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1. When to Submit

Christmas Melissa Iwai

This sweet illustration was sent in my Melissa Iwai.  Melissa was featured on Illustrator Saturday.

When I meet a new writer and they ask me for advice, I always point out not to rush to submit what they have written. That advice comes from personal experience and many years of observation. When you are new you think everything you write is wonderful and it isn’t until a few years late and many rejections that you realize you better get into a critique group and learn to revise. The trouble is a writer can go on too long with revisions and setting things aside, so when Bebe sent me this short article I thought it might provide the inspiration you can use going into 2015.

Here’s Bebe:

bebeListening Too much or Self Doubt
By Bebe Willoughby

While people who worked in publishing above us hurried off to the Hamptons on Friday’s early summer dismissal, a co-worker and I stayed in the air conditioned office to write a book on dreams. Our lack of self-confidence prevented us from sending it out.

We tucked the manuscript safely in a drawer , where it stayed for four years. We joined a writing group and brought along the manuscript. The leader, a well-known writer/ illustrator, said it was publishable and encouraged us to send it out. So we did and got a quick call from an editor who wanted to publish it.

I have another tale to tell that involves doubting myself and listening to far too many people. I wrote a short story entitled “Nothing Lasts Forever.” None of my writer friends showed much enthusiasm, and a top editor told me I did not write well enough for major magazines. I lived with that declaration for quite some time. Then a friend who did not work in publishing advised: “send it out. You have nothing to lose.” She, of course, was right, but I had not seen it that way. My tale has a happy ending. The story was published in Seventeen magazine.

I encourage writers to have others read their work, but be careful about listening too hard. In the end, you must trust yourself.

Bebe Willoughby earned a M.F.A.in creative writing at Columbia University and is the author of five works of  fiction–four children and one novel for adults. She served for ten years as an editor at Random House.

Bebe, thank you for sharing your experiences with all of us. I hope it inspires everyone to get their revisions done and submit more of their writing and illustrating this year. Remember, it doesn’t always have to be a book contract to be successful. Wishing everyone a very successful 2015. Now’s the time to start think laying out a plan.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, article, authors and illustrators, bio, inspiration, Process, revisions, submissions Tagged: Bebe Willoughy, Melissa Iwai

1 Comments on When to Submit, last added: 12/21/2014
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2. Webcomic Alert: New Christmas horror comic from Emily Carroll “All Along the Wall”

walltwo Webcomic Alert: New Christmas horror comic from Emily Carroll All Along the Wall

Talk about an early Christmas present.

Emily Carroll’s delicious and innovative horror comics are a yearly Halloween treat, and now she’s gifted us with a Christmas themed comic about two little girls who are perfect angels…or are they?

2 Comments on Webcomic Alert: New Christmas horror comic from Emily Carroll “All Along the Wall”, last added: 12/20/2014
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3. Illustrator Saturday – Santa Favorites

I thought this Saturday I’d bring you some of the Santa’s from past Illustrator Saturdays. Remember that not every illustrator has done an illustration of Santa. I am sure I missed some Santa’s, so if you were featured on Illustrator Saturday and have a Santa that you would like me to add, please email me with the illustration and I will add it to the celebration of Santa.

Yvonnesantauntitled

Yvonne Gilbert http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2013/11/09/illustrator-saturday-yvonne-gilbert/

wenzelsantaraindeers

David Thorn Wenzel – http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2013/08/24/illustrator-saturday-david-thorn-wenzel/

ZimmerSanta_4

Glenn Zimmer – http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2013/10/19/illustrator-saturday-glenn-zimmer/

ruthsantacircling house

Ruth Sanderson – http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2012/03/17/illustrator-saturday-ruth-sanderson/

ruthsantaopeningbag

Ruth Sanderson – http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2012/03/17/illustrator-saturday-ruth-sanderson/

santa

Michele Noiset – http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2012/09/22/illustrator-saturday-michele-noiset/

santa

David Harrington – http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2014/10/18/illustrator-saturday-david-harrington/

cressySantasNewYearsEveSML

Micheal Garland – http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2013/08/31/illustrator-saturday-michael-garland/

yvonne51_Father_Christmas_Greeting-Card-1400

Yvonne Gilbert http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2013/11/09/illustrator-saturday-yvonne-gilbert/

becciachristmas2

Carlyn Beccia – http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2011/03/12/illustrator-saturday-carlyn-beccia/

santa running

Michele Noiset – http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2012/09/22/illustrator-saturday-michele-noiset/

dillardsanta bear tree

Sarah Dillard – http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2012/08/19/illustrator-saturday-sarah-dillard/

garland10087_465065250196522_1314917625_n

Michael Garland – http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2013/08/31/illustrator-saturday-michael-garland/

ruthsantaworkshop

Ruth Sanderson – http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2012/03/17/illustrator-saturday-ruth-sanderson/

Karen Romagna Santa_&_Lamb_For_Prints

Karen Romagna – http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2011/05/14/illustrator-saturday-karen-romanga/

shawnaa2f6f359b451371b24ff958ad09b7d24

Shawna JC Tenney – http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2013/04/20/illustrator-saturday-shawna-jc-tenney/

detwilerRedCanoe1-788x1024

Susan Detwiler – http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2013/03/09/illustrator-saturday-susan-detwiler/

eberzSanta small

This Santa was done by Robert Eberz. Robert will be featured on Illustrator Saturday in January, so check back for more. www.roberteberz.com

Merry Christmas! Remember that I will be posting Christmas poems on Christmas Day, so if you have a Christmas poem, please email it to me.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

 


Filed under: authors and illustrators, Holiday, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Poems Tagged: Christmas, Santa Claus, Santa illustrations from Illustrator Saturday

4 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Santa Favorites, last added: 12/20/2014
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4. Derf gets turfed by Facebook

10869824 1375500346083007 7869172760891974963 o Derf gets turfed by Facebook

Derf’s cover for the Éditions çà et là 10th anniversary catalog

The other day, Tom Spurgeon linked to a Facebook post by cartoonist T Edward Bak in which he frets about the “money vs art vs oh god what the hell am I doing” feeling that many in the indie world are having, and which we’ve written about many times. In response I was about to go link to a fantastic FB post by Derf Backderf in which he talks about being a cancer survivor and what he’s done since—delivered the great book My Friend Dahmer, continued to cartoon, enjoyed life with his family, travelled the world. It was a wonderful life affirming post that puts a lot of things into perspective.

But….it was gone.

Along with the rest of Derf’s lively, informative FB page. Becuase Facebook decided that “Derf Backderf” isn’t a real name and turfed his entire account. Never mind that Backderf is his real name and Derf is a long-running nickname that’s good enough for the LIbrary of Congress. Not good enough that he’s won awards, appeared on TV and is a real life person that I and many others have had lunch with. Not good enough for Facebook.

Ever pragmatic, Backderf has already started a new page under his Christian name, John Backderf, but yeah, every other post and conversation lost.

If the Sony hack has taught us anything, it’s that maybe saving every thing on the web for all times isn’t a good idea, but we put our whole lives out in the hands of a few digital players….and they can take it all away in a heartbeat. I wrote a few months ago about how my Tumblr account was removed overnight for some infraction that was never explained to me. I managed to get it back but…oh the humanity. And of course, Google decided that I’m a porn site and took away my AdSense revenue.

I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: DON’T TRUST PROFIT SEEKING COMPANIES TO LOOK OUT FOR YOUR BEST INTERESTS. And Don’t put all your digital eggs in one basket! A few years ago a lot of cartooners switched over to FB as their main outlet, and I can see why — instant feedback from your peers, instant community. But it can all be taken away in an instant for reasons that don’t have anything to do with real life, just silly rules made by people who don’t seem to have any interaction with real life. (Just try to contact a Real Human at Google OR Fb.)

WordPress is also a profit seeking enterprise, but at least they give you the tools to do with as you please. Setting up your own site under your own URL takes a few minutes and a few bucks a year and gives you your OWN turf to do with as you please. It’s amazing that we’ve been given all these great tools for free, and we should take advantage of them, but don’t get seduced into think it’s all for OUR benefit.

As for the malaise thing, I quite enjoyed this quote from Mark Hamill on returning to the role of Luke Skywalker:

Given a second chance at playing Skywalker, three decades after that hero’s journey, the now 63-year-old actor says he tried to appreciate the experience more than he did before. Back when he made the original trilogy, he was just launching his career and the pressure was on. This time he said it was different than when he wrapped shooting on Jedi in 1982. “It’s kind of like Scrooge on Christmas morning. ‘Oh my God, this time I’m going to appreciate it in a way I wasn’t able to as a young man,’” Hamill says. “The fact that it is so special to so many people … it’s hard to believe you could take something for granted like that.”

 

10 Comments on Derf gets turfed by Facebook, last added: 12/20/2014
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5. Captain America’s Shield and Joe Quesada show up on the Stephen Colbert farewell

colbert social 625x326 Captain Americas Shield and Joe Quesada show up on the Stephen Colbert farewell

There were few dry eyes across America as Stephen Colbert wrapped up his nine year run on The Colbert Report—and staying in character, instead of breaking the wall and getting sentimental, he went gonzo fantasy, defeating Grimmy, his long time nemesis, or Death himself, and gaining immortality. Immortality has perks, such as assembling a zeitgeist all-stat lineup of pals from Bryan Cranston to George Lucas to Cyndi Lauper and James Franco who came out to sing the closing song from Dr Strangelove, “We’ll Meet Again. ” Although it was hard to spot all the celebs in the chorus, among them was two-time guests, Marvel CCO Joe Quesada:


As I watched the show, I wondered what would become of the Captain America shield prominently displayed behind Colbert. It’s been a fixture of the Colbert set since it was given to him in 2007 after Captain America died in a storyline, and Colbert was deemed worthy to carry it. The actual shield is one that was owned by late Marvel editor Mark Gruenwald, and held a lot of residual mojo for Marvel fans. To my surprise, it made a starring role in the finale of the show, as Colbert wonders what t do with his new found immortality, and is whisked off to Valinor* in a sleigh with Santa, Abraham Lincoln and Alex Trebek.

You could actually see some dents in the shield on the close-ups—it’s a real life horcrux, and I hope it goes to some dignified resting place.

Colbert had a bunch of comics folks on his Report over the years—The Late Show is a bigger venue, but I have a feeling he’ll sneak in a few nerd icons along the way.

* Since Colbert is such a Tolkien scholar, you KNOW it was Valinor! In real life, however, Valinor is CBS, where Colbert will take over The Late Show in May, 2015.

Screen cap via KEvin Melrose

1 Comments on Captain America’s Shield and Joe Quesada show up on the Stephen Colbert farewell, last added: 12/20/2014
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6. What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Meilo So


“Blown by the wind, / water sails high. / Tumbling cloud plumes curl through the air. /
Soplada por el viento, / el agua se remonta. / Volutas nebulosas ruedan por el aire.”

(Click to enlarge spread)


 

This morning over at Kirkus, I write about some holiday picture books titles, what I think are some of the best of the season. It’s a Christmas miracle: LeUyen Pham has made me like “The Twelve Days of Christmas” again. That link will be here soon.

* * *

Last week, I wrote here about Pat Mora’s Water Rolls, Water Rises (Lee & Low, October 2014), illustrated by Meilo So. Today, I share some spreads from it.

Enjoy.


“Water rolls / onto the shore / under the sun, under the moon. /
El agua rueda / hacia la orilla / bajo el sol, bajo la luna.”

(Click to enlarge spread)


 


“In the murmur of marsh wind, / water slumbers on moss, / whispers soft songs far under frog feet. / En el viento susurrante de los pantanos, / el agua duerme sobre el musgo, / murmura suaves canciones bajo patitas de ranas.”
(Click to enlarge spread)


 


“Water burbles in springs, / gurgles and turns / down streams and rivers seeking the sea. / El agua burbujea en los manantiales, / borbotea y desciende /
por los arroyos y ríos buscando el mar.”

(Click to enlarge spread)


 



 

* * * * * * *

WATER ROLLS, WATER RISES. Copyright © 2014 by Pat Mora. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Meilo So. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, Children’s Book Press, an imprint of Lee & Low Books, New York.

3 Comments on What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Meilo So, last added: 12/21/2014
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7. Librarian Preview: Harper Collins (Spring 2015)

Oh, it’s a big one.  A big honking preview, this is.  Yes indeed, folks, Harper Collins is in town and they’ve a mess of good looking books just aching to arrive on your shelves.  Now the last time I attending a preview for HC I was massively pregnant with back pain to match.  This time around, in comparison, I was positively lithe, leaping from table to table as the editors showed us their pretty baubles.  Here then is an encapsulation of some of the goodies that will be hitting shelves nationwide fairly soon.  To wit:

Table One

At these librarian previews we the MLIS degree holders move from table to table, where each imprint gets its own say.  With Table One we began with Greenwillow and a season that’s going to feel a little distant to us for a while:

Finding Spring by Carin Berger (97800622510193)

FindingSpring Librarian Preview: Harper Collins (Spring 2015)

Cute, right?  In this story a bear is searching for spring.  So what does he find instead?  Snow.  Lots of it.  Done in Berger’s customary collage style, this is one artistic little book that rewards close reading.  Note, for example, that the snowflakes and flowers see in these pages are held in place by tiny pins.  Sort of gives the whole book a three-dimensional feel.  Gorgeous.

For a closer look at the interior art, stop on by Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast for a sneak peek.

Red by Michael Hall (9780062252074)

Red Librarian Preview: Harper Collins (Spring 2015)

I actually already talked a bit about this one back during the last Harper Collins preview, but I like it so very much that I’ll mention it again.  To wit, snarky faceless crayons populate a book where a blue crayon is mislabeled as red.  A pencil tells the tale (as you might imagine).  I’m already imagining a LOT of applications for this as a gift book.  It sells itself.

Touch the Brightest Star by Christie Matheson (9780062274472)

 TouchBrightestStar 500x500 Librarian Preview: Harper Collins (Spring 2015)

Since the popularity of Press Here by Herve Tullet, a load of different interactive picture books have swamped the market.  The best of these do more than simply tout their interactive elements, though.  And those that have a purpose above and beyond the directives aimed at child readers tend to be worth seeking out.  In Matheson’s latest, kids are encouraged to embrace the dark rather than fear it. Touch the firefly and watch it glow on the next page.  That sort of thing.  It’s interactive bedtime fare and even includes some night sky info as well.  Matheson first started these series of sorts with Tap the Magic Tree.  The plans for the third book in the works?  Planting a seed.  Awwww, yeah.

Backyard Witch: Sadie’s Story by Christine Heppermann, ill. Deborah Marcero (9780062338389)

BackyardWitch Librarian Preview: Harper Collins (Spring 2015)

That’s clever.  They were pitching this early chapter title as something to hand to the Ivy & Bean lovers of the world.  Of course it has magic in it, but that’s okay.  If author Christine Heppermann’s name sounds familiar that may be because she was recently responsible for the very YA Poisoned Apples this year. Switching gears a tad, she is now coming out with a story of Sadie.  When her two best friends go on vacation without her, she’s none too pleased.  A trip to her play house leads to the discovery of a Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle type witch.  She’s asked to help find the witch’s friends.  One is a bird (a yellow warbler) who was turned avian by mistake.  And since I’m always desperate for early readers, I’m excited to give this one a go.

Blackbird Fly by Erin Entrada Kelly (9780062238610)

BlackbirdFly Librarian Preview: Harper Collins (Spring 2015)

Oo. This one sounds exciting.  Written by an author who was born in the Philippines and moved to Louisiana, the book features a Filipino girl dealing with growing up.  The girls at school are no longer nice and her mom runs her home as if she’s still in the Philippines.  She would prefer to learn the guitar and emulate her favorite artist – George Harrison.  Sounds good.

Anyone but Ivy Pocket by Caleb Krisp (9780062364340)

IvyPocket Librarian Preview: Harper Collins (Spring 2015)

Note, if you will, the tiny skulls on the cover.  From what I could gather then it was a kind of Amelia Bedelia by way of Downton Abbey in a Tim Burton-like book with a Lemony Snicketesque plot.  Got that?  In this story the titular Ivy must deliver a diamond to a girl on her birthday.

Waiting by Kevin Henkes (9780062368430)

Waiting Librarian Preview: Harper Collins (Spring 2015)

I have excellent news.  I’ve seen the Caldecott winner of 2016.  You see?  I just saved you an entire year’s work.  Slap your hands together, folks, because your work is done.  Yes, Kevin Henkes has a new picture book coming out and it is absolutely fascinating.  The toys on the cover are, you see, waiting.  Based on Kevin’s kids’ own toys, the story takes place at a single setting: the window.  And you would be amazed how much drama can be derived from such a location.  Beautiful beautiful beautiful  . . . and not out until September 2015.  Sorry, guys.

The Doldrums by Nicholas Gannon (9780062320940)

Adélaïde Radio Librarian Preview: Harper Collins (Spring 2015)

What you’re seeing here isn’t the cover so much as an example of some of the full-color art found in this title.  Three kids (Archer, Adelaide, and Oliver) are waiting for an adventure.  Their intent?  To find Archer’s grandparents, last seen on an iceberg.  Add in a pinch of a Hitchcockian flavor and maybe a little Wes Anderson and you’ve got yourself a fascinating little number.

Table Two

Ding!  Moving on.

Bunnies by Kevan Atteberry (9780062307835)

Bunnies Librarian Preview: Harper Collins (Spring 2015)

I’m always on the lookout for that rarest of rare beasts: The very young readaloud picture book.  And in this story you will find precisely that.  Not too dissimilar from Bob Shea’s 2014 title Don’t Play With Your Food, the story centers on a monster with a serious bunny obsession.  They appear.  They disappear.  They don’t seem to care that all he wants in the whole entire world is just to see them.  Awww.

Teddy Mars Book #1: Almost a World Record Breaker by Molly B. Burnham, ill. Trevor Spencer (9780062278104)

TeddyMars Librarian Preview: Harper Collins (Spring 2015)

Teacher debut alert!  There are many things I could tell you about this book, but I think I’m just going to leave you will the first line (which may be slightly paraphrased, so forgive me if it’s not 100% accurate): “The day my brother crawled into the catbox I knew my life would never be the same.”

What This Story Needs Is a Pig in a Wig by Emma J. Virjan (9780062327246)

WhatThisStory Librarian Preview: Harper Collins (Spring 2015)

I’m also always on the lookout for picture books with very simple texts.  When the Geisel Award goes to picture books, I stand up and cheer.  Seems to me that this book, described as containing a text, “where every single word is important,” fits the bill. The plot is simple.  There is a pig.  Too many animals jump into her boat.  Hijinks ensue.

Stick Dog Dreams of Ice Cream by Tom Watson (9780062278074)

StickDogIceCream Librarian Preview: Harper Collins (Spring 2015)

Were you aware that Stick Dog started as an app?  Not I, said the fly.  Now on his third book, the eternally hungry hero continues to lure in readers not yet ready for Wimpy Kid, looking for something with slightly more text than Bad Kitty.  And the good news?  Stick Cat is on the horizon.  Woohoo!

Little Miss, Big Sis by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, ill. Peter H. Reynolds (9780062302038)

LittleMiss Librarian Preview: Harper Collins (Spring 2015)

Last seen in the book Plant a Kiss, two siblings return to the picture book stage.  Clever in its simplicity (and how has no one ever thought to write a title like this one before?) the book contains a young but very funny text.  And since funny is at a premium these days, this is a book I’ll be looking to read.

Lazy Dave by Peter Jarvis (9780062355980)

LazyDave 500x411 Librarian Preview: Harper Collins (Spring 2015)

One namer children’s authors are not unheard of (Avi, anyone?).  And like all one namers, Jarvis actually has two.  His name is Peter Jarvis and in 2015 he’ll be debuting with a story of a girl an her dog.  The girl in question loves the dog but is perturbed by the fact that he’s so ding dang lazy.  Truth is, the dog gets up to a LOT of adventures.  He just happens to experience them through sleepwalking.  Certainly this will pair well with that recent TOON book Tippy and the Night Parade, that’s for sure.  Look for Jarvis to come out with Forgetful Fred at some point as well.

Table Three

Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai (9780062229182)

ListenSlowly Librarian Preview: Harper Collins (Spring 2015)

I covered this book briefly in my last Harper Collins preview, but it’s just so nice I’ll cover it twice.  Coming from the author of Inside Out and Back Again, this book is Thanhha Lai’s first title since she won her Newbery Honor.  No pressure or anything.  Fortunately it looks as though she’s not let the win go to her head.  Like her last book, this story also features a child of Vietnamese parents, but there the similarities pretty much stop.  Writing in prose, in this contemporary novel a girl lives in Orange County with her family and grandmother.  When her grandma discovers that there may be new information about her husband, who disappeared during the Vietnam War, our heroine finds herself forced to go along.  Inspired by family history it’s getting starred reviews left and right.  Better check it out then.

Ferals by Jacob Grey (9780062321039)

Ferals Librarian Preview: Harper Collins (Spring 2015)

10 points to the author and publisher for not naming this book “Crow Boy”.  The temptation to do so must have been extreme.  I mean, c’mon.  “Raised by crows”?  Writes itself.  Described to us as “Batman meets The Graveyard Book” (surprised they didn’t reference the film The Crow as well) the story stars a boy named Caw.  He has the ability to speak to crows, which marks him as a “feral”.  Now the most evil feral, a fellow known as the Spinning Man, is returning.  Beware the spiders, folks.

The Last Dragon Charmer #1: Villain Keeper (9780062308436)

VillainKeeper Librarian Preview: Harper Collins (Spring 2015)

Here’s a term you may never hear again, but that just sounds interesting: Reverse portal fantasy. Know what it is?  Well, the plot of this book might give you a hint.  In this story a prince wants to slay a dragon.  Pretty standard stuff.  Or at least it would be if the prince wasn’t mysteriously sent to Asheville, NC.  Number of dragons in Asheville?  Zero.  Or so you might think . . . They said this would be a good complementary title to The Hero’s Guide for Saving Your Kingdom.  Absolutely.

Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams-Garcia (9780062215871)

GoneCrazy Librarian Preview: Harper Collins (Spring 2015)

It’s here!  It’s here!  It’s almost here!  In April or so we’ll be seeing the third and final volume in the Rita Williams-Garcia series that began with One Crazy Summer. I thoroughly approve of the clothes featured on the cover here (the bell bottoms on book #2 still rankle).  In this book the girls take a bus to visit Big Ma in the family home.  The time period is Summer 1969.  The place?  Alabama.  And the three find out pretty quickly that they are not exactly in the best possible time and place to be chanting Black Power slogans.  The editor, Rosemary Brosnan, said in all seriousness that it’s the best of the three.

Monstrous by MarcyKate Connolly, ill. Skottie Young (9780062272713)

Monstrous Librarian Preview: Harper Collins (Spring 2015)

They say it’s Frankenstein meets the Brothers Grimm but I suspect there might be a bit of Monster High stuck in there on the side.  Meet our heroine.  She has the eyes of a cat, the wings of a raven, and she has one purpose in life: To rescue girls under the spell of an evil wizard.  Simple, right?  But when you’re a monster you have to learn that sometimes there are things and people out there even more monstrous than you.

Endangered by Lamar Giles (9780062297563)

Endangered Librarian Preview: Harper Collins (Spring 2015)

Yep.  This one’s a YA novel but I’m highlighting it because it’s one of the very rare titles with a contemporary African-American girl on the cover.  Little wonder.  It’s by #WeNeedDiverseBooks fellow Lamar Giles.  Well played.

Table 4

Meet the Dullards by Sara Pennypacker, ill. Daniel Salmieri (978006198563)

Dullards Librarian Preview: Harper Collins (Spring 2015)

Now again, we talked about this book before, but there’s a lot to love here.  Salmieri, man.  That kid’s going places.  It hurts matters not a jot that his Dragons Love Tacos is on the New York Times bestseller list every week right now (sidenote: the best Dragons Love Tacos video of all time is here).  In this book long time pro Pennypacker pairs with Salmieri to present what may be the greatest childhood metaphor of all time.  Mom and Dad are dull.  Proudly so, and like all good parents they are attempting to inculcate their children in the wide and wonderful world of blahness.  Trouble is, the kids are dangerously attracted to activities more interesting than watching paint dry.  The description? “The Stupids with boring people”.  Nice.

Cat and Bunny by Mary Lundquist (9780062287809)

CatBunny 500x474 Librarian Preview: Harper Collins (Spring 2015)

Doesn’t look like much from the cover, does it?  But doggone it if this isn’t one of the cleverer little books coming out right now.  A debut, the book features a large menagerie (for lack of a better word) of kids in animal costumes.  In this book, a topic horribly familiar to many a kiddo is tackled: Sharing your best friend.  Quail, you see, wants to play with Bunny but Cat is NOT down with that plan.  Understanding ensues.  Talk about a topic parents ask for that we hardly have any books to cover!!  Note: My table insisted that the endpapers be turned into a poster someday.

If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson (9780062298898)

IfYouPlant 500x500 Librarian Preview: Harper Collins (Spring 2015)

Kadir continues with the cute.  Picasso had his Blue Period.  Kadir has his Cute Period.  Described as “intense”, in this book a mouse and a rabbit plant a seed.  What ensues is a tale of selfishness, kindness, karma, and consequences.

First Snow by Peter McCarty (9780062189967)

FirstSnow 500x464 Librarian Preview: Harper Collins (Spring 2015)

Okay.  So we need diverse books, right?  Absolutely.  But don’t we also need diverse animal stories?  Is there any reason why animals can’t be diverse as well?  Peter McCarty has always been remarkably good in this arena.  Now he continues his series of books starring familiar characters.  He began with Henry In Love, continued with Chloe, and now we have First Snow.  Pedro is from South America and has come to spend time with his cousins in the north.  When they learn that he has no experience with snow they insist that he join in the fun.  He takes some convincing, of course.  Snow is, and it’s hard to argue with this, cold.  Fortunately a sledding mishap ends with the unintentional consequence of Pedro suddenly loving the white, fluffy, and (yes) cold stuff.  Great great great.

Every Little Bit of You is Yummy! by Tim Harrington (9780062328168)

EveryLittleBit Librarian Preview: Harper Collins (Spring 2015)

Like a lot of librarians I’m always on the lookout for good picture book readalouds.  Did you see Jbrary’s 2014 Favourite Storytime Picture Books?  That’s the kind of stuff I’m talking about.  So I was intrigued by what Harrington is doing here.  Like a kind of follow-up to Eric Carle’s From Head to Toe, the book is interactive with a song online to boot.

Masterminds by Gordon Korman (9780062299963)

Masterminds Librarian Preview: Harper Collins (Spring 2015)

The heart wants what it wants.  And what my heart wants right now is for 2015 to arrive so that I can finally pick this book up and read it.  For whatever reason, Gordon Korman has managed to pen a book that pushes all my buttons.  As a kid I would have been all over this thing.  You see, in this book a group of kiddos live in a kind of Pleasantville-ish town.  They’re good kids too.  Then one day a kid bicycles to the town limits and pretty quickly they discover that nothing they know is the truth.  They’re a sociological experiment in the making and their purpose has yet to reveal itself.

The Girl in the Torch by Rob Sharenow (9780062227959)

GirlTorch Librarian Preview: Harper Collins (Spring 2015)

Here in New York we children’s librarians keep one eye peeled at all times for NYC-related children’s book fare.  Happily there’s a bloody ton of it out there.  Case in point, a book they’re calling “Hugo Cabret meets True Grit“.  While on Ellis Island a girl’s mother dies in quarantine.  So what’s a daughter to do?  With the prospect of deportation looming, our heroine does what any forward thinking young woman would.  She decides to live in the torch of The Statue of Liberty.  Tackling big themes like what it means to be “American”, this just sounds fun.

Joey and Johnny, the Ninjas: Get Mooned by Kevin Serwacki, ill. Chris Pallace (9780062299338)

JoeyJohnny Librarian Preview: Harper Collins (Spring 2015)

Speaking of fun: Ninjas!  Ninjas make everything better.  The first in a four book series, imagine if Roald Dahl wrote a story about a ninja school and it was then animated by the creators of Adventure Time.  That’s what you’ll get in this book of two competing ninja schools.  Apparently the book tackles the tricky issue of taking the easy way out of things.  With ninjas.  Did I mention that part before?

Moonpenny Island by Tricia Springstubb (9780062112934)

MoonpennyIsland Librarian Preview: Harper Collins (Spring 2015)

Gilbert Ford.  I hope he’s very rich by now.  Periodically middle grade book covers go through phases.  There was the Brett Hardinger phase for a while, and before that the C.F. Payne phase.  Now it’s all Gilbert Ford all the way.  He started out luring in the kiddos with the Pseudonymous Bosch “Secret” series, and cemented his reign with the Newbery Honor book Three Times Lucky.  There’s just something appealing about his style.  Now he’s done the cover for the latest Tricia Springstubb novel.  This book is about seeing things for the first time.  It’s also about a mom who leaves to take care of grandma, themes of evolution, and a load of trilobites (note the cover).

The Dungeoneers by John David Anderson (9780062338143)

Dungeoneers Librarian Preview: Harper Collins (Spring 2015)

Hard to tell.  Is this a Dan Santat cover?  Sure looks like one.  In any case, the author of the delightful Sidekicked is back, but not with any superhero tales this time.  Nope, this is a story of Colm.  He’s a peasant who, quite frankly is fed up with being a peasant.  After picking the wrong pocket (to put it mildly) Colm’s given a choice.  He could be done away with in a suitably medieval manner or he can become a member of low born adventurers.  He chooses the latter and is enthralled, until he realizes that there are problem with this particular group.

Omega City by Diana Peterfreund (9780062310859)

OmegaCity Librarian Preview: Harper Collins (Spring 2015)

Strap in, folks.  We’re clearly in adventure mode now.  I don’t know about you but I’ve noticed a significant uptick in the number of books described using Goonies as a reference.  They called the Little, Brown & Co. book If You Find This by Matthew Baker as “Goonies meets Holes“.  Now Harper Collins is calling Omega CityGoonies meets City of Ember“.  After a girl’s father loses his job she follows clues left by a diary and finds an underground bunker.  It’s first in a three book series and promises action.  Just so long as it doesn’t reference Omega Man in any way (it’s the title that made me think of it) we’re cool.

The Arctic Code by Matthew J. Kirby (978006224873)

ArcticCode Librarian Preview: Harper Collins (Spring 2015)

That Matthew Kirby.  He just can’t keep away from ice.  First it was the remarkable Icefall.  Now he has a new three book series set in the near future.  Earth has succumbed to a new Ice Age.  Meanwhile our hero’s mother is in the Arctic doing some kind of work there.  When she disappears after sending a cryptic message, her daughter Eleanor goes to find her.  Apparently the book asks the rather difficult question, if we can’t save everyone on earth, who do we save and why?  Sounds like it would pair well with the Rebecca Stead debut novel First Light.

A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, ill. Gris Grimly (9780062293756)

StudyScarlet Librarian Preview: Harper Collins (Spring 2015)

Cool . . . and YA.  Doggone it.  Yes, the wonderful Gris Grimly is back and this time he’s chosen to illustrate the debut of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s most famous hero.  In color no less!  Now when I saw what book it was I admit I was a bit incredulous.  Anyone who has read this knows that there is a LONG section dedicated to a subplot involving Mormons in America.  I asked and yes indeed.  The Mormons made it into this book intact.  Fascinating.

Table 5

Picture Perfect #1: Bending Over Backwards by Cari Simmons (9780062310224)

BendingOver Librarian Preview: Harper Collins (Spring 2015)

Someday an enterprising librarian in a small system will create stickers that say “snark free” or “mean girl free” and put them on certain titles in their collection.  I know that when I was a kid I would have vastly preferred those kinds of books.  Those stickers would actually apply pretty well to this new series by Cari Simmons.  Each story is a standalone but they all have one thing in common: What happens when you realize that you and your longtime best friend are two VERY different people?  They said it was for the Mix / Candy Apple readers.  I say it’s also for the fans of The Kind of Friends We Used to Be and the upcoming Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson.

Archie Greene and the Magician’s Secret by D.D. Everest (9780062312112)

ArchieGreene Librarian Preview: Harper Collins (Spring 2015)

Kids, here’s some safe advice.  Should you receive an ancient book for your birthday, just put that sucker down.  You don’t want to know what it’s going to get you into.  In the case of Archie Greene, such a book helps him to discover that he’s a Flame Keeper, charged to find and preserve magical books.  Mind you, occasionally there are books where characters pop out of their pages.  Just consider that one of the hazards of the job.

The Fog Diver by Joel Ross (9780062352934)

FogDiver Librarian Preview: Harper Collins (Spring 2015)

Adventure! Pirates! Airships! Slum kids who’s made themselves a kind of patched together family.  In the future we live in the sky.  Why?  Because a deadly fog is on the ground, of course.  The worse news?  It’s rising.  For that reason we’re all living on the mountaintops these days.  The wealthy are the uppermost while fog divers scavenge below.  Our heroes must save their guardian and to do so they must go on a journey.  Amongst them is a boy who can survive the fog so, naturally, the bad guy wants him.  This will be the first of two books in the series.

The Keepers: The Box and the Dragonfly (9780062275820)

Keepers Librarian Preview: Harper Collins (Spring 2015)

And this one will be the first of four books.  I’ve written about this before, actually.  In this book a boy meets a group called “The Keepers” and is given a box that shows the future.  Only thing is, this isn’t a fantasy.  Nope.  It’s a highly developed science fiction title where all the “magical” elements are based on theoretical physics.

Mars Evacuees by Sophia McDougall (9780062293992)

MarsEvacuees Librarian Preview: Harper Collins (Spring 2015)

My resident science fiction expert librarian (see: Views from the Tesseract) assures me that this book is excellent.  In it, Earth is at war with aliens so the kids are evacuating to Mars.  Our heroine arrives there and next thing you know all the adults have disappeared.  So the kids, the robots, and an alien (!) team up.  They described this one as Pixar-esque with plenty of humor.  And the name of the sequel?  Space Hostages.  Awesome.

And that’s that!  All that remains is to look at the . . .

Best Meets

You know, sometimes in my quieter moments I look back and think about my favorite bizarre “meets” overheard at a preview.  It didn’t even use the word “meets”, but the implication was clear.  The name of the book has long since faded from my mind but the description . . . ah, the description is forever.  “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon . . . on MARS!”  Still the best.  In the meantime, these are pretty good too:

“The Monkey’s Paw meets E. Lockhardt meets Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” – The Cost of All Things by Maggie Lehrman

“X-Men meets Game of Thrones” – The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

share save 171 16 Librarian Preview: Harper Collins (Spring 2015)

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8. Free Fall Friday – Sad and Happy – Tummy Growling

christmasillo

These reindeers created by Christine Brallier are getting ready to take off on their Christmas Eve trip to help Santa deliver his gifts. It is from her children’s book, The Night Before Christmas.  The illustrations were created by Christine using stained glass mosaics. http://www.cbmosaics.com/book/

Creator of Clifford the Big Red Dog Norman Bridwell, 86, died last Friday at a hospital on Martha’s Vineyard. Scholastic says his over 150 titles have 129 million copies in print worldwide. Scholastic CEO Dick Robinson said, “Norman personified the values that we as parents and educators hope to communicate to our children – kindness, compassion, helpfulness, gratitude – through the Clifford stories which have been loved for more than fifty years.”

catchthecookie8b1a562c-48a0-4bfc-901c-64adfdf13395_zps49ace1cc Jama Kim Rattigan on her blog, Jama’s Alphabet Soup, featured H CATCH THAT COOKIE. I feature the book written by Hallie Drand (A.K.A Holly McGhee) and illustrated by David Small in August. You can click their names to view those posts. But Jama’s post are so much fun. She always ties books in with recipes.

I think I am going to try the recipe for the cookies in the post and show them off like she did with the book during Christmas.

Below is a list of the Ingredients, click the Directions at the bottom to jump back over to Jama’s blog to read the rest and see her fun display of her cookies and the book.

GINGERBREAD CUTOUT COOKIES

Total Time: Prep: 30 minutes + chilling. Bake: 10 minutes/batch + cooling.

Yield: 60 cookies

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup molasses
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Vanilla frosting of your choice
  • Red and green paste food coloring

Directions:

4_AB_ALetterto_ReinharzChildren’s writer Jennifer Reinharz reported a few months ago that she became a contributing writer at Mamalode. Her second article, A Letter to my Palestinian-American Muslim Friend has been posted. They track the number of unique views, likes, comments, and shares and they base her success on this, so if you get a chance take a minute to read her new article.

Jennifer says, “My path to Kidlit author has yet to be a straight line, but I can’t help but think that getting a chance to connect and share one of my stories with the Mommies, etc. is an example of heading right direction.”

This is a goods lesson for all of us. You just never know where your next success will come from and how one little thing can lead to another.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: inspiration, Kudos, News Tagged: Christine Brallier, Clifford the Big Red Dog, David Small, Hallie Durand, Jama's Alphabet Soup, Jennifer Reinharz, Norman Bridwell

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9. Webcomic alert: What it’s like for an incarcerated teen on Rikers Island

22 thebox abridged 2 Webcomic alert: What its like for an incarcerated teen on Rikers Island

The federal government is suing NYC over the treatment of teen-aged inmates at the legendary—and not in a good way— Riker’s Island detention facility.

The federal government plans to file a lawsuit against New York City alleging “widespread civil rights violations” against teen inmates at Rikers Island. The suit comes on the heels of a blistering report conducted by U.S. district attorney Preet Bharara that was released this summer and detailed shocking abuses of adolescent Rikers prisoners, including beatings, verbal abuse, and excessive use of solitary confinement.

If you’re wondering why, here’s a comic book that explains how teens—many of them mentally ill—are put in “the box” for minor infractions.

The comic was reported by Daffodil Altan and Trey Bundy, and illustrated and designed by Anna Vignet, based on conversation with “Izzy” now grown and a case manager for people coming out of Riker’s.

26 27 thebox abridged 0 v22 Webcomic alert: What its like for an incarcerated teen on Rikers Island

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10. Spider-Woman Gets New “clothes to kick ass in”

635544611181339292 SpiderWoman cover Spider Woman Gets New clothes to kick ass in

By: Alexander Jones

Designer Kris Anka has just crafted some new threads for Jessica Drew A.K.A. Spider-Woman, a woman in need of a super-makeover. Anka has been pulled into reinvent some classic costumes with great results, including Storm’s newish outfit during Marvel NOW! that stuck around only because it was really fantastic. Anka’s new design for Drew will first debut in the Spider-Man Unlimited mobile game, then in March it will spin into the Spider-Woman ongoing title by Dennis Hopeless that spun it’s first web straight from the Spider-Verse.

The new outfit features a jacket, that is almost reminiscent of the new Batgirl outfit, with a couple more refinements in color scheme. The webbed tail surrounding the edges of the sleeves in particular is a great callback to past Spider-Man outfits, as are many of the other little details in the costume itself.

Brian Truitt debuted the news on USA Today, and shared this quote from Spider-Woman editor Nick Lowe:

“they’re clothes to kick ass in.”

635544606069587059 Spider Woman compare Spider Woman Gets New clothes to kick ass in

Another interesting new feature are the gloves that sport the same black and red design from the rest of the outfit. It’s also great to see Marvel combatting some of the bad press they have seen with the Milo Manara variant cover with an outfit that seems more conservative in nature, especially when factoring in the preliminary sketches. It’s also simply enjoyable to see the same old Jessica Drew leaving 1977, she’s not a character that gets a costume design update once a year.

635544608591237491 SpiderWoman profile Spider Woman Gets New clothes to kick ass in

 

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11. Kibbles ‘n’ Bits 12/18/14: Get well soon, Norm Breyfogle

§ Veteran Batman artist and nice guy Norm Breyfogle has suffered a stroke, as reported by his ex-wife. He’s expected to make a full recovery but send good thoughts.

coversofstolenbooks 00002 Kibbles n Bits 12/18/14: Get well soon, Norm Breyfogle

§ Wow Cool/ Alternative Comics recently suffered a break in robbery and a bunch of indie comics were stolen. Boy are they in for a surprise! You can see the whole list in the link, and some covers above. As Wow Cool is a distributor as well as a publisher, it wasn’t just Alternative Comics that were taken. You can help out by buying some books.

§ Kieron Gillen talks The Wicked + The Divine at Vox.

§ And very influential Boom!/BoomBox editor Shannon Watters gets interviewed at CBR:

I consider it a really important part of my job because I feel like a kid who read “Adventure Time” is not just going to put down “Adventure Time” and call it a day. Well, maybe he or she is, but when I was a kid, I wanted to know everything. I looked at the ads in the back of my comics and was like, that looks really cool, I’m going to go get that. I had a gateway drug comic and it all spun out of that. I really want to kids to read “Adventure Time” and then read “Dinosaur Comics.” Or see a cover that they really like and seek out that person’s personal work. You don’t want to create a kids comics culture that’s just predicated on them buying “Adventure Time” because they love “Adventure Time” and then being done with comics. You want to create a situation where you have turned these kids onto this art form and now they’re checking out everything–or they’re making their own comics. Not everything is going to be to everybody’s taste, and so scouting new talent and interesting talent and people who are doing interesting things is just so, so important. Getting those people’s stuff in front of people’s eyes is essential and one of my favorite things about my job. I devote a lot of time and energy to that and a lot of time and energy to thinking about who’s going to bring the best to a certain book or concept. I’m lucky that I get to that. I’m really lucky BOOM! encourages me in that way.

 

§ In advance of the Mumbai Comic Con this weekend founder Jatin Varma recommends comics from many continents.

Here’s a video of New Yorker cartoonists Sam Gross, Arnie Levin, Lee Lorenz and Victoria Roberts chatting with Richard Gehr at SVA.

§ Director Tim Burton helped kick off the “modern” superhero movie with Batman, but now he’s totally over it.

“Marvel, they have their thing and there’s a certain formula to it all which seems to still be working,” Burton told Yahoo Movies. “But how many times can you say ‘you’re wearing a funny costume’ with the tights and stuff? That’s been going on for 20 years now. Yes, we all know that superheroes are damaged individuals. Maybe we need to see a happy superhero?” Later in the same interview, he added “you think we need more superhero movies? It keeps on going. It’s amazing how long it’s been going for and it just keeps getting stronger and stronger. Some day people will get sick of it.”

 

§ BEST OF/FAVORITE COMICS OF 2014 LIST CORNER: Mental Floss has a list that goes from She Hulk to Study Group with conviction.

§ And two people with lists I really enjoyed Robert Boyd and Whit Taylor.

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12. PiBoIdMo Announcement and 2015 Sneak Peeks

Thank you for your patience with the PiBoIdMo winner announcements. I intend to get to them prior to year’s end, so I hope you’ll stick around just a while longer. Here, have a cookie. If you can catch him, that is.

gingy

All grand prize winners plus Pre-PiBo and Post-PiBo winners have been notified via email. If you were a winner and did not receive an email, please contact me.

In the meantime, let me leave you with a gentle reminder (which you don’t really need, do you?) to give a book as a gift this holiday! Garrison Keillor said it best…

bookgift

And since it’s almost 2015, here are sneak peeks from my upcoming titles to be released in August, September and October (talk about bada-bing, bada-boom-boom-BOOM!). Funny how these books were each signed within one year of each other, but they’re being released within one month of each other!

I THOUGHT THIS WAS A BEAR BOOK (Aladdin/S&S, August 2015)
illustrated by Benji Davies

bearyellowstone

NORMAL NORMAN (Sterling, September 2015)
illustrated by S.Britt

normandunebuggy

LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD (Random House, October 2015)
illustrated by Troy Cummings

wolf (1)

Once again, thanks for your patience with the PiBoIdMo winner announcements.

And may you and your family have a joyful holiday season!

(I hope you receive some really cool writerly gift!)


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13. Author Interview with Krysten Lindsay Hager

It’s Author Interview Thursday and I’m happy and sad. I’m sad because today will be our last interview for the year but I’m super happy because we have a full roaster of inspiring authors lined up for the new year.Krysten Lindsay Hager Some of the authors lined up for 2015, have been admired by yours truly from afar and I’m so glad we both get a chance to learn something new and inspiring. On the hot seat today is a lady from the beautiful state of Ohio. She is an international bestselling author and her book ‘True Colors’ has gained a fanbase on several continents. She writes in different genres and loves making authors look good. I’m so glad she’s with us today and please have her name etched somewhere on your medulla oblongata as I believe you’ll be hearing more of it in the days to come. She has a lot to share with us today, so please join me in welcoming Krysten Lindsay Hager.

 

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and the first time someone complemented you on something you had written?

I’m a writer who used to work in journalism. The first time I got attention for something I wrote was when I won a writing contest in the first grade. I won a little clown doll (a cute one, not one of those scary ceramic clowns that can give a kid nightmares) for a school-wide essay contest.

 

What can a reader expect when they pick up a book written by Krysten Lindsay Hager?

I always write with humor because even the most difficult times in life are easier to take with a little humor.

 

What role would you say social media plays in building an author’s platform and have you found it helpful in marketing your books? True Colors Book Cover

I think it helps people know who you are as a person and a bit of what they can expect from your work. A lot of people who knew me before reading the book have said, “Oh, I can hear you in the novel.” Some people have said when Landry and her mom argue in the book about Landry modelling that you can hear me with my adult view of modelling versus my view of it at Landry’s age.

 

You write in multiple genres like Young Adult, Middle Grade and Adult Fiction. Has this created any unique challenges and how have you overcome them?

The only difference is some of the themes you touch on. I wouldn’t use anything political in a middle grade/YA book, but I can do that in an adult piece. And obviously any dating situation is different. But a lot of the emotions stay the same no matter what the age.

 

What were some of your favourite books as a child? 

I love Judy Blume’s Just as Long as We’re Together, My Mother was Never a Kid by Francine Pascal, The Great Mom Swap by Betsy Haynes, and Goodbye, Glamour Girl by Erika Tamar. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve re-read those books.

 

What book or film has the best dialogue that inspires you to be a better writer and why?

F. Scott Fitzgerald has such a way with dialogue. The Great Gatsby is a favourite. I’ll never understand why they assign it in middle school though. I didn’t appreciate it until later in life.

 

How do you reward yourself once your book is published? talk show set

I may have bought myself a bracelet and a necklace, but I can justify them both since the bracelet is similar to the one Landry wears in the True Colors (with a heart charm) and the butterfly necklace will appear in the sequel, Best Friends...Forever?

 

Toy Story or Shrek?

Toy Story all the way.

 

What three things should a first time visitor to Ohio do?

Well, I’m a book lover so I’m going to say check out Joseph-Beth Booksellers and Books & Co—both gorgeous bookstores. There’s an Air Force museum here and I personally love the train museum with all the little miniature displays of houses and towns. I have to say though that it throws me not living near the Great Lakes though. I’m from Michigan and I miss the lakes so I try to get home when I can.

 

With Christmas around the corner, can you tell us the most memorable gift you received growing up?  On a TV Show

I know I should say something like the gift of family togetherness, but let’s be honest, what can beat a Barbie Dream House? Kudos to my dad who spent ALL day putting that thing together…and was an awesome Ken…even if he spoke in a falsetto voice whenever he was Ken.

 

What can we expect from Krysten Lindsay Hager in the next 12 months?

I have a sequel to True Colors called, Best Friends…Forever? (Book 2: Landry’s True Colors series) coming out in 2015. I’m also working on another MG book, two YA ones and an adult humor novel. And I’m working on the third Landry book in the Landry’s True Colors series.

 

Where can readers and fans connect with you?

My website: http://www.krystenlindsay.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KrystenLindsayHagerAuthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KrystenLindsay

Instagram: http://instagram.com/krystenlindsay

Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/Krysten-Lindsay-Hager/e/B00L2JC9P2/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

 

Any advice for authors out there who are either just starting out or getting frustrated with the industry? TrueColorsbannerwebsite

If a writer is just starting out then I’d suggest taking a literature class to learn from the best—the classics. I’d also say to take as many classes on writing, literature as you can as well as going to conferences and workshops. You can never learn enough. If you’re getting frustrated then I’d say to write the story you want to read and not worry about whether or not it gets published. Take all that pressure off yourself and enjoy the whole writing process. The work will be a lot better that way and that will increase your chances of publication. Even if it doesn’t get published, the focus should be on the journey, not the destination.

 

Awesome! Thanks for not holding back and sharing so much from your journey. I think as authors we sometimes get frustrated and it’s because we take our eyes off of the ‘main thing’ – our calling to write. Please connect with Krysten at one of the links she provided. Check out Krysten’s books and grab a copy for yourself or a loved one. Also remember to share this interview using the social buttons below and leave a comment. Merry Christmas!

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14. The Many Sides of Santaand Some Art from Chuck Groenink



 

Last week at Kirkus, I chatted here with children’s book author and poet Bob Raczka, so today I’m following up with some of Chuck Groenink’s illustrations from Raczka’s Santa Clauses: Short Poems from the North Pole, released by Carolrhoda Books in September. Groenink, as I mentioned in the column last week, is from the Netherlands but now lives in New York. I highly recommend exploring the art at his site or even his tumblr. If you subscribe to the Horn Book, you’ll recognize him from the cover art of the current issue.

I’m tellin’ you what. We see lots of new holiday picture books every year, many easily forgettable, but I really like this one. I’d love to see a 2015 7-Imp interview with Groenink so that we can see way more art from him. Don’t you agree?

Enjoy the art.


“…Wishes blowing in / from my overfilled mailbox— / December’s first storm …”
(Click to enlarge spread)


 


“…The north wind and I / whistling to ‘Let It Snow!’ / on the radio.”
(Click to enlarge spread)


 


(Click to see spread in its entirety)


 



 

* * * * * * *

SANTA CLAUSES: SHORT POEMS FROM THE NORTH POLE. Copyright © 2014 by Bob Raczka. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Chuck Groenink and reproduced by permission of the publisher, Carolrhoda Books.

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15. Fuse #8 TV: The Grolier Exhibit and Author Jennifer Niven!

I think I’m beginning to get the hang of this!

Yes, we’ve yet another Fuse #8 TV episode today and this time we’ve worked out some of the kinks. No more with the herky jerky videos at the start! Instead, I take you on a lovely little tour of the current Grolier exhibit of children’s literature. Then it’s interview time with YA author Jennifer Niven of the much lauded All the Bright Places.

Enjoy previous episodes of Fuse #8 TV here thus far!

share save 171 16 Fuse #8 TV: The Grolier Exhibit and Author Jennifer Niven!

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16.

dowpostcard holiday feast kathy


Filed under: Uncategorized

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17. Haven't I seen you someplace before? Dueling covers of scary woods

These are all so similiar I almost wonder if they all came from the same stock photo shoot:
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18. Harts Pass No. 231

There is, of course, a biological argument to be made for hibernation, but winter IS pretty great. Wolverines don't worry about this at all, but a quick question, do south American animals hibernate on the same seasonal cycle? I suspect that they do, but I'm going find out for sure. And as my daughter reminds me each recent morning, "only single digit days 'til Christmas!"


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19. Moonbot Reveals Trailer for Annie-Nominated Short ‘The Raven’

Moonbot has released a trailer for its new short "The Raven."

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20. Guy DeLisle’s Pyongyang film adpatation scrapped after Interview disaster

pyongyang Guy DeLisles Pyongyang film adpatation scrapped after Interview disaster

In case you missed it, Sony Pictures has been forced to cancel the theatrical release of The Interview after hackers have released a catastrophic trove of private emails and scripts, and threatened to bomb theaters showing the film—and theater owners began saying they wouldn’t carry it. The film follows a pair of bumbling journalists sent to North Korea to assassinate Kim Jong Un, and apparently, Supreme Leader did not like this plot line.

The repercussions of this Hollywood disaster will be felt for years to come, but one piece of collateral damage was a planned adaptation of Pyongyang, Guy DeLisle’s graphic novel about his two months spent in the North Korean capital working on an animation project. New Regency has pulled the plug on the project which was to have starred Steve Carrell and be directed by Gore Verbinski from a Steve Conrad script. However the log line for the movie bears little resemblance to the book that I read:

Based on the graphic novel by Guy Delisle, “Pyongyang” is a paranoid thriller about a Westerner’s experiences working in North Korea for a year.

Delisle spent two months living in North Korea’s capital, where according to Wikipedia, he struggled with the difficulties of outsourcing and the bureaucracy of the totalitarian closed state. He was authorized to bring Aphex Twin CDs, Gitanes cigarettes, Hennessy cognac and a copy of George Owell’s novel “1984,” but left the country with no expectations to ever return.


I wouldn’t call the book a paranoid thriller, but rather a wry observation on life, as with DeLisle’s other all excellent books, Shenzen, Burma Chronicles and Jerusalem. Guy is the real deal.

Well, for now you can still just go buy his books and not worry about getting your emails hacked, so show the terrorists haven’t won by getting a copy of Pyongyang!

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21. Parallelogram 4 Update!

Parallelogram 4

Parallelogram 4 will be available for pre-order in January. Stay tuned for the exact date.

I AM SO EXCITED FOR YOU ALL TO READ THIS I CAN BARELY STOP TALKING IN CAPS.

But seriously. Even I kept saying as I wrote it, “What?? That happened?” about every other page.

Stay tuned. It’s happening.

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22. Live Like Disney/Pixar Chief Ed Catmull For Just $20 Million

Disney Animation and Pixar president Ed Catmull is listing one of his compounds in Kailua, Hawaii, just two years after building it.

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23. Be gentle with yourself. You deserve your love and compassion.

be-gentle-20141217_161804-450Be gentle with yourself. You deserve your love and compassion.

If you’re a perfectionist, or you grew up in a household with a stern, critical, or abusive parent or caretaker, on had a partner who was, then you may struggle–like I have–with being kind and gentle to yourself. You may be harsh to yourself, even cruel. But you deserve your love and compassion; you really do! And when you’re loving with yourself, when you give yourself the same compassion you would a friend, you’ll find that you’re happier and things don’t seem as hard. So try to be gentle with yourself. Don’t push yourself too hard. Think of yourself the way you would a friend. Figure out what you need to feel happier or more at ease, and then allow yourself that.


This can be a hard time of year for many people, so I thought I’d post more positive messages for people again–selfies along with the messages, so people can see the person (and author) behind the message. I think it helps make it more personal and real.

I will try to post photos most days of December for you all. Let me know if you like this idea. :)

And if you like this post, if it speaks to you, I hope you’ll share it with others.

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24. Gift for Readers

giftPrintable Book Plates

Are you looking for a last-minute gift to give to your friends who love reading? Print out a bunch of these bookplates on pretty paper. Then trim them to size, tie them up with a ribbon, and you’re done! Your friends can stick them in all their favorite books. You can print some for yourself, too!

bookplate

You can find more bookplates to print out here.

Happy Holidays!

Sonja, STACKS Staffer

25. Trinity University Press Has Acquired Maverick Publishing

tupTrinity University Press has acquired the assets of Maverick Publishing Company, an imprint dedicated to publishing books about the Southwest.

Beginning next year, Trinity will launch a new imprint called Maverick Books. The line will include more than 40 backlist titles from the Maverick collection and will publish new titles dedicated to the history and culture of Texas and the American Southwest. Lewis F. Fisher, the founder of Maverick will work with Trinity University Press as an editorial advisor, which will include acquiring and writing books for the imprint.

“Trinity University Press has enjoyed significant growth and success nationally and internationally during its first ten-plus years of publishing,” says Thomas Payton, associate director of Trinity University Press. “Core to our mission is a commitment to explore the history and culture of Texas and its peoples, as well as the Southwest more broadly. The Maverick acquisition helps to deepen our catalog of available print and ebook titles.”

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26. Scorpion Bombs: the rest of the story

The world recently learned that the Islamic State in Iraq (ISIS) has resurrected a biological weapon from the second century. Scorpion bombs are being lobbed into towns and villages to terrorize the inhabitants. As the story goes, this tactic was used almost 2,000 years ago against the desert stronghold of Hatra which was once a powerful, walled city 50 miles southwest of Mosul. But this historical interpretation might be just a bit too quick.

What we know from the writings of Herodian, who documented the ancient attacks by Hatrians on Roman invaders, is that the people crafted earthenware bombs loaded with “insects.” The favored hypothesis is that these devices were loaded with scorpions. And it’s true that these creatures (although not insects) were abundant in the desert. In fact, Persian kings offered bounties for these stinging arthropods to ensure the safe and pain-free passage of lucrative caravans through the region. But the local abundance of scorpions is not sufficient to draw a conclusion.

Scorpions tend toward cannibalism, so packing a bunch of these creatures into canisters for any period of time would have been (and presumably still is) a problem. According to an ancient writer, powdered monkshood could be used to sedate scorpions, although at high doses this plant extract is insecticidal (how ISIS solves this problem is not evident). But there’s another problem with the scorpion hypothesis.

A Syrian account of the siege of Hatra specified that the residents used “poisonous flying insects” to repulse the Romans. But, of course, scorpions don’t fly. One possibility is that the natural historians of yore were thinking of the scorpionfly (a flying insect in which the male genitalia curl over the back and resemble a scorpion’s tail), but these are small creatures are found in damp habitats, not deserts. Another possibility is that ancient reports of scorpions becoming airborne during high winds account for flying scorpions, although such a remarkable phenomenon hasn’t been reported by modern biologists. Finally, some scholars speculate that the clay bombshells were filled with assassin bugs, which can fly and deliver extremely painful bites.

Leiurus quinquestriatus, or deathstalker scorpion. Photo by  Matt Reinbold. CC BY-SA 2.0 via furryscalyman Flickr.
Leiurus quinquestriatus, or deathstalker scorpion. Photo by Matt Reinbold. CC BY-SA 2.0 via furryscalyman Flickr.

In the end, it seems likely that the Hatrian defenders and the ISIS militants latched onto the opportunities presented by the local arthropod fauna. But why would scorpions be so terrifying then or now? These creatures deliver a painful sting to be sure, but they are only rarely deadly. The responses of the Roman invaders and the Iranian townsfolk seem disproportionate to the consequences of being stung.

To understand why panic ensues when insects (or scorpions) rain down on a village, we must appreciate the evolutionary and cultural relationships between these creatures and the human mind. Our fear of insects and their relatives is rooted in six qualities of these little beasts—and scorpions score well.

  • First, our reaction arises from the capacity of these creatures to invade our homes and bodies. Scorpions, with their nocturnal activity and flattened bodies, are adept at slipping under doorsills and hiding in our shoes, closets, and furniture.
  • Second, insects and their kin have the ability to evade us through quick, unpredictable movements. While scorpions might not skitter with the panache of cockroaches, they are still reasonably nimble.
  • Third, many insects undergo rapid population growth and reach staggeringly large numbers which threaten our sense of individuality. While scorpions are not particulary prolific, having them scatter from exploding canisters (as described in the modern attacks), surely generates a sense of frightening abundance.
  • Fourth, various arthropods can harm us both directly (biting and stinging) and indirectly (transmitting disease and destroying our property). Scorpions certainly qualify in the former sense, as they are well-prepared to deliver a dose of venom that elicits intense pain, sometimes accompanied by a slowed pulse, irregular breathing, convulsions—and occasionally, death.
  • Fifth, insects and their relatives instill a disturbing sense of otherness with their alien bodies. Scorpions are hideously animalistic, even rather monstrous being like a demonic blending of a crab, spider, and a viper in terms of their form and function.
  • Sixth, these creatures defy our will and control through a kind of depraved mindlessness or radical autonomy. Scorpions can appear to be like tiny robots, with their jointed bodies and legs taking them into the world without regard to fear or decency.

Perhaps it is in this last sense that scorpions most resemble the ISIS assailants. Both seem to be predators, unconstrained by ethical constraints, maniacally and unreflectively seeking to satisfy their own bestial desires. Of course, we ought not to dehumanize our enemy—no matter how brutal his actions—by equating him with insects or their kin. (This rhetorical move has been made throughout history to justify horrible treatment of other people.) But perhaps this sense of amorality accounts for our fear of both ISIS and their unwitting, arthropod conscripts.

The post Scorpion Bombs: the rest of the story appeared first on OUPblog.

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27. Last minute gift...no shipping required!




Dear Friends,

The holidays can be so wonderful but I know that there are also those who struggle at this time of year with poor health or loneliness so I hope you will join me and remember to reach out to those in need not only at Christmastime but all year round.

For those of you that still have those last minute gifts to buy, I am offering gift cards for a limited time in my shop. These come in a number of different price variants to choose from. No shipping required on these because they come to your email box with a special code that can be used to purchase anything in the shop so even if it is the day before Christmas and you still haven't gotten a gift for that special someone, no worries...this gift is available as soon as you place the order and with Phyllis Harris Designs gift cards
, customers purchase gift cards the same way they purchase any other product. And unlike a gift certificate, the shopper can spread the gift card balance over multiple visits.




I want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and healthy and Happy New Year! Thank you for making my year so successful and happy. I couldn't do what I do without ALL of you!



Phyllis




Gifts that give back
Phyllis Harris Designs & You – Giving the gift of love and healing
Every purchase of a heart-warming Phyllis Harris Designs illustration print donates 5 percent of every illustration print sold from our website to Children's Mercy Hospital.  

Be sure and follow my social media networks to keep up with all that is going on. Here are the links:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PhyllisHarrisDesigns
Twitter: https://twitter.com/PhyllisHarris
Instagram: http://instagram.com/phyllisharrisdesigns
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/phyllisha/



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28. Larry King Performs a ‘Farewell Poem’ For Craig Ferguson

Craig Ferguson will be leaving The Late, Late Show on December 19th. In honor of Ferguson’s departure, Larry King read a “farewell poem” during his appearance. The video embedded above features King’s full performance—what do you think?

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29. Look! Up in the sky! It’s…Super Roger!

bow tie Look! Up in the sky! Its...Super Roger!This week Roger talked with living-comics-legend Stan Lee about his new book Zodiac. That made us think of Roger as a superhero: his bow tie doubles as a boomerang! to chase down bad-guys! and retrieve books off high library shelves! It also made us think of Roger in tights and Spandex, which just made us giggle. [Ed. note: You laugh NOW…]

We ask: do you know any superhero librarians? Either librarians who could be existing superheroes (So. Many. Catwoman. Jokes.) or those who could helm their very own, all-new Marvel franchises. Admittedly, Bow-Tie Man isn’t the most scintillating. What are some other ideas?

I’ve always thought K. T. Horning must be able to fly, for example. And Julie Roach is always smiling. But I’m not saying she’s The Joker (though, like Heath Ledger, may he rest in peace, she is cute as a button).

You can also share your thoughts here, by letting us know how you library.

Also, is Stephen Savage’s Supertruck the cutest superhero around or what?

share save 171 16 Look! Up in the sky! Its...Super Roger!

The post Look! Up in the sky! It’s…Super Roger! appeared first on The Horn Book.

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30. The Free Comic Book Day Silver Titles are Pretty Awesome

20 f5381 685x1028 The Free Comic Book Day Silver Titles are Pretty Awesome

By: Alexander Jones

After revealing the first wave of Free Comic Book Day titles, it was only a matter of time before the rest of them started to pop up. This next batch is very exciting, and full of fun offerings from all your favorite publishers with the big guns like Marvel and DC, along with Valiant, Comix Tribe, IDW, Image, Oni and the mysterious new Legendary Comics imprint that kicked off with Grant Morrison’s Annihilator. DC still has their titles blocked out with the letters ‘TOP SECRET’ sitting on the front page, it’s likely whatever these comics are will be revealed closer towards Convergence. Of course, Marvel is launching Avengers material close to their upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron film. Included in this silver collection of titles is a lot of material from other media, meant to turn you non-comics reading friends completely addicted to this medium. See if Attack on Titan, Avatar, or Sonic can hook your non-reading friends. Free Comic Book Day is on the first Saturday of May. CBR broke the news this morning with covers, and quick description information. All these titles are considered silver comics, with the gold titles being the first wave of books.

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  • 2000 AD Special–FCBD 2015 EDITION
  • And Then Emily Was Gone–FCBD 2015 EDITION
  • Avengers #1–FCBD 2015 EDITION
  • Bodie Troll & Friends–FCBD 2015 EDITION

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  • Captain Canuck–FCBD 2015 EDITION
  • CBLDF Defend Comics–FCBD 2015 EDITION
  • Comics Festival–FCBD 2015 EDITION
  • Dark Horse All Ages Avatar PVZ Bandette–FCBD 2015 EDITION

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  • DC Comics Silver Book–FCBD 2015 EDITION
  • GFT Wonderland Special Edition One Shot (MR)–FCBD 2015 EDITION
  • Graphix Spotlight Cleopatra In Space–FCBD 2015 EDITION
  • Gronk and Friends–FCBD 2015 EDITION

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  • Hatter M Love of Wonder–FCBD 2015 EDITION
  • Hip Hop Family Tree 3-in-1 Featuring Cosplayers (MR)–FCBD 2015 EDITION
  • Ice Bayou Blackout–FCBD 2015 EDITION
  • Jojos Bizarre Adventure and Yu Gi Oh–FCBD 2015 EDITION

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  • Jurassic Strike Force 5 One Shot–FCBD 2015 EDITION
  • Kodansha Comics Sampler–FCBD 2015 EDITION
  • Lady Justice–FCBD 2015 EDITION
  • Legendary Comics Sampler–FCBD 2015 EDITION

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  • March Grand Prix–FCBD 2015 EDITION
  • Mercury Heat Debut (MR)–FCBD 2015 EDITION
  • Motorcycle Samurai–FCBD 2015 EDITION
  • Overstreet Comic Book Marketplace–FCBD 2015 EDITION

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  • Phantom Special–FCBD 2015 EDITION
  • Rabbids–FCBD 2015 EDITION
  • Sonic the Hedgehog Mega Man Worlds Unite Prelude–FCBD 2015 EDITION
  • Stan Lee Chakra The Invincible–FCBD 2015 EDITION

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  • Steampunk Goldilocks–FCBD 2015 EDITION
  • Street Fighter Super Combo Special–FCBD 2015 EDITION
  • Stuff of Legend Call to Arms–FCBD 2015 EDITION
  • Supermutant Magic Academy Step Aside Pops Combo–FCBD 2015 EDITION

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  • Tales of Honor–FCBD 2015 EDITION
  • Terrible Lizard #1–FCBD 2015 EDITION
  • The Tick–FCBD 2015 EDITION
  • TMNT Prelude to Vengeance–FCBD 2015 EDITION

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  • Valiant 25TH Anniversary Special–FCBD 2015 EDITION
  • Worlds of Aspen–FCBD 2015 EDITION

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31. India’s Latest Superhero Speaks Out Against Rape

privaFilmmaker Ram Devineni has concerns about the rise in violence against women in India. So he created a new comic book hero to help inspire Indians stand up to against rape.

Her name is Priya. After being sexually attacked, Priva travels the country to speak out against victim shaming.

NPR has more:

After months of traveling around India talking to all sorts of people, including rape victims, about sexual violence, Devineni decided to create Priya. Shunned by her family and village after she is raped, she takes refuge in the jungle and is stalked by a tiger. Parvati, a Hindu goddess, comes to her aid and grants her special powers that include fearlessness and a magical mantra that she uses to change people’s minds.

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32. Christmas Fun



Another Christmas fun - Idea by Coconuts  - Titled: Coconuts and her per monkeys (AKA  Us - her humans)print available @ http://goo.gl/8TYkHS
Cute doggy paw print Christmas ornaments  made by Coconuts, I help with decoration

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33. Last Sale of the Year

I didn’t want to join the Spammy crowd of emails we get this time of year of prolonged Cyber Sales, but I did want to cut a break for my readers and students. So, I give you the

Last Sale of the Year

Sale on my Healing Fairy Alphabet Deck, which is receiving rave reviews. Get your deck for yourself or a fab-u-lous gift for a friend HERE, who will totally dig it. Thank you for those rave reviews, by the way. (I’ve also been developing curriculum to go with the deck for Nature Education purposes.) If you have a deck, consider signing up for the Healing Fairy Alphabet Deck course over here to learn tips and the dress cards’ secrets.

deck5

Early Bird Rates especially for new class, Wild Worlds Within, that start in January. Reserve your space now with cool lower rates. Head over to the catalog to peruse. Sale is only until end of Thursday, the 17th!

 


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34. #LBCC ’14: Did Cosplay drive up Attendance and Sales?

Long Beach Comic Con 2014: Did Cosplay drive up Attendance and Sales?

by Pamela Auditore

CatWoman e1418766243144 405x1028 #LBCC 14: Did Cosplay drive up Attendance and Sales?

Ticket sales for the Long Beach Comic Con held the weekend of September 27 – 28th, 2014 saw a 25% increase, over last year held November 23 – 24, 2013 event, according to LBCC Executive Director, Martha Donato.  Putting attendance somewhere between 31,250 – 37,500.  Anecdotal information from exhibitors seems to corroborate this increase in sales of comic books, toys and other merchandise.

“In terms of foot traffic, sales were very good,” according to Jeremy Price, Floor Manager for Comic Madness in Chino, CA. “New books did best.”

As you might expect, among the comic books best sellers, guests were on hand to sign them.  At LBCC this year were  Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner (Harley Quinn); Mike Mignola (Hellboy); Mike Allred (Madman, Silver Surfer, IZombie); and Richard Starkings (Elephantmen).

“There’s been steady growth each year,” says Brad Sloan of FVF Comics in Woodland Hills.  “While I did four figures last year, I did five this year.”

To what does he attribute the increase?

“Cosplay.”  Adding, “the popularity of the cross over of Comics from page to Film/TV media helps drives people’s interest in Comics and to Cosplay.”

In the right costume, anyone can be a Hero and an instant media star. Making  fellow attendees whip out their phones for pictures to post to the world via: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Tumblr.

While some Comic vendors interviewed on the LBCC Exhibit floor did grumble about Cosplayers blocking the view of their tables when striking poses for photos, others said the presence of Cosplayers drove people to their booths who might otherwise overlook them.  In fact, the one vendor selling clothes, pictured bellow, incorporates Cosplay into her booth.

CosplaySellingClothes e1418766572769 #LBCC 14: Did Cosplay drive up Attendance and Sales?

 

But, hey, don’t Cosplayers distract from selling comics? Particularly, Vintage Classic Comics, Golden Age, Silver Age, Bronze Age? Like the one’s Brad Sloan sold at his booth?

“Cosplayers bring more people to the show and they buy related comics. The Super Hero, low grade to the mid-grades Keys were were grabbed up.”  (“Keys” are generally a first issue of a comic.  But can also be first introduction of an famous character into a given publishing company’s Universe i.e., first appearance of  Wolverine in Hulk #181.) Marvel Keys sell. Thanks to the movies!”

 Transformer e1418768039911 771x1028 #LBCC 14: Did Cosplay drive up Attendance and Sales? SteamPunkLady e1418766716466 771x1028 #LBCC 14: Did Cosplay drive up Attendance and Sales? KidDeadPool e1418766664674 771x1028 #LBCC 14: Did Cosplay drive up Attendance and Sales?

0 Comments on #LBCC ’14: Did Cosplay drive up Attendance and Sales? as of 12/17/2014 4:40:00 PM
35. My Answers To Illustration Questions From Other Artists



I get a lot of questions from fellow artists. Sometimes I answer them with a short message. Sometimes I send them a link to a video I already made covering the topic they asked about - And sometimes I save their questions in a word doc and answer them in video form - like this one... Read the rest of this post

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36. Rare Books Dealer Abe Books Reveals Its Most Expensive Books Sold This Year

les-maitres-de-lafficheAbeBooks.com a site that sells used and rare books has revealed its list of the 50 most expensive books sold this year.

The most that fetched the most money was Les Maîtres de L’Affiche (5 vols) which sold for $43,450, followed by a copy of Das Kapital by Karl Marx which went for $40,000. Call for the Dead by John le Carré  sold for $22,500. A copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll & illustrated by Salvador Dali brought in $20,000. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway went for $18,000 and Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling earned $15,956 for the bookseller.

The list also includes rare books from Hemingway, le Carre, Steinbeck and Frank Herbert. Follow this link to see the whole list.

 

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37. 21-Days to Goal: How to Be Your Best at the Start of the New Year Starting Today!

The trick to starting off the new year on more solid-footting, begin now.

1) Think about how you'd like 2015 to be for yourself personally (I appreciate how difficult the task to separate yourself out from your family and friends and community at large. For this exercise, try). If the entire year feels too daunting, visualize simply the very best January you can imagine.

2) Write a long-term - 21day -- goal of the skill(s), belief(s), ability(s), habit(s) you wish to take into the new year that best serves your vision. Write the 21-day goal in the present-tense.

3) List specific steps you plan to take, starting today, to position yourself in the direct light of your vision for 2015.

4) Schedule and mark the next 21-days on your calendar the specific steps on your list:
  • daily writing
  • sitting at your computer for 5-minutes
  • unplugging 3 times a day from negative emotions to positive affirmations
  • 21 days with a Plot Planner and 10 minutes daily questioning your characters, twisting the action and mining the meaning
  • making a Plot Planner for your life with your goal at the highest point (see the Plot Tips banner) and working backwards for what to do daily to move one step nearer to your glory in 21-days.
5) Everyday, check off another success on your calendar. Turn to 2015. On January 4th, greet the new year changed and better aligned with your vision of the future.

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38. CDW! - Carpe diem Wednesday!

Poetry and I have never been friends. Although I love to read it and listen to it, writing it is has always been a whole other beast.  That said, I decided today, I would seize the day, and take on that  beast. Good, bad, or indifferent, it felt great to write it and take a stab at something new. 
Carpe diem! 

See You Later, Frustration!

Frustration, Frustration go away
I don’t want to feel you in my body today.
You make my stomach hurt and I feel tight in my chest
Some days it is hard to take you and I need a rest.
My mom says taking deep breaths is the best thing to do
And I try to do that, but frustration, you are making me feel so blue.
My dad tries to tickle it out of me and sometimes that works,
But this time it is not going away, and I still feel it lurks.
Suddenly, my dog licks my foot, and I feel a twinge better
I finally feel able to get dressed and put on my sweater.
My bird on its perch tweets to me a hello
And I take a deep-down belly breath and let that frustration finally go.
Frustration you are not going to get the best of me today

The breath, the tickle, lick and tweet will help me get through this day.

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39. J.K. Rowling Confirms That a Jewish Wizard Has Attended Hogwarts

.@benjaminroffman Anthony Goldstein, Ravenclaw, Jewish wizard.

— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) December 16, 2014

Has Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry ever admitted a Jewish student? Yesterday, J.K. Rowling confirmed that the answer is “yes.”

In response to a fan’s message on Twitter, the Harry Potter series author revealed that a Jewish wizard named Anthony Goldstein belonged to Ravenclaw house. We’ve embedded the tweets above—what do you think?

In addition to coming to her fans rescue via social media, Rowling has been a busy bee with adding new content on Pottermore. For the past few days, several new details about Potions Master Severus Snape has been unveiled. (via BuzzFeed)

SPOILER ALERT: If you don’t want to know more, you should stop reading now!

(more…)

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40. #BookADay: ALONG A LONG ROAD by Frank Viva (Little, Brown Books For Young Readers)

#bookaday: ALONG A LONG ROAD by fellow Canadian Frank Viva (Little, Brown). Love the simple palette and gorgeous retro-style art as well as the glossy yellow road (you can't help but want to touch the pages) that runs throughout.

More about Frank Viva on his website and you can also find him on Twitter at @VIVAandCO.

More info about ALONG A LONG ROAD on the Little, Brown Books for Young Readers website.

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Find out more about Donalyn Miller's Book-A-Day Challenge on the Nerdy Book Club site, and you can read archives of my #BookADay posts.

0 Comments on #BookADay: ALONG A LONG ROAD by Frank Viva (Little, Brown Books For Young Readers) as of 12/17/2014 1:24:00 PM
41. New Agency

Newly formed Rising Bear Literary Agency will represent picture book through young adult authors.

http://risingbear.com/about-us/

0 Comments on New Agency as of 1/1/1900
42. Winterfrost (2014)

Winterfrost. Michelle Houts. 2014. Candlewick. 272 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I very much enjoyed Michelle Houts' Winterfrost. This wintery read is set in Denmark. It opens one Christmas Eve. The first chapter starts off with a family celebrating together. That first chapter ends with a phone call and a promise. A promise not to the characters, but, to the readers:
It should have been an ordinary Christmas on the Larsen farm, nestled among the flat, snowy fields of an island called Lolland in the south of Denmark. But it wasn't. And if it had been, well, we wouldn't have much of a story to tell, now, would we?
Bettina, the heroine, is left on the farm with her younger sister, Pia. Every year, her father visits his uncle at this time of year--the week between Christmas and New Year. Her mother is called away unexpectedly with news about a family member's health. (Just who is not mentioned in the first chapter.) So Bettina, aged 12, can take care of a nearly 1 year old and a whole farm, right? Well? Mostly.

In her parents' rush, the entire family, it seems, forgot to put out the traditional bowl of Christmas rice pudding for the nisse. The Larsen family's nisse, Klakke, is NOT happy. Klakke isn't necessarily "bad," just in a bit of a bad mood. But even in a horrible mood, he'd never do anything to hurt any human.

Winterfrost is about what happens when her parents are away. It's about one girl's adventure with nearby nisse. Though traditionally, nisse are not supposed to show themselves to humans, to interact with them, rules are broken in Winterfrost.

It is a fun fantasy. Bettina is a lovely heroine. It is a quick read that I enjoyed very much.


© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on Winterfrost (2014) as of 12/17/2014 1:44:00 PM
43. The State of eBooks: INFOGRAPHIC

ebookchartData journalist Niall McCarthy has created an infographic which explores the current state of eBooks

Charted by Statista, McCarthy shared the infographic in a post on Forbes. Check it out: “Today, 23 percent of all male adults and 33 percent of all female adults in the United States read e-books. In fact, the global e-book industry is worth a whopping $8.5 billion.”

We’ve embedded the entire graphic after the jump for you to explore further. (more…)

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

44. Flogometer for Fran—are you compelled to turn the page?

Submissions Wanted. Nothing in the queue for Friday, though I will be posting a third pass at a first page for my vampire kitty story then--I hope you'll tune in. If you’d like a fresh look at your opening chapter or prologue, please email your submission to me re the directions at the bottom of this post.


The Flogometer challenge: can you craft a first page that compels me to turn to the next page? Caveat: Please keep in mind that this is entirely subjective.

Note: all the Flogometer posts are here.

What's a first page in publishingland? In a properly formatted novel manuscript (double-spaced, 1-inch margins, 12-point type, etc.) there should be about 16 or 17 lines on the first page (first pages of chapters/prologues start about 1/3 of the way down the page). Directions for submissions are below—they include a request to post the rest of the chapter, but that’s optional.

A word about the line-editing in these posts: it’s “one-pass” editing, and I don’t try to address everything, which is why I appreciate the comments from the FtQ tribe. In a paid edit, I go through each manuscript three times.

Mastering front 100WshadowBefore you rip into today’s submission, consider this checklist of first-page ingredients from my book, Mastering the Craft of Compelling Storytelling. While it's not a requirement that all of these elements must be on the first page, they can be, and I think you have the best chance of hooking a reader if they are.

Were I you, I'd examine my first page in the light of this list before submitting to the Flogometer.

A First-page Checklist

  • It begins connecting the reader with the protagonist
  • Something is happening. On a first page, this does NOT include a character musing about whatever.
  • What happens is dramatized in an immediate scene with action and description plus, if it works, dialogue.
  • What happens moves the story forward.
  • What happens has consequences for the protagonist.
  • The protagonist desires something.
  • The protagonist does something.
  • There’s enough of a setting to orient the reader as to where things are happening.
  • It happens in the NOW of the story.
  • Backstory? What backstory? We’re in the NOW of the story.
  • Set-up? What set-up? We’re in the NOW of the story.
  • What happens raises a story question—what happens next? or why did that happen?

Fran sends a first chapter of Low Flying Dirtbags. The rest of the chapter follows the break.

A coppery metallic smell roused him. He blinked, coughed and gagged. The contents of his stomach churned and rose up his throat. He swallowed the burning bile and willed himself not to vomit. He shivered. He was cold. He tried to lift a hand to his mouth but discovered he couldn't move his arms or legs. He looked down towards his feet. He was naked and appeared to be strapped to a metal table. His legs were raw and oozing a faintly pinkish liquid onto the table. He suddenly felt the pain. His nausea increased. He swallowed rapidly to calm his churning stomach. He closed watery eyes as the fear rose. He quickly wrestled it down. Now was not the time to panic. Was it the middle of the day or night, he couldn't tell? Where was he? What had happened? Think back. Where was he last?

He'd been at his birthday celebration. It had been a glittering, exciting affair, and he'd been happy. There'd been lots of alcohol – so much so, he'd lost count of the number of refills. How had he gone from such a magical moment to this cold, dark place that smelled of copper?

He marked off the evenings events.

Alcohol.

Music.

Singing.

A bite or two of food. Somebody had offered him cocaine, but he'd turned it down, (snip)

Were you compelled to turn Fran's first page?

A scary opening, at least for the protagonist, and story questions are raised. Yet I waffled, which leads to not turning the page. I think the problem is two-fold. First is the good old anonymous pronoun person—why not give a name, which tends to make him more of a human than an object? Secondly, I felt the narrative didn’t deliver the intensity of the moment that the character is experiencing. Terrible things have happened to him yet all is calm and thoughtful. Notes:

A coppery metallic smell roused him. He blinked, coughed and gagged. The contents of his stomach churned and rose up his throat. He swallowed the burning bile and willed himself not to vomit. He shivered. He was cold. He tried to lift a hand to his mouth but discovered he couldn't move his arms or legs. He looked down towards his feet. He was naked and appeared to be strapped to a metal table. His legs were raw and oozing a faintly pinkish liquid onto the table. He suddenly felt the pain. His nausea increased. He swallowed rapidly to calm his churning stomach. He closed watery eyes as the fear rose. He quickly wrestled it down. Now was not the time to panic. Was it the middle of the day or night, he couldn't tell? Where was he? What had happened? Think back. Where was he last? We learn later that his arms and legs have “long, deep cuts and blistered, seared skin.” I don’t find it credible that incredible pain wouldn’t be the first thing he’d feel. If fact, I think it would be the intense pain would be what roused him, not the smell of blood. If it did, I also don’t think thoughts of nausea and bile would then be the first thing on his mind. With the nature of the wounds, I think he would wake screaming. Nor do I think he’d settle right down. He later “tentatively” queries if anyone is there. I think he’d scream it.

He'd been at his birthday celebration. It had been a glittering, exciting affair, and he'd been happy. There'd been lots of alcohol – so much so, he'd lost count of the number of refills. How had he gone from such a magical moment to this cold, dark place that smelled of copper?

He marked off the evenings events.

Alcohol.

Music.

Singing.

A bite or two of food. Somebody had offered him cocaine, but he'd turned it down, (snip) I cut the remainder because a list is hardly compelling content for the first page. Get on with what’s happening, with him dealing with the NOW of what’s happening—I just don’t believe that, with the injuries and pain he has and awakening strapped to a table that he’d begin calmly reconstructing events. Writhing and screaming is mostly what I think he’d do. I’d have the bad guy interrupt the writhing and screaming on the first page and get on with that dialogue. I’d also like just a touch more scene-setting in the opening page as things aren’t clear as to the nature of where he is and what he sees. He can see injury to his legs, so there must be light. Yet later fluorescents are turned on to light the room. So what is it like, what does he see when he awakens?

Comments, please?

For what it’s worth.

Ray

Submitting to the Flogometer:

Email the following in an attachment (.doc, .docx, or .rtf preferred, no PDFs):

  1. your title
  2. your complete 1st chapter or prologue plus 1st chapter
  3. Please include in your email permission to post it on FtQ.
  4. Note: I’m adding a copyright notice for the writer at the end of the post. I’ll use just the first name unless I’m told I can use the full name.
  5. Also, please tell me if it’s okay to post the rest of the chapter so people can turn the page.
  6. And, optionally, include your permission to use it as an example in a book on writing craft if that's okay.
  7. If you’re in a hurry, I’ve done “private floggings,” $50 for a first chapter.
  8. If you rewrite while you wait for your turn, it’s okay with me to update the submission.

Were I you, I'd examine my first page in the light of the first-page checklist before submitting to the Flogometer.

Flogging the Quill © 2014 Ray Rhamey, story © 2014 Fran

 

(continued)

knowing it'd keep him wired too tightly. Had someone slipped him something anyway?

Thoughts blurred. He couldn't cut through the misty memories. All he had was the party and then it was dark. Everything in the middle was gone.

It really didn't matter how he got here. What was important was escaping. If there was one thing he was good at, it was cutting his losses. He needed to get free!

As much as he strained against the straps holding him, he couldn't loosen them. He couldn't see anything either, he couldn't make out the room's details. It was quiet except for the sound of water trickling.

"Hello? Is anyone here?'" He tentatively queried.

No answer.

The panic returned. He turned his head, the room spun, and his stomach threatened to spew. He gulped and forced himself to calm down. Tears filled his eyes and rolled down his cheeks. It would be so easy to surrender. No! He'd never been a quitter. Ever!

Summoning his most arrogant tone, he said, "Answer me. I know someone is here."

The shadows remained mutinously silent and unmoved by his practiced sternness. His only answer was the soft trickle of water.

"I shouldn't be here," he said. "This is a mistake. People are expecting me. They'll call the cops if I don't show. I can pay you whatever you want. I'm rich. You don't need to do this. We can make a deal. I demand to know where I am."

A shadow shifted. He caught the slight movement from the corner of his eye.

 "You demand? If I were you, I wouldn't demand, I'd start begging." The whispered words echoed in the dark chamber. He couldn't tell if the voice was male or female.

"What do I need to beg for?"

"Your life would be a good start." The voice remained silky soft and gentle. For a moment, it sounded familiar. Where had he heard the voice before?

"I'm not afraid."

A soft chuckle snaked through the gloom, unsettling him more than a hurled threat.

"You really should be afraid."

"Why?"

"Why? Why are you here? Why what?"

"Why me?"

He heard the clip-clop of shoes on concrete as they moved away. He panicked. Was the person leaving him alone in this awful place strapped naked to this table?

Overhead florescent lights clicked on, flooding the room, forcing him to wince from the burning glare. Carefully he cracked his lids allowing the light to leak into his pupils. When his eyes finally focused on his captor, he saw nothing but a pair of blue eyes looking at him with curiosity. The person had draped itself in a loose-fitting, long sleeved, blue hospital gown. Its face, obscured by a surgical mask and cap covering its brows and hair made it impossible to distinguish any feature or tell if it was male or female. Its hands were encased in surgical gloves. Height average.

"Do I know you?"

"Doesn't matter," the voice whispered.

The lightness of its voice told him it was truly enjoying this moment. "Well, we better get started. We've got work to do."

"Work, what work? Where are we?"

"We are far from anyone who might hear your screams of agony or your pleas for help."

He started to tremble. He couldn't control it.

"Where are we?" he stuttered.

"This is where I do some of my best work, my art."

"What kind of art?"

"Body art…look at you." The gloved hands came up holding a long-bladed straight razor with a bloody blade and a small portable table torch. He realized why his legs burned and looked filleted. Now, as he looked closer, his arms, though strapped down, had long, deep cuts and blistered, seared skin. His face burned too.

"You're demented."

The blue eyes blazed with anger. "To each his own."

"Please don't do this to me."

"Too late now."

"It's never too late. I won't tell anyone."

"Shhh," it whispered. "This won't take long." As the pain scorched through his body, he embraced it. The pain was proof of life. Without the pain, he feared he'd be lost.

"I want to live."

Gently, it smoothed it's fingertips over his forehead. "Shhh…we can't do that." The gentle touch set off an explosion of tremors. His body shook uncontrollably. His tormentor quickly and efficiently duct taped his mouth shut. Daggett wondered why since it had mentioned no one would hear him if he yelled. Daggett struggled harder and watched as it laid the sharp blade against his genitals while lighting the portable torch.

His tormentor watched the panic grow in his eyes. "I wouldn't shake so much if I were you. I might burn more than your sac." It whispered as searing agony shot through his body while the smell of scorched flesh reached his nostrils. It continued, "My blade might accidently slide… like this… and slice right through your manhood. Oops! Look what you've made me do, Daggett!”

The pain was agonizing. Daggett tasted blood as he bit through his tongue. He couldn't scream. All he managed was a muffled sound of agony. It stared at him as if he was some kind of lab experiment to evaluate as it methodically snapped photos of his reaction.

"Almost done... It won't be long now. How are you feeling, Daggett? Can you relate at all to the agony you caused others all these years? Do you feel remorse, any regrets? Nope… doesn't look like it to me. All I see is anger, pleading for a chance to talk yourself out of your current situation. Too bad! So sad!"

Daggett’s tormentor dragged the sharp knife blade over the tender flesh of his neck. The pain was sudden and searing. Warm blood and a renewed coppery smell drained quickly from the wound. He inhaled, but his lungs refused to respond. He tried to pull in another breath. Nothing! Panic exploded as he directed his energy inward towards his lungs.

Breathe! Air!

A gurgling sound rose in his chest as the air already in his lungs seeped out through the wound. More blood began to pool around his shoulders. He struggled to cling to his final hold on life.

His tormentor smoothed its fingers through his hair. "Don't fight this. Fighting only makes it worse. It won't be much longer, it'll be over soon."

Daggett’s vision blurred. His lungs and body burned while gentle fingers continued to stroke his brow.

"So pretty. I think you are my best work yet, Daggett." Delight danced in its blue eyes. The more Daggett struggled to breathe the greater his tormentors’ enjoyment. Blackness leaked into the edges of his vision, and as the seconds counted down, his constricting pupils seeped out more light, leaving only darkness behind. The darkness won.

It stared down at Daggett's empty shell. This killing was a treat, a well-deserved reward. Dirk Daggett had begged in the end. It was always enjoyable to bring the arrogant, know-it-all ones down a peg. It clicked on a portable light and studied Daggett's face. As it gazed at Daggett's remains, it felt no remorse, just unfulfilled. It was tired of living in the shadows, tired of hiding behind someone's protection, tired of wanting things and not being able to have them, weary of denying it's true self. It wanted the cops to know what it could do. It wanted to be feared and to be that terrifying bedtime story the kids told each other when they needed to feel dread.

Soon they would know. Daggett’s tormentor would alter the game and force them to pay attention. Maybe it was foolish to poke a stick at the cops. It had been quietly killing for many years…why the need for attention now? It paced its workroom while considering its sudden need for more. Why was the mutilation no longer satisfying? Why did it need to taunt authority and risk exposure?

The seconds ticked by as it contemplated its options. There was no sense of panic just a residue of excitement. As it paced and moved about the small room, anticipation grew and grew until it overwhelmed the killer completely.

Should it rethink this game plan? No. It needed this. It needed recognition. It had been hiding for too many years. It was always careful. There would be no trace of its presence on Daggett's body, no evidence to link his remains back to the killer. There would be no more hiding in the shadows, no more living in the background. It would forge new ground and become a household name.

The cops, once they found Daggett's empty shell, would eventually put a name and face to the remains. They'd learn what they could about him. They'd ask his family and friends who could have done such a horrible thing. But, in the end… they'd come up empty-handed. No one would link Daggett to its other self. No one had seen them together in a very long time. There were no emails, faxes, or texts exchanged.

It thought about the cops running around in circles like rabid dogs trying to figure out which end was up. They'd growl and foam at the mouth, but in the end they'd find nothing but their own tails. The notion that the detectives assigned would have another unsolved case – another blot on their records – had some appeal. It chuckled deeply while contemplating the consequences of moving forward with this new plan.

Later, it would add Daggett's pictures to the ever-growing album. The stories the album provided were something to reminisce about while sitting in a cozy chair, in front of a warm fire, sipping hot chocolate, on a cold winter's night.

45. Fit for a wanna-be king: Stratford Zoo Midnight Review Presents Macbeth (ages 8-12)

Do your kids love graphic novels? Do you know any kid who loves the spotlight or has fun when their friends grab center stage? The Stratford Zoo Midnight Review is a new series of graphic novels that my students are giving a round of applause for the way it combines humor, theatrics, tragedy and puns. It would make a great gift either for comic-book fans or theater fans.
The Stratford Zoo Midnight Review Presents: Macbeth
by Ian Lendler
illustrated by Zack Giallongo
First Second, 2014
Your local library
Amazon
ages 8-12
"Macbeth, the hero of our story, the greatest warrior in the land."
When the zoo shuts for the night, the animals gather together and put on a show. The lion makes a natural mighty Macbeth, full of swagger and a taste for power. My students were easily able to imagine why such a beast would want to be king--and Lender's version shares this classic play in a form that is very kid-friendly. Here's how he adapts the witches' famous song which charms Macbeth, setting the plot in motion:
"Double, double,
toil and trouble,
fire burn and cauldron bubble.
Eat the king,
the plot will thicken,
go on Macbeth,
he tastes like chicken."
Lendler mixes humor and puns throughout Shakespeare's bloody tragedy, giving young readers a real sense of the classic play but making it very age-appropriate. Giallongo's illustrations capture Macbeth's slide into gluttony perfectly, make light of the witches and add plenty of ketchup to keep the tragedy at bay. My students definitely give this version of Shakespeare a hearty round of applause.

We were lucky enough to have Ian Lendler visit Emerson last week to share his book with our 4th and 5th graders. He starts out his presentation with a loud bugle calling everyone's attention (see below), just as the young boys did during Shakespeare's time. He shares an overview of the story with students, emphasizing some of the lessons of the story. Our kids highly recommend his visit to other schools, especially for kids who like funny comic books and putting on their own plays.
Ian Lendler at Emerson
Are you looking for a holiday gift to add to the fun? I know my students would love their own stadium horn to call everyone to their performances. They also might want a mighty robe, fit for a king. Check these ideas out:
The review copies were kindly sent by the publishers, First Second. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

0 Comments on Fit for a wanna-be king: Stratford Zoo Midnight Review Presents Macbeth (ages 8-12) as of 12/17/2014 1:50:00 PM
46. Suggestions for the Batchelder Award?

ALSC Personal Members are invited to suggest titles for the 2015 Batchelder Award given to an American publisher for a children’s book considered to be the most outstanding of those books originally published in a foreign language in a foreign country and subsequently published in English in the United States during 2014. Please remember that only books from this publishing year are under consideration for the 2015 award. Publishers, authors and illustrators may not suggest their own books. The deadline for submission is December 31, 2014.

You may send recommendations with full bibliographic information to the Chair, Diane Janoff at diane.janoff@queenslibrary.org.

The  award will be announced at the press conference during the ALA Midwinter Meeting in February 2015.

For more information about the award, visit the ALSC website at http://www.ala.org/alsc/. Click on “Awards and Grants” in the left-hand navigation bar; then click on “ALSC Book & Media Awards.” Scroll down to the “Batchelder Award Page”.

0 Comments on Suggestions for the Batchelder Award? as of 12/17/2014 12:32:00 PM
47. Interview: Stuart Moore and Gus Storms Reclaim EGOs

After a lengthy hiatus, the creative team behind Image Comics’ EGOs is back in action and ready to serve up more interplanetary crime drama with their upcoming fifth issue. Writer Stuart Moore and artist Gus Storms were kind enough to take some time to chat with the Beat about their series, in addition to humoring some ill-fated Beyoncé puns.

EGOsPAGE1 Interview: Stuart Moore and Gus Storms Reclaim EGOs

Comics Beat: So let’s start with the basics. Give us the gist of what’s going on in EGOs for new readers.

Stuart Moore: EGOs is basically about a superhero team in the far future, but what’s it’s really about is a marriage between two of the founding members. They’ve been together a long time, and they’ve had a lot of ups and downs, and it’s kind of a show business marriage because they’re both stars in a way. Deuce, the leader, is a former pretty boy who now uses a thing called an “imager” to make his face look younger than it is whenever he’s on camera. Pixel was very young when she joined the team, and she’s become her own brand and has sponsors and products and stuff like that. So they both basically have their own lives. In the course of the first storyline which is collected in the first trade, Quintessence, Deuce decides to re-form the team. Mostly because of a huge threat to galactic peace, but also because he wants to be relevant again and he kind of feels Pixel slipping away from him, and thinks this could be a way to bring them together again.

CB: And what will be going on in the forthcoming issues?

SM: So having set all that up, in this arc we’re setting up a big galactic conspiracy – a sort of invisible threat to the entire galactic economy. And in the course of investigating that, what happens is we meet a lot of new characters, and it becomes a bit of a mystery. Some combination of these characters are behind this gigantic plot, and it’s up to the two EGOs teams on two different planets to unravel and solve this mystery. So what we’re doing with the two main characters, Deuce and Pixel, they were together in the first story, but now they are completely apart. Deuce is involved in the core of the conspiracy on Earth, while Pixel is leading a stealth team on the remote, lawless planet of Tortuga with a subset of the team. So they’re off in two different places. It’s kind of weird because their relationship is still the heart of the story, it runs through every page of the book, but we’re really seeing them do their jobs here, and we’re seeing them do it separately. So it’s this weird mix of superhero and science fiction and in this story, crime drama.

CB: There’s quite a time gap between the release of the last issue and the date for the upcoming fifth issue. What caused the extended break?

SM: Well, I needed time to rethink the thing. Gus isn’t quite a monthly comics artist, he needs more than a month to do a book. And it ended up being a little longer than we planned because the two of us are doing a two part story for DC as part of their Convergence storyline. So that wound up delaying our return a little bit. But it should work out nicely since Convergence will come out during the middle of this EGOs run, so hopefully people will notice the two things together.

CB: Is there anything different about how you’re approaching the making of the book this time around?

SM: The biggest difference for me is that it’s a much longer, more extended storyline. I had to plot it out in great detail. The first part is sort of a teaser, issue six is almost a little self-contained story within the story, and then it’s full-barrel to the end with a lot of twists and turns for the next three issues.

Gus Storms: I had fun with the art – it’s totally more terrestrial. It’s more location based and there’s nothing I love more than drawing location, as in the people in it and world-building. So I didn’t approach it differently, I just think that art-wise it’s more in my bailiwick and my natural inclinations.

SM: I actually had Gus in mind for Tortuga, which is a former prison planet that’s now sort of a lawless trading world. A lot of the long-time inhabitants are missing limbs and have artificial limbs and I thought that was just right for Gus. “Shankers” are a mass produced sort of artificial limb, and they’re a very important element to the story, as in who has them and what they’re used for.

CB: So does a lot of research go into the writing for this, science and space-wise?

SM: Well, I try and make it a little more plausible than a lot of comics! I have sort of a background in science fiction, and my father was a nuclear physicist, so I don’t come from that side of the family at all. I don’t understand any of that stuff, but I like bashing my head against it every once in awhile. So I try to keep current, but at the same time I’ve written stuff much more hardcore sci-fi than this. This is at core a superhero story with a science background, and when you get down to people’s powers… there is only so plausible it gets. In terms of the story-telling approach, I want to work as drama first, and then make it as plausible as possible, rather than the other way around.

GS: And this one is more cyber-punk than space opera. The first one is really sort of a more space opera, and this one is dystopia noir.

SM: That’s interesting, I hadn’t thought about it as cyber-punk, but it probably seems that way because of the noir influence. There’s a pretty hard edge to issue six when you meet some of the suriviors of the Crunch War. One of the new characters, the Commander, fought it in. What that war did to these people, and these planets, is a crucial part in where the story is going. I’m very fond of an old subset of noir that focuses on damaged WWII veterans and the crimes they committed, and it was something people were writing a lot about in the 1950’s and that influenced this story as well, but in a more futuristic context.

EGOsPAGE2 Interview: Stuart Moore and Gus Storms Reclaim EGOs

CB: So in to your first collected trade, you had an essay on why you took on the mantle of writer/editor and how Gus is also sort of an artist/editor. Are you sticking to those titles this time around?

SM: So what I said, for those who haven’t read it, is that I very purposefully gave myself the title of writer/editor on this book, which I got some criticism for, and I expected. But I did it for a couple of reasons. One was there are projects I do where I need an outside editor, I could absolutely not do without one, and then there’s EGOs where I pretty much know where I’m going. Gus backstops me, he’s absolutely invaluable in story matters, and so does Marie Javins who has been our co-publisher and co-editor all along. But I don’t really need a traditional editor on this book. I’ve been a comics editor myself, I’ve edited a lot of books, so I pretty much know what I’m doing. More than that, it was almost a little tribute to the fact that in the 1970’s and 80’s when I start really reading comics, a lot of people had that title, and a lot of the best comics published were under that title. Howard the Duck, Firestorm, Conan, even things like Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four were done that way for awhile. It fell out of favor partly because most of the major companies don’t work that way anymore, but it’s kind of my way of showing that this can still be a valid way to work on the right project.

GS: We don’t have a lot of continuity stuff to manage, which is a big part of the Big Two editorship. I think [Moore] needs an enforcer, you need someone to hassle the artist more.

CB: So let’s talk about the art. It’s been great seeing it develop across issues and tighten up to where it’s at now. It seems like you draw a lot of inspiration from French comics and the like, so did you have anything in mind when you started creating these designs?

GS: The process of the artist is just trying to shore up your deficiencies. So I’m just trying to occlude my poor drawing as much as possible. As far as inspiration… definitely a lot of the European guys. I like static shots. Not a huge fan of the forced perspective, sort of fish-eye lens type comics bombast you see in American mainstream. Lifetime Moebius devotee, and Darrow and Quitely. I always have trouble with people – with drawing handsome and attractive people. I find them way less interesting than the weird, grotesque side characters. Part of the evolution of EGOs art wise is that EGOs started as my first all-digital thing, working on the Cintiq, and there’s a big learning curve there. The most recent book has a lot of zipitone, and you can just sort of throw it on willy-nilly, so that’s sort of a different look. I like in particular the bar scenes. I would just draw weird back-water bars all day if I could.

SM: When I plotted out the first storyline, Gus wasn’t onboard yet, but I had him much more in mind on this arc.

GS: I found a lot of difficulties in the first one, there was just so much “people floating in space.” I had a hard time making that interesting. And some people can do it so well, like aerial fights. I had to figure out how to do it.

CB: Tell me a little about what it’s like to design such unique characters. Masse, for example, seems like he would have been very difficult to take from concept to execution.

GS: Yeah, that was maybe the most design discussion we had. I had originally wanted to make him more ambulatory – give him sort of malformed arms or something. But I think Stuart guided us in the right direction with that. He was a lot of fun. The other one I really enjoyed was Quark, which is the pink, constantly-shifting, energy dude. And the most high concept design guys come a little later in the story, and they’re an interesting… firm-type thing.

SM: Oh yeah, the Quantum Trust. This story is a little more grounded, as we said, and most of the characters are human or humanoid. But there are some pretty strange looking people coming.

CB: Is there anything you hate drawing that you found yourself having to improve on this series? Maybe something that you’re now good at drawing?

GS: I meannnn, I don’t think I got GOOD at drawing any of the stuff. This is my first job pretty much save for one little comic project I did out of school. And in school, when I was drawing, everyone was just really ugly and monstrous, so I guess I just had to draw allegedly attractive people. You know, Deuce and Pixel are supposed to be good-looking – they’re celebrities. I did have to focus on trying to make people look comely.

SM: I’ll add one other thing – these are not easy scripts. One of the games with EGOs for me was to pack as much into each story as I could without seeming crowded. That was one of the things I really wanted to do. Partly because I think if you’re going to do an original indie comic where people aren’t buying it for Batman, you need to really give people their money’s worth. If people are going to pay three dollars for an issue of this comic, I want them to walk away thinking they really got an experience. And that means there’s a lot of scene-changes, there’s a lot of characters, there’s a lot going on. These scripts are not easy to draw, and Gus has done a beautiful job at every stage.

GS: The best part is design, and it’s just been an option to constantly design little pieces, like Shara’s home world that you see just for a second. That kind of thing is all over the comic, which is a real treat.

EGOsPAGE3 Interview: Stuart Moore and Gus Storms Reclaim EGOs

CB: Anything else you’d like readers to know about what’s to come?

SM: Well, there are a lot of twists and turns. Not all the characters will necessarily survive… Basically what I had wanted to do with this story is do a large-scale epic where the villain is hidden. The villain is not out in plain sight, you don’t know who it is. And kind of bring some of the ways a good police procedural story work into this and see what happens. Hopefully that’ll work, hopefully people will like it…

I’ll just say one more thing. When it came time to decide whether or not to continue this book, and how long to continue it for, I plotted out the story and I sat down and wrote issue five. I know I’m too close to really know, but I think it’s the best script I’ve ever written for comic books. And then issue six is good, but I think issue seven is even better. So if people have read my stuff this is the one I would recommend, because out of all the comics I’ve written, I’m as happy with this one as anything I’ve ever done.

GS: I second that. I love it. It’s been a lot of fun to work on. It’s a great story, it’s exactly the type of thing that I like to read.

EGOs #5 is due out February 4th from Image Comics. Item Code: DEC140641

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48. Bryan Talbot Talks About Grandville Noël

I suspect that I’m not alone in thinking any day that brings new work from Dr Bryan Talbot is a very good day indeed. The fourth of his Grandville books, featuring the adventures of Detective Inspector LeBrock (who is, as the name might suggest to the scholarly, a badger) in an anthropomorphic steampunk Paris, is at least as good as the three previous volumes, if not considerably better. Wherever LeBrock goes, mayhem and a high body-count ensues, and this book is no different. We also have a messianic unicorn, evil criminals, and a Lucky Luke look-a-like, called Lucas Chance. Briefly, if you’re not reading Grandville, you’re missing some of the best fun there is to be had between two covers. I’d interviewed Bryan pretty comprehensively before (here & here), so I got in touch to ask him just a few more questions about Grandville, and his future plans for the character.

grandville noel 733x1028 Bryan Talbot Talks About Grandville NoëlPádraig Ó Méalóid: I had been meaning to ask you, before I started reading this one, if there were going to be any further Grandville books after this, but by the end of it you’ve several trailing story threads that I imagine might take a few more books to sort out. What can you tell me?

Grandville Title 212x300 Bryan Talbot Talks About Grandville NoëlBryan Talbot: Although the books are stand-alone stories and can be read individually, you will have noticed that each takes place a month after he previous one, and there has been a story arc gradually building that comes to fruition in volume five. I scripted it over two years ago now, though have been polishing it since. It’s much longer that the other stories, about 160 pages, and will probably be the final one. If I write any more stories set in the world of Grandville, they’ll be drawn in a different style. The fifth, although still containing some of the humour of the other books, is definitely the darkest story and features one of the vilest villains in the history of crime fiction. Characters from earlier volumes have cameo roles and we finally meet the execrable Chief Inspector Stoatson, mentioned in all the books since the second one but never seen. We also discover, for the first time, [Detective Inspector] LeBrock‘s backstory and are introduced to his mentor, the great detective who trained him up. I’m currently drawing Mary*’s 3rd graphic novel, but will start work on the 5th Grandville when I finish that, in summer.
[*That’s Dr Mary M Talbot, Bryan Talbot’s wife, with whom he collaborated on Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes, and co-collaborated with on Sally Heathcote: Suffragette, along with Kate Charlesworth, both of which are recommended.]

PÓM: I notice that the human characters – the ‘doughfaces’ in the story – seem to be getting restless, and coming more to the fore, in the 3rd and 4th volumes. Will we be seeing more of them in the last volume, too?

BT: They’ll be reverting to background characters, as in the 1st book. It’s in Grandville Noël where they come centre stage and, by the end, there is some kind of resolution.

PÓM: As I was rereading my way through the Grandville books, I was wondering how many different animals you had included in them. Have you any idea what sort of number you’ve done?

Badger Dublin NHM 188x300 Bryan Talbot Talks About Grandville Noël

A Stuffed Badger in Dublin’s Natural History Museum

BT: No idea, but quite a lot! As well as common animals, there are several many people won’t have heard of, such as an aye aye, an echidna and a star-nosed mole. As well as a computer file containing hundreds of animal photographs that I’ve accumulated on line, I’ve visited the natural history museums of Milan, Helsinki and Dublin, all of which have large collections of stuffed animals that I’ve snapped from different angles. It’s always hard to find pics online of exactly the right angle you need. I also have a collection of plastic animal models to draw from.

PÓM: How do the Grandville books do on the European market, particularly in France, where they’re up against work which they’re sometimes drawn from?

BT: I’m very disappointed with the French Publisher of Grandville, Bragelonne. They are primarily a publisher of horror, SF and fantasy prose and I don’t think they really pushed the books. They don’t even have a booth at Angouleme. The books went into profit (I know as I regularly receive royalty payments from them) but obviously they didn’t make as big a profit as they’d like, as they only published the first two volumes. This, despite Grandville Mon Amour winning the prize given by French railway industry, the Prix SNCF, for best graphic novel, voted for by the rail-traveling public and all the many French reviews of both books, which were universally positive. In Spain and Germany, though, they seem to be quite popular, Noël coming out both places next year. I think a Finnish edition of the first book is forthcoming too. It’s also been published in Serbia, Greece, the Czech Republic and Italy.

PÓM: You mention a third book by your wife, Dr Mary Talbot. Can you tell me anything about this, or is it still under wraps?

BT: As it’s only going to be published in 2016, we’re keeping quiet about it at the moment. Primarily because we think someone else might pinch the idea, research the subject, and produce a graphic novel of their own before then! Suffice to say that it’s another historical story about a strong female protagonist, one that most UK readers will never have heard of.

PÓM: There’s a very brief mention of a cataclysmic event that helped shaped how things are in the Grandville world, in the fourth book. This seems to me to throw you into the same general Wold-Newton Universe concept that Philip José Farmer initiated, and which also informs Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen books. That, plus the fact that the aircraft that we’re constantly seeing in the air over Paris look very like the ones we see in your Luther Arkwright stories, makes we wonder if there’s a larger ‘Bryan Talbot Universe’ setting behind all your work. Or is this just something I’m over-thinking?

Luther Arkwright 211x300 Bryan Talbot Talks About Grandville NoëlBT: I never actually got around to reading the Farmer books but, yes, the cataclysmic event is basically a reference to Firefrost. In the Arkwright story, where it’s made clear that its arrival on earth sent ripples affecting reality through all the alternative time streams. I did have the intention on doing a story based on it sometime but, as I said earlier, the 5th is now probably going to be the last of the series. The iron flying machines are common to Arkwight and Grandville, though in the former, there is only one type, a military vessel, and only made by one of the countries involved. In Grandville, they are public and private skyships of various designs. Vaguely inspired by Jules Verne and Albert Robida, I use them because every other steampunk story uses airships.

PÓM: Do you have any idea when we can expect to see that fifth and final Grandville volume?

BT: I’m hoping 2017.

PÓM: That’s a long wait! You already mentioned the book with Mary, but is there anything else we need to know about, to fill up the lonely days while we wait – more Luther Arkwright, maybe?

BT: ‘Fraid not. Not many people realise what a long slog it is, producing a graphic novel. These books take a long time, especially in the sort of style I use for Grandville, which takes up to 4 days per page. The fifth volume is going to be 160 pages. That’s nearly two years’ work, more if I’m away a lot. Plus, big publishers like Cape ideally want the finished books up to a year before they publish them, so they sit around for months before being released. One reason for this is so that they meet the scheduled publication dates. Another is so their reps can show the books around to retailers several months in advance to create interest. So it may be an even longer wait than that! I do actually have a folder full of notes for a possible Arkwright story, and have done for several years, but it’s simply not gelled. Perhaps after I finish Grandville.

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49. The Farmer and the Clown

9781442497443 f3568 300x243 The Farmer and the ClownThings are beginning to heat up. Mock Caldecotts are being decided; best-of-year lists continue to be released; over at Fuse #8, Betsy Bird has made her final predictions.

It’s time to talk about a book that’s been one of my favorites all fall: Marla Frazee’s The Farmer and the Clown.

I find it difficult not to gush over this book. It is so simple and yet so profound: the classic “stranger comes to town” story brilliantly re-imagined and re-visioned. It works for me on both an intellectual and emotional level, so much so that I can start out discussing the composition of a particular page, say, and end up talking instead about the definition of family; love and loss. The search for belonging. What happens when we reveal our true selves to others. You know, the whole human condition.

So to prevent me going off the deep end, I’ll stick to bullet points and simply highlight some of the strengths of the book; some of the things that make it worthy of Caldecott consideration. I hope you will help me fill in the gaps in the comments.

  • THE EXPRESSIVENESS of the characters, through body language and facial expressions. To quote the Horn Book “Fanfare” citation: ”Rarely has posture been used so well in a picture book, here used to wordlessly portray the kindness of strangers who are thrown (literally!) together by happenstance but then changed forever.”
  • THE TENSION. The story itself has built-in tension — how are these seemingly opposite characters going to get along? will the farmer be able to comfort the child? will this be the child’s new home, or will the circus train come back? — so does the visual storytelling. As a reader/viewer I am pulled in two directions. I want both to linger over each spread to catch every nuance AND to turn the page to see what happens next. The picture book storytelling is perfectly balanced here.
  • THE LANDSCAPE. This has got to be one of the sparest landscapes ever depicted in a picture book. The horizon stretches unendingly beneath vast skies. There is no vegetation aside from the one tree on the one knoll. There aren’t even any haystacks to break up the emptiness (though there seems to be plenty of hay to make them with). The color palette is equally austere: brown, sere, desert-like. Does the empty landscape echo and make manifest the heart of the farmer? Or does it serve to keep the viewer’s focus on the characters, their interactions and emotions? I would say both.
  • THE ENDING. It is just open-ended enough. You close the book satisfied but also with a little room to fill in details yourself. It’s not the mind-blowing, drop-the-reader-off-a-cliff ending of Sam and Dave Dig a Hole. But the questions asked by the ending can be answered by a the story you’ve just finished reading. It’s a very organic, very satisfying kind of open-endedness. The answers are all in the spot illustration on the last page: in the farmer’s posture (relaxed, upright, hands in pocket — he’s contemplative, but not unhappy), in the hat he’s wearing, the hat HE chose to swap with the little clown; and of course in the presence of the circus monkey, the same size and shape and dressed the same way as the departed little clown.
  • THE MULTILAYEREDNESS of the wordless narrative. One of the most brilliant parts of the book is the very first page where Frazee uses a clean white background rather than that mottled sere brown — the page just after the little clown has been jettisoned from the train. Read it one way (with makeup in place): a little clown seeks to entertain an audience. He does a little dive move, he doffs his cap, he takes a bow. All part of a performance. BUT. Read it another way (if one could see through the makeup to the scared baby/toddler beneath): he points desperately to where he came from; he mimics how he fell from the train, he bends over in despair; he runs to the farmer to plead for help. I’m not sure I know of another picture book that accomplishes this layered interpretation.
  • THE VISUAL LINKS BETWEEN THE CHARACTERS. There are many. Even when they look like complete opposites — tall skinny old farmer all dressed in black; short round young child all dressed in red — there is a relationship between them. Note the reverse symmetry of the small clown and the tall farmer: the clown’s tall pointy hat is the farmer’s long pointy beard, in reverse; the clowns horizontal ruffle around his neck is the farmer’s flat hat on his head. Then when the truth comes out and the little clown’s true self is revealed, the link becomes closer and nearer: we see their equally bald heads, and the farmer’s red long johns match the child’s red clown suit. And at the very very end, the link between them is cemented when the farmer swaps their hats, placing his black hat on the toddler’s head and donning the tall red cone hat himself.
  • THE STORY’S DEPTH. This would have been just a sweet little story of friendship and love/loss/love…but the addition of the painted-on smile of the little clown asks SUCH deeper questions and adds so many deeper layers. And so by the end of the book, this reader, anyway, is entirely emotionally invested. Look at that oversized arm on the final double-page spread (the long horizontal arm balanced compositionally by the long horizontal train, by the way). Is the farmer’s arm waving goodbye? or reaching out, trying to hold on? There’s a phenomenal amount of feeling in that disembodied arm. I am not sure many other artists could invest so much emotion in an ARM.

I’ve heard that The Farmer and the Clown doesn’t work for two- and three-year-olds. Well, no. Is it supposed to? Do people think that because the clown is a very young child, the book also must be for very young children? The age of the baby/toddler clown does not determine the audience for this book. It’s for reader-viewers who are interested in determining and decoding the situation, reading the postures, the facial expressions, watching the specific yet universal story unfold.

And no, it’s not all that funny. Again, is it supposed to be? I am not sure that all Marla Frazee books have to be laughfests. The book does have small moments of humor (the juggling eggs sequence, for instance), but it’s the kind of humor that might evoke a smile rather than a guffaw. I think readers are too involved in the pathos of the situation, the drama, the tension, to want or need to do a lot of giggling. But since the Caldecott committee is charged with looking only at the books of 2014, a comparison to Frazee’s earlier work should not apply.

Can the Caldecott committee ignore their expectations of what a Marla Frazee picture book should be? Will they see the genius of this book?

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50. Naomi Shihab Nye Talks with Roger

naomi shihab nye twr Naomi Shihab Nye Talks with Roger

Talks with Roger is a sponsored supplement to our free monthly e-newsletter, Notes from the Horn Book. To receive Notes, sign up here.


naomi shihab nye Naomi Shihab Nye Talks with RogerBorn of Naomi Shihab Nye’s childhood fascination with Oman and a visit there five years ago, The Turtle of Oman is that rare thing in current children’s book publishing: a deliberately low-key story in which the climax is — well, read below. After Naomi and I swapped sympathies for how old we were now after our many years of acquaintance, we settled in for a good talk about her new novel.

Roger Sutton: How do you keep your enthusiasm?

Naomi Shihab Nye: I think it’s hanging out with kids all these years. I was visiting a school last week, and they were so incredible. Just being with them for the whole day and listening to their questions and looking at their writing and going into their art classes and seeing the pots and photographs they were making, I thought, “It’s okay to get old if you can still hang out with young people and feel that great energy. Because we still have it. It just gets sort of muted.”

RS: What do you think that does to your writing? Or for it?

NSN: We hear a lot of voices every day, but for me the most touching and tender voices continue to be those of kids. They’re the most direct, the most unadorned. It calls forth your own kid voice. It keeps it alive. It nourishes it. I agree with people who say you never lose that kid spirit in yourself no matter what age you are.

RS: Oh, hell, I never had it.

NSN: I think you have it right now.

RS: Making up for lost time. The Turtle of Oman is a story about a boy who’s moving. Was moving a big thing for you as a child?

NSN: It was, but I really did not think of the boy, Aref, as me, ever, when writing the book. Its source was my childhood fascination with the country of Oman. I saw a National Geographic story about it when I was around eight. At the time it was a closed country; no one could visit. I talked to my father. Did he know about it? Had he ever been there? He, too, was interested, so it was a topic we talked about together. And also, as I told kids in Oman when I did go there, my first name, juggled, becomes “Omani.”

RS: Huh.

NSN: As a child, I was always juggling words and names. So a fascination with a place. And then when my father died seven years ago, I remember thinking that I was not only going to miss him so incredibly much, but I was really going to miss the relationship he had with our son. They had a very precious bond. My father could walk in and my son would light up, and they would just take off. I wanted to honor that bond between a boy and his grandfather.

RS: It really made me wish I had known my grandfather.

NSN: That’s touching, Roger. A couple of adults have written to me that this book carried them back to their own relationship with a grandparent. So those were the two impulses. Not moving. Moving just kind of came on. When I was in Oman it was staggering to learn how common it was for Omani kids to do what Aref does in this book. I talked to a bunch of them. They said, “Oh, yeah, I lived in England for two years while my parents got their graduate degrees. I lived in the U.S. for three years. I lived in Australia for two years.” It was interesting because they’d all gone away and come back. Education is highly valued, and they don’t have — or they didn’t have, five years ago when I was there — graduate degrees. You had to leave the country to get one. But Oman has a very fine style of life, a very good economic stratosphere, so people want to go back after their schooling. And it’s a very gracious, hospitable place.

RS: It does seem very gracious and hospitable from your book. When I look at the details in the story, I think, “This is such an alien landscape to what I know.” But they’re so comfortable in it, the boy and his grandfather.

NSN: I’ve sent a few friends to Oman, people who are on their way to India. They’ve all had fascinating reports afterwards.

RS: Oh, I’d love to go. Even before your book, I knew it from childhood stamp collecting.

NSN: So did I! The Tourism Bureau of Oman has a new slogan: “Beauty has an address. Oman.” It really is a beautiful place in a striking and rather odd way, because of the mountains being tones of brown, and the city being pale colors. White, butter yellow, beige buildings; and they’re all low, because the sultan does not like skyscrapers. And then the sea is so intensely turquoise. So you have these three stripes of color, and then sunrise and sunset above that — it’s gorgeous.

RS: Let’s just bag this talk and go.

NSN: Yes, let’s. And we’ll stay at the Chedi Hotel. Look that up.

RS: You did a really good job of letting us know these kid-focused details about that landscape, but in a way that wasn’t touristy. It felt like it was coming from the inside.

NSN: That’s nice. Thank you for saying that.

RS: Do you know how revolutionary this book is?

NSN: No. What do you mean?

RS: Here we have a book about a kid who’s going to move. And by the end of the book he hasn’t even moved yet. It’s so quiet.

NSN: I was speaking about The Turtle of Oman to some kids at the school library a beloved friend runs, and I said to them at the very end, “You realize who the turtle is?” They all just stared at me. And then afterwards my friend said, “Aref’s the turtle! I didn’t realize that.” I said, “Yes, he’s the turtle.”

I really long for the slow time of childhood. I think most of us who live in this era do. I wanted Aref to live in slow time, for the book to feel as if it was almost in slow-motion. Like, oh my God, we’re back to the suitcase and there’s still only two things in it? I wanted it to be weird that way. The head of the Academy of American Poets said, “Poetry is slow art.” To me that poetry of daily life that we yearn for is the slow artfulness of movement. I keep this little German quote on my desk: Weniger, aber besser. “Less, but better.” Less stuff, less clutter, less things in a day, but better relationships with those things. I wanted there to be some sense of that with Aref and Sidi.

RS: How do you think we can convince our publishers and librarians that there is room for this kind of slow book? Everything now is super high-concept.

NSN: Yeah, there’s all this melodrama and vampire stuff. There’s a lonesomeness that human beings exhibit sometimes: I have all this stuff, I have everything at my fingertips, I’m going in all these different directions at once, and I’m lost. Whereas children have a willingness to pause and turn something over and over in their minds. I worry about what happens when you bombard children with too much stuff all the time, too many activities, too many events, too many things. I remember my kid, when he was young — he’s now a professor — coming home from school one day when he was in about fifth grade, and I asked him about a certain friend of his. I said, “Do you want to have so-and-so come over after school tomorrow?” And he looked at me, and he said, “Oh, Mom. He’s ruined.” And I said, “What do you mean, he’s ruined?” And he said, “He’s just scheduled all the time. He has no free time anymore.” I think of that sometimes when I’m feeling frustrated or frazzled, when I haven’t spent enough time with something to make it feel meaningful. That’s something that teachers, librarians, parents know kids need.

RS: The climax of the story is that they catch a fish and throw it back.

NSN: The little things that happen are really little. The threads are delicate, but they’re also strong. I did thirteen drafts, Roger. In the first draft, the baby pillow that Sidi throws into Aref’s suitcase was the star of the book. In my second draft, Aref’s house and Sidi’s house were the stars. Virginia, my editor, told me, “I don’t want a book about a relationship between two houses. They’re not even on the same street.” So I had to bring people into the book.

RS: Oh, God forbid, Naomi.

NSN: In talking to kids at schools I’ve visited, they all seem to have had experiences similar to Aref’s, even in the second and third grade. They’ve moved, their friends have moved, their grandparents have moved, they’ve changed schools. I often do events with refugee resettlement communities. In some cases I ask people to bring a poem from their country, or just a few lines from a story, or to tell us a story and then translate it. So I hope that readers would feel somewhat at home with Aref, somebody who is being challenged to face this whole new culture and who wonders: where do I find my gravity in it?

RS: That gives you a narrative line throughout. He is dealing with anxiety. It’s not just a pleasant little wander with Grandpa. There’s this fear of what the new place will be like, and as a reader you want that to be resolved.

NSN: Right. And the metaphor of going away and coming back, which so many creatures do in their lives. There’s this essential tug of home gravity. Aref is going to come back, but it’s still scary to think about being gone.

RS: Right.

NSN: My favorite line in the book is when Aref asks Sidi: “What if they make fun of my hat?” The hats of Oman are so distinctive, and so beautiful. And Sidi says, “Then you can let them try it on.” Become me, and then you won’t make fun of me.

RS: When you’re writing a novel, do you ever have to say to yourself, “Wait, I’m being too much of a poet”?

NSN: Probably when I overwrite a passage and make it too descriptive. But my poems have always been fairly plain, I would say, and always had a narrative thread in them. My poems enjoy conversation, and they try to incorporate it. But I did end up cutting back a lot of description and then trying to build up conversations or scenes with a little more velocity or energy rather than some kind of dreamy metaphor.

RS: I read poetry so differently from the way I read prose. I read a poem through quickly, then look more closely, then go back, and then look at the thing at the end and the thing at the beginning. It’s a much more singular moment than the chronology that you involve yourself in when you’re reading a piece of fiction.

NSN: Right. I wanted there to be little chunks in every chapter that feel poem-like somehow, that carry your mind in that same way, deeply, into a focus, into a moment, and then kind of drift around and blur. But I try to keep it also moving a little bit, even if it’s slow-moving.

RS: Have you seen any slow TV? It’s my new passion.

NSN: I have never even heard of it. What is it?

RS: It’s from Norway. There are these shows — there’s one I really love. It’s a train. It’s nine hours long. They just mounted a camera on the front of the train.

NSN: Oh my God. This is amazing.

RS: I’ll send you a link.

Your book kept reminding me of Little House in the Big Woods.

NSN: Oh, that’s interesting.

RS: Again, very small dramas, just “here’s what it’s like to live in my little house in the big woods.” And the anxieties of oh, Pa’s gone, is he coming back? That tends to be the climax of a lot of the chapters. It has so much respect for those small moments that do make up a kid’s life. So many books now are trying to distract kids from those moments.

NSN: That’s right. And I think they’re distracted enough, and there’s enough that will distract them. Sometimes kids will say to me, “What is the one thing that made you a poet as a child growing up?” And I would say it was an apprehension that there was so much around us that we could easily overlook, it would just slip by. I felt really haunted by that as a child. And by the way, Roger, did you know I grew up in Ferguson, Missouri?

RS: No, I didn’t know that.

NSN: I was born in inner-city St. Louis, and when I was almost three my parents moved out to Ferguson, because it was a suburb, with more trees and little parks, and a quieter pace. So all of this news and all of these images from Ferguson are very haunting to me, because in the time of childhood where I grew up, the whole town of Ferguson belonged to kids. We rode our bikes everywhere. We were really curious about what this black-white line was. It was very, very invisible, but very well known to adults, and we didn’t understand it at all. Anyway, that’s just a digression. But it has made me think a lot about slow time and that need as a child to be in spots that feel as if they will outlast you, outlive you, be there in some physical way.

RS: I like the way that the end of the book makes us wonder what it’s going to be like for Aref in Michigan. You can carry this story forward in your head because you get to know this boy really well and hope that things will work out. It’s almost as if you can write your own sequel.

NSN: A couple of people have bugged me already about writing a sequel, in first-person, of Aref in Michigan, but I thought, “Wouldn’t that undercut all the possibilities for him?” I don’t know if I would want to do that. People are still bugging me to write a sequel to Habibi.

RS: Get busy, girl. It’s been a while.

NSN: I don’t want to write a sequel. I want you to write a sequel. You figure it out.

RS: I’m really into standalone books these days. There are too many sequels.

NSN: I am too. I’m really into everyone else’s capacity to imagine what happens next. I like standalone books. There’s something intact about them. And I think poems try to trust us in that way too. It’s why poems don’t like explanation. What happens next? Where does it go? Poems have that subtlety of ending in air, hinting, suggesting, but now you take it and you go with it.

RS: And those are the poems you keep going back to. When you find the one that creates that story inside yourself, that won’t let you alone, that’s the poem that speaks to you.

NSN: It keeps living.


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