Sunday, October 28, 2012

Spookley Helps with National Bullying Prevention Month

Happy Halloween, all you ghosts and goblins out there!  A bit of encouraging news on the Stop Bullying Front:

Spookley, the star of The Legend of Spookley the Square Pumpkin by Joe Troiano, illustrated by Susan Banta (Holiday Hill Farm; Barnes & Noble), is now in his second year as official spokes-pumpkin for National Bullying Prevention Month, sponsored by the Minneapolis-based family support organization PACER (Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights).

The Legend of Spookley the Square PumpkinAccording to Publishers Weekly,  this year, PACER is providing a free “Stop Bullying Before It Starts” digital toolkit that allows educators to bring Spookley’s message of tolerance and acceptance into the classroom.

Tools included in the kit are: an audio recording of the book by Bobby “Boris” Pickett (writer and performer of “The Monster Mash”), lesson plans and activities that teach bullying prevention, a Spookley classroom play by Troiano, access to classroom streaming of the animated Spookley movie, and links to a variety of other anti-bullying resources.
 Scholastic Book Clubs, which promotes the Spookley picture book through its programs, has organized an awareness campaign to get word of the toolkit to teachers via social media and other outreach methods. Teachers can register online for the toolkit.

The movie will also be shown at pumpkin patches and corn mazes across the country, and is airing on the Disney Channel throughout the month of October. It is being offered as a digital download and rental for the first time, and Spookley’s story is available as an app for the iPad/iPhone, Android, and Nook platforms as well.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day Being Produced by Disney

Judith Viorst hit upon a real winner with her children's book, Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, written in 1972.

Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day Lands At Disney imageFox originally was adapting the book as a new project but has no longer decided to produce it. Disney, however, has come to the rescue and is taking it.

Deadline reports that the project will continue with the same pieces in place that were established over at Fox. Lisa Cholodenko, who earned an Oscar nomination for her 2010 film The Kids Are All Right, is still directing the movie with a script she co-wrote with Rob Lieber, and Steve Carell is still attached to star as Ben, Alexander's father.

The new report says that many of the other major studios, including Universal, Sony, and MGM, showed interest in making the movie, but Disney ended up moving the fastest. While the project was far along in development at Fox, they ended up deciding not to make the film because it's budget was getting too large. Disney seemed to  have had more faith in its potential.

The story follows a young boy named Alexander who, from the very moment he wakes up, starts having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. The gum he was chewing the previous night has ended up in his hair, his sweater falls in a sink full of water, his cereal box is missing its toy... the list goes on. While this will be the first live-action adaptation of Viorst's book, it was previously made as an animated musical for HBO in 1990.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Kids Can Read Themselves into a Scary Halloween!

Ah, Halloween.  Ghosts, goblins and groans.  My children loved the holiday!  What better way to get into the spirit than with a good scary book.  Here are a few recommendations for you!

By Kazuno Kohara
For ages 1-6
Ghosts in the House!There are fuzzy pumpkin costumes in sizes as small as 6 months, so why not a Halloween board book for toddlers? This one tells the tale of a little girl who moves into a new house only to discover it is haunted. No worries. Turns out she’s a witch, and she knows exactly what to do. In a twist on the sheet-as-ghost costume, our little witch gathers the pesky ghosts, puts them in the washing machine, hangs them on the line, and makes bed sheets out of them. Stylishly illustrated in orange and black, this story has just right balance for very young children.
The Monster ReturnsBy Peter McCarty
For ages 3-7
When the phone rings and Jeremy’s blue monster announces that he is bored and coming back, Jeremy invites his friends over to draw their own monsters. Then, when Jeremy’s monster arrives, he is greeted by a roomful of friends. And friends are just what the monster and Jeremy need!

(Volumes 1 and 2)
By Michael Dahl
For ages 8-11
When Tyler Yu (a bully) asks Charlie Hitchcock (a geek) to meet him after school, Charlie fears the worst. But Ty just needs his help solving a mystery at the Abracadabra Hotel, a retirement home for magicians, where his dad is the manager. As the two join forces and discover the hotel is haunted, an unlikely friendship develops. A delightful, spirited new series filled with riddles, magic tricks and secrets.

By Rosalyn Schanzer
Buy this Book HereFor ages 10 up

A riveting, real-life horror story of what happened in Massachusetts in 1692 after two young girls began twitching, contorting their bodies into strange shapes and mumbling odd things. As the “virus” spread to other villages, people began to distrust their friends and neighbors, believing they were witches in cahoots with the devil. Mass hysteria reigned, reputations were ruined and lives were lost. A terrifying historical event, vividly brought to life.

By Richard Peck
For ages 11 and up

Ghosts I Have Been (Blossom Culp, #2)The time: 1914. Quirky, fun-loving Blossom Culp would do anything not to feel like a social outcast. So she conjures up a story about being able to see the future (since her mother is a fortune-teller, it’s not as far-fetched as it seems). And sure enough, her gullible schoolmates begin to believe it. But when some of Blossom’s predictions come true, and she begins to have visions, flash-forwards and a particularly vivid deja-vu about a young boy on the Titanic, Blossom realizes that her new paranormal “normal” has its own set of problems.

By Ransom Riggs
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (Miss Peregrine, #1)For ages 13 and up

A creepy, scary, touching book about a young man who seeks to uncover the life his grandfather lived as a boy, only to discover a world of unexpected terror.
As Jacob stumbles into a time loop, part paradise and part nightmare, he finds himself trying to unlock the mysteries of Miss Peregrine’s Home and the peculiar children it housed, who may all still be alive—and hell-bent on ridding the world of monsters. Mesmerizing vintage photos give the story an added dimension and make the characters starkly real.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

What? Goosebumps Author Writes Horror Novel Where Kids are the Bad Guys?

By now most of you know I am a major R.L. Stein fan.  I love his style. He has done so much for boy readers and continues to do so.  Here is something new for the author.  He has turned his villains on their heads as it were.  Have a look at what he has written. 

Red Rain may have some tropes in common with R.L. Stine's best-selling series of scary books for children, but the audience here is clearly readers who enjoy the likes of Stephen King and Dean Koontz. Villainous lawn gnomes and ventriloquist dummies are replaced by real people who cause real pain.

The horror is grisly. Stine likes food metaphors to convey the gore: Windpipes ripped out of throats like "some kind of long pasta noodle." A young woman holding her intestines as "a gusher of pink and yellow sausage" oozes through her fingers.

It's not really spoiling any suspense to say Stine has flipped his "Goosebumps" formula and made the kids the villains instead of the good guys.

 When twin 12-year-old boys Samuel and Daniel are adopted by a travel writer after a deadly hurricane off the South Carolina coast, there are ominous signs that all is not well with the "bruvvers." Readers understand something's amiss immediately, even if it takes the book's characters awhile.
It's a page turner until the end, with short chapters that help increase the pace. Stine enjoys himself writing not for kids but about them.

For parents, there's plenty here to keep you up at night. Stine deftly makes one of his characters a child psychologist whose questions mirror our own: How much freedom of choice should kids have? When do they deserve to be treated like adults? And if you suspect they're up to no good with their friends, how quickly should you step in?
Quicker than they do in this wicked little book, that's for sure.

ROB MERRILL Associated Press

Monday, October 15, 2012

Thank You, Literary Classics!

This morning at 5:30, I had a lovely surprise.  When I turned on my computer, there was a message for me from the Children's Literary Classics Organization. 

 I was informed I'd been awarded the Gold Award for my children's book, Sea Turtle Summer.  Having read such exciting news, I read on and found my second book in the Bella and Britt series, One Pelican at a Time, had won the Silver Award.

This was truly an embarrassment of riches, and I have been over the moon ever since.  To be in such august company as Larry Dane Brimner and Lisa Manzione is, indeed, remarkable.  I am grateful and humbled.

Children's Literary Classics have given awards for years and are coveted. Their credo is as follows:

Literary Classics, an organization dedicated to furthering excellence in literature, takes great pride in its role to help promote classic children's literature which appeals to youth, while educating and encouraging positive values in the impressionable young minds of future generations. Judging is based upon the criteria set forth by Literary Classics' highly selective awards committee which honors books promoting character, vision, creativity and learning, through content which possesses the key elements found in well-crafted literature.

While considering myself fortunate, I want to thank my publishing house, Guardian Angel Publishing and particularly 
Linda Burch, publisher.  I was given the opportunity to thrive and grow as an author within this House, and I am grateful for it.

For me, in many ways, my life began anew when I took up the pen as an author.  It is an idiosyncratic way of life but one I love and cherish.

  Thank you Literary Classics for the honor.  Today was a time-out day for celebration.  Tomorrow morning, when 5:30 arrives, I will be back at my computer working as an author.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Importance of a Birthday

As I had a birthday this past week, I began to think about the significance of such an event.  After all, that day does occur once a year, whether we like it or not.  So why should we even think about it?
For me, a birthday heralds taking stock of where I am and where I want to go.  Like the New Year you ask?  Yes and no.  Yes, because the new year does cause us to look back and hopefully, to look to the future. And no because a birthday is so much more personal.
 A birthday is in many ways a rebirth.  It is a thankfulness for the time behind us, all those milestones that add up to a life lived to that point. A life well lived or a life lived not quite to the fullest. 

But that birthday holds a promise as well.  A promise to continue striving to do better in all areas of achievement, to continue to grow emotionally and intellectually, to continue to become better acquainted with oneself and those we love.

So, a birthday?  No big deal.  Just another day.  I think not.  It is an opportunity to deal with the very DNA of our lives and hopefully become all the better and stronger for having put in the effort. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Sea Turtle Let Off Hook, Rescued From Pirate Fishermen

Rangers at Cocos Island in Costa Rica recently discovered an endangered green sea turtle hooked by fishermen. Fortunately, the turtle was released alive, though injured.

While Cocos Island is, in fact, a national park, the rangers’ discovery suggests foul play in protected Pacific waters. Conservation officials say the incident draws attention to the threat of illegal long-line fishing.

Researchers have tagged green sea turtles around Cocos Island, Costa Rica.
Biologist and executive director of the Sea Turtle Restoration Project, Todd Steiner, said in a statement earlier this week,

Pirate fishermen are wreaking havoc on sea turtles and sharks of the Pacific, even at this remote ‘protected’ site, more than 350 miles from the mainland, destroying one the most incredible hotspots of marine biodiversity in the Pacific.

And while they are killing endangered sea turtles, the primary goal of these pirate fisherman is to actually catch sharks for their fins, which are then shipped to Asia to make shark fin soup.

Fisherman release long-lines that have hundreds and sometimes thousands of baited hooks inside these waters and risk unintentionally killing wildlife—not only turtles, but also whales, dolphins, and seabirds.

Steiner added that park rangers have accumulated a mountain of long-lining gear in the surrounding waters of Cocos Island.
“When fishers are willing to risk losing many thousands of dollars of gear, it confirms this is not an isolated incident,” he said.

The hooked turtle named Swift is one of 17 turtles tagged with a satellite transmitter off the coast of Costa Rica as part of a conservation project conducted by the Sea Turtle Restoration Project and the Costa Rican organization Pretoma.

The conservationists are tracking the sea turtles’ migrations in hopes of eventually creating protected swimways that will guide the turtles to and from their feeding and nesting areas.
While Cocos Island is commonly referred to as Shark Island for the abundance of hammerhead sharks, white-tipped reef sharks, and whale sharks swimming in its tropical waters, it comes as no surprise that the island is a hot spot for shark hunting. 

Even though the island’s protected waters were expanded last year by five times what was already labeled a ‘no-fishing zone,’ these pirate fisherman refuse to stop.  And despite the fact that shark fin trading is illegal in Costa Rica, it still continues. Sign the petition to the President of Costa Rica requesting to stop the shark finning once and for all!

Alisa Manzelli, Global Animal

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Interview with Cole Gibsen, Author of Young Adult Fantasy, Katana

 NS  I am so delighted to have as my guest today Cole Gibsen, author of Young Adult novels and fellow SCBWI member of The Bookends of southern Illinois, our beyond valuable critique group.  Please give the readers a bit of information as to how you came to writing novels for young adults.

Cole GibsenCG  My childhood through teen years were pretty rough. But no matter how bad things got for me, books were always there to provide me with an escape. There was a brief time in my life when I found myself homeless and had to live out of my car. I firmly believe that the books I checked out from the library that I read parked in truck stops are the reason I survived such difficult times. Books helped me—I’d go so far as to say they saved me— and I wanted to give back and do the same for others.
NS   I know for a fact how good you are at writing YA fantasy. Was that always an interest, or did you develop an appetite for that part of the genre?
CG   Fantasy has always been a favorite because of its ability to transport the reader into different worlds. I enjoy writing for teens because I because I remember how difficult my own teen years were and I believe if anyone needs and small escape from their daily lives, it’s them.
NS  Congratulations on your debut YA novel, Katana and your second, Breathless. Can you compare the two novels, or are they totally separate entities?

 CG  Thank you! While both novels are fantasy, they couldn’t be more different. Rileigh, my main character in Katana  is strong, feisty, and fierce. She’s everything I wanted to be when I was growing up. Edith, my main character from Breathless, is broken and glimpses of my own home life can be seen on the pages.   
NS  My readers always want to know about an author’s typical writing day.  Can you describe yours for them?

CG  I have a five-year-old. So up until this year finding time to write was a bit of a challenge. But now the kiddo has started school full time and I have eight glorious hours to write.  **And the people rejoiced!!!** Typically, I like to slam out a rough draft as fast as I can (typically within a month) and then I like to take my time editing it (another two to six months.)
BreathlessNS  What is up next for you, and when can we expect it?
CG  The sequel for Katana – Senshi – releases March, 2013 and I couldn’t be more excited!
NS   Where can your fans find you and your books?

CG  You can find out more about me and my books at my website:

Friday, October 5, 2012

Star Wars Reads Day is Today!

For all of you Star Wars fans out there:  The Force will be with more than 1,200 bookstores and libraries across the U.S. on Saturday, October 6, when they will host events in commemoration of the first-ever Star Wars Reads Day.

An initiative of Lucasfilm and its publishing partners, the event marks the first time that the franchise’s publishers have banded together for such a broad-reaching venture. Participating publishers include Abrams, Chronicle Books, Dark Horse Comics, Del Rey, DK, Klutz, Random House Audio, Scholastic, Titan Magazines, and Workman.

Star Wars Reads Day events will feature a range of activities, including raffles, giveaways, trivia contests, and book signings. Select celebrations will include appearances by authors and artists who have created Star Wars books for either the children’s or the adult market – or both.

In order to extend the reach of the celebration, NBC’s Today Show Charitable Foundation has signed on as the official charitable partner. Each participating publisher has donated Star Wars titles from its list, and the foundation, which provides gifts to underserved children and teenagers nationwide, will distribute the books to its affiliate organizations.

So jump into your all-non terrain vehicle and get on over to your favorite bookstore or library for a forceful celebration!

The Colored Museum by George C. Wolfe

Let me begin this post by saying I usually do not review or speak about plays or films.  But I will make an exception in this one case.

Last night it was my privilege to see a marvelous play titled The Colored Museum by George C. Wolfe at Stage Works, Tampa.  Bold, daring and beautifully done, each "exhibit" was a treatise on African American life yesterday and today.

Each scene is titled and self-contained, a separate exhibit in a museum that illuminates what it means to be African American in the United States during the 1980’s. A few of the scenes feature two or more actors speaking to one another, but in many of them the characters speak directly to the audience.

Arts of Tampa BayThe actors, to a person, were strong and played their parts in the most effective way possible.  This satire is a take no prisoners look at the entire society in the United States.  Uncomfortable?  At times.  Worth it?  Oh, yes. 

If you happen to be in the Tampa, Florida area until October 21, I would urge you to try and attend if possible.  You won't be disappointed. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Literary Classics is pleased to announce its 2012 selection of top book finalists for children and young adults.

The list includes finalists from entries received all over the world. We commend all those who were considered for this year's awards, as the caliber of books received was quite impressive and ompetition was fierce.
The Literary Classics selection committee is proud to recognize the following titles in children's and young adult literature which exemplify the criteria set forth by the Literary Classics Awards committee.
I am so honored to be in the august company of fellow award nominees for the Literary Classics International Book Awards, 2012. One Pelican at a Time and Sea Turtle Summer were selected as nominees, and I am humbled, indeed.

The awards will be announced on October 15, 2012.  Whether or not my books win is really not the issue.  Rather the spirit of the gesture is everything.  I am so delighted to be among those authors whose books were thought enough of to be placed in this group.  For that high honor, I am content.