What is JacketFlap

  • JacketFlap connects you to the work of more than 200,000 authors, illustrators, publishers and other creators of books for Children and Young Adults. The site is updated daily with information about every book, author, illustrator, and publisher in the children's / young adult book industry. Members include published authors and illustrators, librarians, agents, editors, publicists, booksellers, publishers and fans.
    Join now (it's free).

Sort Blog Posts

Sort Posts by:

  • in

Suggest a Blog

Enter a Blog's Feed URL below and click Submit:

Most Commented Posts

In the past 7 days

Recent Comments

Recently Viewed

JacketFlap Sponsors

Spread the word about books.
Put this Widget on your blog!
  • Powered by JacketFlap.com

Are you a book Publisher?
Learn about Widgets now!

Advertise on JacketFlap

MyJacketFlap Blogs

  • Login or Register for free to create your own customized page of blog posts from your favorite blogs. You can also add blogs by clicking the "Add to MyJacketFlap" links next to the blog name in each post.

Blog Posts by Tag

In the past 7 days

Blog Posts by Date

Click days in this calendar to see posts by day or month
new posts in all blogs
Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Author Spotlight, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 148
1. Interview with Author Bridgette R. Alexander

Author Bridgette R. Alexander reflects on the mystery genre, her first book in a new series, Southern Gothic, and the influential impact of librarians and libraries. I received a complimentary copy of Southern Gothic: A Celine Caldwell Mystery in preparation for this interview.

How would you describe your novel Southern Gothic: A Celine Caldwell Mystery?

It’s intriguing. It’s passionate. It’s a contemporary urban Nancy Drew meets The Da Vinci Code. Southern Gothic introduces the reader to Celine Caldwell and the world of fine arts. Celine attends a private school on the Upper East Side, but more importantly has an internship in the Archives Department of the mighty Metropolitan Museum of Art, where her life suddenly changes with an explosive uncovering of an art theft; and in which her mother, the powerful curator of modern art at the Met, is accused of stealing paintings from her upcoming exhibition.

(Photo provided by Susan Raab, Raab Associates, Inc.)

(Photo provided by Susan Raab, Raab Associates, Inc.)

How did the idea of the character Celine Caldwell develop? What inspired you during your writing process for Southern Gothic?

I wanted to bring children and young adults into the high-end world of fine art. I had studied art history as well as worked as a professor of art history. I’ve been in the art world for over fifteen years in various capacities. Throughout my years in the visual arts, I’ve always dreamed of sharing a lot of what I’d experienced with younger people. The art world has been very, very good to me; and I’ve always wanted other people to experience the same as I, or actually even better than I have, experience. So I created a character, a girl born in the world of art whose life would be deeper and richer for the reader to explore the inner workings of an encyclopedic art museum, a world-class auction house, and give them the experience of spending time in the homes of private art collectors; all the while seeing these worlds through the eyes of Celine, a young, fresh, impressionable person.

Some reviewers have compared Celine Caldwell to a modern Nancy Drew. How would you describe her to the librarians interested in sharing your book with young readers?

She’s curious. She’s intrepid. She’s a never-back-down type of girl, yet at the same time, she is very vulnerable. She has a high emotional I.Q., and at the same time, she’s very much like the modern day teen.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art plays a central role in Southern Gothic. What is your background with this famous institution?

While still an undergraduate in college, I took about a year off to get a job and save money to return to school. I didn’t want to incur a lot of debt. I moved to New York City and took a job working for a non-profit organization called Emmaus House of Harlem. I worked for the founder and director, the late David Kirk. At Emmaus House I taught a G.E.D prep course and a lifestyle class for residents. These were formerly addicted individuals who through Emmaus House would be returning to their homes and families with employment training, education and life skills. I’d been working there for about a month and the first Saturday the residents were allowed to have their children visit them for the weekend. The children would spend the afternoon into early evening reconnecting with the parent(s).

I was struck after that first Saturday with wanting to provide resources for those children, so they would have a different future than their present lives. I came up with an idea to create what I would later call an arts-integrated curriculum for those children. I connected the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s education department told them I was interested in connecting them with the Met program by getting a lot of materials and access to the Museum for me and for the children. That was my first public art education course.

What has been the most surprising feedback you have received from a reader about your book?

People in general love Celine Caldwell, but what I’ve been the most surprised by is the reaction about how much they have been excited to learn about art and its history. I say surprised, even though I am an art historian, because I never want to be heavy-handed or didactic as a scholar. I want people to be enthralled and engaged by the world Celine lives in and a major part of that is fine arts – the paintings on the walls and the experiences she has. I want people to be excited and inspired…that seems to be happening!

Has your book been marketed to a target audience? Would you consider this book to be a young adult novel that appeals to older children as well?

Certainly. Southern Gothic and the Celine Caldwell Mystery Series are targeted to people between the ages of 12 and 18 years old. Although, we’re finding a good number of readers that are much older than teens, from 21 on up. Southern Gothic has a great deal of elements in it that can be highly appealing to young adults – they can absolutely connect to the protagonist, Celine Caldwell a girl trying the best that she can to navigate herself in the world that her parents placed her in once they got divorced. She also has such a loyal and strong group of friends, and I think that is an element of the story resonates with a lot of readers. Additionally, there are several other aspects to Celine’s life that I believe readers connect with; such as her forging her independence and gaining her own voice in her work as an intern at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. That job offers Celine the opportunity to move about the world within the museum as well as meeting the people that she will encounter in her quest to discover the truth to solve the mystery in the story.

Why is the mystery genre relevant to children and teens? What connected you to this genre as a writer and what does its future look like to you?

I think children and teens connect to the mystery genre because there are a lot of unanswered questions that by the time you reach 10, 11, 12 or 13, you begin to seek out answers to. For me, it seems like a perfect fit. For me, mysteries represented the very nature of life itself. There is the beginning where you are met with some ease and then suddenly, a bit of an upheaval comes along and sort of unhinge everything. With that comes a discovery, a renewal…it’s utterly remarkable. I’ve always loved the thrill of mysteries and knowing that with everything in life, you have to go beyond the surface.

For children and teens, mysteries are a great genre. In your early years of life, you accept what’s been presented to you; as you get older, you start to question – or, at the very least, you realize that there is a much larger world outside your home and neighborhood and you’re beginning to be exposed to bits and pieces of that larger world. Mysteries are at once exciting and scary, just as life is for young people discovering the bigger world for the first time.

What should the role of children’s librarians be in encouraging children and youth to explore various genres and subjects?

That’s a great question. The librarians I was fortunate to have growing up as an early and teenage reader, engaged me by drawing on various interests I had in subjects and showing me how to explore those subjects through the books they’d find for me. I think it’s vitally important for a librarian to be the guide, to introduce new, exciting, scary, different subjects; and many types of books to children and young adults. The role of librarians can be a lot more fluid than an actual teacher. The librarian has the space and hopefully, the inclination to be the conduit between a child and the world.

How has your experience in libraries influenced your life as a reader and author? 

(Photo of Bridgette R. Alexander Photo by Sophy Naiditch)

Photo of Bridgette R. Alexander
(Photo by Sophy Naiditch)

Where the classroom introduced me to the world, the library became a guide helping me to navigate the world. The main Chicago Public Library back in the late seventies and early eighties was on Michigan Avenue occupying the same building as the Encyclopedia Britannica. I spent a great deal of time reading almost every book I could read. I attended, Whitney Young Magnet High School (during the same years as our first lady Michelle Obama). I had an amazing Economic and Society teacher, Mr. Minkoff.

In this class, he taught us about the development of and the histories of the stock market and US industries, such as the railroads and banking; and we learned about early wealthy American families such as the Vanderbilts, Rockefellers, etc. He talked about these subjects in such an exciting way that it captured me wholeheartedly.  I would ask him a thousand and one questions about these people and, at one point, he suggested I go to the library — not the school’s library, but the main public library in Chicago. So I did. Sharing with the librarian there what I was looking for, she asked me why was I interested in those people and in that time period. I told her. And she led me to the library stacks and particularly to the areas where books on these subjects were and pointed to about five or six different titles and said, “here the world is yours.”

From that day on and for about another three to four years, I read everything about American industrial might. Later, I added in almost every biography of the Kennedys and all the individuals of the American political movements. I read so much and received so much guidance from the Chicago Public librarians at the main branch, that by the time I arrived at college, what I had read served as a strong foundation for my studying art history, philosophy and also some political science. In Chicago, we also have the cultural center that’s a part of the Chicago Public Library system. The Cultural Center houses everything in the arts: music (both popular and classical), visual arts, dance, opera; you name it – and biographies of artists and historiographies of genres. I devoured it all.

A librarian there gave me access to listening to old recordings of Leo Bernstein, Barbra Streisand, even Annie Lennox long before she became a member of the Eurhythmics. Another time in Mr. Minkoff’s class, we had to watch a CBS broadcast mini-series starring Henry Fonda, called “Gideon’s Trumpet” by the author Anthony Lewis. We had to write a paper about the television movie, which was based on the US Supreme Court case that ruled criminal defendants had a right to an attorney even if they could not afford it. Well, back to the library I returned to find out everything I could about this landmark case, and this time in the law section of the library.

The library has been and still is an integral part of my intellectual life!

What inspired you to write a series? What additional projects are you working on at this time?

My desire is to explore with readers the full spectrum that is the arts – visual art and culture, opera, the ballet and symphonies. Currently, I am preparing to release the second book in the series, Sons of Liberty; the third book in the series, Pasha will follow. Then I have a lot of ideas for the next nine books to follow that. Also, starting next month in June, I will be on a multi-city book tour that begins in Beverly Hills, California and then moves up the coast to Northern California. And in August I will be launching the Celine Caldwell Arts Council, which is a national initiative that I’m very excited about.

Thank you for sharing details of your new book and the role libraries and librarians have played in your life!

The post Interview with Author Bridgette R. Alexander appeared first on ALSC Blog.

0 Comments on Interview with Author Bridgette R. Alexander as of 5/18/2016 12:04:00 AM
Add a Comment
2. Apply to Host the 2017 Arbuthnot Lecture

Apply to Host the 2017 Arbuthnot Honor Lecture featuring Jacqueline Woodson

Apply to Host the 2017 Arbuthnot Honor Lecture featuring Jacqueline Woodson (image courtesy of Jacqueline Woodson)

Your library could host the 2017 May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture featuring Jacquline Woodson!

The 2017 Arbuthnot Committee is looking for a host site for next year’s annual lecture. The site would host roughly 250-700 attendees, depending on the selected venue. Audiences typically include: librarians, publishers, literary critics, intrigued local patrons, and others interested in children’s literature.

The selected site will host Jacqueline Woodson, who is the 2014 National Book Award Winner for her New York Times bestselling memoir, Brown Girl Dreaming. The author of more than two dozen books for young readers, she is a four-time Newbery Honor winner, a recipient of the NAACP Image Award, the 2014 National Book Award winner for young people’s literature, a two-time Coretta Scott King Award winner and was recently named the Young People’s Poet Laureate by the Poetry Foundation.

Applications are due Friday, June 10, 2016. Information about host site responsibilities is included in the application materials.

Access the 2017 Arbuthnot Host Application!

The post Apply to Host the 2017 Arbuthnot Lecture appeared first on ALSC Blog.

0 Comments on Apply to Host the 2017 Arbuthnot Lecture as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
3. Jacqueline Woodson to Present Closing Session at #alsc16

Jacqueline Woodson will present the Closing General Session at the Institute

Jacqueline Woodson will present the Closing General Session at the National Institute (Image courtesy of Jacqueline Woodson)

ALSC announced that award-winning author Jacqueline Woodson will present the Closing General Session at the ALSC National Institute in Charlotte, North Carolina. This event will take place at the Charlotte Marriott City Center on Saturday, September 17, 2016 and is sponsored by Penguin Young Readers Group.

Woodson was recently named the Young People’s Poet Laureate by the Poetry Foundation. She is the author of more than two dozen award-winning books for young adults, middle graders and children; among her many accolades, she is a four-time Newbery Honor winner, a three-time National Book Award finalist, and a two-time Coretta Scott King Award winner.

Other confirmed special events include a Breakfast for Bill program with Phil and Erin Stead, Laura Dronzek and Kevin Henkes. On Thursday, September 15, David Shannon will present the Opening General Session. Attendees will benefit from an on-site bookstore where they can buy books to have signed by their favorite speakers.

The Closing General Session is free for all individuals registered for the 2016 ALSC National Institute. All special events are included in the cost of registration. Registration fees include Thursday dinner, Friday breakfast, and Saturday breakfast. For more information and registration details please the visit the 2016 ALSC National Institute website.

The post Jacqueline Woodson to Present Closing Session at #alsc16 appeared first on ALSC Blog.

0 Comments on Jacqueline Woodson to Present Closing Session at #alsc16 as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
4. Breakfast for Bill at #alsc16 Announced

Register for the 2016 ALSC National Institute on Sept. 15-17, 2016

ALSC announced a very special Breakfast for Bill at the 2016 ALSC National Institute. This keynote celebration will include authors and illustrators Phil and Erin Stead, Laura Dronzek and Kevin Henkes. The National Institute takes place September 15-17, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

This star-studded panel includes two husband and wife pairs – Phil and Erin Stead, and Kevin Henkes and Laura Dronzek – who have two Caldecott Medals between them. They will discuss their latest collaborations, and give insights as to how the process of working creatively with a spouse differs from the process of creating individually. This event is sponsored by HarperCollins Children’s Books and Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group.

The breakfast will honor the memory of William C. Morris, former vice-president and director of library promotion at HarperCollins Children’s Books by bringing librarians together with children’s book creators. Morris was a long time ALSC member and friend, recipient of the first ALSC Distinguished Service Award, and an advocate for children’s librarians and literature.

Other Special Events

Other confirmed special events include the Opening General Session on September 15 with David Shannon. On Saturday, September 17, Jacqueline Woodson will present the Closing General Session. Attendees will benefit from an on-site bookstore where they can buy books to have signed by their favorite speakers.

The Breakfast for Bill event is free for all individuals registered for the 2016 ALSC National Institute. All special events are included in the cost of registration. Registration fees include Thursday dinner, Friday breakfast, and Saturday breakfast.

Registration for the 2016 ALSC National Institute is open! For more information and registration details for the 2016 ALSC National Institute please visit http://www.ala.org/alsc/institute

The post Breakfast for Bill at #alsc16 Announced appeared first on ALSC Blog.

0 Comments on Breakfast for Bill at #alsc16 Announced as of 2/28/2016 12:21:00 AM
Add a Comment
5. Ten Steps to a Better Body (of Literary Work)

I took my first “Jazzercise” exercise class many moons ago, after the birth of our first child. Although I never quite regained my pre-pregnancy figure, I’ve been going to fitness classes ever since. An unexpected perk to the the time spent in pursuit of muscle tone is that it has taught me lessons which can be applied to my writing efforts as well.

Photo credit as Dianne Ochiltree

Photo credit as Dianne Ochiltree

1. GET TO THE GYM. This one has tripped up many a new health club member. I won’t see the results of a stair-climbing machine on my bathroom scale until I’ve actually stepped onto it. Likewise, I can’t finish manuscripts until I’ve spent the hours required in front of the computer keyboard.

2. WORK OUT WITH FRIENDS. It’s easy to become discouraged when facing the challenge of just one more leg lift–or one more revision—alone. A writers group and/or critique partners do more than provide feedback on your developing craft. Like workout buddies, fellow writers can encourage, commiserate and help you stick with it long enough to accomplish your goals.

3. VARY YOUR WORKOUT TO KEEP IT INTERESTING. The quickest way to fitness burnout is to do only one kind of exercise, day after day. The same can be said for writing! For example, you may not be a poet. Write a poem anyway. What you discover in the process may give your prose new energy.

4. DON’T FORGET TO BREATHE. You must breathe deeply when exercising. This is how your muscles get the oxygen they need to work hard. You can give your creativity breathing space by practicing mental yoga: as you exhale old thoughts of ‘blank page, no ideas,’ breathe in creative inspiration.

5. EXERCISE ON A SCHEDULE. To get fit and stay that way, you not only have to show up at the gym that first day—you have to keep showing up, week after week. So it goes with your writing. Give each project a deadline, as well as an outline of the steps needed to bring it to completion.

6. DON’T GIVE UP. Even professional athletes stumble when faced with a new physical challenge. But they keep running, jumping and lifting anyway. For writers, rejection letters and editorial notes are just part of the training program-a way to build strong writing muscles and stamina. Don’t allow a few missteps to stop your momentum.

7. STRETCH BEFORE YOU EXERCISE. A few minutes spent warming up muscles with a pool side stretch makes swimming laps easier and more effective. You shouldn’t dive into your writing projects cold, either. Stretch and flex with journal entries, brainstorming and other writing exercises before attacking your task at hand.

8. IF YOU GET CONFUSED, WATCH THE PERSON IN FRONT OF YOU. The easiest way to learn a fitness routine is to mimic the moves of someone in the row ahead. Make it a habit to read interviews, how-to articles, and biographies of writers you admire. What have they learned that can help you in your own writing?

9. NO PAIN, NO GAIN. In order to gain stamina and muscle mass, we need to experience a bit of discomfort. Similarly, a writer may have to to try new ways of crafting words that are out of your creative comfort zone.

10. WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS, BREATHE. When rhythm-challenged me is faced with a complicated dance move, I hold my breath. My body and brain freezes up. I could get frustrated and quit. Or I can just breathe, listen to the music’s beat, and find my feet naturally back in the groove. Likewise, when the right words and images refuse to take shape on the page, I find it helps to just breathe, listen carefully to the words of the story that is trying to be told through me, and to take dictation.


Dianne beach, larger file

Stephanie Dubsky Photography

Today’s guest blogger is Dianne Ochiltree. Dianne is a nationally-recognized children’s author of picture books for the very young, writing coach, and certified yoga instructor residing in sunny Sarasota, Florida. Dianne’s most recent release is It’s a Seashell Day (Blue Apple Books, July 2015). For more information about Dianne and her books, go to dianneochiltree.com.

Please note as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at [email protected].

The post Ten Steps to a Better Body (of Literary Work) appeared first on ALSC Blog.

0 Comments on Ten Steps to a Better Body (of Literary Work) as of 11/6/2015 1:51:00 AM
Add a Comment
6. An Encore Career – A Children’s Author

I am a children’s author! Sometimes I have to pinch myself when I hear those words! I’ve enjoyed writing for as long as I can remember and can’t believe I have two children’s books published and a third written. Recently, I came upon some stories I wrote as a teenager. I think I’ve improved since then but that shows my journey has been a long one. For years, I focused on being a mother, wife, and daughter coupled with a demanding career. While my dream of becoming a children’s author was put on the back burner, the desire never wavered.

Telling StoriesSince retiring, my life is very different. Because I have been able to dedicate my time to writing and presenting my books to children’s groups, an encore career has taken shape. My professional wardrobe has definitely changed from business suits to jeans and sneakers. The stress of the long days and sometimes boring meetings are a distant memory. Although it took a little time to transition from the workforce to retiree, I think that I’ve found my niche. I love doing what I do. Recently, while reading aloud from my book to a group of children, I read that one of the characters had kissed the dog on his nose and a second grader got out of his seat and loudly announced, “I kissed my dog on the nose, too!” His spontaneity made my day! During a June visit to an elementary school, a third grader came up to me and told me that she could bark like a dog. After demonstrating a realistic bark, I recruited her to bark during the story. It added fun to my visit. I feel like I have been given a tonic after spending time with children.

barkleyillustration3When I enter a classroom, assembly or a meeting room, I feel the energy from the attendees and it energizes me. I love talking about books and the importance of reading. I want all children to see themselves as writers. I try to conduct an interactive presentation whereby children feel comfortable to share information. My two published books have lessons embedded within the text, and I discuss those points during my visit. For example, Barkley’s Great Escape is based on a true story. Several summers ago, Barkley, my daughter’s Lab, almost drowned in a neighbor’s swimming pool due to an open gate. As an educator, I was aware that drowning is the number one cause of accidental deaths in young children. I felt an obligation to write the story. While I wanted the book to be fun, my desire was to send a message about water-safety to the reader. Both of my books include teaching strategies.

I love the solitude of working on a book with the plot unfolding in my mind. I spend hours working alone at my computer. By the time I have a finished product, I have developed an attachment to the characters in my story. While I don’t draw the illustrations, I have a picture in my mind for every page.

I write a blog on my website on a regular basis which is dedicated to children’s issues. There are days that I don’t write, but there are no days that I don’t read. I can’t imagine life without having a good book in my hand.

(All photos courtesy guest blogger)


WandaatLibraryOur guest blogger today is Wanda Wyont. After retiring from over twenty five years of teaching ages birth through adulthood, Wanda was excited to published her second children’s book.  Throughout her career,  she has worked to be a champion of the library and the services available to families and children.  Her website is http://www.wandawyont.com.

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at [email protected].

The post An Encore Career – A Children’s Author appeared first on ALSC Blog.

0 Comments on An Encore Career – A Children’s Author as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
7. Interview with Author Julie K. Rubini

In her latest work for young readers, Missing Millie Benson, author Julie K. Rubini discusses the influence of Nancy Drew’s most prolific author. Rubini also describes her family’s efforts to celebrate children’s books through Claire’s Day, in honor of Rubini’s late daughter. Recently, Ohio University Press sent a free Advance Review Copy of Missing Millie Benson to me in preparation for this blog interview.     

Author Julie K. Rubini (Image provided by author Julie K. Rubini)

Author Julie K. Rubini (Image provided by author Julie K. Rubini)

  1.  Please share about your background as a writer of children’s books.  How have public libraries and reading impacted your professional and personal life?

I have loved both reading and writing since I was a child. As I lived out in the country, the Lucas County Public Library’s bookmobile was my gateway to worlds beyond my backyard. I would fill my bike’s basket up from the mobile collection every week. Reading encouraged my writing in a variety of forms, from essays, to short stories, newsletters, and eventually children’s books. Public libraries have always provided answers for me. Whether for personal enrichment and growth, for research, for a story, or for countless books shared and enjoyed with my children over the years, libraries offer guidance, entertainment and sanctuary.

  1. What makes Nancy Drew so appealing to this day?  Why were you interested in capturing the life of Millie Benson, who wrote twenty-three of the first thirty books in this series?

Nancy Drew is independent, smart, and relies upon her own instincts to solve mysteries and to get out of challenging situations. I would like to think that we all aspire to be as such. I know I do. I was blessed to enjoy much of the freedom that Nancy experienced as a child. Sans the roadster! I’ve always admired Millie from a distance, and saddened that I never took the initiative to meet her. I loved her stories in The Blade, and tales I would hear from others about her. Writing and sharing her story offers readers, who, like me, never had the chance to meet her, come to appreciate Millie’s own independence and indomitable spirit.

  1.  How did libraries shape your research process as you prepared to write this book?  What was the greatest challenge in finding your information?

I had great assistance from the Toledo Lucas County Public Library, both staff at Main Library, as well as the Maumee Branch. I have the advantage of knowing our awesome library staff through my work with Claire’s Day, the children’s book festival we established fifteen years ago in honor of my late daughter. However, even if I did not have that relationship, I’ve never met a librarian who isn’t happy to assist in a research quest! This was the case with the New York Public Library, where I had the opportunity to spend time in the Stratemeyer Syndicate records in the Archives and Manuscripts division. I literally pinched myself while I was there! I had this incredible feeling while researching, that I was doing exactly what I was meant to do as a writer. I am naturally resourceful (and I don’t mean to sound arrogant in the least bit!) and determined. The greatest challenge, if one would call it that, was how to access information. Source notes from previously published works related to Nancy Drew were very helpful, as was staff both in Ohio and NYC to bring the pieces of the mystery in researching Millie’s life together.

  1.  What fun facts do you recommend children’s librarians share with young readers when they highlight this book in their collections? 

Great question!  I will offer them in chronological order:

Millie had her first story published when she was fourteen years old.

She was the first person to obtain a Master degree in Journalism from the University of Iowa.

Millie wrote twenty-three of the first thirty Nancy Drew Mystery Stories.

Her writing career included penning one hundred and thirty five children’s books, and serving as a newspaper journalist for fifty-eight years.

Millie loved aviation and obtained her private pilot’s license when she was sixty-two years old!

She applied for the Journalist in Space Program when she was eighty-one!

(Image provided by Ohio University Press)

(Image provided by Ohio University Press)

5.       Within Missing Millie Benson, “Did You Know?” sections add additional context to chapters.  “Extra Clues” includes even further information regarding Millie and this rich time period.  Why is it important to include this level of documentation in a work for younger readers?

The special sections included within Millie’s story hold true for each of the books in the Ohio University Press Biographies for Young Readers series. I am grateful that these sections are included within the text. I believe that readers will enjoy learning a little more in-depth information about Millie’s life. Perhaps all of the information contained within will spark interest in readers to learn even more about dime novels, Nancy Drew, the Gallup Poll and famous aviatrixes! I know when I read a book, content often encourages as such. After enjoying the novel, Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, I researched books on real American women involved in the French resistance. That’s just how my brain works.

6.       Please share more about Claire’s Day, the children’s book festival you and your husband founded in honor of your late daughter.  Why did you choose to highlight children’s books and what has been your proudest moment as this festival has progressed?

Claire was just ten years old when she died in 2000. She loved to dance, sing, play with friends, organize games with her younger sister and brother, swim and tell stories. Above all else though, she loved to read. She would often be late for dinner, as she had “just one more page to read” and tried to use reading as an excuse to get out of chores. Sometimes it worked. We felt compelled to remember her in a way that was true to her, and our thoughts always came back to books and reading. Six months after she died, while on a flight to a family wedding, I found an issue of Time in my seat pocket. I discovered an article about then First Lady Laura Bush (I’ve always been a fan!) and the Texas Book Festival. I loved that the festival featured Texas born authors and benefitted Texas libraries. I turned to my husband sitting across the aisle, and with tears in my eyes, I told him that I had discovered what we were going to create in Claire’s honor. Claire’s Day was born.

Proud C.A.R.E. Award Family with Brad Rubini, Claire's dad (Image provided by Patricia Ball of River Rd Studio)

Proud C.A.R.E. Award Family with Brad Rubini, Claire’s dad (Image provided by Patricia Ball of River Rd Studio)

As Claire was a child, it was apparent we should focus on children’s book authors and illustrators. Initially we featured picture book writers and artists, and eventually expanded to include middle-grade and young adult. We are both proud that the organization merged with Read for Literacy this past year, which allows me to pursue writing opportunities and revisit several partially completed manuscripts. The merger will also support our continued growth established over our fifteen year history. Claire’s Day isn’t just a day any longer!  We support a week of literary experiences, including school visits by our participating authors, and Claire’s Night, a fundraising reception for adults the evening prior to the book festival. Most significantly, a highlight of the day is the C.A.R.E. Awards (Claire’s Awards for Reading Excellence) given to children nominated as being most improved readers in their schools. Each nominated child receives a certificate as well as a coupon to choose a book from the selection Barnes & Noble makes available by our guest authors and illustrators. In 2002 we gave 25 C.A.R.E. Awards. This past year we recognized 800 children!

7.       In your author’s note, you share that you invited Millie Benson to attend Claire’s Day. Please share more about your connection to this author.

I wrote to Millie, inviting her to attend our first Claire’s Day. She responded with a phone call. I was not at home when she left her message, but I recall her sweet, feeble voice on my answering machine offering her condolences, her admiration for what we were doing in Claire’s honor, her wishes for great success. She was in poor health and did not make any public appearances any longer, however, so would not able to join us. Millie died just ten days after our first Claire’s Day. As I learned more about Millie, I found myself identifying with her carefree childhood filled with reading, and her desire to write from a young age. I could relate to her pain through her losses, and her way of dealing with it all…by doing.

  1.  Why is it important that children’s books are celebrated in this way?  How can public libraries ensure children’s books receive the recognition they deserve?

Children’s books and their creators should be celebrated, and I believe our avenue in doing so offers many learning opportunities to children, as well as adults. I’ve learned that children’s book authors and illustrators are just people too, incredibly talented mind you, but much like you and me. Successful children’s book authors and illustrators are as such because they dedicate every day to their craft. Writing and illustrating children’s books takes time, talent, and resources. Anything a library can do to support authors and artists, whether by featuring them in programs, or highlighting their books is always appreciated.

  1.  Why did you decide to partner with your public library on Claire’s Day?  What guidance can you provide children’s librarians who may wish to recognize families who have lost a child?

We visited our Maumee library branch at least weekly when our children were young. I remember making a rule that each of our three children could borrow as many books as they could carry! We read to them every night before bed, and I would read with them during the day. As they each became independent readers, they read on their own quite a bit. It was only natural to consider the library as the setting for Claire’s Day. The library building is beautiful, the grounds are large and lovely, and the staff incredible. It was and is our library. Every year Claire’s Day has given $2500.00 to the library system, earmarked for books written or illustrated by our upcoming authors and illustrators. This way educators and families have access to the books prior to the festival. Every book purchased by the system through this grant notes that it is a part of the collection as a result of Claire’s Day, in honor of Claire. Purchasing books for the system in honor of a child gone too soon is a lovely sentiment for a family. Or, recognizing children who have worked so hard in improving their reading skills by giving them a book in honor of the child is pretty impactful too.

  1.  What advice would you have for children’s librarians interested in beginning their own community celebrations highlighting children’s books?  What do you wish you knew when you began your work on Claire’s Day, almost 15 years ago?
Members of the Rubini family participate in one of the earliest Claire's Days (Image provided by Patricia Ball of River Rd Studio)

Members of the Rubini family participate in one of the earliest Claire’s Days (Image provided by Patricia Ball of River Rd Studio)

Wow, great question. As Brad and I formed the organization and then approached the library, I’m not quite certain how to answer that. I will offer that without the assistance of our volunteer committee members, we would never have turned the page from concept to reality. I would look to community volunteers who are passionate about supporting the library and reach out to them to assist in organizing a community celebration. We have many organizational documents created throughout the years, including a task list should any libraries be interested!

It would be our hope that perhaps Claire’s Day, or even the C.A.R.E. Awards could be established in other libraries around the country. It could be fairly easy to do. Start small! Invite a children’s book author/illustrator to present a program and sign books following! What I didn’t know then was what an incredible impact we would have on children and families in the community. I’m humbled by the support of the community, and the recognition in various forms for our efforts. I’m not certain I would have wished for anything other than what I have received through this process. Deeper bonds with my family and friends, new friends who lent their time and talents to the cause, and ultimately connections with established children’s book authors and illustrators have helped guide me on my path as a published children’s book author.  Claire would be amazed and proud.

Thank you for sharing your writing process for Missing Millie Benson, your connection to public libraries, and your inspiration regarding Claire’s Day!


The post Interview with Author Julie K. Rubini appeared first on ALSC Blog.

0 Comments on Interview with Author Julie K. Rubini as of 9/17/2015 1:33:00 PM
Add a Comment
8. KidLit’ers Help Needed! – Wizard Pickles by Author-Illustrator Chuck Whelon

One of the newer ways for self-publishing authors to get their books out is to start a Kickstarter fundraising campaign. I have helped to fund a couple of these ventures, but never tried to help a book by posting about it here at Kid Lit Reviews.

Well, today I am actually going to do just that. Traditionally published children’s author, Chuck Whelon (Dover Publications, Simon & Schuster, Michael O’Mara Books, SKODA Man Press), and winner of the 2002 Web Cartoonists’ Choice Award for Best Fantasy Comics (The Weird Worlds of Pewfell Porfingles), is publishing a story/puzzle book called Wizard Pickles (which will be reviewed soon). Here is the Kickstarter video about Wizard Pickles:

Wizard Pickles tells the story of young Mazie Pickles and her Aunt Wilma. Aunt Wilma works as a wizard at the local castle. Well, she did, until angering Queen Blackthorne, who is set to award the Golden Cup at the annual Picklefest. For one, Aunt Wilma has lost her wand, which was found by pickle gnomes. The pickle gnomes had a glorious time using the magical wand to reek havoc throughout the village. Now, Mazie needs to help her aunt retrieve the wand before anything worse should happen (hint:  it does!)

Every page in Wizard Pickles is filled with different picture puzzles for readers to solve. They range from simple search-and-find activities to muddling mazes, cryptic codes, and complex logic problems that will keep you baffled for many hours of puzzling fun! More than a puzzle book, Wizard Pickles contains a mystery story that runs throughout the whole book.



Chuck is looking for a total of $1000, meager by Kickstarter standards. The campaign is open until September 17th and offers many perks to those who pledge from $5 to $500.

WP_00_FrontCover_800px_noBleedWhat I have always liked about Kickstarter book campaigns is the opportunity to help wonderful authors and books you can believe in, and help the book travel from conception to publication. As with Wizard Pickles, most book campaigns give you enough information that you can discern the story and the illustrations, getting a good idea if this is a book you would want your children or students to read. For a small $5—less than a cup of Starbucks coffee—you can help a deserving author’s dream come true.

Here are the Fund “Rewards”
Pledge of $5 or more – a PDF eBook of Wizard Pickles
Pledge of $20 or more – the above, plus a Hardback edition of Wizard Pickles (PDF offers endless solving of the puzzles!)
Pledge of $35 or more – all the above, plus your name (or any name you choose) on the Dedication page of Wizard Pickles
Pledge of $50 – all the above, plus a copy of Chuck’s original game Legitimacy* (Minion Games $40.00)

The “rewards” increase from there. To see them all, and to read more about Wizard Pickles and Chuck Whelon’s plans for publication, go to the Kickstarter link below:


Chuck explained to me that many publishers loved Wizard Pickles, but when the book got to the marketing department, they had a difficult time categorizing his book and this makes any traditional publication all but dead. So Chuck did what any author who truly believes kids will love their book does:  He found a way to get it published.


“The kingdom of Legitimant is in turmoil. The old king has died, leaving no legitimate heir… He has, however, left several illegitimate ones.

“Since you were an infant, your mother has told you of the royal blood that runs in your veins. Now the time has come for you and your trusty animal sidekick to set out on an epic quest to fulfil your destiny and claim the throne that is your birthright.

“Whether you choose to follow a path of righteousness or use every dirty trick in the book, you’ll need nerve, cunning and just a little luck as you assemble an assortment of strange creatures and magical objects to out-maneuver and overpower your rivals and prove that you are, indeed, the one true heir of Legitimacy!” [website]

Legitimacy is a fast-paced board game for 2—6 players, who fight to claim their birthright as heir to the throne of a magical kingdom.

chuckheadshot2Chuck explains the game’s creation like this,

“I created and designed the game as a showcase for my illustration and graphic design skills, and as something strategic and fun to play with my 8 year-old son which would not give me a competitive advantage!! It is fun to play and has a unique mechanic where your character can switch from being good to evil, or vice-versa.”

Chuck Whelon is a proficient author and illustrator of many children’s books, comics, and games. Below is a sampling.

Traditionally Published by Chuck Whelon
Where’s Santa?
Where’s the Penguin (in multiple languages)
Word Play: Write Your Own Crazy Comics (also many other editions)
What to Doodle?
Alien Invasion!
Create Your Own Monsters Sticker Activity Book
The Comic Book Guide to the Mission
           . . . and many more, including
Games Published by Minion Games
Those Pesky Humans
Battle Merchants
         . . . and many more
Comic Book Series

⇓⇓⇓⇓⇓⇓⇓Now you have the total scoop!⇓⇓⇓⇓⇓⇓⇓

Even a small $5 pledge goes a long way in this Kickstarter book campaign!


Book size: 17″ x 11″ — 26 pages (12 full-color spreads)

Wizard Pickles Kickstarter Campaign Link:


Read more about the Kickstarter Campaign:  https://www.patreon.com/cartoon?ty=h

Here area few ways you can connect with Chuck Whelon.
Website:  http://whelon.com/
Blog:  http://whelon.com/blog/
Blogger:  http://wizardsofur.blogspot.com/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/pewfell
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/chuck.whelon
Linked In:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/whelon
Amazon Author Page:  http://www.amazon.com/Chuck-Whelon/e/B0036Q6OQO

Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators:  http://www.scbwi.org/members-public/chuck-whelon
National Cartoonists Society:  http://www.reuben.org/members/
Wikiwand:  http://www.wikiwand.com/en/Chuck_Whelon

Comics Sites:  http://www.stripamatic.com/~pewfell/whelon/  —  http://www.pewfell.com/  —  http://comicfury.com/comicprofile.php?url=pewfell  —  http://tapastic.com/chuck

whelon drawing.



Ask Chuck any question you might have:  [email protected]








Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved


Full Disclosure: Text and illustrations of Wizard Pickles copyright © 2015 by Chuck Whelon, and received from Author/Illustrator/Publisher, Check Whelon for promotional purposes.

Filed under: Author Spotlight, Children's Books, Comics, Digital Book, For Writers, HELP!, Illustrator Spotlight, Picture Book, Special Event Tagged: Chuck Whelon, Kickstarter, Legitamacy, traditionally published children's author/illustrator, Wizard Pickles

Add a Comment
9. Romance and Writer’s Block

So there I was, on my honeymoon in St. Croix, weeks after the debut of my first syndicated cartoon strip, Hartland. And while I had romance on my mind, I was also thinking about the fact that as I was sitting on that beach, one of the strips I had already written and inked was being printed in the papers-and if I didn’t keep thinking of more ideas I’d fall behind! My brain locked on the fact that (at the time) Charles Schulz had been doing his Peanuts comic strip for 35 years. 35 years? Let’s see….35 X 365…THAT’S A LOT OF IDEAS! I proceeded to try to write 35 years worth of comic strips right there on the beach. The result was the first and worst case of writer’s block I’ve ever experienced. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t come up with a single idea, let alone 35 years worth (which is 12,775).

HartlandI arrived back from my honeymoon convinced my comic strip career was already over. But it soon dawned on me that what was causing my writer’s block was my unrealistic expectation. I didn’t have to write 35 years of strip ideas-I only had to write one. And with that, the vice that had been tightening around my cranium loosened, once more allowing the free flow of ideas.

Over the next decade, I gained tremendous insight into how to control my life and environment so as to get optimal creative output. As John Cleese talks about in his wonderful lecture on creativity, I learned the importance of following a regiment.

I found my quiet place to create and carved out a specific block of time that was set aside every day for that purpose (early morning through noon). In my chamber of solitude, with the necessary time to get into my creative mode, I would wait for the ideas to come, and they did. Not only could I write one idea…most days I could write ten-sometimes twenty. The other half of my day was spent sketching and inking the comic strips. I followed the words of Flaubert: “Be regular and orderly in your daily life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.”

When I began working for Frank Deford’s sports daily, The National, my workday followed a similar pattern-albeit a more hectic one.

The National editorial cartoon copyEvery day I was called upon to submit sketch ideas with an editorial slant based on what was going on in world of sports. Those ideas were then faxed (this was before computers) to The National prior to their morning editorial meeting for consideration. Once given the green light on a particular idea, I had to complete the final art by one o’clock so it could be sent, via courier, into New York City in time to be scanned and placed it in the layout for the following morning’s edition.

The next morning, the process started all over again.

Today, nearly twenty years removed, I make my living as an author/illustrator of children’s books, ranging from stories about sports, to my latest, a story about a girl who thinks she’s a dinosaur. Yet, by and large, I still follow the same regiment I learned in my syndication days, with the same objective of slipping into that creative mode. The difference is I now have the luxury of holding on to ideas for weeks or months to tinker and tweak instead of having to send out finished, publishable work on a daily basis.

This September my wife and I celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. Perhaps we’ll go to St. Croix. And while I will, of course, have romance on my mind, I will also be thinking about the fact that while I’m sitting on that beach, the 14 books I’ve created have either already been published, or soon will be. That means I better start thinking of more ideas! Because Eric Carle has written over 70 books. 70 books! THAT’S A LOT OF BOOKS!…

(All images courtesy of Guest Blogger)


Promo photoRichard Torrey’s latest books include Ally-saurus and the First Day of School (Sterling), which received starred reviews from both Kirkus and Publishers Weekly, and My Dog, Bob (Holiday House). Learn more about Richard and his books at: richardtorrey.com and follow him on Twitter at: @richtorrey

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at [email protected].

The post Romance and Writer’s Block appeared first on ALSC Blog.

0 Comments on Romance and Writer’s Block as of 8/18/2015 12:04:00 AM
Add a Comment
10. Interview with Author Michelle Houts

Michelle Houts, author of Kammie on First: Baseball’s Dottie Kamenshek, shares how her book highlights Kamenshek’s life of integrity alongside her professional achievements.  Houts, also the editor of Missing Millie Benson by Julie K. Rubini, reflects on the role nonfiction plays in shaping children’s reading interests and how librarians serve these readers, researchers, and writers.  I received a complimentary copy of these two books in the Biographies for Young Readers series published by Ohio University Press before this interview.     

Author Michelle Houts (Image provided by Ohio University Press)

Author Michelle Houts (Image provided by Ohio University Press)

1.  How did you first learn about Dottie Kamenshek, the famous baseball player loosely based on Dottie Hinson from the popular movie A League of Their Own?  What inspired you to write your book for young readers, Kammie on First: Baseball’s Dottie Kamenshek?

I first read about Kammie in a one-page entry in the book Profiles of Ohio Women. As soon as I read about her, I knew she would be a perfect first subject for the new biography series Ohio University Press was planning. She was a pioneer in women’s sports, a humble leader, and an outstanding person, on and off the field.

2.  Kammie on First is the first book in a new series, Biographies for Young Readers.  What unique challenges have you found when writing this type of nonfiction for children?  What makes biographies a unique and valuable resource for children to access in a public library?      

After three fiction books, I was so excited to be writing biographical nonfiction! That’s because I can remember selecting from the biographies section of my own local library. I loved those matching books about different historical figures. I wanted to replicate that excitement I felt, but I wanted the books to have an altogether different look and feel. The books I remember had a few line drawings, were text-heavy, and somewhat drab in their appearance. I was challenged to create a narrative arc in this new series and create a book that was factual and interesting all at once.

3.  What intrigued you most about the life of Dottie Kamenshek as you learned more about this athlete? What have children found to be most intriguing about her life after reading your book?        

Kammie on First: Baseball's Dottie Kamenshek by Michelle Houts (Image provided by Ohio University Press)

Kammie on First: Baseball’s Dottie Kamenshek by Michelle Houts (Image provided by Ohio University Press)

 Dottie was two things: a stand-out athlete and a humble leader. Sometimes it’s hard to find both those qualities in one person. Most young readers are fascinated by the fact that Dottie and her contemporaries played baseball in skirts, even if that meant sliding injuries were common. The readers are getting a history lesson about life in the 1940s and early 1950s when we begin to discuss the reasons the AAGPBL players wore skirts, had chaperones, and went to beauty school.

4.  In the author’s note from Kammie on First, you share a childhood memory about listening to baseball on the radio. How do you believe children’s memories shape their reading interests?  What should the role of children’s librarians be in encouraging these interests?

 What a privilege and responsibility librarians have when it comes to young readers! To be able to converse with a child, detect what sparks his or her interest, and to then suggest a great book is nothing short of magical. I’m not sure it’s children’s memories as much as their experiences that shape their reading interests. A positive experience with one book can lead a child to quickly choose another in the same genre or on the same topic or by the same author. I recall that as a child, once I’d found mysteries, I had to read every Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden book I could get my hands on.

5. How have public libraries impacted your process of gathering research? What do you believe the role of librarians is in providing accurate information for children and teens?

Since Kammie on First was my first nonfiction title, I started into my research alone and uncertain. It didn’t take long before I found the first research librarian eager to guide me along the path to discovering more about Dottie. Dottie had passed in 2010. She had never married and had no children. She was also an only child, so I would find no siblings or nieces or nephews. With the help of those well-versed in research methods, I was able to find her school yearbook, some early pictures, and eventually, two first cousins. I’m quite certain that libraries provide many children with their first experiences in research – how to look something up and discover more information. It’s a skill they’ll use their entire lives, and they most often learn it from a librarian.

6.  Kammie on First features a great variety of photographs to provide a snapshot into the life and times of this era.  Are there any particular images from your book that you recommend librarians share with a young audience when highlighting this athlete’s life?

 Students always seem to gravitate toward the picture of Lois Florreich being treated for a sliding injury. To me, it speaks to the fact that these women weren’t just out having fun. They were professional athletes, giving it everything they had, and sometimes enduring painful injuries. That’s a photo that tells a great deal about the grit of all the women who played in the AAGPBL.  My favorite picture of Dottie is one of her signing an autograph for a young girl outside the locker room. Even though they are both looking down, you can see that Kammie and her young fan are smiling. It was an important moment for both of them, I’m sure.

7.  How have public libraries shaped your experience as a reader growing up and as a writer today?

 I grew up in Westerville, Ohio, where we had – and still have – a fantastic public library. I can still tell you the exact shelf location of the first book I could ever read alone (I actually believe I had memorized it, but I was convinced I could read!) and the exact shelf that housed the Little House series, which I read through more than once. Going to the library was always a treasured experience as a child. I believe exposure to all kinds of stories at a very young age has really shaped the reader and writer I’ve become today.

8. How can librarians best promote nonfiction books to young readers?

Ah, well, it seems suddenly nonfiction is no longer playing second fiddle to fiction in a lot of situations. I think newer, narrative nonfiction reads more like fiction. I like to tell about how I was so engrossed reading Candace Fleming’s Amelia Lost a few years ago, that a small part of me forgot I knew the ending! As I read, the suspense was real, even though I knew the outcome of Amelia Earhart’s story. That’s what good nonfiction does to a reader. I think that if librarians are promoting great nonfiction right alongside fiction, the stories themselves will grab the reader and send them back for more.

9. What advice would you give to young people interested in a career in writing biographies? How can children’s librarians best support young writers?

 To the young writer, I would say, “Be observant. Be inquisitive.”  Great stories are all around you, and they don’t all belong to the famous. Your elderly neighbor, your teacher, even a classmate may well have had some amazing experiences worth sharing. Ask if you might tell their story and write it down. To the children’s librarians, I would direct young readers first to a book, but then also to the author or illustrator. Helping children realize that behind every book is a writer and sometimes an artist, and always an editor, just might lead a young person toward a career they will love.

10. The next book in the Biographies for Young Readers series,  

Missing Millie Benson by Julie K. Rubini (Image provided by Ohio University Press)

Missing Millie Benson by Julie K. Rubini (Image provided by Ohio University Press)

Missing   Millie Benson by Julie K. Rubini, chronicles the life of the author who wrote twenty-three of the first thirty books in the Nancy Drew Mystery series.  As you are the series editor, did Nancy Drew’s adventures resonate with you as a child?  Why do you think they are relevant to young readers today?

 When Julie Rubini approached the publisher with her proposal to write about Millie Benson, I was on board from the beginning. Nancy Drew has withstood the test of time. I’m amazed that young readers still know this fictional character. It’s very interesting that most of the qualities we love about Nancy are qualities Rubini found in Millie: independent, determined, confident, and hard-working.  Those qualities, whether they be found in fiction or in real people, will never become irrelevant.

Thank you for explaining your writing process and for sharing your perspective on the role libraries play in serving young readers, writers, and researchers!

The post Interview with Author Michelle Houts appeared first on ALSC Blog.

0 Comments on Interview with Author Michelle Houts as of 7/28/2015 5:02:00 PM
Add a Comment
11. An Appeal to Librarians: Provide Leadership on Kids’ Tech

In her keynote address at the American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference in June, Microsoft’s Danah Boyd advocated for open access to information, a positive message that is consistent with longstanding librarian values. However, Boyd is best known as an observer of kids’ technology. In this role, she vehemently instructs adults responsible for educating children to back away from guiding kids’ tech use. This advice, if heeded, profoundly undermines librarians’ vital leadership on children’s use of technology.

Boyd is critical of parents who set limits on kids’ tech use, labeling them as “fearful” in her Time magazine article, “Let Kids Run Wild Online,” and says, “The key to helping youth navigate contemporary digital life isn’t more restrictions. It’s freedom–plus communication.” In her book, It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens, and in her editorials, Boyd tells adults that kids need little, if any, direction on tech matters. She says, “Some days, I think that my only purpose in life is to serve as [a] broken record, trying desperately to remind people that ‘the kids are alright’ … ‘the kids are alright’ … ‘the kids are alright.’”

A Dangerous Myth

Boyd’s advice, that kids can navigate the tech environment with little help from adults, is the basic premise of the digital native-digital immigrant belief, originally put forward by video game developer Marc Prensky. He suggests that kids (“digital natives”) gain expertise with tech simply by growing up surrounded by the latest gadgets, and that adults’ (“digital immigrants’”) proper role is to load kids up with devices and essentially stand back and watch.

While commonly accepted in our popular culture, the native-immigrant belief is a tremendously harmful myth, as it confuses the ease with which kids use their gadgets with something that is far more important: understanding how kids’ use, or more typically the overuse, of entertainment technologies affects their emotional health, academic performance, and chances of success. Librarians, teachers, and parents are much better able to understand these concerns because they have adult brain development and greater life experience.

Nonetheless, the native-immigrant belief—which is heavily promoted by those invested in kids having no limits on their gadget use—has helped convince American parents to “let kids run wild online,” as the Kaiser Family Foundation reports that the “majority of 8- to 18-year-olds say they don’t have any rules about the type of media content they can use or the amount of time they can spend with the medium.” The result is that teens now spend an incredible 8 hours a day between various entertainment screen technologies (e.g., video games and social networks) and talking and texting on the phone, while spending a scant 16 minutes a day using the computer at home for school.

Our kids’ wired-for-amusement lives clearly interfere with librarians’ goals of advancing kids’ reading and academic success. The more kids play video games the less time they spend reading and doing homework, and the less well they do academically. Similarly, the more time kids spend social networking the less well they do in school. This overuse of entertainment tech is one reason American students are increasingly struggling against their global peers. The latest Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) results are disturbing to say the least: the U.S. now ranks 30th in math, 23rd in science, and 20th in reading compared to the 64 other countries that took the exam.

Which kids are hurt most by advice that they should be given “freedom” with digital devices? Those of color whose parents have less access than more economically-advantaged families to guidance from college counselors and high-performing schools that kids are better served by focusing on schoolwork and productive uses of technology than playing with devices. A recent Pew Research Center report outlined troubling figures: 34% of African-American and 32% of Hispanic teens are online “almost constantly,” while 19% of White teens report using the Internet this often. Because teens’ top online activities are gaming and social networking, the extremely high levels of smartphone/online use by kids of color are likely to expand the racial achievement gap.

How Can Librarians Provide Leadership on Kids’ Technology

Consider these actions to advance children’s and teens’ success and help them use technology productively:

  • Help parents, teachers, and schools understand that the digital native-digital immigrant belief is a myth, and that children, and even teens, are not developmentally capable of navigating the tech environment alone.
  • Encourage caregivers to limit kids’ use of entertainment technologies, and instead foster their learning of educational fundamentals (e.g., reading and math) and productive uses of technology.
  • Advocate that families “parent like a tech exec.” In stark contrast to Boyd’s advice, Bill Gates (the co-founder of Boyd’s own company, Microsoft) set strong limits on his own kids’ tech use, as did Apple’s Steve Jobs and other leading tech execs, as described in the New York Times’ article, “Steve Jobs Was a Low-Tech Parent.” Typical limits set by tech execs include no gadget use on weekdays, computers only being used for homework on school nights, and no screens in the bedroom.
  • Make special efforts to reach out to children and families of color, as well as less advantaged families, to promote kids’ focus on reading, academics, and the productive use of technology.


©Larry Odell

©Larry Odell

Today’s guest post was written by Richard Freed, Ph.D., the author of Wired Child: Debunking Popular Technology Myths, a practical guide for raising kids in the digital age. A child and adolescent psychologist with more than twenty years of clinical experience, Dr. Freed completed his professional training at Cambridge Hospital/Harvard Medical School and the California School of Professional Psychology. He lives in Walnut Creek, California with his wife and two daughters. To learn more, visit www.RichardFreed.com

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at [email protected].

The post An Appeal to Librarians: Provide Leadership on Kids’ Tech appeared first on ALSC Blog.

0 Comments on An Appeal to Librarians: Provide Leadership on Kids’ Tech as of 7/27/2015 1:46:00 PM
Add a Comment
12. USBBY Welcomes Authors/Illustrators Ingrid and Dieter Schubert

Photo Credit: Ellen Myrick

Photo Credit: Ellen Myrick

On Saturday, June 27, 2015, from 3:00 to 4:00 in rooms 228-230 of the Moscone Convention Center, USBBY will present international children’s books author-illustrators Ingrid and Dieter Schubert (scheduler link). Their author talk will highlight The Umbrella (a USBBY award book) and their newest publication, There is a Crocodile under My Bed! Having collaborated on over 10 books, they will discuss the process of creating their beautiful picture books.

Q1: You work together collaboratively as illustrators. How does it work to have two people working to produce such a unique aesthetic?

Before we start drawing we both make a lot of sketches and talk about the settings and characters. What follows is an endless discussion, we wake up and go to bed with our creations and ideas. During this very intense time we can barely talk about anything else. Boring for other people – especially our daughters. After that tiring period we carefully draw each page: Dieter keeps an eye on expression and perspective, I take care for the logical development in visual narrating.

Q2: Your books often feature anthropomorphized animals. How do you decide on an animal for a particular story? Does that ever shift as the narrative develops?

Animals are timeless and they are often used as a metaphor, for example in fairy tales. There are animals which people directly can identify with. Take a clumsy bear or a smart hedgehog, for example. Or a hare, swift like an arrow.

You see, we not only call the animal in question but we also give it an attribute. This is common everywhere in the Western World. We all love mice – in books, not in real! In Asia people not really appreciate mice as characters in books.

Of course, sometimes we need to change the animal when the narrative develops. What we do is looking if a certain animal is the right one for the story in particular. And yes, it often happened that we’d to say good bye to one which didn’t fit anymore.

A child should have the opportunity to accept the book character as one of his friends. Never underestimate a child to see things in perspective. They know that a crocodile or lion in a book is an artificial one and not compares with the one in the real world! Even a small child has a good sense of humor. We use animals to express inner feelings, to show human behaviour but to keep a child safe. Always!

Q3: There’s a Crocodile Under My Bed has been translated into many languages. Are there themes you feel work especially well for international children’s book authors?

Cover - there is a crocodile under my bedWe wrote and illustrated “There is a crocodile under my bed’’ 35 years ago  –  just for fun during our last year as students at the Gerrit Rietverld Academy in Amsterdam. Our teacher invited us to Lemniscaat publishers who were charmed by the story. What I didn’t really think about back then was that children all over the world collectively get frightened about something possibly lying under their bed. It is a diffuse fear, coming up at the age of four (and that fear will last a lifetime). When I read this in one of my books about Psychology, I decided to keep my diffuse awareness and disregarded the things said in the book. Because I think that an illustrator and author for children you need and have to protect your gut feeling. The good thing is that Dieter kept his playful intuition and still protects me when I think too much in terms of pedagogy.

Last year we decided to make a remake of our first book. The story is still strong, but some of the illustrations are definitely old fashioned. In those days we used only color pencils. Now we use techniques like watercolor, mixed media, acrylics.

We also changed the story a bit. In the first version the little girl runs back to her parents; In the new version the girl only says: There is a crocodile under my bed. And I am not afraid at all!

Our favorite book will always be: Where the wild things are! (by Maurice Sendak)


Because it embodies everything what children need – and frightens adults. (Read this answer with a twinkle!)

Q4: You have also written wordless books. How do you ensure a strong narrative through images alone?

Even with our wordless books we first start writing the story, or better said a synopsis. Regarding the children who can’t read a word, we always try to make pictures that tell the story by themselves. Mostly only few sentences are necessary.

It is a delight to realize at a certain moment every written word is one too much! That the narrative is exploring itself by scrutinizing the pictures. That requires that the story must stand by be narrated in a linear way; that means no contemplations, no flash backs.

Q5: What will you be sharing in your USBBY talk?

Our experience. Our imagination.

Our possibility to get astonished over and over again.

Showing some sketches. Telling a story.


Today’s Guest Blogger is Wendy Stephens for the United States Board on Books for Young People.

The post USBBY Welcomes Authors/Illustrators Ingrid and Dieter Schubert appeared first on ALSC Blog.

0 Comments on USBBY Welcomes Authors/Illustrators Ingrid and Dieter Schubert as of 6/19/2015 1:57:00 AM
Add a Comment
13. Reminder: Apply to Host the 2016 Arbuthnot Lecture!

Pat Mora Arbuthnot Lecturer

Pat Mora will deliver the 2016 Arbuthnot Lecture (image courtesy of Pat Mora)

ALSC and the 2016 May Hill Arbuthnot Lecture Committee are proud to announce the opening of the application to host the 2016 event featuring award-winning children’s book author and pioneering literacy advocate Pat Mora.

Host site application forms can be downloaded at the Arbuthnot site. Applications are due May 15, 2015. Information about host site responsibilities is included in the application materials. The lecture traditionally is held in April or early May.

Born and raised in El Paso, Texas, Mora grew up bilingual and bicultural. With degrees in English and speech, she was a teacher and university administrator before writing children’s books. Known for her lyrical style, Mora’s poetry and prose have won numerous awards, including a 2005 Belpré Honor Medal for text for “Doña Flor: A Tall Tale of a Giant Woman with a Great Big Heart,” published by Knopf Books for Young Readers, and illustrated by Raul Colón. Her generosity for sharing bookjoy, the phrase she coined for the power and pleasure of words, led Mora to launch “Día,” which will observe its 20th anniversary in 2016.

The post Reminder: Apply to Host the 2016 Arbuthnot Lecture! appeared first on ALSC Blog.

0 Comments on Reminder: Apply to Host the 2016 Arbuthnot Lecture! as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
14. Author Spotlight: Darren Simon and “Guardian’s Nightmare”

GN Cover

Here are some questions author Darren Simon responded to regarding his book, Guardian’s Nightmare.

Tell us a bit about your new book, Guardian’s Nightmare:
It’s a middle-grade young adult urban fantasy novel set in San Francisco. It’s meant to be a fun, exciting read—but one parents can feel comfortable allowing their children to read. The story centers around a thirteen-year-old girl, Charlee Smelton, who is going through a rough patch in her life after the family’s move to San Francisco. The move has left her feeling estranged from her father and like an outcast at her new school, where she finds herself bullied. Then one day she receives a gift of the ugliest bike she has ever seen, one she just can’t seem to get rid of no matter how hard she tries. And every time she touches the bike she suffers a painful electric jolt. Soon after receiving the bike, strange dreams come of a world across a dimensional divide where a princess is in danger from a dark knight. Little does Charlee know her life is about to take a frightening turn, one where she must discover the hero in herself—with the help of that hunk-of-junk-bike—to save her family, her city, the world from an evil only she can defeat. An evil she allows into this world.

What made you come up with the premise?
As seems to be a growing trend in my writing, I started with one incident from my own youth where I felt like something of an outcast at the school I attended after my family moved. It is kind of difficult to say whether I built the book around a character or an incident or both. Then, a key piece to the book is the bike, and I can tell you that I loved riding when I was a kid, and I always imagined what it would be like to have a bike with powers. It was just a natural fit into this story.

What inspired you to write the book?
I knew at some point I wanted to write a book. That’s why I focused my education and my career on writing. I also knew I wanted to write fantasy and even science fiction for younger readers to inspire them to read the way I was inspired when I was a boy and a teen to read. As a boy, I couldn’t wait to get enough money to go to the bookstore in the mall to purchase a book. I cannot say there was specific inspiration to write this book—just inspiration to write. Before this book, I built up about twenty fantasy and science fiction short stories. I even wrote half of a science fiction novel, which I may return to after other projects are complete, about pen pals across the universe. When I was in school pen pals across states were the big thing as a way to practice our writing. I imagined a story about pen pals light years away who decide to meet. My point is, I just wanted to write, and this particular story, Guardian’s Nightmare, just stuck with me for some reason. When I started it, I had to finish it. By the way, when I first wrote the novel, the lead was a boy named Charlie Smelton, but along the way a recommendation was made that perhaps the character might work better as a girl. I tried the switch for a few chapters and found I really did like the character as a girl, and so Charlee Smelton was created.

What was it that made you realize you wanted to be a writer?
There were a couple of pivotal moments in my life that led me down this path. First was when I was just a boy and my grandmother gave me a brown paper bag filled with old DC comic books. I don’t remember where she got them from, but those comic books turned me into a reader. I loved them, and I became a big comic book fan. And from comic books, I got into the Choose Your Own Adventure Dungeon and Dragon books, and from there I got into longer fantasy and sci-fi novels. But it was that first brown bag of comics that made me a reader and once I become a reader I also wanted to write. In school, when the teacher would give the class, a creative writing assignment, most kids wrote one page—I wrote several. I just really enjoyed it. The second moment in my life came in the summer of 1984 when the movie, Ghostbusters, was released. When I saw it, I was amazed at how funny it was and how it made people laugh. I wondered who the writers were because I wanted to create words to make people react the way they had. After seeing the movie, I went home and wrote the opening pages of my version of Ghostbusters II. More importantly, that year I started high school, and as an elective instead of taking wood shop or auto mechanics, I took a journalism class, so I could have a chance to write. My future was set because in college I majored in journalism and I became a newspaper journalist. I have been writing ever since.

DarrenAuthor Bio:

Darren Simon is a former longtime newspaper journalist who now works in government affairs on California water issues and teaches college English. In his spare time, he is a freelance magazine writer. Guardian’s Nightmare is his first novel. The second book in the series is also under contract with Divertir Publishing. He resides in California’s desert southwest with his wife, two sons and two crazy dogs.

Blurb for the book:

Charlee Smelton is an average thirteen-year-old girl struggling to adapt after her family moves to San Francisco. She thinks her biggest obstacle is facing the bullies who brand her a nerd and a dweeb. She’s wrong. Her life is about to change—for the worse.

First, she receives a gift of the ugliest, most old fashioned bike she has ever seen. Try as she might to ditch it in the city, she just can’t seem to escape that very mysterious two-wheeler. Then come the visions of a world across a dimensional divide, a princess in fear for her life and a dark knight pursuing her. Are they just dreams or something more?

For Charlee, everything she ever thought she knew about herself soon crumbles as she starts down a path to discover her true self, and she will need that hunk-of-junk bike more than she could ever imagine. Without it, she might not be able to find the hero in herself—the hero she must become to save her friends, family, her city—the world—from an evil only she can defeat. An evil she allows into this world.

Chapter 8

Okay, Bike. Now What?

Charlee stepped cautiously to the glowing two-wheeler. “Okay, bike. I’m here. What do you want?” The bike remained motionless, silent. Its pulsating glow surrounded Charlee.

“Hey bike, remember all those mean things I said about you? Can we forget about that? I didn’t mean it. Sorry for ditching you in the alley. Let’s just be friends. I’m about to put my hands on you. Please don’t hurt me.”

Teeth clenched in preparation of the jolt sure to come, she reached for the bike with both hands. She counted down—three… two… one—then her hands grasped the handlebars. Nothing! No lightning strike. No explosion. Nothing happened at all. The chrome felt warm, as if the bike had been left outside on a hot summer day. Other than that, life seemed unchanged.

Charlee glared at the bike. The glowing light had disappeared, and she stood in the garage, gripping the most hideous bike ever. “Did I imagine everything? Was I sleepwalking? Am I asleep right now in my bed? Is this part of a dream?”

She swung her leg over the frame and sat on the banana seat… maybe to tempt fate. More warmth rose throughout her body, but still no stinging burst of energy to signal the start of some momentous change. “Dumb bike. What a joke! You’re nothing but a pile of rusting—”

Her words vanished when the garage door slid open on its own, revealing a sleeping street in the dark hours of early morning. No, not again! Outside, a light breeze ruffled the leaves in the trees. From the distance came the screech of fighting cats. Except for these sounds, stillness filled the night.

“Okay. This is very weird and very wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong! This can’t be happening. There’s no way. I must be dreaming. That’s it. I’m dreaming—and now I’d like to wake up, please.” Charlee pinched herself. Nothing changed. She remained in the garage on the bike, staring at the street. “Listen, bike. This has been fun and all, but I think I’m going to go back inside now. Okay?”

But slowly, with Charlee still on the banana seat, the bike rolled out of the garage, down the driveway, and onto the sidewalk. She tried to lift her hands from the handlebars, but… they’re stuck! She braced her feet on the cement but the bike kept moving forward.

“Mom, Dad… help me!” she cried but her words echoed back at her as if they had bounced off some invisible force field. “Anyone, please help!” Again her words hit an unseen wall, like she was in some kind of box surrounding her and the bike.

Charlee wrestled to free her hands. “Bike, let me go! I promise I won’t say another mean thing about you. I’ll ride you to school every day. I’ll clean you. I’ll make sure your chain is greased. Just stop.”

The bike came to a stop in the street and finally she was able to let go. “All right, bike. I’m just going to get off slowly and then I’ll take you back into the garage. We’ll both get some sleep and tomorrow we can go to school together.” She smiled nervously. “Doesn’t that sound ni—”

Like a bullet the bike shot forward. Charlee strained against the G-forces, which were stronger than in any roller coaster she’d ever ridden. Her vision tunneled in on itself. She was blacking out.

“What’s happening?” The onrushing wind swallowed the words. The bike zipped down the street—past one block, then another and another. They raced up steep-hilled streets, jumping at the peaks, and flying down the other sides. She fought to keep her eyes open against the dizzying streaks of light rushing by. Queasiness set in. Charlee’s stomach rolled over and over. She was going to be sick.

“Stop!” she shouted. The bike heeded her command. Just as suddenly as the ride began, it ended. Charlee’s feet flew above her head as she flipped over the handlebars. Her body slammed against the cold, unforgiving pavement and rolled several times before coming to a stop.

“Owww!” She lay on the cement staring up at the night sky watching the stars spin. The vomit came in disgusting bursts. When it was over, she rolled back and closed her eyes. She didn’t open them again until the world stopped spinning. After the nausea subsided, Charlee stood on wobbly legs. When another bout of nausea returned she hunched over and spotted her glasses on the sidewalk.

She chuckled weakly. “They must have blown off my face.”

Charlee bent down to pick them up and placed them back atop her nose, but the lenses must have cracked or been scratched. Everything looked fuzzy. She checked her glasses for any breaks but other than a few spots of dirt they were fine. Placing them back on her face, the hazy vision returned.

“Wait a second.” She lifted away the glasses and the world around was clear. “Very weird.”

Charlee staggered to the bike. “Wh… what’s going on here? Are you trying to get back at me? Is that what this is? You know, you could have at least let me put on my clothes. You think I want the world to see me in my pajamas?”

The bike stared with its front reflector. Did she expect a response? Anything was possible. This was no ordinary bike. Maybe it could talk. Maybe it could explain for what purpose it had dragged her out here in the middle of the night.

Charlee’s eyes swept over the street. It was a more affluent neighborhood. The homes here were large, many gated. The neighborhood was asleep except for the pale glow cast by lamp posts. “What is it, bike? Why are we here?” The bike stood silent.

She placed a hand on the banana seat, triggering a new sensation. Instead of a painful zap, she felt invigorated—even powerful. She was more alert, her senses heightened. Placing the glasses in her pajama pocket, she surveyed the neighborhood with eyes that saw sharper than they ever did even with glasses. Staring down the street, Charlee could read the license plate number of a car parked eight houses away, make out the tiny lettering of a family’s last name over a doorway ten houses down and spot the yellow eyes of a cat peeking from underneath a pickup two blocks away.

Charlee gasped. More changes followed. She heard things—not just rustling leaves or dogs barking in the distance, but sounds no normal human ear would be able to detect from where she stood—a man snoring in his bed, a baby breathing deeply in its crib and a caterpillar inching up a tree.

Then… footsteps! Someone was slipping through the backyard of the house across the street.

“Bike, maybe it’s just someone locked out of their house.” She listened again and reached a different conclusion as she heard tools clanging in a bag slung across the intruder’s back.

Charlee removed her hand from the bike seat. The sounds disappeared, but the sense of trouble remained. “I think someone’s about to break into that house. But what if I’m wrong? I can’t just start shouting and wake up everybody on this street. They’d think I was a lunatic or something. I’d be in trouble for sure. Is this why you brought me here? What am I supposed to do?”

She reached for a cell phone but remembered she hadn’t brought it. “I could have made a call to the police if I had remembered my cell phone. See, bike, you should have let me get my head straight before bringing me out here.”

She paced back and forth. “What am I supposed to do? Can I trust my senses? Can I trust the bike? No! Before I do anything, I need proof.”

Charlee sprinted across the street to the house where she’d heard the suspicious noises. At the front yard, she slowed and tiptoed up to the fence that ran along the side of the house. What was she doing? She should turn around and walk home. Leave the bike here.

As if she were someone else—someone braver—Charlee opened the fence and slowly crept to the back of the house, body pressed up against the wall’s rough surface. Please don’t let a thief be here. Let me be wrong. Her heart sank when she spied the outlines of a large man kneeling at the back door of the house. It looked like he was trying to cut some kind of wire, perhaps to an alarm system. Any minute now, the unwanted night visitor would break in. She couldn’t let that happen.

But what could she do—scream? That would alert everyone inside of the danger. Sure, it wasn’t exactly what a hero would do, but maybe the man would be frightened and run away. She flattened against the wall and prepared to belt out the loudest scream she had. Unfortunately, at that moment something else caught her attention—something huge with eight spindly legs.

The spider crawled from the wall onto Charlee’s shoulder and then onto her neck. As the first spidery legs touched skin, she spun in a wild dance to shake off the creature. Mistake! Charlee jumped away from the wall and stood in full view.

She hoped the prowler’s attention had been focused elsewhere but it hadn’t. He rose to his feet then scrambled toward her, a long, silvery wrench clutched tightly in a black gloved hand. Scream now! But she couldn’t even swallow. She just stared.

The man, dressed in black, from his sweatpants to his sweatshirt all the way up to the ski mask over his face, stopped just a couple of steps away.

Think fast! “Uh, is this the Peterson house?” Charlee whispered. “I have a pizza delivery.” The masked man just stood there, his head tilted. “I guess not,” Charlee backed away. “I guess I got the wrong house. Sorry. I’ll be going now.”

“I don’t think so.” The man spoke in a throaty, threatening voice. He took a step forward, still clutching the wrench.

“I’ll yell,” Charlee warned. “Everyone will hear and come running.”

The man clearly had no fear of a thirteen-year-old girl in pajamas. He smiled through a hole cut in the ski mask, exposing yellow teeth that glowed in the night. “Do it, kid, and I’ll make sure it’s the last sound you ever make. I’ve killed before and I can do it again. Go ahead, scream.”

Shivering with fear, Charlee struggled just to breathe. How did she get herself into this? How would she get herself out of this? She tried to scream, “Help!” It came out as barely a squeak.

The would-be thief raised the wrench over his head. “Sorry, kid. I can’t have any witnesses.”

Charlee tripped over her own feet and toppled to the grass. At that moment she did the only thing she could think of. In a shaky voice, just above a whisper, she called to the two-wheeler. “Bike, I need your help—now!”

“Get up!” The man reached down with his free hand and clasped Charlee’s arm. “This will teach… wait, what the—”

The bike—that ugly scrap of metal—charged through the side gate and before the man had time to react crashed into him. The burglar was knocked off his feet, landing with a thud on his back.

Dazed, he lifted himself to his knees. “What… what happened?” Shaking off his confusion, he stood with the wrench still in hand. “I’m going to get you, kid!” Before reaching his full height, the bike rushed at him again. The burglar flew across the yard and smashed against the wooden fence before falling face down to the ground. A soft groan escaped his lips then he lay silent.

For a heartbeat, Charlee stared at the bike. It waited, supported by its kickstand. When she could finally move, she picked herself up and tiptoed over to the man and checked to see if he breathed. He did. The bike had knocked him unconscious.

“The bike just saved my life.” She contemplated the bike in disbelief.Thanks!”

A light went on inside the house then the light in the back porch blazed to life. The residents had heard the commotion and were coming out. Charlee ran to the bike and leaped on the banana seat just as the back door slid open and a heavy, balding man in a robe emerged. He held a baseball bat. “What in the world is going on here?” The bat was poised over his shoulder.

“Everything’s all right, sir. This man was going to break into your house.” Charlee toughened her voice and pointed at the unconscious thief. “But I… I mean… we… stopped him. You should call the police before he wakes up.”

A plump woman in curlers rushed out. “Harvey, what’s going on?”

“Nancy, go inside and call the police,” Harvey ordered.

“Who is this girl?” Nancy asked, her eyes fixed on Charlee.

“I don’t know, but I think she just stopped that man from robbing us.” Harvey pointed the bat at the unconscious man. For the first time, the woman looked at the dark lump lying motionless on the ground. “Oh, my!”

“Hon, please go call the police.”

She disappeared into the house.

Harvey continued to regard Charlee. “Well, who are you?”

Charlee thought about that for a moment. She wasn’t sure how to answer. She couldn’t give her name. She wanted to give a heroic response, but in the end simply said, “I’m just a friend.”

“Harvey, the police are on their way,” Nancy said from inside the house.

“Good,” Charlee responded. “I’ll be leaving now.”

With a nod to Harvey, she called, “Bike, let’s ride!” The bike scurried from the backyard through the side gate. They rushed to the end of the block and stopped. There, Charlee used her enhanced hearing to listen for sirens and a few minutes later, they were off in the distance. Charlee focused her hearing one more time on the burglar. He still hadn’t stirred. “Good, we can go,” Charlee told the bike. “Let’s not be around when the police get here. I’m not quite sure how to explain all this.”

Apparently, the bike agreed. It bolted away from the neighborhood at unnaturally high speeds, rocketing past homes and cars. Gripping the handlebar to hang on, Charlee leaned into the rushing wind. She sensed the night was just beginning.

Publisher website: http://www.divertirpublishing.com/books/gn.html

Author website: http://www.ivpressonline.info/sites/darrensimon/

Amazon listing: http://www.amazon.com/Guardians-Nightmare-Last-Princess-Latara-ebook/dp/B00K6ZLZEY/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1425571042&sr=1-1&keywords=guardian%27s+nightmare+by+darren+simon

0 Comments on Author Spotlight: Darren Simon and “Guardian’s Nightmare” as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
15. Researching and Writing

I am alone. It is quiet, but I am happy because this is when I do my best writing. I compose my rough drafts for non-fiction science books and articles (and now, blogs) the old-fashioned way. My words meet a pad of paper and a pen before any keyboard or computer. I also write at my local public library where I can be by myself and it definitely is quiet. Although I conduct much of my research on-line, I do a great deal of exploring in the presence of books at the library. Reviewing what already has been published is essential for gathering inspiration and information.

Just as researching what information exists is necessary to my writing process, so is going out into the field. My favorite part of this job is field research for my writing. I have been fortunate to travel to different parts of the world–Europe, Africa, Central and South America, and soon Asia–with my mind open to material for children.

Even as a school child, I loved to research in the library. I remember well the days of Dewey Decimal drawers in card catalogs. I always enjoyed writing research papers and learning new things. Sometimes when I could not locate a reference, my high school librarian proved to be a magician. She made books and articles appear from nowhere. I wish I could remember her name.

When researching my first book, The Lucy Man: The Scientist Who Found The Most Famous Fossil Ever!, I discovered picture books for elementary-age children on human evolution and more complicated texts for high school students. But few books existed for middle school children. I found a similar deficiency when researching astronomy for my next book, Explore The Cosmos Like Neil deGrasse Tyson: A Space Science Journey. My books fill the gap for this age group.

I chose to use the life stories of famous living scientists to bring science alive for students. I hope children become more excited about being scientists when they learn about the important work real scientists are doing and the science work that can be done by those very children in the future. So far, I have written about finding fossils on land and searching for stars and planets in space. Where am I going in my writing next? Last year I snorkeled off the coast of Belize to research ocean science. Now, I am in the library reading books about the ocean and focusing on women marine biologists and oceanographers to interview. Then I will sit down with my beloved pen and a pad of paper to begin another book.


Our guest blogger today is CAP Saucier, a former pediatric nurse who writes science-related materials for children. She has published two books and two articles in children’s magazines. CAP serves on the board of the Institute of Human Origins at Arizona State University.

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at [email protected].

The post Researching and Writing appeared first on ALSC Blog.

0 Comments on Researching and Writing as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
16. Kids Need Monstrous Words

“Procrastination,” “negotiation,” “dramatically,” “in-lieu”; these are words that you would probably not expect to appear in a picture book. Which, in my opinion, is unfortunate. I am a picture book author, (Monster & Me™ series published by Mighty Media Press) and one of the reasons I like to write is to introduce new and interesting words to kids. Vocabulary is so important in the art of communication, so why do we as parents, writers and educators insist that children can’t fathom a monstrous word?

When my first child was born I fell into the same idea that a young child would never be able to understand a big word. It wasn’t until my son was three and I needed to take him for a physical. Blood needed to be taken and I figured this was going to be a horror show of screaming and fear. I don’t like needles so I figured a three-year-old wouldn’t either. I didn’t want my son to fear the doctor from this day forward, so instead of saying we were going to the doctor’s office, I said we were going to see the Phlebotomist, the person who takes your blood. I used the word several times with him and by the time we sat down in the office he could say it.

Now saying it and understanding what it means are two different things. This is where things got interesting. As the technician came into the room and began to prepare the needle my son asked, “Are you the Phlebotomist?” At that point the technician put down the needle and walked out. He then returned with a nurse and asked my son to repeat what he said. My son did so and also added, “The person who takes your blood.“ They were stunned that not only could he say the word, but knew what it meant.

I figured my son was obviously a genius, but forthcoming spelling tests proved that theory wrong. All joking aside, I realized that if you say a word enough times and take the time to explain it, no matter how big or complicated, a child will understand it. Children are like sponges and are able to understand and absorb a great deal more than what we give them credit for. So why do we insist on dumbing down the first pieces of literature they come in contact with?

During the writing process I frequent a critique group with books that I have written and I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the comment, “Would a child say this word?” Or, “Would a child know what this word means?” My answer usually is no, not yet, but they will. During a library or bookstore reading of one of my books, I love it when a child asks what a word means. When they do, I know I’ve done my job. So let’s give kids the monstrous words they deserve. They may just surprise you and your Phlebotomist.



Photo credit: Tracey Czajak

Our guest blogger today is Paul Czajak. Paul is the author of Seaver the Weaver and his award winning Monster&Me picture book series with its most recent addition Monster Needs a Party published by Mighty Media Press. For more information on Paul please visit his web site at paulczajak.com.

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at [email protected].

The post Kids Need Monstrous Words appeared first on ALSC Blog.

0 Comments on Kids Need Monstrous Words as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
17. Interview with Author E.K. Johnston

THE STORY OF OWEN (Image provided by Lerner Publishing Group )

THE STORY OF OWEN (Image provided by Lerner Publishing Group)

E.K. Johnston has set her fictional world on fire in THE STORY OF OWEN: DRAGON SLAYER OF TRONDHEIM.  Receiving recognition as a finalist for the 2015 William C. Morris Award, the author discusses the relationship between libraries and young readers.  She gives us a glimpse into her latest novel, PRAIRIE FIRE, scheduled to be released next month. I received a complimentary copy of THE STORY OF OWEN before participating in this interview as part of a blog tour.   

THE STORY OF OWEN has broad appeal for readers with varying interests. How do you briefly summarize this book for the audience not familiar with these characters and their adventures?  

I usually tell people that THE STORY OF OWEN is about a dragon slayer from Southwestern Ontario, who moves from Hamilton to a small town called Trondheim, and has to adjust to slaying dragons in a rural environment. You know, passing algebra. Getting his driver’s license. Not getting lit on fire. The usual stuff.

Many professional reviews have noted your skill in world-building.  What advice do you have for young writers on how to best develop rich settings?

Steal. Borrow. Incorporate. Whatever word makes you the most comfortable, do that. I took real events, real places, and, despite my editor’s initial impression of Lester B Pearson, real people, and then I added a dragon. The key for me was always to give the reader the actual world…and then light it on fire, and I think that applies to world building in general.

The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), selected THE STORY OF OWEN as a finalist for the 2015 William C. Morris Award; according to YALSA, this award honors the year’s best books written for young adults by a previously unpublished author. How did you find out this news? What was your reaction?

I was at a friend’s house, another author actually, baking Christmas cookies when my cell phone rang. I don’t usually leave my phone on when I’m in company, but I was expecting a call from my sister, so I had it with me. It was our agent, and there was certainly some dancing in the living room! And then, you know, we had all those cookies on hand anyway…

E.K. JOHNSTON  (Image provided by Lerner Publishing Group )

(Image provided by Lerner Publishing Group)

This book appeals to readers served both by ALSC and YALSA.  Did you write THE STORY OF OWEN with a specific audience in mind, or did the age of the potential reader not influence your process?

I didn’t have a specific audience in mind when I wrote, so no, the age of my potential reader didn’t influence me. I was a pretty voracious reader as a kid, and often read books that had things I didn’t understand in them, and loved them anyway, because the story was good. If I aimed for anything, it was probably that.

Why are awards and professional recognition valuable?  How can libraries best promote books for young readers?

Well it certainly helps to bolster my spirit on bad writing days! But in all seriousness, recognition is fantastic because when more people talk about a book, more people buy and read it. That is huge, and I am profoundly grateful for it. I think that sort of communication and accessibility are key parts of what libraries are great at.

How have libraries shaped your life as a reader and a writer?

I did a lot of my reading in libraries. At school, it was because I didn’t want to go outside for recess. My hometown library was also air conditioned, which my house was not. I could read whatever I wanted at the library, whereas at home my parents kept an eye on what I was reading (Mum wanted me to read kiddie CanLit. I wanted to read pretty much anything OTHER than kiddie CanLit). When it comes to writing, libraries are a great place to work and find resources.

Which books were influential to you as a child and teen?

As a child, The Hobbit, Heidi, and The Chronicles of Narnia were the biggest, but The Lord of the Rings, Anne McCaffery, David Eddings were close runners up! As a teen, I read a lot of Sci-Fi, including every Star Trek tie-in I could get my hands on. I didn’t read Tamora Pierce until university, somehow, but she is tremendous.

PRAIRIE FIRE (Image provided by Lerner Publishing Group )

PRAIRIE FIRE (Image provided by Lerner Publishing Group)

Owen’s next adventures are explored in PRAIRIE FIRE, scheduled to be released on March 1, 2015.   How did the experience writing PRAIRIE FIRE compare to your process of writing THE STORY OF OWEN?     

Writing PRAIRIE FIRE was a little easier, because I already had everything I needed. I had “seen” the ending before I ever started writing OWEN, and I knew a lot more of the plot. The hard part was crowd management. There are a lot of two person scenes in OWEN, and a lot of 14 person scenes in PRAIRIE FIRE.

What writing projects are you working on at this time?  What battles are next for Owen?

Owen’s battles are over, sadly. PRAIRIE FIRE has them until just before Owen’s 20th birthday, and then it’s not a YA novel anymore. It’s up to fic-writers now! I am working on a couple of other projects, though. One, out in the fall, is a re-telling of THE 1001 ARABIAN NIGHTS (“re-telling” might be a strong word). I am quite excited about it.  

Thanks to E.K. Johnston for sharing these delightful details about Owen’s adventures and her valuable feedback on the role of libraries!

The post Interview with Author E.K. Johnston appeared first on ALSC Blog.

0 Comments on Interview with Author E.K. Johnston as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
18. Checklist for a Successful Skype with an Author

As an author, I love that moment when I hit the “answer video call” button on my computer, and the smiling, wide-eyed faces of readers in Alabama or California or Montana pop onto my screen. Skyping with readers is a remarkably rewarding experience. I am, after all, Skyping right at my desk, and that means the readers get a personal peek into my writing world. I can grab my latest draft and hold it up to the camera to point out a specific line, or let the audience see the messiness of my writer’s notebook, or grab my guitar and sing a song that I’ve just written.

Nothing beats a “live” visit, but Skyping with an author is a great alternative for two reasons: it’s cheaper and it provides an opportunity that is often intimate. Surprise guests, such as the author’s dog, or cat, or spouse can make a cameo appearances; authors can pick up their laptops and show a quick glimpse of their desk, the rocking chair, or the favorite place to write.

If you’ve never tried an author Skype, the first thing you have to do is find your author. Many authors offer fee-based workshops or presentations as well as shorter Q-and-A sessions for a lower cost (or even free). If you have an author in mind, check the author’s website. Otherwise, there are sites that collect the names and contact info of authors who Skype, such as the Skype-an-Author Network.

Regardless of how you find your author, there are some tips and tricks that can help make the entire experience run smoothly and enjoyably. From the author’s point of view, here’s what you can do to be a great Skype partner. (You can also download an easy-to-use version of the checklist here.)


  • Try to list your information and questions in one email to reduce back-and-forth messages. Here are the typical details to clarify:
  • Put your library name and the word Skype in the subject line when contacting an author to set up a Skype session and in all subsequent emails so that the author can easily find the message(s) if s/he has forgotten your name and needs to search.
  • If the author has instructions on her/his website for scheduling a Skype visit, read and follow those instructions.
    1. Type of session: Q and A, workshop, or presentation
    2. Ages of participants
    3. Number of participants
    4. Length of session
    5. Date and time: Specify your time zone every time you communicate with the author
    6. Clarify if special materials are needed, such as notebooks and pencils
    7. Ask permission to photograph or make a video recording of the session, if desired
    8. Determine who makes the call; most author prefer the library to initiate the Skype when ready.
  • Include all your contact info in one easy-to-read list in every email you send:
    1. Your library name and full address
    2. Your name, title, library phone number, and cell number
    3. Your Skype name.Authors receive lots of professional requests as well the usual myriad of personal and junk-mail messages. Imagine getting an email with “one more question” as the subject line, which only consists of the message: “Do you mind if we increase the number of kids? More signed up than I thought! Just let me know!” If the author can’t recall who you are or what you’re talking about, s/he either needs to write you back asking for clarification or search through emails using your email address to try and retrieve the previous emails and figure out your identity. Either way, you’ve given the author an extra job to do.Add the author’s Skypename to your Skype contact list and send a request via Skype for the author to add your contact to his/hers.
  • Test your system–especially if you’ve never Skyped before–with someone. Call a librarian friend. Or your mom. If the author is Skyping for free or for a low rate, please don’t request a test call with the author.
  • Make sure your internet connection is good. The stronger and more reliable your connection, the better your session will look and sound.
  • If you will have a large group, an external microphone plugged into the computer can be helpful to pick up the speaking voices of the participants.
  • Read the author’s work. Participants will get much more out of a session if they are familiar with at least one book and know the author’s basic biography: how many books has the author published, what type of books does the author write, etc.
  • Prepare questions ahead of time for a Q-and-A. Asking each participant to write down a question on an index card often works well.

Questions that work best for Skype visits are specific questions related to one or more of the author’s books that do not require long, complex answers.

Examples of good questions: How long did it take you to write Invisible Lines? Why did you choose mushrooms as a recurring theme? How did you come up with the names of your main characters? If readers want to ask about the general writing process, please help them to be specific: Do you use outlines? Do you ever write with pen and paper? Do you ever ask anyone else to read your work before it is published?

Examples of difficult, hard-to-answer questions: How do you write books? Can you talk about the writing process? These are big topics that take a long time to answer.

  • Go over the questions ahead of time to make sure they are appropriate. Many authors appreciate receiving the questions via email at least one day in advance so that s/he can pull any related visuals.
  • Rehearse what you and the participants will do during the call. Where will they stand when asking questions?

Allowing individuals to step up to the computer’s camera and talk directly into the lens makes the experience much more fun for the author as well as the child or teen. Use this opportunity to practice public-speaking skills with participants. Focus on projecting the voice, slowing down, and speaking clearly.

  • Remind everyone that there is no way of knowing how many questions will be answered in the time allotted. Have a plan for the order in which the questions will be asked and how to deal with any disappointment if the group is too large to have all questions answered.
  • Don’t forget the Skype! If you come down with the flu that day, make sure to tell your stand-in what to do or else call the author and explain that you’ll need to cancel.


  • Have the author’s cell phone number on hand. If there is a technical problem, call the author’s cell phone and stay on the line until you solve any glitches. If you have to end the Skype call and try again, you can still be connected via the cell.
  • Position the computer’s camera so that it captures the whole audience, if possible. If you have pint-sized participants who will be coming up to ask questions, make sure to have a step stool, if needed. It’s frustrating for the author if all s/he can see is the top of a little guy’s head.
  • Begin the session by doing a “sweep” of the room so that everyone can wave hello. If the group is large and the camera can’t pick up everyone in the room, the participants sitting on the sidelines can feel left out. To avoid this, at the very beginning of the Skype, let the author know that you’d like to begin with a sweep. Ask the participants to say hi and wave as you physically move the computer from one side to the other, slowly, giving participants a chance to see the whole group waving on the screen. Then, set the computer down where it will have the best overall view and go on with the session. At the end, you can always “sweep” goodbye.
  • Repeat questions from the participants if the author is having trouble hearing.
  • Watch the time. Setting a timer can work well. Stop when the time is up.


Many readers mistakenly believe that all authors are rich and that every book they write gets published. This is far from true. Most authors don’t make a living wage from book sales. Many authors pay the rent by teaching writing workshops and giving presentations.

  • Please consider showing your thanks for the Skype session by supporting the author’s promotional efforts. Here are some ideas:
    1. “Like” or “follow” the author’s facebook page, twitter handle, pinterest boards, or other social networking.
    2. Write and post a collaborate book review online.
    3. Have readers write and videotape a fun review or creative commercial for the book. Share this video online with parental permission, if needed.
    4. Write an article about the Skype experience and send it to your local newspaper or publish/post it on your library’s newsletter or website.
    5. Tell colleagues about the author. Word of mouth really helps.

Finally, if there is something the author could do to improve the experience, definitely send that feedback. Writing is, for the most part, an exercise in isolation; authors take great joy in connecting with readers and want the experience to be the best it can be.


mary library portrait nj email

Photo credit: Ivan Amato

Our guest blogger today is Mary Amato, an author of fiction for children and teens. She also enjoys teaching workshops in creative writing and songwriting. Her latest series for ages 7-10 is Good Crooks. Her latest YA is Get Happy and features original songs. You can find out more about her at www.maryamato.com or www.thrumsociety.com

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at [email protected].


0 Comments on Checklist for a Successful Skype with an Author as of 12/4/2014 2:21:00 AM
Add a Comment
19. Riddles: Not Just Child’s Play

Lately I am often approached by unfamiliar ten-year-olds who have a singular purpose. I recognize their expression every time; it begins with a friendly smile, followed by a look of cunning, then a question: “Can I tell you a riddle?”

“Okay, what’s your riddle?” I reply.

And out comes the challenge: “What has four eyes but cannot see?” or “What has a mouth but doesn’t eat, a bed but doesn’t sleep, and runs but never walks?” Or perhaps it’s this one: “What does the poor have, the rich lack, and if you eat it you’ll die?”

It all began during my recent book tour. At the first school event, I threw in a few riddles because there are riddles in my novel. I really didn’t expect much of a reaction, but the enthusiasm from students was obvious. Kids love riddles.

Faced with this eureka moment, I suggested a riddle-making session, not expecting it to last longer then ten minutes. My first group of twenty-four students spent a solid hour working on them.

Riddles are playful and funny as we all know, but composing them is hard work. Try thinking of words with double meanings, or rhyming words then compose your clue question. It’s a challenging mental exercise.

It began to occur to me that riddles might be a rather potent reading and writing tool.

The Ancient Greeks knew this. Aristotle pointed out the link between riddles and metaphor. Riddles compel us to think about veiled meanings, allegories, and the flexible quality of our language. They challenge our wit, memory and verbal facility.

This doesn’t sound like child’s play, but I’ve yet to see a child turn down the opportunity. Perhaps it’s the pleasure of leaping from the literal to figurative or the simple joy of fooling a grownup!

Riddles are subversive, they ambush serious thinkers with trickery, and this is delightful to children. Take this common riddle for example: Constantinople is a very long word. How do you spell it? Imagine the thousands of adults who have spelled Constantinople only to be told by a youngster they’re completely wrong. The word to be spelled is it!

In a broader sense, you might think of riddles as mental athletics. They turn up in literature, mathematics, science, music and art. Shakespeare was fond of putting riddles and puns in his plays. The Dutch artist, M.C. Escher, was famed for his perplexing pictures of repeating staircases and interwoven birds and fish. Bach wrote the enigmatic Crab Canon, which plays the same note sequence forwards, backwards and in complement to itself; and then there’s Einstein’s riddle of the five houses.

So, if a child invites you to answer a riddle, be prepared! Have one of your own, ready. You’ll be doing your brain a favor!

Answers to the riddles:

  • What has four eyes but cannot see? Mississippi.
  • What has a mouth but doesn’t eat, a bed but doesn’t sleep, and runs but never walks? A river.
  • What does the poor have, the rich lack, and if you eat it, you’ll die? Nothing.


Our guest blogger today is author, George Hagen. Mr. Hagen’s most recent novel is the middle grade fantasy, Gabriel Finley & The Raven’s Riddle. If you have a favorite literary/math/science riddle, send it to his contact page at GabrielFinley.com.

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at [email protected]

0 Comments on Riddles: Not Just Child’s Play as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
20. Author Spotlight: Austin Kleon

If you are an artist of any kind - a writer, a poet, a singer, a painter, a filmmaker, anything creative - and Austin Kleon is not already on your radar, please tune in:

In his book Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative, Kleon encourages people to be confident when approaching their projects, even when that voice in the back of your head is telling you, "But someone's already done something like this. Someone's already written a story about this, or make a similar sculpture, or created a collage like this..." Because guess what? Even if that is true, even if there is something similar out there, your creation won't be the same as what came before, because it's coming from you, and your viewpoint and abilities will make it unique. So don't be scared to tackle something that you think has "already been done" - because it hasn't, if you haven't done it yet.

At the same time, remember to give credit when credit is due. That's mentioned in all of his books: if you're doing something directly based on someone else's work, give that person credit. If you choreographed a dance largely influenced by the life of Martha Graham or inspired by the paintings of Degas, say that. If your research was heavily based on someone or something, cite it. Be grateful for those who paved the way, acknowledge those who helped you, respect others and you'll be respected.

Show Your Work! 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered, Kleon's latest book, offers ideas and ways to share your work with the world. As with Steal Like an Artist, each chapter is motivational, brief, and to-the-point. There are those who feel the need to "network" and those who absolutely hate networking, and any number of folks in-between; Show Your Work focuses talks about using the network to help other people find your work, to share what you've done without feeling like you are self-promoting or self-involved.

Kleon's Newspaper Blackout is a collection of poetry he made by taking a permanent marker to newspaper articles and turning them into something new. My favorite piece in his collection is Underdog, as seen here; I am also fond of Enigma, created by Erica Westcott.

I'm cross-posting this at GuysLitWire. Why share this at a blog targeted to teen readers? It's simple: creativity exists in everyone, in people of all ages. Some creative people are very outgoing and outspoken (hello, that's me!) but others aren't as confident in their abilities, especially when they are younger and/or are trying an artistic pursuit for the first time. Some people need a little nudge to write down the story that's been in the back of their mind for years, just as others need a little nudge to try out for the sports team or the school play.

So what are you waiting for? If you've always wanted to play the tuba, go to the local music store and get a recommendation for a good music teacher in your area. Or, to be more specific to the aforementioned books and methods, if you want to be a poet or a songwriter or a hand-lettering artist or a greeting card designer and don't know where to start, look at the things YOU like, and create something inspired by your favorite poems and songs and illustrations. Start with what moves you, and go from there. In time, you'll find your voice, and make something wholly original that will, in turn, inspire someone else. Creativity is a cycle. Pay it forward!

Add a Comment
21. Interview with Author Dori Hillestad Butler

    Ghosts add spooky suspense in this new mystery series, The Haunted Library, written by Edgar Award author Dori Hillestad Butler and illustrated by Aurore Damant.  In this interview, Dori Hillestad Butler shares the role libraries have played in shaping her work and the background behind these haunting books for young readers.  I received a complimentary copy of the first two books in this series before this interview.   

  1.       As children’s librarians, we often share just a little bit of detail about books with audiences to get them interested in checking out material.  What information would you share with children interested in learning more about The Haunted Library series?             

    Author Dori Hillestad Butler  (Image provided by Grosset & Dunlap)

    Author Dori Hillestad Butler
    (Image provided by Grosset & Dunlap)

It’s a series about a ghost boy named Kaz and a “solid” girl named Claire who work together to solve ghostly mysteries. Each book is a stand-alone mystery, but as the series goes on Kaz and Claire are also trying to find Kaz’s missing family. Kaz was separated from his family when their old haunt was torn down. The books are a little bit scary, not too scary. The ghosts aren’t dead people. They’re more like transparent people with superpowers.

  1.       What role did reading play in your life as a child? What types of books did you most enjoy?

I was a huge reader. I didn’t spend a lot of time with other kids outside of school. I spent most of my time curled up with a good book. I most enjoyed realistic fiction and mysteries.

  1.       What have you appreciated most about libraries throughout your life? How do you believe youth services librarians can best develop this appreciation in children?
The Haunted Library Book # 1 (Image provided by Grosset & Dunlap)

The Haunted Library Book # 1 (Image provided by Grosset & Dunlap)

If you’d asked me this when I was a kid, I’d have said, “all the books!” I couldn’t buy a lot of books when I was a kid. But I could take home as many as I wanted and keep them for two weeks and then bring them back and get MORE. How cool was that? But when I think about what it is I appreciate about libraries as an adult, I guess it’s still a variation on “all the books.” As an adult, I understand the library’s role in a community much better than I did when I was a child. A good library serves the needs of EVERYONE in the community. That doesn’t mean that every book in the library is one *I* want to read, but rather everyone in a community should be able to walk into a library and find a book they want to read. Given what a diverse nation we are, that is a pretty incredible thing. I think youth services librarians can help children develop an appreciation for libraries by showing them this diversity and reinforcing the idea that it doesn’t matter who you are, the library has materials for everyone.

4.     Youth services librarians see that many children gravitate to books that are part of a series as they build confidence in their reading abilities. What type of child reader do you think would most enjoy The Haunted Library series?

Kids who love ghost stories, of course. But I think the series might also appeal to reluctant readers, kids who don’t like to read. At least I hope it does. Ghosts are a high interest topic. I’d also like to see librarians hand a Haunted Library book to a kid who feels he’s not good at anything or a kid who’s really struggling to learn something. Kaz, the main character in The Haunted Library, is a ghost who struggles to learn his ghost skills. Even his little brother knows how to glow and wail and pass through walls, but Kaz struggles with every one of these skills. But he keeps working on his skills and as the series progresses, he has some success.

  1.        Your Ghostly Glossary defines some pretty spooky and cool ghost behaviors and could be used as a way for librarians to introduce this series to children.  How did the idea to include a Ghostly Glossary come about as you were developing these books?

 I planned on a ghostly glossary right from the start. I knew I was going to create a ghostly world and my ghostly world was likely to be different from other authors’ ghostly worlds. I knew I would invent vocabulary. The glossary grew out of that. I also like to think it’s a FUN glossary. And I know sometimes kids think glossaries and dictionaries can be boring. I want to demonstrate that glossaries (and even words themselves!) are fun and interesting.

  1.       Children’s libraries offer reading material in a variety of genres.  What role do you believe mysteries play in developing children’s reading interests and abilities?          

Mysteries reinforce problem solving skills. Readers learn to read carefully so they don’t miss any clues. They observe. They sift through the evidence and use logic to form hypotheses. And then they keep reading to find out whether they’re right. I think mysteries are a good way to reach the reluctant reader, too. Mysteries tend to have fast-moving plots. And readers feel “smart” when they’re able to solve the mystery alongside (or even before!) the protagonist.

The Haunted Library # 2 The Ghost in the Attic (Image provided by Grosset & Dunlap)

The Haunted Library Book # 2
The Ghost in the Attic
(Image provided by Grosset & Dunlap)

   7.  What makes ghosts so appealing to this young audience?

Because kids like to be scared…in a controlled environment. They feel brave when they read a scary ghost story, but they’re in control of the reading experience. They can put the book down whenever it gets to be too much. And then they can pick it up again when they’re ready for more.

8.     Have you met any children who believed there was a ghost in their library?  How do you believe libraries can best build children’s imaginations and develop their curiosity?

No, I haven’t. But if I did, I would ask that child to tell me all about the ghost. Who is the ghost? What does it look like? Where did it come from? What does it want? I think one way to build a child’s imagination and develop their curiosity is to ask them lots of questions, encourage them to ask questions, and show that you’re interested in what they have to say.

  1.       What advice would you give to children interested in becoming young detectives like Kaz and Claire?

To read LOTS of detective stories. There are so many good ones out there. Read Encyclopedia Brown! What’s great about Encyclopedia Brown is there are many mysteries to be solved in each book, and budding detectives can try and solve the case on their own before they turn to the solution. I’d also steer them toward some good nonfiction books about crime solving. In other words, I’d send them to the library!

10.  What adventures are next for this dynamic duo? Are there other children’s books you are working on at this time?               

(Image provided by the Penguin Group)

(Image provided by Grosset & Dunlap)

The Haunted Library #3: The Ghost Backstage comes out in October. The Haunted Library #4: The Five o’Clock Ghost comes out Spring 2015. The Haunted Library #5: The Secret Room comes out Summer 2015. And The Haunted Library #6, which is still untitled comes out Fall 2015.

Thank you for sharing these ghostly details about your new series and for your thoughtful perspective on the value of libraries for children!

Thanks again to Dori Hillestad Butler for appearing. For other stops on The Haunted Library Blog Tour, please check http://www.kidswriter.com/blog/.

0 Comments on Interview with Author Dori Hillestad Butler as of 9/10/2014 2:14:00 AM
Add a Comment
22. What’s So Funny? Or How I Met Jon Scieszka Three Times in One Day

My husband and I meet a Mike Myers Dr. Evil look-alike on the Vegas strip

My husband and I meet a Mike Myers Dr. Evil look-alike on the Vegas strip

There were many things that made me laugh in Las Vegas at ALA Annual this year. There were zany, homemade costumes worn by street performers and sky high food prices (an $18 burger? You can’t be serious), but the best laughs were found inside the Las Vegas Convention Center. This being my first ALA Annual, I had spent a lot of time in advance researching which authors and illustrators would be visiting the publisher’s booths in the exhibit hall. When I looked at my final list, I realized that many of these picture book icons had one thing in common: they all wrote or illustrated humorous books that I love to use in Storytime. Following are my experiences in just one day of ALA Annual in which I met these talented people and ways in which you can use their books in preschool or family Storytime.

Jon Scieszka (1st time)

Rikki Unterbrink and Jon Scieszka at the YALSA Coffee Klatch

Rikki Unterbrink and Jon Scieszka at the YALSA Coffee Klatch

9:00am – I signed up for YALSA’s YA Author Coffee Klatch for several reasons, but the top reason was a chance to meet Jon Scieszka. I was five years old when The True Story of the Three Little Pigs was published (the book celebrates its 25th anniversary this year) and eight when my mom brought home an autographed copy of The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales. She had just met Scieszka at a teacher’s conference. I had never seen an autographed book before and thought it was pretty much the coolest thing in the world. I read the story many times and continued to read any Scieszka books I could get my hands on all the way into adulthood. So, when the other young adult author enthusiasts at my Coffee Klatch table asked which author I was most excited to meet, you know what I said. Wouldn’t you know that when the whistle blew and the authors made their way to each table that Jon Scieszka came to our table first. And sat right next to me. Scieszka talked about the first book in his new series, Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor which will be released on August 19th. Since each author only got five minutes at each table, there wasn’t much time for me to tell Scieszka how influential he has been on my life. It’s a good thing I got a few more chances!

The True Story of the Three Little Pigs
in Storytime:

In advance, gather several items and place in a large bucket, basket or cauldron. Three pig toys or puppets, one wolf toy or puppet, a bundle of sticks, straw, a toy brick, box of cake mix or bag of sugar, handkerchief, and spectacles.

Before reading the story, inform the kids that you have gathered some items for your ‘story bucket’ and you need their help to figure out which popular folk tale you’re going to be reading to them. Pull out the sugar, handkerchief, and spectacles before the others and see if they can guess what the story it about and who the characters might be.

After the story, sing “The Three Little Pig Blues” from Greg & Steve Playing Favorites. Shakers are a nice addition to this song. Have children huff & puff and say “not by the hair of my chinny chin chin!” during the song.

Since it is the 25th anniversary of The True Story of the Three Little Pigs and the wolf is attempting to bake a cake for his granny, end the program with cupcakes!

Dan Santat

11:00am – As I waited in line for Dan Santat, I called my mother in Ohio and told her that I had just sat next to my childhood hero, Jon Scieszka for coffee. She was very excited for me and recalled her experience meeting him all those years ago. I told her that I hoped for another chance to meet him and to get his autograph.

As a huge fan of The Three Ninja Pigs by Corey Rosen Schwartz, illustrated by Dan Santat, I was definitely eager to meet Santat. I practically squealed with delight when I discovered the free book he was signing was the follow-up to Ninja Pigs, Ninja Red Riding Hood. If you haven’t read these books you’re missing out. Ninja Pigs would make a nice addition to the “Three Little Pigs” Storytime theme. Another great book of Santat’s to use in a “Bad Moods” themed Storytime is Crankenstein.

Crankenstein in Storytime:

During the story, have children moan and groan along with Crankenstein. Make sure to get into it yourself! Other good books to use in this Storytime are The Three Grumpies by Tamra Wight, The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen and The Not-So-Scary Snorklum by Paul Bright.

Songs and Rhymes:

Five Cranky Crabs

Old MacDonald Felt So Glad
Storytimes for Two-Year-Olds by Judy Nichols, second edition

I’m So Mad
Jim Gill Sings the Sneezing Song and Other Contagious Tunes audio CD

Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen

1:30pm – I couldn’t believe I was one of the first people in line for Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen. Both have exceptional talent and have published many award-winning and beloved children’s books. Put them together and you’ve got something magical called Extra Yarn, a 2013 Caldecott Honor recipient. When many authors and illustrators are signing books at the same time at ALA Annual things can get a little crazy in the exhibit hall. Often there are no signs to mark which line is for whom and where it ends. You may find yourself arriving at a booth only to find the end of the queue is somewhere in the next aisle at the back of the hall. I took great pleasure in telling people that I was near the front of the line. However, I found myself getting rather annoyed that people kept asking, “Is this the line for Jon Klassen?” and overlooking the fact that another very talented person was appearing with him! I understand that Klassen has won the Caldecott Medal, a Caldecott Honor, and numerous other awards but he was not the funny man I was there to meet. In my opinion, Mac Barnett is a comic genius bringing the library world some fantastic read-aloud stories including Count the Monkeys, Mustache!, Guess Again, and President Taft is Stuck in the Bath. He has also written a hilarious mystery series for middle grade readers called The Brixton Brothers.

from left: Rikki Unterbrink, Mac Barnett, Jon Klassen

from left: Rikki Unterbrink, Mac Barnett, Jon Klassen

I was definitely star struck when it was my turn to meet Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen. I am slightly embarrassed to say that I practically ignored Klassen and told Barnett how much of a fangirl I am for his work. I told him, “I want you to know that everyone has been saying this is the Jon Klassen line and I keep telling them it is the Mac Barnett line.” Well, Barnett thought this comment was hilarious and elbowed Klassen saying, “Did you hear that Jon? She said it’s the Mac Barnett line! Ha! I have fans, too!” Barnett took several photos with me and even purposely made Klassen lean farther out of the frame for one of them.

Count the Monkeys in Storytime:

I used this book during an evening family Storytime with much success. The book requires audience participation to help count the monkeys (which don’t actually appear in the book at all because they are scared of the various other animals in the book). Toward the end of the book, have a surprise guest reader sneak in the back of the room dressed as one of the lumberjacks from the book. He or she can carry mini flapjacks to share as a snack.

Extra Yarn in Storytime:

Extension activities to use before or after reading the story:
Have children and parents sit in a circle and toss a skein of rainbow yarn across the circle to someone. Have them loop the yarn around their finger and toss the rest to someone else. After the yarn has been tossed at least once to everyone, talk about the web you’ve made and how each person is important to your web and your world. If someone leaves the group, part of the web falls away. Have one or two people drop their yarn to illustrate this. Compare this to Annabelle’s magical yarn and how she uses it to change her world in the story.

Dancing Sheep action rhyme by Susan Dailey
(Use a sheep or llama puppet for extra fun)

Mustache! in Storytime:

In the book, King Duncan hangs giant banners and posters of himself all around his kingdom as a “gift” to his people only to find that his subjects have painted mustaches on all of them. After reading the book, give children a washable marker and a picture from a magazine (or a copy of Duncan’s face!) and let them graffiti the picture with mustaches. Other fun books to read with this theme: Mustache Baby by Bridget Heos and Mo’s Mustache by Ben Clanton. For songs give each child a paper or fake mustache to hold and adapt Woodie Guthrie’s song “Put Your Finger in the Air” to “Put Your Mustache in the Air.”

Mustache Song:
(author unknown)
You are my mustache, my trendy mustache.
You make me happy, when skies are gray.
You’ll never know dear, how much I love you.
So please don’t shave my mustache away.

Jon Scieszka (2nd time)

I get my book signed by Jon Scieszka!

I get my book signed by Jon Scieszka!

2:00pm – This line was very long. Clearly, I was not the only fan of Scieszka’s at ALA and I was worried I would be too far back in line to actually receive a free book. Sure enough, when the representative from Penguin Young Readers Group approached me as I neared the front of the line, I was not surprised that they were nearly out of books. I asked if I could have him sign something else (I brought a special tote bag for just this purpose) and she said yes. However, as I got even closer to the front of the line I was handed a book! Some had left the line thinking they were not getting a book which turned out very nicely for me indeed. I received my copy of The True Story of the Three Little Pigs and stepped up to have it signed. “Back for more, eh?” Scieszka said to me. He remembered me from that morning! Hooray! I told him the story about my mom bringing home his book so many years ago and how I had talked to her earlier that day to tell her how thrilled I was that we both finally got to share the experience of meeting him. He said, “That’s great. Tell your mom I miss her.” What a great guy.

Tom Angleberger

4:00pm – I was glad my husband, Travis, had tagged along to Las Vegas because he got the chance to meet Tom Angleberger with me. Travis has read all of the Origami Yoda books by Angleberger and I really enjoy his picture book, Crankee Doodle. Angleberger was just as we expected. Wearing a Rebel Alliance baseball cap and nerdy t-shirt, he looked like he had just stepped off the pages of one of his books. He was very gracious and friendly. We look forward to reading the final installment of Origami Yoda, Emperor Pickletine Rides the Bus.

Crankee Doodle in Storytime:

This book just begs to be read aloud by two actors/librarians. After seeing this book performed in a similar fashion, I just had to do it during a family Storytime because it’s fun for both children and adults. Young children may not understand the reference to the song, Yankee Doodle, but older children and parents think it’s hilarious. In the book, Crankee Doodle’s pony tries to convince him to go to town to buy a new hat, but Crankee doesn’t want anything to do with going to town. Read this book using a horse puppet for the pony’s part and a tri-corner hat (we made one out of paper) and baseball cap for Crankee’s part. Follow up with a rousing sing-along of the original song.

Mac Barnett & Jon Scieszka (3rd time)

Jon Scieszka, Rikki Unterbrink and Mac Barnett with Battle Bunny book

Jon Scieszka, Rikki Unterbrink and Mac Barnett with Battle Bunny book

4:30pm – Proof that dreams really do come true, I got to end the day chatting with both Barnett and Sciezska at the same time. Both remembered me and actually told each other about our previous meetings and posed with me for the most memorable photo of all. Barnett and Scieszka co-wrote a book called Battle Bunny, a “deliciously subversive piece of metafiction” according to Booklist. I told the authors that I love the book, but I am worried that library patrons will start to scribble all over future books using this one as inspiration. I haven’t yet figured out how to use this one in Storytime, but Barnett informed me that if you go to http://mybirthdaybunny.com/make-your-own/ readers can download and print the pages for their very own bunny story. Perhaps I will make my own called Funny Bunny and turn all of the fluffy animal characters into children’s book authors that I met one day in Las Vegas.

(All photos courtesy of guest blogger)


BookOur guest blogger today is Rikki Unterbrink. Rikki was a 2014 Penguin Young Readers grant recipient and is the Youth Services Director for Shelby County Libraries in Sidney, Ohio. She is a co-creator of the Teen Think Tank, a grass roots roundtable for teen and tween librarians in Ohio, a member of the Teen Services Division of the Ohio Library Council and a book reviewer for the Southwestern Ohio Young Adult Materials Review Group. This year she also received the Penguin Young Readers Award to attend her first ALA Annual. Rikki enjoys presenting at numerous conferences, performing family Storytimes, dressing up in hilarious costumes and playing with puppets at the library. She lives in Wapakoneta, Ohio with her handsome, band director husband (their life is just like The Music Man) and three crazy but charming cats, Ron Weasley, Katniss Everdeen and Chandler Bing (he’s adopted). You can find her posting for the Shelby County Libraries Facebook page, reviewing on Goodreads or you may contact her by email at [email protected].

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at [email protected].

0 Comments on What’s So Funny? Or How I Met Jon Scieszka Three Times in One Day as of 8/21/2014 2:17:00 PM
Add a Comment
23. Experience the Book & Media Award Acceptance Speeches

ALSC Award Acceptance Speeches

ALSC Award Acceptance Speeches (image courtesy ALSC)

The 2014 ALSC book and media award acceptance speeches evoked plenty of emotion. Some were funny and warm. Some were emotional and informative. You can read them yourself on the ALSC website! Download a copy of the PDF of each of the speeches:

You can also watch reaction videos from the 2014 ALA Youth Media Award winnersVideos of the award speech presentations and inspiration videos that concluded the banquet will be posted soon.

0 Comments on Experience the Book & Media Award Acceptance Speeches as of 7/14/2014 1:21:00 AM
Add a Comment
24. Author Spotlight: Barbara Wersba

Barbara Wersba is the only child of a Russian-Jewish father and a Kentucky Baptist mother. Growing up, she wanted to be a musician, or a dancer, or a poet, thinking that becoming any of these would take her out of what she believed to be a sad life.
"I grew up in almost total solitude," she once said. "I thought I was lonely when I was simply a loner--and spent much of my childhood daydreaming, writing poems, and creating dramas for my dolls."

When she was 11 years old, in answer to a family friend's inquiry, she impulsively declared her intent to be an actress one day. Soon after, Ms Wersba landed a part in a local play. Though she came to decide she didn't actually like acting, she stuck with it because it gave her purpose, and helped her not to feel alone.

She continued as an actress through college and then professionally, until she fell ill in 1960 and was forced into a lengthy recovery. On the advice of a friend, she turned to writing to pass the time. The result was her first book for children, The Boy Who Loved the Sea, which was published in 1961. From then on, she continued as a writer.

Her breakthrough novel came in 1968, with the publication of The Dream Watcher. She went on to adapt this novel into a script when her childhood acting idol, Eva Le Gallienne, had read Ms Wersba's book and wished to play the role of the elderly woman from the story. The play opened at the White Barn Theatre in Connecticut in 1975.

Two of her most popular novels are Tunes for a Small Harmonica: A Novel (1976) - which was a National Book Award nominee, and The Carnival of My Mind (1982).

Ms Wersba has written more than two dozen novels for both children and teens/young adults. She has also reviewed children's literature for the New York Times, written play and television scripts, and taught writing. In 1994, she founded her own small publishing company, The Bookman Press.

Born in Chicago on August 19, 1932, Barbara Wersba later moved with her family to California. After her parents' divorce, she moved with her mother to New York City. She now lives in Sag Harbor, New York.

Barbara Wersba - Goodreads
Barbara Wersba Biography - Bookrags
Barbara Wersba Biography - Bookrags 
Dreaming of Broadway - Collecting Children's Books
Barbara Wersba - Answers.com
Barbara Wersba - Alibris
The Dream Watcher - Amazon.com

0 Comments on Author Spotlight: Barbara Wersba as of 7/11/2014 8:07:00 AM
Add a Comment
25. Author Spotlight: Mary Rodgers

Author, screenwriter, and composer Mary Rodgers has passed away.

Ever heard of Freaky Friday? Rodgers wrote that famously fun story about a mother and daughter who accidentally swap bodies. Published in 1972, Freaky Friday was adapted for film three times: the 1976 version with Barbara Harris and Jodie Foster, based on a screenplay by Rodgers; the 1995 made-for-TV movie with Shelley Long and Gaby Hoffmann; and the 2003 version with Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan.

When I was little, I checked out a copy of Freaky Friday from the library. I was a good two-thirds of the way through the book when I discovered a printing error: a chunk of pages repeated, and the ending was missing! I let the librarians know and switched it out for another copy. I then read the other books in the line, A Billion for Boris (aka ESP TV) and Summer Switch, in which the brother and father switch places.

Freaky Friday is not the only Rodgers book to be adapted for TV and film. In 1984, Summer Switch was made into an ABC Afterschool Special. The third Andrews family book was a movie as well, under the title Billions for Boris, and it featured a young Seth Green as Benjamin "Ape-Face" Andrews. Mary Tanner Bailey, who played Annabel in Billions, was also Rachel Fairbanks in The Voyage of the Mimi, and she was recently seen on an episode of Nashville.

I have not read The Rotten Book, which is not related to the Andrews family stories, nor have I read Freaky Monday, a book released in 2009 which is credited to both Mary Rodgers and Heather Hach, in which a student and teacher switch bodies. Hach wrote the screenplay for the 2003 Freaky Friday. Hach is also known for her stage work, having written the libretto for the 2007 musical Legally Blonde. (And let's not forget that Legally Blonde was a novel before it was a movie or a musical! The book was written by Amanda Brown.)

Once Upon a Mattress, the Tony-nominated musical comedy based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale The Princess and the Pea, features music by Mary Rodgers, lyrics by Marshall Barer, and book by Jay Thompson, Dean Fuller, and Marshall Barer. Once Upon a Mattress opened in 1959. It was the Broadway debut of the hilarious, remarkable Carol Burnett, who got a Tony nomination for her work as Princess Winnifred. Once Upon a Mattress has had countless productions all over the world. The Tony-nominated revival in 1997 featured Sarah Jessica Parker, Lewis Cleale, and Jane Krakowski, and the show was adapted for TV in 1963, 1972, and 2005.

Mary also contributed songs to the famous album Free to Be...You and Me, with Marlo Thomas and Friends.

Mary was a mother, a daughter, a sister, and a student. Her family tree is full of art, music, and creativity. Her father, Richard Rodgers, was also a composer. He is the Rodgers of Rodgers and Hammerstein. Mary's mother, Dorothy, wrote My Favorite Things: A Personal Guide to Decorating and Entertaining in the 60s, then collaborated with Mary on the book A Word to the Wives nearly a decade later; the mother-daughter team also contributed a monthly advice column in McCall's. I had not heard of either of these titles until this morning - and as I write this now, I've just discovered another, The House in My Head, in which she details her dream house "from concept to realization," and yet another, A Personal Book. Mary Rodgers had five children, including a daughter (Constance, aka Kim) who is a painter and designer and a son (Adam Guettel) who a composer and librettist.

Which Freaky Friday film is your favorite?
What are your favorite songs from Once Upon a Mattress?
Let me know in the comments below!

Add a Comment

View Next 25 Posts