Friday, November 28, 2014

Red Cross Launches Emergency App for Children

 Emergency preparedness is no laughing matter and not to be taken lightly.  But kids will get a kick out of a new American Red Cross emergency preparedness app that combines important information and fun.

monster-guard-flood-screenshot-1.PNGThe free "Monster Guard" app, geared toward children ages 7 to 11, is a game that teaches how to prevent emergencies, such as home fires, and what do if severe or natural disasters occur. 

Set in the "Monster Guard Academy," the young app user is a recruit who trains to prepare for disasters and practices what to do if one happens.

Users can role-play as various monster characters, go through the initiation and engage in interactive training for hazards such as tornados, floods and hurricanes. A player who completes all of the episodes graduates to become a member of the "Monster Guard."

According to the Red Cross, the game is best played on a tablet, but it also works well on other mobile devices. The app can be downloaded through the user's mobile app store. Go to or text 'MONSTER' to 90999 for a direct link to download the app.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Red Berries, Blue Sky, White Clouds: Kids' Book on the Wartime Internment of Japanese Americans

A move from California to Colorado takes place in the new book “Red Berries White Clouds Blue Sky” by Sandra Dallas — but it is certainly nothing to look forward to, especially if you're a kid.

Twelve-year-old Tomi Itano hoped that her little brother Hiro wouldn’t notice the hurtful word on the 
door of the grocery store. It made her cringe that he was 7 years old and could read the word “Japs.”
It was 1942, and the Japanese had just bombed Pearl Harbor. America entered World War II soon after, which caused much discrimination for Japanese-Americans like the Itanos. Tomi, Hiro and their older brother Roy had been born in America, but that didn’t seem to matter to their friends and neighbors.
Mom said “Shikata ga nai” (“It cannot be helped.”). Pop kept working on the strawberry farm where they all lived — until the day the FBI showed up, arrested him and took him away to prison camp. Shortly afterward, the rest of the Itanos packed a single suitcase and were forced to move to a relocation camp.
Ellis, Colo., was nothing at all like California, and Tallgrass Camp was nothing like the strawberry farm. Tomi’s family lived in a barracks surrounded by barbed wire in an area that didn’t seem like it would grow anything. There was a school and a community hall where Mom taught other Japanese-American women to sew, but the Itanos didn’t enjoy living there — especially without Pop. Still, they made friends and started new projects, and things settled into a pattern of normalcy.
Then the one thing Tomi wanted more than anything finally happened — but it made her mad and bitter. The Itanos were as American as anybody, so why were they treated as if they weren’t? She couldn’t stop being angry, until her brother asked her to do something very important. 

Japanese Intermnent Camp in US
Dallas says:
I really traveled alongside these characters, rooting for them and feeling for their struggles. I know that all readers, young or more advanced, will experience something similar.
In addition to explaining the historical facts, Dallas says in her afterword that years ago she met a couple of Japanese-American journalists who’d spent the war years in relocation camps, and their stories were the basis for part of this book. It will be interesting for readers to root for and identify with Tomi, a regular American girl. 
Red Berries White Clouds Blue Sky" by Sandra Dallas
c.2014, Sleeping Bear Press $15.95 / $16.95 Canada:  216 pages

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

To Kill a Mockingbird Now Offered in an Enhanced eBook Edition

HarperCollins has published an enhanced eBook edition of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.

To Kill a MockingbirdThe company released the normal eBook To Kill a Mockingbird eBook in July, 2014. The enhancement features on this digital book include a radio interview with Lee, footage from the 1962 film adaptation, audiobook clips performed by Sissy Spacek.

 There will be snippets from the Hey Boo documentary with appearances from Oprah WinfreyTom Brokaw, and Anna Quindlen.

According to The Associated Press, “HarperCollins spokeswoman Tina Andreadis says the new Mockingbird edition had received 6,500 pre-orders, far more than for the usual ‘enhanced’ book. She says the publisher has sold 80,000 copies of the regular eBook, a figure comparable to print sales.

Total worldwide sales exceed 30 million copies since the book’s 1960 release. Both eBook editions are priced at $8.99.

To Kill a Mockingbird, a novel by Harper Lee published in 1960. It was immediately successful, winning the Pulitzer Prize, and has become a classic of modern American Literature. The plot and characters are loosely based on the author's observations of her family and neighbors, as well as on an event that occurred near her hometown in 1936, when she was 10 years old.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Hunger Games is Going to the (Near) London Stage

The blockbuster post-apocalyptic action franchise “The Hunger Games” is hitting the stage and will open London in the summer of 2016 in a new purpose-built theater next to Wembley Stadium, said Lionsgate . 

The studio behind “The Hunger Games” said it was teaming with Dutch media company Imagine Nation and US based Triangular Entertainment on the show, which will be produced by Tony Award winner Robin de Levita and others.

 Lionsgate Chief Marketing Officer Tim Palen said in a statement:

Their creative genius, combined with world-class production values and state-of-the-art technology, will provide a uniquely immersive experience for fans around the world.

The latest installment in the series, “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1” stars Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth and Woody Harrelson.

It will be released worldwide on Nov 21.

The previous two “Hunger Games” films grossed more than US$1.5 billion (RM 5.019 billion) in worldwide box office receipts. 

The books by Suzanne Collins, on which the films are based, have sold more than 80 million copies around the world.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Interview With Ella Kennen: Junior Agent at Corvisiero Literary Agency

Today it is my distinct pleasure to welcome literary agent and friend Ella Kennen to the blog! Ella is a junior agent at New York based Corvisiero Literary Agency.  Congratulations!

NS  Please tell us a bit about your literary journey to your recent appointment of agent at the Corvisiero Literary Agency.

EK  I edited my first piece – one of my mom’s speeches – when I was about twelve, and I delighted in the turn-around: the chance to take a red pen to paper. But, editing was never my goal: I wanted to be a writer. I did all the typical things literary-minded kids do: I worked on the school lit mag, I entered (and sometimes won) contests, I inhaled books. In college, I added Writing Center tutor to my repertoire. But I heard it was too hard to break into fiction, so when I graduated I started focusing on nonfiction – small articles, for magazines, newspapers, and the web, and bigger pieces for trade magazines. And I made pretty decent money off of it… until I burned out. I didn’t write professionally for years. Then I had a daughter… and I started reading to her, and reading, and reading, until story ideas were oozing out of me. So I learned about kid lit, took a class, had some early successes – Appleseeds, Highlights, MeeGenius, etc. And then I joined a couple of critique groups.  And that was pivotal. I was one of those people who had always enjoyed the idea of writing more than writing itself, but I LOVED critiquing. I didn’t have to wrangle a muse, or wait until I was in the mood.  I just did it. The more I critiqued, the more I learned, and it made me want to become even better.  So I read more, and critiqued more, and got some freelance gigs, and used that experience and skills to land an editorial position at an ebook publisher. But I didn’t have a say in what projects I worked with, so I started to look around to see what other options I might have.  I landed an internship at the Corvisiero Agency in January of this year, then became an agent apprentice, and was recently promoted  to Junior Agent.

NS  As many of my readers are writers themselves, is there any advice you’d give them on the route to being published?

EK  Write the type of projects you want to write. If you want to be a novelist, don’t start with short stories because you’ve heard you need credentials (you don’t!). If you want to write middle grade, don’t start with picture books because you’ve heard it’s easier (it’s not!). If you want to write picture books, don’t start with magazine articles – the word count is similar, but the pacing, the cadence, and the use of imagery are all very distinct. If you want to try your hand at an assortment of things, then by all means, do it, but otherwise it’s like taking up the violin because you want to be a tuba player.
-- You don’t have to write what you know, but you should write what you care about. Your passion will come through.
-- Writing is part rocket science and part alchemy. So many variables – a standout premise, distinct character development, realistic dialog, fast pacing, seamless worldbuilding, believable yet unexpected plot arcs, satisfying character arcs, fascinating subplots – have to come together just right for magic on the page to occur. It’s HARD. All those things don’t happen overnight, and you shouldn’t expect them to. Debut novelists aren’t novice writers – they are people who are now breaking through, and you can, too.
 -- Read about your craft. Read, read, read. Publishing is a business, and there are good practices and bad practices. Most of the people we pass on get passed because of avoidable issues. Don’t be those people.
-- Join a critique group or two. It can be very hard to be objective about your own work, but it is so much easier to see a technique that’s been well or poorly carried out in someone else’s work.  Seeing something done badly (and what is that something? It could be a host of things… which is why you read craft books to become aware of the issues) can bring about that “aha!” moment where you see why a rule exists and what happens when it’s poorly executed. And once you gain that awareness, it is easier to see how it applies to your own work.
-- Develop a thick skin. Yes, on the one hand, this is your baby that you’ve poured heart and soul and countless hours into, but it is not you. It is one attempt; you will have others. 
-- Keep writing. Nothing distracts from the agony of waiting and the anguish of rejection than being excited about another project. And the only way to really get better at writing is to write.

 NS  What are you looking for in the slush pile at this particular time?  Any happy surprises?

 EK  Surprises are exactly what I’m looking for. I get giddy whenever I see a project from a perspective I’ve never come across before. I love realistic novels that open the curtains to a world previously unknown to me – what it’s like to have cerebral palsy or to be a fire-eater. I love page-turning plots – I pick projects on their ability to make me lose sleep because I’m too busy reading. But it’s the characters that make me care about going on the journey or not.
I’m always on the lookout for great graphic novels (any age group, any genre) and page-turning nonfiction (any age group). I am also open to any genre of middle grade, young adult, new adult, and will consider picture books by invitation only.
NS   You and I serve as judges of the marvelous Rate Your Story Organization.  Are there any other groups to which you give your (limited) time?

EK  Just to be clear, I am not an active judge at Rate Your Story anymore, though I do manage the blog there – and I often wish submissions I see in the slushpile had gone through RYS first! In the writing world: I’ve had the opportunity to work with the Children’s Book Academy, present at a regional SCBWI conference, and help with a Writer’s Digest workshop. I hope and plan to have more opportunities like that – I love interacting with authors and helping provide them with opportunities for professional growth.
In the nonwriting world (which I sometimes have to remind myself exists), I am on the board of my local homeschooling group and teach homeschool drama, and am special activities coordinator for my base’s spouses’ club, which sounds much more stuffy than it is – we’re talking craft club, movie outings, improv, triathlon training, etc. I don’t lead all those groups up – I just cajoled people into taking the reins!

NS  How may people reach you to submit?

EK  Writers can submit their query letter, 1-2 page synopsis, and first five pages of their completed manuscript to me at Be sure to include my name on the subject line.  Please note that we respond to EVERY submission, but do only submit one project to one agent at our agency at a time.

NS  Ella, it has been such a pleasure having you visit the blog today.  I know how very busy you are with homeschooling, agenting, and the myriad other responsibilities you assume.  I want to wish you every success in your career at Corvisiero Literary Agency as junior agent! 

Monday, November 3, 2014

New Oxford Companion to Children's Literature Out in the New Year

Oxford University Press (OUP) will next year publish a new edition of the Oxford Companion to Children's Literature, more than 30 years after the book first appeared in print according to Charlotte Eyre.

Oxford Companion to Children's LiteratureThe new edition, scheduled for release as a £30 ($45.00) hardback in March 2015, was edited by author and journalist Daniel Hahn and covers all the major developments in children’s publishing since 1983.

Hahn said he approached OUP about updating the old companion because “after three decades it was clearly missing a lot of what was exciting in children’s literature nowadays”.

He added 900 new entries, bringing the total to 3,640, and shortened older content to make way for the new. He cut about 70 complete entries that were mostly about the literary output of different countries, such as Brazil, Czechoslovakia (which is now the Czech Republic) and Holland (the Netherlands), and added authors such as Philip Pullman, David Almond, Julia Donaldson, Jacqueline Wilson, Dick King Smith and Neil Gaiman. One of the longest entries is about J K Rowling’s Harry Potter series, running to 1,600 words.

“The new material is incredibly varied, mostly it’s covering things over the last 30 years but also filling in a few gaps from the first edition,” he said. “The English-speaking world beyond the UK is better represented as a whole, as are foreign-language writers.”

YA fiction is much more prominent than in the first edition. “There were no more than a handful of YA writers in the old edition, for instance, and there are dozens and dozens now. The crossover book is discussed as a phenomenon in itself, and lots of books that typically carry that label are included in their own right.

There are also sections on manga, fan fiction and non-print publishing.

When considering what should go into the book, Hahn considered both quality and significance, saying: “Some books I may not think are especially good but are clearly important if only because they sold a zillion copies and made everyone else suddenly want to write about vampires.”

He added: “It’s also about balance – trying to represent work in a range of countries and for a range of ages, by a variety of writers and illustrators in a range of genres and styles. Ultimately it’s only a snapshot but it’s important that it represents a recognisable picture.”