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1. Draw Tip Tuesday - Life giving Lemons?

Welcome to Draw Tip Tuesday! All you need is a black piece of paper and two color pencils to create some awesome art - blackboard style!


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2. Review: Second Star

Second Star by Alyssa B. Sheinmel. Farrar Straus Giroux. 2014. Review copy from publishers.

The Plot: Six months ago, Wendy's younger brothers disappeared. Everyone is convinced they are dead. Not Wendy. She doesn't care what the police, her parents, or her best friends think.

John and Michael loved surfing; and when Wendy meets Pete, a surfer, her instinct tells her following Pete may lead her to her missing brothers. She'll do whatever it takes to find John and Michael, including leaving home to join Pete and his band of carefree surfers.

The Good: Of course it's a retelling of Peter Pan!

I love the story of Peter Pan and what it has to say about embracing and rejecting adulthood and growing up. Sheinmel doesn't shy away from her source material: Wendy Darling is looking for her missing brothers. She has a dog named Nana. Pete's name, is, well -- Pete. Pete's girlfriend is Belle. And Pete's nemesis is Jas.

Surfing is the stand in for flying away to Neverland. Michael and John, like Pete and his friends, believe that the only thing that matters is the next wave. Wendy, the good daughter and good student -- she's on her way to Stanford after graduation -- didn't share her brothers' obsession and passion. In trying to find out what happened to her brothers, she enters their world -- and Pete's world.

Jas is the local drug dealer, dealing in "fairy dust", and Wendy's journey, her following in her brothers' path, brings her into Jas's world. Pete and Jas used to be friends, but the friendship ended when Jas started selling drugs.

As I said, I love the story of Peter Pan. I adore the 2003 film. I also love what Once Upon a Time did with their Peter Pan retelling: making Peter the villain, full stop. For the most part, thought, I've stayed away from sequels and retellings because of some of the elements of the original story, particularly Tiger Lily. Sheinmel's version avoids those problems by using Peter Pan as an inspiration, not a blueprint, and omits those parts of the story.

The essential part of the story is about growing up, yes -- and Second Star explores what it means to grow up, to embrace adulthood. Pete and Jas and the others have decided that there is only one particular way of moving forward, and that is to build their world around surfing. For Pete, that's living in abandoned homes and stealing to eat; for Jas, it's dealing drugs to buy surfboards and get money to travel.

Wendy is in search of her missing brothers, but she's also in search of herself. There is the pathway she has always been on, the one leading to Stanford. She jumps into Pete's world, into the world of her brothers -- and finds she loves surfing. Later, she finds herself with Jas, and finds herself falling for him, as she fell for Pete, and is confused by her emotions and desires. She's seeing two different pathways for her future, and has to figure out what is right for her, not her parents, not her brothers, not Pete and Jas. Those struggles are complicated, of course, and not simple -- and it's not as simple as "be a boring grown up" or "be self indulgent."

What else? There is a lot about surfing in this book. It's not just a device; it's a critical part of the story. I love that the "pirates" are drug dealers. Addiction and mental health issues are also touched on, especially as it becomes unclear how much of Wendy's search is real and how much is wish fulfillment.

Other reviews: Book Swoon; Beauty and the Bookshelf.






Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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3. Spotlight and Giveaway: Lady Luck by Kristen Ashley

 

LADY LUCK by Kristen Ashley (July 29, 2014; Forever Mass Market)

Is love in the cards?

Since birth, Lexie Berry has had nothing but bad luck. Orphaned at an early age, she had a rough childhood and a boyfriend who was murdered. Now the beautiful, stylish Lexie is determined to change her luck and her life. But first she’s got to make good on a promise: to pick up Ty Walker from prison. One look at the gorgeous ex-convict and Lexie knows she’s in trouble-and already thinking about taking a walk on the wild side . . .


For five years, Ty was imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit. Now he wants revenge on the people who framed him. Yet when the high-stakes poker player sees the leggy Lexie, he suddenly has other desires on his mind. Realizing that Ty is innocent, Lexie tries to stop his plan for vengeance and help him become a better man. But as Ty battles his inner demons, dirty cops and criminals plot to take him out. Can he and Lexie find a way to escape the past?

Buy Links:

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About the author:

Kristen Ashley grew up in Brownsburg, Indiana, and has lived in Denver, Colorado, and the West Country of England. Thus she has been blessed to have friends and family around the globe. Her posse is loopy (to say the least) but loopy is good when you want to write. Kristen was raised in a house with a large and multigenerational family. They lived on a very small farm in a small town in the heartland, and Kristen grew up listening to the strains of Glenn Miller, The Everly Brothers, REO Speedwagon, and Whitesnake. Needless to say, growing up in a house full of music and love was a good way to grow up.  And as she keeps growing up, it keeps getting better.

Social Media Links:

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“I know it’s fake but thank you, Ty. I never expected to have anything that nice and it is nice, no matter what. So thank you for giving it to me.”

He didn’t speak but his eyes changed, one of those changes I didn’t know, didn’t yet understand but this one was meaningful. They all were but this one was more meaningful than the rest.

A lot more.

And I couldn’t stop myself, his eyes so close, that look in them, my arms moved from around his shoulders, my hands framed his face, I leaned up and whispered, “Thank you.”

Then I pressed my lips to his.

I meant to give him a soft kiss of gratitude. This was not to say I didn’t want to give him a long, hard, wet kiss of something else. And just what I wanted to give him and what that would lead to had also been filling my head space the last couple of days but that wasn’t where I intended to go just then. Not yet. Not with a house full of people downstairs waiting to eat fried chicken.

But when my mouth hit his, he didn’t give me the chance to give him a soft kiss of gratitude.

Instantly, his fingers slid up into my hair, cupping my head, and his mouth opened over mine making a demand.

Mine complied. His tongue spiked into my mouth and I liked the taste of it, I hadn’t had it in what seemed like a decade, I missed it and he tasted so fucking good my body pressed into his and not just because his arm around me grew super tight.

Then I was twisted, on my back in what was, I noted vaguely and was unbelievably happy for, a bed. His torso was on mine, his hips beside mine, his long, heavy leg moved to tangle with mine as his tongue moved in my mouth. I wrapped one arm around his back, one around his shoulders, my hand moving to cup the back of his head and hold him to me.

God, he couldn’t kiss. He could kiss.

Rafflecopter Giveaway: One winner gets a copy of the book with signed bookplate plus a Vera Bradley wristlet. Five winners get a copy of the book with signed bookplate. This giveaway runs through August 19 and is open to US/Canada only.

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The post Spotlight and Giveaway: Lady Luck by Kristen Ashley appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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4. The Meaning of Maggie by Megan Jean Sovern | Book Review

Readers will instantly fall in love with Maggie. Her narrative voice is smart, funny and clever, which makes her a highly entertaining, endearing, complex, triple threat.

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5. The month that changed the world: Wednesday, 29 July 1914

July 1914 was the month that changed the world. On 28 June 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated, and just five weeks later the Great Powers of Europe were at war. But how did it all happen? Historian Gordon Martel, author of The Month That Changed The World: July 1914, is blogging regularly for us over the next few weeks, giving us a week-by-week and day-by-day account of the events that led up to the First World War.

By Gordon Martel


Before the sun rose on Wednesday morning a new hope for a negotiated settlement of the crisis was initiated. The Kaiser, acting on the advice of his chancellor, wrote directly to the Tsar. He hoped that Nicholas would agree with him that they shared a common interest in punishing all of those ‘morally responsible’ for the dastardly murder of the Archduke, and he promised to exert his influence to induce Austria to deal directly with Russia in order to arrive at an understanding.

At 1 a.m. Nicholas appealed to Wilhelm for his assistance: ‘An ignoble war has been declared on a weak country.’ The indignation that this had caused in Russia was enormous and he anticipated that he would soon be overwhelmed by the pressure being brought to bear upon him, forcing him to take ‘extreme measures’ that would lead to war. To avoid this terrible calamity, he begged Wilhelm, in the name of their old friendship, ‘to do what you can to stop your allies from going too far.’

The question of the day on Wednesday was whether Austria-Hungary and Russia might undertake direct discussions to settle the crisis before further military steps turned a local Austro-Serbian war into a general European one.

The New York Times, 29 July 1914. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

The New York Times, 29 July 1914. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

The German general staff summarized its view of the situation: the crime of Sarajevo had led Austria to resort to extreme measures ‘in order to burn with a glowing iron a cancer that has constantly threatened to poison the body of Europe’. The quarrel would have been limited to Austria and Serbia had not Russia begun making military preparations. Now, if the Austrians advanced into Serbia, they would face not only the Serbian army but the vastly superior strength of Russia. Thus, they could not contemplate fighting Serbia without securing themselves against an attack by Russia. This would force them to mobilize the other half of their army – at which point a collision between Austria and Russia would become inevitable. This would force Germany to mobilize, which would lead Russia and France to do the same – ‘and the mutual butchery of the civilized nations of Europe would begin’.

In other words, unless a negotiated settlement could be reached quickly, war seemed inevitable.

Berchtold pleaded with Berlin that only ‘plain speech’ would restrain the Russians, i.e. only the threat of a German attack would stop them from taking military action against Austria. And there were signs that Russia was wary of war. The Austrian ambassador reported that Sazonov was desperate to avoid a conflict and was ‘clinging to straws in the hope of escaping from the present situation’. Sazonov promised that if they were to negotiate on the basis of Sir Edward Grey’s proposal, Austria’s legitimate demands would be recognized and fully satisfied.

At the same time, Sazonov was pleading for British support: the only way to prevent war now was for Britain to warn the Triple Alliance that it would join its entente partners if war were to break out.

But Grey refused to make any promises. When he met with the French ambassador later that afternoon, he warned him not to assume that Britain would again stand by France as it had in 1905. Then it had appeared that Germany was attempting to crush France; now, ‘the dispute between Austria and Serbia was not one in which we felt called to take a hand’. Earlier that day the British cabinet had decided not to decide; Grey was to inform both sides that Britain was unable to make any promises.

At 4 p.m. the German general staff received intelligence that Belgium was calling up reservists, raising the numbers of the Belgian army from 50,000 to 100,000, equipping its fortifications and reinforcing defences along the frontier. Forty minutes later a meeting at the Neue Palais in Potsdam, the Kaiser and his advisers decided to compose an ultimatum to present to Belgium: either agree to adopt an attitude of ‘benevolent neutrality’ towards Germany in a European war or face dire consequences.

Simultaneously, Bethmann Hollweg decided to launch a bold new initiative. He proposed to the British ambassador that Britain agree to remain neutral in the event of war in exchange for a German promise not to seize any French territory in Europe when it ended. He understood that Britain would not allow France to be crushed, but this was not Germany’s aim. When asked whether his proposal applied to French colonies as well, the chancellor replied that he was unable to give a similar undertaking concerning them. Belgium’s integrity would be respected when the war ended –as long as it had not sided against Germany.

Yet another German initiative was taken in St Petersburg. At 7 p.m. the German ambassador transmitted a warning from the chancellor that if Russia continued with its military preparations Germany would be compelled to mobilize, in which case it would take the offensive. Sazonov replied that this removed any doubts he may have had concerning the real cause of Austria’s intransigence.

The Russians found this confusing, as they had just received another telegram from the Kaiser containing a plea that he should not permit Russian military measures to jeopardize German efforts to promote a direct understanding between Russia and Austria. It was agreed that the Tsar should wire Berlin immediately to ask for an explanation of the apparent discrepancy. At 8.20 p.m. the wire asking for clarification was sent. Trusting in his cousin’s ‘wisdom and friendship’, Tsar Nicholas suggested that the ‘Austro-Serbian problem’ be handed over to the Hague conference.

A message announcing a general mobilization in Russia had been drafted and ready to be sent out by 9 p.m. Then, just minutes before it was to be sent out, a personal messenger from the Tsar arrived, instructing that it the general mobilization be cancelled and a partial one re-instituted. The Tsar wanted to hear how the Kaiser would respond to his latest telegram before proceeding. ‘Everything possible must be done to save the peace. I will not become responsible for a monstrous slaughter’.

Gordon Martel is a leading authority on war, empire, and diplomacy in the modern age. His numerous publications include studies of the origins of the first and second world wars, modern imperialism, and the nature of diplomacy. A founding editor of The International History Review, he has taught at a number of Canadian universities, and has been a visiting professor or fellow in England, Ireland and Australia. Editor-in-chief of the five-volume Encyclopedia of War, he is also joint editor of the longstanding Seminar Studies in History series. His new book is The Month That Changed The World: July 1914.

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The post The month that changed the world: Wednesday, 29 July 1914 appeared first on OUPblog.

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6.


Hello Bloggers, I have been missing in action and I really am sorry about that. I'm up to my armpits in work and taking care of family and honestly Blogging has taken a back seat for the moment, but I wanted to come by and tell you that I just finished my first Golden book called, " I Can Do It"! It's about about a little girl that tries to dress her self and do everything by herself or at least she tries. Right now you can find it here. I hope that you are doing well these day. Can't believe how fast the Summer has flown by. Wishing you all smiles and happiness. Best to you.

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7. Guest Post: Anna Sullivan, Author of Hideaway Cove and Giveaway

  Anna Sullivan stopped by the virtual offices this morning to share five things Holden would never have in his bedroom.  Check out the list, and then enter the giveaway.

Top 5 Things You Will Never Find in Holden’s Bedroom

1.  A television.  Why would any room with a bed also need a television?

2. Unisex anything-like cologne.  A man is a man and a woman is a woman, in Hold’s book, and enjoying the differences is the whole point.

3. Another woman. Hold is a one-woman man, and Jessi is the One.

4. Crackers—not that any woman would kick him out of bed for that.

5. Hold, because he’s on Windfall Island with Jessi and Benji, creating the family all of them have always wanted.

HIDEAWAY COVE by Anna Sullivan (July 29, 2014; Forever Mass Market; $8.00)

SOME PASSIONS CAN’T BE DENIED . . .

Jessi Randal walked away from her last relationship with a baby and a broken heart. Now, years later, the last thing this single mom wants is to give Windfall Island-and all its nosy residents-anything more to gossip about. But the moment she lays eyes on the tall, sexy stranger with the slow Southern drawl, she knows she’s in delicious trouble . . .

Holden Abbot is on the island to find the missing heir to the Stanhope family fortune. It’s his job to charm as many secrets out of the town as possible. And if he can charm Jessi into his bed, even better. When all evidence points to her as the heir, a dangerous enemy sets his sights on Jessi and her son. Now Holden will have to risk everything to protect the family he’s come to love. 

Buy Links:

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About the author:

Anna Sullivan was born and raised in southeastern Michigan, the seventh of nine children, whose claim to fame was reading five books a week in grade school. Needless to say, her obsession with the written word only grew from there-despite a short, and misguided, foray into the world of computer science (the “sensible” job path). She still lives in Michigan, with her husband, three children and two dogs whose life of leisure she envies but would never be able to pull off.

Social Media Links:

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Excerpt:

One day at a time. Yeah, she remembered.

Jessi breathed out, then in, slow, deliberate breaths. Hold’s argument sounded so logical, so simple and effortless. Just take it a day at a time, enjoy what they had for the time they had it. What could be easier?

But how did she shut off her own doubts and fears? After nearly a decade of putting Benji first, how did she ignore his feelings?

She trusted Hold, but— No, no more buts, no more what ifs or tomorrows. She trusted Hold. Period. He’d never do anything to hurt either her or Benji on purpose.

“You’re right, Hold. Let’s just enjoy today and let tomorrow take care of itself.

He studied her for a minute. She kept her eyes on his, let him make what he would of her acceptance. He put his arms around her, pulled her in for a hug. “We’ll take our time Jessica, get to know one another, and see where it takes us.”

She leaned back, looked into his face. “Hold . . .”

He put a finger over her lips, then his mouth, one of his sweet, simple kisses. He couldn’t know how that kiss, the kind one lover gave another where there was more than sex between them, got to her.

“You think you know me—”

She put her fingers over his mouth. “I do know you.”

“You can never really know another person, Jessica. Not everyone is as honest—” He broke off, dropped another light kiss on her lips. “It’s not important. I’m starving. Let’s eat.”

He stepped away, flashing her a grin before he went into the kitchen, a grin that didn’t hide the shadows in his eyes.

So, he’d been hurt before, Jessi realized, and by a woman if she didn’t miss her guess. It was so clear in that moment. A man as irresistible as Hold Abbot would have been involved before, and deeply, she thought. He might be naturally flirtatious, but she’d discovered that he wasn’t casual about acting on those flirtations.

No, someone, some woman, had broken his heart. And his trust.

He held back, Jessi understood now, because he was waiting for her to hurt him, and in holding back, he guaranteed they’d hurt one another.

But she was already too far gone to be careful now.

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The post Guest Post: Anna Sullivan, Author of Hideaway Cove and Giveaway appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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8. Alice in Paris (with Madeleine and others)

Just came across this remarkable movie featuring Ludwig Bemelman’s Madeleine as well as others from James Thurber, Crocket Johnson, and Eve Titus.


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9. SEA Write Award shortlist

       The 2014 SEA Write Award is for short-stories (prized genres are rotated, year by year), and they've announced the Thai shortlist: as Kaona Pongpipat reports in the Bangkok Post, SEA Write short stories selected.
       Recall that at Asymptote Mui Poopoksakul recently surveyed (a sliver) of the Thai short story scene -- and one of the discussed titles is Uthis Haemamool's shortlisted one, its title translated as 'Base, Basic' by Poopoksakul, and 'Commonly Vicious' by the Bangkok Post.
       Of course, whether any of this makes it into English is ... well, more a closed than open question ..... Read the rest of this post

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10. Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman in 'Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice'

The first look at the new Wonder Woman costume was revealed at San Diego Comic-Con, 2014. (Credit: WB)

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11. Harry Potter Personality Quiz

Harry Potter illustration  by Mary GrandPre

Personality Quiz: Which Harry Potter character are you?

Have you ever wished you could go to Hogwarts after reading one of J. K. Rowling’s books?! OK. Stupid question. OF COURSE YOU HAVE! Whether you’ve read the series or watched the movies, all the characters are so relatable that there always seems to be that one character you have a lot in common with.

Which Harry Potter character are you most like? Take this quiz and find out!

  1. While working on a group project you . . .  A) tend to get wrapped up in your own work and are quick to correct others. B) are very well organized and take your responsibilities very seriously. C) are the natural leader but take everyone’s thoughts and ideas into consideration. D) hate doing the work if it doesn’t involve you totally being in charge.
  2. Your favorite subject at school is . . .  A) Arithmancy (Mathematics). B) History of Magic (History). C) Defense Against the Dark Arts (English). D) Charms and Potions (Science).
  3. You notice that someone has left a bag in the corridor so you . . . A) give it to a professor. B) bring it to the main office hoping the person who lost it will look there first. C) try to figure out whose bag it is and return it. D) take it back to your room and rummage through it.
  4. You spend your time after school . . . A) reading and studying in the library. B) supervising  a group activity or club. C) playing on your school’s Quidditch (sports) team. D) challenging your friends to duels in the schoolyard.
  5. You usually come across to others as . . . A) intelligent and goal-oriented. B) responsible and reliable. C) brave and loyal. D) overly confident.
  6. Your tragic flaw is . . . A) sometimes acting like a know-it-all. B) judging others too harshly. C) getting too absorbed in your own personal pursuits. D) being conceited.

Ready for the moment of truth? Count up your answers and find out which Harry Potter character you are!

If you answered mostly A’s:  You are Hermione Granger!

Like Hermione, you are a smart, natural born thinker. You love problem solving and learning, and you tend to get caught up in your own studies.

If you answered mostly B’s: You are Minerva McGonagall!
Like Professor McGonagall, you are very well organized and always get the job done. People come to you to help solve their problems or give them advice. You have a very strong set of morals and always try to do the right thing.

If you answered mostly C’s: You are Harry Potter!
Like Harry, you are very easy to get along with. You are a loyal friend and are very independent. People look up to you and trust you to lead the way. You learn best by doing and taking things apart to figure them out.

If you answered mostly D’s: You are Draco Malfoy!

Like Malfoy, you are quick-thinking and adaptable. You are sometimes pessimistic, but you are also strategic and usually predict how things will play out. You are intuitive and very confident in yourself and your abilities.

PS. You are invited to celebrate Harry’s birthday with us at a live readathon

on July 31. Happy birthday, Harry!

—Amanda, STACKS Intern

Harry Potter illustration by Mary GrandPré

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12. A Preview of the #LA14SCBWI Diversity Panel

I connected with panel moderator Suzanne Morgan Williams to get the scoop:



Whether or not you're able to attend the sold-out SCBWI Summer Conference that starts this Friday, you can be part of the online river of information and inspiration by visiting The Official SCBWI Conference Blog and following our conference hashtag, #la14scbwi, on twitter. Oh, and by watching videos like the one above!

Illustrate and Write On,
Lee

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13. Nazi(-era) Krimis

       A pretty good idea for an anthology: Nazi-era crime fiction -- Krimis, as they're called in German. A French anthology, presented and translated by Vincent Platini, came out a few months ago: Krimi. Une anthologie du récit policier sous le Troisième Reich; see the Anacharsis publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.fr.
       There are also (French) interviews with Platini at BibliObs -- where he notes there were no grand Nazi-heroes in these works: "Il n'y a pas eu de Supernazi" -- and Le Figaro. And John J. Gaynard's Books weblog has a(n English) overview, which helpfully lists the anthologized pieces.
       Like Soviet crime fiction, Nazi-era (1933-1945) stuff is woefully overlooked; an English-language anthology would surely be of some inetrest, no ?

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14. Slice of Life -- Hemming



One of the jobs on Mom's to-do list for me last week was to hem a couple of pairs of pants for her.

I should back up to say that my mom was a Master Seamstress in her day, trained under the iron rule of her mother, who was a Home-Ec teacher. (Raise your hand if you even know what Home-Ec is...yeah, I thought so...) When Mom started to teach me to sew, we nearly came to blows. She is a perfectionist. I am a generalist. But she cared enough that I learn to sew that she bought me sewing lessons from a teacher who was a little less like her and a little more like me. I became a functional seamstress.

Teaching Lesson #1 -- If you are not the right teacher for a student, have the humility to find the teacher who can best teach that learner.

After we got the pants measured and pinned, I went to work. I wanted to do a really good job. I wanted to make Mom proud that I'm at least a functional seamstress, and maybe just a little better than that. But I was having problems. The legs of the pants were tapered at the bottom, so the hemming was turning out bunchy. Since I wanted to do a really good job, I asked for help.

Learning Lesson #1 -- If it's not turning out the way you want it to, have the humility to ask for help.

I didn't even have the question out of my mouth before Mom knew what the problem was: the tapering. She came and showed me that if I switched the pins from horizontal to the hem to perpendicular to the hem my work would lay flatter. Then she confirmed my suspicion that it would help to take bigger stitches. Then she left me to it.

Teaching Lesson #2 -- Give just enough help to get the learning going again and then get out of the way.

Hemming the second pair of pants when smoothly. I didn't have to cut any off, the fabric was more considerate, and I was back in the groove of hand-hemming. My stitches were quick and even.

Learning Lesson #2 -- Just because one task is frustrating doesn't mean that every task like that is going to be frustrating. Don't give up. Persevere when things get hard...but also remember to enjoy the feeling when things go smoothly.

Teaching and learning...and hemming pants. Good stuff.


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15. Photobooth Program

Planning programs that will appeal to 12-14 year olds is really, really hard for me.  This is the age where kids start to get busy, where they start having to balance school and extracurriculars with other things: like library time.  If I’m being totally honest, this is where I start losing them.

So this summer, my amazing staff came up with an incredible program that all of my teens loved–especially that middle school demographic: an in-library photo booth.  If your tweens and teens are anything like mine, they’re glued to their smartphones with Instagram and Snapchat constantly open.  This program just gave them an opportunity to have some fun with their photos. We asked them to tag their pictures with the hashtag we usually use for our library stuff, and then let them loose on these fun props:

IMG_0214 SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

It could not have been more fun! It was so simple–we made the props from paper and lollipop sticks, which you can get at any craft store. We didn’t have time to make a booth, so we just put up a crepe paper background. We printed out clip art, used scrapbook paper, and there were even some superhero masks that everyone loved. It was a hit beyond anything we could have imagined, and we’ll definitely be doing this one again (we laminated the props for easy reuse).  The kids loved not only the fact that it was fun, but also the freedom that they had to personalize it and own their pictures the way they wanted to. I’ve been having a lot of success in programs for tweens that aren’t overscheduled, that allow them to enjoy some of the freedom that’s starting to come with their age.

Have you tried anything similar at your library?

*
Our cross-poster from ALSC today is Ally Watkins (@aswatki1). Ally is a youth services librarian in Mississippi, and has worked with ages birth-18 for the last 5 years.

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16. Review – Life Or Death by Michael Robotham

9780751552898The advanced reading copy bills this as “the best novel yet from Michael Robotham” which is a big call considering his previous nine novels. While I’m not a fan of the Joe O’Loughlin novels that has nothing to do with Robotham’s writing just the fact I don’t like psychological thrillers. But what all Robotham’s books have in common is precision plotting. Robotham knows exactly how to unfurl a story, keeping you interested and guessing in equal measure. My favourite Robothom was Lost (aka The Drowning Man) which demonstrates this perfectly. But I have a new favourite Robotham now because this is beyond doubt the best novel yet from Michael Robotham.

The idea for this novel came to Robotham over twenty years ago, well before he’d written his first book. But Robotham didn’t know if or how he could pull the story off. Nine best-selling novels later he knew how he was going to do it and it was worth the wait.

Audie Palmer has spent the last ten years in prison for an armed robbery that netted 7 million dollars. Money that has never been recovered. Everybody wants to know where the money is; other prisoners, guards and various law enforcement. Audie has survived beatings, stabbings and other assaults and is finally due to be released from prison tomorrow. Except he has just escaped. And so begins an epic thriller. Nobody knows why Audie has escaped but they think it has to do with the money. As Audie’s plan unfolds we learn that there are stronger motivations than money. Motivations that people will kill for, motivations people will live for.

This is far and away the thriller of the year. It will keep you glued to end of your reading chair, it will keep you guessing until the very end and, best of all, it will break your heart.

Buy the book here…

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17. Fusenews: Hear the beat, of literary feet.

Hi ho.  Time to round-up what Jules and I have been up to over at our Wild Things blog (book promotion for bloggers means more blogging, you see).  Here’s the long and short of what you may have missed:

Whew!  We’re busy little bees, aren’t we?

  • Tra la!  It’s coming!  The greatest conference of children’s and YA literary bloggers is coming!  And Liz Burns not only has the info but also the reason such an event is cool.  Quoth she: “What I love about KidLitCon is it’s about the bloggers. Full stop. That is the primary purpose and mission of KidLitCon. It’s about what the bloggers care about. Oh, there may be authors and publishers there, presenting, and that can be great and amazing. But it’s not about them. They are there to support the blogging community: they are not there saying, what can the blogging community do for us.”  Amen, sister.  Preach!  By the way, the theme this year is Blogging Diversity in Young Adult and Children’s Lit: What’s Next?  Be there or be square.
  • So there’s a new Children’s Book Review Editor at the New York Times and by some strange quirk of fate her name is NOT alliterative (note Julie Just, Pamela Paul, and Sarah Smith).  Her name?  Maria Russo.  Which pretty much means I’ll be tracking her like a bloodhound at the next Eric Carle Honors event.  Trouble is, we don’t wear nametags at that event so I’ll probably be the crazy lady grabbing all the women, staring intently into their eyes.  Wouldn’t be the first time.

LewisTolkien 300x186 Fusenews: Hear the beat, of literary feet. I blame Saving Mr. Banks.  One little children’s writer biopic comes out where the writer isn’t seen as all kittens and sunshine (I still loathe you Miss Potter and Finding Neverland) and all hell breaks loose.  Now we hear that McG is going to do a Shel Silverstein biopic on the one hand and that there are plans to examine the relationship between C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien on the other.  I’m just counting the minutes until someone tackles Margaret Wise Brown or the whole Anne-Carroll-Moore-didn’t-like-Stuart-Little story (which you just KNOW is in the works somewhere).

  • Speaking of films, when I heard that Alan Snow’s delightful Here Be Monsters was being turned into a film called The Boxtrolls I was incredulous.  That book?  The one I couldn’t get kids to even look at until they made a blue paperback version?  I mean I liked it (it came out in a year when sentient cheese was all the rage in children’s literature) but how long was this film in production for crying out loud?  Doesn’t matter because according to iO9 it’s brilliant.  Good to know.
  • So Phil Nel, our ever intrepid professor with a hankering for children’s literature, went to ComicCon.  Best of all, he’s willing to report his findings to us (so that we don’t have to go!).  Read up on Part 1, Part 2 (my favorite for the cameo of Bananaman), Part 3, and Part 4.  Phil was there promoting his Barnaby books (which he co-edited with Eric Reynolds). These include Barnaby Volume One: 1942-1943 (2013) and Barnaby Volume Two: 1944-1945 (2014).
  • Did I know that Amanda Palmer wrote a song about what she owes to Judy Blume?  I do now.
  • This is what separates the true fangirls from the poseurs.  Thanks to the CBC for the link.
  • Two Little Free Libraries have sprung up near my home across the street from the Harlem branch of NYPL.  I couldn’t be more pleased because they mean just one thing to me . . . a place to give away my books!!!  Culling books is terribly enjoyable.  It’s also part of BookRiot’s incredibly useful post 8 Tips for Moving When You Have a Ton of Books.
  • Daily Image:

Two words. Bookish shoes.  My personal favorites include . . .

Little Prince Shoes Fusenews: Hear the beat, of literary feet.

Sherlock Shoes 500x335 Fusenews: Hear the beat, of literary feet.

Book Spine heels Fusenews: Hear the beat, of literary feet.

Remember, by the way, that my sister told you how to make some of these yourself.  Thanks to Mom for the link.

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18. Intriguing Book Illustrations by Gerard Dubois

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See more from this series >>

Gerard Dubois Website >>

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19. ONLINE SHOP - common kitchen

All this beautiful design was spotted on the Korean website 'Common Kitchen'.  This online store has lots for fans of Scandinavian style to drool over and admire. Common Kitchen have their own line of products and stock items from other brands such as Lisa Jones, Robert Kaufman, Polkka Jam, Rifle, Michael Miller and Birch fabrics. The buyers have a great eye so if you want to see a selection of

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20. The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone

The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone

The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone (Candlewick, 2003)

by Timothy Basil Ering

I have a feeling this is one of those books that you either adore to hyperbolic proportions or is completely off your radar. 

I’m in the hyperbolic proportions camp, but it’s still a book I forget about. And then when I remember, I wonder how I forgot?!

So this is an origin story, one that starts in Cementland and ends in gritty beauty.The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone by Timothy Basil Ering

The first spread is so perfect. A wide shot of Cementland, described as a dull, gray, endless place. A boy, arms open and striped in red, stands at your attention in the midst of all that gray. All of the lines and the stress and the mess lead you right to him.

This red-striped fellow believes treasure hides among the heaps of junk in Cementland, and in a triumphant moment finds a box bursting with color. Bright colored packages, but filled only with tiny gray specks.The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone by Timothy Basil EringHundreds of them. Not wondrous riches.

He plants anyway. And after two or three minutes, nothing happens.

While he’s gone, thieves root and loot the plot. So this boy–this treasure hunter, gathers smelly socks, scraggly wires, and of course, a crown, and dubs his creation Frog Belly Rat Bone, the monster who will protect the specks. 

They are a duo with a mission and a patched together friendship that pays big rewards.The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone by Timothy Basil Ering 

That’s why Timothy Basil Ering’s use of texture is the only possibility for this type of storytelling. The art is the story. It’s stitched up. It’s not slick. It’s piled up and layered and cobbled together just like Frog Belly Rat Bone himself.The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone by Timothy Basil EringThere’s warmth in the mess and intention in the scatter. It’s as beautiful as that treasure that the red-striped boy finds. And creates.The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone by Timothy Basil Eringbreaker

“…[W]hen I first made the dummy book for Frog Belly Rat Bone, naturally, I beat up some wood and sewed it all together. It gave it that nostalgic, cobbled-together look that’s just plain interesting to me. I wanted it to look like it was made the same way the little boy in the story makes Frog Belly, with just raw hand-stitching and splashes of paint.”

(That’s from here, which is a great read!)

It’s definitely one I want to share early in the year with our fourth graders who are the school’s expert gardeners. It would pair well with The Curious Garden (for obvious reasons) but also classic unlikely friendship stories. Isn’t a trash-made monster-thing with picky underwear a pretty unlikely friend? I’m thinking about Amos and Boris and Leonardo the Terrible Monster.The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone by Timothy Basil Ering

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Giveaway Update: Thanks for playing! I’ve picked the winners, but I’m going to wait until my order comes in from the bookstore to share the spoils. We had to special order a few titles. Did you know your local indie will do that for you?! And then you get to go back. Stay tuned!


Tagged: candlewick, color, texture, timothy basil ering

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21. Sleep Tight, Anna Banana! by Dominique Roques, illustrated by Alexis Dormal

Sleep Tight, Anna Banana! by Dominique Roques illustrated by Alexis Dormal marks the debut picture book from the premier publisher of graphic novels for readers of all ages, FirstSecond and it is a gem! Both the wry storytelling and the energetic illustrations call to mind one of my favorite picture book author and illustrators, Jules Feiffer, who has written his own bedtime story, which has

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22. Memory and the Great War

In honor of the 100th anniversary of World War I, we’re sharing an excerpt of Sir Hew Strachan’s The Oxford Illustrated History of the First World War. Get a sense of what it was like to live through this historic event and how its global effects still impact the world today.

The Great War haunted the last century; it haunts us still. It continues to inspire imaginative endeavour of the highest order. It invites pilgrimage and commemoration surrounded by palpable sadness. Almost a hundred years after the war, ‘The Last Post’, intoned every evening at the Menin Gate in Ypres, still summons tears. We wish it all had not happened.

We associate the war with the loss of youth, of innocence, of ideals. We are inclined to think that the world was a better and happier place before 1914. If the last century has been one of disjunction and endless surprise rather than of the mounting predictability many expected at the next-to-last fin-de-siècle, the Great War was the greatest surprise of all. The war stands, by most historical accounts, as the portal of entry to a century of doubt and agony, to our dissatisfaction.

Its extremes of emotion, both the initial jubilation and subsequent despair, are seen as a preface to the politics of extremism that took hold in Europe in the aftermath; its mechanized killing is regarded as a necessary prelude to the even greater ferocity of the Second World War and to the Holocaust; its assault on the values of the Enlightenment is seen as a nexus between indeterminacy in the sciences and the aesthetics of irony. Monty Python might never have lived had it not been for the Great War. The war unleashed a floodtide of forces that we have been unable ever since to stem. ‘Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet, Lest we forget—lest we forget!’ How in the world, Mr Kipling, are we to forget?

fig_11.1 LoC_ LC-USZ62-68359 3b15821r

Figure 11.1 from the Oxford Illustrated History of the First World War. Used with permissions from Oxford University Press.

The enthusiasm surrounding the outbreak of war many described as a social and spiritual experience beyond compare. Engagement was the hallmark of the day. ‘We have,’ wrote Rupert Brooke, ‘come into our heritage.’ The literate classes, and by then they were the literate masses—teachers, students, artists, writers, poets, historians, and indeed workers, of the mind as well as the fist—volunteered en masse. School benches and church pews emptied. Those past the age of military service enrolled in the effort on the home front.

Words, literary words, visible on the page, flowed as they had never flowed before, in the trenches, at home, and across the seven seas. The Berlin critic Julius Bab estimated that in August 1914 50,000 German poems were being penned a day. Thomas Mann conjured up a vision of his nation’s poetic soul bursting into flame. Before the wireless, before the television, this was the great literary war. Everyone wrote about it, and for it.

Not surprisingly, the Great War turned immediately into a war of cultures. To Britain and France, Germany represented the assault, by definition barbaric, on history and law. Brutality was Germany’s essence. To Germany, Britain represented a commercial spirit, and France an emphasis on outward form, that were loathsome to a nation of heroes. Treachery was Albion’s name. Hypocrisy was Marianne’s fame.

But the war was also an expression of social values. The intense involvement of the educated classes led to a form of warfare, certainly on the western front, characterized by the determination and ideals of those classes. Trench warfare was not merely a military necessity; it was a social manifestation. It was to be, in a sense, the great moral achievement of the European middle classes. It represented their resolve, commitment, perseverance, responsibility, grit—those features and values the middle classes cherished most.

And here for dear dead brothers we are weeping.
Mourning the withered rose of chivalry,
Yet, their work done, the dead are sleeping, sleeping
Unconscious of the long lean years to be.

Those lines from the Wykehamist, the journal of Winchester College, of July 1917 evoked both the passing of an age and the crisis of a culture.

‘The bourgeoisie is essentially an effort,’ insisted the French bourgeois René Johannet. The Great War was essentially an effort too. The American writer F. Scott Fitzgerald would call the war on the western front ‘a love battle—there was a century of middle-class love spent here. All my beautiful lovely safe world blew itself up here with a great gust of high-explosive love.’ Fitzgerald’s ‘lovely safe world’ was one of empire, imperial ideas, and imperial dreams. It was a world of confidence, of religion, and of history. It was a world of connections. History was a synonym for progress.

Sir Hew Strachan is a professor of the History of War at the University of Oxford, Commonwealth War Graves Commissioner, and a Trustee of the Imperial War Museum. He also serves on the British, Scottish, and French national committees advising on the centenary of the First World War. He is the editor of The Oxford Illustrated History of the First World War.

We’re giving away ten copies of The Oxford Illustrated History of the First World War to mark the 100th anniversary of World War I. Learn more and enter for a chance to win. For even more exclusive content, visit the US ‘World War I: Commemorating the Centennial’ page or UK ‘First World War Centenary’ page to discover specially commissioned contributions from our expert authors, free resources from our world-class products, book lists, and exclusive archival materials that provide depth, perspective, and insight into the Great War.

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23. Dreaming in Chicano. Writer Resource.

On this side of the curtain

Michael Sedano

For the past three weeks my home has been a hospital bed in a room shut off by a blue-green curtain from the other rooms in the surgical ward. All day and through the night noises, sounds, voices penetrate and illuminate my imagination. Who’s flirting with the nurses? Why the sudden silence? Did the helicopter that landed earlier bring in the new admit?

Somewhere out there, a family gathers in one of the rooms. Laughter and desultory chatter begins to separate into meaningfulness. Someone’s daughter is going to start college to become a teacher. Someone’s daughter is starting second grade next month. A palm slaps a thigh and voices explode with laughter.

In a few moments, a quiet melody rises and silences the chatter. Paired voices softly singing. The voices carry the natural harmony of brothers speaking in the same voice yet their own. They sing “Las mañanitas” with a practiced lilt that has developed over years of serenades for an abuelo or a mother’s birthday. Tonight the voices blend with notes of sad farewell and bound together with love reserved for an elder.

Estas son las mañanitas, que cantaba el Rey David,
Hoy por ser día de tu santo, te las cantamos a tí,
Despierta, mi bien, despierta, mira que ya amaneció,
Ya los pajarillos cantan, la luna ya se metió.

I can see them sharing a chair, arms around each other, neither vying for the lead but flowing sweetly from el mero Corazon. This is what familia sounds like. This is what love sounds like.

Que linda está la mañana en que vengo a saludarte, 
Venimos todos con gusto y placer a felicitarte, 
El día en que tu naciste nacieron todas las flores
En la pila del bautismo, cantaron los ruiseñores 
Ya viene amaneciendo, ya la luz del día nos dio, 
Levántate de mañana, mira que ya amaneció.

When the lyric ends they segue easily into English, the soft even vowels of Spanish giving the words a special tenderness that reflects this familia’s straddling of two worlds.

Happy birthday to you , Happy birthday to you, appy birthday mi vida, happy birthday to you.

I fall into contented deep sleep. The moment of pure beauty a reminder of many things, foremost the privilege of living in a bicultural world where we sing from our hearts not divided but united in our shared languages.


A Chicano Reporter Gets His Feet Wet

La Bloga friend and journalist extraordinaire, Ron Arias, sends a link to his story relating how a young Chicano writer fumbles to get started. It's Buenos Aires in the 60s and part of a collection--My Life As A Pencil. Red Bird Chapbooks will publish a selection early next year.

From the link:

About that time I also started my first full-time job as a reporter, working at the Buenos Aires Herald, which is where I learned to turn life into stories on a daily basis. But at first it was physically very painful.

Staffed mostly by journalists from the U.K., the Herald was the country's only English-language daily. On one of my first assignments, I hit the ground running, then falling, then running again. I'd been sent to cover a military coup in the streets but because a tank blocked my way and a cloud of tear-gas swept over me, my watery, stinging eyes lost focus and I kept tripping. Military takeovers, I later learned, were then almost a monthly occurrence and usually covered by the youngest legs on staff.

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24. Meet Derek Chandler from The Cowboy and the Angel by T J Kline and Giveaway!

This morning special guest Derek Chandler answers a few questions, and after, you can enter to win Rodeo Queen by TJ Kline!

[Manga Maniac Cafe]  Good morning, Derek! Describe yourself in five words or less.

[Derek Chandler]  Adorably charming, Yeah, I think that about sums it up. *wink* Unless you have anything you’d like to add?

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you share a typical day in your life?

[Derek Chandler]  That would depend on whether we’re at a rodeo or not. At a rodeo, I oversee the entire operation from meeting with the rodeo committee to making sure the judges and vets show up on time. Most of the time, I’m on horseback, running from one end of the arena to the other. On the ranch, there are animals to feed, horses to work, fences to mend, machinery to repair, bills to pay, cattle to doctor. It’s never-ending but I love being there.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words come to mind when you think of Angela?

[Derek Chandler]  Hmmm, Angel is a lot of things but I’d say the first three words that come to mind would be dangerous, determined and oh, so tempting.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What’s her most appealing quality?

[Derek Chandler]  To me, her determination to do whatever it takes to help her father, even at her own expense. She’s given up a lot for him her entire life. As much as I hate to think about all she’s had to go through, I know it’s made her the incredible woman she is today.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What just drives you nuts about her?

[Derek Chandler]  Assuming you mean a character trait, her stubborn independence. Damn but that woman wants to fight me at every turn. She thinks she knows best and still thinks she has to do everything alone. She won’t trust that there are people in her life willing to help shoulder some of the burden. We’re still working on that lesson.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you could change one thing you’ve done in your life, what would it be?

[Derek Chandler]  I’m sure some people need to think about that but I don’t. I never would have gotten involved with Liz or her schemes. I was selfish and too many people were hurt by what happened. It could have been far worse than it was but it was bad enough. Knowing I was partially responsible for that will haunt me forever, even though Sydney and Scott have forgiven me.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What’s one thing you won’t leave home without?

[Derek Chandler]  My sense of humor. Life throws me enough I need to be serious about – sick animals, traveling long distances in bad weather, two thousand pound bulls that can be unpredictable. Hell, then there’s women like Angel who knock me off my high-horse. Without a sense of humor, I’d be…well, I’d probably be my brother. That guy takes everything too seriously.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you share your dreams for the future in five words or less.

[Derek Chandler]  Family, together at the ranch.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

[Derek Chandler]  Anytime! I’m thrilled to take you out riding if you want to come by the ranch.

 

The Cowboy and The Angel

Rodeo #2

By: T.J. Kline

Releasing August 5th, 2014

Avon Impulse

Blurb

From our NaNoWriMo author T. J. Kline comes the stunning follow up to RODEO QUEEN. When a sexy cowboy falls for a not-so-angelic reporter, secrets and sparks abound.

Reporter Angela McCallister needs the scoop of her career in order to save her father from his bad decisions that have depleted their savings. When the chance to spend a week at the Findley Brothers ranch arises, she sees a chance to get a behind-the-scenes scoop on rodeo. That certainly doesn’t include kissing the devastatingly handsome and charming cowboy, Derek Chandler, who insists on calling her angel.

Derek has a rodeo to run and a chip on his shoulder. He has no time for the fiery woman who is clearly hiding something. But for some reason he can’t keep his hands off of her. Their connection is instant and explosive but Angela’s secrets could threaten his family and Derek needs to prove that he’s not the irresponsible kid brother anymore.

When the rodeo dust has settled, will the Cowboy and his Angel allow themselves to give in to the attraction that threatens to consume them both?

Link to Follow Tour: http://tastybooktours.blogspot.com/2014/06/now-booking-tasty-virtual-tour-for_9536.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22493055-the-cowboy-and-the-angel

Buy Links

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00JZOX5CM/ref=cm_sw_su_dp?tag=avonromancehc-20

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-cowboy-and-the-angel-t-j-kline/1119471859?cm_mmc=affiliates-_-linkshare-_-mdxm68jzjz8-_-10%3a1&ean=9780062370075&isbn=9780062370075&r=1

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/the-cowboy-and-the-angel-4?utm_source=linkshare_us&utm_medium=Affiliate&utm_campaign=linkshare_us&siteID=MdXm68JZJz8-ZNNsDrsxVS8YoMK7PeFdLw

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-cowboy-and-the-angel/id870615758?mt=11

Author Info

T. J. Kline was raised competing in rodeos and Rodeo Queen competitions since the age of 14 and has thorough knowledge of the sport as well as the culture involved. She has written several articles about rodeo for small periodicals, as well as a more recent how-to article for RevWriter, and has published a nonfiction health book and two inspirational fiction titles under the name Tina Klinesmith. She is also an avid reader and book reviewer for both Tyndale and Multnomah. In her spare time, she can be found laughing hysterically with her husband, children, and their menagerie of pets in Northern California.

Author Links

http://tinaklinesmith.com/

https://www.facebook.com/TKlinesmith

https://twitter.com/TinaKlinesmith

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7379969.T_J_Kline

Two Digital Copies of RODEO QUEEN by T.J. Kline

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The post Meet Derek Chandler from The Cowboy and the Angel by T J Kline and Giveaway! appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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25. SCHOOL'S OUT! Or is it . . . ? by Anna Wilson

In January I wrote about the joys of giving children notebooks and letting them run riot with their story ideas. Since then I have met many teachers and parents who have done just this. They have told me how wonderful it is to see this space being used. The freedom to write or draw whatever the child wants has fed into stories she or he has often then gone on to polish in class in structured writing time. (This has not, of course, always been a direct result of my post – many teachers and parents were already giving their children the chance to explore their writing in this way.)

I would not be blogging about this again, were it not for something I witnessed on a long train journey last week; something which had me thinking again about how constraining we can be in our approach to our children’s education and the damage that can be done when pleasure is forsaken in favour of ticking boxes and getting things ‘right’. And, perhaps more importantly, when this approach leaks into home life.

A mum got on the train with her two small daughters, whom I guessed to be about five and six, and her son, who, I thought, looked about eight. They settled into their seats and the mother brought out some pens and pencils, paper and notebooks.

The little girls immediately clamoured, ‘I want my notebook!’ ‘I am going to write you a story!’

How lovely! I thought. What a great way to spend a few hours on the train.

‘Yes,’ said the mother. ‘You each have twenty minutes to write a beautiful story, and then I will read it and check it. Now – remember I want to see “wow” words, good punctuation, proper spelling, neat handwriting and lots of interesting verbs and adjectives—’

The boy groaned loudly (or was it me?) and put his head in his hands. ‘I don’t WANT to write a story!’ he complained. ‘I don’t like writing stories and I am no good at them.’

His mother placated him with promises of chocolate biscuits if he would only ‘be good like the girls and write for twenty minutes without making a fuss’. His sisters were indeed already scribbling away and reading aloud what they had written, eager to share it with their mother. She praised them and told them to keep going for the full twenty minutes.

What is it with this twenty minutes thing? I thought. Maybe she is desperate for a bit of peace and quiet. Don’t judge! You were in this situation not so long ago yourself: long train journeys with young children are tiresome and they have to have things to do otherwise you go crazy and so do they.

The boy then handed over his story. His mother, glancing at it, said, ‘Well, that’s not very interesting, is it? You haven’t used good connectives, there are no “wow” words, your handwriting is messy and you just haven’t made an effort.’

Pretty harsh, I thought.

Then came the killer blow.

‘You really have got to start making an effort with your writing, you know,’ the mother went on. ‘Next year you will have to write for twenty minutes and put all these things into your stories. You have been on holiday for a week already and you have done no writing. You must promise you’ll concentrate on this for another twenty minutes, or you will be no good at this next year.’

I must confess that, at the time, I wanted to lean across and engage the boy in conversation. I wanted to ask him if he liked reading and, if so, what kind of stories did he like best? What about his favourite films? I wanted to get him chatting about his likes and dislikes and encourage him to scribble them down, to use this precious ‘writing time’ as a chance to let his brain go wild. I wanted to tell him that it was OK to do that, and that afterwards he could go back over his story and concentrate on the connectives and the punctuation and the neat handwriting. I wanted to say that all those things his mother was talking about were indeed important, but that perhaps the reason he hated writing so much was that he was struggling with remembering the rules; that if he could forget the rules to start with, he would then perhaps find he loved writing stories, and that he had piles and piles of them to tell. I might perhaps have added that, as a published writer, I would be paralysed if I had to write a clean first draft from the off which obeyed all the rules of Standard English . . . 

Of course I didn’t. I did not want to upset his mother – after all, it was none of my business. In any case, on reflection, it was not her behaviour with her children that upset me the most, rather the fact that she clearly felt anxious that her son was not up to scratch with his English. Indeed, she was so anxious that he improve that she was insisting he work on it over the summer holidays, and work on it in the exact same way he is required to at school. She was armed to the hilt with educational jargon and was turning this terrifying arsenal on her weary son.

I was an editor before I was fortunate enough to develop my career as a writer. I know as well as anyone the importance of good grammar and correct punctuation. I appreciate clean, clear writing and a well-structured plot. I know good dialogue when I see it. My own children will roll their eyes and tell you that I am the first person to howl at the misuse of the apostrophe on a street sign or restaurant menu. Of course I can see why we have to teach these things and why parents should care about their children’s level of competence in English.

However, it makes me extremely upset that an obsession with such technicalities has the potential to wreck a child’s love of their own language. When you are as young as that little lad, creative writing should be fun, shouldn’t it? Leaving aside the dubious value in making your child work over the summer holidays in such a joyless way, I found it heartbreaking that the mother seemed not to see the potential for fun in giving her son a notebook and letting him run riot with his imagination before giving him guidance and advice on how to hone his ideas. Even more heartbreaking, though, was the thought of how anxious the woman seemed to feel about her son attaining certain targets in the academic year to come. She cannot be alone in feeling this.

I only hope that, come September, her son will find himself fortunate to have one of the many inspirational teachers we have in this country who are still in love enough with their subject to occasionally throw out the rulebook and teach from the heart instead.


www.annawilson.co.uk

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