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She will be available until my birthday on November 19, 2014.
RAVEN is a character I designed in high school, who followed me all the way out of college. She was created after viewing the movie "The Crow", and was my way to express the depression and loneliness I was feeling at the time. Most teens do. Since her beginning she has come a long way.
Raven lost everything very young, including her soul. She spent years searching for purpose, looking for a way to fill the void within her heart, but finds no relief. She is immortal, but not fully vampire. She was human, but now there isn't a word for what she is. Raven has been a hired assassin...as her void and depression allow her to null out the emotions, and she has fought for justice as well. She is neither good or evil.
This character is no longer needed in my life. I found the missing piece I was searching for, and it was and is Jesus. Love. When I painted this piece I was starting to transition from a practicing witch to a practicing follower of Christ. Surprisingly, it wasn't that big of a leap for me, as my story led perfectly into His.
The piece RAVEN'S EVE symbolizes her strength and confidence in who she is at the time she was painted. The wolves symbolizing gentleness, wisdom, and maybe some purity. The daggers...well....we all sin every day and they represent that. But also death, death to the old self...the self that has already been dead for so long.
On one level a moral about how those we demonise are human underneath, this wickedly enjoyable book about what can turn us into monsters is an enormously enjoyable book to read aloud. It’s thrilling and frightening, secretly appealing to many kids’ desires to wreck havoc and run wild, whilst (without revealing the brilliant final twist of the tale) drawing on a situation just about every child can identify with (one of Michael Rosen’s especially honed skills).
Chris Mould’s illustrations, with a limited and unusual palette, are sublime. Scary and scared eyes pop out everywhere and the scratchiness of the drawings befits Wolfman to a T.
Rosen’s story was first published 16 years ago and I haven’t been able to track down a copy to see if it was illustrated then, but Mould’s illustrations exude the vigour and excitement of the story in such a way as makes the text and these images seem inseparable. In fact, the penultimate page of this edition is one of my favourite illustrated spreads of the year; its drama and framing guarantees reader and listener will be holding their breath and scared to turn the page at that precise moment. (You’ll simply have to read the book yourself to see what I mean – it’s far to much fun to give the game away here!)
Attention to detail in the production of this book is another of its delights. From the name plate which encourages reading as a shared experience, to the die-cut “rips” in the front cover this is yet another great book (designed in such a way to support parents with dyslexia) from Red Squirrel.
Hair-raising and horribly fun, Wolfman is a riotously funny read, bound to be requested time and time again.
Once we’d stopped giggling and got our breath back J decided to make herself a Wolfman mask using a paper plate and some wool.
I cut out two small eye holes in the plate and drew the outline of large eyes. J then painted the plate with a mixture of poster paint and glue.
Having mixed in the glue with the paint, it was very easy for J to stick on lengths of wool all around the edge of the plate, as well as adding two ears cut from a brown paper bag.
J scrunched up the rest of the paper bag for the nose, added a few white paper squares as teeth and taped a bamboo pole on the back to hold the mask up to her face.
Then all that was left was to rush around the garden terrorising everyone
Whilst J made her mask we listened to:
Smokestack Lightning by Howlin’ Wolf
Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf? Here’s the Disney version:
Raised By Wolves by Barney Saltzberg (you can hear a sample on his Crazy Hair Day album here)
Talking about the things that make us mad or irritable. I know I turn into something like Wolfman when I get really hungry!
Using a pair of toy glasses to give yourselves eyes just like the characters in Wolfman – find some with a black rim, and then cover the lenses with white paper with tiny holes cut out for looking through. The back of these toy glasses (found here) gave me the idea:
What makes you grizzly? What naughty-but-nice picture books have you read recently?
Disclosure: I received a free review copy of Wolfman from the publisher.
Rapid development of molecular genetics in recent decades has revolutionized our understanding of life and the natural world. Scientists in the 1970s suggested that the grey wolf might be the sole ancestor of domestic dogs, but it was only in 1997 that Carles Vilà, Peter Savolainen, Robert Wayne, and their co-authors provided the conclusive evidence on this based on the analysis of molecular genetic markers.
It is generally assumed that dogs domesticated in East Asia; however, several recent studies challenged this hypothesis. In 2013, a team of scientists showed that the alleles (i.e. different versions of the same gene) of both modern dogs and the fossilized remains from Europe are in fact shared with local wolves.
One can suppose that genes of European wolves are descended both from the animals domesticated thousands of years ago and from wild grey wolves, which might hybridize with domestic dogs for thousands of years after domestication. The role of ongoing hybridization in the evolution of dogs is not easy to infer, even with our advanced molecular methods. In Europe and the US, since at least the 20th century, the mating of non-feral dogs (even large-bodied breeds) has usually been under human control. In many tropical countries, where dogs are not controlled so tightly, grey wolves don’t exist at all.
Natia Kopaliani and her co-workers from Ilia State University, Tbilisi, Georgia, have been studying wolf-dog conflict in the Caucasus since 2007. During recent years, they collected and processed samples of both wolves and dogs from the region with molecular genetic methods. Georgia, like other countries of the Caucasus, eastern Turkey, Iran, and Central Asia, has large livestock-guarding dogs, usually called here Caucasian or Georgian shepherds, which are traditionally free-ranging, and have uncontrolled contacts with grey wolves common to the area. The vast majority of the samples in this study were taken from the shepherd dogs guarding herds of sheep in the Central part of the Greater Caucasus Mountains.
Sequencing mitochondrial DNA showed us that as many as 37% of the dogs shared maternal haplotypes with the local wolves. The proportion of wolves with recent dog ancestry, detected using microsatellite markers, was almost two times higher than that of wolves studied earlier in southern Europe, where feral dogs are still present. More surprising still was that almost the same proportion (nearly 10%) of the guarding dogs possessed the detected hybrid ancestry. These results suggest that mutual gene flow between wolves and dogs in the Caucasus (and, possibly, in other mountainous regions of West and Central Asia) is common, most likely continued for millennia, and had a substantial impact on gene pool of both the domestic and the wild Canis lupus. It does not appear that the hybridization had any negative impact on the dog features important for humans. It is probable that shepherds used to exterminate the hybrids that demonstrated undesired behavior, but that most of the dogs with recent wolf ancestry were integrated into the dog population without problems.
This study may help our understanding of the process of the domestication of dogs and some other domestic animals. Attributing the ancestry of domestic dogs to a few animals from a small area is an oversimplification of the real pattern. Indeed, some domestic lineages may expand faster than the others may. However, wherever both the wild and the domestic forms coexist, they regularly hybridize and we have no reason to think this was not the case all the time since the earliest domestication events. Hybridization may produce animals with undesirable traits, but the owners rapidly eliminate them; occasional hybridization increases effective population size and may help to avoid inbred effect. This isolated, tightly controlled way of dog breeding is a more recent development. Modern dog-keepers select the animals with well-known pedigrees and keep them away from wild animals. Nowadays, it may sound strange to allow a pet dog to interbreed with a wolf. However, the permanent intensive selection of dogs with desirable features was most likely an instrument to keep the breeds “in shape” rather than a peculiar selection of the pedigrees.
Journal of Heredity covers organismal genetics: conservation genetics of endangered species, population structure and phylogeography, molecular evolution and speciation, molecular genetics of disease resistance in plants and animals, genetic biodiversity and relevant computer programs.
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Image credits: Both images courtesy of Natia Kopaliani, co-author of the paper.
The 11th of February marks the opening of Westminster Kennel Club’s 137th Annual All Breed Dog Show. First held in 1877, the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is America’s second-longest continuously held sporting event, behind only the Kentucky Derby. The Westminster Dog Show epitomizes our long-standing tradition of domestication of dogs, but how did we arrive at such a moment in human and dog relations? The Encyclopedia of Mammals, edited by David MacDonald, offers some explanation as to how this species went from being wild prey-hunters to “best in show,” and from defending territories to defending last year’s titles.
The Dog Family
Canids originated in North America during the Eocene (55–34 million years ago), from which five fossil genera are known.
Canids evolved for fast pursuit of prey in open grasslands, and their anatomy is clearly adapted to this life. Although the 36 species and 13 genera vary in size from the tiny fennec fox to the large gray wolf, all but one have lithe builds, long bushy tails, long legs, and digitigrade, four‐toed feet with nonretractile claws.
Life in the Pack
The most striking feature of the canids is their opportunistic and adaptable behavior. This is most evident in the flexible complexity of their social organization. Remarkably, there is in this respect almost as much variation within as between species. Though African wild dogs, and possibly dholes and bush dogs, almost always hunt in packs, gray wolves, coyotes, and jackals feed on prey ranging from ungulates to berries. Partly as a result, they lead social lives that vary from solitary to sociable – gray wolves may live in isolated monogamous pairs, or in packs of up to 20 members.
These species, and some others like red and arctic foxes, live in groups even where large prey does not abound and where they hunt alone. Indeed, there are many other reasons for group living – cooperative defense of territories or large carcasses, communal care of offspring, rivalry with neighboring groups. This is clearly illustrated by the Ethiopian wolf, which lives in packs but almost never hunts cooperatively, its prey being largely rodents.
Dogs under Threat
For all their adaptability, members of the dog family cannot escape the indirect threat of habitat destruction. The small‐eared dog and the bush dog are seen so rarely that there are fears for their futures. The Ethiopian wolf numbers some 500 individuals, the African wild dog 5,000 individuals, and the maned wolf a few thousand in its Argentine and Brazilian strongholds. These species are all threatened. The plight of the sociable canids is especially intense insofar as they are victims of the so‐called Allee Effect – that is, at low numbers they enter a downward spiral to extinction. African wild dogs depend on cooperation, so packs with fewer than about five members enter a vortex of decline because they are too small to simultaneously hunt, defend kills, and babysit. Thus, the African wild dogs are even more threatened than their population of 5,000 might suggest, this being equivalent to no more than 700 viable packs across the continent.
Various origins have been proposed for domestic dogs, and doubtless many different canids have been partly domesticated at one time or another. Even so, the wolf is generally accepted as the most likely ancestor of today’s domestic dogs. Domestic dogs are thus known to science as a subspecies of wolf – Canis lupus familiaris. The earliest known archaeological indication of domestication comes from a single canine jawbone unearthed at a site in Germany. More foreshortened than that of a wolf, with the teeth more closely packed together, this find is thought to be around 14,000 years old. Other early remains of what are believed to be domestic dogs include a specimen from Coon in Iran, which dates back over 11,000 years. These various discoveries demonstrate that the wolf entered into domestic partnership with man before any other animal species and before the cultivation of plants for food. Indeed, recent molecular evidence suggests that dogs may even have been domesticated as much as 100,000 years ago.
The precise circumstances of domestication have been the subject of considerable speculation. Various theories have been advanced that center on our ancestors’ deliberate use of wolves for practical purposes: hunting, guarding, tidying carrion and refuse around settlements, or even as food items. However, it is equally likely that domestication simply came about by accident, with hunter–gatherer societies capturing and raising young wild animals as pets.
As you know, I am a sucker for the boarding school book. And although these books do not take place at the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females, I can't help but think on such a place as it has clearly coloured our young heroine Penelope Lumley.
In the latest installment, the Widow Ashton and her companion Admiral Faucet (pronounces Fah-say, if you please) have returned to the homestead. The Widow to see her son Frederick, and the Admiral to woo the Widow and to launch his money making scheme of ostrich racing. But when the pair arrive, Faucet's ostrich Bertha has escaped into the woods around the estate. In fact, Penelope and the children come across the ostrich while on a nature hike in the woods, but no sooner do they see her than Bertha is off and running again.
Upon meeting the children, the Widow Ashton is quite taken with them, and Lady Constance who has never shown the children any affection to speak of, starts to fuss over them. In fact, the first night of the visit, Penelope and the children are invited to dine with the family and they are regailed with the tale of Master Ashton's untimely death in a medicinal tar pit. After dinner Frederick and the Admiral take the boys back to the study and hatch a plan to get Bertha back. Faucet wants to catch her and Frederick wants to hunt her. And they want to take the children due to their unique tracking abilities.
Penelope won't let the go without her and Cassiopeia, and since she is worried about Frederick's abissmal eyesight, she conspires with Faucet to have the expedition take place on the full moon when she knows full well that Frederick will be suffering from his "moon sickness".
What follows is an adventure that only Penelope could get into with the Incorrigibles. Honestly, not as much happens in this installment as I was expecting. There are of course the elements of the Swanburne education with the exploration of philosophers like Thomas Hobbes and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, synonyms, and prognostics. There are also dappled mysteries like the sandwiches in the cave, and the identity of "Judge Quinzy". But it seems that the biggest thing that is happening in The Unseen Guest is Penelope's own growth. Why, for example, is she not finding the comfort she used to in the pony books of her childhood, and why does she yearn for adventure instead of comfort?
Overall, fans of the series will eat this one up. I do hope, however, that the next adventure brings us closer to the reveal of not only the moon sickness, but of the identity of Quinzy as well!
I really don’t know how it is that I only recently discovered the gorgeous work of Rebecca Cobb. She’s an illustrator with a lovely fresh look, full of colour and a real knack for perfect observation, capturing emotion and feeling with just the tiniest strokes of her pencil or paintbrush. We’ll soon be hearing lots and lots more about her, as she has a book with Children’s Laureate Julia Donaldson due out this autumn, but don’t wait that long to discover her lovely books and art. Start now with Lunchtime, a delightful story about being simply too busy to to do what your parents want you to do. I know two children for whom this is true most days, and I bet you do too!
Lunchtime opens with a young girl busily being creative, painting and cutting and gluing. When her mum calls her for lunch, she’s too busy to stop what’s she’s doing. When cross words drive her to the lunch time table, a friend or two come to help clear her plate; the animals she’s been painting step out off the paper and save the day. Mum returns, and is delighted to see the plate clear. So far so good… but as well all know skipping lunch does have its consequences, and later in the day it’s not the growling of the girl’s bear we hear but rather that of her own tummy.
I don’t know if Cobb has children of her own, but she has captured several moments of parenthood/childhood very perceptively in this short tale; from the total absorption kids can experience when they are doing something they love (an immersion that really can bring to life imagined friends), to the parents exasperation when kids don’t eat their food (and – to my shame, because it does happen in my home – the kids being left alone to eat their food whilst Mum gets on with something no doubt “more important” like tidying up). These moments are so authentic, and they are matched with illustrations that are equally spot on with observation. The facial expressions of the animals, the body language of the little girl – it all rings true, and rings with glorious colour and texture; Cobb uses a variety of techniques in her illustrations which zing off their clean white backgrounds.
The endpapers of Lunchtime are a rich treat, totally covered in watercolour rainbow rings. The girls wanted to try to replicate this so of course I was happy for us to give it a go.
We used sponges to dampen our watercolour paper…
and then we started by putting “blobs” of one colour all over our sheets. Gradually we built up circles around our blogs, giving our paper a peacock look.
4 Comments on On being too busy having fun to do anything else, last added: 7/12/2012
5stars Little Red Riding Hood apparently did not learn her lesson. She is heading back into the forest to take Grandmother a cake. Once again, a dark shadow follows her through the forest, then races ahead to prepare for Little Red’s visit. One wonders, did Grandmother learn anything? She is allowing Little Red Riding Hood [...]
Spoiler for those who have not read Shiver or Linger...
Just as Sam is "cured" of warping into a wolf's body, Grace becomes infected and changes at a dizzying rate, never knowing where she will show up as a scratched, naked teenage girl. Cole has thrown aside his passion for drugs and rock and rock and embraces research on himself for "the cure" to be perfected. But all is not well. A renegade wolf has just killed a new changelings and community leaders are outraged. Isabel's father amasses state support for exterminating the wolf population. Coupling the werewolf phenomena with the controversy of wolf control in the United States is a great addition to this final, dramatic installment.
Woo-Hoo! According to a posting on the SF Reader Forum, the anthology Strange Worlds of Lunacy is 100% finished and should be available to buy on Amazon really, really soon. I'm so excited. I feel as if this is my first publication. I stopped submitting/writing short stories about 7 years ago to concentrate on writing novels and then about two/three years ago my writing came to an almost stop (with no more than 20,000 words a year, written in half-hearted dribs and drabs). All these years later I feel like a different (hopefully improved) writer and hence the feeling as if this is publication number one. Wow, how long winded can one person be to simply say - WOO-HOO, I'm excited.
In other news. Did a little tidying up of 'The Poisoned Apple' (for the uninitated - my children's novel) over the weekend and added about 2,500 words. All I need to do now is finish that darn synopsis, write the query letter and send it out there... Wherever there may be.
I have completed the first draft of my story, The Graveyard of Dead Vehicles, which I intend to submit to the Wolfsong Anthology. It needs the usual tidying up and the reference to 'blood' toned down. A note of what the publisher doesn't want from their submission guidelines: "Really bloody horror. Violence is ok if it is necessary for the plot, but splatter and gore isn’t." I need to find a way to reference the death of the MC's wolf without smearing it's blood all over the manuscript.
Margaret H Bonham has announced the contributors for the WolfSongs Volume 1 anthology.
Lyn McConchie Irene Radford Selina Rosen Laura J. Underwood Tracy S. Morris Gerri Leen Terri Pray Sue Burke Megan Arkenberg Ken Goldman Scott Fitts John Lance Catherine J Gardner Karen Wolfe Toni V. Sweeney J. Kathleen Cheney Laura K. Deal S.N.Arly Keith Gouveia Lizzy Shannon Carol Hightshoe M. H. Bonham
I love contests. Though you've probably already guessed that. I first caught the contest bug when I won a holiday to Las Vegas plus spending money a distant 10 years ago. Since then I've won videos, t-shirts and books. Anyway, why am I telling you all this? Because I'm excited to have just bought a wad of fairy and pirate items for a future contest which I will be running in honour of my first pro sale. The story was accepted last November and I'm hoping it will appear in the next couple of months. I like to be prepared. I'm also trying to stiff the taxman.
Of course my ebay hunt also led to my spending an hour procrastinating. Consider my wrists duly slapped.
Wolf Dude won't be hosting this competition. He's currently in prison (ie locked in my bookcase) for scaring my four year old niece last week. I have to admit I played my own part in the evil act (I left him guarding my make-up case where her sticky fingers usually wind up) and my brother added to the distress by persuading Wolf Dude to go for a walk across my dressing table while singing his trademark song. I don't think I should be allowed to write for children.
Yey, I've finally finished the painting I started two years ago! A scene from one of the chapters of the book I’m writing- Alex and Raúl are resting by the stream after a long and tedious trek through the forest, unaware they have ventured into the territory of Mortikye the wolf. Their presence is not welcome…
I’m really pleased with how this turned out considering I did'nt rough it up and more or less painted it as I went along.
This sequel to the lovely Big Wolf & Little Wolf continues the story of their friendship. Little Wolf spots a special leaf in the spring and wants Big Wolf to climb up their tree and bring it down. Big Wolf tells him to wait, that it will fall. Little Wolf asks again in the summer and autumn, as the leaf turns into a deep green and then a soft brown. When winter arrives, the leaf is still up in the tree, now a black color. Then one day, Big Wolf decides to climb the tree and bring down the leaf for Little Wolf. After a harrowing climb, Big Wolf reaches the leaf and it crumbles to pieces. Beautiful pieces.
Brun-Cosme’s prose is lovely, spare and yet manages to be dynamic too. She evokes the seasons, colors and wonder of each time of year without becoming maudlin at all. There is the drama of Big Wolf’s climb and the unexpected resolution of the story that is surprising but fitting. The first book was about the awkwardness of new friendship. This second book is about a deepening connection and the beauty of togetherness.
Tallec’s illustrations are less colorful this time, sticking to a more natural palette of colors. But they still have an expansive feel, a clear sense of space, and they play with perspective. They are simple but dynamic, just like the text. A lovely combination.
Highly recommended, this series has its own unique feel and style. These are quiet books, filled with natural beauty and deep connections. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Full disclosure: My review of the first book is blurbed on the jacket of this second. A great surprise to discover!
As the weather turns cold and winter approaches, we add layers of clothes and turn up the heat. What do animals do to prepare for the cold?
Some animals prepare for cold weather by gathering food and storing it for the upcoming winter when it will be harder to find. Can you think of any animals that do this?
Other animals are able to find food through the winter and grow thicker layers of fur. Can you think of any animals that do this?
Some animals go into a deep sleep over the winter. They usually will eat lots of food in the fall then go to sleep in a den or a deep burrow. A true hibernating animal’s breathing slows way down and its body temperature drops.
Some animals sleep heavily for long periods but will wake up every occasionally to eat.
Seeing birds flying south in the fall is common. They are not only flying to warmer climates for warmth but to be able to find food that is more readily available. They usually follow the same routes every year. Some animals learn the routes by following other animals (mother?) but other animals seem to know where to go by instinct. Scientists aren’t sure how the animals know how, when, or where to go.
Birds are not the only animals that migrate to warmer weather during their winters. Can you think of any other animals that go south for the winter? Do you know any people who go south for the winter? Where do they go?
Not all migrations have to do with warmer weather. Some animals migrate as part of their life cycle. Life cycle migrations may take place every year and similar animals may gather in special spots to find mates or to have babies.
Other animals might migrate only when giving birth or to lay eggs in a specific location (where they were hatched).
Ideas for experiential learning:
Keep a wildlife journal for one week. Identify what animals you see and what they are doing. Do you think they are getting ready for winter? Do you see any signs of animals even though you might not see the animals themselves?
• Bird feathers
• Chewed pinecones
• Chewed acorns or nuts
• Scat (droppings)
• Animal tracks
What are some ways that humans prepare for cold weather? How do the clothes we wear change with the seasons? Why?
Do we eat any foods now that we might not eat during the hot summer? What foods and why?
In the book, Whistling Wings, the young tundra swan flies about 1,000 miles without stopping to rest or eat.
• Look at a map and figure out how far 1,000 miles is from where you live. Could you walk there without stopping to slee
In a recent picture book workshop at the New Jersey Education Association Annual Convention in Atlantic City, I shared with participants some full page spreads from One Wolf Howls, a gorgeous picture book from Sylvan Dell. The audience had to laugh at itself after responding with "ooos" and "ahhhs" like a classroom of kindergartners. But that's exactly the reaction this book often receives, so I'm pleased today to offer copies of One Wolf Howls to three lucky winners.
For those of us who teach the upper grades, we take for granted that our students should already know a good deal of information. It's our lower grade colleagues, of course, who work tirelessly to impart this wisdom to their pint-sized charges. One Wolf Howls is at first a beautiful nature picture told in rhyme. But upon closer inspection, it teaches students the number that corresponds to each month of the calendar year. For example, February's spread reads
Two wolves play in a February snowfall— frisky, frosty, fairyland snow. Two wolves play in a February snowfall deep in the woods where the harsh winds blow.
And each illustration, in turn, adds another wolf. Cool, huh? And like all Sylvan Dell books, One Wolf Howls is supported on-site by an impressive pdf of teaching activities (this one is 46 pages!), interactive quizzes (which my wife in kindergarten uses on her interactive whiteboard), standards alignment, author and illustrator profiles, and more, including a link to the book trailer:
The connection that illustrator Susan Detwiler makes between her dog and the wolves is an interesting one, worthy of further study in the classroom. In what ways are wolves and dogs alike? How is some common dog behavior explained by wolf pack behavior?
Back in the 1980s, Harvard freshmen parents weekend offered me a special opportunity to see a master teacher in action. A feature of the event was the choice of attending some of the survey classes offered to students. A class taught by one of my idols, biologist Edward O. Wilson, was on the list, so I eagerly attended. I watched as Dr. Wilson, wearing a white lab coat, told the students the story of a visit to the Costa Rican rainforest as he showed slides of the trip. I found his casual travelogue interesting, but it didn't seem like a professor's lecture for beginning students. The more I listened, the more I realized that his presentation covered several basic principles of biology as he described what he saw and did in the forest. He embedded the facts so softly into his story that the students didn't realize their learning brains were on automatic pilot as they listened. Fiction writers and fiction lovers sometimes talk of the power of story as if only made-up stories can carry that power. But nonfiction contains many fabulous stories, and when told in that format, it can make the real world at least as compelling as any world conceived in imagination.
Armed with my love of nonfiction story-telling, I just began teaching a class for the University of Montana Osher Lifelong Learning Institute program for people 50 years old and up. My class is full of curious students, each with ideas about what they want to write. About half of them have family stories to share, and the rest have varied interests. I am not daunted about these differing ambitions, however, as I know the basic principles of writing good stories are the same, whatever the genre. Basically, there is one fundamental requirement--keep your readers turning the page!
I've found one of the best books on the subject of storytelling is "Story," by Robert McKee. His book and seminars focus on writing for the screen, but it doesn't matter. Novelists as well as screen writers attend his seminars and refer to his book. One of my new students, as a matter of fact, showed me a summary diagram in the book called "The Three Levels of Conflict" that has helped him in structuring his stories. Conflict and its resolution are at the core of any story worth reading. As soon as we find out the main character has a problem, a conflict, we want to know how it is going to be resolved, and as long as the main character is off balance and having to struggle through a series of challenges, readers stay engaged.
The "main character" doesn't have to be a person. In my own work, my main character is often an animal, or even a complete ecosystem. "The Right Dog for the Job: Irah's Path from Service Dog to Guide Dog," features a Golden Retriever puppy whose life undergoes some surprising twists and turns before he becomes a successful Guide Dog for the Blind. In "When the Wolves Returned: Restoring Nature's Balance in Yellowstone," the main character is Yellowstone National Park, put out of balance during the 1920s when the top predator, the gray wolf, was killed off in the park. The book tells how returning wolves to Yellowstone during the 1990s has gradually led to restoring the natural balance in the park. It's a satisfying story with a beginning, a middle, and an end, just like any fiction.
That's a great strength of much of today's nonfiction for children--it combines engrossing stories with important and interesting information about the real world, a powerful combination for learning.
I am a wolf. This is somewhat inconvenient because wolves don't cook or clean or shop for food. I also seem to be something of a stay-at-home, chocolate eating wolf, inclined to sleep a lot: a semi hibernating wolf who, lacking opposable thumbs, is pretty useless at living my life. I thought I was going to have to be a wolf for most of my book but I am rapidly changing my mind, though, to be honest, as a wolf I don't do much rapidly. My claws make too much noise on my wooden stairs, my breath smells and my dog has forsaken his place under my desk; I think I have to give it up. I have been a fox before now, but she was female and largely co operative if more feral than I would have liked. I am often a man, or a boy anyway, which is straightforward, though I obviously have to remember that it is only in my mind that I pee standing up. I like shapeshifting it's what we novelists do. I always remember an internet friend remarking that she had persuaded herself she was several inches taller in order to live in the skin of her heroine and was constantly surprised that she couldn't actually reach the pickles off the highest supermarket shelves. That hasn't yet happened to me, though I am occasionally disturbed to see the face of an old woman in the mirror in place of my youthful and (invariably attractive) protagonist: always a bit of a let down that. The wolf is different. The wolf is semi-nocturnal and always tired, plus he has no self discipline. Absolutely none. He is an alpha male who won't compromise and is horribly territorial about the best place on the sofa. He expects the pack to obey him, which, frankly, has come as a bit of a shock to the pack who are used to a little less snarling. None of this poses an insurmountable problem, the deal breaker is that the wolf doesn't want to tell his story. He can't be arsed. The wolf doesn't care if it never gets written. The wolf wants what the wolf wants and it isn't what I want so I think I have to let him go, let him slink off back into my id or wherever the hell he's come from and take his stink back with him. I think my husband will be pleased.
Wood, Maryrose. 2010. The Mysterious Howling. New York: Harper Collins.
"All books are judged by their covers until they are read."
A most appropriate quote from Agatha Swanburne, founder of the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females, from which our protagonist, 15-year-old Penelope Lumley, has recently graduated. An appropriate quote for it was the cover that initially drew me in to this story of Miss Lumley and the peculiar inhabitants of Ashton Place.
Although only fifteen, Miss Penelope Lumley is an extremely capable young lady, in the mold of Mary Poppins or any number of similar governesses that one might find in mid-nineteenth century England - firm, but not inflexible; kind but not sentimental. Still, her rigorous training could hardly have been preparation for her new position at Ashton Place. Lord Ashton is a puzzling man with curious habits and a strange sense of humor, Lady Constance Ashton is a flighty, excitable woman, and the children (if one may call them children) are three siblings that have apparently been raised by wolves in the wild and forbidding Ashton Forest. Of course, this does not pose a problem for the capable Miss Lumley; however, there are many unexplained mysteries afoot. Who wishes to sabotoge the children's transition into civilized society? What secret is Mr. Ashton hiding? What secrets lie hidden with Ashton Place? What became of the children's parents (and for that matter, of Miss Lumley's parents as well!)?
Consistently written in a style that evokes the sensibilities of England in the 1850s, Wood's writing is amusing as well and contains frequent helpful "asides" from the narrator.
Now there is a scientific principle that states: Once a train has left the station and is going along at a good clip, it is often fiendishly difficult to slam on the brakes, even if you are clearly headed for trouble (the same holds true for horses that have already left their barns). This principle is Newton's very first law of motion and was considered old news even in Miss Penelope Lumley's day. Penelope had taken physics at Swanburne and, thus, knew all about Newton's laws of motion. Still, she felt that a final, desperate, and heroic attempt to change the course of events that now led inexorably and disatrously to the children attending Lady Constance's party seemed called for, and so she gave it her all. "Lady Constance, your plans for a holiday ball sound delightful, and I am sure the children would hate to miss it," she began, "but coincidentally, I was intending to ask you if I may take them on a ski holiday in France until after the New Year..." To give you an idea how final, desperate, and heroic this suggestion was, it should be noted that Penelope had never skied in her life, nor had she ever been to France that she could recall, nor did she know precisely where one might sk
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So, I really haven't been doing much reading lately--well, I have, but I just can't seem to finish anything! With all the events of the last few weeks, including LATFOB, Gayle Forman's Musical Tour, and Children's Literature Council, and everything I need to read/write/make for school... My eyes are about to fall out of my head.
So I'm going to unload a little bit of information onto the blog, and hope that makes some room in the grey matter chamber to finish the semester without too much screaming.
Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can't Haveby Allen Zadoff
If you hunger for love and thirst for approval, you'll devour this clever novel in just a few bites. This book was funny, touching, and a great counterpoint to Wintergirlsby Laurie Halse Anderson. I think it's pretty strange that I decided to read them both at the same time. Food is much more enjoyable; I enjoy the complexities in the various characters like O. Douglas, the quarterback who takes Andrew "under his wing" so to speak; the various attitudes toward fatness that help both Andrew and the reader see beyond the blubber. For the synopsis, click here.
The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner (The Queen's Thief, Book 1)
This has been sitting on my shelf for at least a year or two. I finally picked it up last week and couldn't put it down! Storytelling figures greatly in this book as Gen and other characters retell folktales based on Greek myths. The final twists and turns revealed at the end of the book are clever and well worth the wait! I wish I weren't still in the middle of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrellso I could plow through the next three books. For the synopsis, click here.
0 Comments on Releasing the Frontal Lobe: A Catch-Up Post as of 5/6/2010 4:48:00 PM
You know, I've read about 20 books since the last time I did a full-fledged review post. The list is here. I almost feel like I can't go back and review them all because the sheer volume of catching-up-to-do makes me want to quit reading and make knitting my one and only hobby. (Just kidding. I love knitting, but I don't think I could ever actually quit reading. Or meat-eating. Or cookies.)
So, I'll give you a quick one on my latest book, and then pick up from there.
Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce Publication date: June 7th, 2010 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers ISBN 10/13: 0316068683 / 9780316068680
Category: Young Adult Paranormal Fantasy Format: Hardcover Keywords: Wolves, Sisters, Family, Secrets, Action/Adventure, Romance
How I found out about this book: Started following Jackson Pearce on Twitter
Quickie: Wolves, weapons, and an eye-patch-wearing heroine. Who can stay away?
My review: I've been burned by a lot of pretty covers with nothing between the boards but a flaccid romance, an over-reaching plot and wispy, if at all present, themes. So when Sisters Red hit the shelf I borrowed it and let it sit around for a week before I made a commitment to read a few pages. I mean, look at that cover! Eye candy, but what's in it?
By page 22 I had made a buying decision, returned my loaner copy, and brought my very own book home. By page 77 I had forgotten I had a headache. By page 259 I was biting the nails off the hand that wasn't holding the book. Trust me, this one's a keeper--the insides as beautiful as the outside. Meaty plot, scorching-hot romance, and fiesty female protagonists make Sisters Red a must-read.
The imagery, intricacy, and the subtle, but not-so-subtle construction of this story made me wish I had written it. Come on: Scarlett, scarred, inside and out, trying to shelter her little sister and make her grow up at the same time. Rosie, trying to be brave, training to hunt, trying to be just like Scarlett, and still wondering who she would be without the wolves. Silas, cut off from his family, wedged between two lovely, if bloodthirsty girls--well, you can see where this is going? Or can you?
I loved the trio of main characters, the tension between sisters and would-be-lovers, the truly terrifying natures of the evil creatures they hunt (and strangely more unsettling, the real-world evils that they don't touch). This was a well-balanced, expertly conceived YA novel, and the first to make it to my Top Ten of 2010 list.
I have more to say, but it's almost 2 am and you're going to read it anyway, aren't you? For more comments, visit my Goodreads.com review.
Hello procrastinators! Yes, I've been pretty busy here as I've been finishing off a book and illustrating some School Magazine work so I haven't had time to post anything significant. Anyway, instead of crapping on about how busy I've been, I decided to share some randomly selected illustrations (my three year old daughter helped me out here) that I've been working on - see above.
Finally, I have some time to work on my new picture book which I am a little behind on. Yeah! I'll post some early previews regarding this soon. Stay well.
Nightshade by Andrea Cremer Publication date: October 19th 2010 (Philomel) ISBN 10/13: 039925482X / 9780399254826
Category: Young Adult Fantasy Format: Hardcover Keywords: Romance, Wolves, Prophecy
How I found out about this book: I found this while I was looking for Debut Authors for The Story Siren's 2010 Challenge, though I have pretty much dropped out of the running for challenge prizes etc. I'm just having way too much fun reading to be bothered writing reviews for most things... anyway, Penguin sent my store a very generous box of ARCs and it included Nightshade. Cha-ching!
My review: Though I wasn't 100% happy with this debut novel, it definitely kept my attention--I finished it in just under two days. I like the mythology Cremer invents for the shape-shifting Guardians. I was also able to guess some major plot twists, so that took away a little bit of my enjoyment (hence the deducted star), but Calla Tor and her cavalcade of secondary characters sufficiently distracted me during the afternoon I got my flu shot. I couldn't seem to turn the pages fast enough once I finished the first half!
Calla, the alpha of the Nightshade pack, shifts not just from girl to wolf but from naughty, mini-skirted siren to prudish, hand-slapping goody-two-shoes (wow, that's a lot of hyphenates--hold on for the parentheticals) in the blink of an eye. I found this disconcerting; that and the almost entirely predictable (well, if you've read as many mysteries as I have) puzzle of newcomer Shay Doran. Ren Laroche, the alpha of the Bane pack, to whom Calla is promised, has good reason to despise him. Shay's poaching on his territory!
I did find the setting and some of the characters a little off--do modern moms in Vail actually serve hot tea to important guests in the evenings? Was she supposed to be English-ish? Er...
What would otherwise have been a sluggish, moony-eyed romance moves at a pretty good pace as Calla, Shay and Ren play with pack politics. I enjoyed the gamboling of the young wolf pack, and the unexpected alliances and loyalties that Cremer builds into the character arcs. I also thought the plot was reasonably perilous. I've read similar YA novels where the danger is so thin, the climax feels about as tense as breaking a fingernail--annoying, but easily fixed. Nightshade manages to layer the stakes so that Calla's mistakes are not just hers--it affects the Nightshades and the Banes, and may have even greater, world-breaking repercussions.
Lastly, though I deplore love triangles in which it is completely obvious who the main character is going to end up with, Cremer does a good job of balancing Ren's bad-boy behaviors with some good intentions; this has the strange effect of making you want a happy ending for him, all the while hoping Calla ends up with Shay anyway.
If your brain needs an escape from whatever is stress
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Scary stuff and not appropriate for sensitive readers. Read more after the jump.
There once was a white rabbit who went to the library and signed out a book on wolves. Like Alice in Through the Looking-Glass, the rabbit unknowingly becomes part of the book he is reading. Oblivious to the looming danger of a wolf, [...]