Monday, February 28, 2011

Nonfiction Monday

Nonfiction Monday is hosted today by Rasco From RIF.

Children will enjoy this lively look at some familiar items and foods. Harper fills each double page spread with quirky illustrations to complement the creative rhyming text as she playfully relates the creation of piggy banks, marbles, chewing gum, animal cookies, doughnuts and wheelbarrows to name a few. Each entry also includes a short collection of facts about the inventor and invention.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Poetry Friday

My selection for today is Caroline Kennedy's "A Family of Poems: My Favorite Poetry For Children" illustrated by Jon J. Muth. Kennedy has collected over one hundred personal favorites...classic poems both traditional and contemporary and some entertaining and thoughtful surprises. The anthology is organized in sections: About Me, Animals, Seasons, and Bedtime to name a few.

Robert Frost, Walt Whitman, T.S. Eliot, William Shakespeare, and Carl Sandburg share pages with notable children's poets including Jack Prelutsky, A.A. Milne, Robert Louis Stevenson and Edward Lear. Dylan Thomas is represented, as is Kennedy's mother who is credited with two poems. The volume also contains Psalm 23 and some verses from Ecclesiastes. Muth's glowing watercolors vary in style to perfectly reflect and enhance the shifting moods of the poems. Translated verses appear in their original language at the end which also contains a first-line index.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Nonfiction Monday

My selections is "Nubs: the true story of a mutt, a marine and a miracle" written by Major Brian Dennis, Kirby Larson and Mary Nethery. Marine Major Dennis teams up with Larson and Nethery (who co-wrote Two Bobbies) to tell the heart-warming story Nubs, a mongrel dog and his friendship with Major Dennis during his service in Iraq.

The saga began when Major Dennis and his men were sent to a fort on the Iraq border where Nubs was the leader of a pack of wild dogs. Despite the fact that Major Dennis was gone for long periods of time, Nubs was always present to welcome his friend when he returned from assignments. When Major Dennis was reassigned to a post 70 miles away, Nubs followed --trekking through the freezing desert and arriving half-starved and injured. Unable to keep the dog in a war zone, Major Dennis arranges to have the dog shipped to the United States where they are reunited when he returns home.

Photos, maps, and facsimiles of emails and official documents give the book a very realistic feel for the time and place of the events that took place.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Poetry Friday

In honor of National Bird Feeding Month, my selection is "The Cuckoo's Haiku and other birding poems" written by Michael J. Rosen and illustrated by Stan Fellows.

Beautiful verses are paired with exquisite watercolors in a book styled like a birder's notebook with entries on a lovely variety of birds common to different regions. The majestic Canada Goose, the delicate Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Barred Owl, Great Blue Heron, Mockingbird, and Wild Turkey are only a few of the feathered creatures high-lighted. Each double page spread is graced by Rosen's insightful verse and hand-written birder's notes describing the bird, its habits, and calls. Fellows' glowing illustrations portray each bird in its natural setting strengthening the impression that the paintings were done in field.

"Above gold jonquils / feeding finches stacked like coins / April's alchemy" -- is Rosen's lyrical portrayal of the Goldfinch. Fellows clusters the brilliant yellow birds on a feeder. Rosen's End Notes add that: Some people call them "wild canaries" because their yellow is as intense as a tropical canary's.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Writer's Wednesday

On the subject of copyright and the Internet...

Check out this OP-ED piece from the NY Times: Would the Bard Have Survived the Web?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Nonfiction Monday

The names of these 12 conservationists may not be familiar, but they are making a difference in their communities from Alaska to Mexico City. Maps and photographs highlight the work of teens and adults as they tackle environmental and social issues on a local level: safe disposal of technological waste, mining, alternative energy, pollution and recycling to name a few. The book concludes with suggestions about how readers can get involved in their communities.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Poetry Friday

My offering is "All The Wild Wonders: poems of our Earth" edited by Wendy Cooling and illustrated by Piet Grobler.

Selections from poets past and present speak to the endangered beauty of the natural world. The selections are as diverse in style and voice as the writers are varied: Poet Laureate Alfred Tennyson to Ogden Nash, English Romantic Poet William Blake to Rasta Performance Poet Benjamin Zephaniah or Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve whose work is influenced by her Sioux heritage. Russian, Jamaican and Turkish Poets, to name only a few, share the stage with English and American writers.

Cooling skillfully weaves the works together in a celebration of nature that is also a cautionary tale. Grobler's watercolors in a folk art style are a perfect accent for the text.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Writer's Wednesday

"Characters take on life sometimes by luck, but I suspect it is when you can write more entirely out of yourself, inside the skin, heart, mind, and soul of a person who is not yourself, that a character becomes in his own right another human being on the page." Eudora Welty.

As writers, we hope our characters come on stage fully-formed. But sadly that isn't always the case. Many characters begin as stick-figures with the merest notion of who they are. Ultimately, they must be both universal enough to appeal to a wide audience and personal enough to be identified with by individual readers.

Writers use a variety strategies for exploring characters. Visualization through the use of photographs clipped from magazines or creating character sketches with everything from favorite breakfast foods to genealogical trees are employed. If you are interested in developing a character chart, you'll find a interesting example here. The method of choice is whatever works for you.

Remember that you have to put some flesh on that stick figure and answer the big question of "Why?" Why does the character respond, behave, or speak in a particular manner. The answer must come from within the character rather from the demands of the plot if the character is going to be believable.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Nonfiction Monday

  • This Scientist in the Field book describes the work of naturalists and volunteers as they work to restore the tall-grass prairie that once existed across the Midwest. The eight thousand acre Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge in Iowa was set aside for the creation of this unique and diverse ecosystem.

  • Excellent photography captures the prairie's beauty and documents the work of scientists and community activists as they work to restore the plants and animals once native to the heartland of America.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Poetry Friday

Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted today by Dori Reads.

My selection is Blues Journey written by Walter Dean Myers and illustrated by Christopher Myers.

Haunting and beautiful only begins to describe the Blues-inspired verse and poignant illustrations of this father/son collaboration. This isn't a book one can browse through and forget. The emotion evoked by the music of the words and images will stay with the reader long after the pages have been turned. An introduction offers some very necessary background to acquaint the reader with the history of the Blues and explains the rhyme scheme. A glossary provides insight into the symbolism.

Blues Journey is a picture book for older readers with sophisticated layers of meaning to be experienced and explored in the text and pictures.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Writer's Wednesday

Whether it's a 32 page picture book or a 500 page novel, rewriting is the key to getting your work in top notch shape and ready to submit.

As anxious as we all are to get our book out there, it's an exercise in futility if there are flaws. Potential publishers, editors and agents are looking for books that are as close to perfect in concept and execution as possible.

Check out this excellent post on Rewriting Your Manuscript at The Writing Nut.

The Gingerbread Cowboy Book Trailer