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I paid a premium, quite a bit higher than retail. The set, rather small and originally retailing for just $19.95, has made quite a few Lego resellers fat stacks of profit as they scooped them by the cart load and flipped on eBay, Amazon, and other you-sell-it sites. I'll admit I do a little Lego "investing," too, but not on the scale as major resellers. I've held onto a few Star Wars sets and made a few bucks. Kim can tell you about the Monster Fighters Haunted House on a shelf out in the garage. (Or maybe she can't... it's packed neatly in an inconspicuous brown box.)
One of the big rules of Lego investing is one should enter at a low price. It's frighteningly like the stock market, at at web sites like Brickpicker.com, it's treated as such. Buy low and sell high. Hold for the long term or occasionally find one of those glorious penny stocks which appreciates rapidly and can be sold short term for huge profits. The cheapest Research Institute available on eBay US as of this writing will cost you $70.04 including shipping. Yes, more than triple the MSRP.
So why break such a cardinal rule to get my hands on this set? Do I see the price rising even higher?
Sure, maybe. But this one isn't for sale. I wanted to grab a RI for my granddaughter. (This is where the audience gasps, thinking something like, "Isn't your oldest kid like a freshmen in high school?")
Look, this isn't a family blog, per se, but no one here is pregnant.
I'm looking down the road here. Waaaaay down the road. Lego's Research Institute made a huge splash largely because... look closely at the box... it features three female scientists. It garnered a lot of media attention last month, including this article from the New York Times, this op-ed in the Chicago Tribune, and an online petition to resurrect the set after its too-short life.
So I mentioned I'm looking down the road. Waaaaay down the road, but the RI isn't about "investing" in the traditional sense. I want to gift this to my future granddaughter because her world (hopefully) will be different than the one in which we live. I want to give it to her and let her know how happy I am she is able to do whatever she wants. I want her to know how happy I am she lives in a world in which a toy set featuring female scientists is no longer a big deal because everyone knows women can kick ass at anything they do.
That's the best investment I can imagine and a world in which I want everyone to live.
English public librarians don’t get out much. Sure, we’re often dealing with the public every open hour or talking with our teams but, well, we normally just don’t meet librarians from neighbouring authorities, let alone from around the country. Most branch staff stay in their own building and may never talk to anyone from another authority other than on the phone arranging for a book for a customer. So, it was a delight for me to be invited by Oxford University Press (OUP) to an afternoon to meet with nineteen other library professionals, ranging from part-time library staff to at least one head of service. It was also wonderful that the session was in the publishers’ beautiful headquarters in the famous historic town of Oxford, which has to be one of my favourite places in world and, not coincidentally, one of the most book-friendly too.
So why the nice day out? Well, the meeting was the first one for public librarians in the UK of the OUP Library Advisory Council. The clever purpose of this impressive sounding group is to get together library staff who use and promote online resources so that we can share ideas and learn more about how the publisher can help libraries and their users. I am delighted to say that from the start – and to the great credit of our hosts – it was clear that this was not just going to be a thinly veiled sales day but rather a real chance for us all to hear about what best practice was going on and how we could adapt it for our own purposes.
The importance of online services to public libraries was clear in every presentation and in every conversation. People are more and more using their computer as their source of knowledge for factual information and for what is going on locally and libraries, used for so long to fulfilling that function, need to get with the programme. Further to this, social media is being used by many as a primary way of getting answers. People get their news about what is going on from Facebook and Twitter and will often ask questions online that are then answered by their friends or followers. I recently came across an example of this myself when I tweeted asking for anyone’s experience of using lego in libraries: I got ten replies including from practitioners who have won awards for their work in the United States and Australia. The challenge for public librarians is therefore about how to meet this challenge and how best to serve the public in a world where answers are obtainable without even opening up a new window on the computer. It’s also important for us to provide a professionally-resourced, factually-based, and entirely neutral service to counteract what can often be the biased (and sometimes inaccurate) views expressed by others in social media.
Kids having fun at Cockburn Libraries during the school holidays. Photo by Cockburn Libraries. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 via cockburnlibraries Flickr.
How librarians are meeting this challenge is truly inspiring. One city mayor realised early on that libraries are instrumental in improving literacy and sense of community and invested in a special website where e-books, online services, reviews and events all came together. Another library service goes out to schools to let them know about how useful their website (including a fair number of OUP resources) can be for their students, with the visits being such a success that they’re being invited back to deliver classes. Yet another city’s library twitter account is now really embedded in the local community, sharing information on local events, linking to old photographs of the town and chatting to users who need never leave their mobile phone to access their library. It’s even be used as some sort of instant messaging service with the library being tweeted about the wifi having just stopped working elsewhere in the building.
Lots of great ideas then, which got me thinking (perhaps counterintuitively) during the day about how important surrounding and buildings still are in this digital age. The OUP offices in Great Clarendon Street are beautiful and spacious, mixing the old and the new with some skill. In this environment, all of us felt comfortable and happy to talk about our and each other’s experiences. The building had all of the facilities — space, light, refreshments, wifi — that we needed. The same can also of course be equally said of a good public library for our users. Such a library provides the space for people to meet, read, and study with no need to worry about anything else that is going on and with no need to pay. Even for the digital elite, such meeting spaces are not without importance and for those with no online presence, with little money, or even just for those who downright love the printed word the public library building can be absolutely essential. The online resources are an extension of this, promote it and enhance it, but do not totally replace it. This is why the OUP has a headquarters and why there will always be public library buildings.
My thanks therefore to OUP for putting on such a good day, and to all of my highly skilled and motivated colleagues who made the day so useful. I travelled back on the train thinking about how to share what I had learned with my colleagues and how to use the examples and resources to improve the service that I provided. In such ways, the library gets more value for the money it pays for online resources but also, more to the point, the public gets served better and the library continues to be so well-used by everyone, including by those who use Facebook and Twitter.
Ian Anstice is a full-time public librarian working in the North West of England. He also finds the time to run the Public Libraries News website which provides a free summary of international and national coverage of the sector.
published June 2014 by Henry Holt and Company, an imprint of Macmillan.
Friends, I’m so excited to have Arree Chung in this corner of the internet today. I met Arree last summer at SCBWI in Los Angeles, and am humbled every time I think about how we share an agent and a friendship. He’s an expert storyteller with a bright, animated style and a fresh perspective. Ninja! is his debut picture book, and it will be far from his last.
First, you should watch this short film. And here’s my confession. Arree sent this to me a number of weeks ago with the caveat that it was unreleased and not to share. Except: it was too awesome not to. So I showed it to my students, because single-digit-aged kids are pretty good at secrets and don’t have Twitter accounts anyway.
They loved it. And I mean L O V E D I T. Each class, without fail, asked to watch it many, many times in a row. So we did.
Meet Maxwell, and then meet Arree.
What has been the most surprising thing about this whole debut picture book thing?
The most surprising thing about the publishing process is how long it takes to actually bring a book to market (1.5 – 2 years). My background is in games, where companies can publish with the click of a button and make updates via the internet. The process gives me appreciation for the care that goes into the publishing process. It also helps to have a great team of people to work with. Everyone from your agent, publisher, editor and art director in making the book and then there’s publicity, marketing and sales folks that help in getting the book out.An early cover design.revision notes.
I’m fortunate to have a supportive publisher in Macmillan. They have a great team of experts. Each one helps you with a specific aspect of the publishing process. I’ve learned so much. I’m so grateful I’ve been in good hands. I’ve worked hard to hold up my end of the deal and make something special. With Ninja it was easy, because I loved it so much.
Who are your creative and/or literary heroes?
Oh, so many!
Guillermo Del Toro
Nick Park (Wallace & Gromit)
Can you talk about the similarities and differences in animation and the picture book form?
I love both mediums for different reasons. Both mediums can transport the reader into new worlds. I love it when a book or movie captures my imagination and I am completely immersed in a world that has been built. The world is invented but it feels familiar and the story resonates with honesty. I hate it when a story is force feeding me a message and it feels like an infomercial or when a story rambles without a focus. Storytelling is magical when it has both the imagination and heart and speaks to you directly and honestly. A great story is so exhilarating. There’s nothing in the world that feels like it. I love both animation and picture books because they have the ability to create magic.
How they are different? Well, I think the main difference is that film tends to be a passive experience. The viewer is in a dream like state that watches the story unfold. It’s like being suspended in a time capsule and you watch everything that happens. You take the story in a more subliminal kind of way.Books on the other hand I think are active experiences. You as the reader actively interact with the words and pictures. It’s like your brain is the film projector and is working to play the story. Because of this, I think books are much more intimate experiences. You go at your own pace. You stop, question and wonder. Sometimes you’re so engaged, you speed all the way through and sometimes you like to read slowly just because. Readers engage books with their imaginations and a lot of the story is told in-between the words, the page turns and the illustrations whereas films are full experiences that use all the arts of composition, acting, music and visuals to put you in a state of suspension.
Both are magical and I love doing both so much.
Can you give us any behind-the-scenes information on how you created the short film? Did you get to know Maxwell differently in that format?
Yeah! It was so thrilling to bring Maxwell to life. I had a pretty good idea of who he is as a character after creating the book but actually seeing him move and casting Taylor Wong as Maxwell brought another whole dimension.
As for production, here’s a quick behind the scenes look of what it took to make the short film. I plan on doing a much more in-depth look in a separate blog post.
We used 4 software tools: Photoshop, Flash, After Effects and Final Cut Pro. The process was a highly collaborative effort between folks at MacMillan, myself and David Shovlin, the animator. It was a ton of work to do but a ton of fun as well.
In all, it took about 5 weeks of work. David and I worked really hard on it and I’m really proud of what we created in a relatively short period of time.Where did Ninja! come from?
It’s been my dream to make my own picture books for a long time. The first conception of Ninja came when I was in art school. I jotted down “A boy goes creeping around the house dressed as a Ninja and causes trouble.” That was probably in 2007 or so.
Early Ninja! thumbnails and character sketches.
In 2012, I decided to do the Illustrator Intensive at the SCBWI Summer Conference. We were given an assignment to submit a story along with a manuscript, thumbnails, character sketches, and a finished illustration. Up to that point, I had been writing stories for years but was stuck on many of them. For the workshop we had to write down answers to the following questions:
WHO WHAT is the dilemma? WHERE does it take place? HOW is the problem solved?
This really helped me a lot. Previous to this, many of my stories didn’t have focus and wandered a lot. Ninja was a big break through for me as a storyteller and I had lots of people who helped guide me through it. I’m so thankful for Rubin, my agent, and Kate, my editor. The more I worked on it, the more the world and character took shape and gained depth. It was so much fun to make.
Do you remember any art you made as a kid? What was it?!
Yeah, I made a lot of ninja stars and origami. I was also obsessed with Legos. I loved to build cruiser space ships and large fortresses armed to the teeth. Whenever my uncle bought us Legos, we would make the thing we were supposed to make and then tear it apart and then make what we wanted to make. Making your own thing was much more fun.
I was a huge comic book reader and collector as well. I bought all of the X-men, Spiderman, Spider-ham, Batman and Spawn comics. I still buy comics.
I also really love the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I used to record all of the episodes. In fact, I used to press pause on the VCR and trace drawings of the Ninja Turtles by overlaying paper onto the TV. At school, everyone thought I was the best drawer, but I never told anyone my technique til now! Eventually I copied so many drawings I could draw it out of memory. I tried to do the same technique with Transformers but that wasn’t nearly as successful because I didn’t understand perspective as at 12 year old.
And now what’s next for you?I’ve got a lot of things I’m working on. I have lots of Ninja stories to tell with Maxwell. (I’m so excited about all of them!) One of them involves an old Chinese folktale involving ghosts!
I’m also illustrating two Potty Training books for kids that are hilarious.illustrations from How to Pee
I have lots of picture book stories I’m developing and I’m also writing a middle grade novel titled Ming Lee, All American. Ming Lee chronicles my experiences growing up as an ABC (American Born Chinese). It’s deeply personal and is funny in that Louis CK, embarrassing but honest kind of way. I would describe it as Judy Blume meets Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Of course, it is its own thing that I am figuring out. I have a sense of what I want it to be but you never know what it will be until you get there.
A huge thanks to Arree for this peek into the mind of a master craftsman. Be sure to get your hands on Ninja! this week!
Star Wars books were a hot commodity this month on The Children’s Book Review—even more than usual. LEGO Star Wars: The Visual Dictionary was our best selling middle grade book this month. Returning to our hand selected titles from the nationwide best selling middle grade books, as listed by The New York Times, is Sharon M. Draper's Out of My Mind.
I was very excited by the partnership between the Association for Library Service for Children (ALSC) and LEGO/DUPLO. My library purchased classroom sets of three of the Read, Build, Play book and block sets for use in storytimes and other programs. I planned a special storytime series to debut the new sets. The three sets we used were Grow, Caterpillar, Grow, Let’s Go Vroom, and Busy Farm. The librarian toolkit (available here: http://www.readbuildplay.com/Read-Build-Play_Librarian-Toolkit.pdf) was a great resource for storytime ideas for each book, and it also provided good information to share with parents/caregivers. Here is an outline of how we ended up using the Grow, Caterpillar, Grow book and block set in our special storytime offerings for two and three year olds.
We opened with the same intro each week of Roll, roll, roll your hands (adding verses as appropriate). The first book we used with the Caterpillars and Butterflies theme was The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. I used a caterpillar made from green DUPLOs as a prop for this story. As the caterpillar ate through each item of food, I placed it around my DUPLO caterpillar.
Next we did a flannel board rhyme of Five Little Caterpillars. After that we passed out paper butterflies (made from stapling a paper butterfly cut from a piece of construction paper to a straw). We did the rhyme Color Butterflies and children raised their butterfly and made it fly when their color was read.
Next we read the book Butterfly, Butterfly by Petr Horacek. When we finished reading we turned on some music (Grow Caterpillar from the DUPLO Jams set available at www.readbuildplay.com). While the music was playing in the background the children helped me build a DUPLO caterpillar. We used a colored die and had a basket of the square DUPLO pieces. Each color on the die had a number on it. The children would add that number of colored blocks to our caterpillar on their turn.
After we built our caterpillar, I passed out copies of Grow, Caterpillar, Grow and together we read the story. After we read it as a group, I passed out the DUPLOS for each book and together the parent and child read the story again and built each bug as they read. This was a great place to insert the literacy tip included in the Librarian Toolkit about why it’s important to read a story twice.
It's just so great when The Children's Book Review's best selling middle grade book turns out to be a great classic. Such is the case with this months title, The Children's Homer: The Adventures of Odysseus and the Tale of Troy, by Padraic Colum—what a great introduction to the always intriguing Greek mythology. The hand selected titles from the nationwide best selling middle grade books, as listed by The New York Times, feature books by super-talents Kate DiCamillo, Katherine Applegate and R.J. Palacio.
In an odd new twist for the Studio Ghibli film library, Daily Variety is reporting that U.S. distributor GKids (The Secret of Kells) has acquired the U.S. theatrical and non-theatrical rights to thirteen Ghibli films – including Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke, My Neighbor Totoro, Castle in the Sky and Spirited Away. Disney will retain the home video rights. Gkids is planning to distribute a series of Miyazaki film festivals to theatres nationwide.
Disney must have felt they no longer needed the theatrical rights. It’ll interesting to see how GKids will fare with these films – that company is certainly emerging as a leader in distributing worthy international animated features.
Meanwhile, I just caught up with these incredible Lego sculptures by Iain Heath. Heath’s tribute to the master animator Hayao Miyazaki was unveiled last year at Seattle’s BrickCon where it received the “Big in Japan – Best Overall” award. Check out his entire Miyazakitopia on Flickr. These two (below) are my favorites:
When the new firefighter trainee starts his first day he can't seem to get anything right. The chief is worried that the new guy won't be able to become a firefighter, but then they realize they just have to find his special talent! To read more of my review, click here.
Lego has built its way into the social media world (with its new fan community, ReBrick, where users can share images of what they construct and see what other Lego users have been busy making. So long to the days of just playing with blocks!; Legos... Read the rest of this post
Well, the capuchin monkeys at Stately Beat Manor remembered who I was, so I didn’t have to run that gauntlet again. (Stately Beat Manor is situated on an island in the Hudson, near Croton. Back in the 1940s, when organ grinders were eradicated from the streets of New York, Gerhard von Fulano Zutano Mengano y Perengano, the inventor of the mechanical clapping monkey, offered his island estate as a nature preserve for the numerous orphaned capuchin monkeys. Since then, they have become quite protective of the grounds, discouraging any boater foolish enough to get in range of their catapults.)
The tree octopi enjoyed the fresh crabs I brought them from Hunts Point. I’ll play with them during the weekend, in the garden fountain pool designed by Tiffany and Bartholdi. Since I have seniority over the other Beat Elite reporters, I’ll be sleeping in the Kirby Room in the north wing. It has a private balcony, and the ceiling is painted in fluorescent paint, so that it glows like a trippy black light poster! (Yeah, the women love it… it’s better than a mirror!) The Beat’s working library is just a few doors down the hall. (The archives in the sub-basement hold most of her collection, and she likes visitors to peruse specific shelves, so nothing gets too musty or dusty. Last summer it was Soviet Russia and the Warsaw Pact comics. This year, it’s sub-Saharan Africa. Can’t wait to read me some Powerman!)
So, Wednesday marks the beginning of Comic-Con International: San Diego, with Preview Night. There’s not much news streaming on Google, aside from the Twilight tragedy from Tuesday (which hit #1 on Yahoo! News earlier today). There will be some excitement tomorrow, when the paparazzi and bloggers invade. So today is kinda laid back, going with the flow, remembering where Heidi hides her secret stash of chocolate. Here’s some interesting links I’ve discovered, and hope you enjoy! Not much in the way of pictures, but I’ll try to find some to keep things interesting.
For those of you stuck on the outside, looking in, here’s a handy interactive map of various events happening in the trolley circle north of the convention center. If you look on the right, there’s a menu, which includes listings of food trucks!
How inclusive has Comic-Con become? Well, venerable Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group will be at Booth #1515. In addition to science fiction and fantasy authors, there will be two notable authors: E.L. James (she of Shades of Grey fame)
Heroes in Action announces their satirical Mitt “Romney the Robot” figure. Yes, other politicians have also been depicted…
Heroes In Action also produces toys modeled after other presidents, including Barack Obama (“Baracula”), Bill Clinton (“Wolf Bill”), George W. Bush (“Zom-Bush”), as well as other political figures such as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (“Hilluria, the Secretary of Stake”) and Al Gore (“Algor, An Inconvenient Assistant”).
Today is Super Hero Day at the LEGO booth! Here are the exclusives! Not to be offered in sets! Shazam! and Venom (or Spidey, since there’s no tongue or muscles). Bizarro and Phoenix! There are two sweepstakes URLs on the Bizarro and Phoenix pictures, but they aren’t working right now! How soon before someone constructs Bizarroworld? And then has Phoenix eat it?
Publishers Weekly announces that Abrams ComicsArts will be offering digital e-books in partnership with Comixology! The first five titles:
My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf
Empire State: A Love Story (or Not) by Jason Shiga
Mom’s Cancer by Brian Fies
Fairy Tales for Angry Little Girls by Lela Lee
Cats, Dogs, Men, Women, Ninnies & Clowns: The Lost Art of William Steig by Jeanne Steig with Illustrations by William Steig
Kid's Book Website Tuesday, everyone!! Remember those posts? Well, I am trying very hard to return to a regular posting schedule. Today is Tuesday so....
Thanks to BookAunt, I discovered another blogger who is besotted by books written for children. Great Kid Books! Written by Mary Ann Scheuer, an awesome school librarian, Great Kid Books reviews, discusses and opines about books written for non-adults.
The site is designed for grown-up people but having another blog to guide me through the labyrinth of children's books is always useful. Check it out.
Somewhere during the past three days I visited a site with book related games and quizzes and graphics and animations on it and I said to myself, "Self, THAT's a good site for KWBT." Lucky for me, I bookmarked it. Here it is!!
LEGO Books Fun Stuff from DK Books! What's not to like? It's LEGO; it's books! Create your own LEGO character mash-ups. Download coloring sheets and games. Watch videos. Buy books.
If you stroll around the DK site, you'll find other fun stuff to do. DK offers all kinds of awesome, visually appealing, accessible and informational books for children and adults. Enjoy.
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While we sort through our 600+ photos from Toy Fair, here's the Toy of the Year winners, which includes both Lego's girl-centric Friends line and Playmates' Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles line, which we saw previewed yesterday. It's huge and no doubt the Turtles are back— although now owned by Nickelodeon and not creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. Still, it's a property that has stood the test of time to become a true perennial for kids — if Michael Bay's live-action version doesn't somehow kill it again, that is.
The Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) has teamed up with LEGO® DUPLO® to expand the Read! Build! Play initiative by creating the LEGO® DUPLO® Read! Build! Play! 2013 Summer Reading List. This reading list features recommended titles that inspire play for children age 5 and under and is free to download.
To accompany the Read! Build! Play! 2013 Summer Reading List, LEGO® DUPLO® has created a free downloadable parent activity guide. This guide includes inspirational building instructions matched with each book for children and their caregivers. Doors in the Air (Orca Book Publishers, 2012) by David Weale and illustrated by Pierre Pratt is one of five titles featured in the Summer Activity Guide for children ages 3-5.
Doors in the Air is the story of a boy who is fascinated by doors. He marvels at how stepping through a doorway can take him from one world to another. He is especially enthralled by the doors of his imagination, which he refers to as “doors in the air.” He delights in discovering that when he passes through these doors, he leaves behind all feelings of boredom, fear and unpleasantness. Doors in the Air is a lilting journey through house doors, dream doors and, best of all, doors in the air.
“Surreal in its effect, this celebration of the creative mind encourages young readers and listeners to open doors of their own.” —Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2012
“Written in Seussian rhyming couplets…[and] employing alliteration that makes reading it aloud a pleasure…Doors in the Air is a fantastical triumph, celebrating the spaces in which the ordinary and the extraordinary intersect.” —Quill & Quire, May 1, 2012
I've posted about the Gallery Project before--this was the brainchild of Art Director Kirk Benshoff, and he brought it to Hachette Brook Group three years ago. Two weeks ago, the third annual Gallery Project in the NY office was held. Publishers Weekly reported on the event here:
Editors, designers, and publicists spend their days refining and supporting a writer’s art—his or her book. But, in an effort to once again put its employees’ own talents on display, the third annual Hachette Book Group Gallery Project was held by the publisher last week in HBG’s New York office.
The art on display ranged from photography, to painting, to book sculptures, and more. I didn't take a lot of pictures, but a few of the creations were children's book related, like this felt recreation of Ethan Long's Chamelia (posing with the book's editor, Connie Hsu).
Artist: Glen Davis
Of course, I was obsessed with this Lego sculpture of Mr. Tiger, from Peter Brown's Mr. Tiger Goes Wild. Jonathan Lopes is a true Lego artist. Check out his Facebook page for BKNY Bricks here!
Our latest list of current popular middle grade books features Lego books and multiple Newbery award-winning titles. The hand selected titles from the nationwide best selling middle grade books, as listed by The New York Times, feature titles by super-talents Kate DiCamillo, Kevin Henkes, Katherine Applegate and R.J. Palacio.
All the excitement surrounding The LEGO Movie sparked a renewed interest in the venerable building toys at my house. The following books that include all kinds of tips, ideas and techniques to re-purpose existing LEGO pieces for all sorts of fantastic creations.