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Saturday, August 17, 2013

This was the idea, and it was very quick. I may revisit it again, but it's a bit different. Remember if you want to print it out, save to your computer, then print from there! Have a wonderful weekend! A few quick things, and then I hope to get Nana's Gift done today and up at CreateSpace, second edition!

Friday reviews a day late!

Last weeks' computer crash has left me a little behind (and scrambling, I've lost all my documents I think). Reworking Nana's Gift in light of the positive reviews and seeing it in the Easy Reader sized format (nope doesn't cut it) and a week of 14 year old GISHWES festivities, so I will reserve the right to post book reviews ON or ABOUT.  In a few weeks, with the advent of school, I hope to be able to PRE-write somethings and post on time. Just not at this time, so apologies... I'll make it up by reviewing some wonderful books, okay? This week I had a personal connection with all the books, so I don't even make the pretense of being partial.

What Floats in a Moat?
Lynne Berry
illustrated by Matthew Cordell
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2013

Archimedes (Archie for short) the goat has an important date at the castle and has to figure out how to ford the moat. Skinny the Hen makes for a perfect sidekick for Archie's solution testing theories. Funny, funny, I loved the whimsy of the drawings, and the dash of science the book provides. I also like the problem/solution aspect of the book, and think most kids would delight at not only the silly but the serious of this book (cleverly disguised as silly).

Other books by Lynne Berry: Duck Tents (illustrated by Hiroe Nakata); The Curious Demise of a Contrary Cat (illustrated by Luke LaMarca); Duck Dunks (illustrated by Hiroe Nakata); Ducking for Apples (illustrated by Hiroe Nakata)

Other books by Matthew CordellJustin Case: Shells, Smells and the Horrible Flip-Flops of Doom (written by Rachel Vail); Bug Juice on a Burger (written by Julie Sternberg); Justin Case: School, Drool and other Daily Disasters (written by Rachel Vail)Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie (written by Julie Sternberger); Ollie and Claire (written by Tiffany Trelitz Haber); Forgive me, I Meant to Do It: False Apology Poems (written by Gail Carson Levine); hello! hello!

David Slonim
Roaring Brook Press, 2013

A tale of true friendship, I find this joyous and uplifting in a kid-way. It's set up more like a bit of a Chapter book, and I think younger kids would appreciate that (goodness knows me and everyone I knew wanted to be older than we were, though I've spent the last forty years backpedaling...) Patches is the perfect dog who doesn't always do the perfect thing, a valuable lesson in friendship and moving on from dissapointment. The art is loose and happy with fresh colors, the words simple. The ideas profound and complex.

Other books by David Slonim: How to Teach a Slug to Read (written by Susan Pearson); You Think it's Easy Being the Tooth Fairy? (written by Sheri Bell-Rehwoldt);  He Came with the Couch; Silly Tilly (written by Eileen Spinelli); I Loathe You; Look Out, Jeremy Bean! (written by Alice Schertle)

Bone by Bone
Sara Levine
illustrated by T.S. Spookytooth
Millbrook Press, 2013

This book would have delighted the nerdy kid in me and delights me now. Informative is understandable in yet a witty way, it's got visuals that are clear and fun, and loads of information to satisfy! I also liked the way it deepens the thoughts about our differences and similarities to other creatures in the world.

Other books by T.S. Spookytooth: Sally's Bones (written by Mackenzie Caldenhead); Mommy There's a Giraffe in My Room (written by Angela Lane and Patricia Stevens); The Small Bun: Blue/Band Phonics 4 (written by Martin Wadell); Bible Birds and Beasties (written by Leena Lane)

Jenny Craig's I Believe in Genevieve
Jenny Craig
illustrated by Wendy Edelson
Regenery Kids, 2013

I only review books I like and I was fully prepared to not care for this book. It's an old saw about people who become famous (and this happens in other arts as well) and write for children. But I love Wendy Edelson's art and wanted to at least see the book itself. It was not only engaging and well-written, I loved the positive information at the end. As a kid totally enamored of animals in general and horses in particular, the story interesting and the art just sparkles like jewels. I would have liked this for the art alone, Edelson is the kind of illustrator I just love, but the book itself is a wonderful addition to anyone's library and reinforces positive choices, changes and values.

Other books by Jenny Craig: Jenny Craig's No Diet Required; The Jenny Craig Cookbook: Cutting Through the Fat; Jenny Craig's What Have You Got to Lose: A Personalized Weight Management System; Simple Pleasures: Recipes to Nourish Body and Soul

Other books by Wendy Edelson: A Baker's Dozen: A Saint Nicholas Tale (written by Aaron Shepherd); Hannah and Hickory: From the Land of Barely There (written by Stephen Cosgrove); On This Night (written by N. Steiner); Pobble's Way (written by Simon van Booy); Over the River and Through the Woods (written by Lydia Maria Child); Saturn for my Birthday (written by John Mcgranaghan)

Razia's Ray of Hope: One Girl's Dream of an Education
Elizabeth Suneby
illustrated by Suana Verelst
Citizen Kid, Kids Can Press, 2013

Razia dreams of going to school and learning, though she's surreptitiously been learning to read from her brothers. How to convince her traditional family to allow her to go. A great view into another culture, I like very much that Suneby makes note of the changes that has occurred in  Afghanistan as well as showing Razia's dilemma without the judgment that could come with it. The illustrations are STUNNING, and have achieved that rare feeling for me--- I wish I'd done them. I think this an important book on many levels. Understanding different cultures, especially one we've been immersed in for the last twelve years, some of the trials facing others, and some great discussion about the world and the impact of education, each other, values and goals.

Other books by Elizabeth Suneby: It's a... It's a... It's a Mitzvah (with Diane Heiman); The Mitzvah Project Book: Making Mitzvah Part of Your Bar/Bat Mitzvah Life and Your Life (with Diane Heiman); Origami Fortune Tellers (with Diane Heiman, illustrated by Christine Archer); See What You Could Be: Explore Careers That Could be For You!

Other books by Suana Verelst: Next Week When I am Big (written by Jaenet Guggenheim)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

It's a logo!

My niece Holly Ingalls needed a logo for her professional blog. So I created one and it's a cute one I might add! Normally I have all kinds of jpegs snaps along the way of how I develop stuff, but my computer crashed this weekend and this and the coloring page were the things I'd not backed up (thank goodness they were the ONLY things). So I will unveil it and make a few points about what to look for in a logo. Though this one is a little bit involved, I think it's successful and will explain why below:

What makes a good logo? It has to read big as well as small. The image must hold up whether blown way up, billboard size or way down to letterhead size. It must have some kind of stickiness to it, something that's memorable. It could be the GRAPHIC nature like wave and colors of Coke or the swoosh of Nike or it could be an image that evokes a feeling whether nostalgic or some other "value", like Orville Redenbacker, Colonel Sanders or Wendy's. They have changed over the years, and now that they are more corporate owned, they're getting away from the image, but I would argue most people still remember those images and those connections and one of the reasons they feel the loyalty to the brand.

If you can relate the image to what you're selling that's wonderful, but not always necessary. Think Virgin. It's all over the place as to product, so the name is what's important, not what's being sold. It really depends on what you're gracing the marketplace with.

Holly had a specific thing in mind, and I like the colors of this (the colors of her blog, her idea) and the fresh feeling to it. She can use the lettering by itself, or the image alone and it would still hold (though I would suggest if she uses the text alone, she leave the thought bubbles) and I think it reads well together. It was very easy to do this, because she had a specific idea of what she wanted, so it was a pure joy, except for that whole computer crash thingie, to work with.

As to how I did this after losing it? I'd sent her the image before the crash so was able to recover it, though it was at such a low dpi. I show it in the smaller version so you can be the judge of whether it holds it's integrity and interest...

New project, different schedule, great review!

Good morning! So I made a decision over night, which will of course set me back a bit time wise. My marvelous friend Cheryl Johnson let see a copy of Nana's Gift (I wasn't lying when I said I couldn't afford my own work, lol). It's not bad, but I know I can make it better. Last Friday in talking to Createspace, they said it would be no problem to revamp and offer it at the 8 x 10 size, the thing that bothers the most. I'm taking the time to do it in the next few days, because unexpectedly, I have interviews and blogs and interest, and I want to do the very best I can do right now. Michael Strickland has another wonderful review of Nana's Gift, and it is one of my prompts. Young People's Pavilion, with Michael Strickland...

Any authors/illustrators interested in review can get in touch with Michael. Feeling great today!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Reviewtown, USA...

Down to Earth: How Kids Help Feed The World
Nikki Tate
Orca Book Publishers, 2013

Grade level 3-7. This is a more advanced book, with many details about food and farming from around the world. A book with bite sized pieces of information, readable, fun details, some of it the kind that kids are just tickled to know about. I love the fact it brings home the process of FOOD, to kids, from the tidbits from Dark Creek farm, to the more esoteric why food prices or the impact of chemicals in farming in language that a kid can digest. (Get it, get it?) I think making this kind of information available to kids is so important, but doing it in a kid friendly challenge, this one succeeds admirably.

Other books by Nikki Tate: Grandparents' Day (illustrated by Benoit Laverdiere); Double Take (Karen Brain's Olympic Journey); Venom (Orca Sports); Rebel of Dark Creek (Stablemates 1); The Racehorse (Behind the Scenes); Razor's Edge (Orca Sports); Keeping Secrets at Dark Creek (Stablemates); Trouble on Tarragon Island (Tarragon Island Series)

Making Contact! Marconi Goes Wireless
Monica Kulling
illustrated by Richard Rudnicki
Tundra Books, 2013

Engaging book on the life of Guglielmo Marconi starts as a young boy with admiration of Ben Franklin and ends with the man successfully completing the first transatlantic wireless communication.  The after math tells the next step, if there had been no wireless, all of Titanic would have perished, as it was Marconi's invention which hailed The Carpathia. Kulling skillfully writes of the journey from boy dreamer to grown achiever, in an easily readable style. I LOVED the use of color in this book, though sometimes I didn't care for the rendering of the figures. I thought the overall feeling of the illustrations, kind of old world really suited the subject matter. A good biography and great for the young scientist in the family.

Other books by Monica Kulling: Eat My Dust! Henry Ford's First Race (illustrated by Richard Walz); Les Miserables (based on Victor Hugo); Escape North! The Story of Harriet Tubman (illustrated by Teresa Flavin); Lumpito and the Painter from Spain (illustrated by Dean Griffiths); Mister Dash and the Cupcake Calamity (illustrated by Esperanca Melo)

Other books by Richard Rudnicki: A Christmas Dollhouse; Tecumseh (written by James Laxer); Viola Desmond Won't be Budged (written by Jody Nyasha Warner); Gracie, the Public Gardens Duck (written by Judith Meyrick); Gus the Tortoise Takes a Walk (written by Erin Arsenault); I Spy a Bunny (written by Judy Dudar)

Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library
Barb Rosenstock
illustrated by John O'Brien
Calkins Creek Books, September 2013

I loved this book. From the quirky muted illustrations to the story of a man's love affair with books. And a vital proponent of libraries in this country. I really wasn't familiar with the story of the Library of Congress, but what a pleasure, what a treasure! The author uses questions ("Guess what Tom saw in Paris?") to encourage audience participation and I could almost hear the chorus of responses from a young crowd. I very much liked the fact she also provided some context at the end of the book, about some of her personal recollections, some further events in Jefferson's life and the incongruity of Jefferson being a slaveholder and the writer of the Declaration of  Independence.

other books by Barb Rosenstock: The Camping Trip That Changed America (illustrated by Mordecai Gerstein); The Littlest Mountain (illustrated by Melanie Hall); Fearless: The Story of Racing Car Legend Louise Smith (illustrated by Scott Dawson)

other books by John O'Brien: A New World: Dissension; A New World: Takedown; Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci (written by Joseph D'Agnese); True Lies (written by George Shannon); I Knew a Shy Fellow Who Swallowed a Cello (written by Barbara Garriel); Did Dinosaurs eat Pizza: Mysteries Science Hasn't Solved (written by Lenny Hort)

The Patchwork Garden
Pedacitos de Huerto
Diane de Anda
Illustrated by (illustraciones de) Oksana Kemarskaya

Tonia lives in the city with her Abuela and they plant a small garden.  Soon many children want what Tonia has, and together, they come up with a solution to make the children's dreams a reality. So many wonderful things to say about this book, I love the fact it's bilingual (I wish there were more). I love not only does Tonia come up with the solution, but the adults are a part of the solution in a respectful way. And I love the illustrations, when I think of illustrating when I first started out (Patricia Polacco, Maurie Manning) it's the tradition I find comforting, the skill, colors, handling of the subject is appealing. Another one that would be wonderful in a classroom.

Other books by Diane de Anda: The Monster in the Mattress and Other Stories (El Monstruo el Colchon y Otros Cuentos) Stress Management for Adolescents: a Cognitive-Behavorial Program; The Immortal Rooster and Other Stories (illustrated by Roberta Collier Morales); A Day Without Sugar (Un Dia Sin Azucar) (illustrated by Janet Montecalvo); The Ice Dove and Other Stories; Dancing Miranda (Baila, Miranda, Baila) (illustrated by Lamberto Alvarez)

Other books by Oksana Kemarskaya: Planet Earth Projects; The Secret Lives of Plants! (written by Janet Slingerland); The Legend of the Vampire (Legend Has It) (written by Thomas Kingsley Troupe); Goodnight Piggy Boo (written by Catherine Solyom)

The Apple Orchard Riddle
Margaret McNamara
illustrated by G. Brian Karas
Schwartz & Wade Publishing, 2013
Mr. Tiffin and his students visit an orchard and gets the lowdown on all things apple. While the kids explore the various features at the orchard (I liked the peeler myself), they ponder a riddle. McNamara is interested in how we process information differently and this informative book gently puts that forth. Karas' illustrations are fun, and very appealing (get it, get it?!) as they revisit their Christopher Award winning characters in this sequel.

Other books by Margaret McNamara: The Three Little Aliens and the Big Bad Robot (illustrated by Mark Fearing); How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin (illustrated by G. Brian Karas); The Fairy Bell Sisters #3: Golden at the Fancy Dress Party (illustrated by Julia Denos); George Washington's Birthday: A Mostly True Tale (illustrated by Barry Blitt)

Other books by G. Brian Karas: I like Bugs (written by Margaret Wise Brown); Throw Your Tooth On the Roof: Tooth Traditions from Around the World (written by Selby Beeler); A Place Called Kindergarten (written by Jessica Harper); Lemonade in Winter: A Book About Two Kids Counting Money (written by Emily Jenkins); The High-Rise Private Eyes #1: The Case of the Missing Monkey (written by Cynthia Rylant); Fractions = Trouble (written by Claudia Mills)


Thoughts and comments on today's reviews

I'm becoming quite the commentator; twice in two weeks. But there were some thoughts that occurred over all when I chose the books this week.

I have some strong thoughts on subjects, and I think some things should be examined. For instance we want children to read, but too often we HURRY through our books for children. This will affect my book greatly coming up (and Nana's Gift to a lesser extent). If one hurries through the book, it's a stumbly tumbly effort more frustrating than most. I know because I often as other people to read my work to me, so I can hear it. Part of it is they are trying to "get through" it. But I've noticed adults doing this with children.  Often times instead of engaging the story, they read through, rather pedantically, when the children are less interested or not invested, instead of becoming more connected to the story and characters, more often than not, people will hurry through or put the book aside. This is a message.

I LOVE the sounds of words, and try to write like music (wish I spoke Welsh, they do it naturally!). I do this deliberately, and hope when people (how's that for optimism) they take the time to savor the sounds, the rhythms, the stories, the characters, the events, the EXPERIENCE. I guarantee if you do, your audience will as well. Even if they audience is just you, but ESPECIALLY if it's a child.

We have got used to messaging. The popular message is school is stupid, a necessary evil, parents are stupid or incompetent. Smart people are geeks (and socially inept) and not as desirable. When you think of a lot of the things you value the very people who are denigrated are the ones who grow up to be the creative people. And just because you are one thing does not mean you cannot be another. We have lots of messages to kids, I personally think should be examined more closely, especially if they are receiving it via books or movies or social media. What is the story we tell them, and ourselves?

For so many education is a way out of poverty and provides opportunities. For the poor often, especially, and to get that education takes perserverance. I plan on another post in the future more in depth about this, but suffice it to say it was brought home when I found my grandmother on my mother's side had only completed sixth grade. Much of who she was (and I had a hard time with) made sense with that bit and another bit of information. The difference between my grandfather (on my father's side) who had similar circumstances and her, he read. He may have stopped his formal education, but he never stopped educating himself. I have to internalize and think on this more. I do believe her being a woman and the way we perceived education and grrls had something to do with it. But some of it was personality, no doubt.

So this week's batch of books are about SOMETHING. They are more educational. Some are for a bit of an older audience, who would probably want to sit down and savor the books themselves.

One book reminded me of my father who had lost his little finger in a cider press as a small child. Others made me think of my youth when I was excited to "know stuff". Always have done with that. I would much rather KNOW than not know, and it's only in fairly recent years, I've come to embrace the process of learning to know. Probably with the realization that KNOWING isn't an end product or even a destination, because it's one of the few moving goal posts I'm okay with.

I met a woman yesterday who will be heading up the local homeschoolers. I would easily recommend these books to her group of kids as well as to some adults, and thoroughly enjoyed this week's batch of books. Next week I will start mixing in the older books with the new books I've been reviewing, before the holiday books hit. I hope people enjoy them as much as I have, and find the reviews useful. Reading the books has subtly impacted how I'm approaching my work, and I readily urge people who are actively working in a genre to start this practice of read and review as well.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

“Cussy!” I'm not REALLY naming him...

This is the opening line to my midgrade, due date (hopefully) November 7th, of this year. It's the date of my elder daughter's birthday, and she's been one of my inspirations (don't worry second daughter, you are not secondary, I simply didn't want to wait til April!).

I'm actually proud of my beginnings and think I do them well. I also agree with the entire industry you need to do it well, especially with the competition out there. Grab them quick and try real hard to not let them go until the end of the book, no matter the age, one must be ruthless in your craft!

I agree with Les Edgerton in Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One & Never Lets Them GO you have to encapsulate your story in the opening, present the question part of the answer, doesn't talk down or gives up on our reader. And I think I did that with this opening line.

I grew up an "Agnes", and not caring for my name at all. I couldn't change it (it was my beloved grandmother's beloved mother's name and I was the one doing the beloving). It took many years to get a little comfortable with it (I am AGY, and that was one of the best things that happened to me, it's fairly unique, is easy to remember, say, and I think friendly). But having the experience of despite my name it had me thinking about it from an early age, and I play a lot with names in my work. Why not, I've been called every rhyme in the book (and some really weren't flattering, lol)

I had conversations with my cousin Susan and she felt she had to stand out because she felt a bit of the generic (and with a marvelous encouraging mother, she certainly did). I know I felt weird growing up, and people said that to me on a regular basis, I don't know if having a rather unique name furthered that along. 'Course if I'd been born a hundred years ago, my name was like the "Susan" of it's day so would have had a totally different experience with it.

Many cultures assign great power to naming, bordering on mystical. Adam named the beasts and the world, Native Americans and other cultures have "secret" names that embody one's true spirit.

I've had this conversation with people a number of times. We QUANTIFY everything. I think we have to, to maintain sanity. What we don't do often is to rexamine at regular intervals our labels. Once we label something most of us tend to really stop looking at it. But when we NAME something, especially individually, it provides connection, a new emotional resonance. It is the personal that creates empathy. Unless it's a perjorative name that we give to groups of something.

The really odd thing is I wrote this book and then decided to make sure, do the research because I didn't want to stop seeing or feeling because I'd done this. Often times I was spot on. And the name issue for people who farm was right on. 

This book is about a young grrl during the early seventies who's world is turned upside down. She has a hard time fitting in, with her authoritative grandmother, and is uneasy about her place in the world as well as the world itself.

I think you can tell a lot about her personality and needs just in those lines and it sets up some of the conflicts within. I hope the connections I made through this work seeps into the world, and it finds an audience. I also hope to do somethings I've not seen done in other books for this age group (though it's notorious that other authors and illustrator usurp me all the time, more than likely because it takes me so long to figure some stuff out, or I have to wait for the skill or the equipment to do the job). If you take the time to read the first chapter, I do hope you take the time to leave a comment on what you thought or share with me via Facebook or Twitter. I'm interested in knowing if this piques your interest, if you'd read further and any other thoughts you'd have....