Stanley Will Probably….

Stanley will probably be on a bookstore shelf near you, because today is his BOOK BIRTHDAY! YAY!

In celebration, I have quite a few things planned in the Southern California region. Check my EVENTS for a running list.

Happy Birthday, Stanley!

Are you a kid who likes to write?

If so, I just stumbled on a fun website that might help spark your imagination. It generates all kinds of random story ideas, and it’s just for kids!

CLICK HERE, FOR THE LINK!

But maybe the best thing to do, if you are a kid who likes to write, is get yourself a little journal — any size or shape you like. And then scribble away in it, anytime you feel like. Try to see if you can get a routine going, of writing in it regularly. Put down all your ideas, your thoughts, your doodles and story ideas and just whatever. Doesn’t matter what. Just let it all spill — and see what intriguing things turn up.

You could also do this on a laptop/tablet/computer, if you have access to one and think keyboarding is easier than writing. However you want to do it — the important thing is to exercise your creative-communication muscle!

Would you like a free copy of Stanley Will Probably Be FIne?

If so, enter this Goodreads giveaway, ending Jan 26! You can enter by clicking…

HERE!

Here’s a List of Bird Books You Might Like

Here’s a list of bird-related books for both young and old. There are preschool picture books here, as well as more hard-core science-y tomes. But if you’re ten and up, you could probably tackle any of these….

First up is THE GENIUS OF BIRDS by Jennifer Ackerman. If you’re interested in the science of bird behavior, it’s really astonishing. This came out last year, and is meant for grownups. But it’s pretty much appropriate for any determined reader.

Here’s another adult book with cool stuff in it for any determined reader. Jon Young, the author of WHAT THE ROBIN KNOWS, grew up in the woods and trained as a guide and a tracker. His knowledge and his powers of observation are incredible. He teaches you how to really be silent outdoors and how to watch and listen.

Here’s the last of my more heavy-duty science books. Ornithologist Noah Strycker’s THE THING WITH FEATHERS takes us around the world for up-close interactions with — and lessons to be learned from — a selection of really interesting birds. I especially liked his chapter on hummingbirds and how they fight.

And hey, Audubon’s Baby Elephant folio? Well, if you can ever get your hands on one, in a secondhand bookstore, or something, the delight to be found in these engravings by Audubon is, well, delightful!

Okay, now here’s one I’m sure you haven’t heard of. If you have, let me know! THAT QUAIL, ROBERT came out in 1966, and there’s a real mid-century feel to it… It’s about a retired couple on Cape Cod who “adopt” a baby quail from a hatchling. This is a classic. It’s a great read for the whole family. I thought it was just delightful. It teaches us not to take for granted the intelligence and life force in even the smallest of earth’s creatures.

Okay, here’s one my grandma would read to me — and I’d read to my own boys, once upon a time. Mama Bird sings a refrain in this book, so I invented a silly melody and would pretend to be Mama Bird, singing it aloud to my boys as I read. They still parrot that goofy song back to tease me, every once in a while.

Up next is a new, beautiful book by Matt Tavares. I have not read this one yet, but I CANNOT WAIT TO! Red and Lulu are cardinals, and when something happens to their own “best nest” in a big pine, their bond is tested. It’s a similar theme to the P.D. Eastman “Best Nest” book, actually. The illustrations are stunning. Can’t wait to read!

This recent graphic novel about the life of Audubon is next up on my TBR pile! I can’t wait, and will let you know soon. I love to imagine what the world was like, back in the 1700s/1800s when Audubon tramped across fields and through towering forests, places that now are… old strip malls. Taco Bells. You know what I mean. Sigh.

This classic captures a spirit and mood of an incredible midnight outdoor adventure in winter. Jane Yolen is an amazing and prolific storyteller, yet of all her wonderful books, I think I love OWL MOON the best. Part of its spirit helped inspire a scene in THE SOMEDAY BIRDS. I wonder, can you guess which one?

Well, that’s my list for today! Do you have any special bird-related stories that you love? Have you read any of these? If so, please share, by leaving a reply below! I’d absolutely love to hear!

Congratulations, Charlie.

The Someday Birds has just been awarded the Dolly Gray Children’s Literature Award for 2018. What a meaningful honor!

It is awarded “for promoting high quality literature for children and youth that authentically characterizes individuals with developmental disabilities.” I am so honored and thrilled that Charlie’s story was chosen. This really means a lot.

Dolly Gray was a young girl who could not walk or speak but loved to read, and explored the world through books. Her parents created this award in her memory. What a lovely thing to do.

From the award website, here are some beautiful words from Dolly Gray’s father, Hod Gray:

“Without powerful and accurate depiction of persons with disabilities, literature itself is diminished.”

Amen to that.

You can find out more about the children’s organizations that sponsor this biennial award IF YOU CLICK HERE.

De-Extincting: What do you think?

Wouldn’t it be cool to see the Dodo Bird, or the extinct Passenger Pigeon, or Carolina Parakeet magically brought back from extinction, and flitting around again overhead in our skies?

Cool, right? Or… not?

In The Someday Birds, Charlie finds out that his hero, legendary ornithologist Dr. Tiberius Shaw, Ph.D., is interested in this type of cutting-edge DNA science. And in real life, scientists are getting close to being able to do this. They can sequence the genome of extinct bird and animal species, and use this knowledge to potentially help revive extinct species.

This is a real thing. And it’s not without controversy. There are a lot of pros and cons. A LOT.

What do you think?

An interesting article from the Audubon Society talks about it. You can read more about this fascinating, controversial topic HERE.

Hey Writing Students! What’s Wrong With This Sentence?

I’m working on a little story about a dog and a girl named Ani, and I just wrote this sentence. It needs fixing. Something’s weird with it.

Ready? Here it is:

“In a drainage ditch, on the outskirts of a small town that is far, far away across the ocean from Ani, a warm, brown puppy is born.”

Technically, it is a correct sentence.
The words are all spelled right.
The commas are in the right place, pretty much (although there are an awful lot of them).
The images are each clear enough.

So, what the heck is wrong with it?
I think I know why. Here’s a hint.

Imagine yourself as a film director. Imagine how you would film this sentence.

How do opening images of films start? Typically, the camera begins with a big, wide, distance shot. And then it will zoom a little closer, and then a little closer…

But that’s not how I wrote the sentence. I jumped around too much.

First I ask you to picture a close-up of the ditch (“In a drainage ditch…”)

Then I ask you to jump way back, and visualize a town: (“on the outskirts of a town”)

Then I ask you to jump WAY WAY BACK — across an ocean! (“that is far, far away across the ocean from Ani”)

And then I ask you to jump WAY FORWARD! — and zoom in again on a pup in the ditch. (“a warm, brown puppy is born.”)

My visuals are out of logical order. Doh!

Let’s rewrite, starting from far away and zooming closer in on our story.

“Far, far away across the ocean from Ani, on the outskirts of a small town, a warm, brown puppy lies newly born in a drainage ditch.”

How’s that? It’s not perfect, but do you think that’s better?

I like to think of what my writing would look like if it were filmed. Maybe you’ll want to try that too, sometime, with your own writing!

STANLEY gets a star.

There is a starred review for STANLEY in Kirkus Reviews today. The reviewer wrote: “Add to the growing list of intelligent books about kids whose brains operate outside the norm.”

A starred review gives a wonderful feeling of affirmation to a writer. But I know that’s not what matters in the long run. The real thing to celebrate is that there’s “a growing list of books about kids whose brains operate outside the norm.”

Still Anxious After All These Years.

Last week’s NYT Mag had a cover article about kids and anxiety that really hit home. Here’s the LINK in case you missed it:

I was such an anxious kid. And now, I’m an anxious adult! The only thing that’s improved are my coping skills. I’m more aware, and can manage physical manifestations better (jitters, panic, sense of doom, stomach turmoil). But the knee-jerk anxiety-response to all life’s stimuli is still my brain’s default mode.

That’s why I wrote STANLEY WILL PROBABLY BE FINE. The plot (essentially, it follows a comic con-related treasure-hunt) was lots of fun to write–but the real reason Stanley exists is to put worrying and catastrophizing into focus. Just put it out there for kids. Deep breath.

The reason for Stanley is the hope that at least one kid will say: “I can relate.”

Then maybe I’ll stop worrying — a little.

Anxiety makes you feel so not fine.

Stanley, the main character of my next middle-grade novel (due out Feb 6, 2018), has anxiety. He talks about worry escalating in a cascade of potentially catastrophic scenarios that appear in his head like the rapidly-growing branches of Groot, the instantly-growing tree-creature in Guardians of the Galaxy.

Stanley’s character was super easy for me to write. I’m an expert at concocting a cascade of potentially catastrophic scenarios for myself. I’m a worry-warrior, and always have been. As a child, I was pretty much afraid and worried about everything.

I came across an excellent article from the Child Mind Institute today, about what to do to help, when a child is anxious. You can find the linkHERE.

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