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1. Thursday Review: MORTAL HEART by Robin LaFevers

Summary: Mortal Heart is the final book (SAD FACE) in Robin LaFevers' His Fair Assassin trilogy (Book 1 reviewed here; Book 2 reviewed here). The books take place in medieval Brittany and France, a setting which the author has obviously researched... Read the rest of this post

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2. "Damn everything but the Circus."

“Damn everything but the Circus.” - Sister Corita Kent

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3. Ghosts of Tupelo Landing (2014)

Ghosts of Tupelo Landing. Sheila Turnage. 2014. Penguin. 368 pages. [Source: Library]

I enjoyed reading The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing. I am not sure I loved, loved, loved it as much as the first book, Three Times Lucky. But I'm not sure that matters. What I loved most about the first book is still present in the second.

Primarily what I love about both books is the narration by Miss Moses LoBeau (Mo). I love, love, love her voice, her narration. She's a wonderful character. I love seeing things through her eyes. I love getting to spend time in her community, getting to spend time with her own, unique family, getting to spend time with her friends. This is a book that is just oh-so-easy to enjoy. The writing just has an oh-so-right feel to it.

Mo and her best friend, Dale, have a challenge or two to face in this mystery. Miss Lana has just bought--impulsively bought--an old inn that is haunted. When she bid at the auction, she had no idea that it was haunted. (Not that Miss Lana believes in ghosts.) But Mo and Dale in their exploring before and after, know that it is in fact haunted. And, I believe, it is Dale that impulsively signs him and Mo up to interview the ghost for a history assignment. Regardless if it was Mo or Dale following an impulsive, this quick and hasty decision proves challenging from start to finish. How can they prove the ghost is real? Especially since they don't see it or feel it every time they visit the inn? And even if they happen to capture the ghost in a photo, how are they going to ask interview questions and record the answers?!

Ghosts of Tupelo Landing is a mystery novel. There is a mystery--from the past--to be solved from the community's past.

What I liked best about this one is the characterization, the setting, the writing itself. I also really liked meeting the new kid in town, Harm Crenshaw. I wasn't thrilled with the actual mystery in this one. The ghost story itself.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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4. "A painting is a symbol for the universe. Inside it, each piece relates to the other. Each piece is..."

“A painting is a symbol for the universe. Inside it, each piece relates to the other. Each... Read the rest of this post

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5. I just finished this wallet design…who doesn’t love...



I just finished this wallet design…who doesn’t love Paris? And it’s a long story as to why H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthuhlu beast is sharing the landscape with the Eiffel, but ask me and I’ll tell you later. 



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6. Sign in a School Hallway

This photo was snapped by my friend, author Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen, on a recent school visit.

Stephanie is a great talent and an even better person. As S. A. Bodeen, she’s written The Compound, The Raft, and several other “The” titles. These days the book-loving world is buzzed about her new adventure series, Shipwreck Island.

But enough about Stephanie. Today I want you feast your eyes on this lovely sign in a school somewhere. I know that many schools post signs like this, messages of intent, statements of mission, but this one in particular gets all the notes exactly right.

I like it.

 

 

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7. ….a tidbit from the sketchbook. I sometimes wish I could...



….a tidbit from the sketchbook. I sometimes wish I could have been a roving naturalist illustrator, a century ago, taking inspiration from nature & conveying it to the rest of the world with paints and pen. But I might have had a hard time suppressing my surrealist instincts.



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8. Amanda Bullock Moves to Literary Arts, Inc.

Amanda BullockLiterary Arts, Inc. has named Amanda Bullock to take on the role of festival and events manager for the Wordstock Festival. Prior to this move, Bullock served as the director of public programming for the nonprofit cultural institution Housing Works Bookstore.

Literary Arts acquired the Wordstock Festival earlier this year. This literary event will be re-launched on November 07, 2015 at the Portland Art Museum. Powell’s Books has signed on to serve as a community partner for this venture.

Bullock gave this statement in the press release: “Wordstock 2015 will reflect the dynamic literary culture of Portland and the Pacific Northwest, as well as attract authors and attendees from across the country and around the world. I am excited to start the next chapter of my career and my literary life. I hope to bring my experience in New York City publishing, literary programming, and community building to reinvigorate Wordstock and collaborate with the amazing literary community to create a festival that will be bigger and better than ever: a destination event that is truly Portland.”

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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9. Notice what this blog post is not doing

I was thrilled to learn that Jacqueline Woodson won the National Book Award in the category of Literature for Young People for her memoir in verse, Brown Girl Dreaming, which I reviewed here.

http://kurtisscaletta.com/2014/09/19/brown-girl-dreaming/

Also, since she won a lifetime achievement award and won the night with her speech, here’s my review of Ursula K. LeGuin’s Catwings series, a family favorite.

http://kurtisscaletta.com/2014/03/18/catwings/

I am not linking to my review of A Series of Unfortunate Events, because though I did write one once, many years ago, that guy didn’t win anything and isn’t the story and isn’t important. What matters (to me) is that two people I really admire got some recognition. We don’t need to concern ourselves with unfortunate events.

 


Filed under: Reading, Reviews

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10. A History of the ‘Gay Agenda’ in Animation

Bit by bit, overtly gay characters are making inroads into animation targeted primarily at children, but the fear of gay cartoon characters has existed for years.

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11. forgive me

I can only apologise, profusely, for what I'm about to do. I hate myself for doing it, but I am about to mention the C-word. 
Yes, as soon as you know, Christmas will be upon us. Well, for once, I've been thinking ahead and I've put this bumper pack of AJ goodies together just in time. This includes my book, 3 zines, bag, badges, postcards, greetings cards & stickers.
You can get your little mits on it HERE.
Sorry, again.

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12. Powell’s Q&A: Ron Rash

Describe your latest book/project/work. Something Rich and Strange is a collection of selected stories, including three stories previously unpublished in book form. Introduce one other author you think people should read, and suggest a good book with which to start. Donald Harington is as underrated as any America writer I know of, and I'd suggest [...]

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13. Living in my Illustrations

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Being an illustrator is great fun.  Why?  Because you can use your imagination to go places you’ve never been and do things you’ve never done. For instance, I have always wanted a log cabin up in the mountains.  As a teen, I used to imagine having a studio up a flight of wooden steps to a big room. It would have rafter ceilings and a window seat for me to look out of.  It would be warm and cozy and I could sit and do my art all day long near a roaring fire in the wood stove.

When I began thinking of places for my character Burl the bear to live in, I made it just like “I” wanted it!  Warm and inviting!  When you walk through the doorway of my story, you will find a home that lives in my imagination. It will be a place that I love and I will revisit it many times as the story progresses. I must be passionate about what I draw or it becomes listless and boring. This process is what makes a story believable.

My experience tells me that children notice the tiniest of details.  I did a school visit after Peepsqueak was published by Harper Collins Publisher.  I read the book to the children and then we talked.  Through out the story there was another story going on in the book. It was a little tiny mouse who appeared on many of the pages.  The children did not miss it. They even commented on the mouse as I read to them.  I let them in on a little secret.  I named the mouse Elliot.  When I told them his name they all squealed with delight and pointed to the cutest little boy in their classroom who was named Elliot!   He was beaming.  Suddenly he became part of the story. He was so happy!

These are the things that make a story magical in the eyes of children and adults alike.  Its also why I continue creating images.  I love seeing characters develop.   I love finding their voices. .. what they are like… what they like to do.  It does not stop when I leave the studio.  I think about them all the time, until I finally know how they would react in any given situation. That way they become very believable creations and loved by all.

Stay posted,  Burl and Briley are growing on my heart daily.  I can hardly wait to illustrate the books that are in my mind!


Filed under: how to write, My Characters

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14. Francesca Lia Block apologized for Native stereotyping in WEETZIE BAT

On November 11, 2014, the We Need Diverse Books campaign hosted a twitter chat about LGBTQ literature. During that chat, Emily Campbell (@Ms_Librarian) tweeted that Francesca Lia Block's book, Baby Bebop, was important to her. She included Block in the tweet. I replied, saying "The Native content in her bks is stereotyping 101." Here's a screencap:



Campbell asked for more information, and I sent her a link to my analysis of Weetzie Bat. The next day, November 12, Block replied to me and Campbell, saying "No offense meant. My apologies. All respect for all." Here's that screencap:



I thanked her, saying "Most ppl mean well but lack awareness, esp of Native ppl & how culture is used/misused." Here's the screencap of that; I don't know why its font is larger than the others:


She replied again, saying "I would like to learn and grow, until I am no longer alive." And I thanked her again, saying "Your voice as ally pushing back on broad/deep misrepresentations of Native ppl is important." Here's the screencap of that exchange:



I don't know what, if anything, Francesca Lia Block has said or done about this since then. Most authors who respond to my critiques of their work are defensive. Her response was different, and I appreciate that, but I wonder if she's said anything more about my critique, elsewhere, to friends, perhaps?

Block's apology came up this morning in a tweet exchange I had with a colleague about Daniel Handler, the author of Lemony Snicket books who made several racist remarks last night (November 19) at the National Book Awards. He called them "ill conceived humor" in an apology he tweeted today (November 20). His remarks weren't "ill conceived." They were racist.

Block and Handler are key figures in children's and young adult literature. They are authors of best selling books. They could change a lot of hearts and minds if they'd say more than either has said so far.

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15. ALL THROUGH MY TOWN wins the Dutch Silver Pencil Award!

Yesterday I received a fabulous package from Bloomsbury - lovely prizes from the Netherlands.

ALL THROUGH MY TOWN won the Dutch Silver Pencil Award - otherwise known as the Zilveren Griffel! Doesn't that have a wonderful ring to it?

And yes - over to the left - that's a gorgeous silver pencil with my book title in Dutch and the name and date of the award engraved in. Amazing!

I'm completely honored. Congratulations, as well, to my fabulous illustrator Leo Timmers and awesome translator Bart Moeyaert.

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16. Hansel And Gretel by Neil Gaiman. Illustrated by Lorenzo Mattotti. Sydney, Bloomsbury. 2014


The lost children. The gingerbread cottage. The scary witch who, however, doesn't see very well and can easily be fooled. All elements of one of the darker Grimm fairytales. All here in this retelling, along with the explanation of where the children's names come from. (When you think about it, if this had been a British folktale, it would have been called "Johnny and Maggie" or Meg or even Peggy, none of which have quite the same ring to them)

If you're going to have a folktale retold, especially such a dark one, Neil Gaiman is a good one to do it. The average retelling is just that - a straight retelling which isn't by the Brothers Grimm or whoever. "Once upon a time..." And then the writer and publisher decide just how much of the original story can be told, depending on who is having the story read to them. For example, you really don't want to describe Cinderella's stepsisters cutting off toes to fit into the glass slippers, do you? Not at bedtime, anyway. 

One thing about folktales is that you never learn reasons, such as why parents would throw their children out of the house to die, even in a famine. Neil Gaiman suggests war and thieving soldiers passing through and taking away all the food sources and destroying the fields. This version even suggests that it may be a reason behind the witch's cannibalism, though not entirely; from the description of what Hansel and Gretel find hidden around the gingerbread house afterwards, she sounds more like a serial killer than a poor old pensioner who is as much a victim as anyone else. 

At the end of the book, the author talks about the possible origins of the story in the time of the Plague, when all sorts of terrible things would have happened and family relationships broke down.

The book is basically an extended retelling rather than a twist on the original tale. If you're expecting something along the lines of The Sleeper And The Spindle, you may be disappointed. But as a retelling, it has class, and the beautiful moody black and white art of Lorenzo Mattotti supports it well.

If you're going to buy a version of this folktale to read to your children, this one is the way to go.

I hear there's a movie of this book planned, or at least optioned. That should be most  interesting...

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17. Reviews to cry for

I've talked before about how reviews aren't for writers but for readers, and I mostly don't read them, but when a new book comes out, I allow myself to break my own rules and read some reviews. A book has been cooking for years often and hearing what people think is just too tempting! This morning I tiptoed to amazon and read this review by SallyBWT. When I read it to my husband, I started crying and then just sobbing. It does mean so much when your book finds a home.

 
 
 
 
We borrowed this from the library for my Kindergartner. She loved it so much we read it straight through, then read it again, and then that night when I went in to check on her one last time I found her holding it close in her sleep. I should also note that we are just now entering the super-hero stage in our family with my 3 year old son, so my little girl has gone from watching Disney movies over and over (Rapunzel is the favorite) to Spider-Man and Captain America. "Why are there no girl Super-Heroes?" she asked. I introduced her to Wonder Woman, White Tiger, Batgirl, Supergirl, etc., and she shrugged. She can't really connect to those super-sexy, all-grown-up, major-attitude types.

I recalled reading about Shannon Hale's new book for younger readers. I liked what she'd done with Princess Academy, so I thought I would give it a go for my girl. I did not anticipate the amount of love this book would receive - she cried when she had to give it back to the library (the request list is still long here). She decorated her pumpkin for a school contest to look just like the Princess in Black.

I surprised my daughter with her own copy this last week, and her eyes just lit up. The book currently lives under her pink pillow. My girl LOVES pink, and princesses, and superheroes. This book is NOT about rejecting princesses, or even rejecting the pinkness of girls. This book is about being a hero and saving the day.

This is Zorro for little girls. Princess Magnolia - pink clad perfection in her castle - The Princess in Black when danger lurks in the kingdom!

Give it a chance. My three year old boy loves this book and we look forward to another, especially if it features the Goat Avenger. :-) And more monsters to fight! My two year old daughter has been running around saying the Princess in Black's signature move: Twinkle, Twinkle, Little* SMASH! It's a book our whole family loves.
 
*I (Shannon) added the "little." The reviewer forgot it. It's my favorite line in the book (Dean wrote it) and I just had to have it right.

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18. What Daniel Handler’s National Book Award Comments Say About Publishing

Last night, the National Book Awards (NBA) ceremony took place here in NYC. There were many things to celebrate at the event, including Jacqueline Woodson’s NBA win for her book Brown Girl Dreaming, First Book Founder Kyle Zimmer being honored for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community, and Ursula K. LeGuinn’s terrific acceptance speech.

But the event took a bad turn when the MC for the night, Daniel Handler (better known as Lemony Snicket), followed up Woodson’s acceptance speech with these comments:

Handler: I told you! I told Jackie she was going to win. And I said that if she won, I would tell all of you something I learned this summer, which is that Jackie Woodson is allergic to watermelon. Just let that sink in your mind.

And I said you have to put that in a book. And she said, you put that in a book.

And I said, I am only writing a book about a black girl who is allergic to watermelon if I get a blurb from you, Cornell West, Toni Morisson, and Barack Obama saying, “this guy’s ok! This guy’s fine!”

Video here (those comments start at about 39:00)

Author David Perry does a good job on his blog explaining why Handler’s comment is so problematic, so I won’t go into that too deeply. If you’re curious about the history of the watermelon stereotype and why it’s racist, this Atlantic article linked by Perry gives a good rundown. Suffice it to say,  it’s not a nice thing to make jokes about, and particularly not a nice thing to make jokes about in reference to a very talented author when you’re a white man hosting an award ceremony. In front of a huge audience.

But what I really want to talk about is not Handler himself (who, yes, has issued a short apology via Twitter, the first choice Apology Outlet for all those who have made tasteless jokes) but the larger publishing community. Because the joke may have been Handler’s, but the environment which made a joke like that permissible is everyone’s problem and responsibility. It’s well known and well documented that publishing is, to put it lightly, homogenous. According to Publisher Weekly’s most recent salary survey, around 89% of publishing staff identifies as white/caucasian. That means, in a country where nearly 40% of the general population is comprised of people of color, only 11% of publishing staff are—and, I’d venture a guess, probably even less when you start looking at management roles.

Publishing is also notorious for being totally out of touch with diversity and race issues. Take a look at the low numbers of books published by/about people of color over the last 18 years:

Diversity in Children's Books

Yet, in this year’s salary survey, almost 40% of respondents were neutral or actually disagreed with the statement, “The publishing industry suffers from a lack of racial diversity.” As my grandma likes to say, Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.

Publishing routinely treats people of color poorly in so many ways: limiting the number of diverse books they will acquire, giving those books meager marketing budgets, whitewashing covers, creating all-white lineups at major book events…the list goes on and on. So it’s really no surprise that Handler would feel that his joke might play well to the largely white and racially unaware audience sitting in that room. And he was right, because people laughed (and, hey, The New York Times even called him “edgy”! Thanks, New York Times!)

An apology from Handler is nice, but that won’t stop this kind of thing from happening again. What is required is a true commitment from publishing: to right wrongs, to make concrete and sustainable efforts to be inclusive, to educate staff on the nuances of racism and privilege and to move toward a state of deeper understanding. There are certainly many individuals within publishing who are already committed to these things. But whether the industry as a whole will ever commit, and what it will take for them to do so, is a question I just don’t know the answer to.

In the meantime, readers and authors aren’t willing to wait, and that’s one big reason why the We Need Diverse Books campaign has done so marvelously. As of today, the campaign has raised over $108,000 to fund various projects that will increase diversity in books. That money is proof that a lot of people care and won’t let the publishing status quo, which hurts so many, reign supreme. I hope publishers will be willing to work with them on many of the initiatives they’ve developed.

In a great speech on sexual abuse in the military, Army chief Lt. Gen. David Morrison said, “The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.” I think that goes for all of us. Hey, publishing, we’ve all walked past a lot of things. Let’s not walk past this too.


Filed under: Diversity 102, Diversity, Race, and Representation Tagged: national book award, NBA

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19. Bono Stars in Comic Book

Fame BonoBluewater Productions has created a biographical comic book profiling U2 frontman Bono.

According to the press release, Michael L. Frizell wrote the story, Jayfri Hashim created the interior artwork, and David Frizell produced the cover art.

For Frizell, “Bono is a fascinating artist. Equal parts rock star, goodwill ambassador, and humanitarian, his work has stood the test of time…In writing the comic, I wanted to convey the legendary performer as the ultimate Everyman.”

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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20. Hachette Book Group Forms Contract to Acquire Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers

Hachette-Book-Group-LARGE11-300x89Hachette Book Group has established an agreement to acquire Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers. The executives have designated Black Dog & Levinthal to be a new division at the Hachette Books imprint.

J.P. Leventhal founded the company in 1993; it specializes in publishing illustrated books and creative non-fiction titles. Hachette plans to retain the management team with Leventhal as publisher, Maureen Winter as associate publisher, and Rebecca Koh as editorial director.

Here’s more from the press release: “The impressive range and variety of the Black Dog & Leventhal list is evident in their recent bestsellers, which include The Complete Cartoons of the New Yorker, Skyscrapers, Take Me Out to the Ballpark, The Complete Front Pages of the New York Times, The Louvre: All the Paintings, Theodore Gray’s The Elements, as well as the more recent Molecules, which is currently on the New York Times science bestseller list. The company publishes 20 to 30 books per year, in the categories of art, history, science, humor, cooking, crafts, music, and theatre, as well as a selection of books for young readers.”

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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21. Just To Show....

About five minutes after I posted the Square Enix Flash figure item hits mounted and it has been the top post since yesterday evening.

What do I know!!

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22. Boomerang Books is Australia’s first online bookstore to become a Google Trusted Store.

Boomerang Books has become Australia’s first online bookstore to become a Google Trusted Store. To gain accreditation Boomerang Books passed a 30-day qualification period in which online suppliers must maintain a high level of customer service, reliable delivery time-frames and high customer ratings. The Google Trusted Stores program was launched in Australia earlier this year […]

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23. The Grolier Club is Hosting the ‘Quotations of Chairman Mao’ Exhibit

getImageThe Grolier Club is hosting an exhibit focused on the “Quotations of Chairman Mao.”

Here’s more from The New York Times: “The exhibition begins at the beginning, and even before, with several precursor anthologies that can be seen as steppingstones to the Quotations, first issued with a white paper cover in spring 1964. Vinyl bindings in three shades of blue were tried out, but within a few months, the red vinyl cover with an incised red star in the center, now familiar, appeared, and red it remained, all over the world. One of the more arresting display cases includes nearly identical copies of the Quotations in dozens of languages, from Albanian to Uighur.”

Justin G. Schiller, a collector and rare bookseller, loaned many items for this display. It was organized in honor of the 50th anniversary of the publication of the Communist leader’s little red book. A closing date has been scheduled for January 10, 2015. Follow this link to read an English translation of some of the text.

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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24. Harts Pass No. 227

A certain surliness has taken over my otherwise eternal optimism -- brought on no doubt by too little sleep and simultaneously too little vitamin D. GRRR!

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25. Twigs and bones

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