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1. Purity

Purity focuses on its namesake, a drifting 20-something , and Andreas Wolf, a Julian Assange stand-in whose dubious morality drives her to unexpected destinations. The fast-paced story spans decades and continents without losing sight of its characters' motivations and quotidian concerns; it is Franzen's most approachable novel to date. Books mentioned in this post Purity [...]

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2. Heartlandia

Beloved Portland restaurant The Country Cat is this city's go-to for rustic yet elegant Midwestern farmers fare. Chefs Adam and Jackie Sappington call Heartlandia, "glorified gramma food." Restaurant-proven recipes are made nicely manageable for the home cook. Now we can enjoy "The Cats" savory goodness at home and in our jammies. Books mentioned in this [...]

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3. The Girl in the Spider’s Web

She's back! Stieg Larsson's thrilling characters return in author David Lagercrantz's accomplished hands. Mikael Blomkvist pairs up once again with Lisbeth Salander, the hacker wunderkind, in this stand-alone sequel to the page-turning series. Books mentioned in this post The Girl in the Spider's Web: A... David Lagercrantz Sale Hardcover $19.57

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4. Everything, Everything

Maddie is a girl who has spent her entire 17 years of life indoors because she is allergic to most everything outside. She's smart, complex, and funny but sheltered from the world by her conditions. Her social needs are met by her online friends, her mother, and her nurse. One day, a boy moves next [...]

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5. McToad Mows Tiny Island

McToad likes Thursdays. Thursdays are the days he gets to mow Tiny Island! Travel with McToad and his trusty lawnmower on trucks, trains, forklifts, airplanes, helicopters, boats, and cranes to get to Tiny Island! From Tom Angleberger, author of the bestselling Origami Yoda series, and wonderfully illustrated by John Hendrix, McToad Mows Tiny Island is [...]

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6. What I Read in August

Another month closer to fall and I couldn't be happier!  I'm so over the heat and humidity - bring on the pumpkin spice scented everything and fall colors and cooler temps.  Ok, right, so in Georgia that stuff is still actually probably a month away, but we have had some actually pleasant mornings the past few days.  And I've been able to get in my car in the mid-afternoon without gasping for breath, so that's a plus.

Speaking of cars...my big event in August was the purchase of a new car!  It's pretty much the nicest and newest car I've ever owned and I still can't believe it's mine.  It's an SUV that's got space for both puppies in the back AND, my personal favorite, bluetooth everything.  I've spent the past few years driving around with my phone in my shirt in order to hear podcasts or audiobooks, so I feel like I'm living in the future now.

In terms of books, here's what I read in August:

We Should All Be FeministsChimamanda Ngozi Adiche
Assassin's QuestRobin Hobb
How to Write a NovelMelanie Sumner
Natural SelectionDave Freedman
The ThreeSarah Lotz
Men Explain Things to MeRebecca Solnit
Day FourSarah Lotz
Doing Life: Reflections of Men and Women Serving Life SentencesHoward Zehr
The New NeighborLeah Stewart
Modern RomanceAziz Ansari
ForensicsVal McDermid
Batman: Arkham KnightPeter J. Tomasi
The Ice TwinsS.K. Tremayne
The Library at Mount CharScott Hawkins
Eeny MeenyM.J. Arlidge

August books read: 15
Total books read this year: 141

August pages read: 4834
Total pages read this year; 41,536

What did you read this month?

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7. Between You and Me

Get it?

Get it?

I believe it was Joan who prompted me to get myself in the library hold queue for Between You and Me by Mary Norris and I am glad I did! Norris has spent over thirty years as a copy editor for The New Yorker. She has stories! She also knows her grammar. Although she frequently recognizes that New Yorker style and the grammar everyone else uses don’t always align. And yes, she reports people being afraid her at parties, worried they are going to say something incorrect and that she will judge them. Norris insists she has no time or inclination for that malarky yet however reassuring she tries to be, there are some who can’t believe she isn’t silently ripping them to shreds.

A pity too because if she is anything in person like she is in her book, she has a great sense of humor. Though as a grammar geek she does have issues as anyone who is geeky about something will. Like the time she read Light Years by James Salter. She had been hearing about how good he is for a long time and finally decided to read one of his books. She loved it but was pulled up by one sentence, particularly a comma in that one sentence, that seemed to her unnecessary. It bugged her so much she wrote him a letter asking about it. Salter kindly wrote back to her and explained why he used a comma where he did and Norris was completely satisfied with his answer. How many of us would write an author about a comma?

The book is part memoir, part grammar lesson, and sprinkled with the occasional hint of annoyance over all the mistakes people make on a daily basis. There is an entire chapter on “you and I” versus “you and me” and why most of the time “you and me” is the correct usage. Another chapter discusses the problem of there being no gender non-specific pronoun in English that accounts for he and she, him and her, forcing people into terrible grammar contortions and even prompting many to suggest such near atrocities as “ne, nis, nim” or “shi, shis, shim” or “mef” or “hu.” She acknowledges most people have thrown in the towel and settled for “they” and “their” and while she can manage to not be too upset by “they,” “their” is completely unacceptable in her book.

Other things we learn are the correct usage of “which” and “that.” While I was reading it I felt I would never forget the rules but if you ask me right now I will mumble something about restrictive and nonrestrictive clauses and oh, I’m sorry, I have to go take this phone call. I know I get these mixed up all the time but it is hard to make myself care. Should I?

One of my favorite chapters is on dashes, semicolons, and colons. I love dashes and once, long ago, after reading all of Emily Dickinson’s poems over the course of a month, I became a dash maniac. I have since tempered my usage but —oh! — I love them so. I used to be terrified of semicolons and would do my best to avoid any sentence that might need one. But a few years ago I read something, I can’t remember what, that gave me the confidence to start using them. And once I began I decided I really like semicolons even if I am never actually certain whether I am using them correctly. In her chapter Norris does a marvelous analysis on how Henry James uses semicolons. You will not be surprised to know he is absolutely brilliant at it. I am shy about colons and will probably always remain so. I had a writing teacher once drill into my head that a colon was like a big neon sign and that if I ever used one, what came after it had better be good. I guess you could say my shyness of colons stems from a fear that I could never say anything good enough to justify a neon sign. Norris is more reassuring on the matter but I believe I have been scarred for life.

At times I felt like Norris comes across a teeny bit condescending and know-it-all. Perhaps given her position at the New Yorker she really does know it all, but no one likes that especially when it comes to grammar. She has a light, breezy style and is witty and funny, but sometimes her jokes fell flat with me, particularly in her chapter about profanity. However, Between You and Me is overall a fun and enjoyable book that includes some of the most pleasant grammar lessons I have ever had. I highly recommend it should you ever need something to fill an empty spot in your TBR pile.

Filed under: Books, Reviews, Writing Tagged: Grammar, Mary Norris

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8. BBC Two to Adapt ‘The City and The City’ for TV

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9. Disney Infinity 3.0 Giveaway!


Disney Infinity 3.0 came out this week!!


It was mostly Star Wars-themed.  I love Star Wars…so working on this was a kick!

I boarded a lot of the cinematics between the gameplay.


These boards did not make the cut…for obvious reasons.

I also wrote lines for some of the characters!  One of these characters was Olaf.


Isn’t he adorbs??

I think so :) :)

Do you want this sweet little figure?  I’m doing a giveaway in celebration of the game release!  Enter your name and email below {the email won’t show up} and comment with the word “WANT!”, and you’ll be entered in the drawing!  {If you’re reading this from tumblr, you’ll want to toddle on over to the blog, here at story-monster.com!}

The drawing closes on midnight, September 8th!

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10. InD'tale Magazine (link)

The September issue of InD'tale Magazine is full of interesting interviews with writers and others, along with episode 2 of an intriguing paranormal mystery, an article on pseudonyms used in narrating audiobooks, and lots of reviews in a variety of genres.  And I always enjoy flipping the pages too.  Check it out: InD'tale Magazine

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This was a proposal I had done for High Five magazine, part of the Highlights company, they passed.
But I thought it would be interesting considering this months blog theme. I illustrated this with FW acrylic transparent paints on Arches Bright White paper. But then I was able to change things a bit with Photoshop. The poem would have gone in the middle.

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12. The Umbrella Case Museum

Start collecting objects;
Set 'em up so folks can see 'em
And you'll find, before you know it,
You've established a museum.

I stopped in to such a place -
Umbrella covers on display -
Off of Portland, Maine (Peaks Island),
Which I visited today.

The curator and its founder
(An accordion player, too!)
Found a little niche and perfect place
To do what she can do.

She's accumulated cases
From umbrellas 'round the world,
Where these various umbrellas lived
Until they were unfurled.

So she showed me her collection
And before the tour was through, 
Her accordion appeared; we sang.
Well, this was something new!

When you travel, you encounter
Folks and places you might find
May be more than merely different -
They might really blow your mind!

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13. Publishing Jobs: Penguin Random House, Amazon

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14. “Rear Window,” #encaustic on birch in hand-painted...

“Rear Window,” #encaustic on birch in hand-painted frame, overall size 14 x14 inches. © 2015 by Lisa Firke.

In other news, I managed not to ruin it before getting it into this (very) (vibrant) frame.

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15. still life with mirror

acrylics on paper-  35 x 50 cm approx.

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16. Meet the New Griffin Teen!


Contributed by the Griffin Teen Team!


The new school year means a whole new wardrobe.  Not wanting to be left out of the fun, Griffin Teen got a brand new look!

Newly updated, we now have a beautiful website featuring some of our favorite and up-and-coming titles and a very convenient way to sign up for the Griffin Teen Newsletter!




Check out the Griffin Teen Griffin Ten Sweepstakes for a chance to win books from Rainbow Rowell, Laurie Elizabeth Flynn, R.L. Stine, Amanda Hocking and more!



As always, you can still find us on TwitterTumblr, and Facebook with the Griffin Teen handle.

Thanks for your continuous support and we hope you like the new Griffin Teen as much as we do!


The Griffin Teen Team




Read More

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17. Waiting

Caldecott-award-winning-author Kevin Henkes brings us this elegant and lovingly charming book centering around toys Owl, Pig, Bear, Puppy, and Rabbit. Their lives are spent together waiting on the window sill content with observing and sharing their wonderful world. A great picture book that teaches patience, stillness, and community. Books mentioned in this post Waiting Kevin [...]

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18. September Words without Borders

       The September issue of Words without Borders is now up, dedicated to the: 'Geography of the Peruvian Imagination'.

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19. Weighing in on the critics, in the New York Times

Isn't Charles McGrath a right voice in our time?

(Wait. Did that sound critical?)

This week the New York Times Book Review asked Charles McGrath and Adam Kirsch the question: Is Everyone Qualified to Be a Critic? It's a question I often ask myself. A question I've been asking myself for the past 20 years, in fact—throughout my reviews of many hundreds of books for print and online publications, my jottings on behalf of the competitions I've judged, and my meanderings on this blog.

What makes me qualified? Am I qualified? And do I do each book—whether or not I like it—justice?

I do know this: If my mind is dull, if I am distracted, if I feel rushed, if I've grown just a tad weary of this trend or that affect, I won't review a book, not even on this blog, where I own the real estate. Writers (typically) work too hard to be summarily summarized, falsely cheered, unhelpfully glossed. Reviews should only be treated as art (as compared, say, to screed or self-glorification). It's important, as McGrath notes, that we reviewers keep reviewing ourselves.

His words:
It’s surprising how much contemporary critical writing is a chore to get through, not just on blogs and in Amazon reviews but even in the printed paragraphs appearing below some prominent bylines, where you find too often the same clichés, the same tired vocabulary, the same humorless, joyless tone. How is it, you wonder, that people so alert to the flaws of others can be so tone deaf when it comes to their own prose? The answer may be the pressure of too many deadlines, or the unwritten law that requires bloggers and tweeters to comment practically around the clock. Or it may be that the innately critical streak of ours too frequently has a blind spot: ourselves.

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20. Reading in ... France

       BVA surveyed French reading habits in Les Français et la lecture and offer some of the summary-results there.
       That Victor Hugo remains the most popular author isn't that surprising; that Marcel Pagnol ties him perhaps is. But domestic tastes are often ... idiosyncratic. And the double bill of Jean de Florette and Manon of the Springs (get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk) certainly has more than just name-recognition even in English (helped by the film versions ...)
       Interesting also that Emile Zola is cited as the next-most-popular -- ahead of the similarly prolific Balzac, and also Flaubert ..... Jules Verne, on the other hand ... no surprise.
       (And as far as the foreigners go: Agatha Christie, followed in popularity by Stephen King, and Mary Higgins Clark. Which reflects the bestseller-lists pretty well, so at least the respondents seem to be honest with their answers (always a question with these 'who do you read'-surveys).)

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21. A Campus Refurbished...

Many Springs ago, I attended a Society of Children's Books Writers and Illustrators Rocky Mountain Chapter workshop for Illustrators. It was an educational day,  but what really stuck with me was where it was held.. at the Rocky Mountain College of Art, in Lakewood, Colorado.  I snapped a bunch of photos and have never put them up, but now here they are...

Celebrating a half a century, RMCAD  moved to this gorgeous campus in 2002.

Sculptures and outside installation  adorn the center, green  "rectangle" as they should at an art school.

and the students, make their own statement, as they should at Art School...

But the studios, housed in mostly red brick buildings, hint at a time gone by...

50 years farther back, at the turn of the century, the campus did have another purpose, it was a Tuberculosis Asylum, built by generous Jewish Ladies Auxiliaries back East, as the plaque below the water tower attest too...

The Tri Boro Dining Hall was erected by the New York Ladies Auxiliary, Long Island Division, Florence Hoberman Auxiliary of Brooklyn.

The New York Ladies Auxiliary Pavilion...

J.C.R.S stands for the Jewish Consumptive Relief Society and the organization cared for many affirmed who were sent to Colorado, to benefit from the dry air. 

Our Illustrator Workshop took place in the Mary Harris Auditorium, built much later in 1941, when the campus had changed focus as a medical research facility....

 Screaming "Art Deco" in its Architectural Style, it was sometimes hard to focus on the speakers in the glowing auditorium ...

Or at our  hands on workshop,  in one of the classrooms where no surface was safe from adornment....

Oh, how hard it was not add my own creativity, my ballpoint pen just laying there, but alas, not my art school and not my time.... Read the rest of this post

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22. Writer Wednesday: How to Land in an Editor's "No Way!" Pile

Today's topic came from Sherry Alexander, who wanted to know what lands and author in an editor's "No Way!" pile. These are things that I've seen that got the author's automatic rejections or caused me to delete their submission without reading it.

Beginning your query with "I know you're not open to unagented submissions, but I'm hoping you'll make an exception for me."
This one really gets me, and here's why. You are making it clear that you believe you're somehow better than all the other authors who want to query me. Grr. Don't ever disrespect another author in front of me. Just don't do it. I hate to see any author putting another author down. And if you think you deserve an exception to the rule but others don't, that's exactly what you're doing. Automatic delete without even reading the query.

Claiming you met me at a conference and that I welcomed you to submit your book.
This was a bad year for me, in that I didn't get to attend any conferences. However, I've gotten queries from people claiming they met me at conferences. Now maybe it's a simple case of mistaken identity. Maybe the editor you met has a similar name. (There are no other Kelly Hashways. I've checked.) But, I'm kind of thinking this person decided to gamble and assume I was at a big SCBWI conference and was busy meeting so many authors I wouldn't remember them all by name. Don't start a relationship off on a lie. Just don't. I don't like liars. Automatic delete without even reading the query.

Forgetting to tell me about your book in your query.
This is your big chance to wow me. You get one page to grab my attention. Why on earth wouldn't you tell me about your book? Editors are very busy. I won't tell you how many books are sitting on my Kindle waiting for me to read them. I'm embarrassed by it. But we are so busy! Your query is what tells me if I'm interested enough in your story to read some of it. Form letter rejection.

Saying your book is better than "Insert Best-seller Title Here"
Again, do NOT put down another author in front of me. I don't care if you're the best writer in the world. Don't do it! Form letter rejection.

I'm sure I'll come across other things the longer I edit, but please for the love of books do not do any of these things when you query. Editors WANT to find books they love in their query inboxes. We do. We want to love you and your book, but our time is very limited. Don't get yourself rejected before we even get to chapter one.

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23. Talk Under Water by Kathryn Lomer

Will and Summer meet online and strike up a friendship based on coincidence. Summer lives in Will's old hometown, Kettering, a small Tasmanian coastal community. Summer isn't telling the whole truth about herself, but figures it doesn't matter if they never see each other in person, right? 

When Will returns to Kettering, the two finally meet and Summer can no longer hide her secret – she is deaf. Can Summer and Will find a way to be friends in person even though they speak a completely different language?

Talk Under Water is told through emails, letters, Facebook posts and the first-person narratives of both Will and Summer. It's an easy read, with straightforward writing. Summer's deafness is very well depicted, and the amount of knowledge by the author of sign language and Deaf culture is clear (Minor grammatical errors in Summer's writing, since English is her second language, was a great touch). It's the sort of novel I would have loved to have studied in the early years of high school - it's engaging, readable and there are so many interesting themes. As well as Summer's deafness, she's still grieving for her dad, and Will's dealing with family breakdown, too. It's a very accessible story, and includes a lot of information about deafness and sign language without ever being preachy or over-the-top; it's very much part of the narrative, and the story doesn't suffer for its inclusion.

The dual narrative allows the reader to empathise and connect with both central characters, and the secondary characters are well-developed and relateable, too - I really felt for Will's dad and Summer's mum, who have both lost their partners. Will's old best friend Cully is ignorant about deafness, and continues to be even once he meets Summer, and I think the difficulties of Will's friendship with Cully is something a lot of teenaged readers will be able to relate to - at least those that have experienced the shift in friendships as you get older as people change and grow apart  I was a bit concerned about how much information Will and Summer shared about their respective lives, where they lived, et cetera when they initially communicated online - even though I as the reader knew they were both teenagers, from their perspective the other could easily have been a middle-aged weirdo. My worries about stranger danger were probably my greatest concern with the novel (I don't want anything bad happening to the characters, gosh!).

Talk Under Water is an enjoyable read, where the stakes aren't ever really that high - the major problems stem from miscommunication between the two central characters, which resolves quickly - which lends it realism, though not a lot of conflict. I'd recommend it for younger teenage readers (perhaps even readers in the later primary school years); while there's a very sweet romance story at the centre of this novel, it's very much secondary to the friendship that develops between the characters, both of whom read as being quite young. It's a nice, thoughtful, heart-warming novel, and it wonderfully reflects the real-world diversity of young people, which is something we always need more of in YA fiction.

Talk Under Water on the publisher's website.

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24. #727 – The Perfect Percival Priggs by Julie-Anne Graham

The Perfect Percival Priggs
Written and Illustrated by Julie-Anne Graham
Running Press Kids       5/26/2015
978-0-7624 -5506-5
32 pages      Age 4—8

“Percival Priggs wants to be the perfect child in order to please his seemingly perfect parents. But even when Percy gets his family into a mess of a situation, his parents’ love for him remains absolute perfection.” [front jacket]


“Percival Priggs was perfect.
His parents were perfect.
His grandparents were perfect.
Even his pets were perfect.”

Wow! The Priggs are a tremendously perfect family. This puts a lot of pressure on young Percy to be perfect in everything he does. Both parents are professors with shelves of awards between them. Percy has his own shelf that is nearly as filled with shiny trophies and perfect straight-A report cards. But Percy is finding it is tiring to be so perfect all of the time. If he told his parents this, would they love him any less? Percy is afraid they might, and so he keeps his feelings to himself.

2One weekend, Percy has so many competitions to complete he has no idea how he will ever finish on time. He isn’t thrilled about many of the competitions he is entered in, but he must to find a way to finish perfectly before the weekend is over. Percy comes up with a plan to finish faster, only making one small miscalculation . . . that sends everything into a disastrous cavalcade of humorous tumbles. He just knows his parents will be furious. What will happen to Percival Priggs now that he is no longer a Perfect Percival?

ill1_planI love this story. How many of us think we must be perfect and perform all our duties perfectly, never giving ourselves a break? Count me in. Yet, what does that teach our children? I love that Percival’s parents finally open up to their son, showing him that they were never always perfect (and maybe still not). This takes a load off young Percy’s shoulders. The illustrations (pen and ink on drafting film, with textures and backgrounds in Photoshop), are goofy with an old-fashioned sense of style and are extremely appealing. Oddly, there are words embedded in the character’s head, face, and eyeglasses (which all three wear). I’m not sure, but are these people so intent on perfection that they actually were their thoughts? It is an interesting idea and illustration technique.

I love the message from these two imperfect parents: They love Percy for who he is, not what he wins, and they keep on trying for perfection because they love what they do, not because they want to be perfect. They let Percy off the hook, telling him to find out what it is he loves to do, and then do that, no matter the imperfections or failures he will encounter along the way. Percy does just that in a humorous attempt to find out what he loves to do.

percival_spread2Roller-skating . . . nope, he falls too much. A rock star . . . well, no, not a rock star. In the end, Percy’s trophy shelf is as full as ever, but looks a whole lot different. It starts representing the real Percy. And his best trophy, the one he adores the most? Nah, not telling. Read The Perfect Percival Priggs to find out.

THE PERFECT PERCIVAL PRIGGS. Text and illustrations copyright © 2015 by Julie-Anne Graham. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Running Press Kids, Philadelphia, PA.

Purchase The Perfect Percival Priggs at AmazonBook DepositoryIndieBound BooksiTunes BooksRunning Press Kids.

Learn more about The Perfect Percival Priggs HERE.


Find The Perfect Percival Priggs Activity Pack HERE.


Meet the author/illustrator, Julie-Anne Graham, at her website: http://www.julieannegraham.com/
.           .  Twitter: @Ja_Illustrator
Find more picture books at the Running Press Kids’ website: http://www.runningpress.com/rpkids
.             . Running Press Kids is an imprint of Running Press Book Publishers, and a member of the Perseus Group.


Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved


Full Disclosure: The Perfect Percival Priggs by Julie-Anne Graham, and received from Running Press Kids, (an imprint of Running Press Book Publishers), is in exchange NOT for a positive review, but for an HONEST review. The opinions expressed are my own and no one else’s. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Filed under: 5stars, Books for Boys, Children's Books, Debut Author, Debut Illustrator, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Picture Book Tagged: family, Julie-Anne Graham, parent-child relationships, perfection, Perseus Group, pressure, Running Press Book Publications, Running Press Kids, The Perfect Percival Priggs, winning

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25. MATT CHATS: Skullkickers Word Artist Marshall Dillon on the Life of a Letterer

It’s widely acknowledged is that a great letterer is one that you don’t notice. Marshall Dillon is often an exception to that rule. He made a big splash with his work on Skullkickers, a series with explosive action and silly sound effects.  Dillon has deepened his footprint in the comics industry on titles like Prince Valiant, the Thrilling Adventure Hour […]

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