What is JacketFlap

  • JacketFlap connects you to the work of more than 200,000 authors, illustrators, publishers and other creators of books for Children and Young Adults. The site is updated daily with information about every book, author, illustrator, and publisher in the children's / young adult book industry. Members include published authors and illustrators, librarians, agents, editors, publicists, booksellers, publishers and fans.
    Join now (it's free).

Sort Blog Posts

Sort Posts by:

  • in

Suggest a Blog

Enter a Blog's Feed URL below and click Submit:

Most Commented Posts

In the past 7 days

Recent Posts

(tagged with 'Research')

Recent Comments

JacketFlap Sponsors

Spread the word about books.
Put this Widget on your blog!
  • Powered by JacketFlap.com

Are you a book Publisher?
Learn about Widgets now!

Advertise on JacketFlap

MyJacketFlap Blogs

  • Login or Register for free to create your own customized page of blog posts from your favorite blogs. You can also add blogs by clicking the "Add to MyJacketFlap" links next to the blog name in each post.

Blog Posts by Date

Click days in this calendar to see posts by day or month
new posts in all blogs
Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Research, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 327
1. Eating Dessert First

The whole idea of traveling is to learn about new places and new people.  You can buy tours where the itinerary is planned by someone else.  But for me, the best trips are the ones where I start the process that will create a trip to research a new project.  Make no mistake; it takes time and attention to plan such a trip.  This winter I made two trips to research my next book How Could We Foil a Flood?I’m particularly interested in the engineering aspect of flood control because more than forty percent of loss of life and property from natural disasters comes from flooding, and because we’ve been engineering to prevent flooding for at least 1000 years.  Most other natural disasters have had little to no engineering applied to controlling the phenomenon—we’re struggling hard enough learning how to predict them.

So the first question I ask, after reading extensively is on the subject is, who knows about this?  It is always useful to start looking for contact information though tourism or government sources.  So I made contact with the Mississippi Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) who connected me to the ACE in New Orleans, where they’re putting the finishing touches on an enormous post-Katrina resiliency post-flooding  project.  (It is no longer politically correct to call it “flood control.”) 
Lexi poses next to the new West Closure Pumping Station
--the most powerful pump in the world.
It can fill an olympic-sized swimming pool in 5 seconds.
Next, I contact the tourism people and tell them where I plan to visit and ask if I can get media rates on accommodations, freebies, etc.  Since New Orleans, a tourism mecca,  was on the itinerary, I was booked into a great hotel in the French Quarter at an affordable price.  My nineteen-year-old granddaughter, Lexi, had approached me last fall, “Please, please, please Gran, I’ve never been anywhere or seen anything.  Take me with you.”  How could I resist that gift?  My response,  “Okay, but you’ll have to work.  I need you to listen to all the interviews, take photos and videos, and keep track of all my contacts.”  And so the deal was struck.  It took a good three months to make the arrangements.
Here I am in front of some major sluices that keep the North Sea from flooding
the lowlands.  It was cold and windy with wind turbines everywhere.

The second trip I made was to the place where they know more about keeping the sea at bay than any other nation—the Netherlands.  Here, a peculiar serendipity  (not unusual for these amazing trips) played a role.  Over Thanksgiving my son had new guests—his wife’s mother’s first cousin from Scotland and her Dutch husband, Wim—were visiting from Canada. I told Wim I was planning to visit his country, so he offered the help of his brother Giovanni and his wife, Mechtild, who lived in the Hague.  Giovanni was a recently retired diplomat with time on his hands.  They stepped up and offered me a place to stay and would drive me to all my venues. In effect, they would do the job Lexi had done.  (I had been planning to take Lexi along, but she’s in her first year of college/nursing school with a heavy schedule and prioritized well.  She couldn’t take the time to come.  I’m proud of her for that.) 
I always thank the people I interview with a signed book and
an acknowledgment when the new book is published
The arrangements and schedule of what I’d see and who I’d interview was done by Arjan Braamskamp of the Dutch Consulate in NYC.  It was an amazing, exhausting and rigorous schedule.  I was wished “bon voyage” in person by Rob de Vos, the Consul General who happens to be a friend of Giovanni (talk about a small world!)
My one day to relax was two weeks before the tulips so I settled for
tiptoeing through the crocuses in the Hague.
These trips are like eating dessert first. Now comes the hard part of sifting through all the material and crafting it into something new, which will ignite the desire to learn from my readers.

0 Comments on Eating Dessert First as of 4/2/2014 1:37:00 AM
Add a Comment
2. Destruction, Disruption, and Defiance: Jewish Resistance in the Holocaust

In discussing the persecution of European Jews in the years before and during World War II, my students would often ask, "How could they let this happen?" Meaning, how could the rest of the world stand by and do nothing? For all the answers I can help students to find, I still can't answer this question myself.

The question asked nearly as often, however, is this: "Why didn't the Jews fight back?" But to that question I can readily answer, "They did. They did fight back. But realize that it wasn't just with guns; even children your age found ways to disrupt and defy the Nazis who tried to exterminate them."

In teaching the topic of Jewish resistance, I've found a great resource in an impressive series of six books from Enslow Publishing titled True Stories of Teens in the Holocaust. This series explores, through hundreds of primary documents and photographs, the diverse experiences of Jewish and non-Jewish youth caught up in the Holocaust.

Another terrific single-volume resource for any middle or high school classroom is Doreen Rapapport's Beyond Courage: The Untold Story of Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust, published by Candlewick Press.

Check out the books below, and then read on for suggested sites for helping students learn history through analyzing primary sources.

Courageous Teen Resisters: Primary Sources from the Holocaust

The popular title Courageous Teen Resisters: Primary Sources from the Holocaust documents both violent and nonviolent defiance of Nazi terrorism, from the increasingly overt persecution of early 1930s Germany to resistance efforts in France to the twenty-seven days of the Warsaw uprising. Readers learn how subtle and secretive efforts by Jews and Gentile sympathizers disrupted and distracted occupying enemy troops in some circumstances, while outright armed resistance and acts of sabotage wreaked chaos and destruction in others.

From Courageous Teen Resisters:

Courageous Teen Resisters is recommended as a stand-alone volume for students seeking to learn more about Jewish Resistance, as well an informational text companion to Heroes of the Holocaust: True Stories of Rescues by Teens (available from Scholastic).

The remaining five titles in the Enslow series are described below with a short publisher's summary or excerpt as well as recommended companion titles. This series is especially useful in text pairings not only to meet demands of the Common Core emphasis on informational texts, but to provide students with the necessary historical and social contexts needed to truly appreciate biography and historical fiction rooted in the Holocaust. (If you're seeking Holocaust texts for lower-level readers, be sure to check out my Annotated List of Holocaust Picture Books).

Youth Destroyed - The Nazi Camps
"Alice Lok was deported to Auschwitz, a Nazi death camp, in 1944. Upon her arrival, she faced a "selection." Alice had to stand in line as a Nazi doctor examined the new camp inmates. If the doctor pointed one direction, it meant hard labor—but labor meant life. If the doctor pointed the other way, that meant immediate death. Alice was lucky. She survived Auschwitz and two other camps. However, millions of Jews were not so lucky."  ~ from the publisher
Youth Destroyed - The Nazi Camps is recommended as an informational text companion to The Devil's Arithmetic (gr. 6-8), Prisoner B-3087 (gr. 6-9; see my review here), Four Perfect Pebbles: A Holocaust Story (gr. 4-6), Hana's Suitcase (gr. 4-5), Elly: My True Story of the Holocaust (gr. 5-7), I am a Star: Child of the Holocaust (gr. 5-7), Surviving Hitler: A Boy in the Nazi Death Camps (gr. 5-8), I Have Lived A Thousand Years: Growing Up In The Holocaust (gr. 8-12), and Night (grades 9-up).

Trapped - Youth in the Nazi Ghettos
"(M)any Jewish youth living in the ghettos in Europe... faced death, fear, hunger, hard labor, and disease everyday. Millions of Jews were forced into ghettos, where the Nazis kept them until they could be deported to the death camps."  ~ from the publisher

For this title I'd recommend Children in the Ghetto, an interactive site which describes itself as
"...A website about children, written for children. It portrays life during the Holocaust from the viewpoint of children who lived in the ghetto, while attempting to make the complex experience of life in the ghetto as accessible as possible to today’s children.

Along with the description of the hardships of ghetto life, it also presents the courage, steadfastness and creativity involved in the children’s lives. One of the most important messages to be learned is that despite the hardships, there were those who struggled to maintain humanitarian and philanthropic values, care for one another, and continue a cultural and spiritual life."
By examining writings, artifacts, and first hand interviews, students gain an understanding of the "anything-to-survive" mentality which the ghetto created, and demanded, of its inhabitants. Students can explore freely, taking advantage of the interactive elements, or respond to prompts in writing using the printable handouts (I downloaded the handouts, available in Word format, and adapted them according to my lesson objectives).

Once students have interacted with this site, they will have a mental bank of sites, sounds, stories, and symbols from which to draw upon, greatly increasing their understanding and appreciation of this nonfiction text as well as any novel with which they're working.

Trapped - Youth in the Nazi Ghettos is recommended as an informational text companion to The Island on Bird Street (gr. 4-6), Milkweed (gr. 6-8), Yellow Star (gr. 5-8), and Daniel's Story (gr. 4-8).

Escape - Teens on the Run
"Thousands of Jews lived on the run during the Holocaust. Some were able to escape Germany before the war started. Others had to move throughout Europe to flee the Nazis. And many more could not escape at all."  ~ from the publisher

From Escape - Teens on the Run

Escape: Teens on the Run is recommended as an informational text companion to Number the Stars (gr. 4-5), The Night Spies (gr. 3-5), When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit (gr. 4-6), Escape: Children of the Holocaust (gr. 5-7), Run, Boy, Run (gr. 5-8), Once (gr. 6-10), and Survivors: True Stories of Children of the Holocaust (grades 5-8).

Hidden Teens, Hidden Lives
"(T)housands of Jews went into hiding during the Holocaust. Barns, trapdoors, bunkers, secret attics, forged identity papers, and fake names became tools for survival."  ~ from the publisher
The fate of Jews who were hidden is of special interest to students. Even in a classroom that chooses not to embark upon a full Holocaust unit, time can certainly be devoted to learning about Jews who went into hiding rather than face extermination by the Nazis.

The uncertainty of such a choice is reflected in this diary entry from Anne Frank which appears in the book:

Hidden Teens, Hidden Lives is recommended as an informational text companion to Number the Stars (gr. 4-5), Jacob's Rescue (gr. 3-5), The Upstairs Room (gr. 4-5), Hidden Like Anne Frank: 14 True Stories of Survival (gr. 4-6), Anne Frank (10 Days) (gr. 5-7), The Hidden Girl: A True Story of the Holocaust (gr. 4-6), Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl (gr. 7-up), and The Book Thief (gr, 8-up).

Shattered Youth in Nazi Germany
"Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party's rise to power in the 1930s changed life dramatically for all people living in Germany. Hitler used propaganda, fear, and brutality as his main weapons. Jewish children faced strong antiSemitism in their schools and on the street, and saw their families ripped apart. Non-Jewish children deemed "undesirable" suffered a similar fate. "Aryan" children were forced to enter Hitler Youth groups or endure humiliation."  ~ from the publisher

This book is a real stand-out as it not only chronicles the experience of Jews in Nazi Germany, but also Gentiles who were reluctant to submit to Nazi ideologies.

Shattered Youth in Nazi Germany is recommended as an informational text companion to The Big Lie (gr. 3-5), The Boy Who Dared (gr. 6-8), The Boy on the Wooden Box: How the Impossible Became Possible . . . on Schindler's List (gr. 5-9), Someone Named Eva (gr. 6-9), Parallel Journeys (gr. 6-8), The Book Thief (gr. 9-up), Hitler's Youth: Growing Up in Hitler's Shadow (gr. 6-12), and The Berlin Boxing Club (gr. 9-12).

Beyond Courage: The Untold Story of Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust

If you're looking for a single-volume resource for any middle or high school classroom, I recommend Doreen Rappaport's multiple award winning Beyond Courage: The Untold Story of Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust, published by Candlewick Press.

Like all of Candlewick's titles, this text is supported by a number of resources available from the publisher's site, including a full page spread, a teacher's guide, an interview with a survivor, and an audio excerpt. The book itself includes primary source excerpts, maps, a pronunciation guide, timeline, index, and sources.

In speaking of her accomplishment (which took five years to research and write), author Doreen Rappaport says,
"How Jews organized themselves in order to survive and defy their enemy is an important but still neglected piece of history. I present a sampling of actions, efforts, and heroism with the hope that I can play a role in helping to correct the damaging and persistent belief that Jews ‘went like sheep to the slaughter.’"
Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation

A key resource for teaching Jewish resistance, and for discovering a multitude of primary sources, is the web site of the Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation, whose key mission is "to develop and distribute effective educational materials about the Jewish partisans and their life lessons, bringing the celebration of heroic resistance against tyranny into educational and cultural organizations."

Over 30,000 Jewish partisans, or “members of an organized body of fighters who attack or harass an enemy, especially within occupied territory.” joined the hundreds of thousands of non-Jewish resistance fighters who fought the Nazis. Interestingly, however, their assistance was not always welcome, as antisemitism was often common in non-Jewish resistance groups.

This comprehensive and well constructed site offers teachers and students myriad free resources including:
  • Professional Development modules which can be completed for continuing education credits (CEUs)  (I highly recommend that prior to using this site you complete at least the first module, to better understand how to best access the site's videos, articles, lesson plans, student hand-outs, and more);
  • An extensive film collection, containing 3 to 20 minute films trhough which students can "witness the Jewish partisans' stories of endurance, victory, and struggle;"
  • Interactive maps of Jewish partisan activity;
  • A Virtual Underground Bunker;
  • An Image Gallery (captioned and sourced); 
  • Downloads for the classroom and a Resource Search option; and
  • A very unique tool called Someone Like Me, where a students enter a combination of characteristics which describe themselves, and the site presents a partisan who matches those characteristics. Students can then explore the life and work of that partisan through any of the resource links above.
Primary Sources

Because the impact of Holocaust education relies heavily upon students learning the true events of this tragedy, primary sources should play a role in every Holocaust unit. The JPEF site described above provides a wonderful collection of sources from which to choose, but below I have compiled a number of additional resources which educators may find useful in planning their instruction. As always, please reach out and let me know what other sites, books, and documents you've found useful.

Why Should I Use Primary Sources?

Reading Primary Sources: An Introduction for Students
From Learn NC, a step-by-step guide for students examining primary sources, with specific questions divided into five layers of questioning.

Primary Document Webinar
This hour long recorded webinar present teachers with not only reasons for using primary sources, but also ten really easy-to-implement ideas for starting with primary sources in the classroom.

Making Sense of Evidence
This is a highly recommended collection of articles written by experts in the field on how to make sense of films, oral histories, numbers, maps, advertisements, and more. While written by the experts, students will find the language they use to be accessible. From the site:
“Making Sense of Documents” provide strategies for analyzing online primary materials, with interactive exercises and a guide to traditional and online sources. “Scholars in Action” segments show how scholars puzzle out the meaning of different kinds of primary sources, allowing you to try to make sense of a document yourself then providing audio clips in which leading scholars interpret the document and discuss strategies for overall analysis.
Because of the career connections, this site is a valuable tool for achieving College and Workplace Readiness goals.

Engaging Students with Primary Sourcesfrom Smithsonian’s History Explorer site
A 64 page pdf that serves as an excellent introduction to using primary sources.

Primary Sources Fitting into CCSS
Brief article showing how instruction with primary docs helps fulfill CCSS.

Teaching the Holocaust with Primary Sources
From Eastern Illionis University, a Holocaust Unit utilizing resources provided by the Library of Congress.

Library of Congress: Why Use Primary Sources?
Very brief pdf discusses reasons in bullets; good for making your point when discussing unit plans with others.

Primary Sources Cautionary Tales (pdf article)
Considerations and concerns surrounding primary sources.

Where Can I Find Lesson Plans with Primary Sources?

I Witness
From the USC Shoah Foundation, this site contains over 1300 video testimonies and other digital resources, as well as assistance for educators seeking to use these tools in Holocaust education.

Response to the Holocaust: Resistance and Rescue(Holocaust and Human Rights Education Center)
A pdf format document filled with original writings and suggested student activities; you can also download the entire curriculum from the Holocaust and Human Rights Education Center.

Jewish Resistance: A Curriculum from The Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center of Florida
Lesson plans include original documents, along with suggested student questions to help analyze them.

The Power to Choose: Bystander or Rescuer?
Popular set of plans that has been online for some time; used by many educators as a good starting place for planning units.

Where Can I Find Additional Sites for Primary Sources?

PBS Learning Media - Interviews with Survivors and Rescuers
A good online source for interviews.

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Offers an ever-changing variety of resources, as well as searchable pages for research. Educators can often request free teaching materials as well.

PBS Resources on the Holocaust 
The search page of PBS provides a vast number of resources, including excerpts from shows which have appeared on public television.

Oral History from Virginia Holocaust Museum
Oral History Project provides witness of survivors and rescuers.

Dr. Seuss Went to War
Theodore Geisel was a radical political cartoonist who urged America to join "Europe's war," in large part due to the oppressive policies of Hitler's Nazi. But are Geisel's cartoons themselves a type of propaganda? See an earlier post here on Propaganda and Persuasion.

What Strategies or Tools are Available to Assist Students in Analyzing Sources?

SOAPS Primary Document Strategy
This pdf provides information about the SOAPS acrostic, which students can easily recall for use in analyzing primary sources of information.

Primary Source Analysis Tools from the Library of Congress
Several different tools in pdf form for analyzing oral histories, manuscripts, maps, movies, and more.

Document Analysis Worksheets from National Archive
These pdfs allow for blank printing or for students to type directly on them and then print out or save; very handy for conducting analysis online.

Analyzing a Primary Source Rubric
A rubric for scoring student efforts in using primary sources.

0 Comments on Destruction, Disruption, and Defiance: Jewish Resistance in the Holocaust as of 3/30/2014 12:43:00 AM
Add a Comment
3. Research and Discovery After Book is Published

On my mini book tour last week, I visited the lovely town of Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. While writing and researching about Anna Keichline for Women of Steel and Stone, Anna's grandniece, Nancy Perkins, asked if I'd be willing to allow the Bellefonte Art Museum to host an author reception when the book was published. I responded immediately, "But, of course."
Fast forward two years later and scheduled considering good driving conditions, I headed toward the center of Pennsylvania. My trip was filled with many fun surprises and observations.
Here are just a few of them:
Stayed in a Anna-designed house!
Anna's grandniece, Nancy, owns a home designed by Anna and asked me if I wanted to stay with her during my visit. What a treat! Almost surreal. What surprised me was the realization that one really doesn't get the true feel of a piece of architecture until you see the work first hand.
Anna Keichline Designed Home
Anna's houses were designed with many unique details.
The house reminded me of the California Bungalow I owned in Long Beach California - built in 1930 - but Anna's house had a basement, a second floor, and stairs to an attic. Some details that stood out to me were a cozy breakfast nook, beautiful fireplace, hardware for drapes on french doors, arched windows and matching doorknobs. 
Breakfast Nook 
 Hardware for Drapes
Kitchen Patent #1,612,730 1924
First Floor Bathroom
Harvey Apartments 1935
Decker House 1931
Bible Home 1916
Harvey House 1939
Model House 

Beautiful architecture can be torn down.
Sadly, the beautiful Garman Opera House was recently torn down. Anna's Cadillac Building is disrepair but the community is hoping that it will escape the wrecking ball.
Cadillac Building

Beautiful architecture can be transformed into other uses. 
In 2001, the Plaza Theatre was shut down and turned into the Plaza Centre Antique Gallery. Turning a art deco theatre to a two-story store changed the entire structure and feel of the building, but the beautiful ceiling details and unique wall coverings still remain. If you go to the very back of the second floor, you can still peek into the "crying room"--- a room for mothers to take their fussy babies and toddlers, a feature not found in theaters in the 1920s. 

Plaza Theatre 1925

Plaza Theatre Ceiling Detail
Crying Room in Back of Theatre
Anna's Life

Anna's Childhood Home
Anna's Cabin in Fishermen's Paradise

Grave Marker
Office Where Anna Worked w/ her Father
Historical Marker

Anna Featured on Bellefonte Monopoly

Book Signing in Anna K Exhibit

Nancy and I next to Anna

To get another perspective of Anna's life and the town of Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, here's an entertaining and informative YouTube video, that I just found.

0 Comments on Research and Discovery After Book is Published as of 3/28/2014 6:11:00 PM
Add a Comment
4. Nonfiction Research

One of the challenges is deciding how much of your research gets into the book and how much remains for research only.


0 Comments on Nonfiction Research as of 3/28/2014 3:17:00 PM
Add a Comment
5. YA Mythbusters

Okay, let's face it--a lot of books and movies don't accurately address teenage life. Like, I, for one, have never hit my head on a chandelier while drunk-dancing, which unfortunately means that I haven't been caught by a conveniently-placed Heath Ledger, either (womp). So let's examine a few of the misconceptions, shall we?

  • Bullying isn't as bad as it used to be.
    • *DISCLAIMER: My concept of "used to be" is drawn almost exclusively from nineties chick flicks.* Bullying is different, sure. It's needling. In a lot of cases, it's subtle. Lots of passive-aggressiveness, gossping behind backs, snide remarks followed by "Ehmahgawd, I'm just kidding! Lighten up!" Honestly? I've seen two primary kinds of bullying:
    • First: within cliques. You fall in with a group of people, and you let them step all over you and talk down to you. So that they'll like you. So that you'll have someone to sit by at lunch. You swallow their crap, you wake up the next morning and do it all over again, and eventually, you forget how to stand up for yourself. Or why you should.
    • Second: there are certain kids that a grade or an entire school will mark as "okay" to bully. Maybe they're not good in social situations. Maybe they don't shower as often as everyone else. Maybe the committed some stupid faux pas in middle school and people still won't let go of it. Whatever the reason, these kids get bullied. Their classmates bully them, and the worst part is, they don't recognize it as bullying it. Once, I confronted one of my friends about her stupid comments to a kid in band, and she replied, "Oh, come on. Look at him. He brings it all upon himself." Hell, even the teachers do it.
    • Example: there was this story a while ago about a group of kids that voted someone unpopular onto a dance court, and how the school/community wouldn't stand for it. It was a beautiful story, but why was that news? Because it's rare. At my school, they've voted someone unpopular onto basically every dance they've held since my freshman year, and our administration barely even addresses it. It's horrible and disgusting and people don't think twice about playing a prank like that, because your part is so small. One click on the computer next to someone's name. You laugh. They don't. You don't ever think of yourself as the antagonist in a story. We are not villains. We are not heroes. We are hormonal. Sometimes we make mistakes, and sometimes we don't. 

  • Cliques aren't as bad as they used to be.
    • I have a friend who puts it like this: "They tell us not to label, but we can't help it. We put people in categories--it's biological. We label and then everyone tells us that labeling is bad, so we lie and say that cliques don't exist." To be clear, it isn't like Mean Girls. It isn't like there are the cool Asians and the nerds and the jocks, and no one intermingles. But there are definitely friend groups, and since my school is a very athletic-oriented one, most of them were formed around the teams you were a part of. And there's definitely a social hierarchy.
    • But then again, I've heard from friends at bigger schools that say that the social structures aren't as rigid as they used to be. It definitely depends on who you ask.

  • Teens are lazy.
    • Here is a typical day for me:
      • 4:30 a.m. Wake up, write (this has been more sporadic this year, because damn, my bed is comfortable. And you could argue that most teens don't get up to meet a deadline. But a lot of sports teams have morning practices, and some classes are held during zero period. There's not a lot of sleeping in).
      • 6:30 a.m. Start getting ready for school: last minute homework, morning routine, etc (this also varies. Like, at the beginning of this year, my morning routine was pretty standard: makeup, hair, and so on. I gave myself a break on No Makeup Mondays and Sweatpants Fridays. Now it's No Makeup Everyday and I'm lucky if I wear real pants twice a week).
      • 7:45 a.m. Get to school, go to the coffee shop, etc.
      • 7: 55 a.m. - 3:10 p.m. School. There might be a study hall in there if you're lucky.
      • 3: 10 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. After-schools. Sports practices (though during tennis season, I rarely get home before seven. On game days, you get home anywhere between 8:30 and 11:30 or later. Games can be on Mondays, Tuesdays, or Thursdays. Except varsity football and boys' basketball, which have games on Fridays). When your sport isn't in season, you might be in the weight room, editing the newspaper, attending open gym, or doing some other extracurricular.
        • ALTERNATE: 4:00 p.m. - 9 p.m. (ish): this seems to be a popular work slot for most teens.
      • Whenever you get home, you finish everything else that needs to get done. I play piano, and I try to get in an hour or two of practice a day, but that's not always possible. We have two-three hours of Calculus homework 2-3 times a week. Three reading assignments for reading per reading. Spanish vocab tests, economics packets, and a lot of online work for science classes--all in all, anywhere from fifteen minutes to six hours of homework per night. Keep in mind that the six hours of homework could fall on a night on which we don't get home until ten or eleven.
    • So you see why it's frustrating when the protagonists in YA literature have no homework to worry about and don't seem to care about anything but their love interests? Jesus. Obviously I'd rather be thinking about Benedict Cumberbatch's cheekbones than conic parametric equations, but I also don't want to fail Calc. So drop some stuff, you suggest. Don't take on more than you can chew. You don't need to be in so many extracurriculars. BS. You do whatever you think it'll take to get into college. You snatch as many leadership positions as you can. You take every AP course even though you don't need most of them for the career you have in mind. And you claw your way along while trying to keep your class rank, in order to get scholarships.

  • Teens procrastinate.
    • Okay, so the psychologist Roy Baumeister once did this experiment during which he had two groups of students, right? He put one group of students in front of an oven full of baking cookies and gave them a bowl of radishes, saying the could eat as many radishes as they wanted but weren’t allowed to touch the cookies, and left them alone. The second group was allowed to eat as many cookies as they wanted. After thirty minutes, he gave both groups the same math problem. The group that got to eat cookies solved the problem way faster because the first group had already used up their store of mental energy. Willpower is a real thing, guys. After four years with a schedule like the one outlined above, you don’t have a ton of it. You replenish it with a good night of sleep and a good meal, right? But have to skip dinner at least a few times a week and get maybe five hours of sleep. My sleep deck is the goddamn Titanic. And it isn’t just me, it isn’t just because of writing—most of my friends are stressed. Like. I’m sitting here trying to remember if there’s one of us who hasn’t burst into tears at some point during this last year.
    • Another thing: all of our teachers, coaches, advisors, etc. tell us to prioritize. So we do. But prioritizing means that something has to come first, right? And everything else has to come after that, and that makes people mad. So prioritize really means this: Put my subject first. My sport. My club. And we’re in a stage of our lives where we really need to be liked, and when a teacher/coach/advisor is unhappy, we take it a lot harder than I think most people realize.

  • Teens are shallow.
    • So, I have a love affair with Buzzfeed. But this article pissed me off. At lunch on Friday, my friends and I talked about the gender gap, internalized misogyny, The Handmaid's Tale, and the tendency to fulfill expectations whether we want to or not. After school, we went out for coffee and talked about statutory rape, abortion, tried to figure out our political opinions, and acted out scenes from Frozen.

  • And a personal peeve: High school dances are no longer a thing.
    • A lot of schools have done away with them due to low attendance, but the low attendance is caused primarily by rules about physical contact. For example, a few of our local schools saw a sharp decline in dance attendance after forbidding grinding. People don't buy tickets because the high school dance becomes more of a middle school formal, wherein you stand in your stupid little gender-segregated circles and jump around in time to the music. Less attendance = fewer tickets sold = less money to hire a DJ and buy decorations = crappy music and crappy decorations = an even small attendance for the next dance. So if schools do away with dances, that's usually why, not because we're too busy snapchatting/Facebooking/Tweeting/etc. But on the other hand, schools that do allow grinding tend to have pretty high attendance numbers. So are high school dances dying out? Should they? Meh.
    • Also: Jeez, CNN. Lighten up on the nostalgia. If you want, you can come to my school and relive your prom in our cafeteria, where on dance nights you walk in and smack into an almost-literal wall of heat slide around on the very literally sweat-soaked floors.

What do you guys think? Did I miss anything important? Leave below in the comments, and I'll do another post. Also, what do you guys think of having a Twitter chat about this? YA authors, do you have questions or want to do a fact-check on your contemp manuscripts?

0 Comments on YA Mythbusters as of 3/23/2014 7:23:00 PM
Add a Comment
6. Feet On The Ground Research - Lucy Coats

Last month I horrified historians by Messing About with Ancient History.  This month, I hope I shall redeem myself slightly by talking about the importance of 'feet on the ground' research.

When you're chasing a historical character, trying to pin them down in a particular place, there's nothing quite like visiting sites they would have known and recognised. With most of history, that's not so easy, because a good deal of it will have disappeared in the interim. However, in Rome, history is so close to the surface that you trip over it. In my case, literally.

I was in the Forum last week, and (with my usual weather luck) it was raining. The Roman cobbles are very large, very uneven, and I caught my toe and fell over. I don't suppose I'm the only idiot ever to have done it, and now I have the makings of a ready-made scene for the new book. This sort of authentic detail is invaluable, once the bruises have faded, and would have been impossible to garner in any other way than by empirical experience. The colour of the sky, the way the river Tiber winds, the height of the seven hills, the pinoli trees - all these things are in my mind's eye now, along with the exact colour of a particular column, the way a belt hangs round a sacrificial swine's belly... and much more.

Yes, I could have looked these things up in a book, or read someone else's account of their travels, but I think the next installment of my Cleo's adventures will be all the richer for my visit - and I don't at all begrudge her my sore feet and banged knees. I even managed to find an exact copy of an Alexandrian Priestess of Isis in the Borghese Palace - just what I needed to see what robes she would have worn.

Now, if only Egypt wasn't so damned dangerous at the moment...

Lucy's new picture book, Captain Beastlie's Pirate Party is now out from Nosy Crow!
"A rollicking story and a quite gloriously disgusting book that children (especially boys) will adore!" Parents In Touch magazine
"A splendidly riotous romp…Miss the Captain’s party at your peril." Jill Bennett
"An early candidate for piratey book of the year!" ReadItDaddy blog
"A star of a book." Child-Led Chaos blog

Lucy's Website
Lucy's Tumblr
Follow Lucy on Facebook 
Follow Lucy on Twitter

Lucy is represented by Sophie Hicks at Ed Victor Ltd

0 Comments on Feet On The Ground Research - Lucy Coats as of 3/19/2014 4:29:00 AM
Add a Comment
7. Research in the digital age


Oxford Scholarship Online (OSO) launched in 2003 with 700 titles. Now, on its tenth birthday, it’s the online home of over 9,000 titles from Oxford University Press’s distinguished academic list, and part of University Press Scholarship Online. To celebrate OSO turning ten, we’ve invited a host of people to reflect on the past ten years of online academic publishing, and what the next ten might bring.

By Adrastos Omissi

As someone who has lived out his entire academic career in a research environment augmented by digital resources, it can be easy to allow familiarity to breed contempt where the Internet is concerned. When I began my undergraduate degree in the autumn of 2005, Oxford’s Bodleian Library, as well as every faculty and college library, had already digitized their search functions, Wikipedia was approaching one million English articles, and all major journals were routinely publishing online (as well as busily uploading their back catalogues). Free and instantaneous access to a vast quantity of research material is, for those of my generation, simply assumed.

The Radcliffe Camera, part of the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford. By Kamyar Adl CC-BY-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The Radcliffe Camera, part of the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford. By Kamyar Adl CC-BY-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The Internet’s greatest gift is text, in every permutation and definition of that word imaginable. For research students, one of the greatest obstacles is to acquire the necessary information that they need to make their own work a solid, and above all, living piece of scholarship, in communication with the wider academic world. Text is, ultimately, the sine qua non of this struggle.

Each specialism has its own particular loves, its debts owed to the Internet. Find any doctoral candidate in Britain today and they’ll each have their own version of ‘I couldn’t have completed me doctorate without online product X.’ For me, a classicist, it was the digitization and free availability of an increasing proportion of the written records of the ancient world. Online libraries of Greek and Latin texts, libraries like Perseus, Lacus Curtius, and the Latin Library, or searchable databases like Patrologia Latina brought the classical world to life (and to my laptop).

Of course, it’s not just ancient books that are now open to easy access from anywhere that the Internet can reach. When I was an undergraduate I looked into how much it would cost me to buy the entire Cambridge Ancient History series, which I felt would make an invaluable addition to my bookshelves. The answer – somewhere in the region of £1,600 – was enough for me to go weak at the knee. Now, I have all fourteen volumes in PDF. Google Books and the increasing digitization of the archives of publishers and academic libraries means that paradigm shifting debate can now beam into student rooms and even into private homes.

Just as the automated production line turned the automobile, once a bastion of elitism, into an affordable commodity for the average household, so the Internet is now putting books that would have once been hidden in ivory towers into the hands of any person with the desire to find them. And as hardware improves, these options become more and more exciting. Tablet computing means that this enormous corpus of academic texts and original sources is now available on devices that fit into a coat pocket. Gone – or going – are the curved spines and broken bag straps that were formerly the lot of any student forced to move between libraries.

Of course, not everyone is beaming as barriers of cost and inconvenience are stripped away from academic texts. Publishers still have businesses to run and it will be interesting to see in years to come how sharply the lines of battle come to be drawn. Nor is the marginalization of the book, a thing of beauty in its own right, much of a cause for celebration. But for those wishing to access academic texts, the trend is up, and texts that would once have been found only after a long search through some dusty archive or at the outlay of several hundred pounds are now nothing more than a Google search away.

Adrastos Omissi grew up in Jersey, in the Channel Islands. He recently completed a doctorate in Roman History at St John’s College, Oxford, and now works as a researcher for the social enterprise consultancy, Oxford Ventures.

Subscribe to the OUPblog via email or RSS.
Subscribe to only education articles on the OUPblog via email or RSS.

The post Research in the digital age appeared first on OUPblog.

0 Comments on Research in the digital age as of 3/12/2014 5:55:00 PM
Add a Comment
8. Google’s New and Innovative Technologies

IT Forum Gold Coast (ITFGC) is the best place to network with industry peers, potential clients and employers.  The Federal, State and local Governments give well-deserved recognition to ITFGC for being an active voice of the IT industry on the Gold Coast and Brisbane. Being a member gives you an unprecedented opportunity to stay informed […]

Add a Comment
9. Conducting Effective Internet Research

Many students struggle with the research portion of research-based writing. Here are some tips to help students to conduct Internet searches safely and effectively.

Add a Comment
10. NonFiction Picture Books: Research Required

  1. How many pages are in a typical children’s picture book?
  2. Who is the audience of a children’s picture book? Hint: It's not just kids.
  3. Are there restrictions on the vocabulary you use in a picture book?
  4. Do I have to write in rhyme? Do manuscripts written in rhyme sell better?
  5. Do EPUB books have to the same length as printed books?
Don't start writing that picture book until you know these crucial concepts. GET THE ANSWERS HERE.

How much research do you need to do for a children’s nonfiction picture book? Tons!

Nonfiction means that you have the facts straight, ma’am.

3 sources agree. Traditionally, writers look fora at least three sources to back up each piece of information. This means the content isn’t just a personal opinion or a poorly researched fact. Facts should be replicated in multiple studies and corroborated by multiple experts.

Primary sources. Just as in any nonfiction writing,it’s important to go to the primary source of information. Talk to scientists, look up research reports and email the authors of the study, go out and try something for yourself.

Dig deeper. Nonfiction picture books should dig deeper for information, for the meaning and interpretation of the facts, and for context. A biography of Shirley Temple, for example, would likely consider the Depression Era and the effects it had on the burgeoning film industry. For some, Temple’s films were seen as a cheap escape from the harsh realities. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said about her, “When the spirit of the people is lower than at any other time during this Depression, it is a splendid thing that for just 15 cents, an American can go to a movie and look at the smiling face of a baby and forget his troubles.” And of course, if I was writing a book with that quote, I would have to tell you where I found it. (It’s quoted here in the UK Guardian.)

Tools for Research

My favorite tools for researching for a nonfiction children’s book include:
Google, GoogleScholar, and more. Here are tips and more tips for searching on Google. Did you know you can restrict the search to a certain website or ask Google to only tell you about information posted in the last year? GoogleScholar searches research journals. See the full list of Google products here.

Wikipedia. I know, people feel that Wikipedia is unreliable. But Clay Shirky argues in his book, Here Comes Everybody, that over the long run, it’s more reliable because so many people are able to edit it. Crowd-writing-and-editing is both the strength and weakness of Wikipedia. And yet, I find it great for an initial look at a topic; and the references are often the primary sources that I need. Don’t discount this one.

Library Databases. I recently taught essay writing to a group of home-schoolers and we took a field trip to a public library to look at their databases. These are databases that either aren’t available on the web, or cost too much for an individual to subcribe to. Most public libraries subscribe to an incredibly rich set of databases that offer a world of information; often these are available online through your library’s website. It’s one of the first places I look for info.

Follow up leads. Often these resources will send me off in multiple directions scrambling for more information, emailing scientists, reading dense research reports and so on. It’s not where you start, but where you end up that matters. Follow the trails, question everything and search for answers.

Two Nature Books as Examples of Research

My two recent nature books took different tracks for their research.

Wisdom, the Midway Albatross: Surviving the Japanese Tsunami and other Natural Disasters for over 60 Years required me to interview the biologist on Midway Island about the conditions there during the tsunami and its aftermath. I also looked at video of the tsunami that hit Japan, debris fields in the Pacific, and photos of the desolation on Midway Island. Researching the life and times of the 60 year old bird–the oldest known wild bird in the world–meant going back in time to find out what storms had hit Midway in the last 60 years. Other issues arose: the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, longline fishing and more. Each subtopic meant delving into the research to find details to include in the story. Though it is only 850 words long, it entailed a lot of primary research.

AbayomiCover-250x250-150Research for my latest nature picture book took a different tack. Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma: The True Story of an Orphaned Cub The illustrator, Kitty Harvill lives in Brazil half the year and is involved in the environmental art community there. She heard about an orphaned puma cub and suggested the story. Because she knew the scientists involved, it meant lots of interviews, including Skyping with the scientists.

The reports about where the cub was orphaned included coordinates for the chicken farm where the mother was killed. I looked on GoogleEarth and found images of the exact locale, which helped me describe the events in more detail. Harvill actually visited the site and took photographs for reference for the art.

For this story, the context meant even more research. Why are pumas important in the Brazilian ecosystem? It turns out that there has been an increase in Brazilian Spotted Fever (similar to Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in the U.S.). The largest rodent in the world, the capybara is the primary host for the ticks that carry the fever; and the biggest predator of capybaras are pumas. I researched ticks and tick-borne diseases, checking the World Health Organization to confirm that the fever has increased in Brazil. I looked at capybaras and their habitats. Puma diet consists of many other small mammals, including rodents. Were capybaras a large portion of what they ate? The questions went on and on.

Through it all, though, there was this main question: where is the story?
For me, it’s not enough just to recite facts. I want the emotional impact of those facts, the story. I found it in the original report of the cub who was orphaned. The owner of the chicken farm where the mother was killed said that he had no idea pumas might be involved in stealing his chickens. He said, “I’ve lived here for over 40 years and I’ve never seen a puma.”

That thought sat around for a long time, before it became the basis of the story: pumas were invisible.

Nonfiction picture books require meticulous research and each project takes on a life of its own.

Check out other 2nd Grade Picture Books for examples of nonfiction titles to study.

Add a Comment
11. Research Across Levels

Last week I was literally sitting on the dock of the bay when along came a kayaker. Hello I shout and she shouts back hello and pulls up to the dock where we proceeded to have a 30 minute conversation. It really is a small world. The kayaker is an English professor at an East coast university and we commiserated about the lack of true research expected of her students and/or the lack of knowledge about how to begin the whole research process. Typically she teaches upper level classes but lately the administration at her university has decided all teachers should have the opportunity to work with English 101 students. I was pleased to hear her say she and some of the other university professors know who can help steer the students at their university…the librarians.

My district and a neighboring district team up every year about this time to have a professional development day for all of the librarians in our area. One of the sessions we will have is called Preparing Secondary Students for Research at the College Level. We have invited four university level librarians and two professors to be a part of a panel discussion covering expectations, academic research, citation tools and ways to develop and boost students’ information literacy IQ’s. When we are in the company of post-secondary librarians we are reminded that our students really are your students.


Add a Comment
12. Sunday Morning Reads

This post would have been up hours ago if I hadn’t been having Internet issues. Service just shouldn’t be so intermittent in one’s own home. I’m just sayin’

This may have been my last visit to the garden. I was surprised with a head of cabbage that I missed in previous visits and green peppers that just began to grow. I run through the photos on my phone and I’m just amazed at the growth that has taken place. This time, I didn’t even think to take any pictures. Growth happens whether we’re watching or not.

In recent years, there have been amazing blog posts that contain research relating to various facets of diversity in YA lit. Do publishers look at them? Are their decisions impacted at all by the data that is collected and analyzed? I work in a world that frowns on blogs and the information they relate as if it is all bogus forms of cheap entertainment. Knowing that, part of me wishes some of these research posts were submitted to journals, but I am so glad the information is made accessible to readers, authors, editors and publishers. Information is power. I think more impactful than where these reports are posted will be the replicated efforts that better document trends and hopefully change in the industry.



Can we try to collect these reports? Please leave a link to others in the comments.

I know there’s more! I’m sure Debbie Reese has collected figures, but I haven’t found anything…yet. Are there numbers on Latinos? Asians?

This 2008 article references a Brigham Young Study I’ll trying get a hold of this week.

The Brigham Young study analyzed the race, gender and family background of human characters in 82 Newbery-winning books through 2007. The analysis compared three periods, starting with 1922 through 1950, followed by the era in which the Civil Rights Movement gained momentum, 1951 through 1979, and concluding with the 1980 through 2007 period.

Black and Hispanic protagonists became scarcer during the past 27 years. American Indian and Asian main characters increased in number — to two each.

Latino protagonists disappeared from 1980 through 2007 and black ones fell to two from a high of five between 1951 and 1979, the study found. White main characters rose to 19 from 18 in the same period.

The last book with a Hispanic protagonist to win a Newbery Medal was “Shadow of a Bull,” by Maia Wojciechowska, in 1965. The book dealt with a young Spanish boy’s struggle to follow in the footsteps of his slain bullfighter father.

Books by authors of color and with characters of color aren’t written just for people of color. (Corollary: Books by white people aren’t written just for white people.) So, POC books and authors fight the good fight and show up anywhere and everywhere that readers can be found such as at book signings, local library events and conferences. Readers of color have to show up to.

Think about it.

If publishers and editors don’t see us at conferences and signings, their notions that we don’t read or buy books will only be re-enforced. Show up to these events, inquire about your favorite author of color. I say this out loud to remind myself why I’m going to ALAN this year and why I’m especially thankful that author Lyn Miller-Lachmann proposed a panel with her, myself, Kekla Magoon and Rene Saldana Jr. I think I saw names of three other authors of color in the program. So disappointing! I really hope to see more people of color than that in the audience.

If you’re a librarian looking for ways to get involved in ALA and make a difference, this information is for you.

Committees with openings:

and the Committee Volunteer Form (which requires you to sign in):


YALSA has dozens of ways for its members and supporters to get involved, including many options for virtual participation.  Whether you choose to volunteer to gain additional leadership opportunities, build your resume, increase exposure in the association or library community, or give back to the profession, YALSA relies on you to help support the association and make a positive difference in serving teens through libraries.

Whichever way you choose to get involved, we are committed to providing you with a meaningful experience.  If you have any questions, or would like additional information, we’re happy to help!  Email us at yalsa@ala.org or call us at 1-800-545-2433, ext. 4390.

And yes, dammit! There are malls in Kenya! And paved roads, car dealerships, universities, banks and yes, even book publishers! I remember when The Cold War between the US, Russia and China played out in Africa and now it’s this ‘war’ between… who is this between? Who are the players? These extremists in the East and in the West? It’s playing out all over Africa, from Mali to Kenya and to Somalia. Great people to follow from various locations across the continent to keep you aware of mostly literary and a few political occurences.

Storymoja Hay Fest@SMHayFest


Writers Project Gh@writersPG

African Library Proj ‏ @AfricanLibraryP

Jalada Africa ‏ @JaladaAfrica

I’m thinking about mooncakes and Moon Festival while my friends in Taiwan are just getting over a massive typhoon.

Bless the people of Kenya who are mourning and grieving. Bless the people of Taiwan who should be celebrating the autumn moon festival but are suffering from a massive typhoon. Even from these tragedies, there will eventually be growth; god willing!

Bless us!






Filed under: Sunday Reads Tagged: garden, research, statistics, yalsa

3 Comments on Sunday Morning Reads, last added: 9/25/2013
Display Comments Add a Comment
13. Interview with Marco Veyna-Reyes

Marco Veyna-Reyes

Marco Veyna-Reyes, 2013 ALSC Spectrum Scholar (photo courtesy of Marco Veyna-Reyes)

Marco Veyna-Reyes was recently announced the 2013 ALSC Spectrum Scholar. He is an MLIS candidate at the University of North Texas (UNT). I caught up with Marco to ask him a few questions about his path to children’s librarianship.

So you’re working full-time in a library right now?

Yes, my official title is the YPL/Children’s Services Assistant for the Mesquite (NV) Public Library. The YPL stands for Young People’s Librarian. I’m also taking classes at the University of North Texas towards my MLIS.

How did you choose to get into children’s librarianship?

My interest in librarianship started in high school when I participated in the Latin Chamber of Commerce’s Career Day. I shadowed the Assistant Human Resources Director for the District and one of the things we did was go to the different library branches around the city. I got to meet some of the librarians. From that experience, I began to volunteer in the library. Eventually, I realized that this was the type of career I would enjoy.

I grew up in an English as a Second Language (ESL) household. There was no English spoken at our home. My dad really wanted us to find professional careers. He encouraged us to excel in school and even bought us an encyclopedia set in Spanish because he wanted us to be fully bilingual.

When I started volunteering at the library I was living in Las Vegas. I was volunteering at branch with a lot of ESL parents and I realized that this where I could help out. I really enjoyed that aspect of it, working with kids from under-represented communities. Librarianship was a perfect fit.

What are you most proud in your time at library school?

I’ve really been proud of the ability to attend. It’s also been helpful to be a full-time librarian assistant because I get to see a lot of the theory applied on a daily basis. There was a management class that I enjoyed as well because I’d really like to be a good Children’s Services Department Head in the future.

I’ve also enjoyed learning about the history of librarianship in the United States. My family is from Mexico and there isn’t a strong public library system there. So to learn about the place that the library has in the community is really interesting to me.

What are your day-to-day responsibilities at the library?

I’m the only full-time children’s employee at my rural branch, so I have to do a lot of multi-tasking! I cover the Customer Service Desk and Adult Services Desk, process most of the new children’s materials, put on story times, do weekly community outreach and schedule off-desk time. We also put on a Saturday movie matinee and put on two large family programs a month.

How did summer reading go this year?

We had a very successful summer! I’m the go-to person for summer reading at our library and I love it. My favorite part is having the kids recognize me from school visits and talking with the parents. I especially like working with the ESL parents, getting them to recognize the role of the library in their children’s development and reducing the summer slide.

Do you have a favorite children’s book?

I really like the Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. I think it describes my relationship with my community and how I hope to give back to the people of Southern Nevada.

Thanks and good luck!

0 Comments on Interview with Marco Veyna-Reyes as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
14. YALSAblog Tweets of the Week: September 6, 2013

A weekly short list of tweets that librarians and the teens that they serve may find interesting.

Do you have a favorite Tweet from the past week? If so add it in the comments for this post. Or, if you read a Twitter post between September 6 and September 12 that you think is a must for the next Tweets of the Week send a direct or @ message to lbraun2000 on Twitter.

Add a Comment
15. Research: Debunking a Popular Myth

Whether they write fiction or nonfiction, most writers I know do research.  Almost as many believe that if they find a fact three times they can trust that it’s true. 
Unfortunately, that’s nothing but myth.  You can find a piece of misinformation just as many times as you can find an accurate fact.  The reasons for this vary.
Once something is published and in circulation, other people can cite it. That’s fine if it is accurate, but if it isn’t, you now have the same inaccurate information published in multiple places.  It can also happen if the information is being published to push a certain agenda. The end result is sometimes more important than the accuracy of the information.
The reality is that finding something multiple times doesn’t make it true.  It just means that it is well-circulated.  Here are three tips to help you separate accurate fact from well-published nonsense:
  •      Group the facts.  After you’ve done some reading on your topic, you are going to see certain bits of information repeated again and again.  You will also begin to notice schools of thought – Group X has gathered facts that prove global warming while Group Y has just as many facts that debunk it. As you read material from each school of thought, consider how their biases will shape which “facts” they choose to present and which they ignore completely.
  •      Go to the top. Some schools of thought are easy to dismiss.  Now that we’ve seen the Earth from space, we can dismiss Flat Earth supporters.  But what about your topic?  It may not be as obvious.  Look for an expert who isn’t a strong supporter of either school of thought or at the very least questions both. Reading what this person has written may be enough to help you separate fact from fiction.  If not, ask for an interview.
  •      Read and research even more.  Have you reached the point in your research that everything you read duplicates something you’ve already read?  If the answer is no, keep reading.  Once you’ve read to this point, you’ll be surprised how obvious these bits of misinformation are and you’ll wonder why you didn’t spot them sooner.

No matter what you write, you need to know how to separate fact and fiction as you research.

Sue will be teaching one of our courses, Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults, starting October 7, 2013.  

6 Comments on Research: Debunking a Popular Myth, last added: 9/6/2013
Display Comments Add a Comment
16. Researching Without Google

Instead of always turning to the Internet for answers, try reaching out to your network of friends, colleagues, and acquaintances. 


0 Comments on Researching Without Google as of 7/5/2013 4:29:00 PM
Add a Comment
17. Sensory Research

Bring your story alive by using all five senses to do your research. 


0 Comments on Sensory Research as of 5/26/2013 4:29:00 PM
Add a Comment
18. The Payoff

I’ve been working with Keith Bollman and his fifth grade class on a research project. The end result is a tour of the solar system, completely planned, designed, researched, and created by the… Read More

Add a Comment

 Hey teachers!  Kids too!  Are you writing any nonfiction stories in class these days?  Lots of schools are trying out this approach to writing in general, and they’re studying the different ways good nonfiction books are written in particular, especially in light of the CCSS.  So what different kinds of writing might work nonfiction-wise?  There are plenty.


Try doing live interviews or writing a journal, for example—they both count as nonfiction. A few ideas:

Maybe your class can interview various folks who were on the scene during a great or terrible historic event, such as the Summer Olympics or even 911. Or try interviewing somebody who has an unusual job; maybe the old Santa Claus at the mall  or a fireman (naturally) or your mayor or a local musician or a TV personality or your own bus driver. 

And maybe you can pen some truly amazing journals during a field trip to a museum or a festival or an historic site. (Of course if you aren’t going on any field trips, you can always write some pretty entertaining journal entries about the food in your cafeteria.)

Or take a stab at uncovering the true story of how your own family came to America. Whether they got here last Wednesday or 300 years ago, doing the research is a hoot…and be sure to ask your parents or grandparents. You'd be surprised what they know and what you don't.

Or you can write research papers about things you’re learning in class—some examples might include compiling all sorts of comments about the frogs (living or dead) in your science lab, or researching and writing about a disterous Civil War battle for your history class, or making like a professional critic who’s writing book reviews for your English class, or examining the statistical issues behind today’s economic crisis in your math classes without putting anyone to sleep.  Now there's a challenge for you.

Yup, your writing has to shine; that’s a given.  But here’s an outstanding tool that lets you spice up everything you write, gets people interested in your stories and papers, helps you learn faster, makes sure readers remember your most complex material in a flash, and entertains your own self at the same time:

Really?  Most definitely!  After all, just think about it.  Whenever you go online or watch movies or TV or play video games or look inside certain books, they’re all about the pictures.  Lots of you are probably taking pictures yourself today by using a cell phone, or you’re adding pictures to online sites like Facebook.  So while you’re busy writing papers and journals and stories at school, why not think the way you do in the real world…whenever you write, stir plenty of artwork and photos and other visuals of your own into the mix.

Here are a few tiny examples of the gazillion ways to add pictures to your writing:

When you bring your journal along on a school field trip – or even on a regular day – be sure to bring some colored markers or colored pencils or just regular lead pencils. Then draw the coolest things you see.  Try to show the real world and still use your artistic imagination at the same time.  Put pictures next to the words you just wrote or use pictures to make a rebus or spread pictures into the margins or make them into cartoons or make them extremely realistic.  Let some of the pictures fill a whole page or two or three of their own.  They can most certainly be funny. They can most certainly be serious  or scientific. Doodling is just fine.  Cartoons are just fine.  Beautiful pictures are, well, beautiful and wonderful.  And of course you can draw all kinds of fancy lettering in your topic headings along the way. 
Trust me, people will want to see what you wrote if it’s illustrated.  When explores like Lewis and Clark or scientists like Charles Darwin wrote journals, they did these exact kinds of things. Their writing was incredibly fun to read and was informative to the max at the same time.  Yours should be too.
Another idea is to take photos during the day, print them out, and tape them in later.  Or collect small stuff you find and glue that in too—for example, add brochures or cut them up and tape some of the picture into your journal. Or add small parts of the plants you see on a farm visit. Or leaves you pick up on a hike during the fall.

One idea is to draw the person you are interviewing yourself! Or take your own photos of them doing something verrry cool and then paste or tape them into your written work. Or if they have any pictures taken when they were kids, make photocopies and add them to the mix. Even if you write your interview (or any other stuff) online, you can scan in your pictures and imbed them. 

Make colorful illuminated maps of the places you’re studying and add them into the mix.  To see exactly how this works, go here and check out the pictures

Think of cool and colorful pictures you can add to your charts and graphs:
If they look great, they can offer readers a fast and entertaining way to learn a lot of boring stats in a single glance.

Try putting the quotes inside of talk balloons that point at a picture of the person who's being quoted.  Maybe this person is a new cartoon character of your own creation (kind of like the one Jeff Kinney made up for his Wimpy Kid), or maybe you can research what the people you quoted really looked like and what they really wore, and then draw them accurately.


YIKES! Art is in danger of disappearing from our schools, and that would be a DISASTER.  Help bring it back by adding artwork to your written work in school.  

Paint pictures on wood! 

Rough canvas! 

Pebble board!  

Write words on all kinds of unusual paper.  

Try playing around with paint, scraps of cloth, cut paper, or scratch board, and then add them to your written work.  

Experiment with your photographs.   

Make collages using buttons, flowers, seeds, or leaves picked up off the ground....if your essay or journal is lumpy, so what? Your writing will end up being a keeper, and you will learn to think, be creative, do research, and remember what you wrote about for a very long time.

Display Comments Add a Comment
20. Before You Write The First Word

Has this ever happened to you?

You pick up a book, one of those books that everyone’s buzzing about, and ten pages in, your jaw drops. Not because it’s such an awesomely written book (although it may well be) but because you've had an eerily similar idea.

Or maybe you pick up a magazine and scan the articles, nodding. Until you stop in mid-scan, your eyes riveted to a title that’s exactly like the article you were thinking of pitching.

Writers hit on similar concepts all the time, and I’m sure we all have a similar response when we see our great idea published. The pulling-the-hair-out, screeching, “You have got to be kidding me,” and throwing the offending book (or magazine) across the room reaction.

Or maybe that’s just me. Anyway, after my little hissy fit, I heave a huge sigh and thank my lucky stars.

Yep, I’m grateful. Grateful that I found that novel or article before I invested my time and effort into all that writing. Maybe I’d only scribbled a few notes about plot and characters, or just a “What if?” question for a pitch. But after reading what’s been published, I know that my idea is not different enough to pursue any further. Time to move on to the next idea.

Researching ideas before you write about them is an important part of the writing process. I know it’s hard when you think you have the best idea ever. You want to pound out that manuscript while you’re super excited. You want to put together that piece for a major market that’s going to make you famous in the freelance world.

Except. Except that your time is valuable. You simply can’t afford not to do your homework. Besides, editors and agents won’t waste their time on something they've already seen.

So before you pound out that first chapter or even that first paragraph, do a little investigating. If you have an idea for a novel, check comparable titles. Consider the broad concept as well as the specific concept. Take, for example, a story about purple people eaters. It may be hard to believe that some other writer has penned a novel about purple people eaters (And P.S. They have.). But there are a ton of zombie books. And if you take away the purple part, you've basically got a people eater, right? Is your story different enough from not only the purple people eater books out there, but also the zombie books on the shelves?

As for articles, an Internet search will let you know very quickly if your idea has a unique angle or the same old, same old stuff that editors get every day.

But take heart. Publishing success can happen for you—if your great idea has an original spin. So do your research before you write the first word. (And cross your fingers that your idea will get out there first!)

~Cathy C. Hall

11 Comments on Before You Write The First Word, last added: 3/6/2013
Display Comments Add a Comment
21. Get to Know Your Character(s): Let's Pretend

When I was little, I could play "let's pretend" all day. I mean, like, all day. I could start the morning as a secret agent, switch to being a marine biologist by lunchtime, live on the 1840's American prairie by dinner, and go to bed as a Moomintroll. You could say I lived to play.

As an adult, I'm pretty much into being my own character of me: writer, artist, friend, not to mention Head of the Laundry Department, Chief of Grocery Shopping, and Executive House Cleaner. But recently during a trip to Trader Joe's and wondering why I always buy the same old things, it occurred to me how much fun it would be to play at being someone else for the day--somebody who bought champagne and Gorgonzola instead of milk and vegetarian chili. And the best person I could think of being was my latest character in my new screenplay, especially as she is NOTHING like me.

For starters, she's 18, LOL, and she's a former child prodigy (I may have been imaginative, but I was a long way from being top of the class). As I stood there in the store, I began to wonder what she would buy, and that's when it struck me: pretending to be your character, at least for a little while, would be a great way to know that character on a level way beyond filling out the usual character bio. Talk about research! For instance, you could:
  • Shop for your character in a grocery store--even Trader Joe's! Buy items he or she would choose (or at least make a list of those items if you find them inedible or too expensive).
  • Using these or other ingredients you have at home, prepare your character's favorite meal. Then eat it and describe your feelings after dining.
  • Go to the kind of department or clothing store your character frequents. Pick out several new outfits, complete with accessories. Take notes (because you may not really want to buy a new tiara or desert kaftan) and use as the basis of your character's fictional wardrobe.
  • Buy your character a present. What is it? Can you use it in the plot somewhere? (Note: if the item is beyond a reasonable budget or something you can't actually use yourself, you can always resort to "let's pretend." Just go to the shop where the item would be sold, and imagine you are buying it, similar to the way you "bought" their new clothes. A fun and inexpensive extra would be to purchase a card, wrapping paper, and ribbons to place in your WIP binder or journal as a visual reminder.)
  • Re-create your character's last vacation. Again, if you can't really travel to the destination, at least get some travel brochures, maps, and pack a real or imaginary suitcase. A day spent pretending you are in Paris or Toledo could have a charm all its own, too! The imagination is a powerful tool.
  • Dream for your character--it's not as difficult as it might sound. Before you go to sleep, think of your character's main story goal or problem. Ask your subconscious to solve it. The answer could surprise you.
  • Go to your character's least favorite or most feared place. Absorb the reasons why he or she dislikes it so much.
  • Next time you find yourself waiting in a long line, become your character. Why is he or she so anxious for the line to move? Where does she have to be before it's too late?
  • Visit a nursery or garden center. Pick out 5-10 plants your character loves or hates. What has generated these strong feelings? If possible, purchase and plant the flowers or bushes in your own garden. Use the plants' characteristics and growth cycles as metaphors.
  • Go to the library. Choose your character's 12 favorite books. Now choose one they have never read. Read it through new eyes.
  • Watch your character's favorite movie. Write about a scene that has the most emotional impact for your character, and why.
  • Using magazine cut-outs or other print material, assemble an album of "family photos" for your character. How does your character feel about each of these people--and why? Be sure to include some bad'uns! 
Tip of the Day: The next time you take an Artist's Date, try taking one for your character. Where would he or she want to go? Why? When you arrive at the chosen place, experience as much as you can through your character's viewpoint. Write up your findings either on site or as soon as you return home.

0 Comments on Get to Know Your Character(s): Let's Pretend as of 4/3/2013 1:57:00 PM
Add a Comment
22. Walking in Their Footsteps

The best way to capture the past is to step back into it -- visiting the places you are writing about. Last week Fran and I toured Monticello, the mountaintop home of Thomas Jefferson.  There is no better way to get into a person's head than to walk the red Piedmont soil and marvel at the blue rolling hills off in the distance. Now I know why he called it his "sea view."

But stepping back in time also takes a healthy dose of imagination, too. Mulberry row, where slaves lived and worked, is empty now. I have to imagine the lane busy with boys making nails, and the air  thick with smoke from the forge and the cook house. Instead of the two white women driving a four-wheeler from tree to tree in the orchard, I have to envision perhaps two black men carrying a ladder and saws to trim the branches.

The past is not black and white, either. Old photos make everyone look somber and give the impression that history was fuzzy and dull. But people wore shades of red and blue, laughed and danced.  One of the more startling things I noticed at Monticello was the neon yellow dining room. Not what I would have expected had I not known how much he appreciated light and air.

Hustled through the house with other tourists it was hard to really see everything, but then again, it gave me a more accurate portrayal of a house filled with children, servants, and family.  And when I return, I can dig deeper, look closer, and reveal even more.

0 Comments on Walking in Their Footsteps as of 4/8/2013 7:14:00 AM
Add a Comment
23. The Big Love Affair - Parents and Libraries

The recent findings from the Pew Research Center funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates on libraries have been fascinating reading. And now, my youth services friends, it is our turn to have the research spotlight turned on our efforts.

As reported May 1, " the vast majority of parents of minor children — children younger than 18 — feel libraries are very important for their children. That attachment carries over into parents’ own higher-than-average use of a wide range of library services."  (emphasis mine)

In this brief synopsis of findings from the full report parents view libraries as vital to their children's reading and information needs. And - no surprise to us frontliners -these same parents are far more likely to use other library services and to express interest in expanding services and adding tech-related services.

I have had conversations over the years with colleagues in which we express frustration over the lack of support for youth services from our administrations, boards and even our co-workers in other areas of the library.  This is the strongest piece of research we've seen in a while that underscores what we know - parents who use the library are vitally interested in its services not just for kids but for themselves. 

When we see and serve families we are also drawing in these parents for all other adult services as well. These twenty and thirty somethings are a sweet spot demographic that some libraries embrace and some puzzle over. But they are ready for us.

I'll be highlighting this study at my library and in my workshops and presentations and sharing with my colleagues where I work.  I hope you will too.

Powerful stuff.

Thanks to Digital Shift for the heads up.

0 Comments on The Big Love Affair - Parents and Libraries as of 5/1/2013 8:23:00 AM
Add a Comment
24. How Much Research

Even if you're writing contemporary realistic fiction, you still need to research aspects of your story. 


0 Comments on How Much Research as of 5/6/2013 12:41:00 PM
Add a Comment
25. Searching for Lost Books from Childhood ~ and Happy Poetry Friday!

Howdy, Campers!

Happy Poetry Friday, which the indefatigable
Ed Decaria is hosting
--thank you, Ed!

And Happy Children's Book Week!

Jeanne Marie introduced our current topic: In honor of Children’s Book Week, share the title of the book we wish we still had or are sorry we loaned (and never got back) or one we (god forbid) threw away.

Heavens to Betsy! The search for my cherished book turned into a detective story.

The first thing I did was to ask God...errr...Google for the title of the book about a surprise birthday party for an old woman named Lisette.  Bello, her dog, directs the other animals while Lizette is at the market--he tells the goats to get apples, the ducks to get candles, etc. He and Lisette's two cats (Molly and...Ruly?) bake a bundt cake that burns on top, so they put powdered sugar on it at the last minute to hide the burned part. 

But who was the marvelous author/illustrator and what was the name of the book????

In the course of my search, I found a site called Old Children's Books which has a page called "Looking for a Book?"

I searched and searched and searched...with binoculars, with a flashlight, with a light on my miner's helmet...

(me...but my search was not as grim as pictured)

Finally, I remembered that at the end of the book was a little kitten.  And I remembered that the author/illustrator wrote another book about him. In fact, the cat's name was the title of the other book.   So if I could just remember the name of the cat...it was...Pitchie!

But I couldn't find a book called Pitchie.  Or Pitchy.  Stumbling down the corridors of the internet, bumping into walls, I finally found the other book!  It was called PITSCHI (published in 1948).  I now knew the name of the author/illustrator: Hans Fischer.  Which meant I was close to finding the book I was actually looking for!

But first, let's take a detour.  Click here to enjoy Hans Fischer's fantastic lithographs in Pitschi "the kitten who always wanted to be something else. A sad story, but one which ends well."

All the same characters are in the book I have been looking for...and now I can plug in Hans' name and come up with THE BOOK--right?

Yes! On Worldcat.org I found it--The Birthday: a Merry Tale with Many Pictures (1954)!  Worldcat summarizes the story: "In a clearing in the forest lived old Lisette with her animals. On her seventy-sixth birthday, Lisette went off to the village, and while she was gone the animals prepared a wonderful birthday surprise for her."

This is the book from my childhood that still makes my heart sing.

With all the searching, I learned a few things about my good friend Hans from Children's Books and Their Creators, edited by Anita Silvey.  He was Swiss, he lived from 1909-1958 (only 49 years?).  And he studied under the artist Paul Klee who taught him how to use color.  No wonder I fell in love with Fischer's style--I love Klee! 

Klee said, "It is not my task to reproduce appearances...for that there is the photographic plate.  I want to reach the heart."

And isn't that what we want from books we read...and those we create? (Actually, I wouldn't mind if large corporations took that as their company motto...)

Legendary editor Margaret McElderry discovered his work, bought the US rights to Pitschi, and went on to publish his other books, including The Birthday.

So here's my song to Hans Fischer and The Birthday.


by April Halprin Wayland

What's the title?
Can't remember.

And the plot?
It was so tender…

Why is this your favorite book?
It lit a spark, it fanned an ember…

The book was in her skin, her cells,
she turned each page and oh! the smell…

At every page
I looked and listened,

the little kitten on a mission,
delicately, in pastel.

He was drawn and he was written
to cast a purring lifetime spell.

What's the title?
Can't remember.

And the plot?
It was so tender…

Why is this your favorite book?
It lit a spark, it fanned an ember…
poem & drawing © 2013 April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved

What's the book you wish you still owned?  Why not write a poem about it?

Remember that our blogiversary contest runs through May 19th--there's still time to be a winner!
See Carmela's post for all the details.

by April Halprin Wayland, who is grateful that you've read to the end ~ :-)

11 Comments on Searching for Lost Books from Childhood ~ and Happy Poetry Friday!, last added: 5/25/2013
Display Comments Add a Comment

View Next 25 Posts