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1. The Green Bicycle – Diversity Reading, 2016

Title: The Green Bicycle Author: Haifia Al Mansour Publisher: Dial Books for young Readers, 2015 Age: 9-13 Themes: family, dreams, life in Saudi Arabia as a girl, coming of age, role of women/girls Opening: Wadjda wasn’t thinking about her ticket to heaven. You could see it on … Continue reading

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2. VALENTINE'S 2016 - round-up

This Sunday will be Valentine's Day so with just  a few days left to purchase cards I have collected together a round-up of some of the designs spotted by P&P. First up are these beautiful and romantic designs from Noi Publishing. This sweet designs below are from UK card company - Stop the Clock Designs. These sophisticated and stylish designs below by Postco, Steph Baxter

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3. Dame Maggie Smith wins Best Actress, Emma Thompson dedicates award to Alan Rickman

Dame Maggie Smith won ‘Best Actress’ at the Evening Standard British Film Awards,  for her role as Miss Shepherd in The Lady In The Van.

Emma Thompson won the Comedy award, for her portrayal of Cemolina in The Legend of Barney Thomson. Other nominations in this category included Fantastic Beasts’ Colin Farrell  (The Lobster).

Thompson also gave a heartwarming dedication to Alan Rickman in her speech:

“I’d like to commit this moment in time to dearest Alan Rickman, who many of us are dearly missing tonight. It’s so depressing but there it is, it does happen.

“He always predicted I would end up looking like my mother after a lifetime of Guinness, fish suppers and untipped Players. So thank you.”

The award for best film went to Brooklyn, which features Julie Walters. Walters has been nominated for the ‘Best Supporting Actress’ Bafta (the awards take place 14th February).

Eddie Redmayne and Dame Maggie Smith have also received Bafta 2016 nominations, so keep posted to hear more about the results!

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4. 100 hours

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Yes--it's true!

After quite a long delay, Let the Storm Break (Sky Fall #2) is finally hitting the world in paperback form!!!!

Even better: it has the stunningly beautiful new cover. I seriously can't stop staring at it:

Even EVEN better? It has this in the back:

Why yes, yes that IS the first THREE chapters of LET THE WIND RISE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Also: make sure you mark those calendars for 4/26/16, when you'll finally get to read the end of Vane & Audra's story in LET THE WIND RISE. It's getting SO CLOSE!

(Oh, and for those wondering about launch parties and events and whatnot--I promise, I have LOTS of updates on all of that coming in the next month or two--as well as the LTWR pre-order giveaway. Stay tuned!)

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6. ‘Ed’ by Taha Neyestani

Our Pick of the Day is the winner of this year's Annie Award for best student film.

The post ‘Ed’ by Taha Neyestani appeared first on Cartoon Brew.

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7. Wise Advice from a Lion

At ALA midwinter meeting, Pinkney was announced as recipient of  two lifetime achievement awards: Coretta Scott King–Virginia Hamilton Lifetime Achievement winner as well as the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for his “substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children.”  

That is an extraordinary thing and most well-deserved. Pinkney has been a hard working and creative author and illustrator throughout his career. Never one to bask in the spotlight, he has just kept producing extraordinary work on behalf of kids.

Recently, Hornbook (January 26, 2016) did a quick Five Questions for Jerry Pinkney

The brief Hornbook article ended with the following question and answer: "You're known as a lion in this field. Do you have any advice for the young cubs just coming  up?" 

And Jerry's reply? "Make it all about the work. Everything else will follow."

I read that and thought, yep, that pretty much applies to any work in any field including our profession. And he has it exactly right.

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8. Book of the Year Awards in Iran

       I can't seem to be able to find any mention of local fiction winners, but in the Theran Times they report Asghar Farhadi's collection wins Iran's Book of the Year Award (that would be in the screenplay category), where they also mention some other category-winners -- including best literary translation, which was for Borges' correspondence-collection, Cartas del fervor (which, oddly (?), doesn't appear to have been translated into English yet ...).
       And in the bibliography category: "the first award went to List of Published Translated Books" -- which actually sounds like fascinating reading (at least to me -- what gets translated (and published) is enormously revealing, and even more fun in Iran, where there is no inhibiting adherence to copyright convention(s), so multiple translations of the most popular titles are not uncommon).

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9. Day 9: Marguerite Abouet

akissi On Day 9, we welcome back Marguerite Abouet, whose revolutionary YA graphic series AYA was a global hit in 2007; she’s returned with a delightful series for younger readers, featuring the adventures of the mischievous and resourceful Akissi. In the first book, Akissi: Feline Invasion

,released in the U.S. in 2013, Abouet “dishes out bursts of simultaneous hilarity and horror in African vignettes aimed at a younger audience,” according to Kirkus, where it received a starred review.

“It isn’t often when I see something in a children’s book that shocks me, but the final story was a glorious jaw dropper.”

School Library Journal review of Akissi.

Marguerite Abouet

The adventures and shenanigans of Akissi, her brother Fofana, and friends’ “are both universal and absolutely particular to her milieu,” continues Cory Doctorow over at Boing Boing. “It’s the perfect combination of gross-out humour, authority clashes, and general mischief to capture a kid’s interest.” Comprised of seven humorous and sometimes outrageous short stories featuring kid-friendly ups and downs with West African flavor, Akissi is pure fun, and with Books 1-6 already published in Europe, we hope to see more of her stateside very soon.

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10. Mary Church Terrell: a Capitol crusader

When Mary Church Terrell died on 24 July 1954, at the age of 90, her place in civil rights history seemed secure. She had served as the first president of the National Association of Colored Women. She had been a charter member of the NAACP.

The post Mary Church Terrell: a Capitol crusader appeared first on OUPblog.

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11. Coloring Page Tuesday - Sleeping Cardinal

     I wonder if birds ever wish they could just hibernate rather than flying south?
     CLICK HERE for more coloring pages!
     CLICK HERE to sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...
my debut novel, A BIRD ON WATER STREET - winner of six literary awards. Click the cover to learn more!
     When the birds return to Water Street, will anyone be left to hear them sing? A miner's strike allows green and growing things to return to the Red Hills, but that same strike may force residents to seek new homes and livelihoods elsewhere. Follow the story of Jack Hicks as he struggles to hold onto everything he loves most.
     I create my coloring pages for teachers, librarians, booksellers, and parents to enjoy for free with their children, but you can also purchase rights to an image for commercial use, please contact me. If you have questions about usage, please visit my Angel Policy page.

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12. Anderson's Brother & Sister Covers

In 1949, illustrator Harry Anderson did a series of covers for Woman's Home Companion featuring a blond-haired brother having fun with his brunette sister. 

Anderson was a specialist in painting children for the women's magazines. The covers in this series are consistently well drawn and full of Anderson's generous and playful spirit. 

Harry Anderson (1906-1996) painted in gouache or casein because he was allergic to oil. If you want to see more examples of his work, check out the online collection by Jim Pinkoski.

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13. Adolescents and adolescence: the glass really is half-full

Recently I was invited to be the guest clinician for a school district’s new young men’s choral festival. The original composition of the festival changed over the course of planning and, long story short, I ended up with a group of 79 fourth- through ninth-grade male singers.

The post Adolescents and adolescence: the glass really is half-full appeared first on OUPblog.

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14. Debby Slier's LOVING ME

Debby Slier's Loving Me is a delightful board book! Published in 2013 by Star Bright Books, it is definitely one I'll be recommending!

Here's the cover:

The very last page in the book tells us the woman and baby on the cover are Shoshone Bannock. Indeed, with that page we learn that the other photographs in the book are of children and family members who are Lakota Sioux, Navajo, Iroquois, and Potawatomi.

On the first page, we see a mom and baby. The text is "My mother loves me." That pattern is repeated over the rest of the book. A dad, a brother, a sister, an aunt, an uncle, a grandma, a grandpa, and a great grandma... embracing a child. They're clad in a range of clothing, from jeans and t-shirts to traditional clothing, but all of it in the day-to-day life of the individuals being shown. Slier's photo essay is a terrific mirror for Native kids, and, it'll help children and adults who aren't Native see us as in the fullness of our lives as Native people.

I heartily recommend Slier's Loving Me, published by Star Bright Books.

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15. Blue planet blues

The Earth we live on was formed from a cloud of dust and ice, heated by a massive ball of compressed hydrogen that was the early Sun. Somewhere along the four billion year journey to where we are today, our planet acquired life, and some of that became us. Our modern brains ask how it all came together and progressed, and what shaped the pathways it followed.

The post Blue planet blues appeared first on OUPblog.

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16. Would you visit my design website?

Hi. I want to ask you to please take a look at samples of my book design work--while you may not be in the market, at some time you may know someone who is, and it might be fun for you to see all the variety that's there.

You'll see designs for fiction, memoir, and non-fiction.  Click on a cover to see the full front/spine/back cover in a larger size. I hope you'll drop in for a minute or two. A screen chapter of the samples page is below. To visit, go here or click the image below. Thanks for your time and consideration.


Design page

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17. Writing Memorable Characters, via Finding Nemo

I love living in New York, but there are a few things I miss from Florida. I miss family, and the beach. I miss knowing how the heck to get around without my GPS. And I’ll be honest: I miss Disney. Raising two small children in south Florida, we spent A LOT of time at Disney. It was one of the few places where we could do family trips without ruining our vacation and everyone else’s. On one of our last trips, we were at Animal Kingdom watching the Finding Nemo show for the dozenth time, and I was sitting there, completely enthralled. I got to thinking about why I wasn’t bored with this show, and it occurred to me: it’s the characters. They’re memorable, and they resonate with audiences. In short, they’re the kind of characters that we all want to write.

So how do we do it? Let’s take a closer look at the cast of Finding Nemo to see what makes them so memorable and how we can use the same techniques when creating our own characters.


Marlin is the hero of Finding Nemo because he has the most to overcome. He’s emotionally wounded by a traumatic event from the past—the death of his wife and almost all of his children. This event has twisted his view of the world, making him believe that the only way to keep his remaining child safe is to hover over him and protect him from all of life’s dangers. But this lie that he has embraced is crippling him and slowly destroying his relationship with the person he loves the most. In order for him to be whole and for his relationship with Nemo to be healthy, he must learn to let go. This is the essence of Marlin’s character arc throughout the course of the story.

Audiences respond to Marlin because they can relate to him. We all have past events that have wounded us. We all have flaws that hamstring us and make it difficult to achieve our goals. If you want to create a hero that people respond to, make sure he’s got a complete character arc. For help in this area, check out Michael Hauge’s Writing Screenplays that Sell, which contains a crash course in characterization and just about everything you need to know about story structure. I’m also shamelessly going to plug The Negative Trait Thesaurus, since it discusses at length how flaws develop and the roles that they play in the character’s arc.



Courtesy: Creative Commons

One of my favorite characters in this story is an antagonist—Bruce, who is as threatening and brutish as any shark should be. But he’s also a vegetarian who runs a twelve-step support group for like-minded sharks. His motto? Fish are Friends, Not Food. This is one of those ideas I wish I’d come up with; it’s genius because it’s so unexpected. It would have been really easy to create just another shark character to add conflict to the story and complicate Marlin’s journey. Instead, the writers gave Bruce a unique twist. By adding some ethics and a sense of social awareness, they created a never-before-seen character that readers remember. When creating characters, make sure to give them some unexpected positive or negative traits that will save them from becoming stereotypes and will make them unique.


As a needy, scatterbrained, and gullible fish, Dory could easily come off as annoying to audiences (Jar Jar Binks, anyone?). Instead, she’s a beloved character, and I think it’s because she’s also funny, friendly, and helpful—all likable traits that offset her flaws. Dory’s memory deficiency also renders her vulnerable, which makes us want to protect her and root for her success. The takeaway here is that if you want your characters to resonate with readers, give them an endearing trait or two. This will help to make even the most broken, weird, or despicable of characters resonate with readers. Oh, and a little vulnerability is always a good idea.


Crush is one of my favorite examples EVER of a stereotype that has been turned upside down. When you think of the mentor archetype, many clichés come to mind: the sage old woman, the shrewd but befuddled wizard, the wise-but-slightly-cracked medicine man, etc. True, Crush is old and wise. But he’s also a super cool sea turtle. He surfs. He’s a thrill-seeker. He talks like Jeff Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Clichéd characters aren’t memorable; they’re fairly forgettable because they blend in with all the familiar characters that have come before them. When it comes to the archetypal characters in your story (heroes, villains, mentors, sidekicks, etc.), make sure to avoid the cliché and give them some unique characteristics that will make them stand out from the crowd.

Memorable characters abound on stage, screen, and the written page. Sometimes, just taking a closer look at them can give us insight into why they’re so special and how we can create the same kind of magic with our casts. Can you think of other characters that have stuck with you, characters that were created with the techniques that were shared today? I’d love to see your ideas in the comments section. Happy writing, everyone!

The post Writing Memorable Characters, via Finding Nemo appeared first on WRITERS HELPING WRITERS™.

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18. Presidential Polar Bear Post Card Project No. 81 - 2.8.16

Congrats to Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos -- the first professional sports team that I was able to call my own after moving from Anchorage to Denver in 1983! Apropos of protecting the 1002 and Alaska's Coastal Plain, sometimes a good defense is the best offense. Super Bowl 50, 100 Years of National Parks, 200 victories for Payton Manning. Get 'er done. GRRR!

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19. African literature

       At okayafrica Siyanda Mohutsiwa writes that I'm Done With African Immigrant Literature -- fed up with the so widespread African writing (and writers) that are (and emphasize the) beyond-continental. (Note, however, that, as is sadly almost needless to say, Mohutsiwa's 'Africa' is only the sub-Saharan sort; the Arabic- (and occasionally French- and some other languages) writing northern part not really figuring in this (or most) discussion.)
       She's exaggerating slightly for effect, but has a point -- and for all the African literature under review at the complete review, I would love to see more local(ized) stuff too (but that goes for most regions, as it's often not the most (locally) popular stuff that gets translated, even from places such as France, Germany, Spain, etc.).
       If nothing else, the article is a nice reminder of the Pacesetter novels, and even if they're no longer on the shelves at Botswana Book Store, you can find them at that online site -- or at what should always be your first online destination for African books, the Africa Book Centre.

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20. Authors Guild Google Suit Could Reach Supreme Court

The Authors Guild’s dispute with Google over scanning copyrighted works could reach the Supreme Court.

The case began in 2005, when the writer’s group accused Google of “massive copyright infringement.” The case has had many twists and turns along the way. In October 2015, a judge upheld Google’s appeal that its efforts to scan millions of books for its digital library does not violate copyright law.

Now, publishers are petitioning the Supreme Court to hear the copyright-infringement case against Google brought by the Authors Guild. In an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, Author’s Guild president Roxana Robinson explains why. Here is an excerpt:

Google claims that it would be “prohibitive” to pay the authors for using their work, but that’s not an acceptable response. Paying suppliers is simply a cost of doing business. It isn’t acceptable for one of the world’s richest companies to claim that it needn’t pay for content that plays such a crucial part in its financial success. Google depends on these texts to make its search engine one of the best in the world, and that superiority is what drives its ad revenues. Content draws traffic, and traffic drives ad revenues.

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21. Some of My Favorite Online Reading from the Week

I've not had time to dig into many books this week. But I've been reading lots online and found these things worth sharing! 

From John Green:

My husband and I watched "The Martian" on Netflix last week.  I later found this fascinating story about the author of the book and how he wrote the story online. Love that people corrected the science as he went. The online possibilities for writing int his story fascinated me.

I revisited an article by Peter Johnston from a 2012 Stenhouse Blogstitute called "Reducing Instruction, Increasing Engagement". Peter Johnston is someone whose work I reread often as it is so important. So much to learn from him.

I loved this short reminder called "Why You Should Care About LEGO and Creativity"

And this important article (thanks to Katharine Hale for sharing) about Smart Tech Use for Equity.

And the brilliant Kristin Ziemke wrote "Beyond Text: reThinking Literacy" which is a must-read.

I was student teaching 3rd grade when the Challenger exploded. I remember the day vividly.  I was interested in this article about one of the engineers that still blames himself for the disaster.

And I always learn a lot from education writer Valerie Strauss. Her recent piece "The Testing Opt-Out Movement is Growing" is an informative one.

And I've always been fascinated to read about Barbie so I was interested in all things Barbie this week as Mattel launched Barbie's three new body types.

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22. Her masters voice

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23. Secrets, Lies, Mistakes, and Wounds: The Trick to Creating Engaging Characters in Fiction (Part One)

We all lie. We may not admit it, we may not even know it, but we do. And those of us who are loudest to proclaim our honesty are often those who lie the worst. All we have to do is look at the current political campaign with a clear eye to see human nature in all its brutal glory. There are  candidates so convinced of their superiority that they can't see or (at least admit) the complexity of any issue or implementation. Other candidates are so eager to achieve a goal that they will bend the truth in any way necessary. Still others have studied what to say to sway voters to the point where they can hardly find their own voices, and others are so mired in proclaiming that the system is broken that they cannot offer viable solutions. And for every message, there is a willing ear who is able to tune out the doubts and filters that automatically alert us to the lies.

Why is that?

The reasons are as unique as fingerprints. Each of us measures truth according to our own individual barometers. Our definitions of truth bend and flex in ways that shield us from the lies we cannot bear to face. That's what makes us interesting as human beings, and that, also, is what makes for fascinating characters in fiction.

Fascinating Characters Are Wounded Characters

Whether we are writing commercial fiction, or literary fiction, or something in between, we have to understand the importance that wounds and self-protection mechanisms play for both our characters and our readers.

Wounds make our characters:

Read more »

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24. there was an old lady who gobbled a skink - a bookwrap

I have such a quirky, fun book to review for you this morning.  It is a wonderful twist on an old favourite that I am sure you will recognize immediately.  Enjoy...this is a fabulous one!


Authored by Tamera Will Wissinger

Illustrated by Ana Bermejo

Ages 3-6

Unwrapping some illustrations for you to peek at...

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25. Marvel’s Latest Gaming Endeavor is Less Than Marvelous

AVENGERS_ACADEMY_YEARBOOK_FINAL-01Marvel’s latest licensing partnership in mobile gaming had sparked interest in the days leading up to its release this past weekend. Avengers Academy key art looked fresh and compelling. It looks like a series Marvel Animation should be producing. However, no gameplay videos were available for us to see and after spending a weekend with […]

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