Monday, June 29, 2015

Nonfiction Monday - A Fine Dessert

Jenkins, Emily. Illus. Sophie Blackall.  A Fine Dessert, Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat.  New York:  Schwartz & Wade books, 2015

Does this qualify as nonfiction?
Sort of.

Yes, the families cooking in their kitchen are fiction.
However, the recipe is real. And every aspect of the kitchen, their actions, and the tools they use to make Blackberry Fool are carefully researched and can be used by anyone studying one of the four centuries depicted.

Where do they get the berries? 
 Four centuries ago they picked them themselves. In present day - bought.

How do they make it?
Whip it with a tool make of twigs/ 
whip it with a handmade wire whisk/
whip it with rotary beaters/
whip it with electric mixer. (found the recipe on the internet!!!)
Ah - things have gotten easier these days, but it's still the same delicious blackberry fool.

Yes, the recipe is included.
Plus Sources, A note from the author, and A note from the illustrator.

Interesting info Not included -- did you know that Emily Jenkins is also known as E. Lockhart when she is writing Young Adult novels? Click on over and read about her.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Mo Willems' sketchbooks

Willems, Mo. Don't Pigeonhole me! Two decades of the Mo Willems Sketchbook, with a foreword by Eric Carle.  New York: Disney, 2013.

When I first picked this up, I expected a huge HUGE biography of Mo Willems.  Perhaps even an autobiography - which meant it would be a combination of poignant and funny.  What I got was something entirely different.

If you ever get invited to dinner at Mo's, you'll discover that the walls of the dining room are actually chalkboard. And the dining room tablecloth is actually covered with sketch paper. Everyone at the table is encouraged to scribble on it during and after the meal. "to doodle over dinner," as Mo calls it. His family does.  His friends do. And sometimes those table doodles become parts of Mo's books.

Everyone knows Don't Let The Pigeon Drive the Bus. (or should)  Everyone knows Elephant and Piggy. (or should)  But few know that these characters first showed up as scribbles on his dining room table. And then graduated into sketchbooks, pieces of which were published yearly as the December issue of a small magazine.

It is these December sketchbooks that are reproduced in this huge, coffee table sized book. Plus comments by other artists and friends.

Eric Carle writes, in his introduction to this books, that this book "will be an inspiration to doodlers and illustrators, secret sketchers and cartoonists -- and to those in the making."

Monday, June 22, 2015

Nonfiction Monday - Tricky Vic

The Impossibly True Story of Tricky Vic, the Man Who Sold the Eiffel Tower by Greg Pizzoli.  New York:  Viking, 2015.

Picture book biography.

Tricky Vick was a Con Man.  Any child who doesn't know what a 'con man' does, will quickly learn the ins and outs of several common scams such as a box that magically produces money.
He is best known for one of the largest scams in the world. Not that it involved many people. but it involved the largest (at that time) structure in the world - the Eiffel Tower.

Pizzoli also illustrated the book, which enabled him to inserted a secret joke that only people who knew French would be able to figure out. Although four of the prospective purchasers of the tower are shown as silhouettes, the fifth man, Andre Poisson is shown in a business suit with a fish head. Fish head?  (Poisson is French for fish.)
Poisson bought the rights to dismantle the tower and sell it as scrap metal - making a huge profit. Or so he thought. But when he attempted to begin dismantling the tower, he learned that all he had bought was a few pieces of official-looking, but fake papers.
Naturally, Tricky Vick was not to be found.

Glossary, a long bibliography, an author's note, Acknowledgements, and a note about the art in this book complete the back matter.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Chapter book biographies

Great books by a great writer (Kathleen Krull) about great women.  Click on over and check it out this interview.

Women who Broke the Rules

Monday, June 15, 2015

Nonfiction Monday - First Mothers

First Mothers byBeverly Gherman. Julie Downing, illustrator. New York: Clarion, 2012.

You study the presidents in school. Well, mainly the ones involved with important actions in history. There are books about the wives of presidents. (and that is one very difficult job, with the whole country watching what you do and listening to what you say.)  But do you know anything about their mothers?

Gherman and Downing spent over six years searching out information about these little known ladies and how to represent them in art. The result is a quick tour through our nation's history, as seen through their eyes.  Just to keep the connection between the mother and the president, Gherman has numbered each lady. However, you have to read the blurb about her to discover the name of her president son.

Each entry carries a title describing their character:
The Resourceful Mother
The Quiet Mother
The Pioneer Mother
The Flamboyant Mother
The Stepmother
The Optimistic Mother
The Midwife Mother
The Writer Mother.  (There were actually several mothers who wrote, but each is described in a different way.)

Some mothers were given a double page spread. Many others only got one page. And there also is a section crammed with two mothers on a page.

Attentive readers will notice that Mary Ball Washington (guess whose mother she is) keeps popping up making comments about other mother's lives. Mary AND Sarah Roosevelt comment about Bill Clinton's mother and also Barak Obama's mother.

(p.s. there is a major error in the Clinton entry. The illustrator has a notation that Bill Clinton was Impeached.  Not true.  Impeached means removed from office.  He actually was threatened with Impeachment, but the bill to Impeach failed to pass Congress.  (Interestingly enough, other presidents were also threatened with Impeachment by their Congress as well, but that's not mentioned in this book.)

Although the author mentions other mothers who were mothers AND grandmothers of presidents, she does NOT mention that Dorothy Walker Bush also was the mother and grandmother of two presidents. I wonder why that was left out?

Excellent bibliography and author's note.
Useful for Mother's Day and President's Day displays.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Writers Rules

Rules writers live by:

Patricia Wrede says, "Editors don't make house calls. You've gotta send your manuscripts out.
Wash, rinse, and repeat."

 Phillis Whitney said, "A manuscript in a drawer can't sell." 

I can't remember who coined the phrase, "BIC"  
That's a basic writer's rule - Butt in Chair.  
You sit and write.  
Every day.

Jane Yolen puts it another way: "I show up. Not only every day at my computer to work.I show up by sending a mss. out again and again. If someone asks for a revision, I show up. If I meet a new editor at a convention and they seem interested, I send her something. If I figure out a new way to rewrite the book--I do that ASAP and send it out again."

This has always impressed me about many writers.  
I roomed with Josepha Sherman at many an ALA conference and watched her work the exhibit area. Talking to editors, checking out the displays. 
And every evening? (after we had hit publisher's parties that she always seemed to be able to get invited to) She would sit down at her computer and write and send book proposals to every editor she had talked to that day who seemed interested in her ideas.  
Sometimes she even made appointments with editors ahead of time to meet and discuss proposals. Which she would then type and email to them so they would have it when they got back to their office.
Since she wrote fantasy as well as many other things, she did the same at Science Fiction and Fantasy conventions, both local and WorldCons.

Do you have a rule you stick with to keep you writing every day?

Friday, June 5, 2015

Misread Headlines

I've been digging through old emails and ran into these (actual/ factual) newspaper headlines:


Include Your Children when Baking Cookies

Something Went Wrong in Jet Crash, Expert Says

Police Begin Campaign to Run Down Jaywalkers

Drunk Gets Nine Months in Violin Case

Iraqi Head Seeks Arms

Panda Mating Fails; Veterinarian Takes Over

British Left Waffles on Falkland Islands

Teacher Strikes Idle Kids

Clinton Wins on Budget, But More Lies Ahead

Plane Too Close to Ground, Crash Probe Told

Miners Refuse to Work after Death

Juvenile Court to Try Shooting Defendant

Stolen Painting Found by Tree

Two Sisters Reunited After 18 Years in Checkout Counter

Never Withhold Herpes Infection from Loved One

War Dims Hope for Peace

If Strike Isn't Settled Quickly, It May Last a While

Cold Wave Linked to Temperatures

Couple Slain; Police Suspect Homicide

Red Tape Holds Up New Bridges

Typhoon Rips Through Cemetery; Hundreds Dead

Man Struck By Lightning Faces Battery Charge

New Study of Obesity Looks for Larger Test Group

Astronaut Takes Blame for Gas in Spacecraft

Kids Make Nutritious Snacks

Chef Throws His Heart into Helping Feed Needy

Local High School Dropouts Cut in Half

New Vaccine May Contain Rabies

Hospitals are Sued by 7 Foot Doctors

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

How to (not) tell a tandem story

This assignment was actually turned in by two of my English students:

Rebecca (last name deleted) and Gary (last name deleted)
English 44A
Creative Writing
Prof. Miller

In-class Assignment for Wednesday:

Today we will experiment with a new form called the tandem story. The process is simple. Each person will pair off with the person sitting to his or her immediate right. One of you will then write the first paragraph of a short story. The partner will read the first paragraph and then add another paragraph to the story. The first person will then add a third paragraph, and so on back and forth. Remember to reread what has been written each time in order to keep the story coherent. The story is over when both agree a conclusion has been reached.

       ^^^^   ^^^^   ^^^^   ^^^^   ^^^^
At first, Laurie couldn't decide which kind of tea she wanted. The chamomile, which used to be her favorite for lazy evenings at home, now reminded her too much of Carl, who once said, in happier times, that he liked chamomile. But she felt she must now, at all costs, keep her mind off Carl. His possessiveness was suffocating, and if she thought about him too much her asthma started acting up again. So chamomile was out of the question.

Meanwhile, Advance Sergeant Carl Harris, leader of the attack squadron now in orbit over Skylon 4, had more important things to think about than the neuroses of an air-headed asthmatic bimbo named Laurie with whom he had spent one sweaty night over a year ago.
"A.S. Harris to Geostation 17," he said into his transgalactic communicator. "Polar
orbit established. No sign of resistance so far..." But before he could sign off a bluish particle beam flashed out of nowhere and blasted a hole through his ship's cargo bay. The jolt from the direct hit sent him flying out of his seat and across the cockpit.

He bumped his head and died almost immediately, but not before he felt one last pang of regret for psychically brutalizing the one woman who had ever had feelings for him. Soon afterwards, Earth stopped its pointless hostilities towards the peaceful farmers of Skylon 4.
"Congress Passes Law Permanently Abolishing War and Space Travel." Laurie read in her newspaper one morning. The news simultaneously excited her and bored her. She stared out the window, dreaming of her youth -- when the days had passed unhurriedly and carefree, with no newspapers to read, no television to distract her from her sense of innocent wonder at all the beautiful things around her.
"Why must onelose one's innocence to become a woman?" she pondered wistfully.

Little did she know, but she has less than 10 seconds to live. Thousands of miles above the city, the Anu'udrian mothership launched the first of its lithium fusion missiles. The dim-witted wimpy peaceniks who pushed the Unilateral Aerospace Disarmament Treaty through Congress had left Earth a defenseless target for the hostile alien empires who were determined to destroy the human race. Within two hours after the passage of the treaty the Anu'udrian ships were on course for Earth, carrying
enough firepower to pulverize the entire planet. With no one to stop them, they swiftly initiated their diabolical plan. The lithium fusion missile entered the atmosphere unimpeded. The President, in his top-secret mobile submarine headquarters on the ocean floor off the coast of Guam, felt the inconceivably massive explosion which vaporized Laurie and 85 million other Americans. The President slammed his fist on the conference table. "We can't allow this! I'm going to veto that treaty! Let's blow 'em out of the sky!"

This is absurd. I refuse to continue this mockery of literature. My writing partner is a violent, chauvinistic, semi-literate adolescent.

Yeah? Well, you're a self-centered tedious neurotic whose attempts at writing are the literary equivalent of Valium.



For some reason this reminds me of Kevin O'Malley's book, Once Upon a Cool Motorcycle Dude.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Quebecois Joseph Ernest Nephthali DuFault's Creates the American Cowboy, Will James

Nonfiction Monday (sort of)

I just read an amazing article at Second Look Books (June 1, 2015 entry) about one of my favorite horse stories. The article begins this way:
"In 1927, Will James won the Newbery Medal for his novel Smokey: The Cow-horse.  The story was based on James's real life, and on James's real horse, a blue roan named Smokey. James worked as a cowboy, ranch hand, and rodeo performer for horse and cattle ranches in the Western Canadian provinces and in the American Dakotas, Montana, New Mexico and California. It was James's third novel, and like all those previous and all those yet to come, it was self illustrated…. Three years later he published his autobiography, Lone Cowboy: My Life Story…. It's a great story and it's a complete lie."

After talking about the book itself, the article goes on to explain that Will James was NOT his name and he wasn't an American cowboy. (although he did work as a cowboy in the midwestern United States.)  He was Canadian. French-Canadian in fact.
Which is why the title of this blog post (and the blog post on Second Look Books) says Quebecois (a person from Quebec, Canada) Joseph Ernest Nephthali DuFault….

A teacher, perhaps a middle school teacher, could match Smokey with Will James's autobiography and  the information in Second Look Book's essay about the book. The three bits of information make a complete common core lesson.

More books recommended for Nonfiction Monday can be found at the Nonfiction Monday blog.