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26. The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials: The Collector’s Edition | Book Giveaway

Enter to win a copy of The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials: The Collector's Edition, by James Dashner. Giveaway begins April 23, 2015, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends May 22, 2015, at 11:59 P.M. PST.

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27. Back from Taiwan!

And what a trip it was. Here's a photo of me in the Taroko Gorge area, about halfway through  our 12-day journey. I chose this one out of all my 893 pics because I thought it summed up my day-by-day existence pretty well: happy as a clam and having the time of my life whilst overcoming my reluctance to stand too close to the edge. (P.S. I did get right up close by the end of the day. In fact, I don't think I'll ever be afraid of heights again.) 

As you can see, we had to wear helmets in this particular section, but to be perfectly honest I should have been required to keep mine on my head until I got home. My head was always in the clouds (giving our wonderful tour guide a constant source of worry with the repeated refrain of: "Valerie, watch OUT!"). And that's because:

Taiwan was . . . incredible; one of the most beautiful countries I have ever visited. I am so grateful to artist Ming Franz for giving us this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel with her to her home country in such a personal and insightful way. Any expectations I may have held in advance were far exceeded; both from a cultural and a tourist point of view. My sole job every day was to have my luggage ready for collection in the morning, get on the bus, and be prepared for adventure. The perfect way to travel! 

Traveling light!
Our magic flying bus.

Because the trip meant I had to miss participating in this year's April A-Z blogging challenge, I thought I would make up for lost time by writing several posts about the trip over the next couple of weeks. Don't worry--they won't be long or too exhaustive. As much as I would love to share every single second with you, I also realize how easily travel stories can become a big snooze, so I'll keep everything down to the highlights. 

Something I wanted to mention before my next post though, is to remind everyone that my primary reasons for taking the trip (besides having lots of fun, traveling with Ming, and meeting new friends) were to, a) learn more about Asian and Chinese art, which I certainly did, and b) to sketch with a free heart and without my Inner Critic (I think I threw her off at the Gorge somewhere). In order to achieve the right state of mind for these goals, one book that really helped me ahead of time was  The Tao of Sketching by Qui Lei Lei. I found his timetable/chart for sketching invaluable, e.g. "2-3 minutes, just use pen or pencil and go for quick lines," as well as his sage advice, "Never give up," (draw or paint in whatever circumstances you find yourself, which for me was drawing on the bus with all its bumps, sudden turns, and spilled water galore) and, "Capture what 'punctures your heart.' ” 

Taiwan punctured my heart. But more of that in my next post: Travel Days 1 and 2. Right now I'm going to eat a yummy preserved kumquat, one of the treats I brought home from this amazing place, The National Center for Traditional Arts. Oh, how I wish I was still there!

Tip of the Day: Besides drawing, I also did a little bit of writing in the form of listing 12 items to remember every day. It was a good system as it saved me from the pressure of “having to journal” when I was too tired to do anything but smile. Best of all, the ensuing 144  are right at my fingertips, easy to transcribe into another form, e.g. this blog, without having to search through pages and pages of rambling observations and inner musings.

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28. Some of my Favourite Novel Adaptations of Fairytales

Over the last year or so I have discovered a number of delightful blogs dedicated to fairytales. While I don't intend to turn this into such a blog, it made me think of how many novels people are writing which are based on fairytales - and how many I've read and loved. I won't list all of them as I would be here all day, but just mention a few that come to mind.


Moonlight And Ashes by Sophie Masson. This one is inspired by Ashputtel, the Brothers Grimm version, rather than Perrault's Cendrillon. This means that the heroine, Selena, is a lot stronger and less passive than in the other version. It's also only the starting point for a full scale adventure.

The same author also wrote Cold Iron, which was based on Tattercoats, the British version of Cinderella. That one was great fun, set in Elizabethan England and mixing in elements of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. 

While I'm writing about Cinderella, I'll slip in one play, The Other Cinderella by Maxwell Anderson. That one is also fun. Cinderella - Ellen - has been lying about her stepmother and sisters, who are all sweethearts. She resents suddenly being the youngest member of the household when she was running it before her father remarried. The only reason she isn't going to the ball is because she had a fit of the sulks - she thought her white dress too plain and refused to go. There are also the pantomime characters, the fairy and the demon, who participate in the usual pantomime storyline. The fairy is disappointed when everyone is nice to her in her old woman disguise!  

Beauty And The Beast

Beauty by Robin McKinley. A gently humorous novel. Beauty is actually Honor, but has been nicknamed Beauty since she scoffed,"Huh! I'd rather be Beauty!" Her sisters are sweet, gentle and not very practical; it's up to Beauty to do the sensible things to keep the family going. The Beast eventually explains that he is under a family curse, because his ancestors were so disgustingly good and holier-than-thou, that a local enchanter said that the first family member to put a foot wrong would really get it. And that was him. The scholarly Beauty simply adores his library, which contains a lot of books that haven't been written yet(she loves Sherlock Holmes, but other books are confusing - what on earth is an aeroplane, for example?). It says something about her that when she finds herself confronting an "alarmingly handsome" young man, she yells, "What have you done with my Beast?"

Heart's Blood by Juliet Marillier. This is set in early mediaeval Ireland. The heroine has escaped her dreadful stepfamily and taken a job for the summer at a local castle whose lord is under a family curse - but his facial deformities are due to a childhood illness, not to the curse. She is a scribe like her late father, and has a job researching and working on the family history. Please note that women in early Ireland had a lot more rights than women elsewhere, so this is not too hard to swallow.

The Wild Swans

Juliet Marillier's first Sevenwaters book, Daughter Of The Forest, is set in Ireland too, eleventh century. The heroine is a lord's daughter whose stepmother turns her brothers into swans. The "king" who finds her is an aristocrat from England. The story is pretty much as we know it, but has history woven in and the girl is even stronger than the original. And it is the start of a series, with the family's descendants taking on roles. 

The Seventh Swan by Nicholas Stuart Gray is out of print, alas. It is actually a sequel to The Wild Swans, set in sixteenth century Scotland. Recommended if you can get it from your library or find it secondhand. I don't have a copy, I borrowed mine from a friend.


Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth. The story of Rapunzel is told from the viewpoints of three women - Charlotte-Rose De La Force, the composer of the fairytale in seventeenth century France, Selena, the witch, an Italian courtesan who was a model for Titian, and the girl herself. You know, the fairytale never does tell you just why the witch wanted to lock up her victim. This novel does give you a reason. And it's wonderful! 


Red As Blood,Tanith Lee's collection of fairytale-based short stories, has everything from a vampire Snow White to a futuristic Beauty And The Beast - and you'll never look at a frog the same way again after reading her horror story version of The Frog Prince!

Tam Lin by Pamela Dean, sets the story of the ballad in a small 1970s university campus in America. Janet is an English student who becomes caught up in the truly scary things likely to happen to a boy she cares about because the Queen of Faerie, the head of the Classics Department, has to pay the rent to hell on Halloween. There are two students who arrived in the twentieth century with the Faerie court and were members of Shakespeare's company. They laugh their heads off at modern productions.

In the same series of books is The Nightingale by Kara Dalkey, based on the Hans Christian Andersen tale. The nightingale is a young woman, a flautist whose music is magical, and it's set in Japan instead of China.

Jim C Hines wrote a series of books about fairytale characters Cinderella and her friends the Sleeping Beauty and Snow White. The Beauty character is an assassin, having awoken to rape. The Snow White character is a sorceress whose choker made of bits of mirror forms the basis for her magic. In The Stepsister Scheme, they have to rescue Cinderella's Prince, who has been kidnapped by the fairies at the instigation of her wicked stepsisters. In The Mermaid's Madness they must save Cinderella's wonderful mother-In-law, who has been attacked by the grief stricken Little Mermaid who had stabbed the prince who rejected her and gone mad. Highly recommended and I believe there's another one about an assassin known as the Lady of the Red Hood. 

There are plenty more, but these are the ones that came to mind. Do you have any favourites?

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29. Chapter Reveal: The Ark by Laura Liddell Nolen + Giveaway (International)

The Ark
by Laura Liddell Nolen

Release Date: March 26, 2015

Before we get to the chapter, here's a note from Laura:

Hi, YABC! I’m fired up about sharing my first chapter with you today. The Ark is about a young convict trapped in prison on the last day of earth. If she wants to survive the meteor strike and reconcile with her upstanding family, she’ll have to break out of prison and stow away on the last spaceship leaving earth. If you like daring escapades and gritty space adventures, this is the book for you!
~ Laura Liddell Nolen (THE ARK, HarperCollins/HarperVoyager)

About the Book

It’s the final days of earth, and sixteen-year-old Char is right where she belongs: in prison. With her criminal record, she doesn’t qualify for a place on an Ark, one of the five massive bioships designed to protect earth’s survivors during the meteor strike that looks set to destroy the planet. Only a select few will be saved – like her mom, dad, and brother – all of whom have long since turned their backs on Char.
If she ever wants to redeem herself, Char must use all the tricks of the trade to swindle her way into outer space, where she hopes to reunite with her family, regardless of whether they actually ever want to see her again, or not . . .
To learn more about this book and see our review, go HERE


Are you ready to start reading?!

Chapter One

On the last day of Earth, I couldn’t find my hairbrush. That probably seems like a silly thing to worry about, what with the imminent destruction of, well, everything, but my mom was always after me about my usual ratty ponytail. Normally, I’d ignore her. Or, if I were having a really bad day, I’d tell her what she could do with her hairbrush. But like I said, it was the last day of Earth. And I figured, since it was the last time she’d ever see me, I wanted it to go smoothly. I wanted her to remember me, if not fondly, then at least without anger.

A girl can dream.
I slipped out of my cell as soon as the door swung open. I’d done the same every day for the past month, and my family had yet to show up. Their OPT—Off-Planet Transport—took off in eighteen hours, so they still had time. Barely. I couldn’t blame them if they didn’t come. It wasn’t hard to imagine that they’d rather escape to the stars without so much as a backward glance at me, their big disappointment. Even my father’s influence couldn’t persuade the government to give me a spot on an OPT. 
Turns out, when humankind is deciding which of its children to save, the last place it looks is in prison.
But I was pretty sure they’d come. West had said as much in his last transmission. The thought of my younger brother actually halted me mid-step, like one of those punches in the gut where you can’t breathe for a few seconds. 
“Looking for something?” The lazy drawl floated out of the nearest cell.
Against my better instincts, I turned to see Cassa lying on her bunk, her arm draped across Kip. My Kip. Or at least, my ex-Kip. Whatever. In twenty-two hours, I wouldn’t have to think about him anymore. 
See? Silver lining. And they called me a perpetual pessimist at my last psych workup.
They barely fit next to each other on the flimsy mattress, but that wasn’t the weird part. The guys’ ward was separated by a substantial metal wall. We were kept apart during evening hours, for obvious reasons. Not that anyone cared anymore. The med staff had been the first to go, followed by the cleaning crew, followed by the kitchen crew. To show you where girls like me fell on the government’s list of priorities, there was still a skeleton crew of guards lurking around, despite the fact that I hadn’t had a real meal for going on a week. The guards would be gone soon, too, and then there’d be no one in here but us chickens.
I figured either Kip had a key, or the guards had left already. A key could be useful. My curiosity got the best of me. “How’d he get in here before the first bell?”
He cocked an eyebrow. “I got some tricks you ain’t seen, babe. Why don’t you join us? End of the world and all.”
The guards were gone, then. I felt a small trill of anxiety deep in my chest. If the guards were gone, my family was even less likely to show. But it was never smart to show fear. “The Pinball could be headed straight for this building, and I still wouldn’t be desperate enough to touch you. Oh, wait. Guess you don’t have to take my word for it.” 
I turned to leave, but he continued. “Now is that any way to treat your dear ole partners? Be nice or I won’t give you back your stuff.”
“Ugh, you were in my room?” I flexed my shoulder blades, making sure my gun was still tightly secured between them.
“Don’t worry, Char. I didn’t handle the merchandise. Didn’t want to wake you up. Just lifted me a few keepsakes.” He pronounced my name the way I like: Char, as in charred. Something that got burned.
I wasn’t sure what Kip and Cassa were planning, but I knew I wouldn’t like it. They were thieves and liars. I would know. I used to be one of them. That was before the last job, when Cassa had attacked an elderly man in the home we were robbing. She’d kicked him until he stopped fighting back. Kip had called her off after a few licks, but I just stood there, staring. The old man looked at me, like right at me, while we made our getaway, and my stomach twisted into a knot so tight that I tasted bile. That was the moment I knew I wanted out.
But by then, no one believed me. Or, if they did, no one cared. Except for Kip and Cassa, of course. They’d taken the news pretty hard, to put it lightly.
If I lunged for the box, I could probably grab my hairbrush and get out of there. I wouldn’t have time for more than that. Then again, I’d be doing exactly what they expected, and I didn’t have time for delays. My family could be in the commissary any second now.
“Ahem. Seeing as it’s your last day of life, I might let you have one thing back,” said Kip.
“In exchange for what?”
“I’m hurt. All our time together, and you still don’t believe in my inherent generosity. But now that you mention it, I’ve got a hankering for some peanut butter crackers.”
“Sorry, Kip. I’m fresh out of food. Kinda like everyone else.”
“Nice try, Charrr.” He drew my name out, as though tasting it. “I saw them yesterday. Figured you were hiding them under your pillow when I couldn’t find them last night.”
“You figured wrong.”
All I could think about was my brother’s face. And how I had this one last chance to apologize to my parents, for everything. I shrugged and turned to leave.
That was probably a mistake.
About five steps past Cassa’s cell, an enormous weight tackled me from behind. My chest and face hit the dirty concrete. My anxiety over my parents leveled up into near-panic territory. I could not afford to deal with this right now. I flipped onto my back and jerked my knee upward, and Kip let out a groan.
But Cassa was already there, standing over us. She kicked my head, and my arms and legs quit obeying me. I was vaguely aware of the dispassionate stares coming from other cells as Kip and Cassa dragged me back to their room.
“Now, now, love,” Kip murmured. “That was no way to treat your old friends.” 
“She’s gone soft. Must have been distracted.” Cassa wasn’t British, but she had the intensely annoying habit of using a fake accent. Not all the time, either. Just with certain words or phrases. In my opinion, that made it even worse. It was probably an attempt to impress Kip. Or to prove to everyone she spent a lot of time with him.
They propped me up against the wall, and Kip began tying my wrists with a twisted black cord he pulled out of nowhere.
“Screw you.”
“Is that any way for a lady to talk?” he said cheerfully, slipping his hand up my shirt. His fingers were like ice, and I winced. “Aha—found them.” He removed a packet of crackers and waggled them in front of my face. Those were going to be my last meal. I bit back a curse. Wouldn’t have made much difference in the end, anyway.
I didn’t fully panic until they tied the ends of the cord to the exposed pipe of the sink.
“Wait, no. My family’s going to be here. I have to get downstairs.”
“No one’s coming for you. And even if they were, do you really think they want to see you?”
Cassa grinned down at me. “But me and Kip, that’s a different story. We’re busting out of here.”
“Figured we’d do a bit of traveling in our twilight years. I mean, hours. See the world, that sort of thing. So we need all the supplies we can get. And no one has supplies like you,” said Kip.
Cassa spat. “And if you hadn’t rolled on us, we might be bringing you along. Think about that while you wait for the Pinball. Alone.”
I kicked at them, once, and Cassa responded by plopping down on top of my legs. Normally I’d have been able to deal with that, but nothing about today was normal, and I had to settle for growling at her. Somehow, that made me feel even more helpless. My face was abruptly hot, and I gave myself temporary permission to hold my breath. If I cried, I’d never get over it.
I didn’t breathe until I had to. Gradually, my head cleared. “Don’t tell me you’re going hunting for the Remnant. They don’t exist.”
Cassa paused, just for an instant, and Kip gave me a hard look. “She couldn’t possibly know that.”
“She’s friends with the Mole.”
Kip rolled his eyes. “He couldn’t possibly know that. He doesn’t know everything, Cass.”
“You sure about that?” I said. “He knows the way out. He wouldn’t still be here if they exist. If there were even a chance.”
Cassa bit her lip, but Kip ignored me and continued his search. He was a bit rougher than before. “Ah, what have we here? Little blade-stick-doohickey?” He pulled a makeshift knife from the leg of my pants and twisted it in his fingers. “Fair enough. Not your best work though, if I’m honest.”
“Hello, what’s this?” Cassa yanked me forward and pulled my shirt up in the back. There was a tearing pain as she ripped the duct tape off my shoulder blades. “Bingo. Char, you never disappoint.”
Kip held the gun up to my face and grinned while peeling the remainder of the tape from the barrel. It had been my finest moment. The guard I stole it from never saw it coming. I consoled myself with the thought that, in a few short hours, I would never need a gun again. The thought was a lot more comforting than it should have been. It was probably the only silver lining I would cling to, in the end. No more guns, no more eternally disappointed family members. No more pitying glances from judges or lawyers or parole boards. Or West.
“I believe our work here is done,” Cassa said. She couldn’t get away from me soon enough. “Time to make our way in the world.” 
“Good luck with that,” I muttered.
They stood to leave, but Kip stopped at the door. “Here,” he said, pulling my shoebox off the bed and tossing it to the ground in front of me. “For old times’ sake.”
And then they were gone.


b2ap3_thumbnail_LauraLNolen.JPGAbout the Author

Laura Liddell Nolen grew up in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, where she spent lots of time making up adventure stories with her two younger brothers. The Ark is the direct result of those stories and a steady diet of space- and superhero-themed books and television sagas. She lives in Texas with her husband and children and on Twitter @Laurallnolen. The Ark is her first novel.


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Giveaway Details

One winner will receive a Kindle copy of THE ARK. 


Entering is simple, just fill out the entry form below. Winners will be announced in our monthly newsletter (sign up now!) within 30-60 days after the giveaway ends.

During each giveaway, we ask entrants a question pertaining to the book. Here is the question you'll be answering in the comments below for extra entries: What food item does Kip want Char to give him in exchange for her box of keepsakes? Find the answer here by reading the first chapter excerpt!

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30. The ABCDs of Research

The last few posts from my fellow TeachingAuthors have been on poetry.  Each of them has written eloquently on the topic.  But trust me when I tell you that I have nothing worthwhile to contribute to the topic of poetry.   So, I’ll share a topic with you that I do know about:  research. 

I enjoy sharing how to do research with students and teachers.  I offer a variety of program options including several different types of sessions on brainstorming, research, and writing.   I love to be invited into a school for a live author visit.  But that isn’t always possible.  In the last couple of years, I’ve done lots of Interactive Video Conferences as part of the Authors on Call group of inkthinktank.com. 

During these video conferences, I’ve come up with ways to teach students from third grade through high school how to approach a research project.  One method I use is to give them an easy way to remember the steps to plan their research using A, B, C, and D:





The earlier students learn good research skills, the better.  Learning some tips and tricks like my ABCD plan will help.  I hope it makes the whole process less daunting.

Carla Killough McClafferty

To find out more about booking an Interactive Video Conference with students or teachers:

Contact Carla Killough McClafferty


Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration (search for mcclafferty or inkthinktank)

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31. Review: Mine Tonight by Lisa Marie Perry

May Contain Spoilers


Mine Tonight is the second book in The Blue Dynasty series that’s I’ve read.  This didn’t revolve around football, but instead delved into the background details behind  Alessandro Franco’s illegal gambling ring, as well as his despicable actions against his son, star NFL player Santino Franco.  When all is said and done, Mine Tonight is about two wounded souls who were both betrayed by the very people that should have protected them: their parents.

Bindi Paxton is the daughter of a high profile politician, and according to her parents, she’s done nothing but screw up her life.  They barely communicate, she hasn’t seen them in years, and she’s just trying to get over her troubled past.  Recently dumped by Alessandro, her fiancé, she’s also lost her chance at being a reality star.  With no real prospects for the future, she heads to the Seychelles Islands to lick her wounds.  Alessandro had paid for a luxury vacation for the two of them before he broke it off with her, and since he never canceled any of the reservations, Bindi is more than happy to spend two weeks frolicking on the sun-kissed beach by herself.

Only she’s not alone for long.  Santino shows up, convinced that Bindi knows more about his father’s whereabouts than she’s letting on.  He’s hell-bent on finding him, so he shows up, unannounced, at Bindi’s rented villa.  Gate-crashing her Valentine’s Day party, he gets more than he bargained for when they are both overcome by an overwhelming attraction neither can deny.  Bindi and Santino have had a contentious relationship in the past, and neither trusts the other one iota.  But man, oh, man! the sexual tension between them drives them both crazy.

Santino is at a crossroad in his life, too.  His father paid another player take him out of a game, and the dirty hit cost him his career.  He’s not ready to let go yet,  and he drives himself to get back on his feet and back in condition.  His spine is like a house of cards house, though, and another hit could paralyze him.  As it is, the injury has left him with erectile dysfunction, so he has another performance issue to thank his father for.  His girlfriend dumped him, and he’s still trying to get over her defection, so pretty much everyone he thought had his back left him high and dry.

I liked the desperation between Santino and Bindi.  They are both just drifting along until they meet again at the party. They are trying to figure out what to do with the rest of their lives, now that their plans have blown up in their faces.  There’s no one they can trust, and the biting loneliness that overcomes them seems impossible to escape. Then, on a stormy night, on a beautiful island, they find each other and can forget, even if only for a little while, the bitterness and weight of all of the betrayals they’ve endured.

While I didn’t always like the hard-edged Bindi, I was able to eventually understand her and sympathize with her.  Santino is a great character – he’s suffered the loss of everything important to him, but he doesn’t give up without a fight, and instead of feeling sorry for himself, he pushes himself harder to overcome the obstacles in his path.  I wasn’t overly enamored with Alessandro, and I thought the guy got off way too easy for carelessly disrupting so many lives.

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by author

From Amazon:

The night that changed everything…

After being dumped by her fiancé and losing her shot at TV stardom, Bindi Paxton just wants to get out of town. But there’s no escaping the past—not even on the beautiful Seychelles Islands. And when her attraction to former Las Vegas Slayers heir Santino Franco culminates in a night of sizzling passion, she has to fight her feelings for a man who could hurt her deeper than any other has before. 

Santino came to the islands to find the man responsible for the injury that ended his pro-football career. Ending up in bed with Bindi is a mistake they both regret. Except he now needs her help to find his fugitive father. And—heaven help him—he’s starting to fall for the stunning Sin City reporter. He can’t change their history…but he’d give anything for one more night, and maybe forever, in her arms.

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32. Inside this Book (are three books). by Barney Saltzberg

Inside this Book (are three books). is yet another   book with brilliant paper engineering from the master of picture books that playfully inspire creativity, Barney Saltzberg. When I was a kid there wasn't much more exciting than blank pages folded in half and stapled to make a book, and I have students in the library doing this every day. In fact, there is a really neat way to fold a

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33. A Raschka Moment



Last week, I chatted over at Kirkus with Paul B. Janeczko about The Death of the Hat: A Brief History of Poetry in 50 Objects (Candlewick, March 2015), illustrated by Chris Raschka. So today I am following up with two spreads from the book.



(Click to see spread in its entirety)


(Click to enlarge)


* * * * * * *

THE DEATH OF A HAT. Compilation copyright © 2015 by Paul B. Janeczko. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Chris Raschka. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA. “The Dismantled Ship” by Walt Whitman. “Street Lanterns” by Mary Elizabeth Coleridge. “From Mercutio’s Queen Mab Speech” by William Shakespeare.

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34. Throwback Week:Be A Teacher Who Writes Poetry

Be a teacher who writes poetry and share it with your students.

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35. Papa Gave Me a Stick - a bookwrap

What can one possibly do with a plain, boring old stick?  Well listen up because today's book can spark your imagination and give you hope.


Authored by Janice Levy
Illustrated by Simone Shin
Ages 4-8

Unwrapping inside to take a peek...

Antonio and his Papa run into the courtyard to hear the mariachi band play their music.  The little boy is so excited and enthralled by the talent of the musicians that he asks his Papa if he too could get a guitar to play music.  His Papa tells him he has no money for a guitar but instead hands him a stick.  

Poor Antonio feels so let down and sad because what is he going to do with an old, lifeless stick.  He kicks at the stick and walks away.  While walking he encounters a shivering cold dog.  He takes his stick and places it under some ashes to make a fire burn brighter and it warms the dog up.  The dog is grateful and brings Antonio a warm tortilla for a reward for his kindness. What can he do with old tortilla?  He hears a small bird weeping because it is hungry...yes for sure, he uses his tortilla to feed the tiny creature and it too gives him a gift.  The story goes on and on with Antonio using his earned rewards to help out others in distress.  Will Antonio get his heart's desire, a Mariachi guitar?  How ever could that happen to a poverty-stricken tiny boy who starts out with nothing in his hands but a worthless, good-for-nothing stick?

This thoughtful, inspirational book is about generosity, kindness and persistence.  It has Spanish words and phrases sprinkled throughout the text which makes it educational too.  The author cleverly has included a Glossary of those Spanish words and even labelled pictures of the Mariachi band's instruments.  I loved the illustrations.  They are colourful and expressive and make the text come alive.  I am sure you will like the message of the book and I highly recommend it.

Unwrapping the author:

I never wanted to be a writer. My childhood dream was to play centerfield for the New York Yankees. I’m still waiting for the call, but in the meantime I’ve got something to keep me busy. 

Being a writer is like filling balloons of paint and dropping them from tall buildings. Dribs and drabs, blotches and swatches. Connect the dots - or not. Anything can happen. 

To me it’s like doing the hokey-pokey: stuff goes in, stuff goes out, then I shake it all about. I toss in a few characters, plop in a problem, chop up some action, sprinkle with a kiss, a hiss; a hug, a bug, until mmm....it tastes just right. It’s as mysterious as cracking open a safe; I don’t know what I’ll find, but I’m going in. I roll up my sleeves and get to work. Then I never give up.

The pitcher, Bob Feller, said, “You can’t teach someone how to throw a fastball. It’s like trying to teach someone how to grow hair on a bald head.” I don’t care about structure or grammar or endings or beginnings; I spit the rules out like chewing tobacco and just step up to the plate. The author, John Updike, complains that in golf “there’s nothing between you and the hole but what you’ve managed to put there.” I don’t worry if people will like my stories. If someone asks me if I’m famous and if she should know me, I always say “yes.” Forget the sand traps and ponds, the doubts, the pouts. I take a deep breath and relax, then whack! My ball’s on the green.

But how do you do it, people ask. Where do you get your ideas? 

When I was in kindergarten, the art teacher wouldn’t hang up my picture. She said the apples on my tree couldn’t be pink. “They’re not apples,” I said. “The tree’s wearing nail polish.” Mrs. B. smelled like moth balls and when she snarled her face creased like an accordion. I heard she slept in a closet, hanging upside down like a bat. Her teeth were chipped, as if brushed with a screwdriver and she left out the all vowels when she spoke. “Stppp! Whtt yrr dng?” she grunted, squeezing my wrist until I dropped the paint brush. But I stared right back, hoping my eyeballs would pop out and bop her in the face. I didn’t like her, not one bit. So I - 

Between you and me, none of this happened...I don’t write about myself or people I know. It’s more fun to make everything up. The best thing about writing, besides being able to work in my pajamas, is that I get to be the boss. I can turn a character into an ice cream cone, make volcanoes erupt chocolate syrup, create a new language called Froglish. If what I want lies buried, I dig until I find it. Then like a puppy shaking herself out from the rain, the words slip/​slide across the page; backwards, upside down and blurry, until I set them straight. That’s how I write. I just do it. 

I write children’s books and adult fiction for magazines and anthologies that sell all over the world. 

My work has been published in Glimmer Train,StoryQuarterly,Fiction Magazine, Iowa Review, Idaho Review, Alaska Quarterly,Greensboro Review, Quarterly West,Chattahoochee Review,The Sun, New York Stories,Mid-America Review, North Dakota Quarterly,Confrontation, American Voice,Hawaii Review, Prism International,Saint Anne's Review,Literal Latte,Portland Review,Madison Review,Kalliope,Belletrist Review,The American Way American Airlines,Carribean Review,East Hampton Star, Vincent Brothers Review, Rosebud Magazine,Snake Nation Press,Widener Review,Kit Kat Review,Citizens in America,Arizona Carefree Enterprise,New Frontiers,Buffalo Spree,Puerto del Sol, Washington Square Review,Pulphouse Fiction, New Frontiers,Widener Review,Troika, Americas,Blue Mesa Review,Passionfruit,Nightlife Magazine,Sundry Magazine, Citizens in America, Child Life,Ladybug, Cicada

..... and in the anthologies Peculiar Pilgrims: Stories From The Left Hand of God,If I Had My Life To Live Over, Women At Our Core,Not What I Expected, Just Between Us, Time Of Our Lives, Lovers,Breaking Up Is Hard To Do, Gifts Of Our Fathers,Our Mothers-Our Selves, An Intricate Weave,Grandmother Earth, Global City Reivew, Traffic Life, Silver Boomers Anthology,Hunger and Thirst Anthology, Families:The Front Line of Pluralism, Winterhawk Zeus,Main Street Rag, Bullying Beyond The School Yard ... to name just a few.

I’ve won the Writer’s Digest Magazine Competition for best literary short story three times. Finalist in Iowa Review Short Story Contest, Glimmer Train Honorable Mention Short Story 

I also teach writing at Hofstra University. I've worked with adults and teenagers in Hofstra's Summer Master Writing Program in the areas of juvenile, adolescent and adult fiction. In my private consulting business, I work with aspiring (and perspiring) writers on all elements of the craft; contact me and we'll take this journey together!

I’ve written 21 children’s books, with more on the way.

They've been translated into Spanish, Japanese, Chinese and Italian.

Some are part of reading programs and classroom curriculum.

Others are used by social workers and mental health professionals.

My books make you laugh and think a bit. They’re all fun to read! 

When I write for children, I pretend I’m a child. When I write for adults, I’m still a child; I just have bigger parts.

Keep scrolling down and you'll see pictures of me and my dog. Zoe is the only one who can enter my office without permission. She sits under the desk and edits my stories. If she likes them, she licks my toes. If she doesn’t, she snores. When she drops her leash on my lap, it’s time to take a hike.

Read my books and tell me what YOU think at janice@​janicelevy.com.. If I don’t get back to you, Zoe will, as soon as her nails dry. She’s learning how to type.

Coming soon! "Papa Gave Me A Stick" (Starlight Books)

Read on and read always!

It's a wrap.

Contact me at: storywrapsblog@gmail.com

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36. What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Jan De Kinder

(Click to enlarge spread)

Today over at Kirkus, I have a round-up of new nonfiction (mostly) picture books. That will be here soon.

* * *

Last week, I wrote here about a Belgian import, Jan De Kinder’s Red (Eerdmans, March 2015). Today, I’m following up with some art from the book.


“It’s like magic. A snap of the fingers, and his cheeks start glowing. Tommy’s face is as red as a fire truck. ‘Leave me alone!’ Tommy says again. Paul laughs.
Every time Paul laughs, Tommy gets a little quieter.”

(Click to enlarge spread)


“And quieter. And Paul gets louder. Much louder.”
(Click to enlarge spread)



“I’m scared of Paul. His tongue is as sharp as a knife. And his fist is as hard as a brick. He’s twice as strong as me. There’s no way I can stand up to him on my own.”
(Click to enlarge spread)


* * * * * * *

RED. Text and illustrations © 2013 Jan De Kinder. First published in the United States in 2015 by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers. English language translation © 2015 Laura Watkinson. Spread reproduced by permission of the publisher.

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37. Mini Reviews: Magonia, Rook, and The Prom Goer’s Interstellar Guide

I have a nice little round up of April releases for you today! I think most of these have flown under the radar so far so I’m happy to shed a little spotlight here. We’ve got a dystopian (but sort of historical–you’ll see), a beautifully creative fantasy, and a science fiction-light romp that had me in stitches. Let’s dive in!     Title: Rook Author: Sharon Cameron Rating: 3 stars This is one of those times where I fear I just couldn’t connect with a book not through any fault of its own, but because I just wasn’t really in the mood at the time. I saw this initially billed as a retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel, and while the threads of relation are definitely there, this is mostly an original story. In a dystopian future, Sophia spends her days as an English gentlewoman, but in her spare time is a daring rebel... Read more »

The post Mini Reviews: Magonia, Rook, and The Prom Goer’s Interstellar Guide appeared first on The Midnight Garden.

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38. #673 – Nickerbacher by Terry Jon Barto & Kim Sponaugle



Nickerbacher, The Funniest Dragon

Written by Terry John Barto
Illustrated by Kim Sponaugle
AuthorHouse                 3/23/2015
34 pages             Age 5—8
“Nickerbacher is a sweet-tempered, bushy-browed beast who spends his days guarding Princess Gwendolyn and dreaming of being a stand-up comic—not exactly a profession for a dragon! He’s true to his duty as dragon—as dictated by his Papa—but wants only to make the world laugh. Gwendolyn is supportive and encouraging, telling his he needs to do what makes him happy. It isn’t until the dashing Prince Happenstance comes along, ready for a fight, that they realize that instead of battling each other, they should do what’s in their hearts and pursue their true desires (the Prince wants to e a baseball pitchwer). With a winning set at The Comedy Castle and his family’s newfound support and pride, it’s all laughter, happiness, and dreams come true for the good-natured dragon!” [press release]
The sign by Nickerbacher’s station below Princess Gwendolyn’s tower window states,


Maybe at one time, but Nickerbacher is no threat to any Prince or enemy. The softhearted dragon loves the princess, but he would rather be doing something else—telling jokes—on stage, on the road, or just about any place he might land. Nickerbacher’s papa is not one for tomfoolery. The gigantic orange and red-spotted dragon strictly obeys one commandment,

“Every dragon has a duty to guard princesses.”


Nickerbacher is to be no exception and quickly stands guard—fearfully—whenever Papa checks up on him. Poor Nickerbacher, he tries to explain, but Papa will not budge. Nickerbacher may display his angst but will not disobey Papa. Kids will feel for him, but they will identify more with Prince Happenstance, who would rather be a baseball pitcher than a knight. (Did baseball exist at the time of knights and dragons?) The story is cute and the illustrations are captivating, nicely enhancing Barto’s story. I love the spread where Prince Happenstance flips a coin, which bounces off Nickerbacher’s nose.

Though he looks young for a knight (maybe eleven or twelve), Prince Happenstance is a tad full of himself, which fits his knightly role. Once the prince decides to follow his dream his attitudes takes a major shift. Nickerbacher’s family finally accepts his true self, encouraging him to pursue his comedic dreams. The story does not end there. We see Nickerbacher signing his book How to be Funny with modern appearing people waiting in a long line for his signature. Nickerbacher no longer looks like a dragon as he dons a red hat and an Hawaiian-styled shirt.


Being a tad fussy,]]] I notice out-of-place details: baseball, Hawaiian shirts, and modern looking people in the era of knights and dragons. I doubt kids will care and may appreciate the reference to a game most have played. Those details side, Nickerbacher is a good story about standing up for your true self. Barto gets his message across without hammering them by using kid humor. It is a shame the book is in paperback (eBook is available). Kids may well wear out the pages with repeat readings. They will love the goofy jokes. Parents who like read using different voices will have loads of fun with Nickerbacher, the Funniest Dragon. Barto’s first foray into children’s book was Gollywood (review here).

NICKERBACHER. Text copyright © 2015 by Terry John Barto. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Kim Sponaugle. Reproduced by permission of the AuthorHouse, Bloomington, IN.

Purchase Nickerbacher at AmazonBook DepositoryAuthorHouse.

Learn more about Nickerbacher HERE.

Book’s website:  http://www.nickerbacher.com/
Meet the author, Terry John Barto, at his website:  http://www.tjbkids.com/
Meet the illustrator, Kim Sponaugle, at her website:  http://www.picturekitchenstudio.com/
Find more picture books at the AuthorHouse website:  http://www.authorhouse.com/

2015 Beverly Hills Book Awards Finalist: Picture Books
Mom’s Choice Award Gold

 Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews

nickerbacher by Barto - authorhouse 2015

Filed under: 4stars, Children's Books, Library Donated Books, Picture Book Tagged: AuthorHouse, baseeball, be yourself, comedy, dragons, follow your dreams, Kim Sponaugle, Nickerbacher, Terry John Barto, the Funniest Dragon

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39. THROWBACK WEEK: Pens Versus Pencils

What do you think is better for kids to use in writing workshop: pens or pencils?

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40. Children’s Book Author Django Wexler Combines Computer Science and Creative Writing

Django Wexler is a self-proclaimed computer/fantasy/sci fi geek. He graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with degrees in creative writing and computer science, and worked in artificial intelligence research.

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41. 30 Days of Teen Programming: Would this ACTUALLY work? A graduate student contemplates Twitter

When the email got sent around the bloggers about doing a 30 days of programming, my mind instantly went blank. I’m just a librarian-in-training and haven’t done a lot of hands-on programming with teens. What could I bring to the conversation?

Then I remembered I did have a program. A hypothetical one that is. I’m currently taking a Media Literacy for Youth class which has been amazing. One of our assignments was to create either a lesson or program plan about a media literacy topic. It could be targeted to any age group and should last 2-3 hours. We had to write about outcomes, lay out all the activities, essentially plan it so some librarian could do it with the kids they work with.

I’ll lay out my idea and then want your feedback. Is this program realistic? Would it work with the teens you work with? And if it’s not realistic, what needs to be changed?

So…here I go!

As a twenty-something, I would say I’m pretty well-connected in social media. If someone asked what my favorite social media platform is, I would say it’s Twitter. There something exciting about Twitter when you think about it like a cocktail party (shout out to blogger Dave Charest for this analogy) — there are hundreds of conversations going on around you and you decide which ones to tap into. And our teens are using it so why not have a program that challenges them to think about not only how they use Twitter, but how others use Twitter?

The program would stretch over several sessions, with each session being around an hour. I wanted to design a program that could be amended to fit the library and the teens. So each session has a big idea and it was my hope that librarians could pick and choose which sessions to do. Here’s a brief run-down of the sessions:

  1. Twitter 101: Learn the basics. Set teens up with accounts if they don’t have one (or have dummy accounts they could use for these sessions). Talk about how you tweet, what the heck hashtags are, and how the people you follow can create a bias for the information you consume.
  2. Creative uses of Twitter: Twitter doesn’t just have to push information out to people. It can be used to write stories, tell choose-your-own-adventure plots, and even poetry. This session would allow teens to explore these various avenues and try one out for themselves.
  3. Using Twitter intentionally — how businesses incorporate social media: This would be the workshop where you could bring in community partnerships. Ask a social media coordinator for a local company to come in and talk about social media strategies. How do those companies use Twitter (it’s intentional as opposed to the ways the average Twitter user tweets). You could even ask the staff member in charge of your library’s Twitter account to either help facilitate this session, or come in to give a short presentation.
  4. Tweet chats: Explore the world of tweet chats (or when hashtags trend and become a large conversation). Have the teens engage in a tweet chat or perhaps see if another library wants to team up and have the teens from both libraries talk via Twitter!
  5. Live tweet: I see this session as the final one, but it doesn’t have to be. Have the teens pick out an event they want to go to (or suggest an event like a library or school board meeting). Have the teens create a common hashtag and have them live tweet the event. See if those tweets can get other people to join the conversation!

So…what do you think? If you want to know more about each individual session, you can check out my online portfolio where the whole plan is (it’s the first link on the page), including references for more information. Looking forward to hearing your comments!

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42. A Planned Give-Away With The Green Skies

I've been wondering how much more special I could make The Green Skies when it gets published?  Some form of trading card limited to 100?  An A3 poster?

Well, I think that I may have the answer.  It will add something to the actual Green Skies in the way of background BUT it will not be a "must buy" -Black Tower policy has always been that you buy a book then it is all self-contained (but, obviously, not the anthology titles!) and you will not have to buy this or that tie-in issue.

Just as you will not have to purchase the Dr Morg book to get the connection (I'll explain it all as we get closer to publication day) with this epic so this will be a treat.

Trading card still seems like an idea.

Now, off to work on more pages.

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43. Opening the Eyes of Children to a World of Innovation – Where Anything Is Possible

How do we motivate today’s children to become tomorrow’s movers and shakers in the world of innovation? The answer might be simpler than it sounds. Children have a huge advantage over adults in the creativity department. Children are not predisposed to conclusions that something is impossible, or that there is only one way of doing it. To a child, superheroes are real, and so are their powers. And this is the time to open their minds to the world of new innovations through invention.

I have three young children of my own, and they are always coming up with new ideas. Some of those ideas might not be feasible – at least not today (“Dad, I want to invent a car that flies over this traffic”). But imagine if yesterday’s inventors had been told that “it can’t be done.”

When most of us were growing up, our parents would have laughed at the idea that someday nearly everyone would be carrying around a pocket-size device, not only for making phone calls, but capable of performing complex computer operations that even some desktop computers could not perform at the time. Never mind that this “futuristic device” would be giving us step-by-step directions to the nearest coffee shop, taking high-definition photographs, recording video on-the-go, and the list goes on. Today’s reality would have seemed like nothing more than a child’s fantasy.

Innovation is often born of a curious mind. And children have some of the most curious minds around.

So what can you do as a librarian or someone involved with your local children’s library to help spread the word? Let me introduce USPTO KIDS!

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) recently revamped their entire kid’s section to bring it into the 21st century. The new website features a section for kids, complete with coloring pages and even pamphlets that explain how to make and launch a model paper rocket, along with directions for making other inventions. The section for kids introduces elementary school age children to the world of inventions through characters such as Ms. Pat Pending and her robot cat Gears, and to the world of trademarks through characters such as Mark Trademan and his friend T.Markey.

The new website also features a section for teens, including biographies of teenagers who have recently received their very own patents. Teens can watch videos and play interactive games to “spot the invention.”

For librarians, the new website includes a variety of educational resources to help guide parents and teachers. Hands-on materials help link the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education curriculum to real-life innovations. These resources are categorized for elementary school, middle school, and high school age students.
Of course, if you are searching for more ideas, the USPTO KIDS site also includes links to other sites, including many free government resources that are geared toward introducing children to the exciting world of invention.

It is important to encourage children of all ages to explore new ideas. Today’s children are the inventors of tomorrow. Visit USPTO KIDS for ideas on how to bring the world of innovation to a library near you. And if you need another reason, remember that May is National Inventor’s Month!


Our guest blogger today Mark Trenner. Mark lives in Colorado with his wife and their three children, who regularly visit the local libraries to read about new things. He is an intellectual property (IP) law attorney, and works with leading edge inventors at his Denver-area patent law firm. For more information, view educational videos about patents and invention on his YouTube channel.

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at alscblog@gmail.com.

The post Opening the Eyes of Children to a World of Innovation – Where Anything Is Possible appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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44. Interview with Shirley Harris Slaughter for Crazy! Hot! And Living On The Edge!

Come and join me as I talk with author Shirley Harris Slaughter about her book Crazy! Hot! And Living On The Edge! on Stories From Unknown Authors http://blogtalkradio.com/storiesfromunknownauthors at 1pm EST today.

Crazy! Hot! And Living On The Edge!

Imagine experiencing emotions that have you questioning your sanity. Your body gets overheated at the least bit of excitement and you scramble to find a fan or some air. Or you find yourself in the throes of a panic attack and can’t understand how to shut it off, so you are filled with anxiety wondering when the next one is coming. What if every time you take a drug you experience side-affects that you are warned about on the label? The title was conceived in my mind after I thought over all the situations I had found myself in, getting out of them, and the affect all of this had on my overall physical and mental well-being. Crazy! Hot! And Living On the Edge!! Is the True Story of My Upside Down Life!

  • Paperback: 84 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (April 3, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1508952507
  • ISBN-13: 978-1508952503

About the Author

Shirley Harris-Slaughter’s first book highlights her passion for history which led to her first published work, Our Lady of Victory, the Saga of an African American Catholic Community. But she wouldn’t have been able to write that book had she not had the presence of mind to conquer the health crisis she found herself in. She is an advocate for natural health and healing. Any problem that she had to face, she found her way out of it through sheer determination and a miracle. This led to her second book CRAZY! HOT! AND LIVING ON THE EDGE!! Harris-Slaughter saw a void that needed to be filled; and so she decided to share her experience. Harris-Slaughter has been active in her community by supporting candidates for elected office, and voting in every election. She served on the Oak Park School Board. She is an advocate for children and mentored four freshmen girls in the Winning Futures program. She is an active member in her church and she belongs to the Rave Reviews (Virtual) Book Club. She married her best friend Langston and they share a blended family. “We are as different as night and day and yet we are so much alike in many ways. We made it through thirty-two years!” Shirley Harris-Slaughter is available for speaking engagements. Contact Email Address: sharrislaughter@gmail.com 

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45. But What If…?

It might seem a bit like cheating, but I want to tag on to this terrific post by Chelsea Couillard-Smith regarding intellectual freedom training for all library staff. She makes excellent points regarding the sensitivity with regard to children, and staff’s own response to certain materials with which they may not be comfortable.

It is important for all staff to understand the intellectual freedom basis upon which libraries operate, to have the opportunity to receive training and to be able to ask all of those, “But what if…”questions that they may have. It is important even if that person never has to deal with a member of the public on the issue because it is an integral part of library culture and values.

Many years ago, my library director at the time, decided that everyone in that library system would be required to receive such training. She charged the management group with developing a training session, and then teamed us up and scheduled us to do multiple presentations over the course of several weeks. All staff, including custodial, were required to attend one of the sessions. Each session included an introduction to the ALA Bill of Rights and Freedom to Read statement as core values with regard to all library users, including children and teens, and how those impacted library policies. It introduced some of those “What if…” scenarios, for staff to work through and provided an opportunity to respond to additional questions and concerns raised by those in attendance.

Am I going to claim that everyone was happy once they understood how our commitment to intellectual freedom impacted what people, especially young people, could access?   No. It was actually fascinating to see how many ways some people could try to re-frame one of those “What if…” situations to try for a different answer. However, no one could claim that they did not understand that this was a core value of service and I believe that this created a system-wide base for communication with staff and therefore the public.

Toni Bernardi
Member, ALSC Intellectual Freedom Committee

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46. Captain Berlin...."Germany's Only Super Hero"....WHAT??!!

Germany's ONLY super hero???  Hey, I did wonder as I had never come across this character so here we go...deeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep breath............... Superheroes - Germany - Captain Berlin
I was casually researching old comics when I came across this on a web site:
Captain Berlin
After the Nazis took power during 1933, the resistance took great pains in searching for a solution to end Adolf Hitler’s evil dictatorship. They formulated a plan to bio-engineer super-human assassins, eventually finding their man in one ‘Captain Berlin’. However, Berlin’s attempt on the life of the fuehrer was unsuccessful, subsequently forcing him to go underground and adopt a new identity. Armed with his holy water-pistol, can Germany’s one and only superhero end the tyranny of these insane schemers and save the world?

Captain Berlin has been adapted into a movie directed by Jörg Buttgereit in 2009.

I sat there stunned.  "Captain Berlin"?  "Germany's only super hero"??   Now if anyone knows of even obscure German comic characters it is me. Well, any obscure characters.  So I sit there looking at this image and ....I'm lost for words.

So, I do more internet digging and find this trailer.......

Not such a good track but if you are interested...
I have to be a completist here so here is the originally cheapo film.  I couldn't take my eyes off the screen.  ahhh.

Kevin Gilvear wrote this review which explains it all:


"In 2007 Buttgereit went back behind the lens to film a feature-length project which would undoubtedly be his most ambitious to date. Based upon the character who originally appeared in a ten-minute short created by him in 1982, CAPTAIN BERLIN VERSUS HITLER is in fact a stage play, shot over three days in front of a live audience at Berlin’s Hebbel Am Ufer theatre in November 2007 and during post-production infused with special optical effects for limited theatrical release in 2009.

"The story goes that after the Nazis took power during 1933, the resistance took great pains in searching for a solution to end Adolf Hitler’s evil dictatorship. They formulated a plan to bio-engineer super-human assassins, eventually finding their man in one ‘Captain Berlin’ (Jürg Plüss). However, Berlin’s attempt on the life of the fuehrer was unsuccessful, subsequently forcing him to go underground and adopt a new identity.

"It’s now 1973 in West Berlin; the former Captain has been carving out a living as a leftwing journalist, whose communist writings have been greatly upsetting the sexy but slightly deranged Dr. Isle von Blitzen (Claudia Steiger) - former personal physician of Hitler. Fortunately for her it seems, toward the end of WWII, Hitler’s attempt in taking his own life backfired: he managed to miss his own brain, which was hurriedly gathered by the feisty red-head so that she might one day resurrect him in a new bid to stamp out all those remaining “Yanks, Tommy’s and Frenchmen”.

"That day has come, 28 years later, and in the Defence Sector Berlin von Blitzen prepares for her masterstroke. Creating a body from the bones and tissues of fallen soldiers, she seeks to provide a vessel for Hitler’s googly-eyed brain which can all but pine for his beloved Eva and pet pooch Blondie. But von Blitzen needs one thing in order to do so: the blood of Dracula (Adolfo Assor), who as it turns out, has been laying dormant in a crypt on the outskirts of Brandenburg. With his blood she can grant Hitler immortality and unimaginable powers, but if she’s to even stand a chance she’s going to have to present the count - now a mere shadow of his former self - with the offering of a young virgin.

"And it just so happens that in the years post his resistance days, Captain Berlin had a daughter whom he named Maria (Sandra Steffl). When Maria is kidnapped by von Blitzen and Dracula, Captain Berlin is called into action one more time. Armed with his holy water-pistol, can Germany’s one and only superhero end the tyranny of these insane schemers and save the world?

"War is often an easy target for satire; countries the world over have expressed through various emotions and mediums the absolute absurdity of human conflict. There’s been no shortage of poignancy, lampooning and even pretension in past and present cinema, and indeed the best cinematic examples have long since passed.

"It’s apparent that director Jörg Buttgereit is all to aware of this, so rather than go for any grand statements or realism he chooses to make a complete U-Turn: spilling the bizarre and feverish contents of his brain across the annals of World War history to conjure up his own “What if...” blend of heavy theatrical shenanigans and comic-book heroics born from difficult subject matter. If all of what you read in the synopsis above sounds mad, well, it’s because it bloody well is.

"Buttgereit has the good judgement to not underestimate his audience and he keeps his feature on a level which speaks enough without actually having to try too hard. Although CAPTAIN BERLIN VERSUS HITLER does harbour an undercurrent of loose political satire directed toward east and western relations which had divided a nation for years, it’s not a production that’s designed to be taken the least bit seriously - as if the title hadn’t already given that away.

"At its heart it’s simply one big ridiculously cheesy B-movie, which shows the director for his deep adoration of comic books - harking back to Berlin’s 1982 debut in which he originally ran about in a superhero mask - and classic Universal horror features. Buttgereit throws everything at us in a play made up almost entirely of film culture references which offers loving homage’s to the likes of Dracula and Frankenstein, whilst aesthetically the post tinkering in making it almost resemble an old silent, enveloped by comic-strip narrative devices, provides an interesting window for the ensuing action.

"Naturally then, with such rich sources of inspiration, Buttgereit embraces many well established clichés; ultimately excelling with the knowledge of what his stage’s limits are. In order to combat the obvious difficulties in moving from location to location and generating some kind of pace and excitement within the confines of an intimate setting, Buttgereit relies on the professionalism of his cast to get us through various transition periods, which often entails breaking invisible walls in novel fashion and acting in slow-motion for its silly action sequences, all set to the cartoon-ish sound design of Mark Reeder, much to the giggling from audience members and the viewer at home alike. And indeed the cast have fun in hamming it up. Curiously enough Captain Berlin himself has very little screen time, certainly for the majority of the first hour, and when we do see Jürg Plüss don the mask and cape he’s little more than deliberate fancy male posturing and ego. That leaves the feature in the rather strange predicament of centering itself on the exploits of three zany mad men, whom quite perversely we find ourselves cheering on.

"Adolfo Assor’s Dracula has the notable distinction of being the production’s voice of reason; he’s still a bit of a shit, but he serves to illustrate man’s flaws, with his preaching concerning humanity’s ongoing quest to destroy itself through imperfect ideals, which proves the exception to the director’s otherwise ridiculous and nonsensical style of storytelling. Buttgereit’s abject depiction of Hitler as a hopelessly lonely, embarrassing buffoon, now nothing more than an oversized, disembodied brain who ends up looking like Nazi-Dalek by the end of the feature makes for fine mocking, and von Blitzen, well she’s the entire reason to watch. Claudia Steiger does an incredible job of carrying most of the film on her shoulders; completely over the top and utterly barmy she’s an energetic and irresistible force who generates most of the laughter over her consistently foiled plans to provide Hitler with a new lease of life. Who knew creating a fresh dictatorship would be such a pain in the arse?"

Kevin Gilvear, DVD Times

More info/stills on the  Jörg Buttgereit website: http://www.joergbuttgereit.com/english/films/features/captain-berlin-vs-hitler/ 

So, no, Captain Berlin is not a German comic book hero but rather a comic book hero style character. In fact, I really like the sound of the whole thing.  But I am weird.

And I did create not just the first German super hero but the first German super hero group -D-Gruppe!

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47. PO-EMotion -- Contempt

Flickr Creative Commons Photo by Menno van der Horst

layers of ice
bend willows
break spirits

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2015

Carol, at Carol's Corner, will join me again this year as often as possible.

Kimberly, at iWrite in Maine, is joining me this month. 

Kay, at A Journey Through the Pages, is joining, too!

Steve, at inside the dog, is sharing his poems 
in the comments at Poetrepository.

Heidi, at my juicy little universe, will join us when she can.

Linda, at TeacherDance, will join as often as she can.
Check the comments at A Year of Reading or Poetrepository for her poems.

Kevin (Kevin's Meandering Mind) is back this year,
leaving poetry trax in the comments.

Carol, at Beyond Literacy Link, is writing alongside us when she can.

Jone, at DeoWriter, is doing a "double L" challenge. 
She and I are cross-poLLinating our challenges whenever possible.
Jone's word today is WILLOW.

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48. Bo at Iditarod Creek (2014)

Bo at Iditarod Creek. Kirkpatrick Hill. Illustrated by LeUyen Pham. 2014. Henry Holt. 288 pages. [Source: Library]

I really did enjoy the first book in the series. And I wanted to love this one just as much. But it was more of an almost book for me.

I still love Bo as a narrator. She still has a very unique voice to her. And the illustrations by LeUyen Pham are oh-so-wonderful which is probably why I like Bo so much.

In this second book in the series, Bo and her new brother, Graf, go with their fathers Jack Jackson and Arvid Ivorsen to a new community: Iditarod Creek. They go where there's work, to keep it simple. So there are new characters to meet, new opportunities and situations. In fact, there might even be a THIRD child added to the family.

The setting is unique, especially for a children's book. Historical fiction set in Alaska in 1929 and 1930. The world Bo is growing up in is probably a strange one to most readers. Bo is a six (or seven) year old girl growing up without many girls her own age, and without many ladies around in general. It's not exactly a "proper" or "traditional" upbringing. But what Bo has in abundance is LOVE and understanding. Both Jack and Arvid take time to talk with Bo, to love her, to teach her.

One word of warning this book has racial slurs, matter-of-fact, this is the way it was language. So if you're reading this aloud to young(er) children, you should know what's coming.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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49. THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT by Melissa Grey {Book & Audiobook Review}

Review by Andye THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHTThe Girl at Midnight #1 by Melissa GreySeries: THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHTHardcover: 368 pagesPublisher: Delacorte Press (April 28, 2015) AUDIOBOOK Publisher: Listening Library Narrated By Julia Whelan Goodreads | Amazon | Audible Beneath the streets of New York City live the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through

0 Comments on THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT by Melissa Grey {Book & Audiobook Review} as of 4/23/2015 11:57:00 PM
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50. Displays Every Day! An April 23rd Sampler

Yesterday was Earth Day, and I suspect a fair number of you librarians out there did some killer Earth Day displays of books for the kiddos, teachers, and parents out there.  I love thematic book displays.  But who says you need an official holiday to create one?  Let us say, for the sake of argument, that you wanted to do a really eclectic display on (just to pick a random date) April 23rd.  Honestly you could make a truly crazy but interesting series of books if you wanted to.  After all, April 23rd is . . .

Shakespeare’s Birthday – Apparently last year was his 450th so 451 just doesn’t quite have the same panache.  I’m looking forward to 2064 when it’s his 500th.  We are gonna party hearty then, m’dears!  Until then, there are lots of different ways to do a Shakespeare display in a children’s room.  Consider the following:

Just for starters (and I’m completely cheating with that last image since that book isn’t out until September).

World Book Day -  I’m sort of amused that even though World Book Day was originally a British creation, somehow or other James Patterson still managed to become this year’s spokesperson.  Americans, truth be told, don’t pay a lot of attention to World Book Day (see the recent SLJ article We Need More International Books, Kid Lit Experts Say for some thoughts on the U.S. and our relationship to world literature for children), but it practically makes its own display.  Find books originally published in other countries and then translated here.  You’ll have to search a bit more for African and South American stories, but they’re out there.

President James Buchanan’s Birthday – Well why not?  We actually have some books on him in the library, after all.

Okay, fine, he’s boring.  Dull as dishwater.  But they haven’t made a Shirley Temple bio for kids yet (and wouldn’t THAT be a complex challenge?) nor one about Nobokov (yet) so we take what we can get 4/23 birthday-wise.

Comics Out Loud Day – Ostensibly a day to celebrate reading comics out loud in the classroom, the timing couldn’t be better.  After all, they just announced the Eisner Award nominees yesterday and the inclusions are marvelous.  Gownley! Bell! Hale!  The list goes on and on.  Pluck a couple from your shelves and put ‘em up for display.

The day Cervantes was buried – Okay, it’s a stretch but I like the randomness of it. Plus there are some interesting children’s books out there that use Quixote as a starting point.

By the way, I’m closing with this DVD.  Because when I searched my catalog for Don Quixote this came up.

Here’s the description, in case you doubt.

Ride to the rescue and share a love of reading books along the way with Lady Knight Dora, in these two knightly adventures, featuring the legendary Don Quixote!

A couple things about this image. First off, as a knight this is a uniquely bad costume. Sure her upper half is adequately covered by armor but ballet flats?  Come on, Dora!  Extra points for the steel tiara, though.  A nice touch.  Note too the windmills in the background.

Happy 4/23!


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