Monday, May 31, 2010

Nonfiction Monday -- Frogs and Toads

What's the Difference between a Frog and a Toad? by Mary Firestone. Illustrated by Bandelin Dacey. Picture Window Booka/ Capstone Press, 2010. Available now.

Well, there I was -- sitting at the pool in 90 degree weather -- every so often jumping in to cool off. Soaking up rays and doing book reviews.
Hmmmm, sez I, a frog and toad book would be good for poolside.

I'm a sucker for a well-illustrated book and this one meets those standards. Large frogs on the left hand page of a double page spread, which the writer compares to the large toad on the right hand side. Perfect for showing to large groups, if you are in a frog mood.

Are there differences between frogs and toads? Aren't they the same kinds of animals? Well some things are the same. Their long sticky tongue is as long as one-third of their body length and they eat similar kinds of bugs.

But many things are different. Take, for example, their feet. Toads are land animals with a rougher, tougher skin and toes on their feet so they can walk and hop on land. Frogs are smooth-skinned with webbed feet. And some of them have sticky pads on their feet to make it easy to climb trees. (and houses and even glass windows)

Two pages of back matter: Index, Fun Facts, Glossary, Bibliography of easy readers, plus safe internet sites.

More Nonfiction Monday book reviews can be found at Lori Calabrese's blog. (and when I figure out when she's going to post those links, I'll insert it here.)

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Two handsome guys

Well, I have to brag a little.
My nephew, Chad got married this weekend.
Unfortunately, I was unable to go, but my daughter and her husband (and her dog) attended and sent me pictures.

These handsome guys are my brother, Don, on the left and his son, Chad, on the right. Both are Air Force guys. (Don is retired.)

Friday, May 28, 2010

Who you Gonna Call?

Many people (I hope) know that libraries are one of the important community service groups whose funds are being cut these days -- right when people, both workers and those out of work, need the free information and services that libraries provide.

A little while ago some ghosts invaded the New York City Public Library. Click here to watch the video of it, and to see some of the behind the scenes planning of this public service spot for the campaign, "Don't close the book on the library," done by the group Improv Everywhere.

Betsy Bird, a children's librarian who actually works in the building where it was filmed, talks here on her blog, A Fuse #8 Production, about this event. (plus some other videos) Enjoy. -wendie O

Monday, May 24, 2010

Nonfiction Monday -- The Story of Snow

The Story of Snow, The Science of Winter's Wonder by Mark Cassino and Jon Nelson. Illustrated by Nora Aoyagi. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2009. (but just arrived at our library)

Hmmmm. I do believe that a week in May, when 90 degrees is predicted, is the Perfect Time to talk about SNOW.

Snow begins "high up in the sky, in a cloud that is very, very cold." It needs a speck of something to grow -- the source of 5 possible specks are illustrated. It even could be floating bacteria.

Ah, now it gets interesting.
Beginning with a drawing showing, in 12 steps, the formation of a six-sided snowflake, the rest of the book is illustrated with a collage of photographs of actual snowflakes. Wonderful photographs!

Double-page spreads each discuss one shape of snow crystal -- stars, plates, columns -- with beautiful examples.

The fun part comes near the end of the book -- How to catch your own snow crystals!
The back endpapers contains a quote from Ukichiro Nakaya, a Japanese scientist, "A snow crystal is a letter from the sky."

This book would be great to pair with the picture book biography of Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, a Caldecott winner whose illustrator is Mary Azarian.

More Nonfiction Monday posts can be found at 100 Scope Notes. Check out the nontraditional book reviews. Lots of reviewers were having fun today with various formats. -wendieO

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Writing progress

Friday I spent the day BIC, working on market research. Trying to discover publishers who still are accepting submissions. Now to address the envelopes and get some of these stories out there.

Patricia Wrede keeps saying, "Publishers don't make house calls searching for manuscripts -- you gotta send them out."

Ooooo, check her blog. (click on her name above) On May 19th she said, "The first thing you need to know about getting published is that the process is best described as interminably long stretches of boredom and anxiety, punctuated by moments of panic and frantic activity. And this applies to the whole process, not just the submission part."

I find it so frustrating that you do all this market research to the best of your ability, only to have your manuscript returned or tossed because the publisher's submission requirements have changed. And they haven't updated the market sources to reflect it. (printed and online market sources are always behind with this.)

You follow the rules and obey the speed limits and submit what they say they want the way they want it, and it's still submission-fail. Is it any wonder that agents are complaining that they can't handle all the people who are trying to get an agent -- when publishers are closing doors, what can a writer do but try to find an agent?

And it took me two years to discover that agents never ever want to accept a writer with a picture book manuscript. Instant rejection. (mostly instant deletion and never telling the writers.) They'll represent writer/ illustrators, or writers of middle grade and up, but not picture book writers. Now I feel so dumb even to have tried getting an agent. (agents think picture book writers can submit things themselves, but publishers are closing their doors, soooo -- it's Catch 22.)

Well, now that I have several picture book ms. in the mail, it's back to working on my middle grade manuscript that perhaps an agent just 'might' consider.

On the home front -- upper grade chorus concert tonight. (the 10-year-old spent half the evening last night trying on outfits to see what still fit) And her piano concert is in two weeks. She knows two of her three pieces. The third piece has the right and left hand doing different things and she just hasn't figured it out, yet.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

School Visit - Lowell School

I really enjoyed my visit to the Lowell School's Family Night on Tuesday. (Do click on the link. It's a lovely campus.)

I was so anxious about traveling to Washington, DC, in the middle of rush hour traffic during a rainy day, that I left my house north of Baltimore two hours early. Was I surprised when I discovered that I was moving against the rush hour traffic. I arrived over an hour early! That meant I could sit in the parking lot and read a book until closer to the time to show up.

Getting into the school was an adventure. I take two suitcases along to my school visits. One contains a 2 foot model of the Wright brothers' first airplane. The other contains the rest of my supplies. So there I was, trudging up the hill with my train of suitcases, looking for the handicapped entrance. Only to be met with stairs and more stairs. Finally a parent took pity on me and helped me up the stairs. (There was an elevator, but it was run by a key and nobody could find the person with the key. The key person escorted me when I was ready to leave at the end of the program.)

This evening was a huge book sale to benefit some of the reconstruction and expansion of the school. As the featured author, I gave two talks about books and writing and read parts of several books. Since the age ranged from preschool to middle school, it's lucky that i write for various ages and had a variety of books to show. What a great audience they were.

A big thank-you to Holly Johnson for organizing my visit to this event. And to all the other people who picked up the reins when she had to attend a family event, instead of this school event. -wendie old

Monday, May 17, 2010

Nonfiction Monday -- How Do Animals Keep Clean?

How Do Animals Keep Clean? by Faith Hickman Brynie. Illustrated by photographs -- various photographers given credit. Enslow Publishers, Inc., 2010.

Interesting -- this series of books (I Like Reading about Animals!) is written on two reading levels. The first sentences on the page are short and easy to read. Then a longer paragraph (in a colored box) gives more information about the animal. Good for parent/ child sharing or teacher/ child sharing.

"What is this Lion doing?" introduces a page explaining how cats lick themselves clean -- but shows lions doing it.

"Is this eel going to eat the shrimp?" Good question? Actually the shrimp is cleaning the eel's teeth.

"Why is this zebra rolling in the dust?" The same reason birds 'dust' themselves. (although the book doesn't say this, but some parents and children might know.) To get insects out of their hair.

Three books and two websites are listed in the "Learn More" area.
Plus a very detailed index.
Where is the glossary? -- A "Words to Know" section is at the FRONT of the book, right after the table of contents.

You'll find more Nonfiction Monday reviews at Rasco from RIF's blog, today.
-wendie O

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Kids go online for More after reading books

Over on Cynsations, there's a terrific guest blogger post about how authors can take advantage of the fact that kid-readers of tween and teen books want More, More, More from the books they read -- and they're looking online for it. The blog post is called, 'Kids don't read like they used to -- and that's a good thing,' written by Mari Mancusi. I recommend you check both links out.

And, if you haven't been reading Cynsations, go do so. And bookmark it. There are pages and pages of great writing and reading information there. Cynsations is the blog of Cynthia Leitich Smith, a great writer and teacher of writing at the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

An Editor's View

Valerie Hobbs' new book, The Best Last Days of Summer, has just come out and she's doing a blog tour.

However, the best thing about this blog tour is that her EDITOR, Frances Foster, has been interviewed on a blog -- and she has great things to say about writing in general and Valerie in particular.

Click on over to Day by Day Writer and enjoy. (and learn)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Nonfiction Monday -- Summer

Summer by Cynthia Amoroso and Robert B. Noyed. A Weather Watch book. Mankato, MN: Child's World, 2010. available now.

Useful for using with large groups, each double-page spread has a large, clear photograph on the right. The three sentences on the left could kick off a discussion from the group about the aspect of the season pictured there. Any word that might be difficult is printed in periwinkle (I love the color periwinkle, it's sort of a purplely-blue) and is explained in the Glossary at the back.

Other Weather Watch books include: Spring, Fall, Winter, Clouds, Rain, Snow, and Thunder & Lightning. These books are part of a graded reading set of books aimed at preschool to grade 2 and can be read by a child with a first grade reading level.

More Nonfiction Monday posts can be found at the Bookends blog on Booklist.
Enjoy. -wendieO

Sunday, May 2, 2010

This week

Well, my writing week is over and now I have to put my Librarian hat back on.
What did I accomplish?

The dog story is revised -- as per the 5 critiques it got in March.
Spell checked
printed out
and packed away to read next weekend.
It needs another run-through before I send it to another writer who will give it a second look.

The 10-year old's room has been organized and most of her clean wash put away. (we're now in the process of packing away outgrown clothes -- if I can tear them away from her. (NO! That's my favorite! Sorry honey, it doesn't fit anymore.)

The living room is looking spiffy and the dining room is semi-organized. I don't think we'll ever get the construction stuff out of the hallway, tho.

The 10-year old took me out for a pre-Mother's day dinner, since her vocal recital is next Sunday and we can't plan to do much that day.

But now, to bed
and back to work on Monday.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

May Day

May Day -- the First of May.
It used to be a fun festival of flowers (love the alliteration), but these days -- nothing.
I was thinking about writing a May Day Book of Facts and Fun -- but since nobody celebrates it in the United States anymore, probably not a good idea. (I did find a lot of pictures on Google Images, so it must be still celebrated somewhere.)

How's my revising going?
Fairly well. I'm almost done with the first pass through.
Then I'll print it out and see how it reads.

Word-wise, I've passed Junie B. Jones. Headed toward ivy and Bean. (see previous post to understand THAT comment.)

Too bad it's turned warm -- and I want to be outside. Hmmm, maybe I can take my laptop out there to type?

so-so. No, I've not done everything I thought I was going to be able to do, darn it. I'll have to simply keep on trudging on until I get the piles of stuff conquered. (It's hard to train the rest of the family to pick up and put away. It's like they can't hear me when I ask them to Move IT.)