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26. Classic YA Discussion: Alanna, The First Adventure

Welcome to our discussion for Alanna: the First Adventure! Today we have a special guest joining us, the wonderful Aussie scifi/fantasy author Andrea K. Höst, author of the Touchstone trilogy and a Midnight Garden favorite, And All the Stars. Our backgrounds: Wendy has never read this before, but both Layla and Andrea have. This series seems beloved by most fantasy fans, so it seemed like a great selection for our classics series. *As always, please be aware there will be spoilers if you haven’t read this book yet. Wendy: Thanks for joining our chat today, Andrea! Andrea: Glad to be here!  And it’s a great excuse to refresh my memory: I read the Alanna series a long time ago – long enough that I’ve forgotten most of it (except some vague memories of not going swimming).  It’s a book on the younger end (main character goes from eleven to thirteen).... Read more »

The post Classic YA Discussion: Alanna, The First Adventure appeared first on The Midnight Garden.

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27. half off...EVERYTHING?!

crazy? nah. just feeling gracious and thankful. happy shopping, friends! :)

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28. Feedback Request

The author of the book featured in Face-Lift 1288 would like feedback on the following revision:

Smugglers have inadvertently awakened a dragon. Trapped in an artifact, the dragon secretly compels the smugglers to bring it treasure to fuel its magic. It also sends them to kidnap Shimmer, a girl who can set it free.

Guard Tali Adilrein is hired as Shimmer's bodyguard after rescuing her from the kidnappers. Tali survives an assassination attempt. She finds traces of magic during an apparent accident that severely injures her partner. To protect her client from more direct magical attacks, Tali calls on the dragon magic she abandoned when it started turning her into a monster.

The trapped dragon will soon grow powerful enough to break free. When it does, it will lay waste to the city and kill Shimmer. However, if Tali uses her own magic to stop it, she will change into a dragon, and her client will become her victim.

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29. Books for Babies

Today’s guest blogger is Veronica Creech, Director of Partner Engagement at First Book.

MadelineR2When you open a book for a baby, their eyes light up. They’re fascinated by the contrast of the colors. They marvel at words as you read to them.

What these little ones don’t know is that books will also shape their future.

Book Babies is one of many wonderful programs my team at First Book supports. Part of the nonprofit organization Book Harvest, Book Babies helps 150 families in Durham, NC discover the importance and joy of reading together.

The families they serve all have big dreams for their children, but lack books to build those dreams upon.

JesusR2Take 18-month old Ian and his mom for example. Every morning, Ian wakes his mom before sunrise with a new book in his hand for them to read together. Though it’s earlier than she’d like, reading has become a fantastic way for them to connect and start every day.

Before they joined Book Babies, there were no books in their home. They now have over 30.

This holiday season please donate to First Book and give the hope of a bright future to babies and their families.

The post Books for Babies appeared first on First Book Blog.

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30. inner poetry turkey

Last Friday morning at this time I had dashed off a post (out of Poetry Friday pride, mostly--"I can get this done before my full day at NCTE") about feeding my inner poetry chickens.  Julie Larios commented that she would be interested to hear what I heard at this annual Convention of the National Council of Teachers of English, and feeling thankful for the experience, I will now get down to business and talk turkey about some details.

On Thursday...
I saw Emily Smith of Austin, TX, winner of the 2015 Donald Graves Award, talk about teaching, as a white woman, as though black and brown lives matter.  "I can’t change the color of my skin or where I come from [...] but I can change the way I teach."

I saw Alison Bechdel, cartoonist and graphic memoirist (Dykes to Watch Out For, Funhome) speak about learning to read from her father, learning to write from her mother, and creating her own mode of expression as a way both to distance herself from and honor them and her countercultural lesbian feminist experience.

Then I hung out with Laura Purdie Salas, Sylvia Vardell & Janet Wong, and met Susan Marie Swanson for the first time.  We ate and drank and yukked it up at the Ivy Hotel and its restaurant, Monello.

On Friday...
I heard some teacher-researchers talk about the effects on kindergarten writers of explicit growth mindset lessons in a writing workshop.  What the presenters did was simple but powerful.  They measured before and after indicators of effort, motivation and persistence (both observed and self-reported by the children) during writing, and in addition to standard use-your-tools minilessons they also taught this-is-hard-and-you-can-do-it lessons using two characters called Ziggy and Nash.

I saw how Gayle and Ryan Campbell, 3rd and 10th grade teachers, engaged their students in a poetry-writing project across schools.  The older kids were trained to mentor the younger in a book-based villanelle-writing collaboration...very cool.  I'm thinking about middle-schoolers, 2nd graders, and triolets....

Then I went to a session I didn't expect to get much out of:  "The Selfie Center."  I went because I know some colleagues had used a selfie theme for their back-to-school bulletin boards and I thought they might be interested, and because I couldn't picture what a selfie center would be.  I'll just direct you to this link and mention that I'm currently trying to figure out how to get this set up in my classroom using my Donors Choose Kindles....

Next I surprised myself by going to a big panel session I hadn't planned on with Katherine Applegate, Kate Messner and Heidi EY Stemple about how the writing process isn't really standardizable--every book you successfully write teaches you only how to write THAT book, not the next one or beyond.  My takeway here, for myself and for my students, is that Noticing and Wondering is the real first skill of writers, and that Your Voice Matters is the second concept I can teach, and that This Is Hard AND You Can Do It is the third and probably last most important lesson.

Are you tired yet?
Because there's still ten cool teacher/librarians talking about how the Nerdy Book Club blog changed their lives (I have no notes from this session so I guess I needed a break here too).

And then there was Margaret Simon (among others) firing me up at a session called "Igniting Wonder" by showing lots of tools for digital literacies.  My favorite were the Animoto poetry videos made by her GT students.  I had to split before the 2nd roundtable opportunity here in order to go and enjoy a simultaneously scheduled session featuring Janet, Sylvia, Susan Marie and Laura, Into the Poem, in which teachers were encouraged to use poetry for physically active "performances."  We do this all the time in my classroom (hmmm, less in 2nd than I did in K; must rectify that!) so I went mainly to support my Grapefruit peeps.  The new Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations is extra awesome because every poem appears also in Spanish, and the very new Poetry of Science for Kids coming out in December is a remix of the Poetry Friday Anthology for Science with black-and-white illustrations extremely suitable for home or classroom enjoyment.

At this point my task has become larger than my time available (and my borrowed computer is starting to disobey, insisting on translating Pomelo to Grapefruit!), so this recap will have to be continued later this weekend.

Please visit the roundup at Carol's Corner this week, and know how thankful I am for this Poetry Friday community and for you, dear readers!

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31. Is the 30 Million Word Gap a stat we should be using?


Most recently, I read about it in the ALSC campaign Babies Need Words Everyday.


It was such a clear campaign with great graphics that we immediately hung up in our library’s bathroom. And, it had research to back it up – the introductory flyer said “By the time children from low-income families reach the age of four, they will have heard thirty million fewer words than their more advantaged peers.” The initiative was created in response to the Obama Administration’s 2014 call to increase early literacy initiatives to bridge the word gap. It uses the research that coined the 30 Million Word Gap as a talking point, and integrates newer research done by LENA or Dr. Dana Suskind, both of which use the “30 Million Word Gap” research as a framework for theirs. My colleague Claire Moore and I were curious about this statistic, and did some digging to learn more.

The “The Early Catastrophe: The 30 Million Word Gap by Age 3” by University of Kansas researchers Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley was a 2003 article in American Educator (Spring: 4-9), which was an excerpt from their 1995 book Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experiences of Young American Children. The research, although it has been used as a rallying cry in campaigns across the country (including Too Small to Fail, Thirty Million Words, and local initiatives), has been shown to have some disturbing issues.

The issues that other researchers and educators have found in this study include:


Here is a breakdown of their critiques.

Sample size

In their most cited body of research, the researchers visited 13 high-income families, 10 families of middle socioeconomic status, 13 of low socioeconomic status, and 6 families who were on public assistance in Kansas City one hour per month for two and a half years. They made 1,318 observations and counted vocabulary words spoken to children by parents. The families only included African-American and White families that spoke English; bilingual children do have slower rates of learning vocabulary, but have other skills that monolingual children do not have (Dufresny & Madsey, 2006). They then looked at the number of words heard by each child by SES and saw the gap that has been trumpeted over and over again. The average child on public assistance heard 616 words per hour, the working class child 1,251 words per hour, and the professional family’s child heard 2,153 words per hour of observation. This number was then greatly extrapolated to show that by age four, there was a 32 million word gap between the child receiving public assistance and the child in the professional class. This assumes that the year had 5200 hours and the big assumption: that the number of words heard in an hour during observation was typical.

Data coding

After the observations, the researchers coded the words the children were hearing from parents. They coded for “quality of interactions” and spent very little time explaining how these codes are backed up by research – in fact, their explanation cites extensive research, but the footnotes only contain a reference to look at their earlier research. Sarah Michaels, Professor of Education at Clark University, said, “Hart and Risley coded for upper middle class/academic or professional politeness and interactional patterns, found that the upper income families used more of them, and simply asserted that more of the quality features is better in producing learning-related outcomes. They identified upper and middle class features of talk, coded and counted them and found, guess what, they correlate with class” (p. 26, 2013). Other researchers say “…by taking the language practices of the middle- and upper-SES families in their sample as the standard, Hart and Risley transformed the linguistic differences they found among the welfare families in their study into linguistic deficiencies” (Dudley-Marling & Lucas, p. 365). The Hart and Risley study set up the working class families and families receiving public assistance to fail. Teresa McCarty, from the University of California Los Angeles, puts it well: “Cloaked in well-intentions— ‘giving children the competencies they need to succeed in school’ (Hart and Risley 1995:2)—gap discourse simultaneously constructs a logic of individual dysfunction, limitation, and failure while masking the systemic power inequities through which the logic is normalized” (Avinerini, et al, p. 71).


This deficiency thinking is similar to the reaction to a 1961 book by Oscar Lewis called The Children of Sanchez which coined the term “culture of poverty.” The book was an ethnographic study of small Mexican Communities that attributed 50 shared attitudes, such as violence and poor planning skills, to the larger culture of all poor people. Unfortunately, this deficit thinking is incredibly harmful to both those under the microscope and the educators (and librarians) who work with them. Paul Gorksy says “Deficit theorists use two strategies for propagating this worldview: (1) drawing on well-established stereotypes and (2) ignoring systemic conditions, such as inequitable access to high-quality schooling, that support the cycle of poverty” (2008). Again, by using a deficit framework, we obscure structural inequalities.

“Valence” or the emotional character of the words was also coded: affirmative, open-ended statements were seen as quality, whereas directive were seen as low quality. Again, no research was cited. There are many reasons why coding in this way without an explanation is wrong – mainly, that white, upper and middle class ways of speaking to their children were valued as quality. In a 2015 article, Gulnaz Saiyed says, “While middle-class activities do lead children to develop a sense of entitlement, individuality, and set them up to feel comfortable in schools, they deemphasize other childhood experiences. For example, many working-class parents do not overschedule their children with extracurricular activities. Instead, they provide opportunities for play, development of curiosity, creativity, and respect for different perspectives.” Another point brought up by Saiyed is how African American children are disciplined more harshly in school, and parents may be preparing them for that. Michaels (2013) agrees, saying “Again, I want to remind you that people from different cultures talk differently to infants, and no one approach or style has been shown to be cognitively superior to another in helping children acquire their native language or grow up to be smart” (p. 29).


In addition, mobile technology has changed parenting for all social statuses. In other research conducted by Dr. Dana Suskind, middle and upper class parents have other bad habits: “[Anne] Fernald, who sits on the scientific advisory board for Providence Talks, told me, “Some of the wealthiest families in our research had low word counts, possibly because they were on their gadgets all day. So you can see an intermingling at the extremes of rich and poor. Socioeconomic status is not destiny” (Talbot, 2015). The blanket assignation of the bad culture of poverty is harmful to all parents.


The research makes sweeping extrapolations for its findings. In their book Meaningful Differences, Hart and Risley assert that vocabulary is an important indicator for future success, but spend very little time explaining why: “Because the vocabulary that individuals can command reflects so well their intellectual resources, we still have oral examinations, and vocabulary plays a major role in tests of intelligence” (p. 6). There are no citations of other research that describes why vocabulary is indicates “intellectual resources” – instead, they talk about how it is easy to measure.


As a librarian, I understand the importance of vocabulary as one aspect of literacy. However, I don’t understand why this study allows vocabulary to be the main indicator for school success, or why specifically children as partners in the conversation (as opposed to overhearing conversations) was seen as so important. As Susan Blum says in “Invited Forum: Bridging the ‘Language Gap’” (Averini, et al, 2015), “Anthropological research shows, in fact, that addressing the youngest children as conversational partners is extremely unusual in the world” (p. 75). Are we sure that makes it better?

Michaels says, “The deeply destructive, pernicious thing about the Hart and Risley study is that it presents what seems like totally rigorous, careful, objective science (what under careful inspection is nothing more than pseudo-science)—that gives teachers, educators, policy makers the ‘proof’ they need to believe that these poor kids aren’t smart, aren’t good learners, don’t have adequate language to think well with” (p. 35).  As librarians, when we cite the 30 Million Word Gap, we run the risk of continuing to enforce the bias and classism that this study did, as do some of the initiatives that have cropped up around this study. “In effect, the word gap interventions propose that improving social and economic outcomes for poor and minority families can be as simple as training them to act more white and middle-class (and monitoring their compliance with a ‘word pedometer’)” (Saiyed, 2015). While Babies Need Words Everyday does not go as far as to install word pedometers on parents, and instead simply encourages them to speak with their babies, the issue is very different – but by using word gap and deficit thinking, we may be treading in dangerous territory.

What can we do?

As librarians, we can help support literacy skill-building for both parents and children with Babies Need Words Everyday’s colorful posters and in our storytimes and outreach efforts. As public libraries, we provide free support to parents of all classes who may be struggling to find time or resources to provide early literacy practices to their children. Families in poverty also get support from public libraries to help them combat the structural inequalities they face. We also have to make sure we are creative and reflexive about encouraging multiple literacies, such as (all of which are strengths of a diversity of groups):


As centers providing informal learning opportunities, libraries are the perfect spaces for encouraging multiple literacies. For instance, “Low-income children are more likely than their higher-income peers to be in factory-like classrooms that allow little interaction and physical movement. As a result, these children spend more time sitting, following directions and listening rather than discussing, debating, solving problems and sharing ideas” (McManus, 2015). ALSC members have many brilliant ideas for programming to combat this issue on this blog. What else can we do?

If we are truly invested in literacy equity as librarians, being engaged in understanding our own attitudes and resources is important. I feel hesitant to use the 30 Million Word Gap as a statistic in my storytimes because of what it implicates, and I wonder what you all think. Even the newer research by the LENA foundation and Dr. Dana Suskind use Hart and Risley’s flawed framework. The newly updated ALSC competencies are full of guidance about recognizing and responding to structural inequalities, being self-reflexive, and culturally competent. I’ll end with one of them.


-Many thanks to Claire Moore – this piece is the result our meetings and conversations and her editing skills.

Lisa Nowlain is the Harold W. McGraw Jr. Fellow and Children’s Librarian at Darien Library in Darien, CT (you can be the next one! Apply by April 1 at www.darienlibrary.org/mcgrawfellowship) She is also an artist-type (see more at www.lisanowlain.com).

Sources cited

Avinerini, N., et al (2015). Invited Forum: Bridging the “Language Gap.” Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, 25(1), pp. 66–86. Retrieved from  http://www.susanblum.com/uploads/4/7/2/1/4721639/jla_-_language_gap_forum_2015.pdf

Dudley-Marling, C. & Lucas, K. (May 2009) Pathologizing the Language and Culture of Poor Children. Language Arts, 86(5), pp. 362-370. http://academic.evergreen.edu/curricular/med/langpoor.pdf

Dufresne, T. & Masny, D. (November 2006). Multiple literacies: Linking the research on bilingualism and biliteracies to the practical. Paediatr Child Health, 11(9), pp 577–579. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2528653/#b12-pch11577

Gorski, P (April 2008).  The Myth of the Culture of Poverty. Poverty and Learning, 65(7), pp 32-36. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/apr08/vol65/num07/The-Myth-of-the-Culture-of-Poverty.aspx

Hart, B. & Risley, T.R. (1995). Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children. Paul H. Brookes: Baltimore.

Hart, B. & Risley, R. (Spring 2003). The Early Catastrophe: The 30 Million Word Gap by Age 3. American Educator, 4(9).

McManus, M. (2015, October 12). Are some kids really smarter just because they know more words? The Conversation. Retrieved from http://theconversation.com/are-some-kids-really-smarter-just-because-they-know-more-words-47819

Michaels, S. (Autumn 2013). Déjà Vu All Over Again: What’s Wrong With Hart & Risley and a “Linguistic Deficit” Framework in Early Childhood Education? LEARNing Landscapes, 7(1), pp 23-41. Retrieved from http://www.learninglandscapes.ca/images/documents/ll-no13/michaels.pdf

Saiyed, G. & Smirnov, N. (2015, January 9) OpEd: Does ’30-Million Word Gap’ Have Gap in Authenticity? Chicago Bureau. Retrieved from http://www.chicago-bureau.org/oped-30-million-word-gap-gap-authenticity/

Talbot, Margo (2015, January 12). The Talking Cure. The New Yorker. Retrieved from  http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/01/12/talking-cure
Other Resources

The post Is the 30 Million Word Gap a stat we should be using? appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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32. why do they hate us?

why do they hate us

Filed under: journeys, sea

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33. J.K. Rowling Featured in the Guardian Weekend Conversation Special

The Guardian announced today, through Twitter, that J.K. Rowling would be one of the many names taking part in their “Conversations Special” of their weekend edition. The tweet released a promotional picture featuring J.K. Rowling and Lauren Laverne.


The Weekend edition of the Guardian is out tomorrow!

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34. EE Moonlighting on Black Friday

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35. Maya Angelou Documentary Featured On Kickstarter

Bob HerculesRita Coburn Whack, and their team of filmmakers hope to raise $150,000 on Kickstarter for a documentary profiling the late Maya Angelou. For this project, the collaborators have interviewed several people who knew Dr. Angelou including President Bill Clinton, media mogul Oprah Winfrey, and her son Guy Johnson. We’ve embedded a video about the new project above.

Here’s more from the Kickstarter page: “Dr. Angelou has become a global symbol of peace, humility, and freedom–– but parts of her story are not well known. The Maya Angelou Documentary will reflect on how the events of history, culture, and the arts shaped Dr. Angelou’s life and how she, in turn, helped shape our own worldview through her autobiographical literature and activism. We hope to shed light on the untold aspects of her life and to educate audiences about her story.”

Welcome to our Kickstarter Publishing Project of the Week, a feature exploring how authors and publishers are using the fundraising site to raise money for book projects. If you want to start your own project, check out How To Use Kickstarter to Fund Your Publishing Project.

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36. To Travel

To travel has ups and has downs.
It’s great to explore other towns
            But having to pack
            Can cause an attack
Of nerves, thus resulting in frowns.

The airport’s a place of such stress
The agents seem out to oppress.
            It’s needed, I’m sure
            To make things secure
But anxiety makes you a mess.

Yet getting to someplace that’s new,
Despite all the prep’s put you through
            Is sure to delight
            And being there might
Just reward you with joy that’s your due.

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37. Periwinkle Sky Shop is Open for a short time

Hi! The PeriwinkleSky Shop will be open for a 
small window of time before Christmas
Nov. 26- Dec 9th
(Afterwards, the shop will be closed for the Holidays)  
The shop will be open only a few weeks a year, 
I plan to spend time with family and friends, 
and work on new projects. 

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38. Humble Bundle Offers an X-Files Comics Package

X Files Logo (GalleyCat)IDW Publishing has established a new partnership with Humble Bundle. The two collaborators have crafted an X-Files themed comics package.

Customers can choose between the publisher or a non-profit as the recipient of their money. They have two options: the Traveling Stories organization and Choose Your Own Charity (a selection of 30,000 charities). It will be available until Dec. 02, 2015 at 11 a.m. Pacific Time.

Here’s more from the press release: “Customers can name their price for: The X-Files Classics Vol. 1, The X-Files: Season 10, Vol. 1 (#1 – 5), The X-Files: Season 10, Vol. 2 (#6 – 10), The X-Files Classics: Season One, Vol. 1, and The X-Files: Year Zero (#1 – 5). Those who pay more than the average price will also receive: The X-Files Classics Vol. 2, The X-Files Classics Vol. 3, The X-Files: Season 10, Vol. 3 (#11 – 15), The X-Files: Season 10, Vol. 4 (#16 – 20), The X-Files Classics: Season One, Vol. 2, The X-Files Annual 2014, The X-Files Archives, Vol. 1: Whirlwind & Ruins, The X-Files Annual 2015, and The X-Files Classics Vol. 4. Customers who pay $15 or more will receive all of the above plus: The X-Files: Season 11 #1, The X-Files: Season 11 #2, The X-Files: Season 11 #3, The X-Files: Season 10, Vol. 5 (#21 – 25), The X-Files Classics: Ground Zero, and The X-Files: Trust No One.”

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39. Chris Van Allsburg and Eric Carle Debut on the Indie Bestseller List

Dream Snow Cover (GalleyCat)We’ve collected the books debuting on Indiebound’s Indie Bestseller List for the week ending Nov. 22, 2015–a sneak peek at the books everybody will be talking about next month.

(Debuted at #3 in Hardcover Fiction) The Guilty by David Baldacci: “Will Robie escaped his small Gulf Coast hometown of Cantrell, Mississippi after high school, severing all personal ties, and never looked back. Not once. Not until the unimaginable occurs. His father, Dan Robie, has been arrested and charged with murder.” (Nov. 2015)

(Debuted at #6 in Children’s Illustrated) The Polar Express (The 30th Anniversary Edition) by Chris Van Allsburg: “A young boy, lying awake one Christmas Eve, is welcomed aboard a magical trip to the North Pole…” (Sept. 2015)

(Debuted at #8 in Children’s Illustrated) Dream Snow by Eric Carle: “It’s December 24th, and the old farmer settles down for a winter’s nap, wondering how Christmas can come when there is no snow! It is in his dream that he imagines a snowstorm coming and covering him and his animals—named One, Two, Three, Four and Five—in a snowy blanket.” (Sept. 2000)

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40. Happy Holiday

3D cover-xmas 3D xmas ad

I'm taking the day off to deal with turkey stuffing--the turkey I stuffed into my face yesterday. Meanwhile, enjoy your writing.



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41. The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker. Retold by Stephanie Spinner. Illustrated by Peter Malone. 2008. Random House. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: It was Christmas Eve, Marie's favorite night of the year. She was so excited that she did a pirouette on her way to the drawing room, where she joined her brother, Fritz, at the big double doors.

My thoughts: I love, love, love the music by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. I do. I listen to it frequently--all throughout the year. Why limit the music itself to just one time of year?! That being said, I like the ballet. I've only seen it performed once or perhaps twice. Though there are plenty of movie adaptations of it as well. Perhaps I should try to watch some of these. (Do you have a favorite? a least favorite?)

Stephanie Spinner's picture book retells the story of the ballet for young readers. It is not a retelling of the original Nutcracker story. Which I think is probably for the best! Since most people, I imagine, are more familiar with the ballet than with the original work by E.T.A. Hoffmann. (Hoffmann's work reads more like Alice in Wonderland.)

The illustrations. There were a few spreads that I just loved, loved, loved. But for the most part, I tended to "like" more than "love" the illustrations.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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42. Poetry Friday

the carousel slows and stops
blur refocuses

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2015 

I've been away from Poetry Friday for too long. It's good to be back, to have time to visit the roundup, which is hosted this week by Carol at Carol's Corner. Hard to believe that the year is winding down -- next week we'll start building the roundup schedule for January-June 2016!

Happy (belated) Thanksgiving! Happy Poetry! Happy Friday!

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43. HBO to Possibly take on “Comoran Strike” series in US

HBO has teamed up with BBC to bring the US adaptions of J.K. Rowling’s work before, with The Casual Vacancy mini series. The private cable network is once again looking at bringing a J.K. Rowling adaption to the United States: The Cormoran Strike Series . According to TV Wise, who received the story exclusively, HBO is looking to become co-producers of the series.

TV Wise posted the article on their Twitter feed:


The article reports:

The drama series, which is eyed for a 2016 premiere, is based on the first two Cormoran Strike novels, The Cuckoo’s Calling and The Silkworm. It was originally commissioned back in April 2014 and then Director of Television Danny Cohen was widely credited with securing the series for the BBC, even as major Hollywood Studios and rival UK broadcasters were chasing, thanks to his close relationship with Rowling and her long-time agent Neil Blair. A formal episode order has not yet been set, with the BBC stating that it would be finalised once the scripts are completed.

The Cormoran Strike Mysteries is described as being “steeped in the atmosphere of contemporary London” and follows war veteran turned private detective Cormoran Strike who investigates shocking crimes together with his female assistant Robin, whose forensic mind and fierce determination he cannot ignore. The murders take them from the hushed streets of Mayfair to the literary haunts of Fitzrovia, exposing the seedy reality lurking beneath seemingly innocent societies. With each crime, they discover a little more about each other and both learn that appearances can be deceptive.

Assuming the deal closes and HBO does in fact board as a co-producer (sources close to the project tell me that they will), this would mark the second such BBC drama from Rowling that the network has co-produced. Last year, just as pre-production was getting into full swing, HBO signed on to co-produce the three-part adaptation of Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy. Representatives of HBO did not immediately respond to TVWise’s request for comment.


As Leaky reported previously, The Cormoran Strike series is shaping up to be very similar to The Casual Vacancy mini series adaptation. Working with BBC 1, J.K. Rowling will be the executive producer, Sarah Phelps (writer of The Casual Vacancy) will be writing the adaption of The Cuckoo’s Calling, and Ben Richards is set to adapt The Silkworm.


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44. Harold Speed on Modern Art, Part 2

Today we'll take a look at the second half of Harold Speed's chapter on Modern Art from his 1924 art instruction book Oil Painting Techniques and Materials.

I'll present Speed's main points in boldface type either verbatim or paraphrased, followed by comments of my own. If you want to add a comment, please use the numbered points to refer to the relevant section of the chapter.

1. The "extreme impressionist movement" was the product of an age of scientific discovery.
Since we often think of Impressionism as a nostalgic style, it's easy to forget that it was founded on new scientific theories of light and vision. Speed is receptive to the gains that impressionism brought to painting, particularly in the freshening of the palette.

Childe Hassam - Une averse
2. "Aspects of nature that had been hopelessly unpaintable on the old formulas were found to lend themselves to expressions in colour."
The Impressionists were revolutionary not only to their approach to color and painting, but also to their subject choices, painting contemporary life at unusual times of day or atmospheric conditions.

3. "...it did not lead art very far and had no possibilities of development."
There had to be a "but" in there. Speed sees the development into Post-Impressionism and Cubism as a consequence of the inevitable dead end of the "extreme impressionist movement."

4. Cutting with the art of the past
He argues that a flaw of the extreme impressionist position was to "entirely cut with the art of the past." We see that attitude of dispensing with the art of the past even today in many academics, curators, and art historians. For example, at Bard College near us, they built a big art museum, but they only show work of the 20th century, and all of their traditional realist paintings are either put in storage or relegated to a private, locked building that the public is not allowed to enter.

Had he lived into the 1960s, Speed would have been shocked to see the fervor for dumping the past as art schools gleefully pushed their plaster cast collections out of second-floor windows to crash in pieces on the ground. Speed is arguing quite correctly that the extreme end of any ideological or religious movement can get destructive. He says, "There is something of Puritan austerity, a love of destroying pleasing things, and a dislike of seeing things going on too comfortably, in many of these modern movements....and a secret pride in being misunderstood, and if possible, persecuted."

"La Mont Sainte Victoire" by Paul Cezanne
5. "There is something about Cezanne, something about his uncompromising attitude toward all the softer graces of expression, and his love of uncouth directness, that makes him particularly attractive to a very large body of young painters." 
It is remarkable what a huge shadow Cezanne cast over painters in the 20th century. If you look at 1950s American Artist magazine, you can see realist painters trying to absorb Cezanne into their way of seeing. He was rapturously elevated all the time in our art-school composition classes. Speed says: "He was deeply concerned with the third dimension in painting." I don't personally see that—maybe I never "got" Cezanne. His work has always struck me as rather concerned with flatness, and full of deliberate distortions.

6. Art, like religion, holds that these emotional perceptions put us in touch with things transcending the material world...and open up a correspondence with the world of ultimate realities.
This is an important value of art that was often overlooked in the era Speed was talking about, and is still often overlooked today, as many people are concerned with painterly surface and natural appearances. Speed seems to be acknowledging that the modern movement (meaning primarily Impressionism) was sound and valid at its core, but that the extremists were distorting the value of it by forgetting spiritual values, good design, and subtlety.

Painting by Thomas Moran
7. In modern "ism" movements, the aesthetic approach is to openly flout every other artistic consideration, and to limit the statement to a single principle.
To me, this was the problem with the abstract painting movement. I love the beauty of abstraction, but the abstract artists weren't the best at it. I always thought that the best abstract painters were realists like Thomas Moran or Andrew Wyeth, perhaps because they were accountable to nature. As Speed puts it: "Abstract ideas "gain their full significance in painting and sculpture only when associated with the representation of nature. Unassociated with anything but themselves, such abstract lines, tones, or colours become mere geometrical diagrams."

Most abstract-only painters have had a clumsy sense of color and design. Other abstract artists, it must be admitted, found their way to this way of painting because it doesn't require the drawing skills of realist painting.

Some abstract artists were sincerely trying to find in the visual arts some equivalent to the pure expression of music, but for reasons I'll have to cover in another post, visual art and auditory art are fundamentally different, making the goal of "painting aspiring to the condition of music" an impossible goal. Or at least that the goal of achieving pure abstraction in the visual arts is reached most perfectly by music visualizer programs, wallpaper, or motel art (not to disparage any of those forms—they all have their purpose).

8. "I am inclined to believe that every age has the art it deserves."
Maybe so, but I think we deserve better. Given that the Internet has created a level playing field where young artists can immediately find their way to the work they love, there's no reason that our age can't be the breeding ground of great work in every field of art. Speed here talks about a theme he developed earlier in the chapter, associating the art that is ascendant in any age with the cultural values that circulate around it.

9. "There are formulas at the basis of all good artistic design."
...but he says the life of the art is not in the formula. Art escapes the formula.

10. "There is no modern art any more than there is any modern truth. There is just Art and Truth. There is good and bad art, as there is truth and untruth."
Speed says that when you have to put an adjective in front of a kind of art, such as "Futurist Art" or "Post Impressionist Art" it marks it as second rate.

Speed concludes with some interesting points:

"The vigor and directness of expression one finds in good primitive art may be the thing we need in these days, but the scrapping of all traditions of fine painting and going back to a crude primitive means of expression is not the only way of reinculcating it.... The true advance in art is along the middle lines, in tune with a tradition of natural truth."

"What is original is only what is true, a newly perceived truth."

Next week: Chapter 3, The technique of painting.
In its original edition, the book is called "The Science and Practice of Oil Painting." Unfortunately it's not available in a free edition, but there's an inexpensive print edition that Dover publishes under a different title "Oil Painting Techniques and Materials," and there's also a Kindle edition.

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45. Sara Brickman Poetry Video Goes Viral

Sara Brickman has crafted a poem called “Talking Shit to Sadness.” The video embedded above features her performance at the 2015 National Poetry Slam.

For more poems by this writer, follow these links to listen to three more of her pieces: “Letter from the Water at Guantanamo Bay,” “Crazy Girls,” and “Mirror.” How do you react in times of sorrow?

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46. Poetry Friday: Beautiful Girl by Sara Bareilles

You wanna walk into the room like that other girl does
The one that's always making everybody fall in love
You see, girl, you're a lot like me
She rearranges all the light in the room
So you're always in the shadows
Well, that's what it feels like to you
Baby, I've been there too.
And I know how much it can sometimes hurt
You feel like the whole world has made you the ugly girl
Take it from me that you have to see it first

So before you trade in your summer skin
for those high-heeled shoes
to make him want to be with you
Let me remind you one more time
that just maybe
you're beautiful
but you just can't see
So why don't you trust me
They'll see it, too
You beautiful girl, you

You wanna lay the blame on somebody else
All these tiny little minds that leave you up on a shelf
But okay, I've seen it done that way
Just in case nobody ever comes through
Riding in to come to your rescue
You still have a chance
You don't have to be asked to dance
I know how much you've been dying to say,
"Look how much everybody loves me."
Guess who gets left when everyone else fades away

So before you trade in your summer skin
for those high-heeled shoes
to make him want to be with you
Let me remind you one more time
That just maybe
You're beautiful
But you just can't see
So why don't you trust me
They'll see it, too
You beautiful girl, you

- Beautiful Girl by Sara Bareilles

I strongly recommend Sara Bareilles, always, including her latest work, the book Sounds Like Me: My Life (so far) in Song (read my review) and the musical Waitress - Sara wrote the music and lyrics for the stage adaptation of Adrienne Shelly's film.

If you can't see the video player above, click here to listen to the song on YouTube, then get the song! (Note: I'm not making a cent off this - I'm just posting the link to encourage folks to buy it and download it legally, rather than otherwise.)

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.

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47. बदले बदले से सरकार नजर आते हैं

बदले बदले से सरकार नजर आते हैं आज बहुत दिनों के बाद कुछ खबरे देख कर बेहद खुशी हुई . जैसाकि दिल्ली में 22.5 करोड की चोरी पुलिस ने तुरंत पकडी. चोर प्रदीप शुक्ला गिरफ्त मे. दूसरी बिहार मे शराब बंदी लागू की जाएगी और तीसरी आज लोकसभा में संविधान पर चर्चा करते हुए प्रधान […]

The post बदले बदले से सरकार नजर आते हैं appeared first on Monica Gupta.

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48. The Great Snape Debate

Ever since J.K. Rowling became more active on Twitter than posting twice a year, it has become almost impossible to report her Twitter activity as news–she’s on so often it’s difficult to keep up. It has also become a commonality in our lives: we sit, settle down with a mug of steaming hot tea, coffee, or coco, and spend too much time scrolling through J.K. Rowling’s Twitter feed, being thoroughly entertained by lively discussions.

J.K. Rowling has also been known to release a lot of Harry Potter “extras”–little tidbits and details from her imagination–and answer many fans’ Harry Potter questions. This morning, the same thing happened, but things got a little more interesting.

As fans, we have engaged in The Great Snape Debate for years and years. Snape is as grey as grey can be when it comes to good vs. evil, white vs. black. It can’t be denied the Snape was a hero, but it also cannot be denied that Snape was a bully. Does he qualify as an anti-hero?

This morning, J.K. Rowling jumped in on the debate–on accident, by simply answering one fan’s question that many of us have asked before–and her time line exploded. It is time to bring it about again, The Great Snape Debate. Check out what happened, and feel free to add your feelings and opinions to the debate in the comments below.

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We didn’t start the fire, but we are sure going to fan the flames a little and add to the discussion. I happen to be a very loyal Hufflepuff with an “I Love Snape” bumper sticker on the back of my car. However, I know that many of my fellow Leaky staffers who feel very differently about the subject matter. What do you think?

UPDATE: She’s just come back to Twitter to add more to the on-going debate….

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Yes, let’s!

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49. Cover Revealed for New Emily Foster Book

Drowning Eyes Cover (GalleyCat)

The cover has been unveiled for Emily Foster’s forthcoming book, The Drowning Eyes. We’ve embedded the full image for the jacket design above—what do you think?

According to Tor.com, Christine Foltzer served as the designer and Cynthia Sheppard created the artwork for this project. Tor/Forge, a division at Macmillan Publishers, has scheduled the release date for Jan. 12, 2016.

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50. Tallulah's Solo

Tallulah's Solo. Marilyn Singer. Illustrated by Alexandra Boiger. 2012. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Tallulah knew she was an excellent ballet dancer. So she was certain that this year she would be doing a solo in the winter recital.

Premise/plot: Tallulah's Solo is the second book in this picture book series. In this one, Tallulah's oh-so-adorable little brother, Beckett, begins to take ballet. The two are even in the same class. Will Beckett be as eager-to-learn and as well-behaved as Tallulah? Tallulah isn't all that concerned about her brother taking ballet. Her mind is on one thing only: getting a solo for the winter recital. Will this be the year?

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this second book. I am enjoying the characters very much. I love Tallulah and Beckett. I wouldn't mind spending time with them in real life. I like Tallulah's big, big dreams. And I like that sometimes not getting what you want gets you what you need. I love how Tallulah learns a few important life-lessons in this one.

My favorite scene? When Tallulah helps her brother practice at home.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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