Manifesting a Grasshopper?

Bonding with a striped-leg grasshopper.

One of my favorite sounds is the nighttime chirping of grasshoppers and crickets. Summer chirping lulls me to sleep the same way as ocean waves. Right about now, in mid-October, I pay close attention to insect mate-calling. There will be a night when the air is filled with nature’s stereo, and the next night the record’s put back in its sleeve. Though I love autumn, it makes me melancholy to bid an official farewell to perfect-temperature-nights, warm-sand-days, and a summer’s promise of possibilities.

As I continue to work towards my writing goals, I’ve added something to my thought process–manifestation. I concentrate on my goals; what they are and what it would feel like to achieve them. If you see me gazing at the sky, know that I am sending my independent-minded characters, lyrical writing, and layered stories out into the universe, hoping they find champions who will bring them to life.

Did I know that when I read the poignant poem Postlude, I was also manifesting a grasshopper? I did not, but there he was, away from his lawn forest, a striped-leg, little guy who let me scoop him up. When I opened up my palm, he hung out and studied me with his five eyes. Then, he hopped out of my hand.

Do you think it’s a sign? A coincidence? A message from the universe that my-work-my-heart-my-passion to share the wonder in the world by writing Kidlit is traveling on both puffy white clouds and waving green grass? I pray so.

Stay by the hearth, little cricket.
Cendrillon

You prefer me invisible, no more than
a crisp salute far away from 
your silks and firewood and woolens.

Out of sight, I’m merely an annoyance,
one slim, obstinate wrinkle in night’s 
deepening trance. When sleep fails,

you wish me shushed and back in my hole.
As usual, you’re not listening: Time stops
only if you stop long enough to hear it

passing. This is my business:
I’ve got ten weeks left to croon through.
What you hear is a lifetime of song.

by Rita Dove, Pulitzer Prize winning poet

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

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

Don’t Call Me Fuzzybutt! by Robin Newman

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!

Robin Newman’s newest picture book, Don’t Call Me Fuzzybutt!, illustrated by Susan Batori, debuted on March 15, 2021.

Bear is tired. It is time for his long winter nap. He will sleep for 243.5 days. But Bear is a very light sleeper. The slightest thing will disturb him, so he knits ear muffs and posts signs and even chops down trees to make a sturdy front door for his den, and then he goes to sleep. Meanwhile, Woodpecker is working on the houses he builds, but he notices several of the houses have disappeared. He sees bits of them scattered on the ground and follows the trail of bits to the new front door Bear built for his den. That is where the houses went. Woodpecker tap-tap-taps on the door. Bear wakes up and is not happy about having his nap disturbed. The two get into a shouting, name-calling match. Can they resolve their differences?

Robin Newman has written a laugh-out-loud story that little ones will want to hear over and over. It is funny, sweet, and hopeful. The illustrations by Susan Batori are so much fun and filled with details that will keep little eyes on the pages. This is a real winner. Don’t miss it.

San Francisco Book Review

Check out “Interview Alert: Robin Newman” on Lauri Fortino’s Frog On A (B)Log to find out how she started writing for kids, where she finds inspiration, and why she believes picture books are important.

Other books by Robin are The Case of the Bad Apples, No Peacocks! A Feathered Tale of Three Mischievous Foodies, Sesame Street: Breathe, Think, Do with Elmo: Problem Solving for Little Monsters, and more. @robinnewmanbook

Dylan’s Dragon by Annie Silvestro

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!

Annie Silvestro’s newest picture book, Dylan’s Dragon, illustrated by Ben Whitehouse, debuted on April 1, 2021.

Dylan loves playing, drawing, dreaming, and, best of all, dragons! But his days and weeks are so full–with piano lessons, science club, baseball practice, karate class, and more–that when the dragon of his daydreams shows up, there’s never any time to play. How can Dylan let his family know that his busy schedule needs room for dragon time? 

Goodreads

Check out “The Picture Book Buzz–Interview with Annie Silvestro” by Maria Marshall to find out a common theme in her picture books, what she advice she’d give children, and insight into her journey as an author.

Other picture books by Annie are Mice Skating, Bunny’s Book Club, The Christmas Tree Who Loved Trains, and more. @anniesilvestro

Let Liberty Rise, How America’s Schoolchildren Helped Save The Statue of Liberty by Chana Stiefel

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!

Chana Stiefel’s newest picture book, Let Liberty Rise! How America’s Schoolchildren Helped Save the Statue of Liberty, illustrated by Chuck Groenink, debuted on March 2, 2021.

On America’s 100th birthday, the people of France built a giant gift! It was one of the largest statues the world had ever seen — and she weighed as much as 40 elephants! And when she arrived on our shores in 250 pieces, she needed a pedestal to hold her up. Few of America’s millionaires were willing to foot the bill.

Then, Joseph Pulitzer (a poor Hungarian immigrant-cum-newspaper mogul) appealed to his fellow citizens. He invited them to contribute whatever they could, no matter how small an amount, to raise funds to mount this statue. The next day, pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters poured in. Soon, Pulitzer’s campaign raised enough money to construct the pedestal. And with the help of everyday Americans (including many thousands of schoolchildren!) the Statue of Liberty rose skyward, torch ablaze, to welcome new immigrants for a life of freedom and opportunity!

Chana Stiefel’s charming and immediate writing style is perfectly paired with Chuck Groenink’s beautiful, slyly humorous illustrations. Back matter with photographs included.

Scholastic

Check out “The Picture Book Buzz – Interview with Chana Stiefel” by Maria Marshall to find out what inspired Chana to write this book, where she did research, what she wants kids to take away from the story, and which illustration contains a surprise historical coincidence.

Chana is an author of over 25 books for kids, including My Name Is Wakawakaloch!, Animal Zombies…& Other Real-Life Monsters, and Daddy Depot. @chanastiefel

Rissy No Kissies by Katey Howes

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!

Katey Howes’ newest picture book, Rissy No Kissies, illustrated by Jess Engle, debuted on March 2, 2021.

A lovebird who doesn’t like kisses?!

Rissy’s friends and family wonder if she’s sick, confused, or rude. But kisses make Rissy uncomfortable. Can one little lovebird show everyone that there’s no one right way to show you care?

Rissy No Kissies carries the message that “your body and your heart are yours, and you choose how to share.” A note at the end provides further information for kids, parents, and educators about body autonomy, consent, and different ways to show affection.

“This is an artistic gem for consent discussions, sensory-processing contexts, and anyone who champions children’s agency and bodily autonomy. Radiant.”―starred, Kirkus Reviews

Amazon.com

Want to know why Katey chose to address the important topic of consent? More about her writing process? See a printable lesson plan that pairs with her book? Like the sound of Sunflower Love Cookies?

Check out an interview by Darlene Beck-Jacobson, “Katey Howes Talks About Bodily Autonomy and Consent in Her New PB: Rissy No Kissies.”

Other picture books by Katey are Grandmother Thorn, Magnolia Mudd and the Super Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe, and Be a Maker.

The War I Finally Won, Book Review

I’m currently reading the insightful, researched, and devastating book Caste, The Origins of Our Discontent by Isabel Wilkerson, and realize how much caste and hierarchy is present in The War I Finally Won, the 2017 sequel to The War That Saved My Life. Author Kimberly Brubaker Bradley doesn’t sugarcoat how people were seen and treated in WWII England, whether they were poor or wealthy, children or adults, single or married, Jews or Nazis, and soldiers or spies. One of the most refreshing things about the stories is that the target audience of 8-12 year olds isn’t patronized. Cruelty, physical and emotional pain, disability, sickness, war, and death, and grief are faced head on. So are understanding, acceptance, loyalty, friendship and love.

What’s the story about?

Ada and her younger brother, Jamie, now have a permanent home with their loving legal guardian, Susan Smith. Although Jamie adapts more easily, Ada still struggles with the aftermath of her old life, and how to fit into her new life.

World War II continues, and forces the small community to come together and rely on one another. Ada has never been interested in getting to know her friend’s family—especially Maggie’s mother, the formidable Lady Thorton. However, circumstances bring them in close proximity along with other unexpected characters.

Ada comes face to face with another German! This time she isn’t sure what she should do. How can she help the ones she loves and keep them safe?

Ada’s first story, The War that Saved My Life, won a Newbery Honor, the Schneider Family Book Award, and the Josette Frank Award, in addition to appearing on multiple best-of-the-year lists. This second, marvelous volume continues Ada’s powerful, uplifting story.  Goodreads

Quotes from The War I Finally Won

“Love isn’t as rare as you think it is…You can love all sorts of people, in all sorts of ways. Nor is love in any way dangerous.”

“People used to draw dragons on the edges of old maps. When the world hadn’t been fully explored, mapmakers imagined dragons living at the far ends.”

“Fear and what you did with it were two separate things.”

“I don’t want to have to feel grateful,” I said. Susan smiled. “I understand,” she said. “Do it anyhow.”

“I stored this information in my head in the bulging file titled “Things I Wished I Didn’t Know.” It included what it felt like to walk on a clubfoot for ten years, and what it sounded like to have your mother say she never wanted to see you again.”

“That’s your map of the past. What’s in the map of your future?” I stared at her. “What do you want?” she persisted. I had no idea. When I’d first been evacuated I’d wanted to be like the girl riding the pony, racing the train. Now I was. Parts of me were still jumbled—but maybe that girl had been jumbled too. I’d only seen her from the outside.”       Goodreads

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Book Review

During quarantine and this unprecedented time, there are the projects I’ve gotten done, the things half finished, and a bunch of projects I haven’t even started. And then there are books. I’ve been reading a lot so, hon, so get ready for a bunch of book reviews.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets to the Universe is a beautifully written coming-of-age YA contemporary novel by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. It’s no wonder the novel, published in 2012, garnered so many awards! I was invested in the main characters’ relationship, families, backgrounds, and thoughts on the worlds they lived in. The story drew me in, made me laugh out loud, and brought tears to my eyes.

What’s the book about?
Fifteen-year-old Aristotle (Ari) has always felt lonely and distant from people until he meets Dante, a boy from another school who teaches him how to swim. As trust grows between the boys and they become friends (a first for Ari), Ari’s world opens up while they discuss life, art, literature, and their Mexican-American roots. Additionally, the influence of Dante’s warm, open family (they even have a “no secrets” rule) is shaping Ari’s relationship with his parents, particularly in regard to a family secret; Ari has an older brother in prison, who no one ever mentions. In a poetic coming-of-age story written in concise first-person narrative, Sáenz (Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood) crystallizes significant turning points in the boys’ relationship, especially as Ari comes to understand that Dante’s feelings for him extend beyond friendship. The story swells to a dramatic climax as Ari’s loyalties are tested, and he confronts his most deeply buried fears and desires. It’s a tender, honest exploration of identity and sexuality, and a passionate reminder that love—whether romantic or familial—should be open, free, and without shame.  Publisher’s Weekly
Memorable Quotes:
“One of the secrets of the universe was that our instincts were sometimes stronger than our minds.”
“Another secret of the universe: Sometimes pain was like a storm that came out of nowhere. The clearest summer could end in a downpour. Could end in lightning and thunder.”
“Sometimes, you do things and you do them not because you’re thinking but because you’re feeling. Because you’re feeling too much. And you can’t always control the things you do when you’re feeling too much.”
“Why do we smile? Why do we laugh? Why do we feel alone? Why are we sad and confused? Why do we read poetry? Why do we cry when we see a painting? Why is there a riot in the heart when we love? Why do we feel shame? What is that thing in the pit of your stomach called desire?”
Have you read Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets to the Universe? What did you think?