101 Hilarious Pranks and Practical Jokes! New Middle Grade Book by Theresa Julian

Theresa Julian, critique partner, writer-friend, published author, and fellow triplets mom, can be called a humor expert. Her first book, The Joke Machine, teaches kids how they can increase their own funny factor. Her second book, 101 HILARIOUS PRANKS AND PRACTICAL JOKES, illustrated by Pat Lewis, is now out in the world! Woohoo! Darlene Beck-Jacobson added an excellent post to her blog “Gold From The Dust: Bringing Stories to Life,” in which Theresa gives potential pranksters a leg up by sharing tips from her book. Darlene’s post is re-blogged below.

Theresa says:

Did you know:

  • Cows moo with different accents – depending on where they live?
  • The bones in the human body are held together by marshmallow taffy?
  • Snakes don’t live in swamps, they live in potato chips cans, like this:

If you didn’t know these facts, it’s okay because – none of them are true. I’m pulling your leg. Kidding. Pranking you.

If there’s a little jokester in your life who wants to learn about pranking, check out 101 Hilarious Pranks & Practical Jokesa middle grade book written by me and illustrated by Pat Lewis. This super silly book includes – you guessed it – 101 pranks, AND explains how to pull the perfect trick.

The book teaches kids how to pace their prank, find the right attitude, and create a story around it. It explains how kids can kick their pranks up a notch through physical humor, which is using their body to make someone laugh. It’s using goofy faces, funny voices, slipping, tripping, and weird smells and sounds to make their pranks extra awesome.

Here are some tips from the book:

Attitude

Start a prank with the right attitude. How would you feel if you were really in the prank situation? If you’re pretending you’ve just won a million dollars, act thrilled. If you’re pretending you broke a window, act shocked. If you’ve filled the cabinet with ping-pong balls, act casual and wait for someone to open the door. Pick an attitude, commit to it, and sell it.

Story

Create an interesting story around your prank. Let’s say you want to convince your friend that your family has a “dead finger” collection and you’ve brought in your favorite one to show her. But, of course, it’s really just your finger in a box, covered in ketchup and avocado mush.

If you walk up to your friend and show her the box, it may not be very effective. But if you build it up with a story that draws her in, and then show the box, you’ll get a bigger reaction. 

Try creating a story like this: You crept down your creaky basement stairs; opened the rusty door to the back room; and gagged at the stench of rotting skin. When you turned on the light, you found that there, in your very own basement, was a dead-finger collection – probably great-grandpa’s from the war. Now, when you show the box, you’ll probably get the reaction you were looking for.

Pacing

A good prank is carefully paced, not blurted out or rushed.

Picture this: Your brother walks into the kitchen and hasn’t yet seen the fake tarantula on the cheese casserole. Do you jump up and yell, “Look at the cheese casserole, ha ha!”? No, of course not. You sit and wait, distract him with comments about how good you’ve been (which, is always true, right?), and wait for the time to be ripe. It’s sooo much better if he finds the hairy spider himself!

Funny Faces

Let’s face it, facial expressions are key to a good prank because they help sell your story. Picture a face that’s afraid, amazed, annoyed, or bored, like the ones below.

The right face can say a lot more than words. So when you’re pranking, let your face do the talking!

Kooky Arms & Legs

Get your whole body into the prank. If you tell your friend the rat in the garage is THIS BIG, fling out your arms and show just how big. If you’re pretending you’re about to vomit, clutch your stomach, moan and double over in pain. In the prankiverse, body language reinforces your story and paints a picture, and is often funnier than words.

Silly Voices and Sounds

Silly voices and sounds make pranks more believable and fun. If you’re pretending you’ve broken a window, download a crashing glass sound and play it on your phone or computer. If you’ll make a prank call, you’ll need to disguise your voice with an accent or different tone. Funny voices are fun to create and once you’ve nailed a few, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without them!

Slipping, Tripping and Prat-falling

101 Hilarious Pranks & Practical Jokes teaches you how to pretend you’re slipping, tripping and falling, so you get the reaction you want. For example, here’s how to pretend you’re hitting your head on a door:

The book also explains how to crack your nose, bite off your finger, detach your head, spit out your teeth, push a pencil through your head, rip your eyeball out, slip in poop, and control gravity. You’re welcome.

So, if there’s a little prankster in your life who’s looking to learn completely ridiculous skills, such as how to use goofy faces, funny voices, bad smells, weird sounds, and smooth body moves to trick their friends, check out 101 HILARIOUS PRANKS AND PRACTICAL JOKES which goes on sale Sept. 28, 2021. Then — watch your back

Theresa Julian loves chocolate, changing her ringtones, and writing humorous books for middle graders. Her books have been featured in TIME for Kids magazine, the Barnes & Noble Kid’s Blog, and Today.com. Theresa is a graduate of Boston College and has a Master’s in Corporate Communications. After many years of writing business documents for large corporations, she’s now happily living on the beach, writing funny books for kids. Her mother claims Theresa spent most of first grade sleeping on her desk, but don’t worry, she’s awake now, dreaming up new ways to keep kids reading and laughing.

Connect with Theresa on http://www.TheresaJulian.com
Twitter: @Theresa_Julian
Instagram: @tm_julian

The Vast of Night, Movie Review

Images source: imdb.com

Noises and Night and Unexplained Lights, Oh My!

Humans are eternally fascinated by the possibility of life on other planets. I never tire of movies about venturing into space (The Martian), encountering creatures we never imagined (Arrival), or contemplating a fourth dimension (Interstellar). Enter into this genre “The Vast of Night, a PG-13, 1 1/2 hour “micro-budget sci-fi indi” movie made in only 17 days on a tight budget of $700,000. Available on Amazon Prime Video, the movie starts as if it’s an episode of “Paradox Theatre Hour” (a play on “The Twilight Zone”) and follows high schoolers Everett and Faye as they enter their high school’s basketball game and then leave for their jobs as a radio show host and switchboard operator, respectively. Everett and Faye talk fast and walk quickly, and it isn’t until they leave the high school that you get to know them on a more personal level. Stick with them and you’ll be in for a ride. I was all in and can’t stop thinking about this movie–it was that good!

To get a full synopsis and review, check out Sheila O’Malley’s write-up for RogerEbert.com, in full, below.

‘There’s something in the sky.’

It’s a testament to what director Andrew Patterson has pulled off in his micro-budget sci-fi indie “The Vast of Night” that when that line comes, it feels like it’s the first time those words have ever been said, even though there’s a line just like it in every movie of its kind. Something about Patterson’s approach—precise and inventive—makes a moment that could have been a cliche into something fresh, vivid, filled with the strangeness of what it would really be like. The line is whispered into an eerie nighttime silence, and the mood is one of awe, terror, excitement. What is out there in the vast of night? There’s something in the sky. How on earth Patterson made a movie about a UFO hovering over a small town in the late 1950s without falling back on every cliche in the book is the fun and wonder of “The Vast of Night.” You already know the plot. You’ve seen it all before. But the way the story is told is new. With “The Vast of Night,” it really is about the how, not just the “what happens.”

The film opens at a high school basketball game. The entire town is in the stands. Lanky players lope around the court. Cheerleaders do cartwheels on the sidelines. Two high school kids, Everett (Jake Horowitz) and Fay (Sierra McCormick), leave the game and walk across the deserted town to their nighttime jobs. He hosts a nightly radio show, and she mans the town switchboard. Once ensconced at their jobs, they realize something strange is going on. There’s interference in the radio signals. She notices calls are cutting out. A weird sound comes through the line, a sound Fay doesn’t recognize. She calls Everett and plays it for him. He doesn’t know what it is either. A woman calls the switchboard, screaming through the static about something weird going on on the outskirts of town. But Fay can’t hear her through the fuzz. Fay and Everett are both technology nerds. They decide to figure out what is going on.

All of this is familiar territory to anyone who has seen “The Blob,” “The X-Files,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” “The Twilight Zone,” you name it. The trappings of the genre are present, and writers James Montague and Craig W. Sanger don’t shy away from any of it. They even place the entire film within a framing device of a black-and-white TV showing an episode of the “Paradox Theatre Hour.” This is just one of the distancing techniques in operation. The audience is kept at a slight remove. You notice it right away in the opening sequence, a long meandering take, following Everett and Fay as they walk through the gym and then outside into the parking lot, talking the whole time. The most obvious thing right off the bat is that there are no close-ups, nothing to familiarize us with the characters. Their dialogue is fast and overlapped, ridden with slang (“Razzle my berries.” “Cut the gas, cube”), and it takes some time to figure out what they’re talking about. This continues during their walk across the empty town, the camera stalking them from behind, gliding along creepily at street level.

But a funny thing happens during this opening sequence. In a way, the whole thing is alienating. It refuses to let you in. “The Vast of Night” doesn’t come to you. You must go to it. You must submit to its rules, and once you do, it yields tremendous rewards. Patterson’s style, in partnership with cinematographer M.I. Littin-Menz, infuses these well-worn plot points with urgency, creating an overriding mood of strangeness and mystery. By the time Patterson finally gives us close-ups of his two young leads, we already have gotten to know them, just from following them around. It’s old-fashioned in a beautiful way: once upon a time, a close-up really meant something, and close-ups really mean something in “The Vast of Night.”

The moments of technical virtuosity are amazing when you consider the budget and that Patterson basically funded the movie himself. There’s a tracking shot through what appears to be the entire town, down the main drag, around a corner, over some grass, past the power station, through the gym parking lot, into the crowded gym, and then out again. Another standout scene is a ten-minute single take where Fay, at the switchboard, takes calls, makes calls, plugging wires in, pulling wires out, each call with a different agenda, ignited by Fay’s increasing sense of alarm that something is very wrong “out there” in the vast night. It’s a complicated sequence, and McCormick handles it all with aplomb and skill. Patterson’s style is flexible and patient enough to allow for shadings, nuances, even complexities in not just Everett and Fay, but the people they meet along the way.

“The Vast of Night” is not just a stylistic exercise. It is not ironic in tone, and it doesn’t have quotation marks around the genre. The tail-finned cars, the saddle shoes, the cat-eye glasses, the Sputnik references, place us in time, but the period is not belabored and/or condescended to. Instead, what we get is a thickness of atmosphere and texture, a strange and eerie mood, and affection for the characters we meet. The distancing choices made at the beginning just increase the feelings of intimacy and warmth by the end.

This is an astonishing first feature. It works like gangbusters, start to finish.

Sheila O’Malley for RogerEbert.com

 

Sayings at Meow Wolf, Santa Fe

Sayings and stories abound at Meow Wolf!

Some of the written-word art at Santa Fe’s Meow Wolf, “The House of Eternal Return,” makes you laugh, some makes you think, and all of it enhances the interactive, exploratory art exhibit that allows your imagination to think of time and space as non-linear. So fun!

Las Vegas hosts a second permanent Meow Wolf installation, “Mega Mart.” [“Participants explore an extraordinary supermarket that bursts into surreal worlds and unexpected landscapes.”]

The third Meow Wolf installation opens in Denver this September and is called “Convergence Station.” [“Discover immersive psychedelic, mind-bending art and an underlying rich narrative as you take a journey of discovery into a surreal, science-fictional epic.”]

Hon, have you been to Meow Wolf? What did you think?

Girls weekend with Laura and Cindy.

Mindbending Art at Meow Wolf, Santa Fe

Black and white kitchen with an invitation to open cabinets and drawers.

“Mind-bending, explorable art experience for people of all ages in Santa Fe, New Mexico.”

Have you heard of Meow Wolf? I hadn’t either until my recent trip to Santa Fe. Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return “takes participants on a macrocosmic adventure of seemingly endless possibilities.” It’s art, music, a mystery, a story, and an experience. You walk into a house and discover endless pathways to seemingly other dimensions. Walk into the fridge, slide inside the dryer, duck into the fireplace, climb layers of a tree-house, interact with on-site actors, and explore materials and mediums in ways you’ve never thought of–all of it opening up your mind and sense of wonder.

303 Magazine’s Corinne Anderson describes the one-of-a-kind art installation “by breaking down the main themes that tie the psychedelic smorgasbord of Meow Wolf together.”

It Encourages Curiosity

Using your imagination is almost unnecessary if you just wander throughout The House of Eternal Return because the wildly fantastic environments easily transport you to unearthly dimensions. But within these dimensions there are countless ways to interact and immerse yourself which take at least a little inquisitiveness to uncover.

If wandering around with no purpose doesn’t suit you, then you can try to puzzle out the mystery that was written by five different Meow Wolf writers about the event that pushed this regular house into an irregular rift between space and time. With this addition, Meow Wolf has invented an escape room and fantasy funhouse hybrid that tickles every single one of our senses, no matter our age.

Interaction With the Art is Key

Almost everything is handleable, and if it’s not, it’s clearly marked. Find a piano? Play it. Walk through a fabric corridor? Rub your hands along the walls and see what happens. Encouraging discovery and interaction is essential to Meow Wolf, which gives the installation an unusual spot in the art world. 

You Will Question Time and Space

Without giving away too much of the mystery, it is important to understand that the house and its inhabitants have been affected by a fracture in the space-time continuum. The House of Eternal Return is in fact, a house. But a better way to imagine it is as a portal. The portal serves as a kind of transport station to other dimensions. These dimensions seem to have no order, no relation to one another because they exist as memories and feelings of the members of the household.

Meow Wolf has created a completely new style of experiencing art and it’s exciting to feel that as a visitor you are a part of that experience, rather than an onlooker.

303Magazine

Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit, Part 2

At the Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit New York on Pier 36, when you exit the rooms with videos, you come across the quote, “What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?” This quote, and the fact that Van Gogh only sold one painting during his lifetime, spoke to me and my writing journey. Thank you, Vincent, I am brave!

I recently Tweeted a comment from a friend. Upon hearing how hard it is to break into Kidlit, she said, “A lot of people get famous after they die.” Ummm…WHAT?! First of all, I don’t write Kidlit to become famous and, secondly, WHAT?! Was that meant as encouragement? Was she volunteering to be my “manuscript historian” and, once I depart this Earth, make sure my stories and characters see the light of day and laps of children?

Back to Vincent. Turn the corner from his quote and you see mannequins adorned in interpretive fashion. I disagree with Jason Farago, whose review “Submerged in van Gogh: Would Absinthe Make the Art Grow Fonder? in The New York Times said that the mannequins were wearing “shockingly tacky van Gogh-inspired clothing. (Where might these dresses festooned with wheat and sunflowers be appropriate? The Miss Provence pageant? Is there a Saint-Rémy drag night I don’t know about?)” Funny, but as a former student of fashion history, I enjoy seeing how designers create clothes, even if they’re made from unwearable material. A fashion exhibit at The Metropolitan Museum of Art comes to mind; dresses made of blue and white Chinoiserie were extraordinary.

One more thing to try before you leave the exhibit is a booth where you can “hear” color. I didn’t know Van Gogh experienced chromesthesia, a condition where sound evokes different colors.

Hon, still thinking about the “better off dead” comment? Me, too. And still shaking my head.

Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit, Part 1

The recent variety of immersive Van Gogh exhibits have received mixed reviews. One of my daughters said that the one she attended in CA was in one room, poorly executed, and left her sorry to have paid the ticket price. But, I found the Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit at Pier 36 in Manhattan that Hubby, another daughter and I attended very cool. The same floor-to-ceiling images play on a loop in three rooms. In the first room, vertical, mirrored columns reflect the moving images. In the middle room, huge mirrored, geometric shapes do the the same. In the enormous third room, there’s space to sit, recline or sprawl out.

I really enjoyed being surrounded by floor-to-ceiling art, vibrant colors, spectral music, and the illusion that the room was moving. After a pandemic year of living insular, isolated lives, sharing a space with people all seemingly enchanted and contemplative was, in itself, what made the experience one-of-a-kind.

Click Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit New York to find out more.

Hon, have you gone to a Van Gogh exhibit near you? What did you think?

A Trapezoid is NOT a Dinosaur! by Suzanne Morris

Happy Book Birthday to a bunch of NJ SCBWI writer-friends!

Hon, you know how much I love Kidlit, especially picture books, so congrats to authors whose picture books have just debuted!

Suzanne Morris’ picture book, A Trapezoid is NOT a Dinosaur, which she wrote and illustrated, debuted November 5, 2019. Though plans to promote her book were delayed by the pandemic, she has new dates on the calendar.

July 15, 2021 

Author Chat with Janette

10:30am Wayne Public Library, Wayne, NJ

https://www.tapinto.net/towns/wayne/events/virtual-author-chat-with-suzanne-morris

July 17, 2021

10:30am Ringwood Public Library, Ringwood, NJ

In this wildly amusing, unconventional shape concept book, Trapezoid is here to declare that he’s a shape, too. He’s NOT a type of dinosaur!

Shape up, shapes! Triangle is hosting auditions for all the best shapes to be in his play. Circle, Square, and Star each get a part. But Trapezoid just doesn’t “fit in.” Is he even a shape? The others think he sounds like a type of dinosaur. Determined to show off his usefulness, Trapezoid tries to act like the other shapes, to no avail. Eventually, though, Trapezoid celebrates his own distinct shape properties in order to become part of the performance. 

Goodreads

Click here to check out the free guides and activity sheets Suzanne pairs with her book. https://www.facebook.com/suzanne.morris.33/, @smorrisart

Father’s Day Hike, Hacklebarney State Park

Hiking in Hacklebarney State Park

Last Father’s Day, Hubby requested a day hiking, so we packed a picnic, harnessed Lucy and drove to Hacklebarney State Park in Long Valley. The shaded trails range from easy and wide to narrow and moderately challenging. All follow the Black River whose cool and pretty water rushes over many small waterfalls . Our plan is go on another hike tomorrow. Yay for outdoor time in fresh air in summer weather!

Info from Hacklebarney’s website:

The freshwater Black River briskly cuts its way through rocky Hacklebarney State Park, cascading around boulders in the hemlock-lined ravine. Two tributaries, Rinehart and Trout Brooks, also course their way through this glacial valley, feeding the Black River. Even in the heat of midsummer, the temperature of Black River gorge is cool and refreshing.

Today Hacklebarney is a favorite place for avid anglers, hikers and picnickers, yet in the 19th century the park was a mined iron ore site. The gushing river against the grey boulders and dark green hemlocks creates a majestic beauty in any season.

Three rare and endangered plant species exist within the park: American ginseng, leatherwood and Virginia pennywort. Over a hundred bird species and wildlife such as black bear, woodchuck, deer and fox live in the park.

Code Breaker, Spy Hunter, How Elizebeth Friedman Changed the Course of Two World Wars by Laurie Wallmark

Happy Book Birthday to a bunch of NJ SCBWI writer-friends!

Hon, you know how much I love Kidlit, especially picture books, so congrats to authors I know whose picture books have just debuted!

Laurie Wallmark’s newest picture book, Code Breaker, Spy Hunter, How Elizebeth Friedman Changed the Course of Two World Wars, illustrated by Brooke Smart, debuted on March 2, 2021.

Decode the story of Elizebeth Friedman, the cryptologist who took down gangsters and Nazi spies

In this picture book biography, young readers will learn all about Elizebeth Friedman (1892–1980), a brilliant American code breaker who smashed Nazi spy rings, took down gangsters, and created the CIA’s first cryptology unit. Her story came to light when her secret papers were finally declassified in 2015. From thwarting notorious rumrunners with only paper and pencil to “counter-spying into the minds and activities of” Nazis, Elizebeth held a pivotal role in the early days of US cryptology. No code was too challenging for her to crack, and Elizebeth’s work undoubtedly saved thousands of lives. Extensive back matter includes explanations of codes and ciphers, further information on cryptology, a bibliography, a timeline of Elizebeth’s life, plus secret messages for young readers to decode.

Goodreads

Check out Interview with Laurie Wallmark: Woman in STEM (who is NOT DEAD!) on the blog Unpacking the Power of Picture Books by Sandy Brehl to find out the very cool things embedded in the Code Breaker, Spy Hunter’s illustrations, why Laurie loves backmatter, and her thoughts about publishing many women-in-STEM picture books.

Other books by Laurie are Numbers in Motion: Sophie Kowalevski, Queen of Mathematics, Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life, Grace Hopper, Queen of Computer Code, and Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine. @lauriewallmark

 

We Love Fishing! by Ariel Bernstein

Happy Book Birthday to a bunch of NJ SCBWI writer-friends!

Hon, you know how much I love Kidlit, especially picture books, so congrats to authors whose picture books have just debuted!

Ariel Bernsteins’s newest picture book, We Love Fishing!, illustrated by Marc Rosenthal, debuted on February 23, 2021.

Perfect for fans of Mo Willems, this hilarious picture book explores feeling like the odd one out with bright and engaging art by New York Times bestselling illustrator Marc Rosenthal.

It’s a beautiful day, and a group of friends are excited to spend it together. The woodland creatures can’t wait to pile into their boat and go fishing! Or, at least, Bear, Porcupine, and Otter can’t wait. They love fishing. Squirrel…does not.

Squirrel tags along with his enthusiastic friends, but is there anything they all love? Or is this fishing trip already sunk? 

Goodreads

Check out Interview With Author Ariel Bernstein on Ellwyn Autumn’s Blog to find out what she finds most challenging about writing picture and chapter books, a common theme in her stories, and what she’d do if approached by an elf.

Other books by Ariel are I Have a Balloon, Where Is My Balloon, and Warren & Dragon chapter books. @ArielBBooks