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1. Thoughtful Feedback

One way to become a community of writers is to leave thoughtful feedback.

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2. Murphy's Ghost

I was not surprised at the shuffling of feet beyond the high wooden fence. It was Halloween night and I was working my first shift as night watchman in the old lumber company where my grandfather had worked for thirty years. They say, at the end, the owner would send a car for old Tom to take him, in comfort, the two miles each way he had walked for so long. There were children and parents walking the streets outside the yard, sometimes explosions of firecrackers in the distance. It was an old lumber yard, a throwback to the glory days of Bytown when timber was king. I walked around the perimeter wooden fence, checked that the big doors to the yard and garage were locked, wandered into the little kitchen for a cup of tea. I knew that drinking too much caffeine on graveyard shifts could have disastrous consequences when the lack of sleep eventually caught up to you, but this was my first shift, Halloween night and tea didn’t seem as dangerous as coffee. I wasn’t one to be superstitious and all the leprechauns and little people and faeries of Irish folklore weren’t foremost in my thoughts except when I remembered my mother who was born in Galway and believed in it all. I had bad dreams about the freezecat but that’s another story. There were three mugs set out in the kitchen at the back of the office. I dropped a teabag into one, plugged in the kettle and checked that day’s Sun girl. The knocking at the office door sounded normal. Maybe some of the trick or treaters outside had seen the kitchen light. I walked through the dark office. As I reached for the doorknob I heard the words “No need for that” I couldn’t believe my eyes when a man walked right through the door and shook my outstretched hand. “Tom, Tom Wheeler, your grandfather, and you’ll know Murphy” To my astonishment another figure stepped through the closed door and shook the hand which my grandfather had just squeezed. I felt it. I know they both squeezed my hand. I recognized my grandfather by pictures I’d seen. He had a large head, a bald pate and a perpetual smile. My irreverent friends would have called him “wingnut” because of his large ears, but not to his face. Murphy’s theory was the reason I was here in the first place. His theory of gambling on sporting events hit a few rough spots when I tried it after his death. Or maybe I didn’t get the full gist of it. Whatever happened, I lost my shirt over those bets and was forced to take this job. The last time I’d seen Murphy he was sitting up in his casket with my coffee cup in his hands and a brawl going on all around him. They made their way through the office to the kitchen where my grandfather refilled the kettle and washed out an old teapot. He made tea while Murphy and I sat down at the table. I wasn’t sure what to do about it and the manners of these two ghosts, for that is what they must be, were impeccable. “I thought we came here to decide” said Murphy, filling his pipe. “Yes, we can decide tonight, all right. Tonight’ll be the night we’ll decide” Tom said as he set the pot down on the table to steep and pulled up a chair. He too filled his pipe. “You didn’t follow through on the system I told you about just before I died” Murphy said to me. “What do you mean?” I piped up. “A team usually loses at home the first game after a road trip. That’s part of it. There were a few more tricks of the trade which you failed to employ when you made those bets. You would have bet the opposite and cleaned up if you had” Murphy lined up the sugar and milk near his cup just behind the spoon. “Hm” I grunted. Tom poured tea into our cups and spoke to Murphy as he added his sugar. “I think three” Murphy took his time, measured his sugar carefully with his spoon, added milk and stirred the combination vigorously. “After a lot of thought, I have to conclude that the answer is two” A long silence broken only by the sounds of tea drinking and the unwrapping of a package of biscuits Tom had produced. Peak Freans. “Maybe, if they were doing a proper Irish jig. But even then, with the footwork, you’d have to hope they were once Irish in order not to step on each other’s toes.” “See, three is the superior number” Tom answered,” being half again what your number two is It could be easily done by three angels dancing a Highland fling on the head of a pin” My grandfather’s father was a stonemason from Putney but his wife was a Ross from the Highlands and he defended the northern clan at every opportunity. “We’re not talking about a needle here” Murphy proclaimed. “The thick end with the eye in it. Only Irish angels could dance on the head of a pin and there’d only be room for two of them” Tom disappeared for a moment behind a cloud of grey smoke from his pipe. Anger showed on his countenance when he reappeared. “Three Scottish angels could do it” Before I knew what was happening they had jumped up and were circling the table, Murphy with a large shillelagh, Tom with a battle axe. I sat still and watched. Murphy swung a vicious two hander which caught Tom in the neck. His head was clearly separated from his shoulders but just popped up and landed back in its spot. It was facing the wrong way, but Tom adjusted it and caught Murphy on the side at hip level thereby cutting him in two with the axe. Murphy separated in the middle but his upper body, after popping up, returned to the bottom half at the waist. I could hear laboured breathing as they sparred and clashed but no more than the sounds of two old men exerting themselves. Finally, they put aside their weapons, drank tea, smoked their pipes and resumed the debate. “Two is a balanced number, equal on both sides of its duality” Murphy declared out loud. “Well, we could add them together to equal five or put them side by side and come up with thirty two” offered agreeable Tom. One of his brothers had been an accountant. “Ihirty two would be a little crowded on the head of a pin” Murphy observed. Both disappeared behind clouds of grey smoke as they contemplated the problem with newly fired pipes. “The angels would have to step lively all right” Tom observed. “Thirty two Scottish angels could do a Highland Reel on the head of a pin” he declared. “Mind you, they’d need eight circles for the teams of four” “Hm” responded Murphy. “I could see putting them side by side and coming up with twenty three” I was wondering if they would again arise to resume hostilities but all they did was wash and dry the cups together like an old married couple. I could hear them mumbling to each other as they stood at the sink with their backs to me. My disbelief was in a suspended state. Except that it wasn’t a trick in my head. They sat down at the table again and looked across the office to the front door. The knock on the front door came after a long minute of waiting. I made to rise but Tom put up his hand to stop me and Murphy said “Shh” The door never opened but four little men carried a log fire with a bubbling pot slung above it through the office to where we were sitting in the kitchen. Behind them a mad cackle blended with the whooshing sound of a wild wind and a dark figure flew through the wall, did two circuits of the office and landed deftly behind the pot. My mouth was hanging open when I looked at my grandfather and Murphy. Both nodded and smiled at the woman in front of us. “Hello, Zelda” they said. “Boys” the woman spoke while her appearance changed like fluid before my eyes. First she was an old hag, then a beautiful maiden, then an ancient crone with a wart on her nose and finally she settled on a plump milkmaid who peered curiously into the pot. “This is Steve, Tom’s grandson and an old friend of mine” Murphy spoke up. “He’s on the other side, is he?” she stirred the bubbling broth with great concentration. “Yes, he’s still there” Murphy nodded agreeably “But not for much longer” This conversation troubled me. “And how’s tricks and treats tonight then, Zelda?” Tom inquired. Zelda turned into a smartly dressed businesswoman while she surveyed the pot and the four little men. Were they elves or goblins or gnomes? I didn’t know and no one was telling. “It used to be better in the old days” she said “You can’t scare anybody any more. Then there’s all the white witches. Dogooders I call them. I mean you can be spooky without being evil” She joined Murphy and Tom in puffing on a pipe. With all four of the little men smoking their pipes as well, we disappeared for a moment until the cloud moved on. There was no smoke from the fire under the pot though, I will say that. As if on a prearranged signal, the little men picked up the fire and pot, waited till Zelda stepped out of the way, carried it through the office and the closed front door. Zelda watched them go, an ever changing expression on her ever changing face. “Goodbye, boys. I sensed you were in the neighbourhood and thought I’d drop by to say hello. See you round” She did a high speed circuit of the darkened office, one second mounting her broom, the next a black blur, the next gone through the wall. After this display my grandfather produced a pint of single malt Highland whiskey and Murphy found a pint of Black Bush in his pocket. The tea mugs were used to share the shots. “Tell you what” said Murphy “We’ll meet next Halloween night here and decide for good” “Agreed” said Tom “Next Halloween night. That long enough for you?” “Oh yes. By that time there won’t be any doubt. I’ll know by then” “Same here” said Tom. They stood and proferred their hands. Each squeezed my outstretched one. As I followed them across the office, Tom said “Halloween night is over here now. But it’s just starting west of here” They waved goodbye and walked through the door. I opened it and watched them walk to the outer fence. They turned to me. “I’ll say hello to your Dad” Tom spoke in a loud voice. “And don’t bet on anything more than five to one” Murphy shouted They turned west and walked through the fence. Up in the sky, silhouetted against the full moon, Zelda flew by on her broomstick. I walked back to the kitchen to turn out the lights. I felt that glorious buzz which just the right amount of good whiskey produces. It was time to do my rounds and make sure nothing strange was happening in the yard that Halloween night.

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3. Review of the Day: Grandmother Fish by Jonathan Tweet

grandmotherfish1Grandmother Fish: A Child’s First Book of Evolution
By Jonathan Tweet
Illustrated by Karen Lewis
Feiwel and Friends (an imprint of Macmillan)
ISBN: 978-1250113238
Ages 3-6
On shelves now

Travel back with me through the Earth’s history, back into the farthest reaches of time when the sand we walk today was still rock and the oceans of an entirely salination. Back back back we go to, oh about 13 years ago, I’d say. I was a library grad student, and had just come to the shocking realization that the children’s literature class I’d taken on a lark might actually yield a career of some sort. We were learning the finer points of book reviewing (hat tip to K.T. Horning’s From Cover to Cover there) and to hone our skills each of us was handed a brand new children’s book, ready for review. I was handed Our Family Tree: An Evolution Story by Lisa Westberg Peters, illustrated by Lauren Stringer. It was good, so I came up with some kind of a review. It was, now that I think about it, the very first children’s book review I ever wrote (talk about evolution). And I remember at the time thinking (A) How great it was to read a picture book on the topic and (B) That with my limited knowledge of the field there were probably loads and loads of books out there about evolution for small children. Fun Fact: There aren’t. Actually, in the thirteen years between then and now I’ve not seen a single evolution themed picture book come out since the Peters/Stringer collaboration. Until now. Because apparently two years before I ran across Our Family Tree author Jonathan Tweet was trying to figure out why there were so few books on the subject on the market. It took him a while, but he finally got his thoughts in order and wrote this book. Worth the wait and possibly the only book we may need on the subject. For a while, anyway.

Let’s start with a fish. We’ll call her Grandmother Fish and she lived “a long, long, long, long, long time ago.” She did familiar fishy things like “wiggle” and “chomp”. And then she had ancestors and they turned out to be everything from sharks to ray-finned fish to reptiles. That’s when you meet Grandmother Reptile, who lived “a long, long, long, long time ago.” From reptiles we get to mammals. From mammals to apes. And from apes to humans. And with each successive iteration, they carry with them the traits of their previous forms. Remember how Grandmother Fish could wiggle and chomp? Well, so can every subsequent ancestor, with some additional features as well. The final image in the book shows a wide range of humans and they can do the things mentioned in the book before. Backmatter includes a more complex evolutionary family tree, a note on how to use this book, a portion “Explaining Concepts of Evolution”, a guide “to the Grandmothers, Their Actions, and Their Grandchildren for your own information to help you explain evolution to your child”, and finally a portion on “Correcting Common Errors” (useful for both adults and kids).

grandmotherfish1What are the forbidden topics of children’s literature? Which is to say, what are the topics that could be rendered appropriate for kids but for one reason or another never see the light of day? I can think of a couple off the top of my head, an evolution might be one of them. To say that it’s controversial in this, the 21st century, is a bit odd, but we live in odd times. No doubt the book’s creators have already received their own fair share of hate mail from folks who believe this content is inappropriate for their children. I wouldn’t be too surprised to hear that it ended up on ALA’s Most Challenged list of books in the future. Yet, as I mentioned before, finding ANY book on this subject, particularly on the young end of the scale, is near impossible. I am pleased that this book is filling such a huge gap in our library collections. Now if someone would just do something for the 7-12 year olds . . .

When you are simplifying a topic for children, one of the first things you need to figure out from the get-go is how young you want to go. Are you aiming your book at savvy 6-year-olds or bright-eyed and bushy-tailed 3-year-olds? In the case of Grandmother Fish the back-story to the book is that creator Jonathan Tweet was inspired to write it when he couldn’t find a book for his daughter on evolution. We will have to assume that his daughter was on the young end of things since the final product is very clearly geared towards the interactive picture book crowd. Readers are encouraged to wiggle, crawl, breathe, etc. and the words proved capable of interesting both my 2-year-old son and my 5-year-old daughter. One would not know from this book that the author hadn’t penned picture books for kids before. The gentle repetition and clincher of a conclusion suggest otherwise.

One problem with turning evolution into picture book fare is the danger of confusing the kids (of any age, really). If you play it that our ancestors were monkeys, then some folks might take you seriously. That’s where the branching of the tree becomes so interesting. Tweet and Lewis try hard to make it clear that though we might call a critter “grandmother” it’s not literally that kind of a thing. The problem is that because the text is so simple, it really does say that each creature had “many kinds of grandchildren.” Explaining to kids that this is a metaphor and not literal . . . well, good luck with that. You may find yourself leaning heavily on the “Correcting Common Errors” page at the end of the book, which aims to correct common misconceptions. There you will find gentle corrections to false statements like “We started as fish” or “Evolution progresses to the human form” or “We descended from one fish or pair of fish, or one early human or pair of early humans.” Of these Common Errors, my favorite was “Evolution only adds traits” since it was followed by the intriguing corrective, “Evolution also take traits away. Whales can’t crawl even though they’re descended from mammals that could.” Let’s talk about the bone structure of the dolphin’s flipper sometime, shall we? The accompanying “Explaining Concepts of Evolution” does a nice job of helping adults break down ideas like “Natural Selection” and “Artificial Selection” and “Descent with Modification” into concepts for young kids. Backmatter-wise, I’d give the book an A+. In terms of the story itself, however, I’m going with a B. After all, it’s not like every parent and educator that reads this book to kids is even going to get to the backmatter. I understand the decisions that led them to say that each “Grandmother” had “grandchildren” but surely there was another way of phrasing it.

grandmotherfish3This isn’t the first crowd-sourced picture book I’ve ever seen, but it may be one of the most successful. The reason is partly because of the subject matter, partly because of the writing, and mostly because of the art. Bad art sinks even the most well-intentioned of picture books out there. Now I don’t know the back-story behind why Tweet paired with illustrator Karen Lewis on this book, but I hope he counts his lucky stars every day for her participation. First and foremost, he got an illustrator who had done books for children before (Arturo and the Navidad Birds probably being her best known). Second, her combination of watercolors and digital art really causes the pages to pop. The colors in particular are remarkably vibrant. It’s a pleasure to watch them, whether close up for one-on-one readings, or from a distance for groups. Whether on her own or with Tweet’s collaboration, her clear depictions of the evolutionary “tree” is nice and fun. Plus, it’s nice to see some early humans who aren’t your stereotypical white cavemen with clubs, for once.

I look at this book and I wonder what its future holds. Will a fair number of public school libraries purchase it? They should. Will parents like Mr. Tweet be able to find it when they wander aimlessly into bookstores and libraries? One can hope. And is it any good? It is. But you only have my word on that one. Still, if great grand numbers of perfect strangers can band together to bring a book to life on a topic crying out for representation on our children’s shelves, you’ve gotta figure the author and illustrator are doing something right. A book that meets and then exceeds expectations, tackling a tricky subject, in a divisive era of our history, to the betterment of all. Not too shabby for a fish.

On shelves now.

Source: Final copy sent from publisher for review.

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4. Friday Feature: Into the Fire Halloween Sale

To help celebrate Halloween, Into the Fire is only $.99 today through October 31st!

Grab your copy today!

In one month’s time, seventeen-year-old Cara Tillman will die and be reborn from her own ashes…

Her life of secrecy has never been easy. She’s watched her younger brother, Jeremy, burn and rise again in a coming-of-age process called rebirth. And just like her brother, when her time comes, she won’t remember anything from her first life other than she’s a Phoenix—a member of a small group of people descended from the mythical Phoenix bird.

The last thing she needs to worry about is falling for the new guy in town—Logan Schmidt.

Cara is drawn to Logan in a way she can’t explain, but she’s not exactly complaining. Everything is perfect…except it’s not. Once she’s reborn, she’ll forget Logan. And to make things worse, a Phoenix Hunter is on the loose, and Cara’s involvement with Logan is bringing out her Phoenix qualities—the very qualities that will draw the Hunter right to her.

Desperate times call for desperate measures…

Afraid of hurting Logan, Cara breaks it off for good. But her attraction to him runs deeper than a typical high school crush. She wants him—needs him. And if he proves willing to stay by her side, their love might destroy them both.

Can Cara hide from the Phoenix Hunters long enough to survive her rebirth? And if so, will it mean a new beginning with Logan—or the beginning of the end?

*Want your YA, NA, or MG book featured on my blog? Contact me here and we'll set it up.

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5. Friday Links List - 28 October 2016

From Bored Panda: 15+ of the Most Creative Halloween Costumes - I like Peter and his shadow best!

Via Nathan Bransford: A fantastic diagram that breaks down The Big Five US Trade Book Publishers and their imprints. WOW!

From Nine Kinds of Pie: How to Read Harold (and the Purple Crayon)

From The Federation of Children's Book Groups - and idea to celebrate NATIONAL NON-FICTION NOVEMBER 2016

Nathan Bransford is blogging again and shared some awesome links:
From shouldiworkforfree.com - a handy dandy hilarious diagram mapping whether you should work for free or not
From bookends (a literary agency): Never Will You Just Write

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6. Presidential Polar Bear Post Card Project No. 270 - 10.27.16

#inktober "dozen" prompt... So in this case we defer to the more regional popularity of the "12s". Growing up in Anchorage, the Seattle Seahawks were definitely the team of choice - back in the Steve Largent days of yore. The fandom of the 12's is a more modern thing for sure, but I'm fairly certain that most Alaskan' polar bears are rooting' for the Hawks.

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7. Happy Halloween to One and All!

Round about the cauldron go;  
In the poison’d entrails throw.  
Toad, that under cold stone   
Days and nights hast thirty one  
Swelter’d venom sleeping got,  
Boil thou first i’ the charmed pot.  

     Double, double toil and trouble;  
     Fire burn and cauldron bubble. 

Fillet of a fenny snake,  
In the cauldron boil and bake;  
Eye of newt, and toe of frog,  
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,  
Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting,  
Lizard’s leg, and howlet’s wing,  
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.  

     Double, double toil and trouble;  
     Fire burn and cauldron bubble. 

Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf,           
Witches’ mummy, maw and gulf       
Of the ravin’d salt-sea shark, 
Root of hemlock digg’d i’ the dark,  
Liver of blaspheming Jew,       
Gall of goat, and slips of yew
Sliver’d in the moon’s eclipse,           
Nose of Turk, and Tartar’s lips,         
Finger of birth-strangled babe             
Ditch-deliver’d by a drab,     
Make the gruel thick and slab:           
Add thereto a tiger’s *chaudron,         
For the ingredients of our cauldron.

     Double, double toil and trouble;  
     Fire burn and cauldron bubble. 

According to this online Macbeth Glosary *chaudron are entrails.  Who knew?

Macbeth, Act IV, Scene I
William Shakespeare, 1564 - 1616
This poem is in the public domain

By Pumpkins fat and witches lean...
By coal black cats with eyes of green,
By all the magic ever seen...
I wish you luck this Halloween..

Happy Halloween to family, friends, and all readers of my blog. Stay safe this Halloween. Me? I will be hiding under the bed covers. 

I must say a very big thank you to Yvonne for this fantastic Halloween card (right).  If you have not had the pleasure of meeting Yvonne, you will find her over at Melancholy and Menace or at her Etsy shop here

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8. Toon Thursday: Writer Nightmares Redux

I've been sitting on this idea for a while (too busy to 'toon--very sad) but here's the second installment of Writer Nightmares. More to come! This one is loosely based on reality--my own and others'. I know many a writer who has lost a critical... Read the rest of this post

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9. एनीमिया रोग – महिलाओं में खून की कमी

एनीमिया रोग – महिलाओं में खून की कमी- महिलाएं घर की धुरी होती हैं वह पूरे परिवार की जिम्मेवारी को बखूबी निभाती हैं, पर जब खुद की सेहत की हो तो अपना ध्यान ही  नहीं रखती… अपनी सेहत के प्रति बिल्कुल लापरवाह होती है… एनीमिया रोग – महिलाओं में खून की कमी नारी, महिला, औरत, […]

The post एनीमिया रोग – महिलाओं में खून की कमी appeared first on Monica Gupta.

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10. Finishing a Project

I finished a project in quilting,
A rare and surprising success.
I’m proud of this feat
But it never would meet
All the standards I’d need to impress.

My stitches are rather uneven.
One side and the other don’t match,
But I made it with care
And you cannot compare
What you’d buy to what I sewed from scratch.

It’s a gift to sweet Hadley* from Nana
And I hope that someday she will know
That each pull of the thread
Can be easily read
As a message that I love her so.

*my 14 month-old granddaughter

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11. Scary Stories

We hop straight from the Quaker Craft Fair to Scary Stories around the Fire!!!  So much hopping.  Check out our Lehigh Valley Storytelling Guild's newsletter about Saturday night's event at Jordan UCC, 1837 Church Road, Allentown, PA 18102.  They have a nice big fire circle in their Peace Garden.

Dress warmly.  Bring a donation of non-perishable food for Second Harvest Food Bank or the Pennsylvania Avenue Interfaith Food Pantry. (You get $3 off the admission price if you donate.)  Bring blankets.  There are benches around the circle.

Here's a link to MORE information about this stellar (hopefully) event.  If it rains,...please check The Lehigh Valley Storytelling Guild's website before heading out.

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12. Concerning Plot and Characters

Question: I'm creating a story that revolves around the political relations of two fictional countries. In the story, a powerful figure (the antagonist)

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13. One Minute till Bedtime: 60-Second Poems to Send You off to Sleep

Guess what came in the mail a couple of days ago? A copy of a great new poetry anthology titled One Minute Till Bedtime: 60-Second Poems to Send You Off to Sleep. The poems were selected by former Children's Poet Laureate Kenn Nesbitt and the illustrations were done by Christoph Niemann. The anthology includes more than one hundred selections--many by some of our most respected children's poets, including Nikki Grimes, Jack Prelutsky, Ron Koertge, Lee Bennett Hopkins, J. Patrick Lewis, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Marilyn Singer, Mary Ann Hoberman, Julie Larios, X. J. Kennedy, Pat Mora, Nancy Willard, Jane Yolen, Janet Wong, Joyce Sidman...and Kenn Nesbitt. There are so many other poets whose works are included that I just can't list them all!

I am so happy to tell you that one of my poems is included in this wonderful book—which has already garnered three starred reviews!

* "These pithy poetic observations and Niemann's engaging illustrations prove at once antidote and anodyne for the sleep-averse child demanding just one more....A dreamy collection of bedtime poems and witty illustrations that's anything but sleepy."Kirkus Reviews, starred review

* "With a broad range of voices and sentiments, the collection delivers poems to meet any mood."Publishers Weekly, starred review

* "Exuberant for the most part (with some serious musings to lend ballast) and in perfect harmony with its cartoonish, color-washed illustrations, this sleepy-time volume is just the thing for the rhyme-loving child who has graduated from Mother Goose."School Library Journal, starred review

One Minute till Bedtime is due for release on November 1, 2016. 
It would make an excellent holiday gift for parents of young children...and for kids who love poetry. I'm planning to order several more copies to give as baby and Christmas presents.

NOTE: Not all the poems in this anthology are about bedtime. They touch on various and sundry topics. Titles of some of the poems: A Hard Rain, The Dandelion, Our Kittens, Skateboard Girl, The Tadpole Bowl, A Visit to the Forest, Me and My Feet, and Armadillo.

The poems are divided into six sections--each of which begins with a poem by Nesbitt.

The first poem in One Minute till Bedtime is Whew!, Nesbitt's list poem in which a child tells us all the things he/she has to before being able to enjoy reading a book.

Here is how the poems ends:

my gramps and grammas.
Changed into 
my soft pajamas.
Fluffed the pillows.
Got my Ted.
Said my prayers.
Climbed in bed.
All that's done;
at last I'm freed.
it's time to read.

And here is my contribution to One Minute till Bedtime:

Chirping in the dark, their song
In the still air. A
Chorus of summer night strummers in concert with
Entertaining warm evenings with
Symphony of wings.


Linda has the Poetry Friday Roundup at TeacherDance.


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14. Odd or common name?

Question: I've been wondering for a while--with a fantasy in which there's a different world from ours, would it be better to have common or odd names?

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We have picked a subgenre, developed external scenes that affect the story world, antagonist scenes where the hero and evil face off, and interpersonal scenes where friends and foes help and hinder.

Internal Conflict scenes are where the protagonist debates his belief in ghosts or wrestles with his depression over the death of his mother. 

The scientist wonders if he should finally ask his co-researcher out for a date.

He struggles with whatever force is driving him to kill the monster or prove that aliens are out there. 

These scenes are sometimes missing in the horror story, unless it is psychological horror. Personal stakes and character change enrich any story.

Whatever his internal struggle is, it should make solving the overall story problem difficult, if not impossible.

For more information on the Horror genre, visit http://www.horror.org.

For more about how to craft plots using conflict check out, Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of conflict available in print and e-book and check out the free tools and information about the series on my website.

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16. Grace

Pixabay Image
Tonight I am humbled and so grateful I can hardly find a place for all the feelings.

I am at our annual state library conference. I had the honor of working with all our youth services conference presenters to bring fifteen programs to our members. These programs were extraordinary -  Amy Koester came up for IL to share her thoughts on leadership and involving families. Wisconsin youth librarians shared their expertise on play groups, tangly issues on collection development, shared TABS, service to teen moms, teen college and career planning, service on award committees, transformative partnerships, new SLP paradigms, youth art galleries in libraries and so much more.

We celebrated our award winners - library and librarians of the year and inductees into the Wi Library Hall of Fame.

And more personally, so many colleagues said yes to me over the past few days. I have been elected the president-elect of the WI Library Association. My term as president begins in 2018. Over the past two days, so many colleagues from all types of libraries serving all ages have answered "YES!" when I have asked them to help me in creating an annual conference of consequence in 2018 and to step up to create a strong board, amazing committees and a place where all library staff feel welcome to interact and push library service in our state further and faster. I am humbled by their commitment and their faith.

Our Youth Services Section nurtured  me, my WLA board colleagues of the past six years forged me and the confidence of the members of the association lift me up. I am so lucky to have this support and the guidance of my colleagues. This is the true grace that makes all things possible.

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17. Presidential Polar Bear Post Card Project No. 269 - 10.26.16

The pace of change is "slow" and for this #inktober2016 prompt I will only say that we should speed it up! Advocate for change. The time is now -- if not already too late -- to effectively address the impact of climate change and carbon outputs on a warming world.

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18. Vote for poetry!

Yep, Election Day is around the corner and it's time to VOTE! 

Did you know that Election Day is set for the Tuesday immediately following the first Monday in November? It can be as early as Nov. 2 or as late as Nov. 8-- which is the date this year! It's our opportunity as citizens to make our voices heard in choosing leadership at the local, state, and national levels. Whatever your political views, it's a privilege to participate in this important process. And this poem, "Voting," by Diane Mayr from The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations captures this beautiful moment (in English AND Spanish).

This "Voting" postcard is also available at Pinterest here.

And here are the Take 5! activities that accompany this poem in the Celebrations book:

1. Present children with a choice between two bookmarks and challenge them to vote for their choice. Then share the title of the poem (“Voting”) and read it aloud slowly and clearly.

2. Divide the children into three groups and share the poem again. Have each group chime in on one of the key ”constituencies” mentioned in the poem (the word: town, state, or country) while you read the rest of the poem aloud. 

3. Talk about how voting is both an opportunity to express an opinion and a responsibility to shape government in our town, state, and country—once they are 18. 

4. Pair this poem with the picture book Vote! by Eileen Christelow (Clarion, 2003) and discuss the questions the dog and cat characters raise about the voting process that the children also share. 

5. Connect with another poem about citizenship with “A Dream Come True” by Georgia Heard (September, pages 246-247), and with poems from Declaration of Interdependence: Poems for an Election Year by Janet Wong (PoetrySuitcase, 2012).

Check out my previous blog post on "Patriotic Poetry" complete with a list of 25+ poetry books on the topic here

Now join Linda over at TeacherDance for this week's Poetry Friday fun. See you there!

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19. First Book Concierge Services: A Helping Hand For Large Orders

We know how hard our members work for the kids they serve, their schools or programs, and their communities. The First Book Network strives every day to put high-quality, diverse books into the hands of kids in need — books that might encourage a reluctant reader, reveal distant worlds, or open eager minds to new ideas. Books help reinforce students’ interests and celebrate their strengths.

truckload_box_webThe Concierge Services team at First Book is here to help members who need a larger quantity of books. For events large and small, we provide the kind of high-touch, hands-on service that relieves you of the burden of logistics and allows every child you serve to find a book they love.

We are available to work with educators and program leaders to create a book list or collection that will fit your program’s needs and reflect the diversity of the population you serve. As experts in children’s books — with backgrounds in children’s literacy, education, and publishing — our team can guide you through the process.

If you are:

  • Planning a book fair
  • Building classroom libraries
  • Sending home books as part of an after-school/summer program
  • Creating a shared reading experience, or
  • Distributing school supplies or basic needs items

We can provide you with a range of book choices for any age group, create an affordable package, and track the order right to your doorstep.conciergeeeee

Over the next few months, the First Book blog will highlight some of the work Concierge Services has done to connect kids in need with stories and characters that they love. We are here to make things a little easier — to equip you with the resources you need to do the essential work of changing your students’ lives.


If you serve children in low-income communities and need a large quantity of books or resources at the best possible price, reach out to First Book’s Concierge Services at concierge@firstbook.org or call the Member Services Team at 866.732.3669 and ask for Concierge Services.

The post First Book Concierge Services: A Helping Hand For Large Orders appeared first on First Book Blog.

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20. Inktober Day 28: Poor Children

Poor Children. Day 28 of #Inktober2016.

Today's Inktober is a little different - an extra illustration for a current book project, a new edition of Frank L. Baum's The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus. This was a 'warm-up' drawing to get me in the groove and test nibs, so a little rough and ready, though often first drawings have an energy that re-draws somehow miss! Unfortunately, although there are several sections featuring children it doesn't quite fit with any specific passage in the book, so I've not submitted it to the publisher with the other cuts.

I can show it here though!

The book is in production as I write, more news on that to come.

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21. 2017 Animated Short Oscar Contenders: A Record Number of Films Are Competing

We look at the top contenders in this year's Oscar race for best animated short.

The post 2017 Animated Short Oscar Contenders: A Record Number of Films Are Competing appeared first on Cartoon Brew.

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22. Halloween Coming...A Reading From Me

There is actually a Samhain scene in my novel Wolfborn, but that isn't the scene I read on YouTube. It was a scene in Xhapter 4 where my hero, Etienne, is lost in a storm while riding home through the forest. He meets a few supernatural folk along the way...

I thought as long as the day is on its way, I'd offer you a link to my reading of a shivery scene in my book.

And maybe I'll have a go at reading the Samhain scene on to YouTube sometime this weekend, in honour of the festival.

Meanwhile, here's that link. Follow and enjoy!

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RIP my beautiful beast.

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24. Cloud and Wallfish by Anne Nesbet, 400 pp, RL 4

I reviewed and really enjoyed Anne Nesbet's debut novel, The Cabinet of Earth. It was exciting to read a middle grade fantasy novel set in Paris and I found the magic that Nesbet created for this story exciting and out of the ordinary. Nesbet followed with A Box of Gargoyles, a companion to her first book, then The Wrinkled Crown, another fantasy with the feel of a traditional fairy tale, albeit one with political undertones. It surprised me to find that Nesbet's new book, Cloud and Wallfish, is set in East Germany in 1989 and centers around the hard won friendship between an American boy with a paralyzing stutter and a curious girl who has been sent to live with her grandmother. Like what I imagine life in the German Democratic Republic prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall must have been like, Cloud and Wallfish is a quiet, secretive book that requests patience from readers. This patience will be rewarded, like the page turn that reveals the meaning to the title of this marvelous book, but some questions will never be answered. 

Cloud and Wallfish begins in Oasis, Virginia in May of 1989. Noah Keller has almost finished fifth grade when his parents pick him up from school and completely turn his life upside down. Everything with his name on it is thrown into a trashcan at a rest stop on their way to the airport. They are headed to East Berlin, where Noah's mother has been given the opportunity to study the educational system in East Germany and finish her doctoral dissertation titled, "Differential Approaches to Elementary Education for Children with Special Speech-Production Impediments in East and West." This dissertation is especially personal for Noah and his mother because Noah stutters and has often been a guinea pig for his mother and her research. Noah also has a photographic memory, although he has not revealed this ability to his parents.

Noah's mother gives him a list of nine rules that he must adhere to strictly now that their "adventure" has begun, the first of which is, "They will always be listening and often be watching. Don't forget that." She also tells him that they are all changing their names, handing him a photo album filled with "memories" from a city they never lived in. Noah's dad also tells him that he was born in November and not March as he had always believed, sending him spiraling even further. Nesbet, by way of Noah's father, helps Noah cope with finding out that he isn't the person he thought he was, and that he is also being required to become a new person, in a humorously philosophical way that made me stop and think about identity,

Names change all the time. Some people change names when they get married, Some people write books under a pseudonym. Some people just always wanted to be called Rainbow Stormchaser, and one day they decide to make it so. Some people emerge from their wild teenage years and decide it's time to settle down to a quiet life in Oasis, Virginia, under different names entirely -

As an adult reading Cloud and Wallfish, there were so many moments that made me stop and think, and turn to Wikipedia, or my husband who is a history teacher and who also, like Nesbet, visited East Berlin as an exchange student (in fact, Nesbet, who is a professor at University of California Berkeley returned to the GDR in 1989 to work on her own dissertation). It was clear to me from the start that one or both of Noah's parents are spies (although Noah's stay-at-home dad insists that he is writing a novel about a mink farmer, he even puts locks his manuscript in the safe in their East German apartment every night), but I hope that young readers will come to this realization over the course of the novel along with Noah as he comes to suspect this himself. 

Once in East Berlin, Noah's (now Jonah Brown) life comes to a grinding halt. Not only does he have to adhere to the nine rules, almost all of which include some form of not talking to anyone at any time, he is not allowed to go to school. Things do look up when he meets the girl living downstairs. Claudia, who is staying with her grandmother while her parents visit Hungary, is kept from talking to him, but she does get the chance to tell him that they are both changelings, strangers in this world and needing to get back to where they came from before they are forgotten. The two find their own coded ways to communicate, in the middle of country that is rife with codes and secret communications. One of my favorite, unforgettable things in Cloud and Wallfish is a communication the two share as they pass a map of Berlin back and forth. On this map, West Berlin is a blank, white blob amidst the streest of East Berlin and the two slowly begin drawing the intricate world of the changelings that they need to return to in this space. 

The true climax of Cloud and Wallfish comes almost at the end of the novel, but "Secret Files" that Nesbet includes at the after each chapter (which are really non-fiction glimpses into this time in East Germany, with translations of newspaper articles and speeches and more, illuminating further the strange dystopian world that existed in Europe, in my lifetime) help to build the tension. I don't want to give too much away, but a tragedy with Claudia's parents and a secret revealed to Noah propels the two children into a dangerous situation just before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Nesbet's epilogue, which visits Claudia some years later, had me tearing up, in a good way.

Cloud and Wallfish is an amazing book that prompted me to learn more about the world that I live in. It is also a book that will require perseverance and dedication from readers, but also one that will reward this hard work. I hope that teachers and parents will embrace Cloud and Wallfish and read it out loud, a really great way to hook kids on a book they might not pick up or a book they might not stick with. My twelve-year-old son has heard me and my husband talking about this book and I think he is almost ready to give it a go, but of course I can't suggest that he read it...

Another fantastic book set in East Germany, 1961, beginning just as the wall goes up:
A Night Divided Jennifer Neilsen

More books by Anne Nesbet

Source: Review Copy

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25. Flash Sale of the Year

What to do when your drawers and portfolios are overflowing with original paintings?
You have a flash sale of course! 

Friday October 28th
9am - 9pm CST
All original paintings and drawings on www.sarabillustration.com will be hugely marked down!

There's a new chapter in my life coming, and I am pretty certain I will be inspired to make much of it through drawing and painting. I have also been wanting to play with working larger, which will require more room!

So in celebration of the arrival of our son Jaxon (and the crisp cool holiday season! My favorite!), I am holding this ultra rare sale, marking my original art for almost half the price! This is a great way, I hope, for those of you who have been wanting an original piece but haven't been able to afford it, are able to find something that resonates with you and is within your reach.


All of the paintings available demonstrate my progression as an illustrator...

I have original paintings from ten years back when I was still inking my lines with microns because I feared loosing my lines and didn't like getting graphite all over my hand.

All the way through to the most recent, finished just a couple weeks ago. No inked lines but instead using erasable gray pencil, showing more confidence in my values, and creating far more inviting atmospheres that help tell the story.

Each step in the process is vital for the following step. Without experimenting and playing, I would not be where I am today as an illustrator.
"Moon Dance"

Most of my work is small for those little areas of the house that need some magic.

It is very well known that I prefer to work small, usually smaller than 8x10. I enjoy the challenge and quite possibly have always been interested in the miniature (LOVE dollhouses and all things small). Most of the larger works I create are requested commissions, but there will be a range of sizes available at the sale.

From a few of the smallest....
"Lime Pixie" 3 x 2.5 inches

The many in the middle...
"July" 8 x 10 inches

To a couple of the largest....
"Wisdom" 12 x 16 inches

I know each piece has a soul mate, created just for them.

I pray that some of these pieces will find their match tomorrow. It's bittersweet to let go of your creative works. I am always so blessed to see how the work inspires and deeply touches those who purchase it, but then also sad to see them go. Each piece has a story for me, what inspired the imagery and why I created it...yet when I see them sitting in my studio I see a bird caged, waiting to be free and serve as inspiration for another.

I hope tomorrow, on my website http://www.sarabillustration.com/paintings, browsing through the galleries, you find that special piece made just for you. ♥︎

Browse the Galleries, then let me know if any of them speak to you in the comments below.

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