Until October 31st, get a comprehensive literature unit study for just $3.49! This companion to Clare Vanderpool's Newbery-winning Moon Over Manifest includes 12 lessons, reading comprehension quizzes, short essay questions, literary device helps, and unit projects covering history, science, art, and writing. You can use this unit study for several different grade levels at once by assigning different essay questions and unit study projects to different students while still being able to discuss a wonderful, historically-based story with the whole group.
To get 30% off on the Tolman Hall Homeschool Literature Unit Study for Moon Over Manifest, use the following coupon code at Smashwords:BY56R
All you have to do is place the item in your shopping bag and then enter the code prior to checkout.
If you'd rather have the 117-page hard copy of this literature unit study, which is handy for making photocopies for multiple students, you can order the paperback from Amazon
Canadian-based, Japanese-owned Kobo
has faced a firestorm of media publicity and social media criticism this week in response to its removal of all self-published ebooks from its catalog. A technology news website, The Kernel, reported that large amounts of indecent material were available on Amazon's Kindle platform, and quick investigation showed that other ebook distributors, including WH Smith, Kobo, Waterstones, and Barnes & Noble, were in the same boat.
Cerys Goodall, senior director of public relations at Kobo, said, "Our goal at Kobo is not to censor material; we support freedom of expression. Further, we want to protect the reputation of self-publishing as a whole. While some may find our measures extreme, we are confident that we are taking the necessary measures to ensure the exceptions that have caused this current situation will not have a lasting effect on what is an exciting new channel that connects Readers to a wealth of books." These "measures" referred to by Goodall include shutting down Kobo's self-publishing ebook store until they can review the catalog and decide which books are appropriate to sell.
Each of these ebook retailers and distributors has a policy against "inappropriate material," but the writers seem to be the ones who decide whether or not their own material is appropriate. The thing is that some of this material is reported to be wildly inappropriate: graphic rape, incest, and worse. The United Kingdom's Ministry of Justice has said that some of these websites may have breached the Obscene Publications Act, which is a law requiring publishers "to protect shoppers from inadvertently finding content that outrages public decency."
In the meantime, many writers are pulling out their thesauruses to lambast Kobo. Kobo is draconian
, violating civil rights
, and even insane. I've never heard such wailing about freedom of expression and censorship. Doesn't freedom of expression end when hurting other people begins? Just this week two middle school girls in Florida were arrested
for the cruel things they said to a classmate. At some point, these girls crossed the line from freedom of expression to crime. Yes, these inappropriate ebooks are mostly fiction, but they have the power to cause just as much destruction, especially to young people.
A couple of my self-published books sell through Kobo, so I won't see any sales from them this week, but I'm more than happy to take the hit if it means less destructive material out there where my kids and other kids won't stumble across it when they're looking for a book to read.
One thing has me puzzled, however. It seems that Kobo is still selling traditionally published pornography. How's that?
I ran across an interesting article
today about African American homeschoolers. It was written by Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu
, and it contained some very enlightening statistics, including the following:
- African American children who are homeschooled are scoring at 82% in reading and 77% in math. These scores are 30-40% higher than their school-taught counterparts.
- Since 1954 (which marks the landmark Brown vs. Topeka case), there has been a 66% decline in African American teachers.
- At school, 1 out of every 6 black males is suspended.
- Most schools spend more than 33% of the day disciplining students.
What does this mean for parents of African American school children? Dr. Kunjufu thinks homeschool
is an ideal solution to these problems. At home, parents can teach children morals and values that are often neglected by the public schools. If a child struggles in math, his parents can spend extra time on that subject. If a child has been turned off to books in the past, her parents can renew her interest by choosing books
about topics she's already interested in. Homeschooling presents all kinds of opportunities for parents to make sure their children are properly educated and treated with respect, firmness, and unconditional love.
Abilene Tucker is a Depression-era child who has been riding the rails with her father--until she hurts her leg as it dangles off the side of a boxcar. Her father sends her to the town of Manifest, Kansas, for safekeeping, and while she's there she meets a wonderful cast of characters. The story switches back and forth between 1918 and 1936, two very interesting times in American history.
Abilene and her new friends try to solve some small town mysteries through spying on people, talking to them, and scouring old 1918 copies of the Manifest Herald. Along the way, Abilene gains a profound new respect for her father and his friends, and she even helps some of the older people in the town to recover from their great losses of the past.
This book won the Newbery in 2011, and I think it's a fantastic book for teaching literature to children. It contains all kinds of literary devices (symbolism, metaphors, allusions, foreshadowing), and it also introduces young readers to some fascinating history: the Spanish flu, the Great Depression, World War I, orphan trains. Seen through the eyes of a child, these world events still retain their tragedy, but you realize that life goes on. Even in the midst of war and economic disaster, there are still tree houses to repair and adults to spy on. And if you're kind and helpful, there are always people to love who will love you right back.
Because I think this is such a wonderful novel for teaching literature, I'm working on a Tolman Hall lit guide for it. It will be available in early October.
This morning Amazon announced its new Kindle MatchBook program, which offers discounted/free Kindle versions of print books. In other words, when you buy a print book from Amazon, you can purchase the electronic version of the same book for $2.99, $1.99, $.99, or free, depending on the author's and publisher's preference.
For me, I figure if you've already bought one of my books and you'd just enjoy the flexibility of being able to read it on your Kindle when you want, you should get it for free. So be one of the first to take advantage of the new MatchBook program. If you haven't read Sister WhoDat
yet, get both versions for the price of the paperback (currently $8.96). The second book in the series is due out at the end of next month.
I'm impressed with the way Amazon keeps making book buying and publishing easier and easier for both readers and writers. It makes me wonder what else is in the works.
Samantha Nielsen and I began working on this book long, long ago. It's been under contract with a publishing company that was sold. It's been represented by two different literary agents. Despite its rough childhood, this book is about to see the light of day. Hooray!
Although a definite release date hasn't been announced, Babysitting Co-op 101 will be available in paperback in less than a month, and its ebook version won't be far behind. In the meantime, if you're curious about babysitting co-ops, you can visit our blog
I don't know about you, but I think the kids on the cover are adorable.
If you're not a teenage girl, you don't have contact with any teenagers, or you're not on Pinterest, there's a small chance you're not familiar with the Ryan Gosling "Hey Girl" memes. I don't know how they started, but there's a "Hey Girl" meme for just about everything: exercise motivation, gluten-free pity, puppy mill protests, knitting, crocheting, teaching, cooking, running, sleeping, painting fingernails, shopping at Target, sticking with your diet, studying, watching YouTube cat videos, and even breastfeeding. In the memes, Ryan Gosling is a sensitive, devoted, charming guy who gives EveryGirl his undivided attention and unconditional love.
Even Ryan Gosling admits, as in this Huffington Post article
, that the "Hey Girl" memes aren't about him. They're an interesting and very transparent glimpse into the desires of today's girls and women. What do they want? It seems like they want a well-groomed man who takes an active, supportive interest in the day-to-day details of their lives. That sounds pretty innocent to me. I'm not seeing lusty or edgy "Hey Girl" memes--no Hey Girl cocaine memes, nothing about violence or prostitution. From this circumstantial evidence, one might think that Ryan Gosling, the face of the memes, plays innocuous Hugh Grant-type characters in the movies. One might be wrong. Dead wrong.
Film critic Rex Reed
called Gosling's latest film, Only God Forgives
, "ultra-violent, demented, plotless, creepy, meat-headed and boring," and those are some of the nicer things he had to say about the flick. I hesitate to write too many details about the movie on my blog because this blog is my online home, and I like to keep my house clean, so let's just say that, according to the reviews, the most horrifying scene in this altogether horrifying movie is a violent act directed at the mother of Ryan Gosling's character. And worst of all, our meme hero, the face of the imaginary guy who is tasked with picking up our bobby pins, is reportedly the brainchild behind this violent act
I'm not writing a review of this film here. I won't see it, but I'm fascinated by the discrepancy between the face of the "Hey Girl" memes and the man behind the mug. In the same interview
in which Gosling describes how the mother-directed violence came to be, he says that when he was about 12, he "saw Rambo in First Blood
, and then took knives to school and threw them at the kids," which resulted in his mother putting a ban on R-rated films (wise, but a little late). So, when he wanted to watch the R-rated Blue Velvet
, he had to smuggle the VHS past his mom by sticking it down his pants. He said, "Just the idea of a film like that, that you couldn't show to anyone and had to hide in your pants, felt good. It made an impression on me, like, 'I want to make a film like that someday.'"Well, congratulations, Mr. Gosling. You've done it--achieved your life's goals. Hopefully, the unfortunate children who see Only God Forgives will not have access to knives like you did after you saw Rambo.
I understand that the sweet teenage girls I know don't associate their charming "Hey Girl" memes with the violent and subversive tendencies that come across in Ryan Gosling's interviews. And yet, something about the disconnect makes me nervous. Something about "sheep's clothing" runs through the back of my mind when I see an innocent-looking Gosling with the words, "Hey Girl, Feel my Sweater. Know What It's Made of? Boyfriend Material," emblazoned across the image. Because any guy who could conceive of the violence toward women that he claims to have brainstormed for his latest movie should be shunned by every woman on earth. It's not heartless; it's self-defense.
In the meantime, it's not like Gosling's mug is the only handsome one out there.
Maybe one of these good-looking fellows could be the new face of "Hey Girl." They look like they just might care about you.
You've heard of Laura Hillenbrand's Unbroken
, the mesmerizing account of Louie Zamperini's
incredible experiences during WWII. I've been listening to this book the past week as I walk the dog, wash the dishes, fold the laundry, lie in bed at 1:30 in the morning because I can't stand to not know what happens next.
This is non-fiction, but it has all the attributes of can't-stop-reading-it fiction, and that's made me think a lot about lessons I can learn from Laura Hillenbrand. I really believe that novelists can learn a lot from analyzing non-fiction. Humans love good stories, whether they're "true" or not. So what can we take away?1. Give Enough (Pertinent) Background Material.
Zamperini's stealthy stealing of supplies in the Japanese camps and his swiping of the Nazi flag in Berlin don't mean as much unless we know about his childhood pie thievery in Torrance, California. By giving ample BUT APPLICABLE background information, we can add to the richness of our stories. I capped "applicable" because I think it's too easy to add ample but inapplicable information.
I downloaded a novel-writing app recently that is supposed to organize all of your character and plot material. For each character, you can fill in fields like "favorite food," "biggest fear," and "height." That's great, but you could spend a lot of time thinking up character details that add absolutely nothing to the story. For example, I'm sure Hillenbrand could have told us all about Zamperini's favorite dance moves, but it wouldn't add anything to the story.2. Load the Foreshadowing.
Boy, is Hillenbrand good at foreshadowing. That's part of the reason I'm so sleep-deprived today. She ever so subtly turns our attention to a possible danger looming just in the distance, and then we can't stop reading because we have to know what's going to happen to our beloved friends (characters).
Another method Hillenbrand uses to load the foreshadowing is to step away from the action to see what's going on in the rest of the world. When things are heating up at the Japanese camp, she turns our attention to Torrance, California, and the daily sadness and struggles of Louie's family and friends. She tells us the dramatic events of the war in other parts of the world, reminding us that the POWs' know nothing but are dying for just a scrap of news. Foreshadowing keeps the story tight, quick-moving, and urgent.3. Be Compassionate. Unbroken
's Watanabe may well be one of the most vicious villains I've read about, and yet Hillenbrand gives her readers enough background information about him so that we understand a little about why he is the way he is. This doesn't detract from the horrendous danger that is Watanabe; in fact, if anything, it makes him all the more scary because there is motivation behind his sadism. Also, a compassionate author, even when that compassion is directed toward the antagonist, comes across as fair and unbiased, and an unbiased author is less likely to veer the story in unnatural directions just to tie everything up in a neat bow, which feels artificial. Of course, non-fiction authors can't (or shouldn't) just change their material to meet their vision, but it can be a great temptation for fiction authors to keep things real.
I'd love to chat more, but I'm not done with this book and it's calling me...
Several years ago, Laurisa White Reyes and I worked together for Mapletree Publishing Company. We were both editors, but we also both loved writing. Since then, Laurisa has published a dynamite middle-grade fantasy novel, The Rock of Ivanore
, and the second installment in the series, The Last Enchanter
, is due out in October 2013. Many thanks to Laurisa for taking time out of her busy schedule to catch up and share her writing wisdom.Spend some time with Laurisa's website, personal blog, and Middle Grade Mania blog. You'll find a wealth of great resources, giveaways, and tips for readers and writers.
And without further ado, here's the interview.1. How has graduate school affected your writing?So far it hasn't, thank goodness. I do spend a lot of time studying, but my life is always busy. I'm a full-time mom of 5, so squeezing in an hour of writing time every day has been the norm for many years.2. What are you most excited about with the release of The Last Enchanter this fall?I'm excited to finally put this story into people's hands. The first draft was written almost six years ago, so it's been a long time in coming. Patience is a required virtue of all authors.3. Who is your favorite character in The Last Enchanter? Why?I asked my kids that question and they all had different answers. My daughter likes Xerxes, the enchanted walking stick. He has attitude. My son likes Bryn, the shape-shifting Groc who wishes he was human. I am particularly fond of Marcus because I see so much of myself in him. He starts out doubting himself and his abilities, but when faced with difficult situations, he reaches deep within himself to find the courage and skills he needs to succeed. I avoided writing novels for many years because I didn’t think I was good enough. It wasn’t until I finally committed myself to it that I was able become the writer I always wanted to be.4. What's next after The Last Enchanter?I'm writing book three in the series, The Seer of the Guilde, which is tentatively slated for release in 2015. In the meantime, I am exploring possibilities for prequel to The Rock of Ivanore, The Crystal Keeper, which is the story of Jayson and Ivanore. I'm hoping to get it out sometime in 2014.5. What's the most challenging aspect of being a writer?Life. I wish I could spend 5-6 hours a day writing. I'd rather write than do anything else, but life keeps me pretty busy. Between being a mom, going to grad school, working as editor for Hamilton Spring Publishing, teaching creative writing classes, doing school visits, book signings & promotions, speaking at conferences, and keeping up with all my social media, I just don't have as much time to write as I'd like - yet.6. What do you love most about being a writer?Visiting schools and hearing kids tell me they want to grow up and be writers just like me. Makes it all worth while.