Monday, April 29, 2013

Nonfiction Monday is hosted today by Stacking Books.

For Nonfiction Monday --  "Biomimicry" written by Dora Lee and illustrated by Margot Thompson.

Biomimicry is defined in the dictionary as: the mimicking of life using imitation biological systems.

Lee explains that "Biomimicry is a way of thinking that encourages scientists, inventors and ordinary people to study nature and use its solutions to solve our problems."  She encourages readers to consider all the ways we've already begun this process.  Airplanes? Birds flew first.  Sonar? Bats beat us to that one.  Velcro? Thank the cockleburs that inspired George de Mestral.

Lee takes the discussion to another level by looking at developing or future uses such as competition swimwear modeled on sharkskin, a Zimbabwe building with air conditioning modeled after the efficient cooling of a termite mound, self cleaning painting inspired by the lotus flower, and NASA's seed-wing flyer for off-planet exploration.

Thompson's illustrations are richly colored glimpses of the natural world under discussion.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Writers Wednesday

Contemplating rejection -- something every writer must face, come to terms with and then keep on writing.

I recently found a post at Gotham Writers Workshop on this very topic.  I'm sharing a few excerpts from the post.

If misery loves company, consider the struggles of these authors.

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell – 38 rejections

Louis L’Amour, author of over 100 western novels – over 300 rejections before publishing his first book

John Creasy, author of 564 mystery novels – 743 rejections before publishing his first book

The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter – rejected so universally the author decided to self-publish the book

From rejection slip for Norman MacLean’s A River Runs Through It:
“These stories have trees in them.”

From rejection slip for article sent to the San Francisco Examiner to Rudyard Kipling:
  “I'm sorry, Mr. Kipling, but you just don't know how to use the English language."

And my favorite --

Rejection from a Chinese economic journal:
  “We have read your manuscript with boundless delight. If we were to publish your paper, it would be impossible for us to publish any work of lower standard. And as it is unthinkable that in the next thousand years we shall see its equal, we are, to our regret, compelled to return your divine composition, and to beg you a thousand times to overlook our short sight and timidity.”

To read the complete post, click HERE.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Nonfiction Monday

Nonfiction Monday is hosted today by A Mom's Spare Time.
My selection is "Almost Astronauts: 13 women who dared to dream" written by Tanya Lee Stone.

            "It was 1961 when they ("the Mercury 13") took their shot at being astronauts.  Back then, women weren't allowed to rent a car or take out a loan from the bank without a man's signature; they could not play on a professional sports team at all.  They  couldn't report the news on television or run in a city marathon or serve as police officers.  They weren't allowed to fly jets, either.  And these are just some of the bigger examples.
            None of that kept these women from trying to be astronauts.  They were too determined.  Every single one of them shared a common dream from the time they were little girls; they were all born to fly."

Stone tells the story of these women with the same passion they must have felt as they challenged the government, the stereotypes, and the conventions of their times in their quest to be accepted into NASA's astronaut program.  None of them made it into space but their fierce drive and determination proved they could pass every test given their male counterparts and paved the way for Lieutenant Colonel Eileen Collin to command the space shuttle in 1999.

Stone highlights these accomplished women and their contribution to aviation.  One such woman was Jerrie Cobb, who at twenty-eight "had already logged more than 7,000 hours in the air -- far more than John Glenn's 5,000 hours and Scott Carpenter's 2,900 hours" and became the first woman to undergo the arduous physical, medical and psychological testing given to male astronaut candidates.

Stone illustrates the text with a wealth of photographs and includes author note, appendix, print and web bibliography, sources and source notes.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Nonfiction Monday

Nonfiction Monday is hosted today by NC Teacher Stuff.

For Nonfiction Monday --  "Alex the parrot no ordinary bird" written by Stephanie Spinner and illustrated by Meilo So.

 The story of this remarkable African Grey parrot begins in 1977 when he was purchased in a pet store by Irene Pepperberg for her research into animal intelligence and communication.  Named Alex for Avian Learning Experiment, the parrot would one day change many scientist's perceptions and beliefs that centered on the idea that the larger the brain the smarter the animal.  Over the next thirty years, Pepperberg taught Alex over 100 words that Alex learned to combine into meaningful phrases he could use to communicate.  He also learned to count, and recognize colors, shapes, and materials -- demonstrating the cognitive abilities of a four to five year old child. 

Spinner's text is thoughtfully organized into short chapters that explain Pepperberg's study, demonstrate her deep affection and respect for Alex, and highlight his engaging personality.  Spinner goes on to relate Pepperberg's work to the broader scope of Animal Communication Research such as that conducted with dolphins and Koko the gorilla.

So's colorful tropic-inspired illustrations keep Alex front and center and capture his personality.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Poetry Friday

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Random Noodling.

For Poetry Friday -- "Rhyme & punishment: adventures in wordplay" by Brian P. Cleary; illustrated by J.P. Sandy.

Cleary begins his book with an introduction that is well worth reading.  Informative and easy to follow it includes topics such as "What's a pun?" and simple answers, " A verbal joke using words that can be heard or understood in two different ways."  Cleary reminds readers that knock knock jokes make use of puns. He continues with suggestions about how to decode a pun by considering the context of the sentence or saying the word out loud to help identify similar words or phrases.  Cleary also provides examples that include colorful highlighting of the words that make the pun work as in these examples:

Seven days without ice cream makes one weakJamaica sandwich?

There's additional help at the bottom of the page with definitions of unfamiliar words to help put the pun in context.

The  section titled Music includes this little gem:

My buddy Bert likes Haydn things--

he's sometimes hard to Handel.

I said, "Give me Bach my Schubert,"

'cause I knew he hid my sandal.

As Cleary says, "Let the Pun-ishment begin..."  Groan!

Sandy's cartoon style illustrations provide their own brand of silliness.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Nonfiction Monday

Nonfiction Monday is hosted today by A Wrung Sponge.

For Nonfiction Monday --  "ABC's of Baseball" by Peter Golenbock with pictures by Dan Andreasen.

Golenbock provides young fans and players with a delightful collection of baseball jargon -- hot corner, southpaw, around the horn, fielder's choice paired with experiences from America's favorite pastime.  Organized alphabetically, the multiple words and phrases for each letter are defined in short clear sentences to explain the job of a pinch hitter, how and why a player's number is retired, and give readers a sense of "joy: what  you feel watching the game."

An additional section at the end of the book includes topics such as statistics, teams, and awards.

Andreasen’s illustrations capture the action while creating a happy, nostalgic feel through the inclusion of such favorites as baseball cards and Cracker Jack.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Poetry Friday

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Robyn Hood Black.

For Poetry Friday -- "Insectlopedia: poems and paintings" by Douglas Florian.

An early morning walk in my garden inspired this selection.  Florian has assembled a diverse collection of 21 insects to highlight: caterpillar, dragonfly,  daddy longlegs, and cricket are found here.  Some, like the butterfly will delight and others -- the mosquitoes and ticks may give you the shivers as Florian points out what we love or loath with light-hearted verses in an enticing variety of forms.

The Daddy Longlegs

O Daddy
Daddy O

How'd you get
Those legs to grow

So very long
And lean in size?

From spiderobic

 The watercolor illustrations continue the silliness and round out a book full of fun. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Writers Wednesday

I don't agree with every word, but there is definitely some very solid, thought-provoking material to consider.
For example, I was struck by a small paragraph (only four sentences) near the center of the article that stated:
Consume writing voraciously, and you will absorb writing skills by osmosis. You will come to appreciate an unexpected word or turn of phrase. You'll intuitively develop awareness of what makes a story arc engaging or a character tantalizing. Above all, you'll cultivate your capacity to dream and imagine."
I'm not sure that writing skills are acquired by osmosis, but I sincerely agree that being a voracious reader will help you develop an ear for prose and an appreciation for the many ways in which words and sentences are strung together to achieve a variety of voices and tones that can make prose lyrical, powerful, sinister or beautiful. Likewise, while you may very well be intuitively drawn to tantalizing characters and those engaging moments in a story arc, it may take some deliberate study to actually identify why the story arc works or the character is so enticing. 
As with any advice -- pull out the suggestions that ring true for you and your particular writing situation and don't worry if there are bits that don't seem to apply.  You never know -- a week, a month or a year from now you may find yourself revisiting those suggestions you passed on because your journey as a writer has led you to a new place where those bits you left behind have suddenly become relevant.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Nonfiction Monday

Nonfiction Monday is hosted today by Wendie'sWanderings.

For Nonfiction Monday --  "Barbarians!" written by Steven Kroll and illustrated by Robert Byrd.

Goths, Huns, Vikings, and Mongols were labeled "Barbarians" by their enemies, but what is known about them other than their warlike behavior?  Kroll delves into their culture and examines religious beliefs, everyday life, historic migrations and the men who led them in war and peace to create context for young readers interested in the history of these people.  In the process, he provides insight into how these four groups changed and were changed by the civilizations they encountered or conquered.

Byrd's illustrations are rich in detail -- dynamic battle scenes, the struggle of daily life, and impact of religion both pagan and Christian -- to name a few of the topics.  A colorful timeline and maps locate readers in time and space.  Sidebars highlight specific facts such as the development of the written Goth alphabet, ice skating using the bones of animals for skate blades, and jewelry.

The Gingerbread Cowboy Book Trailer