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Thanks to First Second Books for providing a review copy and a giveaway for Ben Hatke's latest title, Little Robot, due out this coming Tuesday (09/01/2015)! Read on for my honest review, and remember to check the rest of the blog tour stops along the way for more reviews and chances to win!
About the Book
When a little girl finds an adorable robot in the woods, she presses a button and accidentally activates him for the first time. Now, she finally has a friend. But the big, bad robots are coming to collect the little guy for nefarious purposes, and it's all up to a five-year-old armed only with a wrench and a fierce loyalty to her mechanical friend to save the day!
#1 New York Times Bestselling author Ben Hatke brings his signature sweetness to a simple, moving story about friendship and overcoming fears that will appeal to readers of all ages.
Visit the publisher's page to view excerpts and find links to purchase the book.
Ben Hatke is the author and illustrator of the New York Times bestselling Zita the Spacegirl graphic novel trilogy and the picture book Julia's House for Lost Creatures. He lives and works in the Shenandoah Valley with his wife and their boisterous pack of daughters. His latest book is Little Robot.
Even if you've never read a Ben Hatke book or graphic novel before, you're in for a treat with Little Robot. Hatke's drawing and storytelling style is deceptively simple; at first glance it doesn't seem like there's much going on--muted color palette, subtle lines, mostly wordless panels. But as you turn the pages, a deeper appreciation takes root as you get to know the characters and their quirks.
A lonesome little girl finds a robot after it literally falls off a truck. Unpacking the Little Robot, she tinkers with it a bit as it seems unsteady and unsure. After parking the little robot in a junkyard car overnight, she returns the next day for adventures and play. Little Robot goes along with her, and for a while things are great--but then a big, mean robot from the warehouse is sent to retrieve the missing unit. As if that weren't enough to deal with, Little Robot doesn't seem to understand the difference between "alive" and "not alive", and starts to look for things that are a little more like him, and a lot less like his new friend.
Hatke deftly illustrates emotion, not just on the part of the little girl--her elation at finding a companion, the enthusiasm she puts into fixing things with her tools (she wears them on a handy utility belt), and her dismay when her new pal seems less interested in her and more interested in an abandoned pickup truck they find. He also infuses personality into everything from a beat up old truck to a perky transistor radio, and admirably does so with an economy of words. Little Robot and various other androids that appear later in the book show varying degrees of sentience, and the interplay between them makes for some funny, but also touching, scenes. Tension builds when Little Robot, Little Girl, and Big Robot's objectives clash and result in some unexpected twists. A few action sequences also liven up the plot, and the little girl has to rely on her wits and mechanical know-how to get out of a tight spot.
Aside from presenting us with spirited, playful art and a compelling tale, Hatke takes a "traditionally" boy topic (technology) and turns it on its ear with a non-white female character as the protagonist, doing so without losing the everyman (or everywoman?) appeal of a darned good yarn.
Win Little Robot by Ben Hatke, prize provided by the publisher, First Second Books. Just enter with the Rafflecopter widget below!
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Not too long ago The Guardian had a piece out called Picture books that draw the line against pink stereotypes of girls. I was keen on it, particularly since in the midst of all these children’s books about breaking down stereotypes, I’ve seen awfully few “tomboy” titles. Books about girls who won’t wear dresses or care two bits about makeup and pink sparkles. They exist, but they’re not often commented on, so I liked the piece.
In the midst of all its books mentioned, I was particularly intrigued by a Yasmeen Ismail title that I’d not seen before. Called I’m A Girl!, it was described as, “a challenge to every instant playground assumption that a blue-clad, rambunctious speed demon must be a boy.” It looks awfully neat, and it got me to thinking about a little commented upon children’s book character: The female who doesn’t sport eyelashes, bows, or pink. In other words, books where girls are just as sordid and snarling or wild and wacky as their male counterparts. An ode to my four favorites:
She made her debut just before the current wave of children’s graphic novel love sweeping our fair nation. She was a guinea pig, dour and more interested in reading than interacting socially. She solved crimes. Her name was Sasspants. Honestly, is there anything else that need be said? Her series was fantastic, but might have been hampered by the fact that sizewise it looked like a picture book. Still, you can’t help but adore any series where the fish make obscure MRS. FRISBY AND THE RATS OF NIMH jokes.
Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel
There are many reasons to love Bad Kitty. She has more chutzpah than Garfield, more charm than Heathcliff, and more of an appetite than Grumpy Cat. She uses the word “Feh” with flair and I would argue that she is a feminist icon since her driven self-interest makes her a wonderfully flawed character. At no point does she fall in love or bat her eyelashes or do anything but act like a very inwardly focused cat.
Piggie from the Elephant and Piggie series
Honestly, it wasn’t until Mo wrote I Am Invited to a Party that I realized that Piggie was a girl at all. When it comes to animal characters, so many illustrators think it necessary to deck their girls out in bows and eyelashes and the like. Mo figured out that if you say a character’s a girl then by golly it’s gonna be a girl. And though at first you might worry that she’s the manic pixie dream pig to Gerald the elephant’s Eeyore-like persona, we know that at times she is just as prone to dour thoughts as her pachyderm pal.
Of all the characters I’ve mentioned today, it is Bink that throws my four-year-old for a loop. She refers to Bink as “he” constantly, though I point out repeatedly that Bink wears a skirt (unlike, say, any of the girls previously mentioned). The skirt may throw her out of contention, but clearly it doesn’t register with her readership, so I’m keep her on this list. Truth be told, Bink may also be my favorite gal here. She has only three books but one can hope that the Bink & Gollie train has not entirely left the station. Three is a perfect little number, sure . . . but four? Four would be superb. Four then, please!
Feel free to mention your own lovely ladies that don’t rely on frills and furbelows.
Even though children are surrounded by other kids at school, they often don't feel seen or acknowledged. Mac Barnett and Christian Robinson tap into this feeling in their delightful story about Leo, a little ghost who makes a friend.
Leo has a hard time making friends because he’s a ghost. No one can see him. But we can. He’s pretty satisfied spending time by himself, but he is happy when a family moves into his house. It's good to have company. But the family doesn't see things the same way.
Kids will know just what it's like not to be wanted, and they will empathize with Leo as he leaves home. The cool blues of Robinson's illustrations match the soft, subdued mood. One afternoon, "Leo found himself roaming along a sidewalk covered in drawings." Jane looked right up at Leo and asked if he'd like to play. At first, Leo is stunned that she's talking right to him.
"Leo, do you want to play Knights of the Round Table?"
Leo is delighted by her imaginary play as she knights him in their game, but he's nervous that she will be scared when she finds out he’s a ghost. I love how accepting Jane is, how open she is not only to Leo but also to her own imagination. Jane is kind, direct and self-assured--definitely one of my favorite characters this year.
I won't give away the ending, but be rest assured that it will bring a smile to your face and let kids know that they can find a friend who likes them just the way they are.
Enjoy this book trailer. Just like the book, the kids' voices shine through.
Note from Erin: Today I’m happy to turn the blog over to NYT bestselling author Juliet Blackwell. Her latest novel, THE PARIS KEY, releases tomorrow, and Juliet’s been kind enough to share some of her thoughts on writing larger-than-life settings…
You’ve Chosen Your Setting – Now What?
Who cares where your story takes place? Just about everybody.
A well-chosen setting grounds your story in the reality of a particular place and time. It’s more than a flat backdrop against which themes and metaphors unfold. The setting is a character in its own right, and as such helps to propel the story forward, to reveal character, to heighten tension, and ultimately, to provide resolution.
CREATING THE SETTING
Who died and made you God? Setting is your opportunity for world-building. The importance of the right setting is most apparent in fantasy and science fiction writing, but is equally true for mysteries and mainstream fiction. A story’s setting forces the passage of time, unleashes weather, changes seasons and offers landscapes and skylines and history. It imposes restrictions upon your characters, as well as offering unique opportunities and challenges. The city of Paris, France, is real and familiar to many but in my novel, The Paris Key, I had to bring it to life for those who’ve never visited. Setting the story in Paris not only shaped what my characters could do and how, but allowed me to incorporate unique features, such as the city’s subterranean catacombs and the gargoyles high atop Notre Dame, as metaphors for my character’s journey as she unearthed family secrets and determined her own future.
Make it resonate: Evoking the texture of your setting is critical: make your fictional world as tactile and present to your reader as it is to the characters in the story. Address all five senses: sight, sound, feeling, taste—and don’t forget scent! Good or bad, our sense of smell is primal and evocative. An American in Paris may initially be struck by the beauty of its historic architecture, the grand museums, and well-tended parks, but will always remember the aromas of fresh baked bread from the boulangeries, sweets at the patisseries, coffee at the sidewalk cafes, the fresh rain on the pavement and the sometimes funky-smelling waters of the Seine.
Propel your story: Run out of ideas for your character halfway through your story? Look to your setting to ratchet up the emotional stakes for your character and move the story along. In The Paris Key, my protagonist can’t slip easily through her days because she is in a foreign country and has limited language skills. She struggles to understand—and to make herself understood—and even simple tasks are made challenging by a new language, different customs, and France’s legendary bureaucracy.
YOUR MOST IMPORTANT CHARACTER
If you make your setting the heart of your tale it will pump warmth or frigidity, comfort or strife, familiarity or strangeness through the entirety of your story.
Reveal character: Use your setting to reveal aspects of your protagonist’s character, whether through comfort with the surroundings, or conflict, or both. The Paris Key is essentially a tale of reinvention as my protagonist struggles to cope with being a newcomer, a fish out of water, a stranger in an unfamiliar (yet charming, this being Paris!) culture. The sights and sounds of Paris surround her and dictate her internal conflicts. Everyday activities pose new and unexpected difficulties and the struggle inspires constant questions: Is it worth it? Should I give up and go home? What have I done?
Different Time, Different Place: The unique history of the time period is, of course, a crucial part of your setting. Storylines from different eras might take place in the same physical setting, but the passage of time changes and affects the surroundings. The contrast between two different time periods can help tell your story: how have social customs and expectations, governments and communities changed? A secondary tale in The Paris Key has to do with a character damaged by the Basque struggles against the legacy of the Franco dictatorship; his presence in the City of Light, so far from Spain, brings the fight to the streets of Paris and echoes the brutality of World War II. On a personal level, his story becomes part of the family secrets the protagonist find buried in the catacombs.
Heighten conflict and find resolution: Setting can be the catalyst for plot development. Literally and metaphorically, our environment molds us. We may all be the same underneath, but think how different the life experiences of someone born and raised on a farm in California, compared to someone born and raised in Paris. The protagonist in The Paris Key has always held herself apart from others, but she finds this impossible in Paris, partly because of a culture of neighborliness she find herself in, and partly because the foreign setting makes her dependent on the kindness of strangers. As the novel progresses, the catacombs and the streets of Paris are the setting for the story’s resolution, as they reveal their secrets and the protagonist is forced to come to terms with her mother’s story, and the truth about her own past.
DON’T TACK IT ON
Whatever you do, make your setting integral to your book. Give it a purpose. Whether a story is set on a distant planet, in a spaceship, in a small American town, or a large French city, reveal the setting slowly over the course of your story, as you would any character. Allow your readers to “meet” your setting with fresh eyes at first, and uncover the complexity of the environment slowly, through the interactions of the story’s characters. Let the setting help you to frame and arrive at your resolution, as the environment makes its impact known. Remember, your setting can reflect, embody, or fight with your characters, but at the very least it will affect your novel’s emotional landscape, from first word to last.
JULIET BLACKWELL is the author of The Paris Key (Berkley/Penguin; 9/1/15), the New York Times bestselling Witchcraft Mysteries and the Haunted Home Renovation series. As Hailey Lind she wrote the Agatha-Award nominated Art Lover’s Mystery series. She is past president of Northern California Sisters in Crime and former board member of Mystery Writers of America. For more, visit: http://www.julietblackwell.net.
In 2012 I reviewed Neversink, a superb, Watership Down-esque tale of animals living in the Arctic Circle by Barry Wolverton. I've been waiting three years to see what he does next and The Vanishing Island, the first book in the Chronicles of the Black Tulip series is every bit as exciting as Neversink and inventively set in the alternate past of 1599!
The town of Map is the "dirtiest,
This summer my husband and I packed up, threw a couple of dogs in our car, and moved from Texas to Massachusetts. I had resigned from my amazing job as an elementary librarian in Coppell, TX and accepted the Media Specialist position at Shrewsbury High School (just outside of Worchester, MA). Our summer was spent looking for houses, attempting to understand the foreign language that is real estate, and playing Tetris with all of our belongings. On the bright side, between packing, driving, and across country flights, I have finished a record number of audio books.
In the middle of all this, I flew to San Francisco for my first ALA Annual conference. I fortunately received a Penguin Young Readers Award, an award that is given to support 4 members of ALSC who have fewer than 5 years experience in the library to attend their first ALA Annual. This experience may not have been a moment of calm amidst my chaotic summer, but it was a reinvigorating weekend that went beyond my expectations.
Conference attendance provides the important opportunity to increase your involvement in ALSC and ALA as well as network with colleagues. This is the core justification for my continued participation at ALA conferences. I am a member of the ALSC Membership Committee, and as a part of my commitment to this committee, I helped to organize the ALSC 101 event. I have had the opportunity to learn more about the division through the committee, but ALSC 101 helped to provide a greater understanding of opportunities for involvement within ALSC.
Each opportunity to work on a committee or volunteer in any way helps ALSC support library services to children. We are a passionate group of individuals and our voices carry weight within the world of libraries, children’s literature, and education. Take the opportunity to become involved.
Our community is a powerful resource for any librarian. I was able to speak with many others who work with children and teens in the library. There were also a number of sessions I attended about school libraries, STEM programming, and diversity. This conference allowed me to take advantage of the wealth of experience from other conference attendees as I bring a stack of new ideas and perspectives to my library.
As I write this, I am one week away from my first day at a new school, with high schoolers for the first time, and across the country from everything I know. The conference was not a reprieve from my chaotic summer. In the span of 4 days, I attended my first Newbery/Caldecott/Wilder Banquet, explored San Fransisco, watched an incredible city wide Pride celebration, met a number of phenomenal authors, snagged a few amazing ARCs for review, and hung out with some the coolest librarians I know. It was busy, it was crazy, it was fun, but most importantly it was transformative. My first ALA Annual gave me the confidence to take on my new role and the knowledge that there is a large community within ALSC and ALA to support my library, my students, and me.
Emily Bredberg works as a High School Media Specialist in Shrewsbury, MA. She has spent the few remaining weeks of her summer reading and hiking through some of New England’s beautiful forests. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram, @BredbergReads.
Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.
If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at email@example.com.
Enter to win a copy of Ancient Earth Journal: The Early Cretaceous (Quatro Kids Books, 2015), written by Juan Carlos Alonso and Gregory S. Paul.
Giveaway begins August 31, 2015, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends September 30, 2015, at 11:59 P.M. PST.
By ViiiZ* Quirk Books 8/20/2013 978-1-59474-652-9 160 pages Age 8—12 + . “You’ve never seen a doodle book quite like this one!” ”Wait, you can talk?”
“Photo Doodles combines kid-friendly photographs and cool creative challenges into the perfect canvas for anyone capable of wielding a crayon. Young artists and designers can complete dozens of fun and playful pictures of everything from roller coasters and soda cans to book covers and palaces. Perfect for sketching, scribbling, and coloring outside the lines, Photos Doodles will unleash the aspiring artist inside children of all ages.”[front jacket]
Review Photo Doodles is a fun-filled book for those kids—and adults—who love to doodle, but may not know how to get started. Similar to writing prompts, each spread contains a one sentence prompt to help you with ideas to doodle your way to a fun, satisfying end. Here are two of those prompts:
“Who (or what) is at the other end of the rope?”
“What outfit will the puppy wear today?”
With 160 pages to doodle and color, it seems the options are endless. From decorating a sea of umbrellas to filling in storyboards with your own story. There is even one many students will find hard to resist:
“It’s your turn at the blackboard . . . what will you write?”
How about “No more math problems,” or maybe “School’s out early today: Leave at noon,” or maybe you would use your turn to make tomorrow a teacher conference day—“Students stay home!”
There are plenty of open spaces in Photo Doodles or those kids and adults who can doodle and draw with ease and loads of pages with images to make colorful and expressive, rather than drawing from scratch. A total of 200 pictures await your crayons, colored pencils, markers, or other artistic medium. While marketed for the middle grade set, younger children will enjoy many of the easier prompts in Photo Doodles and adults will love the range of images and prompts.
I enjoyed playing with PhotoDoodles. I love to draw, but have a hard time getting started. Photo Doodles made getting started easy and the images and prompts got me thinking of ways to doodle other than the normal doodles in the margin of a page.
Coloring books for adults are in every corner of every bookstore online and off, but doodle books that prompt you to create imaginative scenes and messages, like Photo Doodles, is not as common. I think kids of all ages will enjoy Photo Doodles as much as I have.
Full Disclosure: Photo Doodles: A Creative Sketchbook by ViiiZ, and received from Quirk Books, is in exchange NOT for a positive review, but for an HONEST review. The opinions expressed are my own and no one else’s. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
So! This is a thing I saw in a STACKS Message Board a LONG time ago and though I’ve never participated myself, I figured it’s high time someone brings a new writing challenge. Here’s the deal:
You are to write a drabble inspired by the first song that comes up on shuffle. Grab your phones/ipods/mp3s/playlists or anything you have with music stored in it and a shuffle option, and enable said option. Your task is to write a short story (fan fiction or original) inspired by the song, for as long as the song is playing. Once the song is over, you stop writing and completely leave it be.
You may skip songs in case you can’t get inspired, but don’t be too picky or you’ll just be shuffling forever.
You must skip any songs that are inappropriate either because of language or content. Any song that receives a rating beyond PG 13 according to your judgment should better be avoided. We trust your judgment.
In case you feel that a song with questionable content is still appropriate enough for this board, please mention all warnings that apply. Your story has to be 100% appropriate for all people on this boards. (As Moderator Katie says, don’t write something you wouldn’t say to a 7/8-year-old.)
Your drabble can be a fan fiction or an original one. No preferences, but in case of fan fiction, make sure that the fandom you’re writing for is appropriate for younger kids on STACKS (PG 13 at most).
“Completely leave it be” is just that. Don’t correct anything. Don’t play the song again. Don’t touch it; it’s already a masterpiece.
Stories are expected to be short. Just brainstorm something and leave it in its raw beauty for the world to see.
Of course, you’re never obliged to post what you just wrote if you don’t want to. We’re only doing this for fun.
I hope everyone has fun! I also hope you’re not weak enough to decline the challenge. Mwahaha!
The Times of India gets a number of writers to play along in its 'Write India' initiative, soliciting reader-questions for them; this month they offer Chetan Bhagat's responses to fifteen reader-questions
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:
First Day of School My daughter went back to school today. :( I miss her already.
Editing It's probably no shock that my plate is full with edits this week.
Recovering From Knee Injury In case you didn't see my posts on FB and Twitter last week, I fell on the treadmill and now both knees look like I'm trying to audition for The Walking Dead—as a zombie of course. They're healing now, but ouch!
Our Little Secret I'm SO excited for this release on September 15. Like SO excited. I love this book, and it's gorgeous thanks to the amazing team at Limitless Publishing. I have a lot planned for the month of September to celebrate, so stay tuned.
Writer Wednesday Topics My posts from the other side of the submissions desk seem to be popular, so I thought I'd ask you if there's anything you'd like me to talk about in my Wednesday posts. What do you want to know about as far as submitting to editors?
Alasdair Gray's best-known work -- and modern classic -- Lanark has been turned into a play, by David Greig, and has now premiered at the Edinburgh International Festival; see their publicity page.
Not an easy work to adapt -- but at a nearly four-hour running-time Greig seems to have tried to stuff a great deal in.
Early reviews -- see those in The Guardian, The Observer, and The Stage -- have been enthusiastic.
The novel by Shanghai author Xiao Bai sold only moderately well in China, but it has the elements that appeal to Western readers.
Personally, I'd much rather see titles that are more popular in China, even if that means they're ostensibly mystifying to 'Western' readers -- and, indeed, despite whatever Western-reader-appealing elements this novel (supposedly) has, it turns out not to be a very good one.
I'm not particularly surprised it wasn't a big hit in China -- and I suspect it won't be in the 'West' either; sure, aspects of it are interesting -- but it's also a mess.
I fear publishers still haven't hit on the formula of Chinese fiction translating into Western success .....
(I also fear they are going about it mostly, if not all, wrong -- but then that would be more or less par for the publisher course, at least as far as the majors are concerned.)
Copy via MS Word from Steve (wherein I disclose that I obviously know Steve)
This is the fifth novel of Steve's that I've read and the seventh book overall. It's the best of his that I've read, which is saying quite a bit, especially after the last trio of Temporary People, The Consequence of Skating, and The Law of Strings.
Benchere in Wonderland seems to "simply" ask What is Art? and What is Art's role in the world? I think it goes beyond that though and pushes the reader to think about what it means to be human--what it means to think, to act, to love, to grieve, to admire.
The Benchere in question is Michael Benchere--world renowned architect, and sculpture. I don't want to spoil anything for any readers of this wonderful novel and will simply say that Benchere ends up deciding to build a huge sculpture in the Kalahari Desert in Africa and while he simply wants/hopes to do it for the sake of the sculpture, it turns into much more--a media event, a place for people to converge, to make their own comments about art and about politics and love and ...
And Gillis has infused this novel with plenty of humor and entertainment. It's a novel that will entertain you greatly while causing you to think.
It’s been a busy summer of new releases from Mirror World Publishing, so they’re throwing a multi-author book launch event to celebrate! If you’re in the area or able, please come out and meet the authors of five new books. Here are the details:
Justine Alley Dowsett and Murandy Damodred - Unintended Rita Monette - The Legend of Ghost Dog Island Elizabeth J. M. Walker - She Dreamed of Dragons Nate Friedman - The Coffee Monster
From children's to middle grade, young adult and adult, Mirror World Publishing is launching creative fiction novels in every age category! Come out and hear the authors read from their new releases, pick up a signed copy, and stick around for your chance to win free books! Plus there’s going to be cupcakes and coffee on tap from local vendors. Yum!
BTW – Rita Monette is the special guest star, as she'll be coming in from Tennessee! So don't miss this opportunity to meet her and get your signed copy of The Legend of Ghost Dog Island! Hope to see you there! Cheers!
An Irish pub, a Guinness pint And music playing - live! There aren't many better ways For spirits to revive. The barkeep may be half your age But conversation flows And perfect strangers share their thoughts - That's just the way it goes. An Irish pub's the same no matter Where you wander in. There's Guinness and a friendly vibe And laughs above the din.
About two minutes ago, the Summer Holidays stretched out like this ...
not a computer in sight
There were delicious plans afoot: After a suitable number of days lolling in bed followed by jumping about in the garden, me and my family would go on holiday, read masses, get into all sorts of scrapes, rescue anything that stood in the way and actually climb a mountain. Not only that but I would have loads and loads of time to WRITE.
Moominpapa could write whenever he wanted to
Inevitably, it didn't turn out like that. I will not bore you, dear reader, with the list of what got in the way of my perfectly reasonable expectations but it was mostly to do with not living in the 1950s. I did write, in snatches, but it was mostly editing and revising. It's good to have the quiet head-space for that full-on flowing and original story writing.
Never mind because in the end reading is the stuff of writing.
The media would have us think that Summer is a time for reading and I did read alot although not on the beach. But I don't think that I read anymore than I do the rest of the year. Radio 4 even had a brief say about how summer reading was no different to winter reading on the daily commute, really. Most of my summer reading has been a writer new to me, Frances Hardinge. I whipped through the brilliant, 'Verdigris Deep' and 'The Lie Tree' and 'Cuckoo Song'. I've just started, 'A Face of Glass'. These are cracking good stories and that is what I like to read any time of the year.
But I do like Winter and stories set in winter time. So, let's just conveniently forget the intervening hufflepuff-like season of Autumn and spring to contemplation of Winter stories. Is there a difference between these and those set in Summer? Perhaps, we might personify them. Summer is perky with arms-wide and smiling where Winter is dark, hunched and dour. One camps outdoors, one skulks inside. One looks out at the world, the other looks inwards ... well, you get the idea.
Winter is coming (say it like a cinema trailer announcement). Put that way, it sounds scary which to my mind is not a bad thing. Traditionally, Winter is associated with death and hibernation. It is when the flowers fold and the garden hides. The cold makes your fingers freeze and your bones ache; it requires effort to keep warm and keep moving.
Hope you're wearing a vest, Gandalf
So, let's look at the coming of Winter another way. 'Winter is coming!' Woo-hoo. The days will be short and the nights will be long and the fire will be flickering and there are stories to be told and there will be SNOW!
Winter Time by Robert Louis Stevenson
Close by the jolly fire I sit To warm my frozen bones a bit; Or with a reindeer-sled, explore The colder countries round the door.
When to go out, my nurse doth wrap Me in my comforter and cap; The cold wind burns my face, and blows Its frosty pepper up my nose.
Black are my steps on silver sod; Thick blows my frosty breath abroad; And tree and house, and hill and lake, Are frosted like a wedding cake.
Here, in A Child's Garden of Verses,Stevenson sums up all the good stuff I used to love as a child about Winter. it could be the comfort of playing outside on a snapping-cold day, then the glorious comfort of warming yourself, not to mention the breath-taking beauty of a landscape transformed by SNOW.
Where the dickens did all this snow come from?!
Snow. I can't say it enough. Who cannot love a fresh fall of snow? To read Dickens you'd think it was as deep and regular as the seasons themselves. But frozen winters with frost fairs were a thing of the medieval past. It seems that Dickens was being nostalgic, looking back to a time when snow was more likely in winter. Snow was very much part of his winter story, A Christmas Carol. It made Victorian London almost cosy and charming.
" The darkness and the mist had vanished with it, for it was a clear, cold winter day, with snow upon the ground ... the quick wheels dashing the hoar-frost and snow from off the dark leaves of the evergreens like spray"
I like that C.S Lewis added a touch of Victorian London to Narnia. Not only that but the snow makes it beautiful. I want to go there. The snow plays a more sinister role here; it is seen as stilling time and freezes life to its essentials. The land waits for Winter to end (spoiler - it does).
Guess where this is
Snow can blanket and muffle and make the world a silent place. Time stands still and you are the only person in this white world.
"Our snow was not only shaken from white wash buckets down the sky, it came shawling out of the ground and swam and drifted out of the arms and hands and bodies of the trees; snow grew overnight on the roofs of the houses like a pure and grandfather moss, minutely -ivied the walls and settled on the postman, opening the gate, like a dumb, numb thunder-storm of white, torn Christmas cards." Dylan Thomas, A Child's Christmas in Wales
Snow can bring danger from creatures which form part of a wild and distant past.
Mad as a box of frogs
Snow can be a truly scary person, The White Queen in Narnia or The Snow Queen. In the story of Kay and Gerda we see how the snow forces Gerda to be astonishingly brave as she searches for her friend across a harsh, frozen landscape. The weather provides the obstacle to be overcome. It tests her friendship. The Snow Queen becomes Winter personified and is defeated by the warmth of Gerda's love.
She looks almost cuddly
Marcus Sedgewick seems very fond of setting his novels in places where snow is a given. They are places of vampires and bears and treacherous ice. If you stay outside too long you will die and not only from the cold.
do not cuddle this bear
The best cover in the world
Revolver is like a snow dome: a taut thriller trapped in a world of cold. A perfect snow storm.
In After the Snow, by S.D Crockett the snow provides the dystopian landscape where everything has gone wrong. Where the odds against our hero are already stacked high and made worse by the deep snow she finds herself wading through. Here the snow is bleak and unforgiving.
I'm gonna sit here in my place on the hill behind the house. Waiting. And watching. Ain't nothing moving down there. The valley look pretty bare in the snow. Just the house grey and lonely down by the river all frozen.
The snow can force you inside and send you mad or make you see things that might or might not be there. It is the perfect setting for a ghost story as Dark Matter by Michele Paverso brilliantly and shiveringly demonstrates. The snow blinds the hero, Jack. “How odd, that light should prevent one from seeing.” he says. The snow controls his movements and eventually his mind and makes him see what should not be there. In the end, the snow subdues him.
Ah, but it's not all teen-angst gloom and doom. At the younger end, there are so many ways for snow to be the cheery, comforting, exciting and playful.
Summer fading, winter comes Frosty mornings, tingling thumbs, Window robins, winter rooks, And the picture story-books.
Picture Books in Winter by Robert Louis Stevenson
Come in! It's lovely and warm inside!
The Finn Family Moomintroll sensibly hibernates during the Winter but when Moomintroll awakes during their long sleep, he finds a beautiful, alien world. It is silent and dark and scary to be alone but soon he meets Little My and Too-ticky and the snowy fun begins. But the Moomins being the Moomins this wintry world remains a haunting and challenging place.
One of my favourite friendships is that of Melrose and Croc by Emma Chichester. Here is the cold of no friends ...
.... before the warmth of friendship found and all wrapped up in Christmas - lovely.
I leave the obvious to last and I'll whisper it, Christmas. It seems that no Christmas is complete without snow. I agree. I want Christmas to have deep and crisp and even snow ... so we can make snowmen.
So never mind that it's the end of Summer, Winter is coming and it brings ...
I love that dog up there. Why? Because that scruffy little dog represents my local town's AAU Baseball Team. Why else do I love that dog? Because of my son. I'm proud of him. I'm getting ahead of myself though. Let me tell you a story. After all, that is why you are here.
My son loves baseball, but he didn't always. He was one of the kids out in the field during his T-Ball days picking daisy's, literally. Over the years his interest grew, yet he still didn't have the same drive most of his friends had. Once the weather got chilly they were still at it. They tried out for the river dogs and made it. Why, because even in the winter they would find the time to hit the indoor batting cages, my son, on the other hand, not so much. Oh trust me it wasn't for the lack of trying to get him out there.
Last spring though something changed. My son became taller, stronger and more determined. He suddenly had the drive that wasn't there before. He started asking to hit the batting cages, and wanted to try out for the river dogs. My husband and I were happy to oblige. We knew it was going to be rough for him though. He had a lot of catching up to do. In this age group there are a lot of boys who are really good. I mean kids get scared at bat good. Danny knows, most of them are his friends, good friends. Gives him an advantage though on the field. Still competition is competition.
Last August my son tried out for the River Dogs for this past spring's team (They train from January to April. Then the games start). We told him don't be surprised if you don't make it. He knew, he understood what he was up against, but he wasn't going to let that stop him. He didn't make the team. It crushed him, but that rejection only made him stronger. During the spring season he was a changed kid. He took baseball seriously, he worked, he lead his team, He hit 11 balls over the fence, he played his heart out, and everyone of the coaches noticed.
August came around and try outs for the River Dogs came again. My son wanted to try again. He wasn't going to give up. He said if he doesn't make it, he'll keep trying out until he does. That's my boy!
We'll we got the call on a Wednesday night after the first day of school. My son made the team. They decided this year since there were so many kids who tried out and only 12 slots they would have two teams. Still that is only 24 slots. Still hard to get on the team in my eyes. They have an A Team (the diamond team) and an open team. Now my son is aware he isn't on the Diamond Team but that's okay, it isn't the point. He is on the team, he is playing the sport he loves, and he didn't give up.
Isn't that what life is all about? Falling down and getting back up? I know my writer friends out there know what that is all about. Well, that is my story, perseverance pays off. Always remember that and Happy Monday!
Review by Jackie
The Appearance of Annie Van Sinderen by Katherine Howe Age Range: 12 and up Grade Level: 7 and upHardcover: 400 pagesPublisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers (September 15, 2015)Goodreads | Amazon
It’s July in New York City, and aspiring filmmaker Wes Auckerman has just arrived to start his summer term at NYU. While shooting a séance at a psychic’s in the East
Oh my goodness, if teachers haven't spent enough already on glue sticks and bulletin board border and what-not...but one of the great pleasures of the plundering of the pedagogue's paycheck is the building of one's own special classroom collection. Here are a baker's half-dozen of primary picture book titles that I would hazard to suggest are must-haves of the season. Treat yourself, or if you're a parent, treat a teacher!
Mouse's First Night at Moonlight School by Simon Puttock, illustrated by Ali Pye (Nosy Crow). Any child will relate to the feeling of shyness on the first day in a new classroom. But don't worry...Miss Moon will help the little mouse find friends, and any child who hears this story will be reassured that his or her classroom teacher will do the same! The nocturnal school setting suggests a certain autumnal spookiness that matches well with the timidity of our hero, and the witchy teacher is simply charming. I can't wait to share it with primary students during our first week together!
There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight by Penny Parker Klostermann, illustrated by Ben Mantle (Random House) I know, I know, another "there was an old woman" formulaic cumulative tale chestnut, but really, this one is very good. Exciting, bold and funny illustrations and clever rhymes combine with the appealing Medieval setting to make this a favorite read-aloud.
Troll and the Oliver by Adam Stower (Templar Books) Every day around lunchtime, Troll tries to eat the Oliver, but to no avail. With the catchiest refrain since The Gingerbread Man and a great surprise ending, this book is sure to inspire predictions, choral speaking and a lot of laughs.
The Grasshopper and the Ants by Jerry Pinkney (Little, Brown) Can't have too many classics, and the beauty of this version of this Aesop's fable by a multiple Caldecott-winning watercolor artist will make you gasp aloud. You should get it just as a present to yourself, though it's bound to prove as useful and cheerful as a song in the long, cold winter months.
Rufus the Writer by Elizabeth Bram, illustrated by Chuck Groenink (Tundra Books) A story stand instead of a lemonade stand? What an inspired idea! Read how Rufus satisfies his customers, gets paid in an alternative economy and set up your own Story Stand in a writing center.
Use Your Imagination by Nicola O'Byrne (Nosy Crow) Speaking of story, a rabbit who happens to be a librarian helps a hungry wolf create a narrative with an ending that keeps him from being the end. Meta marvelousness with discussion of action and setting.
Fowl Play by Travis Nichols (Chronicle) One of the trickiest parts of learning a new language is learning the idiomatic expressions, and this book is chock full of them, in the context of discovering who broke Mr. Hound's store window. Mystery of helping ESL students solved!