JacketFlap connects you to the work of more than 200,000 authors, illustrators, publishers and other creators of books for Children and Young Adults. The site is updated daily with information about every book, author, illustrator, and publisher in the children's / young adult book industry. Members include published authors and illustrators, librarians, agents, editors, publicists, booksellers, publishers and fans. Join now (it's free).
Login or Register for free to create your own customized page of blog posts from your favorite blogs. You can also add blogs by clicking the "Add to MyJacketFlap" links next to the blog name in each post.
Viewing: Blog Posts from All 1540 Blogs, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 2,000
How to use this Page
You are viewing the most recent posts from the 1540 blogs currently in the JacketFlap Blog Reader. These posts are sorted by date, with the most recent posts at the top of the page. There are hundreds of new posts here every day on a variety of topics related to children's publishing. We have provided a variety of ways for you to navigate through the blog posts. Click the dates in the calendar on the left to view blog posts from a particular date. Scroll down through the list of Recent Posts in the left column and click on a post title that sounds interesting. Click a tag in the right column to view posts about that topic. You can view all posts from a specific blog by clicking the Blog name in the right column, or you can click a "More Posts from this Blog" link in any individual post.
Foreign-Born American Patriots Now Available at a Book Store or Library Near You
The NCBLA congratulates our volunteer writer and Advisory Board member Renee Critcher Lyons on the publication of her book Foreign-Born American Patriots: Sixteen Volunteer Leaders in the Revolutionary War (McFarland), now available on shelves in a library or for purchase from a bookstore near you.
<!--[if gte mso 9]>Normal0falsefalsefalseEN-USX-NONEX-NONE<![endif]-->Foreign-Born American Patriots portrays sixteen volunteers: the writers, soldiers, merchants, farmers, sailors, guerilla fighters, pirates, financiers, and cavalry leaders, who traveled from abroad to join the American revolutionary cause. Such portraits consider Patriots John Paul Jones, Thomas Paine, and Baron von Steuben, but also lesser known heroes, such as Founding Father Pierce Butler and Washington’s One-Man-Army, Peter Francisco. Each profile discusses the personal experiences influencing the volunteer leader’s decision to fight for the fledging country, the sacrifices these brave men endured for the benefit of an American victory, and the unique talents respectively contributed to the war effort. All chapters include a listing of landmarks (or in some instances, lack thereof) which honor these incredible visitors or immigrants who ensured the perpetuation of the ideals and values of the American Republic.
Renee’ Critcher Lyonsis an assistant professor in the School Library Media Program at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, teaching children’s and young adult literature. Prior to her appointment at ETSU, she served as a school/instructional librarian for eight years at the elementary and middle school level and nine years at the high school/community college level. She is a graduate of the Vermont College of Fine Arts’ MFA Program in Writing for Children and Young Adults and the Appalachian State University Masters in Library Science Program.
Let’s be clear of one thing right from the word go: this is not in any useful sense a historical movie. It references a couple of major historical events but is not interested in ‘getting them right’. It uses historical characters but abuses them for its own dramatic, largely techno-visual ends. It wilfully commits the grossest historical blunders. This is in fact a historical fantasy-fiction movie and should be viewed and judged only as such. But in case any classroom teachers of Classical civilization or Classical history should be tempted to use it as a teaching aid: caveant magistri — let the teachers beware! Here are just five ways in which the movie is at best un-historical, at worst anti-historical.
(1) Error sets in with the very title: the ’300′ bit is a nod to Zack Snyder’s infinitely more successful 2006 movie to which this is a kind of sequel, and there is not just allusion to but bodily lifting of a couple of scenes from the predecessor. But which Empire is supposed to be on the rise here? I suppose that it’s meant to be, distantly, the ‘Athenian Empire’, but that didn’t even begin to rise until at least two years after the events the movie focuses on: the sea-battles of Artemisium and Salamis that both took place in 480 BCE.
(2) The movie gets underway with a wondrously unhistorical javelin-throw — cast by Athenian hero Themistokles (note the pseudo-authentic spelling of his name with a Greek ‘k’) on the battlefield of Marathon near Athens in 490 BCE, a cast which kills none other than Persian Great King Darius I, next to whom is standing his son and future successor Xerxes. Actually, though Darius had indeed launched the Persian expedition that came to grief at Marathon, he was not himself present there, nor was Xerxes.
Themistocles, on the other hand, was indeed present, but rather than carrying and throwing a javelin he was fighting in a dense phalanx formation and wielding a long, heavy pike armed with a fearsome iron tip made for thrusting into the Persian enemy hand-to-hand.
(3) From the Persians’ Marathon defeat, which (historically) accounts for their return revenge expedition under Xerxes, the scene shifts to the Persians’ fleet — in fact, a whole decade later. Connoisseurs of 300 will have been prepared for the digitally-enhanced, multiply-pierced and bangled Rodrigo Santo reprising his role of ‘god-king’ Xerxes. (Actually Persian king-emperors were not regarded or worshipped as gods.) Even they, though, will not necessarily have expected the Persian fleet to be under the command of a woman, and a Greek woman at that: Queen Artemisia of Halicarnassus (modern Bodrum), who is represented (in the exceedingly fetching person of Eva Green) as the equal if not superior of Xerxes himself, with her own court of fawning and thuggish male attendants, all hunks of beefcake.
Here the filmmakers are indeed drawing on a properly historical well of evidence: Artemisia — so we learn from Herodotus, her contemporary, fellow-countryman, and historian of the Graeco-Persian Wars — was indeed a Greek queen, who did fight for Xerxes and the Persians at Salamis. She did allegedly earn high praise from Xerxes as well as from Herodotus for the ‘manly’ quality of her personal bravery and her sage tactical and strategic advice.
But she was far from being admiral-in-chief of the entire Persian navy. She contributed a mere handful of warships out of the total of 600 or so, and those ships of hers could have made no decisive difference to the outcome of Salamis one way or the other.
(4) For some reason — perhaps because they were conscious of the extreme sameness of most of their material, a relentless succession of ultra-gory, stylised slayings, to the accompaniment of equally relentless drum’n'bass background thrummings — the filmmakers of this movie, unlike of 300, have felt the desire or even the need to include one rather prolonged and really quite explicit heterosexual sex-encounter. Understandably, perhaps, this is not between say Themistokles and his wife (or a slave-girl), or between Xerxes and a member of his (in historical fact, extensive) harem.
But — utterly and completely fantastically — it is between Themistokles and Artemisia in the interim between the battles of Artemisium (presented as a Greek defeat; actually it was a draw) and Salamis. Cue the baring of Eva Green’s considerable pectoral assets, cue some exceptionally violent and degrading verbal sparring, and cue virtual rape — encouraged by Artemisia at the time but later thrown back by her in Themistocles’s face as having been inadequate on the virility front.
(5) The crowning, climactic historical absurdity, however, is not the deeply unpleasant coupling between Themistokles and Artemisia, but the notion that in order for Themistocles and his Athenians to defeat the Persian fleet at Salamis they absolutely required the critical assistance of the massive Spartan navy which — echoes here of the US cavalry in countless westerns — turned up just in the nick of time, commanded by another Greek woman and indeed queen, Gorgo (widow of Leonidas, the hero of 300), again played by Lena Headey.
Actually, Sparta contributed a mere 16 warships to the united Greek fleet of some 400 ships at Salamis, and like Artemisia’s they made absolutely no difference to the outcome, which was resoundingly and incontestably an Athenian victory. The truly Spartan contribution to the overall defeat of the Persian invasion was made in very different circumstances, on land and by the heavy-infantry Spartan hoplites, at the battle of Plataea in the following summer of 479. But that is quite another story, one in which the un- or anti-historical filmmakers show not even a particle or scintilla of interest.
Subscribe to the OUPblog via email or RSS.
Subscribe to only classics and archaeology articles on the OUPblog via email or RSS.
Image credit: 300: Rise of An Empire. (c) Warner Bros. via 300themovie.com
It begins slowly with Earth’s heroes going about their daily tasks –fighting a giant robot controlled by a mad scientist’s brain , attackers both human and mystical -even alien high priests of some mysterious cult and their zombie followers and, of course, a ghost and a young genius lost in time.
Pretty mundane. Average super hero daily grind.
But there is a huge alien Mother-ship near the Moon and strange orange spheres chase some of Earth’s heroes who vanish into thin air –are they dead?
Then black, impenetrable domes cover cities world-wide.
Alien invasion of Earth!
A war between the Dark Old Gods and the pantheons that followed! Warriors from Earth’s past having to battle each day and whether they die or not they are back the next day!
And no one suspects the driving force behind the events that could cause destruction and chaos throughout the multiverse.
Assaulted on all fronts can Earths defenders succeed or will they fail...is this truly the end?
The Black Tower hit of 2012 expanded to 318 pages from 196!
Art pages can be found over at Deviant Art (pages denoted by NROTG):
This photograph of a 9,550-year-old Swedish spruce tree is one of several images shot by photographer Rachel Sussman, featured in a slideshow at Time magazine. The photos are drawn from Sussman’s latest project, The Oldest Living Things in the World, which chronicles the decade Sussman spent traveling the globe, taking stunning photographs of continuously living organisms that are 2,000 years old and older.
There’s a sense of wonder imbued in these photographs of organisms that seem to be a physical record of time, but there’s also a call to action. Many of these subjects of Sussman’s portraits are under threat from habitat loss or climate change or simple human idiocy. (Sussman has written movingly about the loss of the 3,500-year-old Senator tree in Orlando, destroyed in a fire that was almost certainly set on purpose.) “The oldest living things in the world are a record and celebration of our past, a call to action in the present and a barometer of the future,” Sussman has said—and the images that follow prove her out.
Read more about The Oldest Living Things in the World here.
I’ve been querying agents, including yourself, and I’m just not getting any requests for my manuscript. I’ve been reading your blog and it has really helped, but how do I know if the problem is my query, my manuscript, or if I wrote something that no one finds interesting?
I would appreciate any advice you could provide.
Also, I’m just glad I called you Ms. Reid, instead of Ms. Janet, like I did with Mr. Sherman Brooks.
I’m hoping that got a laugh….
Sincerely, Clueless Author
It got a laugh from me, but I delight in tormenting Mr. Sherman, particularly now that he's outside of my throwing range.
Your question is the cris de couer of writers everywhere, and I'm actually heartened to hear you ask. The people that never ask that question are the ones who are generally terrible writers and never going to get better cause they think they're amazing and what's wrong with me that I don't see it.
As for the answer to your question:
Assume nothing from the response/lack of response to queries. I say no to things that are good and publishable every day of the week and about 15 times most Saturday nights in the Chum Bucket.
There are some terrific resources for writers at AbsoluteWrite.com, particularly the place where you can critique other people's work, and once you've hit a certain number, your own work can be critiqued. AW is not the place to start in boldly. Lurk on the forums for awhile and get to know how things work. There are some very helpful people there (mostly) and the moderators are VERY good at their job. A writing conference can help too, and there are some good ones that aren't expensive. (CrimeBake!) If you can invest in yourself by attending one, make sure you do one of the dreaded pitch sessions, but DO NOT PITCH. Bring your query and your pages and ASK the agent what you've asked here. You'd be surprised how often some very simple fixes can mean a big difference.
I wrote a blog post in January on "under-appreciated pleasures." In it I focused on the pleasure of rolling over in bed, something my sister was temporarily unable to do because of shoulder surgery. I also offered up an ode of gratitude for the pleasure of walking briskly, a pleasure denied my mother at the end of her life. I pledged to enjoy these simple pleasures with heightened awareness, pleasures we tend to notice most when we're no longer able to experience them.
I wrote a blog post in February called "the last happy day," in which I vowed to notice every happy day as I was living it, because we never know when terrible tragedy might strike us. What if we had lived our last happy day and hadn't failed to savor it?
Obviously I was writing with a sense of impending doom, wouldn't you say?
Tuesday I was heading out for my usual walk with my friend Rowan, this time accompanied by little dog Tank. I stopped to get the mail and then dashed back the few steps to my house to drop it off before continuing on my way. I tripped. I fell, wrenching my foot. Deciding the injury was nothing, I proceeded to walk for an hour with Rowan and Tank, and then walked around campus all day on Wednesday. But by Thursday, when the foot was still so bruised and swollen, I decided to have it checked out at urgent care. As I have a high-deductible insurance plan, I knew I'd have to pay around $300 for the visit. But it was worth $300 to me for the reassurance that nothing was wrong, after all.
Diagnosis: a broken fifth metatarsal bone in my right foot.
No need for surgery, no bulky uncomfortable cast. But no weight-bearing on that foot for 4-6 weeks. No weight bearing AT ALL.
Okay. At least I can truly say that I appreciated weight-bearingness while I had it. Every single walk I took with Rowan we spent half the time marveling at how fortunate we were to be able to live in such a beautiful place, with such beautiful walking-conducive weather, with both of us in excellent walking-facilitating health. I did notice these things every single day.
Now I'm going to have to notice other things for a while. How lucky I am to have a desk chair with wheels on it. How lucky I am not to live alone. How lucky I am to have enough money to be able to order a little rental scooter-thing for $35 a week, as it's already exceedingly obvious that I will never be able to master crutches (given that I can't even walk to my mailbox without breaking my foot). How sweet it is today simply to have canceled or rescheduled everything I had to do at the university, so I can spend this whole rainy/snowy day at home hopping from desk to couch to bed, maybe even getting some writing and editing work done. Or maybe just taking it easy, for once. Why not?
It's going to be hard to sustain cheerful gratitude for 4-6 weeks, especially with no guarantee that I'll be fully healed at the end of that time period. I have two big trips between now and then: my annual trip to the children's literature festival in Warrensburg, Missouri (no walking with the other authors to look at the cows this year!) and a week of school visits in Michigan over spring break (I guess I'll have to roar into the gym on my scooter and then give my presentation while perched on a stool). How will I manage at the airports? How will I manage everything in my busy life that needs to be managed?
Well, I'm not the first person in the history of the world with a broken foot. I'm not even the first or second or third person in my circle of friends. As I head into Act III of my life, falls may become more common (though the first thing I plan to do upon recovery from this one is some balance training, as this is my third major fall in six months).
So I might as well work as hard as I can at practicing cheerful gratitude. Occasions for making use of it are unlikely to be few.
NoVaTEEN is coming tomorrow! The Arlington Central Library is partnering with One
More Page Books and special guest sponsors Fall for the Book and
Fairfax County Public Library to bring a FREE festival packed with
books, authors, and special events to Arlington, VA.
I'm really excited about this event and hope it's a huge success! If you're close, make sure you come one out! Great
The poem "Wild Geese" may be the most generous poem ever written. I have read it dozens of times. But not until this morning did I search for a recording of the poem—for the image or sound of Mary Oliver reading the words herself. I find this quiet recording stunning.
Sometimes we experience days when everything seems to go wrong. Bread gets burned in the toaster, a toe gets stubbed on a chair leg, and our mood becomes dark and gloomy. These are days when a little pick-me-up is needed, and one of the best remedies there is for a case of the gloomies is laughter. Today's poetry title is a veritable treasure box of anti-gloomy poems that will make readers feel a little warmer and happier inside.
Sometimes people just need something that will make them smile or laugh. They need to watch that video showing a cat jumping in and out of a box, or they can pick up a book just like this one. For this title Douglas Florian has written over a hundred short poems. They have nothing really in common other than the fact that they are funny and quirky.
In the book you will encounter a sofa that is unsafe because there is something under it that has teeth that are green and “gruesome.” This monster, for that is what it surely is, has eaten the narrator’s homework. And his sisters. Not surprisingly, the narrator decides that he will “sit on the CHAIR.”
In another poem we are told what witches wish for. Unlike you or me, they have no interest in sunny beach vacations, a new cell phone, or a puppy. Dear me no. Witches wish for things like “Rusty Nails” and “Dragon Tails.” They want horrible weather and nasty things like vampire blood and poison ivy. What makes this so much worse is that “Witches always / Get their wishes.”
Witches with nasty wishes are not the only unpleasant creatures you will encounter in this book. You will also meet Dracula who drives a “Cadillacula” and likes to “drink blood for a snackula.” Being attacked by him is terrible of course, but what is particularly upsetting is that, as he says, “Tomorrow I’ll be backula!”
Throughout this book the poems are paired with brush and ink drawings that perfectly capture the flavor of goofiness that infuses the book. For those down-in-the-dump days (and any other kind of day) this book is a perfect fit.
Dear March, come in! How glad I am! I looked for you before. Put down your hat- You must have walked- How out of breath you are! Dear March, how are you? And the rest? Did you leave Nature well? Oh, March, come right upstairs with me, I have so much to tell!
I got your letter, and the bird's; The maples never knew That you were coming,-I declare, How red their faces grew! But, March, forgive me- And all those hills You left for me to hue; There was no purple suitable, You took it all with you.
Who knocks? That April! Lock the door! I will not be pursued! He stayed away a year, to call When I am occupied. But trifles look so trivial As soon as you have come, That blame is just as dear as praise And praise as mere as blame.
In this picture book for older readers. Tracey Fern tells the little-known story of Eleanor Prentiss, an extraordinary woman who not only navigated a clipper ship but also set a record for the fastest time from New York to San Francisco, navigating around Cape Horn in a record-breaking 89 days, 21 hours.
If you're an avid movie-goer like I am, you may have seen the two major films this year set at sea, Captain Phillips and All is Lost. Such movies always make me think about the "olden days," when sailors navigated by the stars and a sextant. Doesn't it seem incredible? Even more incredible (but true) is the life of Eleanor Prentiss, born the daughter of a sea captain in 1814 and taught everything about ships, including navigation, by her father, perhaps because he had no sons. Certainly this education was highly unusual for a 19th century girl. The sea was in Ellen's blood, and, not surprisingly, she married a sea captain, who took her along on his merchant ships as her navigator.
When Ellen's husband was given command of a new, super-fast clipper ship, Ellen seized the opportunity to get as quickly as possible from New York to the tip of South America to San Francisco and the Gold Rush. Speed was of the essence for those looking for riches in the gold fields of California. The book portrays the considerable dangers of the voyage, including a period when the ship was becalmed (no wind, no movement!) and also the perilous stormy waters of the Cape. Fern does a terrific job of capturing the excitement of the journey, and Ellen's triumph when she sets a world record for the fastest time for this 15,000 mile voyage. The book is greatly enhanced by the beautiful water-color paintings of Caldecott-winning artist Emily Arnold McCully. The seascapes, and particularly the scenes of storms, are particularly effective. Back matter includes an author's note with further historical information, and suggestions for further reading, both books and websites, a glossary, and end pages which show a map of the Flying Cloud's 1851 Voyage.
Highly recommended for Women's History Month and for those looking for stories of strong, heroic women and girls!
Add a Comment
Thank you to Nick and his right-hand man/producer Dan Sugrue for the opportunity to broadcast my search to 38 states plus Canada. So far it hasn’t yielded any leads, but I was happy to hear that listeners loved the idea.Add a Comment
For the teens at The Haven, the outside world, just beyond the towering stone wall that surrounds the premises, is a dangerous unknown. It has always been this way, ever since the hospital was established in the year 2020.
But The Haven is more than just a hospital; it is their home. It is all they know. Everything is strictly monitored: education, exercise, food, and rest. The rules must be followed to keep the children healthy, to help control the Disease that has cast them as Terminals, the Disease that claims limbs and lungs—and memories. But Shiloh is different; she remembers everything. Gideon is different, too. He dreams of a cure, of rebellion against the status quo. What if everything they’ve been told is a lie? What if The Haven is not the safe place it claims to be? And what will happen if Shiloh starts asking dangerous questions? Powerful and emotional, The Haven takes us inside a treacherous world in which nothing is as it seems.
More News & Giveaways
How to Write YA by Seth Fishman from Publishers Weekly. Peek: "...how do adult writers, so far away from the source, successfully manage to create believable teen characters? ...I’ve written a couple YA novels now and have a few handy hints for those aspiring writers who want to give it a go."
Five Agents Share What Makes Them Stop Reading Sample Pages from Adventures in YA Publishing. Peek from Suzie Townsend: "This might sound harsh, but I stop reading when I'm not hooked. Which means: I read the first line. If I'm interested, I read the second line. If I'm still interested, I read the third line, and so on."
Ten Positive-Aging Picture Books for Pre-schoolers by Lindsey McDivitt from A is for Aging, B is for Books. Peek: "...internalizing positive images of getting older is more strongly linked to longevity than a low-fat diet or daily exercise, especially when we begin in childhood."
Giving Up Our Stories from Marion Dane Bauer. Peek: "My best stories aren’t the ones that give answers, the ones that support my most passionately held certainties. They are the stories that ask the hardest, most-difficult-to-entertain questions."
Do Great Work and the Rest Will Follow by Shadra Strickland from The Horn Book. Peek: "...interviewers would ask questions like, 'Why do you only paint black people?' To which I would reply: My choice of characters isn’t what defines my style; it’s how I paint them and the world around them. Would you ask a white male artist why he doesn’t paint black people?"
Surviving the Cancelled Contract by Nicole Maggi from The Writing Barn. Peek: "...I’d been asked to do endless (unnecessary) edits and my acquiring editor had left. I never felt like my new editor was on board. So it wasn’t a huge surprise to get that awful call from my agent. But it was devastating."
You Are Not Lazy from Elizabeth O. Dulemba. Peek: "They’ve said I'm not lazy...and I relish the declaration. But it’s only true when it comes to those things, because those are the things I care about. And for them, I will never have enough time and never put in enough effort. Whereas for somebody else, it might be drudgery."
How Manuscript Auctions Work by Deborah Halverson from DearEditor. Peek: "The agent contacts the chosen publishers, pitches the project, and explains the rules and timeline. It’s usually blind, with the editors knowing the number of houses involved but not the names."
Why Playing It Safe May Be the Most Dangerous Game of All by Emma D. Dryden from Dryden Books. Peek: "Where but in stories can we allow our youngest readers to not play it safe, to try new things, to explore, to roam, to make mistakes and make amends, to reach higher, deeper, and further than we ever thought possible? And where but in stories can we allow ourselves the very same?"
Connecting Science and Poetry by Sylvia Vardell from Poetry for Children. Peek:"Pairing science-themed nonfiction or informational books and poetry may seem to be an unlikely partnership at first, but these two different genres can complement one another by showing children how writers approach the same topic in very different and distinctive ways."
After the Call: a blog series from Caroline Richmond. Peek: "...chronicles what happens after you get an offer of representation from a literary agent. For instance, how do you choose between multiple offers? How do you communicate with your new agent? And what is the revision process like?"
Note: "The Golden Kite Awards and the Sid Fleischman Award for Humor will be presented to the winners at the Golden Kite Luncheon during the Society of Children's Book Authors & Illustrators’s Annual Conference on Writing and Illustrating for Children, taking place in Los Angeles, California. An Honor Book plaque is also awarded in each category."
Note: "This prestigious award is named for Lee Bennett Hopkins, the internationally renowned educator, poet, anthologist and passionate advocate of poetry for young people. Selected by a panel of teachers, librarians and scholars, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award was the first award of its kind in the United States. The Pennsylvania Center for the Book, the Penn State University Libraries and Lee Bennett Hopkins share joint administration of the annual award." See more information.
Note: "Now in their twenty-sixth year, the Lambda Literary Awards celebrate achievement in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) writing for books published in 2013. Winners will be announced during a ceremony on Monday evening, June 2, 2014, at The Great Hall at Cooper Union (7 East 7th Street, New York City 10003)."
Note: "Collectively CABA winners show that Africa is indeed a varied and multifaceted continent. CABA titles expand and enrich our perspectives of Africa beyond the stereotypical, a historical and exotic images that are emphasized in the West." See more information. Source: Monica Edinger.
From Scottish Book Trust: "A record breaking number of votes – over 38,000! – were cast to choose the winners, who took to the stage at Glasgow’s Mitchell Library on 5 March to present their books and receive their prizes." See more information. Source: Bookshelves of Doom.
Enter to win a signed and personalized copy of Robot Burp Head Smartypants! (Candlewick, 2014) and a set of alphabet-and-numbers foam stickers. Author sponsored. Eligibility: U.S. Enter here. Note: scroll through the photos to the entry form at the bottom of the post.
The SCBWI-OK Conference will be March 29 in Oklahoma City. Speakers are: Liza Kaplan, Editor, Philomel; Melissa Manlove, Editor, Chronicle; Andrew Harwell, Editor, HarperCollins; Colleen AF Venerable, Design Editor, First Second and author of Guinea PI series; Kristin Miller-Vincent, Agent, D4EO Literary Agency; Tricia Lawrence, Agent, Erin Murphy Literary. See more information and registration.
What is it that makes a “page-turner”? What indefinable, shivery quality does a book possess that makes you unable to put it down?
On a personal, subjective level, that “it” quality differs from reader to reader. But I would argue that on an objective, craft-oriented level, all page-turners have one quality in common: narrative tension.
What is narrative tension? I personally define it as the unbearable need to know what happens next. Some of the best works of commercial fiction are rife with narrative tension, which I believe contributes to their commercial status. For works in the thriller or suspense category, pinpointing the source of narrative tension is relatively easy: Whodunnit? Will the protagonist survive? Will s/he save the day? But what about books that fall outside that genre?
Any book, regardless of genre, can have narrative tension. How? When the stakes are clearly defined, but their outcome is left uncertain. For example, let us discuss Harry Potter. Earlier books in the series were finely crafted middle-grade mysteries within a fantasy framework (The Prisoner of Azkaban is one of the finest examples of a mystery, full stop), but as the books progressed, they still retained narrative tension. How? Because we know the stakes (Harry must defeat Voldemort) and are unsure of the outcome (how he will do it). But each book itself also contained micro-environments of narrative tension: how will the Trio get out of their scrapes this time? or when will Ron and Hermione finally get together? In my opinion, all of these elements combined contributed to the series’ popularity; so many of my fondest memories from high school are me sitting with a circle of friends on the terrace during lunch, passionately discussing and speculating what would happen in the next book. Tension breeds anticipation, and commercial works like Harry Potter, Twilight, The Hunger Games, The Da Vinci Code, The Lovely Bones et al are examples of how that can drive success.
So how to craft narrative tension in our own work? By posing story questions. I’ve mentioned story questions before, and I think they are fundamental to crafting a book you don’t want to put down. Most often, the story question can be boiled down to What does the protagonist stand to lose?–on both an intimate and a broader scale. What does the protagonist stand to lose if s/he _____ in this scene and how does that contribute to what s/he stands to lose overall?
Any time the reader is left wondering or asking questions, narrative tension is created, which leads to anticipation and unease, for which the only solution is to read on. There are many ways to leave the reader wondering: by ending all the chapters on cliffhangers (The Da Vinci Code), by slowly layering secrets and deceptions that are begging to be answered by the book’s end, (Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn), by calling into question whether or not a killer will be brought to justice (The Lovely Bones), etc.
Is there a trick to writing commercial fiction? Personally, I don’t think so. But I think you’ll find that most bestselling books are masters of walking the high wire of tension, whether the book is literary or YA or romance.
What do you guys think? Do you think narrative tension is a thing? Let us know in the comments below!
S. Jae-Jones (called JJ) is a writer, artist, and adrenaline junkie. Before moving down to grits country, she was an editor at St. Martin’s Press in New York City, where she read and acquired YA. When not obsessing over books, she can be found rock climbing, skydiving, or taking her dog on ridiculously long hikes. A southern California native, she now lives in North Carolina with her doctor Bear, a stuffed baby harp seal named White-Harp, and a husky-dog called Bentley. Other places to find JJ include Twitter, Tumblr, and her blog.
Wangari Maathai won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her work helping women throughout Africa planting trees to improve the environment and their quality of life. As we celebrate Women's History Month, I make sure to introduce students to women from throughout the world who have worked hard to improve their communities.
Although it was unusual for girls to receive formal education in rural Kenya, Wangari’s parents agreed to send her to school. Wangari’s determination and hard work continued as she went first to high school in the city, and then to university in the United States to study biology.
Wangari returned to Kenya to teach and inspire women scientists, but became concerned when she saw the environmental damage that was occurring throughout the country. Maathai established the Green Belt Movement, bringing about environmental and economic change in Kenya by helping local women plant over thirty million trees.
International Women's Day, March 8th, is a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. In some places like China, Russia, Vietnam and Bulgaria, International Women's Day is a national holiday. Are you celebrating International Women's Day with your children?
The review copy came from our school library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.
The Little Moose Who Couldn’t Go to Sleep by Willie Claflin and illustrated by James Stimson
August House; Har/Com March 7th, 2014 ISBN-10: 1939160677 ISBN-13: 978-1939160676 Ages 6 and up 36 Pages
“It is cute and funny, unique and whimsical, and has a good moral, too.”
The Little Moose Who Couldn’t Go to Sleep is the fourth installment in the Maynard Moose series. It provides the backstory for the Maynard Moose tales.
Storyteller Maynard Moose lives in the Northern Piney Woods. Animals come from all over just to hear him tell old Mother Moose Tales. These tales are handed down from generation to generation. When he isn’t spending time with his friends in the woods telling tales, he is found spending time with Little Moose, his favorite cousin and youngest of kin.
He tells Little Moose how the whole universe came from the kitchen of Mother Moose. He then proceeds to tell the tale of how there was a Little Moose who couldn’t go to sleep. This causes a problem because the lack of sleep affects the little moose at school and at home. She can’t concentrate and there for has a hard time paying attention. When it comes right down to it the little moose’s mind keeps running all night long, and she can’t calm it to go to sleep.
Family members give suggestions on how to cure this problem, but nothing seems to work. Then one night a sheep takes Little Moose to the kitchen of Mother Moose, housed in the sky above intermixed with the stars. There Little Moose finds the answer that will cure her.
This is a whimsical telling of how Little Moose struggles with going to sleep each night. Children will love the way the story twists and turns as Maynard Moose eventually gets to the main point of the story. Children have over active imaginations that flood them at night and in turn can cause insomnia; however, when children learn to curb their thoughts they will be able to rest more easily.
The wonderfully created illustrations by the talented James Stimson are humorous and well developed, capturing the reader’s attention throughout the story.
Each of the author’s books begin in a similar style, and in this series it is understood right from the beginning that the story is translated from the original Moose and contains traces of Piney Woods accents and words such as bankee, blorble, snork, etc.
Parents and children who are familiar with the series and the author’s style of writing will no doubt love this fourth installment. It is cute and funny, unique and whimsical, and has a good moral, too.
Parents who are not familiar with the series might find the Piney Woods accents frustrating to read because Maynard Moose uses lots of improper English throughout the story and uses words that the reader will need to use the glossary for to understand the meaning of. (One is provided in the book just for this purpose). Maynard Moose also rambles on, which can confuse and bore the reader at times.
The book comes with a CD, which may be fun and should enhance the story for the reader, especially if they are younger. This is a longer story meant for older children to read by themselves, though the CD could be used for younger children. Children from the ages of 6 and up will enjoy this 40-page picture book.
And since I only post my FoodFic musings biweekly, I don’t get to blog about every book I read. And, to be fair, not every read lends itself to a good FoodFic discussion, either because the food in the story doesn't jump out at me, or my schedule’s already full for the year, or a book’s subject matter is too dark or serious for me to lightly chat about here.
Anyway, below are most (I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few) of the books I read over the past year that weren’t reviewed here at BWATE?
And, as always, please feel free to suggest some great reads for me in the coming year. :)
I received a lovely e-mail from Jennifer Knauer who celebrated her son's 5th birthday by hosting a story walk birthday party with Red Hat! If you haven't heard of story walk, here's a link to learn more about it.
This amazing activity for families to celebrate and embrace stories was established by Anne Ferguson (Montpelier VT) and The Kellogg Hubbard Library.
Following the story Board tradition, Jennifer laminated the illustrations from the book and presented them (in the same order as in the book) along the path. After Dylan's birthday celebration, they gave the Story Walk materials to the ParentChild Center in Orange County, Vermont, so that the families in that program may continue to use it.
I just love activities like this -- Dylan and his friends and all their families romping through the woods playing follow-the-leader and other silly twirling games as they followed the 1/2 mile of hiking trails to find each of the laminated spreads of the story, then ending with a picnic and hot cider. It sounded like the perfect scamper through the woods for everyone and it makes me very happy to think my book Red Hat was a part of this lovely day.
I hope more families discover this amazing program and enjoy!
You know how much I love these books, where if you want, you can change a decision you made, even if it's not always for the best... Anyway, Kim Curran's Shift was released December 2012 and Control was released last August (me: seriously??? How has the time gone past?) And this August, DELETE is being released. And here's the cover.
Given Control's giant cliffhanger, and the firey colours on the cover of this, I'm expecting big things from Delete!
I also like the way that the stakes seem to have gotten higher as the series progresses- look at the background- warehouse to modern city skyscrapery things to the Houses of Parliament. Exciting.
Finally, did I ever tell you about Kim's other project, Glaze? No? Well, check it out here. It looks awesome.
There's an old rule that animators keep in mind: "Put it where you can see it."
It's true for illustrators, too. When you're designing a picture, the parts of the pose that are important to the story should be in clear view, while the less important parts can be concealed.
For this illustration in Dinotopia: The World Beneath, I wanted to show Arthur Denison helping a young Giganotosaurus free his foot, which was trapped between some fallen logs. While I was planning the picture, I thought about what things I needed to show to explain what was going on: Arthur's face and hand, the dinosaur's face and the tip of his tail, his ankle, and the logs.
I didn't need to show the dinosaur's hands, Arthur's feet, or the details of plants on the ground, so those parts could be hidden or blurred. The greenish brown background tone helps to disguise unimportant edges at the bottom of the picture.
Because Arthur's face was especially important, I contrived a lot of lines to radiate out from it, a compositional technique called "spokewheeling."