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1. Seb Lester's Lettering Tools

The video begins: "My name is Seb Lester. I'm a designer and artist based in the U.K. The focus of all of my work is letterforms." (Link to video)


Seb Lester's calligraphy is best known from a series of videos showing a wide range of calligraphy styles.

A freehand demo of some familiar corporate logos recently went viral. (Link to Video)
On his Facebook page, Mr. Lester has generously shared a detailed description of his lettering tools:

"In terms of broad edge tools, necessary for Gothic and Italic styles of calligraphy, Pilot Parallel Pens are good tools for beginners. These are the pens I have been using for the clips that have recently gone viral on social media and websites like Design Taxi and Buzzfeed. ‘Manuscript’ brand calligraphy fountain pens are widely available and practical beginners tools. As you advance you will probably want to start using traditional metal calligraphy nibs made by established manufacturers like Brause and Mitchell and also Automatic Pens. They can be a bit more difficult to handle but can help achieve finer, crisper results."
'How To Get Started in Calligraphy   Many hundreds of people have been asking me questions about what pens I use and how to get started in Calligraphy over the last few days. This seems like the perfect time and place to help promote the practice and appreciation of this beautiful, ancient art form. Calligraphy has been created with a wide variety of tools over the past 2,000 years or so in the West. This article describes some of them.  In terms of broad edge tools, necessary for Gothic and Italic styles of calligraphy, Pilot Parallel Pens are good tools for beginners. These are the pens I have been using for the clips that have recently gone viral on social media and websites like Design Taxi and Buzzfeed. ‘Manuscript’ brand calligraphy fountain pens are widely available and practical beginners tools. As you advance you will probably want to start using traditional metal calligraphy nibs made by established manufacturers like Brause and Mitchell and also Automatic Pens. They can be a bit more difficult to handle but can help achieve finer, crisper results.  For pointed pen calligraphy, characterised by graceful curves and strong contrasts in line width, I would recommend trying Nikko G nibs. You can use these in either a traditional or an oblique pen holder, it is a matter of personal preference. Iron Gall ink is best for this type of calligraphy. Walker’s Copperplate Ink and McCaffrey’s Ink get good results for me.  Paper is always an important consideration. The paper I often use with Pilot Parallel Pens is Daler Rowney Smooth Cartridge Paper, but any smooth cartridge paper should be fine. When I’m working on roughs for any type of calligraphy I often use layout paper and marker pads. In terms of sketch pads a lot of calligraphers like the Rhodia and Claire Fontaine brands as the paper doesn’t bleed very easily. As with everything the key is to experiment, paper with more texture can produce interesting results too.  In terms of books for inspiration I can recommend ‘Scribe: Artist of the Written Word’ by John Stevens, a true modern master. For instruction I would also suggest ‘Foundations of Calligraphy’ by the brilliant Sheila Waters. ‘Calligraphy’ by Gaye Godfrey-Nicholls was published last year, a good book for beginners. Any of ‘The Speedball Textbook’ series are also inexpensive sources of instruction and inspiration.  The key to producing beautiful calligraphy is perseverance. Progress comes through focused and sustained study and practice. You will only persevere if you enjoy what you’re doing. For this reason I’d personally suggest starting with a calligraphy style you particularly like the look of. When you have a reasonable grasp of that style you will notice many of the skills are transferable to other styles.  I feel so lucky to have found what Hermann Zapf described as “this peaceful and noble art”. My working process as a designer and artist has evolved into a hybrid style blending my knowledge of both traditional and digital tools. There are some things that computers can't do and vice versa, so I think this is a great way to work. I have a broader palette of tools at my disposal than ever before and I find this very beneficial. I feel I am becoming a better artist and designer every day, which makes me very happy. So if you want to try calligraphy just have fun. Don’t be discouraged by early failures, there will be many of those. However, I can say with lots of personal experience that success is built on failure.  Some recommended tools from the attached image. These tools reflect my personal taste and are not a definitive list. Other calligraphers would most likely recommend other tools. From top to bottom: Pilot Parallel Pen, Pentel Colour Brush, Kuretake No. 13 Fountain Brush Pen, Manuscript Italic Fountain Pen, Nikko G Nib with oblique pen holder, Automatic Pen, Copic Wide Marker, Ruling Pen.'
Top to bottom: Pilot Parallel PenPentel Colour BrushKuretake Fountain Brush PenManuscript Italic Fountain PenNikko G-Pen with oblique pen holder, Automatic PensCopic Wide MarkerRuling Pen.
"For pointed pen calligraphy, characterised by graceful curves and strong contrasts in line width, I would recommend trying Nikko G-Pen nibs. You can use these in either a traditional or an oblique pen holder, it is a matter of personal preference. Iron Gall ink is best for this type of calligraphy. Walker’s Copperplate Ink and McCaffrey’s Ink get good results for me."

"Paper is always an important consideration. The paper I often use with Pilot Parallel Pens is Daler Rowney Smooth Cartridge Paper, but any smooth cartridge paper should be fine. When I’m working on roughs for any type of calligraphy I often use layout paper and marker pads. In terms of sketch pads a lot of calligraphers like the Rhodia and Clairefontaine brands as the paper doesn’t bleed very easily. As with everything the key is to experiment, paper with more texture can produce interesting results too."

"In terms of books for inspiration I can recommend ‘Scribe: Artist of the Written Word’ by John Stevens, a true modern master. For instruction I would also suggest ‘Foundations of Calligraphy’ by the brilliant Sheila Waters. ‘Calligraphy’ by Gaye Godfrey-Nicholls was published last year, a good book for beginners. Any of ‘Speedball Textbook’ series are also inexpensive sources of instruction and inspiration."

"The key to producing beautiful calligraphy is perseverance. Progress comes through focused and sustained study and practice. You will only persevere if you enjoy what you’re doing. For this reason I’d personally suggest starting with a calligraphy style you particularly like the look of. When you have a reasonable grasp of that style you will notice many of the skills are transferable to other styles."

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2. April issue of Words without Borders

       The April issue of Words without Borders is now up -- 'Changing Landscapes and Identities: An Introduction to Tamil Writing', along with some 'New Armenian Writing by Women'.

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3. The Gift of Reading: An Open Letter


Brian O. Jordan

On March 21, 2015, I had the pleasure to share the gift of reading with the “Birdy Book Club.”   What a wonderful group of young men. I am proud of their parents and grandparents for beginning to instill the love of reading at such a young age. My parents did the same with me.

I read them my book titled, I Told You I Can Play (illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu, published by Just Us Books). This was the first time I ever did a children’s reading leveraging FaceTime on my computer and it turned out to be a good experience for the young men.  This book captures a story about my own youth and speaks to being a small child who was always told I was too young to play. The book goes on and shows how I proved to my family and others that I could play, but it took focus, determination, and dedication for me to do this. These are characteristics I like to instill in young children. I invite others to reach out and read my book I Told You I Can Play. I also have two other books that youth may enjoy and others I am working on:

Birdy Book Club members show Brian via FaceTime one of their favorite pictures from his book.

Birdy Book Club members show Brian via FaceTime one of their favorite pictures from his book.

  • Overcoming the Fear of the Baseball details a childhood experience when I was hit in the face with a fastball.  Instead of calling it quits, I was forced to face my fear and return to the baseball field where I went on to play 15 years of Major League Baseball.
  • Time-Out For Bullies discusses how my mother taught me first-hand what bullying was and how it negatively impacts children.  I then reveal how I used my athletic ability to help those dealing with bullies in my school.

Some ask why I decided to write children’s books. It came from my wanting to find ways to educate youth, get them to read, and have others learn from my experiences.   I thought I-told-You-I-Can-Play__22529_1405364701_1280_500if I could engage youth at a young age then maybe I could capture their minds to read and to learn to believe in themselves to reach their future goals. Mr. Wade Hudson from Just Us Books, Inc. in New Jersey published my first book. He heard my story and wanted to help me get started. He taught me the process of publishing a book and leveraged his best creative people to illustrate my book. I was blessed to have met Mr. Wade Hudson and what he is trying to do through Just Us Books, Inc. to get youth to read.

I went on to write and self-publish other books and at the end of the day I just really want youth to read and believe in themselves to reach their dreams. The hardest part for me about being a children’s book author is my transition. Most of the world sees me as an athlete, and yes I did play Major League Baseball and in the NFL, but I also received my education while I was in college. With that education, I knew that after sports I could transition and do multiple items. So many athletes just see themselves as that, but I knew that at some point my body would not be able to compete at those professional levels and my education from University of Richmond would take me further. Getting others to take a retired professional athlete seriously as an author has been challenging. But as people see my love for writing and reading about children and my publishing new books, this makes people realize I am serious and they are respecting me as an author.

Thank you to Kelly Starling Lyons for reaching out to me to do this children’s reading virtually. I welcome others to leverage my books to help youth develop the love of reading and to find that confidence in themselves to reach their goals.


Brian O. Jordan

Former MLB Player and NFL Player




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4. Review: Convergence #0 is The Start of Something Big

Convergence #0

Convergence (2015) 000-000


Story: Jeff King, Dan Jurgens

Art: Ethan Van Sciver

Colors: Marcelo Maiolo

Letters: Travis Lanham

Publisher: DC Comics



Event comics are like vending machnies, sometimes you get nothing. That’s been true of more recent years stuff like AXIS, INFINITY, and Image United. The other side of that lost quarter are those books that make you glad these series exist. You’ll get a Crisis on Infinite Earths, Infinity Gauntlet, or House of M where the event delivers a promise that was hyped just right. On rare occasions, comic fans can be pleasantly surprised by something going in we believe to be overhyped. That right there is the beauty of DC Comics latest event Convergence.

This zero issue gives readers an idea of what Convergence is about without really putting the gears in motion too much. Television producer Jeff King pairs with veteran comics writer Dan Jurgens to pen a prologue that answers questions you might have after reading Superman: Doomed a few months ago. Convergence #0 answers the mystery of what happened during Superman’s disappearance in the Doomed event. Readers will get a Brainiac unlike any you’ve seen before and all the Brainiacs you’ve seen before. In a way, that’s what Convergence is, everything old is new and everything new is grandiose. King and Jurgens are playing off a lot of nostalgia connected to the heart of a DC fan while trying to incorporate this new ultra Brainiac to the DCU. Seeing all the moments Superman died across all those universes is like an Easter egg hunt. Issue zero is where we get a road map of the event through New 52 Superman’s journey among the plane of domed cities. This tale is a good set up in driving home the point of what the Convergence spine series will be about and how it could potentially matter post Convergence.

Whether you love his work or not, Ethan Van Sciver was the perfect choice for Convergence. His hyper realistic style works to subtlety unify the different versions of characters we’ll see. It’s like threading popcorn through a string, each kernel will look different but ultimately you know they’re on the same line. There so many great illustrators in comics, but so few can handle the necessary scope event books need. Ethan is an artist who knows how to dial it to 11 when he needs to. Looking at these pages, the sheer level of details hidden in the panels will blow your mind. Particularly with the Daily Planets. Marcelo Maiolo’s colors are a loving compliment to all the gorgeous line work. The story has so much visual shifting that it could have been detrimental to the book, but the color work brings it all together smoothly.

Convergence (2015) 000-015

Being someone who suffers from event fatigue, Convergence #0 was a pleasant surprise. It’s the history of DCU used brilliantly as a story device and it’s one of the most visually impressive looking event books since the original Crisis. But we can’t whole heartedly recommend it without a bit of warning. The biggest reason being a zero issue should never cost $4.99. Usually these been the least expensive issues of events, sometimes even FCBD issues. This one has 28 pages of story and a 10 page guide explaining each of the universes we’ll see during the event. It’s an addition which could have easily been published online, or as a free marketing pamphlet for stores to giveaway, instead of adding to the page count. Even if this isn’t solely the reason for the price point, it certainly couldn’t have hurt their wallets to eliminate it from the printing. If you are a reader that’s been on board from the day Convergence was announced, you won’t be disappointed when you pick up the book. As for the rest of us, if you don’t mind the price point, Convergence is good… really good.


Dave and all his multiverse counter parts can be seen every morning grabbing a donut and coffee on the way to the office because we all got together and killed the one version who didn’t like that stuff, or on twitter @bouncingsoul217


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5. Heroes of History, Part II

In an earlier post I shared how students used biography picture books to practice summarizing, recognizing opposing viewpoints, and citing textual evidence. Using the four-step process modeled there, students cut to the chase to tell what was "most needed to know" about their famous man or woman from history. So what's next?

Below I've shared some of the biography extensions and report options which students have completed over the years in my classroom. I'm sure you'll find a new one to try out!

Time Machine

As students read their biography, they take the usual notes, either on a prepared outline or free hand. When writing the report, however, the students pretend that they're able to travel back in time to interview this famous person. The most important details are then summarized in a question-answer format which reads in a more interesting way than a standard report. The paragraph students generated in the four-step summary process (above) serves nicely as the interview's introduction.

I've provided a sample of the interview format, but I highly encourage you to have students brainstorm their own interview questions as well. The brainstorming and sequencing process is an excellent introduction to the research process where students will need to formulate inquiries for themselves. Students will also discover that the unique experiences of any given person will in large part dictate the type of questions which should be asked. When reading Who Says Women Can't be Doctors? by Tanya Lee Stone, for example, one of my students was amazed to discover that Elizabeth Blackwell was turned down by twenty-eight different schools in her pursuit of attending medical school. "I think I would have quit trying after the first ten schools said no," the student remarked, and I wondered what Elizabeth Blackwell herself would have said to her in return.

Some years we presented these in a talk show format, with partners playing the role of interviewer, and other years students chose to dress as the person they were portraying. 


24 Ready to Go Genre Book Reports is a wonderful teacher resource full of ideas for responding to books, and one project from this resource which students have enjoyed is creating a journal.

When I first began teaching, I assigned students a similar journal format, requiring at least three entries that reflected events from the person's childhood or teen years, university or training years, and years of notable achievement. Additional entries could be written at students' discretion.

With the popularity of scrapbooking, students began asking if they could include artifacts in their journals. Projects soon included replica photos, sketches, tickets, maps, currency, and so on. The journal covers likewise became more creative, with students creating covers that resembled television sets, suitcases, trading cards, shipping crates, cars, space shuttles, hats, jerseys, and wanted posters. 

A wonderful set of biography books which rely upon a similar concepts of "snapshots" from a person's life is the 10 Day series by David Colbert, which so far includes books on Anne Frank, Abraham LincolnThomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin, and Martin Luther King, Jr. If all students in your classroom read the same biography or autobiography, they could likewise focus on the ten most pivotal days of that person's life, with students possibly pairing up and writing a first-person account of one of these days.

As mentioned above, the paragraph students generate in the four-step summary process can serve as an introduction to the diary, as the entries themselves may not provide ample information for some readers to understand the importance of the subject's achievements.

Made in Quotes Cover
Lessons Learned

One of my students' favorite parts of the Time Machine assignment (above) is when they, in the guise of their famous person, are asked to give advice to future generations. Putting themselves "into the shoes" of this famous person and distilling the experiences of a lifetime into a bit of sage advice is a difficult yet rewarding task.

In Lessons Learned, students generate eight to ten tips that their hero might pass on to future generations. The advice can be published as beautiful quotes, using a quote making site such as Quozio, Quotes Cover, ReciteThis, or ProQuoter.

Here, the four-step biography summary is used as an introduction piece that acquaints the reader with the giver of wise counsel. The quotes themselves can be printed, or embedded into a Google Slides or similar sharing platform.


Since most students best understand a biography in strict chronological order, creating a timeline would be a good way for them to explain and illustrate important life events.

For creating an online timeline, I highly recommend Hstry.co, which I discussed at length in a previous post. Check out that post to see how easy it is to get started with Hstry.

Telescoping Story

Telescopic Text allows writers a chance to share a story just one bit at a time, while revealing small and large thoughts alike in a measured manner. You can best understand this site by checking out the site creator's example. To see how a text is entered and edited, and to see a pretty impressive Telescopic Text created by a seven year-old, check out the video below.

Students could use this site to create a slowly expanding narrative of their hero's life. What's great about the site is that it encourages elaboration, a tough topic to teach students who are often trying to write as little as possible.

Caveat: Students should register for their own accounts and learn the difference between saving and publishing (saving allows for future edits; publishing does not).

Newspaper Clipping

A newspaper clipping describing an important event from a person's life is a terrific way to get students to focus upon what really merits attention. The Fodey Newspaper Generator provides a very short format clipping (about 1000 total characters), which is just enough to provide facts without the clutter of details. The clipping to the right, for example, was created in response to A Nation's Hope: The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis, written by Matt De La Peña and illustrated by Kadir Nelson. While the picture book chronicles Louis' rise as a fighter, the newspaper clipping captures just a highlight of that life.

This newspaper generator (which I found at the Learning Never Stops blog) allows for more space and also an image, but fills in the rest of the front page with two nonsense articles. Students would need to screen shot and crop out the other articles if they didn't want them to show.

In addition to a stand-alone activity, the newspaper clipping could also be used as an artifact in the Journal assignment above (some students have also used the movie clapboard generator at the Fodey site for their journal project). 

He Said, She Said 

I previously discussed Google Story Builder in another blog, and I'm still a fan. It's a very neat way to show differing points of view. Take a second to check out my review.  

Here's a short Google Docs Story I created after reading Mary Walker Wears the Pants: The True Story of the Doctor, Reformer, and Civil War Hero, written by Cheryl Harness and illustrated by Carlo Molinari. Note that activist Mary Walker disagrees with what a fabricated nemesis named "Nathan Properbody" has to say.  

Students can create both sides of such a fictional dialogue, or two students can take on opposing roles and write from each viewpoint. The process will need some trial and error, and the resulting pieces can't be long, but it's a very different type of writing requiring some critical and creative thinking.

Looking for more tech tools to assess student learning? Be sure to check out this collection of over thirty of the best free sites I've found to assess students at all stages of learning process.

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6. Mr. Willy Wonka

Trying to put my new understanding of character design to work on some more characters. This is one of my favourite characters from one of my favourite films (I haven't read the book). I love both the original and the more recent Burton version, but being an 80's kid, Gene Wilder will always be the real Willy Wonka to me. For this design I wanted to forget both of these films. 

I based it loosely on Frank Lloyd Wright.

One of the things I loved most about Wonka in the original film and wanted to capture was his ambivalence. I remember as a kid not quite knowing whether he could be trusted or not. I hope that my design has some of that quality in it.

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7. Exclusive Excerpt: AWAKENING by Shannon Duffy

We are so please to be working with Shannon Duffy and Entangled Teen to bring you an excerpt tour for Awakening!     <!-- /* Font Definitions */ @font-face {font-family:Calibri; panose-1:2 15 5 2 2 2 4 3 2 4; mso-font-charset:0; mso-generic-font-family:auto; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:3 0 0 0 1 0;} /* Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal,

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8. Best Selling Picture Books | April 2015

This month our best selling picture book from our affiliate store is the gorgeously illustrated Sleep Like a Tiger, written by Mary Lougue and pictures by Pamela Zagarenski.

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9. Happy Book Birthday!



Illustration by Don Tate

We didn’t want to let the day end without wishing our brother Don Tate congratulations on his new picture book with Chris Barton, The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch (Eerdmans). What makes this collaboration even more special? Chris and Don are friends.

Chris suggested Don, his critique partner, as the illustrator of his story that had been years in the making. “I don’t know that I could articulate then why he would be a great artistic choice,” Chris said in this interview, ” but his style turned out to be just right both for making John Roy Lynch accessible as a person and for conveying acts of violence and terrorism in a vivid but not overwhelming way.”

The collaboration is paying off. Their book earned starred reviews from Booklist and Publishers Weekly. We’re proud of Don and Chris and look forward to seeing many more accolades. Learn more about The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch on their sites: http://www.dontate.com and http://www.chrisbarton.info.

Check out the buzz here:

“The fascinating story of John Roy Lynch’s life from slavery to his election to the U.S. House of Representatives at age 25, gets a stirring treatment here . . . Tate’s often expansive illustrations emphasize important incidents in the text. A reference to harsh laws passed by whites is coupled with a dramatic two-page spread of a whipping, a potential lynching and lots of angry white faces in the foreground, fists clenched. A small African American boy covers his eyes at the scene. The horrors of a school burning shows praying figures overshadowed by masked attackers with burning torches. The emphasis in other illustrations is on faces, full of emotion add to the power of the telling and the rich soft tones of Tate’s palette welcome the eye to linger.”

- Booklist, starred review

“Barton offers an immersive, engaging, and unflinching portrait of the difficulties of the Reconstruction era, while Tate’s cartoonlike artwork softens moments of cruelty and prejudice without diminishing them.”

- Publishers Weekly, starred review

“A picture book worth reading about a historical figure worth remembering.”

- Kirkus

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10. Social Media Etiquette

What not to do when using social media.

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11. Targeting Autism: Serving Library Patrons on the Spectrum


Did you know that April is National Autism Awareness Month? According to the latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 1 in 68 children have been identified with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) nationwide.  This dramatic increase is no doubt affecting how libraries provide programs and services that are inclusive and welcoming to those with ASD.  Because of that, the state of Illinois has kickstarted the conversation with Targeting Autism: A National Forum on Serving Library Patrons on the Spectrum.

In 2014, the Illinois State Library was awarded an Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) National Leadership Forum Grant to help libraries better serve patrons and family members impacted by Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). This project explores how libraries can work with diverse community organizations and programs to address the topic of ASD, through training, education and support services. The primary goals of the Targeting Autism Forum include:

    • Build a shared appreciation of the challenges and opportunities associated with acquiring information on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
    • Identify leadership roles for community libraries in improving community supports and services for individuals with ASD
    • Begin fostering stakeholder alignment around a community library ASD initiative
    • Begin developing a shared vision of success for a state library initiative on ASD
    • Identify next steps

The majority of the participation and conversation will take place at two Autism Stakeholder Forums, which were scheduled for March and September of 2015.  This past March, nearly 80 individuals came together representing various stakeholder groups including libraries, schools, institutions of higher education, health services professionals, government agencies, ASD service organizations, and parent advocates.  The idea behind the Forums is to inform the creation of an implementation plan.  With this plan, the state of Illinois hopes to achieve the following:

  1. Increase ASD awareness, education, and support services
  2. Improve adn streamline online access to the wealth of information intended to provide support for families and indiviuals with ASD
  3. Ensure sustainable, inter-organizational partnerships committed to enhancing ASD support, state-wide

The March Forum offered a wealth of information and inspiration provided by variety of experts and advocates.  Among the presenters included self-advocate Adria Nassim from Adria’s Village, who discussed her experience as a reader, a library user, and a person with autism.  Participants also heard from former librarian Barbara Klipper about her book Programming for Children and Teens with Autism Spectrum Disorder, as well as Nancy Farmer, who highlighted content from her book Library Services for Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders.  Dan Weiss discussed his experience partnering with libraries across the state of New Jersey in collaboration on a project called Libraries and Autism: We’re Connected.  In addition, forum participants heard from a panel entitled “Training Librarians: What’s Being Done (or Not).”  This included a panel of professors from Syracuse University School of Information, Florida State University College of Communication and Information, Dominican University Graduate School of Library and Information Science, and UIUC Graduate School of Library and Information Science.  All of the presentations from the March Forum are available on Youtube, so you don’t have to be an Illinois librarian to learn from what the Forum has to offer.

What can you do to help contribute to this effort?  Targeting Autism has launched a nationwide effort to collect personal stories that describe an individual’s connection to autism and a statement as to why this initiative is important.  Positive, negative, constructive–all experiences are welcome to help inform this process. Simply click here and submit your personal story to Suzanne Schriar, Targeting Autism Project Director.  We would love to have your input!

In the meantime, follow the Targeting Autism blog, join the conversation, and think about what you and your library can do today and every day to be a more welcoming place to people with autism.


Renee Grassi is the Youth Department Director at the Glen Ellyn Public Library in Glen Ellyn, Illinois.  She is also a “Targeting Autism” Board member.  In 2012, she was recognized by Library Journal as a Mover & Shaker for her work serving children with autism and other special needs.  She is also one of the co-founding members of SNAILS, a state-wide networking group in Illinois for librarians and library staff who discuss and learn about expanding library services to those with special needs.  As a proud ALSC member and a former ALSC Blogger, she has written on the blog about a variety of topics related to inclusive library services. 

The post Targeting Autism: Serving Library Patrons on the Spectrum appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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12. EASTER - store snaps

To round off four days of seasonal Easter design I have a few snap shots of cards spotted in stores. The first few are from publisher Paper Salad snapped in a local independent department store. Also snapped colourful eggs (above) from Rachel Ellen and below three cards from Laura Darrington's 'Festive Folk' collection. Below : Finally a small Easter selection

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13. Australia’s Blinky Bill Goes CG for Upcoming Film

An icon of Australian children's entertainment is rebooted in CGI.

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14. A Boy and a Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz, illustrated by Cátia Chien

A Boy and a Jaguar, illustrated by Cátia Chien, is the moving memoir by Alan Rabinowitz of his childhood love of animals and the stuttering that shaped him and informed his life as an adult. Rabinowitz's story is told in an elegantly simple style and has an element of the almost-magical that reads like a fairy tale and Chien's illustrations, sometimes hazy and moody, sometimes brightly

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15. National. Poetry. Month!

Ahhh, April! You come in with Foolishness and sustain us with poetry all month long.

This year here at Gottabook... well... there is no master plan for celebrating the month. I have put a pin in 30 Poets/30 Days for now, though it may very well be back in 2016. And this year, unlike when I began here in 2006, I'm not posting an original poem a day, either. There will be poetry love here during the month, no doubt, but there's not an ongoing thang.

Luckily, throughout the kidlitosphere, many others are celebrating in big, clear ways, so I'm going to send you to this great list of fun goings-on compiled by Jama at Jama's Alphabet Soup.

I look forward to seeing you here, there, and everywhere during April (and beyond)!

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16. The 20 Average Novel Word Count Lengths - #WriteTip

A good general rule to follow for novel word count should be: 

middle grade = 30k to 69k, average word count 50k
(Examples of published books: Coraline is 30,640 and Gingerbread is 44,510 and Mockingbird is 36,466.)

young adult fiction = YA from about 55k to 85
(It seems that paranormal YA or YA fantasy can occasionally run as high as 90k because of the world-building needed. Of course there is always the exception on word counts in YA. Twilight  is 118,975 and New Moon is 132,758. Beautiful Creatures is 147,695 and A Great and Terrible Beauty is 95,605.)

cozy mysteries = 75k to 90k  

paranormal romance = 80k to 100k 

contemporary romance = 90k to 95k  

short story = 1,000 - 7,500 words
(The ’regular’ short story, usually found in periodicals or anthology collections. Most ’genre’ zines will feature works at this length.)

novella = 20,000 - 50,000 words
(Although most traditional publishers will balk at printing a novel this short, this is perfect for the eBook publishers. The online audience doesn’t always have the time or the patience to sit through a 100,000 word novel.) 

mysteries, thrillers and crime fiction = from 75k to 90k. (Historical mysteries and noir can be around 90k to 100k. Most other mystery/thriller/crime novels should be  around  90k to 110k.)

mainstream/commercial fiction = 85k to 100k 
(Some chick lit can be around 90k and literary fiction can run as high as 110k.) 

science fiction or fantasy =  100k 
(Most editors want these types of manuscripts at 100k, which is the ideal manuscript size for a good space opera or fantasy. For a truly spectacular epic fantasy, some editors will consider manuscripts at 120k, but rarely.)

futuristic/sf /time travel = 90k to 110k 

space opera = 90k to 120k 

epic /high/ traditional/ historical = 90k to 120k

contemporary thriller/drama = 90k to 100k 

urban fantasy = 80k to 120k 
(The Better Part Of Darkness is over 90k)

steampunk = 75k to 95k

high fantasy = 80k to 125k 

mainstream fiction = 80k to 110k

horror  = 85k to 100k

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You'll find most agents and editors prefer unpublished manuscripts at 100,000. No more--no less. However, ALWAYS check an agent or publishers word count guidelines before submitting.

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Other posts on Novel Word Counts:


Novel Doctor (this blog is hilariously funny and also very insightful for new writers)

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17. Tim Gunn

If you’ve watched Project Runway
Then you know its starring role
Isn’t model or designer
But Tim Gunn, its heart and soul.

His is mentor and advisor
And the one who keeps the peace.
He’s the shoulder folks can cry on
When some tears need a release.

With his pocket squares and pin stripes,
In each jazzy suit and shirt,
He’s both classy and flamboyant,
Like some elegant dessert.

On the stage to answer questions
He was witty, wise and charming
And his penchant for the truth
Struck me as utterly disarming.

All the audience delighted
In this star of Project Runway.
I felt privileged to listen
To the stories told Tim Gunn way!

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18. Burmese literary festival

       The Irrawaddy Literary Festival was 28 to 30 March, and in The Guardian Margaret Simons reports on Water shortages, factions and free speech at Burma's Irrawaddy literary festival.
       Among her observations:

Very few Burmese writers are internationally known. The Asia-based literary agent Kelly Falconer, who attended the festival with some of her authors, acknowledges that Burma has yet to produce the book that defines its recent history in the international imagination. It has had no Solzhenitsyn, and no equivalent to Jung Chang's Wild Swans, which carried the Chinese story into popular awareness when that country began to open up.

Falconer says: "Who is going to write that book for Myanmar ? We are waiting to find out who they are, and we are waiting for Burmese writers to find out who we are." Because Burma has been so closed for so long, that there is hardly any awareness of what international literary recognition means. Writers have been working in a vacuum.
       While no doubt (?) such books need to be written, personally I have ... limited, at best, interest in: 'the book that defines its recent history in the international imagination'. (Indeed, I find the 'international imagination' -- and playing to it/writing for it -- rather suspect.) What I'm really curious about is what they produced or are producing -- especially what they're producing with 'hardly any awareness of what international literary recognition means', in that vacuum she's talking about. That sounds interesting, in this globalized world .....
       (Ever hopeful, there's been an index of Burmese Literature at the site for a while -- but, alas, there are still just two bona fide Burmese works of fiction to be found there. Here's hoping more gets translated soon.)

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19. Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards

       They've announced the winners of the 80th (!) Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards -- "the only national juried prize for literature that confronts racism and examines diversity".
       None of the five winning titles are under review at the complete review.

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20. EASTER 2015 - round-up

It's the last day before the Easter holidays begin and I have a last minute selection of cards to showcase the work of some fab artists. The first is Jessica Hogarth who creates some really striking and contemporary greetings cards. Her Easter designs are no exception and can be found in her online store here or at Not on the High Street. Below ; Several quirky Easter designs from La

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21. A Letter to THE THIRD TWIN by CJ Omololu

by Becca THE THIRD TWINby CJ OmololuAge Range: 12 and up Grade Level: 7 and upHardcover: 336 pagesPublisher: Delacorte Press (February 24, 2015)Goodreads | Amazon Identical twins. Identical DNA. Identical suspects. It’s Pretty Little Liars meets Revenge in this edge-of-your-seat thriller with a shocking twist. When they were little, Lexi and her identical twin, Ava, made up a third sister,

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22. New Adult Fiction Genre - Contemporary Romance - #WriteTip

There is a new genre emerging..."New Adult" fiction for older teens aka college-aged readers. You never stop growing up, but little in the market seems to address the coming-of-age that also happens between the ages of Nineteen to Twenty-six. Life changes drastically once high school is over, you have college, first jobs, first internships, first adult relationships…

Part of the appeal of NA is that the storylines are about characters who are taking on adult responsibilities for the first time without guidance from their parents. And the storylines generally have a heavy romance element. 

Keep this in mind as you revise your wonderful story, New Adult books are mostly about that specific time in every person's life—the time when the apron strings are cut from your parents, you no longer have a curfew, you're experiencing the world for the very first time, in most cases, with innocent eyes. New Adult is this section of your life where you discover who you want to be, what you want to be, and what type of person you will become. This time defines you. This is the time of firsts, the time where you can't blame your parents for your own bad choices. 

An NA character has to take responsibility for their own choices and live with the consequences. Most storylines are about twenty-something (18 to 26) characters living their own lives without any parents breathing down their necks, and learning to solve things on their own as they would in real life. New Adult fiction focuses on switching gears, from depending on our parents to becoming full-fledged, independent adults.

I am a firm believer that if you’re going to write a certain genre that you should read it, too. So I’m going to recommend that you start devouring NA novels to get a real sense and understanding of the genre before you write one.

Here are some great recommendations: https://www.goodreads.com/genres/new-adult-romance and http://www.goodreads.com/genres/new-adult and https://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/new-adult-romance

Just as YA is fiction about teens discovering who they are as a person, New Adult (NA) is fiction about building your own life as an actual adult. As older teen readers discover the joy of the Young Adult genres, the New Adult—demand may increase. This, in turn, would give writers the chance to explore the freedom of a slightly older protagonist (over the age of 18 and out of high school, like the brilliant novel, "BEAUTIFUL DISASTER" by the amazing talents of author, Jamie McGuire) while addressing more adult issues that early 20-year-olds must face.

Older protagonists (basically, college students) are surprisingly rare; in a panel on YA literature at Harvard’s 2008 Vericon, City of Bones author talked about pitching her novel, then about twenty-somethings, as adult fiction. After several conversations, Clare realized she had to choose between adults and teens. She went with teens.

Quote from the publisher, St. Martin’s Press: We are actively looking for great, new, cutting edge fiction with protagonists who are slightly older than YA and can appeal to an adult audience. Since twenty-somethings are devouring YA, St. Martin’s Press is seeking fiction similar to YA that can be published and marketed as adult—a sort of an “older YA” or “new adult.” In this category, they are looking for spunky but not stupid, serious but not dull, cutting-edge, supernatural stories.

Quote from Georgia McBride, author (Praefatio) and founder of #YALitChat and publisher at Month9Books: "New Adult is a fabulous idea in theory, and authors seem to be excited about it. But in a world where bookstores shelf by category, to them, it is either  Adult or Young Adult. Some booksellers even call their YA section “teen.” And when you have a character who is over a certain age (19 seems to be the age most consider the start of New Adult), it is received as Adult. In some cases, the designation by publishers causes more confusion than not.
Let’s face it, YA is associated with teens, and at 19, most no longer consider themselves teens. So, it would support the theory of placing these “New Adult” titles in the Adult section. However, with the prevalence of eBook content, it would seem that the powers that be could easily create a New Adult category if they really wanted to...."

There’s also a list on goodreads of New Adult book titles. These books focus on college age characters, late teens to early twenties, transitioning into the adult world.

Some popular authors of the NA category include:
  • Jamie McGuire
  • Jessica Park
  • Tammara Webber
  • Steph Campbell
  • Liz Reinhardt
  • Abbi Glines
  • Colleen Hoover 
  • Sherry Soule

Would you buy New Adult books? 
Does the genre appeal to you? 

Does it sound better than YA (teen novels)? 
Or are you happy with YA as it stands?

Do you consider YA to include characters that are over the age of eighteen? 

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23. NPM Project: Jumping Into Form - Renga

Renga is an ancient Japanese form of collaborative poetry. The Renga platform in the UK provides this introduction for beginners.
A renga is a series of short verses linked into one long poem, composed collaboratively by a group. Each constituent verse must make sense independently. It should also connect in some way with the verses that follow and precede. The verses alternate between 3-lines and 2-lines throughout.

The opening verse of a renga is called the hokku. It takes the same form as haiku -three short lines. A renga opens with some reference to the season of composition and moves - not necessarily in orderly sequence - through all four seasons, generally ending with a spring verse. Seasonal themes are generally sustained for at least a couple of verses, and the passage from one season to the next is often broken by one or more non-seasonal verses.

Seasonal reference is made through the use of a season-word, which may be obvious, like ‘autumn rain’ or ‘snow’, or more subtle, for instance, ‘watermelon’ for summer. Season words include cultural as well as natural references; for instance, you might use April Fool's Day for spring. The two key principles of renga are link and shift. Link means that each verse should connect in some way with its immediate predecessor. Shift means that, with the exception of the link just noted, each verse should move on, drawing on imagery, which is new (for that particular renga). That is, repetition is to be avoided. Even when linking, although there will be some implicit connection, actual words and phrases should not be repeated.
Birds On A Wire: A Renga 'Round Town (2008, OP), written by J. Patrick Lewis & Paul Janeczko and illustrated by Gary Lippincott, is a series of interlinked verses that describe life in a small town on a single day. Instead of the usual renga pattern with authors alternating each verse, the poets here have chosen to alternate PAIRS of verses. They do acknowledge this break from tradition in the introduction, explaining that "We each wrote five lines and broke them into three-line and two-line stanzas.'

The introduction to this book actually provides quite a bit of information about the form. Here's an excerpt.
What, you might be wondering, is a renga? Like a haiku, a renga is an ancient Japanese verse from in which poets take turns adding verses. The word is both singular and plural, like sheep or salmon. A renga (meaning "linked verse") isn't nearly as well known as a haiku, and that's too bad because haiku really evolved from renga. 
A traditional renga is written by two or more poets. The first poet writes three lines (similar to haiku), the second poet follows that with two lines, the first poet comes back with another three lines, then two, three, two, and son on. Like railroad cards in a line, each verse links in some way with the one preceding it, but not with the others. That means that each new verse can send you off in a completely different direction. And the next poet must discover how to connect to the new verse.
The book opens at the beginning of a day with these verses.

in the blizzard
of apple blossoms,
a road edged in white

        old spotted hound
        stops to sniff

As readers are taken on a trip through this small town they encounter a creek, grasshopper, florist, doughnuts, a hardware store, old Ferris wheel, ballpark, and much more. By the end of the journey, readers have had a lovely glimpse into small town life.

My favorite verse from the book hearkens to a poem of William Carlos William's that I love.

glazed with rain
a red wheelbarrow headstands
by the hardware store

        the old doctor recalls
        childhood barnyard

Poems ©J. Patrick Lewis & Paul Janeczko, 2008. All rights reserved.

If you wish to try writing renga in the classroom, you need to settle on some rules that will work for you and your kids. I particularly like those set out at My Need to Write in a post entitled How To Write Poetry: Renga.

You may also find some helpful resources at these sites.

Finally, here is a renga project you should be aware of. Even though it isn't meant for the elementary classroom, it will give you a feel for the the beauty and challenge of writing a renga.

In 2011, a group of 54 poets contributed 10 lines each to one poem about America. Called Crossing State Lines: An American Renga, this amazing collaboration includes the likes of Robert Pinsky, Rita Dove, Philip Levine, Edward Hirsch, Billy Collins, and more. This project was commissioned by America: Now and Here, an organization founded by Eric Fischl to promote conversation about contemporary America through the arts. This 45 minute film is a reading of the resulting renga.
Crossing State Lines: An American Renga from Drew Harty on Vimeo.

NPR also did a story on this project. You can hear Carol Muske-Dukes, one of the book's editors and a poet, along with two additional poets talk about the project in the piece 'Crossing State Lines': 54 Writers, One American Poem.

It's hard to pick a favorite here, but I'm quite drawn to these lines by Edward Hirsch.

How many state lines did we cross
as we drove across a wide country
sometimes divided sometimes united

Every state is a state of mind

Every love is a drive
toward a move perfect union

I hope you've enjoyed this brief introduction to the renga. I'll be back tomorrow with another Asian poetic form.

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24. Review and Giveaway of DON'T TRY TO FIND ME by Holly Brown

To celebrate the release of the paperback copy of


Onalee Smith of Harper Collins has a copy for one lucky reader


Meeting someone online and falling in love is wonderful.  Yes, it is wonderful but not when you are fourteen and he is twenty-nine and has lied to you about a lot of things including his name.

Marley met Brandon on a social media site, and he talked her into leaving her family and joining him for a life together.  But...she couldn't take her computer, her phone, or even go out of the house once she arrived.

As Marley traveled by bus to meet Brandon, on the other side of the country, her parents were frantically looking for her with no clues at all.  Marley wiped out everything on all devices so no trace of where she was could be discovered.

This nightmare was real for Marley’s parents, Rachel and Paul.  They used social media to start a site named FindMarley.com

This book discussed a lot of social issues and showed the dangers of social media’s influence on youth as well as its ability to aid in getting cross-country exposure about a runaway.

The characters were difficult to like. I wanted to shake Marley. I definitely disliked Brandon.  I wasn't even fond of Rachel or Paul.

But, despite the unlikeable characters, DON’T TRY TO FIND ME had me glued to the pages and had my heart racing.  The suspense was quite high.  My fear for Marley had me tense while I was reading the book as well as when I was waiting to return to see what was going to happen.  I still am anxious as I am writing this...definitely the sign of a GOOD book.

If you like to be kept on the edge of your seat, don’t miss reading DON’T TRY TO FIND ME.  It was a quick read, but very intense.  It could even be called a thriller.

My rating is going to be a 4/5 because parts of the book were a bit too descriptive, but the anxiety and apprehension as each scene took place made it a terrific read.

This book was given to me free of charge and without compensation by the publisher in return for an honest review.


April 2 - April 9

USA entries ONLY

Click here to enter the contest. 

**The Celebrate image courtesy of:



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25. Wingfest

Wingfest is a poetry and flight contest conducted by the birds of Faradawn Island, which the characters from The Fog Mound visit in Book Two of the trilogy, Faradawn, by Susan Schade and Jon Buller, Simon and Schuster, 2007.

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