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1. Do You Want to Review My Books? (Aug/Sept ARCs)

***Wow guys, that was so stupid fast!!  All the books are gone.  Check back next month!!*** BEFORE YOU COMMIT, MAKE SURE YOU READ THIS POST! (nothing new added if you've read this before) Every month, I'll write a post of all the books that I didn't get a chance to read/review, and you can choose which you'd like to review ON THIS BLOG.  I will send you the book, and you have . . . let's

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2. Writings and paintings

This passage from Kate Rundell's gorgeous Rooftoppers always makes me think of an impressionistic painting:

Paris lay still below them. From where Sophie stood, with both her hands wrapped round the neck of a carved saint, it was a mass of silver, except where the river shone a rusty-gold colour in the lamplight. (p.224)

The way she adds the 'rusty-gold' to the 'mass of silver' - what a lovely contrast of warm and cold metals... and look at those tiny yellow specks from 'the lamplight', which you can just see, can't you, on the surface of the Seine? 

I love the fact that it's a child seeing all this from above, from a place that people generally don't go to, and that she's there with her arms hugging a stern, stone figure - as if trying to give it the affection it's never had. For me, it's this painting:

Gustave Caillebotte, Rue Halévy (1878)

Stories almost never unfold in my head like films when I read, but I do sometimes 'see' static images - paintings, photographs - often specific styles or artistic currents. Sometimes it's the other way around: I'm reminded of a book when I look at a work of art. The other day I went to Madrid for the first time, and I saw in the huge and wonderful Prado museum this well-known triptych by Bosch:

Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights (1490?)
Immediately I was reminded - of course in part because I'd just read it - of J.K. Rowling Robert Galbraith's The Silkworm, with its grotesque gallery of monstrous protagonists and torture scenes:

But also, one little detail called back to my mind a similarly gripping summer read from years ago I'd almost entirely forgotten, Michael Connelly's A Darkness More Than Night... A Harry Bosch adventure, not coincidentally:

it's a story full of Boschian owls, that's all I can remember...
Now Galbraith and Connelly are linked in my mind as inextricably as Rundell and Caillebotte.

Generally, it happens with very famous rather than obscure works of art, perhaps because those tend to stick in one's head more. In children's literature, here are other associations, personal and therefore not always logical, though some are much more obvious than others:

Lois Lowry's The Giver and the 1956 French film The Red Balloon
Malorie Blackman's Noughts and Crosses and Norman Rockwell's 'The Problem We All Live With' (1964)

Sally Gardner's Maggot Moon is Anselm Kiefer all the way. Anne Fine's The Tulip Touch is this Edward Hopper...:

yep, it's the Bates Motel, too... not a coincidence, I'm sure.

I didn't like Neil Gaiman's Coraline very much (sorry), but it was Louise Bourgeois's 'Maman' spiders:

Some authors make explicit reference to paintings, films or other visual art forms, like Marcus Sedgwick in Midwinterblood. I love that - I love looking up the works of art mentioned in books, especially when I have no clue what they are and it throws a completely new light on the text. Some painters, some paintings and some movements seem to crystallise writers' attention. Da Vinci, of course, but also the Surrealists in general, it seems.

Similarly, when I write, I never really picture my characters in my head, but there's always a lot of colours, and many static images, like paintings or stills from films or photographs. Fun adventure stories, whether I write them or read them, look quite like Sonia Delaunay's circles and spirals:

Pippi Longstocking!
Is it a kind of synaesthesia? Not sure, it's not automatic - it only happens with some books, and some paintings or works of art. It also depends hugely on what I've just read or seen, and in which contexts. Does that happen to you too? With which texts and which images? 

Clementine Beauvais writes children's books in French and English. The former are of all kinds and shapes, and the latter humour/adventure series - the Sesame Seade mysteries with Hodder, the Holy-Moly Holiday series with Bloomsbury. She blogs here about children's literature and academia and is on Twitter @blueclementine.

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3. Trailer for "Horns"

The trailer for Daniel Radcliffe's upcoming film "Horns," is now available to watch. You can see it here or below.

Radcliffe attended Comic-Con to promote "Horns" and while he was there he also walked around the convention dressed up as Spider-Man. You can see that here and here.

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4. Doodles and Drafts – Roses are Blue Blog Tour with Sally Murphy

Roses are BlueI promised myself I wouldn’t cry. Well, maybe a few tears towards the end might be acceptable, but of course, I was dealing with another verse novel by Sally Murphy, so dry eyes were definitely no guarantee.

Sally Murphy with gabriel evans croppedIt’s not just the subject matter of Roses are Blue that tugs at ones heartstrings. Murphy is simply master at massaging sensitive issues into refined, understated yet terrifically moving poetic verse. Her words whisper across the pages with the soft intensity of a mountain breeze. They are beautiful and arresting; a joy to read.

There are no chapters in this novel. The story ebbs and flows organically in a pleasing natural rhythm. Gabriel Evans’ tender ink and painted illustrations cushion the gravity of the story even more allowing the reader to connect with Amber and her world visually as well as emotionally. Youngsters cultivating their reading confidence will appreciate this generous visual reinforcement on nearly every page.

Amber Rose’s world is turned upside down when tragedy strikes her family leaving her mother devastatingly ‘different’. Overnight, everything is altered: there’s a new school, new friends, new home, new secrets and perhaps hardest of all, a new mum to get used to. Amber vacillates between wanting to fit in and appear normal, aching for how things ‘used to be’ and trying to reconnect with her damaged mum.

As Amber’s mother struggles to free herself from her new entrapment, so too does Amber fight to hang onto to their special shared love until, like springtime roses, hope eventually blooms. Roses are Blue addresses the complex issues of normality, family ties, friendships and maternal bonds with gentle emphasis on how all these relationships can span any ethnicity or physical situation.

To celebrate Amber’s story, Sally Murphy joins me at the draft table with a box of tissues and a few more fascinating insights on Roses are Blue. Welcome Sally!

Q. Who is Sally Murphy? Please describe your writerly self.

My writely self? I try hard to think of myself as writerly – but often fail miserably because I think of other writers as amazingly productive, clever , creative people, and myself as someone slightly manic who manages to snatch time to write and is always surprised when it’s good enough to get published.

But seriously, I suppose what I am is someone who writes because it’s my passion and I can’t not do it. I’ve been writing all my life, pretty much always for children, and my first book was published about 18 years ago. Since then I’ve written picture books, chapter books, reading books, educational resource books and, of course, poetry and verse novels.

Q. I find verse novels profoundly powerful. How different are they to write compared to writing in prose? Do you find them more or less difficult to develop?

I think they’re very powerful too. It was the power of the first ones I read (by Margaret Wild) that made me fall in love with the form. But it’s this very power that can make them hard to get right – you have to tap into core emotions and get them on the page whilst still developing a story arc, characters, setting, dialogue and so on.

Are they more or less difficult? I’m not sure. For me I’ve been more successful with verse novels than with prose novels, so maybe they’re easier for me. But it is difficult to write a verse novel that a publisher will publish – because they can be difficult to sell.

Q. How do you think verse novels enhance the appeal and impact of a story for younger readers?

I think they work wonderfully with young readers for a few reasons, which makes them a wonderful classroom tool. The fact that they are poetry gives them white space and also, room for illustration and even sometimes text adornments.

What this means is that for a struggling reader or even a reluctant reader, the verse novel can draw them in because it looks easier, and gives them cues as to where to pause when reading, where the emphasis might be and so on. They will also feel that a verse novel is less challenging because it is shorter – there are less words on the same number of pages because of that white space.

But the verse novel can also attract more advanced readers who recognise it as poetry and thus expect to be challenged, and who can also see the layers of meaning, the poetic techniques and so on. Of course, once they’ve started reading it, the reluctant and struggling reader will also see those things, meaning there is a wonderful opportunity for all the class to feel involved and connected when it’s a class novel, or for peers of different abilities to appreciate a book they share.

Sally & Pearl & TopplingQ. Judging by some of your previous verse titles, Pearl Verses the World and Toppling, you are not afraid to tackle the heftier and occasionally heartbreaking issues children encounter. What compels you to write about these topics and why do so in verse? Do you think a verse novel can convey emotion more convincingly than prose alone?

Afraid? Hah – I laugh in the face of danger! (Sorry, couldn’t help myself). But seriously no, I’m not afraid, because I think these are issues kids want to read about. All kids experience tough times – sometimes it’s the loss of a loved one, or illness, or a tragedy like Mum being sick/injured/absent. Other times it’s a beloved pet dying, or a best friend who suddenly doesn’t want to be friends. Either way, these tough times can feel like the end of the world. I think when children read about tough topics they connect with empathy or sympathy, and thus have the opportunity to experience vicariously something which they may not have. And if they have been through those really tragic tough times, or they do in the future, I hope they’re getting the message that life can be tough but you can get through it. Terrible things happen in the world – but good things do too. It’s really important to me that my stories have happy times too, and even laughs.

For me the verse novel form enables me to convey that emotion, but I don’t think it’s the only way it can be done. If you look at the Kingdom of Silk books by Glenda Millard, for example, you’ll see how brilliantly prose can be used to explore emotional situations.

Q. Many verse novels I have read are in first person. Is this a crucial element of ensuring stories in verse work well or is it something that you fall into naturally?

Off the top of my head I can’t think of any verse novels written solely in third person. There’s no rule that they have to be in first, but I do feel they work best that way for me, although I’m looking forward to experimenting with point of view in a verse novel I’m planning. I think first works so well because it creates an intimacy which the poetic form enhances.

Q. I particularly loved your reference to the Bobby Vinton 1962 hit, Roses are Red. What inspired you to use these lines in Amber’s story?

It’s actually a bit of a nod to Pearl, from Pearl Verses the World, who writes a roses are red poem about her nemesis Prue – but surprisingly no one has asked me about the connection before. I was looking for something for Mum to sing, and there it was. Of course the fact that Mum loves to garden, and their surname is rose means it all ties together nicely.

Gabriel EvansQ. Gabriel Evans’ illustrations are very endearing. How important do you think it is for illustrations to accompany verse stories?

For younger readers, some visual element is essential, and I am delighted with the way Gabriel has interpreted the story. Who couldn’t love his work? Again, the illustrations can help struggling readers connect with the story, but they are also important for all levels of reading ability. Some people are much more visual learners and thinkers than others, and seeing the story really enhances the experience. And gosh, they’re so gorgeous!

Q. What’s on the draft table for Sally Murphy?

A few things. I’m working on a historical novel (prose), several picture books and lots of poetry. I’m also in the early stages of a PhD project in Creative Writing and, as part of this, plan to produce three new works, all poetry of some form, as well as writing about why/how poetry is important.

Just for fun Question, (there is always one!): If you were named after a gem or colour like Amber and her friends, which would you choose and why?

I can choose a name for myself? That IS fun. I was nearly called Imelda when I was born, and (with apologies to the Imeldas of the world) have been forever grateful that my parents changed their minds. Sorry, that doesn’t answer your question. I think if I could name myself after a colour I’d be silly about it and say Aquamarine, because surely then no one else would ever have the same name as me. It’s also a lovely colour, so maybe some of that loveliness would rub off on me and make me lovely too.

Thanks so much for having me visit, Dimity. It’s been fun, and you’ve kept me on my toes!

An absolute pleasure Sally (aka Aquamarine!)

Be sure to discover the magic behind Roses are Blue, available  here now.

Walker Books Australia July 2014

Stick around for the rest of Sally’s beautiful blog tour. Here are some places you can visit.

Tuesday, July 22nd Karen Tyrrell
Wednesday, July 23 Alphabet Soup
Thursday, July 24 Kids’ Book Review
Friday, July 25 Write and read with Dale
Saturday, July 26 Diva Booknerd
Sunday, July 27 Children’s Books Daily
Monday, July 28 Boomerang Books Blog
Tuesday, July 29 Australian Children’s Poetry
Wednesday, July 30 Sally Murphy




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5. Is #Mentoring Right for You?

There’s a lot of research out there that suggests that mentoring is pretty good for you. In adult-mentoring-children scenarios, research shows that the mentoring relationship assists in developing stronger ties to the community. Individuals who participate in a mentoring relationship experience:

  • improved self-esteem
  • improved communication skills
  • reduction in depressive symptoms
  • greater social acceptance
  • better academic attitudes

Career mentoring isn’t much different. Professional mentoring relationships help create connections and foster career growth. In fact, these are two of the objectives of the ALSC Mentoring Program. The others:

1. Build the skills and confidence of early career children’s librarians and those new to the profession
2. Encourage personal and professional connections
3. Give members the opportunity to acquire peer-taught skills
4. Re-energize and re-invigorate members in their work
5. Create interest and familiarity with ALSC committee service and participation
6. Build familiarity with ALSC’s Competencies for Librarians Serving Children in Public Libraries
7. Foster the development of a new cohort of leaders

The ALSC Mentoring Program is entering its second year of existence and we’re looking for some good mentors and mentees. Applications for the Fall 2014 program are now open. Please submit your application by Friday, August 25, 2014.

We hope that you’re interested in participating, because we think you’ll get a lot out of it.

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6. The Book Brief: The Very Best New Release Books in August

Each month we bring you the best new release books in our Book Brief




Fiction Books


Life or Death by Michael Robotham

Audie Palmer has spent the last ten years in prison for an armed robbery that netted 7 million dollars. Money that has never been recovered. Everybody wants to know where the money is; other prisoners, guards and various law enforcement. Audie has survived beatings, stabbings and other assaults and is finally due to be released from prison tomorrow. Except he has just escaped. And so begins an epic thriller. Jon


The Heist by Daniel Silva

Legendary spy and art restorer Gabriel Allon is in Venice repairing an altarpiece by Veronese when he receives an urgent summons from the Italian police. The eccentric London art dealer Julian Isherwood has stumbled upon a chilling murder scene in Lake Como, and is being held as a suspect. To save his friend, Gabriel must track down the real killers and then perform one simple task: find the most famous missing painting in the world.


Fives and Twenty-Fives by Michael Pitre

A remarkable piece of fiction following proudly in the footsteps of the The Yellow Birds. Wars never truly end for everyone involved and this is the territory Michael Pitre explores in his impressive debut novel. On the eve on the Arab Spring in Tunisia three men are grappling with their futures now that their war has supposedly finished. Each is scarred and tainted by what they have witnessed and the decisions they have made. They are changed men returning to a changing world not sure if they achieved what they were fighting for. And if they possibly did whether it was worth the price. Jon


The Sun Is God by Adrian McKinty

This is a seemingly dramatic departure from Adrian McKinty’s usual books but he pulls it off marvelously. Based on a true story McKinty heads to the South Pacific circa 1906 to tell a tale of mad Germans, sun worship and possible murder. There is a real 19th century flare to McKinty’s writing and characters in this novel and he has had obvious fun writing it. This may not appeal to all the Adrian McKinty fans but I think it is going to win him a few new ones. Jon


The Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Huraki Murakami

Tsukuru Tazaki had four best friends at school. By chance all of their names contained a colour. The two boys were called Akamatsu, meaning ‘red pine’, and Oumi, ‘blue sea’, while the girls’ names were Shirane, ‘white root’, and Kurono, ‘black field’. Tazaki was the only last name with no colour in it. One day Tsukuru Tazaki’s friends announced that they didn’t want to see him, or talk to him, ever again. Since that day Tsukuru has been floating through life, unable to form intimate connections with anyone. But then he meets Sara, who tells him that the time has come to find out what happened all those years ago.


The Golden Age by Joan London

Frank, a young boy is learning to walk again after contracting polio. His family have just arrived in Perth, survivors of Nazi -occupied Hungary.  The family struggle with settling in Australia while mourning who and what they have lost in Budapest. Polio is another cross for them to bear. An amazing novel of people looking for connection and finding it eventually and in unexpected ways.  I loved the way Joan London evoked a time gone by but made it so relevant to today. The writing takes your breath away. Chris

The Final Silence by Stuart Neville

Just when Jack Lennon thinks things couldn’t get any worse an ex-girlfriend contacts him. She has just inherited a house from her uncle and has found a journal detailing murders going back two decades. It appears there are links to her father, a prominent Belfast politician so she has turned to Jack for help, who can’t even help himself at this point. Stuart Neville doesn’t take his foot off the pedal once in this gripping thriller and once again demonstrates why he is the crime writer everybody is and should be talking about at the moment. Jon

Big Little Lies by Lianne Moriarty

Pirriwee Public’s annual school Trivia Night has ended in a shocking riot. A parent is dead. Liane Moriarty’s new novel is funny and heartbreaking, challenging and compassionate. The No. 1 New York Times bestselling author turns her unique gaze on parenting and playground politics, showing us what really goes on behind closed suburban doors.


Non-Fiction Books


The Climb by Geraldine Doogue

Every parent of a teenage boy knows there are certain conversations they must have with their son. But too often they put them off – or don’t have them at all – because they simply don’t know where to start. Internationally recognised in the field of raising and educating boys, Dr Tim Hawkes provides practical, accessible and invaluable about how to get these discussions started.


Hey, True Blue by John Williamson

The long-awaited life story of John Williamson: an Australian icon, a much-loved veteran of the music industry and man of the land. Williamson takes us through his life, from growing up on the land in the Mallee and Moree in a family of five boys, to being the voice of Australia.


Favourites by Gary Mehigan

This book is the result of Gary’s ongoing food obsession: a collection of his most favourite recipes garnered from thirty years in the industry. It includes treasured treats from his childhood in England, diverse dishes inspired by MasterChef Australia, as well as the comforting family meals he cooks for his wife and daughter at home.


Hell-Bent by Douglas Newton

Most histories of Australia’s Great War rush their readers into the trenches. This history is very different. For the first time, it examines events closely, even hour-by-hour, in both Britain and Australia during the last days of peace in July–August 1914.


He Who Must Be Obeid by Kate McClymont & Linton Besser

This is the story of how Eddie Obeid controlled (and then brought down) the NSW Labor party. It seems if there has been something on the nose in NSW, Eddie Obeid probably had at least a finger in it. Uncovering new stories daily, this will be up-to-the-minute and mind-boggling. Written by two of the country’s most prominent, respected and award-winning journalists, this story will make your hair curl.


The Fights of My Life by Greg Combet

Greg Combet has been central to some of the biggest public struggles of our time on the waterfront, the collapse of an airline, compensation for asbestos victims, the campaign against unfair workplace laws and then climate change. His latest target is the labour movement, arguing that the Labor Party and the trade unions must democratise to engage the next generation of activists to fight the good fight: to achieve a more fair and just Australia.


Childrens’ Picture Books


The Skunk With No Funk by Rebecca Young

Woody is not what his family expected. He is a skunk with NO funk. A failure. A flop. An odourless plop. Poor Woody! What is he going to do? A funny read that the whole family will love! Jan & Danica


Lucky by David Mackintosh

Mum announces that there will be a surprise at dinner tonight, but what could it be? Two brothers spend the whole day at school in anticipation, creating more and more elaborate guesses, until they’re convinced it is the best surprise of all time! A book about what family really means and how lucky we are to have each other. Danica & Jan


Books for First Readers


Wild Moose Chase by Siobhan Rowden

Twins Burt and Camilla are in competition with each other about everything. So they jump at the chance when they hear about the ultimate competition that will guarantee just one person eternal glory. The Queen wants moose cheese. Moose cheese is scrumptiously delicious, worth an absolute fortune and  near-impossible to make. It’ll require a dangerous world-wide adventure to collect the ingredients for the Queen – but nothing will stop the twins.


Ciao EJ! by Susannah McFarlane

Strange things are happening in some of Italy’s most famous cities. What is evil agency SHADOW up to? Team Leader Agent EJ12 and the SHINE STARS split up to find the clues. But will EJ12 be able to piece them all together in time to stop SHADOW?


Books for Young Readers


Plenty by Amanda Braxton-Smith

Maddy’s home has always been in Jermyn Street, ALWAYS.  Now her Mum and Dad are doing the unthinkable – making her move from the city to a place called Plenty. Nobody understands how she feels, how can she survive without everything and everyone she knows. Then she meets the mysterious classmate, Grace Wek, the girl from the refugee camp. Maybe Grace will understand! Jan


Emperor Pickletine Rides The Bus by Tom Angleberger

Make sure you don’t miss the last of the Origami series! The gang is off to Washington DC for a school trip, but horror of horrors, Principal Rabbski decrees the field trip an “origami-free zone.” Dwight secretly folds a Yoda from a Fruit Roll-Up, but will Fruitigami Yoda be up to scratch?! Ian


Books for Young Adults


Razorhurst by Justine Larbalestier

Surry Hills in 1932 was not a pretty place to be, and no one knew this better than Kelpie and Dymphna. These two very unlikely friends share a most extraordinary day hiding from the coppers, rival mob bosses, and the danger that awaits them around every street corner. Will they both make it out alive? Have a read and find out. Danica


We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

A beautiful family. A private island. Summer after summer spent …  It is not long before the cracks start to appear, and nothing is what it seems. This book will keep you guessing until the very end! Jan & Danica


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7. Serving Parents of Children with Disabilities

Being a children’s librarian goes beyond serving children.  Certainly, that’s a HUGE part of the job, but the reality is that our jobs are more encompassing than that.  We are challenged and rewarded to serve the needs of patrons of all ages, and that includes the needs of parents and caregivers.  If your library is focusing on outreach to children with special needs, don’t forget that the parents of these children require our services, too.  Here’s just a short list of things that public libraries can offer parents of children with disabilities.

Special Needs Collections: If your library already has a parenting collection, think about expanding it or adding a new, targeted collection of items focusing on special needs related topics.  Whether this collection is simply made up of adult materials, or if it includes a combination of materials that both adults and children can use, there is a variety of ways you could serve the informational needs of your community.  And highlighting those materials in a separate collection makes those items more accessible and noticeable.  Make sure to gather input from your patrons first–you might discover that your community is interested in this collection having a specific focus.

Parent Workshops: Libraries are community centers for learning, so it makes sense to offer learning opportunities for parents about a variety of special needs related topics.  You could bring in guest experts to speak on topics, such as education, technology, language development, medical issues, or even advocacy.  Providing a forum for discussion of topic issues is a great way to get your community informed and involved.  At my former library, we hosted a series of Tech Talk parent workshop programs.  We knew we wanted to serve this audience of parents specifically, so we partnered with a local assistive technology specialist and offered a parent program called “Is There An App For That? Using iPads with Children with Special Needs.”  It was well received and well attended!

Booklists:  It’s been my experience that sometimes parents who have a child with special needs are looking for ways to introduce a new concept or topic to their child.  Often times, those parents are looking to the library to find a book to help that conversation along.   Quick and handy, booklists are perfect for getting book recommendations into the hands of you patrons right away.  They act as great passive reader’s advisory tools, as well, for those that are not comfortable asking more personal questions at the desk.  Be sure to freshen up your display of booklists often to check for currency and accuracy.  For a great example of what you can offer, check out Skokie Public Library’s comprehensive resource guide for parents and educators of children with disabilities.

Social Stories: Did you know that there are now free social story templates available through Microsoft Office?  Autism Speaks has partnered with Microsoft Office to offer free and customizable Social Story Templates available for download from their website.  As with any social stories, parents can use these tools to help teach various social situations to children with autism.  Topics include potty training, taking turns, going to the doctor, and even bullying.  Helpful tips like this one could easily be shared on a library’s social media page, as a way to quickly get the information out to those that need it.

Meeting Spaces:  More and more libraries are making their meeting spaces available to the public–sometimes even at a reasonably minimal cost to the user.  If you already are in touch with local support groups or parenting groups in your area, they may be interested to know that the library is a place they can come together and meet.  Once you have made contact with these groups, they may be interested in having a representative from the library come in and speak with them.  The more conversations we can have with actual library users (or non-users) to find out what they want their library to be, the more informed we are.


….and these are just a few ideas.  What are YOU doing at your library to serve the unique needs of parents of children with disabilities in your communities?  Share your ideas below!

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8. Coney Island Thrills

Can't believe that this is the first time I've visited Coney Island. Having lived in CT, NYC and now NJ foreverrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

And this was the ride of a lifetime... kind of a calm ride up (and down) with a few bits of jarring tension tossed in for an unexpected thrill...  you have to ride in the colorful cars in the interior section to experience this. Otherwise the white cars are safe.

Not a boring Ferris Wheel!!

Thanks to Deno's Wonder Wheel

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Drew these dragons on the back of a record album when driving up to Porland, ME today. Trying to name a dragon in a book I'm working on. It is a very friendly and playful sort of dragon. Suggestions for a name?

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10. Issues :3

Question: I'm unsure as to which category this would fall under, but my writing partner and I are having trouble agreeing or understanding things to do

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11. #620 – Frankie Dupont and the Mystery of Enderby Manor by Julie Anne Grasso

Congratulations to Julie Anne Grasso, on the release of her third chapter book: Frankie Dupont and the Mystery of Enderby Manor. No cinnamon this time, but there is a strange gnome, a parrot sous-chef, and a clueless inspector who fears Frankie will solve the mystery before he gets his first clue. Enjoy the fun. (Stay out of the pool.)



Frankie Dupont And The Mystery Of Enderby Manor

Written by Julie Anne Grasso

Illustrations by David Blackwell and Samantha Yallope

Published by Julie Anne Grasso    2014


Age 7 to 10     134 pages


“When his cousin Kat disappears from Enderby, Frankie Dupont jumps on the scene, only to find bumbling Inspector Cluesome beat him to it. Cluesome thinks Kat simply wandered off. Frankie isn’t buying it.”


“Frankie bounded across the veranda and down the old wooden stairs.”

The Story

Frankie Dupont is waiting for something important in the mail—a black envelope. He is the son of a private inspector and wants to be an inspector like his dad. The strange black envelope arrives, but Frankie simply puts it in his pocket. When the phone rings, he expects it to be his cousin Kat, who calls him every day. It is not Kat. It is about Kat. Kat has disappeared.

With his father away on assignment, Frankie takes on the assignment of finding Kat. Last seen at Enderby Manor, Kat ate an early breakfast and has not been seen or heard from since. Frankie passes Enderby Manor every day as he walks to school, yet he has no memory of ever seeing the place. Strange for an investigator to miss a large hotel, sitting behind the lake—which Frankie has seen—all of which is situated behind a black iron fence.


Inspector Cluesome is already on the scene when Frankie rides up on his bike. His aunt and uncle are frantically worried. They trust Frankie, which is good since Cluesome is extraordinarily clueless. Without any real detective work completed, Cluesome announces that Kat simply got lost and will come home at any minute.  Can Frankie find his cousin? Why couldn’t Frankie recall a large hotel he passes every day on his way to school? Will this unseen hotel figure into Kat’s disappearance? Where is Kat?


evelyn of everlasting cupcake shopEnderby Manor is a strange place. The hotel itself is outdated, caught in a ten-year vacuum. The six-fingered chef has a parrot for his sous-chef. The maid, also the owner’s wife, keeps waiting for her husband to return and open the hotel—the Grand Opening. He will not arrive since he has been dead for ten years. Out back, a gnome named Gerome cares for the landscaping and the pool—but not the water. No one knows anything about Kat except the chef. He fed Kat an early breakfast, which she ate in the kitchen.

The grounds are as crazy as the people running the hotel are. The pool has  brown-slime covering the top of the water. Kat mada,e mcureecould not have swum that morning as some have suggested she did. Then there is Myrtle’s Mesmerising Maze, which Frankie felt a pull to enter. He didn’t, instead he went to Evelyn’s Everlasting Cupcakes, a shop with the most delicious cupcakes ever made; yet the place was empty. Frankie even loses it a little. He thinks he sees Kat in a mirror, but only for a nanosecond. Who knew he had a wild imagination.

Kids will enjoy Frankie Dupont and the Mystery of Enderby Manor. For this story, the only place you will find cinnamon is at the cupcake shop, baked into the sticky caramel cupcake. Kids will like the crazy characters Grasso developed. Cluesome is a bumbling idiot, which kids will love. Frankie outwits the inspector at every turn. Igor the Great has the funniest lines in the story.

Grasso laid out the clues in such a way that Frankie will decipher them before the reader. Most of the fun comes from trying to put the mystery together and not being able to until the author wants you to understand. Still we try our darndest to figure out what is going on. What is going on? Frankie seems as confused as we are, until . . . then the story speeds up as the entire world collapses. Oh, what wonderful fun!

igor the great and chef simon lemont

Frankie Dupont and the Mystery of Enderby Manor will delight readers. The fun chapter book is a short read at 132 pages. The eleven chapters, skillfully developed, will keep kids hanging on. The Mystery of Enderby Manor is a typical mystery, built layer upon layer, until time is about to run out. Only then, does Grasso let us understand her world. Frankie Dupont will hook even those kids who are reading their first mystery. Enderby Manor is not the biggest mystery. The biggest is a question: When will Frankie Dupont return to solve the next mystery?

FRANKIE DUPONT AND THE MYSTERY OF ENDERBY MANOR. Text copyeight © 2014 by Julie Anne Grasso. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by David Blackwell and Samantha Yallope. Reproduced by permission of the publisher Julie Anne Grasso, Melbourne, Australia.


Purchase Frankie Dupont and the Mystery of Enderby Manor at AmazonB&NBook Depository—Publisher’s Website—at your favorite bookstore.

Free resources from Frankie Dupont

Learn more about Frankie Dupont and the Mystery of Enderby Manor HERE.

Meet the author, Julie Anne Grasso at her website: julieannegrassobooks.com

Meet the illustrator, David Blackwell, at his website:   http://www.kathyanddavidblackwell.co.uk/ 

Meet the other illustrator, Samantha Yallope, at her website:   http://www.samanthayallope.com/


Also by Julie Anne Grasso

Escape from the Forbidden Planet

Escape from the Forbidden Planet

Return to Cardamom

Return to Cardamom




frankie dupont 1





Filed under: 5stars, Chapter Book, Children's Books, Series Tagged: Chapter book, children's book reviews, David Blackwell, Frankie Dupont and the Mystery of Enderby Manor, mystery, Samantha Yallope, time travel

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12. The Lost Planet Book Review

Title: The Lost Planet Author: Rachel Searles Publisher: Feiwel & Friends Publication Date: January 28, 2014 ISBN- 13: 978-1250038791 384 pp. ARC provided by publisher The Lost Planet by Rachel Searles is a rollicking sci-fi adventure for middle grade readers. A boy wakes up with a blaster wound to the back of his head and no memory except the phrase, "Guide the star." He's told that his

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13. Race Car Love for little (and big) kids: Metropolis II at LACMA

Do you know any kids who love, love, love race cars? I grew up with one -- my youngest brother loved race cars so much, his summer dream job in high school was working on the crew of a race car team. So this week, I'm sharing fabulous books for race car lovers--especially little kids whose eyes go wide at every fast car.

I'll start by sharing a video and experience--because books really are just one way to share an experience, to open kids' imaginations up wide, to create conversations. Chris Burden's Metropolis II is a room-size sculpture made of an intricate system of model cars and trains zooming through a maze of highways in a model city.

Metropolis II, by Chris Burden at LACMA
I tried taking pictures, too, but since the essence of this exhibit is how the cars ZOOM through the maze of freeways, a still picture just can't recreate the experience. Watch the video below, and let me know what you think.

Here's the museum's description (from the LACMA website):
"Steel beams form an eclectic grid interwoven with an elaborate system of 18 roadways, including one six lane freeway, and HO scale train tracks. Miniature cars speed through the city at 240 scale miles per hour; every hour, the equivalent of approximately 100,000 cars circulate through the dense network of buildings." 
If you want to learn more, check out this video and interview with the creator: Metropolis II, by Chris Burden.

Do you have any favorite things to do with race car loving kids? Every time we visit Disneyland, I insist that we go on Autotopia. Are there other video clips you would show to get kids thinking of all the things they could build or race?

I hope you enjoy the race car books I'll share this week. Come back tomorrow for more zooming fun!

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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14. At the Breast Clinic


                                               At the Breast Clinic

The Breast Clinic is a brick and glass structure designed with women

 in mind, from fancy murals of Italy to free herbal teas in the lobby.

As you pass through the revolving doors there’s no need to wonder

which way to turn or where to ask for directions to your doctor’s suite.

The receptionist’s desk juts out and your questions about doctors,

appointments, procedures and payments can be answered quickly.

“Will my wife, Marilyn, get a clean bill of health?” takes longer.


When we travel together I sometime pretend that I am “Charles,” her chauffer,

since she comes from a long line of glitz, glamour and royalty. I don’t mind

being her driver and court jester, but we will be at the medical institute waiting

up to three hours for x-rays to hear good news. I didn’t sleep well last night

worrying about the Queen of my life for 41 years. There were omens in the air.

She has been called back before after a routine screening, but this is different.


The receptionist insisted on a speedy return and told her that a doctor

would be present in the office. The receptionist didn’t reduce fears saying,

“Oh, we just want to take a few more pictures. We do this all the time.”

With words unspoken Marilyn let me know that these were sinister omens.

She needed me to hold her hand and scare away any menacing thoughts.

That’s why I was with her with a room full of women waiting for exams.


I kept thinking: It has to be very good news. It has to be very good news.

It had to be good news because she had a run of bad luck, a series of medical

problems all piling up—a  fall, broken bones, arm, ribs, a sleep disorder, TMJ,

COPD, heart problems, arthritis, and two knee operations—all in one year.

I knew she couldn’t take much more of  new doctors, medicines, blood tests,

 and appointments. Marilyn was centimeters away from breaking.


I prayed for her and bargained with God to spare her this time from pain,

medical intervention and frequent thoughts about her own mortality. 

She deserves better. That’s what I thought again and again, as I waited

for the verdict via x-rays and a doctor. It didn’t seem fair that she had

to deal with more doctors and examinations. Yes, I know that life isn’t

fair and when things get tough, the tough get going, but there’s a limit.


Ninety minutes later she popped out from behind door number one

with a sparkling smile and waving thumbs up. I hugged and hugged

my queen, while others waited to see how their story would unfold.

I wished them well in my heart of hearts, and escorted my fair lady

out the door as fast as I could beyond false omens. At the Princess Diner

my beloved Queen and I ate a celebratory lunch and thanked the heavens.

~Joe Sottile

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15. 5 Essential Tips for Writing Killer Fight Scenes

Fight scenes are dangerous territory for writers. On the surface, they seem as if they’re guaranteed to keep the reader glued to the action in the same way as they often do at the movies. In reality, though, readers tend to skip over fight scenes – skimming the long, tedious, blow-by-blow descriptions in favour of getting back to the dialogue and character-driven drama that truly engages them in the story.

My novel, Traitor’s Blade, is a swashbuckling fantasy in which fight scenes are a crucial part of the storytelling. This means having to ensure that every piece of action is vital and engaging; it means that every duel must draw the reader in and not let them go until the end. So how do you keep the pacing, flow, and more importantly, the drama moving forward with so many fights?

GIVEAWAY: Sebastien is excited to give away a free copy of his novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Please note that comments may take a little while to appear; this is normal).


Screen shot 2014-07-27 at 11.44.18 PM     Screen shot 2014-07-27 at 11.44.04 PM

Column by Sebastien de Castell, who had just finished a degree in archaeology
when he started work on his first job. Four hours later he realized how much he
hated archaeology and left to pursue a very focused career as a musician,
ombudsman, interaction designer, fight choreographer, teacher, project manager,
actor, and product strategist. His first novel is TRAITOR’S BLADE (Jo Fletcher
Books, July 2014), which can be found on Amazon or IndieBound. The
swashbuckling fantasy was recently praised by NPR. Connect with the
author on Facebook or Twitter.

1. Make every fight advance the plot

No matter what you might think, violence is actually boring. Watching two hulking brutes bash at each other with clubs isn’t interesting. Only when one of the brutes is smaller, weaker, and trying desperately to stay alive long enough to let his people know that the enemy is coming does the action start to matter to the reader. But don’t just think in terms of climactic battles or killing off enemies. Sometimes the fight provides a crucial piece of information about the antagonist such as a particular type of cut they make that could explain the wounds on a victim the protagonist discovered in the previous chapter. The fight might also wound your protagonist, slowing them down in later scenes and giving you a chance to make their lives harder and therefore increase the suspense.

2. Reveal character through action

The way your protagonist fights – and when they choose to fight or walk away – tells the reader a great deal about them. Your hero might be a skilled but retiscient warrior or they could be an amateur but with a bloodthirsty streak that comes out when confronted with violence. But don’t just stop with your protagonist or their opponents. Think about what the action reveals in those watching the fight. Does the seemingly helpful mentor figure suddenly become enraptured watching the blood flow? Do the innocent bystanders just sit there or do they scramble to help? Fight scenes that reveal character are by far the most compelling ones for readers – they get to investigate your characters by seeing how they deal with violent situations, allowing you to follow that classic dictum of modern writing: show, don’t tell.

(Hear agents get specific and explain what kind of stories they’re looking for.)

3. Your fight scenes must fulfill the promise of your book

Traitor’s Blade is a swashbuckling fantasy so every fight has to give the reader some of that sense of wonder they first encountered watching classic adventures like the old Errol Flynn and Douglas Fairbanks films. But perhaps your genre is gritty historical fiction. If so, the last thing you want to do is break suspension of disbelief. You have to carefully ensure that the weapons and fighting styles are true to your era (note: this doesn’t mean you can’t have a longsword in the 18th Century since they were around for long periods of time after their proper era, but you can’t have King Arthur swinging a rapier around in 6th Century Britain!)

4. Make every fight unique

I read a YA fantasy recently in which almost every fight involved the main character jumping up and spinning in the air to kick opponents in the face (usually two or three.) Regardless of how unrealistic this would be (after all, realism only matters if it’s part of the promise of your book), the fact is you probably couldn’t remember one fight from another. By contrast, think of a movie like The Princess Bride, in which every fight is special – every conflict is resolved using different means, whether trickery or skill or simply iron-willed determination.

(The skinny on why to sign with a new/newer literary agent.)

5. Let the reader choreograph the action

If you describe every action of the fight, not only will you bore the reader but your pacing and flow will fall apart. So think of your job not so much as having to meticulously choreograph the fight but rather to give the reader enough insight into the action that they can build the scene in their minds. Show them early on in the fight how each weapon moves through space—make that vivid and visceral. Make the reader feel as if they could actually pick up that weapon and defend themselves even just a little bit. Then you’re free to focus on the character’s actions and reactions—making them distinct, personal, and emotionally motivated just as you do with their words. The reader will then be able to fill in the action while you describe what your characters are saying, what they’re thinking, and what’s showing on their faces. In other words, help the reader to choreograph the fight so that you can spend your time on the drama. This also lets you vary the length of your fight scenes, which helps to keep them from becoming predictable. In Traitor’s Blade there are fights which span an entire chapter and others which are told in four lines.

Think of it this way: violence is dialogue. Make your fights into a conversation spoken with actions in which the real conflict is happening in the hearts of the characters and in which the reader themselves are helping to tell the story.

GIVEAWAY: Sebastien is excited to give away a free copy of his novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Please note that comments may take a little while to appear; this is normal).


Need help crafting an awesome plot for your
story? Check out the new acclaimed resource
by Ronald Tobias, 20 Master Plots.


Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:


Want to build your visibility and sell more books?
Create Your Writer Platform shows you how to
promote yourself and your books through social
media, public speaking, article writing, branding,
and more.
Order the book from WD at a discount.


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16. The Antique Store

The store was filled to bursting,
Every item an "antique,"
A place to stop and browse
If it's nostalgia that you seek.

I squeezed myself between the rows
Of shelves piled to the ceiling,
But absolutely nothing
Was the slightest bit appealing.

I watched the other customers
Yet really, who'd a thunk
That so many would be interested
In someone else's junk!

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17. Player Profile: Michael Robotham, author of Life Or Death

bytonymott_545Michael Robotham, author of Life Or Death

Tell us about your latest creation:

 LIFE OR DEATH is a love story and a thriller and a story of redemption. It’s a standalone novel that introduces Audie Palmer, a man who has spent a decade in prison for armed robbery, but escapes the day before he’s due to be released. For ten years Audie  has been beaten, stabbed, throttled and threatened by prison guards, inmates and criminal gangs, who all want the answer to the same question – what happened to the money? But Audie isn’t running from trouble. Instead he’s trying to save a life more important than his own.

9780751552898Where are you from / where do you call home?:

My books might not be set in Australia, but I’m a home-grown boy. I was born in Casino, on northern NSW and grew up in Gundagai, where the dog sits on the tuckerbox. After living overseas for many years, home is now on Sydney’s northern beaches, where I write in what my daughter’s call, ‘Dad’s Cabana of Cruelty’.

When you were a kid, what did you want to become?  An author?:

 I wanted to be an author from the age of 12, when I discovered Ray Bradbury and wrote him a letter via his New York publishers. Three months later, I came home from school and found a package on the kitchen table. It contained the four or five Bradbury titles that weren’t available in Australia, along with a letter from the great man
himself, saying how pleased he was to have a young reader on the far side of the world.

What do you consider to be your best work? Why?:

That’s like asking me which is my favourite daughter! All my books are special to me, but the one that changed my life was the first one: THE SUSPECT, which caused a bidding war at the London Book Fair and allowed me to fulfil my dreams. The latest book LIFE OR DEATH is a story I’ve wanted to tell for twenty years, but didn’t think I had the skills until now.

Describe your writing environment to us – your writing room, desk, etc.; is it ordered or chaotic?:

 As mentioned earlier – I write in the Cabana of Cruelty, a lovely outside space with wrap-around windows and a shingle roof, overlooking tropical gardens and a swimming pool. It is sometimes hard to conjure up the means streets when I’m looking at paradise.

When you’re not writing, who/what do you like to read?:

 I read very widely. Mainly fiction. Although I have my favourites like James Lee Burke, Daniel Woodrell and Dennis Lehane, I tend not to read much crime fiction, but I do have about a four books on the go at the one time, in different rooms of the house, as well as an audio book on my iPod.

What was the defining book(s) of your childhood/schooling?:

 The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury opened my imagination and transported me and frightened my pants off. Lord of the Rings was also special. I borrowed it so often from my school library the librarian banned me from taking it out again. So I took to hiding it in the library. She found out, but instead of punishing me, she gave me the book. It is battered, broken and taped together, but still has pride of place on my shelves because it is the first book that I ever truly ‘earned’.

If you were a literary character, who would you be?:

Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby. Nick calls himself ‘one of the few honest people that I have ever known’ and he prides himself on maintaining his standards in a corrupt, fast-moving world. He is a wonderful observer of people and events. He can see their flaws and foibles, but refuses to be overly critical. If I were Nick, maybe I could save Jay Gatsby from himself.

Apart from books, what do you do in your spare time (surprise us!)?:

I’m so boring. When I’m not writing I’m reading. When I’m not reading I’m walking. And even when I’m walking I’m listening to a book. Peter Corris tells the story of bumping into David Malouf at a function and asking if he was writing just then,        ‘What else is there to do?’ he answered. That’s what it’s like for me…breathing.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?:

 I love a gin & tonic at the end of the writing day and a glass of wine with dinner. As for food, it has to be spicy whether it’s a curry, stir fry and homemade pizza.

Who is your hero? Why?:

 My heroes are those people who we never hear about. The parents who look after disabled children and the wives who escape from violent husbands and the teachers, nurses and volunteers who give back more to their communities than they ever receive

Crystal ball time – what is the biggest challenge for the future of books and reading?:

 I think the biggest challenge for the future of books and reading is for publishers, authors and booksellers to find a business model that works for everyone.  Heavy discounting by online sellers and self-published authors, is  suffocating bricks and mortar stores and prompting more and more readers who think a book should only
cost 99c or $2.99. On top of this we have the spectre of piracy and illegal file sharing that is becoming more widespread with digitalisation.

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/MichaelRobothamAU

Twitter: https://twitter.com/michaelrobotham

Website: www.michaelrobotham.com

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18. Quiet Week

Rattlesnake pole bean

Rattlesnake pole bean

There wasn’t much going on in the garden this week, at least not with the gardener. A bit of heat, a lot of humidity, a few nights of not good sleeping, and bad allergies have worn me out. I did manage to get out and do a little weeding during today’s chilly windy morning. It is still cool and windy out and we just had a brief rain shower. I was going to do a video this morning of all the flowers blooming in my front yard but it was too windy so it will just have to wait for another time. Next week maybe.

The corn is chest high now and blooming and I picked a few pole beans this morning. The beans are growing up the corn. They are an heirloom variety called rattlesnake, green with purple streaks. I haven’t cooked them yet so I don’t know if the purple will remain. I’ll let you know.

We picked the first zucchini of the year and a couple of fat pickling cucumbers. Bookman will turn the cucumbers into

Pumpkin blossom

Pumpkin blossom

refrigerator pickles. The zucchini, not sure yet. We knew they were coming eventually but we aren’t quite ready for them since we’ve been busy keeping up with the beans. And a second flush of peas is coming ripe. Summer has always been too hot by now that I have never gotten a second harvest of peas, but this year, in spite of a few really hot days, it has been incredibly mild. The peas this second time around are smaller than the first batch but no less tasty. I also pulled up the rest of the German garlic and for the most part it came up with decent bulbs, a little on the small side maybe, but big enough to use.

The anise hyssop is is full bloom now and covered with fuzzy purple flowers and pollinators of all kinds — several different kinds of bees including “my” bumblebees, flies (very important pollinators, these are not houseflies), and the occasional moth and red admiral butterfly. All these creatures are so loud, I can hear the plant buzzing when I walk by it. Since the bush beans are planted right next to it, picking beans is a nerve wracking experience because everyone has to come investigate me too. They just buzz by my head, realize I am not a flower to pollinate and go back to the hyssop, but while my head knows they are not after me, the little kid inside who is terrified of getting bit or stung has a hard time being nonchalant about it. It takes a conscious effort.

Mystery flower no more

Mystery flower no more

In the polyculture bed the mysterious weed I mentioned in my video tour has bloomed. Big white trumpet flower on an upright plant. It looks very much like a Datura of some kind, and what do you know? It is! An easy Google search revealed it to be Datura metel “Belle Blanche.” If I had a warmer climate it would turn into a shrub-like plant 4 feet (1.2m) across. The flowers are supposedly sweetly scented like honeysuckle, especially at night. I say supposedly because I generally don’t go around sniffing flowers due to my allergies and standing next to it while taking a photo I did not smell anything. Maybe Bookman will agree to brave the mosquitoes tonight and go take a whiff on my behalf. I have no idea how this made it into my garden, a squirrel or bird must have left a seed behind and it sprouted. It’s pretty so I will let it be for now, at least until it shows signs of turning into a 4-foot monster, then it will have to go.

Amy Pond is recovering from all of the raccoon attacks. The floating “cabbages” that go shredded have reproduced from

Blackberry flowers

Blackberry flowers

their broken pieces so now I have about six little ones floating in the water. There is at least one fish still in the pond, perhaps all three are still there but they have become very good at hiding. The solar pump Bookman ordered online arrived Friday and we put it together and installed it this morning. The pump is for a fountain so has a fountain stem through which it forces the water. We have it sitting just at the surface so the water comes out but doesn’t go far, just dribbles back and moves the surface of the pond a little. The solar panel is of excellent quality too, it even works when it is lightly overcast. Very pleased. So now should a raccoon decide to eat the remaining fish, we are still covered on the mosquito prevention front. Win!

The week ahead is looking fine. Bookman has a birthday on Wednesday and we have taken days off from work which means I only have to work Monday and Tuesday. The weather forecast is indicating comfortable humidity and temperatures around 80F (27C) during the day and cooling off to around 58F (14C) at night. If that comes true and my allergies don’t continue to trouble me, I should be a very active gardener during the week. Who knows what exciting stories I might have for you next Sunday?

Filed under: gardening

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19. INNOCENCE - In Select Theaters August 29

Love. Beauty. Wealth. Eternity. Get ready for the latest YA book-to-film adaptation, INNOCENCE, in select theaters August 29th INNOCENCE, based off the 2001 novel by Jane Mendelsohn, tells the story of Beckett Warner, a teenager dealing with the recent death of her mother. Yet, once she moves to Manhattan to put her life back together and begin a new school, Beckett realizes that her troubles

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20. Ballerina Girl

firebirdbookThis year, two beautiful picture books about black ballerinas hope to dance their way into children’s hearts and hands. The latest is a gorgeous forthcoming debut by American Ballet Theater soloist Misty Copeland titled Firebird, the name of the classic role she was the first black woman to star in.

Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons and illustrated by Caldecott Honor artist Christopher Myers, Copeland’s work is a love letter to a brown girl who dreams of being a dazzling dancer too. To lift the child, who sees a “longer than forever” distance between herself and her idol, Copeland reveals her journey from ballet dream to determined realization. In a stirring marriage of lyrical text and poignant images that affirm and encourage, Copeland and Myers create an evocative landscape in which a new generation of young dreamers and dancers can take flight. The book is available for pre-order now and releases on September 4.

The Buzz on Firebird:

“The language soars into dizzying heights of lyrical fancy… Myers’ artwork… pulsate[s] with kinetic synergy… A starscape filled with visual drama and brilliance.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“An inspirational picture book for children daunted by the gap between their dream and their reality.”—Booklist

starlightIn January of this year, another moving ballet story began weaving its magic. A Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina’s Dream (Philomel), written by Kristy Dempsey and illustrated by award-winner Floyd Cooper, tells the story of a 1950s Harlem girl inspired by first black prima ballerina Janet Collins.

Like Firebird, the text and illustrations are lyrical and full of heart and movement. But in this historical fiction tale, a girl whose mother works as a seamstress for a ballet school is immersed in the world of dance and dreams of being a prima ballerina. And seeing groundbreaker Collins perform at the Metropolitan Opera turns her dream into something more – a vision of who she can be.

Available in stores now.

The Buzz on A Dance Like Starlight:

“A warm, inspirational collaboration that will resonate in the hearts of all who dream.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

” . . . Though the narrator is imagined, the inspirational message is real. Cooper’s art incorporates his signature subtractive process and mixed media in tones of brown and pink to achieve illustrations as beautiful and transporting as the text.” —School Library Journal

Janet Collins Animated Film: Karyn Parsons (Hilary on the Fresh Prince of Bel Air) launched a campaign to raise funds for an animated short film called The Janet Collins Story that would be produced by Parsons’ company, Sweet Blackberry. Check out the campaign here. Great news: It was fully funded. Now, we can look forward to a wonderful film for children about Collins.

Wouldn’t it be cool to share Firebird, A Dance Like Starlight and The Janet Collins Story with kids you know?

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21. Watching some Harry Potter!

Watching some Harry Potter!

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22. Four People and a Playwright Looking for a Decent Play

This was a time-waster while developing characters in my play, "Gin..." As the playwright plodded along adding and deleting dialogue, the characters of the play began to show signs of rebellion - at least they thought it was rebellion since they weren't exactly sure what a rebellion was. It's a longer piece but an enjoyable light one. It's cut and pasted from Word so ignore the formatting.

By Eleanor Tylbor
AT RISE:      
Four women are seated on fold-up chairs around a card table, absorbed in adjusting the playing cards in their hands. Bowls of popcorn and soft drink cans litter the surface of the table. On the other side of the stage the playwright (JULIE) is sitting at a computer desk, arms bent at elbows, staring out into space. She works the keyboard as the characters recite their lines
In case anyone cares, something is about to happen…very soon now…could even be momentarily…I can feel it…
                         Lays cards down on the table and thrusts remaining card in the
                         air for all to see
(Cont’d.) Victory is at hand – or inmy hand, in this case! Oh I’m a winner all right!
                         Shoving a hand full of popcorn in her mouth
Goof fo' you. Paf me de drink, Miffi
Didn't your momma teach you it's not nice to eat and talk? Then again for some people, a full mouth is part of a lifestyle. Isn't that right Mitzi, honey?
Jealousy will get you nowhere, sweetie.  At least I'm not a dried up where it counts!
Touchy! I was merely commenting to Charlene that well-bred people don't speak with their mouths full! But then being that you’re a multi-tasker…I mean handling more than one person at a time…
Breeding comes naturally in your family, doesn't it? Did they forget to give you your cube of sugar today? Clop your hoof once for yes and two for no
(to herself)
Bicker, bicker…bicker, … It would be nice to have a quiet game of cards for a change without throwing verbal knives at each other
I think I'm close to calling Gin…
I would stay out of this if I were you, Chloe. Is your brother eligible for parole, yet?
I'm gonna start calling you Bossy, along with the other "b" word that rhymes with itch, and usually associated with a female dog! I try to be nice to you and what do I get in return?
                         CHLOE stares into space for approx. 10 seconds in silence
What do I get in return? Does anybody know?
Do we guess?
I don’t think so. My mind is a complete blank. Is that normal?
           Pause of 10 seconds while they all stare out into space
I’m waiting

Me too. What are we waiting for?
Some words and sentences I think

Don't blame me for what comes out of my mouth. I just say the words. I don't create them. By the way, Chloe, what's your brother in for this time? Armed robbery or is it murder? I didn't mean to say that…or maybe I did…I’m not sure
I really don't know why but I feel compelled to tell you…
                         Stands up and leans over the table towards BRENDA
(standing up)
What? Anybody?
Why am I standing? I mean, what's my motivation? Could somebody tell me, please?
So sit down if you’re not sure. My philosophy is when in doubt – don’t
Don’t what?
Um - I dunno. Take my word for it and just don’t. That’s all
Gin! What’s supposed to happen, now?
I’m not sure but I think something important is gonna happen. I can feel it in my bones. Does anybody have any ideas?
Well…for starters, we’re all holding these hard pieces of paper in our hands
I wonder if that’s significant. What do yours look like, Brenda?
Let’s see… White background with red and black thingies…
I dunno what you call them but they’re pretty, though. And there are numbers in the corners
Same here! Go figure!
Ours too!
Okay. We’re making progress here. Hey! These are playing cards
You think?
I know for a fact! Those words just popped into my head!
So you say. You could’a just make them up on the spur of the moment to impress us
Have you ever heard me use them before?
I never heard them in my entire life and that’s the truth
Then you’re all just gonna hav’ta take my word for it! These things are called playing cards
Let’s say you’re right. What about them?
I dunno…What comes next?
Y’know - I’ve been wondering if I should be eating popcorn or maybe change it for something else like, candy for example or ice cream
All you think about is food, food, food! There are more important things in life
Really? Like?
Well…there just are. I feel it

Sometimes, I get the feeling like I'm a puppet on a string or something, bowing to someone's wishes. Do any of you ever get that feeling?
I said, ‘Gin’! Hello? I'll try again. Gin… Gin… Gin!
Darned if I know. We show up every day and twice on weekends holding these playing cards in our hands. Why I keep asking myself. Why am I here? Why are we all here? Sometimes I yell out,  “Gin!” out loud but nobody answers. Shouldn’t somebody answer me? I’ve been screaming that word for the last six months. Always the same words and lines and then I call out, "Gin!"
                         Stares out in space and babbles to an invisible person
 (Cont’d.) ‘…she tries to make the others understand but they just stare at her blankly…she must determine the reason for her very existence…’
Who are you talking to?
I really can’t say. Suddenly a bunch of words came tumbling out of my mouth for no reason. It's not the first time this has happened
Ask Mitzi. She knows all about objects in mouths
I'm so sick of your sexual innuendoes, Brenda
Why do you react that way whenever the word “mouth” is mentioned?
It’s not that I want to but I feel I have to. It’s as if I don’t have any choice in the matter
 MITZI stands up with hands on hips, leans forward until her face  is directly in front of Brenda

And…um…something else…
                         Moves away from table, hops up and down and starts
 shadow boxing, fists waving in the air
(Cont’d.) I took a self-defense course! My hands are lethal weapons!
                         Cuts the air with side of hand
And that means…?
You are so not with it.  It means…it means…
Oh pllleeze! She doesn’t know
Let's settle this once and for all! C'mon – right here and now
Fine with me…what are we supposed to do next?
Just… keep hitting the air and dancing around I suppose
                         BRENDA and MITZI spar, fists jabbing the empty air
                         Stands up and places her purse strap over her shoulder
That's it! Nobody seems to care that I have yelled “Gin!”…whatever that means, but I'm sure it's important.  I don't know about you all but I'm leaving! Anybody else gonna follow me?
                         Attempts to attract the attention of the playwright
Hello? You up there? Could you stop staring at that screen for a minute? This isn't working for me at all. I'm sick-and-and tired of being a slut with a one-track mind. This play of yours is a bunch of words with no plot or direction and it breaks every playwriting rule in the book. Where's the protagonist and antagonist?
What are you complaining about? My character is insecure, indecisive and naive, and those are her strong qualities. How'd you like to have those? I'm smart, you know! I am very smart… I think
Off the top of my head, I would guess that part of your problem is that you're a minor character, while mine plays a major role and more attention is required to develop Brenda, properly
See what I mean? How come I can't be the smart one for a change?
With all due respect Charlene, honey, I don't think you have the emotional range to assume an analytical role of deep thinker, like we do. Right ladies?
                         CHLOE and BRENDA together:  ‘I dunno’
It's just not fair! Every day I hav'ta play the part of a simple minded female when in reality, I got it up here (points to her head) I think this is what makes the words come out
You see, Charlene, sweetie, my background lends itself to being a character with class…one of the rich, beautiful people, while you – well dear - let's just say that you have interesting words in your sentences
I'm as good as anyone here! You're all forgetting that we are the sum total of the playwright's vision. Hey – I can talk smart too! Why can't we take turns being each other?
Let's not forget here that our origins are a computer memory chip. The only rich and famous person we're connected to is Bill Gates. I say…we walk. Are you with me, ladies?
Is there a problem?
                         Hands on hips, facing direction of playwright
We got your attention, huh? We've had it with these crappy lines! We're bored of being portrayed as vacuous women with blank minds. We're people too! We have feelings and we hurt and…
May I remind you that you're nothing more than a bunch of words strung together to make a sentence? I make you who and what you are and I can eliminate you all with a push of my forefinger and a delete button. You're only communicating with me now because I'm exploring dialogue choices. You're all a figment of my imagination
No need for threats, here, dear. There's only so much that characters can take and we've reached the end of the line, so to speak. Do you like that, ladies? End-of-the-line?
Trés wit-ty, my dear
What should I say? I've re-written and re-written you all at least two dozen times and no matter what I do, the dialogue sounds… wooden. And don't even ask about the plot, or lack of one, thereof
That's because you really don't really believe in us, do you? Deep down inside you're toying with the idea of deleting the text and starting a whole new play that will move in a new direction. Do you know what it's like living under that threat? I'll tell you – it's very disturbing
Did I write that? I don't remember writing those words…
Now there's a perfect example of what I'm talking about! We never know where you're gonna take us next, right ladies? It's like…there's giant hands hanging over the stage dangling precariously, ready to strike at a moments notice.  It's the uncertainty of the delete button that gets us down!
For example, why do you always make me as an over-sexed whore? Maybe it would be good to be an upright female for a change.  Not necessarily a nun or anything but an intelligent woman who has a direction and purpose in life. Not somebody who dresses in clothes three sizes too tight. Let Charlene assume that part for once. Wouldn't you like that, dear?
I'll pass but I know where she's coming from! In spite of all your attempts at re-writes, you still make me out like an empty-headed - duh! I want to be respected like the rest of them, except Mitzi…no insult intended…
None taken, dear. I'm used to it by now
I never realized you all felt this way
0 Comments on Four People and a Playwright Looking for a Decent Play as of 7/27/2014 10:06:00 PM
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23. looking for front stabbers

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

You trust someone, and then you’re stabbed in the back. Hurts, doesn’t it? Ever thought of inviting someone to stab you in the front? Sure, that’d hurt too. But it’d be a constructive versus destructive brand of pain. Okay okay, I know that sounds strange, maybe even a little creepy, but please stick with me for a few more sentences, and I’ll explain as best I can.

See, even though writing by its nature is a solo sport, that doesn’t mean you can’t invite others to join your team. By others, I mean other writers who can give constructive criticism–aka stab you in the front, to hit you where it hurts most–right in your writing.

Losing weight, staying on track with an exercise regime, even cleaning out the garage, are all easier if you have at least one person to come alongside you support, encourage–maybe even push–you. Why should writing be any different? If you’re frustrated with your lack of progress, either in term of pages or improvement, consider opening yourself up to a good, ol’ fashioned front stab.

[At least] three things are certain:

1. Someone pushing you without your permission will only make you want to push back.

2. You need to ask someone to hold you accountable. Nobody volunteers for that job, but most people will say yes if you invite them, especially if you’re willing to reciprocate.

3. You will make better and faster progress with accountability and input, than you will without it.

This is why I am so grateful for my critique group. They’re a friendly bunch of front stabbers who want me to become a better writer and I’m happy to help them do the same.

If you feel stuck with your writing, let me encourage you seek out your own critique group (ask around on Facebook, via your SCBWI chapter list serve or your local library). If a group isn’t already in place, start one. And remember, you don’t have to let geography limit you. Online critique groups can work very well and can include writers from all over the planet, if you like. (I suggest keeping your group Earth-bound. Anything beyond that can get too complicated.) If joining/starting a group sounds like too long of a leap, consider partnering with another writer and setting up a regular schedule for exchanging pages.

Connecting with other writers for criticism and accountability will make a positive difference for you. I promise.

G’head. Take a stab at it.

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. ~ Psalm 27:17

My thanks to Ben Redmond, Director of Student Ministries at the Hub, for inspiring this post. He’s a wise man.

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24. (Censored from TV) Really wicked insane TV Show for Kids

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25. Weekend Links: More Great Multicultural Children’s Book Links & Summer FUN

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It’s time for Weekend Links! These are my top picks from my weekly internet travels. Enjoy!

I just LOVE this Fairy Tales in Different Cultures post from Craft Moms Share: The Golden Slipper: A Cinderella Tale from Ukraine is an amazing example of a great multicultural children’s book!



Imagination Soup had some great picks for new books for 8-12 year olds.

new chapter books for 8 12 year olds  Does Your 8   12 Year Old Need a Good Book?

Africa to American had a great blog post about Children’s Books About Australia: A List -


Here’s another fun one! (Kid-Friendly) Drinks from around the world!!! ‪ from Kid World Citizen

Drinks from Around the World- Kid World Citizen

Past Multicultural Children’s Book day sponsor Lee and Low Books: Drinks from Around the World- Kid World Citizen

Past Multicultural Children’s Book Sponsor Lee and Low Books offered up a post about diverse books that can compliment your summer fun (specifically visiting National and State Parks).

The start of a school year is just around the corner and fellow blogger Mia from PragmaticMom had some awesome Multicultural Starting School Books for Kids.

starting school diversity picture books for kids, starting kindergarten multicultural books

Speaking of the Discover Your World Summer Reading Extravaganza, we had some wonderful guest bloggers this week!


Erik from This Kids Reviews offered up his review of a great new series for middle readers.

Seven Wonders Tomb of Shadows

Jodie from Growing Book by Book showed our readers a great multicultural book plus a yummy way to incorporate NOODLES!


What great reads have YOU found this week?


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The post Weekend Links: More Great Multicultural Children’s Book Links & Summer FUN appeared first on Jump Into A Book.

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