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1. We want diverse books

The Loft asked me for a blog post about diversity in kidlit:

“It’s so easy as an adult to fall into rigid and boring habits of mind about what young people “need” from us—as if all we had to offer was medicine—but a great thing about teaching a class for teens about fisticuffs and fornication is that conventional notions of what young people today “need” are pretty much out the window from the start. This was a class about wanting…”

The rest is at The Loft’s Writers’ Block blog.

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2. Open a World of Possible

Rainbow Pen

Writing Prompt: How does reading open your world and make new things possible?

Scholastic has a new mission about the power of books and reading called Open a World of Possible. Did you ever feel pulled into the pages of a book you were reading? Like that book . . . or a combination of all the books you read . . . turned you into a different person?

Reading can change our lives. It can be magical. We can get lost in the pages of a good book. It can open our eyes to people and situations we never knew. It can make us laugh. Pass hours of boredom away. Make us want to right the wrongs in the world. Make us want to create our own adventures. Help us to grow up. Or help us be a kid just a little longer.

So for today’s Writing Prompt, we want to know:

How does reading open your world and make new things possible?

Watch these Open a World of Possible videos for inspiration

and let us know how reading has shaped your life. Can’t wait to see your responses in the Comments below.

-Ratha, Stacks Writer

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3. All Fall Down: Review Haiku

Yes, it's a bit cliched
and too easily solved.
But you'll still read it.

All Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner. Atria, 2014, 400 pages.

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4. School Supplies Writing Prompt

Back to SchoolWhat school supplies can you not live without?

Whether it’s the usual or the unusual, leave your must-haves in the Comments below!

-Ratha, STACKS Writer

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5. Does Your Dog Go Suffer With Panic Anxiety Because of Loud Noises? Here's the Cure!

Does your dog seem to experience panic anxiety when he or she experiences loud noises such as thunder, lightning, and fireworks? Does your dog or your cat for that matter start to shave and quiver? Hide under furniture or behind furniture? Cower in the bathroom near the toilet.

Symptoms of Stress

If you see any of these signs, your animal is experiencing storm or loud noise phobia. There is a litany of other symptoms that you may see: your dog is pacing; your dog is looking for a place to hide; your dog pees on the floor; your dog is a nervous wreck; your dog looks at you with big brown eye that say “Please do something, just don’t sit there!”

A True Story

And how do you feel about all of this? Do you wish that you had a possible solution up your sleeve? Well, I’ve been there and done it. I’ve felt like racing to the vet through a howling storm, where all the traffic lights in my town and the next were down. I actually did this, and intersections were a gamble on living or not because there were other crazy people on the road, but not all were headed to their vet. Yes, there were a few close calls. And what did the vet do? The vet prescribed some mild medicine for Roscoe. So, that’s one solution: doggy medicine to calm raw nerves.

Other Possible Solutions?

1.     Hug Therapy —Maybe your dog just needs some extra hugs and reassurance. Snuggle up in a blanket and whisper soothing words to your dog. Don’t feed them a stack of treats. This might reinforce the behavior that you want to see fade. Just let your four-legged family member know it loved, and the world isn’t really ending.                               

2.     Thundershirt Therapy--for your dog or cat—According to the manufacturers, this shirt or sweater is 80% effective in reducing the stress of storms, travel, separation, and other anxiety causing events. Check out what PetSmart.com has to offer you and your four-legged buddy. The odds are in your favor.

3.     Be Proactive Therapy —Let rover become used to noise in general, especially if you get your dog as a puppy. Play your CDs periodically in the house over an extended period of time, and from day to day increase the volume, while rewarding him or her with treats. This will develop a liking for music and noise. It won’t become a big deal.
 
4.     If All Else Fails Therapy—race through the storm to see the vet, but be careful on the wet, slipper roads. Or better yet, be prepared with mild, safe medicated treats. If prescribed correctly, they will not turn your dog into a four-legged zombie. Certified veterinarians Know what they are doing.

BONUS: Ah, now you can relax, you have solved your dog’s problem by implementing one of the above four ideas.  So pour yourself a lemonade with lots of ice, and consider writing in your diary or journal how you solved this problem. Enjoy a laugh about the whole situation. If you have any emotional pain left you could even write about traumatized dog to get the pain out.

Does that suggestion sound farfetched? Like I said, I have been there, and here’s a poem that I wrote for Picture Poetry on Parade! Yes, it contains bathroom humor, but it also contains a subtle message: if your dog has this problem, it’s time to do something about it. And please don’t punish your dog for misbehaving. He’s not a “bad dog.”

THUNDER & LIGHTNING

CRASH! CRACK! CRASH!

RIPPLE, RIPPLE, CRASH!

BOOM! BOOM! CRASH!

  PITTER! PITTER CRASH!                                 

My dog who is afraid of nothing

is afraid of thunder & lightning.                                     

He hates BOOM! BOOM!

CRASH! CRACK! CRASH!

He hides under the table,

 shaking in terrible fear, 

refusing to do his “business” outside

 on the dark, wet lawn.                 

BOOM! BOOM! CRASH!

Poor Roscoe, hunched under the table… 

BOOM! BOOM! CRASH!

SLASH! SPLASH! PLOP!

 PLOP! Oh, no!

That’s mom’s new rug!  

She’s going to call you “BAD DOG! 

But you just hate thunder & lightning.
“I love you, Roscoe.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       but I don’t like cleaning up.






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6. Chicago 1968, the militarization of police, and Ferguson

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John Schultz, author of The Chicago Conspiracy Trial and No One Was Killed: The Democratic National Convention, August 1968, recently spoke with WMNF about the history of police militarization, in light of both recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, and the forty-sixth anniversary (this week) of the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Providing historical and social context to the ongoing “debate over whether the nation’s police have become so militarized that they are no longer there to preserve and protect but have adopted an attitude of ‘us’ and ‘them,’” Schultz related his eyewitness accounts to that collision of 22,000 police and members of the National Guard with demonstrators in Chicago to the armed forces that swarmed around mostly peaceful protesters in Ferguson these past few weeks.

The selection below, drawn in part from a larger excerpt from No One Was Killed, relays some of that primary account from what happened in Grant Park nearly half a century ago. The full excerpt can be accessed here.

***

The cop bullhorn bellowed that anyone in the Park, including newsmen, were in violation of the law. Nobody moved. The newsmen did not believe that they were marked men; they thought it was just a way for the Cops to emphasize their point. The media lights were turned on for the confrontation. Near the Stockton Drive embankment, the line of police came up to the Yippies and the two lines stood there, a few steps apart, in a moment of meeting that was almost formal, as if everybody recognized the stupendous seriousness of the game that was about to begin. The kids were yelling: “Parks belong to the people! Pig! Pig! Oink, oink!” In The Walker Report, the police say that they were pelted with rocks the moment the media lights “blinded” them. I was at the point where the final, triggering violence began, and friends of mine were nearby up and down the line, and at this point none of us saw anything thrown. Cops in white shirts, meaning lieutenants or captains, were present. It was the formality of the moment between the two groups, the theatrical and game nature showing itself on a definitive level, that was awesome and terrifying in its implications.

It is legend by now that the final insult that caused the first wedge of cops to break loose upon the Yippies, was “Your mother sucks dirty cock!” Now that’s desperate provocation. The authors of The Walker Report purport to believe that the massive use of obscenities during Convention Week was a major form of provocation, as if it helped to explain “irrational” acts. In the very first sentence of the summary at the beginning of the Report, they say “… the Chicago Police were the targets of mounting provocation by both word and act. Obscene epithets …” etcetera. One wonders where the writers of The Walker Report went to school, were they ever in the Army, what streets do they live on, where do they work? They would also benefit by a trip to a police station at night, even up to the bull-pen, where the naked toilet bowl sits in the center of the room, and they could listen and find out whether the cops heard anything during Convention Week that was unfamiliar to their ears or tongue. It matters more who cusses you, and does he know you well enough to hit home to galvanize you into destructive action. It also matters whether you regard a club on the head as an equivalent response to being called a “mother fucking Fascist pig.”

The kids wouldn’t go away and then the cops began shoving them hard up the Stockton Drive embankment and then hitting with their clubs. “Pigs! Pigs! Pigs! Fascist pig bastards!” A cop behind me—I was immediately behind the cop line facing the Yippies—said to me and a few others, in a sick voice, “Move along, sir,” as if he foresaw everything that would happen in the week to come. I have thought again and again about him and the tone of his voice. “Oink, oink,” came the taunts from the kids. The cops charged. A boy trapped against the trunk of a car by a cop on Stockton Drive had the temerity to hit back with his bare fists and the cop tried to break every bone in his body. “If you’re newsmen,” one kid screamed, “get that man’s number!” I tried but all I saw was his blue shirt—no badge or name tag—and he, hearing the cries, stepped backward up onto the curb as a half-dozen cops crammed around him and carried him off into the melée, and I was carried in another direction. A cop swung and smashed the lens of a media camera. “He got my lens!” The cameraman was amazed and offended. The rest of the week the cops would cram around a fellow cop who was in danger of being identified and carry him away, and they would smash any camera that they saw get an incriminating picture. The cops slowed, crossing the grass toward Clark Street, and the more daring kids sensed the loss of contact, loss of energy, and went back to meet the skirmish line of cops. The cops charged again up to the sidewalk on the edge of the Park.

It was thought that the cops would stop along Clark Street on the edge of the Park. For several minutes, there was a huge, loud jam of traffic and people in Clark Street, horns and voices. “Red Rover, Red Rover, send Daley right over!” Then the cops crossed the street and lined up on the curb on the west side, outside curfew territory. Now they started to make utterly new law as they went along—at the behest of those orders they kept talking about. The crowd on the sidewalk, excited but generally peaceable, included a great many bystanders and Lincoln Park citizens. Now came mass cop violence of unmitigated fury, descriptions of which become redundant. No status or manner of appearance or attitude made one less likely to be clubbed. The Cops did us a great favor by putting us all in the same boat. A few upper middleclass white men said they now had some idea of what it meant to be on the other end of the law in the ghetto.

At the corner of Menomenee and Clark, several straight, young people were sitting on their doorsteps to jeer at the Yippies. The cops beat them, too, and took them by the backs of the necks and jerked them onto the sidewalk. A photographer got a picture of a terrible beating here and a cop smashed his camera and beat the photographer unconscious. I saw a stocky cop spring out of the pavement swinging his club, smashing a media man’s movie camera into two pieces, and the media man walked around in the street holding up the pieces for everybody to see, including other cameras, some of which were also smashed. Cops methodically beat one man, summoned an ambulance that was whirling its light out in the traffic jam, shoved the man into it, and rapped their clubs on the bumper to send it on its way. There were people caught in this charge, who had been in civil rights demonstrations in the South in the early Sixties, who said this was the time that they had feared for their lives.

The first missiles thrown Sunday night at cops were beer-cans, then a few rocks, more rocks, a bottle or two, more bottles. Yippies and New Left kids rolled cars into the side streets to block access for the cop attack patrols. The traffic-jam reached wildly north and south, and everywhere Yippies, working out in the traffic, were getting shocked drivers to honk in sympathy. One kid lofted a beer-can at a patrol car that was moving slowly; he led the car perfectly and the beer-can hit on the trunk and stayed there. The cops stopped the car and looked through their rear window at the beer-can on their trunk. They started to back up toward the corner at Wisconsin from which the can was thrown, but they were only two and the Yippies were many, so they thought better of it and drove away. There were kids picking up rocks and other kids telling them to put the rocks down.

At Clark and Wisconsin, a few of the “leaders”—those who trained parade marshalls and also some of the conventionally known and sought leaders—who had expected a confrontation of sorts in Chicago, were standing on a doorstep with their hands clipped together in front of their crotches as they stared balefully out at the streets, trying to look as uninvolved as possible. “Beautiful, beautiful,” one was saying, but they didn’t know how the thing had been delivered or what was happening. They had even directly advised against violent action, and had been denounced for it. Their leadership was that, in all the play and put-on of publicity before the Convention, they had contributed to the development of a consciousness of a politics of confrontation and social disruption. An anarchist saw his dream come true though he was only a spectator of the dream; the middle-class man saw his nightmare. A radioman, moving up and down the street, apparently a friend of Tom Hayden, stuck his mike up the stairs and asked Hayden to make some comments. Hayden, not at all interested in making a statement, leaned down urgently, chopping with his hand, and said, “Hey, man, turn the mike off, turn the mike off.” Hayden, along with Rubin, was a man the Chicago cops deemed a crucial leader and they would have sent them both to the bottom of the Chicago River, if they had thought they could get away with it. The radioman turned the mike off. Hayden said, “Is it off?” The radioman said yes. Hayden said, “Man, what’s going on down there?” The radioman could only say that what was going on was going on everywhere.

Read more about No One Was Killed: The Democratic National Convention, August 1968 here.

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7. A Journey Through Time with Christine Liu-Perkins


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I first learned of the Mawangdui tombs in November 1999, at a special exhibit at the National Palace Museum in Taipei, Taiwan.  Seeing objects of the Li family’s daily life and then staring at a model of Lady Dai “sleeping” created for me an irresistible connection to her.  I was gripped by the vivid awareness that Lady Dai had been an actual person who had combed her hair, suffered illnesses, and enjoyed good food and music.

My Desire to learn more about the Li family and their world led me to track down materials of all kinds on Mawangdui and on life in the early Han dynasty.  I prowled university libraries for articles, haunted bookstores in American and Asian cities, scoured websites, and was spellbound by videos.  Every source’s bibliography launched a search to track down its sources. 

In 2002 I traveled to the city of Changsha to see the tomb site, as well as Lady Dai and the artifacts in the Hunan Provincial Museum.  Seeing the full range of artifacts impressed upon me so many new details—the astounding preservation of the two-thousand-year-old food, the glamour of the silk clothes, the massiveness of the burial chamber timbers.  Seeing Lady Dai’s actual body was mesmerizing.

The next year I published an article, “Silk Treasures of Mawangdui,” in Dig magazine.  But writing one article wasn’t enough to satisfy my curiosity; I wanted to keep exploring by writing a book about the tombs.

Pieces of information about Mawangdui lay scattered about my mind like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.  How could I fit them together into a book?  Finally I recognized that the Mawangdui tombs are like a time capsule: every artifact reveals something about life in the early Han dynasty.  Each artifact tells a story—what it meant to the mourners who buried it, how it expresses the artisans’ knowledge and skills, and what it was like to live in that time and place.  Within this framework I could not only describe the Mawangdui artifacts but also explore the history and culture of the early Han dynasty.

This expedition has lasted fourteen years so far, yet my fascination with Mawangdui and Lady Dai is as intense as ever.  Next?  I would love to go back to Changsha to see the artifacts and tomb site again, and to silently thank Lady Dai and her family for inspiring my marvelous journey through time.

Author's Note From:

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8. Mackenzie Bourg Interview

Mackenzie_BourgSinger Mackenzie BourgImpossible Things

?” Click on the title to take a listen!

We were able to ask the rising star some questions about what he does, and more. Check it out!

Q: What did you like best about your experience on The Voice?

Mackenzie: What I liked best about being on The Voice was getting to perform on the unique stages and set-ups. From the crowd pits to the huge platforms, it was awesome seeing the different stages each round. What surprised me the most was how much CeeLo [Green, a judge on the show] showed love for me. Going into the show, I would have never thought that over a year later, I’d still be keeping in touch with my coach!

Q: What is the best part of being a performer?

Mackenzie: The best part about being a performer is getting to put your entire heart and soul into something for people that genuinely love. The feeling I get when the audience is into what I’m doing up there is really special.

Mackenzie Bourg

Mackenzie Bourg

Q: Who was your first celebrity crush?

Mackenzie: My first celebrity crush was on two people, actually: Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen. As a kid, we had all of their VHS tapes, and something about solving any crime by dinner time really tugged at my heart strings even at such a young age.

Q: Funniest or most embarrassing that’s happened to you recently?

Mackenzie: Last week I was headed to the studio and had to stop at a music shop quickly to get a new set of guitar strings. As I got out of the car, I pressed “lock” on my door and closed it, not realizing I had left the keys on the seat. Needless to say I was a little late!

5. What’s the strangest fan encounter you’ve ever had?

Mackenzie: I haven’t had any really strange fan encounters, but I did tweet something randomly about Skittles and someone had about 100 bags sent to me! It was the first time anything like that had happened to me, so I guess it was strange and really cool all at the same time!

Q: What are you most excited for in the future?

Mackenzie: The thing I’m looking forward to most about the future is the future. Seeing where this journey takes me, if the hard work pays off, and if my music makes a connection with people as I hope it does. Everything truly happens for a reason, and when it does finally happen, I’ll be ready to take it in stride.

Awesome! Can’t wait to see what Mackenzie does next. He has an EP coming out soon, and I’m really excited to hear it when it’s released! What about you? Do you want to hear his new music, too? Share your thoughts in the Comments below!

image from kids.scholastic.com — En-Szu, STACKS Staffer

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9. Is TV getting more diverse? Not by the look of this year’s Emmys

This is a post by our literacy and sales assistant, Veronica Schneider.

It was no major surprise who the big winners were on Monday evening’s 66th Primetime Emmy Awards, with Breaking Bad totaling five awards and Modern Family winning Best Comedy Series for the fifth consecutive year.

Cary Fukunaga accepts his Emmy

Cary Fukunaga accepts his Emmy

More importantly, the 2014 Emmy Awards really shocked us all by showing how progressive and diversified television has become.

Kidding.

We need to look beyond the fashionable red carpet looks and the Hollywood glam and instead discuss what is plainly missing: diversity. Diverse television may pull in viewers with hit shows like Sleepy Hollow, Orange is the New Black, and Scandal, but it isn’t necessarily being rewarded. In an interview with KCPP Radio,Darell Hunt, Director of UCLA’s Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies, said, “So far we haven’t seen a translation where the awards program reflects the increasing variety of things that are actually being made for the small screen.”

Not one person of color won in any of the lead or supporting actor/actress categories, with only 6 total African Americans amongst the 54 white nominees. Many were hopeful that Kerry Washington would take the win for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for ABC’s Scandal – she would have been the first African American to win in this category. Add to this the troubling fact that, as we reported last year, an African American woman has not been nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series since The Cosby Show (1986). Uzo Aduba, who plays ‘Crazy Eyes’ on Orange is the New Black, did take home an Emmy for Guest Actress in a Comedy, but that category was not part of the Prime Time Emmys and went largely under the radar.

Although we were certainly applauding Cary Joji Fukunaga’s win for Directing in a Drama Series for True Detective, people of color overall held a 22% representation in the directing categories.

Women were also not exempt from underrepresentation at the Emmys. According to the Women’s Media Center (WMC), 26% of the nominees were women, highlighting the consistent lack of representation maintained from the 2013 Emmy Awards’ 26.5% makeup of women nominees. Out of 62 possible award categories, 16 completely failed to include women. But wait, this isn’t the first time this has happened. Yes, according to the WMC, this is the third consecutive year that 16 categories were void of women. Oops.

Maybe that is why many viewers were not laughing as Modern Family actress, Sofia Vergara, slowly spun on a revolving platform while Bruce Rosenblum, CEO and Chairman of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, spoke about the academy being “more diverse than ever before.” While some found this play on sexual stereotypes humorous, the attempt at irony may not have been as successful for others who criticized the Academy for the cringe-worthy objectification. Instead, this failed attempt at irony reminded audiences of the still relevant and persistent issue of sexism and gender disparity.

“What a wonderful time for women in television,” Julianna Marguiles declared as she accepted her Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for The Good Wife.

We agree. There is more opportunity and diversity in television today, but it isn’t reinforced loud enough in what is being rewarded. Here is last year’s infographic on the diversity gap in the Emmy Awards:

Emmy Awards Diversity Gap

Since then, the numbers haven’t changed. Let’s hope 2015 will be the year that moves the needle.


Filed under: Diversity, Race, and Representation, The Diversity Gap Tagged: diversity gap, diversity in Hollywood, Emmy Awards, television

1 Comments on Is TV getting more diverse? Not by the look of this year’s Emmys, last added: 8/29/2014
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10. Smek for President: Review Haiku

Some prior knowledge
is helpful, but you'll still root
for Tip and J.Lo.

Smek for President by Adam Rex. Disney, 2014, 272 pages.

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11. Peter Bacon Hales (1950–2014)

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University of Chicago Press author, professor emeritus at the University of Illinois at Chicago, dedicated Americanist, photographer, writer, cyclist, and musician Peter Bacon Hales (1950–2014) died earlier this week, near his home in upstate New York. Once a student of the photographers Garry Winogrand and Russell Lee, Hales obtained his MA and PhD from the University of Texas at Austin, and launched an academic career around American art and culture that saw him take on personal and collaborative topics as diverse as the history of urban photography, the Westward Expansion of the United States, the Manhattan Project, Levittown, contemporary art, and the geographical landscapes of our virtual and built worlds. He began teaching at UIC in 1980, and went on to become director of their American Studies Institute. His most recent book, Outside the Gates of Eden: The Dream of America from Hiroshima to Now, was published by the University of Chicago Press earlier this year.

***

From Outside the Gates of Eden:

 

“We live, then, second lives, and third, and fourth—protean lives, threatened by the lingering traces of our mistakes, but also amenable to self-invention and renewal. . . . The cultural landscape [of the future] is hazy:  it could be a desert or a garden, or something in between. It is and will be populated by Americans, or by those infected by the American imagination: a little cynical, skeptical, self-righteous, self-deprecating, impatient, but interested, engaged, argumentative, observant of the perilous beauty of a landscape we can never possess but yearn to be a part of, even as we are restive, impatient to go on. It’s worth waiting around to see how it turns out.”

9780226313153

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12. Lexile: A Bookseller’s Best Friend or Worst Enemy?

Guest bloggerThe following post by bookseller Melissa was cross-posted with permission from her blog, Scuffed Slippers and Wormy Books. Thanks to Melissa for allowing us to share her perspective!

Fall has (almost) arrived.  Cool weather, pretty fall color, yummy drinks composed of apple cider or hot cocoa, and I get to wear scarves (I like scarves as an accessory).

And standardized testing, if you are or have a school-age child.

In my area of the country, it seems school districts have chosen testing that calculates a Lexile score for a child’s reading level with an associated score range.  Lexile is a company that uses a software program to analyze books for word usage, sentence length, etc. and produce a Lexile Text Measure for each book (I copied the description from the Lexile Analyzer site):

The Lexile ® measure of text is determined using the Lexile Analyzer ®, a software program that evaluates the reading demand—or readability—of books, articles and other materials. The Lexile Analyzer ® measures the complexity of the text by breaking down the entire piece and studying its characteristics, such as sentence length and word frequency, which represent the syntactic and semantic challenges that the text presents to a reader. The outcome is the text complexity, expressed as a Lexile ® measure, along with information on the word count, mean sentence length and mean log frequency.
Generally, longer sentences and words of lower frequency lead to higher Lexile ® measures; shorter sentences and words of higher frequency lead to lower Lexile ® measures. Texts such as lists, recipes, poetry and song lyrics are not analyzed because they lack conventional punctuation.

I’m not a huge fan of putting a “score” on a book based simply on a computer generated metric because the software doesn’t take into account context or content of a book.  Or form, cf poetry.  But this seems to be accepted by the educational powers-that-be, so it’s here for the time being. However, I don’t know how well or often the scores are explained to parents, because I wind up in a lot of parent-bookseller conversations like this:

Parent: My child has a Lexile score of XXXX.  She has to read books in the range of XXXX-XXXX.  Will this work?
Bookseller [thinks]: Craaaaaaaaap.
Bookseller [says]: Well, let’s pull up the Lexile site to see what it suggests for that range and go from there.

The major problem here is that the parent hasn’t THE FOGGIEST IDEA what books go with the child’s Lexile score or how score ranges line up

The Sun Also Rises cover

The Sun Also Rises, a title with a confusing Lexile identity

with likely grade-levels.  They don’t have/haven’t been provided with a list of suggestions for the range.  They haven’t looked up Lexile on the Internet to get a handle on what this thing is (I mean, hello, the Internet is the Information Superhighway, Google it).  And their poor child is off in the corner trying desperately to read another Warriors book by Erin Hunter or Wimpy Kid or the new Babymouse before the “grown-ups” force her into reading stuff that she thinks she doesn’t want to read.

As booksellers (and by extension librarians, a population I am not a member of but respect greatly), we are the information gatekeepers the parents turn to in this situation.  We are the ones to take an abstract range of numbers and turn it into a physical pile of titles and authors.  We have to differentiate between editions because scores can fluctuate wildly and Lexile isn’t very informative (type “The Sun Also Rises” into Lexile – the old Scribner edition has a score of 610L, the ISBN for the reprint isn’t found, and the Modern Critical Interpretations edition is listed with a score of 1420L….confusing, right?).  And we are the ones who have to know what stories lay between the covers of those books so we can explain the contents to the parents.

In almost every customer interaction regarding Lexile, I have had to find books for a child who reads significantly above grade level (at grade level is generally pretty easy and parents with children under grade level often have a list of recommended titles as a starting point; for some reason, those children who read above grade level don’t have many recommendations).  For reference, Lexile gives a grade approximation for the score ranges:

Even though the approximate ranges are pretty wide, a book or series that is popular among peers isn’t often in the “right” score range for an advanced reader.  Some titles are marked “NC” meaning a non-conforming score (higher than intended audience) but it’s hard to tease those out of a range during a search (I’ve tried).  It can get pretty emotional when the child cannot find anything he or she wants to read or that parents will allow them to read that “counts” for their Lexile score.

The biggest grade-to-score discrepancy I’ve come across was a seventh grade boy (and a bit young socially for his age) who had a Lexile score greater than 1100.  His Lexile range was approximately 1150 – 1210.  The boy had to read at least five books that semester in his range to pass English and he was already behind. His father had done some online research and was at a loss – he was having trouble finding content-appropriate books in that score range (there was also a religious consideration, so a lot of recommended fantasy titles were automatically out).  The boy was very open to reading Stephen King, who has a lot of high-Lexile score titles, but the idea was vetoed by Dad due to language (and probably the religious consideration as well).  Dostoevsky was perfectly acceptable to Dad, but the kiddo really couldn’t get excited about it (he was into Gary Paulsen’s Brian series, but that wasn’t even close).  Some Dumas was in the right range but not the more appealing titles (The Three Musketeers and The Man in the Iron Mask are both under 1000).  Gary Paulsen’s My Life in Dog Years was just in range, so I was able to interest both parent and child in that.  I sold them on The Hound of the Baskervilles and then hit paydirt with The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.  The boy had a friend with an Asperger-like syndrome and they were friends in their advanced math classes. Whew.  Finally, three books and a reasonably happy father.  But I couldn’t help but think – what are they going to do as the child continues through the school system?

You’re probably wondering where I’m going with all this since this isn’t quite the usual tone for a “‘Tis the Season” post.

Well, I really just wanted to put this out there to maybe help save parents, children, and teachers (and possibly other booksellers and librarians)  had a little girl just burst into tears once when I told her The Last Olympian  - the book she so desperately wanted to read - had a score of 620L; she had to have books greater than 700 or her teacher wouldn't count them at all. some grief.  I would like to ask school administrators and teachers to work with children and parents to come up with lists of possible books appropriate to both grade-level and Lexile range (and I understand if you do this and the parents forget, are obstinate, or leave the list at home when they head to the bookstore).  For parents, Lexile provides a map with lists of titles for score ranges.  It’s a good place to start when trying to find books.

I would also like to ask teachers to be less rigid when assigning Lexile-related reading assignments because this seems to be where children have the most trouble.  I have so often helped kids who love, love to read but have found that none of the books they find appealing “count” for a reading assignment because they aren’t in the “right” Lexile range or have no score because either the book is too new or has an un-evaluable format.  These kids feel disheartened, that they’re failing, that the things they love are unimportant, and I hate seeing their disappointment when I’ve gone through the entire stack of books they’ve picked out and not a single one was in the right range.  I had a little girl just burst into tears once when I told her The Last Olympian  – the book she so desperately wanted to read – had a score of 620L; she had to have books greater than 700 or her teacher wouldn’t count them at all.  Please let children with high Lexile ranges count some of those lower-scoring books toward their reading assignment (say, an exchange of two non-Lexile books for one Lexile book, not to exceed half the assignment) or perhaps give them extra credit for those books as long as they’re keeping up with the Lexile assignment (if you’re already doing that, bravo!).  These kids are reading because they love reading and they’re already reading outside of school, which is sort of the point of those types of assignments.   I rarely hear of a child being penalized for reading above his or her range so I think there’s a compromise that can be reached for those kids who want to read but have trouble finding books due to age or content.

So bring your Lexile ranges to me and I and my fellow booksellers and librarians will do our best to find what you like to read as well as what you need to read – if we’re very good, that book will fill both requirements.  ‘Tis that sort of season.


Filed under: Common Core State Standards, Educator Resources Tagged: back to school, booksellers, common core, lexile

2 Comments on Lexile: A Bookseller’s Best Friend or Worst Enemy?, last added: 8/28/2014
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13. HAPPY BIRTHDAY to the KING


Jack Kirby – My yearly celebration of the man and his art

Hi Folks, 

Well it’s that time of year once again and time for me to remember the man whose artwork, writing and storytelling were responsible for my career decision to become a comic book creator when I was still an eight-year old boy.

As they say, a picture paints a thousand words, so I will simply say – if you can get hold of a copy of the magnificent tome – The Artist’s Edition of Jack Kirby’s New Gods do yourselves a massive favour and do so. The artwork is as close as you can get to the original artwork with all the paste-ups and white outs, notes and some production wear and tear. A truly beautiful book produced by IDW.

In the meantime, whilst you await its arrival, feast your eyes on some more Jack’s magic.

I hope you gaze at it with the same sense of wonder that I did as a young boy and do as a much older boy even today.

Click on each image to see a larger version, as always. 










  
Until next time, have fun!

Tim Perkins…
August 28th 2014

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14. Andre the Giant: Review Haiku

Fascinating look
at hard life. Now: anybody
want a peanut?

Andre the Giant: Life and Legend by Box Brown. First Second, 2014, 240 pages.

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15. Your Adventure Personality Revealed

Adventure Books Bash

Choose Your Own Adventure Personality Quiz Results!

Hey, y’all! Have you been participating in our Choose Your Own Adventure series this month? In case you missed it, check out Part 1

Part 2 Part 3, and Part 4! At the end of each chapter, you had a few choices of what the character should do next. The answers you chose at the end of each segment were really part of a larger personality quiz. So, wanna know what your adventure hero personality is? Check out the answers below!Percy Jackson

. Even in the absolute worst scenarios, you’ve got the strength to not only keep your own chin up but also encourage everyone else on your team! You are balanced, trustworthy, and dependable. Even if you sometimes behave impulsively, you take full responsibility for your actions. You’re an excellent listener, a real people-person, and are up for almost any kind of adventure . . . even the super-bizarre!

If you picked mostly B’s: You are THE FAITHFUL SIDEKICK.
You are Fred or George Weasley from Harry Potter

. You’re a bit of a troublemaker, and you just want everyone to lighten up and stop taking everything so seriously! Even if you sometimes cause more problems than you help solve, you’re a key part of the group. Your heart is in the right place and you’re loyal to the very end, which is really all that matters!

If you picked mostly C’s: You are THE MASTERMIND.
You are Amy Cahill from The 39 Clues

. You’d like to avoid the spotlight at all costs and you’re the brain of the group. You like to look before you leap, and you are a wizard at digging up information on just about anything. You’re a bit of a bookworm and while you prefer to leave risk-taking to other people, if someone you care about is really in danger, you’re not afraid to jump to his or her defense!

If you picked mostly D’s: You are THE LIFESAVER.
You are a character from the I Survived

series. Whatever mishap comes your way, you can handle it! If you’re on a group adventure, you’re definitely the practical problem solver and can be counted on to have extra snacks and a first aid kit in your backpack. You’re also probably the only one carrying a backpack.

If you picked mostly E’s: You are THE DAREDEVIL.
You are Sadie Kane from the Kane Chronicles

. When you’ve set your mind to a task, there is absolutely no stopping you, no matter what! You’re a real risk-taker and your bravery inspires everyone around you, even if they are a little worried that you’ll end up injured. Because of your adventurous spirit, you often find yourself discovering cool new things and making friends in the strangest of places.

Well, who’d you get?? Share your result in the Comments below! And join the Readathon

tomorrow, too!

Thanks for playing, guys. Till next time,

image from kids.scholastic.com — En-Szu, STACKS Staffer

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16. Mostly Ghostly R. L. Stine

R. L. Stine, Goosebumps authorMeet Goosebumps author R. L. StineGoosebumps

 series by R. L. Stine. The movie, out on Blu-ray and DVD on September 2nd, stars Bella Thorne (from Shake It Up), Calum Worthy (from Austin & Ally), Madison Pettis, Roshon Fegan, and Ryan Ochoa.  Ryan plays Max, a boy who’s finally gotten his crush Cammy (played by Bella) to go with him on a date. What could possibly go wrong? Well, when evil ghosts, ghouls, and other sinisters creatures get involved, a LOT does. It’s up to Max and his ghostly friends Tara (played by Madison) and Nicky (played by Roshon) to set things right in time for Max’s big date on Halloween!

Read what R. L. Stine has to say . . .

Q: Max loves magic. Did you like magic when you were a kid?Q: Did you believe in ghosts when you were a kid?Bella Thorn, Madison Pettis, and Roshon Fegan in Mostly Ghostly

Bella Thorn, Madison Pettis, and Roshon Fegan in Mostly Ghostly

Q: Did you discuss the movie with the cast? 

R. L. Stine: I read the script and gave the writers and producers some notes, but I never get very involved with the films and TV shows based on my books. I know that my job is to write books. I leave the movies and TV shows to the professionals. And it’s worked out pretty well.

Q: Do you have a favorite book that you wrote?

R. L. Stine: I am best known for books that are scary and funny. But what I really love most is the funny stuff. That’s why I love Mostly Ghostly: it has as many laughs as gasps. My favorite Goosebumps books are the ones with funny characters like Slappy the Dummy and Murder the Clown.

Q: What is your real-life favorite book?Q: What’s your advice to a kid who would like to become a writer?upcoming Goosebumps movie

! What do you think? Are you going to see Mostly Ghostly: Have You Met My Ghoulfriend? Are you a fan of the book series? Share your thoughts in the Comments below!

image from kids.scholastic.com — En-Szu, STACKS Staffer

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17. National Dog Day Poll

Question marks

Vote for your favorite dog in our National Dog Day poll!

August 26 is National Dog Day, and you might not know this, but we have featured quite a few dogs on the STACKS. Do you remember any of these cuties from their past blog posts?

National Dog Day photos

  1. Pinkie
  • Mikko and Maxine
  • Cero
  • Chewy
  • Toby
  • Smokey
  • Scamper and TuTu
  • Bran G
  • Luke and Laura
  • Leave a Comment telling us which dog is your favorite.

    image from kids.scholastic.com— Sonja, STACKS Staffer

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    18. Calling all bloggers!

    If you blog about children's and/or YA books, whether on your own blog or a group blog, the Cybils Awards need you! We're currently accepting applications for judges for the 2014 Cybils Awards season, which will run from October 1, 2014 through February 14, 2015. It's a lot of work and takes up a lot of time, but it's oh, so worth it for a chance to read and discuss books with other like-minded bloggers. I've learned so much from my fellow judges in the years that I've been a judge, and some of them have become dear friends.

    I am again the Category Chair for YA Speculative Fiction, as I have been for most of the last eight years. If you love Speculative Fiction and you read a lot of YA, I encourage you to apply. We can't guarantee you a slot, but we try to have a good mix of new and returning judges on the panels, so whether or not you've ever judged before, please consider applying! We need you!

    What is Speculative Fiction? It's a catch-all term for anything that's not realistic fiction. Fantasy, science fiction, paranormal, horror, steampunk, dystopian, and post-apocalyptic all fit in the Speculative Fiction category. Things like contemporary fiction, historical fiction, and mysteries will go in the regular YA or middle-grade categories. If, like me, you like a little of the impossible, improbable, or unknown in your books, please consider applying for YA Speculative Fiction.

    Here's the Call for Judges, with more information and links to apply. The deadline to apply is September 5.

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    19. Madison Beer Interview

    Madison Beer

    Meet Madison Beer, Internet singing star!

    15-year-old Madison Beer got her first big break when Justin Bieber tweeted one of her videos to his millions of followers, and since then she has been working on her first studio album (oh, yeah, and she also recorded “Valentine” with Cody Simpson

    . Whaaaaat?!). We chatted with Madison about singing, books, her most embarrassing moment, and more.

    Q: What advice would you give to young artists if they wanted to get into the music business?

    Madison: Well, I started on YouTube just for fun, really. It was something that I always wanted to do, so it was just me having some fun and messing around. My advice? If a teenager really enjoys singing, like me, I would just go ahead and post stuff on YouTube (only with your parents’ permission). I know that it can be really nerve-racking, especially when you start thinking, “What are my friends going to think? What are my teachers going to think?” You don’t really know how people are going to react. But if you’re confident in the video that you recorded, and if it’s going to make you happy, you should post it.

    Q: When did you know that you wanted to perform?
    Madison: I think when I started posting videos consistently is when I got really attached to the whole idea of doing it professionally. I’ve always wanted to be a professional singer, but the YouTube stuff made me take it more seriously. I felt, like, compelled to do YouTube videos.

    Q: Do you remember the first song you sang as a little girl?
    Madison: Yeah. I used to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” all the time. I used to sing that and “God Bless America” all the time.

    Madison Beer

    Q: What is your all-time favorite book?
    Madison: As a child, The Giving Tree was my favorite book. It showed me the importance of sharing and caring for people and, you know, giving and not always being selfish. And I also loved all the Shel Silverstein books. Everybody knows that I’m clumsy, so they all were just laughing. They were like, “Oh, Madison’s back.” — 
    En-Szu, STACKS Staffer

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    20. I Kill the Mockingbird: Review Haiku

    Literary civil
    disobedience with
    my favorite novel.

    I Kill the Mockingbird by Paul Acampora. Roaring Brook, 2014, 192 pages.

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    21. Choose Your Own Adventure, Part 4

    Adventure Books Bash

    Welcome back to Choose Your Own Adventure! In a choose-your-own-adventure story, you read a chapter and then you get a few choices of what the character should do next. Have you read Part 1Part 2, and Part 3 yet? Pay attention to your answer choices because when the story is done, your answers will reveal the adventure hero you are most like.

    Part 4

    The door bursts open, sending a blinding light everywhere. You skid to a stop. The rain seems to stop, too. You can’t see anything so you squint your eyes, but you still can’t make out anything.  A second later, you hear a deafening BOOM and feel a gust of wind so strong it literally sweeps you off your feet. You’re knocked backwards and land on your back in the mud, which does not feel good at all.

    You cough and blink the dirt out of your eyes, groaning and rolling over onto your stomach. You roll over onto something hard that pokes you in the rib painfully.

    “Ouch!” you holler. Sitting up, you see that you rolled onto a giant leather-bound book. On the cover, in giant letters, are the words OPEN ME. You scramble away and stand up. You look up and the sky is clear again. You look towards the spot where the door was and see nothing. The tree that you just watched explode is standing tall and whole.

    You . . .

    A) can’t deal with this situation alone. You take the book back home, planning to take it to a librarian who might know more about it.

    B) are totally excited by this new development! You hide the book in a safe spot and will come back for it tomorrow. Right now, you’re pretty hungry. Dinner first, adventure later!

    C) know that books that come out of nowhere are dangerous. You learned how to start a fire at summer camp last year, so you build one and throw the book into the flames. Good riddance!

    D) study the outside of the book before deciding what to do next. You’re so curious, but you want to play it safe. You want to do more research on the make of the book and find out who made it.

    E) open the book!

    What would YOU do? Share your answer in the Comments below! And check back for the next installment of the story.

     Are you coming to the Readathon?

    See ya next time,

    image from kids.scholastic.com — En-Szu, STACKS Staffer

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    22. Character Education, Part 2: How to Teach Core Values To Kids Meaningfully

    Last week, we looked at how to pick significant books to teach the core values that will guide our classrooms and school communities for the coming year.

    In addition to having the right books with fitting characters and messages, we need to embed these core values in additional activities in the coming first weeks or months of school.

    There are three rules in teaching students about core values: model, model, model. Students must see core values in practice in order to grasp abstract concepts such as empathy, persistence, or pride. Below are a sample of ways to integrate core values into character education and ELA instruction.

    1. Extend a fiction or nonfiction book’s message of characters struggling with the core value beyond the text.

    -Ask questions during and after the reading: How does this character demonstrate respect? Or, how does this character struggle with respect? (look at the character’s actions, feelings, opinions about and interactions with other characters, and dialogue) What advice would you give this character? How should this character handle the situation next time?

    -Have students in small groups act out how they would have handled the situation in the book differently or give advice to the main character(s).

    -Invite students to create a job ad looking for a person that demonstrates the selected core value. On the flip side, have students create a “Wanted” poster of a character not demonstrating the core value and describing the character.

    -Turn the book into a Reader’s Theater script so students can perform it to younger grades and lead a discussion on why this book is good for learning about the particular core value.

    2. As a class or in small groups,  have students brainstorm on chart paper what the core value looks like, sounds like, and feels like. Teachers at my school were great about encouraging students to make a list of examples of actions that demonstrate the core value, things we might hear or could say that demonstrate the core value, and feelings we might experience when we practice or see someone practice the core value. Post the resulting chart on the wall for students to refer back to during character study or throughout the year to inform their own choices.

    3. Use the core values as the first vocabulary words of the year. In doing so, you will create a classroom-wide common language and create a space for all students (including ELLs) to access academic vocabulary and become familiar with your vocabulary instruction routine. Consider multiple vocabulary acquisition strategies: Have students make predictions about word meanings, look up and record word definitions from a dictionary, write the meaning of the word or phrase in their own words, draw a picture of the meaning of the word, list synonyms and antonyms, create an action for each word, and write a meaningful sentence that demonstrates the definition of the word.

    4. Take photographs of your students modeling the core values. Let students brainstorm in teams what one of the core values looks like in action, take a photograph, and then display the example on your classroom wall. (For example: picking up trash=responsibility or helping a younger student=kindness) When students struggle to practice any of the core values, remind them of the photo wall of their peers or themselves modeling the core value. This is wonderful positive reinforcement for students who may struggle with behavior and making good choices later in the year. Whether observing examples or non-examples, students will love describing what their peers are doing well or what they need to change to demonstrate the core value.

    5. Make the first wall displays for the year core-value themed and make them visible for all visitors to see. Students can bring in pictures, drawings, or magazine and newspaper clippings. Encourage students to mine advertisements and local news stories to find a celebrity or significant person they admire demonstrating one of the core values (For example: post a picture of an Olympic athlete training=persistence). Feature a collage of these examples on a wall alongside the photographs of students modeling the core value and the chart defining the core value. Think about leaving these up throughout the year to remind students of how far they have come.

    6. Apply the core values to students’ lives with real examples and scenarios they may face over the coming year at school, in their homes, and in their community. In addition to realistic fiction books with similar settings and characters with which students identify, discuss realistic situations and have students create skits to solve real world problems using the core value.

    7. Remember that those first few weeks offer countless teachable moments! When a child demonstrates a core value, point it out to the class. Encourage students to observe their peers in the classroom and at home. Create a time for students to reflect on one or more of the core values and share who they saw making good choices. Since you can’t observe every moment, involve your students in catching their classmates being diligent, generous, and more. Students will love the positive attention and you will get the chance to turn any tattling into a positive tool.

    Have other great ideas to share with our educator community? What activities do you do every year to teach character education?

    For further reading:

    Character Education, Part 1: How To Choose Books For Core Value Study

    Jill_EisenbergJill Eisenberg, our Resident Literacy Expert, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators. 


    Filed under: Educator Resources Tagged: children's books, Educators

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    23. Jessie Would You Rather?

    Debby Ryan in Jessie

    “It feels like a party every day. Hey, Jessie! Hey, hey, Jessie!” If you recognize this song, then you probably watch the Disney Channel show Jessie.

    Start with a small town Texas girl with dreams of the big city . . . add a wealthy, kooky family with 4 totally different kids, and you end up with Jessie. We know you guys are BIG fans and something BIG is supposed to be happening this fall. So to get you in the spirit, Jessie-style, answer the following quiz questions.

    Would you rather . . .

    1. Be a nanny to Emma, Luke, Ravi, and Zuri in New York City OR baby Prince George in England?
    2. Have all of the clothes in Jessie’s closet OR Emma’s closet?
    3. Inherit Mr. Kipling OR a giant angry tarantula as your new pet?
    4. Vacation in Texas and hang out with cowboys OR California and hang with movie stars?
    5. See Jessie fall in love with Tony the doorman OR Ross Lynch from Austin & Ally?
    6. Be babysat by Nanny McPhee OR Agatha the evil nanny?
    7. Miss a trip to outer space on your birthday OR get stranded in space forever? (like what happened to Ravi in the “Spaced Out” episode)
    8. Have Bertram cook you breakfast OR go to IHOP?






    Let us know what YOU would rather do, AND if you’ve heard the buzz of what is going to happen this fall!

    - Ratha, STACKS Writer

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    24. Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? Review Haiku

    Heartbreaking, laugh-so-
    you-won't-cry memoir about
    aging parents. Sniff.

    Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast. Bloomsbury, 2014, 240 pages.

    0 Comments on Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? Review Haiku as of 8/25/2014 6:51:00 AM
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    25. Early Praise for Edward Carey's HEAP HOUSE

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