If you traverse the interwebs on a regular basis then you may have spotted the catchy “Show Me the Awesome” posts that have been springing up hither and thither. Thither and yon. The initiative was started by Kelly Jensen, Sophie Brookover, and Liz Burns. Designer John LeMasney was, in turn, responsible for the kicky graphic you see here. And if you’re interested in viewing what goes on you can follow the posts on Twitter, Tumblr, Vine and Instagram with the hashtag #30awesome or you can head on over to Stacked to see a full roster of what has already taken place.
So what precisely is going on here? Typically an on-the-ball blogger comes up with original content and presents ideas in a unique and fascinating way. The lazy blogger cuts and pastes. Which do you think I’m about to do? From Kelly Jensen’s post:
While we have a lineup of official people taking part in the series, anyone is welcome to blog on the topic of self promotion. You can talk about a program you did and loved. You can talk about how you perform strong reader’s advisory with teens. You can talk about the grander idea of self promotion itself. There’s nothing off limits, as long as you’re talking about libraries and self promotion or librarianship and self promotion in some capacity.
Librarians talking librarianship. And so far we’ve seen everything from serving teen moms to promoting your own programming to using Kickstarter as a force for good and more. When I was asked to join I knew I had to talk about my librarianship in some way, but how?
As you may know I’m a Youth Materials Specialist, which means I buy books for the New York Public Library system. So when I ride the subway and see a kid reading a library book I can say, “I bought you that, kid” (not literally . . . that would be creepy). But before I was in Collections I was a children’s librarian. A job that has prepared me for life in so many different ways.
Consider my current life change. I am now an author of a picture book (something I may have mentioned once/twice/3 billion times before). And when one is a picture book author, one finds that the skills you learn as a children’s librarian have never been more important. Using a recent appearance I made at the Hip Tot Music Fest as a guide, here is a direct correlation between one job and another.
1. You must be able to command the attention of large groups of children.
The Hip Tot Music Fest is precisely what you would think it is. A Brooklyn-based monthly event where parents of toddlers and preschoolers dance and leap and scream and glide to the beat of live music from shockingly talented performers. Melanie Hope Greenberg is their resident author/illustrator and a strategic partner in the production. As such she was kind enough to invite me to read my book before one such show. In doing so I found myself using every bit of librarian-based talent I’ve ever acquired. And the first and foremost amongst these is what I learned when conducting baby or toddler or preschool storytimes. You need to be interesting.
Thanks to Dawid Parus for the image.
Thanks to those years spent doing “Five Little Monkeys” and “Open, Shut Them” ad nauseam I can retain the eyeballs of most kids from 3 on up. Before that age they’re a bit wiggly. Not impossible, but you better have something better than just a reading if you want their attention.
2. You must be willing to make a fool of yourself.
Remember those days in library school where you had to conduct a mock toddler storytime for your peers, and you thought it was the most embarrassing thing you ever had to do? Baby, you had no IDEA what you were in for! Whether it’s an 18-month year old taking a bite out of your neck or a general flailing of the limbs in an effort to engage a baby, you are going to look silly.
And if you can do it wearing blue fur, all the better.
3. You must be open to a change in plans.
You’re going to have a preschool storytime on a Saturday morning but what walks in the door instead? Tiny tots. Suddenly out goes the Fortunately by Remy Charlip and in comes The Noisy Counting Book by Susan Schade. And it is the exact same thing when you perform your own book. Though library storytimes have on distinct advantage over those performed by authors. When you’re in a library, you don’t have to worry about an all adult audience. THAT is an interesting situation.
4. You must be able to handle any question, no matter how weird.
That’s a reference desk skill, pure and simple. You know when you’re sitting at the desk and a three-year-old comes up asking for, “The one with the baker and his wife and Jesus and the lady with the white hat and she is NOT a pilgrim” and after some additional questions you determine that in spite of all logical evidence to the contrary they’re asking for Strega Nona? That exact same exchange happens when you’re a children’s author. You open the book and a kid points out that they own a dog. There is no dog in the book. You did not mention a dog in your talk. Dogs have nothing to do with anything, but that’s what the kid is saying so you just have to go with it.
Long story short, the best training ground for not just picture book authorship but ANY job is children’s librarianship. I bet you could apply additional skills to additional problems. It’s just that flexible.
Here are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week@JensBookPage.
Book Lists and Awards
Winners of the 2012 Andre Norton Award have been announced | Waking Brain Cells http://ow.ly/liEbL @tashrow #yalit
RT @catagator:So you want to read YA? Amy Stern (@yasubscription) has 12 suggestions for you! http://www.stackedbooks.org/2013/05/so-you-want-to-read-ya-guest-post-by.html…
Top Ten YA Road Trip Novels by Ben Kuhlman | @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/ldPo4 #yalit
One day I'll read YA with my daughter RT @tashrow: YA mother-daughter reading recommendations – The Horn Book http://buff.ly/13vqf3u #yalit
All true! 7 Reasons Why You MUST Read Aloud To Your Kids At All Ages by @postpartumprog http://ow.ly/ldQbV via @Scholastic #literacy
One family's observed benefits from reading aloud 30 min/day Sugar Bee Learning: Reading to Toddlers and Preschoolers http://ow.ly/ldNUu
RT @tashrow: Why Reading Aloud to Older Children Is Valuable | MindShift http://buff.ly/129p5rA #reading #litrdup
Helping Children to Spell: Eight Strategies That Work! from @TrevorHCairney http://ow.ly/ll4Qo #literacy #kidlit
Programs and Research
New study finds parents of preschoolers spend more time reading w/ girls than w boys @TheAtlantic @PWKidsBookshelf http://ow.ly/lgh3d
Congratulations to my friend @CHRasco for being a 2013 Eric Carle Museum honoree as an Angel for #literacy http://ow.ly/lgdIQ @FuseEight
Children reading more on screen than print, National Literacy Trust finds http://ow.ly/l9gSP @TheBookseller @PWKidsBookshelf #litrdup
It's time for @donalynbooks Fifth Annual #Bookaday Challenge | @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/ldOAl #kidlit #literacy
RT @LauraKomos:Love this idea! RT @kaaauthor: Great idea + great teacher = total fun! @colbysharp BOOK SPEED DATING!!!!http://goo.gl/G57tZ
Nice! "nothing is like the light generated when books and readers AND authors come together" @skajder @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/ll3kj
Let’s help… KidLitCares for Oklahoma, @KateMessner is organizing a signed book giveaway for people who donate http://ow.ly/liDTi #kidlit
Interesting post and comments @bkshelvesofdoom about reading rules (do you dog ear pages, etc) http://ow.ly/liGsy
Lots of great links from Tanita Davis at Finding Wonderland: Pennies from Heaven? Nope, it's 5 & Dime Friday... http://ow.ly/l8HqY
Authors, Publishing and Book Publicity
RT @tashrow: E-book sales are up 43%, but that’s still a ‘slowdown’ http://buff.ly/15MCGLM #ebooks
The Future of Picture Books: Alive and Well? @NoVALibraryMom reports after attending a MOST impressive panel session http://ow.ly/lgakk
Teenage Tweetland: useful ideas for authors on where + how YA authors and publishers are reaching teens online http://ow.ly/lggfR
Authors: an opportunity to promote your books and give back in support of children's #literacy @readingtub http://ow.ly/lgaFn
Novels for young adults are reaching more (adult) readers - http://KansasCity.com http://ow.ly/lggyN via @PWKidsBookshelf
Pack(ag)ing It Up, @gwenda talks about book packaging in light of @Amazon Kindle Worlds announcement http://ow.ly/ll4Il
RT@cbcbook: Sad news to report. 'Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile' author Bernard Waber has passed on.http://ow.ly/ldleM@HMHKids#kidlit
I enjoyed this post Thank You Teachers and Librarians from Donna Gephart + she recommends my newsletter :-) http://ow.ly/lkUdW
Diversity (or not)
Thoughts from Becky Levine on @VarianJohnson’s Post, “Where are all the black boys?” http://ow.ly/l8G6k #kidlit
RT @gregpincus: RT @CBCBook: Looking for some news on #kidlit diversity? Here's a round-up! http://ow.ly/kZ83P #CBCDiversity #kidlitchat
Wishing you all a relaxing Memorial Day Weekend!
© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.You can also follow me@JensBookPageor at myGrowing Bookworms page on Facebook.
follow this eager pack of princesses.
steal unseen from the castle,
fathers need to know
night after night,
these dancing slippers are always worn out.
These dancing slippers are always worn out
night after night.
Fathers need to know.
Steal unseen from the castle
follow this eager pack of princesses.
As the guy who wrote Uglies, there are certain kinds of news stories that are forwarded to me by everyone. Hi-tech tattoos, bizarre plastic surgery, stuff that hovers, and of course anything having to do with beauty. So it was no surprise that a recent story about the Miss Korea contest flooded my inbox.
The basic story went like this: Plastic surgery is so prevalent in South Korea that all the contestants in their national beauty contest look freakishly alike. Look, we haz proof!
And yes, I will admit that this is a somewhat chilling image. With a few exceptions, it looks like twenty photos of the same woman dressed and styled a bit differently. And yes, the South Korean appetite for plastic surgery is large. According to this NY Times article, about 20% of women there have had some sort of cosmetic procedure. These are true facts.
But whenever you run into a story like this one, that depends so heavily on a telling photographic image, please remember one simple rule: photographs aren’t real.
Photographs are artifacts of technology, records of specific combinations of light, lens, and angle. Photographs are easily manipulated. Photographs are two-dimensional representations of a 3-D world. Photographs can be more or less accurate, but they are never the whole story.
Take the worst photo ever taken of you and compare it to the best ever taken. Do they look even remotely like the same person?
For that matter, pick up your phone and take a photo of yourself right now. Then walk to a different part of your room and take another. Same place, same hair, same clothes, but often these two photos will look completely different. Not because you photoshopped them or cheated in some other way, but simply because the living, breathing, moving reality of you got sliced into two different tiny moments of time.
The forces of light, shadow, and expression morphed you into two different versions of yourself. Neither of which was real, because photographs aren’t real! Using a single image to reflect a real human being is like describing a lush, complex novel in a sentence. Sometimes you can tell which which book someone’s talking about, but a whole lot goes missing.
Back to our Korean beauty queens. Here are two of them before and after hair, make-up, and photoshopping got involved:
I say again: photographs aren’t real.
Korea doesn’t have some mass convergence of facial phenotypes caused by cosmetic surgery. Maybe they will one day, and maybe in certain social circles there one can spot noticeable similarities. But all we have proof of here is a particular aesthetic of hair, make-up, and photoshoppery associated with a particular beauty contest.
There is no emergency. Return to your homes, Crims.
(The before-and-after images first appeared on Ilbe, and as far as I can tell, reached the English-speaking infosphere on koreaBANG. Thanks to both for this valuable service.)
So whenever you read about a scientific study on beauty that relied on people rating photographs (as I did while writing Uglies), or see a story about how bloated or haggard some poor celebrity has become, or come across at photos that make you feel bad about yourself, just remember . . .
Photographs aren’t real. But you are.
On a COMPLETELY UNRELATED NOTE, here is my new author photo! I haven’t done one in ten years, and given that I just turned fifty, I figured it was time.
In the interest of full disclosure, I offer you the image before and after it was slightly retouched by my sister-in-law, noted visual effects artist Niki Bern, and include my notes to her.
Please do not actually USE that one as my author’s photo.
Instead, go with this version:
photo by Niki Bern, 2013
Everyone has permission to use this in all media forever. A bigger one can be found here.
This work is copyrighted material. All opinions are those of the writer, unless otherwise indicated. All book reviews are UNSOLICITED, and no money has exchanged hands, unless otherwise indicated. Please contact the weblog owner for further details.
Book: Boy NobodyAuthor: Allen ZadoffPages: 352Age Range: 12 and up
Boy Nobody is a tense thriller about a 16-year-old boy who has been trained as an assassin. The first person narrator (we don't learn his real name until late in the book, but let's call him Benjamin) was kidnapped by a shadowy organization, apparently part of the government, after a boy named Mike killed Benjamin's parents. Benjamin was trained to execute meticulously planned missions. For each mission, he is inserted into a school, where he befriends some key student. His target is someone close to that student, such as a parent. His job is to kill the target.
Benjamin has a distinct voice. Not knowing much about the premise of the book, I thought at first that he was supposed to be some sort of alien. He calculates his every move and reaction. Like the scene below, in which a bunch of kids are hanging around after a baseball game.
""Your best kicks ass and takes names," Jack says, and he punches my shoulder again.
This time the big man doesn't move. But the other players are looking at us.
Two punches on the arm. A way of asserting dominance.
Dominance is a threat. It must be dealt with.
I run a checklist in my mind:
I can let him punch me. Choose a lower status.
I can retaliate in equal measure, with equal force.
I can escalate. Assert my dominance.
Which should I choose?" (Chapter: I Pick Up a Baseball Bat)
He's like a human computer, the ultimate, unquestioning tool for killing people. But when the next student that Benjamin is supposed to befriend turns out to be the smart, extremely attractive daughter of the mayor of New York City, things become a bit more complicated than usual. Like this:
"Because my mind is thinking the wrong things. I should be thinking about finishing my assignment, but I'm thinking about the curve of Sam's neck, the corner of her lip, the way her breasts swell against the fabric of her dress." (Chapter: I Slip into the Bathroom down the Hall)
There is certainly violence in Boy Nobody, though I didn't find it gratuitous. (I mean, the book is about an assassin. The fact that he kills a few people should not be surprising.) There's a hint of a James Bond feel to the violence, and to the couple of sexual incidents (which are not described in detail).
The teen assassin is an interesting premise for a young adult novel. Kind of takes teen alienation to a new and toxic level. Imagine having to go into school after school, reinventing yourself each time, figuring out the social dynamics on the fly? Now imagine doing that with no parents behind you (just two controllers who communicate via technology), and no one to confide in. Even if he didn't have to kill people, Benjamin would still be about as alienated as it gets.
Boy Nobody is fast-paced, with lots of short paragraphs leaving white space in the text, and plenty of action to move the plot forward. Benjamin is a unique character, his damaged mind revealed through is first person narration (and his actions). Sam is also surprising and intriguing. And a nerdy computer geek comes into Benjamin's sphere, adding a bit of humor and humanity.
While the main plot in Boy Nobody wraps up neatly, quite a few details are left unexplained. I don't know whether or not Zadoff intends to write other books about Benjamin, but he has certainly put the elements of a bigger picture in place. Personally, I hope that there are more books - I'm interested to see where this story goes. In the meantime, I recommend Boy Nobody for teen and adult readers who enjoy thrillers, and aren't put off by the idea of reading one told from the assassin's perspective. Boy Nobody is well worth a look!
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (@LBKids)Publication Date: June 11, 2013Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook.
Book: MousenetAuthor: Prudence BreitroseIllustrator: Stephanie YuePages: 416Age Range: 8 and up
Mousenet is a middle grade novel written by Prudence Breitrose and lightly illustrated by Stephanie Yue. The premise has oodles of kid-appeal. Mice have learned to read, and to use human computers (though it takes a whole team of mice to accomplish anything using a full-size PC). When a quirky inventor in Cleveland invents a teeny, tiny laptop (dubbed the Thumbtop), mice spring into action. They enlist the inventor's niece, Megan, in their quest to put "a Thumbtop in every mousehole" so that they can stand beside humans as the next intelligent species.
The mouse society and hierarchy in Mousenet is fully fleshed out, and quite entertaining. The mice have figured out a way to travel by Greyhound bus (though this remains rare). They use sign language to communicate. Because they have eyes everywhere, they are able to intervene with humans in surprising ways. They have their own, hidden internet (Mousenet). They are based in Silicon Valley, for a completely logical reason. This whole shadow society of secretly smart rodents calls to mind books like Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH (which I now want to re-read) and Malcolm at Midnight.
The early part of the book is told from a third person (er, mouse) mouse perspective, which I particularly enjoyed. In fact, I found it a bit jarring when, in the middle of chapter two, things shifted to Megan's perspective. After that, things shift back and forth between mouse and human viewpoints. Here's an example of the mouse point of view:
"The mice felt more hopeful about picking up clues to the megging's wildness later that afternoon, after the big female had spent some time doing things to food that they'd never seen happen in this kitchen--slicing, steaming, chopping, mixing. When the girl and her uncle came in to eat, the mice looked anxiously at their inventor to see how he'd react, because the dishes that the big female had put on the table didn't look at all like his usual dinner, which tended to be either delivered or thawed." (Chapter 2)
I understand that it wouldn't have been possible to tell the entire story from the perspective of the mice (or certainly it would have been quite difficult), but I personally enjoyed the mouse point of view more than Megan's. Megan is a perfectly nice character, with passions and quirks of her own, but the mouse viewpoint is more unique.
Anyway, the plot in Mousenet moves along quickly. There isn't really a bad guy in the book, but Breitrose finds other sources of conflict (like the need to keep the existence of the mouse society hidden). I particularly liked the way the author developed the relationship between Megan and her step-cousin Joey, slowly and with friction along the way.
My one complaint, story-wise, is that I felt that the author's anti-global warming message came on a bit too strong at times. Not that there's anything wrong with the message itself, but towards the end of the book it comes perilously close to dominating the story. By making environmentalism a central trait of Megan's character, the author keeps things in hand, but only just barely. But I have admittedly very finely honed radar when it comes to messages inserted into fiction. Most young readers delving into Mousenet today will probably be fine with this aspect of the book.
Yue's black and white pencil illustrations are generally small in size, and are found about once per chapter. I found them helpful in visualizing Megan (who has unusual hair that's hard to describe), and of course in picturing the intrepid mice. There are also mouse silhouettes included atop the large-format first letter of each chapter. Emails integrated in with the text also add visual variety. Together, these visual elements of the book help make it non-intimidating to younger middle grade readers.
Mousenet has a premise that kids will find hard to resist, coupled with strong characters, and a "working together to save the world" ethos. There is humor as well as high tech. Oh, and there's a sequel, Mousemobile, coming this fall. Kids who enjoy stories about secretly intelligent animals, and/or who find the idea of a mouse using a computer delightful, will definitely want to give this one a look. Suitable for ages 8 and up (or younger, especially if read aloud).
Publisher: Hyperion Books for Children (@DisneyHyperion)Publication Date: November 8, 2011 (picture book edition released February of 2013)Source of Book: Review copy from the author
While I can’t show you Robert Byrd‘s gorgeous interior art for Africa is My Home, I can show you the cover in the following book trailer. (And if you are at BEA, do stop by the Candlewick Press booth for a more comprehensive look or, even better, come to my Thursday 3:30 signing of F&Gs of the complete 64 page book.)