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1. Countdown to STRANGE SKIES

I can’t believe it’s almost April 28th which means this:

strange skies

is almost here! I’m doing a countdown over on my Facebook author page, where I’m sharing a fun tidbit each day leading up to the release. Today, I mention a similarity I have with my main character, Tora. I’ll also be giving away prizes so check it out!

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2. Charlie Hebdo Book Defends Religious Satire

A book by Stephane Charbonnier, the former editor of Charlie Hebdo who was killed in the attack on the satirical magazine’s offices, came out this week.

The title, “An Open Letter to the Fraudsters of Islamophobia who Play into Racists’ Hands,” defends the practice of ridiculing religion. The New York Times has the scoop:

In the excerpt, Mr. Charbonnier said the Charlie Hebdo caricatures previously published by the newspaper \"do not target all Muslims.\" In 2012, Mr. Charbonnier aroused anger and criticism when he published caricatures showing Muhammad naked and in sexual poses. The newspaper’s offices were firebombed after it published a spoof issue in 2011 that it said had been guest-edited by Muhammad.


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4. Character Files: ZUBAIR

NAME: Zubair

HOME: Mont Petit Pierrezubair leap

BACKGROUND: Zubair is a great warrior and a skilled blacksmith-in-training. There’s a long story about how he first met Augustine the Blacksmith. Zubair was fleeing his home kingdom (that’s another long story) when he came upon Augustine’s battered body just after he had lost a great battle against Azra the Dragon. Zubair carried Augustine for two days all the way back to Mont Petit Pierre, thus saving Augustine’s life. Zubair thinks of Augustine, Claudette, and Gaston as family. The feeling is mutual.

SPECIAL POWERS: Zubair is the greatest warrior in the Seven Kingdoms. But he doesn’t go around bragging about it. Zubair knows it and his mentor, Augustine, knows it, and that’s good enough for him.

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5. The Modern Ark project

From Audubon a look at photographer Joel Sartore’s plan to capture close-up images of every captive species on Earth:

Sartore finds comfort in the species that have thus far been rescued from the brink: giant pandas, black-footed ferrets, California Condors, Whooping Cranes. Those animals’ populations remain alarmingly low—in the mere hundreds—but they might have disappeared altogether if not for publicity, their natural charisma, and determined efforts to save them. “It’s tough to get people to pay attention, because it just doesn’t affect their daily lives. They figure, Why should I care if a rabbit or a frog goes extinct? Is it going to affect what I make at work? Or is it going to affect my love life? Not in the short term. But I tell you, it’s really folly to think that you can doom everything else to extinction and not have it come back to bite us hard.”

Go the main website and see the pictures – they are truly stunning.

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6. Searching for the Real: Children’s Literature When Fiction and Reality Intersect

Eventually it will become clear that the bulk of my posts these days are inspired by Radiolab discussion topics of one sort or another.  In today’s case, there was a recent show that made a close examination of those moments when fiction and reality intersect in interesting ways.  The show began with a look at professional wrestling and the moment it became the entertainment it is today.  Then it transitioned into Don Quixote (naturally) and the fact that it had a lot of fun going meta when its sequel was released.

What I took away from the show was the fact that people love discovering the little hints of reality hidden in their media.  It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about reality shows or great works of literature or one man/woman shows on the stage.  When you get a hint of the story behind the story you feel a little thrill.

How then to apply it to children’s literature?

I’m not going to be particularly systematic about this.  What follows here is just a random mishmash of books and topics where reality and fiction intermingle.  Here’s what I came up with off the top of my head:

Real World Fairy Tales: The Pied Piper of Hamelin – We all know that the Grimm Brothers collected some fairly wacky tales.  We know too that they tended to add their own very particular spin to the stories, watering some down and building others up.  But in some ways I find their recounting of The Pied Piper of Hamelin the eeriest of tales.  If you encountered the beautiful version illustrated by Elizabeth Zwerger last year then you may have noticed the odd little note in the back.  The Grimms take care to say that this tale is based on a true legend and that these children really did disappear.  1284 is the usual date given, and there are multiple theories about what the Piper myth represents.  For some fun reading I recommend the Wikipedia entry on the same.  There’s lots of fun to be had there.

Namesakes: Alice/ Peter Pan / Wind in the Willows, Christopher Robin, etc. – What do these classic books and characters all have in common?  Each and every one was based on real children.  Sometimes that worked out fine but more often than not the kids grew up to be displeased with their tributes. The most extreme example would be Christopher Robin, who outright disliked the appropriation of his name (though a sad case could be made for the Peter Pan kids, done away with one by one).  Far better to just vaguely base your characters off of real people, yes?  Hat tip then to . . .

The real people in Harry Potter – Periodically throughout the years Rowling would mention one person or another in her life who contributed to specific Harry Potter characters.  There was the teacher who may or may not have been Severus Snape.  The childhood friend who, along with a couple others, created the composite Ron Weasley.  Other authors have done similar things with their books.  It’s fan service, to a certain extent.  Suggest that there’s a real world version of one character or another and watch as your adoring hoards track those poor people down.

Masquerade / The Clock Without a Face - These are just two examples, but there are quite a lot more in the world (39 Clues comes to mind).  What we have here are children’s books where clues are hidden in the art and it’s up to the readers to track down the real world treasures.  Inevitably the puzzles are too complex for kids, but that hardly matters.  In the case of Masquerade there was a bit of a scandal regarding the solution.  In the case of Mac Barnett & Co.’s The Clock Without a Face, I’m not sure what the final score was or how many treasures were found.  However, there does appear to be a little wiki of the solutions here.  A pity the blog that contained the stories behind the treasure’s winners is defunct.

Real locations – Not the same thing as the puzzle books, but related.  I think there’s a great deal of hometown pride that comes out when a book is set in a real place.  Even in NYC, denizens take a great deal of love in children’s books that sport recognizable locales.  It makes for fun reading and there’s a true advantage to including a town that’s likely to buy many a copy of your book.  To say nothing of the tourism as well.

Other examples are, of course, welcome.


4 Comments on Searching for the Real: Children’s Literature When Fiction and Reality Intersect, last added: 4/14/2015
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7. Bob Shea and Ballet Cat Before Breakfast

Pictured above is a sketch of the stars of Bob Shea’s new early reader series, Ballet Cat. That’s Ballet Cat herself and her best friend, Sparkle Pony.

Ballet Cat: The Totally Secret Secret (Disney-Hyperion) hits shelves early next month. Shea, one of the funniest authors in the field today, captures well the dynamics of play when one friend is a bit more domineering than the other. (I relate all too well. When I was little, it was Daring Donna across the street, who’d try to get me to leap from the playground swing and grab on to the pole on the other side of the swingset.) All’s well that ends well with these two best friends, but things are tenuous for a while there while Sparkle Pony admits that he isn’t fond of ballet, the one thing that Ballet Cat enjoys the most. The text is minimal; the illustrations, uncluttered; the humor, distinctive; and the comic timing, spot-on. Shea captures expressive body language in both characters with simple and bold lines, and he plays with font size to add humor and meaning.

Bob is here today to share some images from the original Ballet Cat pitch (it’s remarkable, as you can see below, how much the story was pared down for what readers hold in their hands), some early sketches, and some final art. We also talk a bit below about the very funny Dinosaur Vs. Mommy (also Disney-Hyperion), which was released last month.

I thank him for visiting.


Jules: Please tell me this is going to be a series. It’s going to be a series, right?

I just read the back cover, which says, indeed, it’ll be a series, so now my question is: When will the next one be out?


Final art
(Click each spread to enlarge)


Bob: It is going to be a series. My publisher mentioned something about at least twenty titles.

Or was it two to start and we’ll see how it goes?

Yes, two.


From the first pitch of Ballet Cat
(Click each to enlarge)


The second book is out next February. Leap, Butter Bear, Leap! is about a reluctant Ballerina Bear who refuses to do the super-high leaps that make ballet so much fun. After a lot of stalling, Ballet Cat finds the real problem and sorts it out with the power of ballet.

It’s been a big hit at school visits.

Jules: Isn’t this your first early reader series (officially)? You did illustrate one by Charise Mericle Harper, yes? Any challenges in going from picture books to the controlled vocabulary of “early readers”?

Bob: I did illustrate a series called Wedgieman for Charise Mericle Harper, but this is my first solo outing.

You know, you really get a lot more latitude with the language in picture books, but it’s a different animal. I don’t think of it as a picture book with more pages. It’s a moment these characters are sharing. The focus is on the characters, their personalities, and the way the interaction plays out. So the whole 48-page book can take place over the course of a ten-minute conversation. There’s more of an opportunity to let a joke play out and make the best use of the timings and beats of the story.

As far as the simpler language goes, that’s not really a problem. Not for me anyway. I write something kid-friendly like, “My goodness, Ballet Cat. Those resplendent pearls give you an air of gravitas! Let’s use calculus to determine the speed and change of your leaps at various intervals! What a conundrum!” said Differential Dog.

My editor, Steph Lurie, will make a suggestion like, “My goodness, Ballet Cat. Your pearls are very nice. I wonder how high you leap?” said Math Dog.

So that helps.

More from the first pitch of Ballet Cat
(Click each to enlarge)


Jules: I love how Goat appears in Dinosaur Vs. Mommy. How’s Goat doin’? Is he still ridding the world of crime with acts of cloven justice? Will we see him and maybe even Unicorn in future books? Can we humans get some Goat PJs, too?

Bob: Goat is doing well, thanks.

I’m working on some more Goat and Unicorn stories now. I’d love to exploit the popularity of the first book and crank out a second-rate sequel in a bald-faced cash grab, but the aforementioned editor, Steph Lurie, has this idea stuck in her head about making something “good.”

I don’t think she understands how bad I want—no, NEED—a new camera.

The popularity of Unicorn Thinks he’s Pretty Great really took me by surprise. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I handed in the final art and thought, “Well, that career tangent was fun, back to graphic design.” I underestimated how many people have a unicorn in their lives and could relate to the story.

There are no plans for Goat PJs at this time.

Jules: This may be my favorite Dinosaur Vs. book yet. Do you have a bunch of Dinosaur Vs. rejected book ideas, by chance?

Also, this is not a question, but I make everyone I meet in children’s lit watch this, because it makes me laugh so hard:



Bob: Thanks, Julie. You’re my favorite person yet.

I do have a bunch of rejected ideas — and piles and piles of ideas from kids. The one that stands out is Dinosaur vs. Milking a Franchise, which amounts to not much more than forty pages of me signing checks to my mortgage company and saving for my son’s college education. It got pretty far into the acquisition process, but ultimately they went with Dinosaur vs. Mommy.

It’s difficult for authors when publishers insist on making things that people might actually like and not phony-baloney things that have no value beyond my personal amusement.



Jules: What’s next for you?

Bob: Currently, I’m working on a book for Hyperion, called The Scariest Book Ever, which teaches kids about hyperbole and disappointment.

I’m also working on an early graphic novel and a chapter book. Neither book is sold. I’m just mentioning it to jinx myself and never actually finish.

I’m trying to find excuses to work with some of my kid-lit chums, like Zach Ohora and Drew Daywalt. We’ll probably get something going after they get back from vacation or wherever they went. They haven’t returned my calls, emails, DMs, texts, and hand-written letters on personalized stationary, since I mentioned the word collaboration.

* * *

Thanks again to Bob for visiting. I hope his friends return his calls.

Here are some early sketches from Ballet Cat.


* * * * * * *

BALLET CAT: THE TOTALLY SECRET SECRET. Copyright © 2015 by Bob Shea. Published by Disney-Hyperion, New York. All images here reproduced by permission of Bob Shea.

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8. VIDEO: 2: “What’s Your Favorite Thing About Claudette?”

Thanks to Colby Sharp for hosting our DRAGONS BEWARE VIDEO2: What’s Your Favorite Thing About Claudette?”

This one is lots of fun!



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9. Visit a Library Today!

April is School Library Month


It’s the 30th Anniversary of the designation of April as School Library Month. We may be halfway into the month, but it’s never too late to shine The Snuggery spotlight here for a bit.

That said, it’s the perfect time to perhaps pay a visit to YOUR child’s school library.

They may look perhaps very different than when you went to school.

In this age of the computer, most probably, even on the elementary level, there are computers to access the Internet, and perhaps even reference books available, such as encyclopedias, in digital form. After all, information, especially in the sciences, changes at such a rapid pace today, that the reprint costs to keep reference books current, such as encyclopedias, would be quite costly. Updating new info digitally is far less costly than reprinting an entire set, no?

There are even things called “virtual libraries”, more easily found on the high school level, where very few physical books are found, more’s the pity.

There is something very comforting and tactile to children about the physical feel of a book. The turn of a page is hard to EXACTLY duplicate with the sweep of a finger across a screen! But I digress.

At the school where I have story time for 3, 4 and 5 year olds, they still love to choose a physical book to check out as they poke around till they find a favorite themed book and proudly bring their selection to the librarians’s desk.

There’s a small lesson in personal responsibility here, too. For they quickly learn that for the time the book is in their possession, it is theirs to revel in and read, BUT it is also theirs to care for and return on time, so that another child may have the same enjoyment.

School libraries are amazing places. They need not duplicate everything a child may find in their local public library, as that would prove quite costly, but they are surprisingly broad in the quality and quantity of the selection of fiction and non fiction books that they DO offer, both for research and enjoyment.

I guess you surmised, by now, I might be coming to a gentle pitch for picture books. And here it is: why not donate books in your child’s name to their school library?

Most schools have a book event called a Book Fair that is sponsored each year. Children usually browse first, and then select a “wish list”of books for moms or grands to purchase from. And parents may also donate to the school library from a librarian’s selected list, or a title that a child particularly loves. It’s a great way to enhance a school library whose budget may be limited!

The school library is its chief resource center, and parents may be helpful in seeing that their library has all the tools necessary for preparing children for the 21st century and an academic environment that seems to be ever more rigorous.

But, at the same time, I do like to think if parents can take a deep breath, relax, focus on developing a deep love of reading by accessing that amazing world of knowledge and imagination available through books, all the rest will take care of itself. Just being a kid is quite enough for now!

If your child’s school hasn’t had their Book Fair this year, and even if they have, April might be the perfect time to donate some classic picture books that they do not have at the school; perhaps titles you think they might like. Check with the school librarian for a list or look at the Caldecott winners beginning in 1938 up to 2015. There are some wonderful titles to be found in this list.

Why not start with the picture book that has been quoted in some circles as “one of the greatest childhood classics of all time,”- “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle? If you and your child haven’t read the exploits of this famished furry one, it’s high time!

It was also voted #2 in children’s books in a 2012 survey of “School Library Journal,” readers. And extra copies of a classic are usually always welcome in elementary school libraries! If not this classic, why not pick one of your own from the link below.

I’ve also included a link that explains why reading to your child is so very important for future learning.      

Let April be the start of a collectible classic community of picture books at your child’s school library!


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10. Best Books Ever on the Let’s Get Busy podcast

Best Books Ever #LGBpodcast

I’m just going to go ahead and assume you are all listening to Matthew Winner’s Let’s Get Busy podcast, but if you aren’t: get over there.

Matthew’s a librarian at an elementary school in Maryland, and he’s created the most spectacular hangout online for authors, illustrators, and other members in the kidlit crew. He’s smart and funny and easygoing, and I promise you’ll like him a bunch.

And what’s even cooler is that my best pal Julie Falatko and I joined him recently to talk about our favorite books from this first quarter of 2015. It was a chat full of oh yes that one and book love and laughs.

You can listen to it here.

And check out Matthew’s Busy Librarian blog and Julie’s website too.

Did we forget your favorites? I know.


Happy listening!


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11. Cartoon Hit n Run

cartoon deer caseअब बेचारे को अपना दर सताने लगा है !!! उफ हमारी कानून अव्यव्स्था

The post Cartoon Hit n Run appeared first on Monica Gupta.

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12. Cartoon IIN

cartoon IINआजकल हर कोई आई आई एम का क्रेडिट लेना चाह्ते है पर हमारे नेता जी अलग ही मिजाज के है !!!

The post Cartoon IIN appeared first on Monica Gupta.

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13. cartoon Mann ki Baat

cartoon mann ki baatआजकल मोदी जी दवारा मन की बात बहुत ज्यादा सुर्खियों में है … कुछ ऐसे भी हैं जिनकी मन की बात मन मे ही दबी रह गई है !!!

The post cartoon Mann ki Baat appeared first on Monica Gupta.

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14. Daily Napkins Featuring Claudette and Valiant

Rafael and I are BIG fans of Nina Levy’s work at Daily Napkins. Here are really cool drawings Nina did on napkins for her kids’ lunch featuring Claudette and Valiant…Daily Napkin Claudete and Valiant
Daily Napkin Have a Brave Lunch Daily Napkin Vaiant and Battle Pug Daily Napkin Valiant Says Daily Napkin Valiant Teeth

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16. Young Justice’s Weisman on Rain of the Ghosts: A tale of an Audioplay, Kickstarter, and 693 Index Cards


Television producer, comic book writer and prose novelist Greg Weisman has just added a new job description – audioplay mastermind. That’s not a euphemism, Weisman is taking his nine-book novel series known as Rain of the Ghosts and bringing it over to Kickstarter in the form of an audioplay. The author has just finished the second title in the series: Spirits of Ash and Foam. The novels and audioplay focus on Rain Cacique, a heroine with some mysteries to solve and new (ghostly) friends to hang out with. This work is also produced with the young adult market in mind – a smart decision on behalf of the creators to make the work much more accessible. With a Kickstarter campaign in the works, and a new Marvel book featuring a popular Star Wars: Rebels character known as Kanaan, Weisman is a busy creator.

Did you first build Rain of the Ghosts around the female hero Rain Cacique, or did you start with the world building first?

It was so long ago – I first developed Rain of the Ghosts in 1997. I definitely wanted to do a show around a female lead. We really did the origins of it developing a show set in New Orleans. The more I researched about the Caribbean, the more I wanted to do a show set there. Part of it, is the setting itself, and then the cast just seemed to come together with the mythology of the Taino people. It just worked for it to be a female lead in that it was something I wanted to do. So it kind of felt like more of a holistic approach in that I started more with this,

Aside from your setting and environment, how did you weave the mythological aspects into the story?

My method involves a lot of index cards and a very large bulletin board. I just started putting the index cards up moving them around and changing the order that began to coalesce for me. That’s how I began to work on the television shows, and it’s how I do the novels. On the second book: Spirits of Ash and Foam, I used 693 index cards to outline the book. I covered an eight foot tall bulletin board, a big table and a pool table before I was done – I completely covered all three. Even then, I took the index cards and wrote them up into a document. There were these two characters that in the outline were very minor. They were each in one short scene or something like that and very functionary characters. They had no drive of their own per see. As I was writing the book the characters came up and said nuh-uh. We’re way more important than that. So I had to sort of figure out what there arcs were in the second book. They turned out to be very important characters.

How did you first start to get the idea of taking the book and getting in the audioplay format?

Initially it was pretty straightforward, thought it would be really cool to make an audioplay of this. I found myself with the dilemma which would be: I have first-person narrator who is an adult male. If it’s a first-person narrator you get an adult male to read it. Then I thought, but my lead character is a thirteen year-old girl and she has most of the dialogue. Listen to this adult male trying to do the little girl voice for the whole book, it would be really awful. I decided that I would add a musical score because most audiobooks are just one guy reading with no music and no sound effects. Let me do this like a radioplay, let me do it like an episode of an animated tv series only without the animation and that’s something that I do know how to do. We cast the whole book – that’s done. What we’re doing, is raising the money on the Kickstarter for the post-production of all the Dynamic Music Partners; the group that did the music for Spectacular Spider-Man. For the editing and sound effects and all the post-production work; because this is a studio quality production without the studio interference. We get to decide whether or not it gets made and that’s what the Kickstarter is for.

Did you construct a budget for the audio play different than how you would an animated series?

I sat down and talked to a bunch of people and figured out the budget: a SAG Union production. We got a discount because we are an audioplay, and not many people have done that before. It doesn’t cost as much as it would if it was a full episode, but we have four hours worth of material. It’s a lot of bang for the buck, I called in a lot of favors and a lot of people were working for free. Most people are being paid if the Kickstarter goes through at least a little bit. Just turning it around and giving us the best work that they can give us. We broke the budget into two halves, the first half is for the voice cast, paid for by me, and the second half is the post-production which was paid for by the Kickstarter.

Did you look at the foreign market in the UK where audio plays are a known quantity?

I didn’t do any detailed research into that but I was very aware of Big Finish, and that kind of thing and I thought we could demonstrate that it’s good stuff that might be a place where we could take it. To some extent I didn’t want to get too far ahead of myself. The Kickstarter is at the halfway point and it hasn’t even been up a week yet. I don’t wanna count my chickens before the hatch in that essence.

Do you have a plan for how you will be able to market the audiodrama to more people?

I’ve got people working on the marketing side of things, obviously the social media aspects are a big part of that. The Kickstarter itself is good advertising – we were hoping to bring some more attention to not just the audioplay itself – but to everyone. I just keep trying to reach out to people, I have a comic book series called Star Wars: Kanaan that came out on Wednesday, and if that can help me reach more people for Rain…great. I have a new television show that I am not allowed to talk about yet. Eventually that will come out – hopefully that will generate more interest with me and interest in Rain. If we can make it happen we’re gonna try do it.

Are their any last words on your upcoming projects?

I got the book ready to go with Spirits of Ash and Foam which is available on Amazon or in any bookstore. If they aren’t literally on the shelf, you can go to the front desk and they will order them for you. That’s the big thing that I am pushing right now, other than that, there’s Star Wars: Kanaan which is a lot of fun. It has the first issue out now with a great second issue out in a month. I am pushing this Kickstarter, we so had a great time recording the voices. We really want a chance to finish this thing off so people remember what we did.

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“Sit back, relax, and get ready to smile for fifty-five seconds! ” Mr. Schu Reads
Our first video for DRAGONS BEWARE is up! Thank you, Mr. Schu.


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18. Character Files: THE MARQUIS & LADY LUCY

NAME: The Marquis & Lady LucyMarquis and Lady Lucy

HOME: Mont Petit Pierre

BACKGROUND: The Marquis is the un-elected leader of the town of Mont Petit Pierre. He is the thirty-third marquis of the town. His father, was #32. He likes power and wealth. His wife is Lady Lucy, and when she was younger, she dreamt of becoming a princess. That didn’t work out and so now she hopes that her daughter Marie will fulfill her childhood dreams.

SPECIAL POWERS: The Marquis has the power to turn any event (good or bad) into a business opportunity. Lady Lucy has the ability to rain on any parade. Not literally, but it might as well be raining by the time she’s done with something.

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19. Guest Post: Enjoy the Ride with Matt Myklusch

Amie here first: Today we have a guest post from Matt Myklusch, whose novel THE LOST PRINCE is out on April 14th! Matt’s a part of Egmont’s Last List — you’ll see us here at Pub Crawl highlighting their novels as they release over the next couple of months. Read on, for more about pirates, rockstars, and some Johnny Depp pics! (Got your attention now, don’t I?)

Seaborne 1_The Lost PrinceLike most authors out there, I did a lot of other jobs before I got any work as a writer. I’ve been lucky, because most of those jobs were pretty cool and interesting.

Out of college, I worked briefly in the publicity department for Walt Disney Pictures. (My last day there was the NY premiere of the animated film, Tarzan). After that, I worked in the promotions department for Columbia Pictures. I even worked at MTV’s college network, mtvU, managing Spring Break concerts in Cancun and Acapulco. But, writing books holds a place in my heart that none of those jobs can touch. I love beaches and I love music, but they weren’t the things that fired up my imagination growing up.

What did?

Super-heroes, super-villains, epic space battles, Indiana Jones-style adventures, pirates, and a bunch of other things I’m proud to say I have yet to outgrow. For some reason, it was never enough for me to just watch or read those stories. I always felt the need to “get in the game” and create my own versions of them.

SEABORNE: THE LOST PRINCE is my take on a classic pirate tale. But, to truly make it my pirate tale, I had to figure out a way to make it different and new. Oddly enough, I found inspiration in the words of the actor Johnny Depp. (I am going to go out on a limb and assume that everyone reading this is familiar with Depp’s portrayal of Captain Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise).

Johnny Depp quote
I read an interview years ago where Johnny Depp said that he thought about pirates as the “rock stars” of their day, which is why he modeled Jack Sparrow’s mannerisms after Keith Richards. That got me thinking… If adult pirates were rock stars, what would pirate kids be like?

I think they would be alternative, anti-authoritarian, rebels. Daredevils. Tough kids with a chip on their shoulder. The kite-boarders, surf punks, and skate rats of their day. Once I figured that out and starting mashing up 18th century pirates with X-Games style water sports, Dean Seaborne came to life.

Dean is a 13-year old orphan who was raised by pirates and trained as a spy. His job is to sneak on board different ships and find out what they are carrying, infiltrate crews before raids, and generally make it easier for his pirate bosses to separate innocent people from their loot. He hates it. He feels like the angel of death, delivering good sailors into the hands of cutthroat buccaneers. He wants to be free to sail the sea on his own terms. To chart his own course in life. Unfortunately, he works for One-Eyed Jack, the pirate king of the Caribbean. The only way out of his employ involves walking the plank into shark-infested waters. When Dean tries to run away, and gets caught, he ends up in quite a bit of trouble.

Luckily for Dean, he stumbles onto the trail of the greatest treasure in all the Caribbean— Zenhala, the island where gold grows on trees. One-Eyed Jack tells Dean if he can deliver the golden orchard of Zenhala, he can have the freedom that he so desperately craves. Dean infiltrates the island of Zenhala, posing as its legendary lost prince. But, the longer he is there, the more he questions his mission… and himself. There are a few too many similarities between the lost prince’s story and his own. Dean can’t be sure, but it just might turn out that he is exactly who he’s pretending to be. Unfortunately, not everyone on the island is happy to see the lost prince return. With sea-serpents, assassins, and danger on all sides, Dean might not live long enough to find out the truth.

Dean Seaborne in action!

Dean Seaborne in action!

SEABORNE: THE LOST PRINCE is a story idea I first had (in its purest form) over twenty years ago. It has evolved over time, and I’ve had to go back to the drawing board a few times to get it right, but Dean Seaborne is finally ready to embark on his maiden voyage. I hope you enjoy the ride.

1543293 Rebecca and Matt MykluschMatt Myklusch is a middle-grade fantasy/adventure author and the creator of SEABORNE (Egmont USA), and THE JACK BLANK ADVENTURES (Simon & Schuster, Aladdin). When he’s not busy writing about kite-boarding pirates, superheroes, and robot-zombies, Matt hosts THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STORY PODCAST, speaking with other authors about their creative process and path to publication. Matt lives in New Jersey with his wife and family, where he is always hard at work on his next book. You can find him on Twitter, Facebook, or at his website.

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20. Happy Passover!

The Matzah Man: A Passover Story

By Naomi Howland

How do families with young children participating in the traditional Christian and Jewish days of remembrance that come in early April this year, intermix both the holiday and holyday aspects of each?

For in these celebrations are combined family rituals with age old religious observances. How to honor both in the family in order to keep BOTH meaningful, can be a conundrum for parents.

And, with the deafening roar of our modern culture in children’s ears 24/7, perhaps it’s even more important today to reemphasize traditions that keep family values buoyed.

Picture books can definitely help bridge the gap between the two. For a lap, and a voice relating the ancient customs and celebrations of old, keep them alive and renewed for successive generations of young readers.

So, here in the next few postings are books to share for Passover and Easter. And, with a great picture book read, your family can heighten the holiday enjoyment, if read either during the lead up to it, or even as they allow the chance to savor the family celebration, as it winds down.

Ms. Howland has managed to cleverly interweave the family traditions attached to the seder celebration preceding Passover, with the traditional story of “The Gingerbread Man.” It morphs into “The Matzah Man!”

Remember the story of the gingerbread man that jumped from the baking pan and eluded capture? He is chased by, depending on which iteration of the tale you find: a little old woman, little old man, a pig, cow and horse, till finally he’s snapped up deliciously by a finagling fox.

Here, in Ms. Howland’s take, Mr. Cohen the baker shapes some bits of leftover dough into..guess who? Out he pops from the oven and the chase is on! A red hen, Cousin Tillie, Aunt Bertha, Grandpa Solly, Miss Axelrod, red hen and gray goat are on the move in matzah mania pursuit.

The Matzah Man’s last meeting is with  young Mendel Fox. Uh oh! Mendel does try to be a “mensch” (a good person), inviting the crispy escapee inside his Grandpa Solly’s house as a safe haven. Under the linen matzah cover cloth he goes. Oops! Snap goes The Matzah Man. He’s toast… sort of.

Not to worry! His ending is at a shared seder table with all his pursuers – including both red hen and gray goat in attendance.

In fact, young readers of all faiths will get a great read, plus some insights into preparatory foods for the seder meal. Each of his chasers are in prep mode with gefilte fish, chicken soup, and brisket for the coming seder meal.

They will also enjoy the use of Yiddish expressions such as “chutzpah” or nerve, of which The Matzah Man has a plenty.

After all, he IS “The Matzah Man” and will continue to be with your young reader each time you both give chase!

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21. David Slade Book Cover Revealed

91Bay0KeloL._SL1500_Random House has revealed the cover for Slade House the upcoming novel from British author David Mitchell.

The book began life as a short story that Mitchell wrote live on Twitter under the hashtag#THERIGHTSORT. The story is told from the point of view of a boy who is high on his mother’s Valium.

Set across five decades, the book begins in 1979 and culminates on Halloween of 2015. “Slade House is the perfect book to curl up with on a dark and stormy night,” boasts the publisher’s description which promises “a taut, intricately woven, spine-chilling, reality-warping novel.” The book is currently available for preorder and ships in October. (Via The Los Angeles Times).

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22. Of Bunnies and Blood

Morning, folks!  I’ve two spring-like things to draw your attention to today.  Nothing particularly heavy or consequential.  Just light, airy, early April tidbits.

First up, New York Public Library is doing a wonderful 30 Days of Poetry feature where every day of the month a different staff member reads a selection from one of their favorite poems.  Today’s reader?  Myself!  I take a piece out of my favorite poem by Ogden Nash “Don’t Cry, Darling, It’s Blood All Right”, the full text of which you can find on an old post of mine here.  I explain in the recording why I’m fond of that particular bit of verse.

Second, about a year ago, when my sister was still creating her fabulous How To, How Hard, and How Much blog (sadly, no longer in operation) she decided to create bunny biscuits for Easter.  The results were . . . fluffy.  Yes, let’s call them fluffy.




1 Comments on Of Bunnies and Blood, last added: 4/4/2015
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23. 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #426: Featuring The Mad Hatter


I’m typing this on Saturday night, and we’ve just returned from a week-long vacation to New York City. I’m pretty worn out, and since I took (most of) the week off from blogging, I’ve got no art today. Since I can’t NOT have images, though, here’s a photo of me and my girls at the Alice statue in Central Park. I figured that was mighty fitting, given the banner at this blog, though I apologize that he’s in the shadows a bit here.

So, my kicks from the week are legion: Being able to take a vacation to begin with; Central Park; Times Square; Lady Liberty (I have this weird phobia of giant iconic monuments, but she was far away enough on the ferry to not frighten me with her ginormous-ness); a Broadway show; a little girl who was sick for just one day (not a kick that she was sick, but it’s a kick that she wasn’t sick for multiple days); the graciousness of Brian Floca, Sophie Blackall, Edward Hemingway, and John Bemelmans Marciano in allowing us to visit their studio; seeing an old friend; the Met; the planetarium; the library lions; and much more. The biggest kick of all is that it was my girls’ first time to NYC.

Oh, and I ended up in a segment (as in, made an utter fool of myself, but hey, why not?) on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon as my family and I walked past 30 Rock. Given that I’m a huge SNL fan, it was neat to be one degree removed (or however that works) from Fallon, though my secret wish to see SNL’s Kyle Mooney on the streets, filming one of his bizarre short videos, was left unfulfilled. Oh, and I brushed past Kate McKinnon in 30 Rock. WHY DIDN’T I ASK FOR A PHOTO? Oof.

Good to be home, too.

What are YOUR kicks this week?

10 Comments on 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #426: Featuring The Mad Hatter, last added: 4/6/2015
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24. DRAGONS BEWARE in French – This June

from Akileos “Extrait de l’album “Les Chroniques de Claudette, T.2 – Chasseuse de dragons” de Jorge Aguirre et Rafael Rosado, à paraître en juin 2015.

Extracted from the album ‘ the chronicles of claudette, t. 2 – hunter of dragons of Jorge Aguirre and Rafael Rosado, to be published in june 2015.”11091527_10153109867490781_3512137907854331245_n

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25. If you could change any rule . . .

Let us say that the gods have decreed that you shall now be The Supreme High Muckety-Muck of the American Library Association, hitherto allowed to command your librarian minions throughout the Americas.  Let us say that in your infinite wisdom you have decided to use this power for only good, and not evil.  Now you are seated at the great High Table of Librarianitude.  Your faithful hoards await your simplest command, you need only utter it.

The question before you then is this: You have the power to change any rule pertaining to the Youth Media Awards.  You can change only one.  So what do you do, what DO you do?

This is a game I like to play with myself from time to time.  We all have things we’d like to change, but short of acquiring High Muckety-Muck status, the likelihood of actually getting any of the following changed is strictly in the realm of the fantastical. Today, I think I’ll just break my own rule of “only one” and play around with different scenarios for the heck of it.

Here are some of my top choices:

- Create a graphic novel award.  More specifically, an award for “illustrated novels”.  Because of you just say “comics” or “graphic novels” then you leave yourself wide open for future librarians having to parse semantics as they relate to books with different degrees of illustration.  Would a book like Hugo Cabret count?  Would Diary of a Wimpy Kid?  Use the term “illustrated novels” and all is well.  That just leaves the name of the award.  I’d propose either The Selznick or The Bell (alternate name: “The Cece”).

- Create a poetry award.  Because, quite frankly, it’s weird that we don’t have one.  Really very weird.  The only thing I can figure is that the sheer lack of poetry in a given year written for children and teens might contribute to folks thinking that such an award shouldn’t be around.  But the Pura Belpre Award got over that problem by initially coming out every other year.  Surely the poetry award could do the same.  But what to name it?  I know she doesn’t strictly do children’s poetry, but she’s done enough of it that I think The Giovanni has a lovely ring to it.  The Nikki Giovanni Award for Children’s Poetry.  How is this not a thing?

- Change the age range on the Newbery.  Of course, even as I write this, there’s a children’s book out this year that is clearly in the 13-14 year-old age range that I’m stumping for.  Still, I feel like the Newbery age range criteria of “up to and including fourteen” is a relic of the pre-Printz Award days.  I have heard the defense for this age cap, one being that books that fall in the range of my own beloved frontrunner would be lost come award season.  Entirely possible.  That’s why we should consider the idea to . . . .

- Create a middle school award.  Pity the middle school books.  Occasionally they do very well for themselves (see: this year’s Newbery Award winner) but a lot of the time they fall between the cracks.  And considering all the middle school/junior high librarians out there, wouldn’t it be nice if there was an award out there for them?

- Create a Batchelder-like award for foreign illustration - We have a great award for translation, no question.  But year after year the most beautiful imports pass by, unnoticed.  Think of books like Shaun Tan’s The Arrival.  I’d be willing to settle for a generalized “import” award.  Australia.  England.  Mexico.  South Africa.  It would all be up for grabs.  Now at this point folks might say that we have entirely too many awards.  All right, then.  Why not consider getting rid of one or two?

- Remove the Carnegie Medal.  This is probably the most contentious proposal listed here.  I’m sure the Carnegie has its supporters.  However, it’s a bit of an unfair game.  Of the twenty-five winners since the award was established in 1991, fourteen of those have been Weston Woods.  Indeed in the last ten years Weston Woods has won eight times.  Initially I think there was more competition for the award.  These days, it’s mostly how I learn about the newer Weston Woods releases.  That said, I’m fairly certain that someone who has served or is serving on the Carnegie committee is reading this.  If so, please tell me straight out why this is an important award.  Failing that, fans of it please rally behind your flag.  Don’t mince words.  Explain why it should stick around for the rest of our natural born lives.

Those are my particular fantasy changes.  We all harbor them from time to time.  How about yourself?  What would you like to mess with, if given the ultimate supreme power to do so?


11 Comments on If you could change any rule . . ., last added: 4/7/2015
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