Children’s Books

The Dictionary of Difficult Words

30 April 2019
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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

10 Quotes from Ramona the Pest to Celebrate Beverly Cleary’s 103rd Birthday

12 April 2019
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From Book Riot:

Happy 103rd birthday, Beverly Cleary! In order to celebrate your birthday, I dug my tattered and torn paperback Ramona the Pest out of a box at my Dad’s house and began reading it to my 5- year-old son. As we snuggled before bedtime and laughed at all of Ramona’s antics during her first months of kindergarten, I remembered how much I appreciated your stories when I was a child.

You really seemed to understand how puzzling the adult world can be to a little girl. I recall feeling relieved as I read how Ramona also threw fits to get what she wanted, felt frustrated when adults were distracted, and sometimes was so angry that she pounded her feet on her bedroom wall and reveled in the fact that her oxfords left scuff marks on the walls. Now, I read your books and remind myself that children are complex little people with real feelings who are simply trying to figure out a world in which they are the smallest and the most impatient.

Below are ten quotes from Ramona the Pest that capture the confusion, joyfulness, and spirit of childhood and show how amazingly well you understood your audience and their “slowpoke grown-ups.”

. . . .

“She was not a slowpoke grown-up. She was a girl who could not wait. Life was so interesting she had to find out what happened next.”

. . . .

“Ramona looked forward to many things – her first loose tooth, riding a bicycle instead of a tricycle, wearing lipstick like her mother – but most of all she looked forward to Show and Tell.”

“Only grown-ups would say boots were for keeping feet dry. Anyone in kindergarten knew that a girl should wear shiny red or white boots on the first rainy day, not to keep her feet dry, but to show off. That’s what boots were for – showing off, wading, splashing, stamping.”

“Ramona, who did not mean to pester her mother, could not see why grown-ups had to be so slow.”

Link to the rest at Book Riot

Baltimore Mayor Takes Leave of Absence Amid Criticism over ‘Healthy Holly’ Books

2 April 2019

From The Wall Street Journal:

 Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh said she is taking an indefinite leave of absence because of pneumonia, as she faces growing pressure over revelations that she sold her self-published “Healthy Holly” children’s books to the University of Maryland Medical System while she sat on its board of directors.

. . . .

Ms. Pugh, a Democrat elected in 2016, made the announcement hours after Republican Gov. Larry Hogan called for the state prosecutor to investigate the medical system’s purchase of 100,000 “Healthy Holly” books for $500,000 since 2011. Ms. Pugh previously said she returned $100,000 to the system, one of the state’s largest private employers.

“These are deeply disturbing allegations,” Mr. Hogan wrote in the letter to State Prosecutor Emmet Davitt. “I am particularly concerned about the UMMS sale because it has significant continuing ties with the State and receives very substantial public funding.”

. . . .

“The people of Baltimore are facing too many serious challenges, as it is, to also [have] to deal with such brazen, cartoonish corruption from their chief executive,” he tweeted.

Ms. Pugh said last week that the deal with the medical system had been a mistake. “I am deeply sorry for the lack of confidence or disappointment which this initiative may have caused Baltimore city residents, friends and colleagues,” she said at a news conference Thursday, after being released from the hospital where she was treated for pneumonia. Her office’s statement on Monday said Ms. Pugh has been battling pneumonia for the past few weeks.

Ms. Pugh resigned from the University of Maryland Medical System board last month, after the Baltimore Sun published an article exposing the deal.

On Monday the Sun reported that health provider Kaiser Permanente also bought Ms. Pugh’s books, and that some were purchased during a period when the company successfully sought a contract to provide health benefits to Baltimore city employees.

A spokesman for Kaiser told The Wall Street Journal it has purchased 20,000 copies of the “Healthy Holly” books for $114,000 since 2015, delivering them to back-to-school fairs, elementary schools, day-care centers and religious institutions. It said it bought them from Healthy Holly, LLC.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

Not Your Kid’s Picture Book Anymore

19 March 2019

From Publishers Weekly:

There are picture books that engage, transport, amuse, intrigue, enchant, comfort, or even haunt adults, but that don’t connect with the children who are their purported audience. This would be absolutely fine—picture books are a unique and endlessly variable art form—but it can be hard to overcome customers’ resistance to buying them for themselves. As one of my bookselling colleagues said recently, people will spend $40 on glossy coffee table art books they’ll look through once or twice, but are reluctant to buy themselves an $18 picture book they can’t stop leafing through in the store.

I’ve had more than a few customers over the years pore through picture books, then sadly place them back on the shelves, saying, “I love this, but I don’t have little children in my life anymore.” Good news, my friends: Picture books are not just for children, especially now.

Why have we come to a place where picture books are relegated to the landscape only of the very young? It was not always thus. We didn’t used to hurry children away from picture books into beginning readers and chapter books at age six, the way most parents do now.

. . . .

Parents often dismiss picture books as an entire class—not registering their relative complexities, subtleties, and nuances. They don’t want to spend money on books they think are beneath their children’s intellectual capacities. Even in the span of time I’ve been a bookseller (22 years), I’ve seen word counts shrink and parents push their children out of picture books younger and younger. They may not understand that the language in picture books may be much more sophisticated than the chapter books they are eager for their kids to read.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Here are some of the picture books mentioned in the OP. Each has Look Inside enabled to provide an expanded view of the images and design. If clicking on the cover doesn’t work, I’ve included a text link below each cover.


The Stuff of Stars

.

The Fox and The Star
.

The Journey

The Problem with Problems

14 March 2019

From Publishers Weekly:

This post is strictly my personal opinion about something I care deeply about—children’s books—and view as having saved my life as a child. I have loved children’s books for 57 years, 28 of them as a bookseller. It is no accident that children’s books are filled with portals leading to other dimensions, wardrobes and tesseracts, Platforms 13 and 9 and ¾, Neitherlands and multi-verses maintained by nine lived enchanters. These passageways are metaphors for those real-world portals into other dimensions, books themselves.

We know from books of wonder that accesses to magical portals are periodically threatened by a variety of evils. These ills are sometimes the results of mistakes made by heroines and heroes, other times by ill will or the return of an ancient malice. We know too what must be done. Mistakes need to be set right, access to the portals preserved, whether through some manner of renewal, or by the beating back of a constricting malice. That is the heroine’s task.

In many ways our own multi-verse of books has been in a kind of golden age these last few decades. We have enjoyed an array of splendid new, entrancing, and increasingly diverse and inclusive worlds made available to readers alongside well trodden older doorways into realms whose pathways, castles, battlefields, museums, and gardens still beckon, beguile, and enrich.

We also know that evils often appear just when the sunlight is brightest. And so it is now, that a potent threat has manifested.

If we were to encounter, in the pages of a book, a maleficent communal voice which, with the heavy prongs of fear and public shaming, enforced an orthodoxy of perspective that constricted what people could write about, which consigned their identities to ethnic and racial attributes, that rewarded conformity and castigated dissent, we would know what the heroine’s task was. She would fight for what is truly important, creativity, social justice, imagination, liberty, a robust forum for dissenting opinions, for individuality and personal association and expression.

The force with which our heroine is confronted is currently being animated through Twitter. There has been a series of Young Adult books whose authors were pressured or, if you like, edified into submission, to remove their own books from pending publication. The pace of these removals is increasing. There have been two in the last several weeks, Blood Heir and A Place for Wolves. More are likely on their way as other people find problems in books and exert force on authors to remove their own work from imminent publication.

There is an enforced narrative at work here which demonizes dissent while rewarding compliance.

Free speech advocates are lumped together into a composite persona, that of privileged people yelling censorship to maintain their privilege. Authors who pull their books are doing so because they are brave not because they are being held under water and desperately looking to get back to the surface.

When your personal identity is in the hands of other people you will do most anything to preserve your safety. It is no coincidence that the two most recent authors to pull their books from publication were themselves active YA Twitter members. Both of them have been involved in argumentation within the Twitter community, and both were more susceptible to being flamed and dragged in an environment their identities were already embedded in.

This toxic environment is reinforced by pressure for people to stay in their racial and ethnic lanes and to adopt the opinions of others which have been granted imprimatur by virtue of authenticity.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others

~ George Orwell, Animal Farm

What Books Will Boost Self-Confidence in My 10-Year-Old Son?

16 February 2019

From The Guardian:

Q: What books would help instil confidence in a preteen boy?
Stay-at-home mother, 33, trying to help her 10-year-old son to become calmer and more confident

A: Fiona Noble, children’s books editor at the Bookseller, writes:
The act of reading can itself create an oasis of calm in a busy world, and I believe children’s fiction can play a powerful role in building confidence and resilience. Look for stories showing characters facing and overcoming fears and persevering in tough times. SF Said’s modern classic Varjak Paw, with wonderfully menacing artwork from Dave McKean, is about a young cat on a voyage of discovery and self-acceptance in the big city, replete with martial arts and terrifying villains. Another thrilling tale of bravery is Katherine Rundell’s epic adventure The Explorer, last year’s Costa children’s book of they ear. Four children lost in the Amazon jungle face a compelling physical struggle to survive while each facing their own, more personal battles.

Nonfiction may also offer inspiration. In Stories for Boys Who Dare to Be Different, Ben Brooks looks beyond the stereotypes, at a diverse selection of male lives, from Lionel Messi to Barack Obama and Daniel Radcliffe.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

PG would add The Dangerous Book for Boys to this list.

You can get a sense for this book from the book’s first page, which describes Essential Gear for boys:


As a former boy of a certain age, PG can attest to the attractiveness of the items on this list to such a boy, not necessarily because they’re essential for specific tasks, but rather because they’re highly beneficial for the imagination of such a boy and contribute to his self-confidence.

If a boy is prepared to write down a description of a crime he might witness, even in the tamest of neighborhoods, he becomes more observant and feels a bit of mature responsibility for the safety of others. A small flashlight will keep him amused for hours and he will certainly use it to examine a map, even one he draws himself, in the dark or perform a late-evening security check of the perimeter of his home.








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