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<<October 2016>>
new posts in all blogs
Viewing: Blog Posts from All 1562 Blogs, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. boo !

I'm playing with tiny paper people lately.
It seems easier to figure out than real Halloween costumes.
I keep hoping the wildebeests will agree to dress up like book characters.
Easy characters.
Like Baghead by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
That sounds reasonable, right?
Grocery bag?
A costume that doubles as a trick-or-treat bag!
Okay I'm mostly kidding.
The tiny guys are my way of getting ready for a virtual boo party
with Puddle Jump Collective.
Coming soon!

 Do you have any easy costume ideas to share?

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2. Friday Feature: Into the Fire Halloween Sale

To help celebrate Halloween, Into the Fire is only $.99 today through October 31st!

Grab your copy today!

In one month’s time, seventeen-year-old Cara Tillman will die and be reborn from her own ashes…

Her life of secrecy has never been easy. She’s watched her younger brother, Jeremy, burn and rise again in a coming-of-age process called rebirth. And just like her brother, when her time comes, she won’t remember anything from her first life other than she’s a Phoenix—a member of a small group of people descended from the mythical Phoenix bird.

The last thing she needs to worry about is falling for the new guy in town—Logan Schmidt.

Cara is drawn to Logan in a way she can’t explain, but she’s not exactly complaining. Everything is perfect…except it’s not. Once she’s reborn, she’ll forget Logan. And to make things worse, a Phoenix Hunter is on the loose, and Cara’s involvement with Logan is bringing out her Phoenix qualities—the very qualities that will draw the Hunter right to her.

Desperate times call for desperate measures…

Afraid of hurting Logan, Cara breaks it off for good. But her attraction to him runs deeper than a typical high school crush. She wants him—needs him. And if he proves willing to stay by her side, their love might destroy them both.

Can Cara hide from the Phoenix Hunters long enough to survive her rebirth? And if so, will it mean a new beginning with Logan—or the beginning of the end?

*Want your YA, NA, or MG book featured on my blog? Contact me here and we'll set it up.

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3. Cybils Speculative Reader: RAILHEAD by PHILIP REEVE

Welcome to the 2016 Cybils Speculative Reader! As a first run reader for the Cybils, I'll be briefly introducing you to the books on the list, giving you a mostly unbiased look at some of the plot.Enjoy! Synopsis: At first, Zen Starling was just a... Read the rest of this post

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4. Friday Links List - 28 October 2016

From Bored Panda: 15+ of the Most Creative Halloween Costumes - I like Peter and his shadow best!

Via Nathan Bransford: A fantastic diagram that breaks down The Big Five US Trade Book Publishers and their imprints. WOW!

From Nine Kinds of Pie: How to Read Harold (and the Purple Crayon)

From The Federation of Children's Book Groups - and idea to celebrate NATIONAL NON-FICTION NOVEMBER 2016

Nathan Bransford is blogging again and shared some awesome links:
From shouldiworkforfree.com - a handy dandy hilarious diagram mapping whether you should work for free or not
From bookends (a literary agency): Never Will You Just Write

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5. mother's day in october

This is the hour of Kenn Nesbitt!  Our former Children's Poet Laureate has worked for more than two years with over 130 poets to produce one of the loveliest anthologies of poetry I've ever held in my hands. (As a contributor, I have already had this pleasure though the book release is not until November 1.) I think one of the big appeals of One Minute Till Bedtime is that it feels distinctly old-fashioned.

The heft of the book, the feel of the dust jacket and the paper inside (smooth but not slick) contribute to this initial sensation.  The hand-chalked title and cover illustration glow forth from a deep purple background.  Christoph Niemann's robust drawings build the feeling--they appear simple and straightforward but they carry (like good writing for children) layers of imagination and emotion.  And the poems inside, not all of which are sleepy or soft by any means, are cozy nonetheless--they speak to the experiences that children have at home, in their early close relationships with people, objects and the creatures of the natural world.  There's no flash, no high-tech, no gloss--just outstanding design and sensitive curation.

In a time of--would you agree with me?--global unrest, when anyone who is paying attention to the Big Picture must carry a sense of unease, this book is somehow comforting and reassuring.  It confirms that the fundamental, ritual experience of going to bed with a story, poem or song shared in the voice of a beloved caregiver is alive and well.

So it's fitting that when Kenn was invited to an interview over at Michelle Heidenrich Barnes's blog, he offered this challenge:
Write a poem for your mother. Write it for your mother and give it to her. It can be any kind of poem you like, as long as it’s especially for her. In my opinion, a poem is the best gift you can ever give someone. It doesn’t cost you anything but a little thought and time, and yet it will be treasured forever.

And fittingly enough, I have just such a gift poem in my archives!  I posted it to the Ditty of the Month Club Padlet and now I share it with you here--a poem about precisely that experience I described above, of being rhymed and rhythmed, thrilled and calmed each morning, noon and night by the voice of my mother, Lila (nee Zingerline) Mordhorst.

A History of Your Voice
Mothers’ Day 2011

this little piggy stayed home
for so long we were
together all the time
together all alone
together all among
open the doors and see all the people

four gray geese in a flock
for so long you listened to every word I
began to say
forgot to say
dared to say
wire briar limber lock

we parted        disintegrated
re  membered    recombined

apple seed and apple thorn
for so long now we are
winding threads
dropping threads
picking up threads
sit and sing by a spring

there were two old Indians crossing the Mississippi
ripping a seam here and there
putting right sides together
stitching further rivers

would you like to hear the rest? 

© Heidi Mordhorst

The round-up for this Poetry Friday is with Linda at TeacherDance.  May you hear today in your travels the voice of someone who spoke to you with love at bedtime--and may we seek that for every child.

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Dear Friends,

Thanks so much for your enthusiastic response to Kenneth Kit Lamug's Interview and his atmospheric illustrations in his haunting Halloween tale, The Stumps of Flattop Hill. I hope you took the time to watch his delightfully eerie book trailer. If not, you'll find the link below.

Thank you, Ken, for sharing your special talent with us! Visit the author here:


And now, announcing The LUCKY WINNER of THE STUMPS OF FLATTOP HILL chosen by random.org: 
**Congratulations, MARTIN SEGAL**

(Martin, you have one week to claim your prize. Please e-mail me with your mailing address: (at)gmail(dot)com>)

The Stumps of Flattop Hill is a macabre tale of a little girl who enters the town’s legendary haunted house in the face of fear. A dark tale for children in the tradition of the Brother’s Grimm, it calls to mind the provocative illustration style of Edward Gorey. Scary and entertaining, this book challenges the idea of what children’s books can be.
The Stumps of Flattop Hill received the Literary Classics Seal of Approval 2016

Here's the link to the book trailer:

Spooky Halloween Fairytale Picture Book Children's 


 My next guest is a dear friend of many years, Author Pat Brisson, who will share with us for the Thanksgiving season. For now, HAPPY HALLOWEEN! ~Clara

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7. Strange Case of Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde. Robert Louis Stevenson. 1886. 144 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Mr. Utterson, the lawyer, was a man of a rugged countenance, that was never lighted by a smile;

Premise/plot: What if the 'dark' inside you was fully released and realized?!

My thoughts: What an interesting book to read after reading John Owen's Overcoming Sin and Tempation! Dr. Jekyll has a secret 'dark' side that he struggles to keep concealed. Only a few come to learn his BIG, BIG secret: he has found a way of satisfying his dark side in the personality of MR. HYDE. But the more he gives into temptation and becomes Mr. Hyde, letting Mr. Hyde loose in the city and country, the harder the struggle is to return to being Dr. Jekyll. There is a battle going on over his body--if you will--but it isn't a battle of good versus evil, just slightly evil with totally evil.

This is a very short read that is easy to recommend.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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We have picked a subgenre, developed external scenes that affect the story world, antagonist scenes where the hero and evil face off, and interpersonal scenes where friends and foes help and hinder.

Internal Conflict scenes are where the protagonist debates his belief in ghosts or wrestles with his depression over the death of his mother. 

The scientist wonders if he should finally ask his co-researcher out for a date.

He struggles with whatever force is driving him to kill the monster or prove that aliens are out there. 

These scenes are sometimes missing in the horror story, unless it is psychological horror. Personal stakes and character change enrich any story.

Whatever his internal struggle is, it should make solving the overall story problem difficult, if not impossible.

For more information on the Horror genre, visit http://www.horror.org.

For more about how to craft plots using conflict check out, Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of conflict available in print and e-book and check out the free tools and information about the series on my website.

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9. Working the Booth

Here's some advice for selling your books at festivals and other events.


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10. Cloud and Wallfish by Anne Nesbet, 400 pp, RL 4

I reviewed and really enjoyed Anne Nesbet's debut novel, The Cabinet of Earth. It was exciting to read a middle grade fantasy novel set in Paris and I found the magic that Nesbet created for this story exciting and out of the ordinary. Nesbet followed with A Box of Gargoyles, a companion to her first book, then The Wrinkled Crown, another fantasy with the feel of a traditional fairy tale, albeit one with political undertones. It surprised me to find that Nesbet's new book, Cloud and Wallfish, is set in East Germany in 1989 and centers around the hard won friendship between an American boy with a paralyzing stutter and a curious girl who has been sent to live with her grandmother. Like what I imagine life in the German Democratic Republic prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall must have been like, Cloud and Wallfish is a quiet, secretive book that requests patience from readers. This patience will be rewarded, like the page turn that reveals the meaning to the title of this marvelous book, but some questions will never be answered. 

Cloud and Wallfish begins in Oasis, Virginia in May of 1989. Noah Keller has almost finished fifth grade when his parents pick him up from school and completely turn his life upside down. Everything with his name on it is thrown into a trashcan at a rest stop on their way to the airport. They are headed to East Berlin, where Noah's mother has been given the opportunity to study the educational system in East Germany and finish her doctoral dissertation titled, "Differential Approaches to Elementary Education for Children with Special Speech-Production Impediments in East and West." This dissertation is especially personal for Noah and his mother because Noah stutters and has often been a guinea pig for his mother and her research. Noah also has a photographic memory, although he has not revealed this ability to his parents.

Noah's mother gives him a list of nine rules that he must adhere to strictly now that their "adventure" has begun, the first of which is, "They will always be listening and often be watching. Don't forget that." She also tells him that they are all changing their names, handing him a photo album filled with "memories" from a city they never lived in. Noah's dad also tells him that he was born in November and not March as he had always believed, sending him spiraling even further. Nesbet, by way of Noah's father, helps Noah cope with finding out that he isn't the person he thought he was, and that he is also being required to become a new person, in a humorously philosophical way that made me stop and think about identity,

Names change all the time. Some people change names when they get married, Some people write books under a pseudonym. Some people just always wanted to be called Rainbow Stormchaser, and one day they decide to make it so. Some people emerge from their wild teenage years and decide it's time to settle down to a quiet life in Oasis, Virginia, under different names entirely -

As an adult reading Cloud and Wallfish, there were so many moments that made me stop and think, and turn to Wikipedia, or my husband who is a history teacher and who also, like Nesbet, visited East Berlin as an exchange student (in fact, Nesbet, who is a professor at University of California Berkeley returned to the GDR in 1989 to work on her own dissertation). It was clear to me from the start that one or both of Noah's parents are spies (although Noah's stay-at-home dad insists that he is writing a novel about a mink farmer, he even puts locks his manuscript in the safe in their East German apartment every night), but I hope that young readers will come to this realization over the course of the novel along with Noah as he comes to suspect this himself. 

Once in East Berlin, Noah's (now Jonah Brown) life comes to a grinding halt. Not only does he have to adhere to the nine rules, almost all of which include some form of not talking to anyone at any time, he is not allowed to go to school. Things do look up when he meets the girl living downstairs. Claudia, who is staying with her grandmother while her parents visit Hungary, is kept from talking to him, but she does get the chance to tell him that they are both changelings, strangers in this world and needing to get back to where they came from before they are forgotten. The two find their own coded ways to communicate, in the middle of country that is rife with codes and secret communications. One of my favorite, unforgettable things in Cloud and Wallfish is a communication the two share as they pass a map of Berlin back and forth. On this map, West Berlin is a blank, white blob amidst the streest of East Berlin and the two slowly begin drawing the intricate world of the changelings that they need to return to in this space. 

The true climax of Cloud and Wallfish comes almost at the end of the novel, but "Secret Files" that Nesbet includes at the after each chapter (which are really non-fiction glimpses into this time in East Germany, with translations of newspaper articles and speeches and more, illuminating further the strange dystopian world that existed in Europe, in my lifetime) help to build the tension. I don't want to give too much away, but a tragedy with Claudia's parents and a secret revealed to Noah propels the two children into a dangerous situation just before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Nesbet's epilogue, which visits Claudia some years later, had me tearing up, in a good way.

Cloud and Wallfish is an amazing book that prompted me to learn more about the world that I live in. It is also a book that will require perseverance and dedication from readers, but also one that will reward this hard work. I hope that teachers and parents will embrace Cloud and Wallfish and read it out loud, a really great way to hook kids on a book they might not pick up or a book they might not stick with. My twelve-year-old son has heard me and my husband talking about this book and I think he is almost ready to give it a go, but of course I can't suggest that he read it...

Another fantastic book set in East Germany, 1961, beginning just as the wall goes up:
A Night Divided Jennifer Neilsen

More books by Anne Nesbet

Source: Review Copy

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11. Halloween Coming...A Reading From Me

There is actually a Samhain scene in my novel Wolfborn, but that isn't the scene I read on YouTube. It was a scene in Xhapter 4 where my hero, Etienne, is lost in a storm while riding home through the forest. He meets a few supernatural folk along the way...

I thought as long as the day is on its way, I'd offer you a link to my reading of a shivery scene in my book.

And maybe I'll have a go at reading the Samhain scene on to YouTube sometime this weekend, in honour of the festival.

Meanwhile, here's that link. Follow and enjoy!

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12. On Robert Aickman

Electric Literature has published an essay I wrote about Robert Aickman, one of the greatest of the 20th century's short story writers:
Thirty-five years after his death, Robert Aickman is beginning to receive the attention he deserves as one of the great 20th century writers of short fiction. For the first time, new editions of his books are plentiful, making this a golden age for readers who appreciate the uniquely unsettling effect of his work.

Unsettling is a key description for Aickman’s writing, not merely in the sense of creating anxiety, but in the sense of undoing what has been settled: his stories unsettle the ideas you bring to them about how fictional reality and consensus reality should fit together. The supernatural is never far from the surreal. He was drawn to ghost stories because they provided him with conventions for unmaking the conventional world, but he was about as much of a traditional ghost story writer as Salvador Dalí was a typical designer of pocket watches.
Continue reading at Electric Literature.

For more of me on Aickman, see this post about my favorite of his stories, "The Stains".

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13. Vote for poetry!

Yep, Election Day is around the corner and it's time to VOTE! 

Did you know that Election Day is set for the Tuesday immediately following the first Monday in November? It can be as early as Nov. 2 or as late as Nov. 8-- which is the date this year! It's our opportunity as citizens to make our voices heard in choosing leadership at the local, state, and national levels. Whatever your political views, it's a privilege to participate in this important process. And this poem, "Voting," by Diane Mayr from The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations captures this beautiful moment (in English AND Spanish).

This "Voting" postcard is also available at Pinterest here.

And here are the Take 5! activities that accompany this poem in the Celebrations book:

1. Present children with a choice between two bookmarks and challenge them to vote for their choice. Then share the title of the poem (“Voting”) and read it aloud slowly and clearly.

2. Divide the children into three groups and share the poem again. Have each group chime in on one of the key ”constituencies” mentioned in the poem (the word: town, state, or country) while you read the rest of the poem aloud. 

3. Talk about how voting is both an opportunity to express an opinion and a responsibility to shape government in our town, state, and country—once they are 18. 

4. Pair this poem with the picture book Vote! by Eileen Christelow (Clarion, 2003) and discuss the questions the dog and cat characters raise about the voting process that the children also share. 

5. Connect with another poem about citizenship with “A Dream Come True” by Georgia Heard (September, pages 246-247), and with poems from Declaration of Interdependence: Poems for an Election Year by Janet Wong (PoetrySuitcase, 2012).

Check out my previous blog post on "Patriotic Poetry" complete with a list of 25+ poetry books on the topic here

Now join Linda over at TeacherDance for this week's Poetry Friday fun. See you there!

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14. Inktober Day 28: Poor Children

Poor Children. Day 28 of #Inktober2016.

Today's Inktober is a little different - an extra illustration for a current book project, a new edition of Frank L. Baum's The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus. This was a 'warm-up' drawing to get me in the groove and test nibs, so a little rough and ready, though often first drawings have an energy that re-draws somehow miss! Unfortunately, although there are several sections featuring children it doesn't quite fit with any specific passage in the book, so I've not submitted it to the publisher with the other cuts.

I can show it here though!

The book is in production as I write, more news on that to come.

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15. Presidential Polar Bear Post Card Project No. 271 - 10.28.16

Another late night postcard keeping school visits, coaching, and drawing and other work efforts in relative balance... and I thusly have no problem with the "tired" theme for this #inktober2016 contribution. A worthwhile effort -- and now I'm off to bed! #goodnight #inktober #saveourseaice

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16. Follow @studiobowesart on Instagram to win a free print of the...

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17. एनीमिया रोग – महिलाओं में खून की कमी

एनीमिया रोग – महिलाओं में खून की कमी- महिलाएं घर की धुरी होती हैं वह पूरे परिवार की जिम्मेवारी को बखूबी निभाती हैं, पर जब खुद की सेहत की हो तो अपना ध्यान ही  नहीं रखती… अपनी सेहत के प्रति बिल्कुल लापरवाह होती है… एनीमिया रोग – महिलाओं में खून की कमी नारी, महिला, औरत, […]

The post एनीमिया रोग – महिलाओं में खून की कमी appeared first on Monica Gupta.

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18. My Thoughts: Shuffle Repeat by Jen Klein

4 sweet frosted sugar cookies.

Cover Love:  Darling!  I don't think they needed to add the illustration at the bottom with the car and the road, but I like the photo of the guy and girl holding hands, I wish that was bigger, more of the focus.  But I know it will be eye catching on display in my library.

Why I Wanted to Read This:
This came in my first book order of the fall and I was looking for something light and fun.  I started this right when I pulled it out of the box!  Here's the synopsis:

June wants high school to end and real life to begin. Oliver is soaking up senior year’s glory days. They could have coasted through high school, knowing about—but not really knowing—each other.

Except that their moms have arranged for Oliver to drive June to school. Every. Single. Day.

Suddenly these two opposites are fighting about music, life . . . pretty much everything. But love is unpredictable. When promises—and hearts—get broken, Oliver and June must figure out what really matters. And then fight for it.
Romance?: Yes, of course.

My Thoughts:
To be perfectly honest, I almost gave up on this book.  June was so closed off and judgemental and righteous in the beginning that I had a very hard time liking her.  She was just so right that Oliver and his group of friends were awful and she and her group of friends were right to dislike everything and everyone. I was afraid her attitude would last too long in the book and turn me off on it completely.  However, I stuck with it and her attitude didn't last too long. She started to see that there was some value in most people and while some people are exactly what they appear to be, a lot of people aren't, including some of her "non-conformist" friends.

I LOVED OLIVER.  Seriously, new book boyfriend.  He's such a good guy.  And I know he does give off a certain type of attitude with his appearance, he's just so much more than that.  He is who I would totally have crushed on in high school, especially once I got to know him!

I would like to give this book to all the girls who judge people before they can be judged, that put up that wall to protect themselves.  I work in a middle school and there are A LOT of girls like this who I want to read this book, but most of them wouldn't read a romance because it's not dark enough!

To Sum It Up:  Darling romance that could teach people a lot about judging others before getting to know them!

Book from school library collection.

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19. Grace

Pixabay Image
Tonight I am humbled and so grateful I can hardly find a place for all the feelings.

I am at our annual state library conference. I had the honor of working with all our youth services conference presenters to bring fifteen programs to our members. These programs were extraordinary -  Amy Koester came up for IL to share her thoughts on leadership and involving families. Wisconsin youth librarians shared their expertise on play groups, tangly issues on collection development, shared TABS, service to teen moms, teen college and career planning, service on award committees, transformative partnerships, new SLP paradigms, youth art galleries in libraries and so much more.

We celebrated our award winners - library and librarians of the year and inductees into the Wi Library Hall of Fame.

And more personally, so many colleagues said yes to me over the past few days. I have been elected the president-elect of the WI Library Association. My term as president begins in 2018. Over the past two days, so many colleagues from all types of libraries serving all ages have answered "YES!" when I have asked them to help me in creating an annual conference of consequence in 2018 and to step up to create a strong board, amazing committees and a place where all library staff feel welcome to interact and push library service in our state further and faster. I am humbled by their commitment and their faith.

Our Youth Services Section nurtured  me, my WLA board colleagues of the past six years forged me and the confidence of the members of the association lift me up. I am so lucky to have this support and the guidance of my colleagues. This is the true grace that makes all things possible.

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20. Odd or common name?

Question: I've been wondering for a while--with a fantasy in which there's a different world from ours, would it be better to have common or odd names?

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21. ‘Made in China’ by Vincent Tsui

Figurines try to imitate the human everyday life, but they are facing limitations due to their toy situation.

The post ‘Made in China’ by Vincent Tsui appeared first on Cartoon Brew.

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22. Thoughtful Feedback

One way to become a community of writers is to leave thoughtful feedback.

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23. Cynsational News & Giveaways

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Congratulations to fellow Vermont College of Fine Arts faculty member Martine Leavitt, who also an alumna, for winning the Canadian Governor General's Award. Peek: "Told in spare, beautiful prose, this transcendent exploration of reality and truth is funny, frightening and affirming. Calvin (Groundwood Books) is an astonishing achievement.” — #GGBooks Jury Statement.

(Re)Igniting the Writer's Life by John Vorhaus from Writer Unboxed. Peek: "We want to write but we fear to write. If you’re in this bind, my heart goes out to you, and I really want to help you over the hump and into, or back into, your active practice of writing."

Why People Forget Your Character & How to Prevent It by Darcy Pattison from Fiction Notes. Peek: "...too many times I find myself struggling to remember details of a character in a novel I read last year. Give your characters longevity and notoriety with these techniques."

The Rejection Tug-of-War from Uma Krishnaswami. Peek: "...we brood. Was that editor or agent right? Is the work dead? Is is any good? Is there something there worth salvaging?"

What to Expect from an Agent by Mary Kole from Kidlit.com. Peek: "What will an agent do for you? What might an agent do for you if they have certain specialties? What is unreasonable to expect of an agent? First, I’d like to discuss what an agent won’t do." Note: Agents also get paid a percentage of royalties.

Using Family Stories to Write Historical Fiction by Helen Maryles Shankman from Writer Unboxed. Peek: "...I couldn’t run away from my parents’ stories. As I grew up, I began to understand that they weren’t just memories that could be dismissed and forgotten; they were the origin stories for our own scarred and imperfect lives."

Planning Great Book Events by Sophie Masson from Writer Unboxed. Peek: "Launches are especially good for debut books; for bespoke, collectible books; and for group books, such as anthologies and collections."

Decolonizing Nostalgia: When Historical Fiction Betrays Readers of Color by Sarah Hannah Gomez from The Horn Book. Peek: "I may have done the work to tease out the parts of the girls I read about that matched my own identity, but I became increasingly aware that the books themselves did not recognize me, a biracial (black and white) adoptee in a bicultural (Mexican American and Ashkenazi Jewish) family." See also Hannah on 5 YA Books Inspired by Real-Life Murderers from BNTeenBlog.

The Need for More Diversity Within LGBTQIAP Children's-YA Literature by Ashley Herring Blake from CBC Diversity. Peek: "in the end, I only had one book to put in that mother’s hands. After talking with this mother, the children’s book manager at my store found some more books about trans kids for younger readers and ordered them, and that is excellent, but we need more options."

Writing and Parenting from Elizabeth Spann Craig. Peek: "99% of the posts that dads write on parenting and writing are different–they don’t seem to have the guilty undertones. In fact, these dads usually feel they’re spending better quality or more time with their kids."

The Complex Principles of a Picture Book from Chronicle Books. Peek: "How much abstraction for artistic intent is acceptable? What needs to come across in information? What needs to come across in feeling?"

Cynsational Giveaways

This Week at Cynsations

A four-part series:
Cynsational Event

With Shelli Cornelison & Christina Soontornvat at Donna Janell Bowman's Book Launch
See Donna Janell Bowman on Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World About Kindness from Cynsations.

More Personally

Happy Halloween weekend, Cynsational readers!

First, my thanks to author-illustrator Ambelin Kwaymullina for joining me here this week for an in-depth, four-part dialogue on the creative life and process, speculative fiction, diversity, privilege, indigenous literature, and books for young readers.

On Monday, I attended Laurie Halse Anderson's author event and signing at BookPeople in Austin. She spoke with great passion and compassion about the American Revolution, historical research, the creative life and the importance of diversifying children's-YA literature--all the while book-talking and centering diverse voices. Inspiring!

This week I am praying for the Water Protectors and for all children being inundated with the Cleveland Indians mascot. See The Great Failure of the Indian Mascots Debate by Sterling HolyWhiteMountain from ESPN, which reflects on both. Also, go Cubs!

Personal Links
Moderating & Signing Nov. 5

Join me Saturday, Nov. 12
Honored to join the SCBWI winter conference faculty!
Honored to join the SCBWI winter conference faculty!

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24. Review of the Day: Grandmother Fish by Jonathan Tweet

grandmotherfish1Grandmother Fish: A Child’s First Book of Evolution
By Jonathan Tweet
Illustrated by Karen Lewis
Feiwel and Friends (an imprint of Macmillan)
ISBN: 978-1250113238
Ages 3-6
On shelves now

Travel back with me through the Earth’s history, back into the farthest reaches of time when the sand we walk today was still rock and the oceans of an entirely salination. Back back back we go to, oh about 13 years ago, I’d say. I was a library grad student, and had just come to the shocking realization that the children’s literature class I’d taken on a lark might actually yield a career of some sort. We were learning the finer points of book reviewing (hat tip to K.T. Horning’s From Cover to Cover there) and to hone our skills each of us was handed a brand new children’s book, ready for review. I was handed Our Family Tree: An Evolution Story by Lisa Westberg Peters, illustrated by Lauren Stringer. It was good, so I came up with some kind of a review. It was, now that I think about it, the very first children’s book review I ever wrote (talk about evolution). And I remember at the time thinking (A) How great it was to read a picture book on the topic and (B) That with my limited knowledge of the field there were probably loads and loads of books out there about evolution for small children. Fun Fact: There aren’t. Actually, in the thirteen years between then and now I’ve not seen a single evolution themed picture book come out since the Peters/Stringer collaboration. Until now. Because apparently two years before I ran across Our Family Tree author Jonathan Tweet was trying to figure out why there were so few books on the subject on the market. It took him a while, but he finally got his thoughts in order and wrote this book. Worth the wait and possibly the only book we may need on the subject. For a while, anyway.

Let’s start with a fish. We’ll call her Grandmother Fish and she lived “a long, long, long, long, long time ago.” She did familiar fishy things like “wiggle” and “chomp”. And then she had ancestors and they turned out to be everything from sharks to ray-finned fish to reptiles. That’s when you meet Grandmother Reptile, who lived “a long, long, long, long time ago.” From reptiles we get to mammals. From mammals to apes. And from apes to humans. And with each successive iteration, they carry with them the traits of their previous forms. Remember how Grandmother Fish could wiggle and chomp? Well, so can every subsequent ancestor, with some additional features as well. The final image in the book shows a wide range of humans and they can do the things mentioned in the book before. Backmatter includes a more complex evolutionary family tree, a note on how to use this book, a portion “Explaining Concepts of Evolution”, a guide “to the Grandmothers, Their Actions, and Their Grandchildren for your own information to help you explain evolution to your child”, and finally a portion on “Correcting Common Errors” (useful for both adults and kids).

grandmotherfish1What are the forbidden topics of children’s literature? Which is to say, what are the topics that could be rendered appropriate for kids but for one reason or another never see the light of day? I can think of a couple off the top of my head, an evolution might be one of them. To say that it’s controversial in this, the 21st century, is a bit odd, but we live in odd times. No doubt the book’s creators have already received their own fair share of hate mail from folks who believe this content is inappropriate for their children. I wouldn’t be too surprised to hear that it ended up on ALA’s Most Challenged list of books in the future. Yet, as I mentioned before, finding ANY book on this subject, particularly on the young end of the scale, is near impossible. I am pleased that this book is filling such a huge gap in our library collections. Now if someone would just do something for the 7-12 year olds . . .

When you are simplifying a topic for children, one of the first things you need to figure out from the get-go is how young you want to go. Are you aiming your book at savvy 6-year-olds or bright-eyed and bushy-tailed 3-year-olds? In the case of Grandmother Fish the back-story to the book is that creator Jonathan Tweet was inspired to write it when he couldn’t find a book for his daughter on evolution. We will have to assume that his daughter was on the young end of things since the final product is very clearly geared towards the interactive picture book crowd. Readers are encouraged to wiggle, crawl, breathe, etc. and the words proved capable of interesting both my 2-year-old son and my 5-year-old daughter. One would not know from this book that the author hadn’t penned picture books for kids before. The gentle repetition and clincher of a conclusion suggest otherwise.

One problem with turning evolution into picture book fare is the danger of confusing the kids (of any age, really). If you play it that our ancestors were monkeys, then some folks might take you seriously. That’s where the branching of the tree becomes so interesting. Tweet and Lewis try hard to make it clear that though we might call a critter “grandmother” it’s not literally that kind of a thing. The problem is that because the text is so simple, it really does say that each creature had “many kinds of grandchildren.” Explaining to kids that this is a metaphor and not literal . . . well, good luck with that. You may find yourself leaning heavily on the “Correcting Common Errors” page at the end of the book, which aims to correct common misconceptions. There you will find gentle corrections to false statements like “We started as fish” or “Evolution progresses to the human form” or “We descended from one fish or pair of fish, or one early human or pair of early humans.” Of these Common Errors, my favorite was “Evolution only adds traits” since it was followed by the intriguing corrective, “Evolution also take traits away. Whales can’t crawl even though they’re descended from mammals that could.” Let’s talk about the bone structure of the dolphin’s flipper sometime, shall we? The accompanying “Explaining Concepts of Evolution” does a nice job of helping adults break down ideas like “Natural Selection” and “Artificial Selection” and “Descent with Modification” into concepts for young kids. Backmatter-wise, I’d give the book an A+. In terms of the story itself, however, I’m going with a B. After all, it’s not like every parent and educator that reads this book to kids is even going to get to the backmatter. I understand the decisions that led them to say that each “Grandmother” had “grandchildren” but surely there was another way of phrasing it.

grandmotherfish3This isn’t the first crowd-sourced picture book I’ve ever seen, but it may be one of the most successful. The reason is partly because of the subject matter, partly because of the writing, and mostly because of the art. Bad art sinks even the most well-intentioned of picture books out there. Now I don’t know the back-story behind why Tweet paired with illustrator Karen Lewis on this book, but I hope he counts his lucky stars every day for her participation. First and foremost, he got an illustrator who had done books for children before (Arturo and the Navidad Birds probably being her best known). Second, her combination of watercolors and digital art really causes the pages to pop. The colors in particular are remarkably vibrant. It’s a pleasure to watch them, whether close up for one-on-one readings, or from a distance for groups. Whether on her own or with Tweet’s collaboration, her clear depictions of the evolutionary “tree” is nice and fun. Plus, it’s nice to see some early humans who aren’t your stereotypical white cavemen with clubs, for once.

I look at this book and I wonder what its future holds. Will a fair number of public school libraries purchase it? They should. Will parents like Mr. Tweet be able to find it when they wander aimlessly into bookstores and libraries? One can hope. And is it any good? It is. But you only have my word on that one. Still, if great grand numbers of perfect strangers can band together to bring a book to life on a topic crying out for representation on our children’s shelves, you’ve gotta figure the author and illustrator are doing something right. A book that meets and then exceeds expectations, tackling a tricky subject, in a divisive era of our history, to the betterment of all. Not too shabby for a fish.

On shelves now.

Source: Final copy sent from publisher for review.

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25. Happy Halloween to One and All!

Round about the cauldron go;  
In the poison’d entrails throw.  
Toad, that under cold stone   
Days and nights hast thirty one  
Swelter’d venom sleeping got,  
Boil thou first i’ the charmed pot.  

     Double, double toil and trouble;  
     Fire burn and cauldron bubble. 

Fillet of a fenny snake,  
In the cauldron boil and bake;  
Eye of newt, and toe of frog,  
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,  
Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting,  
Lizard’s leg, and howlet’s wing,  
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.  

     Double, double toil and trouble;  
     Fire burn and cauldron bubble. 

Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf,           
Witches’ mummy, maw and gulf       
Of the ravin’d salt-sea shark, 
Root of hemlock digg’d i’ the dark,  
Liver of blaspheming Jew,       
Gall of goat, and slips of yew
Sliver’d in the moon’s eclipse,           
Nose of Turk, and Tartar’s lips,         
Finger of birth-strangled babe             
Ditch-deliver’d by a drab,     
Make the gruel thick and slab:           
Add thereto a tiger’s *chaudron,         
For the ingredients of our cauldron.

     Double, double toil and trouble;  
     Fire burn and cauldron bubble. 

According to this online Macbeth Glosary *chaudron are entrails.  Who knew?

Macbeth, Act IV, Scene I
William Shakespeare, 1564 - 1616
This poem is in the public domain

By Pumpkins fat and witches lean...
By coal black cats with eyes of green,
By all the magic ever seen...
I wish you luck this Halloween..

Happy Halloween to family, friends, and all readers of my blog. Stay safe this Halloween. Me? I will be hiding under the bed covers. 

I must say a very big thank you to Yvonne for this fantastic Halloween card (right).  If you have not had the pleasure of meeting Yvonne, you will find her over at Melancholy and Menace or at her Etsy shop here

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