Sunday, October 31, 2010

Treats and Tricks: the October Carnival of Children's Literature

It's Halloween night. It's COLD outside here. The wind is swirling the dried leaves and has sent us indoors the moment our trick-or-treating was finished. So now that we all have our loot, what are we going to do? Enjoy the October edition of The Carnival of Children's Literature, of course. This month there are treats for everyone, and perhaps a few tricks as well. So grab your candy and let's begin.

Book Recommendations and Reviews

Tanya Turek at Books4Your Kids says "Two powerhouses of picture books, married for over 40 years and creating books for even longer, have finally combined their talents on an amazing, gorgeous, essential book. Check out Tanya's review of There's Going to Be a Baby, written by John Burningham and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury.

Need to get your little ones to bed after all the excitement of the day? This one's for you. Rachel presents some of her favorite bedtime children's stories in B is for Bedtime… I love books for preschoolers! posted at Quirky Momma: Fun Learning Activities for Preschoolers and Kids.

Over at Read Aloud ... Dad you'll find children's book reviews and read aloud impressions from a dad and his twins. They review what they read aloud and recommend whether you should Buy, Loan or Pass on the books. See what they say about Today's read aloud: The gruffalo. And what would Halloween be without at least one monster anyway?

Kids need great poetry; poetry that catches them up in its rhythm and helps them see the world through fresh eyes. But finding it isn't easy. So says Susan Stephenson, the Book Chook, and that's why she's so excited about A Ute Picnic and Other Australian Poems, written by Lorraine Marwood and published by Walker Books (2010).

Dona presents The Duck Song, by Bryant Oden at Allergy Kid Mom. And be sure to check out the trick which comes in the form of a clever song. It will leave you chuckling for sure.

Margo Tanenbaum asks that we please don't call Laurie Halse Anderson's new novel historical fiction--she prefers the term historical thriller, which is perfect to describe her new novel Forge, sequel to Chains. It's a real page-turner and made Margo at The Fourth Musketeer gasp aloud at some of the twists in the plot! Don't miss A Historical Thriller: Forge, by Laurie Halse Anderson (Atheneum Books, 2010).

Think you saw some ghosts tonight? Then you definitely want to see this. Mary Elizabeth of A Novel Idea reviews The Seer of Shadows at Book Review Revisited :: The Seer of Shadows by Avi.

Jen Robinson has a treat for you with a review of Cynthia Lord's newest middle grade novel, Touch Blue, which she adored, and wants to share with everyone. Don't miss Jen Robinson's post Touch Blue: Cynthia Lord over at Jen Robinson's Book Page.

Melwyk says "This is from a few months ago, but I loved this book so much -- touching without being sentimental, funny and serious as well. It's rare to see children's books available in translation, so I am glad that Groundwood decided to publish this book, originally in Dutch. A great find." Melwyk shares Against the Odds at The Indextrious Reader.

Ready for a few more reviews? melissa @ 1lbr presents Book Review: The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan posted at One Librarian's Book Reviews and Aaron Mead features Teen Fiction: Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins posted at Children's Books and Reviews. Lori Calabrese reviews the frightfully fun "Halloween Night" by Marjorie Dennis Murray at Lori Calabrese Writes!

While The Quiet Book is getting a lot of deservedly high praise, Jeff says don't overlook another Deborah Underwood 2010 title by the name of A Balloon for Isabel. You can't go wrong with porcupines, bubble wrap, and balloons! Jeff reviews A Balloon for Isabel at NC Teacher Stuff.

Tammy Flanders highlights Voices from India at Apples With Many Seeds because, as she says, in teaching about cultures, it's important to find authentic voices in the narratives. Tammy has focused this post on books written, illustrated and published in India to provide that authenticity.




Feel up to visiting with vampires? Danielle Smith presents Book Review and Giveaway: A Vampire Is Coming To Dinner by Pamela Jane at There's A Book.

After that, you might be ready for some thought provoking questions. Roberta Gibson at Wrapped in Foil certainly is. She features a look at the book I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced, which is touted as a young adult book and is sure to generate discussion.

Nothing but good stuff here. Callie Feyen was honored to review No English by Jacqueline Jules this month on her blog Sit a While. It's a touching story of how two girls who speak different languages become friends. 



How about an exciting adventure featuring Japanese supernatural demons – yokai – and a young girl’s fight to protect her younger brother? Mary Ann Scheuer presents Takeshita Demons, by Cristy Burne -- exciting fantasy with Japanese mythology (ages 9 - 12) posted at Great Kid Books.

Alex Baugh features Sweethearts of Rhythm. The Story of the Greatest All-Girl Swing Band in the World by Marilyn Nelson, Illustrated by Jerry Pinkney posted at The Children's War and states "This a wonderful picture book written from the point of view of the instruments played by the all girl swing band the Sweethearts of Rhythm during World War II. It is definitely worth reading to discover this little known group of talented women and their accomplishments."

And you definitely can't miss a reader's response to a vampire book that wants to be more than a teen slacker story. Gail Gauthier presents A Vampire Book For Teens Who Want To Think posted at Original Content.

Other Great Book Stuff




Ready for some book related news and discussions? First, find out about a recent charitable event in which Canadian authors helped refurbish a desperately underfunded school library in inner city LA. More than 5000 books, and 4 murals later....a library is born! Helaine Becker tells you all about it in A Library Is Born posted at Track & Display Changes: A Writer's Blog.





Kate Coombs gives you an analysis of trends in MG SFF as reflected in this year's Cybils nominees at From Harry to Scary: Trends in MG Sci-Fi/Fantasy posted at Book Aunt. And what do teens think? Jon Bard presents some of their views in The YA View: What We Like in Our Books (and What We Don’t) over at Write4Kids!.

Want to bring reading and puzzles together? Puzzles can also be a reading material for Amanda Hartman in Puzzles are Fun to Read posted at The Literary Family, a blog that aims to help adults connect with kids in their lives.

Eva Mitnick muses about sisters in children's and YA books in A Chompo bar for my sister posted at Eva's Book Addiction. Aline Pereira presents Children's Literature from India and the Indian diaspora posted at PaperTigers Blog.

Barbara Krasner hosts A History of Jewish Children's Literature-Part Four posted at The Whole Megillah. It's the fourth in a series adapted from a talk by Lisa Silverman, Library Director at the Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, given at the May 2010 Highlights Foundation workshop, "Writing Jewish-themed Children's Books."

October marks the "Death of the Picture Book" brouhaha for Pam W Coughlan, and so she wants to highlight her rebuttal. You can't miss Picture Books Aren’t in Trouble Just Because the NYT Says So posted at MotherReader.

Does October mark a different milestone for you and your child? Some might say this particular milestone is a very scary one. To help you out, Rebecca Reid covers Children’s Corner: Potty Training Books From Diapers to Success, Age 2 to Age 3 at Rebecca Reads.

And who celebrated a birthday this month? Eric Van Raepenbusch of Happy Birthday Author wants you to know about Happy Birthday Nancy Carlson - October 10.

Creative Endeavours and Congratulations

How about some congratulations for new creations? Alessandro Vene presents The Timmy Rabbit House at Allie's Blog. And Deborah Freedman has a creative take on why she isn't blogging in the entry titled In which I am harassed for not posting?... at writes with pictures.

You Can't Wear These Genes is about the basic building blocks of what makes us and how the traits that appear in us are passed down from parent to child. It's Shirley Duke's first science book, and the post You Can't Wear These Genes at SimplyScience Blog includes an activity for use in the classroom, library, or home.

Author Lynn Hazen, blogs at Imaginary Blog about how her YA novel, Shifty, was chosen by Napa County Reads, a collaboration of the Napa County Board of Education, the five school districts, the Napa County Library, Napa Valley College, and the Arts Council of Napa County in the entry More Napa Reads Shifty-Themed Planter Boxes. Student and professional artists created Shifty-themed planter boxes inspired by the book. They were auctioned off to support literacy at a special event at the Napa Valley Opera House

And while the video is not specifically about children's/YA lit, it was created by a Cheryl Rainfield, a YA writer, for LGBT youth and anyone who's thinking of suicide--a real issue for many teens. You can view Cheryl Rainfield's It Gets Better video for queer youth and anyone thinking of suicide posted at Cheryl Rainfield.


Interviews

Tonight's the night for hearing things that make you shiver, or seeing things that creep you out. Get your mind off that stuff by reading these interviews. Pat Zietlow Miller features An Author You Should Know: Wendy Delsol, a debut YA author, posted at Read, Write, Repeat. Tarie presents Author Interview: Becky Bravo at Asia in the Heart, World on the Mind.

Anastasia Suen interviews the Jimi Hendrix picture book biographer in Nonfiction Monday: Jimi Sounds Like a Rainbow posted at Picture Book of the Day. Zoe Toft interviews Polish born British illustrator Jan Pienkowski, twice winner of the prestigious Kate Greenaway Medal for illustration in An Interview with Jan PieĊ„kowski at Playing by the book.

D.M. Cunningham presents Trace Beaulieu brings us Silly Rhymes in which Trace Beaulieu, co-creator of Mystery Science Theater 3000, talks about his first book for children at Literary Asylum. And Lizann Flatt finds out what sort of tricks Peggy Collins uses to find the time to write and illustrate with two small children and a number of other distractions in Peggy Collins: Creating Through the Clamour over at The Flatt Perspective.

Publishing/writing tips

And last but definitely not least, to help all authors ensure their submissions to their editors will not send said editor screaming away from their desk, here's a blog entry about all the things author Wendie Old has to remember to include in a nonfiction proposal. And, since it's a picture book bio, she also includes the full ms. Don't miss Wendie Old sharing Into the Mail it goes at Wendie's Wanderings. This is definitely a treat!

And that marks the end of this month's edition of the Carnival of Children's Literature. I hope you've enjoyed the treats and a few of the tricks too. It's been a pleasure to spend this spooky evening with the wealth of material available for fans of Children's Literature. I hope you've enjoyed it too. Thank you!


Submit your blog article to the next edition of carnival of children's literature using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Peggy Collins: Creating Through the Clamour

Feel like there's not enough time in your busy day to be creative? You're not alone. How do authors or illustrators continue to create while tackling everything else in their lives? About once a month as I'll ask a writer or illustrator these types of questions. Cause I want to know (I need all the help I can get in this department).

The Creator
name: Peggy Collins
resides in: a crooked little house beside the Salmon River in Eastern Ontario
website/blog: www.peggysillustration.com
creates: picture books, stories and illustrations




The Creations
Tooter's Stinky Wish (coming in 2011) Fitzhenry and Whiteside
Fatou Fetch the Water, Red Robin Books, 2010
In the Snow, Cider Mill Press/Applesauce Press, 2009
In the Garden, Cider Mill Press/Applesauce Press, 2009
Shaun the Shay Shark, Red Robin Books, 2009

The Clamour
work: Loyalist College, though right now I am on maternity leave. I work in the Marketing Department as well as teaching design and hopefully illustration.

family: I am a mom to 2 kids: a boy who is 5 and a baby girl who is 7 months. I am also a wife to a contractor so life is very busy.

volunteer work: I volunteer for the PBAA doing marketing (though this last little while I've been terrible), I also work for the Green Party, our local OEYC (early years centre) and when I can I volunteer at my son's school (for book fairs and stuff).

house work: Sucks, I wish I had a live-in maid. I am not a housekeeper at all. I do my best, but when I have a deadline the house suffers. Cloth diapers = much more laundry.

the internet: Wasn't really a problem until recently. I was on dial-up so that pretty much prevented me from doing anything fun at all. Blogging takes up time, as do Twitter and Facebook -- and keeping the website up to date is tricky too... I need a few clones to do that stuff.


How did you get started illustrating?
Well, I've always wanted to do this, that has never changed. My family are all artists in one way or another, and my dad is a great storyteller. My mom used to make books for us (similar to the Alexander books by Judith V.) I went to Sheridan College for illustration. I was lucky and had a man walk into my office and notice a picture I had hanging up -- from that I got an amazing illustration job and I have not looked back since.


What's the hardest aspect for you in terms of being creative, finding the time, the space, the focus, or something else?

Time is the issue, as is space. We are 4 people living in a tiny house. My 'studio' is actually the corner of our living room. I am surrounded by toys and fishing tackle -- lol. I use my kids' train table to lay out my work. I won't/can't work (other than checking my email) while my kids are up. There isn't enough time when they are little to enjoy everything and I am not going to waste it by being distracted all the time. SO my workday typically will start at 8pm and during nap time on school days.

Do any of the distractions end up feeding your creativity?
Hmm, right now I have the jumparoo set up beside my desk and my 7-month-old daughter is jumping furiously beside me -- happily. She makes me laugh.

My kids are a major source of distraction, but one I definitely feed off of. The two books I have authored so far stem from this -- adventures with my son. And the ones I am working on right now do as well -- from direct conversations with Mo and his friends. I think there is inspiration everywhere especially when you have kids. They have ways of looking at things that are so refreshing and truthful. They are also amazing critics.


What are you working on these days?
Fleshing out a few of my own projects, and I will be doing a lovely book for Fitzhenry and Whiteside and a fun book about dinosaurs.


How do you minimize your distractions while you're working?
I cannot minimize the distractions. I guess I am lucky in that I kind of need distractions in order to focus. I tried setting my studio up in a separate room, but I HATED it. Not only did I not get to see my husband, but it seems I need something to tune out to get anything done. I think it comes from growing up in a busy house, having lots of roommates in college and just a desire to be with other people. I tend to work at night, after the kids have gone to bed, or during nap time.



For me, ideas culminate long before I ever get them onto paper so by the time I write it down it is pretty realized... the dishes and household chores are not something I take pleasure in, but I get my kids to help and we really just do the bare minimum when I have a deadline. I save the deep cleaning for when I have some time.

Are there times when you just can't focus on your writing/illustrating and if so how do you cope with them?
In the last few months of pregnancy, and the first few months after the birth of my 2nd. When my kids are sick, when my house is an over-the-top disaster or when I am marking assignments. I trudge through the stuff that needs to be done, knowing the other will always be there. You just do what you have to do. Sometimes I have a deadline and I just can't get into it. That is when it seems like WORK and so I pick the easy stuff, and then the rest falls into place. Taking care of a baby leaves a lot of time for thinking as you are cuddling...

Any tips on working faster or more efficiently? 
My revelation came when a fellow illustrator mentioned printing out sketches directly on WC paper. That is a lifesaver and an ENORMOUS time saver. I also now only check my email 3 times a day, which ultimately saves me a tonne of time.

As a creative person, do you have any other outlets for your talents? 
I love to felt. Needle felting is soothing and good for the hands. I like to sew, too though right now it is far too arduous a process. Felting is quick and easy and I can put it down at any point without too much fuss.

Are there any other creative genres you look to for inspiration? 
Hmm, other books. I am an avid, avid reader. I love kids books. I find it interesting to see what my kids in particular gravitate towards. I also love looking online at the work other people are doing: the picture book artists association is a great outlet as is the SCBWI. I also love to attend conferences, and have missed the last few because of circumstance only. I always come away feeling refreshed and inspired - I miss that. Next year maybe I can leave for a day at least!

Why do you keep creating when it's such a challenge?
Because I have to. I love it. It definitely is not for the money or the fame!


You said it! Thanks for taking the time to share, Peggy. Wishing you all the best in your current and future projects. Love that you work surrounded by toys and fishing tackle!


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Of Politics and Poop

So last week I was out driving and I came across a municipal election sign with a toilet seat draped over it. How eloquent!
I laughed so hard I nearly drove off the narrow road.

I couldn't take a picture of that particular sight, much as I wanted to. I felt it wouldn't be fair to the candidate because there was no way to hide the identity of the beseated individual. But now that the election is over and all the signs have disappeared from the landscape, I keep thinking about this incident. It brings to mind a story starting point.

What if a kid saw someone had done that to his or her parent's election sign? Do you want your parent to be mayor? Would this make you angry or make you ready to die of embarrassment? Or what if this happened to a teen's election sign if they were running for high school or class president? Would you get to the bottom (pun intended) of who did it? Would you ignore it? Laugh it off? Stew in silence? Hmmm.

Okay, so you'd have to add a lot more. But it's a start. Go run with it.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Patience and Published in Ladybug Magazine

Ladybug, October 2010
My short story is finally published in Ladybug magazine! October 2010!
Why the word finally up there? Cause I've waited a long time. You know how writers are told you have to have patience in this business? I signed the contract for this story in 2004.

I'm not particularly bothered by that, although it's always nice to see your work in print quickly. But I've been a magazine editor and I know that sometimes editors have to wait for the right issue to slot a piece into in order to ensure that each issue you put together is a pleasing and cohesive whole.

This story, published under the title "Katie Kicks," was inspired by my daughter and her first attempts at playing soccer. She was dressed in her lovely clean white team shirt and black shorts. She held her very own soccer ball proudly. She was looking forward to it. And then we arrived at the field and she wouldn't even set foot on to the small patch of grass they'd set out for her team. She watched her teammates but she was too shy to join in herself. It really affected me. I struggled with feelings of understanding where she was coming from as well as a tinge of embarrassment as a parent that my child wasn't out there like the others. So I went home and jotted down my thoughts about this and it eventually became a short story. From her point of view though, not mine.

Now that it's in print I'm very pleased. I can't wait to see it myself. I've combed the stores looking for the issue but it's nowhere to be found. So I will just have to be patient awhile more while I wait for my authors copies to arrive.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Missing Milkweeds

 So how's this for a bit of irony.

In trying out a camera I figured I'd attempt to get some closeups of the milkweeds at the end of my driveway. I love that plant. It's so full of textures: the plump velvety leaves, the sticky milky sap, the rubbery pink flower clusters of spring; the knobbly green pods, the black-and-orange beetles and monarch caterpillars that snack on it in summer; the soft downy fluff that flies from the dried papery pods in fall. So anyway, I got some okay shots, which you can see here. I figured I could see how they turned out and if they were dreck I could go back later to take some more. So here's where the irony comes in.

It's a good thing I took a picture of those milkweed pods because now they're missing! The photos are all I've got left.

On (Canadian) Thanksgiving Sunday I drove out my driveway only to find a car parked crosswise at the end blocking my exit. Some guy was fingering a small pine tree growing at the side of my driveway and his apparent wife or female companion was bagging up the milkweed pods!

I rolled down my window and asked them what they were doing. Alright it was obvious but I had to ask.

The woman laughed sheepishly and said she was just gathering the milkweeds. Yeah, like I said, that was obvious. I could see she'd gathered quite a few in her bag. I asked her to leave some for us thank you. Meanwhile, the man had gone to his car and moved it so I could get out of my own driveway. I wasn't moving. Not till they left. Nope. Not budging.

The woman continued to gather for a few more moments. I really was astounded. Then she got into their car and drove off. So now I hardly have any milkweeds left AT ALL! Like, maybe two or three pods (not plants) at the most. These ones in the photos? GONE!

I wouldn't have minded so much if she'd only taken a few and then driven on down the road and taken a few from another patch and so on and so on leaving no patch destitute. But she pretty much cleaned me out. So now while we wait for the school bus we have no ghostly patches of down to filter the rising morning sun, no fluffy parachutes to launch into the sky. Milkweeds were kind of a fall ritual for me and my kids.

Okay, rant over and now I feel better. It's a minor thing, I know. But sometimes it's the little things in life that get to you, you know? Little things—at once both little and hugely important. And it's the little things a writer adds to a character or to a setting that make for the best stories, I think. So go, and may you sow the seeds of your own milkweeds in your manuscripts.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Poor Pine

Fall is such a spectacular time of year around here. You can't ignore the colour of the deciduous trees, and every warm day is like a gift as we count down to the coming constant cold of winter. I climbed the Dorset fire tower with my family this past Thanksgiving weekend. How can you not love a view like this?

(Dorset, Ontario at the Fire Tower)
The colour is past its peak but it's still a spectacular view. I usually focus on the colourful trees, but consider the plight of the pine. The poor pine gets overlooked this time of year. But what would the view be without the deep pine green to punctuate the colour? Maybe you've heard that pine trees don't lose their leaves? It's one of those "facts" that gets tossed around, but don't you believe it. It's not true.


Pine trees do lose their leaves, or rather their needles. It's just that most types don't lose them all at the same time so it's not as noticeable (but take the tamarack--it does lose its needles all at once). No spectacular reds or oranges on a pine to make for great pictures. Pine needles turn yellowish and then brown. You might not even really notice those needles.


Then the needles fall off the tree and collect on the ground. They don't make a satisfying crunch when you walk on them, but they do form a cushy carpet.


And if you want a lawn anywhere near a pine, you know the needles make as much of a mess when you rake them. So here's to the poor maligned pine, holding out for its moment to shine--the Holidays.

In the meantime, happy Fall to all!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Carnival is Coming!

I'm happy to say I'll be hosting the Carnival of Children's Literature for October. Yes, a roundup of a month's worth of children's literature links from around the blogosphere--here! You don't want to miss it. Judging by the links to blog posts that are already starting to trickle in, this is going to be a lot of fun to put together and even more fun for you to read.

So be sure to stop in around October 30 or 31st for some spooktacular reading!