Children’s Books

A Very Happy 50th Birthday to ‘the Very Hungry Caterpillar’

14 June 2019

From NPR:

On average, every 30 seconds someone in the world buys a copy of The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Maybe it’s for a grandchild, an expectant parent or a dear friend’s new baby. Nearly 50 million copies have been sold since the classic picture book was first published in 1969, and it has been translated into over 62 languages.

Author Eric Carle, now 89 years old, lives in Key West, Fla.

. . . .

“I think it is a book of hope,” [Carle] says. He’s wearing suspenders and a shirt that matches his lively blue eyes. “Children need hope. You, little insignificant caterpillar, can grow up into a beautiful butterfly and fly into the world with your talent. Will I ever be able to do that? Yes, you will. I think that is the appeal of that book.

“Well, I should know. I did the book, after all!”

Carle didn’t start writing books for children until he was almost 40. Born in Syracuse, N.Y., he remembers an early childhood filled with art, light and walking through nature holding his father’s hand. His immigrant parents decided to return home to Germany — his mother was homesick — and they arrived just in time for World War II.

Carle was beaten by teachers and shot at by soldiers, and his beloved father disappeared into a Russian prisoner-of-war camp for years after being drafted to fight for the Nazis. The man who wrote The Very Hungry Caterpillarexperienced hunger firsthand.

Carle headed straight back to the U.S. after graduating from art school at age 23 and was immediately hired by The New York Times. He served in the U.S. military during the Korean War and, upon return, moved into advertising.

Perhaps that career helped him prepare for using the simple, resonant language of The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Michelle H. Martin, a professor at the University of Washington who studies children’s literature, says The Very Hungry Caterpillar‘s writing helps little kids grasp concepts like numbers and the days of the week. (“On Monday he ate through one apple. But he was still hungry. On Tuesday he ate through two pears, but he was still hungry.”)

And the book builds literacy by gently guiding toddlers toward unfamiliar words. For example, Martin says, when Saturday comes around and the hungry caterpillar binges on “one piece of chocolate cake, one ice-cream cone, one pickle, one slice of Swiss cheese, one slice of salami, one lollipop, one piece of cherry pie, one sausage, one cupcake, and one slice of watermelon,” words like “salami” and “Swiss cheese” might be new to 3-year-olds already familiar with ice cream and lollipops.

Martin and other experts suggest that children have 1,000 books read to them before they begin kindergarten. Repeated readings of the same book count toward the total.


Link to the rest at NPR

How I Got My Toddler Back on Books After She Got a Taste of Screen Time

11 June 2019

From The Huffington Post:

When I opened the gates to screen time for my 2-year-old daughter, I was planning to limit it to airplane rides and sick days. But with TV and tablets came a whole new colorful world that hooked my tot instantly, and her new word— “cartoons!” — became a constant refrain. Almost overnight, her obsession with books and our sweet ritual of reading became a distant memory to her little toddler brain. Screens offered something much more exciting.

I felt OK introducing screen time, especially since most of the time I snuggle up on the couch and watch with her (which is why I now know every single word of Moana), to make the TV time as interactive and educational as I can. And the apps we’ve let her play with are all highly rated for learning. But when it came time to reading books together, her previously enthusiastic interest was now drawn to a shape-shifting demigod voiced by the Rock.

I was worried. For me, books are more than fun and educational. They’re a family tradition. My own lifelong passion for reading was sparked by my mother’s nightly read-aloud sessions with me and my sister. We never skipped a night, and it was truly a highlight of my childhood. I may not follow every custom my mom handed down (like her tendency to embroider our names on anything she could stick a needle into), but I know that a love of books is worth preserving. I want my kid to treasure that magical reading time as much as I did growing up, despite the irresistible pull of singing animals, animated princesses, and sweeping soundtracks (seriously, it’s hard to compete with Lin-Manuel Miranda).

. . . .

Make it a daily ritual

Every night, without fail, before my daughter heads to bed, we read at least two books together, usually more. On the nights she’s wound up and super resistant to sleep, this routine puts her in a mellow mood and helps her relax. By the time I turn the first page, she’s already heavy-lidded and sucking her thumb.

Let them pick

Your kid is bound to have favorite books, and you will inevitably groan inwardly (and probably outwardly) when she asks you to read The Very Hungry Caterpillar for the 200th time. But it’s those cherished favorites that will always comfort and entertain. (If we go for a third book, Mommy gets to pick. Otherwise we’d never rotate our library.)

Find a quiet, special space

We used to read in the rocker next to her crib, but on those nights she didn’t want to go to bed, she put up a fight just to enter her room. Then we used to read on the couch, but there are inevitably distractions ― the basketball game is on, the dog is barking at the neighbors, there’s music on the stereo. So I created our own special reading space on the bed in the guest room. It’s stocked with pillows and blankets, and I light some candles and lay out the book selections on the bed with us. It’s our insta-special reading spot! (It sure doesn’t take much with a toddler.) You can do this anywhere you have enough room for two.

Link to the rest at The Huffington Post

Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Mysterious Author

1 June 2019

From Crime Reads:

Let me tell you about the most popular mystery author you’ve probably never heard of.

He sold 50 million of copies of his books worldwide. His work was translated into a dozen languages. The Mystery Writers of America gave him a special Edgar. The character he created became a cultural icon—spoofed by The Onion, the star of a short-lived television series, and the subject of a nasty lawsuit over the movie rights.

His name was Donald J. Sobol. He was World War II veteran and New York City native who moved to Florida in 1961. Two years later he created his “Sherlock in sneakers,” boy detective Leroy “Encyclopedia” Brown.

Smarter than the Hardy Boys and wittier than Nancy Drew, Encyclopedia Brown solved mysteries for nearly 50 years and never charged more than a quarter. Although “born” in 1963, young Brown remains forever 10.

His beat is an idealized Florida beach town named Idaville. It exists in the era before cellphones, video games, and Arianna Grande, when kids went fishing or rode bikes for fun. He runs his cut-rate detective agency out of his family’s garage on Rover Avenue.

Sobol’s sleuth has a keen eye and a prodigious memory for arcane facts—hence his nickname. (These days he’d have to be Wikipedia Brown, which just doesn’t sound as authoritative.) He solves small mysteries for his friends and sometimes helps out on big cases that baffle his police chief dad, exposing robbers and con men by spotting the clue everyone else missed.

. . . .

But the real mystery wasn’t inside the books. The real mystery was: Who’s Donald J. Sobol?

Most authors would love to be a big name—a Stephen King, a James Patterson, a John Grisham. People buy their books not for the title or cover image or first page, but because it’s the new King, the new Patterson, the new Grisham.

Not Sobol. He preferred nobody know who produced all those books.

“What I really wanted, and couldn’t achieve—it was just a pipe dream—was to remain anonymous,” Sobol once told his college alumni magazine. “That never worked.”

He came close, though. He never gave a single television interview. When he talked with newspaper and magazine reporters, he did so by telephone. That way they couldn’t take his picture or even describe what he looked like. A photo of the author only appeared in one book, and he said that was by mistake.

“I am very content with staying in the background and letting the books do the talking,” he told the Oberlin Alumni Magazine in 2011.

. . . .

He was the most unlikely of authors, joking once that “I am totally unqualified to be a writer. My childhood was unimpoverished and joyful. Even worse, I loved and admired my parents.”

Donald J. Sobol—the J was just that, no middle name, just an initial—was born and raised in New York City, where his father owned gas stations. As a child, he was more like Brown’s frequent nemesis, inept gang leader Bugs Meany, than his hero, “but only in that I thought up devilish pranks. I never had the courage to act out on them.”

He didn’t read mystery stories. Instead, he was attracted to tales of adventure. As a kid he wanted to be a police officer, or a firefighter, or a shortstop for the Yankees. In high school he tried his hand at sculpting.

In World War II, he was part of a combat engineer battalion, then attended Oberlin College on the GI Bill. He took the college’s only creative writing course, and was hooked. After the last class, he asked the professor if he could take an advanced writing course. The professor explained that there wasn’t one. Sobol said later he just stared at the professor “like a dim-witted penguin watching water freeze.”

Then the professor asked he’d seen action during the war. They talked about that a bit, and finally the professor agreed to teach an advanced writing course for just one student.

“Without his help, I probably never could have had a career as a freelance writer. I owe him so much,” Sobol told the alumni magazine. Not only did the professor help him become a better writer “but he instilled faith in me, in myself. I will always be grateful.”

Two of the stories Sobol wrote for his advanced class wound up selling to the pulps, and he was on his way.

. . . .

Sobol cranked out the first book in the series, Encyclopedia BrownBoy Detective, in just two weeks. That first book contained all the elements that would show up in all the other books: the idyllic setting, the 25-cent fee, the roster of regular baddies like dimwitted Bugs Meany, leader of the Tigers gang.

In inventing his hero, Sobol started with Brown’s nickname, then fleshed out the character from there. “I wanted a name that would appear on the cover and tell readers that this was a book about a smart youngster,” he told an interviewer in 1984.

Link to the rest at Crime Reads


 

Marie Kondo to Publish a Children’s Book!

22 May 2019

From Book Riot:

Marie Kondo fans: check it out. Kondo will be publishing a picture book this fall called Kiki and Jax, to be illustrated by Geisel Honor­–winning author/illustrator Salina Yoon.

The book, which will have a 250,000 first print run, will hit shelves November 5. Kiki and Jax is inspired by the KonMari method, as it follows two best friends — Kiki, a collector, and Jax, a sorter — as they work through what it means when their friendship has to navigate things. When those things begin to get in the way, they learn the power of how their friendship works: the spark of joy.

Kondo said, “I’m pleased to share this timeless story about friendship, and I hope that the characters of Kiki and Jax inspire children and families to tidy and embrace joy!”

Link to the rest at Book Riot

PG has been “tidying” his office over the past few days. He hasn’t found any joy to embrace yet.

One question for visitors to TPV, what’s the difference between cleaning and tidying?

Another question, this time involving gender – Do men tidy? Or do they clean? Or do they haul trash? In big noisy trucks?

Is tidying the new cleaning? Or, as Marie suggests, is it more transformative than cleaning?

Can PG properly tidy while wearing sweat pants? Before he takes a shower?

PG would love to be able to back a trash truck up to the door of his office.

Nine-Year-Old Author Shares Her Story and Seeks to Publish

16 May 2019

Apparently a press release. PG has added paragraph breaks. The italics are part of the original.

From LifePulseHealth:

Mantua resident and Centre City elementary school student MaKayla Rose had a problem one night at bedtime. She couldn’t find a book that she wanted to read. She couldn’t find a story that represented her family and her point of view.

MaKayla is a problem solver, however, and knew that the best way to fix the problem was to write a story of her own! This was the beginning of “Why Bedtime Sucks: The Opposite of a Bedtime Story”, and a journey for her whole family.

Once MaKayla had written her story and hand drawn her illustrations, she shared it with her peers and teachers. Other students were inspired by her initiative and began writing stories of their own.

This is when her mother, Shalina, knew that Why Bedtime Sucks was a story that could reach and inspire so many other young people to relate and create for themselves, and she began the process of making MaKayla’s tale into a book.

One of the first steps was to connect with the right illustrator. All the illustrations in Why Bedtime Sucks are hand created in collaboration with artist Isabel Rivera of Cancun, Mexico.

To retain the creative independence and MaKayla’s true voice in the story, the Hubbs have decided to self-publish launching the project as a campaign on Kickstarter. Why Bedtime Sucks is an opportunity to provide diversity into illustrated children’s books that would benefit all children.

Link to the rest at LifePulseHealth

The Dictionary of Difficult Words

30 April 2019
Comments Off on The Dictionary of Difficult Words

From Quick and Dirty Tips [rough transcript of an interview with author Jane Solomon by Mignon Fogarty A/K/A Grammar Girl]:

There’s actually a long history of dictionaries that cover just difficult words. And we talked about one from 1604 called “A Table Alphabetical,” but Jane also sent me a follow up email with details about others, and I’ll share a little bit of that with you now.

There were a bunch of subject-specific dictionaries in the 17th century that covered topics like natural history, law, and medicine, but there was also a trend at this time for dictionaries of thieves’ cant—slang that criminals used because of the rise in rogue literature. People were reading about rogues, and they wanted to understand the language they were reading, so other people made dictionaries for them.

The first comprehensive English dictionary that went beyond difficult words and included regular words like “green” and “the” was Nathaniel Bailey’s “An Universal Etymological English Dictionary,” which was published in 1721 and according to Jane, was the most popular dictionary of it’s time, more popular even than Samuel Johnson’s “Dictionary of the English Language,” which is probably the most well-known of the early dictionaries today. That book was published in 1755, and set the standards and methodologies practiced by lexicographers today, but it was not the first dictionary to include ordinary words. And now, on to the interview.

. . . .

Mignon: Right. So you have a new book out called “The Dictionary of Difficult Words,” and it is one of the most adorable books I’ve ever seen.

Jane: Oh, thank you.

Mignon: It’s a really wonderful so. And what’s so fascinating is that it’s a dictionary just of difficult words. And a lot of people probably don’t know that there there’s sort of a history of those kind of dictionaries. So can you talk us through first before we talk about your book specifically? Can you talk about the history of this kind of dictionary? And maybe when we got the kind of dictionaries people think of today?

Jane: Sure, of course.

Jane: So originally, you know, when we think of a dictionary today, we think of a book that has any words you could possibly want to look up in it.

Jane: But as you mentioned, this is not how dictionaries always were. Originally, they were only lists of vocabulary items and difficult words for people to look up the words they didn’t know in them. So…and they would they would often be very subject specific. So you might have one about falconry. Or you might have one about law or medicine or gardening or something like that.

Jane: And when the first dictionaries were made, a lot of these word lists that were existing were compiled into these dictionaries. So sometimes you hear people talk about the history of dictionaries having a lot of plagiarism in it. It’s because of how these lists were taken in. And this is also why if you look at modern dictionaries, sometimes they have more words about falconry than you would expect because they’re based on this, you know, an early falconry vocabulary list for people who want to learn about falconry.

. . . .

Jane: . . . [O]riginally people just thought, “Oh, yeah. These are words that we don’t know and that’s the only thing we’re going to want to look up.” And then later on, people decided that, no, we want to actually define any word that you’re going to come across because you want to be able to be certain that you understand the meaning. And there’s so many nuances of meaning that a dictionary can really help with that. So you see that. You see that in dictionaries, you know, post Samuel Johnson. He definitely had a lot of more of the simple terms in them. I mean, if you look at Cawdray with “A Table Alphabetical,” which is what year that is, but that that’s from the 1600s. And the purpose of that dictionary is it’s dedicated to ladies and other unskilled persons. And it’s so you can understand the language that sophisticated people bring back to English from other languages when they go and travel abroad, or the difficult words that they learn when they’re when they’re studying. So so dictionaries are have, you know, historically very much been about these hard words.

. . . .

Jane: So I actually was looking at some earlier dictionaries in terms of pronunciation, because in an earlier version of this project, we weren’t going to have pronunciations. And I was wondering, oh, is that is that going to be difficult for the kids? Is there is there any precedent in that? And actually, earlier dictionaries didn’t always have pronunciations. That’s something that is always included in modern dictionaries. But it was not as included in some of these earlier dictionaries. I think Samuel Johnson’s dictionary doesn’t have pronunciations.

. . . .

Jane: So in that case, it’s actually really important to be able to to have the pronunciations right there, especially if you’re if you are an adult reading this to a child and the child asks you how to pronounce the word. It’s right there. So you don’t have to you don’t have to go and look for it. At the same time, I think this dictionary is very much a jumping off point for discovery. You know, there’s only so much you can include in 112 pages. For each each word that I have in there, I only include one definition. I only feature one definition. So if people get very excited about a word, they can go look it up in a bunch of other dictionaries and see what else they can learn about it.

. . . .

Jane: This project started in a very surprising way to me. I wasn’t someone who ever thought “I want to write a book.” I wasn’t someone who ever thought “I want to write a children’s book.” But one day, it was last February, I got contacted out of the blue by the publisher, and they had the idea for the title, and they knew they needed a lexicographer to write it. So they contacted me and asked me if I was willing to do it. And I was. I was actually very familiar with the publisher. So it’s it’s being published by Quarto Kids, and it’s under the imprint Frances Lincoln Children’s Books. And I actually knew this exact imprint because I have a friend who is a children’s author and illustrator who has written award-winning children’s book with the same team. So I responded right away very enthusiastically. “Yes, I would love to do this.” And within the week we had a call. And originally the project was, I think that the publisher and the editor, they definitely knew they wanted it to be a dictionary of difficult words, but they didn’t know how difficult the word should be because in the first call, the publisher, her name is Rachel Williams. She said that when she was younger, she was in a spelling bee, and she got the word “photosynthesis.” Correct. And she felt so good about it. And she would spell the word for everyone, define it for everyone around her. And so it’s the idea of that passion about language that you can develop really young and and the pride you feel when you know a word and how much delight you got as a as a young person talking about the word with everyone around you. So the book, it was sort of to capture that kind of spirit.

Link to the rest at Quick and Dirty Tips and you can listen to the recording of the original interview here


Good Things Continue to Happen for BYU Grad Who Published His MBA Sketchnotes

23 April 2019

From The Deseret News:

In 2017, Jason Barron compiled countless hours of sketchnotes from his two-year Master of Business Administration program at Brigham Young University and self-published a book he titled “The Visual MBA.”

Then, thanks to a kickstarter campaign that raised 1,000 percent of its goal, the Latter-day Saint husband and father of five not only covered the publishing costs, but he paid off his student debt and took his family to Disneyland.

. . . .

As an independent publisher, Barron estimates he sold about 2,500 copies. But the effort and time required to pack, ship and handle customer service led him to consider other options.

A friend with publishing experience suggested he find a book agent.

. . . .

Not only did Houghton Mifflin Harcourt like Barron’s work, they believed his book had major upside. The publisher has plans to translate “The Visual MBA” into at least 10 languages and release it worldwide. They also see potential for a series. Barron signed the deal, he said.

Now he’s really glad he didn’t give up on the idea, although he almost did several times.

“It’s been incredible. I’m really humbled,” Barron said. “It came back to that time when I wondered is anybody going to like this? My wife encouraged me. I’m so grateful I muscled through the opposition and pursued it. Because now looking back, it’s like holy cow. Imagine if I wouldn’t have? What if I had given up or abandoned it? I would have missed out on this great opportunity to help other people and have this book shared throughout the world. I really am just blown away and I’m grateful that I didn’t listen to that little negative voice and just pushed through it.”

. . . .

Barron, who produced his own handwritten font for the book, said the project has blessed his family in many ways. Not only was it financially beneficial, it served to unify, encourage creativity and creation, and hopefully inspire courage to do hard things.

“My kids have seen that I’ve accomplished something difficult, along with the tangible results of that,” he said. “I hope it shows my kids in a really important way that if they work hard at something they can make something cool happen. It’s possible.”

Link to the rest at The Deseret News

As he read the OP and checked out the book’s Look Inside interior via Amazon (lots of pictures), PG was interested in the challenge of self-publishing a picture book.

He found the following from  Darcy Pattison via The Creative Penn about children’s picture books:

At some point, many successful writers want to try writing and publishing a children’s picture book. There are many reasons: their own children inspire a story, they fondly remember a childhood event, or their muse gives them a story that doesn’t seem right for their usual genre.

Writers often tell themselves that they are professionals and can switch to this new genre without problems.

. . . .

How Children’s Books are Similar to Publishing for Adults

The most common advice given to those writing for adults are these:

  • write a compelling story
  • get amazing cover art
  • know your audience
  • market as much as possible.

Children’s books are the same.

. . . .

Children’s stories are usually 500 words or less. In that space, the story sets up a problem and a character, puts obstacles in the character’s way, and finally solves the problem.

If you take the 32 pages and lay it out in a book, there are about 14 double-page spreads, which means the images spread across the opened page. Divide your story into fourteen sections.

Each section must:

  • Advance the story. If you remove this section it should destroy the story. Each section must be integral to the story. Something must happen that changes the story in some way.
  • Give the illustrators something to illustrate. Think action. Include action verbs that inspire amazing art from the illustrators. Variety of illustrations is important so be sure the story moves to different locations.
  • Make the reader want to turn the page. The story should pull the reader through the story.

After the story is written and each section works, think short. When I critique picture book manuscripts, I usually ask the author to cut the story in half. And then remove another 100 words. Picture books, like poetry, require very tight writing.

. . . .

Adult books demand amazing cover art that are genre appropriate. Likewise, children’s books need great cover art; but they also need great art on each of the 32 pages. This is, of course, one of the main differences between children’s books and other genres.

. . . .

Take the time to study the dual audience of children and adults for picture books. While you must appeal to the child, you must also catch the adult’s attention because they’ll be paying for the book.

. . . .

It’s strange though because you’ll advertise the ebook and find that that paperback will sell instead because many parents still prefer a print book for kids.

. . . .

If you plan to sell ebooks of your picture book, and you should, there’s one big caution: Amazon Kindle download fees can kill your profit.

Children’s picture book file sizes can be bloated because of the illustrations. If your files are over 7MB, you should opt for the 35% royalty, which doesn’t charge download fees.

I’ve written a long tutorial on how to reduce the files to a more reasonable and profitable 2-3 MB. Basically, reduce the image quality to medium, limit files to 1000 px wide, and strip out extra metadata.

Link to the rest at The Creative Penn and here’s a link Darcy Pattison’s website.

PG sees a lot of author websites, but was particularly impressed by Ms. Pattison’s. Her website also includes detailed information about best practices for Author Websites, including understandable explanations about technical topics such as WordPress themes and plugins, search engine optimization, etc.

Little Red Riding Hood Too Sexist for School

16 April 2019

From BookRiot:

A school in Catalonia has withdrawn from its library 200 classic children’s books such as Sleeping Beauty and Little Red Riding Hood because of their depiction of sexist stereotypes.

After analyzing the contents of its library for children up to the age of six, the management of Taber School in Barcelona found that around a third of its stories were “toxic,” and that only one-tenth of the books were written from a gender perspective.

Anna Tutzó, who was on the commission that looked at the books, said gender bias also pervades fairytales and the change of gender roles in society “is not being reflected in stories.”

. . . .

In the U.S., at least, studies show that only 11% of the stories in history textbooks are about women. Is this because 50% of the population only contributed to 11% percent of the country’s events?

Link to the rest at BookRiot

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