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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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Redesigning animal names

As a fan of good design, I’ve long thought that animal names should be more descriptive. Well, the clever folks at Sad & Useless have compiled a list for us. Enjoy!


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Interview with picture book author/illustrator Fred Koehler

Fred Koehler claims he was raised by dolphins in the warm waters off the Florida coast in the Gulf of Mexico. Which would explain why he spends all of his free time fishing, diving, and searching for secluded beaches. He splits his time between a day job in advertising and a nearly full time job as a children’s writer and illustrator.

KoehlerFred

For what age audience do you write?

I write the stories that come to me, and I let the publishers decide who they’re for. My books range from picture books for 3-5 year-olds all the way up to novels for middle grade readers.

Tell us about your latest book.

SUPER JUMBO continues the story of HOW TO CHEER UP DAD. It’s a tale of a well-intentioned little elephant who, despite his best efforts, can’t seem to save anyone’s day.

Henry: Been there…

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

I hope readers see the value of trying. And trying again. And again. And even if we never get it quite right, that something we did could have a positive impact on someone else.

Henry: Plus, experience is what we get, when we don’t get what we wanted.

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

I think ideas are the hardest. A good one is like a gold doubloon in a treasure chest filled with plastic coins. You have to pick up each and every one to examine it and determine which one’s worthy and which ones are only shiny objects.

Henry: Yarrrr, I love a good pirate metaphor, me bucko.

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

We stand in the gap for our readers, kids who have not yet learned to tell their own stories. We are their voices and there can be life and death stakes if we don’t communicate truthfully on their behalf.

Henry: Wow. That gives new meaning to the British expression, mind the gap!

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

I’m leaving next week to backpack across the United Kingdom with just a pack and a camera. I’ll be shooting reference photography for a book I’ll illustrate in the Fall. It’s the type of thing I’d never have given myself permission to do if I weren’t telling someone else’s story.

Henry: Fun! And, tax deduction!

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Stop talking during your critiques. Listen. Listen. Listen. Then go out and be a different writer based on what you learned.

Henry: Good advice, with the implicit bonus advice: join critique groups. We don’t know our own blind spots.

Do you have any favorite quotes?

“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.” ~ Walt Disney

Henry: Boy: Do not try and bend the spoon. That’s impossible. Instead only try to realize the truth.
Neo: What truth?
Boy: There is no spoon.
Neo: There is no spoon?
Boy: Then you’ll see that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.

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

I tend to wake up with no alarm at 4:30 in the morning on days that I write. My body just knows that’s when there will be the fewest interruptions.

Henry: Yes, few interruptions, but what about SLEEP!?

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

I wish I could heal the mentally ill and free others from addiction. Because.

Henry: I was expecting something related to children’s books, but that is a lovely thought.

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

Sarah McGuire (because she’s cute), CS Lewis (because he was a prankster), and Hemingway (because we’d go fishing after dinner).

Henry: Friends don’t let friends go fishing drunk. Sarah McGuire is the author of VALIANT (and Fred’s girlfriend – smart man!), C.S. Lewis wrote (among other things) the Narnia series, and if I have to tell you who Ernest Hemingway is well, then, words fail me.

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

Honest politicians. Oh wait, that’s not the kind of answer I was supposed to give, is it? Um… Okay. Dragons.

Henry: The judges rule that “honest politicians” is a valid response. Tell him what he’s won, Bob.

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

I crank up the country music in my pickup truck and drive till the map turns blue.

Henry: You drive into the ocean?

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

“We wish you more stories than stars.” From Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s DAPHNE, WE WISH YOU MORE

Where can readers find your work?

My website – FreddieK.com
Facebook – @superfredd
Twitter – @superfredd
Instagram – Fred_Koehler_
aaaand… ANYWHERE BOOKS ARE SOLD!

Henry: Thanks for spending time with us, Fred.


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New Dog for Game of Thrones Fans – the Dire Dachshund!

From Mitch Boyer and the mad geniuses at Bored Panda. Game of Thrones fans are familiar with the huge Dire Wolves kept as pets by the Starks. Well, thanks to genetic engineering, you can now obtain your very own Dire Dachshund!

“A few months ago I started photoshopping images of my Dachshund, Vivian in her “true size.” She has a larger than life personality and I wanted to capture it in a picture.

I’ve known Vivian since she was a newborn puppy. My sister has a dog named Gogo, and she had a litter of puppies—Gogo, not my sister. The night they were born, my mom stayed up delivering the puppies. My dad likes to point out that he helped and was “the assistant midwife.” I rushed over to their home the next day and instantly fell in love with Vivian.

Since then, we’ve moved all over the US together. We’ve lived in four states, five cities, and 10 different apartments or houses. We’ve settled in Brooklyn and love it here. Vivian thinks she is just as big as the city we live in, which has inspired the children’s book we’re working on, “Vivian the Dog Moves to Brooklyn.”

This is Vivian

She always takes up the entire couch

Most dachshunds think they are big dogs, but Vivian is literally huge

She lives in New York

She’s always on the hunt for food

#selfie


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Interview with picture book author Josh Funk

Josh Funk is the debut author of LADY PANCAKE & SIR FRENCH TOAST (Sterling Children’s Books). In addition to expertise in breakfast foods, Josh has studied dragons (DEAR DRAGON, Viking/Penguin, 2016), researched pirates and dinosaurs (PIRASAURS!, Scholastic, 2017), and thoroughly investigated giants (JACK [AND THE BEANSTALK], Two Lions, 2017). When not exploring the world of literature, Josh lives with his family in New England and spends his days writing software.

FunkJosh

For what age audience do you write?

My publishers would tell you I write picture books for ages 5-8. I would say I write fictional picture book texts for ages 0-91 (I haven’t tested my stories on anyone older than 91, so I can’t honestly say a 92-year-old would enjoy them).

Henry: Way to select a market niche, bro’. 🙂

Tell us about your latest book.

LADY PANCAKE AND SIR FRENCH TOAST is a thoroughly delicious picture book about the funniest “food fight” ever! Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast have a beautiful friendship—until they discover that there’s ONLY ONE DROP of maple syrup left. Off they go, racing past Orange Juice Fountain, skiing down Sauerkraut Peak, and rappelling down linguini. But who will enjoy the sweet taste of victory? The action-packed rhyme makes for an adrenaline-filled breakfast . . . even without a drop of coffee!

Henry: Coffee? Hmmm. Sequel idea – COFFEE & TEA LOST AT SEA. You’re welcome. Actually, we seem to think alike. MONSTER GOOSE included a giant. I have a manuscript featuring fruit and vegetable characters, and my picture book DINOSAUR PIRATES comes out from Sterling next year.

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

I really just want kids and their parents to have fun reading it. I hope they enjoy the humor, the rhyme, and the amazing illustrations from Brendan Kearney. I’m not trying to teach anyone anything, relay any morals, or inspire anyone. I really just hope folks will grab a bowl of popcorn (or carrots) and open the book for a healthy serving of fun.

Henry: And here I thought the book was allegory about not being greedy, and losing sight of what is most important.

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

I often think of fun things I’d like to see illustrated, but I need to find ways to fit them into a compelling story, with engaging characters, filled with conflict and rising tension, ultimately culminating in a satisfying conclusion. So, to answer the question, I guess I find ‘writing’ the most challenging aspect of writing? I guess I could narrow that down to ‘story, plot, characters, conflict, and the endings.’

Henry: Note to self: writing is the hardest part of writing. And then, to make it even more difficult, you went and wrote in rhyme, which brings its own unique set of challenges. But at least you find punctuation to be a breeze.

fowler

“The whole bed is my side of the bed!”

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

Know when to trust your instincts. I’m not always right (or so says my wife). And when you write, it’s critical to get critiqued by others. But it’s easy to over-revise manuscripts to the point where they’ve lost their original charm. It’s definitely tough to know when your work is ready and done. But it’s important to know when to stick to your gut as opposed to listening to others’ advice.

Henry: Yes, knowing which feedback to integrate is a tough one. My wife has an excellent technique when asking me questions. If I give the wrong answer, she just keeps asking the question until I get it right.

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

I drove Dan Santat to Mo Willems’ house. Enough said.

Henry: Well, I can’t top that. Was Mo’s house a magical land with chocolate waterfalls and Oompa Loompas? My claim to fame is below. 

WC2016-19

This is Jon Klassen, but this is not my hat. It’s Bruce Hale’s famous fedora.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Write. Don’t think about writing or talk about writing or imagine what it would be like to be a writer. Just write something. Nothing’s gonna happen if you don’t put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. And if you’re interested in learning more, I’ve put together a Resources for Writers section on my website.

Henry: Thanks on behalf of our aspiring authors! My favorite lesson is Don’t Write in Rhyme. Just don’t.

Do you have any favorite quotes?

Yes, I do.

Henry: Ah, so it’s gonna’ be one of THOSE interviews. How about

“Sarcasm: the last refuge of modest and chaste-souled people when the privacy of their soul is coarsely and intrusively invaded.” – Fyodor Dostoevsky

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

I generally put on a favorite movie of mine as background noise. Something like Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, one of the 8 Harry Potter films, or The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Music doesn’t really work when I’m writing, because I need to pay attention to the meter of words and a song’s rhythm just gets in the way.

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

Photographic memory. Is that a superpower?

Henry: Absolutely eidetic memory is a superpower, and a fine choice at that. No more having to look up what T-Rex’s eat, or cracking open that rhyming dictionary.

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

Marcus Samuelson because maybe he’d offer to help make dinner.
Michael Ian Black because he consistently makes me laugh.
JK Rowling because she’s pretty much awesome.

Henry: Our audience may be interested to learn that in addition to being a comedian and TV actor, Michael Ian Black also wrote several picture books, including NAKED, illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi.

I didn’t recognize the name Marcus Samuelson until I saw his photo on Wikipedia, which also helpfully tells us that Marcus ‘Joar’ Samuelsson (born Kassahun ‘Joar’ Tsegie) is an Ethiopian-born, Swedish-raised chef and restaurateur. Let that sink in for a moment… Swedish… chef. *swoons*

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

Oompa Loompas. They sing, they seem pretty helpful, and they usually come with candy.

Henry: A good choice, particularly since you met some at Mo Willem’s house.

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

Read with my kids, tweet with authors and educators, watch dumb comedies, apologize for annoying my wife (sorry, honey – I love you!), and sleep.

Henry: Husbands are genetically wired to annoy their wives and embarrass their kids. It’s what we do. *drops mic*

Where can readers find your work?

LADY PANCAKE & SIR FRENCH TOAST is available in bookstores and online. You can find out more information about me at and my writing at http://www.joshfunkbooks.com and on twitter at @joshfunkbooks.

Henry: Thanks for spending time with us, Josh. I can’t wait to see PIRASAURS! This interview is also posted on the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.

 


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Interview with NY Times bestselling picture book author/illustrator Michael Hall

Michael Hall is the New York Times bestselling author of MY HEART IS LIKE A ZOO as well as the acclaimed PERFECT SQUARE, IT’S AN ORANGE AARDVARK, and CAT TALE. With his wife, Debra, he ran the design firm Hall Kelley for many years before becoming an author. He lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

For what age audience do you write?

I write picture books that are primarily aimed at three- to eight-year-old children. But I try to make books that have something for all ages.

Tell us about your latest book.

RED: A CRAYON’S STORY  is about a blue crayon with a red label. Red tries valiantly to draw red fire engines, strawberries, and hearts — even his own self portrait. But despite his best efforts, and despite all the well meaning help from his family and friends, all his drawings come out blue.

When a new crayon asks for a favor, Red discovers what was obvious to readers from page one: He is blue. He goes on to be quite successful and prolific.

Henry: Great treatment of labels and of learning who you are! It’s THE DAY THE CRAYONS QUIT meets Caitlyn Jenner.

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

I hope it will be among the many resources that help young children learn their colors. I hope all readers will get a kick out of the antics of Red’s well meaning friends and family, who simply cannot see beyond his official label. And I hope it will spur discussion and reflection on issues like judging people based on outside appearances and the strength required to reject labels others put on you.

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

Finishing. I am confined by an odd physical law: As my project approaches a state of completion, my velocity approaches zero.

I love writing, rewriting, and rewriting again. I love making pictures, even when I’m pretty sure they’ll never appear in the final book. I love watching the structure of a story change as I go. I’m most comfortable when I know that I can always throw it all out and begin again from scratch.

At some point, I have to accept that a final version of the book must be sent to the publisher. But making the final decisions and doing the final touch-ups is agonizing. I usually have a long list of little things: fix blotch on page six, add cyan to background on page seven, etc. Each one is drudgery. I constantly find excuses not to work. I must make tea! I must got to the store! I hate to let the story go.

Henry: The need to make tea is inversely proportional to the work remaining, which leads to productivity asymptotically approaching zero. #Math!

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

Everything is a metaphor for everything else.

OK, I can’t really call that a lesson because it’s probably not true — and how could anyone tell if it was? But it sounds cool. And it might just be true after all.

Henry: Crayons are a metaphor for people. Crayons are a metaphor for the electromagnetic spectrum. Crayons are life!

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

After my first book (MY HEART IS LIKE A ZOO) was published, I got a note from a woman whose young son was going through a series of difficult heart surgeries. I sent her son a print of one of the pages from the book (Brave as a lion).

Four years later, she approached me at a reading in Portland, Oregon. She gave me a recent photo of her son grinning and holding the print I had sent. He was shirtless, so I could see the impressive scar on his chest.

I think of them often.

Henry: So your gift went from your heart to his, metaphorically.

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

I will admit to only one: I’m a pacer.

My brain gets stuck if it’s not jostled from time to time, and walking back and forth seems to do the trick. I work at a standing desk so I can make the transition from working to walking with very little effort.

Henry: Next step: one of those jogging desks!

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

I’m glad you asked. I’m fairly self-conscious, so I always thought invisibility would be the superpower for me. But as I think about some of the details, I’m having second thoughts.

I assume my clothes would remain visible. So if I went out in a bathrobe, for example, everyone would be pointing at me and talking about the unoccupied bathrobe walking around town. I could go around naked, but I’d still feel self-conscious even if I knew no one could see me.

I might hire an attorney and try to hammer out an extensive contract before signing up for invisibility. But it still seems fraught with unexpected pitfalls. Would I be invisible to myself? That would really freak me out.

So I’m thinking maybe I’ll go with flying instead. But there are still problems. Everyone would be looking up and pointing at the old man flying over the city. Maybe I could combine flying with invisibility. But I don’t really see myself as the naked invisible flyer type.

I’ll continue to work on this.

Henry: This inquisitive creativity is why we end up as children’s book authors. How would you get your hair cut if you’re invisible? Would hair that is somehow cut from your head become visible when separated from you? When you drink tea, would the tea be visible. Superpowers are a metaphor for the concept that everything has advantages and disadvantages.

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

There are way too many possibilities, so I’m going to pick three:

A favorite from picture books is the lion-like character in Dr. Seuss’s IF I RAN THE ZOO. It has a very, very long tail, and it hits the end of it before going to sleep each night. The communication between the brain and the end of the tail takes so long that the creature doesn’t feel the pain until hours later when it is time to wake up.

Being a Minnesotan, I like a theoretical beast called the Hidebehind, which is said to sneak up on and hide behind lumberjacks in Minnesota and Wisconsin. No matter how quickly the victim turns around, the hidebehind stays behind him. Of course, no one has actually seen a hidebehind, but how else can you explain the many lumberjacks who have been devoured by them?

Finally, I’m blind in one eye, so the literary creature I relate to most is, of course, the cyclops.

Henry: Wikipedia tells us more about IF I RAN THE ZOO:

seuss“The book is written in anapestic tetrameter, and illustrated in Seuss’s trademark pen and ink style. The book is likely a tribute to a child’s imagination, because it ends with a reminder that all of the extraordinary creatures exist only in McGrew’s head.

IF I RAN THE ZOO is often credited with the first printed modern English use of the word “nerd,” in the sentence “And then, just to show them, I’ll sail to Ka-Troo/And Bring Back an It-Kutch, a Preep, and a Proo,/A Nerkle, a Nerd, and a Seersucker too!”

In the book, Gerald McGrew is a kid who, when visiting a zoo, finds that the exotic animals are “not good enough”. He says that if he ran the zoo, he would let all of the current animals free and find new, more bizarre and exotic ones. Throughout the book he lists these creatures, starting with a lion with ten feet and escalating to more imaginative (and imaginary) creatures, such as the Fizza-ma-Wizza-ma-Dill, “the world’s biggest bird from the island of Gwark, who eats only pine trees, and spits out the bark.”

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

I like going to movies, concerts, and restaurants with my family and friends. I enjoy taking long lonely walks along the Mississippi river, which runs through Minneapolis.

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

MICHAEL HALL: 1954-2054

Henry: Clever, but why not be even more ambitious? 1954-2100 Is he really here? It’s hard to tell because he became an invisible flyer.

Where can readers find your work? 

At most independent bookstores and chains. And, of course, on Amazon.

This interview is also posted on the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.


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Interview with NINJA BUNNY picture book author/illustrator Jennifer Gray Olson

Jennifer Gray Olson is the Author/Illustrator of NINJA BUNNY.  She is a graduate of California State University Fullerton, where she earned her BA degree in art education.  Jennifer enjoys writing in the third person, sarcasm and embarrassing her friends and family by practicing her super awesome ninja moves in public. Her daughter has been trained with deadly effect in the use of carrot nunchaku.

OlsonJennifer

Tell us about your latest book.

NINJA BUNNY is the story of a little bunny trying to find out if he has what it takes to become a SUPER AWESOME NINJA. Is he really ready for the ninja life, especially if it means having to leave his friends behind?

Henry: I think that is a question to which we can all relate.

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

The best way to be super awesome is by being yourself.  And that sometimes you need your friends.  And that bears are scary.

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

The Writing part.  It doesn’t come naturally to me at all.  I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember, it’s almost a daily compulsion.  Writing for me is so much more of a forced activity.  But as with anything, the more I practice, the easier and more enjoyable it’s getting.

Henry: Those darn verbs! And who needs punctuation marks?

Do you have any favorite quotes?

“Be flexible. Be positive.” – Mrs. Rand, 1st grade teacher, Susan B. Anthony Elementary.  Mrs. Rand, my son’s first grade teacher, would say this to the students all the time when they would get flustered, disappointed, stressed, etc…  I’ve had those two simple sentences tacked on my studio wall for years and I still say it out loud to myself most days.  It sounds cheesy, I know, but trying to keep a positive attitude can get you through most things in life.  As well as being flexible when dealing new situations or difficult circumstances.  “Trees that don’t bend with the wind won’t last the storm.”  Hey, two quotes for the price of one!!

Henry: On the subject of trees, your writing career has grown into a mighty oak, but you started as a little nut.

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

Not so much when I write, but definitely when I illustrate.  I have to do “warm up” drawings every day before working on an illustration.  I find that when I don’t, my work suffers for it.  I usually post about half of them online, if you care to check them out. https://www.tumblr.com/blog/jennifergrayolson.

Henry: If seen these lapse videography posts. It is fascinating watching an image created before your eyes in seconds.

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

The ability to pause time like Evie from Out of This World. Think what I could get done!! I think author/illustrator Dan Santat must possess this power.

Henry: A common, and understandable wish. I think Dan’s superpower is the ability to instantly metabolize caffeine.

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

Maurice Sendak for sure. Partly because, in my opinion, he was one of the greatest picture book author/ illustrators of all time; but mainly because he was so hilarious and unpredictable.

J.K. Rowling. I’m quite possibly the biggest Harry Potter dork I know (I have the tattoo to prove it).

Theodor Seuss Geisel would have to be there as well. His books are everything I love about children’s literature. He always had the perfect combination of humor and heart. I still tear up when I read the Lorax.

Can Shel Silverstein come for dessert?

Henry: No, Shel is in my literary doghouse for writing the depressingly co-dependent THE GIVING TREE.

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

A Ninja Bunny, duh! Bunnies are cute. Ninjas are awesome. Nuff said.

Henry: I fell right into that one. Like a ninja bunny stepping on a rake.

Where can readers find your work?

Readers can find my work at www.jennifergrayolson.com

This interview is also posted on the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.