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1. Tuesday Slice of Life Story Challenge

It's Tuesday! Join us!

2. NEW FABRICS - fabricworm

Today's posts are all about fabrics and my first port of call was online store Fabricworm to see what was new. The first collection to catch my eye was Glitz Garden (above & below) designed in-house at Michael Miller and released this July. I also loved the Fabricworm snaps of Emily Isabella's 'Happy Town' collection. And from Jill McDonald at Windhams they have snapshots of

0 Comments on NEW FABRICS - fabricworm as of 7/7/2015 3:48:00 AM
3. The Millions' 'Second-Half 2015 Book Preview'

       The Millions' Most Anticipated: The Great Second-Half 2015 Book Preview is now up -- "at 9,100 words strong and encompassing 82 titles, this is the only second-half 2015 book preview you will ever need" they claim .....
       It's a nice overview of (mainly) the bigger titles due out over the next ... eight months (it actually goes through February 2016 ...) but far from comprehensive -- and it's particularly disappointing regarding fiction-in-translation, with almost none that's not published by the big(gest) houses included; a rare exception is Krasznahorkai's 'reportage', Destruction and Sorrow Beneath the Heavens (see the Seagull Books(' distributor's) publicity page, or pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk).

       (Especially for those interested in books in translation, Typographical Era's The 2015 Visual Guide to Translated Fiction and the 2015 Translation Database at Three Percent (latest version here) are far more useful. Caveat and warning: the visual guide really is visual -- arranged by book covers -- rendering it enervatingly busy/near-unusable for some of us (all I want/can bear is text !), while the Translation Database is an 'Excel Worksheet' which, sigh, has to be downloaded (i.e. you can't open it directly in your browser).)

4. FABRICS - cotton + steel

The very latest collections from Cotton + Steel have just arrived in stock at Fabricworm. There a five colourful new collections from some fabulous designers. Here are the new ranges to look out for : The first is 'Honeymoon' by Sarah Watts a collection inspired by a tropical honeymoon with lounging sloths, tweeting songbirds, and wild horses. Next we have 'Paper Bandana' by Alexia

0 Comments on FABRICS - cotton + steel as of 7/7/2015 3:48:00 AM
5. Caine Prize

       They announced the winner of the Caine Prize yesterday -- not at the official site yet, last I checked, but see, for example, the report at the Books Live weblog -- and the prize whose: 'focus is on the short story, reflecting the contemporary development of the African story-telling tradition' went to The Sack (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) by Berkeley-professor Namwali Serpell (see her faculty page).

6. FABRICS - tamara kate

And finally today another new Michael Miller collection - The Birds and the Bees by Tamara Kate is a nature themed series of prints featuring bold shapes and bright up. There are two colour groups available for this fun range which was inspired by a ceramic bird ornament Chilean artist Pablo Zabal owned by Tamara's mother. Tamara has also designed a  holiday collection for

0 Comments on FABRICS - tamara kate as of 7/7/2015 3:48:00 AM
7. दाने दाने में कैंसर

cartoon cancer by monica gupta

दाने दाने में कैंसर… पान मसाला

तरह तरह के ब्रांड और तरह तरह के स्वाद पर एक बात सभी में समान है और वो है चटखारे ले कर खाने वाले दाने दाने में कैंसर छिपा है.. बेशक विज्ञापन बहुत आकर्षित करते नजर आते हैं, कई बार ऐसा लगता है कि पान मसाला नही खाया तो जिंदगी ही बेकार है … सफलता भी नही मिलेगी.

और उपर से ये टीवी वाले सच पूछो तो मैं इनसे बहुत नाराज हूं … क्यो?? अरे भई .. कैंसर का प्रोग्राम भी दिखाते है और प्रयोजक भी दिखाते है … आधे से ज्यादा विज्ञापन पान मसाले के ही होते हैं अब चाहे अजय देवगण हो, गोविंदा हो , शाहरुख हो ,,, और हम इम्प्रेस हुए जाते हैं.. टीवी हमारी जिंदगी में सीधा असर डालता है इसलिए ऐसे विज्ञापनों को दिखाने पर इन पर केस होना चाहिए… कि ये विज्ञापन हमें भ्रमित कर रहें  है.

सिविल जज सीनियर डिविजन सिद्धार्थ ¨सह ने कहा कि तंबाकू का सेवन स्वास्थ्य के लिए हानिकारक है। तंबाकू के सेवन से लोगों में तेजी से कैंसर जैसी खतरनाक बीमारियां हो रहीं हैं। आज की युवा पीढ़ी में यह लत तेजी से बढ़ता दिख रहा है, जो खतरनाक संकेत है। मुख्य चिकित्साधिकारी डा.अखिलेश कुमार ने कहा कि तंबाकू सेवन से प्रतिवर्ष 8 लाख लोग मौत के शिकार हो रहे हैं। जो चिंताजनक है। सीएमओ ने कहा कि तंबाकू से कई बीमारियां फैलती हैं। खैनी, पान, पान मसाला, सिगरेट आदि का सेवन बेहद खतरनाक है। बढ़ते हृदय रोग का एक प्रमुख कारण तंबाकू ही है। Read more…

No Smoking

– पान मसाला, सिगरेट और तंबाकू महंगा होने के बाद बावजूद कम नहीं हुए नशाखोर

ALLAHABAD: आलोक सिंह एक ऑटोमोबाइल कंपनी में फील्ड ऑफिसर हैं. उनकी सैलरी पंद्रह हजार रुपए है. वह स्मोकिंग करते हैं और रोजाना बीस सिगरेट पी जाते हैं. इस तरह से उनकी एक तिहाई सैलरी हर महीने धुएं में उड़ रही है. यह तो महज एग्जाम्पल है. ऐसे लाखों लोग हैं जो रोजाना तंबाकू, सिगरेट, पान मसाला की लत पर बड़ी रकम खर्च कर देते हैं. जिसकी वजह से शहर में तंबाकू उत्पादों की बिक्री का ग्राफ बढ़ता जा रहा है. सरकार द्वारा वैट टैक्स में बढ़ोतरी किए जाने के बाद उत्पाद महंगे हुए लेकिन बिक्री पर बहुत ज्यादा फर्क नहीं पड़ा.

तंबाकू से होने वाले नुकसान को लेकर सरकार भले ही लोगों को लाख जागरुक करने की कोशिश करे लेकिन नशाखोरी कम होने के बजाय बढ़ रही है. केवल शहर में रोजाना आठ से दस लाख रुपए के तंबाकू, सिगरेट और पान मसाला की बिक्री हो रही है. इनमें सबसे ज्यादा डिमांड सिगरेट की है. कुल बिक्री का आधा हिस्सा स्मोकर्स अदा करते हैं. होल सेलर्स बताते हैं कि तंबाकू उत्पादों के मार्केट में सीमित ब्रांड हैं लेकिन इनकी डिमांड बहुत ज्यादा है.

पहले से ज्यादा बढ़ गया पान-मसाले का क्रेज

हाईकोर्ट के निर्देश पर राज्य सरकार ने प्रदेश में गुटखे की बिक्री पर प्रतिबंध लगा दिया था. कंपनियों ने इस आदेश का पालन करते हुए पान मसाले का प्रोडक्शन शुरू कर दिया लेकिन इसके साथ तंबाकू के पाउच फ्री कर दिए. इससे गुटखा प्रेमियों को ऑप्शन मिल गया. अब वह पान मसाले के साथ पहले से ज्यादा तंबाकू का सेवन कर रहे हैं, जो कि सेहत के लिए बहुत ज्यादा हानिकारक है. कंपनियां तंबाकू के पाउच का पैसा पान-मसाले के जरिए वसूल कर रही हैं.

महंगाई भी कम नहीं कर पाई दीवानगी

सरकार द्वारा चालीस फीसदी वैट टैक्स में बढ़ोतरी किए जाने के बाद पान मसाले और सिगरेट के दाम तेजी से बढ़े हैं लेकिन इससे बिक्री पर ज्यादा फर्क नहीं पड़ा है. लोग अपना नशा पूरा करने के लिए बढ़े हुए दाम देने को भी तैयार हैं. पान मसाले में एक तो सिगरेट में तीन रुपए तक की बढ़ोतरी हुई है, जिससे सरकार का रेवेन्यू भी बढ़ा है. दुकानदार कहते हैं कि महंगाई के चलते कुछ लोगों ने जरूर नशा छोड़ा है लेकिन उससे ज्यादा संख्या उन टीन एजर्स की है जो नशे की लत का शिकार हो रहे हैं.

तंबाकू उत्पाद बेचने वाले कीडगंज के दुकानदार विवेक की मानें तो इस धंधे में ग्राहकों को बुलाना नहीं पड़ता है. वह खुद ब खुद चले आते हैं लेकिन चिंता का सबब है टीन एजर्स का नशे का शिकार होना. वह बताते हैं कि क्फ् से क्7 साल की उम्र के बच्चों में सिगरेट की लत तेजी से बढ़ रही है. अपना स्टेटस सिंबल मेंटेन करने और शोऑफ के चक्कर में वह शौकिया स्मोकिंग करते हैं और धीरे-धीरे एडिक्ट होने लगते हैं. शुरुआत में वह दस से पंद्रह रुपए की महंगी सिगरेट पीते हैं लेकिन नशे का शिकार होने के बाद 7 रुपए वाली सस्ती सिगरेट पीने से भी नहीं हिचकते. inextlive.jagran.com

कुछ समय पहले मेरी सहेली दक्षिण धूमने गई. उसे सुपारी पान मसाले का शौक है. रास्ते मॆं खत्म होने पर सोचा कि वहां मार्किट से ले लेगी. वहां जब पता किया तो पता लगा कि पान मसाला , सुपारी बैन है… वो हसंने लगी क्योकि उसे पता था कि हरियाणा जैसी जगह मे बैन का मतलब क्या होता है पर वहां सही मायने मे पता लगा कि बैन का मतलब बैन बैन ही होता है … काश देश भर की सरकार इसे अमल मे लाए … काश काश …

कुल मिला कर जब तक हम खुद से विचार करके इसे नकार न दे हमें समझ नही आएगी या साफ शब्दों में ये कहॆं कि  अक्ल नही आएगी.. अब ये हमारे उपर है कि विज्ञापन देख कर हमे भ्रमित होना है या …. केसर समझ कर इसे चबाते रहना है …

The post दाने दाने में कैंसर appeared first on Monica Gupta.

8. Draw Tip Tuesday - Juicy Watercolours!

Welcome to Draw Tip Tuesday!
I’m not sure what the weather is like in your corner of the world, but here in the Netherlands I am enjoying summer. Not just the warm weather, but as a foodie-artist, I love the juicy summer fruit.
So today we’re going to fill a page with some juicy watercolours!

 

0 Comments on Draw Tip Tuesday - Juicy Watercolours! as of 7/7/2015 4:22:00 AM
9. Spotlight and Giveaway: Making a Comeback by Kristina Mathews

 
Enter to Win a
$15.00 Amazon or B&N eGift Card

 
MAKING A COMEBACK
More Than a Game #3
Kristina Mathews
Releasing July 7th, 2015
Lyrical Press: Shine

 
With a divorce in the works, Annabelle Jones heads out to Southern California, the land of sun and starting over. She wants to prove to herself and her young daughters that she still has what it takes to turn heads as a swimsuit model—that she doesn’t need a man to take care of her. Until an accident forces her to rely on the hunky, yet mysterious man next door…

Nathan Cooper is trying to revive his own career. Once a top left-handed relief pitcher, he tried to get over a hidden injury with the aid of banned substances. Not only was he caught and suspended, he was traded and missed out on winning the championship. Now he’s a free agent without a contract, and that means life is ready to play ball…

 
BUY NOW
 
Today was a good day. A glorious day. Sitting at the stoplight in the Southern California sunshine, Annabelle Jones did a drum solo on the steering wheel of her convertible Mercedes. She didn’t care if people stared at her singing along to “Don’t Stop Believing.” She hadn’t stopped believing, and look at her now, fresh off her first modeling job since filing for divorce. So it wasn’t the cover of Sports Illustrated, still, it was a job. Something she could be proud of. Her daughters could be proud of her.

It wasn’t about the money. The income she earned from this modeling job was more about pride. Having something to offer the world, even if it was just her face.

Annabelle wanted to show her daughters that a woman didn’t need a man to take care of her. She could stand on her own two feet, and return to the career she’d given up when she married Clayton Barry. She might not fly off to exotic locations or work with the world’s most famous photographers, but she was working.

She lifted her face to the sun, soaking in its warmth. It was as if the fog of the last few years had finally lifted. Nothing but blue skies ahead for her and her six-year-old twin daughters.

Today’s shoot was just the beginning. Her agent had two more jobs lined up for her before the end of the month. He’d also scheduled her to attend the televised celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue. She hadn’t been able to make the photo shoot last fall in New York for the magazine, but he thought making an appearance on the live show would give her plenty of exposure.

Hopefully, she’d be able to juggle it all. Part of what appealed to her about today’s job was that it was close enough that she’d be able to shoot for a few hours and still get home in time to meet her daughters when they got off the school bus.

Annabelle glanced at the clock. If the light didn’t change soon, she wasn’t going to make it to the bus stop in time.

The song ended and Annabelle turned down the volume. She’d started listening to Journey during the Goliaths’ World Series run. So the song was five years older than she was, the message still rang true. It was about hope. Starting over. Believing.

The traffic light turned green, and she pulled into the intersection. A flash of yellow appeared out of the corner of her eye. She turned in time to see an SUV blow through the stoplight. Before she could react, the vehicle struck her Mercedes just behind the driver’s side door.

Her head slammed into the side window. Glass shattered and she looked down at the blood on her blouse. A thousand black pixels danced before her eyes.

And then nothing.



a Rafflecopter giveaway

 
Kristina Mathews doesn’t remember a time when she didn’t have a book in her hand. Or in her head. But it wasn’t until she turned forty that she confessed the reason the laundry never made it out of the dryer was because she was busy writing.
While she resigned from teaching with the arrival of her second son, she’s remained an educator in some form. As a volunteer, parent club member or para educator, she finds the most satisfaction working with emergent and developing readers, helping foster confidence and a lifelong love of books.
Kristina lives in Northern California with her husband of more than twenty years, two sons and a black lab. A veteran road tripper, amateur renovator and sports fanatic. She hopes to one day travel all 3,073 miles of Highway 50 from Sacramento, CA to Ocean City, MD, replace her carpet with hardwood floors and serve as a “Ball Dudette” for the San Francisco Giants.


 
 

10. Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Michael Emberley



 

Well, dear readers, it’s been a while since I’ve done a breakfast interview. Since I’ve been teaching this summer, it takes me longer to get to these more time-intensive Q&As. My visitor today, illustrator Michael Emberley, deserves an award (or a free breakfast perhaps) for his patience with me. We started talking last year about doing this interview.

And I’m really glad we got around to it. I enjoy seeing his illustration work, and I really enjoyed chatting with him and hearing his responses to these questions. Emberley, the son of legendary illustrator Ed Emberley, has been illustrating since 1979. He was born and raised in Massachusetts but now makes his home in Ireland, near Dublin. (I highly recommend taking time to read this page of his site, where he talks about why he started illustrating and why he decided to stick with it: “I began illustrating because I needed money, but now I truly appreciate what I do. I can keep myself from being bored by doing a variety of book projects and using different techniques. This is more difficult than mastering one style but it is the only way for me.”)

His work has been described as “an unassuming wonder” and “a playful masterclass in using the page.” His vivid characters leap off the page, and his loose-line watercolors communicate a spontaneity and energy that is infectious. His artwork also communicates the great warmth of family and friends; pictured at the top of this post is but one example of this, an illustration from 2008’s Mail Harry to the Moon, written by Robie Harris. And Emberley’s never been one to let gender stereotypes get in the way of his boy and girl protagonists; he had that covered well before it became PC to let such a thing happen.

When I asked him about breakfast, I got a hearty response:

Hey! My favorite meal of the day! Okay. If writing early morning, good coffee and pastry in a café. If heading off cycling, add granola yoghurt and fruit or a ‘fry,’ if I need something extra. (A “fry” here in Ireland means [vegetarians, read no further]: sausage, rashers (thick bacon), eggs, black and white pudding (blood sausage), grilled tomato (pronounced toe-mah-toe), and a farl (potatoe pancake) if you’re up north. All on the same plate.)

A fry it is then. (Hey! If I don’t like it, well … it’s only a pretend cyber-breakfast.) And lots of coffee, of course.

Oh, and guess what? Michael shares below something he’s been thinking about doing for a while — a complete, single-scrolling image of all the sketches for one book. They are from Barbara Bottner’s Miss Brooks’ Story Nook, published last year. “I didn’t dare count them,” he told me. “Hundreds. It’s never been on any of my blogs or Facebook.” That is at the very bottom of this post.

I thank him for visiting 7-Imp.

* * * * * * *

Jules: Are you an illustrator or author/illustrator?

Michael: Definitely both. I’m an illustrator first, but I’m trying to get better at writing more “books without pictures.” But even when writing a novel, my mind is full of images — a theatre with sets and scenes, costumes and colored lights, players and performances. As I draw a picture book character, I hear them speaking. As I write about a middle grade character, I see their eyes. They’re real to me.

Pictured below: Sketch pages of different early ideas for Miss Brooks’ Story Nook (Knopf, 2014). See even more sketches in this 2014 7-Imp post.

 





Pictured below: More sketches for Miss Brooks’ Story Nook, followed by a piece of final art. These were Michael’s “wish for a gruesome end to Billy by a Missy-conjured snake. None were accepted for final art. Notice even the final composition in the scene of the snake confronting Billy. I played around with different morphs of Missy into her imaginary snake. My idea of her turning into her creation can be seen in the sequential scene in the final book art where a close-up of her face/eyes is clearly becoming reptile, and then the snake becomes more a morph of her scarf (look at the color stripes and tail), but my original idea—using a half-Missy, half-snake head, though a more logical extension of the “snake eyes” sequence—was ultimately rejected. It’s all subjective in fantasy.”





” … which is exasperating boys like YOU.”
(Click to enlarge)


 

Pictured below: “Development of another hard-to-visualize concept of Billy being a yoke on Missy’s neck. Some things come out first draft with very little change in final art.”

 



Pictured below: An unused concept for the neighbor’s basement:

 



 

Pictured below: Lion sketches:

 



 

Pictured below: Ideas for Missy in her raincoat. Not used. “Note the skull pattern, expressing her less than stereotypical ‘girlie’ nature.”

 




 

Pictured below: Some final art from the book:

 



(Click second image to see spread in its entirety)


 



(Click second image to see spread in its entirety)


 



(Click second image to see spread in its entirety)


 

Jules: Can you list your books-to-date? (If there are too many books to list here, please list your five most recent illustrated titles or the ones that are most prominent in your mind, for whatever reason.)

Michael: Yikes. Lots. I could list them, but it’s not nearly as impressive a list compared to what others have done. You can look at my website.

Unfortunately, I like to live life rather than spend it all in the studio. This will ultimately limit the number of books I finish, I guess. You can only do so much. I try not to be too hard on myself, but I usually feel I’m not working hard enough. The question is: What do I want to do with the finite time I’ve got?

 






 

Jules: What is your usual medium?

Michael: Line, as I said, first and foremost. Preferably pencil. Sometimes pen. Occasionally brush and ink. [As for] color: Mostly liquid watercolor, but also dry pastel. If I could get away with just a pencil, I’d be happy. I’m experimenting with using digital color.

 





(Click each to enlarge)


 

Jules: If you have illustrated for various age ranges (such as, both picture books and early reader books OR, say, picture books and chapter books), can you briefly discuss the differences, if any, in illustrating for one age group to another?

Michael: I’ve illustrated for young and old. Fiction and non-fiction. I love all ages. I wish I could draw for everyone. I do as much drawing making cards and notes for adults as I do for kids. I do a comic strip for my local coffee shop. It’s fun seeing people smile. I rarely get that from the book industry. I work so remotely from that whole world.

 


(Click to enlarge)


 

Jules: Where are your stompin’ grounds?

Michael I’ve lived on the east coast and west coast of the USA (Boston, Oakland, San Diego) but now live in a small village on the east coast of Ireland, near the Irish Sea. We’re just south of Dublin, so we’re in the city a lot, too. It’s a beautiful spot for cycling (my other life) and close to trains and an airport shuttle. It’s getting too pricey, though, so my lovely Irish wife Mel and I may be forced to move soon. An artist is always being chased away by gentrification. My life has been pretty nomadic — at least 20 pillows so far.

 






(Click each to enlarge)


 

Jules: Can you briefly tell me about your road to publication?

Michael: Short story: My father was/is in the biz (Ed Emberley). He worked at home. I did odd stuff for him when I still lived there. A series of sketches I did for a drawing book he was working on was a failure, because it looked less like his work than he wanted, but instead of throwing it out, he suggested I take it away and make it into a stand-alone book for myself. Clever way of getting me to pay my way I took it in to my father’s editor, the kindly John Keller, and he said, “Let’s go!” I was 19 and never looked back. [That was] Dinosaurs! A Drawing Book, 1979.

 



 

Jules: Can you please point readers to your web site and/or blog?

Michael: http://www.michaelemberley.com/.

 



(Click each to enlarge)


 

Jules: If you do school visits, tell me what they’re like.

Dan: They’re less about me and all about the prep that the school, teachers, librarians, and parents put into the visit. The more they put in, the better the kids are prepared, and the better it goes for everyone. I’m pretty good with the kids. I’m a kid myself. I can be very silly. I draw a lot. Most people like that.

But if they have no idea who you are or why you’re there, it’s like climbing Everest. Everyone loses. I should do more visits. But no one knows me here in Ireland. Very few of my books are sold here. My publishers claim the Irish don’t want my books. What can you do? I enjoyed visiting a tiny school in Co. Mayo recently. I got them rapping with me to one “You Read to Me” book. They’re so funny.

One thing I can say is I stopped prepping for specific audiences long ago, because I was blind-sided so many times with either a completely different age group or topic than I was told. Or it’s teens and five-year0olds in the same room. You have to think on your feet and read the vibe going on. I’ve done some seriously bad talks — and great ones. Worst was an ALA author breakfast years ago. I bombed. Best was my last U.S. gig – in Rhode Island, I think. The kids were great and, therefore, so was I. We all won.

 






Illustrations from Barbara Bottner’s Miss Brooks Loves Books!
(and I don’t)
(Knopf, 2010)


 

Jules: Any new titles/projects you might be working on now that you can tell me about?

Michael: Oh boy. Tons of stuff. I’ve taken time out this past year, making a big lunge back towards writing after mainly illustrating for several years. I’m writing for all ages. I have stuff for YA down to picture books. I have at least 15 manuscripts on the go. Yikes! I know: Focus on one, right? I’m working on that. But I’m too excited. I have so many books I want to do.

And I love all my new characters! Does that sound silly? I sincerely hope I can learn to write well enough so others will “meet” them and enjoy their company as much as I do. That sounds trite, but who cares? It’s true.

 






Michael: “These are Mom sketches from a book I’m doing now. These were nixed for publication. Only the [Mom at the doorframe] is in the current dummy.”


 

Mmm. Coffee.Okay, we’ve got more coffee, and it’s time to get a bit more detailed with seven questions over breakfast. I thank Michael again for visiting 7-Imp.

1. Jules: What exactly is your process when you are illustrating a book? You can start wherever you’d like when answering: getting initial ideas, starting to illustrate, or even what it’s like under deadline, etc. Do you outline a great deal of the book before you illustrate or just let your muse lead you on and see where you end up?

Michael

: Lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of sketching. I seem to do more and more as years go by. Loads of it done in coffee shops. I’ll use pencil, but since it smudges if you draw on the opposite page, I only use the right-hand pages. When I get to the end, I turn the sketchbook upside down and draw on those pages in pen. Hey, paper is expensive.

I do quite a bit of direct sketching on type layouts too. Impulsive ideas first — inventing the characters, their clothing, hairdos, and expressions. You know, the cast and performance of the play. I might add a few backgrounds. I only explore color in the finals, unless there is a color idea that dominates the scene.

I did this alphabet book with Barbara Bottner with 26 different kids and one teacher. I created 27 distinct individuals that moved through the book. Then I played them out. That was work. Lots of sketchbooks were filled on that one.

 






(Click each to enlarge)


 

2. Jules: Describe your studio or usual work space.

Michael

: My workspace is wherever I am. I worked in a classic sixth floor factory building loft studio in Boston for ten years; in second bedrooms; in my own bedroom; in a closet-like space, like the one I’m renting at the moment. I make do. I get on with it.

My fantasy would be a bigger, well-lit, more open space to lay things out. A picture book is a whole, not discrete pieces. It’s great to see it all at once. But I can’t afford that kind of space right now. You make do. I’m writing this interview in my local pub. But maybe that’s an Irish thing.

 




(Click each to enlarge)


 

3. Jules: As a book-lover, it interests me: What books or authors and/or illustrators influenced you as an early reader?

Michael

: My influences are few as a reader. I did not read much fiction as a kid, sorry to say. Mrs. Bowman read us Dahl in 3rd grade, and I loved it. I was forced to read things beyond my age and hated them, like Melville’s Billy Budd in 5th grade. That said, I loved all of Richard Scarry, Charles Shulz comics, and Charles Harper books.

 



(Click each to enlarge)


 

4. Jules: If you could have three (living) authors or illustrators—whom you have not yet met—over for coffee or a glass of rich, red wine, whom would you choose? (Some people cheat and list deceased authors/illustrators. I won’t tell.)

Michael: I like lots of people’s work. But it’s hard to know who would be a good dinner guest if I haven’t met them. A lousy artist might be great craic, and a brilliant one might only be good for, as a friend once described, “a couple of grim pints.” But it is nice to sit down with a fellow book person and not have to explain what you do the whole night.

I admire many people’s work and do occasionally wonder if they are anywhere near as interesting as their art/writing. “My authors” are all good craic. I met author Barbara Bottner at a gig once, and whether she believed me or not, I was a huge fan of her book, Bootsie Barker Bites. And I can tell you, she ain’t boring. It’s great to be doing books with her. Mary Ann Hoberman and her husband Norm are great dinner partners. My friends Robie Harris and her husband Bill are always great around the table.

[Pictured below: Art from Mary Ann Hoberman’s Forget-Me-Nots: Poems to Learn by Heart

(Little, Brown, 2012). Read more about it here.]

 


– From Theodore Roethke’s “Dinky”


 


“Nancy Hanks” by Rosemary and Stephen Vincent Benét


 


“Mary Middling” by Rose Fyleman, “A Frog in a Well Explains the World”
by Alice Schertle, and “Bat Patrol” by Georgia Heard

(Click to enlarge spread and read poems)


 


If-ing” by Langston Hughes and “Things” by Eloise Greenfield
(Click to enlarge spread and read poems)


 



 

I like work I don’t imagine non-artists can truly appreciate to the same degree as another illustrator would. Brian Karas is a quiet genius. Ditto Ana Juan; Frida is a fantastic. I love Raúl Colón, Marla Frazee, and Jon Klasssen’s stuff is gorgeous. That tree house book — wow. Ed Young, the Dillons. Jim Kay’s work in A Monster Calls is one of the best things I’ve ever seen.

I love stuff I’ve seen from Spain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and eastern Europe. I’m in love with stuff that won’t sell in the U.S. I would love to publish in Poland or someplace like that. France would be impossible to break into, but they have amazing children’s book illustrators. Japan too. Gorgeous stuff. The U.S. book-buyer can be too, uh, American, sometimes. Too limited in their tastes. There is a big world out there beyond the bright lights.

I love the comic/graphic novelists coming out of Europe and the U.S. They might be good for a laugh over a glass.

I want to talk to someone who sees no boundaries between art, science, religion, and philosophy. I like thinkers and dreamers. I like smart — but not at the expense of wonder. I like talking to people who teach me things but don’t lecture. I like people who can skip between genres and genders, fact and fiction, pain and persuasion. Someone who can stay off their phone. Someone funny and kind. If they are an artist, so much the better. But the creative arts is no secret passport to the land of interesting company. (Sounds like a personal ad!)

Writers? Hmmm. Too many. Short list:

Okay. That’s more than three, isn’t it?

 


(Click to enlarge)


 

5. Jules: What is currently in rotation on your iPod or loaded in your CD player? Do you listen to music while you create books?

Michael: Tons of stuff. I listen all the time. All styles. Mostly when doing art. Writing is problematic with most music. But I write in noisy coffee shops with background music, so it’s possible. For example, West African is okay, since I don’t speak the lingo. Mainstream stuff — Salif Keita, Youssou N’Dour, etc. Puccini is nice, too, sometimes.

Random thoughts on music that’s sticking in my head recently:

Gillian Welch, “Everything’s Free.” Haunting song. And what better lament for the world of pre-internet/free content. I’m paraphrasing her lyrics here:

Everything is free now / That’s what they say / Everything I’ve ever done, They’re gonna give it away. … If there’s something that you wanna hear / you can sing it yourself.

I also keep listening to this acoustic version of Springsteen’s “Thunder Road.” I never listened to him before, and I’m not a groupie. But these lyrics, though, won’t go away. Paraphrasing again:

… it’s a looong walk from your front porch to my front seat / the door’s open, but the ride, it ain’t free.

I can see that grey wooden porch floor, feel the chasm between the screen door and the open car door. The gulf between what she knows and what could be waiting for her. The tremendous courage it takes to cross that porch, to imagine another future for herself. It kills me every time.

Eddi Reader. Check out the video “What You Do With What You’ve Got”. Amazing. Try to see this Scottish original live, singing her version of Robby Burns’ “Ae Fond Kiss.” And try not to feel it. This verse:

Had we ne’er loved so kindly
Had we ne’er loved so blindly,
Nor ne’er met, Nor ne’er parted,
We would ne’er been so broken-hearted.

Ah, as a Czech friend of mine once said, “Melancholy is best emotion.”

I admit I love Elvis Costello’s lyrics. Random lines I remember (some may be off):

“She threw her hands up, like a tulip…”
“They’re mopping up all the stubborn ones who just refuse to be saved.”
“He’s planting a paperback book for accidental purchase, containing all the secrets of life, and other useless things.”

Canadian Holly Cole has this amazing album of Tom Waits covers. Another great writer. Love the “doorknob” lyric in “Falling Down”:

Everyone knew that old hotel was a goner. … They broke all the windows, and took all the doorknobs, and they hauled it away in a couple of days. …

Also Cole’s other cover album with this song-lyric by Patty Larkin:

He said: ‘I read the Bible every day,
Just to keep the demons at bay,
Thank God when the sun goes down,
I don’t blow away.’

And one more: Lori McKenna‘s “Stealing Kisses.” Poignant “housewife drama”:

I was stealing kisses from a boy,
And now I’m begging affection from a man…
Don’t you know who I am?
I’m standing in your kitchen.


 




Illustration and covers for two of Emberley’s books
with Robie Harris (read more here)


 

6. Jules: What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?

Michael: Well, most people who know me know this, but I am a competitive athlete when I’m not at the desk. Cycle racing has been my ‘thing’ since the late ’70s. It’s unusual in my experience for artists or writers to be athletic or competitive, and vice versa. I actually know no one who is in both worlds. A lot of artists/writers live in their heads all the time, come out at night, and they’re pretty neglectful or out of touch with their bodies.

The racing is a good balance for me. You can think out there. Mostly it’s training on back roads, wandering around, wind in your ears, a Zen thing, shutting down your “busy mind.” But racing itself is different. Aggressive, intense, clawing up hills, screaming down, diving into a sharp bend with people at each elbow. The pain, the exhaustion, the fear. Moving at high speed is an entirely different way of seeing the world than being in a chair.

 


Michael: “This is the kind of thing I do for books, as well as cards and letters. These self-portraits were done really fast one after the other on the holiday card envelopes of friends, family, etc. (I used to draw the recipient, but that gets you into a lot of trouble. Easier to pan yourself.) This shows how different each take can be. I do this for book characters as well, until I see the one I like. If this were a book,
I have two favorites here. The rest are trash.”


 

7. Jules: Is there something you wish interviewers would ask you — but never do? Feel free to ask and respond here.

Dan: How does the way artists are perceived in society inform your decision to become an artist? Or: Why are you really doing this? No, I mean, really?

I grew up in a household with a professional artist. That’s my perspective. I saw the great Oz from the back first. Great artists seem to come from both great resistance and great encouragement. But it’s something you learn and earn, not get by faith or are born with. I think there’s too much mystery, awe, and romance surrounding artists and writers that they haven’t earned and, frankly, isn’t good for them. It does us no favors. It sets us apart, instead of bringing us together. Creatives all too often either marginalized or put on a pedestal by society.

Here in Ireland, the attitude is pretty balanced: You’re given a comfortable chair, but no pedestal. That’s good. Pedestals are to knock people off of.

My pet peeve on the topic of the “artist’s life” is people who are writing or drawing so they can just “be the thing,” wrap themselves in the label Artist or Writer. Being an artist is just a name, a part of creating art, not the other way round. The goal is the work, not the label.

There are people who hold onto this thing they imagine an artist to be — some adolescent fantasy born from years of too much dreamy misinformation, like wanting to be a princess as a little child. To be famous—a celebrity—with the added thrill of being photographed, signing a hardbound book with your name on it. Jaysus feck. That’s the pinnacle of an adolescent dream, imagining being asked for their autograph.

Okay, I’d like to see art and writing and creative expression in general as something more acceptable and more readily available to a broader segment of the population. It’s a means of self-exploration and consolation — and generally enhances your life.

But that’s not professional art. There’s a difference. Professional art is work. You need to train for it, learn it, and hopefully get paid for it. It’s not something you do “if you only had the time.”

You wouldn’t expect anyone who likes to spin around in circles and likes how they look in a tutu to join the Bolshoi Ballet.

I think people should be asked more often why are they honestly doing it.

Pictured below: Thumbnails and early sketches from Barbara Bottner’s An Annoying ABC (Knopf, 2011).

 



Jacket thumbnails


 


Final sketch for book jacket


 


(Click to enlarge)


 








Above: Sketches
(Click each to enlarge)



 



Color sketches


 



 

* * * The Pivot Questionnaire * * *

Jules: What is your favorite word?

Michael: “Balance.”

Jules: What is your least favorite word?

Michael: “Hate.”

Jules: What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

Michael: Kindness.

Jules: What turns you off?

Michael: Bullies.

7-Imp: What is your favorite curse word? (optional)

Dan: “Me bollocks!”

Jules: What sound or noise do you love?

Michael: An Irish accent.

Jules: What sound or noise do you hate?

Michael: Loud, mechanical things at 7 a.m.

Jules: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Michael: Theatre.

Jules: What profession would you not like to do?

Michael: Foreclosure.

Jules: If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Dan: “Forgive yourself.”

 

Reminder: Below is a complete, single-scrolling image of all the sketches for Barbara Bottner’s Miss Brooks’ Story Nook, published last year.

 



 

All images are used by permission of Michael Emberley.

AN ANNOYING ABC. Copyright © 2011 by Barbara Bottner. Illustration © 2011 Michael Emberley. Published by Alfred A. Knopf, New York. Images reproduced by permission of Michael Emberley.

FORGET-ME-NOTS: POEMS TO LEARN BY HEART. Copyright 2012 by Mary Ann Hoberman. Illustrations copyright 2012 by Michael Emberley. Spreads reproduced with permission of the publisher, Megan Tingley Books/Little, Brown and Co., New York.

MISS BROOKS LOVES BOOKS! (AND I DON’T) Text copyright © 2010 by Barbara Bottner. Illustrations copyright © 2010 by Michael Emberley. Spread reproduced by permission of the publisher, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY.

MISS BROOKS’ STORY NOOK (WHERE TALES ARE TOLD AND OGRES ARE WELCOME!). Text copyright © 2014 by Barbara Bottner. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Michael Emberley. Published by Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY. Images reproduced by permission of Michael Emberley.

The spiffy and slightly sinister gentleman introducing the Pivot Questionnaire is Alfred, copyright © 2009 Matt Phelan.

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11. Random Item Personality Quiz

Soo random!What random item are you?

  1. It’s the weekend! You’re most looking forward to . . . a) playing kickball with your besties in the park. b) hanging out with your dog. c) putting together an art project like a scrapbook or mural. d) spending quality time on the sofa, reading books and catching up on your favorite movies. e) volunteering!
  2. Your favorite song is . . . a) a catchy pop tune. b) a chill electronic track. c) very rock n’ roll! d) a beautiful ballad. e) at least 20 years old.
  3. You dream of living . . . a) in a fun, funky town. b) by the beach. c) in a tree house. d) on a beautiful farm. e) in an exciting city.
  4. You prefer to drink . . . a) water. b) fruit juice. c) chocolate milk. d) soda. e) tea.
  5. Your favorite kind of cupcake is . . . a) red velvet. b) birthday cake with sprinkles. c) chocolate. d) carrot cake. e) cupcakes aren’t really your thing.
  6. Your favorite book to read at the beach is something . . . a) mysterious but fun. b) super-silly. c) fantastical! d) that you’ve read before and loved. e) non-fiction.
  7. Your dream job would involve . . . a) traveling the world and helping people in need. b) working with animals. c) designing awesome things. d) making music. e) holding an important government position.
  8. You consider yourself a person who likes to . . . a) be prepared for any possible situation. b) go with the flow. c) keep track of important people and dates at all times. d) consider other people’s feelings first. e) take control of situations as a leader.
  9. You prefer to . . . a) hang out in large groups of people, strangers and close friends included. b) hang out with your close friends, but sometimes make new ones. c) hang out with just your close friends. You’re picky about company! d) hang out with whoever’s around. e) constantly make new friends.
  10. For your birthday, you would like to . . . a) go bowling. b) go to a theme park! c) have a sleepover party. d) have an awesome birthday dinner. e) go on a trip to a foreign city.

If you picked mostly A’s, you are a rubber band ball.
Rubber band balls are so underrated! Who doesn’t need rubber bands? From tying hair up to opening tricky jar lids, rubber bands do it all. As do you, bouncy friend! You’re upbeat, a team player, and always willing to help out someone in need. You’ve got so much energy and you can’t wait to use it in fun, productive ways. Yay for rubber bands!

If you picked mostly B’s, you are a pocket dollar.
What’s a pocket dollar, you ask? Why, only the most AWESOME SURPRISE EVER! Finding an unexpected dollar in your pants pocket is the most amazing feeling ever. Like the pocket dollar, you brighten everyone’s day, and help people find joy in the little– and big — things in life. You’re like a billion golden rays of the warmest sunshine, pocket dollar! Keep on shining!

If you picked mostly C’s, you are an old movie ticket.
“Wait . . . a stubby, old ticket? How is that awesome at all?!” Don’t fret, my friend. Old movie tickets are great reminders of the day we went to the movies. Did you go with your best friend, or a new one? Was it a rainy day? What did you do before and after? Whether it was a special day or a regular one, movie tickets have a strange way of making us remember all sorts of little details. You, old movie ticket, have a stellar memory. You never forget a birthday, you always remember everyone’s favorite ice cream flavors. Oh, old movie ticket, you represent the awesome memories! What would your friends do without you?

If you picked mostly D’s, you are an empty shoe box.
The empty shoe box may seem kind of useless, but just wait until it’s time to find a spot to store your seashell collection/lip balm library/pen pal letters. The shoebox is the perfect storage solution! And so are you. Like the empty shoebox, you’re super-versatile, and you’re also super-low-key. You bring out the best in the people around you by being calm, collected, and pleasant always. Don’t underestimate your value, empty shoebox!

If you picked mostly E’s, you are a safety pin.
There is no emergency you cannot handle. You are everyone’s personal cheerleader and speedy problem solver. You take the lead in every situation because you know that you make the best leader. You are always lively and willing to help, and your heart is always in the right place, safety pin!

12. Andye's Favorite Things to do in D.C. {The Fixer Blog Tour & Giveaway}

We recently read and LOVED The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, so we jumped at the chance to be on the blog tour, and spread the love a little more! Since The Fixer is set in Washington D.C., and I happen to live in the D.C. area, I was asked to talk about my favorite things to do in D.C. Make sure you enter the Giveaway at the end of the post! Seeing all the sites: The way that I most

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13. Top Ten Hyped Books I've Never Read...

From Becs Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke & The Bookish.  This week's topic is Top Ten Hyped Books I've Never Read, which actually wasn't too hard for me, because I honestly have so many books in my TBR (er...on my TBR SHELVES) that I just had to glance at them as I was writing. I don't know if these books are hyped a lot. It feels like they are. I consider hyped to be...what it

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14. Summer Reading Club Check In

Here at my library, we are just about halfway through the summer (hooray!), so I thought it might be a good time to check in and see how Summer Reading is going for everyone.

Our reading program is going like gangbusters with about 1500 kids (plus about 300 in the Daycare Summer Reading Club) registered and lots of finishers coming in (we typically end up with about 2000 kids signed up by the end of the summer). This year, we’re able to give out a FREE BOOK to every finisher, which feels awesome (we typically have about 1000 finishers).

Another big hit has been the Fine Bucks we’re giving out to children and teens. Each SRC finisher gets 10 fine bucks, which can be used to pay fines on late or lost books on children’s or teen cards. I really love any way we can get kids’ cards clear and allow them to check out books. Parents love that our Fine Bucks don’t expire, so they can save them for when they might need them.

Photo by Abby Johnson

Photo by Abby Johnson

My staff and I have been reading, too! We’re slowly filling up our staff “reading log”, which is posted at our Children’s Reference Desk to (we hope!) inspire families to join us in reading all summer long.

Our programs have been going strong, with huge turnouts for our large performers this summer. Because we had such a HUGE increase in our outreach to schools this past school year, we took a little step back from summer programming. Families are still coming in and using their library and checking out tons of books!

It’s almost time to begin the countdown to the new school year. Our schools are changing to more of a year-round schedule and most of our schools start back on July 29!

How’s summer at YOUR library?

— Abby Johnson, Youth Services Manager
New Albany-Floyd County Public Library
New Albany, IN
http://www.abbythelibrarian.com

The post Summer Reading Club Check In appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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15. Karen Cushman Cover Reveal (are you ready for a fantasy novel?)

You read that right, folks.  Karen Cushman has a new book coming out (hooray!) and it’s not like her books in the past.  Cushman has embraced her fantastical side in her latest title, Grayling’s Song.  Here’s the plot description:

“When Grayling’s mother, wise woman Hannah Strong, starts turning into a tree, Hannah sends Grayling to call “the others” for help. Shy and accustomed to following her mother in everything, Grayling takes to the road. She manages to summon several “others”—second-string magic makers who have avoided the tree spell—and sets off on a perilous trip to recover Hannah’s grimoire, or recipe book of charms and potions. By default the leader of the group, which includes a weather witch, an enchantress, an aspiring witch, a wizard whose specialty is divination with cheese, and a talking and shape shifting mouse called Pook, Grayling wants nothing more than to go home.

Kidnapping, imprisonment, near drowning, and ordinary obstacles like hunger, fatigue, and foul weather plague the travelers, but they persist and achieve their goal. Returning, Grayling finds herself reluctant to part with her companions—especially Pook. At home she’s no longer content to live with her bossy mother, who can look after herself just fine, and soon sets out on another journey to unfamiliar places . . . possibly to see the young paper maker who warmed her heart.”

To get a sense of the book, I had the honor of asking Ms. Cushman a couple questions about his new direction.

Betsy Bird: It’s always a cause for celebration when a new Karen Cushman book is on the horizon.  This book does feel, to some extent, like a bit of a departure for you.  While it has a historical feel, there’s magic in its bones.  Have you always wanted to write a fantasy?  Or is this a newfound desire?

KarenCushmanKaren Cushman: It is definitely a departure.  After eight historical novels about gutsy girls (and Will), I wanted to try something different. I had an idea for a fantasy.  How difficult could it be?  I would not be bothered by all that pesky history, the rules and boundaries that constrain an author writing about a real time and place.

That shows how much I know about fantasies.  A fantasy world has as much history, as many rules and boundaries and limitations, as historical fiction, but the author has to invent them. For both fantasy and historical fiction authors, our task is to make a world come alive within boundaries.  .

Grayling’s Song takes Grayling reluctantly on a journey to free her mother from a curse. I set myself a difficult task: to write a fantasy in which magic exists but is sometimes harmful and never the answer.  Grayling has to get herself and others out of danger without magic–by being thoughtful, observant, cooperative, persistent, and determined.  In other words, human.  My husband calls it an anti-fantasy.  And that’s the point: magic is not the answer.

BB: Can you tell us a little bit about the origins of the book itself?

KC: The book began with the image of Grayling’s mother rooted to the ground.  I’m not a big fantasy reader and had never before thought about writing a fantasy, but that image appeared in my head and I wanted to find out more, so I had to make it up and write it down.

BB: What are some of the children’s fantasy novels that you yourself have enjoyed reading (either when you were a child or now as an adult)?  Have they influenced this book in any way?

BookThreeKC: I don’t remember fantasy being popular when I was young.  Science fiction, yes, but I wasn’t interested.  The first fantasy I recall reading is Peter Beagle’s wondrous The Last Unicorn, and I was all grown up and married before that.  Since then I have found several fantasies to love:  Lloyd Alexander’s five Chronicles of Prydain books, which I read over and over with my daughter, The Hobbit, The Once and Future King, Ella Enchanted, The Princess Bride, Plain Kate, Seraphina, The Goblin Emperor.

I think their influence is mostly in their wide spectrum.  There is no  one right way to write fantasy, they told me, no correct kind of character, no approved method of magic.  And several of them gave me permission to be funny, ironic, and  downright silly at times.

BB: So many authors have difficulty writing standalone books.  Which is to say, books that don’t require sequels.  Looking at your titles, I don’t know that you’ve ever done a sequel.  Is there a particular reason for this?  Do you think you might try one in the future?  I’m sure your fans have asked you to

KC: Stories seem to come to me all of a piece–a beginning, middle, and end, all in one book.  I had thought about writing a sequel to Catherine Called Birdy for my second book  but my editor didn’t like sequels and urged me to try something else.  So I did.  That something else was The Midwife’s Apprentice, which won the Newbery Medal in 1996.  Good call, Dinah.

I still think about that Birdy sequel.  I have a plot and characters, but I’m not sure I could recapture that voice.  Birdy’s voice is so distinctive and pretty well known. But maybe, maybe…

CatherineBirdyBB: Speaking of which, recently you were a bit in the news when Lena Dunham announced that she was adapting Catherine Called Birdy, one of her favorite books, to the silver screen. I assume that you’ve had interest from Hollywood in the past, but this felt a bit more serious.  Did it catch you off-guard?

KC: Off-guard is an understatement.  Several people had sent me the comment Lena made stating that Catherine Called Birdy and Lolita were the two best books for girls.  That’s pretty rare company but I thought no more about it until a contract for an option appeared from Lena’s company.

I’ve met with Lena, who is bright and lovely and sweet, much smarter and nicer than Hannah from Girls.  Lena is excited about the project and determined to make it happen so I have my fingers crossed.

BB: Well finally, what are you working on next?

KC: Too many ideas are swimming around in my head.  I’m working on a short story set in Elizabethan Bath, which may also be a novel.  And there is Millie McGonigal waiting for me in San Diego in 1941.  And a book about a pilgrimage to Rome, and, oh yes, something about thieving orphans in medieval Oxford.  Probably my next book will be one of those.  Probably.

BB:  A million thanks to you, Karen, for agreeing to speak with me!  Just as a side note, Lena Dunham also has a tattoo of Richard Peck’s Fair Weather.  Probably the only one in known existence, so her motives are certainly pure.

And now folks . . . the very first Karen Cushman fantasy novel!

GraylingsSong

Karen Cushman’s acclaimed historical novels include Catherine, Called Birdy, a Newbery Honor winner, and The Midwife’s Apprentice, which received the Newbery Medal. She lives on Vashon Island in Washington State. Her website is www.karencushmanbooks.com.

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16. More good stories from Lorelei Signals (link)

Check out the fascinating variety of fantasy stories featuring strong female characters in the July-September issue of Lorelei Signalshttp://www.loreleisignal.com/CurrentIssue.html

Here's a quote from Which Witch: "only half-joking that if you threw Antigone to the wolves, she would end up leading the pack back to kick your ass."

17. Is It Important to Teach American History?

by Sally Matheny


Is It Important to Teach American History?
I love history, especially American history. I love reading about some interesting part of history I’ve never read about before, then researching primary documents to see if it’s true. So many fascinating facts never make the cut to be included in school textbooks. Perhaps if more of them were incorporated, a greater interest in American history would result. Is it important to teach the history of our country?

Read more »

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18. Joe Cepeda interviewed by Don Tate: The #LA15SCBWI Pre-Conference Interview

Another great in-depth interview between SCBWI Team Blog's Don Tate and awesome illustrator Joe Cepeda for you at Don's blog here.

They talk about philosophy, diversity, portfolios, so much more. Joe also shares about his breakout workshop at the conference, "Style Versus Voice: An Illustrator’s View."




The 2015 SCBWI Summer Conference is fast approaching! We hope you'll join us.

Registration and details here.

Illustrate and Write On,
Lee

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19. Ruby Needs to Know: Do You Remember Training Bras?

Welcome guest blogger, Ruby Gold. Ruby lives in a small town in Indiana. Lately, she's taken to blogging to try to understand her niece, the universe, and how she can get a good pastrami sandwich in rural Indiana.
When my ten-year-old niece wanted a training bra (she begged for a hot pink strappy thing to cover her breast buds), I shrieked. “A training bra! For Pete's sake, why do your boobies need to be trained? I mean, c'mon! What are they going to do compete in the Olympics to see which ones stay up the highest and the longest?I hope you're not planning to show them someday to Hugh Hefner, heaven forbid!”
She told me I was nuts, which she does at least twice a day, and which I may very well be. Que sera sera!
But, seriously,who ever invented training bras to begin with? And really, please, please, can anyone tell me what is their mission?
Like many other weary aunties, I turned to the modern day Guide for the Perplexed: Google. And I found the aboutparenting website. Here's what it had to say: “A training bra helps protect the nipple from chafing against clothes. A training bra also helps give the girls a flattering shape.” Protect the nipples from chafing? Tell me, women of the world, who out there has ever suffered from chafed prepubescent nipples?
If you have, I'm very sorry and hope that they've healed.
But, excuse me for pointing out the obvious, men have nipples and most of them aren't wearing bras!
Then, the article goes on to say: “A training bra is necessary when a girl begins to develop, as girls may be teased about their changing bodies.” Ha! That's the clincher, I thought. Women of the world, who has ever been teased about their changing body? I see millions of hands going up around the globe waving, madly.
Okay, that's sad. But the article gets sadder: “A training bra does not train the breasts, rather it helps girls adjust to wearing a bra and it provides a small amount of shaping and protection.” Well, so that's it, huh, we're training girls to be adjusted to the life-long discomfort of bra wearing. Think wires sticking under your boobs. Please don't tell me the wires are more comfortable when they're padded. Or that brassieres are a joy to wear when they have straps digging into your shoulders. Think of all the ways these boob contraptions can drive a woman berserk. Scratchy lace ones. Silly snappy spandex ones. Madonna's cone bra. Thin ones, padded ones, ones to shape, mold, and lift like your breasts are aching to take off and orbit to outer space.
Remember the girdle? Yeah, glad we got rid of those!
Bra burners of the world where have ye gone? So I wrote to Gloria Steinemto see if women were still burning bras. She didn't answer.
But I took my niece's bright pink training bra to the backyard and threw it into a roasting bonfire. It smoked up nicely.
The next day, my niece was despondent when she came home from school. “Auntie, now my nipples are chafing against my T-shirt and the school bully said he could see them. Like he could actually see my nipples!!!! How could you have burned my bra, you Cruella De Vil!”
So, should I back down? Should I buy her another training bra? Years later she'll probably accuse me of starting her on a path of bodily confinement, fleshly tortures, and heaven only knows what else. What's an auntie to do? I want to say don't wrap and strap in the girls until you really need to.
I'd love to hear your two cents on training bras. Does anybody remember wearing them? Please feel free to share your experiences and advice. Ruby Needs to Know!

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20. Originality and "nods" to other works?

I had a couple of questions regarding the originality of content. I've got two examples which I'll try to keep brief. Firstly, my current project features

21. Some Special Eateries in Braga

                                                                                                                                                             Well this post is mainly about some of our favorite eateries, but a later one will hit the highlights of some special places to see. (And then we'll move on to our nephew's wedding last week.)

One of our favorite hangouts when we go to Braga is Café Vianna, a café overlooking Praça da República (Republican Square). There are tables inside and out, but we sit at an outside table under one of their giant umbrellas sipping wine and people-watching.
Café Vianna used to be a
hub of political activity in
the years before Salazar.

Now it's just a popular place
for tourists to enjoy.


It's almost always busy.











The square is dominated by an immense circular fountain, and on a hot day it's refreshing just to watch the streams of water shoot up and splash down. (It was hot in early June!) The square was being decorated while we were there (as was the city) for the coming Festa de São João (St. John the Baptist), a very popular festival that occurs mid-June.

I was surprised by a rainbow!
The arches are part of the decoration
for the coming Festa de São João 
Two gracious women at
the tourist office, Márcia
and Cristina, have helped
me a lot with my research.











The eating places in Braga are quite interesting. Each of them has a unique flair. And I don't mean just what kind of food they serve. They combine ideas about eating. For instance, on our last trip, we discovered a wine bar called Copo. But Copo isn't just a wine bar. or a tapa bar, although that, too.
It's several things rolled into one. Here we are enjoying our favorite small table by the corner window. But this building -- which is really two -- is full of nooks and split levels. The room next door is a wine and gin bar (with an actual horseshoe bar.) Up a flight from that is a cocktail lounge. A stairwell off of that leads to a small restaurant area. From where we are sitting in this picture, stairs lead down to a little champagne nook, which leads up to another restaurant area, and also down to yet another restaurant area. Surprises abound everywhere. And Copo does serve great tapas.

A little dining hall.
Unless you prefer the garden.
Art on the wall, food on
the table, books to read.
What's not to like?






A favorite lunch place of ours is Centésima Página, The Hundredth Page, a unique bookstore and café housed in a Baroque building on Avenida Central. I can't begin to tell you how inviting it is. These pictures may help. There are numerous little side rooms, small indoor tables, a garden patio. And books, books, books, everywhere! They also offer art exhibits and guest speakers, and special kid programs at various dates and times. But the books and snacks are irresistible.


Exterior: The bookstore/cafe is on
Avenida Central, not
far from Praça República.
Books, books, books! What's not to like?

















Not far from Centésima Página is a remarkable place called Casa do Professor, a home for retired teachers -- at any level: elementary to university level. It houses a library and a restaurant and bar, among other features. The goal is to make the teachers feel at home. But the restaurant is also open to outside guests and parties. We didn't take any picture of it, but here is a website that can tell you more about it . There is a buffet dining room at street level, and both a cafeteria and a menu restaurant down a few stairs to the next level. The food was delicious and so reasonably priced. Being vegetarians, we had a vegetable-filled pastry for lunch that was so good I could swoon over it. And a party of teachers were at a group of tables near the far window, having a wonderful time.

Last spring, visiting the Museu Imagem for research, (Image Museum), a unique photography gallery, we were privileged to meet the director, Rui Prata, who introduced us to both the fabulous three day photography exhibit last fall, and also Casa do Professor, as well as two other noteworthy restaurants. The names of those two wonderful restaurants elude me, but we found two more in a little square (Largo da Praça Velhanear the museum: Taverna do Felix, and Anjo Verde.

Anjo Verde means Green Angel, and it's all vegetarian food that must be cooked by angels! Last fall we enjoyed a memorable lunch of eggplant parmigiana cooked just right. We split an order, and their portions are so generous we still were quite stuffed. I only have one picture to share, but this website can show your more of the interior, as well has samples of their wonderful food :

Right next door, in the same largo was a restaurant I'd been intrigued by online while doing research -  Taverna do Felix (Felix's Tavern). I want to place a scene in my book there. These pictures should give some idea of it's distinct ambience, which is both elegant and cosy.
A great selection of wines. 

Gray lace on white linen.
Combined with Marilyn!
There was a homey quality to this restaurant, established by all the antiques placed here and there, I suppose, and the soft lighting.

Little tables were also in clusters, here and there. We were among the early guests, but were welcomed in, and "Nina" the owner, explained the wonders of Port to me as she and a warm and friendly waitress named Sandra set things in place: White Port is an appetizer, and red Port is for dessert. (I knew about the red, but not the white, did you?) In the course of the evening, she gave us a sample of each. Here's a video that gives you more information about the restaurant and owner, and you'll encounter the beautiful Portuguese language as well. And here are some photos of the food: as well as more pics of the restaurant. Our meal was lovely. We do eat fish, and we had broiled sea bass beautifully presented.
Meanwhile, the restaurant had started filling up, and there were couples at various tables from all parts: Netherlands, Belgium . . .

The man from Belgium recommended a hotel to us, and it turned out to be where we were staying: Hotel Senhora a Branca, reflecting the name of the church - Igreja Senhora a Branca - and the name of the square  - Largo Senhora a Branca, where the hotel is located. We have stayed there all three trips and will again. It's a comfortable hotel, reasonably priced, with beautiful rooms and a friendly staff. And we made friends with a young intern who has received her Masters in cultural tourism and who took us on a tour of her Braga the last evening we were there. (Thank you, Ines!)

And then there is the mysterious young woman who is always playing her violin on one street or another: 

who is she? 

Her playing is haunting. 



Next blog will be about the Churches, Gardens, and Museums of Braga. Stay tuned. 

Meanwhile, what is the best restaurant meal you've ever had? Do you like to read while you eat? Are you a vegetarian? If so, what kind? (I have learned that there are quite a few classifications.) 



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22. #712 -If You Were a Dog by Jamie A. Swenson & Chris Raschka

cover lg.
If You Were a Dog
Written by Jamie A. Swenson
Illustrated by Chris Raschka
Farrar Straus Giroux BYR        9/30/2014
978-0-373-33530-4
40 pages              Age 3—6

“If you could be any kind of animal, what would you be? Would you be a sod that goes ARRRROOOOOOO? Or maybe you would be a sharp-toothed dinosaur that can CHOMP, STOMP, ROAR! Perhaps you might want to be a hopping frog that goes BOING, BOING, RIBBET! But maybe you would want to be the best kind of animal of all. Can you guess what that is?” [inside jacket]

Review
Using sparse text, including exuberant onomatopœia, and characteristics specific to the animal on the spread, Swenson asks young children how they would act if they were a dog, a cat, a bird, a bug, a frog, and a dinosaur. Each two-spread animal begins its question with a recognizable formula:

“If you were a . . . would you be a . . . ?”

For example, the first animal is the dog.

dog am combo “If you were a dog, would you be a speedy-quick, lickety-sloppy,
scavenge-the-garbage,
frisbee-catching,
hot-dog-stealing,
pillow-hogging,
best-friend-ever sort of dog?”

The following spread always asks one final question:

dog 2  combo“Would you howl at the moon?  Some dogs do.”

Youngsters will love the questions, especially each of the activity-type characteristics in If You Were a Dog. While not written in rhyme, the text flows nicely. The individual characteristics are ordered such that the similar suffixes following each other. Raschka’s illustrations are child-like in form, yet lively, and capture the text and the reader’s (listener’s), imagination. Young children will not only contemplate how they would act based on the given charactersitics, but are bound to come up with their own. I like anything that activates and stretches a child’s imagination and If You Were a Dog fits that bill nicely.

The final three spreads in If You Were a Dog acknowledge that we cannot become any animal we want, but we can imitate those around us. Besides, kids are told, the best animal to be is yourself.

IF YOU WERE A DOG. Text copyright (C) 2014 by Jamie A. Swenson. Illustrations copyright (C) 2014 by Chris Raschka. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers—an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, New York, NY.

Purchase If You Were a Dog at AmazonBook DepositoryiTunesMacmillian Children’s Publishing Group.

Learn more about If You Were a Dog HERE.
You can find the CCSS-Aligned Discussion and Activity Guide HERE.

AWARDS
Junior Library Guild selection

Meet the author, Jamie A. Swenson, at her website:  http://www.jamieaswenson.com/
Meet the illustrator, Chris Raschka, at his twitter page:  @ChrisRaschka
Find more children’s books at the Farrar Strauss Giroux BYR website:  http://us.macmillan.com/mackids
Farrar Strauss Giroux BYR is an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group.

Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved

Review section word count = 225

Full Disclosure: If You Were a Dog, by Jamie A. Swenson & Chris Raschka, and received from Farrar Strauss Giroux BYR, (an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group), is in exchange NOT for a positive review, but for an HONEST review. The opinions expressed are my own and no one else’s. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Filed under: 4stars, Children's Books, Library Donated Books, NonFiction, Picture Book Tagged: animal traits, animals, being oneself, Chris Raschka, creativity, Farrar Straus Giroux, If You Were a Dog, imagination, Jamie A. Swenson, self esteem

23. "sitting pretty"....

on a Monday night! :)

this little sweetie goes by the name Sunshine (well, she is bright, cheery and yellow like the sun....) and is one in a small series of cute little birds.

ORIGINAL PAINTING FOR SALE HERE and PRINTS and other goodies FOR SALE HERE!

{an adorable little bluebird is up next....}

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24. 'Round the Bend

When your life is going smoothly,
It’s so simple to pretend
That no negatives are waiting
To assault you ‘round the bend.

Don’t succumb and get complacent,
Thinking joy will never end,
For its opposite is lurking
And it’s right around the bend.

It’s much better if you’re ready,
Which is why I recommend
Never flaunting jubilation;
Sorrow’s skulking ‘round the bend.

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25. Cinesite and Image Engine Merge In Continuing VFX Consolidation

The two companies combine staffs into a worldwide workforce numbering over 525 artists.

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26. Early books, late books, and books that fade from memory

alksdfjalk

Next post about books that made a splash at the beginning of the year but fade by the end. Horn Book stars that don’t make it onto Fanfare (and some that weren’t starred but grow on us and DO find a place on the Fanfare list). In the next few weeks Robin and I will concentrate on the books that are still being discussed and that seem like very good contenders. Or that others are discussing but we don’t think should be on the list.

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27. An Evening At Ford Street Publishing



It's been a long time since Booktalkers ended at the Centre for Youth Literature. I've missed it. You would come to the State Library(before that there were three other venues - I went to all of them)and meet friends and make new friends, mostly teachers and librarians, as well as would-be librarians like Kevin Lee, a bank worker who loves children's books(he's now studying librarianship in line). You'd have nibbles and chat. Then you'd go into the ANZ Theatrette and listen to guest speakers, usually writers and sometimes publishers, and buy their books from the Little Bookroom stall. It happened four times a year, with a wonderful end of year event where publishers talked about what was coming out next year and you got a goodie bag of free books. 

That ended when someone decided that it was just too expensive, especially the food. So no more Booktalkers. They do still have the end of year event, though no free books and some of the "new books" promoted are old books that have been around for several years - perhaps a reprint? Anyway, it's still enjoyable and I go, but it's not the same. 

For the last few months, Ford Street Publishing has been running something very like Booktalkers at its Abbotsford office, only much smaller because the room is about the size of the average classroom. I haven't been able to go before, because I just don't want to go after dark to a place in the suburbs and wait for public transport afterwards, but my lovely publisher Paul Collins told me that this time a friend of mine who lives in my direction would be there, so I emailed him and he kindly agreed to drive me home.

And so I went and it was delightful. The speakers this month were Gary Crew, author of a lot of grim and scary books, and Judith Rossell, author of the delightful novel Withering-By-Sea, which was shortlisted in the Aurealises(yes! It was one of the books I read and loved) and is now shortlisted for the CBCA Awards(not that it will win, CBCA Awards, alas, tend to go to deadly serious books, not sure how this one got on the list!). 

Gary has written two picture books for Ford Street that I have read and reviewed here. He has a new Ford Street novel coming out, Voicing The Dead, based on the story of a boy who was adopted by a Torres Strait Islander tribe of headhunters in the 19th century and wrote a book about it when he finally got back to England. So his talk was about the theme of castaways in fiction over the centuries, only mentioning his book towards the end, in connection with what he had been saying. And very enjoyable it was too; so many other writers would have begun with their novel and just mentioned where they got the ideas. 

After intermission, filled with people drinking and nibbling, we heard Judith Rossell speak. I had spent some of the intermission buying a copy of her book and having her sign it for young Nicholas, a book club member and student at my school who simply adored it and asked when she was writing another book. Well, he asked if there was anything else of hers he could read(there isn't - it's her first novel, though she has wide experience as an illustrator), but will be delighted to hear there will be another book in the series, hopefully next year. She was surprised to hear that a boy had enjoyed it, but was pleased. Nicholas will also be pleased when I give it to him next week! 

She did talk about her book, but in a fascinating way. For those of us who think of the Victorian era as stuffy and behind the times, she pointed out the huge number of things that had been invented or first happened in the 1880s, when the novel is set(eg the typewriter, the lightbulb, the telephone, Coca Cola, words such as "dude") She also showed us a picture of a Victorian era hotel in the US which she used as the basis for her hotel in Withering-By-Sea. It burned down many years ago, but there are still photos of it, even a postcard showing it burning down!

On the way home, I shared a back seat with another friend of George's, Vicki Petraitis, whom I know vaguely through Sisters In Crime and who writes true crime, a wonderful chance to chat about that genre. 

On the whole, a very enjoyable evening and I do recommend these sessions for any YA/children's booklover in Melbourne. You can find out when they are by subscribing to the Ford Street newsletter.

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28. Each Kindness

Each KindnessDarn you, Charlotte Zolotow committee! You beat me to the punch, awarding this fine book your award last week! The CCBC website explains, “The Charlotte Zolotow Award is given annually to the author of the best picture book text published in the United States in the preceding year….The award is administered by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, a children’s literature library of the School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Each year a committee of children’s literature experts selects the winner from the books published in the preceding year. The winner is announced in January each year. A bronze medallion is formally presented to the winning author in the spring during an annual public event that honors the career of Charlotte Zolotow.”  If you have never attended the Zolotow celebration, you are really missing out. First, you get to go to Madison, Wisconsin, and second, you get to be with people who love children’s books, and third, the lectures are always terrific. 

So, this lovely book won an award for the text. Do the illustrations hold up as well as the words?

If you have not read Each Kindness, please do. I just gave a talk to 80 or so second graders at a local school and this (along with Island) was the book they appreciated the most. This school does a fantastic Caldecott exploration each year, and by the time I drag in with my little dog-and-pony show, they have some strong opinions about current picture books. I get to tell the story of how I got to be on the committee…blah blah…but then I get to sneak in a few questions about what they are liking and not liking. When I held up Woodson’s book, there was a collective intake of breath and a murmur of oohs and ahhs.

Second/third  grade might be the perfect age for this one. Somewhere around this time, kids start to notice things like clothing and wealth and what makes kids fit in or not. These are the same grades where teachers find themselves reaching for The One Hundred Dresses, a book which deals with a similar theme.

Let’s look at the art, shall we? Lewis’s watercolors never disappoint, do they? The first spread is a lovely school shot– rural school,  snow-covered. A lone child walks up the front steps. Turn the page and Lewis captures the perfect feel of a New Kid. Maya’s eyes are cast down, the teacher is holding her hand, and the perspective lets us know that she is not comfortable. Her clothes reflect the text–her clothes look a tad ragged, especially for the first day. Turn the page and we see the other main character, the narrator Chloe, looking out the window at the reader, a sour look on her face. Maya is faded in the background, but she has a little smile, a little hope on her face. The playground page is almost too painful to look at–three little girls, holding hands, while Maya walks with her hands behind her back. Lewis puts a bit of sunlight around the girls and has the rest of the group looking at Maya. No one is including her.

The art goes on, gently documenting the social strata of this classroom. Chloe rejects Maya and sets the tone for the rest of the class. The seasons change, Maya keeps trying to fit in, but Chloe and her friends do not allow it. We see her in her fancy (but used) dress and shoes or holding the wrong doll and her eyes always remind us of her pain. Even while she skips rope, she skips alone.

The story and illustrations change once the teacher (finally, I say) gets involved. Maya is absent when the teacher presents a lesson on kindness that finally gets through to Chloe.  We see the faces reflected in the ripples of the bowl of water–a nice change of perspective. The art now highlights Chloe. First, her somber face stares at that stone that stands in for the idea of kindness. Then, her eyes are cast down (like Maya’s) on her way home, slowly walking how from the school with the backpack seeming to drag her down. The next page is the only dark page in the book–Maya’s empty desk which will stay empty. The last two pages let us know the truth–that Chloe will never get a chance to make it better. Chloe looks sad and sorry, her body slightly slumped as she contemplates what has happened. She becomes smaller on that final page turn, less powerful, but with a hopeful shaft of light pointing to the future. 

This is a true teacher’s book–with plenty to talk about in a classroom. Will the committee find it too teacher-y or a new classic in the literature of bullying and kindness?

What say you?

 

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29. ALA, the Sunday version

Here are a few pictures from my day. I did not take pictures at the publisher breakfast. It was a tad crowded and I was balancing a coffee cup on my knee. But I did get to hear about a bunch of new books. Always a good thing. Some librarians had volunteered to help out in the presentations. There was storytelling. At 7:00 AM. I am not really a storytelling sort of girl at any hour, so that was a little rough on me. However, I did love thinking about that new Brian Pinkney book.

I am having some issues with these silly pictures…so I will just caption them and hope for the best!

I visited the Horn Book booth for a bit.

 

I ran into two of my favorite guys. One is Roger Sutton. The other is my husband, Dean Schneider, fresh off his book committee work.

 

The Notables Committee members have a LOT of books to consider…and they cannot have a list of four hundred books…

 

Here they are, talking about Notable books.

 

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30. Bully for you and you and you

Aside from one dinner with a college friend and another with MVP and Barbara Bader, I spent ALA Midwinter in the exhibits drumming up business and listening to publishers, who had mostly two things on their mind: the Common Core and bullying. Wait, am I being redundant?

As far as the Common Core goes,

 

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31. TEST star placement in rev of week

Jimmy the Greatest by Jairo Buitrago Jimmy the Greatest!
by Jairo Buitrago; illus. by 
Rafael Yockteng; trans. from 
the Spanish by Elisa Amado
Primary Groundwood 48 pp.
5/12 978-1-55498-178-6 $18.95
e-book ed. 978-1-55498-206-6 $18.95
What happens when a boy from a nondescript small town grows up to be a talented boxer? Most would dream of bigger and better places, but not young Jimmy. When gym owner Don Apolinar encourages him to start running (despite his missing shoes), Jimmy decides he will become a boxer, inspired by a box of clippings and books about Muhammad Ali. When his trainer leaves to make his fortune, Jimmy makes a poignant and surprising decision to stay and support his little town with a library and a fixed-up boxing gym. This town could be anywhere in the tropics, but the (Colombian) author and illustrator do not identify it, giving the book more universal appeal. The background colors of the illustrations—the brilliant blues of the sea and the tempered beige of the sand—highlight the stylized brown villagers, including lanky Jim and bearded Apolinar. Understated poetic language permeates the whole story, but the last page soars. “There are no elegant houses / or fancy things. / But we’re really great. / We dance and we box / and we don’t / sit around waiting / to go someplace else.” In a world where so many must leave their homes to find work, it’s inspiring to see Jimmy able to do a truly great thing, right where he wants to be.

 

LR thinks star looks best when there is no box around it.

To make this happen, first place star as you normally would (i.e. default alignment: left, full size)

It will look like this in post (hit Preview to see it with white box):

Title etc.

Then back in draft, click on art and select icon for editing (little landscape picture)

In Advanced Settings tab (below) under Image properties type 0 (zero) after Border and Horizontal space. When you hit Update, this will automatically change the code in the Styles box to what you see in the screenshot here.

Now when you hit preview it should look like this:

Title etc.

Finally, put the cursor between the star image and first letter of title and add a space:

Title etc.

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32. Rural juror

The Morning News started its tournament of books yesterday with a match between Louise Erdrich’s The Round House and John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. I thought the critic, Edan Lepucki, did a great job of assessing each book’s strengths and shortcomings and coming up with a winner. Today, the match between Adam Johnson’s The Orphan Master’s Son and Maria’ Semple’s Where’d You Go Bernadette is judged by a more milquetoasted Elliot Holt, but I found a useful link in the commentary. I seem to have missed Jacob Silverman’s “Against Enthusiasm” when it appeared in Slate last August, but I hope every member of the kidlitosphere reads it.

 

Our sis School Library Journal begins its Battle of the Books on Monday Tuesday and I’ll be over here critiquing the judges in brackets of two and allowing one to “move forward,” where, eventually (and if I’ve done the math right) one shall face the BoB’s Big Kahuna judge, Frank Cottrell Boyce. I’m not doing this to be mean–unless somebody drives me to it–but to test my frequent assertion that there’s too much diplomacy in children’s book discussion (again, see the Silverman essay linked above). I am also interested in exploring what kind of criticism these non-professionals will employ: will they argue from personal taste, moral significance, reader appeal, aesthetic value? Each or all of these can work; what matters most in this contest is that the judge is able to express a clear preference for one book over another and say why. The prize is two one-year subscriptions to the Horn Book Magazine, one to the winning judge and another to the library of his or her choice.I’ll be judge and jury (shades of SLJ’s Lillian Gerhardt: raise your hand if you’re old enough to remember her infamous Billy Budd Button and Huck Finn Pin!)

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33. Sailor Twain

Sailor Twain

Mark Siegel, editorial director and founder of Macmillan’s graphic novel–only imprint First Second Books

also author/illustrator of Moving House

illustrator of several picture books (Seadogs by Lisa Wheeler, Long Night Moon by Cynthia Rylant) and another graphic novel for children (Boogie Knights by Lisa Wheeler)

my first introduction to Siegel was To Dance: A Ballerina’s Graphic Novel, his wife Siena Cherson Siegel’s memoir of her experiences as a preprofessional student in the School of American Ballet.

With Sailor Twain: Or, The Mermaid in the Hudson (First Second, October 2012), Seigel

surreal magical realism

hefty graphic novel

Captain Twain, captain of a steamboat on the Hudson River, rescues a harpooned mermaid and nurses her back to health.

 

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34. Curiouser and Curiouser

I’m a bit put out at Canada right now. They’ve got some nasty forest fires burning and all the smoke is blowing down here to Minneapolis. It is so bad that when I left work this afternoon it looked like a fog had settled over the city. It also smells terrible. While standing outside for 20 minutes waiting for my late bus, it became harder to breathe and my eyes began to burn. Now, indoors, I’m fine but for a headache that will not go away. The state has declared an air quality emergency and is discouraging people from going outdoors. I like you Canada. You are a good neighbor and I know a number of people who were born and raised Canadian and some of my favorite authors are Canadian. But, really, keep your smoke to yourselves! Get those fires out, won’t you? It’s hard to breathe down here! Your consideration is much appreciated.

And maybe I am only using it as an excuse to put off writing about The Art of Daring by Carl Phillips yet one more day because it is such a good book I don’t know what to say about it. Or maybe it’s just because it is Monday and it was a long and busy day at work following my full and glorious three-day Independence Day holiday weekend. Or maybe I’m just extra tired because Dickens has been an annoying cat lately, yowling at 3 a.m. for attention and even though he doesn’t get any, he keeps trying. I purposely did not have children and have enjoyed many years of good sleeping as a result. Dickens is swiftly reversing this and I don’t exactly know why.

I am behind on my internet and blog wanderings so it is quite possible all of you already heard about the latest development in the Harper Lee Go Set a Watchman saga. Apparently, the manuscript was found in 2011, not last year. And supposedly it was found in Harper Lee’s Safe Deposit box at the bank, not attached to an old manuscript of To Kill a Mockingbird in the publisher’s files.

The whole thing just keeps getting curiouser and curiouser, doesn’t it? I’m not sure what to think or who to believe. By a number of accounts, Go Set a Watchman has always been considered a first draft of To Kill a Mockingbird. Why then, would Harper Lee, who has said she will never publish anything else, want to see this book published? Is she in need of money to pay her medical bills and nursing home care? Are the publishers pulling a fast one? Go Set a Watchman has the most pre-orders of any of the publisher’s books, ever. It is likely going to be a bestseller the day it goes on sale July 14th. Everyone involved is going to make a pot of cash. How much will Harper Lee get of it I wonder?

I have not pre-ordered the book. I have no plans to buy it or wait in line at the library for it. I am not entirely certain I want to read it. The whole thing smells fishy and I don’t feel comfortable reading the book because of that. Maybe one year, five years, ten years from now I will change my mind, but at the moment, I just can’t. Plus there is the hype which turns me off. And then of course, there is the fear that the beauty that is To Kill a Mockingbird might somehow be tainted if this new book is nowhere near as good.

What about you? Do you plan on reading Go Set a Watchman? Did you pre-order it? And what do you think of all the controversy swirling around it? Am I making a mountain out of a molehill and should just get over it already?


Filed under: Books Tagged: Excuses excuses, Go Set a Watchman, Harper Lee

35. A Pizza a Day Diet: Gino's East

A few years back, when Cyn was teaching at the Vermont College of Fine Arts Writing for Children and Young Adults residency, I decided to conduct a culinary experiment: a comparison (and blog report) of various pizza joints around Austin during the course of about ten days.  I also made a couple pizzas of my own.

The rules were these: aside from a dinner salad prior to the pizza, my meals were pizza for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  For the record, the first time I did it, I lost five pounds; the second time, two and a half.

Here's the inaugural post from 2009:  A Pizza a Day and Other Weird Activities.  To view the entire 2009 line up, just click the "pizza a day" label.

I tried this again January 2015, but posted only to my Facebook account (I'll probably reproduce the posts here soon).  So, this summer, as Cyn heads off to the summer residency, I decided to try it again, with a whole new pizzeria lineup.  (The number of pizza restaurants in Austin has expanded dramatically in the past six years).

And, tonight, I started with the Austin incarnation of Gino's East, one of the great trifecta of Chicago deep dish pizzas (Uno's, Gino's East, Lou Malnati's).

The restaurant just opened and they don't have delivery or carry out yet, but the actual place is charming: a long narrow Sixth Street establishment, with a bar along one side, brick walls and cast iron chandeliers.


The pizza itself was outstanding: the corn meal crust was rich and had a thin bottom with structural integrity that stayed crisp and didn't overwhelm with breadiness. The Gino's East crust is traditionally my favorite of the deep dish pizzas, and this did not disappoint.
I ordered the "Gino's Supreme," with sausage, mushrooms, onions, and green peppers.  The sausage was plentiful, with large flavorful chunks.  The cheese was nicely gooey but not overpowering, and the vegetables were likewise plentiful.  The tomatoes were just a tad sweeter than I typically like, but were a nice contrast to the richness of the crust, and also accommodated the red pepper flakes. 

In sum, it wasn't quite the same as the original, but very good nevertheless.  And the best part?  Leftovers!




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36. July 2015 Insight

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37. June 2015 Insight

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38. Distracted

From the Profile Picture Project, by Patrick Girouard

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39.

“Deep in the Meadow”

Mockingjay: “The Hanging Tree”

The Hobbit: “The Misty Mountain Cold”

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

James and the Giant Peach

The Unicorn

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40. Mock Caldecott techniques

My Caldecott Committee in January 2005, soon after our final vote. Caffeine and snacks are an important part of any deliberation.

My Caldecott Committee in January 2005 soon after our final vote. Caffeine and snacks are an important part of any deliberation.

Robin posted yesterday, asking for the titles that won your own mock Caldecotts. Today I want to hear how you organize your mock award deliberations. We’ve asked this question before, but I think it’s worth asking again.

For the first time this spring, I plan to do mock award sessions (Caldecott, Geisel, possibly Sibert) with my adult students at a school of education. One problem I’m facing is that this process will happen just a couple of months after the actual award is announced, AND we have no budget for extra books. I will need to use books that the school already owns or ones I will lend them. I thought about using library books, but I want them to have access for the nominated books for the six weeks leading up to Mock Award Day. Has anyone else tried something like this? — you choose 15 or 20 books that you think are exemplary or otherwise worth discussing, and then just let them go at it, guided by the actual ALSC guidelines.

I think this is going to work, but I’d love to hear your advice.  We also want to use these comments for you to provide a rundown of how you all have run your own mocks. Be sure to tell us what ages you were working with, what kind of time-frame you used, etc.

 

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41. How the Grinch stole the show

Every classroom teacher has a special tradition that gets pulled out each holiday season. In devising my own tradition, I fell back on what I know: Dr. Seuss. I spent my senior year of college becoming a Seuss-ologist (a term coined by my now-fiancé) while working on a research project that explored the language use in Dr. Seuss books. One of the primary take-aways from that project was that poetry has a special power to captivate kids, especially when it is shared orally.

And so, for my holiday tradition, I decided to memorize the entirety of How the Grinch Stole Christmas! and then recite it to my students to kick off a day of Grinch-related literacy events.

When the Grinch-Day arrived last year, I was nervous that all of those rhymes I’d spent months memorizing would jumble together in my head. Instead, what happened was that my worries evaporated as my students and I reveled in the wonder of word play and language together. Even my most fidgety kids sat still while I shared the story; they hung on every word, despite the fact that most of them already knew the story quite well. No one interrupted, no one turned to talk to a neighbor – it was one of the most engaged moments we experienced in my classroom all year.

And, I don’t think it had much to do with the fact that I had worked so hard to memorize the story. If I had to sum up their captivation, it was 10% “Wow, my teacher is pretty cool!” and 90% “What’s that Grinch up to now?” or “That’s really fun to say!”

Kids seem to have an intrinsic interest in language and words – that’s one reason why I think the Dr. Seuss stories, which epitomize language play, continue to be so popular with readers of all ages. My students always love when our read-aloud is a Dr. Seuss tale, but their reaction to this recitation experience was on a completely different level than their typical responses.

With no pictures to take some of their attention off the words, I believe that my students could focus on the sheer delight of rhythm, alliteration, and all of those other literary devices poets so aptly incorporate into their work. It also allowed them a chance to use their own imaginations to picture the story unfolding, rather than having an illustration present them with “the way the story looks.”

And was it a fluke what happened in my classroom that day? / Well, I repeated the exercise this year in the same way, / to an audience of students who all sat bolt upright, / with expressions on their faces nothing short of sheer delight.

So teachers and parents, here’s a New Year’s challenge for you: memorize a piece of poetry (it doesn’t matter how long) and then recite it to a child you know. Be sure to share your results. As for me? I’ve started memorizing The Lorax.

Grinch stole Christmas

 

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42. Endless Wordplay app review

As you know, I love me some Originator Kids apps (I’ve reviewed their educational apps Endless Alphabet, Endless Reader, and Endless Numbers; Elissa reviewed their building game app Be Bop Blox). The latest in their series of educational “Endless” apps is Endless Wordplay (

The friendly monsters built a robot named Alphabot

rhyming sight words, emphasizing the similarities between the three words

“‘Lap’ is like ‘nap’ but it starts with L.”

The map on my lap vanished during my nap.

“Aw, yeah!” “Radical!”

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43. 48 days, day 23-24: halfway

{{ I am chronicling 48 days of writing before my July 31 travel. If you are chronicling your summer writing/days and would like to share, please link or comment so we can all cheer one another through. Strength to your sword arm! }}

The writing pump gets primed with something else, and then -- voila -- I can go back to my revision.  Yesterday I worked on an essay that may or may not ever be finished, but I got lost in the world I created, and looked up hours later, blinking.

Today I'm back with Rachel and working on the revision that has sat since DAY 4!, when I wrote that I had a crummy draft. I haven't seriously looked at Rachel since that day. But today -- somehow -- I can fill in the blah-blah-blahs and the description heres and I can look more critically at the structural problems I couldn't seem to face 20 days ago. Or two days ago.

I've got a story about a recalcitrant four-year-old, a stormy night, a walk to the beach, the wonders of nature and how it soothes and calms, and somewhere in there is Rachel and some science. I have two stories. Or do I? That's my challenge right now.

I'm also back to writing at my desk, instead of sitting in my green chaise or in the pink chair. There's something about a change of venue that I know you all know about. There's also something about routine and rote that's useful. But that's another post, for another day. Or not.

I've got the blinds closed against the brilliant summer heat. I've got lots of water to drink. I've got Rolos and Boulder Potato Chips, and a huscat who made a fantastic lunch just now: cabbage potato soup (in this heat! yes, it was fabulous!), broccoli and brussels sprouts, sweet potato -- I put everything into my soup.

So I'm back to it, fortified for an afternoon shift (after which I will water water water outside) and I'm not alone. The days that led to today have kept me company and have helped me begin a revision. I am halfway through my 48 days of writing. What have a got to show for it?

Don't let's measure success in words on paper and finished drafts. Success is the willingness to stick with it. I've got that in spades.

I'm also cleaning my office. One thing primes another thing. Suit up and show up. Do what you can do, that's what I say. Do what you can do and let that be enough.
lots of document windows open right now, moving between them in an experiment, a little wisp here, a sentence there, fooling myself that I'm really writing. Or maybe I am. I think I am.

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44. Ask a Book Buyer: Picks to Revive a Burnt-Out Reader

Q: I finished school two years ago (with a degree in literature) and was suffering from the worst reading burnout I've ever had in my life. I simply forgot how to read for entertainment. I recently broke up with Netflix and feel that I'm ready to jump back in to reading for me again. I [...]

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45. TEDx HAPPENED!


You may have noticed me on Twitter speaking about TEDx. Well, it happened, and it went really well.
TEDx is an offshoot of the TED talks, where a collection of speakers come and do short talks on a subject of their choosing. The x marks the event as independently organised. One of my friends, Tanya, decided we should do a TEDx event. She looked into getting a license, she got one, and plans started being made.
  


We had a mix of students and external speakers and performers, all covering a range of topics.


NON PRATT, author of TROUBLE and REMIX, talked about how we condition generations into genders.
SARAH SKY, author of the JESSICA COLE series, gave us a quick tour though female spies, past and present.
The A LEVEL DRAMA group did part of their performance of Monsters, revolving around the killing of Jamie Bulger
SHONA DIXON analysed  the response to Ebola.
DR GEORGINA NEALL talked about, among other things, how she balances studying, working, and raising four children.
TOM POLLOCK, author of THE SKYSCRAPER THRONE series, examined the media's role in creating fear in the masses.
GABBY WASSER told us about how mushrooms can help, heal, or bring about an apocalypse
CHARLOTTE SPRUZEN was one of two explaining the science of science fiction, looking at how time travel would theoretically work.
SONDER, a band made up of two students, played two songs.
SARAH RABY BUCK gave the second science of science fiction talk, explaining how biochemistry could work on other worlds.
NATALIE RUSSO talked about the importance of language and why it's not too late to learn a new one.
JEANNIE GALSTON , ex Miss Universe, told us what it was like to be a model in the days before Photoshop.
NAFEESA MOHAMMED performed some of her work (she's an amazing slam poet) and what poetry means for her.
I, NINA CRISP, did a talk about why you should diversify your reading. What else would I say?
REBECCA JURDON summed up very eloquently the failings of an exam orientated education system.


All these talks will soon be available on YouTube, so if you missed them and want to see them, or if you want to relive them, you can! I'll link them when they're available.


We had a selection of world food, both main and desert. The highlights were the  cupcakes. We sold books, both the authors' and some diverse ones I highlighted in my talk.


We also had plans to have a bloggers' alley, but it didn't work out because we forgot that devices need to be registered to the school's WiFi system to work, and that the council's service blocks all blogs anyway. Still, it was brilliant to see FAYE (A Daydreamer's Thoughts) and FIONNUALA (Books for Birds).


Thank you, everyone who came and supported us, especially all our external speakers and bloggers who came from a long way away! Also, thank you all the people who worked hard on making TEDx Beaconsfield High a thing. It was brilliant.

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46. Apple to Pay $450M in E-Book Case

Apple will pay consumers $450 million as part of its settlement with the U.S. Justice Department, a federal appeals court has ruled.

The ruling, which was filed last week, comes after a settlement between Apple and the DOJ last summer. Reuters has the scoop:

By a 2-1 vote, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed that the conspiracy violated federal antitrust law, and that the judge acted properly two years ago in imposing an injunction to prevent a recurrence.

“While we want to put this behind us, the case is about principles and values,” Apple said in a statement. “We know we did nothing wrong back in 2010 and are assessing next steps.”

47. Twins

I'm having a lot of fun doing portrait commissions.
Here is a matching set of twin girls.

Get a treat for someone while I still have the time to draw these! Once I'm getting into the next big picture book project I'll be too busy...

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48. French Comics Come to Digital English Language Market

Good news for comic book fans. French independent comic book publisher Delcourt Group has debuted an exclusive line of English language digital comics through comiXology, the Amazon owned digital comic book publisher.

This release is the first time that Delcourt has made its content available directly to the English language market. The new line launches with three titles this week including The Curse of the Wendigo from artist Charlie Adlard known for his work on The Walking Dead.

\"The French comic market is one of the most diverse in the world, and it’s fantastic to be a part of this game-changing deal with Delcourt,\" stated co-founder and CEO of comiXology David Steinberger. \"The English language audience is more diverse than ever and Delcourt’s compelling titles will speak to comiXology fans. It’s high time that French comics take their rightful place as a major comics category – today marks the beginning of the ‘French Invasion’ of comics in the English language market!\"

49. Critique Groups

How to make being in a critique group a positive experience.

http://www.rachellesadler.com/a-writers-reflections/why-i-love-critique-groups

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50. Book Review: Ravensbruck: Life and Death in Hitler's Concentration Camp for Women by Sarah Helm

From Goodreads:
Shortly before the outbreak of World War II, Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS and the architect of the Holocaust, oversaw the construction of a special concentration camp just fifty miles north of Berlin. He called it Ravensbrück, and during the years that followed thousands of people died there after enduring brutal forms of torture. All were women. There are a handful of studies and memoirs that reference Ravensbrück, but until now no one has written a full account of this atrocity, perhaps due to the mostly masculine narrative of war, or perhaps because it lacks the Jewish context of most mainstream Holocaust history. 
Ninety percent of Ravensbrück's prisoners were not Jewish. Rather, they were political prisoners, Resistance fighters, lesbians, prostitutes, even the sister of New York's Mayor LaGuardia. In a perverse twist, most of the guards were women themselves. Sarah Helm's groundbreaking work sheds much-needed light on an aspect of World War II that has remained in the shadows for decades. Using research into German and newly opened Russian archives, as well as interviews with survivors, Helm has produced a landmark achievement that weaves together various accounts, allowing us to follow characters on both sides of the prisoner/guard divide. Chilling, compelling, and deeply unsettling, Ravensbrück is essential reading for anyone concerned with Nazi history.
Writing
This is the gold standard for historical non-fiction in my eyes.  You couldn't ask for better documentation/citation of the research.  And the research itself is absolutely exhaustive.  If it happened at Ravensbruck it is included in this book.  I appreciated her decision to write the history biography style, so that we got the "life" of the camp in chronological order.  Despite the heavy subject matter and the depth of the research, Helm manages to keep the reader interested and the story moving along.  It took me over a month to read it, but I never once wanted to give up because it was so interesting.  Any other book that took that long would have earned itself an automatic DNF spot, but this was too fascinating and informative to give up on.

Entertainment Value
So as I mentioned above, this is a very long, very detailed book.  If you're looking for a quick overview, this is not the place to start.  It's highly detailed and covers every aspect of the camp.  That also means that it contains some information that is very hard to read.  Despite the length and the difficulty in reading about such evil, I think it was completely worth the time and effort.  I learned so much more about concentration camps, and about how political prisoners, resistance fighters, and "asocials" (prostitutes, lesbians, anyone who spoke against Hitler) were treated.  I was particularly surprised by how many German women were eliminated during the Holocaust and how many non-Jews were killed.  It also really helped put the Holocaust in a historical context.  I think because the images we see are all in black and white, it's easy to believe this is something that happened a long time ago.  Reading this book helped me really grasp how recently this took place in the scheme of history as a whole.

Overall
I highly recommend this to any fans of historical non-fiction, World War II, or who have an interest in human rights history.  I also think it could be a possible crossover for fans of recent YA books like Rose Under Fire or Code Name Verity who want to read a non-fiction book to learn more about life in a concentration camp.  That said, it is a very long and very detailed book.  It also contains some very difficult passages on conditions in the camp and, particularly, medical experiments that were conducted on prisoners.  As much as I enjoyed it and feel like I learned from it, there may be readers who aren't interested in investing the time or have the stomach for reading the more difficult portions.  My opinion is that it's something we should all be familiar with, however, and this book is an excellent place to get a detailed account.

Thanks to NetGalley for providing me with a copy to review.

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