Monday, July 27, 2015

Nonfiction Monday - Dick King-Smith

King-Smith, Dick. Chewing the Cud. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2001.

This isn't a children's book. It's Dick King-Smith's autobiography and it's definitely aimed at fans of his books.
What books?, you ask.  Hmmm. You do remember that little pig who herded sheep?
Yes, he wrote Babe, the Galant Pig (known as Babe, the Sheep Pig in the United Kingdom where it was first published.)
Babe -- the very popular movie.

But this wasn't his only book. (he wrote over 100 books)  Nor was writing his only means of support.

Dick King-Smith was a failed farmer, a soldier, a salesman, a factory worker, and a teacher.  But he always loved animals, he and his family always had animals around, and this shows in the books he wrote, which are well-loved by children all over the world.

Readers will see how this collection of experiences gave him much fodder which he used in his writings.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Losing weight - Reasons why

Once home, I discovered that I'd lost 4 pounds while in Vermont. 
Must have been all the walking I did. 
I'm glad I had gotten myself up to walking at least one mile before I arrived, because walking around the VCFA campus meant for 10 days I walked at least 4 miles a day. 
Plus the only way to the cafeteria was to go slowly down some stairs. And then pull myself back up them. 
(Stairs count as exercise, too.)
However, I"m still losing - because I just got two wisdom teeth pulled and the darn tooth surgeon said "no chewing" for a week. My water and consume' diet expanded yesterday to include chocolate pudding. 

Crossing fingers and toes that I make it for 3 more days until I can sink my teeth into meat and potatoes, again.

The question is -- can I then keep those pounds off?

Saturday, July 25, 2015


What was I doing the last few weeks?

I was attending a 10 week Residency at Vermont College of Fine Arts - my final Residency,  where I earned a second Master's Degree.

Critical Thesis - Check - (about an aspect of Children's Book Writing that had not been written about before - First Chapter Books)
Creative Thesis - Check 
Reading from my Creative - Check (they laughed in all the right places)
Presentation of my Lecture (based on my Critical Thesis) using Keynote instead of Powerpoint for the first time.

Attended the Masquerade Dance celebrating the Graduating Class - Check

and Marched across the stage in the beautiful Chapel and was Capped and given my diploma, along with the 23 others in my graduating class. - Check 

(Yes, that is a real pipe organ behind us.)
As you can see from the symbol at the top of this post - this graduating class called themselves the Craftographers.
Home again, home again, Jiggidy Jog. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

Nonfiction Monday - On a Beam of Light

Berne, Jennifer. On a Beam of Light; a Story of Albert Einstein. Illus. Vladimir Radunsky. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2013. Print.

            This is a really focused picture book biography, presenting the mind    of Albert Einstein – how he wondered about everything and wanted to understand the mysteries of how things worked – how he spent his life figuring and thinking and imagining. 

                        Unfortunately, clever as this is, it fails as a biography because Berne concentrates on Einstein’s mind and only mentions a few of the things he discovered. 
                        It’s possible this biography was forced into this narrow view of his life by the recent demand that picture books and even picture book biographies be only 500 words long. Berne intends for the reader to think about some of Einstein’s unanswered questions and perhaps attempt to solve them. She succeeds in this goal, but fails to answer basic questions about his life, ignoring his German birth and his work in the USA, which resulted in the development of the atomic bomb. Even the author’s notes ignore specific necessary information such as birth, death, and his relationship to world events.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Jane Yolen and how books come to be

Here's another post by multi-published author, singer, mother, grandmother, and much, much more - Jane Yolen.  I agree wholeheartedly.  My books also take time and come in their own time.
Jane says:

I want to talk this evening about taking time. Books gestate, stories need cooking, even single lines need to be shaped and reshaped in the brain and eye and mouth.
But sometimes writers (or at least I know I do) write in a white hot burst of creation. This is when the time may not be in the gestation but in the aftermath.
I sometimes tell people that I spend half my time creating and the other half re-creating. If you visit me and we are laughing over a cup of tea, trust me, I am also fully gestating something. Sometimes several somethings. Long before I was a published writer, I would wool-gather, turn my face to the window and watch the wind wind-up the branches of the trees. My mother understood that I was gestating a poem or a tale, but my father would call me back from some awful imagined precipice. I think he hated not knowing what I was thinking, or at least hated that I was not thinking about him.
Yes, to some people I seem very quick when I write. But you have no idea how long I have been thinking about a book before I begin actuvely working on it. I am poking about a picture book now called DAWN CHORUS but I have been carrying some form or another of this book around inside me from the day I went for a weekend at Montauk Point with my then boyfriend, David Stemple, and really listened to the birds under his tutelage for the first time.
I wrote OWL MOON fifteen or so years after he first took our children out owling.
I wrote my books about women pirates (PIRATES IN PETTICOATS, SEA QUEENS, BALLAD OF THE PIRATE QUEENS) decades after I first read about Ann Bonney and Mary Read and had put them in a book of pirates I'd made for sixth grade, with cover, binding, side sewing and all. Gosh, I wish my mother had kept a copy of that!
What I am trying to say--and a bit nostalgically at that- is that we must carry the book inside before we let it out into the light of the world. The rest--rejections, editorial letters, bad reviews or good are the consequence of publishing. But first there has to be the dawn chorus in your soul.

 ©2015 Jane Yolen all rights reserved.

Monday, July 13, 2015

NonFiction Monday - Parrots Over Puerto Rico

Roth, Susan and Cindy Trumbore. Parrots Over Puerto Rico. New York: Lee & Low Books, 2013. Print.
            2014 Sibert Medal book. Americas Award for Children’s and YA Literature.
                         This is the story of the disappearance of Parrots in the Jungles of Puerto Rico and a rescue breeding effort that has brought those numbers back up.

                        Roth begins in second person (You look up) to draw the reader in, but quickly moves to third person omnipotent in order to relate a simplified history of this Caribbean island. She creates tension in this book as she relates how less and less parrots survive, until only thirteen remain in the wild.  
                      This is an unusually shaped book arranged vertically across the double page spread to make the most of the tall trees with birds flying above with the related human actions taking place below.  Roth places the simple text under the pictures. 
                     Of interest to me because my sister participated in this work to reestablish the parrots.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Peanut Butter Science

I used to give a program at the library called Peanut Butter Science.  Today someone on FaceBook asked me how to make homemade peanut butter and I was reminded of this program.
You could use this in a homeschooling session, or simply with your family for fun:

  •  It seems to me that we first did some experiments with unsalted peanuts in the shell, then unshelled them and compared raw and cooked ones. (yes, I had bought both kinds from a nut company near where I lived.)

    I let them each take some raw ones home to grow (many reported back to me about them.
    Then we skinned the shelled peanuts and tossed the peanutsinto the blender. It usually was about a third full. I would begin blending. I like to use the burst mode. I think it gives me more control and I can pull the spatula out before it burst again. If it seemed a little dry, I would add vegetable oil to make a smooth mix and keep grinding until I thought it was blended. Can't remember if I added salt or not.

  • I had a huge box of plastic spoons. The children lined up and tasted each kind, throwing their spoon away after each taste so no saliva contaminated the jars. Then they filled out a form, voting for the one they thought was best. I'd put the score up on the white board. Fun.

    Naturally, I don't need 6 open peanut butter jars at home , so I had them put their names in a container and pulled out names. The first person could take home his or her choice. The second chose among the remaining jars, and so on until all the jars were taken. Fun.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Jane Yolen - Guest Post

And now a few words about being a writer - from one of the Great Ones:

Jane Yolen says:

I have talked about "showing up" before. But here are some further--though rather scrambled--thoughts about it.
Being a writer--or any kind of artist--is essential a selfish activity. Note I don't, as far too many people do, call it a "lonely" job. Maybe an alone job, but lonely? Not when I am surrounded by my invisible friends. Invisible to you, perhaps, but not to me. We converse, argue (I don't always get my way), go rollicking down new roads, find adventures, weep together, pray together, pry together, get into all kinds of mischief, trouble, danger, and despair. Some of us make it to the other end of the road, but not all. Along the way I have killed my darlings, my best friends, my favorite pets, a high king or two, and the one no child reader has ever forgiven me for--a dragon named Heart's Blood.
But I do this in the privacy of my own mind. And I can not nor will not let you in until I am done with it. And then it becomes not just my story, herstory, history--but YOUR story, too. And you dear reader, will take it even further than I ever could because you make it your own.
But none of this happens unless I, in the lone-ness of my own writing space show up, do my job, get it done.(It has just now occurred to me, after years of teaching Le Guin's "Those Who Walk Away from Omelas" at Smith College that whatever else it is, the novelette is a metaphor for the writer in her cell.)
What does this mean in real time? That I am in a book a lot longer than you will ever be. You can read Devil's Arithmetic in a day or over a week or maybe if you are slow it can take you a month. But I was stuck in it for a year and a half, in that hellhole called the Holocaust! You can buzz through Owl Moon in mere minutes. I worked on it consciously and subconsciously for fifteen years. You can sit down with Sword of the Rightful King, my Arthurian novel, and make it through successfully in a week or ten days if you savor it slowly. But for me, from the time I wrote it first as a short story to the completion of the novel was twenty years.
THAT'S what I mean about showing up. If you have the guts to do it.
And the time? Well no little time fairy is going to drop a package of it on you. You have to take time. Steal it by the bucketload from the rest of your life. Be selfish. Ignore lunching with friends until the work gets done.
Just write the damn book.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Nonfiction Monday - sort of - The Kite That Bridged Two Nations

O’Neill, Alexis. The Kite that Bridged Two Nations.  Illus. Terry Widener. Honesdale, PA: Calkins Creek, 2013.
(picture book historical fiction)             
                        This prose poem picture book is based on the true story of the boy, Homer Walsh, who flew his kite across Niagara Falls from Canada to the United States, laying the first lines which then pulled the cables for the International Bridge connecting the two countries just below Niagara Falls

                        O’Neill originally attempted to write a picture book biography, but changed to fiction when she realized she needed to be inside the boy’s mind and to show how he felt, such as, “I felt it’s (the falls’s) booming, pounding power in my chest.” The result is a prose poem, which lyrically explores this event that united the two countries with a bridge, told in first person point of view.  (My kite. My pride. My Union.) The extensive author’s notes fill in more information.  I especially like the part where O’Neill explores what we do not know about Homer and his project.
                         This would be good for classes who wish to combine fiction and nonfiction as per the Common Core.

Alexis O'Neill loves flying kites and participating in Kite Festivals.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Fourth of July

Just for fun - some fireworks:

Oh, it's just one.
If you want multiple fireworks, go to my wall on Facebook today. Wowsers. The video there has almost too many fireworks at once.

For the real ones, we'll be walking to a park overlooking the fairgrounds where the county fireworks go off.  (and off in the distance we can also see fireworks from two other towns north of us. fun!)