Friday, April 29, 2011

Poetry Friday

My selection is "A Crossing of Zebras: animal packs in poetry" written by Marjorie Maddox and illustrated by Philip Huber.

This is a book for readers who delight in the music and motion of words. Maddox offers both fanciful and realistic verses based on collective nouns for animal groups ranging from a "crash of rhinos" to a "charm of butterflies."

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Writer's Wednesday

On the dreaded Writer's block --

We all face that problem from time to time. What to write? How to get that half-formed idea onto the page is a struggle that every writer must confront. Don't worry. You're in good company...

Here are some well-known quotes on the subject from writers past and present.

"The hard part is getting to the top of page 1." -- Tom Stoppard

Too true, but having succeeded in putting those first words on the page the next challenge arrives.

"I always do the first line well, but I have trouble doing the others." -- Moliere

Exactly. What is it that makes this writing thing so difficult?

"I think writer's block is simply the dread that you are going to write something horrible. But as a writer, I believe that if you sit down at the keys long enough, sooner or later something will come out." -- Ray Blount, Jr.

So you're saying that perseverance is key. That makes sense, but sometimes I get stuck halfway through the story. Any suggestions to help me out then?

"I always stopped when I knew what was going to happen next. That way I could be sure of going on the next day." Ernest Hemingway

That's a great suggestion. I'll have to try it. Any final thoughts?

"The mere habit of writing, of constantly keeping at it, of never giving up, ultimately teaches you how to write." -- Gabriel Fielding

For more on this topic check out the post on Writer's Block at The Librarian Writer.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Nonfiction Monday

Barton explores the creation and use of fluorescent colors -- a topic that is so common place, so taken for granted and so remarkable that it deserves this closer look. In 42 pages, Barton shines a light on the two Switzer's lives and work. Joe died in 1973 and it was Bob's obituary in 1997 that sparked Barton's curiosity. Barton found his answers by turning to Bob's seventy-five page hand-written history, conversations with Switzer family and colleagues, a self-published book by a family friend, US Army records, and even the Popular Science article that sparked Joe's first interest in fluorescence. Persiani was equally inspired -- beginning the book in gray-scale that gradually transforms with color until the final pages shine with day-glo brilliance.

To learn more about fluorescent colors and how fluorescence works click HERE.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Poetry Friday

My selection is "Canyon" written by Eileen Cameron with photographs by Michael Collier.

This book is built on a basic premise: describe how water creates a canyon. That premise evolves into a stunningly crafted combination of free verse and photographs as the author and illustrator follow a simple rivulet to its ultimate destination in the mighty Colorado River.

The powerful forces of water and erosion are mirrored in the language and illuminated in photos that provide intimate closeups and breathtaking aerial shots. The book concludes with a picture index and a map of the region of the Colorado River to identify the photographer's various locations.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Writer's Wednesday

On the editing process...

The ongoing work of editing can be frustrating or downright confusing.

Check out this post at Adventures in Children's Publishing for one writer's take on the process. The post by Lena Coakley titled: Working Through an Agent's Critique Letter.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Nonfiction Monday

Nonfiction Monday is hosted today by The Cat and the Fiddle.

My selection is "Piano Starts Here: the young Art Tatum" written and illustrated by Robert Andrew Parker.

Here is a biography of the great Jazz pianist, Art Tatum, that pushes the nonfiction boundary with its first person voice, much as Tatum, who was nearly blind from birth, pushed the musical boundaries in ways that still challenge modern day pianists.

Parker, who is also a musician, shares his passion for music and has created a blend of text and picture that captures the life of this extraordinary talent and makes it accessible to children and adults. The author adds a personal note about Tatum's influence on his life and the experience of a personal meeting with the legendary Jazz great. Biographical notes and a bibliography are also included.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Poetry Friday

My selection is "Dark Emperor & Other Poems of the Night" written by Joyce Sidman and illustrated by Rick Allen.

Welcome to a night of danger and delight as Sidman explores the plant and animal life that thrive in a nocturnal landscape. This 2011 Newbery Honor book is Sidman at her talented best as she leads the reader through the darkness to discover snail and mushroom, spider and bat and a host of other treasures. The poetry is juxtaposed with insightful commentary to shed a scientific light on her subjects. Rick Allen's linoleum on wood block prints are tinted with delicate color and capture the mood beautifully.

A glossary for less familiar words completes the book.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Writer's Wednesday

Children's Books have a Logic All Their Own

I've been reading the work of several aspiring children's book authors and one of the consistent problems they seem to struggle with is logic in their storytelling or the lack thereof.

The rationale they offer, particularly when they are writing for very young readers, is that these are children's books and are all about imagination. Yes, imagination is important, even essential, but no matter how fanciful or fantastic the imaginary world becomes, it must also be believable and operate logically within its own clearly defined borders.

For more on this topic, you won't want to miss the April 12th post: Don't Ignore Logic When Writing Fiction for Children at Write4Kids.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Nonfiction Monday

My selection is American Boy: the Adventures of Mark Twain written and illustrated by Don Brown.

Beginning with Samuel Clemens' childhood in Hannibal, Missouri, Brown weaves stories of Clemens' youth with their later impact on the writer we know as Mark Twain. This picture book biography shares with readers the most influential highlights: Hannibal, the Mississippi, experiences with Sam's family and friends -- adventures that later found their way into Twain's short stories and novels.

The lively writing, incorporating quotes from Twain, holds the reader's attention while skillfully imparting biographical information. This is a lovely introduction to one of America's most beloved writers.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Poetry Friday

Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted today by Madigan Reads.

My selection is "A Child's Calendar: poems" written by John Updike with illustrations by Trina Schart Hyman.

This collection of twelve poems, one for each month, is a lovely representation of Updike's work. The verse's are written in a child's voice, but bring an artful sophistication to the work that adults will appreciate and children will find understandable. The paintings by Hyman beautifully embody a New Hampshire family's activities.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Writer's Wednesday

I've noticed that many of my recent conversations with other writers have centered on editing questions. When to edit? How to organize the process? And what needs to be reworded or deleted?

If you are struggling with your editing demons take a look at this article: Weight Loss for writers or How I Trim the Ugly Fat from My Manuscripts by Jackie Houchin.

Jackie discusses how she gets an article for a periodical in shape, but the basics of checking word count and word choice are valuable for any type of writing.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Nonfiction Monday

Nonfiction Monday is hosted today by L. L. Owens.

Caravantes provides a thoughtful look at the life of this nineteenth-century author. Dickens' writings are well-known, but how many of his readers understand the depth of personal experience that Dickens drew on for his work?

"Best of Times" examines Dickens' life and relates how both his personal experience and Victorian society influenced his writing. Living with and overcoming poverty is a recurring theme in many of Dickens' works and takes on a greater significance when one considers the author's childhood. At the age of 12, Dickens' father was sent to debtor's prison and Dickens supported his family by working in a factory. Beginning with his troubled childhood, the book chronicles Dickens' life and literary career. A good introduction to Dickens for middle school or high school students.

Quotations, photographs, engravings, a timeline, and additional resources complete the book.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Poetry Friday

My selection is "Winds on the Wind: bird poems" collected and illustrated by Kate Kiesler, an artist living in Colorado, who shares her fascination with birds.

Kiesler has gathered over twenty poems by many well-known poets in this beautifully illustrated anthology. Verses by Carl Sandburg, Edward Lear, Robert Louis Stevenson, Margaret Wise Brown grace pages illuminated with landscapes and close-ups of birds engaged in a variety of avian activities from flight to nesting. Red-winged blackbirds, wild geese, woodpeckers, barn swallows, a pet parakeet, even a pirate's parrot are sources of inspiration and delight.

The Gingerbread Cowboy Book Trailer