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1. Free Kid's ebook on Amazon! Moopy wants a Kitty by Marcia Hoeck

And today's free kindle ebook for kids is: Moopy Wants a Kitty by Marcia Hoeck!
Check it out on Amazon:

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2. Fan Mail Wednesday #232: Bears In Backyards

postalletter-150x150

 

I received this note from Ethan, who likes my style. But before I get to that, I should note that 98% of my fan mail comes during the school year, and many arrive with the aroma of “assignment.” That’s not a bad thing, mind you, just reality. In today’s case, this is a letter I received in late July, along with a stamped and self-addressed envelope (love that!). I can’t help but sense a  parent’s helping hand making this all possible.

“Would you like to write to the author?”

I don’t know where I’m going with that observation. Except to say that behind every enthusiastic reader, there’s usually a loving adult helping to cultivate & nurture that experience. Thank you for that, and for this:

 

Scan

 

I replied:

 

Dear Ethan,

Thank you for your letter. I am pleased to learn that you like my style. Yes, style points!

You know, it seems like every Spring there’s an incident in Upstate, New York (where we both live), when a bear wanders out of the woods and into a town, or near stores, or into someone’s backyard. It’s a worrying thing, because bears are big, strong,  wild animals. Often, animal control has to get involved for everyone’s safety. I read articles like this in the newspaper every year.

I wondered why this happens, so I found an animal expert. He told me that bears are “territorial,” they like to have their own area –- a territory is like the property of your house –- and that sometimes a big male bear will make a smaller male go find his own territory. They don’t like to share. So the young male goes looking for somewhere to live, and sometimes he gets confused, make a few wrong turns, and ends up at Crossgates Shopping Mall. Yikes! What’s a bear doing at Banana Republic? The poor bear is lost. Bears don’t want to hurt people –- bears are usually shy; they don’t look for trouble -– but bears can be dangerous. It’s a sad and scary situation for everybody.

Writers often start with “what if?” questions. And that’s how I began The Case of the Bear Scare. I’m so glad you read it. Thank you.

This is a rough sketch for an illustration in my upcoming Jigsaw Jones book, THE CASE FROM OUTER SPACE, illustrated by my pal R.W. Alley. The character depicted here is Joey Pignattano on a stake-out.

This is a rough sketch for an illustration in my upcoming Jigsaw Jones book, THE CASE FROM OUTER SPACE, illustrated by my pal R.W. Alley. The character depicted here is Joey Pignattano on a stake-out.

I just finished a new Jigsaw Jones book titled The Case from Outer Space. It will be out in the summer of 2017 and it’s pretty funny. I hope you check it out. My newest book is called The Courage Test (grades 4-7) and comes out in September. And guess what? There’s a mama bear in it, and a boy hiking in the woods of Idaho . . .

Stay cool and have a great summer!

Your friend,

James Preller

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3. Maud

Maud

Maud is an award winning Australian agency that strives to address problems with an honest and straightforward approach, creating designs that are driven my human needs and inspired by their clients stories and geographic locations. Their minimal and often typographically focused designs and branding systems have brought urban sophistication to the companies they work with.

 

Maud

Maud 6

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4. Dan Fogler Takes Us Inside ‘Fantastic Beasts’

This time last year, Dan Fogler was in much the same place he is now, heading home from San Diego Comic Con. But his Comic Con experience from 2015 was a very different one than 2016. Last year, Fogler was a mere exhibitor, selling his comic book Brooklyn Gladiator to passing strangers. It was there, on the crowded convention floor that he received the news that he would be joining the Wizarding World in the new Fantastic Beasts movie.

Little did he know, when he was handing out free copies of his comic book after receiving the news of his casting, that he’d soon be back in the same place but, this time as a celebrity guest.

Having grown up in the streets of New York, it was little surreal for Fogler to fly to London only to find himself in the middle of New York once again. Warner Bros. Studio in Leavesden had recreated a network of streets in New York to film the movie in.

“I know all of the streets where we are working,” he told us on Friday, the eve of his triumphant return to Comic-Con. “I had to fly all the way from New York to London to come to New York. It was incredibly surreal once the cameras started rolling; the horses were clopping along the perfectly crafted cobblestone streets, with the mist and smoke coming out of the grates and model Ts. I was in awe.”

Dan told Vanity Fair, “You can get lost, essentially in 1920s New York.” He explained that the stores we see in the streets weren’t just faux store fronts but you could go in and sit down and it’s like an actual, tangible restaurant. “Someday that set is going to be part of the museum tour because of how intricate it is.”

Dan also gave Vanity Fair the scoop on his meeting with J.K. Rowling, “the queen of the Wizarding World.”

“She said that Jacob was one of her favorite characters,” Fogler told us. “And [Jacob] reminded her of [Harry Potter’s] Ron Weasley, who everybody loves. He’s got a big heart, and they’re kind of cut from the same cloth. That was really cool to hear. . .She was just bubbling and percolating with this new story that is encompassing her whole being, and she was excited to share it.”

Since Dan’s character is a No-maj, completely new to the wizarding world, Dan explains that his reactions to magic and magical beasts are much how the audiences would be. Dan’s character is essentially the embodiment of the audience within the film.

Fogler compares his journey from the exhibition floor to signing autographs as an actor for a billion-dollar franchise to his characters ascent from nobody no-maj to friend of Newt Scamander and a vital part in his adventure. “And it’s the same thing for me, Dan Fogler, because I feel like I’m inside of a dream.”

See more on Vanity Fair’s interview with Dan Fogler here and be sure to catch Fantastic Beasts in theaters November 18!

 

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5. The Krakow Ghetto Pharmacy and a visit to Aushcwitz

Hello, I’m back from my break and looking forward to catching up with you all. If you have a question or would like to leave a comment, please do, I love to hear from you.


Taking a blogging break gave me the opportunity to read some of the books I've accumulated over the last few years. Unfortunately or perhaps fortunately I can never resist buying more so the size of my must-read pile remains virtually unchanged! One new book on the list is The Kracow Ghetto Pharmacy by Tadeusz Pankiewicz. I heard about it on a recent trip to Poland and was lucky enough to find a copy at The Oskar Schindler Factory Museum (Fabryka Schindlera). Tadeusz Pankiewicz was the only Pole living and working in the Kracow Ghetto from its inception to its liquidation. I’m sure it won’t be an easy read but when was anything worthwhile ever easy? Having seen the remnants of the ghetto walls and visited Auschwitz and Birkenau the Holocaust is uppermost in my mind.

This is the entrance to Auschwitz with the words “arbeit macht frei” which translated means “work will set you free."


According to the BBC historian Laurence Rees the sign was erected by order of Commandant Rudolf Höss. Made by prisoner-labourers the sign features an upside-down B, which has been interpreted as an act of defiance.

We thought we were ready for Auschwitz, but nothing prepared us for the overwhelming sense of sadness that prevails. The feeling of the place seeps into your bones and will not be left behind.


The complex is divided into three major camps: Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II-Birkenau, Auschwitz III-Monowitz and several sub-camps. During the Holocaust gas chambers using Zyklon-B claimed the lives of roughly one million people. Most of the victims were Jews, and the majority killed in this way died at Auschwitz II-Birkenau.

Auschwitz III provided slave labour for the I G Farben plant founded at Auschwitz in 1940. Farben produced synthetic rubber, along with high-performance fuels, various plastics, methanol, nitrogen and pharmaceuticals. The Zyklon B gas used in the gas chambers was produced by Degesch a subsidiary of I G Farben.


Auschwitz II - Birkenau

Entrance to the infamous Auschwitz - Birkenea death camp.

Several of the buildings have been converted from barracks into museum rooms. The rooms are used to house the "Material Evidence of Crime." This consists of piles of shoes, glasses, suitcases, kitchen utensils and the most chilling of all human hair. The Nazis not only murdered millions of men, women and children, they also "harvested" some of the remains. In the early nineteen-forties, a brisk trade emerged between the death camps, and German felt and textile manufacturers who used the hair in the production of thread, rope, cloth, carpets, mattress stuffing, and felt insulators for the boots of railroad workers. According to historians, it's quite possible some of the products are still in use in German homes today.
Auschwitz I

The collection of shoes is possibly one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen. Most are in the same dark grey colour, but a few are made from red leather, a poignant reminder of the red coat worn by the little girl in the film Schindler’s list. The guide who accompanied us around the museum said it will soon be 'updated' with new interactive exhibits. I’m not so sure that is a good idea. At the moment it is a stark reminder of just what humans are capable of and maybe it needs to remain that way.

Shoes and clothing of prisoners found at Auschwitz-Birkenau 
Photo Credit: US Holocaust Memorial Museum

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

If you are planning a visit to Auschwitz expect a tough day in more ways than one. Don’t assume you will find wheelchair access or level paths because you won’t. The site is not disabled friendly. It is also far larger than I ever imagined, and the only way to see it is to walk. We didn't find it too much of a problem, but if you have difficulty getting around do check before finalising any arrangements. 

I'm sorry this is a sad post, especially as it’s the first one for a while. I promise the next one will be more cheerful

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6. Some physical picture books to have a look at!

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7. archetypal characters

Hey, Thank you for this site. It's amazing. I created several characters, some of which are archetypal: mad-genius, flighty philosopher and so on. Is

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8. Listening to George, part 10

2009
If you want to follow along with this project, all related posts are tagged George Strait Project. This post will cover the years 2009-2015.

Twang is George Strait's twenty-sixth album. It features thirteen songs. Four songs from the album were released as singles: "Living for the Night," "Twang," "I Gotta Get To You," "The Breath You Take."

The other songs on the album include: "Where Have I Been All My Life," "Easy As You Go," "Same Kind of Crazy," "Out of Sight, Out of Mind," "Arkansas Dave," "He's Got That Something Special," "Hot Grease and Zydeco," "Beautiful Day for Goodbye," and "El Rey."

George Strait has some writing credits on this album. Three of the songs he cowrote with his son: "Living for the Night," Out of Sight, Out of Mind," and "He's Got That Something Special." One song was written by his son, "Arkansas Dave."

"Where Have I Been All My Life"

First stanza:
Been down the road to work and back
Been in what I thought was love a few times
But every once in a while I stop and ask
Where have I been all my life 
Premise/plot: The singer is reflecting on his life, and questioning, perhaps, why it took him so long to realize some important, essential things in life. He's grown up, in other words, and seeing life a whole lot differently than he used to.

Favorite lines:
These days broccoli don't taste so bad
And neither does swallowing my pride
And I'm agreeing more and more with my old man
Where have I been all my life
Been learning that forgiveness is as much for myself
As it is for the other guy
And I read the good book these days and believe it
Where have I been all my life
My thoughts: I really LOVE this one. I can relate to it in many ways.

Favorite songs: I really enjoy all the songs on the album. But I really want to highlight "Beautiful Day for Goodbye," "Easy As You Go," and "Hot Grease and Zydeco."

2011
Here For A Good Time is George Strait's twenty-seventh album. It features eleven songs. George Strait and his son wrote or cowrote seven out of the eleven songs on the album. Three of the songs were released as singles: "Here For A Good Time," Love's Gonna Make It Alright," and "Drinkin' Man."

Other songs on the album include: "Shame On Me," "Poison," "House Across the Bay," "Lone Star Blues," "A Showman's Life," "Three Nails and A Cross," "Blue Marlin Blues," and "I'll Always Remember You."

"I'll Always Remember You" is co-written by George Strait, and, it is written for his fans--about his fans.

"Three Nails and A Cross" is without a doubt one of my favorites on this album.

The song I'd like to pay special attention to is "Drinkin' Man."

First two stanzas:
I woke up this mornin' and I swore to God
I'd never, ever take another drink again
I fought it like the devil, but you know that you're in trouble
When you're fourteen and drunk by ten a.m.
Tried to hide it from my mom and dad, all my friends said, straighten up
I just laughed, said, you don't understand
That's a hell of a lot to ask of a drinkin' man
Premise/plot: An honest look at the ugly truths of alcoholism. Country music often--but not always--glamorizes drinking, drinking a lot, getting drunk, being stupid while drunk. But not all country songs treat it that lightly. The song ends exactly the same way it begins, repeating: "I woke up this mornin' and I swore to God I'd never, ever take another drink again."

My thoughts: I think this song would pair well with "Where Have I Been All My Life," and "Three Nails and A Cross." I think you could imagine one person progressing from one to the other. The key perhaps being, "Three Nails and A Cross," as the middle song.

This song is the COMPLETE and TOTAL opposite of Toby Keith's Red Solo Cup.

2013
Love is Everything is George Strait's twenty-eighth album. It features thirteen songs. Four of the songs were written or cowritten by George Strait. Three of the songs from the album were released as singles, "Give It All We Got Tonight," "I Believe," and "I Got a Car."

Other songs on the album include: "Blue Melodies," "I Just Can't Go On Dying Like This," "I Thought I Heard My Heart Sing," "That's What Breaking Hearts Do," "When Love Comes Around Again," "The Night is Young," "Sitting on the Fence," "Love Is Everything," "You Don't Know What You're Missing," and "When The Credits Roll."

My favorite is probably "I Got A Car." It's a fun, little story song.

"I Believe" was written in honor of the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

2015
Cold Beer Conversation is George Strait's twenty-ninth album. It features thirteen songs. Three of the songs are written--or co-written by George and his son. Two singles were released from this album, "Cold Beer Conversation" and "Let It Go."

Other songs on the album include: "It Was Love," "Goin' Goin' Gone," "Something Going Down," "Take Me To Texas," "It Takes All Kinds," "Stop and Drink," "Everything I See," "Rock Paper Scissors," "Wish You Well," "Cheaper Than A Shrink," and "Even When I Can't Feel It."

I do like the two songs that were released as singles. But I am clueless as to why they didn't release IT WAS LOVE as a single. It is a GREAT song. And I just think it has HIT written all over it!

I really like Take Me To Texas. George loves to sing about Texas!
Take me to Texas, on the open range
The Rio Grande is in my veins
It’s heaven there and so my prayer
Is that you’ll take me anywhere in Texas
The only home I know
I’m a child of the Alamo and the Yellow Rose
So when I go
If you were ever curious what it would be like if Dr. Seuss wrote a country song, then give a good long listen to "It Takes All Kinds." This one is just catchy and FUN.

"Everything I See" is another must. A son is singing a song about his father who recently died. This one would also make a great single, I think.

This was the album that "inspired" the project in the first place.


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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9.

Just got back from San Diego Comic Con (so much fun--but SO EXHAUSTING)--and there are quite a few links this week--so here's hoping I get these right.

Here are the MMGM links!

- The Runaway Librarian joins the MMGM fun with a feature on four of her favorite new reads. Click HERE to welcome her to the group. 
- Books 4 Learning is spreading some love for PERCY JACKSON'S GREEK GODS. Click HERE to see why. 
- Sue Kooky is spotlighting THE IT GIRL. Click HERE to read her review.  
- Susan Olson is gushing about ONCE WAS TIME. Click HERE to find her feature.
- Justin at Justin Talks Books is highlighting JUST MY LUCK. Click HERE to read what he thought 
- The B.O.B. is interviewing author Christopher Healey. Click HERE to check it out.
- Michelle Mason is wishing for THE SEVENTH WISH. Click HERE to find her review. 
- Susan Uhlig has a double feature this week. To see her review of COUNTING THYME, go HERE. And to see her review of THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY, click HERE 
- Greg Pattridge has a double feature with THE DRAGONFLY EFFECT and SLACKER. Click HERE to see what he thought. 
- Rosi Hollinbeck is reviewing--and GIVING AWAY--AIM. Click HERE for details.  
- Michael Gettel-Gilmartin is revealing the cover of A CRACK IN THE SEA . Click HERE to check it out.   
- Jess at the Reading Nook has a Q&A with author Kit Grindstaff. Click HERE for all the fun.   
- Carl at Boys Rule! Boys Read! has a special guest feature from one of his awesome readers. Click HERE to see what they thought of THE MYSTERIOUS BENEDICT SOCIETY. 
- Jenni Enzor is sweet on SWEET HOME ALASKA. Click HERE to see why. 
- Got My Book is throwing down THE COPPER GAUNTLET. Click HERE to read their feature. 
- Michelle Mason is covering RUBY REINVENTED. Click HERE to see what she thought.
- Joanne Fritz always has an MMGM for you. Click HERE to see what she's talking about this week. 
- The Mundie Moms are always huge supporters of middle grade. Click HERE for their Mundie Kids site
- Karen Yingling also always has some awesome MMGM recommendations for you. Click HERE to which ones she picked this time.
If you would like to join in the MMGM fun, all you have to do is blog about a middle grade book you love on a Monday (contests, author interviews and whatnot also count--but are most definitely not required) and email me the title of the book you're featuring and a link to your blog at SWMessenger (at) hotmail (dot) com. (Make sure you put MMGM or Marvelous Middle Grade Monday in the subject line so it gets sorted accurately--and please don't forget to say what book you're featuring) You MUST email me your link by Sunday evening in order to be included in the list of links for the coming Monday. (usually before 11pm PST is safe--but if I'm traveling it can vary. When in doubt, send early!) (Also make sure the post you send me is a new post, not one from earlier in the week. I try to keep the content fresh)

If you miss the cutoff, you are welcome to add your link in the comments on this post so people can find you, but I will not have time to update the post. Same goes for typos/errors on my part. I do my best to build the links correctly, but sometimes deadline-brain gets the best of me, and I'm sorry if it does. For those wondering why I don't use a Linky-widget instead, it's a simple matter of internet safety. The only way I can ensure that all the links lead to safe, appropriate places for someone of any age is if I build them myself. It's not a perfect system, but it allows me to keep better control.

Thank you so much for being a part of this awesome meme, and spreading the middle grade love!


*Please note: these posts are not a reflection of my own opinions on the books featured. Each blogger is responsible for their own MMGM content and I do not pre-screen reviews ahead of time, nor do I control what books they choose. I simply assemble the list based on the links that are emailed to me. 

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10. Publisher's Weekly announcement (Hooray!!!)


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11. And the winner is...





I'm happy to announce that, according to randomizer, the winner of the hardcover copy of A CLATTER OF JARS and the paperback copy of A TANGLE OF KNOTS is....


BOOKS4LEARNING


Congratulations! And expect an email from me asking for your mailing address.



Come back next week for a guest post from debut author David Neilsen!



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12. The Diamond Mystery

Diamond Mystery (The Whodunit Detective Agency #1). Martin Widmark. Illustrated by Helena Willis. 2002/2014. 80 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The streets were empty in the little town of Pleasant Valley.

Premise/plot: Jerry and Maya are classmates and friends who have opened a detective agency out of Maya's basement. They live in the small, quaint town of Pleasant Valley. The book opens with Mohammed Caret hiring these two child detectives to find out who is stealing diamonds from his shop. Their cover will be that he has hired these two children to do some light cleaning and run a few errands for him. They meet the three employees that work for him. And after a day of close observation, they are ready to solve the case.

My thoughts: I liked this one. I did. It's an early chapter book. I'd say just about right for second graders. It's the first in a mystery series for children. It has been translated into English from the Swedish.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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13. Celebrating 25 Books Over 25 Years: Under the Lemon Moon

Lee_Low_25th_Anniversary_Poster_2_LEE & LOW BOOKS celebrates its 25th anniversary this year and to recognize how far the company has come, we are featuring one title a week to see how it is being used in classrooms today as well, as hear from the authors and illustrators.

Featured title: Under the Lemon MoonUnder Lemon

Author: Edith Hope Fine

Illustrator: René King Moreno

Synopsis: One night, Rosalinda is awakened by a noise in the garden. When she and her pet hen, Blanca, investigate, they see a man leaving with a large sack-full of fruit from Rosalinda’s beloved lemon tree.

After consulting with family and neighbors about how to save her sick tree, Rosalinda sets out in search of La Anciana, the Old One, the only person who might have a solution to Rosalinda’s predicament. When she finally meets La Anciana, the old woman offers an inventive way for Rosalinda to help her tree–and the Night Man who was driven to steal her lemons.

Awards and Honors:

  • Honor Book Award, Society of School Librarians International
  • Notable Children’s Book, Smithsonian Magazine
  • Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People, National Council for the Social Studies/ Children’s Book Council
  • The 50 Best Children’s Books, Parents Magazine
  • Parent’s Choice Silver Award, Parent’s Choice Foundation
  • Children’s Books Mean Business, Children’s Book Council (CBP)

From the author:

“I can’t help grinning when I look back on my years of Under the Lemon Moon school visits. This book came about from a San Diego news story about a lemon grove that had been vandalized—lemons were taken, trees damaged—a little lemon seed of an idea.

Young readers gasp when I tell them I worked and reworked 42 versions before sending out the manuscript. They brawk like Blanca the chicken, make butterflies with their hands, and echo “Gracias” on cue. They hear, then say, the key opening line, “Deep in the night Rosalinda heard noises,” moving their hands to catch the rhythm of the words. They get their first taste of magical realism as La Anciana helps Rosalinda heal her damaged lemon tree and gain a sense of empathy when learning more about the Night Man.

I’ve now written eighteen books (including Armando and the Blue Tarp School and Snapshots! with Lee & Low) but Lemon Moon, with René King Moreno’s warm illustrations, was my first picture book and has garnered numerous awards. Thanks to my critique group’s patient support, plus Lee & Low’s Spanish translation and attention to back list, Lemon Moon still sells well today. With its subtle theme of sharing and forgiveness, this book still holds a special place in my heart.” –Edith Hope Fine

Resources for teaching with Under the Lemon Moon:

Book activities:

Olfactory FactoryUNDER_THE_LEMON_MOON_spread_3
Lemons have a special scent. Scents can trigger memories from long ago. Choose objects with distinct smells, such as a lemon drop, a flower, a crayon, a Band-aid, a piece of pine, cinnamon, peanut butter on a cracker, etc. Put each object into a separate plastic bag. Choose one bag, without peeking. Now open the bag and waft the scent toward your nose with your hand. (That’s the safe way to pick up scents in the air-you’ll do that in science in high school.) That scent may bring back a strong memory. Write about what you remember.

Bake Lemon Moon Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 6 Tablespoons shortening
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons milk
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1-2 tablespoons “zest” (grated lemon peel; add more if you love the lemony zing)
  • 1 capful lemon extract

Preheat over to 375 degrees. Cream shortening and sugar.
Add milk, egg, baking powder, salt, and flour. Mix well.
Add lemon juice and zest. Mix well.
Drop by teaspoonful onto greased cookie sheet, two inches apart.
Bake 10-15 minutes until the cookies are just turning golden.

Under the Lemon Moon is also available in Spanish: Bajo la luna de limón

Have you used Under the Lemon Moon? Let us know!

Celebrate with us! Check out our 25 Years Anniversary Collection

veronicabioVeronica has a degree from Mount Saint Mary College and joined LEE & LOW in the fall of 2014. She has a background in education and holds a New York State childhood education (1-6) and students with disabilities (1-6) certification. When she’s not wandering around New York City, you can find her hiking with her dog Milo in her hometown in the Hudson Valley, NY.

 

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14. OUR CHEMICAL HEARTS by Krystal Sutherland \\ A Book With A Kick Of Realism

Review by Jackie... OUR CHEMICAL HEARTS By Krystal Sutherland Hardcover: 256 pages Publisher: G.P. Putnam (September 6, 2016) Language: English Goodreads | Amazon John Green meets Rainbow Rowell in this irresistible story of first love, broken hearts, and the golden seams that put them back together again. Henry Page has never been in love. He fancies himself a hopeless romantic, but

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15. World is full of people w/ good ideas. Published authors are ones who sat down & got them written. - @JenniferFallon

"Write, write, write... The world is full of people with good ideas. The published authors are the ones who sat down and got them written." - Jennifer Fallon

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16. those were the days


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17. If Screen Doors Could Talk


<!--[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE <![endif]-->
When my family visited my maternal grandmother in the spring and autumn months we sat on outside on her screen porch before the onset of sweltering Louisiana summers. The view of her front yard from the porch was intoxicating. You felt as if you were sitting inside a bouquet of untouched flowers beneath a pristine airy sky. 
Her house was in the center of three acres of land surrounded by azalea bushes, petunias, and moss sheltered trees; a yard my siblings and I couldn’t resist playing in for hours.   
 

The front porch had two front doors, one for humans and a door my grandmother had built in place of a bottom screen window for her beloved German shepherd, “Sam,” whose door remained swinging from its  hinges after Sam's death. I loved to enter the porch through Sam’s door and of course, play with it although my grandmother prohibited it.
Sam’s door was built for Sam and when a hinge broke or the wood cracked, she would have it repaired, but she never removed the door.  


Both of the front screen doors had their own stories and secrets, if only doors could talk. For example, my brothers and I could judge the mood of the “grown-ups” in our family by the way they closed the screen door on their way in or out, so again, both porch doors played a role in our family and both doors exhibited their own character.   

For example, there was an art to closing the front porch door, it didn’t close easily, so if you didn’t pull the knob gently, it would bounce against the door frame, which infuriated my grandmother, but if you didn't pull the door knob hard enough it wouldn't close at all. 
So, of course, I pulled the door too hard one day and it ricocheted against the frame then stopped leaving the door open about six inches. The house grew silent and I stood as straight as a soldier anticipating the expression on my grandmothers’ face. Her hazel eyes met mine, and she said,        

“Ann, I can see you were in a hurry, but you left the door open again, now go and close it.”  
 My brothers and I called my grandmother, “Nana,” so I said,

“Nana, why do you get mad when we pull the knob on the porch door too hard, and it doesn’t close, the door doesn't open into the house, just to the outside porch?”

I watched her eyes while she searched her mind for an answer, then, she looked at me with a perplexed look, as if she was asking herself the same question. Then she smiled and said,  

 “Because it lets the air out. “  
 

I’ve often wondered what she was thinking before she answered me and I'd like to believe she was thinking of her yard. Perhaps, she didn’t want the air inside the porch to blend with her Azalea bushes, moss sheltered trees and bouquet of untouched flowers beneath a perfect pristine sky. 


Although, I think the truth is, she didn't want to ruin a perfect day, and was probably relieved that I didn't break the front porch door, a fact that never occurred to me when I was a child. In fact, now, I also understand why we weren't allowed to play with Sam's door and why it took her so long to answer my question, in addition to why her answer didn't make any sense.  


Thank you for reading and for stopping by A Nice Place In The Sun. I hate to miss Aww...Monday's a weekly meme from my friend Sandee's blog, Comedy Plus, but I've been thinking about my grandmother lately, then last night I thought of her and the porch doors in the middle of the night, and I just had to write it down. But, I will certainly return to Aww...Monday's next week and I encourage you to stop by Comedy Plus and link up to Aww...Monday's  link list, it's a lot of fun. 

Have a fabulous day and a great week. And again, thanks for visiting. :))    

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18. Monday Poetry Stretch - Ovillejo

The ovillejo is a Spanish poetic form made popular by Miguel de Cervantes. It is a 10-line poem composed of 3 rhyming couplets and a final quatrain written in the form of a redondilla. In addition to rhyming, this form is also syllabic.

The first line of each couplet is 8 syllables long, while the second line is 3-4 syllables. The lines of the redondilla are 8 syllables each, with the final line composed of a repetition of lines 2, 4, and 6.

Here's what the poem looks like.

1 - x x x x x x x a
2 - x x x a

3 - x x x x x x x b
4 - x x x b

5 - x x x x x x x c
6 - x x x c

7 - x x x x x x x c
8 - x x x x x x x d
9 - x x x x x x x d
10 - line 2, line 4, line 6

You can read more about the ovillejo at Poetry Forms. You can read about the redondilla at Poetry Magnum Opus.

So, there's your challenge. I hope you'll join me this week in writing an ovillejo. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

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19. Another codebreakers character

A bit simple,  but it all worked fine in the game at a small size.
Codebreakers_Janitor_run_walk from Lachlan Creagh on Vimeo.
A bit mechanical on the walk with some foot sliding due to the animation sampling for the game- the run is a bit more fluid.

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20. Shake Up Your Writer's Group!


This month my writer's group is trying something new: art journaling together. It isn't the first time we've "changed the rules" and jumped into fresh territory, but adding artwork to our writing is a bit of a departure for us. 

To start things off, we agreed to each choose a special sketchbook or journal to work in. In keeping with many of my "how wrong can this go" attempts to get things right, I chose a sketchbook that came with impossible-to-remove stickers on both the front and back covers. After an hour of attempting to remove them, I ended up with a thousand little bits of paper still clinging on like limpets, as well as some deep gouges and tears in the cardboard. Solution? Start my art journal with some cover collage!



Lemonade out of lemons, right? 

Despite my somewhat rough start to the project, I think it's going well. We've had two art journal-based meetings so far; chosen themes for our journals (I've only changed mine twice); written down our intentions for our journaling practice, and started filling pages.

Regardless of whether we're working on journaling, short stories, or poetry, our group meets every two weeks, usually in a bookstore or museum cafe, and the one thing we've always done is have fun. The second objective that has kept our group strong and lively is that we concentrate on writing together rather than critiquing. It's made a difference to a) not have "homework assignments" between meetings; b) be able to support each other's creativity without playing editor, imposing our opinions where they don't really belong, and/or stifling a work at any stage of the draft-process. 

Writing together has had all sorts of benefits, new manuscripts being the least of them. More than anything we've learned to: 
  • Write on demand regardless of where we are, how we're feeling, or how lousy we think our work is at any given time. 
  • Be fearless. After we write, we read aloud. Although we've always provided the option to not read if something feels too personal or too raw for sharing, I've never known any one of us to use that option. 
  • Ink. In every color of the rainbow. We write by hand when we get together, and the results have never been anything less than impressive. (Hear that, writer's group? You are fantastic writers!!)
Some of the other ways we've kept the inspiration high has been to:
  1. Write flash fiction or poetry using word and picture prompts cut from magazines. Sometimes we'll all use the same picture, e.g., a strange setting, an evocative character, or an unusual object. At other times we'll combine them, or have a little package of our own (passed out during the meeting) containing two or three individual images. I never cease to be amazed at how different our stories are, or how publication-ready the writing is. 
  2. Go for timed writing. We give ourselves anywhere between thirty to forty-five minutes to write. Once the time is up, it's pens down. 
  3. Take field trips. We haven't had as many of these as I would like (note to group: take more trips!), but the trips we have taken have been unforgettable. I'm especially thinking of the time we all went up to Santa Fe and back by train. 
  4. Bring pot-luck brunch and meet at someone's house. Yum. 
  5. Treat ourselves to a restaurant lunch. No clean-up involved. We had pizza last time. Super yum. 
  6. Watch a how-to video together. Great for discussion (and eating. We combined the video with another pot-luck.). 
  7. White elephant parties. We got so good at this we've had to give them up, but essentially what we did was bring unwanted items from home, play a silly game to hand them around, and anything we didn't want was collected and taken to the thrift store the next day. Now that we're all beautifully de-cluttered, we've decided to keep our homes as junk-free as possible meaning the parties are over, but they were entertaining while they lasted.
I can't wait to see how our art journaling experiment works out. Although we are pretty much trying a free-form approach, we are also using this helpful list of 50 ideas I found at Blacksburg Belle for when we get stuck and need a small prompt (or a big shove). This motivational blog is loaded with lots of other excellent creative tips, so I highly recommend a visit. In the meantime, get out those glue sticks, write your hearts out, and keep the lemonade flowing.

Tip of the Day: Break out of the box. Even if you love your writer's group exactly the way it is, it never hurts to shake things up a bit. Meet somewhere new, read a book together, brainstorm some fresh possibilities. Drop a line a let me know how it's going.

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21. Hang time


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22. Botched Beginnings

Here are some things to avoid in the opening pages of your novel.

https://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/2016/05/31/botched-beginnings-common-first-page-killers/

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23. Barbara J. King on whale grief

9780226155203From National Geographic:

More than six species of the marine mammals have been seen clinging to the body of a dead compatriot, probably a podmate or relative, scientists say in a new study.

The most likely explanation for the animals’ refusal to let go of the corpses: grief.

“They are mourning,” says study co-author Melissa Reggente, a biologist at the University of Milano-Bicocca in Italy. “They are in pain and stressed. They know something is wrong.”

Scientists have found a growing number of species, from giraffes to chimps, that behave as if stricken with grief. Elephants, for example, return again and again to the body of a dead companion.

Such findings add to the debate about whether animals feel emotion—and, if they do, how such emotions should influence human treatment of other creatures. (See “Do Crows Hold Funerals for Their Dead?”)

Animal grief can be defined as emotional distress coupled with a disruption of usual behavior, according to Barbara King, emeritus professor of anthropology at William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, and author of the book How Animals Grieve.
Barbara J. King has long positioned her scholarship at the forefront of our study of animal emotions—in works like How Animals Grieve and in her criticism, which regularly appears in the TLS, King pushes us to understand the complex inner lives of animals, neither wholly similar nor dissimilar to the realm of human affects. The National Geographic piece makes a compelling case for the importance of King’s work on animal grief, which she refuses to anthropomorphize, while at the same time, grounding her findings in observations of marine animal life. Warning though: it will make you feel your own feelings.
To read more about How Animals Grieve, click here.
To read the National Geographic piece in full, click here.

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24. Today Show Hosts Harry Potter Costume Contest for ‘Cursed Child’ Book Release

Time to dust off those wizard robes! In celebration of the release of the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Parts One & Two book, the Today Show is holding a Harry Potter costume contest!

To enter, visit the Today Show plaza in New York on Thursday, July 28 dressed as your favorite Potter character. Two lucky winners will receive a copy of the eighth Harry Potter book and a VIP trip for the winner and a guest to Universal Studios Hollywood to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter!

Additionally, the first 250 entrants will receive the first seven Harry Potter books!

This contest is open to U.S. residents 13 years of age and older. Read more (including the full rules and regulations) at today.com.

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25. The lifelong importance of nutrition in pregnancy for brain development

The importance of a healthy diet for proper functioning of the brain is increasingly being recognized. Week in, week out studies appear recommending a high intake of certain foods in order to achieve optimal brain function and prevent brain diseases. Although it is definitely no punishment for the most of us to increase our chocolate consumption to boost brain function, the most important period during which nutrition affects our brain may already be behind us.

The post The lifelong importance of nutrition in pregnancy for brain development appeared first on OUPblog.

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