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Today I'm celebrating the release of Ares: Bringer of War, the latest graphic novel by George O'Connor in his outstanding Olympians series. This entire series is terrific and very popular with my students. They're going to be thrilled to see this newest installment.
The mighty Ares is the Greek god of war, consumed by rage, hate and vengeance. His war is destructive, frenzied and maniacal. And as O'Connor clearly shows, you can only really understand Ares in contrast to his half-sister Athena, goddess of the strategic, logical side of war.
O'Connor brings readers right into the middle of the Trojan War, using the Iliad to frame his portrait of Ares. We enter the scene ten years into the war, as the Greeks and Trojans are mired down in the conflict. As Zeus proclaims,
"The cost has been high for both sides. But much that is fated to occur has not happened yet. We may need to take a more active hand."
But the gods incessantly argue and take sides, playing the mortals against one another like a chess game. As O'Connor shows, Ares is blood-thirsty, but he is also loyal and determined, and he truly mourns the loss of his son in the end. Readers will be amazed by the artwork, but also by the complicated interactions between all the gods.
Ares: Bringer of War feels even more complex than previous Olympians books because there is one whole story arc, involving gods and mortals. Previous books seemed more episodic to me, so easier to digest in smaller chunks.
Complicated? Yes, but I've been drawn back to this graphic novel again and again, reading it perhaps four times this week. With each reading, my understanding grows--and I've watched the same thing happen with my students. They read the same graphic novel over and over, noticing more details each time, understanding the characters more fully with repeated readings.
For other stops on the Blog Tour, check out MacTeenBooks. Definitely suggest The Olympians website as a resource for fans -- it's full of information on the gods and O'Connor's research, as well as links and activities.
The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, First Second Books. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.
Email marketing should be a part of your inbound marketing strategy. It’s one of the best ways to reach and connect with subscribers, customers, readers, and so on.
Email marketing is a direct marketing through digital means. It’s better than other direct marketing because it’s permission-based. This means the individual on your list willingly gave you his email address so you can send him
Today I have the pleasure of presenting a writer who knows how to multitask. Besides being a talented, multi-published author, Mary Waibel is also my editor at BookFish Books. She's got a sharp eye for story and an even keener sense of how to improve your craft. Maybe some of that she learned from reading reviews!
How I Use Reviews To Improve My Craft -- A WOW-Wednesday Post by Mary Waibel
Today I’m talking about the dreaded “R” word. Reviews. They have the power to send an author’s spirits soaring into the atmosphere or plummeting to the depths of the earth. Good, bad, or ugly, reviews are needed to help generate buzz about our writing.
I read my reviews. All of them. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Why? Well, of course I read the good ones because they reaffirm that a reader liked what I wrote.
Why read the bad ones?
I believe reading is subjective, and no matter how much I work on my craft, there will be people who do not like what I write. But, if they took the time to tell me why they didn’t like what I wrote, I feel I owe it to them as a reader to listen to what they had to say and see if I need to make a change in what I’m doing as an author.
Not all reviews are equal. One or two star ratings accompanied by review that say, “I didn’t like it” or “this just wasn’t for me” may sting, but they really do nothing to educate you as an author about why the reader didn’t like your book. These reviews, IMHO, should be glanced at and set aside.
Reviews that say things like, “the writing was formulaic,” “I figured out the villain the moment they stepped on page,” or “too many clichés” are ones you should read, set aside and let the sting fade away, then go back and re-read, listening to what this reader is trying to tell you.
Did you follow a formula? If so, why? If you were writing this book again, would you do the same thing, or would you do something different?
Did you introduce any red herrings or was it not important that your reader discover the villain right away?
Could you have made a twist on the clichés you chose to use? Or, did you really need them in the first place?
You might find you disagree with the reviewer, and that’s fine. Look at your work with their comments in mind, fix what you think you need to, and move on.
It’s okay if you don’t read your reviews. Or if you have someone screen them for you. But, I hope you might consider looking at reviews as a way to improve your craft.
About the Author:
YA author Mary Waibel’s love for fairytales and happy-ever-afters fill the pages of her works. Whether penning stories in a medieval setting or a modern day school, magic and romance weave their way inside every tale. Strong female characters use both brain and brawn to save the day and win the heart of their men. Mary enjoys connecting with her readers through her website: marywaibel.blogspot.com
When Callie Rycroft wakes to find purple flames flickering on the ceiling, she believes she’s still dreaming. But soon she’s forced to accept that she has magic―a special magic that grants her entrance into the Faery Realm.
For centuries humans have been banned from Faery, but dangerous times call for dangerous measures. Declared Champion by the Faery Queen, Callie is assigned a Guardian, and tasked with finding the Cordial―a magical elixir needed to keep the portal to the Faery realm a secret from humans.
The upside? Reece Michaels, the boy she's been crushing on for years, is her Guardian. Callie hopes that by spending time with Reece, he'll start to see her as more than just his best friend's sister.
The downside? She's in a race not only against time, but against another Champion, and a rogue Guardian―a Guardian who stands to threaten her developing relationship with Reece.
Magic, mistaken identities, and hidden agendas are the least of Callie's worries when she learns that the Cordial requires a sacrifice. Will Callie be willing to risk everything―even Reece―to complete her task as Champion? Or will she let the portal open, and doom both realms? Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Goodreads
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.
This is a book I found at my public library. It’s been on my radar for awhile and I was happy when I saw it on the shelf. Ironically, I had just re-read The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath the week before so maybe it was kismet since this book revolves around this author.
This novel centers around several teens who are all going through their unique traumas. This particular line spoke to me because we have all been through some type of trial or trauma ourselves and sometimes we just want it to be over — but sometimes you just have to go through whatever it is that has hurt you before you can move on.
From Jam, the narrator of the novel Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer
“I hadn’t known that if you hold on, if you force yourself as hard as you can to find some kind of patience in the middle of all your impatience, things can change. It’s big, and it’s always incredibly messy. But there’s no way around the mess.”
Can I use that time I was published in the local paper in 3rd grade as a publishing credit now? I entertained the idea, because it put a smile on my face and almost made me laugh aloud. However, the more I explored the "yes" and "no" to this question...the less sure I became. I mean, I was in the third grade 11 years ago. Some authors, I'd imagine, reference their credits that are older than that. Surely that wasn't their best work and they've grown since then. Perhaps not comparatively to the degree of a child, but still.
No. Pub credits are works that have been published by someone who chose your submission from a competitive field and generally speaking offered you a contract for publication.
Publishing anything by a third grader in the local newspaper is considered cute, not competitive.
If you put that in a query letter and I discovered it was something you wrote when you ten years old, I'd stop taking you seriously.
Don't reach for pub credits you don't have. If you don't have them, you don't. I've signed and sold a LOT of writers who had zilch on their resume other than "I want to be a published writer" and were smart enough not to say "I've been writing since I could hold a pen" or "I've wanted to be a writer from when I was in kindegarten."
A query letter is a business communication. Don't do anything that makes you look silly unless you are writing the next Captain Underpants.
It's About: Ida M. Tarbell, born in 1857, who became one of the first American journalist and also helped found investigative journalism. Her noteworthy articles included a biography of Abraham Lincoln, and an expose of John D. Rockefeller and his company, Standard Oil Trust.
The Good: I really enjoyed learning about Ida M. Tarbell, whose name seemed vaguely familiar from history class.
I was impressed with Ida's many accomplishments and the things she did -- starting with her love of the sciences, attending a co-educational college, her start in journalism, traveling to Paris, freelancing, and then joining the staff of McClure's Magazine, where she wrote her most memorable articles.
One of the things that struck me is how matter of fact it was, how "of course this is what Ida is going to do" it was. While Ida was a pioneer, her story is also a reminder that her life, while not typical of the time, was also just that -- her life. She, with other women, did go to college. She, as others did, created a career, lived away from her family, traveled to Paris, working, having her own home.
I confess: that part of Ida's life, the pre-McClure part, fascinated me the most. I wanted to know more about those things, and those people in her life.
Of course, then, there is Ida's actual journalism, a career she came to sort of sideways. She began loving science, thought she'd be a teacher, and found herself working as an editor at a magazine. It wasn't until her early thirties and her trip to Paris that her work as a journalist really began. So, you can see all the reasons I kept turning the pages -- here, a women in the nineteenth century, having multiple careers. Pursuing her dreams. Living her life on her terms.
One cannot make generalizations about people: for all of Ida's accomplishments, which resulted from drive and determination, she had what seems to be mixed feelings about women's suffrage and equality. McCully explores this area in detail, noting that Ida's being against women getting the vote is probably one of the reasons she is a bit forgotten. What struck me was how modern, actually, Ida's beliefs were: I could easily imagine her in the present, being someone explaining how she didn't need feminism and wasn't a feminist because look at what she accomplished, on her own, and if she did it anyone can so stop with the feminism already.
I would like to learn more about Ida, and her life -- always a good sign in a biography, being left wanting more! I wonder if the things I want to know more about are things that McCully didn't cover because of length (this is a long, detailed biography) or if it's because there aren't the source documentation to answer the questions. For example, I wanted to know more about Ida's unnamed roommates during her 20 but imagine that was left out because of space. I also was curious as to Ida's relationships with her family and those family dynamics. Ida loved her father dearly, and ended up being the main provider to her mother, sister, brother, and brother's family. And yet certain things here left me asking for more and wondering things like whether her father was as wonderful as she painted him, for example. Is that not explored more because of space? Or because there is very little surviving from that time that would fill in the gaps about Ida's family?
Being left with questions, wanting more -- excellent. Learning more about Ida M. Tarbell, and also about what it was like for a woman pursuing a career over a hundred years ago? Even better. I'm so happy that this is a finalist for the YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award! I read it because it was a finalist, and I'll be chatting it up because it's a finalist.
Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.
What's more, we're going SOUTH. That means WARM! (Actually, anywhere we GO would be south. Since we are at the North Pole. Of course.) Anyway, Bizzy has been searching the internet for a place we can visit where we would be able to BLEND IN. (S.C. is worried that otherwise we might be mobbed by overly enthusiastic children.) So Bizzy has found someplace that might just fill the bill. S.C. is taking a look at Bizzy's data and then we will all meet in the conference room and vote on the plan. SO THRILLING. We do love our home, but you know, when the snow gets so deep that we Izzy Elves can't walk outside without it coming to our eyebrows (or higher, in Frizzy's case) we need a BREAK from winter. And now we just might have one! We'll keep you posted. Love from the extremely excited Izzies: Bizzy, Blizzy, Dizzy, Fizzy, Frizzy, Quizzy, Tizzy and Whizzy
This morning I have a review of Jennifer McQuiston’s novella, Her Highland Fling, as well as an excerpt and an awesome giveaway. Enjoy!
I am always game to read a novella. Their compact length makes them perfect to squeeze into an overloaded reading schedule, and for authors I haven’t read previously, it gives me a good idea whether or not I want to make the time commitment for a longer book. When I saw Her Highland Fling, I was intrigued. I’ve picked up a couple of Jennifer McQuiston’s other works, but I haven’t gotten around to actually loading them on my Kindle yet, so I was more than happy to download this and start reading.
William McKenzie is stressing about the financial health of his village, so he organizes the Highland Games, hoping to lure Londoners and their wallets to his humble hometown. He even foots the bill to refurb a room at the local inn, all to impress the reporter he’s arranged to visit Moraig. The joke’s on WIlliam, though. Instead of the reporter he’s expecting – one of the male persuasion – a beautiful woman descends from the coach and immediately turns his life on end.
Poor William! He’s so devoted to improving the fortunes of the villagers that his usual sense of humor has fled. Worse, he can’t seem to form a coherent sentence when Penelope is around. He comes off like the village idiot, and that was my only sticking point with the story. Pen has a stutter, and was bullied mercifully because of it. I was disappointed when she constantly referred to William in less than flattering terms. Yes, they got off on the wrong foot, and yes, she misjudged him terribly, but for someone who was made fun of and didn’t care for it, I expected a little more tolerance from her. It made me not like her at first, probably because I felt that I knew William so well, and how can you not like a guy willing to don his plaids in the middle of the afternoon on a hot summer day, all to secure the future of his beloved home?
The tone of the story is light, and it clicks quickly along. I loved William, and slowly warmed up to Penelope. Once she sets her sights on William, he has no chance against her onslaught. Determined to finally have a fling and get some first hand knowledge of the opposite sex, Penelope quickly determines that the Highlander is perfect for her research, even if he isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer. William is just so tongue tied around this fiercely independent woman that he can’t get out an intelligent thought, which makes him perfect for Pen’s plans to love him and leave him behind.
Her Highland Fling is a fun story, and I enjoyed my visit to Moraig. It’s a very fast read with plenty of humor and one very determined spinster ready for her walk on the wild side. Did I mention the water fairies?
Her Highland Fling Second Sons #2.5
By: Jennifer McQuiston
Releasing January 27th, 2015
Let the Games Begin…
William MacKenzie has always been protective of his Scottish village. When Moraig’s economy falters, he has the perfect solution to lure wealthy Londoners to this tiny hamlet: resurrect the ancient Highland Games! But for this to work, William knows he needs a reporter to showcase the town in just the right light.
A female journalist might be a tolerated oddity in Brighton, but newly minted reporter Penelope Tolbertson is discovering that finding respect in London is a far more difficult prospect. After receiving an invitation to cover Moraig’s Highland Games, Penelope is determined to prove to her London editors just how valuable she can be.
Penelope instantly captures William’s heart, but she is none too impressed with the gruff, broody Highlander. However as she begins to understand his plans, Penelope discovers she may want more from him than just a story. She’s only got a few days…but maybe a few days is all they need.
A veterinarian and infectious disease researcher by training, Jennifer McQuiston has always preferred reading romance to scientific textbooks. She resides in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband, their two girls, and an odd assortment of pets, including the pony she promised her children if mommy ever got a book deal. Jennifer can be reached via her website at www.jenmcquiston.com or followed on Twitter @jenmcqwrites
All the world hated a hypocrite, and William MacKenzie was no exception.
But today that trouser-clad hypocrite was his brother, James, which made it a little hard for William to hate him like he ought.
As James sauntered to a stop beneath the awning of Moraig’s posting house, his laughing gaze dropped to William’s bare knees and then climbed northward again. “If you’re trying to make a memorable impression,” he sniggered, “all that’s missing is a good breeze.”
“You are late.” William crossed his arms and tried to look menacing. “And I thought we agreed last night we would share this indignity.”
“No, you agreed.” James shoved his hands in the pockets of his trousers and offered up a shite-eating grin. “I listened and wisely withheld a formal opinion.”
William bit back a growl of frustration. For Christ’s sake, he knew well enough he looked like a fool, standing in the thick heat of early August, draped in the MacKenzie plaid. And there was no doubt he would be teasing James unmercifully if the reverse were true.
But today they were both supposed to look like fools.
And James had a far better set of legs.
As though summoned by his brother’s fateful words, a ghost of a breeze stirred the wool that clung to William’s sweat-moistened skin. He clapped a hand down over his sporran, ensuring the most important parts remained hidden. “You live in Moraig, just as I do,” he pointed out to his errant brother. “You owe it to the town to help me make a proper impression for the reporter from the London Times.”
“Oh, aye, and I will. I had thought to say something properly memorable, such as ‘Welcome to Moraig.’ ” James raised a dark, mocking brow. “And we shouldn’t need to put on airs. The town has its own charm.”
“Well, the tourists haven’t exactly been flocking here,” William retorted, gesturing to the town’s nearly empty streets. Hidden in the farthest reaches of Scotland—far enough, even, that the Atlantic coast lapped at its heels—the little town of Moraig might indeed be charming, but attempts to attract London tourists had fallen somewhat short. If William had anything to say about it, that was going to change, starting today.
The only problem was he should have said it a half hour ago.
He took off his Balmoral cap and pulled his hand through hair already damp with sweat. While he was willing to tolerate looking like a fool in order to prove Moraig was the perfect holiday destination for Londoners seeking an authentic Highland experience, he still objected to having to look like one alone. “We’ve an opportunity to get a proper story printed in the Times, highlighting all Moraig has to offer.” He settled the cap back on his head. “If you have an issue with the plaid, you could have at least bestirred yourself to put on a small kilt.”
James burst out laughing. “And draw attention away from your bonny knees?”
As if in agreement, a series of catcalls rang out from a group of men who had crowded onto the sidewalk outside the Blue Gander, Moraig’s inn and public house.
One of them held up his pint. “Lovely legs, MacKenzie!”
“Now show us your arse!”
William scowled in their direction. On another day, he might have joined them in raising a pint, but not today. Moraig’s future was at stake. The town’s economy was hardly prospering, and its weathered residents couldn’t depend on fishing and gossip to sustain them forever. They needed a new direction, and as the Earl of Kilmartie’s heir, he felt obligated to sort out a solution. He’d spent months organizing the upcoming Highland Games. It was a calculated risk that, if properly orchestrated, would ensure the betterment of every life in town. When David Cameron, the town’s magistrate, had offered to invite a reporter up from London, it had seemed a brilliant opportunity to reach those very tourists they were aiming to attract.
But with the sweat now pooling in places best left unmentioned and the minutes ticking slowly by, that brilliance was beginning to tarnish.
William peered down the road that led into town, imagining he could see a cloud of dust implying the arrival of the afternoon coach. The verylate afternoon coach. But all he saw was the delicate shimmer of heat, reflecting the nature of the devilishly hot day.
“Bugger it all,” he muttered. “How late can a coach be? There’s only one route from Inverness.” He plucked at the damp collar of his shirt, wondering where the coachman could be. “Mr. Jeffers knew the importance of being on time today. We need to make a ripping first impression with this reporter.”
James’s gaze dropped once more to William’s bare legs. “Oh, I don’t think there’s any doubt of it.” He leaned against the posting house wall and crossed his arms. “If I might beg the question . . . Why turn it into such a circus? Why these games, instead of, say, a well-placed rumor of a beastie living in Loch Moraig? You’ve got the entire town in an uproar preparing for it.”
William snorted. “Sunday dinners are enough to put this town in an uproar. And you know as well as I that the games are for their own good.”
Though, God forbid his nolly-cocked, newly married brother lift a hand in the planning.
Or be bothered to put on a kilt, as it were.
William could allow that James was perhaps a bit distracted by his pretty wife and new baby—and understandably so. But given that his brother was raising his bairns here, shouldn’t he want to ensure Moraig’s future success more than anyone?
James looked up suddenly, shading his eyes with a hand. “Well, best get those knees polished to a shine. There’s your coach now. Half hour late, as per usual.”
With a near groan of relief, William stood at attention on the posting house steps as the mail coach roared up in a choking cloud of dust and hot wind. Scrawny chickens and stray dogs scuttled to dubious safety before the coach’s barreling path, and he eyed the animals with a moment’s concern, wondering if perhaps he ought to have tried to corral them into some hidden corner, safely out of sight.
But it was too late now.
A half hour off schedule. Perhaps it wasn’t the tragedy he’d feared. They could skip the initial stroll down Main Street he’d planned and head straight to the inn. He could point out some of the pertinent sights later, when he showed the man the competition field that had been prepared on the east side of town.
“And dinna tell the reporter I’m the heir,” William warned as an afterthought. “We want him to think of Moraig as a charming and rustic retreat from London.” If the town was to have a future, it needed to be seen as a welcome escape from titles and peers and such, and he did not want this turning into a circus where he stood at the center of the ring.
As the coach groaned to a stop, James clapped William on the shoulder with mock sympathy. “Don’t worry. With those bare legs, I suspect your reporter will have enough to write about without nosing about the details of your inheritance.”
The coachman secured the reins and jumped down from his perch. A smile of amusement broke across Mr. Jeffers’s broad features. “Wore the plaid today, did we?”
Bloody hell. Not Jeffers, too.
“You’re late.” William scowled. “Were there any problems fetching the chap from Inverness?” He was anxious to greet the reporter, get the man properly situated in the Blue Gander, and then go home to change into something less . . . Scottish. And, God, knew he could also use a pint or three, though preferably ones not raised at his expense.
Mr. Jeffers pushed the brim of his hat up an inch and scratched his head. “Well, see, here’s the thing. I dinna exactly fetch a chap, as it were.”
This time, William couldn’t suppress the growl that erupted from his throat. “Mr. Jeffers, don’t tell me you lefthim there!” It would be a nightmare if he had. The entire thing had been carefully orchestrated, down to a reservation for the best room the Blue Gander had to offer. The goal had been to install the reporter safely in Moraig and show him a taste of the town’s charms before the games commenced on Saturday.
“Well, I . . . that is . . .” Mr. Jeffers’s gaze swung between the brothers, and he finally shrugged. “Well, I suppose you’ll see well enough for yourself.”
He turned the handle and then swung the coach door open.
A gloved hand clasped Mr. Jeffers’s palm, and then a high, elegant boot flashed into sight.
“What in the blazes—” William choked on his surprise as a blond head tipped into view. A body soon followed, stepping down in a froth of blue skirts. She dropped Jeffers’s hand and looked around with bright interest.
“Your chap’s a lass,” explained a bemused Mr. Jeffers.
“A lass?” echoed William stupidly.
And not only a lass . . . a very pretty lass.
Rafflecopter Giveaway (Print copy of WHAT HAPPENS IN SCOTLAND + $25 eGift Card to choice Book Seller)
The eyes of the world have been focused on Paris for very tragic reasons in recent weeks. And it may seem frivolous to mention in light of those past events, but this time the eyes of the fashion world will again be focused there as I recently read that Paris Fashion Week is just around the corner. Silly? Haute couture? Meaningless? For some that may be true, but somewhere in the world is a child dreaming of being another Coco Chanel or Hubert Givenchy. They may be saying to themselves, “What will people say?” “What will mom and dad say, if I tell them I am interested in being a DESIGNER?”
Perhaps here’s a picture book to put into the dreaming, designing hands of a young reader, either girl OR boy!
Coco Chanel was an original, holding her own against the wealthier well-bred young girls of the Paris of her time. She thought being different was an advantage in itself.
In a world where being true to who you are can come with a very high price tag, I think it is important to show it can be done without sacrificing your integrity or belief in yourself. That’s a very important message for young women or men to hear when so much of how they define themselves today can come from externals such as clothes, body image, popularity and the number of “Likes” on their Facebook page.
Coco Chanel was an innovator who brought her own brand of style based on an ease, simplicity and practicality. These were things that suited her own sense of style, yet caught the imagination of a generation in what they represented for everyday working woman. And Elizabeth Matthews’ picture book is a tribute to that journey from a rather deprived childhood to the heights of the world of fashion.
And who else but the inimitable Katherine Hepburn could play Coco on Broadway when her life became a musical. Talk about independent women playing independent women!
The inside front and end covers of the picture book are filled with Chanel quotes, such as “The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.”, “In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.”, and my favorite is “How many cares one loses when one decides not to be something, but to be someone.” They add a keen insight into the thinking of this fashionable icon.
When I read this book, I kept remembering a quote I heard that goes something like, “ What would I attempt in life, if I knew I could not fail?” There are no guarantees such as that in real life.
It’s a wonderful thing to put a book in a young child’s hands that shows them that there are people who DO just that, they believe unerringly in themselves, and feel it is worth following the road less traveled.
Have your young reader follow the fashionable dreams of Coco and her Paris fashion life, and let them dream of what is possible.
Fans of Cartoon Network's Adventure Time series can choose any number of games from just about any app store in order to continue their adventures in the Land of Ooo, but the show's latest app, Game Wizard, gives players the power to design levels of game play as well.
At it's core, Game Wizard is a typical 2D sidescroller game that follows favorite characters from the show as they collect coins, battle villains with their awesome swordplay, and jump from level to level.
However, the magic truly happens when players exhaust the pre-installed levels and turn to the Create mode. The app walks creators through downloading and printing a tutorial kit and basic grid paper to get started, at which time they use the provided design vocabulary (plus signs for coins, wavy lines for moving blocks, etc.) and a ruler (or steady hand) to draw their game levels.
These pages can then be scanned into the app using the device's camera where they can be easily edited and multiple pages can be stitched together. The new levels can then be shared with the public for others to play.
While Game Wizard is technically aimed at kids and tweens, the game design aspect and continued popularity of the show with teens makes it a fun addition to any library's STEAM programming.
Early in my career I got a call from my rep asking me if I had ever heard of the Magic School Bus and if I wanted to illustrate a Magic School Bus book. Having no idea what I was agreeing to of course I said yes. As it turned out the animation series was just about to be released on PBS and things were really heating up for the publisher. They were looking for several artists to help illustrate books that would hit the market to coincide with the release of the PBS television show. It was about to go from a very popular book series to a very popular TV show to an even more popular book series based on the very popular TV show. How do you say no to that?
When artists sign up to work on licenses, art directors will often ask for a sample to see if the artist can handle that particular license. The artists job is to emulate the original creators work, in this case Bruce Degen, as closely as possible so that’s exactly what I did.
I studied Bruce’s work and practiced working with it until only his own mother could tell the difference, then I created a sample and sent it off to my rep. It was well received and I was in. I received a contract to work on my first Magic School Bus book. It was about Miss Fizzle’s class traveling to outer space. I was pretty unfamiliar with the series at that time but that was all about to change.
The manuscript showed up and I got to work. The process generally goes something like this. A publisher puts out the word they are looking for artists, usually by contacting a rep or artists they have worked with before and trust. Artists respond by submitting sample art. The artists who submit the samples they like best are offered a title or whatever the publisher needs them to do. With animated properties like the Magic School Bus the titles are often based on an actual episode. The publisher will send the artist all the material they need to do the best job possible. That usually includes some kind of spec manual with model sheets and a video of the episode. In the case of the Magic School bus it was such a new property the videos weren’t always totally finished when they showed up and once or twice the voices of characters like Phoebe or Dorothy Ann were done by the animation sound engineers. It was a little strange seeing this little girl characters with adult male voices.
The book was fun to work on and I was really thankful to put away the airbrush and work with watercolor again. It took me a while to adapt to Bruce Degen’s drawing style but he was pretty cool with letting the artist show their hand a bit. For those of you who have worked in licensing you’ll know this is exceedingly rare and so it though me at first. I had no idea which direction to go in. Did I follow the original books or go with the animated look? They were both very different and I ended up settling somewhere in between. After I finished my art I sent it off to my rep for review before it went to the publisher. I got a call from my rep first thing the next morning. I figured he was calling to congratulate me on a job well done. What else could it have been? Boy, was I ever wrong. What I received from him was some of the most severe criticism I had ever received in my entire career then and now. Mind you, this was not coming from the publisher or Bruce Degen this was coming just from my rep at that time, the publisher hadn’t even seen the art yet.
One of the page I had painted showed a couple of the characters sliding down an ice hill on Mars. Admittedly I knew this page wasn’t going to win me any awards but my rep really tore into that piece when he saw it. We went back and forth, me telling him it wasn’t so bad and him telling me it looked like a spit sink after a root canal. Hilarious now, devastating at the time. Anyhow he sent it back along with a couple of other pieces art and I worked herder on fixing them then I did on the entire book. I resubmitted in the nick of time with no further comments from my rep and off it went to the publisher.
The following week I got a nice note from Scholastic thanking me for a job well done. I worked on quite a few more books in that series and they all paid ridiculously well compared to any other publisher I was working with at the time. Although sometimes I question a few of the tactics my old rep used I did learn a lot from him. He later apologized for the remark and we laughed about it but aside from all that working on those books was a very special thing for me and I have a soft spot when I look through all that old art. Not because my rep berated me or because my art was in every single books store or library I could think of but because my son was such a huge fan of the Magic School Bus and we were able to spend a lot of time together watching the videos and reading the books. For him it was like Magic. I was invited to his classroom to draw with his class and even though I wasn’t Bruce Degen the rock star artist who’s name everyone recognized from the show I got to be a rock star for my son and his friends and that was magic.
So I'm going to try my best to share my predictions and we'll see how close I can get (probably not close at all!) Here are my predictions (and hopes!) for Monday morning:
I wish I had come across this one when I was making my Mock Caldecott list because it would have made our final list for sure. If I was on the committee, this is one I would be championing for-the texture, the use of words in the art, the collage style-it's all fantastic.
I think this may be a strong year for honor books and we may end up with quite a few depending on how the committee discussion and voting shakes down.
I think this wordless book will be getting some love.
The detail! It's gotta count for something!
Caldecott Dark Horse:
I have two possible dark horses this year:
I've only recently been seeing Flashlight crop on other Mock lists. When this one came across my desk, myself and all of my staff immediately said Caldecott! I hope we're right!
Photography never does well in award discussions, but if any book can do it, I think Viva Frida can!
No surprise there-I think Brown Girl Dreaming is a shoe-in for the top title.
Maybe it's just because I adored this book and am attached to it personally, but I really would love to see Snicker get honored!
It would be great to see a book featuring an average kid and the writing here is above average!
Fantasy for the win please! I think Glass Sentence has fantastic world building that could help this one in the final push for an honor.
Newbery Dark Horse:
Please, please, please can a graphic novel win this year???
Last year showed us that beginning chapter books have a chance and if any early chapter book has a shot, I think Dory Fantasmagory can lend itself to some fantastic discussion. I would love to hear critical discussion about this one!
This one is tough because I think it's a close call between two books, but I think in the end it will be Grasshopper Jungle.
I think Glory O'Brien's History of the Future is the other book that could end up winning and it's a close call, but I think one will be the winner and one will be an honor book. I would love to see both with shiny stickers on them!
Andrew Smith is a powerhouse writer and I think he can pull of an epic Printz Win and Honor this year!
If we see any non-fiction honored this year by the Printz committee, I think it will the Romanovs.
Printz Dark Horse:
I had a hard time thinking of a Printz Dark Horse just because I think the contenders are so strong this year. But if I had to pick one, I think would go with:
What are your predictions this year? Anything I left out?
The newish picture book biography series, "Ordinary People Change the World" by Brad Meltzer's a perfect nonfiction series for elementary students. We have the first few books in our classroom and I've noticed that several kids are picking them up on their own to read during independent reading time. They are great stories and are very accessible to young children.
These books look simpler than they are. I read the newest title, I Am Jackie Robinson this weekend and realized how packed the book is. The focus of the story and the theme of all of the books is one about heroes. So the story focuses on the things Jackie Robinson did to change the world. The stories is an engaging one for kids and the illustrations make them books that kids will pick up even without our nudging.
From a nonfiction reading standpoint, I plan to use these books to teach lots of mini lessons. The page layouts, the ways the talking bubbles share details that go beyond the main text, the timeline at the end of the book, and other features all make these books a new favorite nonfiction series for me.
I love this new edition and am looking forward to the next book in the series--I Am Lucille Ball coming in July.
This short clip tells a bit more about the series:
Just wanted to say a very big thank you for your support, very much appreciated, and that I shall not be posting on this blog until my next book is published - as I keep saying, the children will be grandparents before it is finally completed. Take care, much love, Carole.
Rare is the princess picture book that I find worth reviewing here. In fact, I even find the "anti-princess" picture books not worth mentioning. However, I LOVE fairy tales and I couldn't resist reading Sleeping Cinderella and Other Princess Mix-Ups by Stephanie Clarkson, with illustrations by Brigette Barrager. Clarkson takes four well known fairy tale princesses and imagines them fed up
I connected with Maral on Facebook because I swoon at her artwork and because she is a huge Francophile like me. She is relatively new to children’s books, but her work has been well received: selected in Society of Illustrators (Illustrators … Continue reading →
There’s a puzzle around economics. On the one hand, economists have the most policy influence of any group of social scientists. In the United States, for example, economics is the only social science that controls a major branch of government policy (through the Federal Reserve), or has an office in the White House (the Council of Economic Advisers). And though they don’t rank up there with lawyers, economists make a fairly strong showing among prime ministers and presidents, as well.
But as any economist will tell you, that doesn’t mean that policymakers commonly take their advice. There are lots of areas where economists broadly agree, but policymakers don’t seem to care. Economists have wide consensus on the need for carbon taxes, but that doesn’t make them an easier political sell. And on topics where there’s a wider range of economic opinions, like over minimum wages, it seems that every politician can find an economist to tell her exactly what she wants to hear.
So if policymakers don’t take economists’ advice, do they actually matter in public policy? Here, it’s useful to distinguish between two different types of influence: direct and indirect.
Direct influence is what we usually think of when we consider how experts might affect policy. A political leader turns to a prominent academic to help him craft new legislation. A president asks economic advisers which of two policy options is preferable. Or, in the case where the expert is herself the decisionmaker, she draws on her own deep knowledge to inform political choices.
This happens, but to a limited extent. Though politicians may listen to economists’ recommendations, their decisions are dominated by political concerns. They pay particular attention to advice that agrees with what they already want to do, and the rise of think tanks has made it even easier to find experts who support a preexisting position.
Research on experts suggests that direct advisory effects are more likely to occur under two conditions. The first is when a policy decision has already been defined as more technical than political—that experts are the appropriate group to be deciding. So we leave it to specialists to determine what inventions can be patented, or which drugs are safe for consumers, or (with occasional exceptions) how best to count the population. In countries with independent central banks, economists often control monetary policy in this way.
Experts can also have direct effects when possible solutions to a problem have not yet been defined. This can happen in crisis situations: think of policymakers desperately casting about for answers during the peak of the financial crisis. Or it can take place early in the policy process: consider economists being brought in at the beginning of an administration to inject new ideas into health care reform.
But though economists have some direct influence, their greatest policy effects may take place through less direct routes—by helping policymakers to think about the world in new ways.
For example, economists help create new forms of measurement and decision-making tools that change public debate. GDP is perhaps the most obvious of these. A hundred years ago, while politicians talked about economic issues, they did not talk about “the economy.” “The economy,” that focal point of so much of today’s chatter, only emerged when national income and product accounts were created in the mid-20th century. GDP changes have political, as well as economic, effects. There were military implications when China’s GDP overtook Japan’s; no doubt the political environment will change more when it surpasses the United States.
Less visible economic tools also shape political debate. When policymakers require cost-benefit analysis of new regulation, conversations change because the costs of regulation become much more visible, while unquantifiable effects may get lost in the debate. Indicators like GDP and methods like cost-benefit analysis are not solely the product of economists, but economists have been central in developing them and encouraging their use.
The spread of technical devices, though, is not the only way economics changes how we think about policy. The spread of an economic style of reasoning has been equally important.
Philosopher Ian Hacking has argued that the emergence of a statistical style of reasoning first made it possible to say that the population of New York on 1 January 1820 was 100,000. Similarly, an economic style of reasoning—a sort of Econ 101-thinking organized around basic concepts like incentives, efficiency, and opportunity costs—has changed the way policymakers think.
While economists might wish economic reasoning were more visible in government, over the past fifty years it has in fact become much more widespread. Organizations like the US Congressional Budget Office (and its equivalents elsewhere) are now formally responsible for quantifying policy tradeoffs. Less formally, other disciplines that train policymakers now include some element of economics. This includes master’s programs in public policy, organized loosely around microeconomics, and law, in which law and economics is an important subfield. These curricular developments have exposed more policymakers to basic economic reasoning.
The policy effects of an economic style of reasoning are harder to pinpoint than, for example, whether policymakers adopted an economist’s tax policy recommendation. But in the last few decades, new policy areas have been reconceptualized in economic terms. As a result, we now see education as an investment in human capital, science as a source of productivity-increasing technological innovations, and the environment as a collection of ecosystem services. This subtle shift in orientation has implications for what policies we consider, as well as our perception of their ultimate goals.
In the end, then, there is no puzzle. Economists do matter in public policy, even though policymakers, in fact, often ignore their advice. If we are interested in understanding how, though, we should pay attention to more than whether politicians take economists’ recommendations—we must also consider how their intellectual tools shape the very ways that policymakers, and all of us, think.
Continuing on my quest to find books for my soon to be nine-year old niece, I read Karen Harrington's Sure Signs of Crazy last week. While I enjoyed the book a lot and recommend it for the over ten crowd, I think I'm going to hold off my girl until she's a wee bit older.
Protagonist Sarah is 12 and new in town. She and her father move around a lot as Sarah's mother was the object of a notorious trial and is now committed to a mental hospital. Her father was also tried but found innocent; he still struggles a decade later to cope and while a loving father, definitely self-medicates with alcohol.
In the course of one summer, Sarah fulfills an English assignment by writing letters to Atticus Finch, crushes on the college boy across the street (we've all been there) and builds up her courage to challenge the family secrets. She's smart and funny and determined which makes for a great protagonist. Most interestingly though, considering her family drama, Sarah is also very easy to identify with and I'm sure many young readers will like her a lot.
For my purposes though, I think the alcohol and the reasons behind her mother's trial, are just too much for my particular nine-year old. At least a year, maybe two and she will be ready. I'll be keeping Sure Signs of Crazy for the future.