Children's & Fantasy/Sci-Fi Books

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Cute Halloween Costumes for Little Kids

From the mad geniuses at Bored Panda.

“It’s never too early to start celebrating Halloween, as these Halloween-ready babies will prove. Adorable tots are the perfect models for creative parents and their baby costume ideas.”

 #1 Cruella And Dalmatian

Cruella And Dalmatian

#2 Baby Rapunzel In Her Tower

Baby Rapunzel In Her Tower

#3 Little Old Lady

Little Old Lady

#4 Baby Octopus

Baby Octopus

#5 Power Loader from Aliens

My Friend And His Daughter In Costume

#6 Oscar Baby Costume

Oscar Baby Costume

 #7 Cutest Ewok Ever

Cutest Ewok Ever

#8 Mom & Baby Spiderweb Costume

Mom & Baby Spiderweb Costume

#9 Dalai Lama

Dalai Lama

#10 Baby Groot

My Wife Made My Son A Baby Groot Costume For Halloween

#11 Baby Duck

Baby Duck

#12 Harry Potter Mandrake Costume

Harry Potter Mandrake Costume

#13 Eaten By A Shark

Eaten By A Shark

#14 Stormtrooper and Ewok

My Son And I On His First Halloween

#15 Baby Yoda

Baby Yoda

#16 Baby Einstein

Baby Einstein

#17 Totoro Costume

Totoro Costume

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Interview with picture book author and illustrator Mike Boldt

Mike Boldt has been illustrating children’s products for the last 14 years. He made his author-illustrator debut with 123 VERSUS ABC (HarperCollins), which was a 2013 Kids’ Indie Next List selection as well as an Irma Black Award semifinalist. The sequel is COLORS VERSUS SHAPES.


For what age audience do you write?

Generally my writing has been for picture books so far, so people think it’s mostly for kids. However, I try to create stories that I feel anyone would enjoy, no matter their age. I have plans and ideas for stories outside of the picture book world as well, so we’ll see what the future brings.

Henry: Readers, stay alert for Mike’s possible middle grade sci-fi project, SHAPES VERSUS PREDATOR: What Happens When An Alien Hunts Shapes

What do you hope readers will get from reading COLORS VERSUS SHAPES?

More than anything, I hope readers get a smile from reading my books. If they learn something along the way it’s a bonus, but I want to create an enjoyment of reading that leads to discovery and inspiration that will come from doing more of it (my books or other folk’s)!

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

The illustration side of things seemed to come more naturally to me over writing. While I seem to be able to create ideas fairly easily. It’s transforming those into stories – good stories that people really enjoy – that I find the most challenging.

Henry: Well, I can’t draw worth beans. So, any time you want to collaborate…

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

One lesson I’ve learned is perseverance. Publishing is a difficult gig, and I’ve run into many challenges and rejections. You really have to keep at and work hard if you want to make it. The few overnight success stories are just like lotto winners – not many.

Henry: So true. It takes talent, hard work AND perseverance. But the only way you will be defeated is if you stop trying.

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

I’ve had many. I love visiting schools and seeing the passion in the students to create and tell their stories. I see it almost every time I’m at a school. It inspires me.

Henry: Ditto. And receiving “fan mail” from students. ☺

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

If you treat your writing like a hobby, that’s all it will ever be. If you treat it like a career, it’s probably what you’ll end up with.

Henry: Sound advice. I would add: Don’t give up your day job until your writing income is substantial.

Do you have any favorite quotes?

My good friend Dan Santat once said to me “The answers are in the sandbox, you have to dig them out” in reference to figuring out a story. It really stuck with me.

Henry: Dan is wise and funny. I had the pleasure of meeting him at last year’s SCBWI LA Conference.

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

I don’t really have any rituals – maybe that’s strange?

Henry: Yes, it is. I shall email you some strange ritual suggestions for your consideration.

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

I would love many superpowers, but I suppose if I could have one, it would be to understand and figure out the way people think. People are complex, and just when you think you have something understood, they completely throw you for a loop.

Henry: Can’t be done. Just when I think I have my wife understood, she completely throws me for a loop.

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

I grew up a huge fan of Bill Peet and Bill Watterson, so those two for sure. They were huge inspirations for me wanting to tell stories and draw. For the 3rd, I’d probably go J.R.R. Tolkien, whose books are my absolute favorites.

Henry: Wikipedia helpfully told me that Bill Peet joined Disney in 1937 and worked on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Jungle Book, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Sleeping Beauty, 101 Dalmations and The Sword in the Stone. THEN he went on to become a children’s book author and illustrator, with 36 published titles.

Bill Watterson is, of course, the genius behind the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes, which is required reading for any woman interested in understanding how boys (and men) think. If you don’t know who J.R.R. Tolkien is, well, then get out of my blog!

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

Can I say Hobbits? 

Henry: Yes, you definitely can. “I like half of you half as well as I should like, and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve!” – Bilbo Baggins 

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

When I’m not writing, I like to draw. But that’s still related to books. So outside of that, I really enjoy playing board games with friends, LEGO with my kids, relaxing with my wife, and ice cream at any time.

Henry: My older son is a LEGO fanatic and, well, ice cream…

Where can readers find your work?

Readers can find my work in most of their bookstores and libraries (and maybe by request) OR there’s always online options too. My own website (mikeboldt.ca) also has a list of all the books I’ve written or illustrated and where you can get them.

Click to Tweet: Interview with picture book author and illustrator Mike Boldt at http://wp.me/p31Xf4-Oh via @Nimpentoad

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


Children Spell the Funniest Things

Credit for this post goes to the clever folks at Bored Panda.

Kids are a never-ending source of joy – if not for their boundless energy and joy, then for the hilarious and obliviously inappropriate things that they say and do. These 22 images are hilarious because of the fact that the kids probably have no idea just how raunchy they’re being.

The fact that kids say the darnedest thing has already been very well documented – there are hilarious and brutally honest notes or creepy and inexplicable statements.

My Whole Family

Image credits: imgur.com

Best Cook

Image credits: white-orchid


Image credits: odalaigh


Image credits: draftermath


Image credits: laughingninja.com

I Come In Peace

Image credits: twitter.com

My Goat Is In A Pen

Image credits: imgur.com


Image credits: rbrown34


Image credits: break.com


Image credits: Amanda Da Bast


Image credits: gudatspelling

You Can’t Catch Me

Image credits: deanparry85

Come With Me

Image credits: imgur.com

I Like Pencils

Image credits: buzzfeed.com

Happy Birthday Kurt

Image credits: RhphotoG

Chum Bucket

Image credits: buzzfeed.com


Image credits: buzzfeed.com

The Beach

Image credits: buzzfeed.com

Abraham Lincoln

Image credits: imgur.com


Image credits: imgur.com


Your House

Image credits: twitter.com


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Morgen Bailey’s Writing Blog Spotlights the Herz Authors

from http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/2013/08/09/author-spotlight-no-310-henry-herz/:

Complementing my interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the three hundred and tenth, is of children’s fantasy author and interviewee Henry Herz. If you would like to take part in an author spotlight, take a look at author-spotlights.

authors72Henry Herz writes fantasy and science fiction stories for children, aided in this noble endeavor by his two young sons, Josh and Harrison. Henry’s love of the fantasy genre began in elementary school with Where the Wild Things Are and The Lord of the Rings, and continued in high school, college, and beyond playing Dungeons & Dragons and Warhammer. Henry is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, and writes for the San Diego Children’s Book Examiner.

Like their father, both boys are big fans of fantasy, science fiction, and the annual Comic-Con convention. They have an entrepreneurial bent too. They’ve started three web-based businesses selling LEGO party favors, custom cast bases for Warhammer, and painted concrete yard sculptures. Their efforts have been featured on Young Entrepreneur Magazine, Wired GeekDad, CNN iReport, TheOneRing.net, and the Warner Brothers’ website for The Hobbit movie.

The writing trio’s first book, Nimpentoad, is a stunningly illustrated high fantasy early chapter book. It has earned over 85 Amazon 5-star ratings to date. The unlikely hero is the bright-eyed Nimpentoad, a furry little creature who’s been victimized by the bigger creatures of the ancient forest one too many times. Nimpentoad convinces his fellow Niblings to make a perilous journey to a castle where they hope to find refuge–if they can just evade and outwit the ravenous goblins, trolls, rhinotaurs, and other perils that stand in their way.

TwigFront72Nimpentoad expands the ecosphere familiar to fantasy fans with adorable, fuzzy nibling protagonists. Their dark Grunwald Forest is also home to creatures like rhinotaurs (menacing, muscular minotaur/rhino hybrids) and neebels (two-legged beasts with gaping maws). Parents appreciate the implicit lessons on bullying, teamwork, perseverance, and leadership.

The writing trio’s second book, Twignibble, is a fantasy easy reader. Twignibble is a very smart and mechanically adept sloth, with animal friends all over the world. When he learns that his friends are in danger from pollution and poaching, he builds a helicopter to visit them. Twignibble helps each friend by making them a special gadget. Kids love the cute animals and funny inventions; parents appreciate a book that promotes friendship, empathy, and protecting the environment.

And now from the author himself:

NimpFront72I originally drafted our first story, Nimpentoad, as a way to interest my young sons in the fantasy genre. It did that, but my sons also gave me feedback on the plot and suggested character names. So, what began as a simple tale to instill a love of fantasy gradually morphed into a collaborative writing effort.

We had no plans to publish initially. We just shared the book with family. When my sister-in-law commented, “You know, this is really good. You should consider publishing it.” We thought about it, and decided to go the self-publishing route. Nimpentoad was born. And thus, my writing career offers a good example of the Butterfly Effect*.

The book has gotten a very positive response, and this has encouraged us to write other books. All of us are big animal fans and lovers of nature, so a book featuring pro-conservation animal characters was an easy choice. We were tickled when we came up with the idea of a sloth protagonist who must overcome his torpid nature to race around the globe to help his animal friends.

Other books we have in the works include re-writes of classic children’s tales and a science fiction picture book. Finstin, an inquisitive alien boy from the planet Nubnub, gets lost on a hike and hopes his encounters with strange creatures don’t prevent him from reaching home before nightfall and its perils.

I should caution aspiring writers about self-publishing. It is very much a two-edged sword. Self-publishing offers some distinct advantages over traditional publishing, such as complete control and speed. But, as Spiderman says, “With great power comes great responsibility.” A self-publishing author is responsible for (i.e., must personally perform or pay someone else to perform) a diverse and daunting range of tasks, including copy editing, book formatting, technical aspects of publication (e.g., getting an ISBN number and barcode for the book), promotion, printing, warehousing, and fulfillment (the last three just for printed books).

So, self-publishing is not for the faint of heart or for people who don’t enjoy learning new things. When we think of a writer’s career, we imagine them honing their literary craft over time. Self-publishing authors have a second path they must follow simultaneously, which is to hone their publishing craft. Because I’m self-employed, I have flexibility with my time. The process of writing and publishing children’s books would have been even more challenging were that not the case.

The other practical consideration for self-publishing is financial. Do NOT think you’ll write a great story, push it out on Kindle, and immediately be able to retire on a never-ending stream of royalty payments. Just as developing your craft takes time, developing a platform and an audience take time. So, by all means write, but do NOT quit your day job. At least not immediately.

We’ve all hear the term “midlife crisis”. I didn’t give it much heed up to this point in my life. But then I look at myself and see that I’ve transitioned from salaried employee to being my own boss, and from being a reader of books to a reader AND writer of books. But whether you are middle-aged or not, writing offers a wonderful way to express yourself and bring enjoyment to others. Just as the journey of a thousand miles begins with that first step, the journey to your book starts with that first keystroke.

*Per wikipedia: “The butterfly effect is a common trope in fiction, especially in scenarios involving time travel. Additionally, works of fiction that involve points at which the storyline diverges during a seemingly minor event, resulting in a significantly different outcome than would have occurred without the divergence, are an example of the butterfly effect.”

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Writing with My Kids

CNN iReport recently put out this call to dads:

“It’s been 30 years since the release of Mr. Mom, the 1983 comedy-drama about a dad who loses his job, becomes a stay-at-home dad, only to discover he’s clueless about managing a household.

At the time, that was being a mom. Now it’s just being a parent.

Though the stereotype of the incompetent, bumbling father still persists in consumer-product ads, the reality is, today’s dads bake cookies, change diapers, drive mini-vans, have tea parties with their daughters – and are proud of it.

So dads, we want to hear from you. How do you spend your time at home with the kids? How is your parenting style different from your own father’s? What kind of dad are you?”


Last year, my beloved father passed away after 59 years of marriage to my mom. He was a kind and gentle soul; hardworking, soft-spoken, and absolutely devoted to his family. I asked him to be the best man at my wedding because he was the best man I knew. I miss him.

My childhood memories of dad are right out of 1960’s TV like The Dick Van Dyke Show, complete with him coming home from work with briefcase, sport coat, and hat. He was the breadwinner. Mom was the homemaker. Much of dad’s time outside work was spent fixing things around the house, maintaining the yard, paying the bills, and other tasks required to provide for his family. I remember being just a little sad that he couldn’t spend more time relaxing with us.

After I became a father, I decided that while I may not be as good a man as he was, I could spend more time with my family than he did. Three years ago, I made the switch from salaried employed to self-employed entrepreneur. This affords me wonderful flexibility in how I spend my time.

One day, I drafted a story to interest my boys in reading fantasy (being a Lord of the Rings fanatic myself). They liked the story, but something else happened. They gave me feedback on the plot. They came up with creature names. A simple learning exercise morphed into a rich collaboration. After that, my sons helped provide art direction to the illustrator, and participated in promoting the book.

Our first book Nimpentoad is a fantasy for 3rd-5th graders. It has earned 86 Amazon five-star ratings. Nimpentoad has reached as high as #1 in Kindle Best Sellers large print sci-fi & fantasy. And my young co-authors have been featured in Young Entrepreneur, Wired GeekDad, and the Warner Brother’s website for The Hobbit movie. But this is about more than writing a book kids enjoy. It’s been about spending time with my boys as I fulfill my paternal duty developing them into kind, successful adults.

The fun time we’ve spent has also taught my sons valuable lessons about creative expression, public speaking, interacting graciously with others, running a small business, and being responsible with their money. They split the book profits, half of which goes into savings which they cannot touch.

We just published our second book Twignibble. Hang on to your hats!

This article also appeared on San Diego Children’s Book Examiner.

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SDCC cosplay ideas: suits of armor from children’s books and comics

When we consider children’s books and comics, we typically think in terms of interesting characters and compelling stories. So while the focus of children’s books is not on armor, some of the tales taking place in fantasy setting, have armor that plays an important part of the story. After all, The Lord of the Rings tale would have turned out very differently if Frodo had not been wearing mithril armor when he was stabbed by the troll in Moria.

Compiled below are some famous suits of armor from children’s books, comics, and graphic novels. With San Diego Comic-Con just around the bend, these armor choices could serve as inspiration for SDCC cosplay as well.

The Witch King of Angmar

“The Lord of the Rings” series by J.R.R. Tolkien
This guy is Sauron’s right-hand man, er, wraith. If you had any doubts about his alignment, a spiky helmet is always a tipoff that someone works for the dark side. Although you can’t really see it in this photo, his gauntlets and boots are beautifully crafted. Plus, he one-handedly wields a mace the size of a naval mine!

From wikipedia.org:
“The Witch-king of Angmar, also known as the Lord of the Nazgûl and the Black Captain, is a fictional character and a major antagonist in J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth fantasy writings. In Tolkien’s novel The Lord of the Rings, he is the chief of the Nazgûl (Ringwraiths), the chief servants of the Dark Lord Sauron. His name is not revealed in any of Tolkien’s writings, nor are the names of any of the other Nazgûl, except Khamûl.”


“Thor” by Marvel Comics
Here is actor Chris Hemsworth rockin’ Thor’s combination plate and scale armor. I’m not sure why Thor and Loki wear armor, since they appear to be indestructible (recall the beating The Hulk gave Loki in The Avengers movie). And although Edna Mode is not a fan of capes, the red cape really sets off Thor’s armor nicely.

From wikipedia.org:
“Thor is a fictional character, a superhero who appears in comic books published by Marvel Comics. The character first appeared in Journey into Mystery #83 (Aug. 1962) and was created by editor-plotter Stan Lee, scripter Larry Lieber, and penciller Jack Kirby.

Debuting in the Silver Age of Comic Books, the character is based on the god Thor of Norse mythology. He has starred in several ongoing series and limited series, and has been a perennial member of the superhero team the Avengers, appearing in each volume of that series.

The 2011 film Thor, based on the character and comic, was directed by Kenneth Branagh and starred Chris Hemsworth as Thor. Hemsworth reappears as Thor in The Avengers, and Thor: The Dark World is set for release in 2013. Thor placed 14th on IGN’s Top 100 Comic Book Heroes of All Time in 2011.”


“The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien
Elrond is one of the senior elves left in Middle-earth, and bearer of one of the three Elven rings of power. As befits an Elf Lord, he is wearing stunningly beautiful armor. The mauve and gold colors are striking, and the gracefully curving lines convey the armor’s elvish provenance.

From wikipedia.org:
“Elrond Half-elven is a fictional character in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth legendarium. He is introduced in The Hobbit, and plays a supporting role in “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Silmarillion”.
Elrond was Lord of Rivendell, one of the mighty rulers of old that remained in Middle-earth in its Third Age. He was the son of Eärendil and Elwing, and a great-grandson of Lúthien, born in Beleriand in the First Age, making him well over 6,000 years old by the time of the events described in “The Lord of the Rings”. Elrond’s twin brother was Elros Tar-Minyatur, the first High King of Númenor.”


“Batman” by DC Comics
Flexible black armor that renders you bulletproof! What’s not to like? Plus a utility belt with all kinds of useful gadgets. And a cape that lets Batman glide. Protective, functional, and stylish!

From wikipedia.org:
“Batman is an ongoing comic book series featuring the DC Comics hero of the same name. The character first appeared in Detective Comics #27, published in May 1939. Batman proved to be so popular that a self-titled ongoing comic book series began publication in the spring of 1940. It was first advertised in early April 1940, one month after the first appearance of his new sidekick, Robin, the Boy Wonder.
The first stories appearing in the Batman comic were written by Bill Finger and illustrated by Bob Kane, though Finger went uncredited for years thereafter. These early stories depicted a vengeful Batman, not hesitant to kill when he saw it as a necessary sacrifice. Although not canonical, Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns introduced a significant evolution of the Batman’s character in his eponymous series; he became uncompromising and relentless in his struggle to revitalize Gotham. The Batman often exhibited behavior that Gotham’s elite labeled as excessively violent as well as antisocial tendencies. Miller portrayed him with an anti-heroic and near villainous characterization.”

Iorek Byrnison

“The Golden Compass” by Philip Pullman
Three words: Talking. Polar. Bear. In gold plate armor. OK, seven words. Imagine the power and ferocity of a polar bear, encased in the protective embrace of lovingly crafted sky-iron.

From wikipedia.org:
‘Northern Lights’, known as ‘The Golden Compass’ in North America, is a young-adult fantasy novel by Philip Pullman, published by Scholastic UK in 1995. Set in a universe parallel to ours, it features the journey of Lyra Belacqua to the Arctic in search of her missing friend, Roger Parslow, and her imprisoned “uncle”, Lord Asriel, who has been conducting experiments with a mysterious substance known as “Dust”. Northern Lights is the first book of a trilogy, ‘His Dark Materials’.

King Iorek Byrnison is a male armored bear (panserbjørner in Norwegian). Like all Panserbjørner, Iorek follows a very strict code of conduct, and will not, in any situation, betray a promise he has made. He possesses incredible strength, and like many of his kind is an expert smith. He is a great friend and comrade to both Lyra Belacqua and Lee Scoresby.

During the first book of the His Dark Materials trilogy, Northern Lights, Iorek Byrnison is found shaping metal for humans in an Arctic port town. These humans had deceived Iorek by giving him spirits, then stole his sky-iron armor while he was intoxicated: this left him no choice but to work for the humans.”

Prince Nuada

“Hellboy” by Dark Horse Comics
Admittedly, it is hard to not think about Prince Nuada’s extendable spear and his incredible fighting prowess. But his beautiful leather armor is light and flexible, and therefore better suited to his lightning fast fighting style than would be clumsy plate mail.

From wikipedia.org:
“Hellboy is a fictional character, a comic book superhero created by writer-artist Mike Mignola. The character first appeared in San Diego Comic-Con Comics #2 (Aug. 1993), and has since appeared in various eponymous miniseries, one-shots and inter-company crossovers. The character has been adapted into two live-action feature films in 2004 and 2008. Prince Nuada was the villain in the latter film.”

Prince Nuada, played by Luke Goss, appears in the Hellboy II movie. He is the son of the Elf King Balor, and brother to Princess Nuala, with whom he shares a symbiotic yin-yang relationship. He resents the diminishment of the Elf realms to the point of madness. His lust to restore the Elves’ former glory leads him to ruthlessly kills a room full of humans, as well as his father, to obtain two pieces of the magical crown that controls the unstoppable mechanical Golden Army.”


“Narnia” by C.S. Lewis
While he is not a named character in the book or movie, this minotaur is sporting some some ornate and evil-looking armor (that’s as it should be, since he’s a minion of the White Witch). Plate armor, combined with steel-tipped horns, immense strength, and feral ferocity make him an opponent to be feared.

From wikipedia.org:
“The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” is a high fantasy novel for children by C. S. Lewis, published by Geoffrey Bles in 1950. It was the first published of seven novels in “The Chronicles of Narnia” (1950–1956) and it is the best known; among all the author’s books it is the most widely held in libraries.

Most of the novel is set in Narnia, a land of talking animals and mythical beings that the White Witch has ruled for one hundred years of deep winter. In the frame story, four English children live in a big old country house during their World War II evacuation from London. In Narnia the siblings seem to fulfill an old prophecy, so they are soon adventuring both to save their lives and to deliver the country.”

Iron Man

“Iron Man” by DC Comics
Iron Man’s armor not only provides protection, but also enables him to fly, fire offensive weapons, and to receive tactical artificial intelligence. This high tech outfit is literally and figuratively the gold standard in armor.

From wikipedia.org:
“Iron Man is a fictional character, a superhero who appears in comic books published by Marvel Comics. The character was created by writer-editor Stan Lee, developed by scripter Larry Lieber, and designed by artists Don Heck and Jack Kirby. He made his first appearance in Tales of Suspense #39 (March 1963).

An American billionaire playboy, industrialist and ingenious engineer, Tony Stark suffers a severe chest injury during a kidnapping in which his captors attempt to force him to build a weapon of mass destruction. He instead creates a powered suit of armor to save his life and escape captivity. He later uses the suit and successive versions to protect the world as Iron Man. Through his corporation ― Stark Industries ― Tony has created many military weapons, some of which, along with other technological devices of his making, have been integrated into his suit, helping him fight crime.

Warriors Working With Wicked Witch of the West

“The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” by L. Frank Baum
Although formidable in her own right, the Wicked Witch of the West has two sets of minions: those delightfully scary flying monkeys and halberd-wielding and ornately uniformed royal guard. Although the bearskin caps and leather jerkins are impressive looking, their protective value is questionable, given three of them are quickly overpowered by the Tin Man, Scarecrow, and Cowardly Lion. Still, they had to be included in this list for the sake of nostalgia, if nothing else.

From wikipedia.org:
“The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” is a 1900 children’s novel written by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by W. W. Denslow. The story chronicles the adventures of a young girl named Dorothy in the Land of Oz, after being swept away from her Kansas farm home in a cyclone.

The Wizard of Oz is a 1939 American fantasy adventure film produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The film stars Judy Garland. Notable for its use of Technicolor, fantasy storytelling, musical score, and unusual characters, over the years it has become one of the best known of all films and part of American popular culture. It also featured what may be the most elaborate use of character makeups and special effects in a film up to that time.”

This article is also published in the San Diego Children’s Book Examiner.

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Interview with YA “Amateur Angel” author @KarriThompson

Karri Thompson is a writer, wife, mother, and high-school English teacher living in San Diego, California. She holds a BA in English and MA in education from SDSU. Her debut novel, “Amateur Angel”, is currently on shelves, and Karri’s young adult (YA) trilogy, “The Van Winkle Chronicles”, recently found a home with Entangled Teen. The first book in the series, “Mirror X”, launches in the Fall of 2013.


Karri has graciously to tell us a bit more about herself and her work.

For what age audience do you write?

Technically I write for young adults, but I like to say that I write for anyone who is 12 and up. “Amateur Angel” is a paranormal romance, and my new trilogy, “The Van Winkle Chronicles”, is dystopian.

Tell us about your latest book

“Mirror X”, the first book in the trilogy, is about a girl who wakes up in a hospital over 1,000 years into the future. Naïve and alone, so longs for home and has trouble adjusting to the new, dictatorial 31st century government. A geneticist at the hospital where she was revived comforts her, but he refuses to answer many of her questions, such as why she is in genetics hospital in the first place, and why several of the people around her seem so familiar, including a hot and edgy boy she is fated to meet. Eventually she discovers there is a sinister answer to all of her questions, and that the government wants something from her that only she can give.

What will readers will get from your book?

From “Mirror X”, I hope readers gain a new respect for human life and a deeper appreciation of all the freedoms granted to us under the Constitution.

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

When it comes to writing, my biggest challenge is finding the time to write. Working full time as a high school English teacher does not give me a lot of writing time during the week, so I have to write for eight to ten hours a day on Saturdays and Sundays in order to reach my goal of 35 to 50 pages a week.

Henry: I feel your pain. I have a “regular” job in addition to writing. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

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

I’ve learned several powerful lessons as a writer: accept criticism gracefully, don’t let rejection bring you down, and be patient. The waiting game, in terms of receiving an answer from a publisher or even waiting for edits or a peek at a cover, really stresses me out. Publishing runs as slow as molasses. I have to keep telling myself that, and remember that it can take months for my agent to hear back from a publisher, and up to two years for a book to appear on shelves.

Henry: I am grateful that you responded to my request for an interview so promptly. 🙂

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

The best advice I can give to aspiring writers is to never give up, and do anything they can to hone their craft, such as attending writers’ workshops and reading books in their genre. There will be a lot of rejection and disappointments along the way, but don’t stop trying.

Henry: So, be “the author that could”. I think I can. I think I can.

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

I’d want the power to fly. How cool would that be?

Henry: That is a popular answer. I suspect no more being stuck in traffic is a major motivational factor.

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

I’d pick William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald can bring the mint juleps.

Henry: And Dickens would keep asking, “Please sir. May I have some more?”

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

My favorite creature that exists only in literature is the elf, specifically the elves in J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings”, and more specifically – Legolas. If I could be any literary creature, I’d definitely be an elf.

Henry: If you like Legolas, check out the even more heroic High Elf royalty Fingolfin and Finrod from Tolkien’s “Silmarillion”.

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

When I’m not writing, I’m teaching, grading papers, or driving my son to football practice – at least that’s what it feels like. I also jog 6 to 8 miles a week, listening to hard rock and going over different plot lines and character dialogue in my head while I run. Jogging gives me some “me” time.

Where can readers find your work?

“Amateur Angel” is available at Barnes and Noble, bn.com, and Amazon. Under Entangled Publishing’s digiTeen imprint, “Mirror X” will be available in the Fall of 2013 as a digital download for Nook, Kindle, etc. You can also visit her website, “like” her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter (@KarriThompson).

This article is also posted to the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.

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Interview with Kira Lynn, editor & publisher at Kane Miller Books

Kira Lynn is editor and publisher of Kane Miller Books, A Division of EDC Publishing. Kane Miller is based in San Diego, and is best known in my household for their unforgettably titled picture book, “Everyone Poops”. Kira has graciously agreed to answer some questions about children’s book publishing.


For those not familiar, please tell us about Kane Miller

Publishing picture books and fiction, Kane Miller’s aim is to bring the children of the world closer to each other through sharing stories and ideas, while exploring cultural differences and similarities. There is that moment when you’re watching a foreign film, when you forget the subtitles and the strange city and you become entrenched in, and captured by, the story, the people, the happenings. They cease to become foreign, they just are. But, when the film is over, you feel that you’ve been somewhere else. You have a sense of a different place and a different culture – you have a sense of your differences, but because you were caught up in the story, the people of the story, you also have a sense of the familiar.

And so it is with foreign children’s books. A level of understanding that comes from seeing the world through someone else’s eyes.

The books we publish are first and foremost good stories. (If the plot of the foreign film doesn’t hold your attention you’re really not going to care what they’re having for dinner.) They are meaningful, laugh-out-loud funny, touching, scary. They are books with some tension, some true resolution, a nice story arc, and a voice that rings true (whether that voice belongs to a person, a crocodile, a pig or a stone gargoyle). The illustrations are multi-dimensional, they move the story, they are conscious of the child as audience (but not self-conscious).

They are books, we say, that enrich the lives and the imaginations of the children who read them. Look, sometimes a book is just a book. It’s something to page through at the beach, or in the waiting room. It’s not life-changing or awe-inspiring. But, sometimes, sometimes, it is.

And books from other countries have the potential – the serious potential – to be that life-changing, awe-inspiring book. They do more. Not hit-you-over-the-head more perhaps, but there may be something in the art, in the setting, in the characters’ names or in the layout that makes it look just a tiny bit different. That makes a parent or a teacher or a child flip the book over and look at the logo and say, “Oh, this book is from China.” It’s finding a commonality that is tremendously important.

Do you have any recent or upcoming releases you’d like to tell us about?

“The Phoenix Files”! It’s an extremely well-written, high energy, fast-paced, suspense-filled serial for readers ages 12 and up. There’s an overall of feeling of menace (which makes sense, as there is a plot to wipe out the human race and take over the world). There’s a little romance, and a touch of the paranormal. It’s sort of dystopian. There’s time travel. There’s a smidge of violence. Not surprisingly, it is scary. But for us, everything in this book is appropriate, because it’s also thrilling and suspenseful and thought-provoking while it’s being terrifying.

Each book in “The Phoenix Files” (there are six altogether) launches straight into the action with a different narrator. This allows the reader a certain level of intimacy with all the characters. And it adds another layer of complexity and realism to the story.

In book 1, “Arrival”, Luke is having a rough year. When his parents split up, his mum drags him to Phoenix, a brand-new town in the middle of nowhere. His new friends, Jordan and Peter, seem OK, but Phoenix, maybe not so much. It’s no ordinary town. There are no cars, no phones, no internet. No police either. They don’t need them. Luke thinks this is pretty weird, but then he discovers that someone there is plotting to wipe out everyone outside of Phoenix. The entire human race. Phoenix is suddenly the safest and most dangerous place on earth. And the clock is already ticking. There are 100 days until the end of the world …

I love it, kids in Australia love it, and I think American kids will too.

Henry: I wonder how the Phoenix, AZ tourism board views this book…

What do you like most about being a publisher?

I truly believe that books change lives. And not last year’s bestseller, or this year’s hot 600-page novel, not some long-winded exposition of class or social mores, not all seven volumes of “Remembrance of Things Past” … children’s books change lives.

So even when I’m sitting in my office at 5:30 in the morning, in between the Pilates studio and the All-You-Can-Eat-Pizza Driving School, it’s OK. Because to some child, somewhere, it matters – this sentence, this title, this book. It could be the book. The book that changes someone’s life.

Apart from that, I’m a book person. And I get to spend my days with other book people. Reading books. Working on books. Talking about books. It’s the best job in the world.

Henry: Indeed, it is wonderful to do every day what you love. And the passion shows in the work. I also have passion for All-You-Can-Eat-Pizza.

Without implicating anyone, can you tell us about the weirdest submissions you’ve received?

There was a particularly depressing picture book – told in verse – about the mortgage crisis, which included a good fifteen stanzas on the meaning of “underwater.”

And then there was the cover letter that started with “Dear Mr. Kane Miller, I am a certified nail technician…”

Henry: I love the “Dear Mr. Kane Miller”! And, I guess I should scrap my planned submission to Kane Miller for a dystopian board book, “The Very Underwater Caterpillar”…

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Read. That’s it. Read. OK, and also: hone your craft. In any way, in any manner that you’re able. Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI), workshops, seminars, writing and critique groups. And have respect for your audience. Know your audience.

Henry: That reminds me of a great comment I heard at a SCBWI conference. “Just as the lion is a product of all the zebras she’s consumed, a writer is the product of all the books that she’s read.”

Do you have any favorite quotes?

Anything Walter Dean Myers says, including this about the importance of reading: “We’re suggesting that they’re missing something if they don’t read but, actually, we’re condemning kids to a lesser life. If you had a sick patient, you would not try to entice them to take their medicine. You would tell them, ‘Take this or you’re going to die.’ We need to tell kids flat out: reading is not optional.”

And then “Bird by Bird” from Anne Lamott – the entire book, and also just the title – the best piece of writing advice I’ve ever heard.

Henry. Nice. I also like “Reading. It’s like TV in your head.” 🙂

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

I’ve just read a manuscript in which one of the characters had control over all mechanical things through mind power. She could control computers and everything else. Having just lost about six years’ worth of email (I know, I know, delete and archive), that seems pretty appealing.

Henry: I would have bet money your choice of superpower would have been speed reading.

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

I love to read – all kinds of fiction and non-fiction and essays and mysteries and … yep, reading. I also jog, and I’m a Pilates convert. Mostly though, I like to hang out with my family. They’re still the best and funniest people I know. Plus, they’re book people too. (Though now that my daughter is reading YA, she doesn’t like me honing in on her turf, so even if I’ve read the latest John Green, I can’t say that I have until she’s done so.)

Henry: If only there was a way to combine reading with Pilates…

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

She lived. She loved. She read.

Henry: And she encouraged others to read.

Where can readers learn more about your company?

kanemiller.com. Please follow our blog – and like us on Facebook.

This article is also posted to the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner

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LEGO Architecture Studio Event in Oceanside, CA

Calling All Architecture & Adult LEGO® Fans! Barnes & Noble Oceanside to host first-ever, exclusive LEGO Architecture Studio event on July 26, 2013. The free celebration features David Parker, Architecture Professor, MiraCosta College as guest speaker.

Barnes & Noble, Inc., the leading retailer of content, digital media and educational products, today announced that the Barnes & Noble store in Oceanside will host its first-ever LEGO Architecture event in celebration of LEGO’s new launch, LEGO Architecture Studio, on Friday, July 26, 2013, at 6 p.m at 2615 Vista Way, Oceanside, CA 92054.

The LEGO Architecture Studio event features local Architecture Professor, David Parker from MiraCosta College discussing, facilitating and demonstrating key aspects of the design process in architecture using LEGO bricks to educate and inspire. Participants will have the opportunity to reference the LEGO 250 guide book, experiment and create original architectural designs with more than 1,200 monochromatic building pieces, and learn a few architectural concepts such as scale, mass and density, symmetry, modules and repetition, space and section and surface.

During the event the participants will have an opportunity to build with LEGO Architecture Studio and demonstrate how one can explore the design process in architecture through a hands-on exercise building exercise. The event will focus on what the main stages of the architectural process are, from defining your project, gathering inspiration, and exploration of the context, to researching and developing your concept. Participants will build as a team and as individuals.

Additionally, the store will offer architecture fans the first look at a new LEGO Architecture product that can only be found for sale in Barnes & Noble and LEGO brand outlets from July 25-28.

“This event is perfect for anyone interested in visual design and the important and profound role design plays in our communities. Aspiring architects, design enthusiasts and LEGO fans will have a hands-on opportunity to explore concepts and discover new insights by constructing 3D models,” said Kathleen Campisano, Vice President, Toys & Games, Barnes & Noble, Inc. “Barnes & Noble is excited to partner with LEGO to continue the world-wide conversation and collaborative nature of architectural design through these engaging and fun events.”

The LEGO Architecture Studio event is free and open to the public. Space is limited for each event.

*Architect availability subject to change without notice.

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Interview with ‘Wig in the Window’ author Kristen Kittscher

Kristen Kittscher is the debut author of the ‘The Wig in the Window’, the first in a hilarious new mystery series for kids coming June 18 from Harper Children’s. A former middle school English teacher and graduate of Brown University, she works as a writing tutor in Pasadena.

Ms. Kittscher will be celebrating the launch of ‘The Wig in the Window’ at Warwick’s Bookstore in La Jolla at 7:30 pm on June 25th — everyone’s welcome to join! She has graciously agreed to answer questions about her book.


For what audience do you write?

I write mysteries for middle readers; I imagine my ideal readers as between 5th and 8th grade, but precocious younger kids could certainly enjoy ‘The Wig in the Window’, too.

Tell us about your latest book

My latest (and first!) book is ‘The Wig in the Window’, a funny mystery about two tween detectives who suspect their school counselor is a dangerous fugitive…and might be right! It’s a thrilling mystery, but it’s also a story about friendship and developing confidence.

Henry: I like kid’s stories that are entertaining, but also subtly convey positive values.

What will readers will get from the book?

I hope readers laugh out loud and are thrilled by its twists and turns, but is also relate to Young & Yang’s sometimes tumultuous friendship.

Henry: Young and Yang sound like perfectly complementary friends. 🙂

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

Writing the first draft of a manuscript is the most challenging for me, even though it’s the most fun and surprise-filled. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with all there is to shape and invent, and lose heart. 

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

I’ve learned that expressing what’s most true to me is what also resonates most with others.

What’s been a memorable experience you’ve had as a writer?

There have been so many memorable experiences, including having the opportunity to develop friendships with authors I’d long admired—but the one that stands out is opening up a package of letters and cards from kids who’d been inspired by a classroom visit!

Henry: I was told by a parent that after reading Nimpentoad, her child now eats mushrooms. 🙂

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

I don’t feel seasoned enough to give advice, but I’ll say that I frittered away a decade or so doubting myself as a writer. If you love words and telling stories, follow that passion and enjoy! No sense worrying about whether anything will “come of it.”

Henry: So in addition to being a good writer, you are experienced at frittering. 🙂

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

I don’t have strange rituals, but I do write with a little knight figurine by my desk that a friend gave me: her father was a writer, and he kept the knight on his desk as a symbol of charging forward with his work. He passed away in 2006, and when my sold my first book to Harper, my friend gave the knight to me for inspiration. I like to think it works!

Henry: That is a beautiful story.

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

I’d like to be able to stop time whenever I wished, so I could get more done!

Henry: Ah, the old “stop time for everyone but me” ploy.

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

I love to get outside, whether hiking with my dog in the San Gabriel mountains up the road from where I live in Pasadena, or visiting the nearby Huntington Gardens.

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

She cared.

Where can readers find your work?

‘The Wig in the Window’ is out June 18th from Harper Children’s and is available at AmazonBarnes & Noble, as well as at your local independent bookstore through IndieBound. Readers can find out more about it and Young & Yang’s next adventure, ‘The Tiara on the Terrace’ at kristenkittscher.com — and see some pictures of my pets while they’re at it!

This article is also posted to the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner