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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Websites, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Websites for Writers

Links to fifty websites that writers should know about.


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2. Why use a book when you can use the web?

Last month, I talked to the school librarians of Hampshire at their annual conference in Winchester.  One of the things they had especially asked me to talk about was why children should use books for research rather than the web. As more teachers expect children to do their homework from online sources, it is harder for libraries to make the benefits of books clear. It was good to be asked that, as it's something that's central to a lot of what I do. It's a question I'd not tried to answer before for other people - I just had a vague sense that there were very good reasons. Working out what they are was a really useful exercise.

There are some obvious reasons, such as the availability of books to be read even by students who don't have broadband at home. It's easy to think everyone can be online all the time, but in 2013, only 42% of UK households had broadband, and 17% had no internet at all.

But there are better reasons to make books available to young people in school libraries, and to encourage their use.

You need to know what you want to know
It's easy to find out something (a specific fact, such as the dates of the Civil War or how to make risotto), but quite hard to find out about something. Suppose a young person wanted to find out about dinosaurs. Search for 'dinosaur' on Google and you get 78.8 million hits. Hardly anyone will look beyond the first page.

The web is not written for young people
The first hit is wikipedia (of course), 17,000 words starting, "Dinosaurs are a diverse group of animals of the clade Dinosauria. They first appeared during the Triassic period, 231.4 million years ago, and were the dominant terrestrial vertebrates for 135 million years, from the beginning of the Jurassic (about 201 million years ago) until the end of the Cretaceous (66 million years ago), when the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event led to the extinction of most dinosaur groups at the close of the Mesozoic Era. Not child-friendly.

How about the Natural History Museum? It has good info but is not organised in a way that makes it easy for a young student to find what they want. Behind the first, child-friendly, page it goes to a database of dinosaurs that can be sorted in  different ways. The information is presented in a dry and relatively unengaging way and if you don't know what you are looking for, it's hard to find what you need.

We could go on.

But let's try something different. Search Amazon (just to look, not to buy anything!) for children's books about dinosaurs and the first hit is  National Geographic's First Book of Dinosaurs. Here's the contents page. Which would you rather look at if you were, say, 9? This or the NHM database?

The web has no gatekeepers or guidance
The information in a book is generally accurate and unbiased. If a book is about an issue of fact, the facts are on the whole correct. If it is about an issue of opinion, all sides of an argument are presented, equipping the reader to make up his or her mind in an informed way.

My book on evolution came out last year, so I looked to see what a young reader might find online about evolution.This was the fifth hit - looks quite accessble. But all is not as it seems:

“Dinosaurs could not have gone extinct millions of years ago because Earth isn’t that old!”

“Dinosaurs, reptiles that are very different from birds, did not change into birds. God specially created birds on Day Five and dinosaurs on Day Six!”

A child growing up in a Creationist environment (family/school/USA) might encounter this view, but a child in a school library should be safe from minority views being peddled as undisputed fact. That's what homes are for.

Not all facts are true (see above)
Some websites look authoritative but have an agenda (not just the Creationist agenda). If you were researching sugar, you might think sugar.org looks like a good start. It is, of course, a sort of sugar-marketing board and would give a vulnerable young reader a completely distorted view of the value of sugar in the diet. And some 'facts' are just wrong, such as this one, widely cited: “According to Eric Schmidt of Google, every two days now the human race creates as much information as we did from the dawn of civilisation until 2003.” It's true that Eric Schmidt said it, but that's all. Go back to the sources, and the real fact is that as much information was published, recorded or shared every two days in 2010 as in all of 2002. (And most of it was probably videos of kittens and pictures of people doing something stupid - not useful information.)

The web is a false form of laziness
It might look as though it's easier for a child to look online than find a book in the library. But it's laziness that backfires.
The web is full of accurate, fascinating information. It's also full of inaccurate, dull garbage. The web is not bad - but using it properly takes time and skill. A book written specifically for children could be based entirely on online research - but the author will have done the hard things:
  • finding the right information
  • checking the information
  • selecting the relevant and interesting information
  • presenting the information in an accessible, appropriate way for young readers.
If a young reader goes straight to Google, they have to do all this - and usually they don't, of course. They copy and paste the first thing they come across and learn nothing. Learning to use the web is a vital skill, but learning subject content should not be jeopardised by expecting children to depend on their nascent web skills.

I ended my talk with this chart. I could just have given you the chart and shut up, I suppose. This is why kids learn more from a well-chosen book than a Google search:

Using the web, the pupil has to do all the work - find the information, select it, find a route through it, work out what the words (usually intended for adults) mean, and decide whether the facts are correct. In a book, the author has done all that. The pupil can get on with learning about the subject. They can develop those other vital skills while researching less important content.

Evolution, TickTock (Hachette), September 2014: 9781783251346

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3. Monday Morning Miscellany v.8

I haven't been posting much lately, but it's not because I haven't been busy.  Here's what I've been doing:

I'm a Round 2 Judge for Nonfiction -Early & Middle Grades. The finalists are listed below. A winner will be announced on February 14, 2015.  Stay tuned and check out the finalists in all the other categories on the Cybils site.  I can't discuss the books, but you are free to comment on your favorites.

Angel Island: Gateway to Gold Mountain
by Russell Freedman
Clarion Books
Chasing Cheetahs: The Race to Save Africa’s Fastest Cat 
by Sy Montgomery
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Feathers: Not Just for Flying
by Melissa Stewart
Handle With Care: An Unusual Butterfly Journey 
by Loree Griffin Burns
Millbrook Press
Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation
by Duncan Tonatiuh
Harry N Abrams
The Case of the Vanishing Little Brown Bats: A Scientific Mystery
by Sandra Markle
Millbrook Press
When Lunch Fights Back: Wickedly Clever Animal Defenses
by Rebecca L. Johnson
Millbrook Press

I'm honored to be the 2015 Co-Chair of the ALA/ALSC Great Websites for Kids Committee.  If you've never taken advantage of this great resource, I urge you to check it out at http://gws.ala.org/.

The site is continually updated with new sites added and outdated sites deleted. Suggestions and comments are always welcome.  In December, we announced the seven newest sites to be added:

And last but not least,

This year will mark the fifth anniversary of the KidLit Celebrates Women's History Month celebration.  Each year, fellow librarian, Margo Tanenbaum and I, gather writers, illustrators, librarians and bloggers to highlight and celebrate and raise awareness of great books for young people that focus on women’s history.  This year's celebration kicks off in March. Please, stay in touch with us and support the inclusion of women's history in books for young readers! Follow our blog, KidLit Celebrates Women's History Month.

 You can also find us on:
 Below is a sneak preview of the authors and their books that will be featured this year.  

See? I told you I've been busy! Have a great week!  Let it start with a reminder from MLKDay.gov,
"Life's most persistent question is: What are you doing for others?" Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
And, oh yeah, it's Nonfiction Monday! Check it out.

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4. Bridget Heos's Website


I recently helped Bridget Heos add some pizzazz to her Yola website. Bridget has written laugh-out-loud picture books as well as dozens and dozens of non-fiction books for kids. Visit authorbridgetheos.com to learn more about Bridget's works, including Mustache Baby and the forthcoming sequel, Mustache Baby Meets His Match!

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5. Ageism

How to incorporate older characters into your books while avoiding stereotypes. 


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6. Six Sites to Create and Use Badges in Education

Badges have been around forever.  No matter what culture (or how grisly they are), badges are worn as a sign of importance with a focus not so much on the group, as on the individual.  The military is probably the foremost recognized badge creator/users in the world.  First of all, they're really impressive!  Secondly, if you're part of that organization, you instantly know what each of those badges mean and what you accomplished in order to wear them.

Today, badges have gone from physical to virtual.  Examples of virtual badges are ones gamers have depending on their skills in a particular game.  Then you have websites where you create something and are awarded  badges based on amount of views, longevity, etc (think about what http://www.smore.com has done with badges.  COOL!!)  Check out people's blogs and what badges they proudly display on their sidelines. 

What's so great about badges?  Why should I care about badges when I'm just an educator?  Here are a few reasons...they are the PERFECT vehicle to
1: display individual achievement
2: create a "want to, can do" attitude
3: they show how far a student has come from where they used to be. 

Think back to the days of stars on a posterboard showing classroom achievement.  Those who did well could swell with pride because they're always at the top of the charts.  But what about those poor souls who weren't able to do what needed to be done in order to get a star?  One word: humiliation.  And that's one powerful word!  When virtual badges are used, they are individually awarded, not grouped.  They can be shown on one person's site, not a chart.  Best of all, YOU get to create them so every student is capable of badges based on their personal strengths

So where do I get them?  Here are six sites I really like that are creative and useful.  Distribution is up to you (email, a curated site of badges, a teacher's website for students to download, et al).  It's worth a try to start making them :)  So, in no particular order:

change font, outline, shape and download. VERY simple to use

<!--[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE <![endif]-->2. http://cooltext.com/
transparent badges, more logo than badge.  Many options to choose from.  Downloadable

Multiple tools from badge makers to logo creators and many more.  VERY elementary, doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles.  Creates something simple Downloadable.  Registration required

banners, icons, and badges you can make.  Includes curved or straight text as well as color options Downloadable

Need to register for this site.  Add a badge from their design group, or search for a particular one you may need that isn’t shown. Create a class of students and award them indivdually and virtually.

Keep an eye on this site.  has an offline badge maker you can create hands-on.  Email for the kit.  Is in beta format…continuing to work on it for more options

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7. Wendy Toliver's Website

I am pleased to unveil the brand-new look for www.wendytoliver.com - Wendy Toliver, the Texas-born daughter of a rocket scientist and an elementary school teacher, grew up to become a published author. Wendy has written three YA novels to date: The Secret Life of a Teenage Siren, Miss Match, and Lifted.

Fun fact: The color scheme for the new design came from a paint sample card Wendy shared with me!

Related posts at Bildungsroman:
Interview with Wendy Toliver
Wendy Toliver's Secret
Simon Pulse Romantic Comedies

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8. Grammar Rules

Links to grammar and punctuation websites. 


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9. Some really great sites to create a stellar presentation et al!

So, I'm waiting for Animoto to finish my booktalk preview I show when the kids are all coming in.
As I'm doing that, I started thinking about all the sites and apps I use or think about using when I begin creating my booktalk.  So here are some you may find just as amazing to use as I do.

Online image editors:

Thanks to creative online genius,the perfect image editor was born! PicMonkey allows users to upload and modify images from cropping to color to frames and so much more!  I use it when creating my book trailers to add depth and complexity to just another flat image.  And the extras are awesome!  Create/add zombie, vampire, and ghost features as well as themed backgrounds and textures.  This is a go-to must have website.  Currently, it has no app, but some things are better to manipulate online.

Need to find something out of the ordinary to use for your blog, presentation or to share?  Imagechef  may be the answer to your needs.  Creates anything from personalized notes to word mosaics to so much more.  And it's all free!  And this site has a companion app, so either way you can create and share.

 Video creators, web-based and app-based:
  Gotta love Animoto!  If you haven't used it for awhile, you're in for a nice surprise.  The reconfiguration now includes different video styles, awesome CC music, and instant social media sharing.  As always, you can include video and text into this.  Worth the price (but you can get an educator discount!)  No wonder this is a cornerstone of technology for education!  Animoto has an app but search in the iPhone section.  Currently there isn't one for the iPad.

If you want to try something new without the headache of learning a difficult platform like Adobe or Sony, make your way over to ProShow WebTheir free account allows users to create a full-on video or trailer with a lot of the intuitive bells and whistles of other video programs.  The only caveat is the free version will only allow 15 photos, but text is unlimited.  I made a full trailer using Proshow with really excellent results! There's an app for that as well

And the fun continues with those powerful little creatures called apps...
This is what I have in my photography folder on my iPad, and I use these for personal and educational use.  The sky's the limit on these!

Image Editing Tools
ColorBlast!Liteallows you to upload and create a beautifully modified picture that contains color within a black and white photo.  Post it on social media or email to yourself. It's addicting!

Instagram:  enough said.  Contains several filters to give you boring picture pizazz and pop!  When you create an account, you can also view it online but only if it's a public account.  Allows sharing and email

Photofunia:  Take a pic and instantly make it into so many other items, including billboard signs, book pages, magazine covers, and so much more.  Also includes many filters you can use within categories. Save, email or share via social media.  This is SUPER fun!!  

Pho.to Lab:  does the same thing as Photofunia and is an excellent alternative.  Just have fun with this and the creativity and imagination will begin to flow.  

Snapseed:  The ultimate in photo editing on your iPad.  Contains many tools to edit and diversify your photo.  The best way to learn this is download and play with the image already provided.  You'll be hooked.  Hands down my favorite image editing app.

Pixlromatic: take an image, choose from the many options of filters, backgrounds and frames, and you've successfully modified it into something gorgeous!  

Video Apps
 Vine:  Got six seconds?  That's all you get with this nifty video app.  Video what's most important to you and Vine creates a collaged video worthy of sharing.  You can share or embed them as well as create your own account.  People are doing some pretty cool things with this app!

VidRhythm:  Okay, I don't use this when creating book trailers, but I had a blast creating one!  You pick the song, style, and follow the directions while recording.  The end result is, well...just see for yourself :)

Picture Collages 
Frametastic:  You decide what frames, theme and images to use, the app will put it together for you.  Simple as that.  

PicCollage: like frametastic, you can build a collage from your pics, Facebook, or camera.  Then put in some text, add stickers and your collage is done.  Even more than that, with creativity, you can make a quick infographic to send out and share.  


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10. Librarian Six Word Memoir Collaboration

From everywhere and from different backgrounds and knowledge, we all came together to create this site and I thank you so much!  Click on the image to get there and enjoy....

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11. Rock the Rock Webdesign

Need a website that's both functional and fun? In addition to my work as a freelance blogger, I am also a freelance webdesigner.

Visit Rock the Rock for examples of my work and a list of my clients.

If you would like me to create, design, redesign, update, and/or maintain your website, email me or leave a comment below!



To see the larger versions of these designs and other sites, please visit Rock the Rock.

If you need a domain and/or website hosting, I strongly recommend Your-Site.com I've been using their web and domain services since 2000. Hosting costs only $5 a month ($60 a year) with the plan I use, and a domain is only $20 a year. If you sign up for Your-Site, please tell them that Little Willow of http://www.slayground.net referred you. I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you very much!

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12. Creating an Author and/or Illustrator Website

How to create a website that will draw the attention of teachers and librarians. 


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13. 10 Different Options to Create Online Posters

<!--[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE <![endif]-->

Because of the technology that educators and students are using as well as the infrastructure being provided by school districts for devices, libraries and classrooms, more and more, are embracing the paperless society.  Although advertising with paper posters can still bring buzz, more and more people are looking at websites, both personal or professional, and what is posted on them.  With that in mind, here are the top 10 online poster creators you can use (in no particular order)

Posterovenwww.posteroven.com  Create your own poster to share, save, or print with already provided templates you can custom design.  Incorporates QR codes as the main theme in all templates.  No registration required.

Keep Calm-o-matic – http://keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk  We all know the familiar Keep Calm posters.  Here’s a place you can create your own.  After creation, it is part of the many other public Keep Calm posters created.  You can post it on social media outlets as well as save it as a pdf.  Login only required if you’d like to keep your posters private.

Poster My Wall – www.postermywall.comCreate a poster by choose a background, and  adding anything from text to photos to clipart.  Also has a flickr search function.  Download it or share it on Facebook.  You can purchase higher quality downloads if you’d like to print.  No registration required

Canva – www.canva.com  This site not only allows you to create a poster, but you can also create many other things including a blog graphic, presentation or a card.  Choose from hundreds of different options but be aware that there are higher quality options that cost (typically $1.00 per graphic).  Share on social media outlets or save and publish online.  Registration required.

Picmonkey – www.picmonkey.com  This isn’t just a photograph editor, it can create beautiful posters as well.  Add text, background, images and frames, then take it to the editor.  You can save to your desktop or share via social media outlets.  There are parts of the site that are premium and require payment but the free parts are more than enough to create beautiful posters.  Registration required.  

Lucid Press - https://www.lucidpress.com/pages/examples/free-online-poster-maker  This is the more sophisticated poster maker that looks a lot like MS Publisher.  It allows for more freedom of creativity with many  different functionalities.  You can share it via social media, share the link or publish it online.  Registration is required.

Flyer Lizard - http://flyerlizard.com/  Easy to create posters that already have the templates and backgrounds to work with.  All you need to supply is the text and photo if you choose to.  There’s an option to add a QR code or even an audio clip from SoundCloud.  You can share via social media or save it.  Registration required

Motivator - http://bighugelabs.com/motivator.php  We’ve all seen the motivational posters with the black frame and a motivational saying at the bottom (usually with a soaring eagle as a picture).  Here’s your chance to create your own motivational poster.  Upload images from your own photos, Facebook, or Flickr Account.  This is a premium account and registration is required

Bannersnack - http://www.bannersnack.com/  With a free account you can create a banner and download or embed it.  With the free account, you get 1GB of storage, gif only download, and no more than 10k views a day.  Registration is required and premium plans are available

Recite This - http://www.recitethis.com/  Choose from an assortment of poster backgrounds by sliding through your options.  The only thing you need to create is your text.  Share it via social media, a permalink or email.  No registration required. 

Muzy (app) is available for Andoid, Iphone, Ipod, or Google Play.  Create a poster using your own photos from Facebook, photo album, or Google Images (be careful with this option...it doesn't differentiate between Creative Commons and copy written images) and add text to create an online poster.  Share it via Instagram or Facebook.  Registration required.

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14. Nonfiction Detectives

Two librarians review the best nonfiction books for children. 


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15. Mischief In Kidlit

The Wild Things website is devoted to showcasing mischief in children's books. 


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16. We Need Diverse Books

The ground roots movement for more diversity in books now has an official organization. 


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17. Courtney Sheinmel's Website

I'm super happy to reveal the new look of Courtney Sheinmel's website! Courtney is the author of My So-Called Family, Positively, Sincerely, All the Things You Are, and the Stella Batts series. Courtney's forthcoming young adult novel Edgewater, called a "YA Grey Gardens," will be available in 2015.

Please visit http://www.courtneysheinmel.com

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18. If You're Going to Surf the Web....Three Sites For Educators K-12 and beyond

Keeping up with tools is an ongoing pursuit because of the amazing turn-around (or turnover) of web tools.  Some are designed for the classroom, and those that aren't can be harnessed and adapted to use in the classroom, with the right amount of ingenuity.  Today, instead of talking about web tools, I'm going to direct you to three great sites instead.

1. wikiHow: http://www.wikihow.com
This site has saved me from wasting time trying to find out information from technology to making scones.  You put in a topic, and more often than not, wikiHow will have a step-by-step tutorial (along with images) to get you to the end.  What I like about this site is that it isn't as bulky as Youtube, where trying to find out information can sometimes be like pulling a tooth.  How many of us out there besides me gets frustrated with the length of time to watch it, only to find out that it's not the actual information you may need.  And to top if off, I have to wait for adverts to pop in at the beginning...You can avoid ALL of that unnecessary waste of time by using wikiHow.  Try it...you may find it's your first go to when you need a quick answer

2. Top 100 Tools for Learning 2014:  http://c4lpt.co.uk/top100tools/
I typed this in to search for new tools to try and lo and behold!  The Brits have uploaded their top tools list!  What's so great about this list is that it's a compilation of tools voted on by over 1,000 learning professionals from over 60 countries.  That's what I call global collaboration!!  You may know several of them, you may know a few.  It doesn't matter which side you may rest on, it's the fact that these ARE amazing tools and ones educators should get to know on a more personal level

3. Discovery Education Web 2.0 Tools:  http://web2014.discoveryeducation.com/web20tools.cfm
We all know the amazing abilities Discovery Education has had on education for years.  The best part of Discovery Education is that it is constantly evolving right alongside the classroom to provide seamless integration.  This particular site is all about web tools but in different categories:  
 Presentation tools
Video tools
Mobile tools
Community tools
Related links
Each of these categories only have three or four sites except Related links, which has more, but that's MORE than a mouthful for anyone who wants to use them individually or in a mash-up (using two or more tools to create a product).

So when you have some time (break is just around the corner!!) hop on over to these sites and stay awhile...you'll love what you see :)

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19. Interview: Elizabeth Zechel

When author-illustrator Elizabeth Zechel asked me to design her website last year, I happily accepted, as I was already familiar with her lovely work and was glad to help her establish a place where she could showcase it.

I stole some of her time this weekend to talk about her career and her creations.

Do you remember the first time your art was displayed?

The first time I ever had work up on display was at the Downers Grove Public library. Wasn't TOO hard to get work up in the hometown library. But for a 14 year old, it was very cool.

What do you use to create and edit your art?

I mostly use colored pencils. I started out with pencils and I'm sure I will finish with pencils. I painted in school and enjoyed it times. But drawing feels much more intimate to me. And you can take it anywhere. You don't need a million paints, canvas, paint thinners. SPACE! I just love drawing.

If someone is interested in commissioning your work or collaborating on you, how should they contact you?

People can contact me through my website!

Was Is There a Mouse in the Baby's Room? your first published book?


How did you get the idea, and how did you get that book deal?

I love drawing kids and animals, both doing monkey(ish) things to each other and it actually just flowed out very easily. That really, really doesn't happen too much for me! I sent it out cold to several publishers. I didn't have an agent at that time. There are a few publishers that will take unsolicited works cold. Not too many but they are out there.

You've contributed artwork to storybooks, cookbooks, and articles written by others, including The Little General and the Giant Snowflake by Matthea Harvey and Bubby's Homemade Pies by Jen Bervin and Ron Silver. Did you bake?

I do bake! Love it. Apple pie has got to be my favorite. I don't really have an accurate recipe. My measurements at least for the filling part come down to "bunch" of granny smith apples, "some" brown sugar and cinnamon. But ever since my son was born I've been making a lot homemade pizza. Whole wheat crust, make the sauce, and sometimes we'll even make the cheese for the pizza, which is so much fun.

Wordbirds, written by Liesl Schillinger with illustrations by YOU - will be published next year. Do you have a favorite bird in the piece?

I have a few favorites in the "Wordbird" book, but off the top of my head is definitely the Spoonbill bird. He looks completely pre-historic! It's actually not on the website! It should be though! The Blue Footed Boobies which are on the website are pretty awesome birds! Click here to see the birds.

Have you ever had a showing at an art gallery?

I showed in galleries when I first came to New York. But through years of trying to be in that world, I slowly came to the realization that what I really like to do and what I was better at doing was illustrating. Course, if someone wants my drawings up in a gallery...sure!

Your name is awesome, by the way. Double zings. I'm sure you've heard people totally butcher it.

My name has been totally butchered over the years! It's pronounced "Zek-el." At least there aren't too many Zechels out there!

You're not only an illustrator and an author - you're also a kindergarten teacher! Do your students call you Miss Elizabeth or Miss Zechel?

My kids in school just call me Elizabeth, but sometimes they grab hold of "Lizzie," which is totally sweet.

Who are some of your favorite artists?

One of my favorite illustrators is Michael Sowa. He is wonderfully dark! He juxtaposes people and animals in strange situations and he paints these rich, gorgeous pictures of dreamlike landscapes. "Esterhazy, The Rabbit Prince" is a favorite.

Name some of your favorite books.

One of my favorite books as a child, I actually just found again on-line and ordered it. It's called Poppet written and illustrated by Margot Austin. It's about this little boy who goes hunting in the middle of the night for a bear with his cat and dog (who also talk, by the way). It had such an impression on me as a kid and I love it to this day.

Another book is a new book by Matthea Harvey called Ceil the Pet Glacier. It is wonderful! About a little girl who has very strange parents and while on their family vacation, finds a pet glacier that goes home with them. Of course!

The other books:
"Kitchen Confiedential" by Anthony Bourdain
"My Life in France" by Julia Child
"Bossypants" by Tina Fey
"Without Feathers" by Woody Allen
"Garlic and Sapphires" by Ruth Reichl
"Holidays on Ice" by David Sedaris
"When You Are Engulfed in Flames" by David Sedaris
"The Good Earth" by Pearl S. Buck

Please check out ElizabethZechel.com and say hello to Elizabeth as well as the beautiful birds and other illustrations which were recently added to the gallery.

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20. Interview: Megan Frazer Blakemore

A few weeks after I redesigned her website, I conducted a Q&A with Megan Frazer. Megan, like me and Mindy Kaling, is a fan of The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin. Megan is also a writer, a mother, and a librarian, among other things. Find out more about her books and her busy schedule in the interview below!

Do you have any sort of writing routine?

As a mother of two with a full-time job, finding a routine is hands down the hardest part of my writing life. In the summer, I write when my kids are napping. In the school year, I'm still working on finding a good schedule, but it tends to be after my kids go to bed. I try to write for at least 30 minutes a day. I don't really focus on words or pages as a goal, though I do usually check how much I've accomplished. I have an office, but often find myself writing at the kitchen table, especially since we've bought a fixer-upper and my office has not yet been fixed up. My husband is working on the electricity and right now there isn't any in my office.

You got the idea for your novel Secrets of Truth & Beauty while watching the movie Little Miss Sunshine. Do you think Dara and Olive would get along?

I'd like to say yes, but I wonder if Olive would think Dara too serious and if Dara might find Olive a little kooky. I think Grandpa Edwin Hooper would love it on the farm.

How long did it take you to write the first draft, and subsequently to sell it?

Secrets happened really quickly. I can't remember how long the first draft took, but I had a draft ready for agents in nine months or so. Then, once I got my agent, Sara Crowe of Harvey Klinger, she was able to sell it quite quickly, within a couple of months, I think. This was back in late 2007, which might as well have been a different era. The Water Castle was a much longer process. I don't remember exactly how long it took. We did a revision for Mary Kate Castellani at Walker who ended up buying it.

What inspired your novel The Water Castle?

The Author's Note of The Water Castle is all about the inspiration for the story. It was inspired largely by places I lived and visited, from an old stone house much like the house in the book to the Poland Springs bottling plant. I went a lot different directions before the right story for the places came to me. I thought I might write about teens with special powers, but got too bogged down. Eventually, from the core elements of the castle-like house, a house full of books, and strange happenings in a small town, the story emerged.

What's your target audience for this story?

The Water Castle is for a younger audience than Secrets of Truth & Beauty, probably ages eight to twelve or so.

Tell me about your current work-in-progress.

I just finished a rewrite on another MG novel, a mystery set in the 1950s wherein a girl becomes convinced there's a Communist spy working for her parents.

What do you think your books have in common? Do they feature different aspects of your writing, and of yourself?

I think all of my books deal with revelations, uncovering things that are hidden, especially within families. I also am interested in the play between the past and present. This is really tricky when writing for kids and teens because the characters lives are so short. So, I often find myself looking at multiple generations.

Do you find it difficult to name your characters? Have you ever named a character after someone you know personally?

I do find it very difficult to name my characters. I use baby books and the Social Security names database. I actually try to avoid naming characters after people I know, which is hard when you work in a school and so many kids pass through your life.

You have a master's degree in library science and now work as a librarian at a school. Tell me about the path that led you to your library.

I started off working in television, but quickly realized it wasn't for me. I decided to move to Boston with a friend, but she needed a couple of months longer than I did to be ready to move, so I went back home and was substitute teaching. One day I was assigned to the library. I'd like to say it was an "A-ha!" moment, but really it was more of "Duh!" moment. All my life I'd done service projects and worked on literacy. Working in a library was a natural outgrowth of that, but it hadn't occurred to me until that moment. Fortunately, Boston is home to Simmons GSLIS, a fantastic library school. My education there was fantastic, though very theoretical. I was lucky to also have a part time job as a children's librarian. When I graduated, I took a position at an amazing independent high school, The Commonwealth School. I would probably still be there if my husband and I hadn't decided to move to Maine. After four years at a public high school, I am now at an independent school serving as their middle school librarian.

Happy new school year to you! What kind of programs have you been involved with that the kids really enjoyed?

I'm very proud of the coffeehouses we held in the public school where I worked. I believe that libraries should be as much about students sharing their skills and knowledge as they are places where information is retrieved, if not more so. Giving kids a creative outlet to express themselves made me very happy. I also try to use the connections I've made as a writer to get kids in touch with their favorite authors.

What are your ten favorite books of all time?


Visit Megan's official website.

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21. Sharing links to create book trailers and online projects

I guess it's been about a year and a half (maybe more) since I created the livebinders for book trailer resources.  But one thing I have found out, especially with students, is that they tend to open up the link directly within the livebinder, which gives them an incorrect URL when crediting images.  So, they have to open livebinders, open another tab, copy and paste, then go back and forth...BORING!

And so I created a Symbaloo that has most of the link I created with livebinders, but it set up so much more elegantly because of its simplicity.  So, if you'd like to share this with others, please do.  Also know that this is not only for book trailers in the library world, but also online projects for ANY class a student may take that asks them for virtual projects.  The perma link is:

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A message from Literary Agent Adriana Dominguez,

I am happy to send you this message to let you know that, with the help of former publisher of HarperCollins' Latino imprint and current CEO of Mamiverse Rene Alegría's help,  yesterday, we launched Mamiverse Books, the only site currently available to promote children's books and reading directly to Latina moms. Take a look: http://www.mamiverse.com/life/mamiverse-books/

This site is the culmination of many years of work in this area, and more than anything else, I hope that it will serve as a valuable resource for first and foremost Latino parents, as well as librarians, book store owners and educators looking for appropriate books for their children. While I do plan on reviewing some non-latino books that I think Latina moms should know about, the strongest emphasis will be placed on reviewing and promoting the work of Latino authors to what we hope will be a broad audience interested in YOUR books. Please join me in this effort by spreading the word in any way you can. Facebook, Tweet, Blog(a), or even that age-old medium email, would be great! 

Thank you in advance for your support. Let's hope that this is just the beginning! 

Adriana Domínguez
Full Circle Literary 

Here is the press release

National Pledge Drive for Family Commitment to Reading

NEW YORK (October 1st, 2012)--Mamiverse.com, the premiere website for Latina moms and families, announced today the launch of a new book section, Mamiverse Books.  The first non-trade oriented, yet comprehensive digital resource for Latino parents wanting to know more about books that accurately reflect the U.S. Latino experience, Mamiverse Books creates a tool for parents who want to foster the love of reading as a road to their children’s academic success. Comprised of book reviews written by industry experts and librarians nationwide, Mamiverse Books will offer author interviews, features and more. Children’s categories will include Picture Books, Middle Grade Books, Young Adult Books and Bilingual books.

In conjunction with the launch of Mamiverse Books, and tied to National Book Month, Mamiverse.comalso announces Mamiverse Reads, an online pledge drive for Latino families that commits them to making reading and books a life-long priority. Families that pledge will receive a formal document they can printout stating their new commitment, along with the latest book news and reviews.

Spearheading Mamiverse Books is renowned Latino children’s book expert, Adriana Dominguez.

“Studies have shown that reading paves the way for future academic success,” says Dominguez. “It is essential that we provide families with quality resources that specifically address the needs of Latino parents who want direction on how to incorporate books and reading into their children’s lives. The sooner children are exposed to books, and encouraged to read on a consistent basis, the more likely it is that they will do well in school.”

We are very lucky to have Adriana lead this important initiative,” says Founder and CEO of Mamiverse.comRene Alegria. “Our aim is to make books and reading the basis for a life-long commitment to goal-oriented success. Families who read together, achieve together.”

Hispanic Children in Education, by the Numbers:

  One out of four babies born in the U.S. is Latino. (U.S. Census)
       One in four kids currently in public school are Hispanic. (Pew Center Research)
       48.8% of Hispanics 25 and older do not have a high school education, 2010. (American Community Survey)
       Percentage of 18-24 year old Hispanics in college reached record share of 16.5%. (Pew Center Research)
       There are one million Hispanics with advanced degrees. (Pew Center Research)
       Hispanics are the largest ethnic minority with 50.5 million people. (U.S. Census)
       Projected Hispanic population by 2050, 132.8 million. (U.S. Census)

(Adriana Dominguez is available for interviews)

About Adriana Dominguez

Adriana Dominguez is considered an expert in the field of children books appearing in the media and on publishing panels nationwide to speak on the topic of books and the Latino community.  She has 15 years of experience in publishing, most recently as Executive Editor at HarperCollins Children’s Books, where she managed the children’s division of the Latino imprint, Rayo. Prior to that, she was Children’s Reviews Editor at Críticas magazine, published by Library Journal. Adriana has also worked as an editorial consultant for children’s and adult publishers, on English and Spanish language books. A professional translator, who has worked on a number of translations of best-selling and award-winning children’s books, she has also worked as a literary agent for some time.  Adriana is mom to a very active and curious toddler who keeps her busy, and makes her exceptionally happy.

About mamiverse.com

Mamiverse.com is the premiere site dedicated to Latina moms and families. Launched in July of 2011, Mamiverse.com was created to better inform this rapidly growing online community. By empowering Latina moms with the tools they need, and by reaching all Hispanic women and their families in the process, Mamiverse.com connects this powerful and passionate group of family-influencers, with a culturally relevant outlet that understands who they are, what they need, and how they think.  With a rotating roster of high-profile contributors, and features on news and trends of the day, Mamiverse.com keeps readers engaged and informed. In addition to revolving news coverage, Mamiverse.com addresses a growing list of key topics including:  food, health, politics, money, school and style. Twitter Handles: @MAMIVERSE, @MamiverseBooks

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23. Going down technology memory lane can be painful....

Yesterday, I was searching for a website I used last year to create an online button/logo and couldn't for the life of me remember what it was.  So I used the good ole standby website Delicious.  And I was virtually slapped in the face....

There used to be a time when I was excited about the newest and best out there, using the programs and huge creativity of people's minds to share web 2.0 content and how it could be utilized.  But then the inevitable happened - I began to focus on what could be used in the classroom and library and the edges got blurry.  No longer did I need to know more, I needed to use more of what I already knew!

And the pool of web content and tools for the classroom began to grow stagnant.  It was a slow and gradual process until I looked down one day and saw the green and realized I needed some chlorine....fast!  My Delicious pool is getting green!!

So, what are those websites I focused on to create that stagnancy?  You know them....Prezi, Animoto, Voicethread, Glogster, Wix, Weebly.  The bookends of excellent educational technology, as well they should be.  They've earned the right to be there.  But what do I have between those bookends that I can pull from and train, teach and expand student engagement and teacher knowledge? 

So I went  to get the best of the best for web tools, and here are some sites I'll be using that showcase those sites on the cusp of grandeur:

AASL Top Twenty Five Best Websites:

Larry Ferlazzo's Best Web Apps in 2012:

Digital Goonies: Creative, outside of the box thinkers on web tools:

I need to fill in the bookends with new ideas and technologies to pull, learn and teach the campus I work with so I don't have to sit and watch the millionth Animoto or the two millionth Prezi....know what I mean?

And thank you Kristin Fontinchiaro for reminding me:  It's about focus and balance, not about creativity and a project done.  Educational technology should showcase the learning, not the product.

Sites I'm really enjoying right now?  Tripline, Symbaloo, Jux, Haiku Deck....:)
And yeah, I'm reading some good YA novels too!! 

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24. The Waking: A Winter of Ghosts by Christopher Golden and Thomas Randall

The Waking A Winter of Ghosts by Christopher Golden and Thomas RandallStarting over in a place that's haunted by death...

Kara Foster thinks the hardest thing about moving to Japan will be fitting in as an outsider. But dark secrets are stirring at her new school. When Kara befriends Sakura, a fellow outsider whose rebellious nature sets her apart from the crowd, she learns that Sakura's sister was the victim of an unsolved murder on school grounds. And before long, terrible things begin to happen...

The Waking trilogy concludes with A Winter of Ghosts. Kara's life in Japanese prep school has been a whirlwind of terror, as a demon's curse keeps waking up ancient, evil creatures to torment her and her friends. When a student goes missing during a visit to a mountain forest, Kara and her friends are sure the curse has struck again. This time, it's a demon of winter, whose power is more chilling than anything they've encountered so far. And then it gets worse: the demon kidnaps Kara's boyfriend, Hachiro, with whom she's just starting to fall in love. Desperate to save him, Kara ventures back into the snowy woods, where dark forces await her...

This frightening trilogy will have readers glued to the page and scared to go to sleep.

"Randall describes the scenery, the culture, the characters, even their clothing, with heartfelt details. The story has suspense, mystery, and horror. It will be a great hit with fans of manga, anime, or Japanese culture." - School Library Journal

"A well-structured tale of ancient spirits who exact revenge upon humans. A brisk Japanese adventure." - VOYA

"The Waking: Dreams of the Dead starts as the dream of everyone who has ever wanted to travel to an exotic, far-away country to start again, and weaves a nightmare based in rich Japanese culture and myth.  I can't wait until it is released and I can recommend it to my readers." - Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, author of In the Forests of the Night and Persistence of Memory

Crawl on over to The Waking website.

Check out my interviews with the author: here and here.

Read the books in order:
Dreams of the Dead
Spirits of the Noh
A Winter of Ghosts

A Winter of Ghosts by Christopher Golden Thomas Randall A Winter of Ghosts by Christopher Golden Thomas Randall A Winter of Ghosts by Christopher Golden Thomas Randall

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25. TCEA 2013 Presentation: Less is More

I wish Google Docs had an embed button, but nope...they give you a link to share :)  So here's the presentation from TCEA.  Enjoy!

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