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1. Celebrating 25 Books Over 25 Years: George Crum and the Saratoga Chip

lee & low 25th anniversaryLEE & LOW BOOKS celebrates its 25th anniversary this year and to recognize how far the company has come, we are featuring one title a week to see how it is being used across the country in classrooms and libraries today.

Today we are featuring one of our favorite titles: George Crum and the Saratoga Chip.  This fun story looks at the history behind everyone’s favorite snack food: the potato chip! 

Featured title: George Crum and the Saratoga Chip

Author: Gaylia Taylor

Illustrator: Frank Morrison

About the book: Growing up in the 1830s in Saratoga Springs, New York, isn’t easy for George Crum. Picked on at school because of the color of his skin, George escapes into his favorite pastimes — hunting and fishing. george crum and the saratoga chip

Soon George learns to cook too, and as a young man he lands a job as chef at the fancy Moon’s Lake House. George loves his work, except for the fussy customers, who are always complaining! One hot day George’s patience boils over, and he cooks up a potato dish so unique it changes his life forever.

Readers will delight in this spirited story of the invention of the potato chip — one of America’s favorite snack foods. George Crum and the Saratoga Chip is a testament to human ingenuity, and a tasty slice of culinary history.

Awards and Honors:

  • Texas Bluebonnet Masterlist, Texas Library Association
  • Best Children’s Books of the Year, Bank Street College of Education
  • Distinguished Children’s Biography List, Cleveland Public Library

gaylia taylorAuthor Gaylia Taylor began writing for children after she retired from many years working as a Reading Recovery® teacher. Taylor stumbled across George Crum’s story while researching African American inventors on the Internet.

“I’m always looking for a story to tell, and George Crum caught my attention because his invention, the potato chip, is loved by so many people,” says the author in an interview. “I have to admit that a story about the potato chip peaked my own curiosity, because it is my favorite snack.” The more Taylor read about George Crum, the more interested she became in his life. The author says that all her research described George Crum as having a very distinct and colorful personality. “I just couldn’t let him go,” says Taylor. “I said, ‘George, we’ve got a story to tell!’”

Resources for Teaching With George Crum and the Saratoga Chip:

Explore Other Books About Food:

hot hot roti for dadaji cover

Hot, Hot Roti for Dada-ji

by F. Zia, illus. by Ken Min

sweet potato pie cover

Sweet Potato Pie

by Kathleen D. Lindsey, illus. by Charlotte Riley-Webb

hiromi's hands cover

Hiromi’s Hands

written and illus. by Lynne Barasch

cora cooks pancit cover

Cora Cooks Pancit

by Dorina Lazo Gilmore, illus. by Kristi Valiant

Also check out our Food and Cooking Collection! These books explore different foods and cuisines from around United States and around the world!

food and cooking collection

Have you used George Crum and the Saratoga Chip? Let us know!

Celebrate with us! Check out our 25 Years Anniversary Collection.

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2. Guest Post: E.M. Kokie on Hands-On Research & Getting Out of Your Character's Way

By E.M. Kokie
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

From the flap copy of Radical by E.M. Kokie (Candlewick, 2016):

Preppers. Survivalists. Bex prefers to think of herself as a realist who plans to survive, but regardless of labels, they’re all sure of the same thing: a crisis is coming. 

And when it does, Bex will be ready. She’s planned exactly what to pack, she knows how to handle a gun, and she’ll drag her family to safety by force if necessary. 

When her older brother discovers Clearview, a group that takes survival just as seriously as she does, Bex is intrigued. While outsiders might think they’re a delusional doomsday group, she knows there’s nothing crazy about being prepared. But Bex isn’t prepared for Lucy, who is soft and beautiful and hates guns. 

As her brother’s involvement with some of the members of Clearview grows increasingly alarming and all the pieces of Bex’s life become more difficult to juggle, Bex has to figure out where her loyalties really lie. In a gripping new novel, E. M. Kokie questions our assumptions about family, trust, and what it really takes to survive.

Determined to survive the crisis she’s sure is imminent, Bex is at a loss when her world collapses in the one way she hasn’t planned for.

Before writing Radical, I had never touched a gun. I had never wanted to touch a gun.

But in the early drafts I was struggling to get to the heart of my main character Bex. Then I realized I hadn't really thought about how Bex would feel about guns. It was a blind spot caused by my own discomfort with guns. Once I had that realization I could see all the ways I didn't yet know Bex.

Bex wouldn't just shoot or possess guns. She would have spent most of her life shooting them. They would be part of her family tradition, part of her social life, and part of her identity. She would love her guns. She would be proficient. She would be responsible in their care and maintenance.

In order to understand Bex, and to write her with any kind of accuracy and credibility, I needed to understand guns.

I started with online and print research -- reading about different kinds of guns, popular makes and models, shooting ranges and training programs, and eventually gun laws and the tradition of gun ownership within families and communities.

Then I moved on to watching online videos about everything from training techniques and amateur shooting videos, to videos about comparing models, and cleaning and maintaining firearms. I was fascinated by the many videos of girls and women shooting guns, and handling knives, bows and arrows, and other weapons.

But reading and video research could only take me so far. I needed to understand the tactile and visceral details of how a gun felt in my hand, the heft, and texture, and kickback. The tang in the air after shooting. The smell and feel of cleaning different models. I needed to have a vocabulary and understanding that gave her character depth and provided context for the plot.

But I also needed to get inside of how she would feel, physically and emotionally, about her guns and while she was shooting.

For Bex, shooting guns would be about more than fun or competition or even defense. It is part of who she is.

I was lucky to connect with some people who let me shoot their guns on their property, in an outdoor setting with a dirt berm and a pond, much as I pictured Bex and her brother shooting in their woods.

We started with a small, light gun that even felt small in my hand, and then worked up to larger and more powerful firearms. Then I got a crash course in cleaning and maintenance, sitting on the side of a porch, much as Bex does in the book.

I left with all these sensory details, insights into how shooting could be fun and cause a sense of competition or accomplishment, and bruises in several places.

Even the ride out to the shooting site on a homemade cart attached to an ATV unexpectedly informed the setting and context for my story.

During the writing process, I also reached out to some firearms experts online to answer questions and to seek input for crafting certain plot elements and scenes. And once Radical was in the last stages of the editorial phase, my publisher hired one of those experts to perform a content read to make sure we got the details right.

The research didn't change my mind about my own potential gun ownership, or how I would feel about having a gun in my home. But it did help me better understand Bex and her world, and, hopefully, helped me craft more organic and believable characters and scenes.



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3. Not recommended: THE COURAGE TEST by James Preller

People have been asking me about James Preller's The Courage Test. I got a copy of it, and it was in line for a "Debbie--have you seen" post. On September 20, 2016, a conversation on Facebook prompted me to move it up in the line.  

Here's the synopsis:

Will has no choice. His father drags him along on a wilderness adventure in the footsteps of legendary explorers Lewis and Clark--whether he likes it or not. All the while, Will senses that something about this trip isn't quite right. 
Along the journey, Will meets fascinating strangers and experiences new thrills, including mountain cliffs, whitewater rapids, and a heart-hammering bear encounter.
It is a journey into the soul of America's past, and the meaning of family in the future. In the end, Will must face his own, life-changing test of courage.
A father-and-son journey along the Lewis and Clark Trail--from Fort Mandan to the shining sea--offers readers a genre-bending blend of American history, thrilling action, and personal discovery.
Will's dad, Bruce, is a history professor. He's into Lewis and Clark so much, that he named his son William Meriwether Miller (William for William Clark, and Meriwether for Meriwether Lewis). 

Bruce's reverence for the expedition is evident as I read The Courage Test. As they travel, Bruce tells Will about the expedition, how Lewis and Clark were seeing a "new world" (p. 22) and "things that had never before been seen by white men" (p. 27). He gives Will a copy of O'Dell and Hall's Thunder Rolling in the Mountains to read. If it is anything like what I read in Island of the Blue Dolphins, it is a poor choice if Bruce's intent is for Will to learn about the Nez Perce people. 

Time and again as I read The Courage Test, I thought "oh come on..." But, there it is. In some places, Will says or thinks something that puts a bit of a check on his dad's reverence, but for the most part, he's in awe, too, and uses the same kind of words his dad uses. Scattered throughout, for example, are pages from a journal Will uses. In the first one, "My Summer Assignment" he writes that (p. 17):
When Thomas Jefferson was president, a lot of North America was unexplored. No white American had ever seen huge parts of it.
I grew tired of all that pretty quickly. I stuck with it, though, right to the end, to Preller's notes in the final pages. There, Preller wrote (p. 209):
I owe the greatest debt to Undaunted Courage by Stephen E. Ambrose, The Journals of Lewis Clark edited by Bernard DeVoto, Lewis and Clark Through Indian Eyes: Nine Indian Writers on the Legacy of the Expedition by Alvin M. Josephy Jr., Lewis and Clark Among the Indians by James P. Ronda, and Traveling the Lewis and Clark Trail by Julie Fanselow.
Of that list, the one edited by Alvin Josephy, Jr. stands out. The first Native writer in Josephy's book is Vine Deloria, Jr. Deloria's work is of fundamental importance to Native peoples, and to Native studies. Have you read, for example, his Custer Died For Your Sins? The first sentence in his chapter, “Frenchmen, Bears, and Sandbars” is this (p. 5):
Exaggeration of the importance of the expedition of Lewis and Clark is a typical American response to mythology.
If Preller read Deloria carefully, how is it that he has such celebratory language all through The Courage Test? And, there's this, on page 6-7 (bold is mine) in Deloria's chapter:
We have traditionally been taught to believe that the Lewis and Clark expedition was the first penetration of white men into the western lands. This belief is totally unfounded. The location of the Mandan villages, scattered from the present North Dakota-South Dakota line along the Missouri River to some distance above present-day Bismarck, were already common knowledge. French and British traders had already established a thriving commerce with these villages and the sedentary Indians were accustomed to dealing with foreigners.
Did Preller choose to ignore that? Or... did Will (writing in his journal) think that the French and British didn't count as "White Americans"? It just doesn't seem to me that Preller actually brought any of the writings in Josephy's book to bear on what he wrote in The Courage Test. Listing Josephy's book, then, feels... not right. 

Jumping back into the story of Bruce and Will on their journey, we meet a guy with broad shoulders, high cheekbones, tanned/rugged/deeply lined skin, black hair in two long thick braids, wearing a beaded necklace. Of course, he's Native. His name is Ollie. He's Bruce's friend, from grad school. Ollie is Nez Perce. When he tells Will about his ancestors, I think it would work better if he used "us" words rather than "them" words:
"My people, the Nez Perce, crossed this river not far from here in 1877. They hoped the Crow would join them in their fight against the U.S. Army, but the Crow turned their backs."
I'm not keen on his characterization of the Nez Perce being like deer grazing on the grass, while the white people were like the grizzly. It has a doomed quality to it that--while plausible--doesn't work for me. Later when Bruce and Ollie share a drink of whiskey, they tell Will that soldiers got flogged for getting drunk. Bruce goes on, saying (p. 69):
Remember, Will, this was a military operation. They were headed into hostile territory.
Bruce says that, with his Nez Perce friend, sitting right there, beside him. Don't his words, then, seem.... odd? Let me frame it this way, for clarity. Let's say I'm camping on my homelands. One of my dear friends and her kid are there, too. We're sharing a drink and talking about colonization. That dear friend would not say to her kid "Remember, ___, this was a military operation. They were headed into hostile territory." She might do it out of the blue in a cafe in a city somewhere, but if we were having a drink around a campfire ON MY HOMELAND and talking about something like the Lewis and Clark expedition... that friend wouldn't do that! And if she did, I'd say something. So---why didn't Ollie say something?! 

And then later, Will watches Ollie fix his hair (p. 74):
He fusses with his front forelock, stylishly sweeping it up and to the back.
"Going for a different look today?" I joked.
Ollie frowns. "It is the style of my people. Goes back generations. Don't you like it?"
"I definitely do," I say.
You know what "style" he's trying to do? Do a search on Chief Joseph, and you'll see. Now it is plausible that a Nez Perce man who is an investment banker in Brooklyn might go home and do his hair that way, but I'm kind of doubtful. (Also, though "forelock" is also used to refer to hair people have, it comes across more strongly for me as specific to horses, so that is a bit odd, too. Not that he's equating Ollie with animals, but that it is just an unusual word.)

I said above that I stuck with this book. That hair style part was tough. So is the part where Ollie tells Will that the bear he thinks he saw the night before was not a real bear (Will didn't see any tracks)... it was probably a spirit animal. They, Ollie tells Will, occur when someone is on a vision quest. It comes, he says, to "bestow the animal's power" and is a "great gift" that he must accept (p. 81). Later in the story, Will has an encounter with a bear. He froze, unable to do what he planned to do if he came across a bear (he's prepped for it), and thinks he's a failure. So.... I guess the power of the "spirit animal" didn't work... in that moment. Will's major task in this book is to be ready for dealing with his mother's cancer. Maybe that's what he'll need the power of that "spirit animal" for, but, really. This is all a mess. So is how the dreamcatcher is shown, later. So is the "illegal" they meet and help out. 

I've got more notes, but I think what I've shared here is enough. Published in 2016 by Feiwel and Friends--an imprint of MacMillan--I do not recommend James Preller's The Courage Test. 






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4. Nebuchadnezzar to Saddam Hussein: The history of the myth of Babylon

‘Babylon’ is a name which throughout the centuries has evoked an image of power and wealth and splendour – and decadence. Indeed, in the biblical Book of Revelation, Rome is damned as the ‘Whore of Babylon’ – and thus identified with a city whose image of lust and debauchery persisted and flourished long after the city itself had crumbled into dust. Powerful visual images in later ages, l perpetuate the negative image Babylon acquired in biblical tradition.

The post Nebuchadnezzar to Saddam Hussein: The history of the myth of Babylon appeared first on OUPblog.

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5. My Friend Cora, and Other Children’s Books About Filipinos

pia ceres summer internPia Ceres was LEE & LOW’s summer intern. She is a recipient of the We Need Diverse Books Internship Program grant. She’s a senior at Brown University, where she studies Education & Comparative Literature, with a focus in French literature. When she’s not reading, you can find her watching classic horror movies from under a blanket, strumming pop songs on her ukulele, and listening to her grandparents’ stories about the Philippines. In this blog post, she describes a friendship she developed with a character, and highlights some of LEE & LOW’s Filipino titles.

Do you know my friend Cora? I met her this summer.

Cora is the star of the picture book Cora Cooks Pancitby Dorina Lazo Gilmore. She’s sweet, tan-skinned with a child’s moon-like face. She dreams of helping her mother cook Filipino dishes like adobo and lumpia and pancit, and one glorious day, she does just that. When Cora sits on the floor thinking about food while licking a spoon, I know we’re meant to be.

cora
image from Cora Cooks Pancit

Of course, we make friends in books for reasons other than shared cultural experience. (Jo March, you’re my day one girl.) However, it’s increasingly critical that readers see their stories in books. When the values communicated in political rhetoric and popular culture can make a child feel ashamed or threatened for their differences, reflective stories provide crucial opportunity to help reframe their experiences in an affirming light.

When Mama asks Cora what she would like to cook, Cora “scrunched up her pug nose and began to think.” Memories of being teased about my low-bridged nose came tumbling back from time. But now, where there used to be shame, or longing for a Barbie doll’s features, Cora’s story creates the possibility of pride. She has a nose like me, and she’s smart, helpful, and adorable! At last, the positive mirror I didn’t even know I was waiting for until now.

So in the hope of inspiring conversation about taking pride in one’s heritage, and also recognizing the beauty of cultures different than one’s own, I’ve rounded up a few of LEE & LOW’s other Filipino and Filipino-American titles. With hope, they will be just the start of books that capture the Filipino/FilAm experience, making these stories accessible to all children.

  1. Abadeha: The Philippine Cinderella

Readers will be captivated by lush illustrations in this retelling of Cinderella, set in the little-represented world of the pre-colonial Philippines. Abadeha’s story begins as most Cinderella stories do, but what follows is an enchanting series of events that are deeply rooted in local mythologies. Magic takes unexpected forms, and fairytale fans will find Abadeha’s ending familiar, yet entirely new.

abadeha cover

Abadeha: The Philippine Cinderella, by Myrna Paz, illus. by Youshan Tang

Purchase a copy of the book here.

  1. Lakas and the Manilatown Fish

A warm and whimsical Manilatown, San Francisco, is the setting for a young boy’s adventures catching a troublesome talking fish. As the slippery ectotherm whirls through the streets, townspeople join Lakas’s rag-tag fish-hunting band. The language is doubly musical, as the book is written in both Tagalog and English!

lakas and the manilatown fish

Lakas and the Manilatown Fish, by Anthony Robles, illus. by Carl Angel

Purchase a copy of the book here.

  1. Willie Wins

When his teacher announces a contest to see who can save the most play money, a baseball-loving Filipino American boy brings his father’s alkansiya, a bank made out of a hollow coconut shell, to school. Even though the bully mocks his “old, dusty shell,” Willie is determined to win the competition and learns an important lesson about his heritage. For any reader who has brought a part of their home culture with them to school and been teased (be it a packed lunch or article of clothing), this book is a reminder that where we come from makes us special.

willie wins cover

Willie Wins, by Almira Astudillo Gilles, illus. by Carl Angel

Purchase a copy of the book here.

For more Filipino and Filipino-American books, check out our Philippines and Filipino Culture collection:

Philippines and Filipino Culture Collection

The quest for more diverse books never ends! Do you have any recommendations for books about the Filipino/FilAm experience? When was the first time you saw yourself in a book? Share in the comments below!

 

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6. The strange case of the missing non-existent objects

Alexius Meinong (1853-1920) was an Austrian psychologist and systematic philosopher working in Graz around the turn of the 20th century. Part of his work was to put forward a sophisticated analysis of the content of thought. A notable aspect of this was as follows. If you are thinking of the Taj Mahal, you are thinking of something, and that something exists.

The post The strange case of the missing non-existent objects appeared first on OUPblog.

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7. #DVpit is Back on October 5th and 6th!

After the success of the first #DVpit event in April, #DVpit is back for another round of Twitter pitching fun on October 5th and 6th! If you’re unfamiliar with this event, #DVpit is a Twitter pitch contest created to showcase pitches by marginalized voices and help connect them to agents and editors.

While the number of diverse books is increasing, the number of new diverse authors entering the field remains low. Significant barriers remain for authors of color, Native authors, disabled authors, and other marginalized voices. With that in mind, we are excited to share information on this special Twitter event! The information below is cross-posted with permission from literary agent Beth Phelan’s #DVpit website.

#DVpit

A Twitter Pitching Event, Hosted + Moderated by Beth Phelan

October 5, 2016: 8AM – 8PM ET for Children’s and Teen Fiction/Nonfiction
October 6, 2016: 8AM – 8PM ET for Adult Fiction/Nonfiction

#DVpit logo

 

What is #DVpit?


#DVpit is a Twitter event created to showcase pitches about and especially by marginalized voices. This includes (but is not limited to): Native peoples and people of color; people living and/or born/raised in underrepresented cultures and countries; disabled persons; people with illness; people on marginalized ends of the socioeconomic, cultural and/or religious spectrum; people identifying as LGBTQIA+; and more.

The first #DVpit took place on April 19, 2016 and was a national trending hashtag. There have been over 15 authors signed by agents as a direct result of this event so far, with editors from small to mid-size to Big Five publishers requesting to receive the manuscripts at submission stage.

#DVpit was covered by Bustle, Salon, YA Interrobang, and multiple blog sites like Lee & Low Blog and Daily Dahlia.

The event was created and is moderated by Beth Phelan, a literary agent at the Bent Agency.


 

When is the next #DVpit?


#DVpit will occur over two days. Please make sure you are pitching your work on the appropriate day; many of the agents and editors will only tune in on a specific day, to see the pitches in the categories they represent/acquire.

October 5th will be for Children’s & Teen Fiction/Nonfiction (picture books, chapter books, graphic novel, middle grade, young adult).

October 6th will be for Adult Fiction/Nonfiction (all genres, commercial and literary).

The event will run on each day from 8AM ET until 8PM ET using the hashtag #DVpit on both days.


 

What kind of work can you submit?


The participating agents and editors will be looking for a variety of work, including all categories of fiction for adults, teens, and children, as well as nonfiction—as long as they qualify per the description here.

Please only pitch your completed, unpublished manuscripts.


 

How do you submit?


The event will be broken up over two days, one for Children’s & Teen Fiction/Nonfiction (October 5) and the other for Adult Fiction/Nonfiction (October 6). Please make sure that you pitch on the appropriate day.

Your pitch must fit the 140-character max, and must also include the hashtag #DVpit.

Please try to include category and/or genre hashtags as well.

We will trust that your pitch is for a diverse book / you are a diverse author, but if you want a quick way to make the diversity in your work more apparent in your short pitch (and you can fit a few more characters), I also encourage you to include an abbreviation as an easier way to get that information across. Examples: OWN (to suggest #ownvoices), POC, LGBT, DIS (disability), IMM (immigration), etc. These codes are up to you—I’m in no place to judge or police how, or even if, you label your experience. Please remember they are optional. You will *not* be at a disadvantage if you don’t include them! If you do want to add, please make the abbreviation as clear and straightforward as possible for our agents/editors.

Please pitch no more than once per hour. You may use the same pitch, or shake things up by using different pitches for the same project. You may pitch more than one project at a time, as long as they are completed and unpublished.

Please do not tweet-pitch the agents/editors directly!

The event will run from 8:00AM ET until 8:00PM ET, so please only tweet your pitches during that block of time, on the appropriate day.


What happens next?


Agents/editors will “like” your pitch if they’d like to see material from you, so please don’t “like” other authors’ pitches. Please also do not retweet. To show support, you can always reply or quote-tweet with compliments.

Each agent/editor will have their own preferences for receiving submissions, so if you get a “like” from someone, please refer to their Twitter feed to see what they ask for, and how you can contact them.

All of these agents/editors are invested in finding more marginalized voices, so if you’re comfortable with it (and ONLY if you are comfortable with it), I encourage you to self-identify in your query, or just simply let us know that the story and/or character(s) reflect your own experience (or even in your pitch if you have the space and the inclination).

If you see that multiple agents/editors from the same company have “liked” your pitch, please contact them directly for their policy on multiple submissions, or reach out to me and I will be happy to find out for you.

Keep in mind that many agents/editors will get sidetracked with their usual work or unexpected crises and may have to revisit the feed after the event is over. So don’t be surprised if you receive “likes” after the period closes!


Our own Stacy Whitman, publisher of our Tu Books imprint, will be participating again this round. So get those pitches ready for October 5th!

If you need help with your pitch, check out these helpful resources here.

For more information, please visit the #DVpit website.

 

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8. Famous Illustrators’ Depictions of Knitting Ranked in Order of Competency

Two years ago I wrote a piece called The Scourge of Upside Down Knitting in which I raged unto the heavens against picture books where the artists put little work into bothering to figure out if knitting needles should be held up or down.  Well, it’s time for me to apologize to those illustrators.  If depicting knitting needles with the ends to the sky is irresistible to you, you’re in good company.  Seems that every picture book illustrator of the past put you on the wrong path early.

Today, we rank the great illustrators history and see how precisely they’ve chosen to portray knitters.  As a refresher, here is how you hold knitting needles:

kidsknit-237x300

The method of holding them with the ends up is not unheard of, but it is rare. For example, I tried to find a Google Image of that particular style for the piece and failed utterly.

From Worst to Best: Knitting in Children’s Literature

Dr. Seuss

seussknit

To be fair, I know very little about the fibers of Truffula Trees.  It is possible that one has to . . . um . . .  Okay, I’m not entirely certain what the Onceler’s family is doing here.  They appear to be stabbing the fibers in a downward manner with their needles, miraculously producing thneeds.  This exact image isn’t exactly from the book (I think it’s wallpaper) but it’s an accurate depiction of what Seuss drew.  Whatever floats your boats, guys.  Just don’t call it knitting.

P.D. Eastman

eastmanknit

Et tu, Eastman?  I was merrily reading Robert the Rose Horse when I saw this image.  I may have to give Eastman points for the inherent humor of it, though.  Knitting without digits.  Think about it for a moment.

Garth Williams

garthwilliamsknit

I’m with you, kitten.  Shocked SHOCKED that the great Garth Williams failed to get this right.

Tove Jansson

jannsonknit

No word on whether or not Moominmamma . . . oh, wait.

jannsonknitDarn it.  No pun intended.

Edward Gorey

goreyknitWait!  This just in!  I believe this is an image from Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.  If so, then this cat isn’t knitting but tatting.  And if she is tatting then it’s possible the needles go up, right?  So let’s just find an image of someone tatting.

emma2--Emma Everson uses a shuttle made in the late 1880s to tat a method of tying lace patterns by hand.

So much for that.

Clement Hurd

hurdknit

I think we may have a winner.  Yes, it looks like it.  Granted, she’s put the knitting down on her lap to whisper “Hush” to the bunny in the bed, but I think it very likely that the needles were held correctly before then.  Shall we give it to him?

Okay.  Enough with the deceased.  Let’s see how some of our contemporary masters fare in this game.

Patricia Polacco

patriciapolaccoknit

Didn’t see that one coming.

Jerry Pinkney

pinkneyknit

YES!!  And Pinkney for the win!  The cat’s needles are down, I REPEAT!  The cat’s needles are down!

Paul O. Zelinsky

zelinskyknit

Considering how much work Paul put into getting the spinning wheel right in Rumpelstiltskin, it’s little wonder he’d get the knitting right in Swamp Angel.

Sophie Blackall

sophieblackallknit

Cheating a bit here.  This is from one of Sophie’s Missed Connections pieces and not from a children’s book, but it at least proves that if knitting ever does come up in one of her books, she’ll know what to do about it.

Jan Brett

brettknit

I suspect I would have had a small heart attack if it turned out that Ms. Brett didn’t know knitting.  She has, after all, portrayed some of the greatest illustrations of stitching ever seen in a picture book.

Notable missing illustrators aren’t listed here simply because I couldn’t figure out if they ever depicted knitting in their books.  Hence the lack of John Steptoe, Maurice Sendak, Trina Schart Hyman, Grace Lin, Tomie de Paola, Yuyi Morales, and others.  If you’ve inside knowledge on the matter, have at it.  Other contemporary illustrators like Lauren Castillo or Jon Klassen can be found on the previous piece about knitting books in 2014.

Have a favorite I didn’t include?  Let me know!

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9. The quest for order in modern society

Opening the morning paper or browsing the web, routine actions for us all, rarely if ever shake our fundamental beliefs about the world. If we assume a naïve, reflective state of mind, however, reading newspapers and surfing the web offer us quite a different experience: they provide us with a glimpse into the kaleidoscopic nature of the modern era that can be quite irritating.

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10. Group work with school-aged children [Infographic]

From student presentations, to lectures, to reading assignments, and so much more, teachers today have a wide variety of methods at their disposal to facilitate learning in the classroom. For elementary school children, group work has been shown to be one strategy that is particularly effective. The peer-to-peer intervention supports children in developing cognitively, emotionally, behaviorally, and socially. Group work encourages children to expand their perspectives on the world.

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11. Sticking my oar in, or catching and letting go of the crab

Last week some space was devoted to the crawling, scratching crab, so that perhaps enlarging on the topic “Crab in Idioms” may not be quite out of place. The plural in the previous sentence is an overstatement, for I have only one idiom in view. The rest is not worthy of mention: no certain meaning and no explanation. But my database is omnivorous and absorbs a lot of rubbish. Bibliographers cannot be choosers.

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12. Cybils Judging Panels Announced!

Just like this entire year has been flying past at inconceivable speed, the Cybils season is revving up without delay, and Tanita and I are both incredibly excited to be judging again. Tanita is part of the Round 1 YASF panel (which brings back... Read the rest of this post

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13. Why peer review is so important

As part of Peer Review Week, running from 19th-25th September, we are celebrating the essential role that peer review plays in maintaining scientific quality. We asked some of our journal’s editorial teams to tell us why peer review is so important to them and their journals.

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14. Cynsational News & Resources

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Author Interview: Guadalupe García McCall: Remembering What Has Endured, What Has Been Lost by Justin Barisich from BookPage. Peek: "It takes a lot of courage to let the world see your heart, to lay it down on the ground in front of the enemy and say, 'This is it. This who I am. This is what I’ve got,' and that is what Dulceña does."

How to Find and Reach Influencers to Help Promote Your Work by Angela Ackerman from Jane Friedman. Peek: "Because if you truly appreciate what they do, you will naturally want to help them further succeed. And while of course you hope they’ll return the favor, that’s not your endgame. Creating a relationship is."

Seven Surprising Facts About Creativity, According to Science by John Paul Titlow from Fast Company. Peek: "In the face of a major loss, our brains often explore new creative outlets as part of the 'rebuilding' process of our lives, especially as our perspectives, priorities, and ways of thinking about things shift around. " Note: the observation about teachers at the end of the post does not apply to me.

Ten Tips for Video-Chat School Visits from Christine Kohler. Peek: "Although my stress-level skyrocketed that morning when my PC’s operating system corrupted, I thought other authors might benefit by what I did in pre-planning to ensure 'the show must go on,' and on schedule."

Children's Literature as a Vehicle for Peace by Summer Edward from Medium. Peek: "Is social justice an elite weapon to be wielded in the hands of a few acclaimed activists or is it a human imperative to which each individual is called?"

Series Beginnings by Mary Kole from Kidlit.com. Peek: "By providing this context but weaving it into the first few chapters of the story, you will be welcoming your existing readers back into the story while simultaneously giving new readers a chance to catch up. All without info-dumping."

Interview: Dean Gloster on Dessert First by Adi Rule from VCFA Launchpad. Peek: "...with all the intensity of residency, my constantly emailing documents to myself to print out in the library, and my mostly using my VCFA email address, I actually missed the message from the editor saying they were buying my book...."

No One Gets a Pass When It Comes to Writing Multicultural Books from Grace Lin. Peek: "I get a fair amount of flack for portraying light-skinned Asians or Asians in the stereotypical haircut of heavy bangs."

What I Leaned About Publishing an #OwnVoices Book with a Latinx Heroine by Valerie Tejeda from Bustle. Peek: "I've learned a lot about what it means to be an #OwnVoices author — the good, the bad, the ugly — but here are a few things that have stuck out to me the most..."

Four Ways "Stranger Things" Gets Middle Grade Right by Mary E. Cronin from Project Mayhem. Peek: "Kids are the stars of this show, and middle grade writers can draw much inspiration from it. Here are four ways that the creators of 'Stranger Things' totally nail middle grade...."

Give Your Characters Roots by Dave King from Writer Unboxed. Peek: "Growing up in Mordor gives you a very different outlook on life than growing up in New England."

What's In a (Character's) Name? by Olga Kuno from Becca Puglisi from Writers Helping Writers. Peek: "Coming up with just the right name can be daunting. I’d like to share some ideas on how to simplify the process."

Winnie The Pooh Makes Friends with a Penguin to Mark Anniversary by Alison Flood from The Guardian. Peek: "Sibley, who was asked to write a new Pooh story to mark this year’s anniversary, said that the photo of the author and his son with the penguin toy came to mind while he was 'pondering what other toys Christopher Robin might have owned but which were never written about'."

Native American Contemporary YA Novel
We Are Still Here: An Interview with Debbie Reese from NCTE. Peek: "I wish that teachers would do all they could to push against that monolithic 'primitive' and 'uncivilized' depiction that is so pervasive and damaging to our youth, but all youth, too, who play and learn alongside our children."

Why I Write About the Immigrant Experience by Reyna Grande from CBC Diversity. Peek: "I read and I read, though I’d always felt a void—a yearning, a missing piece that I desperately wanted to find. What I wanted most of all: to not feel invisible."

How to Write a Latinx Character & Other Questions by Yamile Saied Méndez from The Che Boricuas= A Puerto Rican + An Argentine + 5 cute kids. Peek: "...this list isn't all inclusive. I just wanted to show all the aspects in which culture affects a person. The ways in which it will affect your character. The reader will notice if the only thing the writer did was slap a Spanish-sounding name and dark skin on a character."

Black Girl Magic: Black Girlhood, Imaginations and Activism by Dhonielle Clayton from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: "I hope a new generation of black girls can cling tight to the novels of the ladies below and start to find themselves in interesting and dynamic new media. I know that if I had had even a few of these books and role models, the teenage me wouldn’t have felt so invisible."

Share Your Voice by Dan Blank from Writer Unboxed. Peek: "A voice without action, is silence. In that silence is the potential where you could be connecting with people who will be moved by your stories."

Cynsational Awards

The 2016 Kirkus Prize Finalists: "Winners in the three categories will receive $50,000 each, making the Kirkus Prize one of the richest annual literary awards in the world."

Little, Brown Launches New Award for Illustrators by Sally Lodge from Publishers Weekly. Peek: "Caldecott Medalist and five-time Caldecott Honor artist Jerry Pinkney will act as a judge and the inaugural artist mentor for the first annual Little, Brown Emerging Artist Award, recognizing new illustration talent and encouraging the development of high-quality picture books that resonate with readers of diverse backgrounds."

Ann Bausum
Children's Book Author Ann Bausum Wins 2017 Nonfiction Award from the Children's Book Guild of Washington, D.C. Peek: "In recognition of her 14 nonfiction books and the way her work has enriched the minds of our children and the life of our nation, Bausum has been selected to receive the 2017 Children's Book Guild Nonfiction Award. The award is presented annually to an author for a body of work that has contributed significantly to the quality of nonfiction for children."

Congratulations to Don Tate, recipient of the Illumine Award for children's literature from the Austin Public Library Friends Foundation!

Reminder: The deadline for the Lee & Low New Voices Award is Sept. 30.

This Week at Cynsations



More Personally

My heart is heavy this week, Cynsational readers. I was saddened to hear of the death of Dr. Ernie Bond of Salisbury University. He was a tremendous educator, and I am grateful to him for his support of inclusive children's-YA literature. Moreover, the eighteen-year-old daughter of a high school friend and classmate has taken her own life "after a long battle with PTSD, depression and anxiety." Please continue to support teachers, support teens and consider donating to the Lane Marrs Memorial Fund.

The Link of the Week: Perceptions of Diversity in Book Reviews by Malinda Lo from Diversity in YA. Peek: "...it is basically common knowledge among minority authors that including more than one minority identity in a book is a huge risk for your career. In the real world, plenty of individuals deal with more than one minority identity at the same time, every day." See also Kick off Bisexual Awareness Week with 12 2016 YA Books by Dahlia Adler from Barnes & Noble.

Personal Links

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15. In defence of moral experts

I’m no expert. Still, I reckon the notorious claim made by Michael Gove, a leading campaigner for Britain to leave the European Union, that the nation had had enough of experts, will dog him for the rest of his career. In fact, he wasn’t alone. Other Brexit leaders also sneered at the pretensions of experts, the majority of whom warned about the risks – political, economic, social - of a Britain outside the EU.

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16. WHEN WE WERE ALONE by David Alexander Robertson and Julie Flett

When We Were Alone is one of those books that brought forth a lot of emotion as I read it. There were sighs of sadness for what Native people experienced at boarding schools, and sighs of--I don't know, love, maybe--for our perseverance through it all.


Written by David Alexander Robertson and illustrated by Julie Flett, When We Were Alone will be released in January of 2017 from Highwater Press. I read the ARC and can't wait to hold the final copy of this story, of a young children asking her grandmother a series of questions, in my hands.

The story is meant for young children, though of course, readers of any age can--and should--read it.

It opens with the little girl saying:
Today I helped my kókom in her flower garden. She always wears colourful clothes. It's like she dresses in rainbows. When she bent down to prune some of the flowers, I couldn't even see her because she blended in with them. She was like a chameleon. 
"Nókom, why do you wear so many colours?" I asked. 
That child, wondering about something and then asking that "why" question is the format for the story. To this first question, her grandmother says that she had to go to school, far away, and that all the children had to wear the same colors. They couldn't wear the colourful clothes they did before they went to that school. Here's Julie Flett's illustration of the children, at school. I can't look at this illustration without my heart twisting:



Twisting at the expressions on their faces and wondering what they felt, and then I feel a different kind of emotion as I read the next page and look at the next illustration, because the grandma tells the child what they did to be colourful again. They rolled in the leaves, when they were alone:


There's a page about why she wears her hair so long, now, and why she speaks Cree, now. And, a page about being with family. Each one evokes the same thing. Tenderness. And a quiet joy at the power of the human spirit, to survive and persevere in the face of horrific treatment--in this case--by the Canadian government.

Stories of life at residential or boarding school are ones that Native people in the US and Canada tell each other. In Canada, because of the Truth and Reconciliation project, there's an effort to get these stories into print. I'm glad of that. We haven't seen anything like the Truth and Reconciliation project in the U.S., but teachers and libraries need not wait for something similar to start putting these books into schools, and into lesson plans.

When We Were Alone is rare. It is exquisite and stunning, for the power conveyed by the words Robertson wrote, and for the illustrations that Flett created. I highly recommend it.

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17. Guest Post: Roxie Munro on KidLit TV

Roxie Munro & Julie Gribble shooting Ready Set Draw!
By Roxie Munro
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

In August of 2014, I traveled from my Long Island City studio to downtown New York City, lugging KIWiStorybook frames and rolled-up giant walk-in picture books, about to be the first author interviewed for the media start-up, KidLit TV.

The film crew, lighting technician, makeup artist, sound engineer, and Julie Gribble, founder, and interviewer Rocco Staino, of School Library Journal and the Huffington Post, were ready.

Four hours later we had a wrap, edited into a lively eight-minute piece, which aired that November, launching one of the most original concepts in the world of children’s literature in years.

That popular interview feature of KidLit TV is called StoryMakers. Every month Rocco chats with several prominent authors and/or illustrators, like Paul O. Zelinsky, Pat Cummings, Hervé Tullet, Sophie Blackall, Tim Federle, Mo Willems, Rosemary Wells, and Aaron Becker. We get a peek into their creative process - making mistakes (and fixing them!), creative tricks and habits, childhood inspiration, and exciting news about upcoming projects.

Although most of the content is accessible to any literate person, there can be a lot of fun esoterica. For example, librarians may talk about how award committees work or recommend seasonal books; for the 2015 StoryMakers Holiday Special, Maria Russo (New York Times), John Sellers (Publishers Weekly), and John Schumacher (Scholastic) discussed their favorites with Rocco. Other children’s literature movers and shakers are featured, like Lin Oliver and Stephen Mooser, talking about founding SCBWI, and Judy Blume and Neil Gaiman discussing censorship.

Jerilyn Williams of TLA interviewed by Rocco Staino
Aimed specifically at children is the Read Out Loud show where authors engage kids with lively readings from their books. On Ready Set Draw!, illustrators inspire viewers to do art and show details on how to draw characters from their books. Dan Yaccarino taught kids how to make Doug from “Doug Unplugged”; Nick Bruel drew Bad Kitty; I showed children how to draw the owl from “Hatch!” and how to make a maze.

Children send in their own drawings based on the videos, and KidLit TV posts them online in their new Fan Art Gallery section, using #ReadySetDraw to share fan art.

KidLit Radio is launching podcasts for children, filling an important niche. Radio is as popular as ever, and podcasts are gaining ground. Audio is an important medium – many children learn, and are entertained, by listening. Recently Barbara McClintock and Peg + Cat creators Jennifer Oxley and Billy Aronson did podcasts.

KidLit TV also covers events under their Red Carpet feature, like the Eric Carle Awards, interviewing such luminaries as Jerry Pinkney, Roaring Brook’s Neal Porter, and Hilary Knight. The most recent Field Trip is a six-minute video of the 4th Annual 21st Century Children’s Nonfiction Conference, with uber librarian and reviewer Susannah Richards doing the interviews, including one with Steve Sheinken about his process and his next book.

Founder Julie Gribble & Dan Yacarrino
All of this content is found on the main KidLit.TV site; there’s also a robust social media presence and an extensive YouTube channel. It’s the go-to place for kid friendly videos about favorite authors and illustrators, book-based crafts and activities, and to check out content dear to the hearts of children’s literature aficionados. Not to mention how to draw a Great Horned Owl!

So how did this come about? Well, multiple Emmy-award-winner and Stony Brook Children’s Literature Fellow, Julie Gribble, who worked in the television industry for years, founded KidLit TV to create fun new ways to reinforce an appreciation of reading that children will carry with them for the rest of their lives– it’s the first online resource of its kind for kids, parents, librarians and teachers. She’s an author in her own right, with Bubblegum Princess, illustrated by Lori Hanson (NY Media Works, 2013)(based on a true story about Kate Middleton) and another picture book out soon.

Julie’s KidLit TV family of teachers, librarians, authors, illustrators, and tech folks are all deeply committed to working together to bring great books to kids.

Cynsational Notes

Roxie Munro, Julie Gribble, and Sarah Towle (Time Traveler Tours & Tales) will be doing several pro-grams, including “Promoting your Library Community through Social Media & New Technology: Cutting-Edge Techniques,” at the Texas Library Association Conference in April 2017 in San Antonio.

In addition, Julie and Rocco Staino are doing a KidLit TV presentation. KidLit TV will cover the conference, doing author and librarian interviews, live-streaming events, and attending award presentations. Come visit Booth 2301!

And Roxie has contributed a piece to TLA’s Disaster Relief Coloring Book, which will be available at the Conference.

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18. In Memory: Lois Duncan

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Author Lois Duncan, died in June while Cynsations was on summer hiatus.

Lois Duncan Obituary: Bestselling author of fiction for young adults, including the thriller I Know What You Did Last Summer by Julia Eccleshare from The Guardian. Peek: "She was born Lois Duncan Steinmetz in Philadelphia, and grew up in Sarasota, Florida. Lois wanted to be a writer from childhood, and submitted her first typed manuscript to Ladies’ Home Journal when she was 10."

Obituary: Lois Duncan by Shannon Maughan from Publishers Weekly. Peek: "After attending Duke University for a year... She entered her YA project Debutante Hill in Dodd, Mead & Company’s Seventeenth Summer Literary Contest and earned the grand prize: $1000 and a book contract."

Lois Duncan, 82, Dies; Author Knew What You Did Last Summer by Daniel E. Slotnik from The New York Times. Peek: "Though her books had their share of violence, Ms. Duncan said she was 'utterly horrified' when she saw the [1997] film adaptation of “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” which...turned her novel, about a group of teenagers desperately trying to conceal an accidental killing, into a horror tale in which the same teenagers are systematically dispatched by their hook-wielding victim." Note: To clarify, I heard Lois speak about this at an SCBWI conference. It wasn't the violence per se but rather the way it was trivialized for cheap thrills. Her novel had a strong moral center that was absent from its film adaptation.

I Know What I Read That Summer by Carmen Maria Machado from The New Yorker. Peek: "Her prose is unfussy and clean. She centered her books on young women, and her writing considers themes that have come to obsess me as an adult: gendered violence, psychological manipulation, the vulnerability of outsiders."

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19. The targeted killing of American citizens

On August 5, the Obama administration released a redacted version of its so-called “playbook” for making decisions about the capture or targeted killing of terrorists. Translated out of the bureaucratese: at least off the battlefield the President makes the final decision, personally, about the targeted killing of American citizens and permanent residents. Many people find this fact about the administration’s decisional process momentous. But is it?

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20. Shakespeare and performance: the 16th century to today [infographic]

In the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, Shakespeare's plays were performed at professional playhouses such as the Globe and the Rose, as well as at the Inns of Court, the houses of noblemen, and at the Queen's palace. In fact, the playing company The Queen's Men was formed at the express command of Elizabeth I to [...]

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21. Press Release Fun: Meanwhile, Back in NYC . . .

So I’m no longer in New York City anymore as you might have noticed but that doesn’t meant there aren’t some fantastic events going on there.  Free events.  Free events at my old stomping grounds, NYPL.  It’s all in conjunction with Banned Books Week and the guests are a bit on the famous side.  Gene Luen Yang.  Katherine Paterson.  Rita Williams-Garcia.  STRANGER THINGS!!!  *ahem*  In any case, behold below.  I give you one heckuva fantastic week.


 

Banned Books Week annually celebrates the freedom to read. Highlighting the value of free and open access to information, Banned Books Week brings together librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types in shared support of the freedom to seek, to publish, to read, and to express ideas. The Library is hosting a series of events September 25-October 1 celebrating the freedom to read with some of your favorite children’s authors!

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Reading Without Walls: Author Event with Gene Luen Yang (and special guest Walkaround Grover!)

Join the New York Public Library in partnership with Sesame Workshop (the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street!) on Sunday September 25 from 10:30 AM-12 PM (doors open at 10:15 AM), as we welcome the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, Gene Luen Yang, joined by his furry friend, Sesame Street’s Walkaround Grover, to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the Sesame Street classic storybook,The Monster at the End of this Book. Yang will read aloud this time-honored tale (first published in 1971 by Little Golden Books) and will discuss his ‘Reading Without Walls’ initiative, which encourages readers to explore books of diverse voices, genres, and formats.

This ticketed event is free and open to the public. Registration required.

Tough Topics in Middle Grade: Author Panel 

Presented in partnership with iLoveMG please welcome the following guests* to the library Wednesday September 28 from 6-8 PM:

  • Paul Griffin: When Friendship Followed Me Home
  • James Howe: The Misfits series
  • Kathleen Lane: The Best Worst Thing
  • Nora Raleigh Baskin: Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story
  • Rita Williams-Garcia: Gaither Sisters series (One Crazy Summer, P.S. Be Eleven, Gone Crazy in Alabama)

With special Guest Moderator author Phil Bildner.

*Author Panel subject to change due to author availability 

This ticketed event is free and open to the public. Registration recommended.

Stranger Things in Middle Grade Author Panel (at Brooklyn Public Library) 

Presented in partnership with iLoveMG please welcome the following guests* to the library Thursday September 29 from 6-8 PM

  • Tracy Baptiste: The Jumbies
  • Kelly Barnhill: The Girl Who Drank the Moon
  • Max Brallier The Last Kids on Earth series
  • G.D. Falksen: The Transatlantic Conspiracy
  • Chris Gabenstein: Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library and Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics
  • Doogie Homer: Kid Legend series (Kid Presidents, Kid Athletes, and Kid Artists)

With Moderator Christopher Lassen from the Brooklyn Public Library and New York Public Library.

*Author Panel subject to change due to author availability 

This ticketed event is free and open to the public. For more information visit: https://goo.gl/iLW2ND

The Great Gilly Hopkins: Author Event with Katherine Paterson 

Join the New York Public Library Saturday October 1 from 2-3 PM as we welcome Katherine Paterson and her sons, David and John, to discuss Ms. Paterson’s enduring young adult classic THE GREAT GILLY HOPKINS and new feature film version of THE GREAT GILLY HOPKINS debuting in theaters and On Demand October 7.

This ticketed event is free and open to the public. Registration recommended.

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22. Back to philosophy: A reading list

Are you taking any philosophy courses as part of your degree this year? Or are you continuing with a second degree in philosophy? Then look no further for the best in philosophy research. We’ve brought together some of our most popular textbooks to help you prepare for the new academic year. From Plato to Descartes, ancient wisdom to modern philosophical issues, this list provides a great first stop for under-graduate and post-graduate students alike.

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23. Where is Mexico going? The obstacles in its rocky road to democracy

In a recently released poll this month, 22% of Mexicans approved of President Enrique Peña Nieto’s performance in office. Data released in the same survey revealed that 55 %, more than twice the percentage of those who viewed the president in a positive light, strongly disapproved of his performance. No president since Vicente Fox, who was elected in 2000 and moved Mexico significantly along the path to electoral democracy, has ever received such weak support.

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24. What inspires the people who save lives?

The ability to improve the health of another person or to save their life requires great skill, knowledge, and dedication. The impact that this work has goes above and beyond your average career, extending to the families and friends of patients. We were interested to discover what motivates the people who play a vital role in the health and quality of life of hundreds of people every year.

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25. Exploring the Juvenile Justice System in the Classroom

Perfect LiarsFrom a distance, Andrea Faraday looks perfect: she is the junior class valedictorian at the exclusive Woodruff School, where she was voted Most Likely to Do Everything Right. But looks can be deceiving. When her parents disappear, her life—and her Perfect Girl charade—begins to crumble, and her scheme to put things right just takes the situation from bad to so much worse. Pretty soon she’s struck up the world’s least likely friendship with the juvenile delinquents at Justice Academy, the last exit on the road to jail—and the first stop on the way out.

Kimberly Reid’s YA novel Perfect Liars is an engrossing story that asks a big question: What makes someone a criminal? The discussion questions below, based on Perfect Liars, can help guide a conversation in classrooms about the juvenile justice system and its effects:

  • In the beginning of the story, Drea has a strong independent streak, almost to the point of being aloof. Why does Drea struggle to make friends and to trust others? Why does her outlook change around friendship and camaraderie?
  • How does Drea’s perception of adolescents in the juvenile justice system change?
  • Why is Drea ashamed of how her family attained its privilege?
  • What connection can be made between Damon’s choices (becoming a police officer) and Drea’s choices (in unrelenting pursuit of perfectionism) and the choices of their parents (being con artists)?
  • Drea’s friends at the Justice Academy solve the problem with the very skills that led them to being in the juvenile justice system. What do you think the author, Kimberly Reid, wants readers to take away?
  • Look up imposter syndrome and “Duck Syndrome.” Do either of these describe Drea’s experiences? Is her pursuit of perfectionism unique to Drea’s personality and internal pressures or are there systemic pressures as well? How might Drea’s gender contribute to her anxiety and stress in being perfect? Does Drea face additional pressures or unfair expectations to be successful because she is biracial in an elite, mostly white prep school?
  • How are Drea and Xavier similar?
  • Do Drea and Xavier see each other as equals? Why or why not?
  • Examine the reasons that led to Gigi, Xavier, and Jason each being in the juvenile justice system. Do their actions define them as “bad” people? Does their involvement with Drea mean they are redeemed?
  • Which characters do you particularly admire or dislike?
  • Unlike the students Drea meets at Justice Academy, she has had access to elite institutions, privileged experiences, and influential people. Does Drea make the most of these resources?
  • Drea strives to be independent and self-sufficient. Does she achieve the freedom she seeks? Why or why not?
  • What impact do you think Drea’s experience in collaborating with the students at the Justice Academy might have on her view of her parents’ choices and lifestyle?

Purchase Perfect Liars here.

Read an interview with author Kimberly Reid.

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