|Friends With a Different Kind of Benefit (34)
||[Mar. 14th, 2014|11:27 am]
BETTER OFF FRIENDS by Elizabeth Eulberg
Macallan and Levi have been best friends since they met in seventh grade and shared a love of the same goofy British comedy; now in high school, they each try to have relationships with other people though everyone assumes they are a couple...are they better off as just friends, or should they try for more? The deep friendships between Macallan and Levi's whole families were sweet and envy-worthy, and made an enjoyable ride to the inevitable ending. The couple's chemistry is well done, and the pages of this novel breeze by. A realistic look at the age-old question: can best friends remain just friends if there is the potential for something more? (Scholastic Point, 2014)
|Reread #11 The Testing (2013)
||[Mar. 14th, 2014|09:30 am]
The Testing. Joelle Charbonneau. 2013. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 344 pages. [Source: Review Copy]
I had not planned to reread The Testing in anticipation of reading Independent Study. But as I opened the pages of Independent Study, I felt it only fair to begin at the beginning, to go back and experience it in full, to refresh my memory so that I would be more likely to fall in love with this second book. I am very thankful I chose to spend the time with The Testing. It was interesting to see what I remembered and what I had forgotten. It was interesting to see if the same scenes still stood out to me.
For those that enjoy dystopia, I would definitely recommend The Testing. I liked Cia Vale, our heroine. I liked the brief introduction to the Five Lakes Colony. There was just enough mystery to hook me. Her dad and her brother prove even more interesting upon rereading. I liked the four stages of the test. I liked how the horror comes gradually--surely and inevitably, but paced well in my opinion. I liked the twists and turns. Overall, I thought the characterization was good, was interesting. The world-building was good, perhaps not great, but solid enough. Even though it was a reread, I found it hard to put down!
I first read this one in June 2013.
© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
|Matilda and the state tests
||[Mar. 14th, 2014|09:03 am]
I was thrilled when the audio version of Dahl's MATILDA received an Odyssey Honor nod. Not that I needed an excuse to revisit this book, but I loved the idea of listening to Kate Winslet narrate this story of children and caregivers (parents, teachers, administrators) and perhaps of starting a new movie in my head without the cast from the adaptation many years ago. I am enjoying this audio version of MATILDA. In particular I am struck by the school scenes.
Why am I thinking about MATILDA and school right now? Simple: so many schools across the country are in the midst of or preparing for the state tests (insert ominous music here). Books have to be covered over; teachers are told to turn in their cell phones at the office; and children are being punished with day after day after day of tests. In some places, once they complete the test, they must sit silently. No books or reading are permitted. Teachers must "actively" monitor, trolling up and down the aisles (make no mistake, kids are not sitting together for this test), making sure no one cheats. It sounds positively Dickensian or, in this case, Dahl-ish.
When did we cede this much autonomy to the almighty tests?
I read a piece this morning by Anthony Cody this morning entitled THE COMMON CORE EQUITY CRISIS: http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/2014/03/the_common_core_equity_swindle.html. In this piece, Cody cites research by BURRIS AND AJA: "...the percentage of black students who scored "Below Standard" in third-grade English Language Arts tests rose from 15.5 percent to a shocking 50 percent post-Common Core implementation. In seventh-grade math, black students labeled "Below Standard" jumped from 16.5 percent to a staggering 70 percent. Students with disabilities of all backgrounds saw their scores plummet- 75 percent of students with disabilities scored "Below Standard" on the Grade 5 ELA Common Core tests and 78 percent scored "Below Standard" on the 7th grade math test. Also, 84 percent of English Language learners score "Below Standard" on the ELA test while 78 percent scored the same on the 7th grade math exam."
How can we allow this? If a test has this high a failure rate, does it not mean that there is something wrong with the test itself? I once had a colleague who bragged that 80% of his classes failed his course tests. Why is that something of which to be proud? Why will we spend millions of dollars on PARRC and SB tests so that our kids can be made to feel like failures year after year after year? How many of us read or listen to or view MATILDA and root for her parents and Miss Trunchbull?
|Friday Five: Nice things
||[Mar. 14th, 2014|08:58 am]
I haven't been a very good blogger lately, mostly because I'm desperately trying to finish up a revision. But I did want to check in with five nice things on a Friday:
1. The Dark Between is a finalist for the Oklahoma Book Award. It's such an honor to be included in this list along with stellar books like Nugget & Fang by SCBWI Crystal Kite winner Tammi Sauer and Mojo by National Book Award finalist Tim Tharp.
2. The Veronica Mars movie is finally here. (And I'm so proud to be a Kickstarter backer.) It's playing at two locations in OKC. Yippee! Check out the trailer:
3. Feeling grumpy? In desperate need of something to smile about? Well, I recommend you visit Fluffington Post on a regular basis.
4. Speaking of smiles, have you seen these 19 Very Important Photographs of Benedict Cumberbatch with Kittens? Oh go on, check it out AGAIN.
5. I bought a gorgeous red ForLife teapot. I found mine at the Teaoli shop down the street, but they also are available from Amazon.
Mmmmm . . . Notting Hill tea with Dr. Lucy's gluten free sugar cookies!
Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!
|Hope's Hatchlings: Part Three (and a naming contest)
||[Mar. 14th, 2014|06:40 am]
Taking the measure of things, from the day we started this journey
Day 17. Basking in the afternoon sun. Meanwhile, Hope is sipping nectar from the citrus blossoms, on the other side of my backyard. Do you see the shimmery green, peeking out from the hatchling's folded wings? Before long, he'll be covered with iridescent feathers! He should fledge within a week, plus or minus a couple of days.Day 18. The Santa Ana winds are blowing, so the hummingbird hatchling is hunkered down in the nest. So many fewer pinfeathers than yesterday--lots of fluffy feathers in their place! Fun fact: The nest is built, in part, of extremely strong, very stretchy spider silk, so the nest expands as the nestling grows. When it appears to be outgrowing the nest, it's almost ready to fledge.Day 19. Check out those wings!! It's as if they sprouted overnight. The sun was warm & bright this afternoon, which made picture-taking a bit of a challenge. It blanketed the hatchling's back, radiating light, and before long, those dark little peepers drifted shut.NAMING CONTEST! Hope's hatchling will likely fledge next Tuesday, 23 days after breaking free of its shell. With that in mind, I'm hosting a naming contest.
Naming Contest Rules:1) Drop your entry into the comments section, below. Alternatively, leave your suggestion on the link I post to my Facebook page.2) All entries must be received by 11:00 a.m. (Pacific) on Sunday, 3/163) My neighbor-friend Sara will help me select the winning entry4) In the event of duplicate submissions, we will draw the winner's name from a hat (metaphorically speaking).5) I'll announce the hatchlings name on Monday, 3/17. 6) The prize? Amazing! Author Jeanette Larson is donating a copy of her beautiful book, HUMMINGBIRDS: Facts and Folklore from the Americas, to the winner. Exquisite illustrations, fun and informative text…this is one of those books that quickly assumes a prominent position on your bookshelf or coffee table.
At some point early next week, the hummingbird hatchling will wing its way into the world, graced with a befitting name. I'll post more pictures in the meantime. Stay tuned...
Missed the previous posts about Hope and her hatchlings? Here you go: Hope's Hatchlings, Part One and Hope's Hatchlings: Part Two.
|Cynsational News & Giveaways
||[Mar. 14th, 2014|08:28 am]
Compiled by Cynthia Leitich Smith
for CynsationsOn Neutral Characters and Relating to the Specific
by Shannon Hale from squeetus blog. Peek: "Why can't someone like Maisie be worthy of a story too? I've encountered similar opinions over the years and began to come to an uncomfortable understanding, one that others before me have also discovered."On Diversity Within Diversity
by Ava Jae from Writability. Peek: "Sometimes we forget that the community of that one sect of people is just as beautifully diverse as the world as a whole. Diversity within diversity."On the Care & Feeding of Writers
by Julianna Baggott
and David G.W. Scott from Writer Unboxed. Peek: "Your writer is practicing empathy and understanding of her characters; you can have that same empathy for her."Why Talking About Girl Reading Matters
by Kelly Jensen from Stacked. Peek: "Girls, on the other hand, are unlikable. They have girl problems. They have girl drama (drama, always drama). They are girls in crisis, rather than girls living through the challenges they have to confront in order to be their best selves. In so many of the books that tackle these challenges, girl is a qualifier."Writing Emotions: Does Your Hero Shrug, Smile & Frown Too Much?
by Angela Ackerman
from Writers Helping Writers. Peek: "Are these types of descriptors all bad? Certainly not. The fact is, each of these is a real way people express their emotion. It’s only when we rely on a clichéd rendition of showing these cues or we turn to them again and again throughout the story that they hurt our writing."2014 Nonfiction Award Nominees
from YALSA. Peek: "In addition to the finalists and award winner
, YALSA publishes a list of vetted nominations for the Nonfiction Award." See also Carla Killough McClafferty on Revealing Your Heart in Nonfiction
from Cynsations.Maybe You Could Do More
from Jo Knowles. Peek: "Sometimes, opening my file, or putting on my sneakers, is actually the hardest part of getting back to the task at hand. It's the final commitment to starting again. Starting from what feels like the bottom of a very steep hill. So I told myself: Just write one sentence. It can be terrible.
"Writing Tips & Diversity Points at the SCBWI Winter Conference
by Cindy L. Rodriguez from Latin@s in Kid Lit. Note: includes seven tips from Katherine Tegen editor Anica Rissi
on writing contemporary fiction, Knopf editor Nancy Siscoe on writing for middle grade readers, and PEN America
's Susanna Reich on banned books
and diversity.Why Is Historical Fiction Important?
by Bobbi Miller
from Children's Literature. See also Bobbi on The Conversation of Historical Fiction Continued
. Peek: "For some, historical fiction is first and foremost fiction, and therefore anything goes. Others condemn the blending of invention with well-known and accepted facts and consider the genre contradictory at the very least and, at most, it is a betrayal."A comprehensive list of U.S. college- and university-sponsored or -hosted children’s and young adult literature conferences, festivals, and symposia
by Chris Barton
from Bartography. Peek: "In 2011, I was looking for such a list, wondered why I couldn’t find one, and decided to just go ahead and make one myself. Since then, I’ve periodically updated and reposted it, and I plan to continue doing so. If I’ve missed any, or included some that no longer exist, won’t you please let me know?"Rejecting Rejection: With a Little Bit of Luck
by Sarah Aronson
from The Writing Barn. Peek: "Four years after reading the manuscript, she remembered some of the details. She asked me what had happened to the story. I almost fell over. As soon as I got home, I opened the file and read that manuscript. And you know what?"2014 Illustrators Gallery
at the SCBWI Bologna Book Fair from SCBWI. Peek: "There were 105 entries submitted and, from these...judges have chosen these 34 finalists. The overall winner and four runners-up will be announced on this page at the start of the fair."Where Do Boys Belong in Women's History?
by Jill Eisenberg from Lee & Low. Peek: "Alongside our girls, boys need the language of equality and a broader view of history. Women’s contributions advanced our society and continue to impact all of us. We need to teach that gender totally does matter and, at the same time, totally doesn’t matter."Writing for the Long Haul: Quitting Writing
by Kelly Bennett
from Janni Lee Simner
at Desert Dispatches. Peek: "...publishing can wreak havoc on our writing lives. It did mine. Having a 'career' requires us to split ourselves in two: part creative writer, part business-minded author." Interview with Literary Agent Steven Malk of Writers House
from Casey McCormick at Literary Rambles.
Peek: "I do think that smaller publishers can be incredibly effective. There are pros and cons with just about any house, but there have been several instances over the last few years of smaller houses publishing books that have enjoyed phenomenal success."
Filmmakers! Check out this contest for a 30 second to three minute video celebrating children's-YA literature
from Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers.Interview with Adi Rule on Strange Sweet Song
by Leah Cypress
from The Enchanted Inkpot. Peek: "To make it in classical singing, you have to be tenacious and ferocious. But at the end of the day, you also have to captivate an audience, and there's a certain sensitivity -- and vulnerability -- that goes along with that." See also an interview with Adi
by Janet S. Fox
from Through the Wardrobe.What to Do When Your Story Feels Rushed
by Deborah Halverson
from DearEditor.com. Peek: "...work in setting details with language that conveys an atmosphere, have the characters act upon and react to props unique to the spirit of that place, and include smells and textures that engage readers’ senses."Migas, Confetti and Martha Stewart
by Diana López
from Latin@as in Kidlit. Peek: "...'I hate when people tell me I should add more cultural interest to my books.' In other words, I don’t like these details to be forced. They have to feel natural, and as long as I’m not consciously adding them, they will be. Sure, my characters eat migas, but they eat pizza, too."Here's What Both Pantsing and Plotting Miss: The Real Story
by Lisa Cron
from Writer Unboxed. Peek: "What drives your protagonist forward is her internal agenda: she arrives on page one already wanting something very badly, and with an inner issue – a misbelief – that she has to overcome in order to have a chance of getting it."Call the Reading Police
from Gwenda Bond. Peek: "Being really well-read in one genre or in all sorts of genres is a beautiful thing. Most of my favorite people on earth are. But...I have zero patience for reader shaming or for making people feel lesser or unwelcome or clueless because they haven't read the same things you have from some inevitably problematic canon checklist."NAACP Outstanding Literary Work Awards
Children's Award: Nelson Mandela
by Kadir Nelson (HarperCollins)
Youth/Teens Award: Courage Has No Color, The True Story of the Triple Nickles, America's First Paratroopers
by Tanya Lee Stone
Nominees:This Week at CynsationsCynsational Giveaways
Enter to winAustin SCBWI
a signed and personalized copy of Robot Burp Head Smartypants!
by Annette Simon
(Candlewick, 2014) and a set of alphabet-and-numbers foam stickers. Author sponsored. Eligibility: U.S. Enter here
. Note: scroll through the photos to the entry form at the bottom of the post.
This week's highlight was hearing P.J. Hoover
speak on world building at Austin SCBWI
's monthly meeting at BookPeople
. In addition to offering great information, P.J.'s presentation was a terrific example of an author presentation. She did a wonderful job with visuals, incorporating humor, and encouraging interaction in a kid- (and grown-up-) friendly way. P.J. is a top author speaker!
|Hat & umbrella -- Austin in late winter/early spring.
I've working steadily on my revision of Feral Pride (Book 3 in the Feral series) on my sleeping porch with bands from South By Southwest
playing in the background.
Despite living in Austin some 15 years, I've never had a chance to embrace the festival in a big way because it typically coincides with a novel deadline or author travel.
I'm so sorry to hear of the injuries and lives lost due to the drunk driving incident
on Wednesday night. My thoughts are with the victims and their loved ones. See also Blood Donors Needed After SXSW crash
My revision is going well. I thought I'd do a sweep to streamline the antagonists' construct and then revisit my alternating protagonists, but I'm finding that much of the character work is coming naturally along the way.
Everybody writes differently, but I encourage y'all not to cling
to your process, especially when it's not conducive to productivity. Especially if you are transitioning from apprentice to published professional (with its industry demands), you may have to stretch in new ways. Or, if like me, you're an established pro with an ever-faster-moving schedule, then you may have to find a way to do that, too.
On Cynsations, there's been a lot of buzz around Ellen Oh's post on Sexism
(prejudice by women against women and female characters). Don't miss it or the continuing conversation in the comments. See also the post Ellen recommends by Sarah Rees Brennan on the portrayal of female friendships in YA fiction
. Note: Ellen reports having lost 53 Twitter followers in the immediate wake of her post--you know, for being against
sexism. You can follow her @elloecho
I'm also thinking about How Do Authors Know When Their Manuscripts Are Ready?
at Sub It Club and Janni Lee Simner's thoughts On the Amtrack Residency: Residencies Versus Contests, Dreams Versus Desperation
. See also Writers Say, "Not So Fast, Amtrack Residency."
Congratulations to Teresa Runnels (Sac and Fox Nation) of Tulsa City-County Library for being featured as one of Library Journal's Movers & Shakers 2014
Personal LinksCynsational EventsThe SCBWI-OK Conference
will be March 29 in Oklahoma City. Speakers are: Liza Kaplan, Editor, Philomel; Melissa Manlove, Editor, Chronicle; Andrew Harwell, Editor, HarperCollins; Colleen AF Venerable, Design Editor, First Second and author of Guinea PI series; Kristin Miller-Vincent, Agent, D4EO Literary Agency; Tricia Lawrence, Agent, Erin Murphy Literary. See more information and registration
.Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers
will be held June 16 to June 21 at the Waterford School in Sandy, Utah. Keynote speaker: James Dashner
; faculty includes Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith
. Learn about the WIFYR Fellowship Award
. See also Alison L. Randall on Choosing a Writing Conference
|Poetry Friday: Slow Movement by William Carlos Williams
||[Mar. 14th, 2014|06:00 am]
|||||Law & Order: Criminal Intent score music||]|
All those treasures that lie in the little bolted box whose tiny space is
Mightier than the room of the stars, being secret and filled with dreams:
All those treasures - I hold them in my hand - are straining continually
Against the sides and the lid and the two ends of the little box in which I guard them;
Crying that there is no sun come among them this great while and that they weary of shining;
Calling me to fold back the lid of the little box and to give them sleep finally.
But the night I am hiding from them, dear friend, is far more desperate than their night!
And so I take pity on them and pretend to have lost the key to the little house of my treasures;
For they would die of weariness were I to open it, and not be merely faint and sleepy
As they are now.
- Slow Movement by William Carlos Williams
View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.
View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.
Learn more about Poetry Friday.
|Hope's Hatchlings: Part Two
||[Mar. 14th, 2014|05:50 am]
(Missed the previous days' entries? Here's the link. )
Day 9. "It's Nature's way," I am told. And it's statistically true that only 50% of hummingbird hatchlings grow iridescent wings and fledge. But numbers count for nothing, when you're trying to reconcile wishes with reality...reality being that one of the baby hummingbirds fell from the nest this morning. I don't know the how or why, but it was already dead when I found it.
Day 11. At this point, the hatchling is covered with pinfeathers, so Hope broods less often, even at night. To avoid attracting the attention of predators, she steers clear of the nest, save for the few seconds it takes to feed her hatchling. Feeding intervals vary, from less than ten minutes to more than an hour and a half.
Day 12. Look in the upper left corner: you can see one of the hatchling's tiny wings!
The nest is slanted, thanks to the heavy winds and rains, but it's not going anyway. That's because hummingbirds lash their nests to nearby branches with spider silk, which is at once flexible and super-strong. Hope brooded last night, and again today. I think she's trying to keep her hatchling warm while the nest dries.
Day 14. Hope allowed me a couple of pictures before she buzzed past my head, clicking and helicoptering her tiny wings.
As you can see from this second picture, the hatchling's pinfeather casings are breaking open now, and the beak is much darker. Before long, we'll see its iridescent feathers. Hope's baby must surely have a neck ache by now, what with staying in that position for lo, these many days. But I'm pretty sure it has something to do with balancing itself on a downward-tilted nest.
Day 15. Hope's hatchling has all its pinfeathers now, and is beginning to sprout real feathers. It lies motionless for much of the time, so as not to attract predators, but it raises its beak whenever it senses Hope is near.
Within the confines of its nest, the hatchling strengthens its flying muscles. It does this by gripping the floor with its feet and flapping its wings. Random fact: from the time they first hatch, baby hummingbirds do everything they can to drop their waste over the side of the nest (FYI, in case you hadn't already noticed).
Day 16. Look! The hummingbird hatchling's got tiny tail feathers! This picture also shows the downward slant of the nest--quite the balancing act, no? Time to fledge: 7 days and counting…
Missed the first set of pictures? Go back to Hope's Hatchlings, Part One
Want to see more? Hope's Hatchling's, Part Three (and a naming contest)
|Hope's Hatchlings: Part One
||[Mar. 14th, 2014|04:49 am]
|When we last saw Hope, our Mama Hummingbird, she was sitting on two eggs. So much has happened since then, much of which I've posted to Facebook. But I'll reprise the highlights on my blog, so that we can enjoy them all over again. Hope leaves the nest for short periods, to forage for nectar and insects.
2/24 It's hardly recognizable as a baby hummingbird, but ta da
! The first hatchling made his grand appearance today. (The second hummingbird pecked his shell open that same afternoon.)Within just a couple of days, Hope's baby hummingbirds have almost doubled in size. Their beaks are slightly darker (barely visible at the 4:00 and 8:00 positions), and they're growing fuzzy little pinfeathers. At this stage, they’re very much a work in progress…
Day 3. Hope braces herself on the edge of the nest—it’s a windy afternoon, but her hatchlings are hungry!
Hope's hummingbird hatchlings are 4 days old! She feeds them a slurry of nectar & insects about every 20 minutes. In this blustery rainstorm, however, she's hunkered down on the nest more than usual. (I set up my camera shots when Hope's away from the nest, gathering food. And because I try to hurry, the pictures aren't always--well, picture perfect.)
Day 6. The nest is soaked clear through, but Hope and her brood weathered a violent storm that rolled in overnight. Heavy rains and hail. Thunder, lightning, and howling winds. I fretted for hours on end, hoping against long odds that they'd make it. And...as you can see here, they did! No worse for the wear, it seems, other than the fact that they're a bit wet. And quite obviously, very hungry.
Want to know what happens next? Follow these links: Hope's Hatchlings, Part Two
and Hope's Hatchlings, Part Three (and a naming contest)