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Children's & Fantasy/Sci-Fi Books


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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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Interview with children’s book author/illustrator Daniel Kirk

Daniel Kirk has been writing and illustrating children’s books for over twenty-five years. In that time he’s published nearly fifty titles for Abrams Books, Hyperion, Scholastic, Putnam, and Simon and Schuster. His books include the best-selling LIBRARY MOUSE series. He lives in New Jersey, a short train ride from New York City.

For what age audience do you write?

For the most part I make picture books for young readers, and have made a few stabs into the realm of chapter books and young adult fantasy novels. But mostly I’m known for my picture books! My characters tend to be talking animals, though some of my more popular titles are about vehicles. Apparently people like the way I draw shiny metal things with wheels, but I prefer painting four-legged creatures.

Henry: As a picture book author myself, I’m amazed at people who can write picture books AND young adult novels. They are such different art forms.

Tell us about your latest book.

My new picture book is called RHINO IN THE HOUSE, and it is my first non-fiction title I’ve both written and illustrated. It tells the story of Anna Merz, an Englishwoman who moved to Kenya in 1976 to found a rhino sanctuary. She’d intended to retire there, but when she got to Kenya and saw how so many animals were threatened by hunting and poaching, she decided to do something about it. Anna had a fence built around thousands of acres of land, and arranged for rhinos in danger to be brought to her sanctuary. It wasn’t long before she discovered a baby rhino calf that had been abandoned by its mother. Anna named the calf Samia. My book is about the relationship between the woman and the rhino as she raised the calf to adulthood, and some of the challenges the two of them encountered along the way.

It’s a sweet story about Anna’s devotion to Samia, as well as a tribute to a woman who learned many things about rhinos that nobody had ever bothered to learn before.

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

These days there are many endangered animals on the brink of extinction, and I hope that by sharing the story of Anna and Samia, I can encourage kids to understand that when they grow up, they have the power make a difference too. I want to reinforce the fact that endangered animals matter, and that there’s still hope for making our world a better place. As part of my research for this book I went to Lewa Downs in Kenya to see where Anna and Samia had lived. I’d like children to understand how important travel is to understanding the world we live in. At the back of the book I’ve devoted some space to sharing pictures and sketches of other animals I got to see on the range in Africa.

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

I love coming up with ideas and developing them into stories. The challenges are in keeping it all as simple as possible, and keeping it fresh for myself as well as the reader. It can take months, or even years, to come up with appropriate endings for stories, find the right voice for characters, and figuring out what you DON’T have to say to still get across your ideas. People are always surprised to hear that picture books are not written in about the time it takes to read them. They look so simple! But of course, making things appear simple, even when they’re complicated, is very important.

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

Patience! I’m continually reminded that my first ideas aren’t always my best, and that nothing gets accomplished without a lot of effort and attention to detail. My brain and my hands never seem to work fast enough, and everything takes longer than I’d like. Sometimes it feels like there isn’t enough time to accomplish all the things I want to do. But slow, baby steps are the only way to really get things done!

Henry: Exactly. Patience and persistence.

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

Part of my mind is always tuned into finding inspiration in what happens around me. I hear and see things in the most common and ordinary situations that I wouldn’t have noticed if I weren’t making books. I guess you could call that “writer’s radar”. Certainly I’ve had lots of opportunity to travel and meet people as a writer that I wouldn’t have had if I had some other occupation, but in answer to your question, the biggest thing is the awareness that comes in every waking moment when you don’t just see the events of the day, but you see the way people and things are connected, and ordinary events teach us things about life. This is often how stories get their start!

What advice would you give to aspiring authors/illustrators?

Whatever you do with your writing, always do it foremost for the love of creating and sharing. Creativity has its own rewards, and those rewards are limitless.

Don’t box yourself in with too many self-imposed limits. Try writing in different styles and genres until you find your own voice and the things that you’re passionate about. Try not to look too much at other people’s work or you’ll be distracted from the quiet voices inside your own head. Don’t compare yourself and your successes or failures with other people. These are things that will throw you off balance and just make you feel insecure.

And remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Creativity is a journey—sort of like life in general!

Henry: And don’t quit your day job. Writing picture books is not a path to fame and fortune.

Do you have any favorite quotes?

I like a lot of zen snippets like “Chop wood, carry water”, and “first there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is”. They combine the mundane with eternal verities in an appealing way. Here’s another–“The one who is good at shooting does not hit the center of the target”. I try to remember these when I find myself struggling too hard for perfection in my work!

Henry: “Perfect is the enemy of good enough.”

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

When I was a little kid I did most of my arts and crafts stuff either in front of the TV or sitting at the kitchen table. I’d say about half of my creative time today is spent working at the kitchen table. There’s a lot of sunlight, and constant access to snacks. And my laptop functions as an entertainment unit, where I get music to work by, or a series on Netflix to listen to while I draw. I don’t know if that constitutes a ritual, or anything strange, but I’m not the kind of guy who likes putting on a suit and tie and sitting at a desk to get my work done. To me, that would be strange!

Henry: You had me at snacks.

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

I’d be the guy who could slow down time. To everybody else I’d look like a hummingbird, but I’d really be getting things done. I guess there’s already a superhero like that, The Flash, so I’d be like him. Except without the red costume.

Henry: But, then you’d have to be even MORE patient!

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

I’m kind of shy, so I don’t know about having them over for dinner. But I can imagine randomly bumping into some of my favorite deceased authors. The writer and artist James Flora was a big inspiration to me—even though our work is nothing alike. We both grew up in Ohio. So in my fantasy scenario I’m sitting next to him on a flight to Columbus, and I work up my courage to introduce myself as a fan. Then we discuss media and changing styles, among other things. Tove Jansson is one of my favorite author/illustrators, she created the Moomin books. I can imagine I bump into her on the ferry from Sweden to Finland and we might chat about the mischievous Little My. I love the Frog and Toad books, and actually, anything created by Arnold Lobel. I imagine I’m waiting for the subway train in Brooklyn, when I spot him on the platform. I’d have to ask him what he thinks Owl Tear tea would taste like!

Henry: I imagine Owl Tear tea tastes like disappointment.

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

Mythological creatures tend to be dangerous, and danger isn’t really my thing…but I can’t help being curious about Sirens, as I’ve always tried to imagine the song they sing to lure sailors to their demise. Is it the melody? The lyrics? The singing voice? I’d love to hear a short, non-fatal sample to help me figure that one out.

Henry: It’s the sirens’ dance moves…

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

I love to write and illustrate books but my great passion is music. I’m in a couple of bands, singing and playing guitar, and I love harmonies and rhythm and playing with other like-minded people. Making books is good creative fun but tends to be solitary. When I write songs that’s solitary, too, but making music together is one of life’s greatest pleasures for me.

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

When my time is up on this planet, I plan to have my ashes tossed into the wind over some lovely vista. No tombstone. The memories of my friends and loved ones will keep me going for a while, and if anybody finds my books in used book stores and likes what they see and read, that’s enough eternity for me.

Henry: Indeed, books are authors’ tombstones.

Where can readers find your work?

Well I certainly hope in new and used book stores, on Amazon and Ebay, and of course, in libraries. My website is danielkirk.com, and you can get a decent glimpse of what I do by checking me out online. I’ve also got a bunch of short videos that I just put up on Youtube for my new book, “Rhino in the House”!

Henry: Thanks for visiting with us, Daniel.


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Making Animal Sculptures out of Plastic Household Objects

From the talented Sayaka Ganz and the mad geniuses at Bored Panda.

“When first encountering my art I want my viewers to see an animal in motion such as horses galloping out from a gallery wall, or dolphins swimming above, or polar bear family diving for fish. I want to share the imagination of what it might feel like to gallop like a horse and feel the wind going through my mane, or to swim like a dolphin and feel the water and sunlight against my fins.

When the viewers get up close to my sculpture, it becomes apparent that these animals are made of plastic kitchen items and other household objects. You might even have the same identical spoon or spatula in your kitchen drawer. Upon further inspection viewers may notice that many of the objects are stained or bent, because these are all second hand items bought from thrift stores and collected from friends and family.

I call my style “3D Impressionism”. I use plastic objects like brush strokes in a painting by Van Gogh. The plastic items are my collaborators, and they inform the aesthetic decisions I make as well as educate me about environmental issues.”


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Put a Cuttlefish On It!

Not familiar with cuttlefish? Wikipedia offers some fun facts about these amazing cousins of squid and octopuses.

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Fans of the TV series Portlandia are familiar with the expression “put a bird on it!” It’s a scientific fact that putting a bird on things spruces them up, and makes them pretty.

In celebration of my new picture book, LITTLE RED CUTTLEFISH, and in acknowledgement that cuttlefish are way cooler than birds, we’ve created the hashtag #PutACuttlefishOnIt. Some examples are below. A free cuttlefish.png download is available to help you Put A Cuttlefish On It.

You’re welcome.

Gollum
“The rock and pool, is nice and cool, so juicy sweet. Our only wish, to catch a fish.” #PutACuttlefishOnIt

IronMan
Although it’s not mentioned in the Avengers movies, Iron Man has a pet cuttlefish. #PutACuttlefishOnIt

Sanders
This cuttlefish made an unexpected appearance at a Bernie Sanders rally. #PutACuttlefishOnIt


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Octopus Hairpieces. You Know You Want One.

From

Peach octopus fascinator

“Western Australia-based artist Kirstie Williams creates beautiful octopus fascinators out of synthetic hair, paint, and glass eyes. Ringlet curls trail down from the cephalopod-themed hair accessory to form tentacles, creating an imaginative, realistic hair-octopus hybrid.

Her fascinators are available for purchase made-to-order at CuriousCephalopods on Etsy. Williams has generously posted well-illustrated instructions on making a larger wig version.”

Yellow octopus fascinator

Purple octopus fascinator

Blue and purple octopus fascinators

Wedding octopus fascinator

WIP octopus fascinator


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Custom Condos Built by Insects

From Nicky Bay 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, built by a beetle and drawn by a dragonfly. The photos in this post show some potential real-world housing options for the Fae Queen.

“I traveled around the world to explore the jungles because I wanted to photograph all things small.

I discovered some of the most intricate almost man-made structures, created by the world’s smallest architects of nature. Feel free to admire!”

Log Cabin – bagworm moth caterpillar collects and saws little sticks to construct elaborate spiral log cabins to live in

Some log cabins are cylindrical fortress sticking out almost vertically from the leaf or branch surface

Cage Fortress – The arctiine moth caterpillars remove their long hairs before pupation to construct a protective caged fortress and suspends itself inside

Web Tower – mysterious silk structure from Peru baffled scientists worldwide

Jungle Tent – Other types of bagworm moth caterpillars build tiny tents in the jungle using leaf bits

Some Jungle Tents are just artistically messy

Poop Barricade – Just surround yourself with poop so that no one would come near


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Day 2 of San Diego Comic-Con 2016

Here’s a photo journal from my second day (Saturday) at this year’s #SDCC2016:

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“The Female Geek” panel featuring (l to r): Leigh Bardugo (GRISH trilogy), Sabaa Tahir, Margaret Stohl (BEAUTIFUL CREATURES), Madeline Ashby (COMPANY TOWN), Kathleen Smith (THE FANGIRL LIFE), Kiersten White (AND I DARKEN), and Sarah Kuhn (HEROINE COMPLEX). Now my copy of BEAUTIFUL CREATURES is signed by both Margaret Stohl and Kami Garcia.

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Cosplayers King Arthur and his faithful servant Patsy, from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. “Message for you, sir!”

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YA Fantasy panel featuring (l to r): Tobie Easton (EMERGE), Jessica Cluess (A SHADOW BRIGHT AND BURNING), Soman Chainani (THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL), Sara Maas (THRONE OF GLASS), Gena Showalter (FIRSTLIFE), and Thomas Sniegoski (SAVAGE).

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Joker Trump

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Worldbuilding panel featuring (l to r) the fuzzy but talented Brandon Mull (FIVE KINGDOMS series), Scott Siegler (THE GENERATIONS trilogy), Seanan McGuire (OCTOBER DAY series), Gini Koch (THE ALIEN series), and Claudia Christian (WOLF’S EMPIRE). Moderated wonderfully by author Cindy Pon.

DeliaSherman

Even the audience was talented. Here with CHANGELING author Delia Sherman.

EllenKushner

Here with TREMONTAINE series author Ellen Kushner. Notice Delia keeping an eye on us. 🙂

GiniKoch

With ALIEN series author and fun gal, Gini Koch.

ClaudiaChristian

With Babylon-5 and The Hidden actress Claudia Christian.