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1. Historical Nonfiction Children’s Books I’d Like to See (Based Entirely on Drunk History Episodes)

Recently I did a post where I mentioned several wonderful Hark, A Vagrant webcomics featuring historical figures that I’d love to see turned into picture book biographies.  Well, in a similar vein, I’m a big fan of the Drunk History series on Comedy Central too.  It’ll be returning soon for a fourth season and has a lovely way of highlighting stories that I think would adapt brilliantly into the children’s nonfiction book format.  The real stories, that is.  Not the drunk tellers.  That would be weird.

Now because this is a post where comedians get drunk and try to tell historical moments in history, I think it’s pretty safe to say that a goodly chunk of the videos embedded here are Not Safe for Work.

A quick note too that this is mostly male, just as the Hark, A Vagrant piece contained mostly women.  Kate Beaton’s better at awesome women than Drunk History.  Sad but true.

And none of these video clips are complete by the way.  They’re just little snippets of the full stories.

First up!

Jim Thorpe is named the greatest athlete of the 20th century

The Joseph Bruchac picture book biography Jim Thorpe’s Bright Path and his fiction work Jim Thorpe: Original All-American are pretty much the gold standard on all things children’s-books-about-Jim-Thorpe. Still, considering how amazing the guy was, I bet we could get a lot more books about him out there (though I’d be amiss in not also mentioning Don Brown’s Bright Path: Young Jim Thorpe).  You could even do what Drunk History does here and just highlight one amazing moment in his life.  This clip doesn’t get to it, but when his shoes get stolen and he competes with a pair he finds in the trash . . . I mean, that’s amazing.

Japanese-American Daniel Inouye fights in World War II

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – We do NOT have enough picture book bios of badass Asian-American heroes.  In the Hark, A Vagrant post I made a case for Katherine Sui Fun Cheung.  Well considering Daniel Inouye’s life and contributions it is doggone weird that he has so little in the children’s biography realm.

Sybil Ludington takes her midnight ride

Sadly this clip doesn’t really get to the thick of her contributions in the Revolutionary War, but it’s a good start.  Very few 16-year-old female war heroes out there.  To be fair, this very year (2016) Feiwel and Friends published E.F. Abbot’s fictionalized accounting in Sybil Ludington: Revolutionary War Rider.  But a little nonfiction wouldn’t hurt too.

Muhammad Ali refuses to fight in the Vietnam War.

Screen Shot 2016-07-24 at 11.33.43 PM

One of my favorites.  I know we’ve a fair number of Ali bios for kids.  But, again, what about highlighting this moment in his life? It makes for a fascinating story in and of itself (and lord knows we have too few pacifist bios out there on beyond Gandhi).

Despite having only one hand, Jim Abbott proves to be a great baseball players.

Again, I wish we had the full clip here for you to watch.  Abbott’s story is amazing in and of itself.  The Cuba part is nice but let’s just get into the fact that he could pitch one-handed.  How about that, eh?

Thanks for checking them out!  And with the fourth seasons of the show at hand (including one told by Lin-Manuel Miranda) more ideas are bound to come up.

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2. Presidential Polar Bear Post Card Project No. 196 - 7.24.16


GRRRAAAA!!!! Pretty much how I felt as I forced myself to listen to last Monday's Republican Convention coverage on the 2 hour drive home from Wenatchee... Thankfully, spending the rest of the week on a backpacking trip with my daughter and friends - and away from any and ALL media coverage - might have tipped my soul back into balance.

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3. Comic-Con 2016: Warner Bros. Developing Animated Pepe Le Pew Feature

Can Warner Bros. reboot Pepe Le Pew for modern audiences?

The post Comic-Con 2016: Warner Bros. Developing Animated Pepe Le Pew Feature appeared first on Cartoon Brew.

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4. The Sold-Out 2016 SCBWI Summer Conference will be starting soon!

As I write this, we're just days away from #LA16SCBWI


It's going to be amazing!

If you're not lucky enough to attend this time around, remember to follow along on social media (the hashtag is #LA16SCBWI) and here on this blog.

Here's to all the inspiration, craft, business, opportunity and community ahead!

Illustrate and Write On,
Lee

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5. Fish Create a Caption

Create a caption for this glorious goldfish!

FishLeah from the Scholastic Kids Council sent this wonderful picture of her pet goldfish in all its glorious goldishness!

What do you think this fish is trying to say?

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6. Monday Mishmash 7/25/16


Happy Monday! Monday Mishmash is a weekly meme dedicated to sharing what's on your mind. Feel free to grab the button and post your own Mishmash.

Here's what's on my mind today:
  1. My Laptop Works Again!  I'm jumping for joy because my laptop is finally working again. I ran a huge update and now everything is good. It took forever, but I'm happy. :)
  2. Proofing After Loving You  I'm doing the final proofing for After Loving You (Ashelyn Drake NA romance) before it goes off to the formatter.
  3. Fun Story! Last week the contractor who put in our new windows told me his wife asked what my first name was and when he told her she realized she recognized my name because she had read one of my books. How cool is that?
  4. Editing  My editing schedule is booked into next year already. Just wow!
  5. Updating My Website  I've been updating my website after a few people asked how to order signed copies of my books. There's now a store! I don't have payment buttons because shipping costs are different depending on where you live, but all my books are there with prices.
That's it for me. What's on your mind today?

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7.



New water color abstractions taken with my phone. These were class demonstrations.


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8. French language in International Law

French is the language of diplomacy, German the language of science, and English the language of trade. Whereas German has been displaced by English in science, French continues to occupy a privileged position in international diplomacy. Its use is protected by its designation as one of the two working languages of the United Nations (UN), the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court and ad hoc UN-backed tribunals.

The post French language in International Law appeared first on OUPblog.

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9. Tsonokwa ~ Woman of the Woods

WomanWoodslndianMyth_RobertaBaird_1signed
“She’s called the wild woman of the woods. In some legends, she’s a giant. But she catches little children and puts them in a basket on her back, and then she takes them home and eats them.

“But she’s very slow and dull-witted, and her eyes are cast downward to symbolize this slowness of wit. So they usually get away.”

Her lips are pursed to make the “huuu-huuu” sounds that are characteristic of her. The sound is like the wind blowing, and when children hear that they will clutch at their parents’ legs so that they “don’t get carried away by Tsonokwa,”

“But if you can find her house, you would come away with untold riches. For them, that consisted of furs, walrus ivory, dried fish, dried meats, and especially copper. Copper to them was like gold is to us.”

The well-stocked house of Tsonokwa means that she is a symbol of wealth. So when a chief dispenses his inheritance to his successor, she appears in a male form and presides over the ceremony. The figure representing the male form, Geekumal, wears a mask with a beard and mustache.

Retold by Anthony H Taylor, a retired art teacher who spent a lifetime building his great ethnographic collection, and then upon passing donated it to  the University of Utah.
…and who taught me everything I know about art.

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10. BLUEPRINT - brenda manley designs

Brenda Manley Designs will be showing at Blueprint New York from the 8th-10th August. The studio includes Brenda and a wonderfully varied and capable group of ten artists and has a portfolio brimming with seasonal, floral and fresh art that is perfect for licensing with home, decor, stationery and fabric. Appointments are still available just email brenda@brendamanleydesigns.com

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11. Missa em Memória das Vítimas da Chacina da Candelária

E muitas outras.

23/07/2016 – 23 anos da Chacina.










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12. My 10 Top Favorite Things…

Now that summer is in full swing in the banana belt of Canada, I’m willing to bet most kids in the northern hemisphere are enjoying their free time doing their favorite things like playing with their friends, hanging out at the beach, reading books by their favorite authors (wink), or going on vacations with their families. That said, I thought I’d compile a list and share my ten top favorite things that I enjoy whether it’s summer, fall, winter or spring.

1. Enjoying my morning coffee outside (weather permitting) on our patio. True therapy.

2. Big. Bang. Theory. Sheldon still cracks me up!

3. The original Star Wars movie. I know, I’m dating myself, but I was one of those people who went
to the movie theatre to see it again and again. Of course movies were cheaper back then!

4. My reading chair. It’s comfy and cozy. Even when I have to share it with the cat.

5. Reading...in my reading chair…with or without the cat.

6. Writing the first draft of a novel that nobody sees because that’s where the fun begins!

7. My pets. After all, I have to read my first draft to someone. Right?

8. Writing ‘THE END’ on the final draft of my novel. Trust me, it’s a BIG deal! 

9. Connecting with my readers online and offline. Trust me, it’s a HUGE deal!


10. Single. Malt. Scotch. No explanation necessary.


So, what are some your favorite things? Would love you to comment and share! Enjoy the rest of your summer, and thank you for reading my blog! Cheers! 

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13. It took 94 audiobooks to illustrate 1 picture book

A glimpse at the messy studio
Illustrators are often asked what materials go into making their work. What brand of pencil is that? What paper do you use? Is that acrylic? For this post, I wanted to focus on one crucial element, at least in my own painting process, that goes unseen in the final work, and that is a constant supply of audiobooks! I say 'painting process' because during the drawing and ideas phases I need quiet, or movies I've already seen, or not-too-intrusive music. But, when it comes to painting there's nothing better to get me into the creative zone than a good audiobook!

It all started back with working on various paintings while listening to all the Harry Potter books read by Jim Dale, who does the most amazing job of bringing the characters to life. He set the bar so high though that I didn't know where to go next. After stumbling around a bit, I found His Dark Materials, (the Golden Compass series), which with its full cast and Phillip Pullman's epic storytelling rose right to the top of my list of best audiobooks ever. 

I tend to gravitate towards the fantasy/sci-fi genres in middle grade, YA, and adult, but I will wander into other genres if I hear something is especially good.

As part of my painting process, these audiobooks have an important job to do, and that is to keep me on task. This became especially important as I was illustrating my first children's picture book, GRUMBLES FROM THE TOWN: MOTHER-GOOSE VOICES WITH A TWIST by Jane Yolen and Rebecca Kai Dotlich. As this was the most illustrations I'd ever painted back-to-back I needed more audiobooks than I ever listened to in my lifetime. I devoured them one after another. Between paint strokes, I was hunting down new series; watching for publisher's tweets for recommendations.

The best audiobooks for my purposes were the ones that had me rushing back to the studio to hear more. During a long project it can be a challenge to keep the motivation going, and getting back to a story in progress was great motivation. In this regard, one series did this better than all the rest during GRUMBLES, and that was Marie Lu's Legend Trilogy. I fell in love with her characters, June and Day, so deeply that I would rush home during my lunch hour to listen and paint. 

So, I wanted to write this post as a heartfelt thank you to all the authors and narrators and publishers who created these audiobooks which kept me company during those intense months of painting. I'm already gathering a list of books for future painting sessions. Below is a list of approximately all the audiobooks I consumed while painting GRUMBLES FROM THE TOWN, mostly through my library's OverDrive.com system. I'm a bit shocked to see about 94 books on this list, and I remember listening to some of these more than once. I definitely listened to some of Neil Gaiman's works multiple times. He weaves the most wonderful tales, but he also has the most  marvelous voice which makes the paint flow just right. :)

If you happen to have similar tastes you may find this list helpful. And I'm always up for recommendations. (I know I should start a GoodReads account. I hope to soon...)

Marie Lu - Legend Trilogy (the best!)The Young Elites, The Rose Society
John Stephens - Books of Beginning Trilogy (narrated by Jim Dale - he's awesome!)
Tony DiTerlizzi - The Search for WondLa Trilogy (loved it!)
Jaleigh Johnson - The Mark of the Dragonfly (#1) (an unexpected gem!)

Everything Neil Gaiman writes is brilliant!- 
Neil Gaiman - American Gods, Anansi Boys, InterWorld (#1, #2)Odd and the Frost Giants, Trigger Warning, The Neil Gaiman Audio Collection, The Sleeper and the Spindle, Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders, M is for Magic, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, The Graveyard Book 

Sabaa Tahir - An Ember in the Ashes (This one left me craving more, but at the time book 2 wasn't out yet. A Torch Against the Night is out now, and I look forward to revisiting this series!)


Victoria Aveyard - Red Queen (#1) (I know enjoyed this one, but the cover doesn't represent the flavor of the book, so it gives me a weird case of amnesia. I'll have to refresh my memory before starting #2 and #3)


Ransom Riggs - Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children #1 (This was perfect to listen to on Halloween)

George R.R. MartinFeast for Crows, A Dance with Dragons, Rogues: Short Stories


Process pics of THERE WAS AN OLD WOMAN WHO LIVED IN A SHOE spread

The funny- (Much needed after all the Game of Thrones):
Adam Rex - The True Meaning of Smekday, Smek for President, Cold Cereal
Mindy Kaling Why Not Me?, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)
Felicia Day - You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)
B.J. Novak One More Thing
David SedarisLet's Explore Diabetes with Owls, The Ultimate David Sedaris Box Set
Neil Patrick Harris - Choose Your Own Autobiography
Jennifer L. HolmThe Fourteenth Goldfish

The map books (I seem to have a thing for map books):
S.E. Grove - The Glass Sentence #1 (I'm looking forward to books 2 and 3 of this fun trilogy)
Carrie Ryan The Map to Everywhere (#1) 

Michael Scott - The Alchemyst (The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel #1), The Magician (#2)

Maile Meloy - The Apothecary (#1), The Apprentices (#2)
Naomi Novik - His Majesty's Dragon(Temeraire #1), Throne of Jade(#2)Black Powder War(#3)
Laini Taylor - Daughter of Smoke and Bone (#1)
Holly Black - The Darkest Part of the Forest, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, Doll Bones


Process pics of the GRUMBLES FROM THE TOWN cover
As a Hunger Games fan, these were obvious choices:
Veronica Roth - Divergent Trilogy
James Dashner - The Maze Runner Trilogy

Blue Balliett - Chasing Vermeer (#1)

Cassie Beasley - Circus Mirandus (narrated by Jim Dale - he's awesome!)
Lauren Oliver - Liesl and Po
Jenny NimmoMidnight for Charlie Bone (#1)
Lemony Snicket - The Lump of Coal (short story)
Bruce Hale - Nate Macavoy, Monster Hunter (short story)
Various Authors - Infinity Ring Series, (#1-5)
Brandon Mull - Wild Born (Spirit Animals #1)
Terry Pratchett - The Wee Free Men, Dodger, Snuff - Discworld Series, Book 39
Colin Meloy - Wildwood
Patrick Rothfuss - The Slow Regard of Silent Things (Since I was already a fan of The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear this shorter story was quite enjoyable.)

Jacqueline Woodson - Brown Girl Dreaming (read by Jacqueline Woodson - a glorious way to experience her Newbery Honor Book!)

David Arnold - Mosquitoland 
Markus Zusak - The Book Thief (Loved it, but later discovered painting and balling my eyes out don't go together. Still really amazing though)
Chris Howard - Rootless
Dean Koontz - Odd Thomas 
Matthew Reilly - 7 Deadly Wonders (Like an action-adventure movie)
Lois Lowry - The Giver 
Madeleine L'Engle - A Wrinkle in Time
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry - The Little Prince


Close to the finish line - paintings piled up around the studio
Eoin Colfer - Airman
Lev Grossman - The Magicians (#1)
Charlie Fletcher - Stoneheart (#1)
Orson Scott Card - The Lost Gate (#1)
Trenton Lee Stewart - The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict
Karen FoxleeOphelia and the Marvelous Boy 
Angie SagePathFinder Septimus Heap: Todhunter Moon Series, Book (#1) 
Michael ScottThe Thirteen Hallows     

Oh, I also listened to many wonderful podcasts. Some of my favorites can be found at: All the Wonders 


GRUMBLES FROM THE TOWN: Mother-Goose Voices with a Twist is available for Pre-order from:

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14. "Bringing Stories Up From Your Soul" (inspired by Craig Childs)

Recently my friend and colleague Craig Child's posted a beautiful piece on the excellent blog, The Last Word On Nothing" called "A Shooting, A Storyteller". I urge you to go read it before continuing here.

When writing, sometimes it's easy to fall into "the zone" and sometimes the muse or whatever you want to call it, seems unreachable. I believe this is often true because we are terrified of what we want--what we need--to say.

In Craig's piece, he describes how his friend Everett told stories to a group of children on a family camping adventure, and reflects on why the children were so drawn to Everett in particular. "Perhaps they were so drawn to him because of his investment, not just spinning tales off the top of his head, but bringing them up from his soul," Craig writes.

I think this phrase, "bringing stories up from your soul" is a beautiful way to think about how to draw the muse out on challenging days. More than that, of how essential it is when we're telling stories, to allow ourselves to reach there in the first place.

As writers, we entertain, we provoke, we hopefully inspire thought. Those moments are most meaningful when the stories we've shared have come from deep within. When they've come from the most true place in us. These are the stories, as Craig puts it, that "hold us together."

This is my last entry for this season of Teachers Write. You've all inspired me and given me hope in countless ways this summer. But that doesn't mean it's time to put writing aside. Now is the time for you to carry this practice into your daily lives. Our words have held us together this summer, and they can continue to do so in spirit each time you sit down to write.

I wish I could share a talking rock with all of you before we move on, and provide a safe place for you to bring your story up from your soul. To encourage all of you to think about those stories you hold deep within, and how telling them in whatever fashion works best, will draw readers to you, and create community. And more than that, empathy. And more than that, love.

For your Monday Morning Warm-Up, I offer a challenge. This is meant as something to reflect on, and then something to write about privately, as least for now. Since this is deeply personal, I won't ask you to share, but perhaps let us know in the comments what the experience was like.

Monday Morning Warm-Up:

If you had a talking rock of your own, who would you like to sit on it with, and what would you like to say? Once you know that, I urge you to draw the story up from your soul. Draw it up and then, as Craig says, "Pull the plug, and let it drain out raw."



Note: I am away this week doing volunteer work for Habitat For Humanity and a housing group for women and children, so I may not be able to reply to comments until I return. I encourage you though, to have a meaningful discussion with each other, and comment on replies if you have the time. I will miss you all! Love, Jo

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15. Share the Hope of Christ with the Mentally Ill

by Sally Matheny


Share Hope with the Mentally Ill

Years ago, one of my kindergarten students, “Cody,” exhibited bizarre and sometimes violent behavior. He wasn’t malicious. Yet, he consistently wrecked havoc among the five-year-olds, causing everyone around him great stress and concern. 

No matter what methods we tried to encourage success for him, they only helped for a short time—a very short time.



My assistant and I felt all our efforts were hopeless. And school wasn't the only place of Cody’s erratic and raucous behavior.

One morning he came in with singed hair and no eyebrows. His crystal blue eyes remained as expressionless as his face as he told me what he did in the middle of the night.

The kindergartener snuck out of his home with an armful of toys. He dumped them in a pile in the front yard. Then, while everyone was asleep, he set them on fire.

I asked his grandmother, whom he lived with, about it later. She seemed a bit frazzled, but laughed it off and said the boy was constantly into things. 

It took me almost an entire year to convince Cody’s grandmother and family doctor that something wasn’t right. He needed more help than his prescribed Ritalin could provide.

Around May that year, Cody finally received the requested testing and counseling. The results revealed Cody suffered from severe mental illness due to physical and sexual abuse. He was taken where he could receive extensive care.

Prior to Cody receiving help for his mind and body, I had the opportunity to offer him hope for his troubled soul.

It was on one of those many days when the P.E. teacher sent him back into the classroom because he was causing mayhem and harm on the playground. Cody flitted from one end of the room to the other. I was used to talking to him while he was on the move. Rarely did he stand still or even make eye contact.

However, that day, something unusual happened.
Read more »

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16. Try! Try! Try!, by Lindsey Craig | Book Review

Try! Try! Try! is an entertaining board book that encourages young readers to try new things.

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17. Flupp na Casa do Jongo da Serrinha em Madureira


Em 23 de julho de 2016 na Casa do Jongo da Serrinha em Madureira, zona norte do Rio de Janeiro.

Xico Sá e Júlio Ludemir.




Júlio Ludemir.





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18. The Yeti Files: Attack of the Kraken by Kevin Sherry, 128 pp, RL 2



It's here! Book 3 in Kevin Sherry's superbly silly series of books featuring all your favorite cryptids is here! Following in the footsteps of Monsters on the Run and Meet the BigfeetBlizz Richards and the gang go under the sea The Yeti Files: Attack of the Kraken



But, before heading to Atlantis, Alex the Elf and Gunthar the goblin are getting up to no good, out of eyesight from Blizz. Blizz thinks the two are getting along nicely in their igloo, but really, the devious duo are off tending to Gunthar's new pet whose name begins with "pt."


As Blizz gets the cryptosub ready to head out, he explains to Alex, Gunthar and Frank, the arctic fox who always seems to know what's really going on, all about the hidden city of Atlantis and the merfolk who live there. He also reminds the gang and readers how they received an urgent alert from the merfolk at the end of The Yeti Files #2of Monsters on the Run. In Atlantis, they crew are greeted by the Mayor, Julius Blacksand, who has been making big additions to the city with the help of some powerful, precious, rare crystals mined nearby. But, a determined megafan of Blizz's named Coral tells him that the mayor isn't all he seems to be and that his continued mining of crystals is threatening the health of the ocean they live in - and the mysterious Kraken. Can Blizz and the gang prove that this is true and stop Julius Blacksand? And just who is Emily Airwalker and where is she? While I always adore the humor in Sherry's books, he weaves some very pertinent themes of conservation and environmental awareness into Attack of the Kraken that I appreciated.


 The Yeti Files Books 1 & 2:

      Meet the Bigfeet          Monsters on the Run


Source: Purchased

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19. Library Loot: July

So where have I been? Despite my lack of 'library loot' posts, I've actually been averaging about three to four trips to the library per week. There is the difficulty. If you know you're going to the library "tomorrow," it's hard to get down to writing a library loot post "today." But since it's been almost a month since my last post...here I go:

New Loot:
  • Camille by Alexandre Dumas, fils
  • Fudge-a-mania by Judy Blume
  • Double Fudge by Judy Blume
  • Golf Without Tears by P.G. Wodehouse
  • My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows
  • Waylon: One Awesome Thing by Sara Pennypacker
  • Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus by Barbara Park
  • Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain
  • Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk
  • Johnny Cash: The Life by Robert Hilburn
  • Man in White by Johnny Cash
  • Counting Thyme by Melanie Conklin
  • Another Day as Emily by Eileen Spinelli
  • The Luck Uglies by Paul Durham
  •  Fork-Tongue Charmers by Paul Durham
  • All-Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor
Leftover Loot:
  • Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban
  • A Royal Experiment by Janice Hadlow
  • Are You Experienced by Jordan Sonnenblick

  Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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20. PRINTSOURCE - epluche

We have had some more flyers come in for Printsource and Blueprint - two major designs shows taking place in New York in the second week of August. The first are from Laurie Brochard of Epluche will be showing new works at Printsource in Booth A32 on 9th-10th of August.

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21. Mucho con Poco Brasil 2016

Na manhã de 23 de julho de 2016 na Casa da Juventude, Pedra do Sal, Gamboa.
Eu e meus companheiros ativistas. Viva a Democracia plena!

















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22. स्मार्ट सिटी – कितने साक्षर और निरक्षर हम

क्लिक कीजिए और सुनिए  दो मिनट की ओडियो “स्मार्ट सिटी – कितने साक्षर और निरक्षर हम” डिग्री धारक कृपया ध्यान दें .. बडी बडी भारी भरकम डिग्री लेने से हम पढे लिखे की श्रेणी में आ जाते हैं ? अगर आपकी भी ऐसी ही सोच है तो जरुर सुनिए 2 मिनट का ओडियो स्मार्ट  सिटी […]

The post स्मार्ट सिटी – कितने साक्षर और निरक्षर हम appeared first on Monica Gupta.

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23. Eden West Book Review

Title: Eden West  Author: Pete Hautman Publisher: Candlewick Publication Date: April 14, 2015 ISBN-13: 978-0763674182  320 pp. ARC provided by publisher This is a book that could be confused for dystopia at first glance. Jacob lives in the community of Nodd, home to the people known as the Grace. Their prophet, who has a penchant for young wives, says that the Grace will be spared when

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24. PRINTSOURCE - designastration studio

Also showing at Printsource next month will be Tiffany Laurencio of the Designastration Studio.

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25. John Smelcer's STEALING INDIANS

John Smelcer's Stealing Indians is due out in August of this year (2016) from Leapfrog Press. Having read it, I'll start by saying that I do not recommend it.

Scholars who study boarding schools for Native children report that there was a wide range of experiences at the schools. Those who write about it take care in what they say about the schools. Today, they touch our lives, through the stories we hear from our elders, or from our own experiences in them, or from what we lost because of them.

Here's the opening preface to Boarding School Blues: Revisiting American Indian Educational Experiences, published in 2006, edited by Cliffford E. Trafzer, Jean A. Keller, and Lorene Sisquoc (Kindle Locations 30-36):

The American Indian boarding school experience left an indelible mark on the history of the United States and Canada, and only recently have we tried to understand the significance of the schools in the lives of students, teachers, administrators, and Indian communities. Perhaps we have waited so long for this scholarly examination because of the difficulties involved in addressing the dramatic impact of the boarding schools on the lives of so many people. For some American Indian students, the pain they suffered inhibits our intrusion into their lives. For other students, their boarding school days were filled with fond memories, sometimes mixed with melancholy, sometimes with humor. Understanding the many and varied levels of the boarding school experience is a complex business. No single interpretation of this experience exists today or ever will. Native American students and their parents viewed the schools in many different ways. Oral and written accounts by Indian students and non-Indians involved at the schools are extremely diverse. Historian Tsianina Lomawaima recently wrote to the editors that "part of that message, importantly, has been that the schools were not monolithically destructive or successful in their assimilative goals, but the harsh reality is-for some people, they were."
A key point in that excerpt is the diversity of experience. Given their long history and existence today, how could it be otherwise? Some were in Canada, some were in the U.S. There were/are "off reservation" boarding schools, and there were/are day schools on reservations, too. When they were in elementary school, my parents went to the day school on their respective reservations. Then they went to Santa Fe Indian School, where they met in the 1950s. Because of the stories they told me and the reading I've done, I know experiences varied widely by time and place.

Children in the US are not generally taught about the schools. Because some teachers use children's books to bring history into the classroom, it is crucial that the information conveyed in those books be accurate.

As noted above, I cannot recommend Smelcer's Stealing Indians. As my notes show, accuracy is an issue. Another is the lack of specificity of the character's respective nations. As regular readers of AICL know, I think it is important that writers be tribally specific (telling readers a character's tribal nation, within the story or in an Author's Note) because that specificity increases knowledge that can push back on the monolithic or stereotypical imagery that is far too prevalent in today's society.

Here's the synopsis for Stealing Indians:
Four Indian teenagers are kidnapped from different regions, their lives immutably changed by an institution designed to eradicate their identity. And no matter what their home, their stories are representative of every story, every stolen life. So far from home, without family to protect them, only their friendship helps them endure. This is a work of fiction. Every word is true. 
Smelcer's book is set in the 1950s and is located in the United States. Below are my notes and comments as I read his book:

CHAPTER ONE is about the four teenagers and how they were taken from their homes.

Lucy Secondchief is 13 years old. She's thinking about her father, who's been dead for four years. Specifically, she's thinking about the day of his burial, when some people brought food to their house, but others came to collect old debts. The latter took two rifles, a stack of lumber, the entire sled dog team, and the sled, too. That night, the sky was filled with the northern lights, which Lucy has been taught to fear because they are "a bad omen" and "a malevolent force that comes down to carry people away" (p. 18). Rather than stay inside she walks into a field. The lights drop down and surround her. People in the village watch in disbelief. Dogs howl and cower. Lucy starts to laugh aloud.

Debbie's comments: What is Lucy's tribal affiliation? We aren't told. Because of the northern lights and the sled dog/team, we can assume she's meant to be Alaskan Native, but which one? There are over 200. Amongst them, there are over 20 different languages. And of course, a diversity with regard to how they view the northern lights. Do some think they're a malevolent force? Maybe so, but it isn't likely they all feel that way. Lack of tribal specificity, then, has consequences for additional information we're given.

One day, a "tall-roofed black car" pulled into Lucy's driveway. Two men get out of it, approach Lucy's mother, and hand her a paper. Lucy's mother can't read, but (p. 22):
[S]he knew what the document said. Every Indian parent knew what it said. All across the country, Indian families were given the same piece of paper, which proclaimed the end to families. The paper was the law. It was the government's authority to steal Indian children from their families and send them far from their homes and villages. The law was for the sake of the children, a ticket to a better life free from the burdens of poverty and ignorance. The paper was the law that sent them to Kansas, Oregon, the Dakotas, California, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania--anywhere far enough away so that they would forget what it means to be Indian. 
The men grab Lucy, drag her to the car, push her into the backseat and close the door. There are no door handles on the inside.

My comments: I've found nothing about tall-roofed black cars that were used to pick up and remove Native children from their homes. As far as I am able to determine (via print/electronic sources or through emails with colleagues in Native studies/law), there was no law like that. The boarding schools were designed to wipe out Native identity in students but there was no law written down on a piece of paper that was handed to families in the 1950s. I have not found evidence of such papers prior to the 1950s either. I did find something specific to removing Native children from their homes without the consent of their parents, guardians or next of kin, dated June 21, 1906, but it is about reform school, not boarding school:
25 USC § 302. Indian Reform School; rules and regulations; consent of parents to placing youth in reform school
The Commissioner of Indian Affairs, under the direction of the Secretary of the Interior, is authorized and directed to select and designate some one of the schools or other institution herein specifically provided for as an “Indian Reform School”, and to make all needful rules and regulations for its conduct, and the placing of Indian youth therein: Provided, That the appropriation for collection and transportation, and so forth, of pupils, and the specific appropriation for such school so selected shall be available for its support and maintenance: Provided further, That the consent of parents, guardians, or next of kin shall not be required to place Indian youth in said school.
Many coercive measures were used to get parents to send their children to the schools. It is possible that two men in Alaska were using a paper like that, but it isn't plausible. It is more dramatic to present these removals with that piece of paper, but that isn't accurate, and is information that would have to be unlearned at some point. There's no reason, in my view, to add to the body of misinformation that already exists. 

Simon Lone Fight is 14 years old. He lives in an "arid desert" (p. 22) of canyons, arroyos, buttes, and mesas. His parents were killed when he was 13. He is passed from "one cramped house of poverty to another" (p. 24). One of those homes is with his grandparents. One day, Simon sees a "black, high-roofed automobile" (p. 25) arriving at their house. Hiding behind the outhouse, Simon watches two white men get out of the car, briefcase in hand, and approach his grandfather. They argue, and then go into the house. Simon, a runner, takes off. That happens three more times that month. One day, his grandparents offer him ice cream if he'll go to town with them and help them sell hay. Instead of going into town, however, they pull off at the train station. Simon thinks they're going to load the hay onto a train. The train arrives, and Simon doesn't hear or see the black car. The two white men grab him. His grandfather watches and tells him "You must go to school. It's the law." He is put on the train.

My comments: There's that "law" again. As noted above, I have found no evidence of a law or piece of paper presented to parents. Use of "one cramped house of poverty to another" sounds like an outsider's observations rather than those of Simon or his relatives, and the way Simon was taken doesn't ring true. 

Noah Boyscout is also 14 years old. He's out hunting in a snowy landscape. Uneasy when he sees something in the distance, "the young Indian" (p. 28) checks to see how many bullets he has. As he heads home he thinks about how, as a "half-breed" he's an outcast and that he feels more at home in the forest with animals than he does with people. His mother isn't Native and doesn't like the stories he tells her of his interactions with animals: a fox lets him pet it, and a baby moose lays its head on his hip and naps, and he speaks raven and grouse. The thing he saw in the distance turns out to be one of several wolves who are pursuing him. He is afraid of them, ponders shooting them, but figures out that they're really after the dead rabbits he has in his pack. He throws the rabbits at them and makes his way on home to their cabin where there's a "tall black car" (p. 33) in the driveway. When he goes inside, a man in a black business suit and hat greets him. His mother starts crying and runs to the bedroom. There are photographs and papers on the table. The man tells Noah he has to go away, to a school for Indian boys and girls. The story jumps to the next character, Elijah.

My comments: I think the snowy landscape and Noah's parka and snowshoes place him in Alaska, but as with Lucy, we aren't given a specific tribe. The use of "the young Indian" tells us he's Native but I find that phrase jarring. It objectifies him and sounds more like an outsider's description than an insider voice. There's that tall black car again and reference to papers, one of which I assume is that "law" that Lucy's and Simon's parents are talking about. The story immediately moves to the next character.

Elijah High Horse is with his cousin, Johnny Big Jim. They're in the woods, camping. With his hunting rifle Elijah shoots at a deer that Johnny can't see. Both are 14. "They were Indians" (p. 35). Time spent in the woods was sacred, "a time to be what their grandfathers had been long ago" (p. 35). The next day they visit their grandfather. Elijah tells him about the deer that Johnny couldn't see, and his grandfather, "an old chief" (p. 37), tells him that when he was a baby being baptized, his nose started bleeding when the holy water touched him. They knew, by that bleeding nose, that Elijah would be a shaman one day, if he was strong enough not to be used up by spirits he would eventually start to see. Later, "the two young Indians" (p. 39) sit by a fire, and Elijah tells Johnny he's also seen a white buffalo.  A week later, Elijah's dad drives him to the train station, hands him a suitcase and a paper bag with fried chicken, a peanut butter & jelly sandwich, and two apples (p. 39):
Johnny was there to say goodbye. He wasn't going. The government had already taken two of his older brothers and a sister. He was allowed to stay. Not all Indian children were taken from their homes. That would have been unnecessary and, practically speaking, impossible. Neither the available room nor the funding would allow it. The government's goal could be achieved by taking only some, similar to the way the government didn't draft every young man from large families into military service during the war against the Nazis and the Japanese, over for only a few years.
Johnny waves goodbye, his father shuffles off, and "The young Indian" (p. 40) got on the train.

My comments: Again, we don't know what Elijah's tribal nation is, but the mention of the white buffalo suggests he's Lakota. That part about his nose bleeding sounds more like a horror movie than anything else. Elijah, in Christian stories, was a prophet. It strikes me as odd that this boy's family would name this infant--who they believe will be a "shaman"--by the name of a prophet whose holy water causes that nosebleed. And that part about Johnny being able to stay strikes me as an inconsistency. Remember--according to this "law," everyone has to go. Here, now, we have a different scenario. Does that "law" delineate exceptions for a 4th child in any given family?

CHAPTER TWO is about the four teens and their experiences on their way to Wellington (fictitious name of the boarding school).

Lucy. After many hours on a narrow, winding highway, the car Lucy is in arrives at a diner where she has french fries, and then a few hours later they arrive at a bus station where she is given a bus ticket. She rubs the red welts on her wrists, but we don't know why those welts are there. She's told that the bus driver will know where she has to get off. She has nothing other than the clothes she is wearing (no jacket). In the morning when she re-boards the bus after a stop, there's a new rider on the bus: Noah.

My comments: In the "Questions for Discussion" at the end of the book, item #4 is about a pair of handcuffs at the museum at Haskell Indian Nations University. I assume the author meant to include a passage about Lucy being handcuffed, hence the red welts, but it isn't there. 


Noah. Noah invites Lucy to sit with him. He offers her an apple. The bus travels hundreds of miles, south. They tell each other about their families. Late that day the driver tells them they have to get on another bus. They can sit and wait for it, but "the Indians" (p. 46) are tired of sitting and walk around the town. A pack of mongrel dogs come out of an abandoned warehouse and run at them. Lucy is afraid but Noah kneels, holds out a hand, and speaks to them. They drop to their bellies and let Noah pet them. After awhile he stands, points to the warehouse, and tells them to go home. The dogs go off, behind the building. "The two young Indians" (p. 47) return to the station, board their next bus and ride all night and much of the next day.

Simon. On the train, Simon heads northeast, knowing it will take two days to get to the town named on his ticket. With no food, he's hungry but "The Indian" (p. 49) goes to the dining car and grabs leftover food from empty tables. The next morning he sees "an Indian boy" (p. 50) has gotten on the train, too. It is Elijah, who leans toward Simon and asks his name.

Elijah. Elijah and Simon start to talk and learn they're going to the same place. Neither remembers the name of the school but talk about the photographs they saw of the iron arched gateway. Simon learns that Elijah had been on the train for a day and a half longer than he had and he's hungry because he's eaten up all the food his dad had given him. Together they go to the dining car, grab some leftovers, eat and that night, play card games. The next morning the train stops in a large city where they learn they will change trains. They have time before the next train arrives so the two set off to look around. Elijah ("the amazed Indian" p. 53) imagines people who work in the offices. Looking at the people milling about reminds him of salmon.

My comments:
Noah's powers are handy but I view them as stereotypical in the one-with-nature-and-animals way that Native peoples are often depicted. But, my guess is that most of the American reading public will think "cool" when they read how he handles those dogs. As you see, I'm noting some of the places where "the Indian" or "the Indians" is used. I think it distances the reader from the characters. Imagine those passages if the author just replaced all of them with "the kid" or "the kids." Recall that Elijah saw a white buffalo, and so I thought he was, perhaps, Lakota. But now he's talking about salmon and being on the train longer than Simon, which suggests he's of one of the tribes on the northwest coast. Which is it? Is Elijah of a Plains tribe? Or a northwest coast tribe? 

Simon and Elijah. 
"The Indians" (p. 53) walk for blocks. "The amazed Indian" (Elijah) imagines all the people in the glassy office buildings they pass by. As they go, people hand them change (money), which they accept, thinking the city people are the friendliest ones in the world. They buy hot dogs and then go down some stairs to an underground train where they encounter four older boys who start to bully them. The oldest asks them if they're Mexicans and if they have any pesos. Elijah says "We're Indian!" One of the boys tries to grab Elijah's backpack. Elijah sees a vague image beside one of the boys. It is a man, holding an empty bottle in one hand and a belt in the other. Elijah tells that boy that he's going to end up like his dad, who drank too much and beat him. The boy is shaken by what Elijah says. Elijah and Simon fight the four boys. Afterwords, Elijah and Simon head back to the station and the chapter ends.

My comments: I can imagine these two boys being struck by what they see in a city, but the way their unfamiliarity is described seems a kind of mockery of their lack of familiarity with a city. And--again, the objectification of them is jarring. 

Chapters 3-13

I provided a close read of chapters one and two, where we meet the characters. There are flaws in the ways these characters are depicted which has bearing on the story. Once they arrive at the school, the four will meet other students. One talks about his journey. It struck me as odd (p. 62): "I was in the bottom of a ship for two days. It was dark and they didn't let us out, neither. It was like we was cows or something. They just herded us in and closed the door." Where, I wonder, did that ship originate?!

On page 69 Elijah sees "English Only" posters on the wall. To my knowledge, there weren't posters like that in the schools in the 1950s. Indeed, significant changes took place from the 1930s through mid 1950s. Under the direction of John Collier (appointed as Commissioner of Indian Affairs in 1933 by President Roosevelt), there was a shift to make the curriculum reflect Native life and instill pride in a Native identity. In My Mother's House by Ann Nolan Clark, illustrated by Velino Herrera, is one of the outcomes of that shift. With various Native illustrators, Clark wrote several books like In My Mother's House between 1940 and 1951. Some of them were published in a Native language. Here's the cover of Little Man's Family, published in 1953. See the words beneath the English title? That is Dine (Navajo). It appears on every page. It seems unlikely then, that there would be "English Only" posters on the walls of the school. 




On page 112, Simon and another boy speak Navajo to each other. Their conversation is overheard and Simon ends up being locked in an old maintenance building. It is a dramatic scene. Simon is led to the back of the poorly lit room where he's handcuffed to a pipe and left to sit on the concrete floor for several days. That scene sounds a lot like what happened in the schools in earlier times. In particular, it reminds me of a scene from a documentary about Carlisle Indian Industrial School. Again, though, it doesn't ring true for the 1950s. There are other plot points that I also find problematic. 

I think I'll stop here, saying again, I do not recommend Stealing Indians. It has problems of stereotyping, lack of tribal specificity, and problems with accuracy with respect to boarding schools of the time period in which the story is set. 

Given the depth and breadth of inaccurate depictions of Native people--past and present--in textbooks, movies, TV shows, and children's books, I firmly believe that the experiences Native people lived through must be presented with integrity and accuracy. Over-dramatizing what happened is a disservice to their experiences. 

__________

For further reading:
Previous posts on John Smelcer
John Smelcer, Indian by Proxy


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