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1. Third in line review

Third in line reviewed over at the Parka Blog

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2. Happy Birthday Chris P. Bacon - a bookwrap

Do you remember the nursery rhyme, "This little piggy went to market?" Well the little piggy I am going to introduce to you today did go to market... literally.... he markets himself on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter and becomes an overnight sensation.  I want you to meet Chris P. Bacon and his owner Dr. Len Lucerno.  I know you will be inspired by their story... 


Authored by Len Lucerno and Kristina Tracy

Illustrated by Penny Weber

Ages 2+ and beyond

Unwrapping some illustrations for you...

Isn't that just the cutest face ever?   He's in birthday-cake heaven. The illustrations are bold, colourful, charged with emotion and action, and extremely kid-friendly.  I love all the detail and busyness that captures the momentum of the story and that makes the reader feel he is in the scene not just a by-stander looking at it from afar. 

About the book...

Chris P. Bacon is a modern-day hero.  The poor little guy is born physically challenged and is taken to the local veterinarian to be euthanized by his owners.  When the vet looks into his eyes, he smiles and claims the little malformed piggy for his very own.  The vet just senses in his heart that Chris P. Bacon is one-of-a-kind, unique, and very special.  

Dr. Len Lucerno and his family lovingly care for the tiny piglet. The doctor then comes up with a brilliant contraption to launch that tiny fellow into the world of mobility.  He takes pieces from his son's K-Nex set, tweaks them, and creates a wheelchair so his newly adoptee can actually move safely around, play happily and experience a much better quality of life. 

 Within a matter of a few weeks Chris P. Bacon is the darling of social media gaining rock-star status.  All over the world he inspires people with his courage, his ingenuity and his amazing loving heart.  Do you know what else he morphed into?  He becomes a famous author! He can now hoof-it around his world and spin piggy tales too.  Magic!

In this fabulous third book he is celebrating his birthday.  Like every two year old on the planet he is excited because this day will be all about him.  Chris's exuberance spills over to his farm animal  friends who can't wait for his party to begin.  Not only are they invited to his soirée but he welcomes his human friends as well. So, if you are human... and I think you qualify...guess what?  YOU are invited to his birthday bash too!

Chris P. Bacon, everyone's favourite Pig on Wheels, cordially invites you to join him for an "oinking" good time.  He has saved a humungous slice of his birthday cake for you to partake of.  Come on everyone let's go and pig-out, Chris is waiting for us!   

The authors for you...

Lucero, who lives on a farm in central Florida, brought the little pig home to his wife, two kids and menagerie of animals.
The animal's official name became 'Chris P. Bacon' but informally, they called him 'Piggy' Lucero's kids loved him and snapped photos.
The family dog, a black and white Australian Shepherd, became his protector.
The doctor wondered how he could help the pig move easier and considered a set of wheels attached to a harness, similar to what some lame dogs use.

Kristina Tracy is having a great time working on children’s books with Wayne and Doreen. When she is not writing or being a mom, she loves gardening, horseback riding, and rearranging the furniture in her house. She may also be found at the counter at Starbucks pondering the infinite possibilities!

Read on and read always!

It's a wrap.

Contact me at storywrapsblog@gmail.com

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3. Twelve Days of Tech-mas 2015 Edition

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4. The First World War at Slate

9780226284286 2

Carl De Keyzer’s The First World War reproduces newly restored glass-plate images (scratches and flaws meticulously removed, which involved De Keyzer’s pursuit of the original glass plates from international archives, private collections, and museums), depicting the experience of WWI from vantages and perspectives previously lost to history. A recent post at Slate‘s history blog, The Vault, featured several images from the book taken by the photographer Arthur Brusselle, who was commissioned by the Belgian government to travel to those sites that had seen the most devastation and document his encounters (these particular plates are held in the archive of the City of Bruges).

From Rebecca Onion’s post at Slate, with a couple of accompanying images below:

Two of the towns in the photographs below—Diksmuide and Nieuwpoort—were the sites of the Belgian Army’s final stand against the invading German Army, in October 1914. Pushed to the coast, the Belgians, accompanied by British and French troops, created a 22-mile defensive line from Nieuwpoort to a village named Zuidschote. The nearly monthlong Battle of the Yser, during which the Belgians purposefully flooded part of this landscape in order to deter German advances, ended in defeat for the Germans and allowed Belgium to keep a small percentage of its land under its own control.



Arthur Brusselle, Diksmuide (1918–19). Photo copyright: City of Bruges.



Arthur Brusselle, Diksmuide (1918–19). Photo copyright: City of Bruges.

To read more about The First World War, click here.

To see more sample images from the book, click here.

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5. NaNoWriMo Tip #19: Cross the Finish Line

Today is the last day of November, and it’s time to wrap up your novel. So today’s tip is: Cross the finish line.

If you don’t feel quite done yet, don’t give up, you still have today. Now is the time to pour yourself some coffee and finish your book. You may have hesitations or feel like sections need to be reworked, but leave those thoughts for the editing process. You’ll have plenty of time in 2016 to refine and rework your novel. The point of this month’s exercise is to get the first draft written, so go ahead and get it done.

This is our 19th NaNoWriMo Tip of the Day. To help GalleyCat readers take on the challenge of writing a draft for a 50,000-word novel in 30 days, we have been offering advice throughout the entire month.

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6. From the Editor – December 2015

What Makes a Good...?As a result of the baby boomlet of the late 1980s, we saw subsequent picture book publishing grow, not just in sheer numbers of new titles but in the expansion of the traditionally preschool genre’s reach into books intended for older children and even adults. In this edition of What Makes a Good…? we go back to basics and back to preschoolers, starting things off with five questions for a grandmaster of the picture book, the 2011 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award winner Tomie dePaola.


Roger Sutton
Editor in Chief

From the December 2015 issue of What Makes a Good…?

The post From the Editor – December 2015 appeared first on The Horn Book.

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7. Books mentioned in the December 2015 issue of What Makes a Good…?

What Makes a Good Preschool Book?

All Through the Day

Castillo, Lauren Nana in the City
   40 pp. Clarion 2014. ISBN 978-0-544-10443-3

dePaola, Tomie Look and Be Grateful
   32 pp. Holiday 2015. ISBN 978-0-8234-3443-5

Fleming, Candace Bulldozer’s Big Day
   32 pp. Atheneum 2015. ISBN 978-1-4814-0097-8
Ebook ISBN 978-1-4814-0098-5

Golan, Avirama Little Naomi, Little Chick
   Illustrated by Raaya Karas.
40 pp. Eerdmans 2013. ISBN 978-0-8028-5427-8

Henkes, Kevin Waiting
   32 pp. Greenwillow 2015. ISBN 978-0-06-236843-0
Library binding ISBN 978-0-06-236844-7

Kanevsky, Polly Here Is the Baby
   Illustrated by Taeeun Yoo.
40 pp. Random/Schwartz & Wade 2014. ISBN 978-0-375-86731-6
Library binding ISBN 978-0-375-96731-3
Ebook ISBN 978-0-375-98785-4

Portis, Antoinette Wait
   32 pp. Roaring Brook/Porter 2015. ISBN 978-1-59643-921-4


ABCs and 123s

Browne, Anthony One Gorilla: A Counting Book
   32 pp. Candlewick 2013. ISBN 978-0-7636-6352-0

Carter, David A. B Is for Box: The Happy Little Yellow Box
   16 pp. Little Simon 2014. ISBN 978-1-4814-0295-8

Cousins, Lucy Count with Maisy, Cheep, Cheep, Cheep!
   32 pp. Candlewick 2015. ISBN 978-0-7636-7643-8

Fisher, Valorie I Can Do It Myself
   40 pp. Random/Schwartz & Wade 2014. ISBN 978-0-449-81593-9

Gehl, Laura One Big Pair of Underwear
   Illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld.
40 pp. Simon/Beach Lane 2014. ISBN 978-1-4424-5336-4
Ebook ISBN 978-1-4424-5338-8

Lobel, Anita Playful Pigs from A to Z
   40 pp. Knopf 2015. ISBN 978-0-553-50832-1
Library binding ISBN 978-0-553-50833-8
Ebook ISBN 978-0-553-50834-5

Martin, Bill, Jr Ten Little Caterpillars
   Illustrated by Lois Ehlert.
40 pp. Simon/Beach Lane 2011. ISBN 978-1-4424-3385-4

Ohmura, Tomoko The Long, Long Line
   40 pp. Owlkids 2013. ISBN 978-1-926973-92-0




Atinuke Double Trouble for Anna Hibiscus!
   Illustrated by Lauren Tobia.
32 pp. Kane/Miller 2015. ISBN 978-1-61067-367-9

Blackall, Sophie The Baby Tree
   40 pp. Penguin/Paulsen (Penguin Young Readers Group) 2014. ISBN 978-0-399-25718-6

Child, Lauren The New Small Person
   32 pp. Candlewick 2015. ISBN 978-0-7636-7810-4

Dominguez, Angela Santiago Stays
   32 pp. Abrams/Abrams Appleseed 2013. ISBN 978-1-4197-0821-3

Dyckman, Ame Wolfie the Bunny
   Illustrated by Zachariah OHora.
32 pp. Little 2015. ISBN 978-0-316-22614-1

Shannon, George One Family
   Illustrated by Blanca Gómez.
32 pp. Farrar/Foster 2015. ISBN 978-0-374-30003-6

Shea, Bob Dinosaur vs. Mommy
   32 pp. Disney/Hyperion 2015. ISBN 978-1-4231-6086-1

Wells, Rosemary Use Your Words, Sophie!
   24 pp. Viking 2015. ISBN 978-0-670-01663-1

Yum, Hyewon The Twins’ Little Sister
   40 pp. Farrar/Foster 2014. ISBN 978-0-374-37973-5




Choldenko, Gennifer Putting the Monkeys to Bed
   Illustrated by Jack E. Davis.
32 pp. Putnam 2015. ISBN 978-0-399-24623-4

Ebbeler, Jeffrey Click!
   32 pp. Holiday 2015. ISBN 978-0-8234-3295-0

Farrell, Darren Thank You, Octopus
   40 pp. Dial 2014. ISBN 978-0-8037-3438-8

Fox, Mem Baby Bedtime
   Illustrated by Emma Quay.
32 pp. Simon/Beach Lane 2014. ISBN 978-1-4814-2097-6
Ebook ISBN 978-1-4814-2098-3

Ray, Mary Lyn Go to Sleep, Little Farm
   Illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal.
40 pp. Houghton 2014. ISBN 978-0-544-15014-0

Sakai, Komako Hannah’s Night
   Translated by Cathy Hirano.
32 pp. Gecko 2014. ISBN 978-1-877579-54-7

Saltzberg, Barney Chengdu Could Not, Would Not Fall Asleep
   48 pp. Disney/Hyperion 2014. ISBN 978-1-4231-6721-1

Shaw, Nancy Sheep Go to Sleep
   Illustrated by Margot Apple.
32 pp. Houghton 2015. ISBN 978-0-544-30989-0

Zoboli, Giovanna The Big Book of Slumber
Illustrated by Simona Mulazzani.
32 pp. Eerdmans 2014. ISBN 978-0-8028-5439-1

These titles were featured in the December 2015 issue of What Makes a Good…?

The post Books mentioned in the December 2015 issue of What Makes a Good…? appeared first on The Horn Book.

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8. Tallulah's Tap Shoes

Tallulah's Tap Shoes. Mairlyn Singer. Illustrated by Alexandra Boiger. 2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 48 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Tallulah was excited about going to dance camp. She would get to take ballet every day. There was just one problem--she would also have to take tap and she was NOT looking forward to THAT.

Premise/plot: Tallulah is a little too used to being 'the best' at ballet to feel comfortable trying a new type of dance. She wants to either be the best at tap right away, or, not take it at all. To her way of thinking, if she can't be the best and be recognized as being 'the best' then it's not worth her time or effort. But is being the best what summer dance camp is all about?

My thoughts: I liked this one. I liked seeing Tallulah make a new friend. It was a very pleasing story. Even if Beckett was only in the last few pages.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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9. Powerhouse Museum Hosts the Art of the Brick: DC Comics Exhibit

lego batmobile (GalleyCat)The Powerhouse Museum, an institution based in Sydney, Australia, has been hosting “The Art of the Brick: DC Comics exhibit.” Nathan Sawaya, an artist, created a variety of lego sculptures inspired by several beloved DC Comics series.

Some of the items on display include a lego-style batmobile replica, a Wonder Woman bust, and a Superman statue. According to the press release, “the international tour of The Art of the Brick: DC Comics will begin in November in Sydney, followed by venues in additional major cities around the globe.”

The closing date for the Australian program has been scheduled for May 01, 2016. Who’s your favorite superhero from the DC universe?

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10. Terror From The Core

You'll not see it but Terror From The Core I wrote in the early 1990s(?) and looking at the news recently it seems very relevant.

Mind you, never did trust sub-terraneans!

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11. SUPERGIRL secures an additional seven episodes

supergirl_excerptKara will continue to fly high on CBS deeper into 2016

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12. Will Write For Chocolate Updated

For more WWFC strips, visit WillWriteForChocolate.com.

And in case anyone's curious, Esme is reading Teresa Toten's SHATTERED GLASS, just like I am. Such a good book!

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13. Golden Age of Illustration, Volume 3

The Illustrated Press has released the third of its limited edition surveys of classic American Illustration, called "The Golden Age: Masterworks from the Golden Age of Illustration — Vol. 3"

The large format hardcover book is purely pictorial, with 224 pages of full-page artwork. The images are arranged alphabetically in a survey that ranges from about 1900-1960. As with all of Dan Zimmer's publications, the quality of the printing and binding is excellent.

Tom Lovell and Orson Lowell
So you get one, or sometimes two, illustrations by the well-known illustrators, along with a good sampling of lesser-known names. I find these books to be useful for stimulating new visual ideas and for snapping me out of my pictorial habits.

Gordon Johnson and Victor Kalin
You can preview the whole book online in thumbnail form here and see if it's got what you like. The special collector's edition version is sold out, as is the first volume in the series. But the regular editions of Volumes 3 and 2, priced at $44.95, are still available.

Also, available for pre-order is the new Dean Cornwell book by Illustration Press, which is also limited to 1000 copies, and is sure to sell out.
The Golden Age: Masterworks from the Golden Age of Illustration — Vol. 3

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14. Recommended Preschool Books: All Through the Day

nana-in-the-city-300x300Castillo, Lauren Nana in the City
   40 pp. Clarion 2014. ISBN 978-0-544-10443-3

Visiting Nana in the city, the unnamed child narrator is initially unreceptive to the appeal. “The city is busy…loud…[and] filled with scary things.” Nana promises to show her young visitor that “the city is wonderful — bustling, booming, and extraordinary,” and their tour the following day does just that. The simple, meaningful text is well served by richly detailed watercolors conveying a bustling city.

Subjects: Preschool; City and town life; Family—Grandmothers; Emotions—Courage

depaola_look and be gratefuldePaola, Tomie Look and Be Grateful
   32 pp. Holiday 2015. ISBN 978-0-8234-3443-5

DePaola’s rouse from sleep is a gentle one, asking readers to “open your eyes, and look.” The text remains quiet, moving from its opening imploration to a suggested response: “Be grateful, for everything you see.” The brief handwritten text on peachy-beige paper is accompanied by the simplest of images: a child, a flower or two, one of the artist’s signature doves.

Subjects: Preschool; Emotions—Gratitude

fleming_bulldozer's big dayFleming, Candace Bulldozer’s Big Day
   32 pp. Atheneum 2015. ISBN 978-1-4814-0097-8 Ebook ISBN 978-1-4814-0098-5

Illustrated by Eric Rohmann. On his “big day,” Bulldozer can’t wait to invite his friends to his party: “Guess what today is!” The other construction vehicles appear too preoccupied with work to guess. “No friends. No party,” sniffs Bulldozer. Of course, there is a party; everyone’s secretly been constructing a giant birthday cake. Engaging text will keep story-hour audiences invested; block-print illustrations feature trucks with loads of personality.

Subjects: Preschool; Birthdays; Parties; Vehicles—Trucks; Construction

golan_little naomi, little chickGolan, Avirama Little Naomi, Little Chick
   40 pp. Eerdmans 2013. ISBN 978-0-8028-5427-8

Illustrated by Raaya Karas. This clever book tells two stories, one about a preschooler named Naomi, the other about a little chick. Left-hand pages describe Naomi’s day, with tidy spot art at the bottom of the pages illustrating the activities. Meanwhile, on right-hand pages, Little Chick’s day on the farm unfolds in expansive, comical illustrations. Several visual elements gracefully unite these two worlds of play.

Subjects: Preschool; Animal babies; Schools—Preschools; Animals—Chickens; Animals—Domestic animals; Books in translation

henkes_waitingHenkes, Kevin Waiting
   32 pp. Greenwillow 2015. ISBN 978-0-06-236843-0 Library binding ISBN 978-0-06-236844-7

Waiting is a huge part of every child’s life, and Henkes uses a light touch to address the topic. Five toys, outlined in brown and filled in with muted colors, wait on a windowsill. Time passes slowly through seasons; small changes in body positions and eyes show a range of emotions. A straightforward text sets up predictable patterns with small surprises, while the design is varied to create momentum.

Subjects: Preschool; Toys; Behavior—Patience

day_kanevsky_here-is-the-babyKanevsky, Polly Here Is the Baby
   40 pp. Random/Schwartz & Wade 2014. ISBN 978-0-375-86731-6 Library binding ISBN 978-0-375-96731-3 Ebook ISBN 978-0-375-98785-4

Illustrated by Taeeun Yoo. Readers follow a baby’s full day in a city neighborhood from wake-up (“Here is the baby. And a bright morning sun”) to bedtime, complete with a library outing (“Here is the lady. She reads to the children”), stroller nap, and playground time, all supervised by a low-key dad. The text’s “here is” pattern is reassuring and concrete. The mixed-media illustrations are steeped in cozy imagery.

Subjects: Preschool; Babies; Family

portis_waitPortis, Antoinette Wait
   32 pp. Roaring Brook/Porter 2015. ISBN 978-1-59643-921-4

A mother rushes her toddler through busy city streets. He stalls to look at everything they encounter. This tension plays out over several spreads illustrating the same refrain: “Hurry!” / “Wait.” As their train’s doors begin closing, he insists on one last pause — for a brilliant rainbow. “Yes. / Wait.” Predictive details in the accessible illustrations add richness to this story about appreciating simple pleasures.

Subjects: Preschool; City and town life; Family—Mother and child

From the December 2015 issue of What Makes a Good…?

The post Recommended Preschool Books: All Through the Day appeared first on The Horn Book.

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15. Getting Into a Pattern

Back in college, I did a few freelance articles for a photography trade magazine. Mostly wedding photographer profiles. A woman I’d become close friends with in a creative writing course happened to be an editor for this publication, and she gave me some assignments for fun. By about the third piece I turned in, she sent me a very friendly email that haunts me to this day. She basically said, “Hey Mary, I’m noticing that all of your articles follow the same pattern. You start with the photographer’s youth and then the event that made them fall in love with photography, then you cover their education and development as a photographer, and their you end with their current work. Maybe you could, yanno, mix it up a little bit.”

She was right. Of course she was. I’m no journalist and I had no idea what I was doing or how to organize a compelling non-fiction article, so I picked the easiest possible organizational strategy when talking about a person: the resume, or, in other words, “Started from the bottom, now we here.” And by golly, I was going to drive it into the ground until somebody stopped me because I didn’t know what else to do. And, to my *ahem* credit, I thanked her profusely for the feedback…and was so mortified that I stopped writing for the photography magazine shortly thereafter. A writer’s ego is a strange creature.

But I figured out the lesson in her wise words eventually. Yes, a decade, give or take, counts as “eventually,” guys. There are patterns in writing. Some are good patterns, some are individual patterns that maybe keep us from growing in the craft.

An example of a good pattern is a larger organizing principle or story theory, for example, Joseph Campbell’s hero cycle. While this is an oldie, it’s very much a goodie, since its wisdom applies to any number of stories, in any number of ways. Chronological order is also an old standard that can’t be beat when writing a novel. Sure, you want to jump back in time to fill in some backstory and context every once in a while, but moving from point A to point B as the character grows and time marches forward is an idea that will never go away.

The reason I like these two is that they’ve vague and versatile. They dictate a general idea and then it’s up to you to apply it in your own style. You’ll notice that I talk about story theory in my book, Writing Irresistible Kidlit. But I try to leave much of it up to the writer. I recently ordered a slipcover for my sectional because the upholstery we originally got clings to pet hair like it’s pirate treasure. The slipcover fabric is so stretchy that it was able to fit my couch and look custom-made without any measurement. I was dubious until it arrived, since it purported to fit couches from 66″ to 96″ and that seems like a pretty big spread. But it’s really quite amazing, fits perfectly, and now the dogs can drool and shed on it with abandon. All this is to say that I try to give writing guidelines as if I were that slipcover (stay with me here, folks, this is getting weird…). Your story is the couch. You pick its overall shape and dimensions. The organizing principle’s job is to cover it and mold to what you want to do, all while giving it a cohesive look and function.

Now, there are writing teachers out there who like to dictate patterns in much more specific terms. I’ve had many writers, believe it or not, come to me and ask, “Well, in So and So’s Story Theory, he says I have to include the inciting incident by the 5% mark, then the first conflict by 10%, then the first major loss by 25%. The cousin dies, but it’s at 27% and I don’t know what to do.” This kind of teaching-writing-with-an-iron-fist always baffles me. I like the broader, sweeping guidelines, not micromanaging a manuscript down to the nth percentile. In my world, a rigid story theory is great for people who have never written a novel before. It gives them valuable scaffolding to cling to. But once you’ve written one, and internalized some basic principles, I think most guidelines can take a backseat to how you want to tell the story.

So, basically, I like the big writing patterns. Like chronological order for a novel. Or the pattern of emotional development that I outline in my book.

But every writer has other patterns. And before you know what you should do about your patterns, if they’re helpful or hampering, you should at least become aware of them. (Hopefully without becoming mortified and quitting.) This post was inspired by a client of mine who starts many chapters in exactly the same way: scene-setting and talk of the weather. I applaud the scene-setting. Many writers who simply leap into a scene with dialogue or a plot point fail to ground the reader in time and place. But this pattern for this writer was almost formulaic. Weather. Scene. Then the chapter starts. Over and over.

What happens when a reader detects an underlying pattern in your work is they become less engaged. By the fifth weather/scene/start chapter, I’m going to check out at the beginning a little bit. Unless the descriptions of the weather are building up to something massive (it’s a book about a big storm, or a person with weather-related superpowers), there needs to be variety. The pattern cannot take over the narrative.

This reminds me of picture book writers who are working in rhyme. Sometimes I see writers twisting their syntax into crazy sentence pretzels just so they can make a line rhyme. This begs the question: Is the story in the service of the rhyme, or the other way around? You always want to be putting the story first. If you find that writing in rhyme warps your natural voice, makes you write like a Victorian schoolmarm, and leads to all sorts of other problems, then it’s the pattern that needs to go, and you need to free yourself up to tell the story the best way you can. Patterns. They’re all around. Sometimes they’re good, sometimes they’re hindrances.

What are your specific writing patterns? Are you trying to break them or are you working with them? Discuss.

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16. UK University Hires First Professor of Graphic Novels

Lancaster University has appointed French graphic novelist and critic Benoît Peeters as Visiting Professor in Graphic Fiction and Comic Art, the first university in the UK to hire someone with this title.

Peeters, a well known scholar on Hergé and Tintin, will hold the position for three years. The author of Tintin and the World of Hergé and Hergé’s biography, Hergé, Son Of Tintin will give lectures, run creative writing workshops, and supervise post-graduate students.

“The appointment will bring a new dimension to our University and, in particular, to our English and creative writing courses,” stated Simon Guy, professor of arts and social sciences at Lancaster University. “It will also demonstrate strong commitment to our collaboration with the increasingly popular and fast-expanding Lakes international Comic Art Festival.”

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17. Entering an uncharted realm of climate change

This year's United Nations Climate Change Conference, the 21st annual session of the Conference of the Parties since the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 11th session of the Meeting of the Parties since the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, will be held in Paris from 30 November to 11 December.

The post Entering an uncharted realm of climate change appeared first on OUPblog.

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18. A Golden Anniversary

Happy 50th Anniversary  to “A Charlie Brown Christmas”



It’s been a holiday staple in millions of American households since December 9, 1965. And it’s called “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” This December, it celebrates a 50-year run on TV. That’s pretty impressive for this cartoon featuring the Peanuts Gang, Charlie Brown and Snoopy. And, even more than that, it remains pretty counter culture, if religion can be termed counter culture today.

Centering around the perennial late-to-the dance, sad sack Charlie Brown, asking the question, “What is Christmas all about?,”  he struggles with an unsettling sadness come holiday time, when all about him, society says that he’s supposed to be joyful – and he’s not. Charlie Brown was a perceptive kid, even 50 years ago!

That is a pretty existential question that cartoonist Charles M. Schulz of the Peanuts Comic strip fame had the courage to ask, via this simple cartoon, with longevity and heft.

And a sponsor, Coca Cola to be exact, a huge corporation then and now, was open  to “commissioning and supporting” the production of this type of programming some 50 years ago.

A profound answer finally is given to Charlie’s subliminal question of “What is Christmas all about?,” and it’s provided by the blue-blanket-loving Linus, on a spotlit stage, in his unapologetic recitation of the oft repeated description of Christmas night, quoted from the Bible.

There were obvious concerns about the use of religious material even in 1965 on a Christmas special. Yet, Director Bill Melendez recalls that Charles M. Schulz was adamant about including the Linus reading from the Bible with his famous quote, “If we don’t do it, who will?”

But, before the cartoon’s denouement hitting the perfect mark in its utter simplicity, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” offers a series of scenes showing what Christmas tends to mean in the secular culture.

And The Peanuts Gang are all in – save Linus – who is a great listener to the qualms of Charlie Brown, about the modern themes surrounding the celebration of Christmas.

Charlie starts his quest for the meaning of Christmas by consulting experts that give psychological answers to his glumness in the guise of instant-psychiatrist-for-a-nickel, Lucy, his sister, Sally, with her “long list of gifts” gives small comfort, and even Snoopy, the beagle, is “buying” in big time.

But a play seems to be one thing that may capture the essence of the holy day.

But even that is co opted by the group’s definition of what the mood-play-provider Christmas tree should look like.

Seeking and finding leads the group ultimately to the Peanuts Gang fashioning themselves a perfect tree from a little bedraggled fir that simply needs a lot of love.

And that leads to a hushed moment and a realization, in Linus’s childlike reading, of ancient words that are pretty profound.

For it is in that still, small moment, and also, as the Peanuts Gang gather about Charlie’s fouled up, previously deadened, single red-balled fir tree, that this small gem hits home.

They have all finally, and lovingly, tended and been tended, and renewed, with Linus providing the final love wrap via his Widow’s Mite of a blanket at the fir tree’s base.

The small, simple tree dispels and warms the growing darkness that settles around the tiny group. Beautiful!

I find myself wanting to belt out “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” right along with the group as they carol amid larger-than-life snow flakes, as the credits roll.

It seems Coca Cola was looking for “a special for advertising during the holidays.” It provided the dollars necessary for the shoot, and sponsored it, originally. I just found that out. It seems they were looking for a holiday production to air in early December.

So, Charles Schulz, creator of the Peanuts comic strip, and TV producer Lee Mendelson, began preparing to pitch their ideas for this special to Coke.

After hearing jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi’s Trio play their wonderful, “Cast Your Fate to the Wind” on the radio, Lee Mendelson called and hired Mr. Guaraldi to provide background music to fit the show. It’s hard to imagine this special without his jaunty, jazzy piano themes, including “Christmas Time is Here” that helped enlarge and define the cartoon and its participants, with a series of unforgettable piano riffs. His soundtrack music also filled many of the Charlie Brown specials

The concept of Charles M. Schulz and Lee Mendelson was accepted by Coke, after a wary wait of several days, as Coke eventually confirmed they were in.

The team was given six months to deliver. And they did. And we are the happy recipients of that 50 year-old decision by Coca Cola. That was a pretty bold move, even then.

But I have to ask myself this question. And it is something to ponder.

Would Coke have the courage to do something so simple, yet so definitive today, in a world that is so consumed with not offending anyone, that it forgets to stand for anything? I wonder.

Kids love the skating scene early on in the cartoon that’s supposedly based on memories of places in the St. Paul, Minnesota winters of Schulz’s childhood.

Do kids still play “Whip” on the ice, as the last person in a long line gets snapped across it? I used to love that – as long as I was not on the end.

The United States Post Office has even gotten onboard this 50th Anniversary homage, with the issuance on October 1st 2015, of a special booklet of 20 Peanuts stamps featuring 10 still frames from “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

Each one features an iconic scene from the show that you may use on a holiday card. Featured among them are the skating scene, Charlie checking out his empty, echoing mailbox, Snoopy’s overly decorated doghouse, as he strives to win a contest, the simple wooden tree wrapped in Linus’s blanket, and, of course, The Peanuts Gang, in chorus, at the end.

I already have bought the stamps and am rereading the picture book issued from the cartoon, plus Lee Mendelson’s book, “A Charlie Brown Christmas: The Making of a Tradition.”

Why not reintroduce your young reader to the book and cartoon, if they have not yet seen it – and even if they have.

It is a timeless message of peace and love that the world desperately needs today.

Funny how kids continue to ask the really pointed questions, and their ability to seek and find, and see through artifice, hopefully, will never change.

That really is what “Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.” It’s a very simple story whose message has lasted over 2,000 years.

Happy 50th Anniversary to “A Charlie Brown Christmas!”




*Be sure to check out the 50th Anniversary airing of “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” tonight, November 30, on ABC.  It will be re-aired on ABC on Christmas Eve as well.

*Here are three of Vince Guaraldi’s piano pieces that made “A Charlie Brown Christmas” an essential classic, including the skating scene music.




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19. Developing the Painting Style of The Dam Keeper

I somehow missed this mini-doc when it came out. (Link to YouTube) Directors Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi describe how they worked with a group of young painters to evolve the style for their 2D-computer-animated short "The Dam Keeper."

0 Comments on Developing the Painting Style of The Dam Keeper as of 11/30/2015 8:48:00 AM
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20. Silence and Solitude

My job has a wonderful privacy. I work in silence and solitude, which is such a joy.
— Isabel Allende

The post Silence and Solitude appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

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21. External goals for my heorine in a romance novel.

Question: I am writing a romance novel about a woman who moves to Maui from Omaha after her fiancee dumps her because he doesn't ever want to have children.

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22. Doldrums city

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23. बचपन

बचपन  मासूम बचपन आज  सुबह हमारे शहर में बहुत धुंध थी. मैं बाहर खडी मौसम देख रही थी. कुछ बच्चे धुंध में बच्चे अपनी स्कूल बस की इंतजार कर रहे थे और कुछ बच्चे बाते करते हुए जा रहे थे.तभी पीछे से एक बच्चे की आवाज आई देख मै सिग्रेट पी रहा हूं. मै हैरान […]

The post बचपन appeared first on Monica Gupta.

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24. A Monster Awakens in the A Monster Calls Movie Teaser

Focus Features has unleashed a teaser trailer for A Monster Calls. According to Vulture, the story for this film adaptation comes from Patrick Ness’ young adult novel, A Monster Calls.

Juan Antonio Bayona took the helm as the director. Ness served as the screenwriter and adapted his own book into a script.

The video embedded above features the voice acting talent of Liam Neeson and glimpses of Lewis MacDougall as 12-year-old Connor. The Wrap reports that this movie will his theatres on Oct. 14, 2016. (via Indiewire)

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25. Question about dialogue tags

Auestion: Must one always use a he/she asked while putting a tag on a question? For instance: Are you going to the store? he asked. I assume that is acceptable,

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