Sunday, September 30, 2012

Kate DiCamillo on picture books...

I like that she Kate that you can "hide all of your errors," in a novel. This is true. You cannot hide anything in a picture book!

Saturday, September 29, 2012


The awesome author/illustrator Brian Biggs shared an amazing voice mail he got from a little fan:

Apparently this was the second time the kid had called. This is why I don't give out my number! Cute... but it could get a little out of hand. I prefer emails....

Thursday, September 27, 2012


Watch this full screen - it's mesmerizing! I love all of the shapes that turn into faces.



I love this book. It has all sorts of words and phrases and the artwork is great. It was first published in France in 2010 and in the US in 2012. The book contains pages of books... bookcases... blocks...socks.... slippers...dolls... food items... you name it. And it's arranged by things the child would do throughout the day: "It's getting light..." So it starts out with beds and pillows... and then later "Let's go outside..."and then pages show various insects...

A fun book!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

fictionalized nonfiction

I was thinking today about how to deal with nonfiction vs. fiction. I saw some graphic novels that were fictionalized versions of real events. I think that's okay for older readers but I don't think it's okay for younger ones. The reason being that kids have a hard enough time grasping some of the tough things that are being taught to them. If parts of the story are fictionalized they'll be very confused as to what is real and what is not.

I'll give an example: A lot of times when I talk at schools the younger kids (first and second graders) will raise their hands and ask if I've met Seabiscuit or Charles Atlas, etc. I'll respond with, no, Seabiscuit is no longer living... he died in the 1940s. I can tell some of them don't get it. They don't get dates. It's hard for them to understand that a lot of things happened a long, long time ago. So... if you complicate the issue by throwing in fictionalized things then you'll really confuse them! If you're talking to them about history or science then, in my opinion, you need to keep it straight up facts. Of course in my case I do it in such a way that kids think it's fiction. They tell me all the time that my books read like fiction so they're surprised that the events in my books really happened. Good! I'm glad I"m making history and science and biographies entertaining. But I still don't think you can push the boundaries. Not until you get to middle school.

If you disagree I'd love to know! Or if you know of a book that fictionalizes something and you think it works also let me know!

Friday, September 21, 2012


As per usual, I got slowed down by some research problems. I wrote in my book that Betty Skelton flew solo at the age of 12. But yesterday I read in two different articles from the 1940s that she flew at the age of 11. So I panicked! Were the other sources wrong? Did Betty sometimes forget how old she was and tell different newspapers different things? I wasn't sure so I needed to do a quick investigation. After a lot of reading I concluded that the two papers that wrote that she was 11 had it wrong because the overwhelming majority said she was 12. One must go with the majority. IF all of the early papers said she was 11 and then the later ones said she was 12 I would have gone with the earlier reports. People can forget things!

Oh, the joys of nonfiction. It's never what it seems...

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


This book trailer doesn't mess around:

I wish my publisher would pay for my book to have a seriously hard-core production like that. It looks like it's a trailer for a movie!

Friday, September 14, 2012


A customer came into the bookstore this week and asked for VERY specific books: books about girls playing hockey. I told her I didn't think we had any. I suggested books about other sports... but she shot them down because they were "boy books." I told her there weren't many books where girls are the main characters playing the sports (sad but true). We at the bookstore have to keep in only what sells. The rest goes! So that's that. She told me that it's her job to work with children and get them to read and her current client is a reluctant reader. She plays hockey so she wants a book about a character who does that.

This is my thinking: who would you want to read about a character who does the same activity that you do? What about some variety? I mean, adults should think of it this way: if you're an accountant would you want to read about a character who is an accountant? I suggested to the customer that she try Roald Dahl or some quirky books. She wasn't interested. She asked for biography books - So I said there's a new one about a soccer player. She said that the girl doesn't play soccer. I didn't comment.

I asked her if she'd ever tried graphic novels. I pointed to the new table we made with a plethora of graphic novels - both fiction and nonfiction. We have some great titles on the table. She said, "Graphic novels are for the bathroom." Ugh! I wanted to scream! I quietly responded with, "I have to disagree." We got into a discussion about this but there was no changing the customer's mind. She said, "I have a degree in this (I think she said a masters at some point) and I"m hired to get children to read." I said that I know and that graphic novels are great tools to get children to read. She said they were awful because the provide the pictures for the reader and therefore children won't be able to be imaginative. She thinks when children read they should imagine the images in their head.

OKAY. Here's the deal with graphic novels and the readers who I think read them... or at least people like me! There are people who are highly creative and have images floating around in their heads ALL OF THE TIME. They do not need any extra help with images. Therefore there is no harm what so ever  in adding images to text. Believe me, people like me probably need a little break from all of the floating images! Secondly, when you read a graphic novel you are doing two things at once and using both sides of your brain. In a way it's more difficult than reading plain text. You read the text and then you must digest the image. When I look at the images I appreciate the various perspectives and uses of colors, etc. Books like these can give kids a new appreciation for art. The third thing is that the nonfiction titles can educate in a new and different way.

So... this woman is DEAD WRONG! It makes me sad that people like her are so stubborn and are hired to educate children.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Mike Wallace gets to the bottom of martians

I love how my research leads from one thing to another thing. In this case, flying saucers! Oh yes, it always comes back to flying saucers. Since my first nonfiction book was about that, why not go back to that?

The subject of my book, Betty Skelton, apparently read front to back a book called FLYING SAUCERS ARE REAL by a man called DONALD KEYHOE. Betty believed, it seems, in martians. Hmm. Anyhoo. I found this lovely old interview done by Mike Wallace. Here, Mike questions the author Donald Keyhoe. This interview is old and Keyhoe looks quite green. This is appropriate since he believes in aliens. Perhaps he is one. Another Hmm.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


I would like to know how many authors and illustrators have some obsessive compulsive tendencies. I know I do. I'm not sure I would do a good job with my books otherwise. To get the job done you kind of need to obsess. At work at the bookstore I find myself obsessing over displays and visual things like that. I can't stand things to be visually displeasing. At home I have to have all of my containers in a certain order, etc, etc. Perhaps at some point I'll take a photo so that you can all have a visual representation.

So... am I alone? Or are there other obsessors?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


Nice video NPR's science friday put together a while ago:

And if you want some good space books (I won't mention my own), here are a few: