the universe on the planet of Corinth, all four are about to collide with two new players, who will bring the fight against LaRoux Industries to a head. Gideon Marchant is an eighteen-year-old computer hacker—a whiz kid and an urban warrior. He’ll climb, abseil and worm his way past the best security measures to pull off onsite hacks that others don’t dare touch.

Sofia Quinn has a killer smile, and by the time you’re done noticing it, she’s got you offering up your wallet, your car, and anything else she desires. She holds LaRoux Industries responsible for the mysterious death of her father and is out for revenge at any cost.

When a LaRoux Industries security breach interrupts Gideon and Sofia’s separate attempts to infiltrate their headquarters, they’re forced to work together to escape. Each of them has their own reason for wanting to take down LaRoux Industries, and neither trusts the other. But working together might be the best chance they have to expose the secrets LRI is so desperate to hide.






First crush, first love, first kiss—Chloe must choose between her virtual almost-boyfriend and her best guy friend in this addition to the sweet and clean Flirt series.

Chloe has the best almost-boyfriend ever. Trevor is smart, talented, witty, and good-looking. Basically, he’s the perfect guy for her—except for one tiny detail. He lives hundreds of miles away. Chloe met Trevor at music camp when they were kids and was so excited when they reconnected in an online music forum a few months ago. And they’ve been flirting non-stop ever since.

Chloe’s boy-crazy best friend Vanessa thinks it’s the most romantic thing she’s ever heard, though her other best friend, Kazuo, isn’t so sure. Turns out Kaz actually has a crush on her! Chloe can’t imagine her life without him, but she’s never thought of him that way. Still, Kaz talks Chloe into giving him a chance and going to the big school dance together. Chloe is almost ready to agree when she gets the most amazing news—Trevor is coming for a visit!

But when Trevor shows up, things don’t go quite as well as Chloe was expecting, and by the time she realizes her old camp buddy has changed—and that he might not be Mr. Perfect (for her) after all—Kaz has already asked Vanessa to the dance. Did Chloe just miss her chance at true love?






If there are any new YA books we missed, let us know in the comments below, and we'll add them to the list! 



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14. Five differences between Canada and the United States

One of the tasks of a Canadian ambassador to the United States is persuading his audiences that Canadians really are distinct from Americans. One ambassador commented that if he asked an audience The Question – was there a difference – Americans would politely say no, not really, and Canadians would say the opposite. What is the correct answer to The Question – or is there a correct answer?

The post Five differences between Canada and the United States appeared first on OUPblog.

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15. Meet Dicksy Wilson and D.B. Sanders

Dicksy Wilson and D. B. Sanders

Meet the Authors of a Caterpillar, a Bee, and a VERY Big Tree

Dicksy Wilson was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma and grew up in the 70’s and 80’s with some really great parents and a pretty cool little brother. She always enjoyed writing as a child and would sometimes write puppet skits for her and her brother to perform for their parents. After she had children of her own, she thought it would be fun to write a children’s book. One day while she and her brother were watching the kids swim, she came up with the line, “In a quiet backyard quite a bit like your own… a little green caterpillar crawled all alone.” This line later became the opening line of their book, A Caterpillar, A Bee and a VERY Big Tree. Soon after, she and her brother began collaborating on their book, which would take several years to complete. Dicksy lives in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, with her daughter Hannah, who is a senior in high school, her husband Scott, and her dog, Nash. Her son, Hayden, is grown and married, and has a child of his own.

Growing up in Tulsa, Oklahoma in the 70s and 80s, D.B. Sanders had an early interest in art. Beginning with a love of cartoons, he started designing his own comic book characters at the age of 10. By his early teens, he became increasingly aware of his ability to draw in his own unique style. After obtaining his degree in art, he has utilized his passion for multiple artistic endeavors. This is his first children’s book to co-author and illustrate. Sanders lives in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma with his wife, Ashley and their children: Zach, Zoe and Leaf. More art can be found on Facebook at “The Art of D Sanders”.

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16. A Caterpillar, a Bee, and a VERY Big Tree

caterpillarA Caterpillar, a Bee and a VERY Big Tree is the story of a little green caterpillar named Gus. While out on a stroll, Gus meets Shoo Bee, a bee who suffers from pollen allergies! Gus and Shoo Bee become fast friends, and when a storm threatens to send all the other caterpillars tumbling from the great tree, they team up to save the day. With help from wise Councilor Cricket, an Army of Ants and several fire flies – the friends are able to not only work together, but also teach a great lesson on what it means to be different and the way that we are all unique.

When they got the idea for Gus, they decided that this was their chance to teach share with readers how to:
• Develop courage to overcome obstacles;
• See the value in true friendship;
• Understand that everyone is different and differently abled;
• Value teamwork;
• Be aware of the value of communication;
• and Cherish diversity.

A Caterpillar, a Bee, and a VERY Big Tree is available at amazon.com.

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17. Daily Drawing: Reindeer 1


How can December be here already? Where has the year gone?

This is the 12th month of my “daily drawings” and this month will be devoted to Reindeer! Tune in every weekday for more of these guys.

The post Daily Drawing: Reindeer 1 appeared first on rob-peters.com.

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18. भ्रष्टाचार

भ्रष्टाचार ईमानदारी गई तेल लेने … अभी कुछ देर पहले एक परिचित मिले. तनाव में लग रहे थे पूछ्ने पर बताया कि बुरा हाल है इन सरकारी विभागों का. मैनॆ भी हां मे हां मिलाई और कारण पूछा तो उन्होने बताया कुछ काम था विभाग में चाहता था कि तुरंत हो जाए इसलिए आफिसर को […]

The post भ्रष्टाचार appeared first on Monica Gupta.

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19. KidLit Author Events Dec.1-7

A BEAR'S YEAR: Kathy Duval; Illustrated by Gerry Turley

I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving, and now it’s time to get ready for more holiday parties. The party I am looking forward to the most this season is our SCBWI Houston holiday pot luck dinner on Monday, December 7 at 7:00 at the Tracy Gee Community Center. Along with book and art sales and great food, we’re doing something special this year; we’re celebrating the launch of Kathy Duval’s newest picture book, A BEAR’S YEAR. Everyone who pre-ordered it from Blue Willow bookshop will get a little gift from Kathy. Please join us!

In addition to our SCBWI party, a lot of other events are keeping Kathy quite busy. The next morning, Wednesday, December 2, she’s doing storytime at Katy Budget Books from 10:00 to 11:00. Next week she’s visiting two schools:
December 8 at James Randolph School in Katy, and another on December 11 at Patterson Literature Magnet School. In between, she’ll be Skyping with St. John Vianney School in Brookfield Wisconsin on December 7. Go Kathy!

In this morning’s Publisher’s Lunch I read some good news for Mary Lindsey, the local author of SHATTERED SOULS. Mary’s first three books in the HAVEN series, following a community of shifters and spell weavers whose ancestors fled persecution during the Wurzburg and Bamberg witch trials of the 1600s, sold to Liz Pelletier at Entangled Teen.

In other news for local authors, Russell Sanders has a new YA novel, COLORS, releasing this winter. Mark your calendars for his launch at River Oaks Bookstore on February 6.

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20. "Time To Hi-BRR-nate"

Hidden Picture Puzzle for Highlights High Five Magazine
by Patrick Girouard

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21. How to put it down on paper

Question: I've been wanting to write a book for a while now and have multiple ideas for books. My problem is I can't figure out how to get my ideas from

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22. Patalosh and Exploring the Great Pyramid

Orion explores the Great Pyramid in Africa.

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23. December- Hope and Celebration, kids, books, movies, and dogs

  Thomas Nast Santa


Hope and Celebration - Light in the darkness, time out for happiness, wonder and magic.

Enter the world of tales told by people, of stories that live on. of tales of wonder, fairy tales.

Santa Claus, the man in the red suit stepping out of the chimney, comes to us from the talented Thomas Nast; his popular 19th century illustrations helped to popularize Santa Claus as we know him today.                                                                



Charles Dicken'sA Christmas Carol, and the power of story.

This book influenced the thinking of generations of readers, and transformed the spirit of the Christmas holiday. The transformation was guided by Dicken's passionate belief that the true Christmas spirit embodied caring and generosity -- especially for those less fortunate.

TinyTimchristmascarolJohnLeechA Christmas Carol was written with the passion born of his painful childhood as an impoverished 12 year old boy from a broken family.With his father in debtor's prison, Dickens was forced to leave school and work ten-hour days for six shillings a week under harsh conditions (the factory was home to multitudes of rats) in England's new industrial economy. 

Much has changed with the passing of time and the commercialism of the marketplace has brought an endless stream of marketing -- more games, toys and advertising -- to Christmas.

But the Spirit Of Christmas does live on.


ScroogeJohnLeech“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!” ...Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol.

Scrooge Lives On...

Viking has recently published (October 2015) a well reviewed book by Charles Lovett, The Further Adventures of Ebenezer Scrooge. For more information, visit his website: Charles Lovett

The above illustrations are by John Leech from the original A Christmas Carol.


The Legend of Santa Claus

SantaThomas NastIN the USA, the legend of Santa Claus was greatly enhanced in the early nineteenth century by the poem, A Visit From St.Nicholas. 

The popularity of this story-poem, first published in 1823, continued to grow with the passing years. It was originally written for his children by Clement Clarke Moore.

Later in the century, popular illustrations by Thomas Nast, including Moore's poem, A Visit From St Nicholas, firmly established Santa Claus as a jolly, rotund figure in a red suit with a white beard. Nast's images of Santa and his red suit became accepted and remain the norm today.


The illustration is by Thomas Nast.


The Fairy Tale Moves On Its Own Time 

"It all adds up to this: the fairy tale narrates a wish-fulfillment which is not bound by its
SecretoftheKellsTomm_Mooreown time and the apparel of its contents. In contrast to the folk tale, which is always tied to a particular locale, the fairy tale remains unbound. Not only does the fairy tale remain as fresh as longing and love, 
but the evil demons that abound in fairy tales are still at work here in the present, and the happiness of "once upon a time", which is even more abundant in the fairy tale, still affects our vision of the future..." 

The above insights into the role of fairy tales are from an essay written in 1930 by the German GerardDubois3scholar and philosopher, Ernst Bloch. I believe that the context in which they were written adds to their import. Germany in 1930 was in the grip of the Great Depression. Poverty and uncertainty had swept the land. Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party were feeding on people's fear and rising in power. Bloch later escaped to the USA where he wrote his renowned three-part treatise, The Principle of Hope (1938-1947). 

The illustration from the Secret Of The Kells is by Tomm Moore. The painting is by Gerard Dubois.




The Elves and the Shoemaker

ElvesShoemakerLucy-Crane1886Here is an excerpt from a fairy tale by the Grimm's that came to be a Christmas story. It tells of the elves who helped a hard working, but impoverished shoemaker and his wife ...they, in gratitude, surprised the elves at Christmas time.

"About midnight in they came, dancing and skipping, hopped round the room, and then went to sit down to their work as usual; but when they saw the clothes lying for them, they laughed and chuckled, and seemed mightily delighted.

Then they dressed themselves in the twinkling of an eye, and danced and capered and sprang about, as merry as could be; till at last they danced out at the door, and away over the green..."

Here is link to read it all: The Elves and the Shoemaker  The illustration is by Lucy Crane.


The Saga Of Santa Claus 

SagaOfChristmasCoverWho is Santa? Where did he come from? How did the toy workshops get started? Where did all the elves come from and why did they agree to move to the wintry north and make toys for Santa? And how about the flying reindeer...where did they come from? These are among the many heretofore unanswered questions about the orgins of Christmas and Santa Claus.   

Now, at last, author Mark Couturier has written The Saga Of Santa Claus, a fascinating book telling the complete story of the ancient origins of Christmas and Santa Claus. For a comprehensive picture of this original book, check out the enthusiastic Amazon  reviews.



"The year 2015 will see the 49th annual Kwanzaa, the African American holiday celebrated from December 26 to January 1. It is estimated that some 18 million African Americans take part in Kwanzaa.

KwanzaFamilyCelebrationKwanzaa is not a religious holiday, nor is it meant to replace Christmas. It was created by Dr. Maulana "Ron" Karenga, a professor of Black Studies, in 1966. At that time of great social change for African Americans, Karenga sought to design a celebration that would honor the values of ancient African cultures and inspire African Americans who were working for progress. 

Kwanzaa is based on the year-end harvest festivals that have taken place throughout Africa for thousands of years."...Kwanzaa ends with gift giving and a celebratory feast.

This post is based on a comprehensive article by Holly Hartman.


Every Year...

XmasLightsonSheepChristmas Lights Moving Through the Hills...
A Holiday treat, and a wonder to behold, the moving lights are on hundreds of sheep, running in the darkness, guided by sheepdogs...this is a classic video...Here is the link: Moving Lights 



  Penn Vet

Pdf-logo-whitePenn Vet Working Dog Center 
Philadelphia, PA is a recent recipient of a 
Planet Dog Foundation (PDF) grant. The goals of the Penn Vet working Dog Center are "national security, fields of detection work, canine health and performance, and to enhance that unique bond between humans and man’s best friend". The Planet Dog Foundation has awarded grants exceeding one million dollars to fund "the training, placement and support of dogs helping people in need." 


"The Penn Vet Working Dog Center is part of the University of Pennsylvania's School of PennVetVeterinary Medicine, and serves as a national research and development center for detection dogs. They work to train elite detection dogs to assist in medical research, national security, and finding victims of disasters. PDF has awarded a $10,000 grant in support of Punches, a female Labrador Retriever named in honor of Jack Punches, a victim of the attacks of 9/11. Punches is training to detect explosives, explosives residue, and post-blast evidence. Trained explosives detection dogs can also detect firearms and ammunition hidden in vehicles and containers, on persons, or buried underground." 

Learn more about Penn Vet Working Dog Center here. 


 The Ghost Dog of Christmas Past

Here is an an excerpt from the dog lovers book, Circling the Waggins,  by CA Wulff. The dogs CtWrevisedCoverKindleseen in the ebook cover are the current residents of the cabin in the woods wherein this saga of a life with rescued dogs takes place. The book is a journey into the heart and mind of a dedicated pet lover who shares her experiences, concerns, and deep emotions with the reader.The setting is a cabin-home in a national park forest. The characters are several adopted dogs, cats, and, for a while, domestic mice -- and two compassionate women.

"I feel like we are haunted by the ghost dog of Christmas past. The Troll2season brings a million reminders of our Troll, a dog who had loved Christmas more than any other time of year. He would get excited at the first signs of holiday decorations, and his eyes would shine with a child’s wonder. On Christmas morning, he would race to be the first dog under the tree, to tear at the packages full of biscuits and rawhides. Each of the dogs would tear at a package, but Troll unwrapped with such gusto and fervor, that they would all abandon their presents to stand back and watch him, and then make off with whatever treats he had revealed." 

CA Wullf also created the cover for her book.



Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale

Review... Loved it… This delightful conclusion to the Planet of the Dogs series just caps off a wonderful tradition. The story is well suited to be read aloud to younger children and as chapter book for the older ones. All of your favorite dogs help rescue two of Santa's reindeer from the Evil King of the North. The story also imparts important lessons of cooperation and responsibility."   Mary Jacobs, Editor/reviewer Bookhounds  

Daisy&Nor-397KBWe have free reader copies of all the books in the Planet Of The Dogs series  for therapy dog organizations, individual therapy dog owners, librarians and teachers...simply send us an email at planetofthedogs@gmail.com and we will send you the books.  

Our books are available through your favorite independent bookstore, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Powell's and many more. They are also available in digital format at Barnes and NobleAmazonKoboOysterInkteraScribd, Powells, Tolino, 

Librians, teachers, bookstores...You can also order Planet Of The Dogs, Castle In The Mist, and Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale, through Ingram with a full professional discount. 

To read sample chapters of the series, visit Planet Of The Dogs. -

 The illustration, above, from Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale, is by Stella Mustanoja-McCarty.

"What a truly wonderful and unique Christmas story for the whole family..." Don Blankenship,
Teacher, Reviewer for Great Books For Kids.


 Singing One Of The Old-Time Carols

..."'I think it must be the field-mice,' replied the Mole, with a touch of pride in his manner. 'They go round carol-singing regularly at this time of the year. They're quite an institution in these parts. And they never pass me over—they come to Mole End last of all; and I used to give them hot drinks, and supper too sometimes, when I could afford it. It will be like old times to hear them again.'

'Let's have a look at them!' cried the Rat, jumping up and running to the door.

XmasMiceWInWIngamooreIt was a pretty sight, and a seasonable one, that met their eyes when they flung the door open. In the fore-court, lit by the dim rays of a horn lantern, some eight or ten little fieldmice stood in a semicircle, red worsted comforters round their throats, their fore-paws thrust deep into their pockets, their feet jigging for warmth. With bright beady eyes they glanced shyly at each other, sniggering a little, sniffing and applying coat-sleeves a good deal. As the door opened, one of the elder ones that carried the lantern was just saying, 'Now then, one, two, three!' and forthwith their shrill little voices uprose on the air, singing one of the old-time carols that their forefathers composed in fields that were fallow and held by frost, or when snow-bound in chimney corners, and handed down to be sung in the miry street to lamp-lit windows at Yule-time..."

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, Illustration by Ernst Shepard 


Interview With Santa

This interview was conducted as part of a program to determine the truth behind the incredible story of Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale....

Santa-397KB Interviewer: Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions and clarifying things. 

Santa: I’m happy that the story is finally coming out. 

Interviewer: Is it a true story? 

Santa:  Absolutely. 

Interviewer: Why haven’t we known about it before? 

Santa:  I think it was lost in the mists of time…It took place hundreds and hundreds of years ago. 

Interviewer: Is it true that there was to be no more Christmas? 

Santa: I’m sorry to say that it’s true. Until the dogs arrived. 

Interviewer: The dogs? 

Santa: It was a surprise to all of us in Santa Claus village. None of us, and that includes all the elves, had even heard of dogs. 

Reindeer&Dog&Night-397KBInterviewer: Is that because you were so far North and rather isolated? 

Santa: Well, that and the fact that dogs has just started arriving on planet earth. Prior to that time, there had been no dogs on Earth. 

Interviewer: Really! Where did they come from? And how did they find you? 

Santa: They had started coming down to Earth from their own planet – the Planet of the Dogs. They came down to help people. Somehow, they heard we were in trouble, and one day, there they were, just like that...

 To read all of the Interview with Santa, click this link:  Interview with Santa 



 Boyhood Memories

"One Christmas was so much like the other, in those years around the sea-town corner now, ChildsChhristmasWalesCoverBookout of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve, or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six.

All the Christmases roll down towards the two-tongued sea, like a cold and headlong moon bundling down the sky that was our street; and they stop at the rim of the ice-edged, fish-freezing waves, and I plunge my hands in the snow and bring out whatever I can find. In goes my hand into that wool-white bell-tongued ball of holidays resting at the rim of the carol-singing sea, and out come Mrs. Prothero and the firemen..."
Dylan Thomas, A Child's Christmas in Wales



 Light In The Darkness 

"The Global Partnership for Education (GPE)  supports developing countries to ensure that every child receives a quality basic education, prioritizing the poorest, most vulnerable and those living in fragile and conflict-affected countries.

Established in 2002, the Global Partnership for Education is comprised of 60 developing countries, more than 20 donor governments, and international organizations, the private sector and foundations, teachers, and civil society/NGOs."

GPESince its inception, the Global Partnership has supported developing country partners to achieve remarkable and measurable results. For example, the number of out-of-school primary school children has been reduced from 56 million to 41 million in 2012. They have also achieved substantial improvements in gender parity and major increases in the number of girls completing primary school in countries where GPE has supplied support and resources.

Here is a link for more ot the remarkable RESULTS, from around the world (updates and photos), of  the Global Partnership for Education.



Hope in Dystopia in  Mockingjay: Part 2

Mockingjay2SymbolThis film is being seen by multitudes of people worldwide. Based on that fact alone, Mockingjay 2 is an important YA crossover film. It is a rather long, dark, viewing experience, executed with excellent acting and all the traditional elements of a very well done action movie. Mockingjay 2 also deals with issues of morality amidst the painful chaos of war.

Richard Lawson, in his thoughtful Vanity Fair review, considered the film's significance in these troubled times as well as the "entertainment" value of the film. Here are excerpts:

Mockingjay2"Mockingjay: Part 2 shows us, in rich and bracing fashion, the Hunger Games movies have been saying something all along—about the tragedy of youth (or anyone) in war, about post-traumatic stress disorder, about the ways we cede our autonomy to notions of comfort, to spectacle, to the easy lies of othering. The film makes these points in a far more clear-headed, more resonant manner than its source material. It’s a rare film adaptation that improves upon the original text, highlighting its crucial themes while streamlining and shaping the action into something legible and gripping...

The Hunger Games films...show us how good blockbuster movies can be. And they beseech us, in their earnest way, to be better, conscientious stewards of our own fraught and fragile world. That’s a useful message for anyone these days, young adult or not."

Here is a link to the article: Richard Lawson

Here is a link to the trailer: Mockingjay 2


Star Wars: The Force Awakens -- in time for the Holidays

The Dark Side Returns Worldwide on December 18-19 in 2D, 3D, and IMAX 3D...just in time
Star-wars-the-force-awakensReyDaisyRidleyfor the Holidays. Disney executives expect a very happy holiday, anticipating box office records with this $200,000,000 million dollar film. Fans will find that Harrison Ford, Chewbacca, Jedi Knights and light sabers have all returned along with the Dark Side. In keeping with changing times, the good side also has an important female warrior woman, Rey. Played by newcomer Daisy Ridley, she is also a red hot pilot.

 Here is a link to Trailer #1: The Force Awakens


Review: In ‘The Good Dinosaur,’ a Reptile Tends to His Human Pet

Manohla Dargis, the excellent NY Times reviewer, wrote a warm review for this latest Pixar production. Here is an excerpt... 

GoodDinosaur"Blink and you may miss the sly joke that sets 'The Good Dinosaur' on its enchantingly eccentric way. It begins with a near apocalypse 65 million years ago and an asteroid racing toward Earth. And while that’s around the time, more or less, that science hypothesizes the dinosaurs bit the dust, the wizards at Pixar have forged another creation story. Instead of crashing, the space rock zips past the big blue marble... "

Here is a link to read all of MS Dargis' review:  The Good Dinosaur

Here is a link to the trailer: Dinosaur


What a wonderful worldHope and Celebration are here with music... 3 minutes and 40 seconds of joy from singing kids in many places...What A Wonderful World (Playing for Change) 



WCDogsheader9All About Dog Love

Nancy Houser, on her Way Cool Dogs Blog, provides a wide variety of information on dog issues ranging from health care and nutrition to canine science and dog love. On a recent post, How To Love Your Dog, she wrote about many facets of dog love. Here's an excerpt...

PGI MontyyFourthGrade"How to love your dog by being a dog is something every dog owner should know about, as long as they do not continuously wag their tail!

And, whether your dog is a mischievous young puppy and full of bounding love, or an older dog that has been abandoned with very little  love— it won’t be too hard to play the part.

Loving your dog makes it easy to build positive and loving feelings for this furry friend,  choosing what is best to develop a better life.  Dogs who are loved not only feel safe, but secure and cherished.  But, recognizing if you love your dog does not mean a thing if your dog does not love you back."..The article continues, including a point by point section entitled"How to tell if your dog loves you back".

Nancy also includes information on fascinating MRI studies regarding a dog's love by neuroscientist Dr Gregory Berns. Dr Berns wrote a book titled "How Dogs Love Us". To learn more about Dr, Berns and his MRI dog studies, here is a link to his Ted Talk.

The photo is courtesy of the wonderful Paws Giving Independence therapy dog organization, Peoria,Illonois. Please click on the photo to enlarge and to see why it was chosen.


5Kids in CampDuhok-Domiz 161
Children, War, and Hope

Thirty million children have been driven from their homes by war. In a touching and informed article on refugee children, Jake Silverstein --  in the New York Times Magazine -- writes of this devastating situation by telling the stories of three young girls. Each is from a different part of the world: the Ukraine, South Sudan, and Lebanon. Here are excerpts from this excellent article:
GirlBrotherRefugeesSyriaJeffJMitchellGetty..."Young as these girls are, they have already been asked to bear a profound loss. You can see it in their faces. They appear to be only half children, the other half having been matured ahead of schedule by trauma and displacement. They know what they should not. And yet, there is still that other half. They are still kids. Unlike the adults in the frame, who must be constantly aware of their dangerous ordeal, the girls, from time to time, might forget. If the moment was right, they might play a game...
That children, even under the worst of circumstances, are able to remain children supplies the world around them with the sense of a future, which is the equivalent of hope..." 
The photo of the five Syrian children was taken in the Domaz refugee camp in Iraq.The photo of the  young girl and her brother was taken in a Syrian refugee camp by Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty

Long Line at the Library? It’s Story Time Again

by Winnie Hu NY Times

BeatricePotterSnow"Story time is drawing capacity crowds at public libraries across New York and across the country
at a time when, more than ever, educators are emphasizing the importance of early literacy in preparing children for school and for developing critical thinking skills. The demand crosses economic lines, with parents at all income levels vying to get in.

Many libraries have refashioned the traditional readings to include enrichment activities such as counting numbers and naming colors, as well as music and dance. And many parents have made story time a fixture in their family routines alongside school pickups and playground outings — and, for those who employ nannies, a nonnegotiable requirement of the job...

Moomin-christmasLibraries around the country have expanded story time and other children’s programs in recent years, attracting a new generation of patrons in an age when online offerings sometimes make trips to the book stacks unnecessary. Sari Feldman, president of the American Library Association, said such early-literacy efforts are part of a larger transformation libraries are undergoing to become active learning centers for their communities by offering services like classes in English as a second language, computer skills and career counseling."

The illustration of the rabbits is by Beatrix Potter.The illustration of the Moomins is by Tove Jansson. 


SunbearSqBigLogo Anna Nirva is the guiding light at Sunbear Squad,
a leading source for information and guidance in dog rescue and care. Here is an excerpt from their site about fostering dogs 

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24. Happy Winter!

This Land Is Your Land by Catherine Ciocchi, published by Arbordale Publishing, and illustrated by me, Cathy Morrison
December's theme is WINTER! So here's a wintery scene from This Land Is Your Land which came out early 2015. The author is Catherine Ciocchi and the book is about exploring the Earth with land forms.

A hill slopes up above the ground.
The rounded top looks like a mound.
Rolling hills are what you see
when they are in a group of three.

Happy Winter and thanks for taking a look! There's more work on my Studio With A View Blog.

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25. OBLIVION by Jennifer L. Armentrout // Excerpt

Daemon fans rejoice! OBLIVION is available NOW!! The eBook includes two bonus books from Daemon's POV, as well as original music inspired by OBLIVION embedded in the eBook.  We know you've been waiting for this book for a long time, and today you get a little taste of what's to come. We have an excerpt from OBLIVION for you to sink your teeth into! Check it out below and tell us what you think

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