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1. Five questions for Sophie Kinsella: Crossover Week edition

Photo: John Swannell.

Photo: John Swannell.

Sophie Kinsella, author of the Shopaholic series for adults, is known as “The Queen of Romantic Comedy.” Her new book, Finding Audrey, is her first foray into YA territory…and it’s a good one. Kinsella graciously submitted to The Horn Book’s Five Questions treatment during Crossover Week.

1. Your portrayal of anxiety disorders is so vivid and true. How did you do your research?

SK: I have always written what I see around me, and I see more and more young people struggling to deal with the pressures of the world and modern teendom. I particularly looked at CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), which I believe has a great role to play in helping people deal with anxiety issues.

2. We never find out exactly what Tasha, Freya, and Izzy did to Audrey — which, in some ways, makes it all the more terrifying. Did you have in mind what they did as you were writing, or did the specifics not matter?

kinsella_finding audreySK: In my first draft, I actually wrote a section that explained what happened to Audrey — but then I took it out. I feel it diminishes the story if the reader has a full explanation, because it distances the reader from Audrey. They might think, “That wasn’t so bad,” or they could be so traumatized that they’d focus on her experience rather than the recovery. This way, any readers who suffer or who have suffered from bullying or social anxiety can relate to Audrey’s journey.

3. There’s humor in this book, your YA debut, but it’s not nearly as light and frothy as your very entertaining Shopaholic books for adults. How did you strike the right balance, given the serious subject matter (bullying, anxiety, family problems, etc.)?

SK: I didn’t deliberately set out to write a more “serious” book. I find that when I write, the appropriate tone and scenes come to me as I’m planning. I knew that with a character like Audrey, it wouldn’t be right to have a lot of slapstick comedy — although I always like to see the comic relief of life, which is how Audrey’s family came to be as they are! I knew that Audrey would be a wry character who keeps her humor despite all her difficulties, but I also wanted to portray her plight in a realistic tone. She’s in a pretty bad place.

4. Is Land of Conquerors a real game? (And are you a secret gamer?)

SK: No, it isn’t — and no, I’m not a secret gamer, I’m afraid. I’m actually quite rubbish at computer games! But I have seen quite a lot of gameplay of DOTA 2. That’s what comes of having teenagers in the house…

5. What did writing adult novels teach you about writing YA, or vice versa?

SK: I didn’t really set out to write a YA book when I wrote Finding Audrey. The story just came to me, and I saw I had to tell it through Audrey’s eyes. So I haven’t approached YA in a very different way, as far as the writing goes. Having said that, when you’re writing a story about teenagers, you do feel a responsibility to treat their very difficult problems accurately. I consulted my own teens along the way, which I would never normally do. I think they were quite pleased to have me deferring to them!

For more on crossovers, click here.


The post Five questions for Sophie Kinsella: Crossover Week edition appeared first on The Horn Book.

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2. Emma Watson’s New Focus on Fair Fashion

As we know from her recent social justice endeavours, Emma Watson is eager to use her celebrity status to make a positive impact on the world.

Watson, who is the Goodwill Ambassador for UN Women, is working to promote ethical, socially conscious fashion, reports Vanity Fair:

The actress, who has made Vanity Fair’s International Best-Dressed List for the past few consecutive years, has embarked on her own fashion challenge during the current press tour for Alejandro Amenábar’s Regression. Her goal: encouraging a green carpet, rather than red, full of stylish ensembles from designers who do not use fur or chemicals that could harm the environment.

Inspired by Andrew Morgan’s recent documentary, The True Cost, which explores the disturbing underbelly of “fast fashion,” Watson began the challenge with the following message posted on Instagram: “Inspired to consider the whole process of creating a fashion look, we are thinking about all the people, pieces and moving parts! This rack includes designers that are considering local craft and production, artisan skills, the environment, sustainability and the longevity of fashion!”

In a review of The True Cost this May, the New York Times recounts the horrors that the documentary uncovers in the fast-fashion industry including “zealous pesticide use,” underpaid factory workers who are abused to meet America’s affordable demands, and clogged landfills. The review ends as follows: “The True Cost stirs and saddens. Not least because it’s unlikely to reach the young consumers most in need of its revelations.”

Hearteningly, Watson wants to use her celebrity to reach that exact demographic.

Watson has an active Twitter presence, and has posted several tweets about her new cause:

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You can read the full article from Vanity Fair here.


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3. Writing Workshops

How important are writing workshops or conferences to writers? In my opinion, they are critical. However, we have to face facts that we can't all afford to attend them. I've found that some are very reasonable in price where others can be quite expensive. But the real question is are they worth it?

Almost every one I've attended has been worth it. Some more than others. I have to admit I've attended a few where I didn't learn much that I didn't already know, but I came out of there meeting a few new contacts or a few leads on book signing events. And both of those are critical to making it in this industry. And then there have been the workshops where I learned a ton of new stuff. So you just never know.

But to me, attending as many writing workshops or conferences that my budget and time will allow, has only benefitted me. They are a chance to "recharge" my juices and get me excited about the  writing process all over again. Each time I attend one, I come directly home and start a new story or edit an old one. My batteries are once again revved up and my imagination is raring to go!  There is nothing better than spending a whole day talking and listening to people who feel the same way I do about writing a book. 

It's also a new adventure for me. Never in school did I ever raise my hand to answer a question the teacher asked. I never wanted to speak up for fear that I would look stupid because I didn't know what I was talking about. But when I attend anything writing wise, my hand doesn't hesitate to raise even when I try to stop it. So it's a weird and new experience for me, but one that I love and am proud of myself for giving it my all. Heck, I've even been the speaker at a few of these myself! And for me, that's a big "gold star" for the day.

So to those of you who are thinking of attending a workshop or conference, think no more. Just do it! I guarantee it will pay off in some way and you'll be glad you did it.

So, when's your next writing workshop or conference scheduled?

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4. Harry Potter as an Antagonist Video Goes Viral

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5. City543 interview

An interview from City543 with me (interviewer Kassy Cho photo Joanna Lee): visiting-swedish-illustrator-mattias-adolfssons-planet-on-his-first-visit-to-taiwan/

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6. Gurney Museum Exhibition in Philadelphia

A new exhibition of my original art has just opened at the museum of the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. The Art of James Gurney includes more than 25 oil paintings from the Dinotopia books, as well as natural science science illustrations, preliminary sketches, and maquettes. 

One of the featured images is "Waterfall City: Afternoon Light" from Dinotopia: Journey to Chandara. This is the only image that overlaps from the Delaware Art Museum exhibition a few years ago; the rest are all different.

The Art of James Gurney will be on view at the The Richard C. von Hess Gallery of Illustration is at 333 S Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA through November 16.

In connection with the exhibition, I'll be doing a public presentation on Thursday, October 29: 1 - 2:30 pm at Levitt Auditorium with a reception following.

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7. Ghosts

Ghosts by Sonia Goldie and Marc Boutavant

by Sonia Goldie and Marc Boutavant (Enchanted Lion, 2013)

If you listened to my conversation with Matthew Winner and Julie Falatko on the Let’s Get Busy podcast this week, you might have heard me say something like, “the books keep coming.” 

It’s true, and this book is a perfect example of that. I’m a big fan of the books Enchanted Lion makes, and this one is two years old in America, and I just stumbled across it recently. Better late than never, right?

So, these ghosts.

The front endpapers here show a small spot illustration of a sheeted, ball-and-chained spook. On the title page, another ghost confronts him with disbelief in his ghost-ness, and the story is off. The two, a self-proclaimed ghost and a maybe-ghost, star in a series of pictures where the real ghost explains the reality of ghosts.

They don’t only inhabit creepy places, and they don’t drag around the old ball and chain.

And they definitely don’t go around saying, “Boo…Boo…Boo” all day.


These ghosts are different.

Ghosts by Sonia Goldie and Marc Boutavant

They live in your kitchen. See the name of this ghost, spelled out by the items on the shelf? The Ghost of the Kitchen is clumsy, spilling poofs of flour and traipsing through spilled milk. And he really likes angel food cake and creamed rice. He’s up there on your light, judging you as you snap some peas.

Ghosts by Sonia Goldie and Marc Boutavant

This one wakes at night, scatters your clothes around, and makes your toys sing. He’ll slither into your teams and nightmares, and disappear in the morning.

Ghosts by Sonia Goldie and Marc BoutavantThe Ghost of the Parents’ Bedroom does not like messes as much as his nighttime friend. But I don’t think he’s as intimidating or successful either.

(Also, I do think that’s a dirty magazine under the bed, no?! Maybe something worth hiring a ghost to protect? Maybe the first I’ve ever seen in a picture book!)

Ghosts by Sonia Goldie and Marc BoutavantGhosts by Sonia Goldie and Marc BoutavantThe Ghosts of the Attic and Gray Days are my favorites. The one in the attic is ‘wrinkly yet twinkly’ and ‘likes to spend his time remembering the good old days.’ He smokes a ghost pipe, reads old newspapers, and listens to scratched records. He scares spiders away by wearing silvery scarves.

And the Ghost of Gray Days is a lumbering fellow, joined by a driving slug and an elephant carrying a plate for an umbrella. Of course.

The details in these pictures is astounding. Each spread has quirky spooks and spooky quirks, and each of these ghosts has enough character to erase that old, boring ball and chain.

Perfect for anyone who likes mini-stories, visual feasts, and the fun of being scared.


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8. Jesse Eisenberg to Narrate His Own Audiobook

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9. Eco kickstarter success.

Well usually I just just talk about me me me..
..well this is just a little bit me
and a lot about John K, Milenko and the great team at Strangeloop games:
The Eco Kickstarter actually made it- almost to its first stretch goal so far.
Which is great because so many good ideas sink without trace in this social media world- so to make funding is not to be sneezed at.
Well done you people!

Now of course the thing has to be worked on to completion- (but even as an awareness/publicity exercise i'ts a great result).

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10. Sci-Fi Janet 1963 - 2015

You WILL be missed.

Tempus fugit
 Sci-Fi Janet

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11. Illustrator and Designer Nikolay Volevski

Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 12.09.03 PM Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 12.07.45 PM Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 12.07.10 PM Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 12.06.38 PM Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 12.08.30 PM

Nikolay Volevski Website >>

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12. My tweets

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13. Choosing Courage - a bookwap


"Choosing Courage"
Inspiring Stories of What It Means to Be a Hero

Authored by Peter Collier
Grades 4-8

About the book...

This fabulous book is inspiring and very educational.  It is a story of courage in our modern day world.  The superheroes of the book are Medal of Honour recipients from WW2, Korean War, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Collier also highlights civilian counterparts who step up and display outstanding bravery in the face of extreme danger.

Today the very word "hero" has been overused and overrated.  Kid's link the word to fictious cartoon characters, anyone who aces an exam, or wins a race in the Olympics.  While all those things are truly wonderful the genuine men and women who deserve that word bestowed upon them are those who step into harms way selflessly rising up and moving forward to protect others from the impending dangers at large. 

Peter Collier's book gives us insight into these individuals using stories of combat veterans and normal everyday people who spring into action and literally put their own life on the line for the greater good of those around them.  

*"Colonel Jack Jacobs, USA (ret) is one.  Jacobs was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in 1968 Vietnam. He is a thoughtful man who explains how in the midst of battle, wounded in an ambush that killed many of his troops with a piece of shrapnel in his eye, remembered the questions posed by Hebrew scholar Hillel of two thousand years ago 'If not you, who? If not now, when?' Jacobs knew that if someone didn't take charge, the slaughter would continue, and if he was the only person capable of action, then he needed to get on with it"

*Jack Lucas was a thirteen year-old boy who keeps his age a secret so he could enlist in World War 11; at the Battle of Iwo Jima he deliberately covered a grenade with his body and absorbed the explosion to save his buddies.

*Jencie Fagan, a middle-school teacher in Reno, Nevada risked her life to disarm a trouble eighth grader before he could turn his gun on more of his classmates."

"Choosing Courage" provides context and background for each profile. Boys will especially be fascinated by the essays, photographs and sidebars on battles and weaponry.  The book is both entertaining and historical.  I think it is would be a wonderful resource for classrooms, libraries or at home.  It truly is an ennobling read and I highly recommend it. 


NOTE:  Like Collier's New York Times bestselling adult book, "Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty", "Choosing Courage" is published in collaboration with the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation.  The Foundation not only celebrates the individuals who have received the nation's highest military honour but helps Medal recipients spread the message that citizens of all ages and backgrounds can make brave choices in their everyday lives.

About the author...

Peter Collier has written extensively about bravery in battle in the New York Times bestselling "Medal of Valor: Beyond the Call of Duty", first published by Artisan in 2003, which has more than 330,000 copies in print.  He lives in Nevada City, California.

Read on and read always!

It's a wrap.

Contact me at storywrapsblog@gmail.com

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14. I Skip. I Sing. I Draw. (and I may fart a bit too much)

 Above: 2013 and one of these Old Farts is a lot older than the other...Mr Brown? ahem.

Back in October, 2014, I wrote an incredible post.  It should have won an award.  It DID. It won the Hooper Pillitser.  Remember "I'm Too Radical For The Kids"?  If not -here: http://hoopercomicart.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/im-too-radical-for-kids-bczf.html

Why am I mentioning this now?  Simple.  If you watched Howlermouse and his DC 52  rant video (just go down this page a post or two) I think it was one of his best video blogs.  Firstly, he lives in the United States, has been a life long DC comics fan and collector and, more importantly, I don't know him and he does not know me.

Again, why is that important?  Firstly, because he has underscored literally everything I have written about Marvel and DC and, to an extent, the current "new fans" and how the companies are treating their fans as morons who are told what they want in comics because it is the latest "cash cow" plan. I think "Enough is enough!" has been screamed out by so many long time comic fans that if Marvel and DC really did have that open-ness to fans and creativity of the 1960s/1970s they would have taken notice long ago.

Instead, we all know that DC and Marvel are run by "suits" who get a great deal of sexual gratification when they see that $ sign....the higher the number the better it gets (though some require sedating when it gets too intense).

Another point was that George Perez is "one of the old guys" but the companies don't pull them into conventions because they want, what they see as young, hip and cool creators so that their companies look young, hip and cool.  Some of the "old guys" do get to comic book conventions like Perez or Neal Adams but usually independent of Marvel or DC.  You know, the "young, hip and cool" are not that good and people like Sal Buscema have to tidy up and make their comic work presentable.  Do these old guys get credit?  HELL NO!!  Is DC or Marvel going to tell their purchasers (I won't say "fans") that "old guys" have to finish off the latest 'star's' work because he is not capable?

WHY do you need six pencillers and some times even more inkers on one feckin comic???  You work it out.  In the old days when quality was the key word and artists pencilled and inked without a computer it was one penciller and one inker unless a deadline had been moved up and so a book had to be rushed through.

My conversations with youngsters (I'm old and "rad" enough to be able to write that) on putting comics together usually goes like this.

Me: "I pencil straight onto the page then ink it"
Anon: "What computer program?"
Me: "Don't use one for anything but lettering"
Anon:"So HOW do you draw -?"
Me: "I use a pencil -different types- and then various pens for inking or brush and ink for solid black areas"
Anon:"On the computer?"

At this point I usually pull out pencils and a pen and demonstrate.  Usually to dumbfounded expressions.

Me: "Like that"
Anon: "You...pencil...AND you...ink??"
Me: "You got it! "

A silence usually falls as the person stares at what I've drawn.  It's almost like them trying to push their brains through thick molasses!

Anon: "Every page?"
Anon: "You don't do any drawing on the computer?"
Me: "No. Not one page. Only lettering because I simply cannot letter to any publishable standard -that I use the computer for"

Oh lords!  They see a colour illo and when I explain I used colour inks, water colours or a mix of tools a few have to be taken away in an ambulance.

Come on, I am not the only one out there does this and it surely cannot be beyond the little minds to understand that I use a pencil for what pencils were designed for and pens and inks for what they were designed for?

I almost feel like I've been thawed from a block of ice having been frozen in 1950!

Jim Lee does drawing demoes at events using a Wacom. Big feckin deal.  I've seen one after another "computer artists" have near nervous breakdowns when their computers fail because everything -everything- is stored on it.  "Art studio", comic work -everything.  I just have to go to my folders and pull pages out.  Word.

"Old school" they say to me.  "Artist" is how I normally respond to the non-pain-in-the-ass ones.

In the United States and UK "it's all about age", as Bollo once said.  Howlermouse nailed that.  And I pointed it out in my "Too Radical" post.  I mentioned how I got the strange looks and even the rudeness of other creators there -and it really did seem to be because of my age.  Drawing, writing and publishing comics at my age?  My response is this: how dare YOU fucking demand that I conform to your inane and grotesquely stupid idea of what someone of my age should be doing.

In Europe you have musical performers who started in the 1960s and still continue today because it is the talent and music NOT their age that is taken into account.  If you do not know that or understand it then get back inside your tin can.

Hansrudi Wascher...well, I could make a very long list of comic creators from Europe who are well past 60 years of age and still going strong.  In the UK many comic creators and cartoonists are kicked out into retirement on reaching 65. There is no reason WHY any publication cannot use them as freelance or, in more recent years, continue to employ them.  Let's not get started on British comics because that is dead unless someone with money comes along.

You see, following my response to a comment on CBO as to WHY I am unable to get a table at event after event in the UK (excluding the little minded conspirators) I hear from two comic people that when they mentioned to certain event organisers my post on the subject the response was also a whince and (that ***** expression again) "Well, he's really old school and we want to attract younger people".  So Howlermouse REALLY nailed it. 

I mentioned someone into maths had worked out the odds of my being "unlucky" enough not to get a table for five straight years for every event I contacted. Doug responded in an email: "Actually, easiest way of putting it when it gets broken down, is that the odds against this happening over that period come out as 99.8% against it"  I think the term is "screwed".

I get far more views of my Maakika Art from Europe -mainly France.  UK hardly ever registers.

This is why, and I was only just sitting down to catch up on videos yesterday, I shared the video. I had not intended to but I thought "See? Ain't just me!  I'll show everyone" and that was it.

No one told Jack Kirby "You iz too old, man!" (but then he had 99% more talent than me!)

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15. Comic: Picture Book Restaurant

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16. Legendary Disney Actor Dean Jones Dies At 84

And another one goes...https://uk.movies.yahoo.com/post/128246388481/legendary-disney-actor-dean-jones-dies-at-84


Dean Jones, the actor who helmed a wealth of classic Disney movies from ‘The Love Bug’ , ‘Herbie Goes To Monte Carlo’ and 'That Darn Cat!’, has died aged 84.

He had been suffering from Parkinson’s disease.

Jones, also starred in 46 films over a prolific acting career, including titles like 'Jailhouse Rock’, with Elvis Presley, 'Under The Yum-Yum Tree’ with Jack Lemmon, 'Beethoven’, 'Blackbeard’s Ghost’, and 'Clear And Present Danger’.

It was after serving in the Navy during the Korean War that he took to acting, working at a local theatre in Buena Park, California.

He made his debut on Broadway in 1960 alongside Jane Fonda in the play 'There Was A Little Girl’, later appearing in Stephen Sondheim’s 'Company’.

After inking a deal with MGM, he then embarked on a movie career in 1956, and would go on to star with Frank Sinatra in 'Never So Few’, Fonda once again in 'Any Wednesday’, and Gregory Peck and Danny DeVito in 'Other People’s Money’.

He also played the evil vet Dr. Herman Varnick in 'Beethoven’ in 1992.

Jones was inducted into the Disney Hall of Fame in 1995.

He is survived by his three children and wife, former actress Lory Patrick.

Tempus fugit

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17. On crossing over: straight from the horses’ mouths

Why do some authors “cross over” from writing adult to children’s books or children’s to adult? To find out, we went straight to the source.

Shopaholic series author Sophie Kinsella (“The Queen of Romantic Comedy”), author of Finding Audrey — her first YA! — graciously submitted to our Five Questions treatment (sad to say she’s not a secret gamer).

We asked Patrick Ness and Ben Mezrich: What has writing adult books taught you about writing YA, or vice versa?

A Monster CallsPatrick Ness: That if you want either to be good, there can’t be any difference in emotional investment, personal investment, time investment, work investment. There’s only one danger in writing both and that’s snobbery to either. If a story needs to be for adults, I’m good with that. If it needs to be for teens, awesome, let’s go for it. And that’s the end of my thinking on the difference, really. After that, I’m just trying to write the best book I can, period.

mezrich_mouseBen Mezrich: After the movies 21 and The Social Network came out, I did a lot of events at high schools, and younger kids would come up to me asking if they could read my stuff. I really wanted to try and write a series for kids interested in the kinds of stories I write for adults. I always loved Encyclopedia Brown, and I want these books — about whiz kids beating the odds — to have that feel.

Also, now that I have kids (little ones, five and three years old), I can’t wait until they are old enough to read my books!

Here’s Gail Carriger‘s take, from an Out of the Box interview last fall.

Alice Hoffman talked about being influenced by Edward Eager, in The Horn Book Magazine.

Meg Wolitzer *hearts* libraries, and tells The Horn Book Magazine why.

Sherman Alexie’s Boston Globe-Horn Book speech for The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is about autobiography and not autobiography.

Rainbow Rowell‘s Boston Globe-Horn Book speech for Eleanor & Park describes insecurities and incomplete ideas.

For more on crossovers, click here.


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18. 2015 Thurber Prize Finalists Announced

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19. If you only had a brain

scarecrow-in-fieldFarah Mendlesohn called my attention to this bit of fuckwittery from The Guardian, in which their art critic Jonathan Jones opines that the late Terry Pratchett wrote “trash” while the equally late Günter Grass was a “true titan of the novel,” so why is everyone more sad about the passing of Sir Terry? The dumbness of this point–let’s start with the fact that more people love Pratchett’s books more than people love Grass’s–is exacerbated by the fact that Jones admits, nay, crows, that he’s never read a word of Pratchett and doesn’t intend to.

I have only read about half a dozen of Pratchett’s books and none of Grass’s, so I have no opinion of their comparative merits. (That didn’t stop Jones but I haven’t passed judgment on a book I haven’t read since that time I put Red Shift on a syllabus but never got around to reading it before the class began. I was younger then.) But his argument is straw-man specious–as far as I can tell, the only person comparing Pratchett to Grass is Jones.

He is right, though, that critical discourse is now both puffed-up and flattened. I blame the internet, although God knows even The Horn Book has tossed around words like “brilliant” and “ground-breaking” for books that are in hindsight “smart” and “different from those other books we’ve been seeing lately.” But not only has the internet brought together readers, critics, creators, fans, and publicists in what can be an orgy of self-serving hyperbole, it has leveled distinctions between high, middlebrow, and disposable culture, with TV episodes, for example, dissected with the same assiduousness as, well, the works of Pratchett or Grass. It makes me think of Anne Lamott writing in Bird by Bird about her brief but over-reaching career as a restaurant reviewer, where one of her friends had to remind her gently that “Annie, it’s just a bit of cake.”

It is a peculiarity of books for youth–along with speculative fiction and romance novels–that its devotees frequently feel burdened by the genre’s putatively second-class status of not being “real literature.” The defensiveness is certainly warranted–witness critics like Jonathan Jones!–but it can also lead to claims of greatness than only resound in the choir loft. If I were to write “Terry Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching books are awfully good children’s books” (talk about clickbait) I would inevitably be scolded for putting limits on their goodness. But can’t it be enough that something be an awfully good children’s book without claiming it stands among the titans of literature writ large?


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20. Liz’s Picks Video: Fireboat, by Maira Kalman

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Liz discusses Fireboat, by Maira Kalman, as a special book to share with a young reader around the topic of September 11.

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21. There and Back Again.

This blog has been so very quiet.

Here's what's been going on. I went home. 

A soft welcoming blanket of fog. People who knew how to drive safely   in lanes, and not stop for NO reason- (because in the U.S. you would get a ticket arrested for being a danger on the road to others and you have a freaking CLUE). Driving was stressless and fun- especially in Fred's car- Sasha. I relished it. 

There were California brown Pelicans  gently drifting overhead in clean smokeless air - they look like creatures that belong to another time. Glorious. 

And sunsets of the awe inspiring kind. 

I hung out with our neighbors who have been keeping watch over the casa. And I was grateful for having such kind, generous and caring people in our lives. All of them inspiring- we are the youngens on the street and the folks around us are farther on down the road, but   totally awesome. 

I took a quick trip to see loved ones in Minnesota. I was happy to see that my parents are looking great and getting better and better- you would never believe their age if you saw them. I admire that they are heading off on new adventures and this next year are venturing over here to visit and we are heading out on safari with them in Botswana.  I also popped down to Rochester to visit my sister and her family. She and her hubby have 3 teenagers now- all doing fabulous. Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon quote tag line , " Minnesota where the women are strong, the men are good looking and all the children are above average. "

Can you tell I loved being home? But I missed this guy 

he's good reason to cross a globe...but I had some more adventures in between...

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22. Seventh Most Important Thing

Seventh Most Important Thing. Shelley Pearsall. 2015. Random House. 288 pages. [Source: Review copy]

 The Seventh Most Important Thing by Shelley Pearsall is loosely based on a true story. One of the characters in the novel was an actual person, an artist named James Hampton. An author's note tells more of his story. I do wish I'd known this at the start; that is one reason I'm beginning my review with this 'essential' information.

Arthur T. Owens is the hero of The Seventh Most Important Thing; the book is a coming-of-age story set in 1963. Arthur has not been having an easy time of it, life has not been the same for him since his father died. And one day he loses it. He sees "the junk man" walking down the street pushing his cart full of junk, and the man is wearing his father's hat. He picks up a brick, takes aim, and hits him. Fortunately, it hits him on the arm and not in the head. James Hampton is "the junk man" and he urges the court to show Arthur mercy, and sentence him to community service. His community service will be working for "the junk man." Arthur has a list of SEVEN items to collect each Saturday. And the list is the same week to week. To collect these items, he'll need to walk the streets and neighborhoods picking up trash and even going through people's trash. It won't be easy for him, especially at first, to lower himself like that. But this process changes him for the better. And there comes a time when readers learn alongside Arthur just what "the junk man" does with his junk. And the reveal is worth it, in my opinion.

The Seventh Most Important Thing is definitely character-driven and not plot-driven. It's a reflective novel. The focus is on Arthur, on his family, on his new friendships and relationships, on the meaning of life. I liked the characters very much. The story definitely worked for me.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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23. Back to school

I'm back from summer break! Not that summer is entirely over: here in Colorado, it's still a balmy eighty-something degrees, with no end in sight... I'm kind of looking forward to fall, to tell you the truth.

But it's back to school time, which means I'm back to work. I'm writing a crime novel for adults (work-in-progress, stay tuned), and generally getting caught up with what's happening in mystery, YA, MG and for us grown-ups.

And back-to-work also means I'm stocking up on school supplies while they're on the shelves, including a good stack of spiral notebooks. They're my tool of choice when outlining, brainstorming, pretty much anything to do with writing. I should plant a tree for all the paper I go through...

How about you?? What are you up to? Read anything good lately?

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24. Extension Activities for Mama Panya’s Pancakes: A Village Tale from Kenya

We recently picked up a wonderful book from the Blount County library, this wonderful Kenyan Tale called, Mama Panya’s Pancakes: A Village Tale from Kenya by Mary and Rich Chamberlin, Illustrated by Julia Cairns.

Mama panyas pancakes

This beautiful heart warming story shares the great message of “give and you shall receive.“ As Mama Panya and her young son Adika walk to the market, Adika invites every friend he meets to come and eat pancakes with him and his mother.

Having barely enough money to feed herself and her son, how will Mama Panya ever cook enough pancakes for everyone? Luckily, all the guests arrive with food gifts to further extend the feast.

The illustrations captivated my children with their bold colors, vivid patterns, and lush Kenyan scenery. It’s as if we were walking along with Mama Panya and Adika to market.

mama panyas pancakes

We thoroughly enjoyed this book and read it several times. We also enjoyed the recipe for Mama Panya’s pancakes. In the back of the book there is a map of Kenya, details of daily life, and facts about the Kenyan language called Kiswahili and general facts about Kenya.


Mama Panya’s Pancakes makes for a fantastic read aloud. The text is written in little boxes making it easy for young readers to follow along or take a turn reading out loud themselves.

Somethings To Do

Make a batch of Mama Panya’s Pancakes

mama panyas pancakes activity


  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 2 cups of cold water
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red chili pepper flakes


  1. In a bowl, mix all the ingredients with a fork.
  2. Preheat a nonstick pan at a medium to low setting.
  3. Ladle 1/4 cup of batter into the center of the pan. Tilt the pan to spread the batter to about the size of a grapefruit.
  4. Cook until you see tiny bubbles in the pancake, then gently flip it over.
  5. When the second side begins to pop up from the heat, the pancake is ready.

Serving Suggestions

You can fill your pancake with jam, tuna or chicken salad, seasoned hamburger or roasted nuts. Anything at all will do. Place your filling on one half and then roll it up and eat it.

Kenyan Animal and Tree Guessing Game


In the back of the book there is a section called Walking to Market. We photocopied both pages from the book, cut out the animal or tree, glued it to an index card. On the other side of the index card we wrote the African name. Turn the cards with the African name facing you and try and guess what it means.

Learn Kiswahili Greetings

Excerpt from Mama Panya’s Pancakes: “Kenyans speak many languages, but the main ones are Kiswahili and English………Kiswahili means “speaking the language of the coast people.” Kiswahili is a mixture of Bantu, a native African language, and Arabic, a Middle Eastern language.”

It isn’t uncommon for people like Adika and the people living in his village to speak three languages. Greetings are expected when you meet someone. Otherwise you will be considered rude. A simple hello is said like this in Kiswahili, “Jambo”. There are many more greetings at the back of the book. Take some time to enjoy saying them. The pronunciations are all there to make things easy for you.

This simple and engaging story leads to many days of fun activities as we explore Kenya.

Find it in Your Library!

  • Title: Mama Panya’s Pancakes
  • Author: Mary and Rich Chamberlin
  • Illustrator: Julia Cairns
  • Publisher: Barefoot Books
  • Genre: Easy
  • ISBN: 1905236646

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The post Extension Activities for Mama Panya’s Pancakes: A Village Tale from Kenya appeared first on Jump Into A Book.

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25. लडाई झगडे

लडाई झगडे

दो दिन पहले भावना मिली. भावना हमेशा के लिए दिल्ली रहने चली जाएगी. असल मॆ, उसका अपने पति से लडाई झगडा चल रहा है. कारण इतना  है कि  वो नौकरी करना चाह्ती है जबकि पति चाह्ते हैं कि बेटा अभी छोटा है इसलिए अभी बच्चे पर पूरा ध्यान दे और घर सम्भाले.  

घर पर रह कर जो भी काम करना चाहे कर सकती हैं नेट और वाई फाई की भी सारी सुविधाए घर पर थी. चाहे तो घर पर ही छोटा सा आफिस भी बना सकती है. कभी कोई रोक टोक नही थी. ये बात तो भावना भी मानती है पर ना जाने किसलिए अपने सातंवी क्लास में पढने वाले बेटे को छोड कर हमेशा के लिए जाना चाह रही है. इसी सिलसिले में मेरे पास भी आई थी. मैने भी उसे बहुत समझाया. जाने के बाद बच्चे पर क्या बीतेगी कौन करेगा उसकी देखभाल. इस बात का भी हवाला दिया. पर शायद वो मन बना चुकी थी. आज, अभी थोडी देर पहले वो घर पर आई और रोने लगी.

मेरे पूछ्ने पर उसने बताया कि आज उसने एक गाजियाबाद मे रहने वाले बच्चे की खबर पढी. बच्चे की मम्मी दुबई नौकरी करने चली गई थी. पति बीमार रहता और बच्चे अपनी नानी के घर रहते. वो बच्चा कक्षा नौं में पढता था. माता पिता के बिखराव से लडाई झगडे से बहुत दुखी था और अपने जन्मदिन से एक दिन पहले 13 साल के शानू ने  वट्स अप पर अपना प्रोफाईल फोटो डाला और खुद को श्रधांजलि दी और फांसी लगा ली. बच्चा अपने माता पिता के अलगांव से बेहद दुखी था. उसे उस फांसी में अपना बच्चा नजर आया. वो ऐसा कभी नही होने देगी इसलिए उसने मन बना लिया है कि घर पर ही रह कर कोई काम शुरु करेगी पर बेटे की परवरिश पर पूरा ध्यान देगीं. इतने में भावना के पति भी आ गए.

मै चाय बनाने के बहाने वहां से बाहर चली गई. दोनों की बातचीत हुई और शायद दोनों ने एक दूसरे से माफी भी मांगी. हमने बिल्कुल चुपचाप चाय पी और जाते जाते एक बार फिर वो भावुक हो गई. मैने उसके गाल पर प्यार से चपत लगाई और बोली बस … वरना अब मैं भी रो दूंगी… दोनो अपने घर चले गए एक आशा के एक उम्मीद के साथ .. मुझे खुशी इस बात की हुई कि बेशक दर्दनाक खबर ही सही पर उसे पढ कर भावना का मन पसीज गया और एक और बच्चा मरने से बच गया.

वैसे आपसी लडाई झगडे में कई बार अहम इतना आगे आ जाता है कि हमारी आखों में पट्टी सी बंध जाती है और हमें कुछ नजर नही आता. जबकि ये फैसले बहुत सोच समझ कर लेने होते हैं.. इसलिए अगर आपके मन में या आपके किसी जानकार के मन में भी कुछ ऐसा चल रहा है तो उन्हें एक बार समझना और समझाना आपका फर्ज बनता है कोई भी कदम उठाने से पहले एक बार अपने मासूम बच्चे की ओर एक बार जरुर देख लेना कि आपके इस लडाई झगडे में मासूम क्या कसूर …थोडी सी समझदारी से काम लेने से बिखरता घर बच सकता है.

और फिर मैं भी उस खबर को गूगल सर्च करने लगी जिसमें बच्चे ने खुदकुशी की थी…!!


Student gives tribute himself on WhatsApp before committing suicide – Navbharat Times

पुलिस सूत्रों से मिली जानकारी के अनुसार, सोमवार देर रात जीटीबी हॉस्पिटल से पुलिस को सूचना मिली थी कि एक लड़के को मृत हालत में हॉस्पिटल लाया गया था, उसने फांसी लगाकर जान दी है। सूचना मिलते ही पुलिस मौके पर पहुंच गई और शव को पोस्टमॉर्टम के लिए भिजवाया। पूछताछ में खुलासा हुआ कि मृतक लड़के का नाम शानू है। वह अपने बड़े भाई शिखर के साथ वैशाली, गाजियाबाद में रहने वाले अपने नाना-नानी के पास रहता था। वह वहीं के एक पब्लिक स्कूल में नौंवी क्लास मेंपढ़ता था, जबकि उसका भाई दसवीं क्लास में पढ़ता है। स्कूल में खेलते समय उसके पैर में फ्रैक्चर आ गया था। इस कारण वह 19 अगस्त को अपने बड़े भाई के साथ कबीर नगर गली नंबर-4 में रहने वाली अपनी मौसी के घर आया हुआ था।

पुलिस को यह भी पता चला कि शानू के पैरंट्स अलग-अलग रहते हैं। वह इस बात को लेकर भी परेशान रहता था। उसने इसका जिक्र वॉट्सऐप पर भी किया था। बताया जाता है कि उसकी मां पैसे कमाने के लिए दुबई चली गई। पिता अक्सर बीमार रहने लगे। लिहाजा वे दोनों भाई अपने नाना-नानी के पास रहने लगे। परिवार वालों ने पुलिस को बताया कि शानू पढ़ाई में बहुत तेज था। Student gives tribute himself on WhatsApp before committing suicide – Navbharat Times

लडाई झगडे पर अगर आप भी अपना कोई अनुभव सांझा करना चाहे तो बताईएगा हो सकता है आपकी आप  बीती सुनकर किसी की जिंदगी बदल जाए…

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