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1. African literature at American universities

       A couple of weeks ago Yale professor Wai Chee Dimock wrote about A Literary Scramble for Africa, occasioned by the annual MLA-centered hiring-ritual.
       Dimock reported that:

To our surprise, almost one-third of the people we ended up interviewing were again working on Africa, and not even the usual suspects: Chinua Achebe, J.M. Coetzee, Nadine Gordimer. The field seems to have grown up overnight and turned into something no one had foreseen. Here and there we ran into some vaguely familiar titles -- Ngugi wa Thiong'o's Wizard of the Crow, NoViolet Bulawayo's We Need New Names, Helon Habila's Oil on Water -- but, for the most part, people were writing about authors we had never heard of: Senegal's Boubacar Boris Diop, Tanzania's Ebrahim Hussein, Congo's Sony Labou Tansi, Uganda's Monica Arac de Nyeko, Mozambique's Mia Couto, Malawi's Shadreck Chikoti.
       You may have heard my anguished cries -- though at the time I only tweeted a few initial reactions. But it's good to see that there's now a more comprehensive, measured response: Aaron Bady writing about Academe's Willful Ignorance of African Literature -- well worth a look.
       The PEN World Voices festival (NYC; 4-10 May) this year is 'On Africa' -- with at least one of these 'authors we had never heard of' in attendance (Boubacar Boris Diop); I'm curious to see whether this helps raise the African profile.
       I'm embarrassed about many lacunae at the complete review (though often it is more a case of not enough -- applicable to almost all categories -- than none at all), and the sampling of African literature under review is certainly among them. And yet: familiarity just with the reviewed-here titles -- limited though the selection is -- could have saved Dimock some ignorance-embarrassment. Which is, in itself, sad: what you find here really doesn't even scratch the surface -- and at least in academia they should be aware of far more.

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2. Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby, 336 pp, RL 4

Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby winner of the 2012 Edgar Award for Best Juvenile Mystery. And, while this award is well deserved,  Icefall is so much more than a mystery - it is a coming of age story and a story within a story as well, with memories coming together to create something greater than the mystery itself. In fact, Icefall reminds me of Shannon Hale's Newbery Honor winning Princess

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3. TEXTILES - natasha marshall

Natasha Marshall and Neil Fullerton first launched their textile studio Natasha Marshall Ltd at 100% Design in 2009.  Their initial fabric and wallpaper collections combined Natasha’s expertise in textiles and Neil’s skills in graphic design to produce designs, which embodied their signature simple, modern, graphic feel.  These designs were then distributed under license for the next four

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4. Book Beginnings - 3/6/15

*Please join Rose City Reader every Friday to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Please remember to include the title of the book and the author's name.  *Taken directly from Rose City Reader's Blog Page.

This week's book beginnings comes from A KILLING AT THE CREEK by Nancy Allen.

"The bloody, yellow school bus wound through the hills of the Missouri Ozarks in the early dawn of a June morning. The blood inside the bus pooled under the driver's feet, trickled in the aisle, drained out the back exit, and ran over the rear bumper."

Catching your eye?  :)


This book is one I finished last week wanted to share again this week.

My review is up TODAY, March 6. It is the top post on my blog for the day.

MIST OF MIDNIGHT by Sandra Byrd.  An alluring, gothic mystery.

What are you reading?

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5. Travel to Idaho this Spring

There is always so much going on in the children's literature world in Utah, which is wonderful and fun. But you might look beyond your borders to see what's going on elsewhere. For example, Idaho. We're just up the road a ways. And we seem to become a fantastic venue for kid lit authors to visit. Just in the last few weeks, we've hosted Markus Zusak, Jennifer Neilsen, and next week will be Sherman Alexie plus Andrew Smith.

I'm most excited, of course, about our Boise SCBWI conference in April, which we co-sponsor with the Boise State University Dept. of Literary, Language, and Culture and the Idaho Chapter of the International Literacy Association (formerly the International Reading Association).

This year we have several amazing speakers, including Matt de la Pena, Suzanne Morgan Williams, Utah's own Kristyn Crow, agent Sean McCarthy, and a fantastic panel of local authors.

Our theme is diversity in children's literature, which is a super hot topic right now, and worthy of our attention and examination. This conference is for all  who are interested in kit lit, whether teachers, librarians, students, parents, and, yes, authors and illustrators.

You can find more information here: http://bit.ly/1ErbbGu

And to register, scroll down that page and click on the link, or here: http://idcclw.com/

Boise in the spring is a magical place, and taking the time to get away from home and focus on your craft is worth every moment.

By Neysa CM Jensen
SCBWI regional advisor for Utah/southern Idaho

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6. Bowler hat gentleman

character design homework for schoolism class

If you caught my last post you'd have heard I'm enrolled in fundamentals of character design at Schoolism. I always knew there was something missing in my approach to character design. Over the years I've managed now and then to intuitively fluke some of the principals I'm now learning with Stephen. However just 3 weeks in I already feel I have a better grasp of these principals. Now when I revisit my favourite artists' character designs I understand much better why I like them and I know my own process will never be the same again.

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7. Creating Settings: Bringing the Sounds, Sights and Smells Home

Lisa Doan | The Children’s Book Review | March 6, 2015 When I began writing The Berenson Schemes, a middle grade series in which responsible Jack Berenson is repeatedly lost in the wilderness of foreign countries by his globe-trotting parents, I gave some careful thought to creating the settings. The books take place in the Caribbean, Kenya and […]

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8. Weaving Foreign Words Seamlessly into English Language Text, a Craft of Writing Post by Christine Kohler

I love meaty craft posts, don't you? Especially when the author takes the time to deeply explain a technique that I am struggling with in my own writing. As awareness is rising among many authors for the need to write characters that represent the diversity of reality, I'm sure that I am not alone. Author Christine Kohler joins us today with her fabulous analysis of when and how to incorporate dialect and foreign words into our stories. Thank you, Christine!

Weaving Foreign Words Seamlessly into English Language Text by Christine Kohler

Imagine you open a book and one character's dialogue is in a foreign language that you do not read. What would you do with the book? Probably close it and not read the story. I know I would, because it would frustrate me not to understand one side of the conversation.

from Vendorsi.com
Now imagine you open a book and one character's dialogue is peppered with foreign words that you don't understand. You sort of pick up the gist. But you're still not real sure what the character is saying. At best, you're turning to the glossary in the back of the book. At worst, you're looking up the foreign words online. Depending on how heavy the foreign words are, or how confused you get about what the character is saying and what is going on in the story plot, it is very likely you still might give up and put the book down.

Best case scenario, imagine you start reading a book and one character's dialogue is peppered with foreign words that you don't know; however, the foreign words are in context of actions and thoughts (interior monologue) and narrative that give clues and even rephrase the words in English. The story moves you through the foreign words in a way that you understand without having to look them up in an outside source or glossary. That's what I'm going to show writers how to do in this article.

Writing Resources:
First, though, it is difficult to discuss writing foreign words without talking about voice and dialect. I recommend you read on my blog Read Like a Writer the article "11 Tips on Writing Authentic Dialect."

Writing foreign language dialogue for a character is more than just using foreign words. In Developing a Written Voice (Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Publishing Co., 1993), Dona Hickey, a professor at University of Richmond, names five stylistic features that transfer voice from the air to the page: (Hickey, P. 23)
  1. Sentence patterns
  2. Sentence length
  3. Word choice
  4. Word placement
  5. Punctuation

Dialect based on POV:
Dialect in narrative voice should be very light. It can be heavier in dialogue. In general, the older the character the heavier the dialect and foreign language. This is because the older character is more likely to be a first-generation immigrant to the United States, and may have less education in a US school.

My novel NO SURRENDER SOLDIER is written in two different dialect point-of-views--a 15-year-old Chamorro, Kiko, and a Japanese soldier, Seto, who has been hiding in the jungle for 28 years after WWII ended. The story takes place on Guam in 1972, during the Vietnam War. The Chamorros and Guamanians speak Pidgin English. The Japanese soldier speaks Japanese and very little English.

I made a stylistic decision to put all of Seto's first-person dialogue and interior monologue in italics since he is speaking and thinking in the Japanese language. The narrative in Seto's chapters is in third person and not italicized.

Terms of Endearment:
One thing I believe writers should do when writing about a specific culture is to use the proper terms of address, especially for family members. I had a little problem in that in Chamorro the word "Nana" means mother, whereas, in the United States mainland "Nana" means grandmother. I got the idea to include a page before the prologue with "Chamorro terms of address" from Linda Sue Park's Korean WWII novel WHEN MY NAME WAS KEOKO. Neither of our historical novels include glossaries in the back of the book, which shows the actual foreign words are not abundant. However, many books do have foreign word glossaries in the back.

Example: Words in Context:
Let's return to that best case scenario where foreign words are in context of actions and thoughts (interior monologue) and narrative that give clues and even rephrase the words in English.

Here is an example in the prologue (P. 6) of NO SURRENDER SOLDIER (Merit Press, 2014):

… Besides, if things did not go well in battle, Seto knew what his superiors required of him. To die honorably, and go the way of the cherry blossoms. He looked at the bayonet on the end of his rifle and swallowed hard against what felt like a peach pit stuck in his throat. He had pledged to die in battle for Emperor Hiro Hito. But could he commit hara-kiri like a true samurai?

Notice in the paragraph above that I never added a separate sentence or clause that defines hara-kiri. It's not necessary to even use the word suicide, or to describe in gruesome detail how samurai committed seppuku, disembowelment. It's enough for the reader to know that hara-kiri will lead to Seto's death.

from Pixshark.com
Also take note in that paragraph the saying, "To die honorably, and go the way of the cherry blossoms." I use this wording "go the way of the cherry blossoms" quite a few times throughout the story. I made a stylistic decision to make Seto's language poetic more than adhering to how a Japanese speaker might sound. As many Asian languages do not have articles like in the English language, I tried to leave articles out where it enhanced the poetic dialect.

Example: Words Requiring Direct Translation:
Some foreign words require a direct translation for the reader to understand. Here are two different passages in NO SURRENDER SOLDIER where I handled the translations in different ways. The first passage (P. 13) in Chapter 1 is Kiko's mother waiting on two Japanese tourists. Grandfather (Tatan) had just offended them:

Nana scurried toward the counter and apologized to the Japanese girls, while bowing her head and shoulders repeatedly. “I am so sorry. Dozo. My apologies. Dozo.” She gave the girl change.

In the passage above it is clear that the Japanese word "dozo" means "sorry" and "my apologies." This passage also reveals that Nana speaks Japanese (at least a little; later the reader learns students were taught the language in school during WWII), and that she knows Japanese customs such as bowing. Earlier in this chapter Nana would not bow, even though it would have been a polite courtesy to her Japanese customers vacationing on Guam.

The reason all of these parts are so important as a whole is because creating a character of a different culture and language is deeper and wider than just giving the character an ethnic or foreign name and throwing in a few foreign words.

Example: Direct Translation Set Off by Em Dashes:
This next passage (p. 20) in Chapter 2 is from Seto's point of view. I rarely use this technique of a direct translation set off by em dashes, but in this case I did not want to lose the continuity and flow of the action, or the internal monologue showing his emotions and reactions. At the same time, I felt that many readers would not know what kamikaze means. I would caution against using this em dash technique except in a pinch when it fits. (Like a pinch of pepper! Or, pepper in a pinch.)

Deception and trap, indeed, Seto had thought at the time. Ha! Japan could not lose with its kamikaze—divine wind—Buddha’s blessings, and the divine Emperor himself ordering the war. Time dragged on. Shellfire ceased. Bullet sniping silenced. Seto became disheartened; Japan must have lost the war.

Read Widely From Well-Written Novels:
As for how heavy or light to make the Pidgin English dialect, Newbery-winning Richard Peck advised me to read Graham Salisbury, who also writes Pacific Islander literature. Peck said, read well-written books in the place and era you are writing and model the masters. I would add, read how dialect is written in books within the past five years. In particular, I found Blue Skin of the Sea by Salisbury helpful. I've also critiqued with a Hispanic writer and so studied Pam Munoz Ryan's novels.

Besides reading other children's lit books with foreign language peppered within English language text, I recommend reading literature from authors in the language of your characters. For example, to create the tone and cadence of Seto’s voice in NO SURRENDER SOLDIER, I read gothic poetry from Akinari, an 18th century Japanese poet.

Finally -- Don't Confuse Your Reader!:
In conclusion, I leave you with these reminders: Story first. Clarity is imperative. If the reader stumbles over words repeatedly he will throw the book down unfinished. It is better to include no foreign words in your story at all than to frustrate English-only readers.

However, if you can pepper foreign words in skillfully, and make the general meaning understandable within context, then foreign words are one more tool in a writer's arsenal to capture authenticity in voice, dialect, and culture.

About the Author:

Christine Kohler is a graduate of the University of Hawaii, then lived in Japan and Guam, the setting for her debut novel NO SURRENDER SOLDIER, Merit Press (Adams Media/ F+W Media), 2014. She worked as a foreign correspondent for the Pacific Daily News and Gannett Wire Service, covering the West Pacific. She later worked as an editor and copy editor for the San Antonio Express-News, a Hearst daily. Besides being a journalist, Kohler worked as a media specialist in PR and marketing, middle and high school teacher, and writing instructor for the Institute of Children's Literature (ICL). She has 17 children's books published. Kohler now lives in Texas.

The American Library Association nominated NO SURRENDER SOLDIER as a Quick Pick for reluctant readers. NO SURRENDER SOLDIER was also awarded a bronze medal by the Military Writers Society of America.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads

About the Book:

A young man, an old soldier , and a terrible injustice. Should the punishment be death?

Growing up on Guam in 1972, fifteen-year-old Kiko is beset by worries: He’s never kissed a girl, and he thinks it’s possible he never will. The popular guys get all the attention, but the worst part is that Kiko has serious problems at home. His older brother is missing in Vietnam; his grandfather is losing it to dementia; he just learned that his mother was raped in World War II by a Japanese soldier.

It all comes together when he discovers an old man, a Japanese soldier, hiding in the jungle behind his house. It’s not the same man who raped his mother, but, in his rage, Kiko cares only about protecting his family and avenging his mom – no matter what it takes. And so, a shy, peaceable boy begins to plan a murder. But how far will Kiko go to prove to himself that he’s a man?

Based on a historical incident, No Surrender Soldier is the story of a boy grappling with ancient questions of courage and manhood before he can move on.

Amazon | Indiebound | Goodreads

-- posted by Susan Sipal, @HP4Writers

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9. Writing Nonfiction Using Fiction Techniques

People understand that it takes creativity to write fiction.  But many don’t understand that it also takes creativity to write nonfiction.   As a nonfiction author I write true stories-but they are still stories.  When teaching students or teachers how to write nonfiction, I explain it like this: 

I don’t create the facts,
I use the facts creatively. 

Nonfiction is based on facts found in primary source documents.  How an author uses those facts is what makes the difference between text that reads like a novel or a textbook.  The creative part of writing nonfiction is finding a way to keep the reader turning pages to see what happens next-and at the same time telling the story accurately.  To accomplish this goal, I use fiction techniques such as dialogue, sensory details, foreshadowing, pacing and all the rest. 

Let’s look at just one fiction technique I use in nonfiction books:  dialogue.  In my books, the dialogue comes from direct quotes from documented primary sources.  Teachers, students and readers can go to source notes in the back matter to see exactly where the quote was found. 

I’m often asked, how do I know
when to use a direct quote,
and when not to? 
I use a direct quote to accomplish one of three things:

1. To show characterization
2. To increase tension
3. To have greater impact

Below are a few examples from my books that demonstration how I used quotes as dialogue.  


To show characterization:

In one chapter of Fourth Down and Inches: Concussions and Football’s Make-or-Break Moment (Carolrhoda) I’m making the point about how football has become part of the American culture.  In this example, I quote Kevin Turner because it shows characterization of a passionate football player.   

“Kevin Turner, a former NFL player, still remembers the excitement of his high school football days. He recalls, “When I woke up on game day. I couldn’t wait until it was time for the kickoff. Wearing my jersey to school on game day was a big part of the experience. At game time, when I ran out on the field and heard the announcer call my name in the starting lineup, it was a rush, like nothing else. It was like having Christmas sixteen times a year. My parents were proud of me. Nearly everyone in our small town was cheering in the stands and spontaneously reacting to what happened on the fields. It was magical.”

To increase tension:

In this scene from Something Out of Nothing: Marie Curie and Radium (FSG), I am showing this famous scientist at a difficult moment in her life.  At the same time Curie was planning to build the Radium Institute, the shed where she and her late husband, Pierre, discovered radium was going to be torn down.   I quoted Marie Curie’s own words about how she felt about visiting the shed for the last time.   

“I made my last pilgrimage there, alas, alone.  On the blackboard there was still the writing of him who had been the soul of the place; the humble refuge for his research was all impregnated with his memory.  The cruel reality seemed some bad dream; I almost expected to see the tall figure appear, and to hear the sound of the familiar voice.”


To have greater impact:

Varian Fry, an American journalist, volunteered to go to Marseilles, France, in 1940 to rescue refugees from the Nazis.  This scene from In Defiance of Hitler: The Secret Mission of Varian Fry (FSG), is about the moment he arrives in the city.  Fry wrote about this moment, so I chose to quote the entire segment exactly as he wrote it because his own words had greater impact than if I had paraphrased what happened.   

“’Aha, an American,’ he said in a gravel-rough voice.
“Yes,” I said, trying to keep my voice calm.
“Marseilles is like your New York City at rush hour, eh?”  he said, smiling. 
I smiled back.  “Quite a mob,” I said. 
“Refugees.  Pouring down from the north,” he said.  “We would like to pour them back.  But the Boches [Germans] have occupied Paris.  So the refugees all run to Marseille to hide, or maybe sneak across the border.  But they won’t escape.  Sooner of later we arrest all the illegal ones.”  He smiled again. 
“Too bad for them,” I said.
“Too bad for them; too bad for us!”  He gave me my passport.  Enjoy your stay in our country,” he said.  “But why you visit us at this unsettled time, I don’t know.”
His eyes narrowed, and I thought he looked at me suspiciously.  But as I went out through the gate, I decided it was my imagination.  He knew nothing of the lists in my pockets, nor did he know I had come to smuggle out of France the people whose names were on those lists.”

All three at once:

Many times, one quote like the example below accomplishes all three goals of characterization, tension and greater impact at the same time.  The following section from The Many Faces of George Washington: Remaking a Presidential Icon (Carolrhoda) shows Washington in the days leading up to the historic crossing of the Delaware.  
“The Continental Army was in real trouble. At the beginning of the war, most soldiers had enlisted for short periods of time. Now that things were going badly, they left as soon as their enlistment commitment expired. At the beginning of December 1776, about half of Washington’s men went home.  He knew that the enlistment for many more would expire at the end of the month. General Washington had to do something fast to raise the moral of his men, or he would soon have no army to lead. David Ackerson, one of his commanders, recalled seeing General Washington at this time saying, “he was standing near a small camp-fire, evidently lost in thought and making no effort to keep warm . . . His mouth was his strong feature, the lips being always tightly compressed. That day they were compressed so tightly as to be painful to look at.”

When writing nonfiction, when you use quotes and how you use them makes all the difference. 

Carla Killough McClafferty

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10. Perfect Picture Book Friday - Tuesday Tucks Me In: The Loyal Bond Between A Soldier & His Service Dog

Well, guess what?

After a (very!) brief foray into the 20s, we're back to zero degrees!  But at least it's not (currently) snowing :)  And it's not BELOW zero!  It's important to keep sight of silver linings :)

Thank goodness for Perfect Picture Book Fridays, where we can enjoy lots of great titles and ignore the weather!

My choice for today is on a more serious topic, but the book is well written - on a level that kids can understand and appreciate without it being scary/upsetting in any way - and I hope you'll enjoy it and find it a useful addition to your libraries.

Title: Tuesday Tucks Me In: The Loyal Bond Between A Soldier And His Service Dog

Written By: Luis Carlos Montalvan & Bret Witter

Photographs By: Dan Dion

Roaring Brook Press, May 2014, Nonfiction

Suitable For Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: service/therapy animals, military life, photographic book, love, nonfiction

Opening: "In the morning, every morning, my friend Luis wakes up to . . .   this."

Brief Synopsis: After tours in Iraq left him wounded and distressed, Captain Luis Montalvan returned home to a life he was no longer comfortable living.  He reached a point where he was afraid to leave his apartment.  But a service dog named Tuesday changed everything for him.  Tuesday helps Luis with daily tasks, and he calms and comforts Luis by always being there for him.  Tuesday has made it possible for Luis to live a rewarding life.

Links To Resources: Facts About Service Dogs for Kids; Wayside Elementary Schools Special Needs Awareness Program (SNAP) (video); discuss how animals make you feel and what they do for you.

Why I Like This Book:  Every day, men and women risk their lives overseas for our freedom and way of life.  When they return home, it is often difficult to readjust, and to carry on with a life so at odds with what they've seen and survived.  This book gives kids a glimpse of the difficulties a soldier might face upon coming home at an appropriate and accessible level.  It also shows how the love and care of a therapy animal has the power to change a life.  It's written from the point of view of the dog, which makes it friendly and non-threatening.  For kids who have a relative or family friend who is a veteran, this book could be very helpful in understanding what they might be going through and in opening a discussion.  For any child, this book can encourage empathy and understanding.

For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

PPBF bloggers please be sure to leave your post-specific link in the list below so we can all come visit you!  I can't wait to see what books you're sharing this week!

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!  Maybe Springing forward will give Mother Nature the hint! :)

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11. thesolsticedance.wordpress.com

Hi everyone,

I've decided to create a separate blog dedicated to my Moonflower and the Solstice Dance project.  From now on, I'll post separately at http://thesolsticedance.wordpress.com.  I'll still post here about that project and others, and I'll occasionally copy those posts in bulk over here, too, but that will be the separate site listed on the Kickstarter campaign.  I hope you'll join me at the new site!


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12. The Joys of Reading through Windows

We all know that when it comes to stories, children need both mirrors and windows to understand their place in the wide world.

This never ending winter has given my life a different pace. Curtailed from Saturdays scheduled with errands and voice lessons, sewing lessons and play dates, my children and I have been reading aloud. They are both independent readers and have been for some time. My son is 16 and my daughter turns 11 this month but the joys of reading aloud are even richer than when they were little. Our options are more varied and their views of the world are wider. As librarians we have always known and advocated for reading aloud to older children but at least for me, making the time has been a challenge.

My pledge is that after the snow melts, I will still suggest and make space for Saturday morning readings that start our day with ideas, passion and a look into other worlds. This ability to glimpse into other worlds and gain greater empathy for others is the kernel of our concern and commitment to diversity in all its forms in our profession. While this is a personalized call to action and one I tend to avoid, having time to share books with my children in this amazing and profound way, reading aloud, makes me grateful for our public library and all its offerings. I really have everything I need in our literary backyard.

For our families, El día de los niños/El día de los libros (Children’s Day/Book Day), celebrates the stories in our communities. Our libraries are the perfect place of acceptance, inclusion and harmony. While we celebrate Día on one special day, April 30th, its name also stands for Diversity in Action and through this work, we reaffirm our daily commitment to ensure that all families have access to diverse books, languages and cultures. Without access to stories from other cultures, places and passions, we are a lesser world.

The post The Joys of Reading through Windows appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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13. An Analysis of Twitter Favorites

Taking a close look at Favorites, three information science specialists conducted a survey of 606 participants to determine the reasons behind Twitter Favorites. The study consisted of two questions: 1. The first questions wanted to know why the user Favorited a Tweet. 2. The second question asked for “a specific explanation for the last tweet the user had favorited.” Based on the results,

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14. Follow Friday Four Fill-In Fun - 3/6/15

Feeling Beachie 

Love this meme....I hope you can join in the fun.  

Each week, Feeling Beachie lists four statements with a blank for you to fill in on your own blogs.  

The statements:
  1. Having too____makes me_____
  2. When it is____, I _____
  3. Chocolate is ________
  4. How do you feel after______
My Answers: 
1.  Having too much sleep makes me even sleepier.

2.  When it is summer, I love to sit on my back porch and read.

3.  Chocolate is something everyone needs.

4.  How do you feel after a nice hot shower on a cold day? 

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15. The Poetry Seven Attempt Sestinas

This month my poetry sisters and I are working on writing Sestinas. It's a very difficult form to get the knack for, partly because the end words are extremely restricted. Each of the six-line stanzas use the same words in a spiral repetition. The best sestinas, IMO, tell a story. My favorite one is this by Elizabeth Bishop. Kelly has a wonderful explanation with tips on how to write one here.

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16. Day 6 of the March SOLSC! #SOL15

Write. Share. Give.

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17. Mist of Midnight by Sandra Byrd

Was this woman the "real" Miss Ravenshaw or was the Miss Ravenshaw that was at Headbourne House a few weeks ago the "real" Miss Ravenshaw.

Rebecca Ravenshaw arrived with her chaperone from India after her parents were killed in an uprising and she was the only one in the family that had survived.  Miss Ravenshaw had no place to go but back to her family mansion in England.  When she arrived, everyone was shocked beyond belief.

How can this be Miss Ravenshaw when she committed suicide not more than a few weeks ago and is buried in the estate's cemetery. Is this Miss Ravenshaw the imposter or was the f​irst Miss Ravenshaw the imposter?  Was the first Miss Ravenshaw murdered for her inheritance?  Will the current Miss Ravenshaw have the same fate?

MIST OF MIDNIGHT has a hint of sinister to it.  None of the characters can be trusted especially her cousin Captain Luke Whitfield.  As the days go on, though, Rebecca falls in love with Luke and he seems to return the affection, but is he simply pretending to have affection for Rebecca?  Is he the one who killed the imposter so he could inherit the family mansion? Will he also murder Rebecca for the family mansion?

​We the readers will be taken into English society and attend balls and mingle with the English aristocrats as we try to figure out who is genuine, who is an imposter, and who is only out for money.​

MIST OF MIDNIGHT dragged a bit at the beginning, but the mystery and intrigue kept me going. As mist covers the estate grounds at night, it adds suspense, questions, jealousy, and finally love.  4/5

This book was given to me free of charge and without compensation by the publisher in return for an honest review.


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18. forward...fetCH!

Greetings, all--it's Poetry Friday, March 6th, and our word of the day is "fetCH."  There have been a number of cat responses so far in our Forward...MarCH Poetry CHallenge (read the introduction to the project here), so I went ahead and did the obvious thing with "fetch" and wrote about a puppy.  I hope my effort is less trite and more fetching than it currently seems, after 45 minutes of work!

Before we get to it, though, I have to give a shout-out to a really great PBS show that lived all too short a life:  Fetch! with Ruff Ruffman.  Of course, I always wanted to be on ZOOM ("Z-double O-M, Box 354, Boston, Mass., 0-2-1-3-4. Send it to ZOOM!"), but Fetch! was even better because of the real-time, out-and-about challenges.  It only ran for 5 seasons, but I loved it.  Possibly even more than my kids.

And here's  my poem:

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My new puppy’s very cute—
He lies down when I tell him to.
I’m as fetching as my puppy
and I’m pretty useful, too.

I fetch the paper for my mom;
I fetch the tennis balls for Dad;
I fetch remotes for my big brother;
Fetch the book I thought I had.

Gramma needs her reading glasses;
Grampa left his phone downstairs;
Baby sister needs her binky;
Big sister wants her shoes in pairs.

I’m glad that I am good at fetching,
and when they ask me I obey.
But now it’s Puppy’s turn to fetch—
I’ll throw, he’ll catch—it’s time to play!

HM 2015
all rights reserved

Charles (who, incidentally, won the distinction of being the Top Contributor to Laura Shovan's Sound Poem Challenge with THIRTY-ONE poems contributed in the short month of February!) is in again today with another doggy take on "fetch."


Fetching this morning’s paper,
Dog collar dangling its daily tune,
Scooping it into my jaws
I scamper back on chilled concrete.
Upon my arrival, I get smiles
 Plus a scrubbing behind my ears,
(Always a bonus)
Shivering in delight
I plop on my bed,
Ready for a nap.

(c) Charles Waters 2015 all rights reserved.

Please add your "attractive, appealing, sweet, pretty, good-looking, lovely, delightful, charming, prepossessing, captivating, enchanting, irresistible" poem to today's collection!  Paste it in the comments or send me an email.  Remember, the "StretCHiest MarCHer" will win an enCHanting prize!

Today's roundup is with Robyn Campbell, a newcomer to our community.  Go fetch yourself some juicy poetry bones!

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19. Fuzzy Mud: Review Haiku

with benign intent.
Scarily plausible.

Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar. Delacorte, 2015 192 pages.

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20. Book Blogger Hop - 3/6 - 3/12

 Question of the Week: 
 Do you think a book's title is important?

My Answer:

I do have to say YES to this question. 

A title as well as a cover pull me in, but on the other hand the book could have a fantastic title and cover and have bad content.  That usually does not happen too often, but I have experienced that.

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21. Heidi's MarCH CHallenge

Flickr Creative Commons photo by L Church

What to do if You Are a Retriever

Freeze until the command is given.
Explode from the down-stay.
Tear across the lawn at lightning speed.
Catch the frisbee, mid-air.
Hustle back, tail high, ready for more.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2015

I am participating in Heidi's MarCH CHallenge at My Juicy Little Universe. Here are my poems for the rest of this week's words:





Robyn Campbell has the Poetry Friday roundup this week.

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22. Review of the Day: Lost in NYC by Nadja Spiegelman

Lost in NYC: A Subway Adventure
By Nadja Spiegelman
Illustrated by Sergio García Sánchez
TOON Graphics (and imprint of RAW, Jr.)
ISBN: 978-1935179818
Ages 8-12
On shelves April 14, 2015

While I’m aware that public transport was invented to meet the very real needs of urban commuters, when you’re the parent of a city child you can be forgiven for taking an entirely different view of things. Simply put: subways were created for the sole purpose of amusing children. How else to explain the fun maps, bright colors, and awe-inspiring bits of machinery? We already knew that kids loved trains. Now put those trains underground. That’s just awesomeness redoubled. Here in New York City a certain level of excitement about subway trains is almost required of our kids. Yet when it comes to books about the subway system, it’s often disappointing. Either it’s too young, too old, or like Count on the Subway by Paul DuBois Jacobs it gives the subway lines the wrong colors. Sure Subway by Christoph Niemann is the gold standard, but what can you offer older metro fans? Lost in NYC by Nadja Spiegelman hits that sweet spot for the 6-10 year old crowd. Visually stunning (to say nothing of its accuracy) with abundant factual information wriggled into every available crevice, you don’t have to be a New Yorker to enjoy this book (though, boy, does it sure help).

When you have a father that moves your family all over the country, it can be easy to disconnect from the places you briefly live. So when Pablo enters Mr. Bartle’s class on the first day of his new school, he rebuffs cheery Alicia’s attempts at friendship. On this particular day the class is taking a field trip to the Empire State Building. Pablo learns about the subway system that will take the class there alongside everyone else, but when he and Alicia are inspecting a map on the subway he’s briefly confused and takes her with him onto the express 2 train and not the local 1. Now separated from their class, the two kids start to fight and next thing you know they have to find their way back to their classmates entirely on their own. Backmatter and a Bibliography of other subway resources appear at the end.

I’m an adult so after reading this story several times you know whom I feel most sorry for? The teacher, Mr. Bartle. Here the man is, taking his class on a routine subway trip, and along the way he loses two of them at the very first stop. A common New Yorker nightmare is the idea that you might lose your child on the subway. Yet in Spiegelman and Sánchez’s hands it’s a nightmare turned into an adventure. It’s the same reason From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler continues to be read. For children, the thought of being independent in a city as vast as NYC is as enticing as it is horrific. Spiegelman does give Pablo a native guide for the first part of his journey, but pretty soon they two are separated and he has to make his way on his own to his group. This is by no means an interactive book, but I had to withhold a scream when Pablo jumped the 7 train at 42nd Street. He’s lucky he asked for traveling advice as early as he did, else he would have ended up in far distant Queens relatively quickly.

Spiegelman’s writing holds up for the most part. It’s a slim story, clocking in at a mere 52 pages which is only slightly more than your average picture book. Some of that is rounded out with the backmatter too. Filled with history and brimming with photographs, engravings, and other stunning images, Spiegelman outdoes herself with the information found there. For certain subway buffs, the info included (with sections like “Why Are There No H, I, K, O, P, T, U, V, W, X, or Y Trains?”) will be particularly pleasing. However, when we look at the story in this book by itself, it does come to a rather abrupt halt. Pablo spends the greater part of the story declaring that he doesn’t need friends. He parts from Alicia on angry terms, yet when the two are reunited they act like the best buddies in the world. I wasn’t quite sure where the switchover on this relationship occurred. Otherwise, everything seems pretty certain and consistent.

Not all subway books are created equal. I remember years ago encountering a NY subway picture book where a normally elevated stop was pictured in the book as underground. Certainly the cover of this book gave me hope. It seemed to be acknowledging from the get-go that the 1 and 2 trains both stop at 96th, 72nd, and 42nd Street (we will ignore the peculiar inclusion of a “33” since we can assume artist Sergio Garcia Sánchez meant 34th Street). As it happens, Mr. Sánchez is a resident not of one of the five boroughs but of Spain. You wouldn’t know it. The New York found within these pages feels so real and so contemporary that I have difficulty understanding that I’m not going to run into the man on the street when I leave for work tomorrow morning. Artists could learn a thing or two from his attention to detail. From the color of the painted columns to the diversity of the city streets, this is indeed the New York I know and love.

The design of Lost in NYC is also a delight to the eyes. Good graphic novels for children are rare beasties. Half the time you’re left wondering if the editors or artists ever took the time to look outside the standard panel format. If Mr. Sánchez feels inclined to use panels in this book, you can bet it’s a strategic decision. The very first page is almost entirely open, only settling into panels when the kids are approaching the rigid format of a school setting. As the teacher, Mr. Bartle, begins to introduce subway history, we see the characters on a massive topographic map. It’s a visual approximation of the cut-and-cover technique used to create subways in a city chock full of hardened bedrock. Once the kids go underground the panels shift to full two-page spreads, and lots of individual vertical panels like the cars on a subway train. When called upon to render the city blocks in such a way where you can see the characters all converge on the Empire State Building from different directions, the artist either shrinks the buildings and blows up the characters, or he overlaps a subway map onto a street map and you can see the kids meet up that way. Then there are the perspective shifts. The view up into the Empire State Building, a wall or two cut away so that you can get a visual sense of some of the seventy-three elevators in the building, is dizzying. I can say with certainty that even if a child were incapable of reading English (or Spanish, since this book is being simultaneously translated) they would still be able to be moved and stirred by this story.

He’s also filled the book with inside jokes. I was so pleased that I took time to read the “Behind the Scenes: Sergio and the Cop” section at the back of the book. In it, Sergio describes a time he visited NYC and was photographing all the details at the 96th Street subway stop when a cop started paying a little too much attention to him. As a result, if you look in the book you can find Sergio and the cop on “virtually every spread.” Once you see it, it cannot be unseen. It also creates a kind of touching secondary story as the two go from antagonists to, finally, taking a selfie together.

Accuracy in illustration, even (or should I say especially?) in fictional stories, is imperative. You have to make the reader inhabit the setting presented, and the best way to accomplish this is through rigorous research and skill. Mr. Sánchez has both and by pairing with Nadja Spiegelman he may well earn himself an Honorary New Yorker decree. Though filled to its gills with accurate Manhattan details, you don’t have to live anywhere in the five boroughs to recognize the fear that comes with having to navigate an unfamiliar public transit system. Particularly if you’re just a kid. An adventure tale wrapped around a nonfiction core of subways subways subways. What’s not to love?

On shelves April 14th.

Source: Final copy sent from publisher for review.

Like This? Then Try:

Professional Reviews: Kirkus

Interview: Comic Book Resources spoke with Nadja Spiegelman and she reveals a lot of behind-the-scenes information about the book.


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23. US Children’s Book Week 2015 Poster Now Available

Children's Book Week 2015 (US) - poster designed by Grace Lee; bookmark designed by Raúl ColónCheck out the gorgeous poster for this year’s Children’s Book Week in the US – designed by Grace Lee, who won the Children’s Book Choice Illustrator of … Continue reading ...

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24. The Berenson Schemes Series, by Lisa Doan | Book Series Giveaway

The Children’s Book Review | March 6, 2015 Enter to win all three Berenson Schemes books, written by Lisa Doan: JACK THE CASTAWAY, JACK AND THE WILDLIFE, and the newest release, JACK AT THE HELM. One (1) winner receives: All three Berenson Schemes books, written by Lisa Doan: JACK THE CASTAWAY, JACK AND THE WILDLIFE, and the […]

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25. Orhan Pamuk Q & A

       Orhan Pamuk (The Museum of Innocence, etc.) was at the Cairo Literary Festival a couple of weeks ago, and in Al-Ahram Weekly they have a Q & A Mona Anis and Youssef Rakha conducted with him there, Ottoman culture in disguise.
       Lots of interesting stuff -- including:

There are readers who are following my books, but say in the United States I am most famous for Snow, while they don't care about that book in China. They definitely care about My Name is Red there [...] These are issues I like, and these I think for example Chinese or Korean, Asian readers care about while American readers don't care much about the issues we have with individuality. American readers want to know about political Islam, or they care about My Name is Red in the sense of artists, drawing, they did this kind of miniatures, very interesting, but not as an issue of today. Or, for example, in Spain my bestselling book is Istanbul
       And, amusingly:
That's the problem with interviews. You do an interview and you define a certain situation that's resolved in two years' time, but 16 years later they're still quoting.

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