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When my kids were young, they'd often find nests on the ground after violent spring storms. Sadly, doomed baby birds were sometimes lying in the grass nearby . . . vulnerable to hungry barn cats.
Once, we tried to save a little robin that was hopping around, only a week or so from being ready to fly. I put a ladder against the tree and climbed up, holding the little guy gingerly in one hand, and returned it to its (too low) nest. Trouble was, he jumped right out again. One of the kids ran inside for an Easter basket. We tossed in a few handfuls of grass, tied the handle to the branch near the nest, and, once again, I took the little bird up and placed him inside. Ploop! He was back on the ground before I was.
Photo by Sande LaFaut (used with permission)
Four or five cats were closing in fast, and one snatched the little guy before we could retrieve him, then streaked away. Nature can be cruel, or at least it would seem so to us humans.
But it always bugged me that that little bird, so close to independence, met such a tragic end. Which is why I wrote Tom's Tweet, a story in which a curmudgeonly cat's impulsive good deed goes wildly haywire when he ends up having to babysit a demanding little nestling all day. This time, I made sure the story had a happy ending, the one I wished had happened in real life: the two become friends.
So for today's writing workout:
Think back to a real-life situation, one in which you made the wrong decision or that you simply wish had ended differently, then create a story around the incident – not the way it really happened, but with a happier or more satisfying ending.
(Re)learning all things dinosaur was a blast. New species are being discovered all the time, often by everyday folks. I had no idea how far we'd come in our dino knowledge. A tiny sampling:
-Scientists know what certain dinos ate because they sometimes find bones from smaller animals lying in the stomach area of a dino skeleton.
-Slower-moving dinos often had deadly, whip-like tails to fight off predators.
-Dino bones have been discovered on every continent – including Antarctica.
-Scientists used to believe a Stegosaurus could flap the plates on its back to keep itself cool.
So where do the Angry Birds come in? Here's the copy from the back cover:
"It's an extraordinary day on Piggy Island because the Angry Birds haven't lost their eggs, they've FOUND something amazing: a bone! Not a plain old bone – a HUGE and very old bone. What kind of giant creature could this bone have come from? That's a question for Mighty Eagle – the wisest bird they know. Join the Angry Birds on their imaginary trip through time to discover the most awesome animals ever to roam this planet: the dinosaurs!"
As Mighty Eagle helps the Birds imagine prehistoric times, they all wear tiny animals skins and bones in their head feathers, ala Bamm-Bamm Rubble. Very cute.
The book also answers these questions . . .
-What was Earth like in the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous time periods?
-How are fossils created?
-How do scientists determine a fossil's age?
-How are dinosaurs related to modern birds?
-How are all those dino names pronounced?
Throughout the book, Franco Tempesta's spectacular paintings give kids an idea of how dinosaurs might have looked (click on his name to see for yourself!). His colorful and realistic dinos (48 of them!) all but leap off the pages.
Back matter includes a world map showing where various dinosaur bones have been found, a fun-filled quiz, a glossary, and dino-related activities for kids.
If you know a dinosaur-loving kid, or one who is nuts about the Angry Birds, enter below to win a copy of Angry Birds Playground: Dinosaurs (National Geographic). In your comment, please let us know who you'd be sharing the book with.
Nickelodeon hosted the 25th annual Kids’ Choice Awards this weekend (where the top stars in the youth world went home with orange blimps and slime covered clothes. It’s no surprise that Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez were among the big... Read the rest of this post
A few years ago, I fell into one of those "right time, right place" opportunities – a picture book manuscript my agent submitted to National Geographic Kids miraculously brought an offer to author a series of softcover nonfiction books for 4-6 year olds. I had great fun writing five Picture the Seasons books before the series was discontinued.
Luckily, my editor thought of me again this past April, asking if I'd be interested in a project that required a steep learning curve and called for somebody who a) was comfortable writing both fiction and nonfiction, b) could devote a month or two to this project (during which there'd likely be no time for a personal life), and c) could write quickly.
I replied, "Sure, I can do that!"
(Note: "Sure, I can do that!" is my standard answer to most any editorial request. Whether or not I'm actually confident that I'm able to do what they're asking is irrelevant. A willing attitude and an internet connection make it possible to teach yourself just about anything, right?)
A week later I learned project details. The book would be a *takes a deep breath* 128-page hardcover fiction/nonfiction mashup featuring the Angry Birds on an around-the-world adventure, during which they'd meet and learn about dozens of real animals as they searched five distinct habitats for their eggs, which their pig enemies had stolen, with back matter the likes of which I'd never tackled before. I'd be choosing the habitat locations and about 40 animals, writing nonfiction info about each, funny dialogue for the Angry Birds - each with their own personalities, chapter intros, and the general storyline launching the birds on their adventure, recapping their trip at the end, then wrapping up their story.
I was in over my head, and I knew it. Sheesh, just reading the above paragraph again now makes my heart rate rise. This was a massive project, and I had no idea where on earth (literally) to begin.
But then I remembered the anecdote Anne Lamott tells of her childhood, the one in which her father gave writing advice to her brother, who was struggling to write a school report: "Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird." Couldn't be much more appropriate in this case!
By one week into the six it took to research and write the book, I was having the time of my life. This book stretched me as a writer, taught me how much work (from so many people!) goes into a project like this, and pushed me into places I hadn't imagined I could go. And what writer wouldn't love knowing the project she's working on in May and June is scheduled for release six months later?! (I waited five years for my last picture book, Tom's Tweet. Totally worth it, but still.)
Which brings me to today. I'm happy to announce that my newest publication, Angry Birds Playground: Animals (National Geographic) has hit bookstore shelves. I hope you'll take a look. It's targeted to kids 4-6 years old, but fun for older readers, too. The book follows the Angry Birds through the Amazon rainforest, the Mojave desert, across the Pacific Ocean, to the grasslands of Tasmania and Tanzania (thanks to a confused sea turtle, the Birds have to visit both), and both the Arctic and Antarctic (thanks to a confused Angry Bird, who is certain that penguins live in the Arctic). They meet caimans and sloths, lizards and bats, otters and whales, black swans and Tasmanian devils, lions and elephants, seals and penguins. Pandas? Um, no. I'll tell you about that Wednesday.
To win an autographed copy, all you have to do is enter our drawing.
You may enter the contest one of two ways: 1) by posting a comment below OR 2) by sending an email to teachingauthors [at] gmail [dot] com with "Book Giveaway" in the subject line.
Whichever way you enter, you MUST give us your first and last name AND tell us how you follow us. If you enter via a comment, you MUST include a valid email address (formatted this way: youremail [at] gmail [dot] com) in your comment.
Contest open only to residents of the United States. Incomplete entries will be discarded. Entry deadline is 11 pm (CST) Thursday, November 15, 2012 (yes, this is a short one!). Winners will be announced Friday, November 16, 2012. Good luck!
Part of the back matter in Angry Birds Playground: Animals was to be a double-page spread filled with activities meant to assist parents in helping their children take learning beyond the pages of the book. I'd need 20 or so activities. I tried to think of this task as little as possible while I wrote the rest of the book's text. Eventually, though, the writing of those pages could no longer be ignored. But, hey. There were dozens of animals in the book. Surely I could think of 20 activities that kinda-sorta had something to do with featured animals, or find some on the internet I could adapt to my purposes.
The first one I thought up was for kids to balance a ball atop their feet, similar to the way penguin parents keep an egg up off the ice. Was that even physically possible for little kids? It's been awhile (a long while) since my own kids were in the target age group (4-6 year olds). I needed help. I needed beta testers.
I immediately though of Jacob and Joshua, sons of my Iowa author friend, Becky (I'd be happy to send you details about Becky's fabulous books if you want to e-mail me privately, but I'm not including her last name here in order to protect the boys' privacy on the sometimes creepy internet).
The boys were up for it, so I flooded Becky's e-mail inbox with activities as I wrote them. Jacob and Joshua gamely tried SO many. The ball balancing didn't make the cut, but here they are (along with their sister, Anna), testing the milk carton boats they made....
For months, their mom kept a secret. A couple of weekends ago, I saw the family at a book festival and was finally able to hand Jacob and Joshua copies of "our book" and watch their reactions when they saw their names on the dedication page. Jacob turned to hide a smile. Joshua clasped the book to his chest and jumped in stompy circles.
Could anything be better than that? Well, maybe. Toss in a little serendipity....
The pandas on the cover are adorable. But since there were no pandas inside (long story), I was feeling a little "meh" about it. Until Becky saw the book and instantly went melty over the cover. See, her entire family traveled to China in 2010 to adopt Joshua. In her own words: "Before we met Joshua, we were able to send him one package [orig e-mail included photos]. Do you see the stuffed panda? It was one of our first gifts to Joshua. He slept with it, and carried it all the way home to Iowa. His brother Jacob loved the panda so much, he picked one of his own to be his special souvenir. When our family first saw the two pandas on the cover of Angry Birds Playground, we all had the same thought. 'Look, it's Jacob and Joshua!' My mother even commented on the pandas when she first saw the book. Pandas remind us of Joshua's birth country, and both Jacob and Joshua love them."
Suddenly, two little pandas were exactly right.
Remember to enter our giveaway to win an autographed copy of Angry Birds Playground: Animals. For contest details, see Monday's post. The deadline is 11pm (CST) tomorrow (Thursday), and the winner will be announced Friday.
I have a Nook, I love my Nook, I read lots of books on my Nook. (Very handy for reading books from NetGalley!) I made the mistake of buying ANGRY BIRDS for my Nook this summer. That game is addictive! Those green little pigs... how they smile at me if I don't destroy them! Can't we all just get along? Pigs and birds aren't really all that different. I haven't used my Nook to read since I bought this game. I think there are 13,000 levels... Is there a 12 step program for Angry Birds?
The battle between Google+ and Facebook heats up and this time it’s over games! (Google+ launched a game feature yesterday where users can play within the social network and with other Google+ users. But hours later, Facebook expanded its... Read the rest of this post
I stole this fun lunch idea from here. It was gobbled up, easy to make and I had most of the stuff - black olives (cherry tomatoes and carrots sticks were added to the "nest" under the bird for more veggies after the photo), cream cheese, carrots (beak), ham (ironic for the pigs isn't it?) and bagels. It was complete surprise for the boys when they opened their lunch at school - hee,hee.
Spotify just got even cooler with an enhanced version of Spotify Radio (which lets users create unlimited stations by artist, track, or genre, receive recommendations with an improved feature, and skip as many songs as they wish. This should make... Read the rest of this post
Aside from videos of cats playing the piano and laughing babies, YouTube has a lot of educational material to offer (which is now easier for teachers and students to access with YouTube for Schools. The educational hub curates content from YouTube... Read the rest of this post
Get ready for Hunger Games the, uh, game… (Lionsgate is teaming up with Funtactix to build a social game that takes place in the world of Panem. Debuting the same day as the movie, it will give us the first official map of the futuristic... Read the rest of this post
Tony Hawk to host 'Hall of Game Awards' on Cartoon Network (The latest entry in an increasingly crowded award space will honor viewer-voted sports stars and sports moments from the past year. Also, ratings are in for the "Hannah Montana" series... Read the rest of this post
The teens in my library are app-crazy! They are asking hard questions like, “I’ve made this app for my droid, but I need help getting the bugs out.” Then I’ve got the adults who don’t know an app from their, well, you know. Can you help me and my patrons sort out the ins and outs of apps? Tell me more about the app marketplace and how the web is being overtaken by the entirely more convenient app world!
First of all, an App is just a program that you can run on a device. Some you can download for free. Others require payment. For example, database companies such as Gale are creating apps that allow your patrons to search your databases from their phones or other devices. Apps are available from company websites or at app stores like the Google Apps Marketplace or the Apple App Store.
So what apps should you be investigating as a librarian?
Check out Joyce Valenza’s post on top research apps. These aren’t just for your use – encourage your teens to load and use them. It’s the perfect example of meeting them where they are: your library resources on their omnipresent phone.
If you still aren’t convinced that apps are for you, go back and read Linda Braun’s post from Day 2. She makes a great case for why you should be paying attention to apps.
What your teens might want to know about apps is how to design them and get them out into the world. Maybe they’re inspired by the fourteen year-old whose Bubble Ball game app beat out Angry Birds for the top spot in the app store in January.
A scan of the web finds some great how-to articles like Popular Science’s How to Make an iPhone App or The Developer’s Guide for Android. But let’s draw on our collective wisdom. How do you use apps in your library? Have you helped a patron make an app and put it up for sale? Have you created an app just for your library? Share your expertise!
Thanks to Jake Rundle of the Hastings Public Library for suggesting questions about apps. If you have a topic you’d like to see covered, please email Megan Blakemore.
Check out the original songs (by the cast of “Glee.” Ryan Seacrest got the exclusive debut today on his radio show, and from the sound of it, he’s a fan. New York Magazine, however, not so much) (Billboard)
- Surprise! Online... Read the rest of this post
On SNL this weekend, Miley Cyrus (cracked wise about the Disney School Of Acting and nailed Justin Bieber’s swagger. She proved her comedic timing, but more important, she made a statement about being a grown-up. In her opening skit, she... Read the rest of this post
‘Inbetweeners’ becomes the latest British show (to get an MTV remake. The series focuses on four middle class high school boys who aren’t in with the in crowd, but also aren’t quite nerdy. It sounds way less controversial... Read the rest of this post
Zynga partners with Lady Gaga (for GagaVille, a neighboring farm to FarmVille. Is this also possibly the source of meat for her meat dress? The “farm” debuts on May 17 and features unicorns and sheep on motorcycles. Oh Gaga, now... Read the rest of this post
CBS News is targeting the (Facebook and Internet generations with an online news show, “What’s Trending,” which aims to give more context to the headlines that are trending on social media. In other social net news, young... Read the rest of this post
Facebook is about to become even more addicting (with a photo sharing application for iPhones. As sending images via mobile devices becomes increasingly popular, it’s no surprise that Facebook wants to expand its technology. The social network... Read the rest of this post
All that talk about the movie industry being in trouble (seems to have vanished over the weekend with news that “Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” became the eighth movie ever to pass the $1 billion worldwide box office mark.... Read the rest of this post