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Results 26 - 50 of 155,056
26. ICYMI: Discovering the Writer’s Life Blog Series Recap

It's difficult to consider yourself a writer isn't it? As I read the post in this series I related to each of my co-author's posts. Considering yourself a reader seems natural to many of us; but calling yourself a writer is personal and difficult.

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27. This Side of Wild: Mutts, Mares and Laughing Dinosaurs by Gary Paulsen: Book Review

ARC received at no charge to facilitate review.

When author, Gary Paulsen, rescues an elderly poodle named Corky from animal shelter, he discovers a spunk and lack of fear that makes the dog an amazing guard dog who returns the favor of saving a life. Gretchen, a dog who drinks from a mug, convinces the author that animals have an understanding and way of communicating that goes beyond what our minds can fathom. Who knew a mare would actually have the capability of protecting a jackrabbit from coyotes or that a bird could not only mimic a president but maybe even feel lonely? Some fascinating insights into the relationships animals have with humans.

Overall, the book felt like a compilation of notes about animals that didn't quite make it into Paulsen's adventure novels. While not Paulsen's best work, the reluctant reader may love the different anecdotes on animals relation to man. With each chapter being a different experience, the older middle grade reader can merely enjoy the short stories rather than think through a plot.

Rating:

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28. Cry, Heart, But Never Break



Cry, Heart, But Never Break
by Glenn Ringtved
illustrated by Charlotte Pardi
translated from the Danish by Robert Moulthrop
Enchanted Lion Press, March 2016
review copy provided by the publisher

When Death comes for the children's beloved grandmother, they try to keep him from his task by serving him enough coffee to distract him until dawn, when he would have to leave without their grandmother.

It doesn't work.

Though "Some people say Death's heart is as dead and black as a piece of coal...that is not true. Beneath his inky cloak, Death's heart is as red as the most beautiful sunset and beats with a great love of life."

So Death tells the children a story about two brothers, Sorrow and Grief, who wind up marrying two sisters, Joy and Delight. After a long life together, all four died on the very same day, because they couldn't live without each other. Death uses this fable to show children that life needs both light and darkness. And his last advice, after the Grandmother dies, is the title of the book: "Cry, heart, but never break. Let your tears of grief and sadness help begin new life."

It's never easy to have conversations about death in our classrooms, but I think this gentle and sweet book would reassure students.

Depending on the group, I might pair it with


Grandy Thaxter's Helper
by Douglas Rees
illustrated by S.D. Schindler
Atheneum Books, 2004

This book gives readers a more irreverent version of Death, but also a strong character who resists him. Grandy Thaxter enlists Death's help with her work on successive days -- the cleaning (including the windows), the laundry (including the making of lye soap), making dinner (including grinding the corn for mush), the dishes after dinner, and, the straw that breaks Death's back, the making of linen (of the piles of bundles of wet reeds, he learns "We're going to brake it and swingle the reeds to get the flax"... "We're going to hackle it and spin it"... "So I can weave it into cloth."). Death can't take any more, saying, "I will come back some time when you are not so busy."

Gotta love a woman who is just too busy to die!




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29. Reading to Babies


The Friends of the Dallas Public Library recently started giving away copies of Read to Me by Judi Moreillon to new parents at the Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, Texas. Read to Me encourages family members to read aloud to their children.  It’s a nice gift to welcome a baby to the community.

You can read the January 30, Dallas Morning News story about how the Parkland Health & Hospital System has partnered with the Dallas Public Library and the Friends of the Dallas Public Library to give babies born this year a copy of Read to Me, a board book about reading to babies and children.  The Dallas Morning News followed up with an editorial on February 2, congratulating the Friends of the Dallas Public Library for their efforts promoting early literacy skills that will help the children in the Dallas community.

Reading to Your Own Baby

For all the families who don’t own a copy of Read to Me, what tips can I, as a librarian, offer you about reading aloud to your children?

First of all, relax and have fun. The attention you are giving your child is making your child happy. You might think of yourself as a “bad” reader, but your child thinks you are a superstar.

Board books, those heavy cardboard books, are good for children 0-2 years of age. Board books are meant to be chewed, hugged, thrown and loved.  Chewing is normal. Babies test their world with their mouths.  That’s why publishers make books safe for babies to put in their mouths.

What should you read to a child? Infants and toddlers like books with photos of other babies. Your baby will probably pat the books when they like a face on the page. Infants will enjoy hearing your voice no matter what you read.

Older toddlers enjoy books about numbers, shapes, colors or ABCs. Rhyming books are a good choice too.

There is no rule that you have to read the whole book at one time. If your child gets up to run around, that’s okay. Books can be picked up and read at a later time. Or, if your child chose one of those really long stories and YOU are tired, you can just read one sentence or make up a story about the picture on the page. 

Now go read a book to your baby and have fun sharing a story together.

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30. Interview: Suzanne Nelson

Please welcome to the blog author Suzanne Nelson, winner of the Sydney Taylor Honor Award in the Teen Readers Category for her novel Serendipity's Footsteps.

What inspired you to write Serendipity's Footsteps? Did you plan from the onset to tie various plotlines together through a pair of shoes, or did the characters' individual stories come to you first?

There were so many inspirations for Serendipity's Footsteps. Versions of Ray and Pinny had been in my mind for over a decade, and I'd even tried once, years ago, writing a vastly different rendition of their story where they were biological sisters. Sixty or so pages into that story, though, I realized it wasn't working and shelved it. Then, a few years ago, I saw a single red slingback sitting atop a boulder in my town. It spurred a conversation with my sister about lost shoes. We tried to unravel the mystery of all the shoes we spotted hanging in trees or laying abandoned on roadsides. What were their stories? Who'd left them behind? It was my sister who asked me to write a novel about lost shoes. She's always loved shoes and told me, "Just write it for me." Because she's my best and most loved and trusted friend, I began writing for her. Then, as I wrote, without me even being fully aware of how pieces were falling into place, Dalya and her story were born. Once Dalya came to me, Ray and Pinny appeared beside her. Maybe they'd been waiting for her the whole time. Needless to say, I knew that these three heroines needed to come together. They each needed families and love, and the story's pale pink shoes became the key to their unbreakable bond. Really, writing the book was as much about serendipity for me as it was for my three heroines. I love Dalya, Ray, and Pinny and consider them kindred sisters and family. They exist for me, real as any other people, and so do the shoes they love.

Dayla, Ray, and Pinny have distinct personalities and voices. Is there a little piece of you in each of them? My Knopf editor and dear friend Michelle Frey tells me that she sees some of me in each of my three heroines, so it's probably true. I can't say with confidence that I could ever possess Dalya's resilience, because I've never experienced anything like her tragedies. Still, I admire her strength of spirit, her loyalty to her faith, culture, and family, and her deep capacity for love. I'd like to believe I carry some of those traits within me, too. I'm as passionate about writing as Ray is about her music. As a teenager, I sometimes wished to escape my life like Ray does. But who doesn't dream of running away at some point or other? The idea of reinventing yourself in a new place and starting fresh without obligations to anyone or anything can be appealing, until you start thinking about how lonely it would be. I have some of Ray's selfishness and outspokenness, too, although maybe I've learned to temper those shortcomings through the years (only my family can tell you how successful I've been in my efforts.). As for Pinny and her quest for the "More of Life," the joy she finds in so much of the world around her--I strive to find "More" joy and love in my life each and every day. I'm not as much of an optimist as she is, but I believe in magical thinking and sucking the marrow out of every moment life has to offer.

Did you model any of the characters after people you know or admire?

None of the characters are based directly on people I know personally. However, the emotions Dalya experiences in the wake of her losses, and the decisions she makes in her personal life to preserve and honor her family and her Jewish heritage and identity, were informed by some close friends who shared their family's Holocaust survival stories with me. I have such great admiration for these friends who continually work to protect their family's histories and faith and I hoped to convey some of this with Dalya's character. Pinny's character and story, as well, were influenced indirectly by an experience I had as a teen. My senior year of high school, I tutored a three-year-old boy who had Down Syndrome. The afternoons I spent with Troy were some of the most memorable and rewarding of my adolescence, and I've stayed in touch with the Drake family through the years. Troy and his parents opened my eyes to the challenges so many people with special needs face in finding meaningful employment and independence. It was so important to him and to his family that he work in a field he truly loved. Troy is in his twenties now and has his own Etsy business, Doodle Duck Design. Talking with the Drakes about their journey to find ways for Troy to live his "More of Life" helped me develop Pinny's story. I hope Pinny's search to find fulfillment in her life and work reflects that.

What are the biggest challenges - and rewards - when writing and researching historical fiction?

Research is one of the most fascinating parts of writing historical fiction. I love it so much that for me, the biggest challenge of researching is knowing when to stop! Then there's the problem of having to choose which pieces of research to include in my story, and trying to glean what facts will hold the most interest for readers. It's a time-consuming process, but one that I truly enjoy.

What resources did you use while writing and revising Serendipity's Footsteps?

With Serendipity's Footsteps, I read letters, diary entries, and first-hand accounts from Jewish children and teen refugees who came to the United States prior to and during World War II. From the mid 1930s to the early 1940s, one thousand Jewish children were brought to our country from Europe as part of an American kindertransport. All of those one thousand children left their parents behind in Europe and many never saw them again. They were placed with foster families around the country. Many of the children didn't know English when they arrived, were placed in school classes with younger students, and struggled with loneliness and coping with the grief of the terrible losses of the families they left behind. Learning about the obstacles they overcame and the strength and courage they had in such tragic circumstances helped me portray the difficulties Dalya faced in her transition to America.

Although my visit to Dachau Concentration Camp took place years ago, that visit has always haunted me. I drew on my memories of it when writing the novel. I also contacted two lovely professors, Dr. Buser and Dr. Ley, in Germany who were experts in the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp and its history, and they answered my numerous questions about that specific camp. Dr. Joselit, Professor of Judaic Studies and History at George Washington University, also gave me wonderful insight into Jewish life and culture in 1930s and 40s New York City. In the end, I was fortunate to have a number of knowledgeable people, here and overseas, guide my research and am so grateful to all of them for their help.

Your modern day romantic comedies include Cake Pop Crush, Hot Cocoa Hearts, Bacon Me Crazy, and Macarons at Midnight. Did you always plan for these stories to be a connected series?

This series started out as a single book, Cake Pop Crush. My Scholastic editor and I were so thrilled to see how popular that book became, and the other companion books followed as a result. Even though the books all have some fun baking theme, they each have different characters and a distinct plot, so they don't have to be read in any specific order. There will be a fifth foodie romance book coming in 2017, titled Donut Go Breaking My Heart. The style of writing for this series is very different from the style of Serendipity's Footsteps. The baking series is lighter and geared towards a younger, middle grade audience. It's fun writing the baking books because it gives me a break from the more serious topics and themes I'm drawn to in my other novels for older readers.

Do you like baking? If so, what are your specialties?

I am giggling at this question, because the honest truth is that I am not as much of a baker as my Cake Pop series might lead readers to believe. When I was experimenting with cake pop recipes for Cake Pop Crush, I actually set a bowl of candy melts on fire in my microwave. I had to run out onto my back porch with the flaming Tupperware to extinguish it under the pouring rain! My family thought it was hilarious.

Cake pop mishaps aside, I do enjoy baking with my three kids. I have a particular weakness for gooey brownies and white chocolate chip cookies and gobble them warm straight out of the oven. My five-year-old daughter is especially passionate about baking, and her love for it rubs off on me. We made some cupcakes a few weeks ago that had mountains of fluorescent icing so high they could've rivaled Mount Everest.

You have also worked as a book editor. How did your work as an editor inform your writing, and vice versa?

I don't think I ever would have become a published author without having been an editor first. Learning the ins and outs of the publishing process and working with other authors on their manuscripts was the best education I received as a writer. Because I was able to see what needed to be revised or reworked in other people's manuscripts, I learned how to view my own writing with a more critical eye. I also learned that you have to write what you're passionate about but also what fills a need in the current book market. Being a writer as well as an editor also gave me great empathy for other struggling writers, and when I had to reject a submission I tried to do it as nicely and encouragingly as I could.

Describe your current favorite go-to pair of shoes for daily wear.

Right now we're in the depths of winter here in Connecticut, and I have this enormous pair of brown fuzzy boots that I wear to wade through the snow and ice. They're so comfortable and warm. For the most part though, because most days I work from home, I keep my feet toasty in some snug slippers. Boring? Maybe, but absolutely essential for my creativity and productivity!

How about your most fun pair of shoes?

I have a pair of glam handmade shoes that are decorated with peacock feathers and another pair of glossy, cherry red peep-toe heels that make me feel beautiful inside and out every time I slip them on. Walking in them feels akin to teetering on a tightrope, but they're absolutely worth it!

List ten of your favorite books. Any genre, any style.

Disclaimer: This is an eclectic mix of classical, contemporary, adult and children's literature. I could easily add another hundred titles to this list (there are so many incredible books in the world!), but these ten are stories I turn to again and again.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams
The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
The Blue Castle by LM Montgomery
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by K.G. Campbell (And really anything written by Kate DiCamillo!)
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Holes by Louis Sachar
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson


Congratulations to all of the recipients of The Sydney Taylor Book Award! Follow the blog tour featuring the 2016 gold and silver medalists all this week, February 8th-February 12th, hosted at a variety of blogs. Click here for the full blog tour schedule.

Learn more about the Sydney Taylor Honor Award.
Visit the People of the Books Blog.
Visit Suzanne Taylor's website.

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31. The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

The Lie Tree begins with a gloomy, wet boat journey to a gloomy, wet island in the English Channel.  Fourteen-year-old Faith Sunderly, our protagonist, is moving with her family to the Isle of Vane, so that her father, the Reverend Erasmus Sunderly, can consult on an archaeological dig.  It's the 1860s, and amateur natural scientists like Erasmus are grappling with the new, controversial theory

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32. An Electrifying Read!

Electric Ben: The Amazing Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin

By Robert Byrd

 

 

If you’ve only thought of Ben Franklin as a bespectacled white-haired colonist, flying a kite with a key attached, then you and your young reader are in for some ride.

But, I must warn you, just as the virtues espoused and exhibited by Ben included patience, you may need a bit of it as you navigate this book.

It’s lengthy and loaded with facts. But do not let its length deter you or young reader. It’s dense and compels you to delve deeper into the depths of Ben Franklin. But I can tell you that his life is presented in such a way that though it may be non-fiction, it is quite the page turner.

In his Author’s Note, Robert Byrd says to his readers:

 

                  With a figure as famous as

                  Franklin, there is an abundance

                  of information about his life. I

                  wasn’t going to discover any-

                  thing about him that wasn’t

                  already known, so I had to pick

                  and choose what I thought

                  was informative and visually

                  interesting…..I tried to present

                  events in Franklin’s life in the

                  most intriguing, yet respectful

                  way, and also providing excite-

                  ment and graphic variation with

                  each page turn.

 

 

Electric Ben is packed with information on Franklin’s hunger for knowledge, and one can feel the excitement as the book delineates and describes the amazing number of hats this man wore in his rich and varied life.

Do not underestimate the worth of the word “packed”, in Robert Byrd’s extraordinary picture book feat in Electric Ben. The art alone is worth the purchase of this picture book.

But, if you have the patience to plumb its depths with your young reader, both of you will come away in awe of this man among men. Are any of his like still around? I wonder.

Robert Byrd has managed to hone from dry historical facts, a Ben Franklin from youth to old age that is real and robust; a flesh and blood person whose authenticity, far-sightedness and insatiable curiosity was very hard to sate. And thank, heavens it wasn’t. For we are the beneficiaries.

You’ll hear of the Leather Apron Men in Boston who were craftsman and:

 

 

    Ben would always hold these artisans

    in high regard. They worked hard and

    were very skilled.

 

 

Even from the outset, on the front and rear covers of Electric Ben, the reader will find quotes from this innovator with such a keen mind, he was not content to merely grasp  knowledge, but he had a thirst to disseminate it to others.

Perhaps, one might not think sibling rivalry  an essential topic as regards Robert Byrd’s bio on Ben, but it’s there early on…with a brother that happens to be in the same line of work, as a writer and printer.

You can just hear the howls from brother James, eldest of Josiah and Abiah Folger Franklin’s brood of fourteen children.

Ben, as the youngest, was apprenticed to his brother for nine years, at James’ paper called the New England Courant.

It provided Ben writing opportunities as a 16 year-old; some not to older brother’s liking. For he quickly developed a following all his own under the pen name, Silence Dogood.

And James was furious as Silence champions “women’s right to education and criticized everything from bad poetry to Harvard students.” A brotherly brouhaha ensues and Ben leaves with the quote:

 

             I had already made myself

obnoxious to the governing

party.

 

Sailing to Philadelphia, brother James saw to it that Ben was “banned in Boston.” And there he thrives. Writing in the Gazette, a paper owned by a friend, it gives Ben a job, but ever a striver, he soon owns the paper.

And this is just the start of a life that included inventions including the lightning rod, Franklin stove, the famous bifocals and the discovery that lightning WAS electricity.

Not satisfied, there is his political participation as one of the Founding Fathers of a new nation and someone that helped write the Declaration of Independence and a framer of the Constitution no less!

Ben was also the United States Ambassador to France with a voracious and consuming knowledge of science, music, mathematics, history and more.

This book prompted me to get a copy of Poor Richard’s Almanac, selling at that time, some 10,000 copies a year, equal to perhaps two million today!

Mr. Byrd has even reprinted a page from the 1733 copy. Here are three quotes from it:

 

           People who are wrapped up in

          themselves make small packages.

 

Fish and visitors stink in three days.

 

          If you would know the value of money

          try to borrow some.

 

 

It was printed for some twenty-five years and made Ben rich, and its readers richer still… in knowledge.

I have to find a copy.

In the meantime, please read Electric Ben by Richard Byrd.

It’s electrifying!

 

 

 

 

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33. #BabyLove My Social Life - a bookwrap


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34. Chai Lights--February 8, 2016

  Shalom (that's "hello" in Hebrew) and welcome to YABC's newest column, Chai­Lights! In this column, we'll explore the best of contemporary Jewish­themed books for young children, middle graders, and teens.   The name of this column infuses the word "highlights" with a uniquely Jewish pun. Chai is the Hebrew word...

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35. Whatchu Worrying About, Book Nerd?

By Becca... BOOKISH WORRYING 1. To go out at night or stay home and read I don't know about you guys, but this is something I constantly worry about. I get asked to go doing something mundane, but but but this book that I'm reading is so good. I need to finish it like ASAP. I NEED TO KNOW WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN!! If I go out, all I'm going to be doing the whole time is

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36. Two Friends

Two Friends: Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass. 2016. Dean Robbins. Illustrated by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko. 2016. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Susan B. Anthony set out two saucers, two cups, and two slices of cake. Frederick Douglass arrived for tea.

Premise/plot: Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass were friends. This picture book for older readers imagines these two sitting down and enjoying tea together. Readers learn facts about Susan B. Anthony and facts about Frederick Douglass. Readers can see what these two had in common and why they supported one another.

My thoughts: I liked it. This one reminded me of last year's Chasing Freedom by Nikki Grimes. But I happened to like this one a bit better. Instead of trying to force all the biographical facts into dialogue, this book devotes a few pages per person. Readers still learn a little bit about each one. But it doesn't feel as forced perhaps, at least in my opinion. This one was also not as text-heavy.

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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37. Save Our Libraries

I've had a crazy busy week.  My debut novel, More of Me, has been pushed into the world with a lot more ease than my babies were. Kind Of. The gestation period was considerably longer but the delivery a whole lot less painful. In fact, it was kind of wonderful. My friends and family ensured I had two sellout book launches and my publicists at Usborne have been shouting about my book from the rooftops. I've had some amazing reviews , so much so I can barely believe it's all happening. So, to ground myself firmly back on earth,  you'll be pleased to know I am  not going to talk about my book.


  If you want to read about the launch it's all here  but first...

I'm going to talk about libraries. 


I love libraries. A lot of authors do. In fact, very many notable figures are a major part of the campaign to Save Our Libraries because they are seriously under threat from financial cutbacks. Cathy Cassidy is a stalwart of the campaign, as is Philip Ardagh. 



Ah ha! I hear you say, of course authors want to keep libraries, they are rolling in cash from all the loans. Well, not exactly. Authors currently receive just over 7 pence per loan and the full amount you can receive is capped. No author is going to become a millionaire from public lending rights money, even fellow SCBWI member Paula Harrison whose Rescue Princesses books were borrowed almost 50,000 times last year! - in fact you need around 85,000 loans to take you to the current cap. I shall let you do the maths.

It is indeed a useful income supplement for authors whose average incomes have dropped to below £11,000 per year but not, you will agree, champagne and caviar money.

So why do authors keep gathering together and banging on about saving libraries? Surely they'd be far happier if everyone went out and bought the books?  Well...

No. Because most authors write to be read and the more people who read them, the better. And most authors understand that not everyone can afford a houseful of books and that not all children are born into households where books are considered important. If you want equality of education, of development, you need libraries. If you want all children to have access to the same level of resources, at the very least, you need libraries. If you want any kind of fairness in society, you need libraries.

Nick Gibb, our current minister for schools says: “Reading for pleasure is more important than a family’s socio-economic status in determining a child’s success at school,” 

Children learn so much from books. Books don't just inform us of facts, or teach us how to express ourselves, children who read become better empathisers as Natascha Biebow eloquently explains  on Picture Book Den. Books can comfort and distract older children from anxiety.  They can help them understand the hugely complex world they are growing up in.

 I know there are many adults that also rely on library services but three out of the top five library loans in 2015 were children's books. Go and visit the children's section in your local library  You'll maybe see mum's and toddlers for story time - brilliant for mum's to make contact with other mums, brilliant for kids to hear stories. You'll see teens in corners checking out whether they really want to read the book whose cover looked so attractive - or furtively checking out the guides to being a teenager. You might catch a few newly independent readers excitedly looking for the next Paula Harrison or Cathy Cassidy or Philip Ardagh book.  I can guarantee you, the library matters to those kids - to all teh people who use them:.

I was very lucky, I came  from a house where we did have books - not a huge number, there were four of us kids and not a lot of money, but I always had a book for Christmas and my birthday or if the book fair came to our school -  and  my Mum made sure we got into the library habit. Once a week, off we went - and I never lost that habit. I grew up in Portsmouth library. The books I wolfed down informed the writer I am today.  They really did.

I can trace the influences of all the classics: Hardy, Dickens, Bronte ( all three), Austen, Isaac Asimov, George Orwell, Frank Herbert - my appetite was voracious. Even if we'd have been a rich family, my parents wouldn't have been able to keep up. There are still kids  like me using libraries. They don't all have a kindle - the just don't. I'm sorry,  but you're a twit if you think they do.


So please, if you want a fair, informed, empathetic, equal society - back our libraries.

You can find out more on the Library Campaign Website. 


Kathryn Evans also blogs on My Life Under Paper and you can follow her mood swings on twitter: @mrsbung    Her debut novel, More of Me, is out now.

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38. The Importance of Writing Clips

A lot of writers hear the well-meaning advice that, in order to break in more easily, they should have some writing clips and credits to their resume. It’s good advice, and I especially don’t want to disenfranchise the many writers who have been actively pursuing this strategy with my answer, because it is a very worthwhile strategy.

In case you haven’t thought about this issue before, I’ll summarize here: When you’re an aspiring writer, you have a lot of ambition to write, but not a lot of platform. People aren’t buying what you want to sell, basically. Or, if they are, they aren’t really paying you for it. You’re probably getting opportunities to showcase your work on blogs and at other web-based venues that don’t have a budget to compensate contributors. Or maybe you start your own blog, like this ol’ hack did! This is how a lot of people get going.

Then you think that there has to be more out there that’s, well, more noteworthy to a potential publishing gatekeeper. So maybe you explore other avenues to showcase your work. Whether it’s in the children’s writing realm, say, Highlights Magazine, or in an unrelated area, like an op-ed for the local newspaper, or a poem in a general fiction literary journal, you start to set your sights higher.

Whether you try to gather clips in print journalism, the literary community, scientific or medical magazines (a lot of writers have done a lot of technical writing for their day jobs), etc., you’re basically writing and racking up pieces that someone else has vetted and decided are good enough to publish.

This all makes a lot of sense, right? If you want to write, write, and maybe the momentum of all your writing will speed up your efforts on the book publishing front. Being published is being published, no matter what you’re publishing. And writing professionals love to see writing credits. Right? Weeeeeeeeeell…

It’s not often that clear-cut. Publishing an op-ed in your local paper in Portland is not the magic ticket to calling attention to yourself with a children’s book editor in New York, unless, of course, your op-ed or Huffpo article causes such a stir that it goes “viral” and attracts a lot of attention or controversy. In fact, under my original name (a much longer version of “Kole”), I published an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, which is a notable newspaper that people have heard of. And I thought, for sure, this was my golden ticket. The day it ran, I waited for the phone to ring. Aaaaand…my mother was very proud of me. Then one man from Idaho took offense at my sense of humor. That’s about it.

The fact of the matter is, if you can say in your query that you’ve published with a top-tier publication that most casual readers have heard of, that’s going to be an amazing feather in your cap. And agents and editors might take notice. But it’s likely not going to get you a book publishing contract.

And outside of that, if you’re publishing on blogs, or in smaller literary magazines, or in venues that have nothing whatsoever to do with publishing novels, then your clips are going to tell a potential agent or editor one positive thing, but one positive thing only: That you’ve hustled a little and know a little bit about the process. And that’s a positive thing, because that might indicate that you’re at least somewhat easy to work with during the publishing process. But it’s not a guarantee of anything.

My main objection to splitting your focus and concentrating on amassing clips if your primary goal is to publish a book can be expressed in this recent post. The truth of the matter is, some journalists spend years trying to crack the New York Times for their own resumes. It’s an entirely new skillset. First, there’s learning how to write well enough that the Times would take interest. Then it’s cultivating contacts and editor relationships that will get you prime consideration. Then it’s learning the culture of the publication (and every publication has one, no matter how small they are) and learning how to work within it successfully. After a lot of effort, you may finally get published in the Times. But then you’re published in the Times, not in the book realm.

What’s missing from this picture of all the effort you’ve put in? Oh yeah, honing your novel craft, which is why you’re doing any of this to begin with. So gathering clips is phenomenal, but it doesn’t help you accomplish your primary goal directly. And there’s no guarantee that it will help you accomplish your primary goal indirectly, either. You may sink a few years into pitching freelance articles to magazines, distract yourself, and maybe emerge with one well-regarded piece in Real Simple…that has nothing to do with your novel.

Is that payoff worth it? Only you can decide. This strategy only seems to work well when you’re a journalist in your day job, and a novelist by night. Then you possess both skillsets already, and you can jump back and forth more easily. Otherwise, it’s like going through all the work and trouble of growing a new arm, just so you can give your primary hands better manicures. It seems like a lot more effort than it’s worth.

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39. A Loathly Lady Story By Lois McMaster Bujold

Recently, I've been rereading all my LMB books, which I love as much as ever and it has occurred to me that the story of "Labyrinth", the Miles Vorkosigan novella, has definite connections to the Loathly Lady stories of the Middle Agrs.

In case you're not familiar with these, you'll find them in the story of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnell and even in Chaucer in the Wife Of Bath's Tale. What it boils down to is this: the hero finds himself with a terrifying huge, ugly woman who makes certain demands of him, including marriage, in exchange for something he needs desperately. He grants them to her and in the morning finds himself beside a stunningly beautiful woman - by giving her what she wanted, he has broken a spell. (And when you think of it, even the Disney movie Shrek plays with it, except that the beautiful woman turns into an ogre and happily goes off with her fellow ogre)

But I was thinking of the Child Ballad King Henry, which I first heard plated by Steeleye Span on my favourite album Below The Salt. In it, King Henry(no specific King Henry, just the standard Everyknight with a crown) gets lost hunting and finds his way to a "haunted hall" to spend the night. There, he is confronted with a huge, ugly fanged woman who demands of him food(his horse, hounds and hawks) and drink(wine sewed up in his horse's hide). Then she demands he sleep with her. Trembling, he lies down with her. In the morning, she has turned into the beautiful woman of his dreams, and tells him that his knightly courtesy and giving her all she wanted has impressed her. That's where Steeleye Span leaves it, except for a last chorus/verse about having an open heart and full of charity. 

So, we return to the story of Miles Vorkosigan and his own Loathly Lady, who eventually becomes a master sergeant in his fleet. Miles has been contracted to rescue a scientist whose skills will be useful to Barrayar and who has been having second thoughts about his employment on the dreadful planet Jackson's Whole, where pretty much everything is okay as long as it fits in with things capitalist. Including horrible use of genetic engineering for sexual slavery.

The scientist insists that a vital part of his research is embedded in the left leg of a "creature" he'd been working on and won't go without it. Kill the creature and take the material, he tells Miles.

Then Miles finds himself in the basement with an eight foot high being with fangs... and discovers it is female - and human - in fact, a sixteen year old girl - under all the genetic engineering. She has been created for a super soldier program that no longer exists and been abandoned and sold into slavery. Seeing her killing and eating a rat - about all there is to eat in that place - he offers her a ration bar. After the food, she wants water, which she has been without since being locked up. He finds a water pipe and she has her drink. Then she demands that he lie with her to prove he accepts her as human. Miles is at first shocked, but manages to give her what she wanted. making her happy - and inviting her to join his mercenaries, telling her that he had been sent to slay a monster and instead found a hidden princess.

 After that, they escape, wiping out the villain's entire gene banks of potential slaves as they go. The Loathly Lady, now called Taura, never becomes beautiful in a regular sense, but she cleans up well, with the help of a female soldier, and becomes beautiful in her own way.

Can you see the resemblance to King Henry? He gives her food, drink and himself, in other words "all her will", which is usually the point of these stories. Sir Gawain and the unnamed knight of the Canterbury Tale both have to find out what women want - which is to get their own way. King Henry doesn't have that problem, but he gives her her own way anyhow.

I wouldn't put it past Lois McMaster Bujold to have had a Loathly Lady story in mind when writing this.

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40. On Syliva Plath, Janet Malcolm and Molly Crabapple

When I reviewed Molly Crabapple’s illustrated memoir Drawing Blood for Booklist I included the following lines:

Jaw dropping, awe inspiring, and not afraid to shock, Crabapple is a punk Joan Didion, a young Patti Smith with paint on her hands, a twenty-first century Sylvia Plath cut loose from the constraints of Ted Hughes. There’s no one else like her; prepare to be blown away by both the words and pictures.

Booklist reviewers don’t comment when questions are raised about their reviews (we honestly don’t really interact with the public at all on them), but I noticed that while some folks understood and agreed with my comparisons to Didion and Smith, the Plath comment was a bit more confusing. This didn’t surprise me – everything about Syliva Plath seems to be confusing – but I knew why I put it in there. This past week I have been reading The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes* by Janet Malcolm and I think it has affirmed the aptness of the comparison.

Malcolm does a bit of a master class in this book about the biographer’s duty to the truth and how incredibly sticky that can be. (Especially in the case of Plath.) She reinforces so much of what I thought about Plath’s fierceness in her final writings and it was that unflinching writerly toughness that I was thinking of when I wrote the review for Drawing Blood. Here is a passage from The Silent Woman about life for Plath after she and Hughes broke up:

In a letter to her friend Ruth Fainlight, (which begins with the obligatory abuse of Hughes) Plath wrote, “When I was ‘happy’ domestically I felt a gag in my throat. Now that my domestic life, until I get a permanent live-in girl, is chaos, I am living like a Spartan, writing through huge fevers and producing free stuff I had locked in me for years. I feel astounded and very lucky. I keep telling myself I was the sort that could only write when peaceful at heart, but that is not so, the muse has come to live here, now Ted has gone.”

Malcolm also writes of the controversy Plath engendered by incorporating references to the Holocaust directly into her poems, most notably “Daddy”. Some reviewers at the time were deeply disturbed by her claim of suffering comparable to the Jews, (remember this was barely 10 years from the end of WWII) but what stood out for me in reading Plath, and what Malcolm writes of here, is that Plath didn’t think she had to ask permission. She had something to say, and she said it. Here is Malcolm again:

To say that Plath did not earn the right to invoke the names of Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen is off the mark. It is we who stand accused, who fall short, who have not accepted the wager of imagining the unimaginable, of cracking Plath’s code of atrocity.

It was that bold nature of Plath’s that resonated with me when I read Crabapple; that demand to be heard on significant subjects and the fearlessness to move forward with those demands. Plath found a stronger voice without Hughes, a voice that might have been hers much sooner without their relationship. It was that aspect of Sylvia Plath that came to me as I read Drawing Blood, and why I made her a part of my review.

*I’m reading The Silent Woman for the #wlclub on twitter. Check it out if you are interested in reading about women’s lives.

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41. Found While Googling Myself


I was Googling myself, as you do, when I found the above. Apparently it came out last year, written by a university academic from Deakin uni, and it spent a couple of pages on my novel Wolfborn. Like other academic tomes it would cost $$$ to buy and even the ebook cost about the price of four paperbacks. So I decided to see if the State Library had a copy and take a look before deciding to order a copy for myself.

I went today, after work, and sat down in the Redmond Barry Reading Room with my prize. If I'd been there on a weekend I might have curled up with it in a corner and read the lot, but I was tired and had to go before the library closed, so I settled for a browse through the pages about my favourite writers - and, of course, the pages about me. 

I hadn't heard of all the authors, though, as a passionate children's/YA reader and librarian, I had heard of a fair few. And I must say, first, that I'm flattered to be one of only two local writers among those I did know. The other was Catherine Jinks, for her novel Pagan's Crusade - I didn't get around to checking the section on Saving Thanehaven, but it's an unusual choice, as the novel is set inside a computer game, some bits of it based on the author's own space horror novel. I would have thought that Anna Ciddor's Viking Magic novels would get a mention, and the Quentaris series, but  one can't read everything.

In fact, there may have been a few too many books crammed into a rather small volume as it was. 

And my book got two pages, while Tolkien got about two paragraphs and it wasn't The Hobbit, it was Lord Of The Rings. Susan Cooper was there, of course, but not for The Dark Is Rising, but for The Boggart. Now, The Boggart is a beautiful book, but The Dark Is Rising is her masterpiece, which will become a classic. And it had Merlin in it and many references to history and folklore, whereas the mediaeval connections in The Boggart were slight. 

The section about my book was in a chapter on monsters. There was a section in the same chapter on Melissa Marr's Wicked Lovely and other urban fantasy. I suppose it fitted into the theme because the fairies it involves are traditional, the stuff of folklore. Melissa Marr is also a university academic, I believe, and her research for that series was thorough. I was just finishing Wolfborn when I read WL and was fascinated by her bibliography, which was similar to mine. 

So, what did she have to say about Wolfborn? I couldn't help feeling, by the wording, that there was a somewhat disapproving  sneer under the academic speak. More than once she reminded her readers that my characters were aristocratic and the character who was executed in the first scene was a peasant(and, it was implied, it was unfair, dammit!). Well, yes. But the boy who is executed in my prologue isn't killed for being a werewolf, which isn't illegal in the Kingdom of Armorique, but because in his wolf shape he had killed a child. He would have been executed if he'd done that in human shape. And my hero Etienne's father says it would never have happened if the boy's werewolf father, a wandering mercenary, had been around long enough to teach him and take him off to learn the trade. He regrets having to give this order, but feels he has no choice. 

Etienne had to be an aristocrat because if he was, say, a pot boy in the castle kitchen, he would never have got as close to his master as he did in this book and would certainly never have married his daughter. 

But the point I make in the novel is that most werewolves are aristocrats because they're more likely to be able to hide it and less likely to be murdered by a mob. For example, the heroine of The Sword And The Wolf, my WIP, is a peasant (born) werewolf who has managed to survive her childhood, though everyone knew about her father, because her mother was the local wise woman, too useful to annoy; soon after her mother's death, the girl has her first skin change during an attempted rape by village louts and has to flee. She is no longer welcome in the village. However, after living alone for a while, she accidentally releases a Merlin-like wizard from a tree with the earth magic she is practising and then gets involved with aristocratic things as she accompanies her new teacher on a quest to find the prince who went missing when the wizard's previous apprentice locked him away. Sorry, but you just can't do an exciting adventure purely centred around mediaeval peasants and their surroundings! Well, maybe you can. I offer this as a challenge for anyone who would like to try. 

The author of the academic tome says that the werewolf knight's wife is "packed off to a women's community". Wrong. She goes at her own request - conveniently, I admit, but the author of this book never says that - because she really doesn't feel that she can handle any longer being married to a man who frightens her because he isn't quite human. The women's community(read "convent") is run by a relative and is rather like Hildegard of Bingen's community, where she will finally be able to get an education. 

Still, anything on which academics get their hands is running the risk of being misinterpreted and it's quite exciting to have been mentioned in a non fiction book. I am still in two minds as to whether I will buy a copy. But I will certainly go back, perhaps during the next term break, and read the book in full at the library. It's a slender volume that I could read in about two hours

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42. Picture book Monday with a review of Here comes Valentine Cat AND The Valentine


Today I am doing something that I have never done before. I am offering you two reviews! The reason for this is that I could not make up my mind which Valentine's Day book I wanted to tell you about. They are both wonderful. So, you are getting two picture book reviews instead of one


Here comes Valentine Cat
Deborah Underwood
Illustrated by Claudia Rueda
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Penguin, 2016, 978-0-525-42915-9
Cat does not like Valentine’s Day and has declared his territory a “No-Valentine’s Zone.” The reason for this is that Cat thinks Valentine’s Day is “all mushy.” Cat’s friend – who happens to be the person narrating the speaking part of this story – suggests that Cat should make a valentine for a friend. Cat suggests that he could make a valentine for Squiddy, his stuffed toy squid, but the narrator gently suggests that Cat should give a valentine to someone who “isn’t a stuffed animal.”
   There is a problem with this suggestion though. Cat cannot think of a single person he would give a valentine to, which is rather sad when you think about it. The narrator then suggests that Cat should give Dog, who is new to the neighborhood, a valentine. Cat then gets grumpy because Dog throws a bone over the fence, which hits cat on the head. Apparently Dog has does this many times. Dog then throws a ball over the fence, which also hits Cat on the head. Cat then gets an idea, and the narrator starts to worry. Cat is cranky, and when Cat gets cranky he does things that could backfire in a big way.
    This laugh-out-loud funny picture book brings back Cat, the sometimes cantankerous feline who does not really always understand how to get along with others. The good news is that Cat does have a companion, the narrator, who helps Cat figure out how to navigate the tricky world of friendship and how to make the right choices in life.
Cat does not like Valentine’s Day and has declared his territory a “No-Valentine’s Zone.” The reason for this is that Cat thinks Valentine’s Day is “all mushy.” Cat’s friend – who happens to be the person narrating the speaking part of this story – suggests that Cat should make a valentine for a friend. Cat suggests that he could make a valentine for Squiddy, his stuffed toy squid, but the narrator gently suggests that Cat should give a valentine to someone who “isn’t a stuffed animal.”
   There is a problem with this suggestion though. Cat cannot think of a single person he would give a valentine to, which is rather sad when you think about it. The narrator then suggests that Cat should give Dog, who is new to the neighborhood, a valentine. Cat then gets grumpy because Dog throws a bone over the fence, which hits cat on the head. Apparently Dog has does this many times. Dog then throws a ball over the fence, which also hits Cat on the head. Cat then gets an idea, and the narrator starts to worry. Cat is cranky, and when Cat gets cranky he does things that could backfire in a big way.
    This laugh-out-loud funny picture book brings back Cat, the sometimes cantankerous feline who does not really always understand how to get along with others. The good news is that Cat does have a companion, the narrator, who helps Cat figure out how to navigate the tricky world of friendship and how to make the right choices in life.


Mouse Book: The ValentineThe Valentine
Monique Felix
Wordless picture Book
For ages 4 and up
Creative Editions, 2013, 978-1-56846-247-9
A mouse is sitting, by itself, feeling lonely and bored. He starts picking at the paper he is sitting on and when the tear in the paper gets big enough, he peers through the hole it has created. There is something wonderful and amazing on the other side of the paper and the mouse jumps for joy.
   Quickly the mouse starts chewing at the tear and until he has created a little paper heart. Then he squeezes through the hole he has made and goes to the other side. Soon he is back and he stars chewing the paper again. Diligently he chews a big square and then smaller squares. Then he starts to fold and fold  until…
   In this delightful wordless book, one of Monique Felix’s little mice finds a wonderful surprise behind a piece of paper, a surprise that inspires the lovelorn mouse to get creative. 

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43. Coming Soon to a Golf Course Near Me: A Food Forest

Have I mentioned lately how much I love Minneapolis? It is by no means a perfect city and the winters are long and hard, but by golly how many other cities have a community advisory group that works with the city council on things like urban agriculture and food security issues? Homegrown Minneapolis is the name of the group and their latest newsletter included a map of all the vacant city lots that can be leased for community gardening and urban farms. Also in the newsletter is information regarding a proposal to turn a public golf course near my house into a food forest.

What’s a food forest? It is exactly what it sounds like. It is a designed landscape that mimics a natural ecosystem while incorporating food producing plants like nut and fruit trees, shrubs, perennial vegetables and herbs. Annual plants can also be grown in the mix. And of course it is a space that also utilizes native plants to attract pollinators and other beneficial insects, control weeds and build soil fertility.

The site of this proposed food forest is a public golf course near Lake Hiawatha. The golf course is very expensive to maintain not just because it was built on a wetlands and requires millions of gallons of water to be pumped out of it every year. It turns out the amount of water being pumped far exceeds the permit limits and is therefore illegal. A portion of the golf course has also been closed since 2014 when we had so much rain that the “back nine” was flooded and is still so soaked and damaged the park board can’t really afford to fix it. This golf course also drains into Lake Hiawatha which suffers greatly from water quality issues do to run-off into the lake. This golf course covers 140 acres and serves very few people, costing to my mind and many others, more than it is worth.

So a young, brilliant city resident has put up a proposal and taken up the challenge to advocate for repurposing the land. His vision allows for a much reduced golf course, fruit orchards, nut trees, and more. His vision even includes returning wild rice to Lake Hiawatha which, I just learned, used to be called “Rice Lake” because local Native Americans grew and harvested wild rice there before they were forced to move elsewhere.

The food forest would be grown on public land, would be tended by volunteers, and would welcome all from the community to go and harvest food from it. It would solve the water pumping problem and the lake’s water quality issues as well. And it would provide learning opportunities for both adults and school children. Plus it would be far cheaper to maintain than a full golf course not to mention more beautiful and useful.

This is such an incredibly exciting thing and if it goes through, if the Park Board decides to go along with it, it would mean Minneapolis would be home to the largest food forest in the United States. And yeah, you know I’ll find a way to be involved with the project even if it is only volunteering a few hours every month. There is a meeting being held on February 27th. It’s scheduled for four hours in the afternoon which is a big chunk of Saturday time for me, but I might just see if I can make it for at least a portion of the meeting. If not, I am sure there will be other opportunities as the proposal picks up steam.

In my own garden, I have a tray full of paper pots ready for onion seeds next weekend. I must continue working at making pots because at the end of the month I will need to get the peppers and tomatoes started. I love this time of year. While it feels so hectic getting everything started, it is also the most hopeful time of the gardening year because there is still so much possibility. The slugs haven’t eaten the greens yet, the squirrels haven’t dug up or stolen anything, there hasn’t been too much rain or not enough, too much heat or not enough. In my mind’s eye my garden is lush and green and perfect. Reality will kick in soon enough, but until then, everything is still perfect.

In chicken news, the same newsletter that brought word of the food forest proposal also informed me that the city council will be voting on the new chicken ordinance on February 12th! I wasn’t expecting anything from the city council until summer. But perhaps they want to get it all settled before spring when people who want to start keeping chickens will be looking to get underway. Bookman has not yet begun to collect neighbor signatures, it has been too cold and snowy. But now we will wait and see what happens come Friday. Bookman may just be saved the trouble of collecting signatures after all. Fingers crossed!

In cycling news, I am still riding in virtual races on Thursday nights. Each week is different and sometimes I finish first or second and sometimes I finish last. One thing for sure, my fitness has improved immensely. I am also in the final week of a 6-week workout program that has meant hour-long (or more) workouts four to five times of week doing intervals of varying intensities. This too has paid off. On a (virtual) ride after my workout yesterday I decided to see if I could beat my personal sprint records on the two sprint sections of the course and I blew each one away by several seconds! I even managed to ever so briefly hit 4 watts/kg, something I thought I would never manage. I also noticed I now frequently go over 3 w/kg which means that after this week I will start racing in group C instead of D. Technically I should start this week but I want to give myself one more “easy” week before I go to the next group and start coming in last all the time. I will be good incentive to work hard and improve, right?

Also this last week on Wednesday night I participated in my first virtual group ride. It was so much fun! I am part of a group on Zwift called ROL (Ride On Ladies — in Zwift you can give riders a “ride on” thumb’s up, it’s a way to offer support and tell other riders they are doing great or thanking them for a good ride, etc). There is an ROL group ride on Wednesday nights but I had not joined in because it is a fast ride and with the races I’ve been doing Thursday nights I didn’t want to overdo it the night before. Anyway, a slower group ride was introduced this week so I joined that one. We used an app called TeamSpeak which allows us to actually talk to each other while we ride. I rode with a couple people from Seattle and someone from Ohio and I think maybe Texas. Technology is awesome!

Also, there are enough ROL women who are interested in racing that we are going to have our own women’s race on Saturday upcoming. It will be a 30km race and I will have to race in group B which is both exciting and scary. There are not a lot of women on Zwift, I saw somewhere that women are only about 8% of the Zwift population, but among them are some really strong riders and racers. It is exciting to ride with them because it forces me to work harder and they are all supportive and encouraging so even though I feel intimidated, it comes from my own personal worries of not being very good rather than anything anyone else has said or done. Currently there are 24 women who have indicated they will be racing Saturday and 56 who have said maybe. We’ll see what kind of turnout there really is. I just hope I don’t finish last in my group. But hey, if I do, incentive to improve!


Filed under: biking, chickens, gardening Tagged: Food forest, Lake Hiawatha, Minneapolis, sustainable gardening

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44. Mrs. Roosevelt's Confidante (a Maggie Hope Mystery #5) by Susan Elia MacNeal

It's Christmastime1941 and the United States has been at war for just a few weeks.  Elated that they will finally have an alley in their fight against the Nazi war machine, Winston Churchill and his entourage, including John Sterling and David Greene, has just arrived in Washington DC after a long, harrowing Atlantic Ocean crossing dodging Nazi submarines and rough seas.

Naturally, because Churchill needs hope, he has also brought along Maggie Hope, one of his Special Operations Executives cum typist.  And it doesn't take long for Maggie to get involved in a murder mystery.

Eleanor Roosevelt's temporary secretary Blanche Balfour hasn't shown up for work, didn't even call in, and now, the President's wife is worried about her.  Churchill volunteers Maggie to help Mrs. Roosevelt because "she's an excellent secretary and helpful in all sorts of...situations."  Which is good, since the two women discover Blanche's body in her bathtub with her wrists slashed when they arrive at her apartment.   Quick thinking Maggie anonymously telephones the police, and noticing a notepad, wisely takes it with her.  Back at the White House, Maggie softly rubs the notepad with a pencil, revealing what looks to be a suicide note from Blanche, except that it isn't her handwriting.

The note claims that Mrs. Roosevelt made unwanted advances at Blanche, trying to kiss her, which, of course, the First Lady denies vehemently.  But the suicide note is only a ruse designed to turn people against the Roosevelts and discredit them., thereby jeopardizing their wartime support.  There are those who are also very unhappy with Mrs. Roosevelt's interfering in the upcoming execution of a young black Virginia sharecropper, Wendel Cotton, for killing a white sharecropper.  The First Lady and Wendel's lawyer, Andrea Martin, believe his trial was a sham, consisting of 12 white men who could pay the $1.50 poll tax.

But why would anyone want to besmirch the Roosevelt's using the Wendel Cotton execution as their fodder?  Trust me, it isn't for the obvious reasons.

Mrs. Roosevelt's problem is the central Maggie Hope mystery, but there are other story lines making this a busy novel and these will be, I assume, expanded upon in future books.  There is the increasing/decreasing/increasing sexual tension between Maggie and John Sterling, who despite having adjoining hotel rooms, never seem to be able to get together.  And there is a storyline about Clara Hess, Maggie's mother and Nazi spy, and one about the effort the Germans put into building a rocket (a precursor to the eventual V-bombs the Nazis lobed at England in 1944-45?).  And now that the US is in the war, there is the more intense relationship between Churchill and Roosevelt.

There is also a nice bit about Walt Disney and his wartime propaganda.   No longer able to fly with the RAF, John Sterling has been developing a gremlin story, those pesky little creatures that plague the pilots on the RAF by sabotaging their planes and Disney is very interested in it (The Gremlins was Roald Dahl's first children's book.  Dahl was also an RAF pilot, and later posted in Washington DC.  His story was published in 1943 by Disney).

Mrs. Roosevelt's Confidante is every bit as well-written and well-researched as the four other Maggie Hope mysteries, but I have to admit I didn't enjoy reading it as much.  I think it is because there was too much going on and not enough mystery.  On the other hand, I really enjoyed all the interesting people and pop culture bits that MacNeal included, maybe because the story takes place in Washington DC, a place near and dear to my heart and because I know American pop culture so well.  But, I will be glad when Maggie returns to Britain, where they seem to have better mysteries.

Oh, yes, in Mrs. Roosevelt's Confidante readers get to finally meet the infamous Aunt Edith and, let me say, she is a trip.

MacNeal has touched on several themes that will definitely resonate with today's readers and, even though it isn't my favorite Maggie Hope, I still highly recommend reading this fifth book in the series.

This book is recommended for readers age 14+
This book was an EARC received from NetGalley

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45. #821 – Olga da Polga by Michael Bond & Catherine Rayner

Olga da Polga Written by Michael Bond Illustrated by Catherine Rayner Kane Miller    10/01/2015 978-1-61067-433-1 176 pages    Ages 6+ “With a head full of stories and a nose for adventure, Olga da Polga is also quite a handful. And when she moves into the Sawdust family’s garden, life for Noel the cat, Fangio …

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46. Cover Reveal & Author Snapshot: The Alarming Career of Sir Richard Blackstone by Lisa Doan

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Check out the cover for The Alarming Career of Sir Richard Blackstone by Lisa Doan (Sky Pony, 2017). From the promotional copy:

A funny middle grade mystery adventure complete with an unconventional knight, a science experiment gone awry, a giant spider, and a boy to save the day!

Twelve-year-old Henry Hewitt has been living by his wits on the streets of London, dodging his parents, who are determined to sell him as an apprentice. 

Searching for a way out of the city, Henry lands a position in Hampshire as an assistant to Sir Richard Blackstone, an aristocratic scientist who performs unorthodox experiments in his country manor. 

The manor house is comfortable, and the cook is delighted to feed Henry as much as he can eat. Sir Richard is also kind, and Henry knows he has finally found a place where he belongs.

But everything changes when one of Sir Richard’s experiments accidentally transforms a normal-sized tarantula into a colossal beast that escapes and roams the neighborhood. 

After a man goes missing and Sir Richard is accused of witchcraft, it is left to young Henry to find an antidote for the oversize arachnid. Things are not as they seem, and in saving Sir Richard from the gallows, Henry also unravels a mystery about his own identity.

Congratulations on your upcoming release! What do you think of your new cover?

I love it! Huge thanks to Sky Pony and my editor, Adrienne Szpyrka, for capturing the humor of the book while at the same time working in two prominent elements – the giant tarantula and a journal detailing a trip to South America.

The tarantula is Henry Hewitt’s problem and the journal is the key to figuring out what to do about it, which he must do to save his friend and protector, Sir Richard Blackstone.

More specifically, how does the art evoke the nuances of your book?

We wanted the journal to feel Old World, hence the faded brown, as this story takes place in the late 1700’s English countryside.

Sky Pony’s designers had the genius idea of having the tarantula holding the journal to tie it all together. The red and yellow lettering really pop and signal the lighthearted tone.

I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out.

Isn’t it every middle-grade writer’s dream to have a cover with a tarantula on it?

I know it has always been one of mine!

Cynsational Notes

Lisa Doan has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts and is the author of the award-winning series The Berenson Schemes (Lerner).

Operating under the idea that life is short, her occupations have included: master scuba diving instructor; New York City headhunter; owner-chef of a restaurant in the Caribbean; television show set medic; and deputy prothonotary of a county court. She currently works in social services and lives in West Chester, Pennsylvania.

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47. Celebrate International Children’s Book Day

Every year at the beginning of April, we ceremoniously reflect on the joy of reading. There are many literary holidays this season, some spanning the entire month while others are observed for just a single day. April is both School Library Month and National Poetry Month, and has the following weeks or celebrations: National Library Week, Drop Everything and Read Day, National Bookmobile Day, and El día de los niños/El día de los libros.

And while the month is rich in options, we must do our due diligence to bring books to life for the particular audiences we serve. It is our professional responsibility and joy to kindle an interest in reading, and as Ranganathan summed up, “Every book its reader.”

And this is why April 2nd, International Children’s Book Day, must be one of my favorite literary holidays to observe. It is totally aligned with what we do in our professions. Widely celebrated in schools, public libraries, and literary centers around the world, it’s essentially a love letter to reading. It transcends beyond literary trends, publishing appetites, or cultural preferences because it embraces a global approach to literature. Books are mirrors and books are windows. We, as humans, love to read because of our innate desire to share stories and understand one another. Universal experiences distill into beloved fairy tales, and we see the patterns of archetypes emerge.

This year, Brazil is the National Section of International Board on Books for Young People, which determined both the theme, author, and illustrator for this celebration, which is respectively “Once Upon a Time”, by Luciana Sandroni and Ziraldo. You can promote this important work by sharing the materials and resources featured on the International Board on Books for Young Children website, who have hosted this event since 1967. For even more program ideas, articles, and resources that you can pin now and read later, visit the USBBY blog.

How do you like to celebrate April with your young readers?


Christine Dengel Baum is formerly a children’s librarian and a school and library liaison. She works in Atlanta as a content strategist but continues to volunteer in libraries. She wrote this post for the Public Awareness Committee. You can reach her at christine.dengel@gmail.com.

The post Celebrate International Children’s Book Day appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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48. Bright Smoke, Cold Fire: Exclusive Cover Reveal + Giveaway

When Rosamund Hodge asked whether I’d be interested in revealing the cover for her new book Bright Smoke, Cold Fire, I did something I rarely do: I said yes immediately, sight unseen. Because: Her two previous books, Cruel Beauty and Crimson Bound, have been among my favorite YA retellings Both of those covers were gorgeous, and captured the rapturous feeling of her darkly romantic fairy tales Rosamund has written so many fascinating guest posts before. I knew we’d have a treat for our readers, especially having read the synopsis, which says it was inspired by Romeo and Juliet…but with necromancers. (!!!) But oh my stars, I still wasn’t prepared for what she sent. Are you ready to set your eyes upon this vision?     Are you sure?     Just look at this beauty!   The mood of this cover is utterly gorgeous–I love the somber colors contrasted with... Read more »

The post Bright Smoke, Cold Fire: Exclusive Cover Reveal + Giveaway appeared first on The Midnight Garden.

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49. vinylfromthevault: We’ve been doing a significant amount of...















vinylfromthevault:

We’ve been doing a significant amount of reorganization over at the Vault and in the process I stumbled across a folder for which I’ve been searching for years. In it I found the results of a dot matrix printed Duran Duran survey I wrote for a Duranie party hosted sometime during 1985 by my friend Allyson (her survey is the second pictured above - she loves John - and helpfully gave me suggestions for revamping the survey which I must have done at some point). The girls who filled out these surveys were between 13-15 years old, which is fairly obvious when you read them. I cannot believe I said I didn’t like Power Station! (Mine is the first one pictured - I love Simon! I think I was just pissed at John and Andy for temporarily leaving Duran Duran). And that my friend Angela (she’s the one who likes Andy) doesn’t like Arcadia but loves Power Station (probably for the same reasons as me). The nicknames that we chose! That was TOTALLY a thing - choosing special Duranie names to call ourselves and finding Duranie penpals so we could write to other nuts like ourselves from around the world.

The last two scans are the list of Allyson’s Duran vinyl collection as of September 4th, 1985. Impressive! I was hardcore jealous of her albums, especially the 12″ singles.

A few years ago, I co-wrote an article for The Awl with my friends Sarah and Allyson about the Duran Duran party that Allyson hosted in 1984. The article mentioned surveys we’d filled out the night of the party as well as an epic mix that Sarah and ALlyson created one feverish weekend, and other important artifacts considered long-lost. I’M SO GLAD THESE IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS HAVE BEEN UNEARTHED!!!

My survey is the third one down. It says that John is my favorite member, which is strange because it was almost always Nick Nick Nick Nick Nick. The heart is fickle!















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50. Brambleheart: A Story About Finding Treasure and the Unexpected Magic of Friendship, written and illustrated by Henry Cole, 255 pp, RL 4



Henry Cole is the author and illustrator of many picture books and the superb, generously illustrated novel  A Nest for Celeste that features a young John Audubon as a character. Now, three years later, Cole is back with another illustrated novel, Brambleheart: A Story About Finding Treasure and the Unexpected Magic of Friendship.

The trim size of Brambleheart, small and almost square, is perfectly suited for the story inside, and there is an illustration on almost every page. And it is completely engaging - I read it in one sitting. Brambleheart feels a little familiar at the start, but it takes an unexpected and exciting turn almost a quarter of the way in. Twig lives on the Hill, a jumble of detritus that provides homes for the rodents and small animals who live there as well as parts for their creations. Young Twig attends classes where his skill (or lack thereof) will determine his future career, a career that will be bestowed on him at the Naming Ceremony. Unfortunately, it seems that every class is a challenge for Twig. In the Weaving Burrow, Professor Fern, a beaver, teaches knot tying. The Snape-like Professor Burdock teaches Metal Craft, where his nephew, Basil, is the star pupil, despite Twig's best friend, Lily, who seems to excel at everything she touches. Things take a very big turn for the worse when Twig almost burns down Professor Dunlin's welding class. Just when it looks like he is doomed to the lowliest position of Errand Runner, Twig decides to run away and this is where the story takes off.

************SPOILER ALERT************

Twig heads past the boundaries of the Hill and into the surrounding forest where he finds something that changes his life - an egg. The contents of this egg, seen in the illustration below, created all kinds of problems and opportunities for Twig. He discovers, with the help of the baby dragon, that his is a gifted welder and metal worker. But, it's hard to keep a baby dragon hidden - and fed - for long and soon questions are being asked. And, it seems, that Char, short for Charcoal, a name given to the dragon by Lily, is growing sicker by the day. The two decide that Char needs to return to the place where Twig found the egg and the adventure - and the next book - begin!






Source: Review Copy






A Nest for Celeste




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