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Children's & Fantasy/Sci-Fi Books


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Interview with children’s author Marsha Diane Arnold

Called a “born storyteller” by the media, Marsha Diane Arnold’s picture books have sold over one million copies and been called, “whimsical,” “inspiring,” and “uplifting.” Her books have garnered such honors as Best First Book by a New Author, Smithsonian Notable, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and state Children’s Choice awards. Recent books include GALÁPAGOS GIRL, MAY I COME IN? and LOST. FOUND, a Junior Library Guild selection illustrated by Caldecott medalist Matthew Cordell, which received three starred reviews. Marsha was born and raised in Kansas, lived most of her life in Sonoma County, California, and now lives with her husband in Alva, Florida, near her family.

For what age audience do you write?

The best stories, those that hold enduring truths, are really for all ages, so  

I like to say I write for all ages. (My publishers usually note my books are for ages 4 to 8.) Before moving to picture books, I wrote an award-winning, syndicated column entitled homegrown treasures. My column was read by grandparents, parents, teens, and toddlers, all sitting together, enjoying “story.”

Mostly, I write picture books. I also write board books, like BABY ANIMALS TAKE A NAP and BABY ANIMALS TAKE A BATH, and am working (from time to time) on a chapter book and middle-grade novel.

Henry: I’m in the same boat. I’ve published only picture books, but am trying my hand at middle-grade.

Tell us about your latest book.

GALÁPAGOS GIRL began as a tiny seed in 2007, when I visited the Galápagos Islands. My naturalist guide was Valentina Cruz, whose family were some of the first inhabitants of the remote island of Floreana in the Galápagos.

Through email and video chats, Valentina shared her adventures growing up on Floreana with her parents and eleven brothers and sisters – stories of living with wild nature, of swimming with sea lions, of finches flying into their house to sample her mother’s homemade jam. Her idyllic life led her to become a biologist and naturalist guide so she could share with the world her knowledge and love of the islands and their unique flora and fauna. She’s the inspiration for my fictional character Valentina in the book.

I’m thankful to have Lee & Low as my publisher and Angela Dominguez as my talented illustrator. GALÁPAGOS GIRL is bilingual with an author note and back matter that includes information on each of the animals mentioned in the book.

What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?

In general, my wish for my readers is that my books give them some whimsy and fun, a lot of enjoyment and entertainment, heaps of inspiration, and something to ponder.

I hope when my readers read GALÁPAGOS GIRL, they will feel the joy of being in nature. From a unique perspective, they will glimpse a way of life different from their own. I hope they’ll close the book with a desire to help keep all wildlife safe.

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

Those rejections! They always make me question my value as a writer, but eventually, “I pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again.”

Henry: Yes, the two most valuable author attributes (after writing ability) are being thick-skinned and indefatigable.

What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?

I can do it. Being an introvert and filled with self-doubt most of my life, that’s a powerful lesson. Each of us can do it!

What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?

Author visits! What wonderful times I’ve had visiting schools from California to Puerto Rico, from Germany to Kenya. In Alabama, I had to run three miles at a school where they’ve been celebrating THE PUMPKIN RUNNER with a day of races and games for six years! At one Kansas school, they built a tornado on the school’s roof to celebrate THE BRAVEST OF US ALL. One librarian called my visit a “Big Vivid” for the school community, an inspiring memory that will stay with them forever. In truth, my visits to schools have always been “Big Vivids” for me.

Henry: Run three miles!? Now, that’s a commitment to a school visit!

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Think of rewriting as polishing a stone until it’s smooth and bright and beautiful.

Do you have any favorite quotes?

I have two that come back to me again and again over the years.

You must concentrate upon and consecrate yourself wholly to each day, as though a fire were raging in your hair.” Taisu Deshimaru

We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals… In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.” Henry Beston

Henry: Lovely

Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you work?

No strange rituals here. Maybe a walk in nature, which, sadly, for many today, may seem like a strange ritual.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

The power to let everyone see that all humans, all creatures, and all plants are part of a precious web of wonder. Then maybe we’d respect and care for one another as we should.

Henry: I’m reminded of the Tree of Souls in the Avatar movie.

That’s my serious answer. My not-so-serious answer is to be a Teleporter! Is that a word? What fun to be able to transport instantly to any place on this magnificent planet. As inhabitants of Earth, I think it’s our responsibility to experience as much of it as possible. My air miles aren’t stretching far enough, so to be able to instantly move from place to place would come in handy.

Henry: Plus, it would be easier to conduct school visits!

If you could have three authors over for dinner, who would it be?

I must choose naturalist and writer Henry Beston. Afterall, he’s responsible for one of my favorite quotes.

Charles Dickens – because he’s the master of creating fascinating characters and he still influences the way we celebrate Christmas, what with “A Christmas Carol” and all.

J.R.R. Tolkien – for his brilliance.

Wait! That’s not right. I need some women at our salon.

Henry: You had me at Tolkien

Let’s include Emily Dickinson. She won’t take up much space. “I’m Nobody!” she wrote, “how dreary to be Somebody.” I have always loved her poetry.

To round things out, let’s invite two more. Eudora Welty, Pulitzer Prize winner and lovely Southern lady. Her ON WRITING is so readable, so excellent.

Sheila Turnage, another writer who is a master at creating characters, like her Miss Moses LoBeau, would be my living author. I want to learn from Sheila how to write great middle-grade novels.

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

Dragons, for certain. The Galápagos marine iguanas on the Galápagos reminded me a bit of dragons.

Henry: “My armor is like tenfold shields, my teeth are swords, my claws spears, the shock of my tail a thunderbolt, my wings a hurricane, and my breath death!”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, THE HOBBIT

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

Travel! When I’m traveling, I love to hike, scuba dive, snorkel, and see new sites and sights. I also love being home, surrounded by my family, exploring the rural roads in our golf cart, swimming, and investigating the natural world.

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

A Kansas farm girl, protector of nature, lover of family, whose writing was enjoyed by all ages.

Where can readers find your work?

Readers can find my books in libraries, bookstores, and online.

They can find me at www.marshadianearnold.com and www.earthsvoices.wordpress.com and at my course at Children’s Book Academy (http://www.childrensbookacademy.com/writing-character-driven-stories.html )

Thank you, Henry, for inviting me to your website! I had fun answering your questions.

Henry: You’re welcome. Thanks for spending time with us.

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Owl-Shaped Cabins

From where does inspiration come? What causes someone, perhaps sitting drink a cup of tea, to decide it would be fun to build an owl-shaped house? I have no idea, but I’m glad it happened, thanks to the mad-geniuses at Bored Panda.

“An adorable cabin built to resemble three forest owls is now ready for campers in the Bordeaux region of Southwestern France, and it costs absolutely nothing to stay the night. It’s part of an initiative encouraging city dwellers to get off the grid and experience nature, and we can’t lie – we’re dying to go for it!

The plywood shelter contains three floors, circular white beds, and an adjoined boardwalk overlooking nearby wetlands. Dubbed Les Guetteurs (“the watchers”), the timber strigidae were designed and constructed by contemporary art producer Zébra3, a project commissioned by artist-architect collective Bruit de Frigo as part of their Refuges périurbains (“peri-urban shelters”) campaign.

If you’re planning a trip to Bordeaux in the near future, you can book your free stay in Les Guetteurs – or one of the many other unique camping structures in the area. Honestly, who wouldn’t want to give up electricity for a few days to live inside a wooden trio of owls?”


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Correct Names for Animals and Objects

Ever wonder who gets to select the name for animals and objects? This hilarious post by Dominyka Jurkštaitė, Mark Dempsey, and the mad geniuses at Bored Panda offers some sensible alternatives.

“Do you like to eat bagel seeds covered in cereal sauce for breakfast? Perhaps you like to quench your thirst with a nice cold glass of snowman blood? Or maybe you’ve marveled at the majestic grace of the animal known as the sea flap flap? You’re probably shaking your head right now, but the chances are that you’ve done at least one of these three things at some point in your life.

Don’t worry, we haven’t gone mad. Scroll down to see what we mean. The funny (and more than a little bizarre) descriptions of everyday things come courtesy of @CorrectNames, a hilarious twitter account by Mark Dempsey that attributes alternative names to everything from fruit and animals to clothing and body parts. Which one do you like the most? Let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to vote for the funniest!”

Correct Name

Correct Name

Correct Name

 I’d also call this ice juice.

Correct Name

Correct Name

Correct Name

Correct Name

 Or doughnut seeds

Correct Name

Correct Name

Correct Name


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Hamster Town

The only thing cuter than hamsters is hamsters living in a miniature town. Now you can see one thanks to the bookstore Eat, Read, Love and the mad geniuses at Bored Panda.

“Little lovely animals – living in a teeny town with handmade teensy details and eating tiny food there. The idea was to use this small town – named Yumville – for the big cause of advertising one of the leading food product companies, with making their products seem lovely for families as these hamsters do.

So, we created the whole town with 1325 tiny details during 1984 working hours. Housed the family of real hamsters there and made 9 episodes of online series about the lovely family obsessed with delicious food. I hope their adorable charm won’t leave anybody’s heart untouched.”

Bookshop “Eat, Read, Love”, where love story of hamster online series takes place

Startled Hamster, probably the fridge was empty

Be careful hamsters not to eat your shield!

Cinema “APOLLO” is the replica of the oldest movie theaters in Georgia

Cosy up with our hamsters in their lovely home

Putting your nose where the food is

Life is too short to let the dough bake

Shower curtains are for not peeking

Food lights up hamsters flame

They hired an interior designer for this

Sweet corn in sweet home

Winter is not coming, it has already arrived

The non-triumphant arch

Hamsters have trouble with taking out trash, don’t try this at home

Window on the wall and monster in the main hall

Leading girl character’s bedroom with her special treadmill

Munching at all the places and at all times

Leading boy character’s bedroom with constantly messy bed

Here comes the sun

Maybe hamsters should stick with food rather than drawing sticks

Here was where it all came alive

Real hamsters, a hand and handmade miniature things!

Posing for photoshoot of the movie poster


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For the Pet that Has Everything: Samurai Armor

People love their pets. Some more than others. Some, perhaps, to an unhealthy degree. But we can all agree that Samurai armor is a fashionable way to protect your fuzzy friends, thanks to the mad geniuses at Bored Panda.

“A Japanese company called Samurai Age just created something the world desperately needed – samurai armor for cats and dogs. Pets are already like loyal samurais that go by our side and protect us, so surely they deserve armor that would ignite their warrior spirits.

Samurai Age offers standardized armor sized for cats and small dogs, but they also make custom designs that accommodate your little four-legged samurai’s individual needs. It looks like the company will also sell pet fashion sets made after armor worn by the legendary Japanese samurais. For instance, the red armor on a Shibu Inu in one of the pics below is actually modeled after the armor worn by Sengoku hero Sanada Yukimura – how cool is that?

Depending on the size, you can get an armor for your pet for somewhere between 4,040 yen ($125) to 16,416 yen ($146), so what are you waiting for?

May we just warn you that, with cats, you might need some extra armor to defend yourself from being scratched. Other than that, we’re sure your samurai fur babies will be glad to serve.”

One Japanese company just created something the world desperately needed…

Samurai armor for cats and dogs!

Samurai Age offers standardized armor sized for cats and small dogs

But they can also accommodate your little four-legged samurai’s individual needs

You can get an armor for your pet for somewhere between $125 to $146

The company will also sell sets made after armor worn by the legendary Japanese samurais

For example, Sengoku hero Sanada Yukimura

What are you waiting for? Your pet will be honored to serve


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Amazing Balloon Animals

Thanks to Masayoshi Matsumoto and the mad geniuses at Bored Panda, we are shown how balloon animals can be taken to the next level.

“Everyone would love Japanese artist Masayoshi Matsumoto at their birthday party. This remarkable balloon artist has already made a name for himself but now he’s back with even more incredibly intricate animal and insect sculptures.

“I started making these seven years ago, I was really inspired by wildlife pictures and wanted to see if I could create realistic animals of my own,” Matsumoto told Metro. His pieces take the self-taught artist a minimum of two hours to complete and more complex project last up to six.

All of his work becomes even more stunning when you realize that Matsumoto doesn’t use markers, stickers or any other supplementary material. Ever. His multi-colored animal kingdom is made purely out of blowing and twisting balloons.”

#1 Phoenix

Phoenix

#2 House Fly

House Fly

#3 Chameleon

Chameleon

#4 Caterpillar

Caterpillar

#5 Snake

Snake

#6 Jumping Spider

Jumping Spider

#7 Octopus

Octopus

#8 Frog

Frog

#9 Jellyfish

Jellyfish

#10 Siamang

Siamang


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Interview with Picture Book Author/Illustrator Karen Lechelt

Karen Lechelt is a writer, illustrator and artist. She was born in South Korea, raised in New Jersey and currently lives in San Francisco. Most of her stories have animals  wearing pants. Making books is something she finds impossible and impossibly wonderful. I had the opportunity to meet her at this year’s LA Times Festival of Books.

For what age audience do you write? 

Early readers (1-5), picture books

Tell us about your book. 

It’s about a young girl who while playing with her toys imagines asking them one simple question, WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOU? Their responses are sweet, silly and unique.

What DO YOU LOVE ABOUT that book? 

I hope readers and non-readers will begin to think about what it is they love about themselves…obvious I know, but that’s what I’m really hoping for.

Henry: Very nice.

What aspect of writing or illustrating do you find most challenging? 

Finishing a story or an idea is difficult for me. Ideas can come to me rather quickly. But completing the idea and the ending is almost always a struggle for me. I’m not a tidy person, and find it impossible to come up with tidy endings.

Henry: I’m a very tidy person, and it’s still a challenge to come up with tidy endings.

What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer/illustrator? 

To never give up on myself. After a hundred rejections and many moments of self doubt, ultimately it was MY voice (both verbal and graphic) that shined through the massive slush piles and landed me a wonderful publisher, agent and editor. I have to believe in myself otherwise no one else will.

Henry: Solid advice. That, and grow a thick skin!

What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer? 

I’ve never been a fan of public speaking…actually I used to loathe it.  But since becoming a published author and presenting my book to over 500 students, children and adults, I’ve learned to enjoy the experience. And reading on the children’s stage at the LA Times Festival of Books is something I never expected to do and will NEVER forget. Also getting my picture taken with Jon Klassen AND Mac Barnett at LATFB was a huge treat for this fan.

Henry: I saw you there. Great job!

What advice would you give to aspiring authors or illustrators? 

I’m too much of an imposter to give advice.  But if forced, maybe I’d say no matter what, just enjoy the artful journey of storytelling.

Henry: Good advice. The artistic road is hilly, so enjoy the high points.

Do you have any favorite quotes? 

Not really a quote, but a cartoon by Jack Ziegler. A man walks into a party and thinks to himself “Yipes! Grownups!”. That happens to me almost every day…not the party, just the feeling.

Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you work? 

I don’t, but my dog does. He follows me to my desk, waits for me to turn around in my chair and say “I see you” and then jumps onto the small sofa. If I don’t acknowledge him, he stares through me until I’ve relented. Oh, and I do eat a lot of chocolate, but there’s nothing strange about that.

Henry: “Acknowledge me, hooman! One does not simply work without acknowledging me. It is folly.”

If you could have one superpower, what would it be? 

Having a 10 year old daughter, I have discussed this quite a bit. I would absolutely fly. I love traveling and eating.  So if I could fly I would wake up in the morning and eat bagels in NY, then fly to Paris for a ham baguette and croissant, then I’d go and eat Udon in Japan and end my day in Florence with waffles and gelato.  I’d be a very selfish superhero and happily very plump. If I couldn’t fly I’d maybe like to control the weather. I think I could do a lot of good if I could control the weather.

Henry: If you get too plump, it would affect your aerodynamics. Flying is a lot trickier than it first appears. I wrote a mock interview of Edna Mode, discussing the challenges of flying and other superpowers. 

If you could have three authors over for dinner, who would it be?

I would love to have Haruki Murakami over for dinner because he is my favorite all-time author. I would want to ask him about the inklings and cats and shadows in his books. I would also love to eat with Mary Blair, although technically she’s not an author, but illustrator.  She illustrated one of my all time favorite picture books, I CAN FLY.  Her color, style and creativity are unrivaled. And lastly I would have Charles Bukowski at the table, because I love his writing, but more importantly, I think he would be horribly fun. Either I’d love him or end up kicking him out.

Henry: Wikipedia helpfully offers:
“Haruki Murakami is a Japanese writer. His books and stories have been bestsellers in Japan as well as internationally, with his work being translated into 50 languages and selling millions of copies outside his native country. The critical acclaim for his fiction and non-fiction has led to numerous awards, in Japan and internationally, including the World Fantasy Award (2006) and the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award (2006). His oeuvre received, for example, the Franz Kafka Prize (2006) and the Jerusalem Prize (2009). Murakami’s most notable works include A Wild Sheep Chase (1982), Norwegian Wood (1987), The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (1994–95), Kafka on the Shore (2002), and 1Q84 (2009–10).

Mary Blair, born Mary Robinson, was an American artist who was prominent in producing art and animation for The Walt Disney Company, drawing concept art for such films as Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Song of the South and Cinderella. Blair also created character designs for enduring attractions such as Disneyland’s It’s a Small World, the fiesta scene in El Rio del Tiempo in the Mexico pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase, and an enormous mosaic inside Disney’s Contemporary Resort. Several of her illustrated children’s books from the 1950s remain in print, such as I Can Fly by Ruth Krauss. Blair was inducted into the prestigious group of Disney Legends in 1991.

Henry Charles Bukowski was a German-born American poet, novelist, and short story writer. His writing was influenced by the social, cultural, and economic ambience of his home city of Los Angeles. His work addresses the ordinary lives of poor Americans, the act of writing, alcohol, relationships with women, and the drudgery of work. Bukowski wrote thousands of poems, hundreds of short stories and six novels, eventually publishing over 60 books. The FBI kept a file on him as a result of his column, Notes of a Dirty Old Man, in the LA underground newspaper Open City. In 1986 Time called Bukowski a “laureate of American lowlife”.”

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

I like the cats in Murakami’s books because they are delegates from another world. When I read a Murakami story I may be entering a world that I actually feel like I belong to. I believe my dog, Mr. Jones, often tries to lead me down a rabbit hole.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

Right now I’m really into painting…and chocolate.

Henry: Chocolate is becoming a theme here…

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

Lived a long happy life.

Where can readers find your work?

Tell them to check their local library! And if they want to buy it they can go to their local book store, Barnes and Noble, Amazon and the like.

Henry: Thanks for spending time with us, Karen.