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Results 26 - 50 of 159,173
26. Guest Post: David Jacobson on Trusting the Illustrator & the Publishing Process

By David Jacobson
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

For the last eight years, I have worked for a small Seattle book publisher called Chin Music Press.

I've done everything from fact checking and copy editing to developmental- and line-editing, from setting up book tours to reading through the slush pile (a task I actually enjoyed).

But during all that time, my name never appeared on the cover of a book.

That changed this September with the release of my first title, Are You an Echo?: The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko. A picture book, it's both biography and anthology of a much-loved Japanese children's poet, whose work has yet to be introduced to English-language readers.

Becoming an author, I learned, is a humbling experience. I had to endure the red-penciling of my not-so-flawless prose (something I used to dish out myself), and the frustration of waiting for each cog in the publishing machine to take its spin—editing, illustrating, book designing, leveling, printing, marketing, reviewing, even mailing—as deadlines came and went.

The experience opened my eyes to the anxiety authors feel as they lose more and more control over their creation, something that had not really dawned on me despite my years working in publishing.


As a staff member at a publisher, I had dealt with authors who continued to rework small details of their text until the bitter end, who agonized over each cover illustration, or who fretted over how their book page appeared on Amazon. Indeed, the degree to which authors continued "meddling" in their books sometimes affected how well we worked with them.

But being on the author side of the equation taught me just how important it is to give up control, regardless of the anxiety it might cause. That was particularly true of my interactions with Are You an Echo? illustrator Toshikado Hajiri.

David
When it came time to decide which cover to use, I requested multiple cover sketches, asking for one thing after another to be changed. But I couldn't get satisfied.

 Finally, since I was unsure of how to proceed, I asked our book designer Dan Shafer for advice. He recommended limiting how much I was trying to steer the illustrator. Illustrators, he said, do their best work when they have freedom to react to the text in their own way.

Ultimately, I left Toshi to his own devices and he ended up producing a glorious painting of Misuzu and her daughter at sunset.

We went with that.

During my time at Chin Music, there have been many occasions when interactions between writer and editor, or writer and designer have produced unexpected results.

Current author A. V. Crofts tells of her own positive experience of letting go how she thought the cover of her book should look. In another of our titles, Todd Shimoda's Oh! a Mystery of Mono no Aware, book designer Josh Powell brilliantly conceived of the idea of printing the entire book (both text and illustrations) in shades of black-and-white except for the very end.

Photo credit below.
Though initially intended to reduce the cost of the book, his solution resulted in a final explosion of color that dramatically enhanced the conclusion.

Writing is often thought to be a solo activity where one can wield total control over ones craft.

Oddly enough, its twin, publishing—the business of connecting writers to readers—is more of a team sport, requiring the combined input of different players with different skills and sensibilities.

So, as an author, don't try to control everything in your book. Find really good people to join your team. Then let your editor, illustrator, designer, or translator bring something of him or herself to the process.

The result may surprise you.

interior illustration from the book
Cynsational Notes

Photo of Misuzu, Courtesy of Preservation Association of Misuzu Kaneko's Work.

Review of the Day: Are You An Echo? by David Jacobson from Elizabeth Bird at A Fuse #8 Production. Peek: "I hope that the fame that came to Kaneko after the 2011 tsunami will take place in America, without the aid of a national disaster. And I hope that every child that reads, or is read, one of her poems feels that little sense of empathy she conveyed so effortlessly in her life."

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27. Board Book: There, There

Board Book: There, There. Taro Miura. 2016. Candlewick. 22 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Frog says, "Ribbit, ribbit!" Chicken says, "Cluck, cluck!"

Premise/plot: This may at first appear to be a simple, predictable book. (I think of Bing Bong, Riley's imaginary friend!!!) But it has a twist. After the baby goes "wah, wah!" the animals, well, they mix things up a bit! Can the baby restore order in the world?!

My thoughts: I LOVE the twist in this one. It is probably still a little on the predictable side. (The title may just provide the solution.) But it is FUN. It is newly translated into English this year.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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28. Movie Month, day 15

So Kailana (The Written Word) and I really LOVED participating in Jenni Elyse's 30 Days of Books.  We thought it would be fun to do a movie-theme list of questions!

Today's question: A movie that disappointed you...

Into the Woods

I love fairy tales. I love musicals. So why didn't I even like this one?! I still don't know this one really didn't work for me. It just didn't.



© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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29. The Slush Pile Myth

Kids who love books sometimes find themselves at a crossroads when it comes to determining their future career.  For some, the choice boils down to librarian or a publisher.  Librarianship lacks the sophistication and potential glory of publishing, but feeds very well into a certain type of person’s need to work on a grounded level with members of the immediate public. We don’t make the big bucks but we have our own levels of influence, often directly, with our patrons.  Publishers, in contrast, often don’t make a lot of money for a very long time, yet they have the potential to shape the hopes and fears and dreams of children through the products they produce.  They get to return home on Thanksgiving and answer questions about what they do by saying, “Oh.  I’m in publishing.”  It just sounds cool.

But there is one aspect of publishing that I no longer envy.  I did once, when I was young.  Foolishly, I would dream of someday digging through one on my own.  It would be like panning for gold, right?  One conveniently forgets how rarely those who pan actually find said gold, of course.

I am referring of course to the infamous “slush pile”.  For publishers that accept unsolicited manuscripts, the slush pile is where those manuscripts sit for a while.  It looks a little something like this:

slushpile

My librarian instincts make me think about how satisfying it would be to cut that pile down, but realistically I know that there’s a reason that the job is often given to new hires and interns.

Still and all, there is a myth that circulates about the children’s book that is plucked from the pile and subsequently reaches hitherto untold levels of success.  I know of only three instances where this happened, and I wanted to just give them a quick glance today.  On a percentage basis, when you compare the number of manuscripts that become hits vs. those that don’t get published at all, the likelihood of a book finding a home in the hearts and minds of children everywhere is akin to that of winning the lottery.  And yet . . . and yet . . .

Here are the three successful slush pile stories:

Goodnight Goodnight Construction Site! by Sherri Duskey Rinker

GoodnightGoodnight

This book has been on my mind a lot lately.  Not just because my son absolutely adores it, but also because the sequel, Mighty Mighty Construction Site, will be coming out in 2017 (and it’s a proper sequel with lots and lots of female construction equipment characters in it too, I’ll add).  I was at dinner with a friend the other day when she mentioned off-handedly that the original book had been a slush pile find.  What?  Really?  That sounded like a lovely rumor more than anything else.  So I did a tiny bit of internet digging and lo and behold found this Author Spotlight interview with Ms. Rinker.  In it she says the following:

“I guess the great thing about my submission to the infamous ‘slush pile’ at that time was that I honestly didn’t know any better. I made a long (VERY long) list of publishers who accepted slush and just started working down the line.”

Goodnight Goodnight Construction Site would go on to become a hugely successful New York Times bestselling picture book.  All the more impressive when you learn that she submitted the manuscript to only one publisher.

Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices From a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz

goodmasters

One forgets that occasionally Newbery Award winners are slush pile finds.  Yet if I’m going to be completely honest, this is the only case I know of personally.  Before you go about assuming that the book was plucked from obscurity and then immediately won its author the honor that was her due (and rightly!), please remember that, as BookPage reported, it, “was plucked out of a slush pile by an assistant at Candlewick Press in 2000 and finally published seven years after the author submitted it.”  Clever assistant, that.  Between its discovery and its publication Ms. Schlitz would publish other books with Candlewick, like The Hero Schliemann (still one of the more delightful and underrated biographies out there for kids).

And finally, one of the most famous slush stories:

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

HarryPotter6

In this case we actually know the name of the woman who found Rowling’s manuscript in the pile at the Christopher Little Literary Agency.  Bryony Evens (a name that sounds like it would fit in at Hogwarts rather well) conducted an interview once where she said the manuscript originally caught her eye because it had an unusual “clamp binding”.

This actually doesn’t really fit our trends here, since Rowling was applying for an agent and not sending directly to a publisher, but that’s neither here nor there.

The thing about these stories is that often when they’re reported not much is made of the editors’ contributions prior to publication.  The bones of a great book might have been there, but it was how the book was shaped by multiple hands prior to publication that’s of particular note.  I think it’s safe to say that none of these books would be the classics we know today without that invaluable editorial input.

Any other slush pile stories come to mind?  I’m sure there are some famous books out there I’m just not thinking of.  Lay them on me!

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30. They All Saw A Cat

They All Saw A Cat. Brendan Wenzel. 2016. Chronicle. 44 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The cat walked through the world, with its whiskers, ears, and paws...and the child saw a CAT, and the dog saw a CAT, and the fox saw a CAT. Yes, they all saw the cat.

Premise/plot: Have you ever wondered how a mouse sees a cat? how a dog sees a cat? how a fish sees a cat? how a bird sees a cat? Brendan Wenzel's picture book plays with young readers' concept of perspective.

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this one. I did. Each spread is unique and interesting. Each reveals how a creature--a flea, a bee, a skunk, a bat, a child--sees a cat. Though it is the same cat, ever creature "sees" a different cat. I'll be honest, the illustrations steal the show. That plus the premise. I would definitely recommend this one.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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31. #InkTober Round-Up


I made it: All 31 days of InkTober 2016. Some days were easier than others, some days were total disasters, and every day presented a new challenge, mainly: how to use ink in an effective and interesting way. I learned much more than I expected to, and in spite of wanting to give up more than once, I think I've come to appreciate ink and the artists who use it more than I ever have before.

The best part of the challenge though, was the set time frame of an entire month. I've always enjoyed taking on creative projects with some kind of pre-set deadline in mind, even if I only give myself a few days, a topic I covered in "The Value of a  5-Day Challenge." Concentrating on ink for a month was an entertaining, and educational, road trip and one I'm glad I followed.

Another benefit I derived from my ink-splattered journey was the chance to learn more about ink--what it is, how it's used, and why. For a writer, ink is as necessary, and as natural, as breathing and eating, but I don't think I'm alone in being in constant pursuit of the "perfect pen." Over the years I've gone through fountain pens, felt-tip models, roller-balls, gel pens, purple ballpoints--you name it, I've tried it! Thanks to InkTober, though, I've fallen in love all over again with Pilot Precise V-5 and V-7 pens, and was also able to discover Tikky Rotring pens. Along with these I added my favorite Akashiya Sai brush pens as well as my perennial go-to combination of bottled sumi ink and a sharpened bamboo stick. (Nothing like the basics.)

So . . . some random thoughts about the month and what I got from it:
  • Prior to the challenge, my daily drawings were solely for practice, nothing fancy, just simple sketches no one but me would see. However, InkTober required that I post my drawings every day on social media--eek. I therefore had to explore subjects that could be drawn up in 30 minutes or less yet still appear finished. My most successful efforts turned out to be small sketches of Taiwan based on my photos from my trip last year, and studies of trees drawn with a distinct Asian influence. In other words, I found a voice and method I liked.
  • Sticking to ink-only was a challenge in itself. I craved variety. Even though I often added color from other mediums to my drawings (mainly watercolor background washes) it was difficult to stay so rigidly adhered to one type of drawing tool. The day the challenge was over I threw myself into oil pastels, charcoal, graphite--anything but ink! Consequently, I learned I am for sure a "mixed-media" artist, a good piece of knowledge if I ever need to describe my artist-self in a professional manner.
  • One of the more trivial things encouraging me to take up the challenge in the first place was that I wanted to use up a sketchbook I didn't like. (Out of the negative, find the positive!) There really was nothing wrong with this particular book--it was filled with cold-press watercolor pages and quite expensive--but I just never jelled with it. It order to get it out of my life and stick with my daily plan, I decided to just draw on those expensive pages and the heck with results. This approach turned out to be a lot of fun--especially as I could never truly control the lines my pen made due to all the natural irregularities common to watercolor paper. So rather than waste the book or leave it to molder over the years, I used it, enjoyed it--and now have a good record of my InkTober experience.
  • Finally, as much as I often resisted using that particular sketchbook (some days I just had to go back to my old favorites) the "bad sketchbook" allowed for two new drawing styles to emerge. The first contained a child-like whimsical quality, with the second being a loose and easy "just get the idea down" style. Both of these could be great for illustrating children's picture books, and I definitely plan to explore them further.
Now that it's November I'm immersed in--you guessed it--NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, but I'm still taking a daily 30 minutes+ to work on my drawing skills. It's amazing to me what can be accomplished in such a short amount of time, but just like sitting down for half an hour to freewrite, you can only get the work done if you take the time to do it. It's that simple! Whatever length of time you choose, five days or five months, keep in mind that the whole point is to give yourself a unique opportunity, one that will help you achieve your goals, especially those you've been too afraid to start (or finish).
Good luck and stay creative every day!

And just to prove I did my homework, here's some samples from my InkTober sketchbooks:

Jiufen Tea House, Taiwan

I was supposed to be practicing drawing horses, but zebras were more fun.

Taipei residential neighborhood.

Dreaming on a Sunday.

Portugal seaside. Fun to travel by pen!

Tip of the Day: Similar in spirit to National Novel Writing Month, InkTober is a chance to be part of a world-wide creative support group: one that wants you to succeed and meet your goals. Over the last few years all kinds of equivalent challenges have sprung up: Picture Book Writing Month, Poetry Month . . . even A-Z Blogging Month. Now is the perfect time of year to decide which one (or two or three) you'd like to try in 2017. Google some topics you might be interested in, find a group challenge, and then block out a schedule on your calendar for next year--it's never too early to prepare.

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32. Author Interviews: Kate Hannigan & Janet Fox on Facts in Historical Fiction

By Gayleen Rabakukk
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

My current work in progress is a middle grade historical fantasy set in 1903. 

Delving into the past has made me think about how history is presented in novels and the balance between real and imaginary. 

For more insight on that topic, I turned to the authors of two of my favorite recently published books, focusing on process.

Kate Hannigan’s The Detective's Assistant (Little, Brown, 2015) is based on the extraordinary true story of Kate Warne, America’s first female detective. It won the SCBWI Golden Kite Award in 2016.

Was there a particular item, fact or event that sparked the idea for The Detective's Assistant?

KH: I was researching a story about camels in the American West in the 1850s when I came across a single nugget about Kate Warne. I read how she walked into Allan Pinkerton’s National Detective Agency in downtown Chicago, and he had assumed she was there for a secretary position. But she talked her way into a detective’s job, convincing Pinkerton she could “worm out” secrets from the wives and girlfriends of the city’s crooks and criminals.

Stumbling on this little gem, I was hooked! I dropped that camel story and ran with Kate Warne!

At what point did you start researching that? Did you start drafting a story first, or did you do research up front?

Kate's model for her main character
KH: I’m kind of a nutter about gathering facts. My background is newspaper journalism, so maybe that’s to blame. But I wanted to know all I could about Kate Warne, Allan Pinkerton, and Abraham Lincoln during this part of American history.

The biggest research was around understanding the Baltimore Plot, which is the pivotal part of the story — the plot to assassinate Lincoln before he could be sworn in for his first term.

So the whole process was immersive. I dove in deep before writing a single word. Once I felt like I had the facts, then I began my story.

Did you continue doing research as you were writing?

KH: I’m still doing research! And the book published over a year ago! But I love this story so much, I can’t not learn more about it. I do school visits all the time, and I talk to students about it. So it’s very much in the front of my mind.

As I was writing, I would come across a question — my characters are walking down the street in 1860 Chicago, so what were they walking on? How comfortable would a train ride be in 1860? Would we ride on upholstered seats or hard wood? — and drop down another rabbit hole.

Research is never ending with historical writing!

Were you surprised by what you learned doing research? Did any unexpected finds end up becoming significant parts of the story?

KH: If you’re writing historical fiction, you’re probably a pretty huge history nerd. So digging up a juicy nugget can be a thrill! And I dug up so many!

I enjoyed researching and writing this story to a ridiculous degree!

My characters live in a boardinghouse, so getting that setting right was foremost in my mind. I read Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe (1852) and Sister Carrie by Theodore Drieser (1900) (which was set a bit later but still illuminating nonetheless), just to get a sense of language of the times.

But I also plunged into nonfiction about the era, and I found a particular book about boardinghouses that was helpful. It described how incredibly cheap the managers — usually women — had to be to keep these places afloat. They were notorious for serving terrible food, which I thought could be played for a lot of humor in my book.

And this is what led to the chapter about Nell and the other residents eating a questionable meat for dinner, and Mrs. Wigginbottom getting shifty when there is talk about the orange tabby cat going missing.

Your book mixes well-known historical figures (Abraham Lincoln) with lesser-known, yet real individuals (Kate Warne) as well as completely fictional characters.

Tell us more about balancing the fact and the fiction – did you lean heavily on things the historical figures actually said? Were there some details you changed for the sake of the story? Were there some fixed points you felt couldn’t be altered?

KH: Fact and fiction! This balance kept me up at night! I agonized over being true to the players and what was on record as having happened. I visited Kate Warne’s grave site here in Chicago more than a few times, and I deeply desired to do right by this woman.

But I also worried about the reader, and I wanted to make sure that the story I was telling would hold the interest of a 21st-century American kid. So it was agony!

Pinkerton had written about the cases that involved Kate Warne, so of course I wanted to nod to those. But I took artistic license and shuffled their order, so that the culminating case is the saving of Lincoln’s life. I needed to put them in a different order to serve my story, and I had to come to terms with that decision. It took me a bit though.

Do you feel authors writing for middle grade readers have a greater obligation to present an accurate picture of a historical time period, than those writing YA or adult fiction?

KH: I very much believe authors for young readers have a greater responsibility to get historical fiction right. Because history is all new to this audience — this might be their first introduction to the Civil War, to Abraham Lincoln, to the Underground Railroad.

And if we make history engaging for them, we’re opening the doors to more exploration of our past, to creating more history lovers.

It’s a responsibility I take pretty seriously. Which is why I tend to research my books to death!

Have you gotten any feedback from history or social studies teachers? Or any school visits or other presentations aimed specifically at the history aspect?

KH: Yes! And it’s been so great! I’ve gotten tremendous feedback from teachers and librarians.

The Civil War hits with fifth-grade curriculum in many schools, so The Detective's Assistant has been on reading lists around the country. I’ve done Skype visits as well as in-person school visits, and the response from young readers has been mind-blowing!

The New York Historical Society included it in their family book club, the Global Reading Challenge in Chicago listed it among their 2016 books, an entire fifth-grade in Dallas read the book as part of their Civil War history unit. It’s been wonderful to share the story with so many kids!

Was there anything you found while doing research for The Detective's Assistant that will find it’s way into your next book?

KH: Answer: I’ve been bitten by the research bug, and specifically, research into amazing women and people of color forgotten by history. So my next book is focused on World War II women beyond Rosie the Riveter. I can’t say there’s any overlap with the Civil War era, but the passion I feel for dusting off these remarkable players from the past and sharing them with a whole new audience, that definitely has carried over. It’s kind of become my mission!

The Detective's Assistant is realistic historical fiction, do things change when the story includes more fantasy elements? For that aspect, I asked Janet Fox, author of The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle similar questions.

Was there a particular item, fact or event that sparked the idea for The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle? (what was it?)

JF: Yes! I was mucking around on the internet when a friend posted a picture of an object the like of which I'd never noticed before. It was an 18th century German chatelaine. I thought it was peculiar, and I had to find out more about it, so I googled and discovered that this chatelaine was an offshoot of the more practical set of keys - to the chateau - worn at the waist.

I learned that chatelaines had evolved from keys to practical items, like scissors and coin purses, to charms. This chatelaine was all charms, and they were so odd that a story began forming in my mind almost right away.

At what point did you start researching that? (i.e. – did you start drafting a story first, or did you do research up front?) 

JF: Once I'd learned what a chatelaine was I began writing almost at once. Within a week of seeing the image, which is the same as the image that's in the novel, I'd completed the first 40 pages of what would become the novel. That's generally the way I work. I have to discover who my main character is and what her problem is before I can begin to flesh out the story, and research is part of that fleshing out.

Did you continue doing research as you were writing?

JF: Yes - once I have a handle on my protagonist and what the story is generally about I tend to blend research with writing. For example, as soon as I decided to set the novel in Scotland, I took a pause and did a bunch of research on Scotland. That's almost always how I work - I write first to discover what I need to know more about. But it all starts with the character and her problem.

Were you surprised by what you learned doing research? Did any unexpected finds end up becoming significant parts of the story?

JF: Not really - at least, not in this story. But read on - there's a relevant answer to this in your last question.

Your book mixes actual events and places completely fictional – and fantastical - events and characters. Tell us more about balancing the fact and the fiction? Were there any fixed points you felt couldn’t be altered? (why?)

JF: I felt it was very important to be true to any factual details. For example, I had to learn what I could about enigma machines, about the inner workings of clocks, about movements and activities in the North Sea during that part of World War II, and so on.

That's where I really pay attention to accuracy - when I'm weaving facts into fantasy I want those facts to be right. In that way the reader more readily suspends disbelief for the fantasy elements.

Do the fantastical elements have a historical influence?

JF: In a way. My grandparents were Irish and English, and I heard many stories growing up about the fantastical beliefs they carried with them from home, things like the stories my grandfather told me about "the little people." And Celtic and pagan practices have a basis in history and yet are mystical or fantastic in nature. To me, there's always a kernel of truth in a fairy tale.

Do you feel authors writing for middle grade readers have a greater obligation to present an accurate picture of a historical time period, than those writing YA or adult fiction?

JF: I think any writer writing for any audience has an obligation to be accurate when it comes to historical detail. But I do think that the vulnerability of the younger reader requires a special adherence to accuracy. These are readers who will feel cheated if I give them information they later find to be false. They are also readers more likely to believe whatever you tell them, and I would hate to plant falsehoods in their minds.

Have you gotten any feedback from history or social studies teachers? (or any school visits or other presentations aimed specifically at the history aspect?) 

Dunrobin Castle, Janet's inspiration, located in Scotland
JF: Not yet, although I would love to present something about the specific history aspects of the story.

I'm fascinated by World War II (and as we can see by the large number of middle grade novels out the past couple of years set during the war, so are others.)

The Blitz alone was a big deal, and I've given talks at bookstores at which adults have come forward after to tell me that they or their aunt or their father was sent out of London - and that's why they're in America today.

Was there anything you found while doing research for The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle that will find it’s way into your next book?

JF: Since Kat is clever with clocks, I did a bit of clock research and uncovered a rare old timepiece called a "Death's Head" watch. After further research I discovered that one of owners of one of the most bizarre of these was the doomed Mary, Queen of Scots. Well, that didn't feel accidental. As you can imagine, that watch is the centerpiece of my sequel.

chatelaine
Cynsational Notes

Janet Fox on Blending History with Fantasy from Cynsations. Peek: "Whether writing historical fiction or fantasy, the objective of suspension of disbelief can only be accomplished if the world-building is sound. In historical fiction, that means lots of research to get interesting tidbits right. In fantasy, it means crafting an environment in which those interesting tidbits feel right."

Gayleen Rabakukk holds a master of fine arts in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She co-moderates the middle grade book club for Austin SCBWI and loves making discoveries – both on and off the page.

Always eager to track down a story, she has worked as a newspaper reporter, editor and freelance writer. Gayleen is married and has two caring and outspoken daughters. Their Austin, Texas home is filled with books and rescue dogs. You can find her online at  or on Twitter @gayleenrabakukk

Congratulations to Gayleen on recently signing with Andrea Cascardi at Transatlantic Agency!

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33. Nurturing Our Notebook Work

On Tuesday evening I attended a lecture by Lydia Davis, an award winning writer whose published work includes short stories, essays, novels, and translations of a number of classics including Madame Bovary. Davis’s… Continue reading

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34. Book Review: The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

The Queen of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling, #1)

Young Kelsea Raleigh was raised in hiding after the death of her mother, Queen Elyssa, far from the intrigues of the royal Keep and in the care of two devoted servants who pledged their lives to protect her. Growing up in a cottage deep in the woods, Kelsea knows little of her kingdom's haunted past . . . or that its fate will soon rest in her hands.

Long ago, Kelsea's forefathers sailed away from a decaying world to establish a new land free of modern technology. Three hundred years later, this feudal society has divided into three fearful nations who pay duties to a fourth: the powerful Mortmesne, ruled by the cunning Red Queen. Now, on Kelsea's nineteenth birthday, the tattered remnants of the Queen's Guard—loyal soldiers who protect the throne—have appeared to escort the princess on a perilous journey to the capital to ascend to her rightful place as the new Queen of the Tearling.

Though born of royal blood and in possession of the Tear sapphire, a jewel of immense power and magic, Kelsea has never felt more uncertain of her ability to rule. But the shocking evil she discovers in the heart of her realm will precipitate an act of immense daring, throwing the entire kingdom into turmoil—and unleashing the Red Queen's vengeance. A cabal of enemies with an array of deadly weapons, from crimson-caped assassins to the darkest blood magic, plots to destroy her. But Kelsea is growing in strength and stealth, her steely resolve earning her loyal allies, including the Queen's Guard, led by the enigmatic Lazarus, and the intriguing outlaw known simply as "the Fetch."

Kelsea's quest to save her kingdom and meet her destiny has only just begun. Riddled with mysteries, betrayals, and treacherous battles, Kelsea's journey is a trial by fire that will either forge a legend . . . or destroy her.
Writing
Very well done.  This is a series with lots of characters and lots of political intrigue, which can be hard to do well, but the author more than succeeds at keeping it all going.  I love a good fantasy with a focus on characterization but that also delivers on the action and this one has both.  I thoroughly enjoyed this first installment and appreciated how Johansen manages to keep the story moving while also introducing us to a variety of characters and building a foundation for the series.

Entertainment Value
First books in a series can be difficult, but, again, this book really succeeds in introducing characters quickly and keeping the action moving.  She lays the foundation for her world in a way that makes you want more but doesn't feel like a lot of exposition.  I'm so excited to be a part of the three book review tour for this one and can't wait to move on to the second book!

Overall
This is a great choice for fans of political intrigue with a dash of fantasy in the style of Game of Thrones but with maybe a bit more social awareness.  It's got some violence but less gore and definitely more of a respect for women.  It might be a difficult choice for younger teens, but it's a good book for older teens and adult fantasy readers.

Thanks to TLC and to Harper Collins for having me on the tour.  Click here for a link to the other stops on the tour!

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35. All Things Must End

I have wrestled with this for a while, but it is time for Tweendom to slowly sink into the sunset.  It has been a wonderful 10 years (TEN YEARS!), and I've really enjoyed blogging and getting to know so many of you in real life!
I will keep reading tween books, as this is really my sweet spot, and feel free to follow me over on goodreads (Stacy268) to see what I've been up to.
Instead of totally shutting this blog down, I am going to leave it here so that folks can find some great titles for those middle schoolers in their lives.
Thanks for following and happy reading!

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36. It’s Tuesday! Write. Share. Give.

    Writing gives everyone a voice. What will you put your voice to today? Be an advocate. Stand tall. Stand Proud. Share your Voice.         Presentations If you are attending… Continue reading

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37. YA Poster: Great Non Fiction for Teens

I used to be a minimalist.  I believed that the library walls should be blank so the emphasis was on the books and displays on top of the shelves.

I have VERY MUCH changed my mind about that...

There are some great places to get YA Books posters:

From vendors Follett, Mackin, and Junior Library Guild
Epic Reads Blog
Teen Librarian Toolbox
Lunanshee's Lunacy

The last two are fellow librarians I absolutely love, both online and in person!  So I thought to myself that I need to start trying to create some themed YA book posters myself and emulate those I adminre.  So here's the beginning of my poster venture! As always, please feel free to download and print and post :)

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38. I Laughed Until I (fill in the blank): Humor in YA literature

Yesterday, we had a great discussion on #readYAlit Twitter chat about humor in young adult literature.  It's a nebulous genre because humor can mean something completely differently to one person than another. 

Is humor universal?  That was one question that was tackled in our chat.  Genders, experiences, and type of humor are different elements of humor that play an important part in that question.  There is guy humor and there is girl humor.  How each gender approaches it can be wildly different and how authors use it can reflect those differences.  That isn't to say either gender can't read humor that relates more to one than the other...it's just the appeal may lean toward one side more than the other.

And then there's humor that's found in serious books.  One participant wrote that humor is needed in YA literature to balance the realistic lives in fiction that can be dark and dangerous.  I have to be very careful about what I read so that I'm not focused on realistic fiction because of an incident that took places several years ago.  After booktalking, a student mentioned that it was depressing and she wasn't interested in any of them because of the mood I created with the titles I talked about.  And that student was RIGHT....so now I find as many different genres, and include humor in it. 

There are many different places online to find titles about humor that could help out any library and those wanting the "fun" side of YA lit.  If you genrefy, does it have it's own genre or it is part of each major genre (one librarian on the chat had an EXCELLENT answer to that one!)? Would you include humorous titles with those darker novels where humor peeks in every now and then (think John Green)?  Those are questions that I believe are more personal decisions, but the great thing is the exchange of ideas our chat last night held. 

And if you need a title list, never fear!  Here are a few resources you can use:

Ebsco's Novelist of Humorous YA Fiction by Tom Reynolds

YALSA's Genre Guide to Young Adult Humor

Humor in YA Fiction Flowchart

And then there is that often looked over section where you can find MANY humorous titles: Non-fiction (and dewey)!!  Here's my list of non-fiction/dewey I've read that I couldn't help but chuckle and sometimes outright laugh at:


The Stupid Crook Book by Gregory Leland

Cake Wreck: when professional cakes go hilariously wrong by Jen Yates
How They Croaked: the awful ends of the awfully famous by Georgia Bragg
How They Choked: Failures, flops and flaws of the awfully famous by Georgia Bragg
Visit Sunny Chernobyl: And other adventures in the world's most polluted places by Andrew Blackwell
Historical Heartthrobs: 50 timeless crushes from Cleopatra to Camus by Kelly Murphy
I’m Down: A memoir by Mishna Wolff
We Should Hang Out Some Time: Embarrassingly, a true story by Josh Sundquist
Emily the Strange graphic novels by Rob Reger
Happy Bunny Books graphic novels (?) by Jim Benton


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39. In Memory: Yumi Heo

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Obituary: Yumi Heo by Shannon Maughan from Publishers Weekly. Peek: "[Henry] Holt’s Laura Godwin shared this remembrance:

'Yumi was extremely gracious, enthusiastic, and inquisitive,' she said. 'I loved the way she incorporated ‘mistakes’ into her art rather than erasing or deleting them.
"If she drew a squiggle where she hadn’t intended, it would show up in the final art as a tree or a rabbit or whatever struck her fancy. She was part artist, part magician—and always an inspiration.'"
Yumi Heo Memorial Fund from Go Fund Me. Peek:

"Please show your support in honor of internationally loved children’s book author and Illustrator and creator of Polka Dot Penguin Pottery, Yumi Heo.
"Your support will help continue two of Yumi’s dreams, the steady training of her daughter as a professional figure skater and the founding of a scholarship program to help students in Korea who have big dreams and little resources."

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40. The Plot to Kill Hitler

The Plot to Kill Hitler. Patricia McCormick. 2016. 192 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The Gestapo would arrive any minute.

Premise/plot: Patricia McCormick tells the story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer for elementary-aged readers. It is subtitled pastor, spy, and unlikely hero. Young people likely haven't heard of him at all. So this is a great introduction. The prologue starts at the climax. The first chapter takes us back to his childhood days where we learn that he is a thoughtful, sensitive, intelligent dreamer. This one is very family-focused for the conspiracy to kill Hitler involved many of his family. Year by year, readers learn the how and the why. Notably, readers learn of many opportunities that would have kept him safe and out of the war and the dangers and risks of being in Nazi Germany. Bonhoeffer rejected the easy way out believing that no action was still an action. In other words, failure to rebel and speak out against Hitler was to support him. Silence and escape were unthinkable.

My thoughts: I knew of him as a Christian writer and thinker. I have read The Cost of Discipleship. I knew he died during the war at a concentration camp, I did not know that he was there not just for preaching and proclaiming against the regime, but was in fact an actual spy and co-conspirator. So I learned something!

This one was a quick read.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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41. After the Call

What are the next steps after you get the call offering representation?

http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/got-agent-now/

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42. Amazon Reviews

Amazon has specific rules governing how they decide if a review is legit.

http://annerallen.com/amazons-new-review-rules-should-authors-worry/

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43. Movie month, day 16

So Kailana (The Written Word) and I really LOVED participating in Jenni Elyse's 30 Days of Books.  We thought it would be fun to do a movie-theme list of questions! 

Today's question: A soundtrack that you love more than the actual movie...

 I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this soundtrack to Jane Eyre. Alessio Vlad & Claudio Capponi.

Others that came to mind:
  • How To Lose A Guy in Ten Days
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Serendipity



© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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44. Movie Month, day 14

So Kailana (The Written Word) and I really LOVED participating in Jenni Elyse's 30 Days of Books.  We thought it would be fun to do a movie-theme list of questions! 

 Today's question: A movie that you can't stop quoting....

The movie that I find most quotable is BABE.

The TV SPEcial I find most quotable is GARFIELD'S THANKSGIVING.

  • Pancakes, pancakes the size of Australia, and coffee, yes, Jon, coffee. We wouldn't be the great nation we are without coffee. So do your patriotic duty, Jon Arbuckle, and fix - me - breakfast!
  • Woe is me, I've been put on a diet and I'm gonna die.
  • Gee, I've been on this diet only ten minutes and I can tell I've already lost something... my sense of humor.
  • I'm free, I'm free, I can eat! Oh, joy! Oh, rapture! Oh, no! 
  • Grandma: Have cooking utensils, will travel.
    Go, Grandma, go. Deep fat fry, deep fat fry, music to my ears. 
  • Skip the piece of resistance, just gimme a piece of pie!

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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45. March: Book Three

March Book Three. John Lewis and Andrew Aydin. Illustrated by Nate Powell. 2016. 246 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Y'all better hurry along, now. Sunday School's nearly over, and the main service'll be startin' soon.

Premise/plot: March is the graphic novel autobiography of John Lewis. So far, there are three volumes in this autobiography. Today, I am reviewing book three. It opens in Birminham, Alabama, September 15, 1963, the bombing of a church. This one covers the rest of 1963, 1964, and 1965. The 'past' story line concludes with the 1965 Voting Rights Act becoming a law. The 'current' story line concludes with him deciding to do a graphic novel autobiography.

My thoughts: From start to finish, I personally found this compelling. Not just start to finish book three. Though that is certainly true enough. But start to finish all three books in this autobiography. Even though this third book was longer than the previous two, it didn't feel weighed down by unnecessary elements. If it was weightier in substance--darker, more depressing perhaps--that is for one good reason: it reflects what was happening. The book definitely captures the ongoing struggle of the non-violent fight for freedom: the spirit of determination, the bravery and courage, the stubbornness of men and women and even children taking a stand for something they believed in heart and soul and mind. Yes, this book is violent and bloody, perhaps much more so than the first two volumes even. But it shows readers--of all ages--that this "civil rights movement" was not quick and easy. That it was something that took years--decades even. That it was exhausting. That it took not just a few dozen big names, but hundreds, thousands of people. One can't learn "everything" there is to know about the "civil rights movement" by reading one or two books. This book series showed you how BIG everything was.


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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46. Announcing the Ultimate End of the Year List Sequence: 31 Days, 31 Lists

The Best Books of the Year lists are beginning to come out right around now. First we saw the Publishers Weekly List. Then the School Library Journal List was presented as part of a live feed on Kidlit TV.  The New York Times released their Best Illustrated list for the year.  Soon enough the other review journals will get on board, as will Brain Pickings with their annual picks of eclectic, original, artistic books.  Marjorie Ingall will do a list of the best books of the year with Jewish themes and characters for Tablet Magazine, the New York Public Library will release their 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing, and on and on it goes.

I love lists.  They make me happy. I enjoy few things quite as much as debating the relative merits of one book or another with colleagues. But since I left NYPL I’ve just been making my own little lists.  It’s fun but a little lonely.  To keep myself in the game I also decided to read every single picture book in 2016 and I think I came pretty close.  But what should I do with all this knowledge?  I’m not going to review every single amazing book I saw, that’s for sure.

That when this crazy idea slapped me upside the head with a rubber chicken.

What if I were to do not one list for 2016.  Not two lists.  Not three.  What if I were to do one list for every single day in December?  A list every day!  It would have to be called . . . .

31 Days, 31 Lists!!

Oh yes!!  And here’s how it’ll go.  Each day in December this site will produce one list.  Sometimes it’ll be a list you’d be able to find elsewhere (best picture books, nonfiction, etc.).  Sometimes it’ll be a list you might need but wouldn’t necessarily find elsewhere (picture book readalouds, picture books with photography, etc.).  And sometimes it’ll just be a trend I’ve noticed.  All these books will be 2016 publications.

Sound like fun?  Here’s the schedule:

December 1 – Board Books

December 2 – Board Book Adaptations

December 3 – Nursery Rhymes

December 4 – Picture Book Readalouds

December 5 – Rhyming Picture Books

December 6 – Alphabet Books

December 7 – Funny Picture Books

December 8 – Calde-Nots

December 9 – Picture Book Reprints

December 10 – Math Picture Books

December 11 – Bilingual Books

December 12 – International Imports

December 13 – Books with a Message

December 14 – Fabulous Photography

December 15 – Fairy Tales / Folktales

December 16 – Oddest Books of the Year

December 17 – Older Picture Books

December 18 – Easy Books

December 19 – Early Chapter Books

December 20 – Graphic Novels

December 21 – Poetry

December 22 – Fictionalized Nonfiction

December 23 – American History

December 24 – Science & Nature Books

December 25 – Transcendent Holiday Titles

December 26 – Unique Biographies

December 27 – Nonfiction Picture Books

December 28 – Nonfiction Chapter Books

December 29 – Novel Reprints

December 30 – Novels

December 31 – Picture Books

I don’t pretend that these lists will be complete or that they won’t miss some great publications out there.  However, I will at least be able to highlight all those amazing books I’ve seen this year that I wasn’t able to review.  And believe me when I say that 2016 was a doozy of a year when it came to fine and fabulous publications.

I cannot wait.

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47. Five Big Publishers

There are five big publishers, but they have many divisions and imprints.

http://almossawi.com/big-five-publishers/

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48. The Freedom To Create

More and more, I've been recognizing the need to give students some freedom in their writing lives. Can independent writing time be the answer?

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49. BUTTONS - The gift of losing things

Image result for buttons images
I need my button box.  TODAY is National Button Day and the craft I plan for tonight's storytime uses buttons.  When I went upstairs to the attic yesterday, the button box was not where I thought it was.  Our attic is, ahem, less than neat.  I shoved things around and looked on shelves and opened bins.  Nope.

So, today, I gave myself one hour to clean the main attic room and find that button box.  I threw things away!  (It was painful but I hope to be fine in a few days.)  I filled THREE huge black garbage bags with junk.  I stacked bins and reorganized my crafty items and THEN, when I was 99.7% done, I looked at the bottom of a shelf unit in the corner.  There was my button box.  Not lost at all, really.

I have an organized attic room with neatly stacked and labeled bins.  I got rid of junk.  I found my buttons! Losing things is a gift.

Books about Buttons:

Pete the Cat and his Four Groovy Buttons by Eric Litwin, illustrated by James Dean.    Pete loses his buttons, one by one, but never loses his cool.  The publisher's website features a video and Pete the Cat songs.

Three Little Firefighters by Stuart Murphy.   Three little firefighters have to get dressed for the parade but they don't have any buttons on their coats!!  This is a great book about sorting.

 The Button Box by Margaret S. Reid.   A little boy loves looking through his grandmother's button box. The book introduces sorting concepts.

Joseph Had a Little Overcoat by Simms Taback.    Joseph, the tailor, loves his overcoat so much he recycles it into every smaller items until all he has a button.  And, then???  Based on a yiddish folk song, this book has wonderfully colorful pictures.

Dear Levi: Letters from the Overland Trail by Elvira Woodruff.  This wonderful historical fiction book features an orphan boy traveling across the country.  The wagon train's cook collects buttons -  (I am not alone!) - as a way to remember the people he meets.


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50. Diversity and stuff

America - the Melting Pot!  That image is sort of wrong.  I don't want the Mediterranean part of me melted into the Germanic part of me - not entirely!  I want to own the Mangia! and the Gesundheit! both - to say nothing of the Pip Pip Cheerio!  and Top o' the morning!  I am proud of every single patch in my patchwork DNA.

At the same time,  America as a Cooking Pot is sort of right.  I love soups and stews - foods where different ingredients blend together but keep their individual flavors.  America is more like a hearty soup.

Hey!  We're all people!  We all share the same home, the Earth.

A good cook doesn't let any one ingredient overpower all the others.

I think I forgot where I was going with this.  Oh!  Right!  Diversity!  Celebrate the differences, everyone!  All the lovely differences!

Here are some book lists to get you started in this celebration of America, the Cooking Pot.  Mangia!

From the Cooperative Children's Book Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison, here are 50 Multicultural Books Every Child Should Know.

Reading Is Fundamental has 40 books on their list.

The Center for the Study of Multicultural Literature for Children puts out a booklist for books published in the current year.  2016 isn't over yet. (Sigh.) So, here is their list for 2015.

Scholastic.com puts a LOT of work into their various websites, so here is their little 7 book long book list about diversity.

Here is an interesting list of picture books, from Storytime Standouts, on diversity and empathy.  Some of the titles seem to be off topic.  But, there are all kinds of differences out there.

And No Time for Flashcards put together this list of books about families that don't fit the mother/father/2.5 children/and a dog mold.

Hmm, I think this soup needs a little more of.....YOU!


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