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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: humor, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 26 - 50 of 1,450
26. Humor in Picture Books

Use more than one type of humor in your picture book to maximize the funny,

http://picturebookden.blogspot.com/2015/03/look-whos-laughing-now-crossover-humour.html

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27. # 694 – Frankie Dupont and the Lemon Festival Fiasco by Julie Anne Grasso

Ebook cover Lemon Festival Fiasco final 14 March 2015 Hi Res.
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Frankie Dupont And The Lemon Festival Fiasco

Series:  The Frankie Dupont Mysteries
Written by Julie Anne Grasso
Illustrated by Alexander Avellino
Published by Julie Anne Grasso           3/302015
978-0-9873725-8-1
158 pages                 Age 8—12
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“Hot off cracking his first official case Frankie Dupont is on the scene when his new teacher takes ill. The pint-sized detective suspects a classic case of sour grapes, but the evidence leads him to the one placed he wouldn’t mind avoiding for the rest of his natural life. Enderby Manor has a few more secrets up her sleeve, and as Frankie begins to unravel them, he discovers a plot stinkier than a sardine sandwich. In Book 2 of the Frankie Dupont Mysteries, Frankie will make some new friends, upset some old ones, and of course, there will be lemon meringue pie.” [back cover]

Review (491)
It is the start of a new school year for Frankie and his friend Kat. Middle school is a now a combination of two grades in one classroom. Worse, the Appleby triplets—Angus, Archie, and Amy—are in his class and they annoy Frankie like an itch you can’t reach. Day one is short for the head teacher. His assistant, Miss Chestnut, made him a lemon meringue pie and, after one bite, he abruptly leaves for medical help. Frankie swiftly learns one of the pie ingredients is an organic weed killer. This one clue will take Frankie from confronting Miss Chestnut—bad idea—to accusing Merideth De Carlo, the daughter of Evelyn—of Evelyn’s Everlasting Cupcakes—and finally to Enderby Manor and Madame Mercure, a strange woman bent on taking over the hotel.

sick teacher

I enjoy the Frankie Dupont series because of the strange, yet plausible cases and the interesting clues. I love the fully fleshed crazy characters and their well-written stories with unexpected twists. The Lemon Festival Fiasco did not disappoint, though Frankie could be annoying. Unlike the first story, The Mystery of Enderby Manor, where Frankie was eager to show he could solve the case better and faster than Inspector Cluesome, one year later Frankie is arrogant, pushy, and most often wrong. It seems being the only ten-and-three-quarters-year-old to pass the private investigator’s test has gone to his head.

I do like the new character, nine-year-old Amy Appleby, one of the “annoying triplets.” She stays close to Frankie, which irritates the clues right out of him. Frankie does not like that she is smart, possibly smarter than him. It is clear early on that Amy is not trying to outsmart Frankie; she just wants to be close, like any nine-year-old girl with a crush on an older boy. Frankie never picks up on this. Hopefully, that crush will play out in the next edition.

you did it wrong again

The illustrations were done by a new illustrator and are quite good. Personally, I think Frankie looks too old for a 10 ¾ year-old boy and not as cute this time around. I imagine it is difficult to match the work of another illustrator. The Lemon Festival Fiasco can stand on its own, still I recommend reading book 1 first. There is information about the Enderby Manor characters that will help readers understand why Frankie dislikes the manor. Those characters are still a group of, mostly, likable oddballs.

The Mystery of Enderby Manor is an extremely well written mystery with strange, unexpected twists, and thus a difficult case to outshine. The Lemon Festival Fiasco, while a good mystery—that will entertain readers—readers will decipher this lemony mystery much sooner than Frankie. Reluctant readers will like the fast read and may stick with the story because they can solve this case faster than Frankie. Ms. Grasso is a gifted writer who improves with each new story. Her Caramel Cardamom series is a success, as will The Frankie Dupont Mysteries.

ay nd frankie laying in the grass with kat looking on
NEXT UP:  Frankie Dupont And The Science Fair Sabotage
FRANKIE DUPONT AND THE LEMON FESTIVAL FIASCO. Text copyright © 2015 by Julie Anne Grasso. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Alexander Avellino. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Julie Anne Grasso.

Purchase Frankie Dupont and the Lemon Festival Fiasco at AmazonBook DepositoryJulie Anne Grasso Books.

Learn more about Frankie Dupont and the Lemon Festival Fiasco HERE.
Educational Activity Booklet HERE
Meet the author, Julie Anne Grasso, at her website: http://www.julieannegrassobooks.com
Meet the illustrator, Alexander Avellino, at his website: http://www.alexanderavellino.com

Also by Julie Anne Grasso

Frankie Dupont And The Mystery Of Enderby Manor

Frankie Dupont And The Mystery Of Enderby Manor

Frankie Dupont And The Science Fair Sabotage

Frankie Dupont And The Science Fair Sabotage

Escape From The Forbidden Planet

Escape From The Forbidden Planet

Return To Cardamom

Return To Cardamom

Stellarcadia

Stellarcadia

 

 

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Review Section: word count = 491

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

frnkie dupont 2 lemon festival fiasco


Filed under: 4stars, Books for Boys, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Middle Grade, Series Tagged: Alexander Avellino, Frankie Dupont and the Lemon Festival Fiasco, humor, Julie Anne Grasso, lemons, middle school kids, mysteries, relationships, sleuths, The Frankie Dupont Mysteries

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28. Kids Comics Q&A Blog Tour: Interview with Gene Luen Yang

Children's Book Week was just last week, and thanks to First Second we're still celebrating--throughout April and May, MacTeenBooks has organized a massive multi-blog tour featuring Five Questions with a wide range of amazing cartoonists for kids... Read the rest of this post

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29. LIMERICK REVIEW: SISTERS by Raina Telgemeier

click to embiggenA surfeit of conflicts sistericalMakes this graphic novel hysterical - And a journey by carMakes it all worse by farA truce would be some sort of miracle!Other Noteworthy Info: This incredibly fun graphic novel, published last year,... Read the rest of this post

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30. Screaming at the Ump, by Audrey Vernick | Book Review

Screaming at the Ump will appeal to both boys and girls who are interested in sports (especially baseball), and journalism, coping with the transition to middle school, or dealing with family conflicts.

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31. The Annotated "Saving the Planet & Stuff" Part Eight: Eco-Style And Conflict

I was thinking of a few glossy magazines when I was writing the eco-style thread for Saving the Planet & Stuff. Maybe a couple of stores in Vermont. In the years since the hardcover edition was published, the Internet has exploded with eco-stylish websites and blogs.

So the farcical aspect of the eco-style business is a bit undermined because eco-style is so mainstream now. But there is still the conflict between the old-time, hardcore environmentalists like Walt and Nora and the eco-chic followers of style like Todd Mylnarski. Have I mentioned that conflict can be funny?

     "The informing-and-changing-opinion mission is so 1960s. It's so old. Nowadays readers are more interested in lifestyles, how they're going to live their lives," Todd said.
    "But that's exactly what The Earth's Wife does," Nora objected. "It's all about how to live an environmentally sound life."
    "He means people want to read about biodegradable fashion and decorating instead of those god-awful stories about farmers contaminating groundwater because they've been using too much fertilizer," Maureen explained enthusiastically.
    "Eco-style. It's the next generation of the environmental movement," Todd announced. "The editorial staff has been talking, and we think we should be doing articles on things like how to furnish your living room environmentally and how to buy environmental back-to-school clothes and—"
    "Environmental music!" Michael exclaimed.
    "That stuff that's supposed to sound like the wind in the rain forest or something?" Walt sneered.
    "Actually, I was thinking the Dave Matthews Band," Michael said. "Those guys are supposed to be into saving the planet."
    "And what about that guy from U2—Bono?" Todd suggested.
    Michael shook his head. "He's only interested in saving poor countries. You know, debt relief?"
    "Oh, that's right," Todd said. "Too bad. He would have been worth a cover story. He looks very good on magazine covers."
    "Stop everything for a moment. Did anyone read last month's issue of The Earth's Wife?" Nora asked.
    "Of course."
    "I did."
    "Me, too."
    Michael silently shook his head no.
    "You realize it was about just what you're talking about—not Dave Matthews and Bono, but buying things? And how this need for things and owning things is destroying our world?" Nora said.
   "Well, that's one man's opinion," Todd told her.

I don't know if the eco-style people are big on humor. Todd certainly isn't.

Within the context of the Saving the Planet & Stuff world, the battle between the anti-material save- our-groundwater crowd and the shoppers looking for the latest organic cotton and hemp clothing is a generational conflict.

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32. The Annotated "Saving the Planet & Stuff" Part Seven: What To Do, What To Do?

The following excerpt is one of my favorite bits from Saving the Planet & Stuff. In order to create humor, I use hyperbole to ramp up the decision-making those trying to live environmentally sound lives do. But I also think this conversation illustrates a real struggle.

At least, I'm struggling.

See my picnic dish collection to the right? I've had them since 2001 and used them for large family al fresco meals over the years. I don't buy paper plates or napkins or plastic picnic cutlery. But it takes quite a while to get these things washed. Cheap plastic must hold grease. Sinks full of water go down the drain before we finish the job. But I've done the kind of thinking Nora does below and decided that my priority is solid waste, those disposable paper plates and cutlery, over detergents and water. If I lived in California right now, no doubt I'd feel differently.

Seriously, I don't live all that environmentally sound a lifestyle. People who do have to do this kind of priority assessment all the time.

    "Michael? I'm Maureen Bogda," she announced.
    "Associate editor," Amber reminded him. "Don't ask what that is. I was here all of July and August last year and never figured it out."
    "We have something we'd like you to take care of for us. We need you to go out and pick up a few lunches," Maureen said as she handed Michael several orders with cash clipped to them and explained how he would find the restaurant.
    Amber caught Michael's eye. "Speaking of sucky work—"
    "Oh, no!" Michael objected. "I like buying things."
    "I'm glad to hear that," Maureen said, "because Nora asked if you would stop at the little grocery store on the corner to pick up some soy milk and eggs. She wants the free-range eggs from chickens that have never lived in cages, if they have them this week. However, she says that if they are packed in a plastic package to please check and make sure the package is either number one or two plastic because that's all we can recycle in this town. If they have the free-range eggs, but they're packed in the wrong kind of plastic, don't get them. Get regular eggs, but make sure the regular eggs are in a cardboard package, not Styrofoam, because Nora doesn't buy Styrofoam."
    "Uh … just a minute. I'd better write that down," Michael said as he started to look over Amber's desk, hoping to find some paper.
    "Nora did it for you," Maureen replied as she handed Michael another piece of paper and some more money.

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33. The Annotated "Saving the Planet & Stuff" Part Six: No, This Isn't Just Composting Toilet Humor

Everything that appears in a work of fiction should be there for a reason. Everything has to support the story--the plot, the theme, the characters, the setting, the point of view. It has to do something.

This is a particular issue for people who write humor. You just can't throw random jokes into a narrative. If they don't support the story in some way, jokes will stop the narrative drive dead in its tracks while readers stop to have a laugh. Too much of that and readers can stop feeling anything drawing them forward at all. And there's only so long they'll stick around to read jokes.

Think of the difference between old time comics who stood on a stage and just told one joke after another and a well-done sitcom in which all the humor comes out of a particular situation--a  workplace or a family, for instance. Writers of fiction want their humor to come out of a situation and not just be a series of jokes.

Today's Saving the Planet & Stuff excerpt illustrates that point. 
 

"So, Michael, where do you stand on the issue of composting toilets?" Amber asked.
    Michael stopped dead in his tracks and stared at her for a moment. Then he said, "What are my choices?"
    "Composting toilets—those things with a container of some sort under the seat so when you flush, nothing goes very far? Then you throw a handful of bark mulch or some leaves in there with the crap, and it all decomposes?"
    Michael started to grin. Okay! he thought ecstatically. She's coming on to me.
    "What? You think I'm joking?" Amber asked, mistaking the look of joy on Michael's face for appreciation of toilet humor.
    "Well, it doesn't sound much like a joke," Michael admitted, "not a very funny one, anyway. But it is kind of … an odd thought."
    "You've never heard of composting toilets, have you? Well, you're lucky I brought it up, because you're going to. It's, like, a big political issue here," Amber explained. She took a deep breath as if getting ready for a long speech. Her sweater rose up as her lungs—and her chest—expanded. "At one end of the spectrum you've got your people who want to see all human waste transformed into nutrients in a box under their johns and used to fertilize public parks and gardens so they can feel a sense of unity with their environment. At the other end you've got folks who don't understand why the federal government isn't committing big bucks to researching ways to vaporize their
doodie like they do on Star Trek so they'll never have to think about it again."
    "They vaporize doodie on Star Trek?" Michael asked.
The composting toilet thread in Saving the Planet & Stuff is not just an opportunity to squeeze in some toilet talk. It supports one of my themes, the effort, thought, and decision-making that goes into attempting to live an environmental lifestyle. It also supports character because it will eventually illustrate what a mania--how intense--Walt is.

I actually have seen a composting toilet, though it was at an outdoor park, not in an office where Walt was hoping to install one. I believe it was at the Ecological Park of the Acadian Peninsula in New Brunswick, Canada. My recollection is that they had some in little sheds like the one you can see to the left in this picture. That would explain the pipe you see to the left of that building's roof.

And, by the way, we are an engineering family. Of course, the issue of managing sewage on a starship has been addressed in our home. Probably at our dinner table. We've always wanted to see an episode in which Scottie or Geordie has to deal with the engineering crisis that would come about with an epic sewage treatment failure. Anyone else notice that the treatment system never gets damaged when the Enterprise is under attack?



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34. SCENES FROM LIFE - A SHORT PLAYETTE: MR. AND MRS. EVERYBODY TALK PLANTS

SCENE:  DEN IN THE EVERYBODY HOUSEHOLD.

AT RISE:  MRS. EVERYBODY IS HAVING AN IMPORTANT CHAT WHILE MR. EVERYBODY IS READING A NEWSPAPER

MRS. EVERYBODY
Why? Why must you torture me like this? What did I ever do to deserve this treatment other than heap undying love and devotion to your upkeep?

(MR. EVERYBODY glances up and returns to reading his book)

MRS. EVERYBODY
You seem to be dying slowly right in front of my eyes and I'm at a loss how to save you

MR. EVERYBODY
(looking around)
You talking to me?

MRS. EVERYBODY
Fed you top of the line nutritional supplements and this is the thanks I get

MR. EVERYBODY
I appreciate your cooking, honey. You make fantastic meals and really, I'm in great shape

MRS. EVERYBODY
You are not aging well, sweetheart

MR. EVERYBODY

(gets up to examine himself in the mirror on the wall behind him)

For the record, I'm in better condition now than I was when we married. Sure there's a few extra inches on my stomach but that's due to your good cooking. Work out on the tread mill...

MRS. EVERYBODY
I fear it's time for us to part, sweetheart. You are halfway between this world and the next

MR. EVERYBODY
Say what? Is it something I said?

MRS. EVERYBODY
You've given me a lot of pleasure over the years. Your nightly performance kept me riveted and it's something I will cherish all my life

MR. EVERYBODY
Hey! There's still a lot of life left in this body! Is there somebody else? I can change, y'know!

(MRS. EVERYBODY turns around and stares at her husband)

MRS. EVERYBODY
It's just so hard to say goodbye! Did you say something?

MR. EVERYBODY
You never said a word. I deserve to know who's the new love of your life!

MRS. EVERYBODY
Say what? What are you babbling about?

MR. EVERYBODY
You're leaving me!

MRS. EVERYBODY
Are you insane? You thought that... That is really funny

MRS. EVERYBODY
There is nothing funny about being informed that your wife is leaving your for someone else. It's always the husband that is the last to know

MRS. EVERYBODY
Husband of mine - I was talking to my prayer plant here that is slowly croaking after 40 years and I'm about to replace her with a new one

MR. EVERYBODY
How was I supposed to know? There was only you and me in the room and I never guessed you were talking to a...a... house plant

MRS. EVERYBODY
I've raised this houseplant from a small little stalk. Fed her...coddled her...and she gave me years of pleasure but lately she seems to have taken a turn for the worst. The writing is on the wall...or in this case, in all those brown leaves.

MR. EVERYBODY
A plant is a plant is a plant. Don't know what the big thing is. Just empty the pot and replace it with a new one. Simple

MRS. EVERYBODY
How could you be so cruel and callous! You just can't...discard it like it that!

MR. EVERYBODY
I dunno. Never bothers you to do that with your clothes

MRS. EVERYBODY
Besides, I read an article that said plants can sense pain and they react to it. How could I betray my friend after all the years we've been together? I feel like a killer! I feel like I'd be ripping out her guts and tearing her apart

MR. EVERYBODY
Not that I pretend to feel what you feel but check this out

(MR. EVERYBODY shows her a page of the newspaper)

MRS. EVERYBODY
What's this? The Plant-a-atrium is having a sale on houseplants?

(turns to look at plant and at newspaper ad)

(MRS. EVERYBODY cont'd.)  'Parting is such sweet sorrow my formerly green friend. Go meet your other friends in the composter! Do not think badly of me for I shall remember you with great fondness.' I'm ready.

MR. EVERYBODY
Ready for...?

MRS. EVERYBODY
To make new friends at the Plant-a-atrium, silly! We all gotta go some time. I mean, it's just a silly plant for heaven's sake...


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35. The Annotated "Saving the Planet & Stuff" Part Five: Eco-humor

Part of Michael's job as office peon at the editorial offices of The Earth's Wife is to screen in-coming e-mails, which is how he stumbles upon a plot involving a major manufacturer and insulation. But he has to read a few e-mails before he gets to that point. Both the e-mails in this post illustrate humor that comes from the disconnect that occurs when two unrelated ideas/events come together.

The following e-mail was funny at the time because when Saving the Planet & Stuff first appeared in 2003 fiction about the environment wasn't common. The term climate fiction was still a few years away. Nature writing tended to be Thoreau-type essays. Journalists covered the environment. So the idea of eco-fiction was funny because it didn't exist.

Now eco-fiction is a term that is used and discussed, so the idea of eco-fiction is no longer funny. The humor in this first e-mail now relies pretty much on comparing eco-fiction to the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.

Dear Earths' Wife,
Kudos on another wonderful issue!
One suggestion—Have you ever considered doing a fiction issue? No one is publishing eco-fiction right now. I don't know why. You could do a special issue once a year on ecologically themed literature the way Sports Illustrated does a special issue once a year on women's swimsuits. Look how much people look forward to that!
This next e-mail illustrates why hypocrisy can be funny.  Totally clueless characters who say one thing but do another can often be mined for laughs because they are providing that disconnect between two unrelated ideas/concepts.

To the Editor:
I very much enjoyed last month's article on the pollution caused by vehicles using drive-up windows at fastfood restaurants and banks. You only have to sit in a line of cars waiting ten minutes or more for a couple of burgers and a shake, as I have done many times, to realize our atmosphere is being poisoned. Last week I used drive-up windows at a bank twice and a drugstore once. Isn't it awful that you can get your prescriptions at drive-up windows now? It ought to be a crime, all those cars sitting there with their engines running. I counted eight the last time I was at Burger King. I wouldn't have used the drive-up that day, myself, but it looked as if there was no place to sit inside anyway.
Additionally, drive-up windows are a particular environmental complaint of mine. Why does no one do a study on the amount of carbon emitted into the atmosphere because tens of thousands of people can't get out of their cars to buy a Big Mac? I can't be the only person who wonders about that. Can I?

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36. #667 – LUG: Dawn of the Ice Age by David Zeltser

cover - publisherx

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Lug, Dawn of the Ice Age

. . . . .(How One Small Boy Saved Our Big, Dumb Species)
Written by David Zeltser
Illustrations by Jan Gerardi
Egmont USA          2014
978-1-60684-513-4
190 pages       Age 8 to 12
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“In Lug’s Stone Age clan, a caveboy becomes a caveman by catching a jungle llama and riding it against the rival Boar Rider clan in the Big Game. The thing is, Lug has a forbidden, secret art cave and would rather paint than smash skulls. Because Lug is different, his clan’s Big Man is out to get him, he’s got a pair of bullies on his case—oh, and the Ice Age is coming. When Lug is banished from the clan for failing to catch jungle llama, he’s forced to team up with Stony, a silent Neanderthal with a very expressive unibrow, and Echo (a Boar Rider girl!). In a world experiencing some serious global cooling, these misfits must protect their feuding clans from the impending freeze and a particularly unpleasant pride of migrating saber-toothed tigers.” [book jacket]
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About the Story
The clan has broken into two factions, the Macrauchenia Riders and the Boar Riders. Each clan believes the other are uncivilized—without laws, few table manners, and possibly cannibals—yet each clan is living exactly like the other clan lives. The two only get together for the Big Game, called Headstone, where, using stones, they bash in opponents’ heads. To become cavemen, caveboys must catch an animal to ride in the Big Game.

Lug, a smaller caveboy, is the outsider, the one the bullies and their cohorts pick on. He has no interest in Headstone. Lug AG4simply wants to draw, something not understood by others. He fails to catch a llama and is banished to the woods, along with Stone, who also failed. The hot and humid weather is getting colder, something Lug notices but others brush off. The Ice Age is on its way and no one will listen, except Crazy Crag—banished years ago—and Hamela (aka Echo), a Boar Rider girl. To make matters worse, a pride of hungry saber-toothed tigers is migrating south and heading for the clans—and a meal of cave-people-steak. The cave kids try to save their people with the help of Woolly, a baby woolly mammoth, lost from its family, who can communicate with Echo. Living alone in the woods, Crazy Crag has figured out a few things. Can Lug learn Crazy Crag’s secret in time to save the clans people, or will they become extinct?

Review
AG3
LUG: Dawn of the Ice Age
has all the elements of a book: fast-paced action, suspense, and good characters the reader can relate to and enjoy. Written for middle grade kids, younger advanced readers will also enjoy LUG’s charm. I like the cover and the illustrations, which are black-and-white cave-like drawings, slanted enough to often be funny. The story itself has kid-funny action and characters. Reading it will make you laugh and sometimes groan at the word play, (Headstone; Smilus, the ruthless head saber-tooth tiger; Bonehead, the Big Man’s son).

I love the curly-haired Echo, who is an activist and a vegetarian, possibly the world’s first. I also loved the coming of the CG 4 EchoIce Age’s parallel to today’s climate crisis. LUG might make kids more aware of their own climate changing. Lug agrees, writing in a pre-story note,

“. . . You see, the world began to get colder—much colder. And my clan initially reacted by doing this:

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“That’s right, a whole lot of NOTHING . . . I hope this story will inspire you to pay attention to the big changes happening to your world. If you are extinct, sorry.”

There are no prehistoric dinosaurs, but the animals you will find have interesting qualities, including finding a way to talk to humans. More than anything, I like LUG because it is a good story. If cave kids could read, they would have enjoyed LUG

Lug returns for more prehistoric climate-change adventures this Fall (2015) in LUG: Blast from the North (working title). LUG: Dawn of the Ice Age is David Zeltser’s debut children’s series.  (20% of proceeds go to organizations that help children and families in need.)

LUG: DAWN OF THE ICE AGE (HOW ONE SMALL BOY SAVED OUR BIG DUMB SPECIES). Text copyright © 2014 by David Zeltser. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Jan Gerardi. Published in 2014 by Egmont USA, New York, NY.
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Purchase LUG: Dawn of the Ice Age at AmazoniTunesBook DepositoryEgmont USA.

Learn more about LUG: Dawn of the Ice Age HERE.
Meet the author, David Zeltser, at his website:  http://www.davidzeltser.com/
Meet the illustrator, Jan Gerardi, short bio:  http://bit.ly/19Z1Vh3
Find more Middle Grade Books at the Egmont USA website:  http://egmontusa.com/

Curriculum Guide can be found HERE.
Activity Guide can be found HERE.
fcc LUG DAWN OF THE ICE AGE 2014

Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews


Filed under: 5stars, Books for Boys, Debut Author, Fast Friday Read, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Middle Grade Tagged: cavemen, children's books, David Zeltser, Egmont USA, humor, Jan Gerardi, LUG: Dawn of the Ice Age, prehistoric era

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37. The Annotated "Saving the Planet & Stuff" Part Three

By the time Michael Racine reaches the Vermont border with Walt and Nora, he has figured out that spending time with these two isn't going to be more of the same for him. After his first meal in their solar home, which he thought was chicken parm until he realized they were vegetarians so God only knew what he'd just eaten, Nora takes him upstairs to what will be his room for the next month or so. She was unprepared for a guest, and Michael was unprepared for what he found.


    There were two small, horizontal windows crammed between two narrow closets and above a set of built-in drawers on the exterior wall across from him ("Built-in furniture provides extra insulation," Nora explained). Michael barely noticed them because he was so busy taking in the bed, the floor of a closet—its door couldn't be shut—a little table with an arrangement of cobweb-draped dried flowers, and an armchair with a matching footstool, which were all covered with … stuff.
    "I'm afraid we've collected a few things over the years," Nora said apologetically.
    "Wow. You collect bags of Styrofoam beans," Michael said, pointing to four bags filled with them.
    "They aren't biodegradable, so we didn't want to throw them out when the town still had a landfill. We use them as packing when we want to mail something," Nora explained.
     Michael lifted a roll of used bubble packaging off from the bed. "I guess you don't mail stuff very often, huh?"
     Nora took the roll from Michael. "I keep meaning to take them into the office. They'll get used there. Maybe we could bring them with us tomorrow."
     The rest of the room's contents would not be as easy to dispose of. There were a couple of bundles of brown paper bags, and plastic sacks filled with more plastic sacks. There was a pile of very ratty bath towels, a half dozen decorative tins of various sizes, partially burned candles, empty cardboard boxes, a variety of canvas satchels stamped with the names of various organizations, two partial sets of dishes, stacks and stacks and stacks of magazines, three …
    "You see," Nora began awkwardly, "we're trying to control waste by diverting materials from landfills—which are reaching capacity in a lot of places, you know—and the regional incinerators that are replacing them. We did an article in The Earth's Wife on that in, I think, June of '98."
    So they're diverting materials from the landfill to their spare bedroom? Michael wondered.
Okay. So this is kind of autobiographical. I don't so much try to divert waste from the transfer station, which is what our community has now, as keep it from going there for as long as possible. I hold on to things like Nora does so I can use them again or find a way to pass them on to some unsuspecting soul. It's kind of like the Schroedinger's Cat thing. So long as these things are somewhere in my house, they have the potential to be either useful or solid waste. It could go either way.


Here, for instance, is my most recent bubble wrap collection. I have used hoarded bubble wrap for mailing packages, though I'll also admit that I dumped some during a time management clean out binge. The wrap you see in this picture all showed up in one order that was shipped in four different boxes this past month. It's as if these people sit down and think of ways to generate waste.





And here are two different views of our box collection. Yesterday a house guest told me she was leaving me a gift box for my collection. I particularly like gift boxes, and she knows it, so it was a touching moment.









Like Nora, I have a bag collection...





...and a decorative tin collection...






...and here are my back issues of Yoga Journal.








All these things can be used again, so there's no reason for them to be trashed. Except for the Yoga Journals. That's a really fine magazine, which is why I hold on to them, but I am planning to weed through those things because you can't really use them for something the way you can those tins, bags, boxes, and bubble wrap rolls. To be truthful, though, I'm three months behind reading the new issues, so it will be a while before I see any progress on the back ones.

Unlike Walt and Nora, I do not have all this stuff spread over a spare bedroom. But I like humor that comes about when two conflicting thought processes/world views come together, and a little hyperbole is very helpful in creating that.

Additionally, though, with scenes like this one I wanted to illustrate the effort and attention to detail that goes into an attempt to live anything approaching an environmentally sound lifestyle.

If any readers are Noras and have collection of useful items they are keeping from transfer stations, feel free to share in the Comments.

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38. Still waiting - what does that mean, she who pens plays ponders...

As mentioned on numerous occasions in this blog, patience isn't one of my strong points. This usually doesn't work in my favor especially when it comes to waiting for updates/news regarding the fate of my plays. Many of them took cyber trips to numerous geographical locations around the globe in the hope that they would see a stage but so far, no response one way or the other.

According to the various playwriting related sites where this topic is discussed and digested, this is not a good sign but perhaps no definitive decision has been made as to their stage-a-bility. At least that's what I tell myself.

There is a pattern as to my follow up process, which includes avowing to myself that I will wait to receive "the word."

"Gotta give it time," I tell myself. "People don't respond because you want them to. Your plays are among hundreds, maybe thousands, that are submitted with dreams of production."

Patience today, patience tomorrow, inevitably, and when experiencing a particularly discouraging "why do I bother" or "maybe my plays suck" period, a follow-up e-mail is sent out. Usually, the end result is no response followed by a period of "why didn't I wait."

Upon reflection, perhaps a follow-up questionnaire to the submitted theatres would facilitate the process. Something to the effect:

Dear blah-blah (insert theatre name/producer/to whom it may concern),

Recently, (insert date that play was submitted), you were the lucky recipient of my play, blah-blah (insert name of play).

It has been (number of days/weeks/months/years/who remembers) since there has been any updates as to whether said play strikes your fancy. Perhaps the lack of communication on your part is a result of (pick one) a) stunning dialogue requiring further thought b) seeking a period of time in which to program the play to optimize audience participation  c) unable to open file.

When could a decision on its fate one way or the other be expected: a) days b) months c)years d) never (please circle one)

Yours forever in hope,

A. Playwright

It's worth a shot. Am I right?


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39. Wishing...and hoping...and thinking...and praying...

Somehow - perhaps it's the arrival of Spring and all that it promises - one anticipates updates as to the fate of one's (mine of course) literary send-outs. More specifically and to put it in simply and succinctly ('that's a lot of sss's, Eleanor'), will any of my plays see a stage this year.

Throughout the year minor dialogue changes were made, a few lines were eliminated or added but for the most part they were sent on their way based on the strength of the story line and characters, to seek their fate. Waiting to receive news about one's plays is comparable, at least for me, to sending your children out to seek their fortune in the jungle of life (feeling very philosophical today) for their own good, if not for the caregiver's good. So they're all "out there" and the wait for any updates is all-consuming wondering and hypothesizing what's happening at the 'other end', so to speak.

"How many more plays are left to be read?" a literary manager might ask a theatre producer and play readers while assessing the amount of plays still waiting to be read  "Seems like there are thousands more waiting to be read."

"We have to narrow it down to just a few promising plays, already," the literary manager will/could/might declare, while checking her/his cell phone for phone messages. "Time is marching on and we have to choose some potential money-makers for the coming season."

"I've come across a promising production," one of the readers could suggest, "although the playwright doesn't have any track record. The play, though, is really a good read."

"Nothing produced, anywhere, in the whole wide world?" the producer would ask of the reader.

"Not according to her biography and CV but really - she's good and this play is and an entertaining read  - really funny!" the reader would affirm.

"Could be problematic if she hasn't got a recognizable name that could sell tickets, though," the literary manager and/or producer would put forward.

"But it's a really good play," the reader would insist. "Why not give her a chance?"

"Not bankable," the literary manager and/or producer would answer, somewhat sadly (one would hope). "File away for future considerations."

Pure speculation on my part but one has to do something waiting for "the word". Then again, depending on what the word is, perhaps ignorance is bliss.

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40. TURNING PAGES: ENCHANTMENT LAKE: by MARGI PREUS

One of the things I love about mysteries is how much they vary. This mystery could be described as "cozy," because of the presence of old ladies, but the main character is an out of work child actress who really is the most reluctant of Miss... Read the rest of this post

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41. Caveman, ABC Story, by Janee Trasler

A funny, one-word-at-a-time story, about cavemen, dinosaurs, and the alphabet.

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42. SCENES FROM LIFE - A SHORT PLAYETTE. AT THE COFFEE SHOP


SMALL TALK

 
SCENE:  SMALL COFFEE SHOP

AT RISE: A FEMALE (FEMALE 1) BRINGS A TRAY TO A TABLE, PULLS OUT A CHAIR,  SITS DOWN, STARTS TO UNWRAP A SANDWICH AND DRINK HER COFFEE

AN ELDERLY FEMALE (FEMALE 2) AT THE NEXT TABLE EATING A SANDWICH, TURNS AND STUDIES HER.

 
FEMALE 2

Your hair
 

FEMALE 1

Sorry?

 
FEMALE 2

Your hair is nice


FEMALE 1
(touching hair)

Thank you.

 
FEMALE 2

I mean, your hair is reallynice. Who does it?


FEMALE 1

A local hair stylist where I live

 
(Turns her attention to a cell phone)

 
FEMALE 2

My children and my grandchildren have those electronic gadgets


FEMALE 1

My cell?


FEMALE 2

Is that what it’s called?


FEMALE 1

Very handy. Pick up my mail…see what’s happening in the world…
 

FEMALE 2

Hmmm… I still like a good, old fashioned phone that stays in one place

 
FEMALE 1

Hardly use mine


FEMALE 2

Can only use my good, old fashioned, black push-button phone in my apartment, though, but that’s okay. The way I see it, I don’t want the world to hear my conversations. Not that I have anything to hide.  Know what I mean?


FEMALE 1

Got’cha

 
(cell rings as FEMALE 2 watches FEMALE 1 speaking on the cell)


FEMALE 2

See? I heard everything you were saying. Not that I was trying to be nosy or anything. Point I’m making is there’s no privacy these days.

 
FEMALE 1

(staring down at her cell and involved in texting, somewhat ignoring FEMALE 2)

…uh-huh…

 
FEMALE 2

Know what? Before when I was in the bathroom, I heard a woman talking on those things while she was…well you know…peeing. That is like – so disgusting, don’t you think? I mean, couldn’t she live without that thing for the few minutes it would take to use the toilet? And she didn’t even flush! Probably didn’t even wash her hands, either, after!


FEMALE 1

…appointment tomorrow at 10 a.m. with John…

 
FEMALE 2

I’m sorry. You’re busy.
 

 (silence between them for 10 seconds)

 
(cont’d. FEMALE 2) You’re a coffee drinker I would guess?


FEMALE 1

Yup…


FEMALE 2

Don’t you find that coffee loses flavor in a paper cup?


FEMALE 1

...uh-huh...

 
FEMALE 2

People don’t have time to take care of the little things in life, anymore, like taking the time to really talk one-on-one. Human communication is a lost art


(FEMALE 1 loads her tray and starts to get up, preparing to leave, her focus on her cell)


FEMALE 1

Nice talking to you. Have a great day

 
FEMALE 2

Same here.  (calling as she walks away) ‘Love her your hair…’

 
(a female (FEMALE 3) sits down at the table next to FEMALE 2 , drinking coffee and reading a newspaper)
 

FEMALE 2

Always good to keep updated with the latest news. I would give up lots of things before giving up a newspaper that I actually touch and flip the pages. Mind you, I think our kind are dinosaurs

 
FEMALE 3
(inattentive)

Um – I guess…maybe…

 
(FEMALE 2 continues to talk waiting/hoping for a reaction from FEMALE 3)
 

FEMALE 2

Mind you, these days people get all their latest news and speak to each other on those cell phone gadgets but I don’t own one, though…  Don’t even have a computer…my kids wanted to get me one but then I’d have to learn to use it… By the way, your hair is really nice…who does it?

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43. Book Review: Smek for President

Smek for President

by Adam Rex

Science fiction for kids is rare enough; truly funny middle-grade science fiction is even rarer. In fact, off the top of my head I can only think of one book in the hilarious middle-grade science fiction genre: The True Meaning of Smekday. Now that number has doubled, with the publication of a worthy sequel, Smek for President.

If you haven't read The True Meaning of Smekday, why not? Go forth and read it now! It's a great road-trip buddy comedy about a girl and an alien on the run from the evil alien overlords.

Beyond this point there will be spoilers for the first book.

In Smek for President, human leader Dan Landry has taken credit for defeating the Gorg. No one, human or Boov, knows that it was really Tip and J.Lo who discovered the Gorg's weakness and defeated them with hundreds of cloned cats. Tip is living an anonymous life trying to adjust to being a regular girl again. J.Lo is infamous on two worlds: he can't seem to stay out of trouble in their community on Earth, and to the Boov he's still the Squealer, who accidentally signaled the Gorg in the first place. Tip and J.Lo decide to take a trip to New Boovworld (formerly known as the moon Titan) to explain to Captain Smek what really happened and clear J.Lo's name.

Hilarious hijinks ensue, including a low-gravity chase that is every bit as awesome as you'd hope for a low-gravity chase to be, an escape into a garbage-pit, (with obligatory Star Wars reference) and a lonely bubble-billboard. There's more awesomeness that I can't say anything about without spoiling the book. There are several comic sections that extend the story throughout the book.

There's not much else I can say, except that this is a perfect middle-grade book, and fans of The True Meaning of Smekday will love it. Anyone who hasn't read The True Meaning of Smekday would be well served to read it first.

Diversity?

The protagonist Tip is mixed-race and dark skinned. She's also an awesome character that boys and girls of all races can identify with. (How many times am I allowed to say awesome in one review?)

Buy from Powells.com:
FTC required disclosure: Review copy sent by the publisher to enable me to write this review. The bookstore links above are affiliate links, and I earn a very small percentage of any sales made through the links. Neither of these things influenced my review.

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44. Wednesday Writing Workout: Characterization (Encore Presentation)

As a follow-up to last Friday's Guest TeachingAuthor Interview with Sherry Shahan, I'm repeating the Wednesday Writing Workout she shared with us in July 2014. After reading this post, I'm sure you'll want to enter for a chance to win a copy of Sherry's Skin and Bones (A. Whitman), if you haven't already entered the contest.

Sherry's young adult novel is a quirky story set in an eating disorder unit of a metropolitan hospital. The main character “Bones” is a male teen with anorexia. He falls desperately in love with an aspiring ballerina who becomes his next deadly addiction.

The novel was inspired by a short story Sherry wrote years ago, “Iris and Jim.” It appeared in print eight times worldwide. Her agent kept encouraging her to expand “Iris and Jim” into a novel. Easy for her to say!

                                                               *          *           *

Wednesday Writing Workout 
Tell It Sideways
by Sherry Shahan

During the first draft of Skin and Bones I stumbled over a number of unexpected obstacles. How could I give a character an idiosyncratic tone without sounding flippant? Eating disorders are serious, and in too many instances, life-threatening. 

Sometimes I sprinkled facts into farcical narration. Other times statistics emerged through dialogue between prominent characters—either in an argument or by using humor. Either way, creating quirky characters felt more organic when their traits were slipped in sideways instead of straight on.

There are endless ways to introduce a character, such as telling the reader about personality:
"Mrs. Freeman could never be brought to admit herself wrong on any point." —      Flannery O'Connor, "Good Country People."
Or by detailing a character’s appearance:
"The baker wore a white apron that looked like a smock. Straps cut under his arms, went around in back and then to the front again, where they were secured under his heavy waist ."   —Raymond Carver "A Small, Good Thing"
The art of creating fully realized characters is often a challenge to new writers of fiction. As a longtime teacher I’ve noticed:

1.) Writers who use short cuts, such a clichés, which produce cardboard or stereotypical characters.
2.) Writers who stubbornly pattern the main character after themselves in a way that’s unrealistic.
3.) Writers who are so involved in working out a complicated plot that their characters don’t receive enough attention.

In Skin and Bones I let readers get to know my characters though humorous dialogue. This technique works best when characters have opposing viewpoints. 

Consider the following scene. (Note: Lard is a compulsive over-eater; Bones is anorexic.)

“I’ll never buy food shot up with hormones when I own a restaurant,” Lard said. “Chicken nuggets sound healthy enough, but they have more than three dozen ingredients—not a lot of chicken in a nugget.”

Bones put on rubber gloves in case he’d have to touch something with calories. “Can’t we talk about something else?”

“That’s the wrong attitude, man. Don’t you want to get over this shit?”

“Not at this particular moment, since it’s almost lunch and my jaw still hurts from breakfast.”

Lard shook his head. “I’m glad I don’t live inside your skin.”

“It’d be a little crowded.”

Exercise #1: Choose a scene from a work-in-progress where a new character is introduced. (Or choose one from an existing novel.) Write a paragraph about the character without using physical descriptions. Repeat for a secondary character.

Exercise #2: Give each character a strong opinion about a subject. Do Nice Girls Really Finish Last? Should Fried Food Come With a Warning? Make sure your characters have opposing positions. Next, write a paragraph from each person’s viewpoint.

Exercise #3: Using the differing viewpoints, compose a scene with humorous dialogue. Try not to be funny just for humor’s sake. See if you can weave in a piece 
of factual information (Lard’s stats. about Chicken Nuggets), along with a unique character trait (Bones wearing gloves to keep from absorbing calories through his skin.)

I hope these exercises help you think about characterization in a less conventional way. Thanks for letting me stop by!
Sherry
www.SherryShahan.com

Readers, if you haven't already done so, head on over to Friday's post and enter for a chance to win your own autographed copy of  Skin and Bones (A. Whitman).

Good luck and Happy writing!
Carmela

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45. Texts from Jane Eyre

What’s there to say about Mallory Ortberg’s Texts from Jane Eyre except what fun! When I first began seeing the book around the interwebs I thought, pfft, how stupid, this is as bad as turning Pride and Prejudice into a story about zombies. But I was wrong. This my friends is a delightful book of humor. Who cares that Circe and Odysseus didn’t have phones? If they did I’m sure they would have texted each other something like this:

where did the pigs come from Circe

i don’t know
a pig farm
a pig mommy and a pig daddy who loved each other very much and gave each other a special handshake

CIRCE

oh my god okay fine
they’re your crew, you got me
I turned all of your friends into pigs

why did you turn my friends into pigs

I don’t know
maybe the real question is
why are your friends
so turn-into-pigsable

Ortberg is great at capturing the absurdity, oddness, or quirk of story or character, or even real life authors. Like the spoof of John Donne and his poem The Flea:

it means we’re basically married
it has my blood and your blood in it
so
you’ve technically already had sex with me
and you might as well do it again

I don’t
wait
but there could be a lot of other blood in there too

well we might have to have sex with all those people too

Or Henry David Thoreau texting Ralph Waldo Emerson:

o you know whos my family ralph

who

these squirrels
these squirrels and this chipmunk and that crow there

the crow on the chimney?

NO
not that one
god i hate that one
hes not my family
hes a fucking asshole

There are also paranoid texts from J. Alfred Prufrock and texts from the Lorax cracked me up. There were a few I had a hard time relating too since I never read any of the Sweet Valley High books, the Baby-sitters Club or the American Girls. I did laugh at the texts between Nancy Drew and her boyfriend Ned though.

Texts from Jane Eyre is a quick, light book sure to make you laugh more than a few times. I can promise that if you are reading it with someone else in the room you will want to read some of the texts aloud to that person in order to share the fun. And if you enjoy Ortberg’s humor, you can catch it nearly daily at The Toast.


Filed under: Books, Humor, Reviews Tagged: Mallory Ortberg

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46. IA Talks to Tara Jacoby About Her Illustrations for Gawker

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[Very Blessed New Mom Wishes She Had Been Warned More About Blessings – Article]

You may have noticed something happening over at Gawker media.

Things have been way visually cooler over there for the past year, thanks to the efforts of Illustrator Tara Jacoby and Art Director/Illustrator Jim Cooke. Last April (2014), Cooke – on behalf of Gawker Media – put out a call for a “staff illustrator”.

We’re looking for a graphic design and illustration junkie with an editorial focus. You can read a post, conceptualize an interesting visual solution, and execute an image that will make that post better…within an hour or two. You are clever and have a keen sense of humor, and your portfolio reflects this.

Tara Jacoby turned out to be the perfect choice for the job. Her work brings just the right balance of humor, wit, and humanity to Gawker’s incredibly wide range of topics and compelling headlines. Here at Illustration Age we always strive to celebrate the people, publications and organizations that embrace the use of illustration, and next week we’ll be sharing our conversation with AD Jim Cooke about Gawker’s motivations for doing just that.

But first, we think it makes sense to start with the images themselves, so we’ve collaborated with Tara to highlight some of our favorite illustrations of hers and also take the opportunity to pick her brain about her experience working with Gawker over the past year. Enjoy!

lfiwl9seowdwk7qwseaf[How to Get Your Sex Tape Off the Internet – Article]

portrait1.jpgILLUSTRATION AGE: What inspired you to answer Gawker’s call for an in-house illustrator?

TARA JACOBY: I had been working as the graphic designer at the Society of Illustrators and freelancing. I’d looked to change gears and focus on illustration and considered going freelance full-time. To be honest, I had no idea Gawker was hiring. A friend had sent me the link twice before I even read it. When I actually did read it, it felt like the stars had aligned. I had to have it. This job was tailor-made for me. So, I applied immediately.

Sometimes the job feels too good to be true. I cannot believe that I’m excited to go to work everyday. You know when people say “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life”… well, they were right!

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[Here Is What It’s Like to Do a ‘Soup Cleanse’ – Article]

Fun (after the) fact: Jim had me come into the office for a trial day after my interview. I completely blew it. He sat me at the “smelly Deadspin table” and I sat there silently freaking out and frantically sketching ideas, reading and re-reading the assignments as my career hung in the balance. I basically had an eight hour anxiety attack. I still can’t believe that he hired me after that.

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[Why You’re So Horny During Your Period – Article]

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[Twenty Days of Harassment and Racism as an American Apparel Employee – Article]

IA: What’s it like to work under rapid-fire deadlines on such a regular basis?

TJ: Well, had you asked me that in June, my head might have exploded from all of the pressure. At first, I was completely stressed out. I tend to overthink… let me see… well, everything. The first couple of weeks I was waking up at 4:30 every morning just to mentally prepare myself for the day ahead. I basically drove myself insane. I think I hid my neurosis pretty well? I’m not sure. All I knew was, Jim hadn’t canned me yet, so everything was copacetic.

Now, I actually think it’s refreshing to work under rapid-fire. You don’t have time to overthink anything. And being a perfectionist, I feel like this really helped me loosen up both technically and creatively.

Overall, I love it. Typically, each one of us does 3-5 illustrations in a day, depending on how busy we are. That doesn’t include the other more design-oriented images we make. The three of us are constantly working. By the end of the week we can’t even remember all of the things we’ve done. Over a course of 7 months, I’ve done roughly 500 or so illustrations. I’ve never been so productive in my entire life.

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[You Prefer to Date Fat Guys So You Don’t Feel So Bad About Yourself – Article]

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[When You’re a Black Woman, You’re Never Good Enough to Be a Victim – Article]

IA: How much creative freedom do you feel like you have on these illustrations?

TJ: The organization as a whole is encouraged to be bold and honest. Nick Denton once said, “We are beholden to no one.”  That holds true for the art department as well. We can draw whatever we want with no apologies. That’s the beauty of working for a truly independent media company. They are always challenging you to push the limits and speak your mind. I’ll admit, sometimes we do get a little carried away, but that’s not a terrible thing.

If I think that something might be going too far (or not far enough), I’ll ask Jim and he’ll point me back in the right direction. When Disney Dudes’ Dicks came out I was very concerned about offending the Disney loving masses, but Jim gave me some sage advice: “If you’re not offending someone, you’re not doing it right.”

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[How to Keep Photos of Your Naked Body Off the Internet – Article]

wgig8eidorh8qtvuemyh[Disney Dudes’ Dicks: What Your Favorite Princes Look Like Naked – Article]

IA: To end on a light note, many of your illustrations deal with sexual themes. What does your mother think about that?

TJ: My mom rules. My whole family does. I could draw pretty much anything and they’d support me. They always have. After the first couple of weeks, they all just accepted that if they ask about my job, they better be ready for some NSFW art. I’m lucky to have a family with a few loose screws and a great sense of humor.

Thanks to Tara Jacoby and Gawker Media for their contributions to this article. Stay tuned for our conversation with Gawker Art Director Jim Cooke!

More places to find Tara Jacoby:


Filed under: Interviews

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47. Cybils 2014 Review: EL DEAFO by Cece Bell

Summary: Before writing up this post, I honestly didn't realize that El Deafo by Cece Bell had won the 2015 Newbery Award. Well, now it's also won a Cybils Award for 2014, in the Elementary and Middle Grade Graphic Novels category! And I'm thrilled... Read the rest of this post

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48. Cybils Finalist Review: STRANGE FRUIT, VOLUME I by Joel Christian Gill

Summary: In a recent NPR interview, Joel Christian Gill said, "These stories are quintessentially American stories. I can't say that enough. It's not that I dislike Black History Month. I just don't think Black History Month is enough." I agree... Read the rest of this post

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49. The Manager, by Caroline Stellings | Book Review

This funny novel is told through the eyes of seventeen-year-old Ellie, but the real star is her older sister Tina. They live in Whitney Pier over the gym where their father, a former boxer, trains aspiring boxers.

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50. Cybils Finalist Review: THE DUMBEST IDEA EVER! by Jimmy Gownley

Summary: This book has got a great title. Rest assured the premise lives up to the promise. This was one of my personal favorite titles from this year's excellent crop of Cybils graphic novel finalists. The autobiographical story of how the author... Read the rest of this post

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