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Fantasy & Sci-Fi Books for Kids


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Shakespeare-Inspired Children’s Books

My new picture book, MABEL AND THE QUEEN OF DREAMS, is an urban fantasy bedtime picture book inspired by Mercutio’s soliloquy in Romeo and Juliet. Clearly, this is not the first, nor will it be the last, children’s book inspired by The Bard. Below are some other Shakespeare-inspired children’s books (picture book through young adult).

Mabel

Little Mabel is an expert at not going to sleep. She knows all the best bedtime-avoiding excuses. “I’m thirsty.” “I need to use the bathroom.” “Will you tell me a story?” Luckily, Mom’s quiver of bedtime tales includes the story of the Fae Queen, who paints children’s dreams and can only visit when their eyes are closed. Inspired by Mercutio’s soliloquy in Romeo & Juliet, in which he details how the tiny fairy queen influences people’s dreams as she passes by in her flying chariot, the soothing story evokes images of an ant in a worn gray coat and a hazelnut-shell chariot with a roof of grasshopper wings.

 

 

 

ROMEOW and DROOLIET by Nina Laden
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Author-artist Nina Laden has taken her trademark wit and applied it to one of Shakespeare’s best-loved plays. Adults familiar with the classic love story will delight in the many references to the original play, all of which make this a rarity: a children’s book they want to read again and again. And young children who know nothing of the Bard will be riveted by this funny yet touching tale about Romeow the cat and Drooliet the dog, two star-crossed lovers who meet by chance, marry in secret, and are kept apart by a snarling rottweiler, appalled owners, and the animal control warden.

 

THE SHAKESPEARE STEALER series by Gary Blackwood

blackwoodA young orphan with a valuable skill, a greedy stage director, and a thievery gone wrong … or right? With vivid characters and unexpected twists, this trilogy is a realistic portrayal of life in the theater during Shakespeare’s time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SECRETS OF SHAKESPEARE’S GRAVE by Deron R. Hicks, illustrated by Mark Edward Geyer
hicks

This modern-day mystery surrounds a young girl’s family business, a mysterious portrait, and the grave of Shakespeare himself. She must figure out how they’re all connected to save her family from financial ruin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PRINCE OF SHADOWS by Rachel Caine
caine

A Robin Hood-like hero creates a dramatic love story all his own in this reimagining of Romeo and Juliet. It’s told through the eyes of Benvolio — Romeo’s cousin and the greatest thief in Vienna.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

srsly HAMLET by William Shakespeare and Courtney Carbone
carbone

Fans of quirky adaptations of classic tales will love this new version of Hamlet, told entirely in texts! This is a fun way to experience one of Shakespeare’s most beloved plays and a humorous alternative to the more serious versions on the market.

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE WEDNESDAY WARS by Gary D. Schmidt
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The Wednesday Wars is a 2007 historical novel set during the Vietnam War. The book, which received a Newbery Honor medal, follows Holling Hoodhood, the lone Presbyterian 7th grader amidst his Catholic and Jewish classmates. Instead of receiving religious education, Holling is assigned Shakespeare’s plays. While they seem like torture at first, he grows to appreciate them for both their lively insults and timeless wisdom.

 

 

 

 

 

THE MAGICIANS OF CAPRONA by Diana Wynne Jones
caprona

This story of rival houses in an Italian city populated by spell-makers has many echoes of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The Montana and Petrocchi families are bitterly feuding while their city faces invasion by outside armies. However, the two youngest members of the feuding families unite with hopes of ending the fighting and saving the city.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM by William Shakespeare and Bruce Coville
coville

A simplified prose retelling of Shakespeare’s play about the strange events that take place in a forest inhabited by fairies who magically transform the romantic fate of two young couples.

 

 

 

 

 

 

OPHELIA by Lisa Klein
kleinOphelia is a retelling of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, narrated by the young woman who was a minor character in the original play, though a significant one in Hamlet’s life. In this book, Ophelia’s story is explored in depth, beginning with her early years as she tags along with Laertes, her brother. She and Hamlet eventually fall in love and are secretly married. Yet Hamlet’s consuming passion for revenge ultimately comes between them, just like in Shakespeare’s play.

 

 

 

 

 

 

ENTER THREE WITCHES by Caroline B. Cooney
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This is a novelized version of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, a dark tragedy told here from the point of view of Lord and Lady Macbeth’s young ward, Lady Mary. The violence and power-grabbing that sweeps through the court envelops Mary and thrusts her into a world of danger. Enter Three Witches mostly follows the major events of the play and even includes some dialogue from Shakespeare himself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

KING OF SHADOWS by Susan Cooper
cooper

King of Shadows begins with young Nathan Field rehearsing for the part of Puck in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Following a sudden illness, he finds himself waking up in 1599, playing Puck at London’s Globe Theatre. Not only is he in a wildly different time and place, his new director is the Bard, whom he calls ‘Will.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

SAVING JULIET by Suzanne Selfors
juliet

Mimi Wallingford is a 17-year-old girl starring in her family’s Broadway production of Romeo and Juliet. Yet acting isn’t her passion and she desperately wishes for an escape. In a miraculous turn of events, she and her costar, Troy Summer, are transported to Shakespeare’s Verona. Once there, Mimi decides that she must save Juliet from her tragic fate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE FOOL’S GIRL by Celia Rees
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The Fool’s Girl is a continuation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night that weaves in many historical figures, including the Bard. In the story, Violetta, the teenage daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Illyria, travels to London to find a stolen relic. As the plot thickens, she must work alongside Shakespeare to thwart an attempt to assassinate Queen Elizabeth.

 

 

 

 

 

LOVING WILL SHAKESPEARE by Carolyn Meyer
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In this story, teenage Agnes Hathaway loses her mother and is left to a wicked stepmother. Agnes maintains a friendship with Shakespeare from childhood, and as they reach adulthood a romance blossoms. Loving Will Shakespeare is drawn from the scant details that are known about this actual historical figure who is believed to have played a role in Shakespeare’s life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE JULIET CLUB by Suzanne Harper
harper

A group of American and Italian teenagers spend a summer participating in a Shakespeare Scholar program in Verona, where they analyze and perform scenes from Romeo and Juliet. Romance between the teenagers quickly develops, with the novel drawing from the plot of Romeo and Juliet. It’s also influenced by lighter Shakespearean fare, such as Much Ado About Nothing.

 

 

 

 

FALLING FOR HAMLET by Michelle Ray, which lead to the E! TV show The Royals.

rayMeet Ophelia: a blonde, beautiful high-school senior and long-time girlfriend of Prince Hamlet of Denmark. Her life is dominated not only by her boyfriend’s fame and his overbearing family, but also by the paparazzi who hound them wherever they go. As the devastatingly handsome Hamlet spirals into madness after the mysterious death of his father, the King, Ophelia rides out his crazy roller coaster life, and lives to tell about it. In live television interviews, of course.


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Fairy Kids

With the recent release of my urban fantasy bedtime picture book, MABEL AND THE QUEEN OF DREAMS, from Schiffer Publishing, I’m always on the lookout for fun images featuring fairies or other fae. From Anna Rozwadowska and the mad geniuses at Bored Panda.

“As a teenager or even young adult I woudn’t dare to call myself “creative”. It all changed when I got my first DSLR. Then my son, Jacob, was born. I discovered Pinterest, gave birth to my second child – Barbara, learned to sew… All these episodes have made me who I am now.

I’ve been photographing my kids since they were born. I’ve taken hundreds of thousands of photos. But it was about a year ago when I started looking for something more unique. Being inspired by amazing photographers from all over the world I was trying to find my own way to capture my children’s childhood. And I still am.

I create costumes by myself. Mostly, every single piece of the outfit for a photo session is made by me (except for the shoes) I generally use the cheapest available fabric I can get. I also try to choose a location for the photo shoots near my home (usually within 20 km).

A photo session lasts no longer than 10 to 15 minutes (when it comes to my daughter, aged 3, 5-6 minutes MUST be sufficient). I never pose my kids. It is a story or a tale told during the session that makes them react naturally.

I am not a professional photographer. By profession I am a teacher in a secondary school in Poland. Photography turned out to be my hobby, so as sewing. Both of them give me a huge amount of energy. My head is full of ideas for next pictures. If only a day was longer…”

A fairy

Miss Pumpkin

Jacob vel. Harry

My Rey

Ballet school

Miss Charming

Sleeping beauty

In grandma’s garden

Real Me

To cold to dive

The Viking

Princess Confused


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Butterfly Wings Turn You Into Fae

With the recent release of my urban fantasy bedtime picture book, MABEL AND THE QUEEN OF DREAMS, from Schiffer Publishing, I’m always on the lookout for fun images featuring fairies or other fae. These hand-drawn butterfly wing scarves turn any girl into a Fae. From Iveta Pete and the mad geniuses at Bored Panda.

“Spanish costume designer Alassie, of El Costurero Real, has designed light muslin scarves with beautiful, realistic, butterfly wing prints. Always wanted to be a fairy? Well now you can be the envy of all your wingless friends!

Alassie was born in Granada into a family of seamstresses. Having studied fashion design and styling at the Art School of Granada, she moved to Barcelona where Alassie began a Masters degree in Costume Design for Theater, Movies, Opera and TV at the Istituto Europeo di Design.”


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What Celebrities Are (not) Saying About MABEL AND THE QUEEN OF DREAMS

Here are some things celebrities have not said about my new urban fantasy bedtime picture book, MABEL AND THE QUEEN OF DREAMS.

Clooney
“A six by nine inch trim size just does NOT work for a picture book!” — George Clooney

Curry
“People ask me, When you’re not playing basketball, what do you like to do?” I tell ’em – I love reading picture books.” — Stephen Curry

Jenner
“I can’t wait to be able to read this.” — Kendall Jenner

Obama
“I may be moving out of the White House, but at least I got a copy of this book.” — Michelle Obama

Streep
“People ask me if winning Academy Awards is the biggest thrill of my life. Nope.” — Meryl Streep

Was8936420
“This is a great book, believe me. It has all the best words. Everyone in the U.S. will get a copy, trust me. And Mexico will pay for it.” — Donald Trump


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Helpful Advice for First-Time Convention Attendees

I’m a children’s book author, with a love of fantasy and science fiction that stretches back to elementary school, where I repeatedly borrowed WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE from the library. It should come as no surprise, then, that I enjoy attending and moderating panels at pop culture conventions like San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC), WonderCon, Condor, and San Diego Comicfest.

WarcraftOrc

The folks at Eventbrite requested that I leverage my convention experience to write a post offering helpful tips. Want to host a convention? Check out their conference page to get started. Want to have fun at a convention? Of course you do! I divided my suggestions into two categories: for convention attendees and for convention panel moderators. WonderCon

WONDERCON 2016: Moderating a children’s literature panel with (l to r) Barney Saltzberg, Caldecott-winner Dan Santat, Bruce Hale, NY Times bestseller Antoinette Portis, and Caldecott-winner Jon Klassen

FIRST-TIME CONVENTION ATTENDEES

Conventions offer a variety of activities, including: individual presentations, art exhibits, book signings, vendor displays, movie sneak peaks, and themed discussion panels. Here are some tips for first-time attendees to get the most out of their convention experience:

  • First things first: purchase your badge(s). This must be done WELL in advance for high-demand events like SDCC.
  • Plan your lodging. If you attend a big convention from out of town, a nearby hotel reservation (or gracious friend’s house) is a must, preferably near public transportation.
  • Plan your transportation. How will you get to the convention, and if you drive, where will you park? Public transportation is a great choice to avoid parking hassles at heavily-attended conventions.
    WC2016-05
  • Plan your activities*. Review the convention schedule to decide which events you will attend. Some conventions may offer multiple enticing events at the same time; the convention equivalent of Sophie’s Choice. *Or not – some people enjoy choosing events as their mood dictates throughout the day. “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.”
  • Review in advance the convention facility map to see how close the events are located to each other. This is particularly important if events are scattered across multiple buildings, like at DragonCon and SDCC. Hence the importance of the aforementioned “Plan your activities”.
  • Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. You will likely be doing a lot of walking. I’d recommend NOT wearing a costume at your FIRST convention, because it adds some complications. But, if you MUST wear a costume, see my costume-specific suggestions at the end of this list.
    10Wookies
  • Bring a friend and a mobile phone, both fully charged. It’s more fun with a friend, and a phone will help you reconnect if you attend separate events. You’ll also want to have your phone (or camera) so you can take pictures of pop culture icons, displays, cosplayers, and other strange persons.
  • The more popular the event, the bigger the line. In some cases, lines are so long that you may not gain admittance. This makes me sad. So, move briskly from one event to the next if they are in different rooms. In the most extreme cases, like Hall H at SDCC, you must get into a line the prior evening to obtain a wristband to even be eligible for entry. What!? Why is Hall H so popular? In a word (well, two words), movie stars. My honest advice for first-time attendees is to skip such events. You essentially commit ALL your time to getting in (and staying in, see below) that room. I prefer to attend multiple interesting (but less sought after) events where I’m actually likely to get a seat.
  • If you miraculously manage to get into a room with multiple events that interest you (e.g., Hall H at SDCC), stay there. SDCC does not clear rooms of attendees between events. But if you leave (for say a bathroom break), you will not be readmitted. Hence the importance of the aforementioned “Plan your activities”, including how much liquid you imbibe. Now you know why Howard Wolowitz wears a “stadium pal” in Big Bang Theory Season 4 Episode 8.
    02WilliamShatner
  • Ask permission before taking a photo of someone. I’ve never had anyone decline, but it’s the polite thing to do.
  • Don’t bogart the talent. Sometimes, you may encounter panelists (more true of authors than movie or TV stars) outside a convention room just prior to the event or at a signing. It’s fine to politely introduce yourself, offer them kind words, and request a signature. But once you’ve had your turn, let someone else interact with them.
  • There may be sexy or scantily dressed cosplayers in attendance. The normal rules of society apply – you don’t get to touch them! You don’t want to vex a superhero.
    27ThorLoki
  • Bring credit cards and cash if you plan on buying stuff. There are often very tempting purchases in exhibit halls and artist alleys. But don’t buy more than you can carry. Hence the aforementioned advice to bring a backpack. Sherpas are also very handy for carrying your stuff.
  • Bring food and water. If you’ll be attending for a full day, you’ll want to eat and drink. You can visit convention food stalls, but they are typically pricey, and can involve waiting in LONG lines. I advise against drinking alcohol. You’ll be in tight quarters and challenging conditions, so you’ll want to keep your manners and wits about you.
  • Bring a hat. This suggestion is relevant only if you are planning to wait in a long, outdoor line, such as for gaining admittance to the coveted Hall H events at SDCC. It can be sunny and hot, and a hat can help keep you cool.
    34CuriousGeorge
  • Bring a 4″ diameter cardboard poster tube. This suggestion is only relevant if you plan to purchase artwork or posters. A tube will enable you to carry your paper treasures without risking them getting bent or torn. I wouldn’t go smaller than 4″ diameter, or you’ll have trouble rolling, inserting, and retrieving your artwork. Plastic tubes are on sale at some conventions for about ten bucks.
  • Bring a back pack. It’s not only good for carrying your food, water, hat, and poster tube, but it enables you to schlep your purchases hands-free.
  • Don’t cut in line. This is unfair to others. Some conventions, like SDCC, do a great job of organizing lines for panels, book signings, etc. Be a good citizen and follow the rules. Don’t make me stop the car!
    16EndOfLine
  • When walking about the convention, expect to move slowly due to thick crowds. Look where you’re going. Don’t text and walk at the same time, or you may get a Harley Quinn mallet in the face.
  • While this may be difficult given the density of some convention crowds, if you stop to look at a display, speak with someone, take a photo, or pull an item from your backpack, step toward the display or wall so as to leave a pathway for others to pass.
  • Don’t walk in front of people if it is clear they are taking a photo of something. Conversely, take your photos quickly so you don’t make people wait long. “None shall pass!”
    KingArthur
  • COSTUMES offer advantages and disadvantages. They can be great fun to wear and are natural icebreakers, offering others a reason to interact with you. However, some preclude you from being able to wear the aforementioned handy backpack. Some costumes can make accessing your wallet, eating, or using the bathroom a challenge. Some costumes can be heavy, hot, or otherwise uncomfortable to wear. Others can limit the ease with which you can see or breathe. Bulky costumes can make it hard to maneuver, especially down crowded exhibit hall aisles. And some are SO bulky that you need a friend to accompany you, just to help you get into and out of it (for aforementioned food, water and bathroom breaks). Fake weapons typically require you have them checked and tagged as safe.
    03Trex

FIRST-TIME CONVENTION PANEL MODERATORS

As mentioned above conventions often offer themed discussion panels. Such panels are typically organized and hosted by a moderator. As a panel moderator, your job is to ensure an entertaining and informative experience for BOTH the audience and the panelists. A panelist should be a good steward of everyone’s time so that all the panelists can engage with their fans. Here are some tips for first-time convention panel moderators.

ComicCon1

SAN DIECO COMIC-CON 2015: Moderating a fantasy literature panel with (l to r) New York Times bestselling authors Brandon Sanderson, Maggie Stiefvater, Kami Garcia, Jonathan Maberry, and Zac (Heather) Brewer

  • Once the convention approves your panel, provide logistical information to your panelists. They’ll need to know prior to the event where the panel will be held, when to arrive, how they get their convention badge, whether they can bring a guest, who else is participating on the panel, how the panel will be run, how to get a hold of you, whether they’re allowed to give out swag, and if there will be a signing event after the panel.
  • Don’t assume everyone in the audience knows who your panelists are. Prior to the event, communicate with your panelists or look at their website so you can give an accurate introduction. Do NOT ask panelists to introduce themselves (I’ve actually seen that).
  • The audience will almost certainly have questions for the panelists, but just in case (and to get the ball rolling), prepare some questions of your own in advance.
    WonderCon2
    WONDERCON 2015: Moderating a children’s literature panel with (l to r) Salina Yoon, Brian Won, Newbery Honoree Jenni Holm, Pura Belpre Honoree Joe Cepeda, and Caldecott Honoree Molly Idle.
  • I like to create a PowerPoint presentation for both introducing the panelists and showing the questions I’ll ask them. It’s not required; only diehard moderators do this. But, in my experience, attendees enjoy a visual element like images or videos. Let the convention organizers know in advance if you’ll need a projector, audio speakers, etc. Bring your own laptop and VGA/HDMI connector. Bring a spare copy of your files on a thumb drive and a printout of your introductions and panelist questions, in case your computer fails.
  • Guide your panelists. Ask questions in such a way that more than one panelist can respond. If panelists aren’t responding because questions don’t apply to them, then ask those individuals a question directed solely at them. If, on the other hand, a panelist speaks too long, don’t be afraid to gently break in and redirect to another panelist.
  • Control your audience. An effective introduction will get the audience excited to hear from the panelists. When I open up a panel for audience questions, I ask them to raise their hands, and select them one at a time. Some conferences will have a standing mic set up, at which panelists can line up prior to asking their questions. If there is no such mic, I will repeat audience questions so everyone in the room can hear it. If a question meanders, I will gently ask the person to state their question. If a question is inappropriate or somehow puts the panel in an awkward position, I will move on to the next audience question. Again, I’ve prepared questions in advance, just in case the audience runs out of questions.
  • Remind the audience at the end of the panel of the time and room where the panelists will subsequently be doing a signing event.

ComicCon2

SAN DIEGO COMIC-CON 2014: Moderating a sci-fi & fantasy literature panel with (l to r) New York Times bestselling authors Jonathan Maberry, David Brin, Jim Butcher, Rachel Caine, Jason Hough & Marie Lu.

I hope that these suggestions make your convention-going experience a fantastic one! If you have additional ideas, feel free to submit them via the Comments section. I hope to see you at a convention some time.

HenrySwordResting72

The author, Henry Herz, wearing a costume that does not impede his ability to
see, breath, eat, walk, or access his mobile phone. Claymore sold separately.


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Photos of the Tiny Fae World Around Us

From Magda Wasiczek and the mad geniuses at Bored Panda.

My picture book, MABEL AND THE QUEEN OF DREAMS, is inspired by Mercutio’s soliloquy in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Mercutio describes how the tiny Fae Queen Mab travels in her flying chariot, painting people’s dreams. The photos in this post show that the Fae Queen could live in our world quite comfortably.

“My name is Magda Wasiczek, I am a flower & nature photographer based in Trzebinia, Poland. Photography to me is a tool of raising the awareness to the beauty of nature. I’ve learned to see invisible things, to enjoy million small details, which I did not pay attention to before.

I do not know who or why, what strength created the world that surrounds us. I know that it is an unusual and fascinating in every smallest detail.

Before I began photographing, I liked to draw, paint. Then I just changed the tool and instead of brushes and pencils I began to use lenses and I have learned to use their optical properties to achieve the desired effects.

I want to show the world of plants or insects in such a way that would impress an average person who has paid no attention to the world at his feet or even hated those “nasty bugs”.

When going to the meadow or the garden, I have no planned shots. I let the nature surprise me. I love the thrill when you find a theme in the open air. It’s like opening presents at Christmas.

I want to present my vision of the world, this idyllic paradise of fairy tales. I hope that looking at my pictures, a child inside of them wakes up, because the world in the eyes of a child is always more colorful, fascinating, mysterious and full of surprises.”


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The Fae Queen Paints a Tokyo Lake Purple

From Danilo Dungo and the mad geniuses at Bored Panda.

In my picture book, MABEL AND THE QUEEN OF DREAMS, the tiny Fae Queen flies in her dragonfly-drawn chariot over sleeping children, painting their dreams. Looks like she’s also been visiting this lake near Tokyo…

“Tokyo-based photographer Danilo Dungo uses drones to take stunning pictures of Japanese cherry blossoms. Every spring, he goes to the Inokashira Park to admire the blossoms, and while regular photography capture the park’s beauty, the drones reveal something else altogether.

When seen from a great height, the lake Inokashira Park lake appears to be entirely covered in blossoms! Resembling pollen in a river stream, the blossoms turn the lake a surreal pink, a view unseen by most before the drone age. ”

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