Writer Friends

Emidio_AngeloMutual admiration, mutual criticism, mutual support —  I’m my writer friends’ biggest fan.

emidio angelo-kid stuffThese framed cartoons in Penn Wynne Library, my home away from home which was recently renovated, were created by Emidio Angelo for Penn Wynne’s last renovation in 1989. Angelo (1903-1990) was a cartoonist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, and the two Victorian women pictured here are Emily and Mabel, the stars of his 1950s syndicated strip.

 

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Writer’s Rule #147

Everything's Better With Dragons

Podcast on Lu and Bean Read

I’m excited to be on the Lu and Bean Read podcast today. Thanks to Tracy and Lu for the interview, and to Eloise for insisting that they host me. Eloise built her own meteorology station just like Mira! So happy to hear that she was inspired.

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The Fluidity of History: On Middle Grade Historical Fiction

All fiction that speaks the truth is historical.When I was in eighth grade, my school district determined that girls and boys would study the exact same curriculum. This was progress.

In sixth and seventh grade, we girls had taken Home Economics while the boys had Industrial Arts. In eighth grade, however, we would rotate to take both subjects, one half year in each one in mixed gender groups.

I had Home Ec first. I remember making the first Caesar salad I ever ate. The recipe called for canned tuna instead of anchovies. It wasn’t authentic, but still delicious. I also remember a male classmate telling the teacher that really good cooks don’t need recipes. (We call that “mansplaining” now.)

The Industrial Arts teacher had an even worse adjustment than the Home Ec did. He took his eyes off what he was doing when a girl student called out to him, her unaccustomed high girly voice carrying across the class. He looked up, and he cut off three fingers on a circular saw. It was a memorable day for everyone. (We call that “being a distraction” now.)

Thus when I finally took my first shop class, my teacher was an experienced substitute who had been called out of retirement while the injured shop teacher healed.

Mr. Legg was a taciturn sort, and he had lived through a lot that was far worse than the unfamiliar presence of 13-year-old girls in his classroom. He bore an Auschwitz tattoo on his forearm. He wouldn’t talk about it, but he didn’t hide it. I think he wanted you to know it was there.

The Holocaust seemed so distant in 1983, but Mr. Legg had survived it.

Now I realize how close it was — the liberation of Auschwitz had happened just 38 years earlier.

I’m sure middle-school students now also think the Holocaust is ancient history. It’s not.

I’m sure that the softer bigotry the required different classes for boys and girls seems distant as well. It was just 33 years ago — history to current middle graders.

Antisemitism, sexism, and bigotry of all kind are not in the past. Racism didn’t end with slavery — it continues. Antisemitism and misogyny are resurgent, reactionary convulsions in the face of other progress. Genocide, religious, gender, and racial violence continue on the evening news, in Mosul, Ferguson, and Orlando.

It can be difficult for middle-grade writers to look at current events and culture with the clear eyes reserved for hindsight. History moves — current events slide into the past as we write about them. Distant events emerge as relevant.

But as middle-grade writers, we have an opportunity to make past and present real and vivid. That’s what historical fiction is for, even with the humbling fact that our own childhoods are now the realm of historical fiction. It’s also what contemporary fiction is for, turning the writer’s lens to the present.

We’re living in history, past and present. All fiction that speaks truth is historical, all is contemporary.

Originally posted on Project Mayhem

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Favorite Children’s Books of 2016

Today I’m posted as part of a blog party hosted by the wonderful Eileen Manes, a picture book writer who blogs at Pickle Corn Jam. Ten of us are writing about one of our favorite books of the year — here’s mine! At the bottom the post, you’ll find links to the other blogs.

One of my favorite books when my children were small was City Animals by Simms Taback. I had always wondered about early childhood’s obsession with farms. Why is it necessary for babies to know that cows moo and pigs oink? Most of them won’t encounter these animals in everyday life. Why is this somewhat anachronistic knowledge is among the very first things we impart?

That’s why I loved Taback’s lift-the-flap book. After three clues, these animals revealed itself. I’m a PIGEON! I’m a SQUIRREL! I’m a MOUSE!  These were the animals that my inner-ring-suburban children were likely to encounter (they encountered the mice with far more delight than I did).

This year’s City Shapes, written by Diana Murray and illustrated by Bryan Collier (Little, Brown. June 2016) does the same reimagining to the classic shape book that Taback did for animals, and it elevates it. Shapes can be well, two-dimensional, but this book is anything but.

The young girl in City Shapes encounters CIRCLES, SQUARES, and TRIANGLES in her own city neighborhood in Murray’s flawless rhyme and Collier’s gorgeous realistic watercolor and collage illustrations. These shapes move and live, and these words are vivid and playful.

I love the specificity and sense of place here,  I’d like to see similar journeys in more diverse, real places with other children.

But in the meantime, there’s even a pigeon!

“the pigeon flies back through the night cityscape/as city lights sparkle, SHAPE after SHAPE./But her heart starts to ache for the SHAPE/she loves best./The SHAPE that is home—/her warm CIRCLE nest….”

And now for the other writers and their picks for favorite children’s books in 2016:

Ready for the rest of our 2016 recommendations? Just follow the links! 

 

 

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Seven Picture Book Writers on Barnes & Noble Kids Open Mic

Today on BN Kids blog, I share a story on their Open Mic, along with six other kidlit writers.

7 Awesome Picture Book Authors Share Their Personal Stories

 

New Review Roundup, Featuring Mira, Em, and Ada Twist, Scientist

Mira Forecasts the Future has had a flurry of new reviews, especially from the UK, including a great review from BookTrust, which promotes literacy and reading among children and awards the Bailey Women’s Prize for fiction, and a three-book review featuring the wonderful Ada Twist, Scientist and The Way to Outer Space.

Here’s a roundup.

“This deceptively simple picture book not only gives youngsters a basic introduction to understanding how weather works, but also celebrates individual difference and talents – and shows how failure can be something positive if it is used as a learning experience.” – BookTrust (UK)

“…a heartwarming story. A lovely book to sit and read to your children and a great stepping stone into the world of science. ” – Chantelle Hazelden, Mama Mummy Mum

“One of our absolutely favourite reads from over the summer was Mira Forecasts the Future … Little Miss loved it so much I didn’t complain when she asked for it two or three times … a great structured story” – Amy Marie, Cocktails in Teacups

“Meet Ada Twist, Scientist, Mira, and Em”: Three new picture books featuring diverse science girls – Jill R. Bennett, Red Reading Hub, on Ada Twist, Scientist, and The Way to Outer Space

Science Girls, The Way to Outer Space, Ada Twist, Scientist, and Mira Forecasts the Future

Hooray for science girls, including The Way to Outer Space, Ada Twist, Scientist, and Mira Forecasts the Future

 

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Story Time Near You on Saturday!

 

MIRA FORECASTS THE FUTURE (illustrated by Lissy Marlin) and THE BOT THAT SCOTT BUILT (by Kim Norman, illustrated by Agnese Beruzzi) will be read to kids at B&N stores nationwide on August 20.

Find an event near you at Barnes & Noble, or select your store and the date to find a story time with Mira and Scott.

Summer Is What You Make: Resources and a Review

Summer is what you make. Mira Forecasts the FutureSummertime can be a time for academic slide or for exploration of all kinds of new and favorite interests. Summer is what you make it — and it’s also what you make.

Download Mira’s activity kit for your kids with games and activities — include make-your
-own-pinwheel.

Watch a video review from the Awesome Annie Show to see how she (and her mom) are inspired by Mira Forecasts the Future.

MIRA Will Be B&N National Story Time

I wish I could visit Barnes & Nobles across the country, but Mira actually can! I’m excited to reveal that MIRA FORECASTS THE FUTURE will be a Barnes & Noble National Story Time on August 20. Mira Forecasts the Future National Story Time

Every Saturday at 11 am, Barnes & Noble hosts a story time for kids with the picture book or book of the week. MIRA FORECASTS THE FUTURE (illustrated by Lissy Marlin) and THE BOT THAT SCOTT BUILT (by Kim Norman, illustrated by Agnese Beruzzi) will be read to kids at B&N stores nationwide on August 20.

Find an event near you at Barnes & Noble, or select your store and the date to find a story time with Mira and Scott.

 

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