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<<October 2016>>
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Results 26 - 50 of 135,859

Welcome to another session of Turning Pages!Today my flying book-boat icon is especially apropos, as I'm talking about a time travel book, where the travel took place onboard a pirate ship. Now, I don't actually love time travel novels, because a.)... Read the rest of this post

0 Comments on Turning Pages Reads: THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE, by HEIDI HEILIG as of 10/18/2016 9:18:00 AM
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27. Why is the world changing so fast?

Over the past 30 years, I have worked on many reference books, and so am no stranger to recording change. However, the pace of change seems to have become more frantic in the second decade of this century. Why might this be? One reason, of course, is that, with 24-hour news and the internet, information is transmitted at great speed. Nearly every country has online news sites which give an indication of the issues of political importance.

The post Why is the world changing so fast? appeared first on OUPblog.

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28. Press Release Fun: The 2017 Maureen Hayes Author/Illustrator Award

This one’s for the school and public librarians.  Don’t let the title of this post fool you.  For all that this sounds like an award for authors  and illustrators, it’s actually a grant so that you can get some into your library.  On site.  In person.  Here’s the text, and it’s fantastic.  Maybe one of the smartest memorial awards I’ve ever encountered.


Have you always wanted to have a nationally recognized author/illustrator visit your library?

Then, please, apply for the 2017 Maureen Hayes Author/Illustrator Award

The Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) and the Grants Administration Committee are now accepting online applications for the 2017 Maureen Hayes Author/Illustrator Award.

This $4,000 award, made possible by an annual gift from Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing in honor of Maureen Hayes, brings together children and nationally recognized authors/illustrators by funding an author/illustrator visit to a library.

Each applicant will be judge on the following:

  • Reasons for the application. The applicant seeks to provide a visit

from an author/illustrator who will speak to children who have not had the opportunity to hear a nationally known author/illustrator. Reasons for applying could include: particular contribution; a special celebration, etc.

  • Facilities. The appropriateness, both in terms of capacity and


  • Administrative support. The organization and administrative

capabilities of the person or group submitting an application evident in the enclosed budget, and partially manifested in the presentation of the application itself.

  • Cooperation with other organizations. The applicant must work

cooperatively with other types of libraries (academic, public and school) and bookstores within the local community to provide the author/illustrator visit, thereby also providing a broader audience.  The applicant must present the library’s educational goals, as well as evidence of how those goals apply to the local community’s educational goals.  The extent to which meaningful cooperation among various local or area groups would suggest an ability to share responsibilities of personnel, time, and money needed to cover local expenses.

  • Author/Illustrator visit visibility. Emphasis on the presentation as a

distinctive event publicized to and open to all potential attendees in the area is a priority for each Award.

Applicants must be personal members of ALSC, as well as ALA members to apply.

Deadline for submissions is Nov. 1, 2016.

For more information about the award requirements and submitting the online application please visit the Maureen Hayes Author/Illustrator Award Web page.


ALSC, a division of the ALA, is the world’s largest organization dedicated to the support and enhancement of library service to children. With a network of more than 4,000 children’s and youth librarians, literature experts, publishers and educational faculty, ALSC is committed to creating a better future for children through libraries. To learn more about ALSC, visit ALSC’s website at www.ala.org/alsc.

Jennifer Mae Smith
Chair of the ALSC Grant Administration Committee


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29. Review of the Day: Juana & Lucas by Juana Medina

juanalucas1Juana and Lucas
By Juana Medina
Candlewick Press
ISBN: 978-1-7636-7208-9
Ages 6-9
On shelves now

Windows. Mirrors. Mirrors. Windows. Windowy mirrors. Mirrory windows. Windows. Mirrors. Sliding doors! Mirrors. Windows.

In the world of 21st century children’s literature, diversity should be the name of the game. We want books for our children that reflect the worlds they know and the worlds they have yet to greet. We want them to see themselves in their books (mirrors), see others unlike themselves (windows), and have a way to get from one place to another (sliding doors). To accomplish this, all you have to do is publish a whole bunch of books about kids of different races, religions, abilities, persuasions, you name it. Great strides have been made over the last few years in the general consciousness of the publishing industry (the publishers, the librarians, the teachers, and even the parents) even as teeny tiny, itty bitty, itsy bitsy tiptoes have been made in terms of what actually is getting published. Much of the credit for spearheading efforts to bring to light more and more books for all children can be given to the We Need Diverse Books movement. That said, our children’s rooms are still filled with monumental gaps. Contemporary Jewish characters are rare. Muslim characters rarer still. And don’t even TALK to me about the state of kids in wheelchairs these days. Interestingly enough, the area where diversity has increased the most is in early chapter books. Whether it’s Anna Hibiscus, Lola Levine, Alvin Ho, or any of the other new and interesting characters out there, there is comfort to be found in those books that transition children from easy readers to full-blown novels. Into this world comes Juana Medina and her semi-autobiographical series Juana & Lucas. Short chapters meet universal headaches (with details only available in Bogota, Colombia) ultimately combining to bring us a gal who will strike you as both remarkably familiar and bracingly original.

juanalucas4You might think that Juana has it pretty good, and for the most part you’d be right. She lives in Bogota, Colombia “the city that’s closest to my heart” with her Mami. She has a good furry best friend (her dog, Lucas) and a good not-so-furry best friend (Juli). And hey, it’s the first day of school! Cool, right? Only nothing goes the way Juana planned. The whole unfortunate day is capped off when one of her teachers informs the class that they will be learning “the English” this year. Could anything be more unfair? Yet as Juana searches for sympathy amongst her friends and relatives, she realizes that everyone seems to think that learning English is a good thing. Are they crazy? It isn’t until an opportunity comes up to visit somewhere fantastic, far away, and English speaking that she finally takes what everyone has told her to heart. In a big way.

I love, first and foremost, the fact that the emotional crux of this book is fixated on Juana’s detestation of learning “the English”. Now already I’ve heard some commenters online complain that Juana’s problem isn’t something that English-speaking children will identify with. Bull. Any child that has ever learned to read will know where Juana is coming from. What English speaker would fail to sympathize when she asks, “Why are read and read written the same way but sound different? How can I know when people are talking about eyes or ice when they sound about the same? And what about left hand and left the room? So many words, so little sense”? Some kids reading this book may have experience learning another language too. For them, Juana’s complaints will ring true and clear. That’s a key aspect of her personality. She’s sympathetic, even when she’s whining.

For all that we’ve seen books like Juana’s, Lola Levine, Zapato Power, Pedro, First Grade Hero, Sophia Martinez, and a handful of others, interestingly this increase in Latino early chapter book is relatively recent. For a long time it was Zapato Power or nothing. The change is great, but it’s significant to note that all the books I’ve mentioned here are set in the United States. American books set in South American countries where the kids just live their daily lives and don’t have to deal with civil wars or invasions or coyotes or drug runners are difficult to find. What makes Juana and Lucas so unique is that it’s about a child living her life, having the kinds of problems that Ramona or Ruby Lu or Dyamonde Daniel could relate to. And like Anna Hibiscus or The Great Cake Mystery I love books for younger children that go through daily life in other present day countries. Windows indeed.

juanalucas2Early chapter books are interesting because publishers see them as far more series-driven than their writers might. An author can crank out title after title after title to feed the needs of their young readers, always assuming the demand is there, and they can do it easier with books under 100 pages than above. Juana could fit the bill in this regard. Her personality is likable, for starters. She’s not rude like Junie B. Jones or willfully headstrong in the same way as Ramona, but she does screw up. She does complain wildly. There are aspects of her personality you can identify with right from the start. I’d be pleased to see more of her in the future, and young readers will undoubtedly feel the same way. Plus, she has one particular feature that puts her heads and tails above a lot of the competition: She’s in color.

Created in ink and watercolor, Medina illustrates as well as writes her books. This art actually puts the book in a coveted place few titles can brag. You might ask if there’s a middle point between easy books and, say, Magic Tree House titles. I’d say this book was it. Containing a multitude of full-color pictures and spreads, it offers kids the comfort of picture books with the sensibility and sophistication of chapter book literature. And since she’s already got the art in place, why not work in some snazzy typography as well? Medina will often integrate individual words into the art. They swoop and soar around the characters, increasing and decreasing in size, according to their wont. Periodically a character will be pulled out and surrounded by fun little descriptor tidbits about their personage in a tiny font. Other times sentences move to imitate what their words say, like when Juana discusses how Escanilberto can kick the ball, “hard enough to send it across the field.” That sentence moves from his foot to a point just above his opponent’s head, the ball just out of reach. I like to think this radical wordplay plays into the early reader’s enjoyment of the book. It’s a lot more fun to read a chapter book when you have no idea what the words are going to pull on you next.

juanalucas3The writing is good, though the conclusion struck me as a bit rushed. Admittedly the solution to Juana’s problems is tied up pretty quickly. She won’t learn, she won’t learn, she won’t learn. She gets to have a prize? She studies and studies and studies. So rather than have her come to an understanding of English’s use on her own, an outside force (in this case, the promise of seeing Astroman) is the true impetus to her change. Sure, at the very end of the book she suddenly hits on the importance of learning other languages and visiting other places around the globe but it’s a bit after the fact. Not a big problem in the book, of course, but it would have been cool to have Juana come to this realization without outside influences.

As nutty as it sounds, Juana and Lucas is a bit short on the “Lucas” side of that equation. Juana’s the true star of the show here, relegating man’s best friend to the sidelines. Fortunately, I have faith in this series. I have faith that it will return for future sequels and that when those sequels arrive they’ll have a storyline for Lucas to carry on his own. With Juana nearby, of course. After all, she belongs to the pantheon of strong female early chapter characters out there, ready to teach kids about life in contemporary Colombia even as she navigates her own trials and successes. And it’s funny. Did I mention it’s funny? You probably got that from context, but it bears saying. “Juana and Lucas” is the kind of book I’d like to see a lot more of. Let’s hope Ms. Medina is ready to spearhead a small revolution of early chapter book international diversity of her very own.

On shelves now.

Like This? Then Try:


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30. Brexit: environmental accountability and EU governance

Civil society will be preoccupied in the years to come with ensuring the maintenance of environmental standards formerly set by EU environmental law. This blog provides some thoughts on the less visible aspects of EU environmental governance, aspects that must be held up to scrutiny as we develop an accountability framework ‘independent’ of the rules and institutions of the European Union.

The post Brexit: environmental accountability and EU governance appeared first on OUPblog.

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31. Debbie--have you seen BE LIGHT LIKE A BIRD by Monika Schroder?

A reader writes, today, to ask if I've seen Monika Schroder's Be Light Like A Bird. Published in September of 2016 by Capstone, it is pitched at grades 3-7. Here's the description, from the author's website:

After the death of her father, twelve-year-old Wren finds her life thrown into upheaval. And when her mother decides to pack up the car and forces Wren to leave the only home she's ever known, the family grows even more fractured. As she and her mother struggle to build a new life, Wren must confront issues with the environment, peer pressure, bullying, and most of all, the difficulty of forgiving those who don't seem to deserve it. A quirky, emotional middle grade novel set in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Be Light Like a Bird features well-drawn, unconventional characters and explores what it means to be a family and the secrets and lies that can tear one apart.

I understand that there is a character who is half Cherokee... and an Indian burial ground... When I get a copy, I'll be back.

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32. Giveaway & New Voices: Erin Petti & Christina Soontornvat on How to Be a Debut Author

Christina & kiddos
By Erin Petti & Christina Soontornvat
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Today Erin and Christina talk about their new releases and lives as newly published authors.

Then offer tips as to how to survive and thrive your literary debut experience.

Erin Petti is the first-time author of The Peculiar Haunting of Thelma Bee (Mighty Media, 2016). From the promotional copy:  
Eleven-year-old budding scientist Thelma Bee has adventure in her blood. But she gets more than she bargained for when a ghost kidnaps her father. 

Now her only clues are a strange jewelry box and the word "return," whispered to her by the ghost. 

It's up to Thelma to get her dad back, and it might be more dangerous than she thought--there's someone wielding dark magic, and they're coming after her next.
Christina Soontornvat is the first-time author of The Changelings (Sourcebooks, 2016). From the promotional copy: 
All Izzy wants is for something interesting to happen in her sleepy little town. But her wish becomes all too real when a mysterious song floats through the woods and lures her little sister Hen into the forest...where she vanishes. 

A frantic search leads to a strange hole in the ground that Izzy enters. But on the other side, she discovers that the hole was not a hole, this place is not Earth, and Hen is not lost. 

She's been stolen away to the land of Faerie, and it's up to Izzy to bring her home.

CHRISTINA: The Peculiar Haunting of Thelma Bee (Mighty Media, 2016) hit the shelves this fall. Has life changed for you now that you are a published author?

ERIN: Life is busier now with events and all that good stuff, but I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Also, it's totally and completely amazing to walk into a bookstore and see something I wrote on the shelves.

Pretty much a lifelong dream come true!

CHRISTINA: Yeah, seeing my book on the shelf is still kind of a shock. When friends snap a photo of The Changelings (Sourcebooks, 2016) in a store halfway across the country, that’s when it hits me that all of this really happened.

Because otherwise life isn’t too different, you know?

It’s not like publishing a book gets you out of doing the laundry or the dishes! And meanwhile I can’t help putting even more pressure on myself to write the next thing.

ERIN: Oh absolutely, but writing that next thing is exactly what you have to do. That’s the biggest piece of advice I share with writers who are querying or about to debut - "keep writing!"

It took me a long time to write, revise, and query and there were moments where it was hard to get back to the actual writing part.

But the writing is really all you have control over so as long as you're creating and getting words on the page, you're doing your job.

CHRISTINA: That’s a good reminder – the author’s job is to write the books!

And you’re so right – there is a lot you don’t have control over, which can be stressful but also liberating in a way.

Speaking of “jobs,”you have a young daughter and another baby on the way as well as other work that you are passionate about.

How do you juggle life and writing?

ERIN: It's not super easy to schedule, and I've definitely had a measure of trouble keeping the house clean and my kid’s shoes on the right foot - but we're getting by.

My husband is more or less super-dad, and I rely on him an awful lot. But you are one to talk with your own work and two young kids!

CHRISTINA: Well, meeting other writers – like you – who have similarly jam-packed lives has been good for me. It’s a reminder that the vast majority of us have to purposefully and doggedly carve time out from our crazy lives to write, even after we get published.

Some days I get a couple hours, other days just enough time to jot down notes. But I’ve found that if I don’t write every day I get into trouble, and it’s harder to pick it back up. Oh, and I definitely gave up on having a clean house years ago!

Readers are going to fall in love with The Peculiar Haunting of Thelma Bee. Your book isn't just for the Halloween season, but it definitely explores the paranormal.

Do you have a favorite spooky scene from the book?

ERIN: One of my favorite scenes is when the three young heroes are walking alone through the cold, dark New England woods searching for a certain (possibly haunted) cottage.

I got to play with the environment a lot--exploring just what is lurking in those tall shadows--and it really shows the kids at their bravest.

CHRISTINA: And those illustrations really build the suspense! They remind me of Edward Gorey’s drawings, which I totally love.

ERIN: I love the illustrations, too! We’ve both talked about how we lucked out with our books’ art. Your beautiful cover jumps off the shelf! It definitely gives you the feeling that these fairies are no Tinkerbelles, that there is something darker going on.

CHRISTINA: Yes, the story was inspired by old folktales of fairies who steal babies and swap them with Changelings, so definitely a little dark. Their motivation for doing that was one of the most fun things to explore in the book. Why would they want human babies? And why would a Changeling sign up for that exchange?

Tips for Debut Authors

1. Enjoy the moment: As much as we hate to start things off with a sentiment that should be cross-stitched onto a pillowcase, this one happens to be very true.

Celebrate the big and small milestones – your first signing, seeing your book on the shelf for the first time. And then there will be a moment when a reader loves your book so much that they tell you.

Soak that in. Don't skim over the beautiful moments. You only do this debut thing once.

Christina with authors Lindsey Schiebe, Madeline Smoot & P,J, Hoover
2. Connect with a community: Other authors are the best and most supportive people to have in your corner, and sometimes the only way to maintain your sanity.

Twitter, conferences, and debut groups are wonderful ways to connect with other debut authors who are going through the same ups and downs as you are.

It also feels so satisfying to cheer on their successes and root for people whose books you love.

3. Turn that dang thing off: Social media can help keep you connected when you need it. But it can also suck the hours right out of your day – and time is going to be your most precious resource when your book comes out.

So as much fun as it is to chat and retweet clever "Stranger Things" gifs, know when to put down the phone and work/read/rest.

Social media can sometimes also make you feel like everyone in the world is getting a book deal/winning awards/getting a movie contract/selling millions of copies – everyone but you. If you ever feel that way, turn off that app for a little while, and see Tip #2.

4. Make it easy on your publicist: Your publicist will be your ally in helping to set up events, pitch you for conferences, and make connections for a blog tour.

But as much as they love you and your book, they will have other authors they are also working with and new books continuously coming down the pipe. Do what you can to help them help you.

During your first meeting or conference call, ask them for concrete ways you can help. Maybe you know of a local area children's book festival that your author friends rave about. Or perhaps your critique partner has a great blog and she wants to do a giveaway for you. Doing your research ahead of time will make everyone's jobs easier.

5. Get ready for things to change: Have you ever gone to a SCBWI Conference and sat next to a debut author who told you, "Just enjoy the freedom of not being published yet. You can write so unselfconsciously," and you wanted to stab them with the pen that came in your registration tote bag? Turns out there's a little bit of truth to that.

For a lot of authors, getting published creates this paradox of delusional thinking that now they will never be published again. I blame some of this on the overemphasis of "being a debut." and the accompanying feeling that once your debut is over, you are used goods.

But whatever the reason, there are expectations now, real and imagined, from you, your agent, your publisher about you as a professional author. And you may find yourself longing just a little for the days when you wrote just to write, and there was less expectation, less self criticism, more freedom. (But don't say that to unpublished writers at conferences. Those pens are sharp).

6. Get ready for things to be exactly the same: After the initial sparkly, Instagram-worthy swirl of launch date subsides, life is likely going to feel pretty same-ish.

Yes, there may be events and school visits, book signings and festivals. But for most of us, the bulk of our days will carry on as before.

Your non-writer friends will assume you are out shopping for a Tesla Roadster or having brunch with Ann Patchett when really you are cleaning a lint trap or scraping an exploded baked ziti off the oven door.

If in that moment you think to yourself, "I shouldn't be doing this – I'm a published author," you are in big trouble.

7. Keep writing: The best way to simultaneously get over your anxiety and celebrate your newfound authordom is to write more things.

If you have gotten to this point of having a book published, you must love the work of writing. There is no other reason that a sane person would endure the long, unpaid hours, the sting of rejection letters, the glacial delay of gratification, if that person didn't love to write.

You may have to write more things because you signed a contract for another book. If so, lucky you! But even if that's not the case, start on a new project before your debut comes out. You may have to set it aside during the busy days of your launch, but it will feel so good to open up your laptop and have something ready and waiting for you.

8. Find joy in other things: These things may be hobbies or your day job or your daily walk, or art museums or jiu jitsu. Or they may be people, like your spouse or your friends or your children.

These things matter very much, just as much as writing. And unlike writing, these things will hug you and they will eat your cruddy, over-baked ziti. And when you are having a hard day, they will hold up your new book and smile and say, "Look what you did! You did this!"

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33. Guest Post: Jaclyn Dolamore on Writing Beloved Books

By Jaclyn Dolamore
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

I've moved into indie publishing lately, where it is entirely my choice which books I release into the world. So, I've been thinking about branding.

One thing it has taken me a while to realize is that just because you don't write the most popular thing and you get some bad reviews because of it, doesn't mean you need to change anything.

My second novel, Between the Sea and Sky (Bloomsbury, 2001), is my favorite of my published books. Its review average on Amazon and Goodreads was never great, which initially made me feel like there was no place in the world for what I most love to write.

However, as the years have gone by, I've gotten many fan letters for that book from both kids and adult women who tell me it's one of their favorite books and they've read it many times. It took me all those years for the fan mail to trickle in before it finally dawned on me that it is the most beloved of all my books, as far as I can tell.

My brand is: cozy romantic fantasy about a couple in healthy relationship with lots of details about food, clothes, and domestic life, and bits of humor. The fantasy backdrop is more in the "courtly politics" vein rather than physical action, although there is a little of that.

The characters are always somewhat on the fringe of society, your lovable outcasts and weirdos, and if I've done my job, you keep reading because you find the characters delightful and you want to know what happens to them and see them find a place in the world.

Betsy the Cat
They are the kind of books you might read when you're sick or having a bad day; where the characters are friends, the world is home, and you can trust that your heart won't get ripped out of your chest.

A lot of readers like having their heart ripped out of their chest. They give me reviews that say they wanted more action, more magic, more highs and lows. It's always tempting to listen to the bad reviews instead of the good.

And sometimes I love reading stuff that is epic, sweeping, dark. But when I try to write it feels like when I wear my disco dress with the fluttery sleeves. I love that dress but it just isn't me the way my plain 1960s navy blue librarian dress is.

Other people might even like the disco dress better, but it doesn't matter, I still would be happier living in the librarian dress.

As a reader, too, the cozy reads are the ones that fall apart on my shelf, because I pick them up again and again. So I realize now that it is more important to keep writing books that are the most me, and retain those readers who appreciate them too, than it is to try and chase the next big fantasy bestseller.

Cynsational Notes

Jaclyn's books include:
  • Magic Under Glass (Bloomsbury, 2009); 
  • Between the Sea and Sky (Bloomsbury, 2011); 
  • Magic Under Stone (Bloomsbury, 2012); 
  • Dark Metropolis (Hyperion, 2014); 
  • Glittering Shadows (Hyperion, 2015); 
  • The Vengeful Half (Self-published, 2016); and 
  • The Stolen Heart (Self-published, 2016).

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34. Thoughts on Family

I'm so happy to have this book out in the world. Here are a few recent looks at my new book with Qin Leng, A Family Is a Family Is a Family.

Book Dragon at the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center has a lovely write up.
As author Sara O’Leary configures her many delightfully diverse familial units, artist Qin Leng – with her signature style so overflowing with whimsy and charm – imbues each member with individual identity and unique personality, all brought together with enveloping warmth and unbreakable bonds. The message is powerfully simple: no one gets to define a family but the members themselves. Audacious and obvious both, Family is already a well-deserved bestseller on our northern neighbor’s various lists. That said, this Canadian import undoubtedly belongs on bookshelves everywhere.

School Library Journal has very kindly awarded the book a star. (I believe this is our third!)
In this warm, nondiscriminating narrative, O’Leary removes limiting definitions and labels like “adopted,” “fostered,” or “divorced” and instead presents a tale that is innocent and wise. Leng’s ink and digitally rendered watercolor illustrations are light and airy and complement the text by capturing the thoughts and purity of a child’s perspective. The classroom is a beautiful blend of children of different races, genders, and body types. VERDICT Parents, caregivers, and educators will appreciate the message that this story offers for one-on-one sharing and for discussion with small groups. A sweet and tender tale that shows that families are composed of love regardless of how they may be configured.

Waking Brain Cells has a lovely look at the book with bonus points for use of the word "zings."
O’Leary does not lecture about families here. Rather she shows the wide variety that there are in families and how each of those is based on love. There is no need to be didactic, as every child will see themselves in the pages of this book. It is a wise way to look at families, since each is just as special and marvelous as the one before. The emphasis here is on love itself, the care that is given to children in each of those families no matter their structure. Leng’s illustrations add so much warmth to this picture book. The illustrations are full of details and invite readers to look closely. Each page zings with energy from the mothers singing under the night sky to the child who lives with both her father and mother, just at different times. There is a playfulness on the pages too, which makes each family come to life.
The response by readers on Goodreads has also been very positive. I'm particularly heartened to see favourable notices from those who may find themselves slightly outside their own comfort zone but willing to join in with a the celebration of all kinds of families.

And finally, quite literally a look at the book, provided by Kellie Diguangco who runs thekaleidoscopeca

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35. A month on, this still gives me inappropriate laughs

...oh, I'm not laughing at the message itself -- I believe that. There are some people who are not your forever friends, and the sooner you know that, the better. The last lines make me crack up, though, because honestly, what else are you gonna do... Read the rest of this post

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36. Guest Post: Linda Boyden on How Do I Write?

Linda reflecting on her writing life.
By Linda Boyden
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

How do I write?

With deepest apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Dr. Seuss, let me count the ways:

with pencil, pen or quill,
from a picture, if you will,
on a napkin, in the dark,
 at the ocean, on a walk,

at a desk, from my dreams,
at a keyboard, near a stream:
the Muse attacks and I succumb, writing words one by one.

It may start anywhere, anytime without invitation. A spark leaps across one brain cell to another and I must write. I must capture the word/phrase/sentence on paper or in a text file so I can hold it hostage before this elusive gift evaporates.

During school visits, I tell my student audiences; this idea-generating stage of writing comes from something I refer to as the Cosmic Goo, a Nether-World place where ideas wait to be used.

Cosmic Goo (it's a technical term)

Once an idea has introduced itself, I enter the pre-writing phase, where I begin to translate images into slightly more tangible things, words. I want to see, touch, taste them; more importantly, I want to hear them.

I read all my work aloud, from rough draft to finished products, particularly important for picture book or poems. By doing this, I can test their word rhythms. I want to pair every idea with its perfect word mate; doubly important if the draft insists upon being rhymed.

Rhymed or in prose, rhythm is key. If I can't hear the intrinsic word melodies that rhythm produces then neither will my readers.

A stop in word rhythm will slow or stop the reader's flow, and potentially keep them from reading more.

For revising and editing most of my manuscripts, I proceed in two ways: I work a piece to the ground or I abandon it...for a night, a week, a year, or even completely. Separation has definite advantages.

Often, I will go to sleep ruminating on an irksome line, paragraph or scene and awake with its solution, or at least with the way to proceed. In contrast, a longer incubation period allows me to discover that not all pieces deserve to survive. I have learned to use the delete key.

Grandchildren (at a younger age) featured with blessings.
However, if a piece does deserve serious revision, then it deserves the best I can provide.

Good revision is much like good parenting: it starts from your heart.

You invest time in the improvement of your words or art; you encourage and nudge them to shine to become their best; last, you send them on their way and step back.

Will the words and illustrations you love ring true in the Big World?

Will your hard work pay off?

Like adult kids on their own, books mutate from your plans. A few make the New York Times Best Sellers List. Many speak to the hearts of librarians and teachers.

If you are lucky, truly lucky, your book will touch the one child it needed to help, the one who will fall asleep with your work tucked in her or his arms.

That's the beauty and importance of writing and illustrating books for children.

Cynsational Notes

“I write. I teach. I color in or outside the lines. I spoil kids and grandkids....
"Poetry gives voice to our silent songs."

Author/illustrator/storyteller/recovering-teacher/poet, Linda Boyden has written six and illustrated five picture books:

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37. Australia in three words, part 3 — “Public servant”

‘Public Servant’ — in the sense of ‘government employee’ — is a term that originated in the earliest days of the European settlement of Australia. This coinage is surely emblematic of how large bureaucracy looms in Australia. Bureaucracy, it has been well said, is Australia’s great ‘talent,’ and “the gift is exercised on a massive scale” (Australian Democracy, A.F. Davies 1958). This may surprise you. It surprises visitors, and excruciates them.

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38. Books are Always in Fashion at Killerton House

killerton House, Devon
Killerton House
If you are a regular reader of my blog, you may remember a previous visit to Killerton House here. That first visit was rather fleeting, but this time we enjoyed a more leisurely look around. Killerton is an 18th-century house and estate in Broadclyst, Devon, owned by the National Trust since 1944.

School children dressed in Victorian clothing on the lawn at Killerton

The house feels very much like a family home, and we were delighted to discover that removing books from library shelves is actively encouraged! We were kindly invited to sit a while, read and enjoy the ambience. I have to say we were more than a little surprised because in most National Trust properties, touching anything is strictly forbidden. It was a privilege to handle the books but some; especially those in the children’s section are suffering at the hands of less than careful visitors.  

Killerton House, Devon, Library
A corner of the library
Enid Blyton The Caravan Family The library at Killerton house
Enid Blyton, Noddy and Beatrix Potter
Trudi and Hansel in the library at Killerton House
Trudi and Hansel A story of the Austrian Tyrol

Books and family photographs at Killerton House
More books and family photographs

The Doyle Diary - the last great Conan Doyle Mystery
The Doyle Diary - the last great Conan Doyle Mystery 

Library at Killerton Vintage Children's books
A small selection from the many children's books in the library 

After spending a considerable amount of time drooling over and photographing books, we moved on to the 'fashion to dye' for exhibition.

Specially selected pieces from Killerton's collection brings to life how colour can reveal much about the wearer and also looks into the origins, status and function of colour in fashion. These are some of my personal favourites;
Afternoon dress from the early 1860s - Chine Silk with woven satin stripe

fashion to dye for Killerton House
1840s Evening dress - Silk brocade with woven satin stripe and floral sprigs 

1920s evening dress - Silk Crepe de Chine, beaded with crystals and diamante

Two highlights from a large display of hats, shoes and accessories

The exhibition includes over 100 pieces of work by Diploma Art and Design Foundation students, from Exeter College. Students were asked to design an outfit inspired by the colours at Killerton. Their brief included using paper patterns rather than fabric. The patterns were strengthened by using iron on Vilene. As many of you know I have a fondness for paper patterns (see a previous post here) so I found this part of the exhibition fascinating. 

Fashion to Dye for is on until Sunday 30th October. If you get a chance to visit you won’t be disappointed.   You will find full details of the exhibition here and this is a link to Killerton House

We ended our visit with a stroll through the gardens.  I took lots of photographs but in the interest of keeping this post as brief as possible, I will share just one. I was trying out the macro lens on my camera. I didn't see the greenfly (on the bud stem) until I got home, same with the tiny insect on the flower. I saw the larger one but had no idea the tiny one was there. I guess the lens works!

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39. Blessing and cursing part 2: curse

Curse is a much more complicated concept than blessing, because there are numerous ways to wish someone bad luck. Oral tradition (“folklore”) has retained countless examples of imprecations. Someone might want a neighbor’s cow to stop giving milk or another neighbor’s wife to become barren.

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40. How university students infantilise themselves

Like their forebears in the 1960s, today’s students blasted university leaders as slick mouthpieces who cared more about their reputations than about the people in their charge. But unlike their predecessors, these protesters demand more administrative control over university affairs, not less. That’s a childlike position. It’s time for them to take control of their future, instead of waiting for administrators to shape it.

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41. Federalists and Anti-Federalists: the founders of America [infographic]

Between October 1787 and August 1788, a collection of 85 articles and essays were distributed by the Federalist movement. Authored by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, The Federalist Papers highlighted the political divisions of their time.

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42. The French Victory at Yorktown: 19 October 1781

The surrender of Lord Cornwallis’s British army at Yorktown, Virginia, on 19 October 1781 marked the effective end of the War of American Independence, at least in North America. The victory is usually assumed to have been Washington’s; he led the army that besieged Cornwallis, marching a powerful force of 16,000 troops down from near New York City to oppose the British. Charles O’Hara, The presence of the young Alexander Hamilton, one of Washington’s aides-de-camp, who led a light infantry unit in the final stages of the siege, adds to the sense of its being a great American triumph.

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43. Big data in the nineteenth century

Initially, they had envisaged dozens of them: slim booklets that would handily summarize all of the important aspects of every parish in Ireland. It was the 1830s, and such a fantasy of comprehensive knowledge seemed within the grasp of the employees of the Ordnance Survey in Ireland.

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44. Place of the Year 2016 longlist: vote for your pick

Quite a lot has happened in 2016. The year has flew by with history making events such as the Brexit, the Presidential election in the United States, and the blockade of Aleppo to name a few.

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45. You have to read Henry Green

Henry Green is renowned for being a “writer’s-writer’s writer” and a “neglected” author. The two, it would seem, go hand in hand, but neither are quite true. This list of reasons to read Henry Green sets out to loosen the inscrutability of the man and his work.

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46. And the Winners are...

Thank you to everyone who took the time to enter my Moment in Time Giveaway. Thanks for the shares and follows they were all much appreciated. The magic one million page views looks just a little closer thanks to all of you.

Now to the draw; those of you who selected a favourite book from the ones on offer were entered into a draw for that particular book.  And the winners are...

Susan P Moss



Sandra Cox

Much to my surprises the Broons Annual wasn't chosen by anyone but this is a giveaway so someone has to have it!   :-) 

Those of you who already have a prize were removed from the final draw and the remaining names put together and a winner drawn … and that winner is …


Sorry Willie it looks as though you ended up with booby prize but you never know you might love it.

Congratulations to the winners and commiserations to everyone else.  I will be contacting each winner shortly. Thanks for playing along.

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47. #RocktheDrop Thanks!

Thanks to all who celebrated #TRW16 with #RocktheDrop! It was a great event filled with love of YA lit. Thanks for impacting communities with joy, readergirlz! Brava!

Check out a few pics from twitter!

Rock the Drop 16 AJ
AJ Pine

rock the drop 16 window
Katie Bayerl

Rock the Drop 16 Melissa W
Melissa Walker

Rock the drop 16 starbucks
Valerie Lawson

Rock the Drop 16 books
Sara Fujimura

Onward, rzg!

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48. Holy crap: toilet found in an Iron Age shrine in Lachish

In September, the Israel Antiquities Authority made a stunning announcement: at the ancient Judean city of Lachish, second only to Jerusalem in importance, archaeologists have uncovered a shrine in the city’s gate complex with two vandalized altars and a stone toilet in its holiest section. “Holy crap!” I said to a friend when I first read the news.

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49. The transition of China into an innovation nation

The writing is on the wall: China is the world second largest economy and the growth rate has slowed sharply. The wages are rising, so that the fabled army of Chinese cheap labor is now among the most costly in Asian emerging economies. China, in the last thirty years has brought hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, but this miracle would stall unless China can undertake another transformation of becoming an innovation nation.

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50. Postcard from Kidlitcon 2016

My goal is eventually to put together a few curated tweets from the con--seems appropriate since Sheila and I talked about that during our session on social media. But I haven't quite recovered, so for the time being I present you with a few pretty... Read the rest of this post

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