Friday, May 31, 2013

Marvelous Middle Grade May Update

Time to update my progress on the MMGM Reading Challenge hosted by Deb Marshall.

I did not get to read as much as I thought I would. Classes ended, exams happened, and I had research articles to write.

Or, as we would say in the Netherlands Smoesjes, smoesjes! (Excuses, excuses!)

Smoesjes aside, the Middle Grades I read were really superb.

Our recent family read aloud was Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Roderick Rules by Jeff Kinney. 
This is our second Wimpy Kid read aloud as a family. I help work the book fair at school twice a year and you would not believe how much the kids love these books. They LITERALLY fly off the shelves. I've also heard from our teachers great things like, "I've seen those books turn non-readers into readers". Can you beat an endorsement like that from an elementary teacher?

To be perfectly honest, sometimes I pick a read aloud and then struggle to get through it-- it's not a judgment on a given book, instead it's that some books lend themselves better to this format. I will read my kids ALL of these books if they let me. I enjoy them, they move quickly, are a lot of fun, and the boys ADORE them.

Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool

I read this with my middle-grade book club this spring. We had a great time learning about the adventures of Shady, Jinx, Abilene and all the folks in Manifest. I loved the interwoven stories, the underlying mystery, and the way Vanderpool made history come alive. We did several activities throughout the weeks we were reading, including learning how to use a compass, making maps of our neighborhood, decorating cigar boxes just like Abilene's, and (as always) making wood blocks based on the story.

The kids rocked the woodblocks out, as usual. My photos are awful and they don't do them justice.
 That's a portrait of Shady on top, and the wrought iron fence on the bottom.

 Fish hooks were a popular theme, and several of the kids made them the focus of their work.

Another fish hook and a compass. We had a great time reading the book and making the prints.

My third and final MG read of the month was Will Sparrow's Road by Karen Cushman.

I won this from the delightful Joanne over at My Brain on Books and I'm so glad I did. Honestly, I don't think I would have found my way to it otherwise. I don't have anything against boy books or books set in the Elizabethan era, but I'm just not certain it would have made it onto my radar.

What a great book! In fact, it was one of those that I had WISHED I was reading aloud to my boys once I began it. Cushman effortlessly puts us into the world of the hapless Will Sparrow. The sights and smells of traveling fairs, the group of odd and misfit characters just leapt from the page. It reminded me a lot of my favorite Dickens, David Copperfield, in the sense that you found yourself rooting for someone who just couldn't seem to catch a break.

Joanne points out how this title makes her think of Pirates of the Carribbean! I totally agree, and it never ceases to makes me get this song stuck in my head.

I hope to finish up the Phantom Tollbooth over the weekend. :0)

Hope your weekend is delightful!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

What's up Wednesday and The Kindness Project

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly meme, started by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk, that helps readers and writers touch base with blog friends and let them know what's up. Join by visiting their blogs and signing in on the widget.

What I'm Reading
Finished up Will Sparrow's Road over the weekend and loved it! Ordered some used books last week and am awaiting their arrival.

What I'm Writing
So close to being finished with my revisions I can taste it. Also working on an article for work. Maybe I can finish it all this week? Maybe not. We will see
What Inspires Me Right Now
I went bug collecting with my boys this weekend. We had the best time. We are waiting none too patiently for the cicadas to emerge in Connecticut. I hope, hope, hope there will be some in my backyard. 

And I have not officially announced that I'm pregnant on the blog... but I am. Yay! I'm expecting a girl at the end of the summer and have enjoyed being inspired by her already. 

What Else I've Been Up To
I'm also posting today over at The Kindness Project. I saw this story last week about some inappropriate comments thrown online at a Sufi woman. Jezebel has good coverage of the story here. The response from the woman and the subsequent apology restored my faith in humanity. You can read my full post at The Kindness Project website.

So what have you been up to lately?   

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

What's Up Wednesday

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly meme, started by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk, that helps readers and writers touch base with blog friends and let them know what's upJoin by visiting their blogs and signing in on the widget. 

What I'm Reading
I'm focusing on MG for May as a part of 
 Deb Marshall's Marvelous Middle Grade May Challenge! 
Right now I'm reading Moon Over Manifest, Will Sparrow's Road, and The Phantom Toll Booth aloud with my kids. Loving them all for completely different reasons. 

I read Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wien in roughly 36 hours on mother's day weekend and I loved it SOOOOOO much. Will post real reviews of all of this soon.

What I'm Writing
I'm working on revisions on my steampunk YA... very excited about those. 

What Inspires Me Right Now
The weather. My kids and husband. New ways of thinking about creativity.
What Else I've Been Up To
Finishing exams means less time commuting to work and teaching. I'm glad for the break. 
Now I'm working on research and a little bit of printmaking. Soon I'll be writing my tenure packet... and I'm both excited and nervous about it. 

I've gotten to proof several prints. Hopefully editions will happen in the next month. I'm finally satisfied with this Clockwork Jellyfish woodcut.

I'm also working on this new series-- woodblocks of all seventy-one extinct insect species. That will take SEVERAL years. Just finding images of some of them is very time consuming. That's the thing about extinction... there's nothing left to document. Here's the first in the series, the Poko Noctuid moth, Agrotis crinigera, last seen in Hawaii in 1926.

This print is for a local group trying to stop the demolition of historic buildings in the neighborhood to make way for yet another ugly strip mall. 
What I learned in making this print is that I don't enjoy drawing buildings. SO HARD and the mistakes are much more noticeable than with bugs and other creepy crawlies. 

So what have you been up to lately?   

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Prejudice and Kindness

Posting here today and simultaneously over at The Kindness Project.

I imagine that if you find yourself reading this post you consider yourself to firmly fit in the "not prejudiced" category.

Of course you do!

It's not called The Jerk Project, after all.  :0)

But what if prejudice in real life is not always about being overtly jerky (or racist, sexist, or another offensive --ist) ... but instead about choosing to be not as kind to some people as to others

I heard this fascinating story about Harvard Psychologist Mahzarin Banaji on NPR during my commute two weeks ago. She co-wrote a book with Anthony Greenwald called Blind Spot: Hidden Biases of Good People.

In the story, Banaji tells the story of a former colleague at Yale who was an avid quilter. The woman sliced her hand open while washing a large glass bowl one day and rushed to the hospital. Once she checked into the ER she told the doctor on duty that as a lifelong quilter she wanted to ensure full movement in her hand. The doctor said, "Yes, yes, of course," and then proceeded to stitch her up.

Then a student working at the hospital recognized her and said hello. When the doctor realized she was a Yale professor he called in the best hand surgeon in the region, a medical team worked for hours, and tried to "save practically every last nerve" in her hand (Vedantam). Her ability to quilt was saved.

It wasn't that the ER doctor despised quilters... it was that something about her holding the title of Yale professor made him want to give her the absolute best.

If you're into kindness then you're not likely to be mean to the people you encounter each day.

But what if that's not really how prejudice rears its ugly head?

What if we go the extra mile for some people-- and we simply don't for others.

Hearing this story has made me examine when I do and don't "go the extra mile"and also made me question why I choose not to on occasion.

It also reminds me to a humorous version of this from 30 Rock, when Liz Lemon's doctor boyfriend (the adorable and hilarious Jon Hamm) lives in "the bubble" where people treat him better simply because he is terribly handsome.

What do you think? Do you think this is an accurate depiction of the way our world works?

Isn't Jon Hamm mighty handsome?

Friday, May 3, 2013

Marvelous Middle Grade MAY Challenge

I'm super excited to participate in Deb Marshall's Marvelous Middle Grade May Challenge! I heard about this challenge from Jenn Pickrell and was thrilled to see Joanne from My Brain on Books is taking part, too (I have learned about SO MANY great MG books from her posts).

Here is the sign-up for the challenge.

It's still early days of May, sign up!

Deb's giving away prizes, but the real benefit is reading some awesome Middle Grade, not to mention hearing about what everyone else is reading!

Here's my Middle Grade to read list for the month (subject to change as I hear about great books this month): 

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Roderick Rules by Jeff Kinney (family read-aloud)

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Attica by Gary Killworth

I'm also finishing Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool with my middle grade book club

I'll keep you posted on my progress! Let me know if you're planning to take part, too.

Even if you're not-- what's a great MG you can recommend that I read this month?

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Choose your own adventure blog hop for Broken Forest

Today I'm part of a very special, very creative blog hop to launch the adorable Eliza Tilton's debut Broken Forest. 

Eliza's Choose Your Own Adventure (who doesn't love those!) blog hop is chock-full of insects and other creepy crawlies. 

Eliza even asked me to make a woodcut of one of the blue butterflies featured in the story and she's giving it away as a prize in the Choose Your Own Adventure!

If you’ve landed here during your adventure, skip all this and go below.
If you’re wondering what’s going on, go here to start your own adventure!
And may The Creator bless you on your journey.

This part of the story:
The smart thing to do is run, very fast, but you’ve never been that smart, and so off you go deeper into the cave, hoping the giant centipedes aren’t hungry.
The cave seems to have no end, and your poor little fireflies won’t last much longer. You’re about to turn and leave when a blue butterfly flits past you. The bright blue hue of it glows, entrancing you with its beauty. The butterfly continues into the dark. Another butterfly joins it, then another, and another.
They lead you to a small pool below a giant open ceiling. Moonlight shines onto the pool, sparkling the water, and surrounding the serene sight are bunches of black flowers. Not only have you found one, but you’ve found enough to last through the winter. Jenzi title or not, your discovery will be talked about for seasons to come.
END (Ultimate)

Here is the main rafflecopter.

Here is the rafflecopter specific to this post, which includes the butterfly print! 

This is an illustration by the talented Katy Hubert. Isn't this stunning? 

Book goodreads blurb:
Hopeless he'll never be more than the boy who didn't save his brother, 17-year-old Avikar accepts his life as the family stable boy, trying to forget the past. But when his sister, Jeslyn, is kidnapped, the thought of losing another sibling catapults him on a desperate quest. With his best friend by his side, and using the tracking skills he learned from his father, he discovers Jeslyn has been taken, kidnapped by one Lucino, the young lord of Daath, a mystical place thought only to exist in fables.

And Lucino has plans for Jeslyn.

Author BIO:
Eliza graduated from Dowling College with a BS in Visual Communications. When she’s not arguing with excel at her day job, or playing Dragon Age 2, again, she’s writing. Her stories hold a bit of the fantastical and there’s always a romance. She resides on Long Island with her husband, two kids and one very snuggly pit bull.

Buy links:

Eliza can be found on:
Her Website