Friday, February 27, 2015

PPBF: The Seven Chinese Brothers

Today's Perfect Picture Book Friday pick

The Seven Chinese Brothers,
by Margaret Mahy and Jean and Mao-sien Tseng
The Seven Chinese Brothers
Written by Margaret Mahy
Illustrated by Jean and Mou-sien Tseng
Scholastic, 1990
grades K-3, reading level 4.8

Folk Tale, Siblings

"Once upon a time, when Ch'in Shih Huang was emperor of all China, seven remarkable brothers lived together on a beautiful hillside. They walked alike, they talked alike, they even looked so much alike that it was to tell one brother from the brother next to him. All the same, each brother had something special about him. Each brother had one amazing power that was all his own."

This folk tale mixes fact and fiction as it sets this magical family in the very real setting of the Qin dynasty. Seven brothers want to help repair a hole in the Great Wall. When the first brother is arrested and threatened with execution, the second takes his place. The story progresses as each brother in turn substitutes himself for the previous brother. Because of their incredible powers, like super-strength, iron bones, and fireproof skin, the brothers are able to cheat the executioner each morning. But it is the seventh son who is able to rescue the entire family and give the emperor's army their just reward.

What I Love:
I love Margaret Mahy's retelling. She is a master wordsmith and a mischievous storyteller. I always feel like the author is smirking as she spins a tale. The watercolor art is beautiful, fine contemporary illustrations with a definite nod to traditional Chinese design.

courtesy aliexpress
1. Celebrate Chinese New Year with crafts from Rachel on MalMal.
2. Order instructions for a Kirigami Great Wall of China from Amazing Pop-Ups.
3.  Cook up Emeril's Szechuan Style Spareribs from Food Network.
4. Spin a tale. Grace Lin twists this story into her own version, titled Seven Chinese Sisters. Read her website for ideas and activities, then try writing your own.
5. Professor David K. Jordan has posted a fabulous treasury of Chinese folk tales with explanations for English-speaking readers as well as a trove of links to Chinese history and culture.
6. Check out these and other Perfect Picture Books at your local library.

Reviewed by Patricia
Reviewed by Joanna
Reviewed by Vivian
Reviewed by Barbara

Reviewed by Diane
Reviewed by Penny

Have you reviewed a Perfect Picture Book along this theme? Please leave the link in the comments below. Thanks!

Check out all the recommended titles for Perfect Picture Book Friday
for February 27, 2015 available on Susanna Leonard Hill's blog.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Middle Grade Dreams 2015

Don't miss the buzz at SLJ's Teen Librarian Toolbox.
How is that middle grade novel coming?  Did you promise yourself this would be the year you'd write it? Have you plotted, researched, or drafted anything yet?

Deafening silence?

If you are serious about putting that book on paper, here are some resources to light the motivational fires.

March means another ChaBooCha is on its way. Join this dedicated group of authors who'll support you through 31 days of drafting your manuscript, start to finish. Writing tips, inspiration, and giveaways are the icing on top.
This year young authors can be eligible for giveaways by signing up for ChaBooCha Jr.

If you live in the northeast United States, visit the historic Moland House for a day of writing and critiques with Debbie Dadey, Kay Winter, and Marie Lamba, at the Spring Into Writing Workshop.

You may know Nancy I. Sanders from her free online non-fiction tutorials. Nancy is a working author with useful tips on how to start a project and finish it, with the focus on making a living as a writer.
She has an audio workshop available, titled Writing A Middle Grade Novel in ONE Month.

Nothing motivates me to sit and write like reading.
Win a copy of Jennifer Jacobson's Paper Things From The Mixed-Up Files of Middle-Grade Authors, or enter the Tricia Springstubb's Moonpenny Island giveaway on The Write Stuff.
A Fantastical Librarian has generously gathered highly anticipated MG for 2015. Ask your local librarian for more suggestions or pick up one of my recent favorites.

Savvy, by Ingrid Law
Hope Was Here,
by Joan Bauer
Liar & Spy,
by Rebecca Stead
The Mouse With the
Question Mark Tail
by Richard Peck

Still don't know where to start?
Gather ideas with Gail Carson Levine's Writing Magic.
Use Shannon Abercrombie's 21 writing prompts from Start the Year Off Write.
Zero in on a killer plot with the Paper Lantern Lit video series.
Learn 4 keys to making the manuscript "un-put-down-able" on Writers Digest.
Revise your current work with Janice Hardy on Fiction University.

If you are more of a picture book person, don't miss last Wednesday's post, Picture Book Goals 2015.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Finishing Well

"I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than I was and began diverting all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me."
-J. K. Rowling

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Picture Book Goals 2015

Lantern Festival
How is you children's book career coming? Did you make yourself a promise on January first? Have you drafted that manuscript yet?

On the eve of Chinese New Year, why not renew your promise to yourself?

If you are serious about pursuing picture books, here are some resources to nudge you in the right direction.

ReFoReMo is a new initiative by Carrie Charley Brown. Each week during the month of March, she will be examining new picture books from a writer's perspective. Participants will read the selections and guest posts, learning about picture book structure, using mentor texts, and more. Why reinvent the wheel? Learn from authors' and editors' publishing experience.

Sign-up by 3-1-15

Maybe you have procrastinated about writing your book. Maybe you're in the revision stage. Maybe you need the confidence to send it out into the world. Sub It Club has what you've been looking for. This week, Sub It Club is focusing on picture books. Learn how to make a picture book dummy, listen to an editor's critique, and maybe win some fabulous prizes.

Want an expert to guide you? Talented author Linda Ashman has written a valuable and comprehensive guide to getting started or getting finished with your picture book manuscript. I did a workshop with Linda and knew I had to own her book.

Buy the print version or download a copy on Linda's site.

Don't know where to start? Get thee to Pennsylvania and attend the Highlights Foundation crash course on picture books. The staff are accommodating, the grounds gorgeous, and the teaching top-notch.

Register for the March 6-8 workshop or plan ahead for one of their specialized sessions later in the year.

Maybe you're still dreaming of someday. Tomorrow is the beginning of the rest of your life. Take the first step.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

IF: Noise

Kicking myself that I didn't turn this sketch into a finished drawing in time for Illustration Friday deadline, but revisions are calling . . .There's always time to redo. Until then, consider it a work in progress.

Illustration Friday topic, "Noise" WIP

Hey kid lit artists! Are you tweeting on #kidlitart28? Join the mayhem. There are still 16 days to go!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Keys To Knowledge

"A capacity, and taste, for reading, gives access to whatever has already been discovered by others. It
is the key, or one of the keys, to the already solved problems. And not only so. It gives a relish, and
facility, for successfully pursuing the [yet] unsolved ones."
- Abraham Lincoln*

Presumably by Charles Hogeboom
Via Pratt Institute Libraries Collection

*Lincoln's Address before the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society, September 30, 1859

Friday, February 6, 2015

PPBF: Minerva Louise

Today's Perfect Picture Book Friday pick

Minerva Louise, by Janet Morgan Stoeke
First in a series
Minerva Louise
Written and Illustrated by Janet Morgan Stoeke
Puffin, 1988
grades K-3


"Minerva Louise loved the house with the red curtains."

Minerva Louise is a hen with an unhealthy dose of curiosity. She just doesn't realize it. Minerva Louise decides to leave the company of her fellow hens and explore inside the family's house. The trouble is, she isn't familiar with people things. This simple picture book for the youngest readers will have them giggling as a chicken mistakes the family pets for farm animals, jewelry for food, and the laundry for a nesting box.

What I Love:
This is actually the first in a series of Minerva Louise books. Janet Stoeke marries spare text with engaging pictures in an artless way. The text usually tells us what the hen is thinking, while the pictures show the reality quite differently. To be honest, the plot on this one is thin, but kids love knowing what the main character does not. I think the sequel, A Hat for Minerva Louise, is superior. It flawlessly allows the illustration to carry the story. (I featured it here a long time ago, before I participated in the Perfect Picture Book Friday review format.)

Find the crafts pinned here.

1. Show young readers pictures of everyday objects. Let them imagine the objects are used for something completely different, just like Minerva Louise does. She mistakes a tricycle for a tractor and a quilt for a field of flowers!
2. Find oodles of chicken crafts like the one at right on Family Theme Days's Pinterest board.
3.  Visit a modern working farm in your area. Learn what we can do to support our local economy.
4. Cook up a pie like the one Minerva Louise finds so tempting. Try this classic cherry pie recipe from Epicurious.
5. Make a book dummy where the pictures tell a completely different story from the text. Use pictures from magazines if your drawing skills are limited.
6. Check out these and other hilariously Perfect Picture Books about poultry at your local library.

A truly perfect picture book.
Reviewed by Tiffa

Reviewed by Erik
Reviewed by Renee

Have you reviewed a Perfect Picture Book along this theme? Please leave the link in the comments below. Thanks!

Check out all the recommended titles for Perfect Picture Book Friday
for February 6, 2015 available on Susanna Leonard Hill's blog.

Monday, February 2, 2015

6 More Weeks of Winter

"Winter was made for warm blankets and large books."

Bookplate by José Triadó

Anyone know who originally said this?