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<<September 2012>>
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Viewing: Blog Posts from All 1562 Blogs, dated 9/20/2012 [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 131
1. FABRICS - fabric rehab

for my friday eye candy i've chosen a few of my favourite fabric prints that have recently arrived at fabric rehab. if you fancy a browse around this online shop visit them online here. 

0 Comments on FABRICS - fabric rehab as of 9/21/2012 4:26:00 AM
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2. Going Underground by Susan Vaught

Things I was expecting this book to be:

1. On the cover of my copy there is a quote that says "Few will be able to look their cellphone[s] in the screen without a shudder and a 'what if...?'" - BCCB. Which made me incredibly excited, thinking that this would be a book about mobile phones taking over people's brains! Like The X-Files episode Blood (everything is an X-Files episode, and if it's not it will have been a Simpsons episode). I do so love technology controlling us and turning us evil (in fiction!). Unfortunately that is not what this book is about. I would love it if someone did write a book about evil mobile phones, though.

2. The title is 'Going Underground', and considering the amount of musical references in the book I am surprised the Jam song of the same name wasn't mentioned. (I loved the song references, despite the fact that they tended to be a little obscure and may date quickly, though the whole subject matter of the book will date quickly.) I was expecting something more death-centric. Again, mobile phones killing people. As it is, the protagonist just works as a grave digger.

3. The blurb on the back of the book begins: Del's not a bad guy. He's just a misunderstood criminal. (I dislike the word blurb. Blurb, blurb, blurb. It's like how an alien speaks.) The book is structured to jump between the present day and the event three years ago that derailed Del's life, where he became a criminal. It was suspenseful and well-placed, but what the crime actually turned out to be was quite anti-climactic. I was expecting this to be a book that made the reader empathise with a character that was genuinely bad or had done genuinely bad things. But no! The protagonist is likeable, and not a bad person at all. I was expecting something dark and twisted and it wasn't.

What this book actually was about (This is where I get a little bit spoiler-iffic, so look away now if you're planning on reading and want to be surprised. It's very easy to guess, however): sexting*.

Should I have opened with the blurb? Here's the blurb:
Del is a good kid who’s been caught in horrible circumstances. At seventeen, he’s trying to put his life together after an incident in his past that made him a social outcast—and a felon. As a result, he can’t get into college; the only job he can find is digging graves; and when he finally meets a girl he might fall in love with, there’s a sea of complications that threatens to bring the world crashing down around him again. But what has Del done? Basing her story on real-life cases of teens in trouble with the law for texting explicit photos, Susan Vaught has created a moving portrait of an immensely likable character caught in a highly controversial legal scenario.

I think this is suitable for the twelve and up YA readers, as the issue is well-handled. I think as an older reader, the story is less impactful. It would've been more surprising had I read it at twelve or thirteen, and I think the older you become the less you tolerate 'lessons' in books, as subtle as they are. I remember 'sexting' being a shocking thing that was reported on a lot five or six years ago, but I'm not sure whether that's just because that was when it first came to my attention (I was, and remain, really grossed out).

This book does tend towards just being an 'issues' novel, but it's still well-written and full of interesting characters and is genuinely enjoyable. It doesn't demonise any of the characters for their behaviour (except the attorney who prosecutes the kids, who doesn't feature in the book at all, but is mentioned as being fairly nasty), as many discussions regarding sexting do. It's not about how promiscuous/irresponsible/downright awful kids today are - the characters are largely realistic and endearing, and what happens to them occur due to naivety and general unfairness, rather than due to any big moral issue with The Youth of Today. So I liked how the issue was dealt with.

Going Underground balances humourous and serious moments well, is an easy read and I think very accessible for younger readers and both girls and boys.

 *I am not aware of any actual teenager who uses the word sexting. I bet whoever came up with it felt really smart, though.

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What's that? Where are you?


It began a short while ago. My friend Linda Bernfeld, who's husband works with NASA, sent me a link to a NASA website. (Linda knows I like science, and even wrote a book that includes a lot about Star Trek vs. Star Wars vs, Batman.)


It seems they were looking for people who were involved in social media -- Twitter, Facebook, blogs. Those selected would have unprecedented access to the space shuttle Endeavour's arrival via a 747 carrier at Edwards Air Force Base.

I thought I had no chance, but applied along with over 2,000 people. But then, this happened . . .


The event took place over three days, but this blog will focus on Day 2, the day Endeavour arrived at Edwards Air Force Base/Dryden Fight Center in California. (I'll blog the other days later.)

That said, I need to tell you that on Day One, I got lost in the desert. I was sooooo upset about being late, I cried. NASA Social Media/ Dryden Flight Center knew I was lost and even Tweeted trying to find me . . .

(Um. Ignore that bottom Brussels sprouts Tweet.)

Luckily a nice Sparklett's truck driver gave me directions.

The next day, Day Two, I was determined not to be late. We were supposed to arrive at 8 a.m. I got there at 6:40 a.m. and was the first of Nasa Social Media to arrive . . .

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The only others there were a TV crew from CBS. While we waited, Peepy made new friends . . .

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As before, our car was search by a bomb-sniffing dog. Only this time THERE WAS A BOMB IN MY CAR!!!!!! Okay, so it was a smoke bomb. And the military put it there with my permission to test their dog. Still, it was quite exciting. The dog was to heel if he found the bomb . . .

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Once inside we were given our schedule. Here it is, along with the witty, charming and attractive NASA Social Media-ites, all listening to Peepy go over the day's agenda . . .

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The head of the California Science Center, where Endeavour will make a permanent home, spoke to us, and then we boarded a bus to the runway . . .

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Here's a Daily Trojan article about Endeavour and the science center, which is next door to my alma mater, USC. And speaking of USC, in case you missed it, who's the USC Alumni author of the month with her list of Five Must-Read Books??? CLICK HERE to find out the mystery person who gets lost in cars and in books.

Oops. Digression. Back to the Endeavour arrival.

Were we excited? Well, duh, yeah!!!


The desert was hot. I forgot to check the temperature when we were out there, but I think it was about 147 degrees, maybe more. Here's the 5:53 p.m. temperature . . .


We marched down a rocky road to the runway . . .

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There were some false sightings and everyone got all exciting thinking it was Endeavor, but it wasn't . . .

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To pass the time, NASA Social Media-ites took photos of a celebrity . . .

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Then we spotted the real thing! The 747 carrier with the Endeavor piggybacked on it did a flyover first . . .

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It was a beautiful site.

Before we could catch our breath, Endeavour came right toward us for the landing. We were just 500 feet away. Squeeeeee!!!!!!

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Yes, it was a VIP (Very Important Peep) viewing!!! On the bus ride back, everyone was flushed with excitement and sunburn . . .


Our NASA Social Media group even scooped the traditional press!


But that wasn't the end of the day. I'll blog in more detail next, but we also met the pilot of the 747 Carrier and got to go inside the 747 itself . . .

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So then. How would I rate this experience? Well, honestly, it was one of the highlights of my life, even ranking higher than the time Son did the dishes without me having to ask him.



Wheeeee . . . BOBBY THE BRAVE (SOMETIMES) is now out in paperback!

September events:

Brooklyn Book Festival

Youth Stoop (Borough Hall Plaza/Columbus Park)

10:00 A.M. Humor Me. Franklin is a fourth grader with a big imagination and an alter ego named Frankie Pickle; fifth graders Lydia and Julie are best friends who observe “the popular girls” at their school to discover the code of popularity; and Robert is a normal fourth grader who gets into crazy situations! These hilarious characters spring from the minds of authors Amy Ignatow (The Popularity Papers), Eric Wight (Frankie Pickle series) and Lisa Yee (Bobby the Brave [Sometimes]), all of whom have an uncanny knack for writing laugh-out-loud funny, illustrated chapter books that elementary school kids love. Moderated by Lisa Graff (Mothership).

1:00 P.M. The Balls’ In Your Court. Guys will want to get reading with humor author favorite Jon Scieszka (Spaceheadz, Stinky Cheese and others), Gordon Korman (39 Clues) and Joseph Bruchac (Wolf Mark) as they discuss the latest Guys Read Volume 3, which combines the great pleasures of sports and reading. Moderated by Lisa Yee (Bobby the Brave).

South Dakota Festival of Books

SATURDAY, Sept. 29
12 – 1:30 PM ~ SPECIAL EVENT — Holiday Inn, Starlite — Tea with American Girl author Lisa Yee — Lisa Yee, author of the Kanani series, will host a tea party for kids and adults that includes beverages and desserts, with a Kanani American Girl doll to be raffled at the event! TICKET REQUIRED ($15)

3 - 3:45 - WARP SPEED! Lisa Yee will be talking about her kids' novels, and strange and hilarious journey to becoming a bestselling author. FREE

Disclaimer: No proofreaders were harmed (or even used) in the creation of this blog.

Want to check out Lisa's NEW AND IMPROVED website? Simply CLICK HERE.

Interested in having Lisa speak at your school, library or conference? CLICK HERE for more information.

Lisa Yee
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4. Jacqueline Wilson On Writing 'Four Children And It', Glamour Models And Being Mistaken For Nick Sharratt's Lover (INTERVIEW)

Jacqueline Wilson Interview

Huffington Post interview with Jacqueline Wilson....


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5. What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Morning,Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Soyeon Kim

“You are stardust.”
(Click to enlarge spread)


This morning over at Kirkus, I take a look at Klaas Verplancke’s Applesauce, originally published in Belgium in 2010 and released here in the U.S. by Groundwood Books in July. That link will be here.

* * *

Last week at Kirkus, I wrote about Elin Kelsey’s You Are Stardust (Owlkids Books, September 2012), illustrated by Soyeon Kim. That link is here, if you missed it.

Below are more spreads from the book. I also included below a video that depicts the evolution of the book’s artwork (Soyeon’s dioramas).

Enjoy. (more…)

2 Comments on What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Morning,Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Soyeon Kim, last added: 9/21/2012
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6. Review: The Neruda Case ... and More Bits and Pieces


Roberto Ampuero, translated by Carolina De Robertis
Riverhead Books (2012)

Rolando Hinojosa once told me that writers should write books, not book reviews. I eventually understood what he meant (at least, what I think he meant) and I cut back on reviews for La Bloga and other outlets. However, every once in a while I come across a book that spurs me to write a few words of praise, despite Rolando’s wise lesson, because the book is special in some way, or several ways.

The Neruda Case by Roberto Ampuero is one such book.

The Neruda Case is the first of Ampuero’s books to be translated into English, although he has long been published worldwide. He is a professor at the University of Iowa and has lived in the U.S. for years. His reluctant detective, Cayetano Brulé, is the protagonist in a series of novels that are immensely popular. Brulé is a Cuban living in Chile. Ampuero is a Chilean who has spent time in several of the countries that serve as backdrops to his stories including Cuba, East Germany, Bolivia, and Mexico, all featured settings in The Neruda Case.

Roberto Ampuero
The book literally spans the globe and decades of time. It begins in 2006 when Brulé fixates on a photograph of Pablo Neruda, which in turn launches him into remembrances of his first case. The reader then steps into the turbulent Chilean crisis of 1973. Allende’s government is on the verge of a violent collapse. The poet is on the verge of dying. But he has one last project to fulfill and he engages the young Brulé to carry it out.

Brulé lives with his activist wife in Valparaíso, although the marriage is on the rocks. He encounters the celebrated poet Neruda at a party, and eventually the two meet privately to discuss Neruda’s quest. He wants Brulé to find Doctor Bracamonte, whom Neruda had known thirty years earlier in Mexico City. Brulé assumes the doctor may be a last hope for the poet, who is suffering from prostate cancer. He doesn’t realize, of course, that he has not been told the entire story and that he is about to embark on an adventure that will throw him into the midst of the Cold War and the international tensions that existed when capitalism and socialism competed for hegemony in Europe, Latin American and Asia. And only later, as he tracks down clues around the world, does he understand that his search is for something much more precious and personal to Neruda than the doctor’s expertise.

Salvador Allende and Pablo Neruda
But the book is not a political diatribe. Far from it. This is a fast-moving thriller with a sprawling tableau, satisfying doses of suspense, and three-dimensional characters. Famous and infamous historical figures dot the literary landscape including Salvador Allende, who appears in a wonderful scene with Neruda that dramatizes the last time the two men saw each other. Brulé’s odyssey brings him in contact with several of Neruda’s mistresses, writers, poets and artists of the culturally fertile seventies, Che Guevara’s girlfriend, cold-blooded Stasi agents from East Germany, the jazz musician Paquito D’Rivera, and even the play Life of Galileo by Bertolt Brecht has a role in the plot.

Georges Simenon
That play is a signal for one of Ampuero’s themes. Brecht’s drama centers on Galileo’s torment when he sacrificed his scientific and philosophical views in order to survive persecution. In a sense, Galileo created another version of himself. At one point in the book Neruda comments how he has re-manufactured himself several times, played several different parts over the course of his life, and it is almost too obvious when Neruda tells Brulé that he should create another persona for himself, that of a detective. Neruda, the poet, the artist-creator, instructs Brulé to use the mystery fiction of the great Georges Simenon as detective training manuals. Neruda believes that Simenon's illustrious detective, Maigret, can transform the young Brulé into the investigator that Neruda needs at that particular time of his life. In this way, fiction and reality intermingle, art and life compensate one another, and the reader is faced with a multi-layered mystery that satisfies on all levels.

One of the main aspects of the book is Ampuero’s fictional glimpse into the complicated, contradictory, and very human character of Pablo Neruda. The five chapters are named after women who played key roles in the poet’s life. Neruda’s womanizing and, frankly, scandalous treatment of his wives and mistresses are essential to the story the author writes. But so, too, are the poet’s artistic accomplishments, his iconic role in Chilean history, and his impact on all those who came into contact with him. 

Ampuero admitted to an interviewer that Neruda made a powerful impression on him when he was a child and lived in the same neighborhood as the poet. He went on to say:

“I wrote my novel about Neruda, staying true to the actual history of Chile between 1970 and 1973, because I admire him as a poet, because I was curious about him as a neighbor, and because his personal life intersected with crucial moments of 20th-century history.

“But I had another, powerful reason for writing my novel. Sheltered by the license of fiction, I strove to portray the Neruda of flesh and blood, the real human being with his grandeur and meanness, loyalties and betrayals, certainties and doubts—the poet who could love passionately and at the same time leave everything to embark on a new affair, a more feverish and impassioned one, that would allow him to write better poetry. Neruda was a towering poet, a sharp politician, a human being who searched tirelessly for love, and a man who enjoyed the pleasures of bourgeois life. He contradicted himself. It isn’t easy to write a novel that captures the real human being, as Neruda’s fame is so solid and universal that written works about him tend toward the apologetic and adulatory, keeping him on a pedestal. I believe that both his genius as an artist and his authentic side as a man spring from his complex spirit, his light and shadow, and the passion of his human condition.”

You can read the entire interview here.

The quibbles I have with the book relate to a few glitches that probably need to be explained by the translator. Overall, the prose is excellent and one of the author’s main talents is that he never intrudes into the story that is acted out by his characters. But some sentences are awkward and seem out of place. Certain passages appear to be repeated, or at least the narrative thrust of these passages show up more than once. But, these are minor.  I recommend The Neruda Case and eagerly anticipate more from Roberto Ampuero. 

Bits and Pieces
[from Regis University website]
In addition to viewing one of the most interesting and relevant exhibits about the labor guest worker programs between the United States and Mexico, the orchestrator behind Regis University’s two-month hosting of the historic Smithsonian exhibit Bracero Program wants visitors to the exhibit to gain an understanding of the human face behind the Bracero Program.

Regis University, Colorado’s only Jesuit Catholic university, is hosting the Smithsonian Institution’s travelling exhibit called Bittersweet Harvest: The Bracero Program, 1942-1964, through Oct. 28 in the University’s Dayton Memorial Library.

“The Bracero exhibit is intriguing because of the individual stories that comprise it,” said Nicki Gonzales, assistant professor of history at Regis University and the individual orchestrating the exhibit at the University’s North Denver (Lowell) campus “I want people to recognize that each laborer had a story that was just as rich and just as important as the observer’s. I would like those who view the exhibit to come away with a more complete picture of our nation’s history and an appreciation for the contributions that Mexicans have made. The Bracero history is a transnational story, as is much of our history.”

Begun in 1942 as a temporary war measure to address labor needs in agriculture and the railroads, the Bracero Program eventually become the largest guest worker program in U.S. history. Small farmers, large growers, and farm associations in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Arkansas, and 23 other states hired Mexican Braceros to provide manpower during peak harvest and cultivation times. By the time the program was canceled in 1964, an estimated 4.6 million contracts had been awarded. 

Bittersweet Harvest, a new bilingual exhibition organized by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and circulated by SITES, examines the experiences of Bracero workers and their families, providing rich insight into Mexican American history and historical background to today’s debates on guest worker programs.

Consisting of 15 freestanding, illustrated banners, the exhibition combines recent scholarship, photographs from the Smithsonian’s collection, and audio excerpts from oral histories contributed by former contract workers.

Gonzales’s extensive background in history is evident as she discusses in almost reverent tones the individual stories that comprise the Bracero exhibit and the many questions raised by the exhibit.

“On one hand, you have the US desperate for labor during and after WWII, and on the other, you have a group of men who make the decision to leave their homes and families in Mexico for opportunity in the US,” Gonzales explained. “The individual stories behind that decision are fascinating...what were their lives like prior to leaving, what did they give up in making the decision to leave, what were their experiences like in the US--with all of the challenges that brought: racism, classism, exploitation, broken promises...yet, they were able to create a culture, to survive, and to send money home....all meanwhile aiding the American economic machine, contributing in vital ways to our country's victory in WWII...until the mid-1960s, when America would pass a landmark immigration law, partly in response to the results of the Bracero program. And, finally, the question of what effects did their decision to leave Mexico as a Bracero have on the rest of their lives...and the lives of their children and grandchildren?”

In addition to the exhibit, Regis University will sponsoring numerous additional activities in conjunction with the exhibit. Among those are a Bracero Program Oral History Project, a Romero Troupe Theater performance and actor talk-back, and a labor history panel featuring four professors and activists.

The Bracero Program Oral History Project
includes students and faculty who are gathering oral histories from former Braceros and their family members. These interviews, as well as any artifacts will be exhibited near the Smithsonian exhibit. These video interviews will be stored in the archives of Regis University's Center for the Study of War Experience, a nationally-recognized archive of oral histories and artifacts related to war-time experiences. 

The Romero Theater Troupe will perform a short play on the history of the Bracero program through the Bracero laborers' experiences. A panel of speakers will follow the performance. The labor history academic panel is expected to feature experts presenting their work on the Bracero Program and related topics. Several additional supporting events will be conducted during the next two months in conjunction with the exhibit at Regis University.

For more information, on the exhibit or to participate in one of the projects, contact Gonzales at ngonzale@regis.edu or Sonia Del Real at sdelreal@regis.edu.

Wednesday, October 3 or Friday, October 5 7:00 p.m.

Performance artist James Luna premieres his unique art installation and performance piece, Making Do, created specifically for a limited engagement at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.

This special premiere includes a performance by Luna, a chance to view the installation, and an artist’s reception.

In Making Do, Luna explores a “survival skill” developed by his California Indian peoples to endure in a post-contact world. Luna conveys how Indians cleverly “made do” in hopes of maintaining an Indian life while coming to grips with the loss of the “free” lifestyle they once lived.

Luna, a Pooyukitchchum/Ipai native, is a world-renowned performer and artist who has produced a variety of artworks illustrating his artistic, social, and political commentary.

$15/member, $18/nonmember
Ricketson Auditorium
Cash bar reception to follow.

Reservations are required as space is limited. Call 303.370.6000 (M-F, 9-5) or click here to purchase tickets online.

 State Out of the Union at the Tattered Cover

State Out of the Union: Arizona and the Final Showdown Over the American Dream  
Jeff Biggers

Oct 11 2012 7:30 pm Colfax Avenue

[from The Tattered Cover website]

Days after President Obama beseeched his fellow lawmakers in the State of the Union ‘to come together as a people, Republicans, Democrats, Independents,” and “find common ground, even as we're having some very vigorous debates,” the extraordinary effect of Arizona’s sagebrush rebellion had already rippled across the country.

In the alarming and fascinating State Out of The Union, award-winning author Jeff Biggers shows how the Arizonification of America is in full swing. More than 25 state legislatures have already introduced copycat anti-immigration bills of Arizona’s controversial SB 1070. But immigration reform is just the opening salvo—in Arizona, and for the 2012 elections.

With one of the most radical Tea Party factions in control of its legislature, Arizona and its growing bevy of wingnut politicians have not only dislodged Sarah Palin as one of the most popular jokes on late night TV shows, but have set in motion one of the most alarming challenges to federal authority in history. The legislature has passed several bills challenging federal authority on gun laws, Medicaid, and the rights of undocumented children to attend school or go to the emergency room. One bill debated in the state congress proposed prohibiting "courts from considering international law or legal percepts of other nations or cultures when making judicial decisions." Another bill required federal environmental inspectors to register with the sheriff whenever its representatives enter one of Arizona's fifteen counties. One Forbes reporter wrote that the bill could be summed up in three words: ”Stay outta Arizona.” As a precursor to the 2012 election, Arizona defiantly unveiled its vision of a Tea Party America—that may be our future.

About the Author

Jeff Biggers is the American Book Award-winning of The United States of Appalachia, and In the Sierra Madre. He has worked as a writer, radio correspondent and educator across the United States, Europe, India and Mexico. His award-winning stories have appeared on National Public Radio, Public Radio International and in numerous magazines and newspapers, including The Washington Post, The Nation, The Atlantic Monthly, Salon, among others. He splits his time between Tucson and Illinois. His website is: www.jeffbiggers.com

Saturday, September 22, 2012 - 10:00am - Sunday, September 23, 2012 - 4:00pmThis annual event set up by the Greater Pueblo Chamber of Commerce features entertainment tents, vendors, and of course, roasting chiles and produce for sale. Cost: $2 entry fee for festival. During the Festival the museum will have the popular Pony Rides along with free admission to the trading post featuring living history presentations and the Native Thundering Voices Community featuring singing, dancing and drumming. The Pueblo Herb Society, Pride City Quilt Guild and Pueblo Handweavers Guild will also demonstrate their crafts. The museum’s galleries will be open with admission at just $1 per person. For more information: 719.583.0453.

El Pueblo History Museum Information
301 North Union
Pueblo, CO 81003


0 Comments on Review: The Neruda Case ... and More Bits and Pieces as of 9/21/2012 2:58:00 AM
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7. ACHUKAbooks Features - Darren Shan Interview

Darren Shan Interview

Our current feature - an interview with Darren Shan on the eve of publication of Zom-B - includes a link to an earlier interview with him from our archives, back at the turn of the millenium, when he was about to publish his vert first children's book, the opening title in the Cirque du Freak series.

The new interview ends with Shan repeating a prediction for 2020:

What is your attitude to ebooks and what do you think the next 10 years hold in store for Darren Shan? I love ebooks. I might have mentioned during our first interview (as I did in quite a few of my early interviews) that I thought paper books would be largely defunct within 20 years (i.e. 2020). I still stick by that prediction. I'm not saying paper books will disappear completely - like many readers, I love the physical qualities of an old-style book. But that's a sentimental attachment - in terms of which is actually better, it's ebooks by a mile. They make books far more accessible, and anything that does that is always an advancement, the way that papyrus improved upon chiselling in stone. I'm sure there were cavemen who thought the new format would never take off, that stones were so much nicer to touch and look at and smell, but hey... this isn't and should never be a world for cavemen!

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8. Birthdays, balloons and cake by Karen King

I love parties, especially birthday parties. I’m writing this blog after just returning home from visiting one of my daughters on her birthday. My little grandson insisted we bought a banner, balloons and party poppers and Happy Birthday candles to stick on the birthday cake. All the things that make a birthday special. It made me think of the birthday parties we’ve had over the years. When the girls were very young I used to make the birthday cakes, but it was usually a chocolate hedgehog cake as this was the only one I could make successfully. All you had to do was cover a chocolate swiss roll with chocolate butter icing and add chocolate button spikes. Easy Peasy.

One year we even had a birthday party for the hamster! Everyone played games in the garden whilst the hamster rolled around in its plastic play ball, then we all sung Happy Birthday, my youngest daughter (the hamster's owner) blew out the candles on the cake and everyone had a piece. A great time was had by all, especially the hamster.

We had some party disasters, such as jellies that didn't set, broken candles, lopsided cakes (that was the days before I discovered the hedgehog recipe) but we partied on regardless. One inpronto Hallowe'en party meant we needed costumes quickly. We wrapped three toilet rolls around one daughter to make a mummy costume and cut head and arm holes in black bin bags for two of the others so they could be goblins. The toilet roll soon unravelled, trailing everywhere and the black bin bags split but it didn't spoil the fun.
I run writing workshops and often ask the students to write about either their best or worst birthday and there's usually some really interesting stories told. Do you have a favourite birthday memory - or a birthday disaster?
 Karen King writes all sorts of books for children. Check out her website at www.karenking.net.

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9. Guest Post: The Origami Nun by Lori Olding (plus Giveaway)

Lori Olding lives and works in Surrey in the UK. She and her friend Ruth share responsibility for an origami nun and are very glad the nun has managed to feature in her special story at last. Lori is fond of blueberry muffins and lemon meringue pie.


Guest Post: How the Origami Nun was Made

The Origami Nun came about in two ways. My colleague, Ruth, used to be the Chaplaincy Administrator at the University where I work. One day she came into her office and found someone had placed a tiny nun made out of paper on her desk. She had no idea what it was doing there or who it belonged to. She asked around some of the religious societies but nobody knew anything about it, so she brought it back to the desk that she sometimes shared with me.

I think I fell in love with the origami nun at once – she was just so small and perfectly made, and she definitely had a lovely peaceful aura about her. It didn’t take long before she became our office mascot, and we even used to talk to her from time to time. I’m sure she talked back.

One day, Ruth and I were chatting, and the nun came up in conversation. Ruth laughingly said I should write a story about her. I don’t think she really meant it but I thought it was a great idea so I did! Because my colleague Ruth had given me the idea and is such a lovely person anyway, I named my main character, seven-year-old Ruth, after her as well. Real Ruth was very pleased, and loves the story too!

The main theme of my story is bullying and how to survive it, though it’s a light-hearted and magical read as well – that’s where the origami nun comes in. Her magic can do anything! I have first-hand experience of these difficulties as I myself was bullied at primary school (school for ages 5 to 11 in the UK), and all the things that happened to my fictional heroine Ruth also happened to me. So writing down the story felt very much like achieving a kind of personal closure in a way that doesn’t often happen in real life. Maybe I should have had the origami nun back then! Here’s an extract from the book, when Ruth and the rest of the children are in the playground:

Lorraine pushed her. It was going to be a bad day then. Ruth froze. This time she  had nowhere to run as Lorraine’s friends blocked any chance of getting away. Her throat felt dry. She wished Great-Aunt Alice was here. She would know what to do, she would protect her.

But  she  wasn’t  here,  and  Lorraine  and  her  friends continued to push and prod at her, as she made herself as small and unnoticeable as possible. Ruth tried to make- believe  she  wasn’t  here  at  all,  but  somewhere  else  far  away   from school and play-time.

After a few minutes, though it seemed like hours, Lorraine stepped back and reached sideways to grab something  Ruth  couldn’t  see.  The  next  moment something dark and hot cut out the light and she punched at it, fingers scrabbling at whatever it was that Lorraine had thrown over her. It felt scratchy, like wool, and it smelt musty. The more Ruth tried to escape, the more trapped she became, and the less she could breathe. She hated this darkness and she had to get away.

In her pocket, the origami nun twisted and caused a pinprick of warmth to flow through her leg. She grabbed the nun and beat at the darkness surrounding her with it. As if she’d  opened a secret door to a magic world, the darkness disappeared and she blinked in the light again. Next to her lay the blanket they used for the school rabbit hutch. It must have been that which Lorraine had thrown over her. Across the playground she could see a tall figure marching across and  she  could  hear  Mrs. Easting’s  voice,  raised  in  anger  but   not at her.

None of this mattered. With the nun in her hand giving her  courage  she’d  never had before,  Ruth  pushed  Lorraine  to   the ground so she landed with a thump and a yell. Then she kicked her.

I hate you, she mouthed so that Lorraine could see.

After that, still clutching the nun, Ruth raced past her form teacher, whose eyebrows she saw were raised in a half- moon shape and her lips opened in an O, then she was through the school gates and out onto the pavement.

She was going home.

That’s not the end of the story of course and there’s much more adventure and revelation to come, for bothgirls. However, my main concern in writing the book was to show that being bullied isn’t the end and never ever has to be. There are ways out and people around us who can help, and nobody has to suffer alone. So I’d definitely encourage anyone experiencing these kind of issues to speak out about it, as bullying is never acceptable and needs to be stopped. If you’d like to know more, there’s a link to an anti-bullying campaign on the Lori Olding site which is very useful, both for adults and children: http://www.loriolding.com/stop-bullying-now.html. And if reading The Origami Nun helps someone out there to stop bullying or to get help with being bullied, then I and indeed the nun herself will be very, very happy.

Many thanks for reading.

The Origami Nun

Seven-year old Ruth can't speak, but that doesn't mean she can't think. She knows her birthday is going to be good as her beloved great-aunt has exciting plans for her. What she doesn't expect is a magical paper nun, an encounter with a bully who may not be what she seems or a school day to remember. Because, before her special day is over, Ruth is in for some very big surprises.

Tour Giveaway:
Leave a meaningful comment on this post to be entered to win a copy of The Origami Nun.  Be sure there is a way to contact you if you win. Ends 9/30/12

22 Comments on Guest Post: The Origami Nun by Lori Olding (plus Giveaway), last added: 10/6/2012
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10. Creature-y-Person-Thingy-ma-bob...ish...

Here's the creature that appeared in my sketch book tonight. She won't tell me her name, so I guess we're left to whatever names you come up with for her. Also, I don't think she speaks English.

4 Comments on Creature-y-Person-Thingy-ma-bob...ish..., last added: 9/23/2012
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11. How to Live Forever

loved this one too-

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12. Happy

I just saw this- it was worth watching :)

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13. Weekend Dance Party

Danceparty_130One Direction, Conor Maynard & Beyonce's Snuggie Kid

It's been a long time since we had a dance party on the STACKS, but the brand new One Direction video is out, and I just can't contain myself!

Here are 3 videos that you should watch this weekend if you want to dance like crazy. (And who doesn't?)

Conor Maynard "Turn Around" featuring Ne-Yo
You might as well know I'm a complete and total Mayniac. This may be my favorite Conor Maynard video yet. The song is awesome, and the video effects of Conor falling through the air, surfing on top of a moving bus, and floating in a phone booth are amazing. And Ne-Yo's dancing. . . yeah, I love this video! It's the perfect way to get your dance party started.

Beyoncé "Countdown" (Snuggie Version)
Admit it. I know at least some of you have tried to reenact your favorite videos in your Snuggies. Well, the incredibly talented 16-year-old Ton Do-Nguyen is now famous for doing just that. He reenacted Beyoncé's "Countdown" video frame by frame including every dance move, facial expression, and even video effects . . . also while wearing a Snuggie. Beyoncé herself posted it on her website under the heading "Brilliant," and said, "I think he did this video better than I did." 

One Direction "Live While We're Young"
Joy, joy, joy, joy, joy! From the first frame of Harry waking up in a tent, to Louis jumping off a rope swing into a river, to the lads flipping around in those giant bubble/hamster wheel thingies, to the final frame where Zayn sings the last line and then falls over (with help from Louis), this video is 1D perfection. This song makes you NEED to dance, and I may never stop singing it. "Let's go crazy, crazy, crazy 'til we see the sun!" PS. If you watch closely, you will see Zayn making a heart sign with his hands, and a very funny expression with his face. Priceless!

If you have just watched these 3 videos and you still want to dance to "Gangnam Style," then . . . I'm speechless. I still love you, but I just don't know what to say to you.

Leave a Comment to let us know what songs are playing at YOUR dance party.

image from kids.scholastic.comSonja, STACKS Staffer

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14. First time with oil pastels.

This evening drawing session - Magnus had so much fun discovering oil pastels!

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15. Books Recently Read


Auden has never let loose. Her parents are intellectuals in the academic field and she hasn’t really had a social life. Things change when she spends the summer with her father, stepmom, and her new half-sister in their beach house. She works at her stepmom’s boutique, mingles with the locals, and the most major change is meeting a complex, wounded boy named Eli. The characters come to life and the details in this novel are rich…this was a great book to sink my teeth into. This is the first Dessen book I’ve read and I don’t know why I waited so long to read her work.

FOG - Caroline B. Cooney

Christina lives on an island in Maine. She and her sister, Anya, are going to be shipped to the mainland for their schooling. Before their trip they run across a horrifying woman who forces an eerie poster of the sea on them. When they arrive, Christina is horrified to see that she’ll be living with the principal, whose wife is creepy and domineering.

At school Christina is made fun of because of her lack of wealth, clothes, and island lingo. She suffers in the hands of the principal, counselor, and teachers. They accuse her of being difficult when she’s merely requesting normal things and standing up for herself. The biggest problem is Anya, who seems to be losing her sense of self as well as her mind. Anya talks of the sea and how it’s out to get them. Christina has to find a way to save her sister and herself from the madness of the water and their new household.

When I read this novel, I could smell and feel the sea next to me. I normally enjoy the water, but this novel made me fear it while I read. It’s atmospheric and haunting. Christina is thirteen and the style was simplistic, so this can be considered middle grade or early young adult. I received the galley from NetGalley, courtesy of the publisher.

PINNED - Sharon G. Flake

Adonis is in a wheelchair because he was born without legs. Extraordinarily confident and bright, he works hard and has big dreams. With his aspirations, he wants the best for himself. The best doesn’t include a girl named Autumn.

Autumn is gifted in wrestling. She’s a champion in that field, able to win against boys and maintain a strong physique, but she has a weakness. She can’t read well and struggles with her grades as a result. Also, she pines for Adonis, who doesn’t want her. He’s aware she has a crush on him, but she doesn’t match his high standards. As circumstances draw them closer, they see qualities in each other they didn’t notice before.

This was an interesting look into two people with differing disabilities. Autumn and Adonis don’t have much in common, yet the romantic chemistry is still there, even though he adamantly rejects her at first. The book was short and I felt that some areas could have been fleshed out more, but it was an enjoyable novel and I’d like to read more from this author. I received the galley from NetGalley, courtesy of the publisher.

*TIME BETWEEN US - Tamara Ireland Stone

There’s something strange about the new boy, Bennett. Not only is his hair a bit unusual, but something else startles Anna. She had seen him not too long ago, early in the morning when it was still dark. He had been staring at her before vanishing into thin air.

Other odd things occur until Bennett reveals his secret to Anna. He travels through time and he’s from the year 2012. The novel takes place in 1995, a time Bennett can travel through since that’s when he was born—he’s unable to travel prior to the time of his birth. He’s on a mission, because he lost a loved one he was traveling with. He has a new problem to deal with because he falls in love with Anna when they’re a generation apart and he doesn’t mean to stay in 1995.

This is a lovely YA time-traveling story with romance and elements of science fiction. Anna is a wonderful character and Bennett is fascinating, especially since he breaks “the rules” of time travel as he follows his heart and convictions. I received the galley from NetGalley, courtesy of the publisher.
WHO I KISSED - Janet Gurtler

Samantha is a competitive swimmer who has her eyes on Zee, but he’s already going out with someone. At a party, to make Zee jealous, she kisses Alex, who suddenly has trouble breathing. He has asthma and an inhaler or EpiPen isn’t found on time, so he dies in front of her. Alex didn’t just have asthma, but he also had a peanut allergy…Samantha ate a peanut butter sandwich before kissing him.

She feels devastated and guilty about his death and not knowing about the allergy. With everyone blaming her, Alex’s friends and classmates mistreat her. Samantha becomes a social outcast and stops swimming. Even with the supportive people in her life, like family and sympathetic friends, it’s difficult getting over what happened and who she kissed.

This novel had many interesting layers, with flings, romantic triangles, and familial issues—the novel was very real with the situations and emotions revealed. This is the first time I’ve read something from this author and I’ll do so again since I love contemporary YA and this author delivers. I received the galley from NetGalley, courtesy of the publisher.

*Counts toward the 2012 Debut Author Challenge

38 Comments on Books Recently Read, last added: 9/24/2012
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Artie’s new story The Race for Space was published in the September issue of the Teachers.net Gazette. To read the story please click on the image below. (This story is dedicated to the memory of Neil Armstrong, whose courage and heroism will live on forever)

Artie’s children’s book Living Green: A Turtle’s Quest for a Cleaner Planet is now available as a free video for kids through StoryCub. A shortlist finalist for the national 2012 Green Earth Book Award, Thurman the turtle is tired of seeing the land he loves cluttered with trash and decides to take action.

To watch the Living Green video on Youtube, please click on the cover below. StoryCub videos are one of the most watched programs on Apple’s iTunes Kids & Family section.


Use of any of the content on this website without permission is prohibited by federal law

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17. Full-time Writer

I've been a full-time writer for a while now. Really since 2009 when I actively pursued publication. But even though I was writing full-time, it didn't really sink in that this is my job. Sure I told people I wrote for a living, but it felt like something was missing.

Writers don't get up and go to an office to write all day. Well, I'm sure some writers do have offices, but I don't. I write from my couch or my dining room table. And for years, I've been working my writing schedule around my daughter and my husband. Now, I have the house to myself for 6 hours a day, 5 days a week. I miss my daughter terribly while she's at school, but for the first time, I feel like a full-time writer.

I originally thought I'd have to set a schedule for myself to pass the time, but those hours get filled so quickly. My day flies by. I've been editing and I'll sit at my computer for hours on end. My poor eyes can vouch for that. I got headaches the first two days.

Will I be a better writer now that I have so much time to write? Maybe. But one thing is for sure: I'm a full-time writer, and that makes me a very happy person.

Are you a full-time writer? If so, can you easily fill the hours in front of the computer? If not, how do you make time for your writing?

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18. New work! New prints!

Finally! I've got a ton of new work to share.

All of these new pieces are from my 2012 sketchbook, Menagerie. Enjoy!

Note. Some are available as matted 8" x 10" prints (total size 11" x 14") others as both a decoratively matted 8" x 10" OR miniature. Some are only available as miniature. All sizes are noted and linked below.

There is also one special charity art print I hope you'll see at the bottom.

Thank you for supporting my work! To visit my shop and see everything that's available, prints and sketchbooks alike, you can visit here.

* * * 

Operatic Dragon. Gioioso.
Miniature print.

Operatic Dragon. Dolore.
Miniature print.

  * * *

The Games of the Tiger King.
8" x 10" print

Fox River Holiday.
8" x 10" print

Troll Children with Gryphon.
8" x 10" print

8" x 10" print

* * *

Two sizes available. 
A decoratively matted 8" x 10" or a miniature 4" x 6" print.

Renaissance Baire I.
 8" x 10"

8" x 10"

8" x 10"

Renaissance Baire II.
 8" x 10"

Tiger King.


Tiger, profile.
8" x 10" print

All proceeds from the sale of this print will be donated to
the World Wildlife Fund's Save Tigers Now campaign.

Over the course of reference gathering for this project
I came across a statistic that I couldn't ignore.

A hundred years ago there were 100,000 tigers in the wild.
Today there are as few as 3,200.

NOTE: Print appears without logo and text.

3 Comments on New work! New prints!, last added: 9/27/2012
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19. Re: Happy 80th, Myra Paperny! (Canadian YA novelist: "The Wooden People," 1976)

Forgot to include this (short bio):


And, about "Nightmare Mountain" (Abebooks claims it was written in 1988):

"A wilderness hike turns into a terrifying nightmare for Cassie and Jordie when they interfere with the activities of a gang of ruthless poachers."

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20. Best First Draft

When students move from their notebook to draft, I encourage them to write their best first draft. (Click here to see other posts I’ve written about best first drafts.) Something that I’m always… Read More

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21. Squashed

Scott’s out of town, ergo I am out of steam. All I can do today is link to the new Thicklebit. This is the one for which one of Scott’s panel descriptions read:

Mom is working in the kitchen. There’s a bunch of fruits and veggies on the counter. (This is the least realistic panel description I have ever written, and two days ago I wrote a shot description in which the Hulk picks up Thor and hurls him into the sky.)

Next week after he comes home, I will totally think of a witty comeback. For now, I have to go fold some laundry. LAUNDRY, you guys. Preposterous. Frederick the Mouse never had to do laundry, is all I’m saying.

The artist, working extremely hard

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22. Book List: “Go back to where you came from”

Immigration, refugees, asylum seekers… it’s a hot topic, laden with emotion and misconceptions. SBS takes an innovative look at the issue with their series Go Back to Where You Came From, as well as having some great school resources available online. But what are the best YA reads that address this issue in a modern way?

The Arrival by Shaun Tan

Really, does it get any more beautiful than Shaun Tan’s wordless, sepia sketched story of a man’s immigration from a country of darkness to a bewildering (but safe) new society? No. No it doesn’t.





No Safe Place by Deborah Ellis

Ellis is renowned for sharing the stories of those affected by war, from the fictionalised account of a teenager trying to live outside a refugee camps in the Middle East in Shauzia, to the non-fiction account of Iraqi child refugees in Children of War.

No Safe Place is a tale of adventure, following three teen asylum seekers trying to make it to the safety of England.

Allen & Unwin

Growing Up Asian in Australia edited by Alice Pung

A collection of stories that takes a first-hand look at the experience of migration and multiculturalism. Shaun Tan, Leanne Hall, and Oliver Phommevanh (see also: Thai-riffic) are among the many contributors.

Alice Pung has also shared her own family’s immigration story in the exquisitely written Unpolished Gem and Her Father’s Daughter.

Black Inc

The Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta

Marchetta is well-known for the Italian-Australian character Josie Alibrandi - her transition from teen to adult, and the family secret her grandmother has kept hidden since her migrant days.

I’d really love to highlight Marchetta’s latest work, however. The Lumatere Chronicles explores the devastating situation of refugees in a fantasy (but all too real) world. This is not a place of wizards and elves, but a land of curses and displaced people. Placing this contemporary issue in a fantasy world only serves only to highlight the universality of these emotions and experiences. The final installment in the trilogy, Quintana of Charyn comes out next week (26 September), so now you can read them all at once.


Walk in My Shoes by Alwyn Evans

Gulnessa and her family are ‘boat people’. Fleeing war-torn Afghanistan they make the perrilous journey to Australia, only to be placed in a detention centre.





Watership Down by Richard Adams

The original but timeless refugee story – where anthropomorphised rabbits must find a new home after their warren is destroyed.

Simon & Schuster




Other titles to consider:

  • Does My Head Look Big In This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah looks at the contemporary life of a Muslim teen girl, primarily focussing on the broader theme of multiculturalism in Australia, but also touching on the immigrant experience.
  • Only The Heart by Brian Caswell and David Phu An Chiem – Toan and Linh flee post-war Saigon.
  • Boy Overboard and Girl Underground by Morris Gleitzman, for Middle Grade appropriate depictions of the journey of an asylum seeker, and life in a detention camp, respectively.

What are your recommendations?

0 Comments on Book List: “Go back to where you came from” as of 9/21/2012 12:42:00 AM
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23. Dance Class #2: Romeo and Juliet by Beka & Crip

Dance Class #2: Romeo and Juliet
Papercutz Printing
No. of Pages: 48  Ages:7 and up

The girls from Dance Class: Julie, Alia, Lucie, and Carla, are getting ready for their production of "Romeo and Juliet," which may be the wackiest version ever produced! Of course, Julie lands the coveted role of Juliet, which makesCarla very jealous. But who should play Romeo? Well, would you believe a hip-hop dancer named Tim? And will Tim and Julie actually fall in love, just like Romeo and Juliet?

The Dance Class Series are graphic novels with humor laced through each page. Each page is like a one-line joke, or an arc, ala soap operas. It does add up to a complete book that makes absolute sense, in its own wacky, fun way. The ballet troupe returns for dance class and play practice. On each page, the reader enters one of the dancers’ moments, usually comically timed, with a punch line in the last bubble.

In one vignette (above), Alia is stretching and studying her math book. Julie and Lucie say it would be nice if it were possible to study dance while in math class. Alia thinks about it and figures out how to do just that.

Girls will loves this graphic book of ballet dancers and the antics of their days learning and rehearsing for the big production play of

Romeo and Juliet. The usual suspects are there, the three best friends Julie, Alia, and Lucie, and their main nemesis Carla.

A new student, hip hopping Tim, is casted as Romeo and the four girls compete for his affections and the role of Juliet. When Carla misses out to Julie, she goes into revenge mode, and the modern update of the Shakespeare classic becomes a comedy of errors, due to teen jealousy.

The illustrations are colorful, lively, and expressive. If you read book one of the Dance Class Series, you know that the book was larger than this one. In the world of children’s publishing, the smaller the book, the older the intended reader. Who knew? Apparently, Papercutz, and their parent company Macmillan, understand the psychology of children’s books.

The writer and illustrator team of Beka* and Crip are the French artists who conceived these graphic gems. As I write this review of Book 2, Book 3: African Folk Dance Fever is hitting bookstore shelves. I hope to get a copy and review it here soon.

Girls ages six to sixteen will love Dance Class: Romeo and Juliet. The story revolves mainly around the actions and emotions of teenage girls. I doubt many boys will find this one interesting, though there are always exceptions.

The Dance Class books are good reads for reluctant readers. The text is clear and not at a lower reading level than one would expect. The story is manageable at 48 pages, engaging and connects with the illustrations to make for one complete read.

One key to getting a reluctant reader to read is finding a story about something they are passionate about or love  doing. For these reasons and more, The Dance Class Series is perfect for reluctant readers. It is also perfect for kids who like graphic novels, a good story, humor, and dance.

*Beka is short for the writing team of Bertrand Escaich and Caroline Rogue


Dance Class #2: Romeo and Juliets

Author: Beka*   website
Illustrator: Crip   website
Publisher: Papercutz Printing  website
Release Date: July 3, 2012
ISBN: 978-1597073172
Number of Pages: 48
Ages: 7 and up

Filed under: 4stars, Library Donated Books, Middle Grade Tagged: ballet, comics, dance, friendship, graphic novel, high school, jealousy, middle grade book, modern dance, monkeys, reluctant readers, revenge, Shakespeare

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24. New Readers Love Elephant & Piggie

Cover of I Broke My Trunk by Mo WillemsIf you child is a beginning reader who is ready for entertaining stories that have a limited vocabulary, I have a terrific series to recommend. The Elephant & Piggie Books by award-winning author and illustrator Mo Willems are so much fun. Read librarian Nancy Snyder's book review of I Broke My Trunk. For more good books for beginning readers, take a look at the current winners of the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award for beginning reader books.

(Cover art courtesy of Hyperion Books for Children)

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New Readers Love Elephant & Piggie originally appeared on About.com Children's Books on Friday, September 21st, 2012 at 00:01:42.

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25. Best First Draft

When students move from their notebook to draft, I encourage them to write their best first draft. (Click here to see other posts I’ve written about best first drafts.) Something that I’m always… Read More

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