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1. Sam & Dean Dig a Hole

Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen’s latest, Sam & Dave Dig a Hole (Candlewick, October 2014), has been getting quite a bit of buzz (including Caldecott buzz) and has appeared on several best-of-year lists (including Horn Book’s own Fanfare).


With all that talk, I can’t be the only person to accidentally call it “Sam & Dean Dig a Hole.” Right?

sam and dean winchester dig a hole

The Winchesters at work

Especially given that “Sam & Dean Dig a Hole” is a major plot point in a significant number of Supernatural episodes.

Any illustrators out there want to draw me a mash-up? ;)


The post Sam & Dean Dig a Hole appeared first on The Horn Book.

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2. Photo

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3. Review of A Fine Dessert

jenkins_fine dessertA Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat
by Emily Jenkins; illus. by Sophie Blackall
Primary   Schwartz & Wade/Random   40 pp.
1/15   978-0-375-86832-0   $17.99
Library ed. 978-0-375-96832-7   $20.99   g
e-book ed. 978-0-375-98771-7   $10.99

In four vignettes, set a hundred years apart from each other, parents and children make delicious blackberry fool from blackberries, cream, and sugar: quintessentially simple. Still, the cream must be whipped, with a different tool each time — a laborious twenty minutes with a bunch of twigs in 1710 Lyme, England; just two minutes with an electric mixer in 2010 San Diego. Early cooks pick berries; now, they may come packaged from afar — but the work of sieving them hasn’t changed much. Each setting has its kitchen practices, cooks, and meals: in 1810 Charleston, South Carolina, an enslaved woman and her daughter get only bowl lickings, while the master and his family are served the dessert; the San Diego dad and his son host a potluck for a diverse group of friends. Blackall’s art, as decorative as it is informative, features lovely (if unrealistic) calligraphic berry bush tendrils to counterpoint her cheery, wholesome figures; a subdued palette of historical tans is warmed with spots of green and pink, blossoming into brighter hues in the California present. It all adds up to a thought-provoking sample of how the techniques involved in a simple task have changed over time; and how people, and food, have stayed much the same, making this an effective introduction to the very idea of history. Recipe, sources, and historical notes from both author (pointing up such changes as following recipes and pasteurization) and illustrator (searching questions on the lives of slaves, her careful decisions on dress, and the engaging information that the mottled endpapers were colored with actual blackberry juice) are appended.

From the January/February 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


The post Review of A Fine Dessert appeared first on The Horn Book.

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4. Explore Dr. Seuss’ Creative Process: VIDEO

What type of creative process did Dr. Seuss use? In the video embedded above, Lynda Claassen talks about how the famous children’s books writer and artist created Green Eggs & Ham.

Claassen, the director of the U.C. San Diego Special Collections & Archives, showcases several pieces that illustrates the development process for Seuss’ beloved story. What do you think?

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5. Take A Good Look At Room Oblivion As It Is..Or Not. meh

I am about to send Room Oblivion to maximum overdrive.  Total and utter thermonuclear devastation.  Well, I'm going to sort everything out and tidy up which means I'll lose things...last time it took me a week to find the toilet.  The toilet isn't in my room but where it always has been but I had a kind of metaphysical breakdown.

Anyway, I thought, as no one has really asked how a sad, old comic geek-cum-naturalist lives, I'd show you so, as we enter Room Oblivion to the right (this is handy for any potential suicidal burglars -I take no prisoners)....

(I need to apologise to my late Mother and Grand Mother as I have not tidied the room at all after being ill for a couple weeks and they would never have allowed me to let people see such a mess. Sorry, Mum.  Sorry, Ma!)

A shelf with some 1960s Silver Age comics, the black & white complete Vampirella collection and some Archie collections (but not all).  The two sample bottles on the wall? Cat teeth.  There, you never asked but I told you.

Now, above that shelf you will find some DC Showcase Collections, JLS/JSA trades, and All Star Squadron Showcase edition and my completed run of the 1980sAll Star Squadron.  And, yes, you can see part of a Hat Industries Rugga Rugga 1/72nd scale figures box to one side.

To the left (ignore the hanging, shrunken head as it is not real) top shelf are my Browner Knowles, some DC and Marvel paperback pocket books, comics and books by Jess Bradley, Vanessa Wells and so on. Just under that shelf are my series 1 and 2 DVDs of Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, Dominic Hyde DVDs, Winnetou DVD set (THANKS to Subzero!) and that square box under them contains my 1/72nd scale fleet of Renault FT-17s (Oh, and you keep your vehicles in the garage, right?). A couple of the FT-17 boxes can be seen over the doorway.  Did I mention the series DVD set of Space 1999 Paul (Browner Knowle) Brown gave me for Christmas?

Next to the top shelf is my collection of Classical Comics books -whatever happened to them??? The company I mean as the books are there.  You see them....you DO see them?

Next couple of shelves my Marvel Essentials and trades.  You can just see the top of my UK Golden Age comics section (but I'm not going to show you them).

Bored? Let's move on them.

A nice big shot of things.  My next shelves have collected editions, trades, French, German, Russian,Belgian, Dutch books/comics and, from the left of the Cyberman/Iron Man/Hulk trio past the Mystery Machine and Superman coasters is my Cinebook The 9th Art collection -just had to "big them up" on two regional radio station interviews.  Oh, above those are my Dr Master Publications series books such as The Three Constables and Oriental Heroes.
Okaaaaay. More trades, books and I've just realised that there are shelves below all these with my comic history reference books and publications.  "Where are all your Black Tower Books, Terry?" you are not asking.  Well, in a box behind the sofa-cum-bed.  It would be just plain showing off to photograph them!

You are also beginning to see my UK comic annual collection (just past Witchy).
Because you never demanded it -some of the annuals plus Silver Age complete run of The Sub-Mariner, Fantasy Masterpieces, The Invaders (Marvel), Avengers-Invaders trade and others. Ignore that bit to the right we'll be getting there soon enough!

Did I not just say we would get here?  Ignore the models-in-progress  Gods of Light and Darkness this is messy.  Behinbd Ollie (the Owl) some military history reference books.  The next two shelves are my military reference books -uniforms, campaigns -L & F. Funcken books on uniforms covering Ancients to Modern, Osprey Man-At-Arms -various others.  Great references as an historian and wargamer!

A few references to gaming, toy soldier references and a couple local history books next -and my foreign language dictionaries.

These shelves go another 60 cms past me to the right.  The top shelf that isn't show, you can see part of it in the previous photo, contain wildlife/nature reference books some going back to the 19th century.A copy of the Bible and Quran and a history of English churches -go figure.

Next, hundreds of books covering the 1940s up to 2014 on subjects such as UFOs, ghosts, the paranormal, werwolves, strange phenomena, Sasquatch, Almasty, Yeti, Yeren, unidentified sea creatures ("sea monsters"), wildlife, tracking....hang on.....
Here you go.  The "hidden corner" not quite going as far as the ceiling (which is where my books go up to!) but it even shows the wall by my window (yes, if the window was a wall it would also be full of books) and the notes/art references I pin up there.

A teeny-weeny "tip of" glimpse of the European farm house and barn I'm building -but you're not here for "Basic Modelling With Uncle Terry" TM/(c)2015 Terry Hooper-Scharf TV enterprises.  Oh, that "brown thing with a face" on not quite the top shelf? It's a wax Rübezahl that belonged to my late Mother.  She bought it in Germany as it brought back memories of where she was born -Jauer -now in Poland. It might be a candle but she never lit it and it took pride of place on the mantle piece.

We're an odd lot

My comics are in file boxes in cupboards.  From popular to rare Independents covering the 1960s to 2000s.

 And now the big Kathy Kirby ending.....and if I sing "Secret Love" it will NOT be the "secret love" she sang about ,bless her.

As my Gran might say looking at this.  "He's not married" that would have all the subtle inferences her generation could put into those simple words.  My mum would probably be more direct -"This won't get you a girlfriend!"    I simply say: "LOOK! See all this? OH DEAR LORD PLEASE HELP ME!"

 Yes, I need to get rid of stuff -I've boxes of comics that shops and dealers will not buy -unless it's for such a cheap price it doesn't cover the cost of a book of postage stamps.

Let's face it -this drives ALL women away!!!

There, a glimpse of what is.  What will be I have no idea.  I get vertigo and altitude sickness getting to those top shelves.

"Where do you put your clothes, Terry?"    SHUT UP!!!!

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6. Scott Peterson on my reckless snack-distribution habits

“I trust you with my life, I trust you with my children’s education, I trust you with my finances—but I do NOT trust you with marshmallows.”

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7. A NEW KING BRONTY EPISODE! Here's a link to the latest Episode you may have missed!

I postd a New King Bronty Episode on Saturday, January 24th ... Here's the link if you missed it:
I will add a follow up in a couple of days, so Be Alert!  Thanks!

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8. The Best Read-Along Ever!

Listen Linda. (if you don't get this reference, you're welcome) If there is ONE BOOK I could've made everyone read in 2014, it would've been THE WINNER'S CURSE. Now if there's ONE BOOK I could make you read in 2015, it is THE WINNER'S CRIME. This is one of my absolute favorite series EVER. EVER EVER.  So I'm super excited to be teaming up with a couple of blogging buddies to bring you a

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9. Calling Caldecott 2015 second ballot is open

Here it is: Monday. In exactly a week, all of our Mock Caldecott awards will be a memory, and children’s book chatter will turn to the Real Committee’s books. So, while each real committee member is organizing notes, putting together last-minute arguments, and imagining that the books she or he nominated will wear medals for the rest of their lives, we continue to find out what YOU like. So, whether the books you voted for last week are still on the list or not, we hope you will vote your heart and got back to the voting booth one more time. Will you vote for The Farmer and the Clown and other front runners, or will you boost a book with less support? Check back on Tuesday around noon to see when happens!

For now, I am returning to the discussions with my second graders, who are full of love for their favorites…until someone points out a dreaded concern.


Here’s a link to the second ballot


and here, again, is the list of books under discussion:


The Adventures of Beekle (Dan Santat)
Blizzard (John Rocco)
Draw! (Raúl Colón)
The Farmer and the Clown (Marla Frazee)
Gaston (Christian Robinson)
The Iridescence of Birds (Hadley Hooper)
Josephine (Christian Robinson)
A Letter for Leo (Sergio Ruzzier)
The Right Word (Melissa Sweet)
Sam & Dave Dig a Hole (Jon Klassen)
Viva Frida (Yuyi Morales)



The post Calling Caldecott 2015 second ballot is open appeared first on The Horn Book.

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10. Young Adult Authors & The ‘How I Learned’ Storytelling Series Get Booked

92YHere are some literary events to pencil in your calendar this week.

To get your event posted on our calendar, visit our Facebook Your Literary Event page. Please post your event at least one week prior to its date.

Three young adult authors, Gayle Forman, Libba Bray, and E. Lockhart, will appear together at Barnes & Noble (Tribeca). Meet them on Tuesday, January 27th starting at 6 p.m. (New York, NY)

The next session of the “How I Learned” storytelling session will take place at Union Hall. Join in on Wednesday, January 28th at 7:30 p.m. (Brooklyn, NY)

Writer Marissa Meyer will celebrate the latest book from The Lunar Chronicles series, Fairest: Levana’s Story. Check it out on Thursday, January 29th at the 92Y starting 7 p.m. (New York, NY)

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11. One of my favorite Neil Gaiman quotes about writing

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12. Still a Mom, reading to my Kids

Wow. I nearly forgot about this blog. I came back to it today, looking for a picture of a friend and me in high school. I read through a few of my Mommy's piggy tails stories and LOVED it! Why have I not been doing this blog still?

And then I remembered why. All FIVE reasons why.

Yep. I now have 5 kids! And I'm busy. And I'm run down. And whenever I have a spare moment I usually don't want to spend it blogging!

Ironically enough, my new baby boy is named Oliver. I just saw that the last time I posted on here was about the book Oliver Twist. :)

However, as I read through my old stories this morning, it made me want to start blogging again. I think it's therapeutic. I still have our family blog where I put pictures of my kids, and our family and what we've been up to. And I like to do instagram. But, I'm thinking this blog will be more for me.

I still have a dream of becoming a published author one day. But I'm pretty content with the fact that it's just a dream. Maybe it will happen. Probably not. But, like I said, I'm ok with that.

My oldest son is 7 and is a GREAT reader. I love that. My second son is 5 and is learning to read, and picking it up quickly. I love that too. I read books when I can, and I sometimes pawn the bedtime reading off to the oldest. And I won't lie, sometimes we don't have time for bedtime reading. And that's ok too.

So, I'm thinking I'll try to blog when I feel like it, and share more stories from my life. I used to keep a journal very regularly. Up until about the time I had kids. Now, It's very sporadic. Usually when I'm very stressed or very happy. Which is fine. But, I know there are plenty of stories that happen that I would love to share with my children and their children and theirs someday. So. I'll write them here.

If anybody still reads this, great. Let me know what you think. I'm not so good at linking up, but maybe we can encourage each other and choose topics to write about together. If nobody reads it, that's alright too. :)

In the mean time... I think I'll go snuggle with my sweet baby girl who slept in until 10:30 this morning. Probably means she's not feeling so well... Read the rest of this post

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13. What Every Child Needs To Know About - "The Economy"....a bookwrap

Unwrapping a "must" for kids....



Let's totally pull the wrapping off and see inside shall we?

These series of books are amazing.  The board books are entertaining, educational and visually creative.  The illustrations, coupled with real photos are spot on and enrich the text perfectly.  I am going to unwrap the content of "What Every Child Needs To Know About - The Economy", by Brad and Marc, in rhyme today .... just for fun!

The Economy

The economy's where
You earn and save money,
Imagine....no cash....
Now that would be funny.

People made things by hand
Or traded for needs,
Money let people
Trade skills for a fee.

Big money makers
Unique skills possess,
Learning in school
Can bring you success!

Some products you need,
Like water and clothes,
Some products you want ...
"I'll take ten of those!"

Do I really need more?
Or just want it for me?
Some people's riches
Come totally free.

Born into a family
So rich they can share,
They pass down their treasures
  Their kids are their heirs.

Good people and bad
Can have much or are poor,
You can buy local,
At your neighbourhood store.

The planet will smile...
 Buy things that endure,
You'll help boost the system
Of that I am sure!

This book comes highly recommended by me. 

R. Bradley Snyder is a recognized expert on the behaviors and preferences of children and adolescents. Trained in research methods and developmental psychology, he is best known for his work with children and youth, ranging from usability testing with hemophilic teenagers to pilot testing for the Cartoon Network to conducting focus groups with youth inside juvenile prisons. He has won the prestigious Innovations in American Government Award from Harvard University. Brad is the author of numerous studies and is a regular speaker at conferences. The author of a parenting book, The 5 Simple Truths of Raising Kids, he lives in Scottsdale, AZ.

Marc Engelsgjerd oversees the oncology practice of a healthcare consultancy and has served as the director of clinical affairs at Veritas Medicine. He graduated summa cum laude from the University of Arizona and received his medical degree from he University of California, San Francisco. He lives in New York City.

Other books available are:  What Every Child Needs To Know About:  Elvis Presley, Coffee, Cancer, Punk Rock and Pizza.

For further information go to :  http://needtoknowpublishing.com

Unwrapping some smiles for you before we wrap up ...

Read on and read always!

It's a wrap.

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14. PASSION by Lia


Submitted by Lia for the Illustration Friday topic PASSION.

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15. One good thing about a blizzard

When the weather is dreary
it's time to query!

My feeble attempt at rhyme................. Read the rest of this post

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16. Writing A Novelization

Question: I'm about two thirds of the way through a novelization. As in most films, there are transition scenes where time passes and events have taken

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17. The Daily Routines of Famous Creative People: INFOGRAPHIC

Haruki Murakami works on creative projects from 4am to noon. He spends the next hour exercising and the rest of the day on food/leisure until he goes to bed at 9pm.

Maya Angelou wakes up at 5am and writes from about 6:30-3 and the rest of the day eating and having leisure time except for a half hour of creative time at 7:30.

Podio.com has created an infographic outlining the daily routines of famous creative people. We’ve embedded the entire graphic after the jump.

Want to develop a better work routine? Discover how some of the world’s greatest minds organized their days.
Click image to see the interactive version (via Podio).

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18. The Importance of Dreaming: Why Diversity Matters in Science Fiction and Fantasy – by C. Taylor-Butler

CTBI’m a dreamer. I grew up in a lower middle class environment where the stretch goal was simply
survival. Many of my neighbors had never ventured far from the city. Reading wasn’t a popular hobby. Dreams were for other people.
But my mother introduced me to every free or low cost cultural program she could find. I took art classes at the Museum of Art. Spent days sketching by a replica of The Thinker near the
reflecting pond. And my weekends existed living in the stacks of the Public Library and carrying home as many books as I was allowed at the end of the day. Whenever I needed to escape myenvironment, books were there to guide me. I immersed in Barbar and envisioned myself traveling with the king to a far distant land. I was Madeleine lined up in a row of similarlydressed girls.


All the while I doodled designs of futuristic cities while munching popcorn in front
of Lost In Space. I imagined being tutored by the magical Mary Poppins. But in those books and movies the characters were animals or they were white. Other than Star Trek, people of various backgrounds didn’t exist in the imagined futures for our world. I loved Uhura, Checkov and
Sulu. But I wanted them to be my Captain Kirks.
A few years ago, I spoke at a public library in Arkansas. Over the course of a week I talked
about writing to 25 busloads of elementary school children. At the end of the week a teacher
returned and said one of her students was perplexed that I had gone to MIT. The teacher,
confused by the girl’s question, pressed her. The young girl wanted to know if she could go to a
school like that, given that she was Hispanic. She wanted to know if it was allowed. And if so,
could she tag along with the teacher who, herself, was studying for her Masters degree at a
nearby college. In that child’s neighborhood, college wasn’t in the vocabulary. And in her
literature, girls like her didn’t exist at all.
I want you to think about that a minute.
Decades after the multicultural Star Trek series debuted, contemporary literature and the media
still play a large role in the perception that options for children of color are severely limited.
Popular fiction and blockbuster movies center around children who are not Hispanic, or Native
American or . . . (fill in the blanks). In the rare instance where they are, movie directors make a
course correction. For instance, in writing Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula LeGuin created a world in
which all of the communities were populated by people who were various shades of brown. No
specific ethnicity is delineated. The hero is brown, the villain is blonde and blue eyed. In
translating the book into a mini-series for the SyFy channel, Producer Robert Halmi of Hallmark
Entertainment cast all the characters using white actors and said he had “improved upon the
author’s vision.” Ursula LeGuin responded by saying he had wrecked her books.

In recreating the popular Avatar: The Last Airbender, director M. Knight Shamalayan cast all of
the Asian heroes with white actors. The villain who was white in the series, became Asian in the
movie. Children of color are tokens in the background of Harry Potter’s universe but not in his
inner circle. The olive-skinned girl in Hunger Games becomes Jennifer Lawrence. See the trend?
For children of color the message is clear: when it comes to being a hero in a fantastical
adventure . . .

Not you.

But it also sends a more dangerous message to society. For people of a majority race it may
imbed a subconscious message of “only you,” or worse . . .

“Not them.”

In watching the protests around the country starting with, but not limited to Ferguson Missouri, I
found myself wondering if someone like ex-officer Darren Wilson grew up surrounded by
images of people like him who were the heroes, the leaders, the enforcers and where people who
didn’t look like them were villains to be feared. Police officers who are later assigned to patrol
neighborhoods where gifted children are stunted because they were trained by society, and
sometimes their own communities, to stop dreaming beyond the end of the street.

In crafting The Lost Tribes I envisioned a world where those children were integral to the story
and allowed to take center stage. Children who were very smart, but not perfect. Children who
bickered and made mistakes while they worked out solutions and came together as a team out of
necessity but remained together out of mutual respect. I envisioned characters informed by their
cultural backgrounds but not constrained by them. I wanted to create an environment where the
characters faced frightening situations and had to work out the solutions without the use of magic
wands or other tricks that would substitute for logic and team work. In a sense – if your world is
falling apart what would an ordinary kid do with few skills and no training?





I had a vision, for instance, of who  the character of Serise would be. She’s Navajo and I knew book

research wouldn’t substitute for spending time in her environment. So I spent two weeks in Rock
Point, Arizona. It is a small town onthe reservation where I met two teens who were Goth and quiet. I met another who was quite outspoken. I came armed with books, including a lot of age appropriate fiction. They leaped for the nonfiction, showed me how to log on to a password protected satellite dish so I could check emails, and talked about their lives and dreams with me. And so Serise was reborn as a computer hacker, far from the stereotypes people have about Native American girls.

My protagonist, Ben, thinks basketball is the ticket to success. He eschews his parent’s scientific interests as the stuff of nerds. In working with urban students I learned that many hide being smart. It’s easier to be athletic. It’s expected. It’s often emphasized. So it is fascinating that a friend and librarian forwarded an excerpt of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s book in which he talks aboutfulfilling society’s expectations of aspiring to be a top athlete until he read a fascinating fact about the speed of light and black holes. He decided science was infinitely more interesting and
became an astrophysicist.

My characters, like my readers, crave adventure and as an engineer
writing science fiction I understood that Earth already held much
stranger backdrops than anything I could make up. For example the
Moai of Easter Island or the Terra Cotta Army.

I wrote Tribes to say “Yes. You belong in the wider context of the
universe.” “Yes. You can be the center of an adventure.” “Yes, children
from different backgrounds can and do work together for a common
purpose.” “Yes you can dream bigger than the landscape of your own


“You.”Terracotta warriors

As we approach February, inevitably children across the

country will be introduced to the same ubiquitous fare that
adults provide every year. We’ll fill their reading lists with
realistic fiction, historical fiction and angst based nonfiction centered around race. But we won’t
tell them they can aspire to slay dragons, build castles or venture out into the great unknown.
They won’t travel to outer space or even abroad to a foreign land. When they are looking at the
stars, we’ll quiz them on books that go no farther than their own environments. And when some
children are dreaming of the future, we’ll be drilling into their heads only visions of a painful
During Black History Month we’ll ask, “What are you doing to fulfill Dr. King’s dreams?” and
therein lies the rub.

Because it’s the wrong question.

We should be asking, “What are you doing to fulfill YOUR dreams?” and then make it our
priority to point them toward a path that will get them there.

Tribe coverI’m still a dreamer. I found my path forward in books and used the clues to figure out how to
reach for the stars. Perhaps it is time for publishing to provide those clues forward without our
readers needing a universal translator to see themselves between the pages. Perhaps it is time for
a broader selection of children to be shown leading the way.

C. Taylor-Butler is the author of more than 70 books for children. A graduate of the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology with dual degrees in Civil Engineering and Art and
Design, she serves as Chair of one of their regional Educational Councils. After traveling the
world and speaking to thousands of children with dreams of their own, she has decided children
of color shouldn’t have to settle for second place.


The Lost Tribes Series

“Well-written and well-paced: a promising start to what should be an exciting and unusual sci-fi

series. (Science fiction. 10-14)” Kirkus Reviews, Jan. 2015

To find more speculative fiction featuring children of color (sci-fi, fantasy, paranormal, time
travel, alternate history, dystopia, horror, etc.), see the list compiled by Zetta Elliot’s at

Zetta Elliot’s list


Posted by Gwendolyn Hooks

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19. Bagger Island is now in final draft. Excerpt.

Skipper Bill Blake eased back the throttles and slowed Girl Anne to a workable speed.  The crew hustled to their stations as the giant winch slowly began to coil the grinding cables over the rusty stern, pulling the giant orange meshes on board. The dripping net slid over the aft deck, loaded with herring sparkling like treasure in the evening sun.

“Stand by for the end of the trawl,” said Eamon, as the voluminous orange meshes coiled around the well-worn spool. He directed the crew to manhandle the pregnant purse onto the rolling deck.

“Wait! Stop the winch!”  He shouted. “There’s something’s stuck in the net!”

“What the hell is that?” shouted Gerry, the chief deckhand, as he moved closer to the pile of quivering scales. First mate, Padraig, helped Gerry push some of the fish out of the way, “Jaysus, looks like a feckin’ body in there!”

The crew tore into the orange meshes, cutting, hacking, scattering net and herring everywhere, freeing the body which slid slowly from beneath the massed pile of shivering fins and glazed eyes.  The torso was badly bruised and its arms wound weirdly around the remaining semblance of the person to whom they had at one time belonged.

Still recognizable as a portal of the body, the person, with one eye horribly bruised, and the other gaping wide open, stared up at its saviors.  A dark smeared mass of hair lay across the chapped and battered face. Gerry and Padraig rolled the body over and noticed a Celtic knot tattoo emblazoned along the man’s upper back.

“Hold everything!” Skipper Blake demanded as he rushed down the aft companionway, past the berthing area.  He grabbed the digital camera and hustled back outside onto the rolling deck as his crew worked feverishly to stow the haul of fish and separate the body from the catch.

“Drag him over here,” he shouted amid the chaos, “I’ll take some pictures.” Gerry and Padraig moved the body away from the pile of fish still streaming around it and rolled the body onto its back in order to see the face again. Its head in weird rotation, ended up with the good eye staring vacantly at the two men.

“My God, what happened to him?” asked Blake, moving the man’s arms from behind his back. The flash of the camera interrupted the crew as Blake recorded the ghastly scene. “OK. That’s enough,” he said. “We’ll need these for the Garda.”

He pulled out his mobile and dialed the emergency Garda number; no service. Then ran back up the stairs and onto the bridge. I’ll try VHF. That should work. Blake lifted the mike and called in his location, the name of his craft and a brief description of the grisly discovery.  “Girl Anne, did I hear you say you’d pulled a body out of the water?” asked the radio operator.

“Roger,” responded Blake.

“What’s your closest port of call?”

“About two hours from Cara Quay.”

“Make way for CQ. I’ll get the Garda and the coroner to meet you there,” the operator replied.

“Roger,” Blake placed the mike back in its cradle.

“Stow the rest of the catch,” he hollered over the intercom, “We still have to make a living.” The speakers crackled once more. “Get ready to make port at Cara Quay in a couple of hours.  Ice the body and wrap it in one of the tarps until we get home.”

He pushed Girl Anne’s throttles forward; black smoke belched out of her two stacks. Her bronze propellers bit into the rising sea and drove her westward towards the approaching land.

The crew worked quickly, piling the catch into the nearly full hold. They washed down the decks and stowed the gear.  Padraig and Gerry carefully slid the body onto a green tarp and wrapped it in ice. When they finished, the crew surrounded the shrouded figure and lowered their heads in the mariners’ tradition of respectful silence.





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20. Living next to a Superfund site

We don't really hear much about Superfund sites anymore but they haven't gone away. From last month's National Geographic Magazine:

Money remains a constant problem. The Superfund program once had two pillars: rules that held past polluters liable for cleanup and a "Superfund"--financed by taxes on crude oil and chemicals--that gave the EPA the resources to clean up sites when it could not extract payment from the responsible parties. Congress let those taxes expire in 1995; the program is now funded by taxes collected from all Americans. It's low on staff. The Superfund itself is nearly empty.

Superfund sites have entered a mostly benign but lingering state, dwarfed in the public's eye by issues like climate change, says William Suk, who has directed the National Institutes of Health's Superfund Research Program since its inception in the 1980s. "It's not happening in my backyard, therefore it must be OK," is how Suk sees the prevailing attitude. "Everything must be just fine--there's no more Love Canals."

Check out the full photo gallery here.

[Post pic by Fritz Hoffman via Nat Geo: "The municipal water supply in Hastings was contaminated by landfills--and by the FAR-MAR-CO grain elevator. Fumigants sprayed to control rodents and insects leached into the ground. The city closed some wells, but cleaning the groundwater will take decades."]

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21. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers Creates a Video With Social Media Tips For Authors

The Eerdmans Books for Young Readers team has shot a Social Media 101 video for their YouTube channel. The video embedded above features “Facebook Tips for Authors.”

Follow this link to read the publisher’s social media and internet marketing guide for authors. Most successful authors know that their job is not limited to just writing. Last year, Jarrett J. Krosoczka verified this during an interview with MassLive.com.

Krosoczka explained: “You know people who are authors-only? Could I meet them? Because even though I, along with many of my peers, make my living from putting my imagination to paper, so many other roles are expected in today’s publishing landscape. Authors must also be speakers, performers, online marketeers and social-media mavens.” What do you think? Do you have any social media advice that writers would find helpful?

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22. A Rose by Any Other Name Can Be...a Heather: Naming Characters

     There are two things about writing that never get any easier for me. . .coming up with a good title and naming characters.  I still have a hard time with titles, but I have developed strategies to give my characters good names.

    I spent most of my pregnancy struggling to come up with just the right name for my daughter, a name that would be all her own. In writing, I do not have the luxury of spending eight months on one character name.

    I believe that name is the single most important aspect of a character. It is usually the first thing a reader learns about him.  The name should reflect the character's personality is some way, however subtle.  Sometimes that is a mysterious process that goes on in the author's head, unexplainable to anyone else.  I do not know how E.B. White decided on Charlotte and Wilbur, but can you imagine them named anything else?  A book called Barbara's Web?  A pig named Bob?  No, somehow Charlotte and Wilbur, along with Fern and Templeton and Mr. Zuckerman are so right, they could not be anything else.

    Since I write historical fiction, I have a second barrier to finding just the right name. My names need to fit the time period.  The characters in Yankee Girl were pretty easy.  The book was about my sixth grade class.  I used names that were popular in 1964, as well as names that were popular in the South.  Jimmy's Stars, which takes place in 1943, was a little more difficult.  I knew that my main character was born in 1932, and would have graduated from high school in 1950. I scoured libraries and second-hand stores for 1949-50 high school annuals. (There were an awful lot of girls named Betty.)

    Contemporary fiction isn't much easier.  Names change as quickly as any other fashion.  Some names scream a particular decade.  I am a baby boomer, and I was usually the only Mary Ann in a class full of Debbies, Karens, Cathys and Sharons.  When I was a middle school teacher in the late 80's, I taught more than a few Farrahs. My friends who had babies about then named them Ashley and Kate (not after the Olsen twins!)  When I had my daughter in 1994, I was the only one in my childbirth class who did not name their child Tyler or Taylor (regardless of sex).

   Then there are adult names. In children's books, they are usually not a central character but occasionally they are.  (Miss Gruen and Reverend Taylor in Yankee Girl come to mind.) How do you name adults?

   Here is a list of sources I have compiled that help me with The Naming Game.

   1.  Baby name books.  These often reflect the popularity (or lack of popularity) of a name, as well as give a cultural origin. (Warning:  I learned not to carry one of these in public unless I wanted to start rumors about a possible new addition to my family.)

   2.  School annuals.  These work for both contemporary and historical fiction.

   3.  School directories, websites, newsletters, newspapers, class lists.  Schools in my neck of the woods generate an enormous amount of student information. If you don't have access to your own personal student, read the school news pages online or in your neighborhood paper/website.

   4.  Obituaries.  Yeah, I know it's kind of morbid, but I have collected a number of "old-timey" names from them.  Around here, they usually include the person's nickname as well.

   5.  Observation.  I live a mile away from the fastest growing immigrant community in the country.  Call me nosy (or a writer), but I notice workers' name tags.  I ask the employee where they are from and how they pronounce their name.  No one has been insulted (yet), and I have collected names I would never have thought of on my own.

    6.  The Social Security Index of Popular Baby Names. This site is unbelievably cool.  It lists the top 200 names for boys and girls for each decade, from 1880 to 2010.  Not only is it searchable by decade, but by each state as well. (Apparently Mary and James were the hot names of my decade.) http://www.ssa.gov/OACT/babynames/decades

   What do I do with all these names?  I list them in a notebook, separate from my regular journal. Right now, the 1910 Social Security list is getting a heavy workout from me.  My characters are named.

      Now if I could just think of a title...

     Don't forget about our current book giveaway.  For more information click here.

Posted by Mary Ann Rodman


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23. Female Writers Who Won Nobel Prizes: INFOGRAPHIC

morrison111 writers have won the Nobel Prize in Literature; only a few of them are female. The team at freshessays.com has created the “13 Female Nobel Laureates in Literature” infographic to celebrate these women.

According to visual.ly, the piece showcases the “names of their best novels and poems and words of wisdom.” We’ve embedded the full infographic below for you to explore further—what do you think?

13 Female Nobel Laureates In Literature

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24. Winter, Winter, Winter

Snow has arrived in Pittsburgh, but nothing compared to what New York and other Northeastern states are going to get.

Stay safe if you are affected.

Here are two shots.  One out of my front door and one out of the back door.  I love seeing the bushes and trees covered.

This may cool off anyone who is having hot temperatures.  :)

Are you getting any snow?


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25. Drawing...

Hello from New Orleans!  We arrived here last evening after spending a few days at Sea Rim State Park in Texas.  I have several quickly approaching deadlines, but hopefully I'll be able to carve out a little time in the next few days to head into the city for some beignets and chicory coffee. 

In the meantime there's lots of drawing and painting to be done, which means lots of warm-up sketches like this one of a fox and his pal.

I hope you're well, wherever you are!

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