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This week we began reading aloud Percy Jackson's Greek Gods with our 10-year-old. It is so much fun, I just have to share it -- even though we're barely a fraction into it. While I usually only share here books I've read in their entirety, I wanted to capture some of the laugh-out-loud moments we've been having. I also want to encourage you to keep reading aloud with your kids, even when they're reading proficiently on their own. That time together is pure gold -- treasure it and store up as much as you can.
Right from the introduction, it's clear that this is no ordinary retelling of the classic Greek myths. Percy is on top form, combining good natured humor and sarcastic wit:
"I hope I'm getting extra credit for this," Percy Jackson starts. "A publisher in New York asked me to write down what I know about the Greek gods, and I was like, 'Can we do this anonymously? Because I don't need the Olympians mad at me again.'"
While we haven't read the rest of the Percy Jackson novels together, my daughter knows plenty about them from her friends. She's curious about the Greek gods, but it's really Percy's voice that captured her attention.
Percy starts from the very beginning of time, with Chaos ("a gloomy, soupy mist with all the matter in the cosmos just drifting around"), Gaea the Earth Mother, and Ouranos the sky. Riordan packs a huge amount of detail into his tales, and we are finding it hard to keep track of all the names. So far, we've watched Kronos overthrow his father Ouranos, with the help of his four brothers Koios, Iapetus, Krios and Hyperion. And now Kronos is terrified that his father's curse will come true, and he will be destroyed by his own children. But the main characters are familiar to me, so I can help keep us on track.
"Without a word, (Ouranos) wrapped them in chains and tossed them into Tartarus like bags of recycling."
Want to have a taste of Percy's irreverent tone? Just read this chapter that begins the section on the Olympians and you'll see why this book has my 10 year old giggling each night:
"Why is Zeus always first? Seriously, every book about the Greek gods has to start with this guy. Are we doing reverse alphabetical order? I know he's the king of Olympus and all--but trust me, this dude's ego does not need to get any bigger. You know what? Forget him. We're going to talk about the gods in the order they were born, women first. Take a backseat Zeus. We're starting with Hestia."
I just love the way Riordan infuses his retellings with plenty of modern attitudes. "Maybe you'll feel better about your own relatives, knowing that the first family in creation was also the first dysfunctional family." But he also doesn't skimp on the details, foreign names and intricate family trees. That's why this is working so terrifically as a read-aloud.
John Rocco's illustrations are magnificent. As Kirkus Reviews states, they "smoke and writhe on the page as if hit by lightning." Head over to John's blog to read more about his artwork and see sketches of some of the interior art as he is developing it.
An index, list of illustrations and suggestions for further reading are included in the back matter. My one complaint at this point is I wish there was a family tree and/or list of all the characters with a pronunciation guide. In the meantime, I think I will print out either this basic family tree from Encyclopedia Mythica.
The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Disney Hyperion Books. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.
Alexandra Cameron, author of Rachael’s Gift Tell us about your latest creation: Rachael’s Gift begins when talented artist, fourteen-year-old Rachael, accuses her teacher of sexual misconduct, but the principal has suspicions that she is lying. Her father, Wolfe, is worried about his daughter’s odd behaviour but her mother, Camille, will not hear a bad word against […]
If we must die, let it not be like hogs Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot, While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs, Making their mock at our accursèd lot. If we must die, O let us nobly die, So that our precious blood may not be shed In vain; then even the monsters we defy... Shall be constrained to honor us though dead! O kinsmen! we must meet the common foe! Though far outnumbered let us show us brave, And for their thousand blows deal one death-blow! What though before us lies the open grave? Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack, Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!
Five years. That's right, I'm celebrating five years of my blog. Looking back at this year's posts, I see there aren't too many, but there's good reason for that. I'll get to that in a moment. There are lots of things to cover.
First, I want to say that Robin Williams made my day. Please don't take this the wrong way. I am not trying to make light of a tragic situation. I know both depression and addiction are powerful diseases. My point in saying he made my day is that it emphasizes no matter how successful or financially well off you are, you are still not immune. It reminds me that chasing every last dollar and stressing over bills is not the answer. We live in a beautiful world and need to focus on the truly important things.
Now, as soon as I can put my soap box away, let's get on with the party...
A little bit further down this post, you can find details on the blogiversary prizes. Some of you may have noticed that I have been a bit absent from the "writing world" coming close to a year now. At least, I hope you noticed. Well, there's good reason for that. I've actually been living a childhood dream.
I'm currently a Walt Disney World Monorail Pilot! Ever since I was a little boy, I wanted to drive one of those things. Last November, an opportunity arose and I took it. Let me tell you, the actual drive training is one of the most challenging things I've done in a long time. Every minute has been worth it! I am having a blast and spend my days with some absolutely amazing cast members.
As for my writing, I have some plans and things are coming together.
My friends at Helping Hands Press (www.myhelpinghandspress.com) are helping me celebrate this blogiversary for the next 25 days. I have two projects that I am working on for them. Quite a while ago, I started co-authoring a story called Amish Wonder. When finished, it will be a novella about a young Amish boy thrust out into the secular world. For fans of the Defective Amish Detective, I will be re-editing those stories into a complete novel with a nice surprise on the end.
I am also working with Dinosaur George Media on two different series. Ask DG is a question and answer picture book for young readers. Book 2 will feature illustrations from the very talented Victor Donahue. Both Ask DG and Dinosaur George and the Paleonauts book 2 are expected to be available by Christmas. You can find these books and more here: store.dinosaurgeorge.com
And the one that started it all - The Empyrical Tales. Book Four of the Empyrical Tales will continue the story of Zandria and Olena by telling the tale of The First Queen. The whole series will be revamped and re-introduced soon. Until then, I will keep those details under wraps. Please visit my official website for more details and the series and my other books - www.MillerWords.com.
While you are there, please check out my new online store, where you can get autographed copies of all of my paperbacks at a special price with free shipping.
In five years of writing, blogging and social media, I have met some fantastic writers and been blessed with some great fans. I've received humbling reviews and inspiring emails. I've tried my hand (not always successfully) in many different genres and have something for most every type of reader. To celebrate, I am giving away the gifts. Here are the links to five of my paperbacks available through Goodreads.com:
In addition to the paperbacks, Helping Hands Press has put together a prize pack of selected eBooks (mine and some of my author-friends). Lazarus Filmworks, for whom I wrote the adaptation of Daniel's Lot, is also including some prizes. Please be sure to visit both of my sponsors. This part of the giveaway will be done through Rafflecopter exclusively on my blog. You can earn an unlimited amount of entries by using social media once a day for the next 25 days.
In closing, I want to express my gratitude. That is one thing of which I have an abundance and can afford. I am full of thanks for all of my experiences over the past five years. I am thankful for the people, both real and virtual, that I have met. I am thankful for the opportunities I've had. In this time, I have also watched my family grow and change and I thank God for that gift. Please feel free to share this post and all of the prize links. And, as always, I appreciate any comments on my blog.
This month, I read 14 books and scripts. I also wrote roughly 130 pages of new material, most of which was written longhand with pen and paper before I typed and revised everything multiple times. (Many thanks to my beta readers and personal cheerleaders, notably AD, E, K, and C.)
Before my fingers cramp up again, let me point to you to some interviews I did this month, all with authors who are celebrating the release of their new books:
I liked Alice, I Think by Susan Juby very much, but I'm not sure what the story is here. This may be one of those books you have to be zenny about and just experience.
Alice is the offspring of crunchy parents who homeschooled her because on her first day of traditional first grade (she didn't attend kindergarten), she showed up dressed as a character from The Hobbit. Things didn't go well for her. One could say that learning to read early leads to no good.
I was never a hundred percent sure why Alice was seeing a therapist, unless it had something to do with poor socialization because she was homeschooled. It was probably one of her parents' ideas. Alice heads out to regular school at fifteen, inspired by her younger brother who has always attended school. He may have been too bright for their parents and had some instinctual knowledge that you just don't dress up in costumes for school. Alice says outright that she has no problem with playing favorites. She definitely prefers her brother to her mother and father.
Oh, and Alice aspires to be a cultural critic.That is a fantastic aspect of the book.
Juby describes Alice, I Think as a Teen/Adult book, and I think that's very apt. There are aspects of this book that adults are going to find more entertaining than I think teens will. The section on the people holding some kind of memorial to the late, lamented Princess of Wales, for instance, is probably far more meaningful to adults than the younger than seventeen-year-olds who don't remember the world-wide mourning at her death. As much as I liked the cultural critic business, that might be for your more sophisticated teen readers, too.
Some of you may remember that my first Juby book was Home to Woefield, definitely an adult novel published in 2010. Next I read her teen book Getting the Girl, published in 2008. I thought the main character was wonderful, "like a younger, less raunchy, undamaged Seth from Home to Woefield." Alice, I Think was published in 2003, and I think the young girl in the 2010 Woefield might be a variation on her.
Interesting to read so much of an author's work and see her world.
Alice, I Think has a sequel. In addition, a one-season TV series was made in Canada. Yes, I may try to get hold of it. If I watch it, you can be sure I'll let you know.
Since it is now September, I figured I would post this opportunity for those children’s writers and Illustrators who live within driving distance in Michigan, New Jersey , PA, and New York to met David Small and Holly McGhee.
The third poster down: Studio B in Maplewood, NJ is bringing together five children’s author/illustrators to discuss the process of writing a children’s book.
You can see all the details in the posters below:
A COMPLETE LIST OF APPEARENCES:
Wednesday, September 10, 2014, 6 P.M., Kalamazoo Public Library
Andrew is reading Pedro and the Monkey by Robert D. San Souci, illustrated by Michael Hays (Morrow Junior Books, 1996) at the Dr. José Rizal sculpture in Chicago’s Lincoln Park. Dr. Rizal (1861-1896) “is the Philippine national hero, the ‘father of his country,’ the founder of its modern literature, the inspirer of its educational system” (Reines, Bernard. A People’s Hero: Rizal of the Philippines. New York, Praeger Publishers, 1971.).
The National Library of the Philippines is sponsoring an International Conference of Children’s Librarianship in Tagaytay City next month and I’m very excited to be attending to represent ALSC! The theme of the conference is “Connecting and Linking of Information through Transformed Children’s Libraries to the Digital Era,” and I’ll be giving a presentation on the first evening, October 13, on the topic of “Envisioning a 21st Century Children’s Library.”
This topic is right up ALSC’s alley as our core purpose is creating a better future for children through libraries, and I’m looking forward to reaching out and sharing how we’re moving together into our association’s envisioned future in which “libraries are recognized as vital to all children and the communities that support them.”
I would love your help in telling this story! What is your vision of a 21st Century Children’s Library for your community? We’re talking collections, technology, programming, spaces—and anything else you can think of. What innovations in library service to children can you imagine developing in the 85 years still to come in this century, and what traditions and proven tactics will we be carrying forward?
Please share your ideas you’d like me to spread around the world by September 16 in the comments section below or by clicking and submitting them here. If you have a picture of something special you’re doing now that you feel represents the future and you’d be willing for me to include it in the conference presentation, please e-mail them to me at email@example.com. You can also tweet pictures and any other thoughts using #21stkidlib.
And please follow me on Twitter (@ammlib) where I’ll be gearing up for the trip by exploring Filipino folklore (find my reading list here), practicing ordering coffee in Filipino (Higit kape mangyaring), and warming up my taste buds at some of Chicago’s delicious Filipino restaurants. And throughout the trip (October 10-16) I’ll be sharing my experiences and the amazing ideas of our colleagues across the globe using #andrewinasia.
Andrew Medlar is the 2014-15 ALSC Vice President/President-Elect and the Assistant Chief, Technology, Content, & Innovation, at Chicago Public Library.
Guys Read: True Stories
edited by Jon Scieszka
illustrated by Brian Floca
Walden Pond Press, 2014
On shelves: Sept. 16, 2014
Grades 4 and up
The reviewer received an advanced copy of the book from the publisher.
Author, Jon Scieszka, has dedicated his life to inspiring boys to read, and he's succeeding. Not only did he serve as the National Ambassador for Young People's
McEwan has just sold his manuscripts to the Harry Ransom Center in Austin, Texas.
"Bundling up my papers," he says, "has been another ageing thing."
The library, conventionally a sanctuary, has become a sobering transit-lounge.
At once dry and droll, he describes it as "the antechamber to death".
(I wonder whether they'll use that as a new logo in Austin .....)
Perhaps surprising, the admission: "I haven't written a short story since 1976"
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September is the month when lots of teenagers in the UK move on, leaving home for college or gap years or other adventures.
The growing-up may have felt, at times, like very long years, so rejoice now that change has arrived at last
Rejoice, for a moment, in what you’re losing. All those late arrivals and sudden slam-door exits, the too-much too-loud music or grunts-plus-earphones; the washing machine full of dirty clothes; the presence of unknown bodies sleeping on living room floors and sofas; the big screens and small screens constantly flickering with fascinating stuff, and more.
Aha! Soon you’ll be nostalgic for bathrooms stacked with more grooming products than can be daubed on one person in a lifetime, Even so, it will also feel very good to reclaim some of the space that you knew was once there.
However, before it’s too late, be aware of what you will be losing too. Especially if you’re a freelance loner working from home.The person who is probably your most valuable technical resource is leaving. Not only will all that precious and vital energy disappear - and no, I'm not joking! - but so will all their random knowledge, skills and fluency with all things technical.
From the moment that door closes, you will be relying on your own knowledge - and how does that stand up right now, all by itself?
I have no precious teen tech around right now. I have no handy geek or wizard who can help me with the latest social media trends, no person who can explain how to do the things I want to do, or the thing I don't know I should know about.
I don’t sit there bleating (even if this post may seem so.)
I ask, I enquire, I go to the on-line videos and follow the simple steps. I google for answers, try things out and solve problems.
But, but, but . . . so often I find a gap where an essential bit of information should be.
Yes, the screen can show me “this” but what about the “that” that goes with it? The missing link that takes such hours to discover, the reason behind x or y? I 'd really like to borrow a socialised techno-wise human being for a week or three, please. Aaagh!
Maybe you are lucky? Maybe you are young yourself or you work outside home and have easy access, not only to training but to the casual wisdom of facts being passed on and gadgets explained.
If not, be warned.
If you work at your writing at home, alone, from now on you’ll be battling with new media and new work at the same time, and there's not many hours to go round.
Be nice to your nerds while you’ve got them. Today is the first of September. You’ve got about two weeks to download all they know.
Head to either blog to find reviews as well as dozens of links to other blogs filled with reviews!
On Tuesday I will welcome ten students into my brand new classroom, my new home away from home. I've taught 3rd and 4th grade for eight years in a public school. I've seen many changes in education in those few short years. And I can't say they were all positive changes. I don't believe we need to test kids to the extremes we have begun to accept as normal. I wasn't excited about the prospect of my son entering school in a few years to a technology filled kindergarten setting. I was saddened by the policies and frustrated by my time being filled with goal setting and observation write-ups and ipad trainings and common core EVERYTHING.
And then I saw a job posting at an independent school.
I applied, and I got it.
I'm truly going to miss seeing some of the amazing people I worked closely with for the past eight years. But, I have to say, I am getting to know some very amazing people at the new school.
And the best part, the very best part: politicians and policy makers will not be deciding what I teach, how I teach it, or how I report out on it. I will be the person running my classroom. The teacher running the classroom. Imagine that. My hands are untied and I suddenly feel lighter.
I have many future photos to share, but this one is so special to me.
The building my classroom is in was undergoing a huge expansion this summer. For many days I arrived on campus hoping to be let into my new room, only to find that the move-in date had been pushed back another day. With the school year rapidly approaching I was getting anxious.
So, there I was, sitting in an early meeting this week-literally on the edge of my seat, waiting for the go ahead to begin moving into my classroom. My parents were meeting me at school with a U-Haul trailer filled to the brim with my collected belongings (mostly books). The day was going to be long, that trailer was packed.
So as I sat there feeling equal parts anticipation to get into the new room, and dread at the amount of work ahead of me, I heard the most wonderful words come out of the Head of School's mouth...He urged all staff to go help the Lower School teachers move into their building-including unloading that beast of a U-Haul.
So, there they are, the amazing faculty and staff at the school I now belong to.
It's going to be a great move forward.
And look who has been helping me sort and organize my things once the boxes were opened:
Just my very favorite small person in all of the world!
Books I Read this Week:
Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: Treaties, Trenches, Mud, and Blood by Nathan Hale
Amulet Books, 2014
Historical Fiction/Graphic Novel
Recommended for grades 5-8
This time Hale takes on the ambitious task of putting WWI into a short, understandable, graphic novel. The who, what, where and whys are not easy to keep straight with no background knowledge, so Hale decided to represent each involved country with a different animal. If you can remember that Russia are the bears-or was that Germany-then you are all set! I've got to admit, I found this installment tougher than the previous three, but that could be due to the fact that I was reading it at all hours of the night while feeding the baby.
Even so, I love this series, and think it is a must for classroom libraries 4th grade and up.
Half a Chance by Cynthia Lord
Recommended for grades 3-6
If you've read Cynthia Lord's work then you know she has a knack for writing touching, realistic stories with a timeless feel. Set in New Hampshire, Lucy is relocating yet again with her parents. When she befriends a neighbor and his family, Lucy finds herself having a wonderful summer learning about loons and honing her photography skills with Nate. Lord decides to include a character with onsetting dementia, and I think she handled that character well. Dementia is an awful thing that many of us are familiar with. For a child the idea of a beloved grandparent no longer acting like them-self is scary. Nate and Lucy can help young readers understand this better, and will perhaps open avenues of conversation around this topic within families.
Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker by Patricia Hruby Powell
illustrated by Christian Robinson
Chronicle Books, 2014
Recommended for grades 4+
Do you know who Josephine Baker was? Well, good for you, aren't you clever! In reading this book I was introduced to her, so her story was new to me. I adore the illustrations in this book. Like the text, the illustrations at times are sparse, yet so alive.
Josephine's life was an amazing journey through show business and beyond, and this book left me wanting to know more. I'm especially curious about all of her adopted children. What became of them, her Rainbow Tribe? Go pick this one up, you'll enjoy it.
I'm Currently Reading:
Thanks for stopping by! Have a wonderful reading week!
When M was about 9 months old she was sat in a bath and became transfixed by the steady trickle of water coming from the tap. Time and time again she tried to grab the stream of water and was utterly puzzled: Why wasn’t it possible to hold onto the solid-appearing rod of glinting water? I had a moment of delight and clarity as I watched M explore this ‘illusion’. As an adult I of course know a liquid cannot be held onto like a solid can, but when and how had I learned this? Here were M learning it right in front of my eyes and it felt like a moment of brilliant revelation, an instant when one of the secrets of how the world works was revealed.
Hervé Tullet‘s Mix it Up! allows us all to experience the same thrill of discovery, the buzz that comes from a lightbulb moment; it takes us back to the very bare bones of colour theory and shows us magic at our own fingertips. That mixing yellow and blue should give us a total different colour… well that’s pretty cool if you think about it.
Listeners and readers are invited into a wide open, imaginative space where their physical interaction with the book (tipping it, tapping it, slamming it shut) has the power to transform the pages. On one level we know it is an illusion, but the way the book addresses us directly and apparently responds to our commands instils a thrilling sense of both powerfulness and playfulness.
This books shows paint as your friend and as such is a fabulous doorway into the world of art.
This book makes scientists of its readers and listeners, asking the to predict what is going to happen and then making it so.
Mix it Up!‘s simplicity is deceptive and will be enjoyed by older children and playful adults, even if they’ve long since learned all they technically need to know about primary and secondary colours. A worthy follow-up to Press Here, this unadorned, uncomplicated book will cast a spell over you and allow you to see again some of the wonder around you.
Inspired by the page in Tullet’s book which shows a hand amongst paint-covered fingerprints we draw around our hands and cut out hand templates. These we temporarily stuck to a sheet of card (using masking tape).
Next we went wild with finger painting, starting with three bowls of primary colours (soaked into sponges so that the paint stuck to our fingers more evenly)…
…before mixing the primary colours to make secondary colours.
When the paper was full of prints I then carefully removed the hand templates to leave white shadows.
We used the now-covered-in-fingerprints hand templates to stick on a second sheet of white paper, creating an “opposite” image to the hand shadows.
Both are now up on the walls in the girls’ room. I think they make very effective pieces of art but perhaps more importantly, the process was hugely enjoyable.
Whilst we painted we listened to:
Mix It Up by The Marvelettes
This Too Shall Pass by OK Go – for the playfulness and final scenes with paint I think Tullet would approve of.
Mixing Up by Yo Gabba Gabba!
Other activities which would go well with reading Mix it Up! include:
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Rwandan-French author Scholastique Mukasonga's prix Renaudot-winning (2012) novel, Our Lady of the Nile, now available in English from Archipelago Books.
It’s official. We are back to school, and in order to have a good year, a kid needs new stuff! You’ve probably made trips to the usual places for the usual supplies like pencils, notebooks, a backpack . . . maybe some fancy pens or book covers. Maybe you absolutely NEED a mirror inside your locker. (We get it. How can you focus on learning if you’re afraid your hair looks bad?) We want to know what school supplies are essential for you. So for today’s Writing Prompt, in the spirit of Back-to-School, we’re asking . . .
Whether it’s the usual or the unusual, leave your must-haves in the Comments below!
Happy Monday! Monday Mishmash is a weekly meme dedicated to sharing what's on your mind. Feel free to grab the button and post your own Mishmash.
Here's what's on my mind today:
Back to School My daughter starts second grade tomorrow. This summer flew by. I guess being out of my house had something to do with that. We've only been home for two weeks.
Back to My Writing Schedule Back to school means back to my usual writing schedule. I have two ideas battling it out in my head. I'll get to work on the one that screams the loudest. ;) I'm so excited to draft a new book.
Into the Fire Author Copies! Look what came in the mail last Friday!
Free Monthly Newsletter My newsletter goes out this evening. If you aren't signed up but would like to receive one, click here. My newsletters have information about my releases, giveaways, and writing tips each month.
Perfect For You and Into the Fire Release Giveaway I'm looking for people to help me spread the word about my two YA releases by posting my giveaway with teaser from both books sometime during the week of September 8th. If you can help me out, sign up below:
As a new strong toy he found himself in an abusive family relationship but he loved the rough and tumble times he had, now though he is happy to see the next phase of his life as a solid form of another man’s grown up world and would be content to sit on a shelf and watch as others play and he is admired for fun times had and fond memories …