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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: childrens nonfiction, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 38
1. What are Primary Sources?

(written by Sandman, cat and writing buddy of Nancy I. Sanders)


Everyone wants primary sources in their nonfiction and even references for facts in their fiction these days.

What’s a cat gonna do?

I tried hiding in a bag and never dealing with it, but then I got too hungry for tunafish tacos so I had to come out.

So I decided to try a new tactic. I’d hunt those primary sources down and pounce on ‘em! First plan of attack was to sneak around the house, hide behind the couch, and jump out at any unsuspecting spider crawling by.

But that didn’t get me very many primary sources.

What are primary sources anyhow?

I looked up the definition of primary sources in my cat-dictionary and discovered they are:

Autobiographies: Whenever a cool cat writes a book or article about her own life, it counts as a primary source.

Diaries: My cat friend, Pitterpat, keeps a diary and in it she chronicles every detail about Devin and Derby, the two Rat terriers who live next door. Pitterpat knows those little yappers are up to evil designs and she’s determined to prove it! Diaries are a primary source.

More primary sources include

• letters people actually wrote

• artifacts, buildings and landmarks that were actually there during the era

• e-mails, interviews, photographs, official documents

• and speeches people actually spoke

But how do you FIND primary sources? I’ve tried digging in the dirt in every single potted plant in our house, pulling out all the tissues and reaching in the bottom of a tissue box, and shredding every paper that comes out of the printer, but that only got me in trouble!

So then I tried a new tactic. I already had a pile of picture books and books for kittens on my topic. This time, however, I went to my library and borrowed every book on my topic written for mature cats. These books have FOOTNOTES. (I think they should call them pawprints.) And these books list many many primary sources in the back where they cite those pawprints…I mean footnotes.

Plus these books have PHOTOGRAPHS and PAINTINGS from the actual era of my topic. I looked in the back for the places who own those primary sources and made a note to contact them and find out what kind of permissions they give to cats who want to use them. (Like me.) And when I contact them I’ll find out if it’s free to use them or if I have to pay them to use it. Plus they’ll tell me how I can get the right resolution to use on my website or in my article or book.

Then I went online and googled my topic. I didn’t look at Wikipedia like I normally do. (Okay, okay, I know that’s a no-no for research but it’s handy!) Instead, I read articles that looked official on my topic that were posted by museums and universities and national archives. I looked at THEIR footnotes to see where they got their primary sources. Plus, a lot of them have digitized primary sources such as diaries and ancient autobiographies and paintings and images of artifacts. So I checked on each of their pages for “rights and permissions” and details about how I can use the information from their sites. I even e-mailed the contact e-mails and asked people about rights and permissions, just to cover my bases.

So when my writing buddy, Nancy I. Sanders, was writing her book on Frederick Douglass for Kids, I gave her some tips and advice.

For example, I told her she could find this photograph of Frederick Douglass at the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs site.

It says: Rights Advisory: No Known Restrictions on Publication

I assured her she could be pretty safe using that photograph in any way, shape or form as long as she included the credit line with it.

What kind of credit line, she wanted to know. Yikes! Does a cat have to know everything?! I told her to dig around on the Library of Congress site to see what kind of credit line they say to use. I also told her to check in other books by the same publisher that she was writing for (or another current publisher who uses stuff from the Library of Congress) and see how they are citing the Library of Congress.

But then I told her she had to be careful about using this photo of Frederick Douglass from the Library of Congress because it did NOT include that same line about rights advisory. She’d have to try to find out who owned it and ask THEM for permission to use it and details about how that could be done.

Plus I told her to check out museums and historic sites on Frederick Douglass, so she did. She found out that places like the National Park Service would let her use their digital images for free on her website as long as she included the credit line they want. So she did! You can see how she did this and you’ll also see this awesome painting of Douglass that’s on her book’s website by clicking here. Plus, she found out she could use images for a cost in her book. They told her the steps to take and the fees it would involve. So she did!

I guess you could say working with primary sources is like hunting for ants. I can hear them marching behind the baseboard inside the wall, but I gotta figure out how to get them out here in the open where I can eat them. I’ve tried smearing tunafish next to a little nail hole. That worked for a little while. They came out by the hundreds! But then the pest control guy was called out to spray them. So now I gotta think about my next strategy.

The bottom line is that there is no specific strategy for hunting ants except for search and dig around and search and call or e-mail the people you gotta call. It’s the same for working with primary sources. It’s just what a cat’s gotta do.

For more information, tips, and techniques on research, visit the site of Sandman and his writing buddies at https://writingaccordingtohumphrey.wordpress.com/writers-notebook-worksheets/ or get Nancy’s how-to book for children’s writers, Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Children’s Books, Get Them Published, and Build a Successful Writing Career at http://yesyoucanlearn.wordpress.com

Want to learn how to write a children’s nonfiction book in just one month?

Register for this online audio workshop, below.

Find out more at www.writeachildrensnonfictionbook.com.

write a children's nonfiction book


For more informative and cat-chy articles by Nancy’s cats, please visit their website at:

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2. Book Review: Watch Out For Flying Kids! How Two Circuses, Two Countries, and Nine Kids Confront Conflict and Build Community

In her new book, Watch Out For Flying Kids! (Peachtree, 2015), author Cynthia Levinson soars to new heights exploring issues of black and white, rich and poor, and Jews and Arabs in a whole new way. As she did in her previous book, We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March, Cynthia looks at prejudice through the eyes of kids who face it every day. About her new book, Cynthia explains, “I knew I needed to help make the notion understandable and acceptable that not only Jews and Arabs, but also blacks, whites, Muslims, Christians – all kids—can get along. And that circus is an especially enchanting means in which to do so.”

She’s right about that. The kids tumble, juggle and fly above the conflicts that afflict their communities. The two circuses are Circus Harmony of St. Louis, Missouri and the Galilee Circus in Israel. Each has its share of stars. In Circus Harmony, there is inner-city Iking, who was in danger of following in his mother’s footsteps (she died in prison) if not for a loving mentor who introduced him to the youth circus. Iking works alongside Meghan, a transplant from the white suburbs of Wisconsin. Half way around the world we learn about Roey, a Jewish boy with a penchant for juggling, and Hla, a hijab-wearing Arab acrobat, just to name a few.

There are a lot of characters in this story, but Cynthia keeps the reader on track as she first introduces each circus and then shows what happened when Circus Harmony visited Israel in 2007, and the Galilee Circus came to St. Louis in 2008. Young readers will identify with the typical problems of being homesick, yearning for pizza, and not feeling “good enough.” But they will also feel the fear and tension that is part of daily life in Israel when a murder is committed in the village the American performers are staying in.

The honesty in this book is refreshing. The children don’t gloss over their feelings of anxiety, fear, and awkwardness as they try to merge the two groups. At the same time, they reveal a lot of maturity persevering through injuries, lack of equipment, foreign languages, learning to trust each other, etc. And this is piled on top of the common challenges of growing up – changing bodies, trying to fit in, making decisions between sports, cheerleading, circus, etc.   

Throughout the book, sidebars in the margins offer more information about circus acts, Jewish and Arab traditions, as well as the Second Lebanon War that the Israelis kids lived through. Thematic quotes begin each chapter, and at the end Cynthia lets readers know what some of the children are doing now as older teens and adults.

Cynthia does a tremendous job juggling dozens of characters, bouncing back and forth between the two circuses, and moving the story forward chronologically. A less ambitious writer might have settled for a tighter focus on only one circus, but the story would not have allowed the reader to come away with the understanding that, no matter where we live, we are all alike. 

Highly recommended!

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3. Desert Baths by Darcy Pattison

5 Stars Desert Baths Darcy Pattison Kathleen Rietz Syvan Dell Publishing 32 Pages      Ages 4 to 8 ………………….. Inside Jacket: As the sun and the moon travel across the sky, learn how twelve different desert animals face the difficulty of stay clean in a dray and parched land. Explore the desert habitat through its animals [...]

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4. How to Use Fiction Techniques when Writing Nonfiction

Whatever you write, you have to grab your reader’s attention and pull them into your writing. One of the best ways for nonfiction writer’s to do this is to use fiction techniques – story, character and dialogue.

Yes, you’ll still be writing nonfiction because the facts are still the facts. You can’t alter them. You can’t make anything up. You simply focus on the ones that fit in the piece you are writing.

That’s what Jane Yolen did when she wrote Lost Boy: The Story of the Man Who Created Peter Pan. She didn’t include fact upon fact about Barrie’s novels, his messy divorce or many of his famous friends. These facts didn’t fit the story she was telling.

Instead, she included his brother’s death and his friendship with the Llewellyn Davies family. Why? Lost Boy tells the story of the man who created Peter Pan. The sorrows of his own childhood and the fun he had with the Llewelleyn Davies family played a part in the development of the play so they were part of this particular story about Barrie.

Great stories are peopled by fascinating characters. When you write nonfiction, these characters just happen to be real. Introducing readers to nonfiction characters means introducing them to the character that fits into the story you have chosen to tell.

When readers meet Theodore Roosevelt in Judith St. George’s You’re on Your Way, Teddy Roosevelt, they aren’t meeting a robust Rough Rider. This isn’t the President of the United States. They meet a sickly boy in the midst of a night time asthma attack. A book worm. A science nerd. A would-be museum curator.

They meet this particular Roosevelt because his childhood health problems and having to deal with bullies led him to develop a fitness regime. This, in turn, helped him overcome bullies and physical illness and become Roosevelt, Rough Rider and President.

One of the best ways for readers to get to know a character is through that person’s own words. In nonfiction, this dialogue just happens to be true. It is made up of documented quotes found in interviews, public addresses, letters or journals, but finding them is worth the effort.

When Susanna Reich wrote Jose! Born to Dance, she could have told readers how Limon was feeling – at one point he was despondent over his inability to draw like the masters, at another he was elated when audiences responded to his dance.

But she didn’t. Instead Reich let’s Limon speak for himself.

“New York is a cemetery. A jungle of stone.” You can feel the despair in his words.

“That night I tasted undreamed-of exaltation, humility, and triumph.” Strong words. Strong emotions. And part of the reason they are so effective is that they are his words.

Story. Character. Dialogue. They bring your work to life and hook your readers from beginning to end even if they are reading nonfiction.


In addition to writing her own nonfiction, SueBE is teaching the upcoming WOW! course Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults.

1 Comments on How to Use Fiction Techniques when Writing Nonfiction, last added: 12/31/2012
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5. A ‘Writing Process’ post

My friend, San Antonio SCBWI Illustrator Coordinator Akiko White recently tagged me to take part in a ‘Writing Process’ Blog Tour. It was fun because it got me thinking about how the kind of writing I’ve been doing is much like the writing I’ve always done, as the author-illustrator of three books for upper elementary […]

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6. Yell and Shout Cry and Pout by Peggy Kruger Tietz, Ph.D.


Yell and Shout Cry and Pout by Peggy Kruger Tietz, Ph.D. is a helpful resource to identify emotions: for children, for parents, for teachers, and for a multitude of others. Anger, fear, shame, sadness, happiness, love, disgust, and surprise are featured in this short book that is tall on content.

This book has an excellent style that is repeated as the reader delves into each emotion. The emotion is bold text and is followed by a description of what purpose that emotion serves. Example: “Anger tells us when we’ve been mistreated so we can defend ourselves.” Then a short fictional story is told and the emotion the character is feeling is stated. The book then goes on to say how those feelings might make you feel, how we might react, and finally explains some things that could happen to cause you to feel that emotion. Illustrations by Rebecca Layton appear throughout the text so the reader can visualize what emotion is being discussed. The final page is a Note to Adults that includes interesting facts about emotions.

The back cover blurb states: “When children can identify their feelings they gain self-awareness, become better communicators and are able to ask for the help they need.” I truly believe this book will go a long way in helping children and those around them better understand these emotions.

Highly recommended.

Rating: :) :) :) :) :)

Title: Yell and Shout, Cry and Pout: A Kid’s Guide to Feelings
Author: Peggy Kruger Tietz
Publisher: Peggy Kruger Tietz
Pages: 40
Genre: Nonfiction/Psychoeducational
Format: Paperback/Kindle

Purchase at AMAZONPeggy Kruger Tietz

Dr. Peggy Kruger Tietz is a licensed psychologist and maintains a private practice in Austin, Texas.  She sees a wide range of children with normal developmental problems as well as children who have experienced trauma.  Her Ph.D is in developmental psychology from Bryn Mawr College.  Before entering private practice Dr. Tietz treated children in multiple settings, such as family service agencies and foster care.  Dr. Tietz, trained at the Family Institute of Philadelphia, and then taught there.   She specializes in seeing children individually, as well as, with their families.   She has advanced training in Play Therapy as well as being a certified practitioner of EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, for children and adults).   She has conducted workshops on parenting, sibling relationships, and emotional literacy.

Her latest book is the nonfiction/psychoeducational book, Yell and Shout, Cry and Pout: A Kid’s Guide to Feelings.

For More Information

I received a free copy of this book from the author. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

Yell and Shout banner

0 Comments on Yell and Shout Cry and Pout by Peggy Kruger Tietz, Ph.D. as of 10/15/2014 3:17:00 AM
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7. The Lucky Thing about Friday the 13th...

I got the Friday the 13th slot. By definition nonfiction authors should be nonsuperstitious, but it seems unlucky to ignore this occasion. So I decided to write about the luck factor (or lack thereof) in writing nonfiction for kids.

The lucky thing is that you don’t have to make anything up. You can find facts and subjects so amazing and surreal they defy imagination.

The unlucky thing is you can’t make anything up. There’s no fudging an unknown area; you’ve got to find the facts that fit.

The lucky thing is that schools and libraries can always use a well-written book to update their collection on a particular subject.

The unlucky thing is that they can’t afford to buy them.

The lucky thing is that you can create books on subjects kids will love.

The unlucky thing is that many publishers can’t imagine marketing nonfiction to the trade market, so the kids don’t find them.

The lucky thing is that with new printing techniques and fabulous illustrators, nonfiction pictures books portray our world in gorgeous detail.

The unlucky thing is that the big chains limit their nonfiction stock and won’t display it face out with the other new picture books on the back wall.

The lucky thing is that you always have something new to talk about at social gatherings.

The unlucky thing is that sometimes people don’t share your enthusiasm for the question of how NASA is going to do an emergency appendectomy in space, what with gravity not keeping organs in their normal places—or even blood inside the body for that matter. And why isn’t that dinner conversation?

The lucky thing about being a nonfiction writer is that you are learning your whole life.

The unlucky thing…hmmm…no downside to that!

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8. Six Tips to Help You Break Into the Children’s Magazine Markets With Your Non-Fiction For Kids!

by Suzanne Lieurance

test passageIt’s no secret that one of the best ways to break into the children’s magazine markets is with nonfiction. So follow these 6 tips to have the best chance of acceptance with your short articles for children:

1. Study the markets - Each children’s magazine is different, with a different style, voice, and variety of subject matter. Take time to study the markets you wish to submit to and you’ll know which ones are the most appropriate for the articles that you wish to write.

2. Study Past Issues - Besides studying current issues of each publication you wish to write for, look at several past issues of each publication. Make a list of the various nonfiction article titles in each issue to get a “feel” for the way various authors narrowed their focus for each topic they wrote about. One of the big mistakes most beginning children’s writers make with their nonfiction articles is that they don’t narrow the focus of the article enough. If you want to write about camels, for example, don’t propose an article that tells anything and everything about camels. Instead, focus on just ONE aspect about camels and develop your article around that.

3. Include subtopic headings when writing your article - These will break up your article into “chunks” which are easier for young readers to read. These subtopic headings will also “lead” the reader through your article. They will also make your article “look” more like nonfiction instead of fiction.

4. Give your topic an unusual slant that will appeal to kids and editors alike - When you do this, your article won’t sound so much like a textbook. And articles that sound too much like textbook material are NOT in big demand with magazine editors.

5. Consider topics that will relate to themed publications - Many children’s magazines have themes for each issue. And, even for publications that do not have themed issues, editors still look for topics that can be used for holiday issues as well as other seasonal issues. For example, most publications feature some sort of back-to-school articles in their August or September issues. In the summer months, these same publications tend to feature articles that give vacation tips or crafts ideas and games to keep kids occupied during the summer. So, be sure to include some of these types of article ideas in your queries.

6. Look for lesser known publications - Competition is fierce for Highlights, Spider, Cricket, and most of the very popular publications for children. You’ll automatically increase your chances for acceptance if you query publications that don’t receive so many queries.

Try these 6 tips and it shouldn’t take you long to start receiving acceptances from the children’s magazines that you query.


For more tips about writing for children, join The Children’s Writers’ Coaching Club. During the month of November, lessons, teleclasses, and assignments are focused on writing nonfiction for children’s magazines.

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5 Comments on Six Tips to Help You Break Into the Children’s Magazine Markets With Your Non-Fiction For Kids!, last added: 11/13/2008
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9. Tanya Lee Stone

Tanya Lee Stone has another wonderful work of nonfiction out, ALMOST ASTRONAUTS: 13 WOMEN WHO DARED TO DREAM ( Candlewick , 2009). It’s sure to get any thougtful person’s bloomers in a twist and make her want to take to the streets. Tanya writes with passion and precision. Hornbook said of ALMOST ASTRONAUTS, “meticulously researched and thrillingly told.”

Tanya is a well-rounded writer who not only excels in nonfiction (ELIZABETH LEADS THE WAY: ELIZABETH CADY STANTON AND THE RIGHT TO VOTE, and SANDY’S CIRCUS: A STORY ABOUT ALEXANDER CALDER and many others) but also writes riveting fiction such as A BAD BOY CAN BE GOOD FOR A GIRL (Wendy Lamb Books, 2007).

In honor of National Poetry Month here’s a special downloadable poetry tribute to the Mercury 13 women by Tanya Lee Stone.  Enjoy! I did.


Happy April!



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10. “Outside the Box” (two cases)

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11. Review: Animal Naps

animalnaps Review: Animal NapsAnimal Naps by Catherine Ham

Review by Chris Singer

About the author:

An avid birdwatcher and hiker, Catherine Ham enjoys writing about animals she has seen in the wild. She is the author of several best-selling knitting books, including Weekend Crafter Knitting: 20 Simple Stylish Wearables for Beginners. Catherine lives in Austin, Texas.

About the book:

Fun, full-color photographs illustrate the sleeping habits and locales of more than two dozen animals. Leopards, koalas, and some types of monkeys sleep high in trees, while seals and tortoises doze on sandy beaches in the sunshine. Kangaroos cover their eyes with their paws, and some types of bats pull their wings over their bodies like bedspreads!

My take on the book:

Animal Naps is an adorable non-fiction book full of fantastic photographs of animals (tigers, turtles, gorillas, alligators and more) sleeping and napping. Just about all of the animals featured will be recognizable to young children under four. Not only do the photographs show the animals sleeping but they also show where the animals sleep. It was fun to talk about where some of the animals sleep with my daughter. She enjoyed seeing the animals who slept high up in trees: leopards, koalas and monkeys. Right now, my daughter loves talking about the beach and she also really liked the animals who slept on beaches: tortoises and seals.

All of the photographs are accompanied by a lyrical and fun verse which makes the book great for reading aloud. In fact, this was a great book to introduce to my daughter recently, because she had been struggling with going to nap. Maybe I should say I was the one struggling since she wasn’t taking a nap. Regardless, it has been a good book to read before naptime and I think it has helped make naptime a little better for the time being.

It’s nice to find a really good non-fiction book to read aloud. They are to find and if you have a child who enjoys gorgeous photographs of animals, they will really get a kick out of this book.

1 Comments on Review: Animal Naps, last added: 8/9/2011
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12. Review: Human Body Detectives

Human11 300x300 Review: Human Body DetectivesHuman Body Detectives Series by Dr. Heather Manley

Review by Chris Singer

About the author (from her website):

Heather Manley was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario. She studied biology at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida. Initially she focused on wildlife conservation and animal biology, however, with some exposure to naturopathic medicine, this health care philosophy rang true for her. She switched to pre-med and graduated in 1993 and earned her doctorate from the National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland, Oregon before moving with her family to Hawaii where she became licensed and continues to practice today. She began her writing once her children were born and realized the importance of teaching them, by example, about healthy food and lifestyle. Telling them what to eat was not enough, so she created and wrote educational adventure stories that have evolved into the Activity Workbook and Audio CD Human Body Detective series and now in picture story book format!

About the series (from publisher):

The Human Body Detectives stories feature two young “Human Body Detectives,” Merrin and Pearl, who magically enter different systems in the body to solve health mysteries. Through action packed educational adventures, listeners learn how the various systems work and which foods best fuel each system. The accompanying workbook’s activities, puzzles and colorful stickers reinforce what the kids learn.

Case File #1: The Lucky Escape

Merrin and Pearl’s little brother Robbie has swallowed a penny. Now through magic and imagination they find themselves on an adventure through his digestive system where they must grab the penny, save Robbie, and narrowly escape his poopy diaper.

Case File #2: Battle With the Bugs

Merrin and Pearl’s little cousin Max is sick, threatening everyone’s Mexican holiday. This time the girls find themselves in Max’s body, witnessing firsthand the immune system in action. They befriend a white blood cell warrior who leads them into battle against the offending bacteria…

Case File #3: A Heart Pumping Adventure

During breakfast with her dad, Merrin is concerned about his eating habits and his heart. A few moments later, she and Pearl are riding on a red, pillowy, donut-shaped boat, floating on a red-colored sea and surrounded by hundreds of these grape-like things! Where are the girls and where are they headed?

Human21 300x300 Review: Human Body DetectivesMy take on the series:

After reading this series, I wasn’t surprised at all to learn that Dr. Heather Manley made Babble.com’s list of Top 50 “Mompreneurs.”

The Human Body Detectives series is just fantastic! I would have really benefited from something like this while I was in school. While I was a good reader, I did much better in classes where I was excited about and enjoyed what I was reading. So although I did well in language arts classes, I often struggled

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13. Review: Manga Guides from No Starch Press

mg universe big 227x300 Review: Manga Guides from No Starch PressLately I’ve been reading a bunch of Graphic novels and really enjoying that storytelling medium. I was not much of a comics kid growing up though I do remember reading my cousin’s Richie Rich comics when we would come to visit. It wasn’t until well into adulthood that I got a hold of a series of comics and really connected with the genre. Recently I was sent a couple of books from No Starch Press to have a look at and it seemed to go right along with my new found appreciation of graphic novels and comics. The books were The Manga Guide To The Universe and The Manga Guide To Physics. Manga was a genre that I had not really had a chance to explore and these books were an interesting introduction to the Japanese comic style.

The Manga Guide To The Universe combines comics, explanatory paragraphs and diagrams, and even a little history of Japanesse culture using a couple of High School characters to guide us through. Answering questions like “Is Earth the center of the universe?and “What’s it like at the edge of the universe?” with graphic story telling and in-depth explanations. I liked how the comics lead you into a subject and then the more technical part came at the end. There was almost a softening up and easing into new subjects before getting into the meat of the information.

mg physics big 226x300 Review: Manga Guides from No Starch PressThe Manga Guide To Physics uses the same format of comics and paragraphs but this time we are reading about Megumi, an all-star athlete that needs a little help with her Physics. The law of action and reaction, force and motion, momentum, and energy is covered but through story. There are even lab exercises in the book for the reader to put what they are learning into action. This seems like a great book for those students taking physics right now as well as those that just want a refresher course on the basics. Having not taken Physics myself it was kind of fun to dig into the subject right along with Megumi.

I don’t know that I am a big Manga fan and I think that you should be to fully appreciate these books. While the subject matter is great I think that a familiarity with the comic style would help. If you like Manga already or know someone that does then these are the books for them. They deal with complex subjects in a fun narrative way. There are Manga titles on a wide range of subjects at the No Starch website so if Physics and the Universe don’t grab your attention maybe Statistics, Calculus, or Relativity will. Check the wide range of titles at the site and start learning a new subject or catch up with one you may have forgotten.

2 Comments on Review: Manga Guides from No Starch Press, last added: 10/12/2011
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14. Alternate Publishing: Niche Marketing of Nutrition for Kids

Continuing the series about Alternate Publishing.

Brain Child Press: Photo-Illustrated Books for Kids

Dr. Peggy Sissel-Phelan started Brain Child Press when she realized that there was a need for health and nutrition titles for kids and their parents. She immediately went for niche markets, selling her first title, A Visit to the Farmer’s Market, to the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) program which provides food stamps, and health and nutrition information to low-income parents, infants and children. This is an example of a niche publisher who deliberately sidesteps bookstores in order to find her target audience. In this case, Brain Child targets young mothers who are just learning about nutrition for their infants.

I first met Peggy at a Literary Festival, where she calmly told me that her first title had sold over 100,000 copies. A brilliant business woman, she has built a thriving niche publishing business.

You sell to alternate markets. Could you tell us about your best selling book and where it sells best?

My children’s photo-illustrated picture book “A Visit to the Farmers’ Market” is extremely popular. First published in 2007, a Spanish edition came out in 2008. In the past five years I have sold around 100,000 copies of the book (English and Spanish combined.) The original version was 7×8.5, saddle stitched (stapled). Last year, after requests for a bilingual version, I produced it. In doing so, I took the opportunity to revise the book’s layout to be 8.5×8.5, which is one of the standard picture book sizes in the trade, and I began to put it out in perfect bound format. I made this choice because I wanted to have access to Ingram’s Lightning Source POD service, and because you cannot apply for a Library of Congress number for a stapled book. I was also thinking about trying to get it in bricks and mortar book stores (it does sell on Amazon.)

The idea of bookstores is a new thing to me because from the very first my intention was to sell to niche markets. Having worked in health, education, and social service , settings, I not only knew there was a demand for the book, I was also very familiar with and had contacts in some very large market segments: WIC, Head Start, Cooperative Extension, health departments, Ag in the Classroom, etc. In fact, the book took a long time to produce (I did all photography and layout along with the text) so in that time (4 years or so) I pursued the market research and generated bigger and bigger contact lists. The agencies I listed above, along with schools, Farmers’ Markets, universities, and others have purchased quantities ranging from 1 to 8,000 at a time.

Because you sell in large numbers, you use traditional printers to get the best prices, instead of selling POD. Where do you go to find great printers at great prices?

I am a member of the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA). They provide various resources that can help you find printers. The membership maga

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15. Cybils middle grade/young adult nonfiction nominations to date

The list of Cybils nominees so far for this year's best middle grade/young adult nonfiction books are: Across the Wide Ocean by Karen Romano Young Another Book About Design: Complicated Doesn't Make It Bad by Mark Gonyea Artist to Artist: 23 Major Illustrators Talk to Children About Their Art, compiled by the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art Black and White Airmen: Their True History by

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16. Writing for Children: Nonfiction Tips

by Maurene J. Hinds
maurene-hindsNonfiction need not be dull; it includes a wide range of topics. It can include history, biography, personal essays, personal profiles, sports, biology, geology, geography, holidays … the list really is almost endless. Anything that you find fascinating can be turned into a riveting nonfiction piece for young readers. Also, keep in mind that you can write for whatever age group you prefer, from the youngest toddlers to teens.

If you’re interested in writing for the magazine market, the following tips will help you get started:

Stay Focused

Magazine pieces are short, which means that you will not be able to cover all sides of your topic. Choose the one that most interests you and that you feel has the most readership appeal.

Spice it Up

One way to avoid an “encyclopedic” feel to your article is to include quotes from experts, interesting quotes from your research, descriptions, and if appropriate, dialogue. Use the tools of fiction for a lively magazine piece.

Do the Research

This applies to both your article research as well as your market research. For your article, editors want to see a variety of resource materials. One entry from an encyclopedia will not make the cut. Use a variety of sources, and try to avoid those encyclopedia references. If possible, use both primary and secondary sources. If you are able to obtain a quote from an expert, that can also help sell your piece.

When doing market research use a variety of tools available to you, and do not forget the “hands on” approach. This means reading several back issues of your targeted magazine–reading a year’s worth is ideal. When fine-tuning your piece, be sure to follow the each magazine’s guidelines. This means staying within the word count, avoiding certain topics, and following any approaches listed. The following are some sources for learning more about the market and magazine guidelines. For up-to-date information, be sure to visit each magazine’s website, as many post their editorial guidelines as well as upcoming themes if applicable.


BOOST’s Magazine Database

Jan Fields offers a great website here

Writer’s Market Online


Children’s Writers & Illustrators Market, published by Writer’s Digest Books

The Best of the Magazine Market, published by the Institute of Children’s Literature (http://www.theinstituteofchildrensliterature.com/F9624/)

Lastly, be persistent! One common theme among published writers is that they do not give up. Find several target markets to begin with. If these do not work out, consider re-working the piece for a different age group, or give the piece a different slant. Whatever you do, keep writing and keep submitting. The nonfiction magazine market can be a great way to see your work in print. Yes, it takes focused effort, but it can be well worth it!


Maurene J. Hinds is a contributing editor here at the National Writing for Children Center. Read her bio. on our “about us” page.

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17. Home schooling for homebodies

It's hard to home school when you're not home much. I wrote last week that "I'm hoping to get back into a homebody routine again, with plenty of time for schooling at home (instead of out and about schooling, as we've been doing)". With various lessons, rehearsals, and meetings (usually mine) occupying our Wednesdays and Thursdays, the rest of the week has become more precious. We've fallen

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18. CYBILS: Five days left...

...to nominate your favorite Middle Grade/Young Adult Nonfiction book published in 2007. I know some of you are busy polishing the silverware and preparing the nut cups for Thanksgiving next week, but please consider taking a break to give the nod to your favorite book. Some titles still awaiting nomination: The Voyage of the Beetle: A Journey around the World with Charles Darwin and the

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19. Science books and Cybils nominations

Nominations for the Cybils close tonight at midnight. If you're stuck for some science books in the nonfiction category, Susan at Chicken Spaghetti has a nifty post with the science book prize shortlist for the 2008 American Association for the Advancement of Science Subaru Science Books and Films Online Prizes. I know the Gregor Mendel picture book by Cheryl Bardoe was published in 2006, but

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20. List of Cybils nominees for Middle Grade/Young Adult Nonfiction

Nominations for the 2007 Cybils awards closed last Wednesday (don't say I didn't warn you). So here's the list of nominated titles in the Middle Grade/Young Adult nonfiction category. All of the Amazon.com and BookSense links Cybils-affiliated and provide a small commission to the Cybils to help pay for (modest) prizes. 1607: A New Look at Jamestown by Karen Lange National Geographic

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21. Cybils Review: The Periodic Table: Elements with Style!

The Periodic Table: Elements with Style! created (and illustrated) by (Simon) Basher, written by Adrian Dingle 128 pages; for ages 10 and up Kingfisher Publications (Houghton Mifflin Co.) Library copy I've been looking forward to reading this book ever since I saw it mentioned on Carol's and Rebecca's blogs. Artist Simon Basher and chemistry teacher Adrian Dingle have created a vivid rogues'

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22. Quickie thumbnail reviews of Cybils middle grade/young adult nonfiction nominees, Part I

Not all of them, just the ones the publishers were kind enough to send along, because with the short list ready to be announced tomorrow, I want to finally finally finally pick up the pile of books from the carpet and put things away -- on the shelves for the keepers, in the library bag for donation for the rest. Some of the links that follow are Cybils Amazon associate ones.

Smart-Opedia: The Amazing Book About Everything
translated by Eve Drobot
Maple Tree Press

This one is up first because every minute this one has been out of Davy's possession, it's been almost physically painful. For me too, what with the constant noisy reminders and bee-like buzzing around ("Could I please have my Bookopedia back now? Now? Soon? Now? Please? M-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-m!). In fact, he took such an instant like to this book right after it arrived -- and it was one of the first, thank you very much to the kind folks at the Canadian publishing house, Maple Tree Press -- that I decided to give it to him for his birthday. I told him it was his present from the Cybils and Maple Tree. And then promptly took it back to put on the pile for consideration. We've been having a tug of war over it ever since, and more than once I've had to steal it out of the bed of a sleeping child.

Smart-opedia is about as close to the entire world in only 200 charmingly illustrated pages as you're going to get, with entries on everything from animals and art, history and human rights, to space and cyberspace, most with a double-page spread. Entertainingly and clearly presented, this is a one-volume reference book that eight- to twelve-year olds (and probably their younger and older siblings, and parents too) will be reaching for even when no homework assignment is in sight, one reason why you might want to consider springing for the hardcover instead of the only slighter cheaper paperback edition. Home schoolers will find this delightful for free, pleasure reading. By the way, those charming illustrations are the work of no fewer than 17 different artists, who've somehow managed to make their styles look of a piece. Very similar in style and tone as the Usborne reference books, but nowhere as busy.

Ms. Drobot has done a masterful job singlehandedly translating a team effort originally published in France; near as I can tell, this is the original French version, from publisher Editions (Fernand) Nathan. Maple Tree recommends this for ages nine to 12, but I'd follow the original publisher and get it into kids' hands much earlier, at ages six or seven or whenever they're reading well on their own. By the time they're nine or 10, it will be a good friend and constant companion. This one's definitely a keeper for us.

From Slave to Superstar of the Wild West: The Awesome Story of Jim Beckwourth
by Tom DeMund
Legends of the West Publishing Company

A solid and engaging biography of American frontiersman Jim Beckwourth, From Slave to Sueprstar of the Wild West has definitely been a labor of love for author DeMund, who self-published the book and sent it along to me with a delightful letter. The book is written in a very companionable, casual tone, the author more or less taking the young reader aside to tell his tale, made all the more interesting by the fact that it's true.

Aside from the word "Awesome" in the subtitle (I tend to find it overused and it makes me cringe), there's very little about this book I didn't like. And a great deal that I did, especially Chapter 0, "Why Write -- or Read -- a Book about Jim?", which functions as the author's historical note the reader. Not only is at the front of the book where it should be, along with instructions to "Please read this Chapter 0 before charging on to Chapter 1", but it also includes a Special Note on Names of Groups,

To be considerate of people's feelings today, I should use the words African American, Native American, and Hispanic American. But during Jim's lifetime those words were unknown. Because this book is all about Jim's time (around 1800 to 1866), I've used the words used in that era. African Americans were called Negroes or blacks, Native Americans were called Indians, and Hispanic Americans were called Mexicans. know that I'm not being incorrect by modern standards, but for proper historical flavor I've used the words from the years between 1800 and 1866. I hope you won't object.
Short, sweet, to the point, and much appreciated. The back of the book includes a timeline, comprehensive bibliography, and index. The Wild West is a popular subject around here, so this lively, comprehensive biography is definitely a keeper for us. Especially ecommended for ages eight or nine to 12 or so.

Another Book About Design: Complicated Doesn't Make It Bad
by Mark Gonyea
Henry Holt and Co.

A vibrant, punchy explanation of basic graphic design for kids ages eight to 12 or so. A very effective way of presenting concepts such as color, shape, size, and space to a young audience, and a boon to young designers and design fans, who likely won't look at their favorite comic books the same way. A keeper, and we plan to take it along to the next art lesson to show the kids' teacher.

Artist to Artist: 23 Major Illustrators Talk to Children about Their Art
compiled by the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

For families who read a good deal of picture books, this book will be an absolute delight. You'll find many old and exceedingly talented friends here, from Mitsumasa Anno, Eric Carle, Tomie dePaola, and Mordicai Gerstein, to Steven Kellogg, Leo Lionni, Wendell Minor, Alice Provensen, Sabuda and Reinhart, Maurice Sendak, Rosemary Wells, and Paul O. Zelinsky. Each artist gets four pages, with one page of text to tell the first-person story of how he or she (though the 23 artists represented are almost all men), grew into, and as, an artist; two pages of how they make their art; and the last page as a self-portrait. A very special book for children, and their parents, who want a peek into the artist's studio. When Davy picked up the book, it opened immediately to Sabuda's and Reinhart's special pop-up, and Davy gasped. As Robert Sabuda writes in his section, "all of the hard work is worth it when someone opens the pop-up and exclaims 'WOW!'". This book gives you the how and the wow. A keeper for us.

Ox, House, Stick: The Story of Our Alphabet
by Don Robb, illustrated by Anne Smith

This is the kind of title that home schoolers tend to snap up, while the general reading public gives it a wide berth, in part because the material is considerably more interesting for those kids who already know something about ancient history and even, dare I suggest, some Latin and Greek (at the very least word roots). Which is a shame, because Don Robb gives a brief overview of the history of our alphabet, followed by a story for each letter, all delightfully illustrated by Anne Smith in her first children's book. A wonderful addition to ancient history and English -- and ancient -- language studies, not to mention the perfect book to hand to the son or daughter who asks where the alphabet came from. And to those youngsters who think of the alphabet as something to be texted with thumbs, well, you don't know what you're missing.

Robb is also the author of the picture books This Is America: The American Spirit In Places And People, illustrated by Christine Joy Pratt; and, especially useful this year, Hail to the Chief: The American Presidency, illustrated by Alan Witschonke

Across the Wide Ocean: The Why, How, and Where of Navigation for Humans and Animals at Sea
by Karen Romano Young
Harper Collins (Greenwillow)

A fascinating account about the how the mysterious deep is navigated, in turn, by a sea turtle, a sailboat, a whale, a submarine, a shark, and a container ship. Young discusses currents, magnetic force, and navigation in a lively fashion. Unfortunately, the book's design is too lively, and too dark as well, in shades of blue meant to evoke the ocean. By the end I was feeling more than a tad dizzy and seasick, which was a shame because with some restraint, this would have been a perfect ride. A keeper, but the kids will have to read it on their own next time.

Math Doesn't Suck: How to Survive Middle-School Math Without Losing Your Mind or Breaking a Nail
by Danica McKellar
Hudson Street Press

Somewhere in this world there's a happy medium between Hollywood actors who have co-authored groundbreaking mathematical physics theorems and Disney Princess Queen Bee Wannabees who detest math. This book isn't it.

Which is a great shame, because underneath, way way underneath, all the cutsy-ness and pop culture expectations of girls worried about breaking nails and "running through the snow in pearls and four-inch heels" (as Ms. McKellar tells us her sister did, and at Harvard Law of all places -- like, ohmygod!), and the execrable title, is a decent guide to upper elementary/middle school math, with some handy tips and tricks.

The entire style of the book undermines Ms. McKellar's message, that "math is actually a good thing", because "Most of all, working on math sharpens your brain, actually making you smarter in all areas. Intelligence is real, it's lasting, and no one can take it away from you. Ever." Especially when you are having trouble staying upright tripping across Harvard Yard in your four-inch heels. Though much as Ms. McKellar keeps telling her audience how cool it is to be smart, it's hard to believe it as she tries so hard to appeal to her "I'd rather be shopping" audience. Another duality that disturbs me is the fact that though the book is meant for middle school girls, it goes on and on about bikini waxes, "perfect black heels", sparkly diamonds, and iced lattes. Maybe middle school in Hollywood is different than it is here. And what the heck do they shop for when they hit high school?

As the home schooling mother of a 10-year-old daughter who has her struggles with math, this might have a been a good choice with a different presentation. Laura's just too much of a tomboy, and isn't as steeped in pop culture and worried about her looks as the book assumes she is, so the approach would be a huge turnoff for. A good choice for middle school girls who don't favor the Teen Cosmo style, by the way, is Math Smarts: Tips, Tricks, and Secrets for Making Math More Fun! by Lynette Long for the American Girl Library. And for girls and boys, Marilyn Burns's Math for Smarty Pants. By contrast, as you can probably guess, I don't much care for Burns's The I Hate Mathematics Book, either. I understand the idea behind the "I Hate Math"/"Math Sucks" type of books, but introducing ideas like that kids when they're having trouble tends to cause more trouble than it solves. I'd like to see Ms. McKellar follow this book up with another one for young girls who, as she was 20 years ago, are unapologetically smart, interested in math and science even when the work gets tough, and like their studies. You know, the ones who would rather draw, ride horses, read a book, go for a hike, help a friend, or practice gymnastics than go shopping. And the ones who know that iced lattes at age 10 will stunt their growth, if not their bank accounts.

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23. Get the Help You Need to Become a Published Children’s Author Yourself!

Coaching ClubIf you’ve decided to make 2008 the year you finally become a published children’s author yourself, you’ll want to join the Children’s Writers’ Coaching Club to get the help you need to do that.

Here’s what you’ll receive as a member of the club:

1. Every month you will be invited to attend a LIVE teleclass with a successful children’s book author and/or illustrator, then you will receive a CD of this recorded event.

You’ll get the “inside scoop” on what it takes to become published in today’s markets.

2. Every Monday morning you’ll also receive an email with a short writing assignment designed to improve your skills in some area of children’s writing.

You can choose whether or not you complete this assignment and turn it in for review.

3. Every week you can submit a children’s manuscript for review. Then, every Wednesday night you can attend a manuscript critique telesession, where you’ll receive constructive comments and suggestions about your manuscript from at least one published children’s book writer.

Your writing career will really start to take off after just a few months in our club.

And, you’ll receive all this help - each and every month - for only $27.00 per month.

But wait, there’s more.

Don’t just take my word for it.

If you’d like a FREE trial membership for the month of January, email [email protected] and put the words, “free trial membership” in the subject area.

Try membership in the CWCC first to see how you like it, without paying a cent. Note: This offer applies to new members only.

But you’d better hurry.

This special offer will only be available today, January 7th. It expires at midnight tonight.

Make 2008 the year you finally DO something to create the writing career you’ve always dreamed of!

See you in print!

Suzanne Lieurance
Founder, Director
National Writing for Children Center

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24. Announcing the Cybils shortlist for Middle Grade/Young Adult Nonfiction

The official announcement has been made over here, at the Cybils blog. You can find the remaining short lists up today, too, including Nonfiction Picture Books, one of our family's favorite categories.

In alphabetical order:

Marie Curie (volume 4 in the Giants of Science series) by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Boris Kulikov; Krull's Isaac Newton made it to last year's short list
Viking Juvenile

The Periodic Table: Elements With Style! created (and illustrated) by (Simon) Basher, written by Adrian Dingle

Smart-Opedia: The Amazing Book About Everything, translated by Eve Drobot
Maple Tree Press

Tasting the Sky: a Palestinian Childhood by Ibtisam Barakat
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Ocean Motion (from the Scientists in the Field series) by Loree Griffin Burns
Houghton Mifflin

The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain by Peter Sís
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Who Was First?: Discovering the Americas by Russell Freedman (whose Freedom Walkers won this category last year)

Getting down to brass tacks now is the Judging Panel, comprised of

Tracy Chrenka at Talking in the Library
Emily Mitchell at Emily Reads
Camille Powell at Book Moot
Alice Herold at Big A little a
Jennie Rothschild at Biblio File

* * *

It was a wild ride. Five panelists, one newborn baby, a couple of holidays over several months, and 45 nominated children's nonfiction books published in 2007 -- on the subjects of history, science, mathematics, reference, biography, memoirs, humor, how to, essays, popular culture, music, and more. Much more.

What an absolute delight to work on the MG/YA nonfiction nominating panel alongside Susan at Chicken Spaghetti, Vivian at HipWriterMama, Mindy at Proper Noun Dot Net, and KT at Worth the Trip, all under the leadership of master wrangler and organizer Jen Robinson. The other panelists made the job of distilling the 45 nominated titles down to seven as easy as possible under the circumstances, and I continue to be amazed at how smoothly our negotiations and jockeyings went. Thank you each, thank you all for several marvelous months.

While we had a fraction of the books some of the other panels had to read (though more than I had to deal with last year on the poetry panel), our hunting and gathering skills were put to work tracking down titles for which review copies weren't furnished. So I'd also like to thank the patient and quick-working libraries in our system that sped books to me, often shortly after processing. And lastly, a big thanks to my kids, who put up with a good deal of questioning, poking, and prodding about what they liked and didn't about the the books they read, with and without me.

And special thanks, again, to Anne Boles Levy and Kelly Herold for coming up with the idea of the Cybils and organizing everything.

One of the reasons I wanted to serve on this particular panel is that for our family, and so many other home school families we know, high quality nonfiction titles are the backbone of our curricula, as well as our some of our children's favorite free-time reading. I wanted, through the Cybils, to be able to publicize some of the best of the bunch, so you and your kids can include these new gems on your "to read" lists.

The other reason is that I realize, sadly, that for many non-home schooling families, nonfiction children's titles are considered the second rate, second tier, B List, utility grade, inferior choice when it comes to children's books, and I wanted to be able to use an opportunity like the Cybils, with such a terrific short list of books of marvelous depth and range, to show that children's nonfiction is not only chock full of superior choices, but every inch the equal of fiction.

I'd like to encourage other readers and fans of children's nonfiction, especially those who are concerned about what children's nonfiction author Marc Aronson calls "nonfiction resistance", to keep up with the subject on Marc's blog, Nonfiction Matters

And one final note -- a raft of terrific children's 2007 nonfiction titles didn't make it to the list of nominees to be considered for the above short list. If your favorite wasn't nominated, it's because you didn't speak up for it. Don't let that happen next year.

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25. Cybils widget fun

Look what I have -- over there on the right.

It's a widget with all the Cybils Middle Grade/Young Adult Nonfiction nominees. I found about it from my Cybils GoogleAlert; you can read all about the new widgets at the Cybils website and also at the blog for Adaptive Blue, which did all the widget wizardry. You can click on the book cover or the little blue arrow in a box for the Smart Link information (which you can learn about with the two previous links), or click on the book title for Adaptive Blue's Amazon Associate link to the book. There's a widget available for each of the eight categories, so you can get your own or collect 'em all...

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