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1. Two Friends

Two Friends: Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass. 2016. Dean Robbins. Illustrated by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko. 2016. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Susan B. Anthony set out two saucers, two cups, and two slices of cake. Frederick Douglass arrived for tea.

Premise/plot: Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass were friends. This picture book for older readers imagines these two sitting down and enjoying tea together. Readers learn facts about Susan B. Anthony and facts about Frederick Douglass. Readers can see what these two had in common and why they supported one another.

My thoughts: I liked it. This one reminded me of last year's Chasing Freedom by Nikki Grimes. But I happened to like this one a bit better. Instead of trying to force all the biographical facts into dialogue, this book devotes a few pages per person. Readers still learn a little bit about each one. But it doesn't feel as forced perhaps, at least in my opinion. This one was also not as text-heavy.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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2. Winners Announced for the 2016 NAACP Image Awards

Image Awards (GalleyCat)The winners have been announced for this year’s NAACP Image Awards. The organization honored entertainers, filmmakers, movies, television shows, music, writers and works of literature.

Entertainment Weekly reports that the winners were revealed during a ceremony hosted by actor Anthony Anderson. We’ve posted the full list of winning book titles below. (via The Wrap)

2016 NAACP Image Award Winners (Literature Categories)

Outstanding Literary Work – Fiction: Stand Your Ground by Victoria Christopher Murrary (Touchstone)

Outstanding Literary Work – Non-Fiction: Spectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga by Pamela Newkirk (HarperCollins/Amistad)

Outstanding Literary Work – Debut Author: The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma (Little, Brown & Company)

Outstanding Literary Work – Biography/ Auto-Biography: Between The World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (Spiegel & Grau)

Outstanding Literary Work – Instructional: Soul Food Love: Healthy Recipes Inspired by One Hundred Years of Cooking in a Black Family by Alice Randall & Caroline Randall Williams (Clarkson Potter)

Outstanding Literary Work – Poetry: How to Be Drawn by Terrance Hayes (Penguin Books / Penguin Random House)

Outstanding Literary Work – Children: Gordon Parks: How the Photographer Captured Black and White America by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Jamey Christoph (Albert Whitman & Company)

Outstanding Literary Work – Youth/Teens: X: A Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz & Kekla Magoon (Candlewick Press)

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3. Cover Reveal & Author Snapshot: The Alarming Career of Sir Richard Blackstone by Lisa Doan

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Check out the cover for The Alarming Career of Sir Richard Blackstone by Lisa Doan (Sky Pony, 2017). From the promotional copy:

A funny middle grade mystery adventure complete with an unconventional knight, a science experiment gone awry, a giant spider, and a boy to save the day!

Twelve-year-old Henry Hewitt has been living by his wits on the streets of London, dodging his parents, who are determined to sell him as an apprentice. 

Searching for a way out of the city, Henry lands a position in Hampshire as an assistant to Sir Richard Blackstone, an aristocratic scientist who performs unorthodox experiments in his country manor. 

The manor house is comfortable, and the cook is delighted to feed Henry as much as he can eat. Sir Richard is also kind, and Henry knows he has finally found a place where he belongs.

But everything changes when one of Sir Richard’s experiments accidentally transforms a normal-sized tarantula into a colossal beast that escapes and roams the neighborhood. 

After a man goes missing and Sir Richard is accused of witchcraft, it is left to young Henry to find an antidote for the oversize arachnid. Things are not as they seem, and in saving Sir Richard from the gallows, Henry also unravels a mystery about his own identity.

Congratulations on your upcoming release! What do you think of your new cover?

I love it! Huge thanks to Sky Pony and my editor, Adrienne Szpyrka, for capturing the humor of the book while at the same time working in two prominent elements – the giant tarantula and a journal detailing a trip to South America.

The tarantula is Henry Hewitt’s problem and the journal is the key to figuring out what to do about it, which he must do to save his friend and protector, Sir Richard Blackstone.

More specifically, how does the art evoke the nuances of your book?

We wanted the journal to feel Old World, hence the faded brown, as this story takes place in the late 1700’s English countryside.

Sky Pony’s designers had the genius idea of having the tarantula holding the journal to tie it all together. The red and yellow lettering really pop and signal the lighthearted tone.

I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out.

Isn’t it every middle-grade writer’s dream to have a cover with a tarantula on it?

I know it has always been one of mine!

Cynsational Notes

Lisa Doan has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts and is the author of the award-winning series The Berenson Schemes (Lerner).

Operating under the idea that life is short, her occupations have included: master scuba diving instructor; New York City headhunter; owner-chef of a restaurant in the Caribbean; television show set medic; and deputy prothonotary of a county court. She currently works in social services and lives in West Chester, Pennsylvania.

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4. The Heart of a Grumpy Bear - The Valen-tiny Contest

So happy Susannah has developed another fun writing contest. My entry for the first "Valentiny Writing Contest" is below. Looking forward to reading all of the great entries. The Heart of a Grumpy Bear “I don’t want chocolate candy. I do not want a kiss. This is one holiday I surely can miss.” “But Bear, I made this valentine, cause you’re my bestest friend.” “Oh, Rabbit,

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5. The Importance of Writing Clips

A lot of writers hear the well-meaning advice that, in order to break in more easily, they should have some writing clips and credits to their resume. It’s good advice, and I especially don’t want to disenfranchise the many writers who have been actively pursuing this strategy with my answer, because it is a very worthwhile strategy.

In case you haven’t thought about this issue before, I’ll summarize here: When you’re an aspiring writer, you have a lot of ambition to write, but not a lot of platform. People aren’t buying what you want to sell, basically. Or, if they are, they aren’t really paying you for it. You’re probably getting opportunities to showcase your work on blogs and at other web-based venues that don’t have a budget to compensate contributors. Or maybe you start your own blog, like this ol’ hack did! This is how a lot of people get going.

Then you think that there has to be more out there that’s, well, more noteworthy to a potential publishing gatekeeper. So maybe you explore other avenues to showcase your work. Whether it’s in the children’s writing realm, say, Highlights Magazine, or in an unrelated area, like an op-ed for the local newspaper, or a poem in a general fiction literary journal, you start to set your sights higher.

Whether you try to gather clips in print journalism, the literary community, scientific or medical magazines (a lot of writers have done a lot of technical writing for their day jobs), etc., you’re basically writing and racking up pieces that someone else has vetted and decided are good enough to publish.

This all makes a lot of sense, right? If you want to write, write, and maybe the momentum of all your writing will speed up your efforts on the book publishing front. Being published is being published, no matter what you’re publishing. And writing professionals love to see writing credits. Right? Weeeeeeeeeell…

It’s not often that clear-cut. Publishing an op-ed in your local paper in Portland is not the magic ticket to calling attention to yourself with a children’s book editor in New York, unless, of course, your op-ed or Huffpo article causes such a stir that it goes “viral” and attracts a lot of attention or controversy. In fact, under my original name (a much longer version of “Kole”), I published an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, which is a notable newspaper that people have heard of. And I thought, for sure, this was my golden ticket. The day it ran, I waited for the phone to ring. Aaaaand…my mother was very proud of me. Then one man from Idaho took offense at my sense of humor. That’s about it.

The fact of the matter is, if you can say in your query that you’ve published with a top-tier publication that most casual readers have heard of, that’s going to be an amazing feather in your cap. And agents and editors might take notice. But it’s likely not going to get you a book publishing contract.

And outside of that, if you’re publishing on blogs, or in smaller literary magazines, or in venues that have nothing whatsoever to do with publishing novels, then your clips are going to tell a potential agent or editor one positive thing, but one positive thing only: That you’ve hustled a little and know a little bit about the process. And that’s a positive thing, because that might indicate that you’re at least somewhat easy to work with during the publishing process. But it’s not a guarantee of anything.

My main objection to splitting your focus and concentrating on amassing clips if your primary goal is to publish a book can be expressed in this recent post. The truth of the matter is, some journalists spend years trying to crack the New York Times for their own resumes. It’s an entirely new skillset. First, there’s learning how to write well enough that the Times would take interest. Then it’s cultivating contacts and editor relationships that will get you prime consideration. Then it’s learning the culture of the publication (and every publication has one, no matter how small they are) and learning how to work within it successfully. After a lot of effort, you may finally get published in the Times. But then you’re published in the Times, not in the book realm.

What’s missing from this picture of all the effort you’ve put in? Oh yeah, honing your novel craft, which is why you’re doing any of this to begin with. So gathering clips is phenomenal, but it doesn’t help you accomplish your primary goal directly. And there’s no guarantee that it will help you accomplish your primary goal indirectly, either. You may sink a few years into pitching freelance articles to magazines, distract yourself, and maybe emerge with one well-regarded piece in Real Simple…that has nothing to do with your novel.

Is that payoff worth it? Only you can decide. This strategy only seems to work well when you’re a journalist in your day job, and a novelist by night. Then you possess both skillsets already, and you can jump back and forth more easily. Otherwise, it’s like going through all the work and trouble of growing a new arm, just so you can give your primary hands better manicures. It seems like a lot more effort than it’s worth.

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6. Wholehearted in One Direction

DSC_0823

I love all things Gretchen Rubin, writer and podcaster extraordinaire who’s an expert on habits and happiness. She reads extensively and daily shares a Moment of Happiness quote to “remind you to make choices in your ordinary routine that will boost your happiness.” Here’s a recent favorite:

Happiness is essentially a state of going somewhere wholeheartedly, one-directionally, without regret or reservation.
-W.H. Sheldon

Click through to sign up for my quarterly newsletter and you’ll receive a free printable from my novel, Blue Birds. Enjoy!

The post Wholehearted in One Direction originally appeared on Caroline Starr Rose

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7. Flog a BookBubber 13

Many of the folks who utilize BookBub are self-published, and because we hear over and over the need for self-published authors to have their work edited, It seemed to me that it could be educational to take a hard look at their first pages. If you don’t know about BookBub, it’s a pretty nifty way to try to build interest in your work. The website is here.

I’m mostly sampling books that are offered for free. I’ve noticed that many of these folks use a prologue—this one does, but it’s so short I’m skipping ahead to the first chapter. Following is the first page and a poll. Then my comments are after the fold along with the book cover, the author’s name, and a link so you can take a look for yourself if you wish. At Amazon you can click on the Read More feature to get more of the chapter if you’re interested. There’s a second poll concerning the need for an editor.

Should this author have hired an editor? Here’s the the first page from a book by Dick Cluster.

“… too many changes at once,” Alex was saying. He recognized this for a rationalization, and an old, barnacle-encrusted one to boot. He wondered how many other times it had been enunciated, sotto voce, over this same slippery table, by men or women whose fingertips traced, as his did, circles of diluted bourbon on the black Formica top. He envied the piano player, whose dry fingers glided brilliantly over shiny keys.

The pianist, Meredith had said, was playing a song cycle by Franz Peter Schubert. Alex hadn’t been able to identify the composer, though he could have said it was a European who worked after Bach and before Stravinsky. He did happen to know one surprising fact about Schubert— at least it had been surprising to him— which was that he had died even younger than Mozart, at the age of thirty-one. “Hey, listen,” Alex had said more than once since coming upon this fact, “I’ve already outlived Schubert by nine years, and Che Guevara by one.”

Tonight Alex had expected jazz piano, not classical. And why not, when he had watched the pianist amble in from his break: a dapper man, rimless glasses and well-shaped mustache, a sort of older Herbie Hancock, though then Alex had realized that Herbie Hancock himself wasn’t so young anymore. The musician had sat down, flexed his long brown fingers, and conjured these august Germanic rhythms out of the machine.

Were you compelled to turn the page?

Did this writer need an editor? My notes and a poll follow.

Repulse monkeyThe writing and voice are good, but, as a little old lady once said in a hamburger commercial, “Where’s the beef?” A man sits at a table in a bar, musing. Then there’s some backstory. Then a piano player plays music. Story questions? None here and, with an opening this languid, I suspected it wouldn’t appear for far too many pages. I passed. You can turn the first page here.

Edit poll

Should this writer have hired an editor?

Your thoughts?

Ray

© 2016 Ray Rhamey

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8. चीन का मंकी ईयर

  चीन का मंकी ईयर चीन में मंकी ईयर मनाया जा रहा है सोचा कि क्यों ना आर्टिकल के साथ साथ  मंकी की फोटो भी ले ली जाए थोडा फील भी आ जाएगा …!! पर  शायद यहां के मंकी को मेरा फोटो लेना अच्छा नही लगा अरे बाप रे …. !!(जान बची सो लाखों पाए) […]

The post चीन का मंकी ईयर appeared first on Monica Gupta.

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9. An Electrifying Read!

Electric Ben: The Amazing Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin

By Robert Byrd

 

 

If you’ve only thought of Ben Franklin as a bespectacled white-haired colonist, flying a kite with a key attached, then you and your young reader are in for some ride.

But, I must warn you, just as the virtues espoused and exhibited by Ben included patience, you may need a bit of it as you navigate this book.

It’s lengthy and loaded with facts. But do not let its length deter you or young reader. It’s dense and compels you to delve deeper into the depths of Ben Franklin. But I can tell you that his life is presented in such a way that though it may be non-fiction, it is quite the page turner.

In his Author’s Note, Robert Byrd says to his readers:

 

                  With a figure as famous as

                  Franklin, there is an abundance

                  of information about his life. I

                  wasn’t going to discover any-

                  thing about him that wasn’t

                  already known, so I had to pick

                  and choose what I thought

                  was informative and visually

                  interesting…..I tried to present

                  events in Franklin’s life in the

                  most intriguing, yet respectful

                  way, and also providing excite-

                  ment and graphic variation with

                  each page turn.

 

 

Electric Ben is packed with information on Franklin’s hunger for knowledge, and one can feel the excitement as the book delineates and describes the amazing number of hats this man wore in his rich and varied life.

Do not underestimate the worth of the word “packed”, in Robert Byrd’s extraordinary picture book feat in Electric Ben. The art alone is worth the purchase of this picture book.

But, if you have the patience to plumb its depths with your young reader, both of you will come away in awe of this man among men. Are any of his like still around? I wonder.

Robert Byrd has managed to hone from dry historical facts, a Ben Franklin from youth to old age that is real and robust; a flesh and blood person whose authenticity, far-sightedness and insatiable curiosity was very hard to sate. And thank, heavens it wasn’t. For we are the beneficiaries.

You’ll hear of the Leather Apron Men in Boston who were craftsman and:

 

 

    Ben would always hold these artisans

    in high regard. They worked hard and

    were very skilled.

 

 

Even from the outset, on the front and rear covers of Electric Ben, the reader will find quotes from this innovator with such a keen mind, he was not content to merely grasp  knowledge, but he had a thirst to disseminate it to others.

Perhaps, one might not think sibling rivalry  an essential topic as regards Robert Byrd’s bio on Ben, but it’s there early on…with a brother that happens to be in the same line of work, as a writer and printer.

You can just hear the howls from brother James, eldest of Josiah and Abiah Folger Franklin’s brood of fourteen children.

Ben, as the youngest, was apprenticed to his brother for nine years, at James’ paper called the New England Courant.

It provided Ben writing opportunities as a 16 year-old; some not to older brother’s liking. For he quickly developed a following all his own under the pen name, Silence Dogood.

And James was furious as Silence champions “women’s right to education and criticized everything from bad poetry to Harvard students.” A brotherly brouhaha ensues and Ben leaves with the quote:

 

             I had already made myself

obnoxious to the governing

party.

 

Sailing to Philadelphia, brother James saw to it that Ben was “banned in Boston.” And there he thrives. Writing in the Gazette, a paper owned by a friend, it gives Ben a job, but ever a striver, he soon owns the paper.

And this is just the start of a life that included inventions including the lightning rod, Franklin stove, the famous bifocals and the discovery that lightning WAS electricity.

Not satisfied, there is his political participation as one of the Founding Fathers of a new nation and someone that helped write the Declaration of Independence and a framer of the Constitution no less!

Ben was also the United States Ambassador to France with a voracious and consuming knowledge of science, music, mathematics, history and more.

This book prompted me to get a copy of Poor Richard’s Almanac, selling at that time, some 10,000 copies a year, equal to perhaps two million today!

Mr. Byrd has even reprinted a page from the 1733 copy. Here are three quotes from it:

 

           People who are wrapped up in

          themselves make small packages.

 

Fish and visitors stink in three days.

 

          If you would know the value of money

          try to borrow some.

 

 

It was printed for some twenty-five years and made Ben rich, and its readers richer still… in knowledge.

I have to find a copy.

In the meantime, please read Electric Ben by Richard Byrd.

It’s electrifying!

 

 

 

 

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10. Miss Jane/Brad Watson: Reflections

I've written about Brad Watson here before.

I've told you the story—of how, through my first editor, W.W. Norton's Alane Mason, I began to hear this writer's name. How my dear friend Alyson Hagy, with whom Watson now teaches at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, has perpetuated the tales about his talent. How I have read his books myself, his essays, his interviews, and been grateful for the care he extends toward literature, the idea he seems to represent (and that he shares with Alyson) that, even today, in a world of quick and trending fiction, real literature rises.

Watson has a new book coming. It's called Miss Jane.

Friends, whomever you are, whatever you love, this one's for you. This one—the story of a young girl born with a genital difference in the early 20th century south—transcends all categories, will touch all hearts, will go down in history as a classic. I see no other way around it.

Inspired by Watson's own great-aunt, Miss Jane is the story of a child limited by her body and uncircumscribed by her heart. She discovers her own difference over time. She discovers it in parallel to discovering the beauty of things on the farm where she lives ("the burst of salty liquid from a plump and ice-cold oyster, the soft skins of wild mushrooms, the quick and violent death of a chicken, the tight and unopened bud of a flower blossom") and in the heart of the older doctor who treats her with kindness, adopts her as a near-daughter, and explains the facts of life—and the facts of her life—as simply as the truth allows. Jane will learn the art of aloneness. The art of forgiveness. The art of self-acceptance. She will have to starve herself in order to mask her terrible incontinence. She will have to say goodbye to a hope she has. She will have to live without physical intimacy, and yet—she will not live without love.

Watson's sentences are simpler here than they have been in his other work. His story streams. He takes the attention away from his own narrative self so as to give everything to Jane. It's the tenderness (without sentimentality) that I most admire here. The wait and the wrestling with the right scenes.

Paragraphs like these:

There were innumerable little faint trails her father said were game trails. Animal trails. Their faint presence like the lingering ghosts of the animals' passing. There was a particular little clearing she believed she had discovered, only her, filled with yellow sunlight on clear days, its long grass harboring primroses and wild sunflowers. A meadow she considered to be her very own, her place. The eyes of all the wild, invisible animals watching her. Time was suspended, or did not exist. She could linger there as long as she liked and when she returned from it no time had passed at all since she had stepped into the clearing and then awakened from it. That's what it was like.

The meadow did not exist if she wasn't in it.

Congratulations to Brad Watson. Congratulations to Alane, who, according to the book's acknowledgments, has waited a long time for this.

It was worth the wait.

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11. This Side of Wild: Mutts, Mares and Laughing Dinosaurs by Gary Paulsen: Book Review

ARC received at no charge to facilitate review.

When author, Gary Paulsen, rescues an elderly poodle named Corky from animal shelter, he discovers a spunk and lack of fear that makes the dog an amazing guard dog who returns the favor of saving a life. Gretchen, a dog who drinks from a mug, convinces the author that animals have an understanding and way of communicating that goes beyond what our minds can fathom. Who knew a mare would actually have the capability of protecting a jackrabbit from coyotes or that a bird could not only mimic a president but maybe even feel lonely? Some fascinating insights into the relationships animals have with humans.

Overall, the book felt like a compilation of notes about animals that didn't quite make it into Paulsen's adventure novels. While not Paulsen's best work, the reluctant reader may love the different anecdotes on animals relation to man. With each chapter being a different experience, the older middle grade reader can merely enjoy the short stories rather than think through a plot.

Rating:

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12. Morena Baccarin to Narrate the Lady Midnight Audiobook

Morena Baccarin (GalleyCat)Morena Baccarin will serve as a narrator for the Lady Midnight audiobook. This actress (pictured, via) has become well-known for taking on roles in literary-themed projects such as the Gotham TV series and the Deadpool film adaptation.

Lady Midnight will be the first installment of Cassandra Clare’s newest young adult trilogy, The Dark Artifices. The story will be set in the Shadowhunters universe. Clare intends for this project to be a sequel to the six-part Mortal Instruments series. She announced on Twitter that the audiobook will be released on March 8.

Here’s more from USA Today: “It’s been five years since the events of City of Heavenly Fire that brought the Shadowhunters to the brink of oblivion. Emma Carstairs is no longer a child in mourning, but a young woman bent on discovering what killed her parents and avenging her losses. Together with her parabatai Julian Blackthorn, Emma must learn to trust her head and her heart as she investigates a demonic plot that stretches across Los Angeles, from the Sunset Strip to the enchanted sea that pounds the beaches of Santa Monica. If only her heart didn’t lead her in treacherous directions…” (via The Fandom)

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13. Using Media Literacy to Examine Diversity In Literature

Guest BloggerIn this guest post, author and media literacy expert Tina L. Peterson, Ph.D., demonstrates how media literacy skills can help readers think deeply about diversity in books.

When I was a kid, I rarely paid attention to the ethnicities of characters in my favorite books. I probably assumed that, because I related to them, they were like me – white, suburban, and middle class. Despite the fact that many of my classmates and close friends were Latino and Asian, it didn’t occur to me that the characters in most books I read didn’t represent the mix of people in my life.

It was only when I got hooked on The Baby-Sitters Club series that I began to notice book characters’ ethnicities. Author Ann M. Martin incorporated characters of color in a way that gave each person a voice, rather than making non-white characters part of the backdrop to a white protagonist’s experience. The character Jessi Ramsey felt like my first black friend.

As I grew up I began reading in a more critical way, and questioning the stories and characters I encountered. In college I learned that the skills I was developing had a name: media literacy. This type of literacy can encourage young people to think about the representations they see in books, and identify perspectives that are emphasized as well as those that may be missing. It can help young readers (and the adults who guide them) appreciate the value of diversity in children’s literature.

Media literacy is an approach to education that encourages active reading/viewing and critical evaluation of media messages of all types including books, TV shows, video games, movies, music, and social media. Three of the five key questions of media literacy can guide discussions of children’s books:

DIVERSITY through the MEDIA LITERACY LENSWho created this message?

All too often, an author is just a name on a cover, and readers don’t think about the people who write the stories they enjoy. Encouraging young people to learn about their favorite authors can help them understand whose perspectives they are seeing. How many are black, or Latino, or Asian? How many are men, and how many are women?

This discussion doesn’t have to lead to tokenism in a reading list, but rather to an awareness of who tells the stories they enjoy. It’s also useful for children to learn that they can relate to an author who might seem different from them.

What lifestyles, values and points of view are represented in, or omitted from, this message?

The answer to this question varies widely in books for children as well as adults. For example, the points of view represented in a Nancy Drew novel (white, female, affluent) are in stark contrast to those in one of Matt de la Peña’s books (Latino, male, working class).

Encouraging students to identify perspectives that are emphasized or missing from the books they read can help them expand their horizons and imagine other world-views. In addition, seeking out books that include points of view they don’t usually encounter can cultivate empathy.

How might different people understand this message differently from me?

As Hamlet suggests to Horatio, ‘there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.’ Young readers should be encouraged to share with their peers the meanings they make of books, and the knowledge that informs those meanings.

Many may be surprised that another’s interpretation differs from their own. A book that incorporates Spanish or Arabic words may be understood differently by a child who speaks one of those languages at home. A black child who has heard about racial discrimination or experienced it firsthand might read a story about Rosa Parks differently than a white child would.

Media literacy education encourages critical reading and consideration of diverse points of view. It’s a productive and useful approach given the increasingly global everyday culture of the 21st century, when young people may encounter difference in their peers more than any generation did before them. Media literacy and intentional diversity in children’s literature can ensure that difference is treated as an opportunity for learning.


Tina PetersonTina L. Peterson, Ph.D. is the author of Oscar and the Amazing Gravity Repellent (Capstone) and serves on the leadership council of the National Association for Media Literacy Education. More information is available at tinalpeterson.com

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14. Reading to Babies


The Friends of the Dallas Public Library recently started giving away copies of Read to Me by Judi Moreillon to new parents at the Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, Texas. Read to Me encourages family members to read aloud to their children.  It’s a nice gift to welcome a baby to the community.

You can read the January 30, Dallas Morning News story about how the Parkland Health & Hospital System has partnered with the Dallas Public Library and the Friends of the Dallas Public Library to give babies born this year a copy of Read to Me, a board book about reading to babies and children.  The Dallas Morning News followed up with an editorial on February 2, congratulating the Friends of the Dallas Public Library for their efforts promoting early literacy skills that will help the children in the Dallas community.

Reading to Your Own Baby

For all the families who don’t own a copy of Read to Me, what tips can I, as a librarian, offer you about reading aloud to your children?

First of all, relax and have fun. The attention you are giving your child is making your child happy. You might think of yourself as a “bad” reader, but your child thinks you are a superstar.

Board books, those heavy cardboard books, are good for children 0-2 years of age. Board books are meant to be chewed, hugged, thrown and loved.  Chewing is normal. Babies test their world with their mouths.  That’s why publishers make books safe for babies to put in their mouths.

What should you read to a child? Infants and toddlers like books with photos of other babies. Your baby will probably pat the books when they like a face on the page. Infants will enjoy hearing your voice no matter what you read.

Older toddlers enjoy books about numbers, shapes, colors or ABCs. Rhyming books are a good choice too.

There is no rule that you have to read the whole book at one time. If your child gets up to run around, that’s okay. Books can be picked up and read at a later time. Or, if your child chose one of those really long stories and YOU are tired, you can just read one sentence or make up a story about the picture on the page. 

Now go read a book to your baby and have fun sharing a story together.

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15. Giveaway: The Defiance Trilogy by CJ Redwine (US Only)

Defiance, Deception, and Deliverance by  C.J. Redwine Release Dates: 8/28/12, 8/27/13, 8/26/14   About the Books Within the walls of Baalboden, beneath the shadow of the city’s brutal leader, Rachel Adams has a secret. While other girls sew dresses, host dinner parties, and obey their male Protectors, Rachel knows how to...

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16. Interview: Suzanne Nelson

Please welcome to the blog author Suzanne Nelson, winner of the Sydney Taylor Honor Award in the Teen Readers Category for her novel Serendipity's Footsteps.

What inspired you to write Serendipity's Footsteps? Did you plan from the onset to tie various plotlines together through a pair of shoes, or did the characters' individual stories come to you first?

There were so many inspirations for Serendipity's Footsteps. Versions of Ray and Pinny had been in my mind for over a decade, and I'd even tried once, years ago, writing a vastly different rendition of their story where they were biological sisters. Sixty or so pages into that story, though, I realized it wasn't working and shelved it. Then, a few years ago, I saw a single red slingback sitting atop a boulder in my town. It spurred a conversation with my sister about lost shoes. We tried to unravel the mystery of all the shoes we spotted hanging in trees or laying abandoned on roadsides. What were their stories? Who'd left them behind? It was my sister who asked me to write a novel about lost shoes. She's always loved shoes and told me, "Just write it for me." Because she's my best and most loved and trusted friend, I began writing for her. Then, as I wrote, without me even being fully aware of how pieces were falling into place, Dalya and her story were born. Once Dalya came to me, Ray and Pinny appeared beside her. Maybe they'd been waiting for her the whole time. Needless to say, I knew that these three heroines needed to come together. They each needed families and love, and the story's pale pink shoes became the key to their unbreakable bond. Really, writing the book was as much about serendipity for me as it was for my three heroines. I love Dalya, Ray, and Pinny and consider them kindred sisters and family. They exist for me, real as any other people, and so do the shoes they love.

Dayla, Ray, and Pinny have distinct personalities and voices. Is there a little piece of you in each of them? My Knopf editor and dear friend Michelle Frey tells me that she sees some of me in each of my three heroines, so it's probably true. I can't say with confidence that I could ever possess Dalya's resilience, because I've never experienced anything like her tragedies. Still, I admire her strength of spirit, her loyalty to her faith, culture, and family, and her deep capacity for love. I'd like to believe I carry some of those traits within me, too. I'm as passionate about writing as Ray is about her music. As a teenager, I sometimes wished to escape my life like Ray does. But who doesn't dream of running away at some point or other? The idea of reinventing yourself in a new place and starting fresh without obligations to anyone or anything can be appealing, until you start thinking about how lonely it would be. I have some of Ray's selfishness and outspokenness, too, although maybe I've learned to temper those shortcomings through the years (only my family can tell you how successful I've been in my efforts.). As for Pinny and her quest for the "More of Life," the joy she finds in so much of the world around her--I strive to find "More" joy and love in my life each and every day. I'm not as much of an optimist as she is, but I believe in magical thinking and sucking the marrow out of every moment life has to offer.

Did you model any of the characters after people you know or admire?

None of the characters are based directly on people I know personally. However, the emotions Dalya experiences in the wake of her losses, and the decisions she makes in her personal life to preserve and honor her family and her Jewish heritage and identity, were informed by some close friends who shared their family's Holocaust survival stories with me. I have such great admiration for these friends who continually work to protect their family's histories and faith and I hoped to convey some of this with Dalya's character. Pinny's character and story, as well, were influenced indirectly by an experience I had as a teen. My senior year of high school, I tutored a three-year-old boy who had Down Syndrome. The afternoons I spent with Troy were some of the most memorable and rewarding of my adolescence, and I've stayed in touch with the Drake family through the years. Troy and his parents opened my eyes to the challenges so many people with special needs face in finding meaningful employment and independence. It was so important to him and to his family that he work in a field he truly loved. Troy is in his twenties now and has his own Etsy business, Doodle Duck Design. Talking with the Drakes about their journey to find ways for Troy to live his "More of Life" helped me develop Pinny's story. I hope Pinny's search to find fulfillment in her life and work reflects that.

What are the biggest challenges - and rewards - when writing and researching historical fiction?

Research is one of the most fascinating parts of writing historical fiction. I love it so much that for me, the biggest challenge of researching is knowing when to stop! Then there's the problem of having to choose which pieces of research to include in my story, and trying to glean what facts will hold the most interest for readers. It's a time-consuming process, but one that I truly enjoy.

What resources did you use while writing and revising Serendipity's Footsteps?

With Serendipity's Footsteps, I read letters, diary entries, and first-hand accounts from Jewish children and teen refugees who came to the United States prior to and during World War II. From the mid 1930s to the early 1940s, one thousand Jewish children were brought to our country from Europe as part of an American kindertransport. All of those one thousand children left their parents behind in Europe and many never saw them again. They were placed with foster families around the country. Many of the children didn't know English when they arrived, were placed in school classes with younger students, and struggled with loneliness and coping with the grief of the terrible losses of the families they left behind. Learning about the obstacles they overcame and the strength and courage they had in such tragic circumstances helped me portray the difficulties Dalya faced in her transition to America.

Although my visit to Dachau Concentration Camp took place years ago, that visit has always haunted me. I drew on my memories of it when writing the novel. I also contacted two lovely professors, Dr. Buser and Dr. Ley, in Germany who were experts in the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp and its history, and they answered my numerous questions about that specific camp. Dr. Joselit, Professor of Judaic Studies and History at George Washington University, also gave me wonderful insight into Jewish life and culture in 1930s and 40s New York City. In the end, I was fortunate to have a number of knowledgeable people, here and overseas, guide my research and am so grateful to all of them for their help.

Your modern day romantic comedies include Cake Pop Crush, Hot Cocoa Hearts, Bacon Me Crazy, and Macarons at Midnight. Did you always plan for these stories to be a connected series?

This series started out as a single book, Cake Pop Crush. My Scholastic editor and I were so thrilled to see how popular that book became, and the other companion books followed as a result. Even though the books all have some fun baking theme, they each have different characters and a distinct plot, so they don't have to be read in any specific order. There will be a fifth foodie romance book coming in 2017, titled Donut Go Breaking My Heart. The style of writing for this series is very different from the style of Serendipity's Footsteps. The baking series is lighter and geared towards a younger, middle grade audience. It's fun writing the baking books because it gives me a break from the more serious topics and themes I'm drawn to in my other novels for older readers.

Do you like baking? If so, what are your specialties?

I am giggling at this question, because the honest truth is that I am not as much of a baker as my Cake Pop series might lead readers to believe. When I was experimenting with cake pop recipes for Cake Pop Crush, I actually set a bowl of candy melts on fire in my microwave. I had to run out onto my back porch with the flaming Tupperware to extinguish it under the pouring rain! My family thought it was hilarious.

Cake pop mishaps aside, I do enjoy baking with my three kids. I have a particular weakness for gooey brownies and white chocolate chip cookies and gobble them warm straight out of the oven. My five-year-old daughter is especially passionate about baking, and her love for it rubs off on me. We made some cupcakes a few weeks ago that had mountains of fluorescent icing so high they could've rivaled Mount Everest.

You have also worked as a book editor. How did your work as an editor inform your writing, and vice versa?

I don't think I ever would have become a published author without having been an editor first. Learning the ins and outs of the publishing process and working with other authors on their manuscripts was the best education I received as a writer. Because I was able to see what needed to be revised or reworked in other people's manuscripts, I learned how to view my own writing with a more critical eye. I also learned that you have to write what you're passionate about but also what fills a need in the current book market. Being a writer as well as an editor also gave me great empathy for other struggling writers, and when I had to reject a submission I tried to do it as nicely and encouragingly as I could.

Describe your current favorite go-to pair of shoes for daily wear.

Right now we're in the depths of winter here in Connecticut, and I have this enormous pair of brown fuzzy boots that I wear to wade through the snow and ice. They're so comfortable and warm. For the most part though, because most days I work from home, I keep my feet toasty in some snug slippers. Boring? Maybe, but absolutely essential for my creativity and productivity!

How about your most fun pair of shoes?

I have a pair of glam handmade shoes that are decorated with peacock feathers and another pair of glossy, cherry red peep-toe heels that make me feel beautiful inside and out every time I slip them on. Walking in them feels akin to teetering on a tightrope, but they're absolutely worth it!

List ten of your favorite books. Any genre, any style.

Disclaimer: This is an eclectic mix of classical, contemporary, adult and children's literature. I could easily add another hundred titles to this list (there are so many incredible books in the world!), but these ten are stories I turn to again and again.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams
The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
The Blue Castle by LM Montgomery
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by K.G. Campbell (And really anything written by Kate DiCamillo!)
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Holes by Louis Sachar
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson


Congratulations to all of the recipients of The Sydney Taylor Book Award! Follow the blog tour featuring the 2016 gold and silver medalists all this week, February 8th-February 12th, hosted at a variety of blogs. Click here for the full blog tour schedule.

Learn more about the Sydney Taylor Honor Award.
Visit the People of the Books Blog.
Visit Suzanne Taylor's website.

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17. New Release Giveaway, Interview, and Round Up for 2/8-2/14

It's a quiet week in YA Fiction, but that doesn't mean that the books that are releasing are any less great. This week, we're giving away a copy of Nicole Castroman's BLACKHEARTS for our US readers.

Happy reading,

Jocelyn, Martina, Lindsey, Erin, Susan, Sam, Shelly, Sarah, Sandra, Kristin, and Anisaa

YA BOOK GIVEAWAYS THIS WEEK

Blackhearts
by Nicole Castroman
Hardcover Giveaway
U.S. Only

Simon Pulse
Released 2/9/2016

Blackbeard the pirate was known for striking fear in the hearts of the bravest of sailors. But once he was just a young man who dreamed of leaving his rigid life behind to chase adventure in faraway lands. Nothing could stop him—until he met the one girl who would change everything.

Edward "Teach" Drummond, son of one of Bristol's richest merchants, has just returned from a year-long journey on the high seas to find his life in shambles. Betrothed to a girl he doesn’t love and sick of the high society he was born into, Teach dreams only of returning to the vast ocean he’d begun to call home. There's just one problem: convincing his father to let him leave and never come back.

Following her parents' deaths, Anne Barrett is left penniless and soon to be homeless. Though she’s barely worked a day in her life, Anne is forced to take a job as a maid in the home of Master Drummond. Lonely days stretch into weeks, and Anne longs for escape. How will she ever realize her dream of sailing to Curaçao—where her mother was born—when she's stuck in England?

From the moment Teach and Anne meet, they set the world ablaze. Drawn to each other, they’re trapped by society and their own circumstances. Faced with an impossible choice, they must decide to chase their dreams and go, or follow their hearts and stay.

Purchase Blackhearts at Amazon
Purchase Blackhearts at IndieBound
View Blackhearts on Goodreads

YA BOOK GIVEAWAYS LAST WEEK: WINNERS

Almost Midnight by C.C. Hunter - Ellie M.
Banished by Kimberley Griffiths Little - Kimberly V.
Games Wizards Play by Diane Duane - Caitlin O.
Unhooked by Lisa Maxwell - Stephanie H.

MORE YOUNG ADULT FICTION IN STORES NEXT WEEK WITH AUTHOR INTERVIEWS

Red Ink
by Julie Mayhew
Hardcover
Candlewick
Released 2/9/2016

A sharp-witted teenager discovers surprising truths after her mother’s death in a wry and heartrending novel touching on denial, identity, and family lore.

When her mother is knocked down and killed by a London bus, fifteen-year-old Melon Fouraki is left with no family worth mentioning. Her mother, Maria, never did introduce her to a living, breathing father. The indomitable Auntie Aphrodite, meanwhile, is hundreds of miles away on a farm in Crete, and she is not likely to jump on a plane to come to East Finchley anytime soon. But at least Melon has The Story. The Story is the Fouraki family fairy tale. A story is something.

Balanced with tenderness and humor, this time-shifting novel offers a narrator by turns angry and vulnerable, hurt and defiant as she struggles with sudden grief—and the unfolding process of finding out who she really is.

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about Red Ink?

I am endlessly intrigued by the stories we tell and, in particular, the stories we tell ourselves to make life feel achievable and bearable, and sometimes to make it magical. So this is the part of Red Ink I love the most, the story that Maria tells and also the story that Melon tells herself. I’m fascinated by what happens when people realise the stories they have told themselves are not true. Many of the characters I write in my books and plays are emerging from denial and are forced to make change. It can feel like a disaster when it’s happening to you but it’s actually a brilliant beginning. A butterfly moment. The other reason I love this aspect of the book is because I enjoy hearing other people’s family anecdotes. You know they’ve been embellished over the years to make them bigger and funnier, but I don’t care. That it’s a good story is what matters.

Purchase Red Ink at Amazon
Purchase Red Ink at IndieBound
View Red Ink on Goodreads


MORE YOUNG ADULT NOVELS NEW IN STORES NEXT WEEK


Glass Sword
by Victoria Aveyard
Hardcover
HarperTeen
Released 2/9/2016

Mare Barrow’s blood is red—the color of common folk—but her Silver ability, the power to control lightning, has turned her into a weapon that the royal court tries to control.

The crown calls her an impossibility, a fake, but as she makes her escape from Maven, the prince—the friend—who betrayed her, Mare uncovers something startling: she is not the only one of her kind.

Pursued by Maven, now a vindictive king, Mare sets out to find and recruit other Red-and-Silver fighters to join in the struggle against her oppressors.

But Mare finds herself on a deadly path, at risk of becoming exactly the kind of monster she is trying to defeat.

Will she shatter under the weight of the lives that are the cost of rebellion? Or have treachery and betrayal hardened her forever?

Purchase Glass Sword at Amazon
Purchase Glass Sword at IndieBound
View Glass Sword on Goodreads

* * * *


Little White Lies
by Brianna Baker and F. Bowman Hastie
Hardcover
Soho Teen
Released 2/9/2016

Seventeen-year-old honors student Coretta White's Tumblr, Little White Lies--a witty commentary on race and current events, as well as an exposé of her brilliant-yet-clueless parents--has just gone viral. She's got hundreds of thousands of followers; she's even been offered a TV deal. But Coretta has a confession: she hasn't been writing her own posts. Overwhelmed with the stress of keeping up with her schoolwork and applying for colleges, she has secretly hired a forty-one-year-old ghostwriter named Karl Ristoff to help her with the Tumblr. His contributions have helped make it a sensation, but unable to bear the guilt, Coretta eventually confesses the scandalous truth to a select few to free herself of the burden.

The fallout is almost instantaneous. Before she knows it, her reputation has been destroyed. The media deal disappears. Even her boyfriend breaks up with her. Then Karl is thrust into the limelight, only to suffer a precipitous fall himself. Ultimately, the two join forces to find out who is responsible for ruining both of their lives . . . someone who might even have had the power to fuel their success in the first place. And to exact justice and a clever revenge, they must truly come clean to each other.

Purchase Little White Lies at Amazon
Purchase Little White Lies at IndieBound
View Little White Lies on Goodreads

* * * *


Peas and Carrots
by Tanita S. Davis
Hardcover
Knopf Books for Young Readers
Released 2/9/2016

A rich and memorable story from a Coretta Scott King honor award-winning author about a teenage foster girl looking for a place to call home.

Dess knows that nothing good in life lasts: her mother’s sobriety will inevitably fade, her abusive father’s absence is never long enough, and her brother Austin—the one bright spot in their family—was put into foster care when he was still a baby. Disappointment is never far away, and that’s a truth that Dess has learned to live with.

Dess’s mother’s arrest is just the latest in a long line of disappointments, but this one lands the teen with Austin’s foster family. Dess doesn’t exactly fit in with the Carters. They’re so happy, so comfortable, so normal, and Hope, their teenage daughter, is so hopelessly naïve to the harsh realities of the world. Dess and Hope couldn’t be more unlike each other, but Austin loves them both like sisters. Over time their differences, insurmountable at first, fall away to reveal two girls who want the same thing: to belong.

Purchase Peas and Carrots at Amazon
Purchase Peas and Carrots at IndieBound
View Peas and Carrots on Goodreads

* * * *


Reign of Shadows
by Sophie Jordan
Hardcover
HarperTeen
Released 2/9/2016

Seventeen years ago, an eclipse cloaked the kingdom of Relhok in perpetual darkness. In the chaos, an evil chancellor murdered the king and queen and seized their throne. Luna, Relhok’s lost princess, has been hiding in a tower ever since. Luna’s survival depends on the world believing she is dead.

But that doesn’t stop Luna from wanting more. When she meets Fowler, a mysterious archer braving the woods outside her tower, Luna is drawn to him despite the risk. When the tower is attacked, Luna and Fowler escape together. But this world of darkness is more treacherous than Luna ever realized.

With every threat stacked against them, Luna and Fowler find solace in each other. But with secrets still unspoken between them, falling in love might be their most dangerous journey yet.

Purchase Reign of Shadows at Amazon
Purchase Reign of Shadows at IndieBound
View Reign of Shadows on Goodreads

* * * *


Where Futures End
by Parker Peevyhouse
Hardcover
Kathy Dawson Books
Released 2/9/2016

Five teens.
Five futures.
Two worlds.
One ending.

One year from now, Dylan develops a sixth sense that allows him to glimpse another world.

Ten years from now, Brixney must get more hits on her social media feed or risk being stuck in a debtors' colony.

Thirty years from now, Epony scrubs her entire online profile from the web and goes “High Concept.”

Sixty years from now, Reef struggles to survive in a city turned virtual gameboard.

And more than a hundred years from now, Quinn uncovers the alarming secret that links them all.

Five people, divided by time, will determine the fate of us all. These are stories of a world bent on destroying itself, and of the alternate world that might be its savior--unless it's too late.

Purchase Where Futures End at Amazon
Purchase Where Futures End at IndieBound
View Where Futures End on Goodreads

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18. Psylocke Brandishes Her Katana in the New X-Men: Apocalypse Teaser

A new teaser was unveiled for the X-Men: Apocalypse movie during the Super Bowl. The video embedded above offers glimpses of Oscar Isaac as the primary antagonist and Olivia Munn as Psylocke.

Entertainment Weekly reports that other members of the cast include Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique, Michael Fassbender as Magneto, and Alexandra Shipp as Storm. Bryan Singer served as the director for this adaptation project.

USA Today reports that the theatrical release date has been scheduled for May 27. Click here to watch the first teaser video. (via Maxim)

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19. Bright Smoke, Cold Fire: Exclusive Cover Reveal + Giveaway

When Rosamund Hodge asked whether I’d be interested in revealing the cover for her new book Bright Smoke, Cold Fire, I did something I rarely do: I said yes immediately, sight unseen. Because: Her two previous books, Cruel Beauty and Crimson Bound, have been among my favorite YA retellings Both of those covers were gorgeous, and captured the rapturous feeling of her darkly romantic fairy tales Rosamund has written so many fascinating guest posts before. I knew we’d have a treat for our readers, especially having read the synopsis, which says it was inspired by Romeo and Juliet…but with necromancers. (!!!) But oh my stars, I still wasn’t prepared for what she sent. Are you ready to set your eyes upon this vision?     Are you sure?     Just look at this beauty!   The mood of this cover is utterly gorgeous–I love the somber colors contrasted with... Read more »

The post Bright Smoke, Cold Fire: Exclusive Cover Reveal + Giveaway appeared first on The Midnight Garden.

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20. First Part of Gotham Stories Motion Comic Series Released

FOX, Warner Bros. TV, and DC Entertainment plan to release a motion comic series called Gotham Stories. According to Comic Book Resources, the creators behind this project intend to use this original story to connect “both halves of Gotham season two.”

IGN reports that the first installment, entitled Penguin’s Cold Surprise, introduces fans of this TV show to a new antagonist: Mr. Freeze. The video embedded above also features two more of the Dark Knight’s most memorable archenemies: Selina Kyle and The Penguin.

Gotham will return with a new episode set to air on Feb. 29. Who’s your favorite villain from the Batman universe? (via ComicBook.com)

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21. Monday Poetry Stretch - Trine

The trine (prounounced treen) is a French Poetic form consisting of three rhyming couplets and a triplet. There is no fixed meter or syllable count. The rhyme scheme is a a b b c c a b c.

So, there's your challenge for the week. I hope you'll join me in writing a trine (or two). Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

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22. Chai Lights--February 8, 2016

  Shalom (that's "hello" in Hebrew) and welcome to YABC's newest column, Chai­Lights! In this column, we'll explore the best of contemporary Jewish­themed books for young children, middle graders, and teens.   The name of this column infuses the word "highlights" with a uniquely Jewish pun. Chai is the Hebrew word...

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23. What Are The Rules (if any) When Writing About Real World Political Figures

Hello Glen! It has been a good while since I have asked a question on the site! I wanted to know if there were any hard and fast rules regarding

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24. Happy birthday Carro


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25. Eyes in the wood.

IMG_1155

 

 

Eyes in the Wood.

 

Someone said to go there.

To walk down the tree-lined lane

And enter the moss covered passageway

Of beech and hazel.

Deeper now with thicker moss beneath my feet,

I step back into the past,

And wonder whose steps I have followed

Into the darkening shadows.

Silence is everywhere.

Moss covered and listening always

To my next step back in time,

Where night creatures roam about.

I step around a lordly beech,

A master of this place.

And find myself inside a grove of hazel.

I pause and wonder what I heard.

The low grumble of a mighty crow,

Or something else.

The sniffing of a deer at sunset,

Or rabbits setting up a nightly watch.

Eyes dilated with tension building.

It is all around me.

The Druids are here.

They whisper with their ancient voice.

I move an eye deliberately and there it is,

Right in front of me.

A hooded crow with piercing eyes

And long black beak.

It speaks to me with one eye cocked awry.

With ancient sound and flash of beak.

I feel the words but do not hear them,

 Just deep vibrations echoing into the night.

Other waves of sound surround me.

More voices closer now,

Almost touching, but holding back,

To separate me from their pack.

Afraid no longer but unable to speak.

I let their world work wonders in the night.

I’m welcome here, I think.

To run is not a need to pamper.

The hooded Druid speaks once more

And then retreats back into his hazel maze.

Muffled silence wraps around me

As carefully I too retreat into the dying day.

Denis Hearn 2015

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