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1. Author Interview: Paula Yoo on Twenty-two Cents: The Story of Muhammad Yunus

Learn more about Paula Yoo.
By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Congratulations on the release of Twenty-two Cents: The Story of Muhammad Yunus, illustrated by Jamel Akib (Lee & Low, 2014)! 

What was the initial inspiration for the book?

Thank you! The initial inspiration was from one of my editors at Lee & Low Books.

I worked with Jason Low on my last book, Shining Star: The Anna May Wong Story (Lee & Low, 2009).

After that book came out, he and I discussed what my next book should be. At the time, Jason had read Muhammad Yunus’ autobiography Banker to the Poor: Micro-lending and the Battle Against World Poverty with Alan Jolis (Public Affairs 1999). He thought Professor Yunus would be a great biographical subject for Lee & Low Books. He suggested I read Baker to the Poor, too.

I read and loved the book - like Jason, I was very inspired by Muhammad Yunus’ work. I agreed with Jason that Muhammad Yunus’ life would make for a fantastic children’s picture book biography.

What was the timeline from spark to publication, and what were the major events along the way?

The timeline took about a year, from idea conception to research and writing and submission for publication and acceptance. I worked with editors Jason Low and Emily Hazel for a few months as I crafted a first draft and received their editorial input.

After several rounds of revision, they felt the book was ready to submit for official consideration. And then I received the good news - the book was accepted for publication!

I then worked with editor Jessica Echeverria for the final version.

As for any major events, I would say the biggest event was meeting and interviewing Muhammad Yunus himself when he visited Los Angeles for a conference. It was truly an honor to meet and interview the man who won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize.

What were the biggest challenges and triumphs in bringing the book to life?

There are so many challenges into bringing a historical picture book biography to life for young readers. I’d say one of the biggest challenges is knowing how to balance historical facts and figures with an engaging and compelling narrative storyline that keeps the young reader’s attention.

Another challenge is making sure young readers can identify with the main character - what was Muhammad Yunus like as a child?

How can a modern-day child from America relate to a young boy growing up in Bangladesh from the 1940s to '60s?

What are the universal elements of Muhammad Yunus’ life that any child can relate to and understand?

I discovered that Muhammad Yunus was a very sensitive and caring young boy who questioned why so many people in his country grew up in poverty. He wanted to help them. His spirit of generosity influenced all his decisions from childhood to adulthood. I wanted to share that beautiful and very universal compassion with today’s young readers.

In addition, the book also touches upon some very complex issues, from the history of Bangladesh the nation to the concept of “micro-credit” and banking and interest rates. These are topics that even adults can find complicated and confusing. So another challenge was figuring out how to write about these issues not only accurately but also in a way that did not bore or confuse a child reader.

Let’s just say there were many drafts and revisions before I finally figured it out!

What advice do you have for children's nonfiction writers?

Paula Yoo & Muhammad Yunus
I have two pieces of advice for children’s nonfiction writers.

First, I cannot stress enough how important it is do “primary source” research. There’s so much information out there on the Internet, and a lot of it is second-hand information that is not credited properly.

Fact check your information. See if you can do live in-person interviews with sources for your book. There’s nothing wrong with “cold calling” a subject - I did that with Muhammad Yunus.

I found his website and left emails and voicemails with his office in Bangladesh. They responded immediately and graciously arranged a full sit-down interview with him.

You never know unless you try. Do follow-up interviews. Triple check facts with other sources. Make sure you footnote and credit your information.

All of this research advice is based upon my own background as a former journalist - I wrote for The Seattle Times, The Detroit News and People Magazine and received an M.S. in journalism from Columbia University. So I am very meticulous with my reporting.

Photo of Paula by Sonya Sones
I know it may seem like overkill, but trust me, you will feel so much better when you sit down to write because you really did your “homework.”

Now having said that, my second piece of advice is the exact opposite.

Once you have completed your research…walk away from it. Focus on finding out what the story is… and figure out who your main character is… a nonfiction book is not a magazine article or academic essay crammed with facts and figures.

You’re still telling a story.

So I also recommend using the same fiction-writing techniques you use for fiction picture books and novels for nonfiction books. Find out what the beginning, middle and end is for your story - what’s the conflict? What are the obstacles? How does your character change and grow on his/her journey?

Then for revisions, you can go back and figure out how to blend the nonfiction facts seamlessly into the “fictional” narrative story you’ve written.

How about those concentrating specifically on picture book biographies?

I’d say the exact same thing as above but with an emphasis on character. Your main character - the biography subject - is no different than a character in a fictional picture book or novel.

Your character is going on a journey - he/she is going to have a goal or desire. That goal or desire will be met with obstacles that your character has to overcome.

How does your character change at the end of the story? For Muhammad Yunus, he wanted to help poor people. But he soon found out that helping poor people was a lot more difficult than he had anticipated.

Instead of just using his economics degree to teach classes at the university, he went into the rural villages and met with poverty-stricken villagers so he could truly understand the vicious cycle of poverty. This led to his “out of the box” thinking and using his creativity to set up Grameen bank and the concept of “micro credit” and small loans for groups of women in order to teach them how to become financially independent.

This led to Muhammad Yunus winning the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize… his journey took him from being a compassionate child to a professor who used his intellect to make a huge difference in the world and change people’s lives forever.

For anyone working on a picture book biography - think big. Your main subject should have a compelling and interesting childhood and many obstacles that he/she must overcome in order to triumph as an adult historical figure who helped change the world for the better.

My other picture book biographies - Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story (Lee & Low, 2005) and Shining Star: The Anna May Wong Story (Lee & Low, 2009) are both equally as “big” as my book on Muhammad Yunus.

Sammy Lee was not allowed to swim in his town’s public swimming pool in the 1920s-30s because he was not white. He overcame racial discrimination to win two Gold Medals as a diver in the 1948 and 1952 Summer Olympics.

Anna May Wong grew up as a poor laundryman’s daughter in downtown Los Angeles and overcame racial discrimination to become one of the first Asian American movie stars.

For those who are new to your work, could you tell us a bit about your back-list titles?

In addition to my picture book biographies, I also have a YA novel called Good Enough (HarperCollins, 2008) that was re-issued in paperback in 2012.

It’s a funny and heartwarming story about a Korean American teen violin geek. I poke fun at the “Model Minority Myth” and tackle other Asian American stereotypes/racial discrimination, but the bigger story is about a young girl who learns the difference between success and happiness and following her own path.

This novel was inspired by my real life background as a violinist.

(When I’m not writing, I play the violin professionally in various local orchestras and with rock bands in Los Angeles.)

I am also a TV writer/producer. I’ve written for everything from NBC’s "The West Wing" to SyFy’s "Eureka." I’m currently a Supervising Producer on the writing staff for Amazon’s "Mozart in the Jungle," which is based on professional oboist Blair Tindall’s memoir of the same name. The series was created by Paul Weitz, Jason Schwartzman, Roman Coppola and Alex Timbers. It’s a fun look behind the curtain of professional classical musicians.

I love how your blog pays proper attention to your cats! Please share with us how they contribute to your writing life!

Thank you for the cat shout-out!

My three cats Oreo, Beethoven and Charlotte help me write quite a bit. They will sit by my side while I write (especially Oreo!).

Sometimes I have to “pitch” story ideas out loud for my TV job as well as for my books.

So I find myself pitching out loud to my cats… that way I don’t feel as strange talking out loud to no one else in the room. The cats are easily distracted, so it’s good practice for me!

They also keep me calm with their purring. And because they get restless and want to eat or play, it helps me from procrastinating because I know I only have a limited period of time to write before the cats start nudging me with their paws and heads, demanding attention.

Cynsational Notes

Paula Yoo is a children's book author/novelist and a TV writer-producer.

Her latest book is Twenty-two Cents: Muhammad Yunus and the Village Bank (Lee & Low, 2014), illustrated by Jamel Akib. Her YA novel Good Enough (HarperCollins, 2008) was a 2009 Honor Book of the Youth Literature of the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature.

Her other books include the IRA Notable nonfiction picture book biographies Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story (Lee & Low, 2005) and Shining Star: The Anna May Wong Story (Lee & Low, 2009), which also won the 2010 Carter G. Woodson Award from the National Council for the Social Studies.

She is currently a supervising producer for the show "Mozart in the Jungle" on Amazon. Her other TV credits include NBC’s "The West Wing" and SyFy’s "Eureka."

When she’s not writing, Paula teaches, plays her violin and hangs out with her three cats. Her website is http://paulayoo.com and you can follow Paula and her cats on Twitter @paulayoo and @oreothecatyoo

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2. Novel Wisdom (24)

This post is part of a series on the blog where I share some of the nuggets of wisdom and inspiration — related to writing and/or life — that I find steeped in the pages of novels that I’ve read.

It’s very easy to get burdened down with worries and regret and things that could been done a different way. One of the things I’ve been learning is just to take each day as it comes with a fresh start.

I read this book based on a Twitter post from the author Nova Ren Suma, who taught a fabulous online writing workshop that I loved and learned much. It was a haunting literary novel set in the 80’s about a girl who has no choice but to endure her circumstances.

From Joon, the narrator of the novel Miles from Nowhere by Nami Mun

milesfromnowhere
“And at the start of every new day, I still believed I could choose my own beginning, one that was scrubbed clean of everything past.”

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3. #we need diverse (picture) books

little melba 300x248 #we need diverse (picture) booksOf course we do. Last year’s amazing crop of picture books included those illustrated by artists of color such as Yuyi Morales, Brian Pinkney, Jerry Pinkney, Angela Dominguez, Bryan Collier, Don Tate, and Kadir Nelson. This year we will see picture books illustrated by Christian Robinson (two of ‘em), Yuyi Morales, Raul Colon, Duncan Tonatiuh, Jason Chin, Susan Guevara, E.B. Lewis, Kadir Nelson, John Holyfield, Pat Cummings, James Ransome….and Christopher Myers and Frank Morrison….and more? I’m not even counting the many international artists who aren’t eligible for the Caldecott. (And my off-the-cuff list also doesn’t take into consideration books like Grandfather Gandhi, not illustrated by a person of color, but featuring diverse characters.)

I don’t know if it’s the raised awareness surrounding last spring’s #weneeddiversebooks campaign or whether in truth the numbers are growing, but it feels like there is a tiny bit more representation this year, at least among the books I’ve seen, and certainly among the ones that are currently rising toward the top of my admire-it pile: Josephine; Draw!; Viva Frida; Separate Is Never Equal; Little Roja Riding Hood. More women, more illustrators of color — although the numbers for that particular overlap are still insupportably low. And although, of course, we still have a lonnnng way to go.

It somehow feels too tentative to make any pronouncements. I think Sam Bloom summed up my cautious optimism in his comment on Robin’s Monday post:

“Of course, this brings me to the single biggest issue I see in the picture book world, which has definitely been publicized well of late: the need for more diverse characters. Of course, there are comparatively few authors/illustrators of color to begin with, another well-known fact. It seems to be getting a bit better – I’ve noticed quite a few REALLY strong books by or about people of color this year – but I wonder if it truly IS better, or maybe it’s just the fact that I’m paying close attention to the situation so it seems like more.”

What are you seeing? Are you sensing some movement toward more diversity in this year’s picture books? Does anyone have any numbers to back up (or refute) my admittedly highly anecdotal experience? Equally crucially — is the actual Caldecott committee noticing the strength and award-worthiness of these titles?

 

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The post #we need diverse (picture) books appeared first on The Horn Book.

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4. An Interview with Melissa Marr about MADE FOR YOU, and a Giveaway

It's an honor to have Melissa Marr, one of the authors on the upcoming (amazing!) Compelling Reads Tour, answer some questions for us today following the highly-anticipated release of her Southern Gothic thriller, Made for You. Kirkus calls it "a tightly choreographed spine-chiller with an intriguing view into the mind of a psychopath," and says the "riveting whodunit delivers a bouquet of teen romance, paranormal and thriller."

So here we go, questions for Melissa:

Q: What’s your favorite thing about Made For You?

A: Writing Judge. I’ve wanted to write the voice of a killer since I first taught Joyce Carol Oates’ fabulous short story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” (when I was teaching university in the 90s). That was also right before I had a stalker. . . all of which was when I lived in North Carolina. So I think this particular novel has been percolating longer than anything I’ve written. It was exciting to get to write the story, and especially Judge.

Q: What inspired you to bring many of the themes you’ve tackled in fantasy into a contemporary setting?

A: Is this the part where I admit that I’m not sure what themes you mean? I don’t set out with themes. Sometimes I can find them when I’m in revision, and sometimes I find out what they are when readers or interviewers ask about them. Sadly, though, I don’t do any of it on purpose. If the same ones are in there, I suspect they must be things I’m pondering or interested in exploring further.

Q: In which ways were you constrained or liberated by writing within a “real” world as you navigated Eva’s newfound power to foresee people’s deaths?

A: I didn’t feel constrained. The only real exceptions were that Eva needed to get discharged from the hospital sooner than would be medically wise, and that her broken leg really limited her mobility, so there are a number of scenes where she needs carried or pushed in her wheelchair. That was hard because I wanted to avoid the “damsel” trope. Overall though, the book was a big logic puzzle. Most of the real-world aspects simply added to the difficulty the characters faced, which was an asset to the story.

Q: You do suspense and intrigue so well. How did you begin to construct the mystery for this story? Character or plot?

A: Thank you! The story started with Eva getting hit. From there, I did what I do for every book: I asked “what next” & “how did we get to here?” That, as it often does, answered a lot of my questions on characters (“who are they?” answers spring from “what do they want?”) and plot trajectory.

I write in layers, so each draft I’d layer in different clues. It’s a slower process, but I wanted to insert cues that could lead readers to think this or that person was Judge—and possibilities as to which person would be the next victim.

That’s my standard process: a) inroads scene, b) questions, c) layers. It generally results in the first draft of a book, and then I revise repeatedly.


Q: What drew you to the Southern Gothic setting and genre?

A: My graduate thesis was on Southern Lit (Faulkner specifically). I lived in North Carolina for 7 years, and in Virginia for 9 years (split over two separate times living here). Mix that with a childhood in a rural area, and the draw towards this setting was hard to resist.

That said, I wouldn’t call this properly Southern Gothic. (It’s my publisher who affixed that tag to the book.) There are elements of the Southern Gothic in the novel (class issues, a bit of creepiness, and a section with some decayed architecture). However, the general sense of the decay of the Southern aristocracy, the gorgeous decaying visuals, and the near-grotesque (in literary not literal terms) elements are absent. If we were to define the genre properly, I’d say that Made For You is a Southern-lit influenced romantic suspense novel. . . but I’m guessing that’s far too wordy for publishing labels :)

ABOUT THE BOOK


Made for You
by Melissa Marr
Hardcover
HarperCollins
Released 9/16/2014

Bestselling author of the Wicked Lovely books Melissa Marr’s first contemporary YA novel is a twisted southern gothic tale of obsession, romance, and murder. A killer is obsessed with Eva Tilling. Can she stop him, or will he claim her?

When Eva Tilling wakes up in the hospital, she’s confused—who in her sleepy little North Carolina town could have hit her with their car? And why? But before she can consider the question, she finds that she’s awoken with a strange new skill: the ability to foresee people’s deaths when they touch her. While she is recovering from the hit-and-run, Nate, an old flame, reappears, and the two must traverse their rocky past as they figure out how to use Eva’s power to keep her friends—and themselves—alive. But while Eva and Nate grow closer, the killer grows increasingly frantic in his attempt to get to Eva.

For the first time, New York Times bestselling author Melissa Marr has applied her extraordinary talent to contemporary realism. Chilling twists, unrequited obsession, and high-stakes romance drive this Gothic, racy thriller—a story of small-town oppression and salvation. Melissa’s fans, and every YA reader, will find its wild ride enthralling.

Purchase Made for You at Amazon
Purchase Made for You at IndieBound
View Made for You on Goodreads

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Melissa grew up believing in faeries, ghosts, and various other creatures. After teaching college lit for a decade, she applied her fascination with folklore to writing.

Melissa writes fiction for adults, teens, and children. Her books have been translated into 28 languages to date and been bestsellers in the US (NY Times, LA Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal) as well as various countries overseas. She is best known for the Wicked Lovely seriesfor teens and Graveminder for adults.  

Wicked Lovely was her first novel; it was simultaneously released in the US and UK by HarperCollins in 2007 (with translation rights also sold in twenty-some countries). It debuted as a NY Times Bestseller and evolved into a multi-book series with myriad accolades and international bestseller lists.  

Her debut adult book, Graveminder, released to strong critical reception in 2011.  Following that she has edited anthologies with Kelley Armstrong (Enthralled and Shards & Ashes) and with her friend Tim Pratt (Rags & Bones), and released a second adult novel (The Arrivals) in 2013.  

With Kelley Armstrong, Melissa is the co-author of the Blackwell Pages trilogy (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers), a children’s series about the Norse myth of Ragnarök. 

Her upcoming HarperCollins 2014 release, Made For You, utilizes both her graduate degree in Southern Literature and her personal experience with stalkers in a story about a killer who terrorizes a small North Carolina town.

Currently, Melissa resides in Virginia with her spouse, children, and many dogs.

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5. “A clear and effective picture; vivid.”

Are the sex scenes graphic?

Carrie Mesrobian has written something very important. You should go and read it.

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6. Way Back Wednesday Essential Classic

The Tasha Tudor Book of Fairy Tales

 

The world today is NOT a fairy tale. But then again, maybe IT IS!! Maybe that’s why we keep reading these timeless classics in varied editions to our children. Fairy tales are a way for our young readers to puzzle out the inconsistencies they SEE in life. Wolves are not ALWAYS what they appear to be. They can dress up in grandma’s clothing or even try to blow your house down. Princesses with a pretty perfect life can prick a finger and fall into a slumber that can last 100 years. BUT it can be broken by true love’s kiss!

That’s why we keep reading these ageless stories to the young as THEY attempt to come to grips, as we did, with fears and fantasies that are part of their vivid imaginations.

The “happily ever after” is certainly THERE in these timeless tales, BUT, it is achieved in the overcoming of obstacles such as hacking away at a thorny hedge row that’s grown about the castle of the one you seek. Reference “Sleeping Beauty.”

In a changing world that is not always kind or fair, how can we inoculate children from the foul weather that inevitably comes? Answer: YOU DON’T!! But you give them tools and models to show that challenges CAN be met and overcome with some tenacity and toughness. By toughness, I do NOT mean being hardened to life. I mean grit.

Remember this scene in the musical “Oklahoma?” Laurie, the farm girl next door has just married the love of her life. A jealous rebuffed suitor named Jud attacks them both, right after a beautifully tender ceremony. Her brand new husband is now to stand trial for Jud’s death. Laurie says to the resilient Aunt Eller: “Why did this happen now when everything was so PERFECT?” Eller explains that a lot of things may come to a woman in her life; sometimes sickness, poverty and other sadness. Eller stoutly says to Laurie: “There’s only one way you can stand it. You gotta be HARDY! You just GOTTA BE!

Well, that’s what fairy tales teach, I think: how to be HARDY! They model it in their characters in how they get themselves out of witch’s ovens in “Hansel and Gretel”, trick the trickster in “Rumpelstiltskin” or stick to their inner guidance systems as ONLY the children DO in “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”

And in the introducing of these stories, choose wisely. Choose illustrators and storytellers that bring them richly and winningly to life. People like Tasha Tudor are the classic conveyors of what I mean. I was stunned recently when I walked into a bookstore looking for one of this foremost illustrator of folk and fairy tales books and NONE were to be found. Has CLASSIC fallen out of fashion? Hope not! Classic speaks to every generation in its illustration of what is timeless.

Tasha Tudor received two Caldecott Honor designations in 1945 for “Mother Goose” and also in 1957 for “1 is One.” She also received the Regina Medal, as did the equally famous Tomie de Paola, for her contributions to children’s literature. Illustrator of some 100 books, her last being “Corgiville Christmas” in 2003, her legacy is secure in the world of children’s picture books.

And by the way, if you have the same experience as I did, PLEASE ASK your local bookstore to ORDER a book that you may want, but NOT see. It’s a way to KEEP classic picture books CURRENT!!

Fairy tales help young readers negotiate the alternating fears of “fair and foul weather” in their OWN lives by modeling what is possible. Hey, if a cat can pass off the miller’s son as the Marquis of Carabas to a KING and become the Royal Cat, ANYTHING is possible!

 

 

 

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7. Sometimes things don’t work out…

As a result of my work with ALSC committee, Liaisons with National Orgs Serving Youth, I’d had high hopes that this year’s Dia Day celebrations would be well attended by Big Brothers Big Sisters “Bigs” and “Littles” across the country. I’d worked with my liaison at the org in the months and weeks leading up to Dia, our anticipation building, getting more and more excited as April wound slowly towards the end of the month.  I’d even anticipated writing a blog post for ALSC featuring happy photos of Bigs and Littles participating in joyful parties celebrating multicultural books.

Please note the absence of aforementioned photos in this blog post.

While it’s possible that some Bigs might have taken their Littles to a Dia Day event, it definitely didn’t happen on the scale I’d imagined possible.

Bummer.

So, why did I choose to write about the experience of working towards a partnership initiative that essentially flopped? Because I think it’s important for us to reflect when programs fail, when kids don’t show up, or when the perfect book you picked for storytime turns out to be a dud with the audience. Go ahead and be bummed out, but don’t dwell on it, and don’t let it discourage you from trying again. More importantly, try to figure out what went wrong, and what you might do differently in the future.

In trying to identify why this flopped, here’s what I came up with:

  • I’d counted on most public libraries holding Dia Day events, and registering them with the Dia Day Event finder.  They didn’t.
  • Dia Day events were scheduled for a variety of dates over a two-three week period, making it challenging to message (nationally) where/when events were scheduled (locally).

I definitely want to try again to get Bigs to take their Littles to Dia events in future years, and I think with some effort it’s possible that it can happen.

We spend a lot of time celebrating our successes – Let’s remember that we can celebrate our failures, too, as long as we learn from them!

What have you learned from programs or initiatives that didn’t go off quite as planned or expected? Did you revamp and try again? Please share in the comments!

*****************************************************

Sylvie Shaffer is the Middle and Upper School Librarian at Maret School in Washington DC. In addition to her work with ALSC’s Liaisons with National Organizations Serving Youth, she is also a member of DC area notable book selection committee Capitol Choices and has enjoyed serving in its 10-14 reading group since 2009.

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8. The Unwritten Fables

The Unwritten Vol. 9: The Unwritten Fables Mike Carey, Bill Willingham, Peter Gross, Mark Buckingham

I was so excited for the one. Tom Taylor is trying to fix Leviathan and ends up in the middle of the witches from the 13th floor of Fables (which is my favorite comic) But, in the end… ugh.

Basically, it’s an alternate Fables universe where Mr. Dark has won and the Fables are barely hanging on (most won’t survive.) This is how alternate it is--Snow White is married to Mr. Dark and they’re keeping Bigby prisoner (and Mr. Dark has conquered all of Earth and is moving on to other realms.)

As such, the witches summon the “greatest wizard who never was, but might be” and end up with Tom Taylor as a stand-in for Tommy.

Now it’s a great concept--Fables who know they’re fictional, but they’re real and living in our world intersecting with this story about the power of story and where the line between fiction and reality is, and where it blurs. And it kinda touches on it, but not nearly as much as it could have, or should have. Instead, it ends up being a dark AU piece of Fables story, in which they get Tommy, Sue, and Peter to help fight their battles. It’s a rather horrifying look* at what could have happened in Fables, and it’s so Fables-centric, I’m not really sure what’s the point of having it as an Unwritten story instead of a Fables one. The only thing it really does is end in such a dramatic fashion to set up the Unwritten reboot. Not sure what this does to all the stories and threads that we still have resolve. I kinda wonder if Carey and Gross wrote themselves into a corner and this was the only way to get out.

That said, this series has kept me guessing the entire time, so I’ll withhold final judgement until we see what happens with the reboot.(But at the moment, I'm rather discontented.)

*And given how dark Fables has been recently, that’s really saying something. ALSO, when announcing the upcoming end of Fables Willingham has said that what comes up in the Unwritten crossover has consequences and now I’m really scared.

Book Provided by... my local library

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9. Constructing with the Brush

Here's a little sketchbook study I did yesterday at the CM Ranch in Wyoming. It's about 5x8 inches, painted in casein.


This detail is about the size of a credit card. I knew when I started that the horses would be moving around. None of them were going to pose for me. Groups of them came and went from the corrals as the cowboys did their daily rounds.

Given those dynamics, and given the many layers of detail in the middle ground, I constructed the entire scene with the brush, without a detailed preliminary drawing. I worked from background to foreground, overlapping detail. Below is how the painting looked partway along.


At this stage there are no horses or fences yet.

Because of its opacity and quick drying qualities, casein is very well suited to this sort of approach, but it wouldn't work so well in watercolor or oil. Watercolor demands more careful preliminary drawing, and oil can get messy if you try overlapping too many wet areas.

I fully documented the process for my upcoming video "Casein in the Wild," which I'll start editing in a month or two. So please ask me any questions you might have about this way of painting, and I'll be sure to address them when I record the voiceover.
------
LINKS
I'm at the  SKB Foundation Workshop in Dubois, Wyoming.
Previous video Watercolor in the Wild
CM Family Ranch in Dubois, Wyoming



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10. the orb


I should probably have removed the socks prior to taking this image, but my workplace is more messy than my images.

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11. A Writer’s Inspiration by Subhash Kommuru, Author of Chatur

Chatur-CoverCHATUR is a hilarious and entertaining picture book written in Hindi (also with Hindi phonetics) for kids.

CHATUR is a wise laundry man. MAND is a loyal, reliable, albeit sluggish, partner in Chatur’s trade. He is a lazy donkey whose mantra is “Na Na Na hum to aaram karenge!”

Chatur’s ambition and Mand’s attitude doesn’t blend well. So Chatur comes up with a wise plan to reverse his fortune. He brings ATAL the elephant to do Mand’s job.

The plan starts out well and it did reverse his fortune substantially, but How?

Chatur(Hindi) is a comical and fun read for kids. It is sure to tickle your funny bones. Bright illustrations are sure to engage readers. Chatur has a humorous theme with a subtle message and young readers not only have a laugh, but towards the end connect with each character and sympathize with them.

The book is written in Hindi script and also in Hindi phonetics to make it easy for everyone to read.

Book Excerpt 

Hindi:

Yeh kahani hai Chatur dhobhi aur mand gadha ki. Aalsi Mand ka naara hai “NaNa hum to aaram karenge” aur Chatur ki nazar sirf taraki par hai. Jab Mand ka tevar chatur ko khatakne laga, to usne dikhai apni chaturai. Kya chatur ko apni chaturai mehnga padega?

English:

This is a story about Chatur, the Dhobhi and Mand the donkey. Chatur is smart and progressive by nature and his Lazy donkey Mand’s answer to any request was “No No No, I gotta take it easy”. Chatur realized that his success is limited by Mand’s attitude, So Chatur thought of a smart idea, will it work or will it hit him back?

A Writer’s Inspiration by Subhash Kommuru

Thank for your giving me the opportunity to share my opinion on your distinctive blog and exceptional readers and besides all the other great authors visiting here. I migrated to US from India and brought with me memories of land rich in culture and beliefs. For as long as me and wife were by ourselves we never took a moment to think about our cultural heritage and our values. But once we had Arya, our son, our perspective changed. He was growing up fast and seeing American culture all around him. That’s when we realized that there is a treasure called “India” which he is not exposed to and will never get to know unless we do something about this. Sure we can take him to local gatherings, temples, celebrate one of two festivals but that simply is not enough. Kids learn a lot from many different channels, One of those most effective channel is books. For Arya any time is story time, no matter how sad or how mad he is a book can always come to rescue.Kommurus-258x300

So that got me into making up stories and morals that we have learned as a kid and narrate those stories to him. But I had to pick up a pen when he started to demand that I tell the same stories over and over again and use same immersive words every single time. So I decided to pick up a pen and start writing something with cultural significance, something that he cannot learn anywhere else and put it on paper so every time I read it will be exactly the same.

Up until I wrote Chatur I have written quite a few stories just for Arya and all of them started to hit a tone or as one would say a style. It was working but I felt like I should challenge myself just a little bit and actually speak what comes to mind and tell stories that are light hearted and hence Chatur. I challenged myself to start to write a story without any objective and see where it takes me. I do have my boundaries clearly defined and that being that I will always write sensible story. So to address that I have to start with a theme that I want to hit and a moral that I want to drive towards but Chatur is reverse process, I started with no objective and just started to have fun page to page once story took shape, then I tightened up the characters and put them into play and made sense of it all to actually have a powerful learning at the end.

So now going forward I am no longer limiting myself, I am presenting lessons that can make a better person, be able to see good from bad, be able to see through evil and understand mechanics. Be able to differentiate right from wrong. But channel will always be an Indian theme.

Title is available at Amazon

Pick up your copy at Barnes & Noble

Watch the Book Trailer

Subhash and Sujata hail from India. They migrated to the United States along with their memories of childhood and youth. Now that they are parents, just like every immigrant they crave to introduce their child to the culture and values of their upbringing. Yet it is challenging to teach something while you are in the midst of adjusting to a different culture yourself. Subhash and Sujata both work in different disciplines and have different styles and backgrounds, but it is the upbringing of their son that brings them on the same page. That exact place where they meet is captured and reflected in their stories, where Subhash can express in words, and Sujata can illustrate them beautifully. Where he puts it in black and white, she adds color to it. You get the idea! These stories are their attempt to share a glimpse of their childhood days with their son. He is their inspiration to write short stories that have meaning to them and provide teaching in some shape or form.

Visit Kommuru Books

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12. Wednesdays in the Tower (2013)

Wednesdays in the Tower. Jessica Day George. 2013. Bloomsbury. 240 pages. [Source: Library]

Even though it has only been two years since I've read Tuesdays at the Castle, I remembered very little about the characters and the plot. So I was hoping that Wednesdays in the Tower would not prove too tricky or challenging. Within pages, I was hooked. I read this one cover to cover without putting it down even once. I do have to say that it has a great opening which worked in its favor: "There are a lot of things that can hatch out of an egg. A chicken, for example. Or a dragon. And when the egg in question is the size of a pumpkin, and almost as orange, not to mention burning hot, you know that you're far more likely to get a dragon than a chicken."

Princess Celie and her family live at Castle Glower. The castle is without a doubt one of the more interesting in literature. This castle has a mind of its own. It does what it wants, when it wants. Usually on Tuesday is when it decides to add rooms, or, perhaps take away rooms. It isn't always adding or subtracting. Sometimes it's rearranging. One thing is for certain, only a handful of people know their way around all the rooms in the Castle. And Princess Celie is trying her best to provide a map or atlas of the ever-changing castle.

As I said, usually the castle is full of surprises on Tuesday. However, it is a Wednesday when Celie discovers a new room, and not just the room, but an egg. The castle leads Celie to this room again and again, but only when she's alone. Anytime she tries to bring someone else, to show them what she's found, it's vanished.

Essentially Wednesdays in the Tower concerns Celie and what hatches from the egg. Also about the magic of the castle as well, trying to understand how the castle works and why it does what it does when it does. In other words, the history of the Castle in general and how it connects with what hatched from the egg.

I found this a quick and enjoyable read. I liked Celie. I liked her siblings and parents. I liked getting to know her friends. I probably would have appreciated them all a bit more if I remembered Tuesdays at the Castle. But. Sometimes it's good to know that a book can be read alone or out of sequence.

The ending. Did it leave me wanting more? Yes. Was that how it should have been? I think so. Not that I'm a fan of cliffhanger endings. But. When the opening of a book and the ending of a book leave you wanting more it can't be a bad thing. Of course, if I'd read this book when it first came out, I might have felt frustrated. But the sequel will be out soon.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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13. 27-Step Plot Tutorial: How Do I Plot a Novel, Memoir, Screenplay?

The first day of filming the 27-Step Plot Tutorial: How Do I Plot a Novel, Memoir, Screenplay? Youtube series was September 2010.


I remember putting that 1st video up on Youtube, mortified by the yapping dog in the background and well-aware of how distracting for viewers who struggle to mask out background interference. Still, I knew if I didn't put up the video, flaws and all, I'd be waiting for perfection forever.

Fire ahead four light-years filled with growth for the series, me as the Plot Whisperer and personally. On the anniversary of that first video, the number of views on Plot Whisperer Youtube channel crossed over 200,000.

My birthday present to the series and to you and writers everywhere is a spruced up version of the series. The 27 steps remain the same. This time, no distractions + one plotting exercise per a video.

For more about the what's happening with the series:
27-Step Plot Tutorial: How Do I Plot a Novel, Memoir, Screenplay?

Thank you for your patience as I re-film the series. In the meantime, for help plotting your novel, memoir, screenplay, read the Plot Whisperer books: 


I recommend writers writing for all ages watch How to Write a Sell a Picture Book with a Plot. Picture books are without subplots, thus allowing the primary plot lines to shine through. Try the exercises.

Or try another in the Plot Video Workshops Series ~~ PlotWriMo: Revise Your Novel in a Month ~~ 8 videos  (5.5 hours)  + 30 exercises

Join the Facebook group and ask questions that come up in either series and share your progress.

Today I write!

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14. Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 280

Before we get into today’s prompt, be sure to check out my first year as a traditionally published poetry author. In the post, I share things that I think I did right, missed opportunities, and what I’m doing now. Click to continue.

For today’s prompt, take the phrase “Hold (blank),” replace the blank with a word or phrase, make the new phrase the title of your poem, and then, write your poem. Possible titles include: “Hold the Mayo,” “Hold That Thought,” or “Hold on a Minute.” Anything you can or wish you could hold is fair game. Go hold something or someone.

*****

Win $1,000 for Your Poetry!

Writer’s Digest is offering a contest strictly for poets with a top prize of $1,000, publication in Writer’s Digest magazine, and a copy of the 2015 Poet’s Market. There are cash prizes for Second ($250) and Third ($100) Prizes, as well as prizes for the Top 25.

The early bird deadline is October 1 and costs $15 for the first poem, $10 for each additional poem. Enter as often as you’d like.

Click here to learn more.

*****

Here’s my attempt at a Hold Blank poem:

“Hold Out”

for that next kiss, that sweet
bliss, from my pure missus
me and her, sure that we’re
almost where we need be
……..celestial bodies……..
both of us in orbit.

*****

roberttwitterimageRobert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of the poetry collection, Solving the World’s Problems (Press 53). He edits Poet’s Market, Writer’s Market, and Guide to Self-Publishing, in addition to writing a free weekly WritersMarket.com newsletter and poetry column for Writer’s Digest magazine.

He believes in muses, kisses, and bumblebees. While he loves writing about a variety of topics and events, he really enjoys a good love poem, which might be why he’s such a Pablo Neruda fan. Robert is married to the poet Tammy Foster Brewer, who helps him keep track of their five little poets.

Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.

*****

More poetic stuff here:

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15. Hug a Book

In celebration of Scott Campbell's adorable new
 picture book, Hug Machine, publisher Simon & Schuster declared last week "Hug a Book" week.  Your children's librarians got in on the fun and we all hugged our favorite books.  Take a look:

http://catalog.syossetlibrary.org/search?/thow+do+dinosaurs/thow+do+dinosaurs/1%2C14%2C17%2CB/frameset&FF=thow+do+dinosaurs+say+i+love+you&1%2C1%2C

http://catalog.syossetlibrary.org/search/?searchtype=t&searcharg=llama+llama+red&sortdropdown=-&SORT=D&extended=0&SUBMIT=Search&searchlimits=&searchorigarg=tharry+potter+and+the+deathly

http://catalog.syossetlibrary.org/search?/twonder/twonder/1%2C166%2C226%2CB/frameset&FF=twonder&3%2C%2C7/indexsort=-

http://catalog.syossetlibrary.org/search?/tharry+potter+and+the+deathly/tharry+potter+and+the+deathly/1%2C5%2C18%2CB/frameset&FF=tharry+potter+and+the+deathly+hallows&2%2C%2C10/indexsort=-


http://catalog.syossetlibrary.org/search?/tharry+the+dirty+dog/tharry+the+dirty+dog/1%2C1%2C2%2CB/frameset&FF=tharry+the+dirty+dog&1%2C%2C2/indexsort=-

http://catalog.syossetlibrary.org/search?/tcity+of+ember/tcity+of+ember/1%2C2%2C7%2CB/frameset&FF=tcity+of+ember&1%2C%2C6/indexsort=-


Be sure to check out "Hug Machine" during your next visit!

http://catalog.syossetlibrary.org/search/?searchtype=t&SORT=D&searcharg=hug+machine


Posted by Amy

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16. New Jellyfish Design

A new pattern design -


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17. ‘Alpha Billionaire’ Leads Self-Published Bestsellers List

alphabillionaireAlpha Billionaire by Helen Cooper leads the Self-published Bestsellers List this week.

To help GalleyCat readers discover self-published authors, we compile weekly lists of the top eBooks in three major marketplaces for self-published digital books: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. You can read all the lists below, complete with links to each book.

If you want more resources as an author, try our Free Sites to Promote Your eBook post, How To Sell Your Self-Published Book in Bookstores post and our How to Pitch Your Book to Online Outlets post.

If you are an independent author looking for support, check out our free directory of people looking for writers groups. (more…)

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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18. Kissing from a strictly etymological point of view

Like every other custom in life, kissing has been studied from the historical, cultural, anthropological, and linguistic point of view. Most people care more for the thing than for the word, but mine is an etymological blog, so don’t expect a disquisition on the erotic aspects of kissing, even though a few lines below will lead us in that direction. Did the ancient Indo-Europeans, the semi-mythic people who lived no one knows exactly when and where kiss? And if they did, what was their method of performing this “gesture”? Did they rub one another’s nose, the way many people do? Did they kiss their children before putting them to their nomadic beds? Did they kiss goodbye to lost objects, blow a kiss to a friend, or kiss the hand of the woman whose affections they hoped to gain? Alas, we will never know. Even a common Indo-European word for “head” does not exist, and if there is no head, how does one kiss in a truly Proto-Indo-European way? Our records, beginning with Ancient Egypt, the Old Testament, and Vedic texts are quite old but not old enough.

In 1897 Kristoffer Nyrop (1858-1931), a distinguished student of Romance linguistics and semantic change, wrote a book called Kysset og dets historie (The Kiss and Its History; being a nineteenth-century Dane, he stuck to the reactionary habit of writing his works in Danish, but the book was translated into English almost immediately and is still available.) The 190-page study reads like a novel. A week after its publication, all the copies were sold out, and Nyrop was asked to prepare a second edition and do so in a wild hurry, to be ready for Christmas sales. As could be expected, he complied. Regrettably, he said nothing about the origin of the word. Yet the literature on the etymology of kiss is huge.

As usual, I’ll begin with Germanic. The ancestors of the Modern Germans, Dutch, Frisians, Scandinavians, and English had almost the same word for “kiss,” approximately koss (coss). Part of the New Testament in Gothic has come down to us. Gothic is a Germanic language, recorded in the fourth century, and the word for the verb kiss in it is kukjan. As early as 1861, Dutch dialectal kukken surfaced in a scholarly work, and somewhat later an almost identical East Frisian form was set in linguistic circulation. It became clear that at one time Germanic speakers had two forms—one with -ss-, the other with -kk-. Their relation has never been explained to everybody’s satisfaction.

Solomon in The Song of Songs mentions passionate kisses on the mouth, and Judas must also have kissed Jesus on the mouth. At least, such was the general perception in the Middle Ages (for example, this is how Giotto and Fra Angelico, but more explicitly Giotto, represented the scene), so the Hebrews and the Romans kissed as we do, and Wulfila, the translator of the Gothic Bible, probably had a similar image before his eyes while working with the Greek text. So the speakers of the Germanic languages called “kiss” a kuss- (the vowels might differ slightly) or a kukk-.

Whenever the ritual of kissing came into being, some kisses were used to show respect and in other situations served a purpose comparable to shaking hands (think of a handshake sealing a bargain). Kissing the foot of a king or the Pope belongs here too. Dutch zoenen has the root of a verb meaning “reconcile” (a cognate of German versöhnen). Consequently, people kissed to mark the end of hostilities. Later the Dutch verb broadened its meaning and began to denote any kiss. Something similar happened in Russian, in which the verb for “kiss” is akin to the adjective for “whole”: tselovat’ (stress on the last syllable), from tsel. A kiss must have been a gesture signifying “be healthy, gesundheit.” Another Dutch verb for “kiss” (this time, dialectal), with a close analog in dialectal German, is poenen ~ puunen and seems to have meant “push, plunge, thrust; come into contact.” Here the emphasis was obviously on the movement in the direction of another person. Then there is Engl. smack, believed to be sound-imitative: apparently, when one kisses someone, smack is heard. Onomatopoeia is always hard to prove, but compare Russian chmok, which means exactly the same as smack. Latin savium, of obscure origin, designated an erotic kiss, while osculum goes back to the word for “mouth” (os). Neither is sound-imitative.

Klimt's The Kiss
Klimt’s The Kiss

Where then does Old Germanic kuss- ~ kukk- belong? Many researchers have suggested that it is sound-imitative, like smack. Perhaps we really hear or think we hear smack, chmok, kuss, and kukk when we kiss. However, even an onomatopoeic word can have a protoform. Reconstructing any protoform is pure algebra. For example, the Gothic for come is qiman (pronounced as kwiman). Its indisputable Latin cognate is venire. To make the two belong together, we should posit an ancestor beginning with gw-. In Latin, g was lost, and in Germanic it yielded k, according to the law of the consonant shift (b, d, g to p, t, k). Did the ancestors of Latin speakers ever say gwenire? Most likely, they did.

In the same way, kiss was tentatively connected with Latin gustare “to taste,” on the assumption that at one time the sought-for form began with gw-. Although this suggestion can be found in one of the best Germanic etymological dictionaries, it now has few, if any, supporters. More instructive is the fact that the Hittite for “kiss” was kuwaszi, and it resembles Sanskrit ṡvaṡiti “to blow; snort” (k- and s- alternate according to a certain rule, while u and w are variants of the same phonetic entity). Add to them Greek kuneo “kiss,” in whose conjugation -s- appears with great regularity: the future was kuso and the aorist ekusa, earlier ekussa. On the basis of this evidence, several authoritative modern dictionaries posit a Proto-Indo-European form of kiss. Can we imagine that three or so thousand years ago there was a common verb for kiss that has come down to our time? Possibly, if “kiss” designated something very common and important, that is, if, for example, it existed as a religious term, something like “worship an idol by touching the image with one’s lips.”

Other hypotheses also exist. Kiss was compared with the verb for “speak,” from which English has the antiquated preterit quoth; Engl. choose and chew; Swedish kuk “penis,” Low (= Northern) German kukkuk “whore; vulva,” Irish bel “lip,” and especially often with Latin basium “kiss” (noun) ~ basiare “kiss” (verb), recognizable today from its cognates: French baiser, Italian baciare, and Spanish besar. All those conjectures should probably be dismissed as unprofitable. The origin of basiare is unknown, and nothing good ever comes from explaining one obscure word by referring it to another equally obscure one.

We are left with two choices. Perhaps there indeed once existed a proto-verb for kiss sounding approximately like it, but who kissed whom or what and in what way remains undiscovered. Or, while kissing, different people heard a sound that resembles either kuss or kukk. Neither solution inspires too much confidence, but, in any case, the long consonant (-ss and -kk) points to the affective nature of the verb. Perhaps an ancient expressive verb belonging to the religious sphere had near universal currency, with Hittite, Sanskrit, and Germanic still having its reflexes. If so, the main question will be about the application of that verb. The sex-related look-alikes (“penis,” “vulva,” and the rest) should, almost certainly, be ascribed to coincidence.

To prevent the Indo-European imagination from running wild, one should remember that alongside kiss, Engl. buss exists. Although it sounds like Middle Engl. bass (the same meaning), bass could not become buss, and it is anybody’s guess whether bass is of French or Latin origin. Swedish dialectal puss corresponds to German Bavarian buss, which is remembered because Luther used it. French, Spanish, Portuguese, Lithuanian, Persian, Turkic, and Hindu have almost identical forms (Spanish is sometimes said to have borrowed its word from Arabic), while Scottish Gaelic and Welsh bus means “lip; mouth.” Even Engl. ba “to kiss” has been recorded. This array of b-words seems to tip the scale toward the onomatopoeic solution, the more so because, to pronounce b, we have to open the lips. For millennia people have kussed (no pun intended), kossed, kissed, kukked, bassed, and bussed, to show affection and respect, to conclude peace, and just for the fun of it, without paying too much attention to origins. This is not giving a kiss of death to etymological research: it is rather a warning that some things are hard to investigate.

Nowadays the question where does a certain sentence occur? has lost its edge. Google will immediately provide the answer. So find out who wrote: “‘A gentleman insulted me today’, she said, ‘he hugged me around the waist and kissed me’.” Then read, laugh, and weep with the heroine.

Image credits: (1) “The prince awakened Sleeping Beauty.” From Kinder und Hausmarchen, von Jakob L. und Wilhelm K. Grimm; illus. von Hermann Vogel. Dritte Auflage), 1893. NYPL Digital Gallery. Digital ID: 1698628. New York Public Library (2) The Kiss. Gustav Klimt. 1907-1908. Austrian Gallery Belvedere. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

The post Kissing from a strictly etymological point of view appeared first on OUPblog.

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19. Review of Neighborhood Sharks

roy neigborhood sharks Review of Neighborhood Sharksstar2 Review of Neighborhood SharksNeighborhood Sharks:
Hunting with the Great Whites
of California’s Farallon Islands

by Katherine Roy; illus. by the author
Primary, Intermediate    Macaulay/Roaring Brook    
48 pp.
9/14    978-1-59643-874-3    $17.99    g

Look closely at the cover of this impressive account of great white sharks off the Northern California coast: that bright red in the illustration is blood trailing from a chunk of freshly killed immature elephant seal — and a signal that Roy’s book will fully examine the sometimes chilling, always fascinating details of what makes this animal a predator. The dramatic main narrative describes a shark swimming and hunting, while well-integrated information-rich sections tell more about the biology and ecology of these sharks and about the scientists who study their role in the Farallon Island ecosystem. The explanations are thorough, even, and informative and benefit from excellent analogies (in both text and illustration) to elucidate such topics as sharks’ streamlined bodies and visual acuity. Roy’s illustrations masterfully employ color and perspective: blood-reds flow through the blues and grays of the sometimes calm, sometimes roiling ocean. Don’t skip the endnotes, which include behind-the-scenes information on Roy and the research she conducted for the book.

From the September/October 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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The post Review of Neighborhood Sharks appeared first on The Horn Book.

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20. ‘The Fallen Angel’ Joins iBooks Bestsellers List

fallen207x330-84x133The Fallen Angel by Daniel Silva has joined Apple’s Top Paid iBooks in the U.S. this week at No. 2.

Apple has released its top selling books list for paid books from iBooks in the U.S. for week ending 9/15/14. Personal by Lee Child and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn also held top positions on this list this week.

We’ve included Apple’s entire list after the jump. (more…)

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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21. Giveaway: Frances Dean Who Loved to Dance!


When I first saw the cover of Frances Dean Who Loves to Dance and Dance by Birgitta Sif, I knew it was a picture book I wanted to get my hands on. And when I finally did, I wasn't disappointed. The cover, which I loved from the start, doesn't even do justice to the illustrations inside. Created in muted tones with pencil and digital coloring, they are truly gorgeous! 

Dedicated "to all those who live with all their heart," Frances Dean Who Loved to Dance and Dance is a child's journey of overcoming inhibitions to be herself and do what she loves, no matter whom might be watching. 

Frances Dean loves to dance. In fact, she loves to dance AND dance (as the title of the book implies.) She especially loves to dance outside, where she can feel the wind and hear the birds around her, as long as no one is watching. But with the help of her animal friends and another little girl with a big talent, Frances slowly but surely overcomes her self-consciousness. In fact, by the end of the book, she loves to dance and dance AND dance!


Overcoming inhibitions to pursue your passion is an important life lesson, and one that often takes years and years to learn. I still remember when I was in college, covering up my computer screen any time someone came in the room, for fear that he or she might read what I was writing. Now, many years later, I'm willing to show my writing to just about anyone, eager for feedback and comfortable with criticism. But boy did it take a long time. 

Little Frances Dean, having already overcome similar fears, is well on her way to a happy and healthy life. Although Frances Dean's passion is dance, her story is universal and could be applied to other passions such as music, art, and sports. I hope she can inspire lots of other little girls and boys to follow in her footsteps!

I'm giving away a copy of Frances Dean Who Loved to Dance and Dance! Simply leave a comment on this post to enter. Feel free to share your passion, or share a story about overcoming your inhibitions, in your comment. The giveaway closes at 11:59 pm EST on Wednesday, September 24, 2014. 

You can learn more about author/illustrator Birgitta Sif at http://www.birgittasif.com or in a recent interview with her at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. And finally, thanks to Random House for sending me a review copy of this book. I ended up buying my own copy as well, so receiving the review copy allowed me to host this giveaway. 

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22. E.R. Frank Inks YA Novel Deal With Atheneum Books for Young Readers

er-to-use-310x274E.R. Frank, an award-winning children’s books author and psychotherapist, will be publishing her first novel in ten years.

Frank’s (pictured, via) new book, entitled Dime, features an intense story about teen prostitution. Atheneum Books for Young Readers has scheduled a release date for summer 2015.

Publisher Justin Chanda negotiated the deal with Compass Talent literary agent Heather Schroder. Chanda will edit the manuscript himself.

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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23. What is the biggest obstacle you've overcome to be a writer?


Writing can be tough. And that's even without those external obstacles that can get in the way of achieving writerly dreams.

What's the biggest obstacle you've overcome to be a writer?

Mine was failure to believe that I could actually be a creative person who could actually write a novel. I don't know what I thought a "creative person" was per se, but I did think it wasn't me. That is, until I got over that and decided instead to just go for it.

What about you?

Art: The Bullfight by Auguste-Francois Bonheur

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24. Banned Books Week: September 21-27, 2014

Next week is the American Library Association's Banned Books Week, so it's time again to celebrate the freedom to read and the free flow of ideas.

Let's start with a list. In 2013, based on 307 challenges reported by the Office for Intellectual Freedom, the following are the ten most frequently banned or challenged books of 2013:


  1. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey
    Offensive language, unsuited for age group, violence
  2. The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
    Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence
  3. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
    Drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  4. Fifty Shade of Grey, by E.L. James
    Nudity, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  5. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
    Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group
  6. A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl, by Tanya Lee Stone
    Drugs/alcohol/smoking, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit
  7. Looking for Alaska, by John Green
    Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
    Drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  9. Bless Me Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya
    Occult/Satanism, offensive language. religious viewpoint, sexually explicit
  10. Bone (series) by Jeff Smith
    Political viewpoint, racism, violence

I always find the reasons interesting, mostly because they are so subjective.

Let's look at The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which I read for the first time this past weekend so it's fresh in my mind. I absolutely loved the book, and intend to buy it for my 16-year-old son, a reluctant reader who I think will enjoy the book and benefit from it. This book is an interesting one to look at because it made the news in April of this year when it was banned by an Idaho school district. When a student in that district who loved the book passed out copies to others, an indignant mother called the police on her. Just this week, they decided to allow the book in those schools, but with conditions.

Drugs/alcohol/smoking
Yes, there is a lot of drinking in this book. However, that drinking leads invariably to the strongest possible negative consequences, including death. As a result of the bad things that happen to people who drink too much, the main character promises his mother he will not drink, ever. The way I see it, this is an important positive lesson, and using it as a reason to keep the book away from kids is counter-intuitive.

Offensive language
Based on descriptions I had read of this book, I expected it to be laced with frequent, strong profanity. What I found was a few swears, mostly mild, and none of them gratuitous. There was nothing you won't hear more frequently on a sixth-grade playground anywhere in Utah than in this book. In fact, there were probably more instances of words like shoot and friggin' than there were of actual curse words. Of course, there are people who object to any swearing in a book. If you are sensitive to swearing, you might object to this book. I personally didn't find it excessive, but what is excessive and what is offensive is really a matter of personal sensitivities.

Racism
Yes, there is racism in this book. Of course there is racism in this book. It's a book about racism. A boy from an Indian reservation transfers to a white school outside the reservation because he believes he'll improve his future by doing so. He deals with racism from white kids for being different and, even more, from tribal members who object to his "turning" white. He is also forced to confronts his own racial assumptions and prejudices toward both groups, and the discovery that it is often strongest from his own cultural group. Without racism, this book doesn't exist, and doesn't carry much of its powerful punch. The book does not promote racism. It confronts it. It examines it. It exposes it. It tears it apart. It is honest about it. The lessons about racism are positive. But, like many other books that deal with racism, exposing racism so it can be torn down results in charges that it is a racist book. This is one of many ironies in the world of challenged books.

Sexually Explicit
The book is about a 14-year-old boy who thinks and acts like a 14-year-old boy. Like all 14-year-old boys, whether we want to admit or not, Junior is dealing with the changes his body and mind are going through, and these struggles are told from a point-of-view that is deeply internal and honest. As a result, there is a certain amount of sexual content. Explicit is in the eye of the beholder, of course, No sex acts are actually depicted. Masturbation is mentioned a couple times but never shown, even off-screen. One erection, described by a term kids often use, at an inappropriate time--a fear of all teenage boys, because it happens, sometimes for no reason at all--causes the main character great embarrassment, regret, and horror. If you prefer characters in books to be completely sexless, there are a half dozen or so places in this book that might bother you a lot, and a few other places where he notices physical attributes of girls that you might find inappropriate, although they are also very real and normal. This is another area where boys can be made aware of how they think and how inappropriate those thoughts can be by watching a character in a book think them.

Unsuited to Age Group
This is a catch-all that is almost always used when a parent challenges a book. It is nearly meaningless because of its overuse. Sometimes, there's a good case for this. Fifty Shades of Grey contains material and themes that are most likely inappropriate for middle school classes. Sixth graders might not fully understand the significance of Animal Farm or The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. More often than not, though, this category is unfair to kids and underestimates their knowledge and ability to think for themselves. This criteria for challenging a book should almost never be applied to a high school class, especially an AP lit class. In general, I think educators do a good job of choosing books that will interest and challenge readers of a particular age. In the case of this book, I don't think it's inappropriate for strong readers 8th grade and up. In fact, I believe it would be very appropriate for my 16-year-old, who I think would learn valuable lessons about people, including himself, from these pages.

Which brings me to my next point, maybe the biggest point I have to make when discussing this issue. I firmly believe that a parent has the right to use his or her own judgement in deciding whether a book is appropriate for a particular child. Nobody knows the child's sensitivities better than a parent. And, some parents may choose to shield their kids from certain challenging realities. It doesn't matter whether I disagree. A parent's rights when it comes to his or her own child are nearly absolute, given up only in cases of abuse and other criminal activity that hurts or otherwise affects the child. And while I think parents should trust the school's judgement a little more, I also believe that if a parent believes a child should not read a certain book in class, that's the parent's call.

Where I have a problem is when a parent extends the decision to take that book from their own child's hand to all children in a class, school, or district, or to all patrons of a library. Parents have a responsibility toward their own children, and should allow other parents to exercise that same responsibility for their own kids. By attempting to take books out of the hands of other people's kids, they are denying other parents the right to choose what their own children read, the same right the book challengers demand for themselves.

Sherman Alexie, the author of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, reflected my feelings almost perfectly when he said, "I certainly respect any parent's right to determine what their child is reading. They don't get to determine it for a whole school or community, but that said, I was the only Democrat in my high school. I went to high school with a bunch of extremely conservative Republican Christians (in other words, the kind of people who generally seek to ban my book) and let me tell you--those conservative Christian kids and I were exactly alike. I was publicly inappropriate, they were privately inappropriate. All this stuff that is controversial is stuff that kids are dealing with on a daily basis."

These are things our kids know about. They are part of their lives. Protecting them from their own reality only reinforces the feeling adolescents have that there's something wrong with them, that their issues are theirs alone and should be kept hidden as shameful secrets. It also teaches adolescents, young people who are increasingly aware of real-world issues, that books are dishonest and irrelevant.

    0 Comments on Banned Books Week: September 21-27, 2014 as of 9/17/2014 10:06:00 AM
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    25. Done done done

    The dummy is done. Now to shrink it and scan it and send it out.

    0 Comments on Done done done as of 9/17/2014 10:46:00 AM
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