Do you have a favorite children’s author? If so, has that person influenced your writing? I have so many favorites that it’s hard to make a short list, but I have admired – and studied – Katherine Paterson more than any other writer. Her stories are consistently rich and satisfying, and she’s a genius at every aspect of craft: characterization, plot, and setting. One of her lesser-known books, Jip, continues to rank in my top five books. I read it at least once a year and, every time, I learn something about writing. At present, I am enrolled in an MFA program that requires me to write critical essays about individual books with an eye to some aspect of writing craft in which the author achieved excellence. It has been a wonderful experience, and I’ve found myself learning from the likes of Katherine Applegate (Home of the Brave), Margi Preus (Heart of a Samurai), Sherman Alexie (The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian), Gennifer Choldenko (Al Capone Does My Shirts), and Christopher Paul Curtis (The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963). See, my list is getting quite long!
Do you have a specific writing process? How do you come up with ideas? Let me talk first about ideas. For a nonfiction project, an idea usually takes root when I stumble upon a fact that involves a contradiction or paradox. Whether I encounter the fact in a newspaper clipping, a footnote, or a lecture (all of these have happened), I don’t get excited unless it includes “the thing that doesn’t fit” (to borrow a phrase from Darwin). In the case of Isaac Murphy, the subject of my first published book, Perfect Timing, my interest began with a contradiction (He should’ve been famous for being the first jockey to win three Kentucky Derbies, but by the early 1990s, he had been mostly forgotten) that I discovered in a small news story. For a fiction project, the initial idea almost always appears to me as a mental image reminiscent of a movie scene… or a voice (yes, I acquire imaginary friends who talk to me!). In a theme that echoes what I said about nonfiction, these scenes and voices tend to contain a paradox or contradiction. The roots of my middle-grade novel, Thrill in the ’Ville, came from a boy’s voice that surfaced in my mind while I was directing part of the public relations work
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Classic Literature in Picture Books
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2 that Centre College needed during the 2000 Vice Presidential debate. My job was to focus on all that was wonderful about the event, but this fictional 6th grade boy kept making snarky comments about the inconveniences to his life: giving up a soccer field to become a parking lot for news trucks, watching grown-ups put up silly decorations. I liked the contradictory thought democracy is beautiful yet inconvenient and the boy was hilarious, so I listened to him and wrote down what he told me. In terms of writing process, I’ve always liked to start by writing from passion and impulse – scenes occur in my head and I write them down without too much reflection. Now, as I am trying to get better at plotting and digging below the surface of a story, I am becoming more rigorous about using outlines, a synopsis, and specific tools used for evaluating plot. Can you tell us a little about your new book Thrill in the ‘Ville? What inspired you to write it? As I mentioned above, the story was inspired by what I learned and saw while serving as Centre College’s host for the Media Hall during the 2000 Vice Presidential debate. Knowing how hard many of us in Danville worked to prepare for that event, I became very interested in telling a story that would compare the beauty of democracy with its many inconveniences. The main character, Doug, ended up telling the story for me! Is Thrill in the ‘Ville’s setting inspired by any particular town in Kentucky? Or is it a composite of many towns? It’s probably obvious that the fictional town of Benville was inspired by the very real Danville, Kentucky, down to a few iconic businesses. The scenery and people here inspired much of my thinking, but I also reflected on other small towns that have played a big role in my life: Abingdon, Virginia, and Kingsport, Tennessee. Ultimately, I believe the characters and events are true to almost any small town in America. In that way, it’s a composite. What will children love the most about Thrill in the ‘Ville? It’s hard to predict young readers and their tastes, but I hope they like the humor, sports, and brevity, along with the touch of suspense. I personally love Doug’s impulsive side – he does big things without thinking (a problem I have, although I have never dyed my hair with Kool-Aid!), and he accepts the consequences. I set out to write a short, entertaining book that would also carry a message, and I hope I succeeded. (My beta readers – a trio of sixth graders – went crazy over the quotations that begin each chapter. They especially appreciated Yogi Berra, who has been one of my idols for a very long time.) Can you tell us about your first book Perfect Timing: How Isaac Murphy Became One of the World’s Greatest Jockeys? Perfect Timing is a picture-book biography (true story) about a Lexington slave boy who grew up to become America’s first sports super-star. His life was so astonishing that his story carries many different themes: the glory and excitement of horse racing, the life lesson of how good things can happen when a person works hard and has a strong sense of character, glimpses of justice and injustice as big threads in American history. Isaac’s life and personality were so rich that I could write twenty more stories about him, all from different angles of vision. I am proud that Perfect Timing was honored as a Junior Library Guild selection and made the Best of the Year list from the Children’s Cooperative Book Center. Was the writing process different for Thrill in the ’Ville than Perfect Timing: How Isaac Murphy Became One of the World’s Greatest Jockeys? My reliance on inspiration and an inner voice was the same with both books…that part of the imagining/writing process that is a bit mysterious. Other than that, the problems of writing each book were quite different. For Thrill in the ’Ville, the challenge was to stay in tune with Doug’s voice and a sixth grade way of looking at and talking about the world. For Perfect Timing, I ended up with 8,000 pages of research material because I was obsessive about trying to get to the bottom of contradictory information I uncovered about Isaac’s life. It was incredibly difficult to keep in mind my sense of vision and voice, with the huge problem of deciding which part of Isaac’s story to tell. At one point, I wrote a 19,000-word manuscript that could have been targeted to Young Adults, then a 7,000word document that could have been for Middle Grade readers. From there, it got digested into about 1,200 words for young readers. Are you working on any books? I have a habit (maybe a bad habit) of working on multiple things at a time. Thus, I’m in the revision stages on two middle-grade novels and just had a request from an editor for one of my picture-book manuscripts. I also have a picture-book biography that can be done as soon as I find time for a trip to Wisconsin to actually see something that was described in the primary source material. Are you excited about meeting any particular author coming to McConnell next year? Probably Jack Gantos, mainly because I love the Joey Pigza books. (I know his recent Newbery should be more important, but I can’t help it – Joey stole my heart.) I just heard Dan Yaccarino at a writing conference in Nashville, and he was fantastic, so the 2013 McConnell Conference should be terrific! Do you have any upcoming events or book signings? I will be participating in the Southern Festival of Books in mid-October and will remain in Nashville afterwards for a presentation to grad students and faculty at Peabody on the Vanderbilt campus.
October 3 from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Virtual Read-Out October 13 at 7:00 p.m. McConnell Board Game Night! http://bit.ly/McConnellBoardGame November 3 at 7:00 p.m. Discussion of Michael Grantâ€™s BZRK http://bit.ly/McConnellBZRK Please RSVP on our Facebook pages or the new form found here for these events so we know approximately how many are coming or if we need to reschedule. ~Thanks!
McConnell Conference March 1-2, 2013 Embassy Suites Hotel, Lexington, KY http://cis.uky.edu/lis/mcconnellconference
Every month leading up to the McConnell 2013 Conference, the McConnell newsletter will feature a new book review from one of our 2013 featured presenters. These reviews will introduce you to our authors and some of their work. If you have any books from our 2013 presenters you would like us to review, please send suggestions to: email@example.com
By The Sword: A Young Man Meets War By: Selene Castrovilla
Selene’s Castrovilla’s By The Sword is a historical picture book that depicts the Revolutionary War from the eyes of one solider. Castrovilla recounts the life of Benjamin Tallmadge a soldier in George Washington’s army. Tallmadge is a real historical figure that was prominent in Washington’s army. He was also trusted by Washington to organize and run his Culper Spy Ring. Benjamin Tallmadge describes the conditions of war and how he risked his life to save his beloved horse Highlander from the enemy. Beautifully painted pictures make the emotions of war riveting and daunting. Castrovilla paints a realistic experience of war. Through the eyes of one solider, children can relate to the events surrounding this crucial American historical point. Besides bringing history to life, Castrovilla’s historical picture book also provides many factual details. All of her primary sources are listed in the back for further research. She includes a timeline and a list of places to visit including museums, houses, and historically significant landmarks. Castrovilla’s book starts out with a map of Long Island, a sure reference for historically inclined children. This book would be a great addition to any Revolutionary War lesson plan. This book is recommended for grades four through six. Castrovilla, S., & Farnsworth, B. (2007). By the sword: A young man meets war. Honesdale: Calkins Creek Books. Read A-likes Castrovilla, S., Crosby, J., & Jackson, S. (2009). Upon secrecy. Honesdale: Calkins Creek. Cheney, L. V., & Fiore, P. M. (2004). When Washington crossed the Delaware: A wintertime story for young patriots. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. Fradin, D. B., & Day, L. (2005). Let it begin here!: Lexington & Concord : first battles of the American Revolution. New York: Walker & Co.
Come to the McConnell Center on Wednesday October 3, 2012 from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. We are going to be doing a Virtual Read-Out. Read a short passage from your favorite challenged or banned book. We will be recording all readings and creating a video for Banned Books Week. Cupcakes and light refreshments will be served. We hope to see you there!
B Is for Brooklyn is not your typical ABC storybook. B is for brownstones, baseball, Brighton Beach and Brooklyn Bridge. Alkoâ€™s multistyled collage with lively and colorful brushstrokes is hip. The cut up subway tickets intermingled with postage stamps and maps of Brooklyn create a three dimensional story. By the end of the book the children will be clamoring for a visit to Brooklyn not New York. Each letter of the alphabet is represented by a part of Brooklynâ€™s culture, history, or surroundings. Children will have hours of fun deciphering every letter and finding all the different things Brooklyn stands for. Alko, S. (2012). B is for Brooklyn. New York: Henry Holt and Co.
We are excited to announce the 2013 Connecting with Characters Contest. All kids in preschool through 12th grade in Kentucky or a neighboring state can enter. Sponsoring libraries and schools must register to participate by November 30, 2012. Entries must be received by January 18, 2013. The Contest is in conjunction with the 2013 McConnell Conference for Youth Literature, which will feature Jack Gantos, Dan Yaccarino and Selene Castrovilla. We hope that the Contest will provide an opportunity for the youth of Kentucky and the surrounding states to connect with the works of these wonderful contributors to the world of literature for youth. Participants could win a signed copy of Jack Gantosâ€™s Dead End in Norvelt, the 2012 Newbery Medal Winner! There are also great titles available by Dan Yaccarino and Selene Castrovilla. More information is forth coming but be sure to check out our website at http://cis.uky.edu/lis/mcconnell-contest2013
This month the McConnell Center read Moby Dick: Chasing the Great White Whale by Eric A. Kimmel. This is a fantastic rendition of a classic novel is in a picture book format. The text and story are easy to follow along. The colorful paintings by Andrew Glass make this story come alive for young readers. Below is a list of other classic literature renditions in picture books. Adams, J., Oliver, A., & Austen, J. (2011). Pride & prejudice: A counting primer. Layton, UT: Gibbs Smith. Coville, B., Pham, L. U., & Shakespeare, W. (2007). William Shakespeare's the winter's tale. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers. Dickens, C., Helquist, B., & Greenhut, J. (2009). A Christmas carol. New York: HarperCollins Children's Books. Kimmel, E. A., Glass, A., & Melville, H. (2012). Moby Dick: Chasing the great white whale. New York: Feiwel and Friends. Mayer, M., Bywaters, L., & Shakespeare, W. (2005). William Shakespeare's the tempest. San Francisco: Chronicle Books.
Check out http://www.bannedbooksweek.org/ this week with updates about Banned Books Week, resources, and events happening all over America. McConnell Center is loving the Virtual Read-Out that is happening all over the country. Readers all over the world can record themselves reading from their favorite banned book and post the videos to YouTube! There is an entire YouTube channel devoted to the videos. You can find the YouTube channel at http:// www.youtube.com/bannedbooksweek. Videos must be no longer than three minutes. You can read from your favorite banned book, discuss why and where it was banned or challenged, and talk about why the book is so important. For complete coverage of this event you can find information at http://www.bannedbooksweek.org/virtualreadout. If you make videos let us know! Send links to your Virtual Read-Outs to firstname.lastname@example.org.We may just mention your videos in the next McConnell Newsletter.
Below is ALAâ€™s list of most frequently challenged books for 2011. This list is compiled by ALAâ€™s Office for Intellectual Freedom. For a complete list of most frequently challenged books from 2001-2011 check out http:// bit.ly/BannedBooks2011. 1. 2. 3. 4.
Ttyl by Lauren Myracle The Color of Earth by Kim Dong HwaReasons The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins My Mom's Having A Baby! A Kid's Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy by Dori Hillestad Butler 5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie 6. Alice (series) by Phyllis Reynolds 7. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley 8. What My Mother Doesn't Know by Sonya Sones 9. Gossip Girl (series) by Cecily Von Ziegesar 10. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
STUDENT SECTION INFORMATION FOR SLIS STUDENTS
Are you in LIS 610 or LIS 613 this Fall? Come use the McConnell Center! We can help you find books to use for your class. Hours Monday & Tuesday 10 a.m.-3p.m. Wednesday & Thursday 12 p.m.5p.m. Or by appointment contact email@example.com
If you are in 610, Library Materials & Literature for Children, this semester come to the McConnell Center! We have a wide variety of professional development books that will help with projects. Check out this list of professional development books the center has on books talks and story time.
Bromann, J. (2001). Booktalking that works. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers.
Freeman, J. (2007). Once upon a time: Using storytelling, creative drama, and reader's theater with children in grades preK-6. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.
Hasbrouck, E. K. (1998). Library story hour from A to Z: Ready-to-use alphabet activities for young learners. West Nyack, NY: Center for Applied Research in Education. Littlejohn, C. (1999). Talk that book!: Booktalks to promote reading. Worthington, OH: Linworth Pub. Roser, N., Martinez, M. G., & International Reading Association. (1995). Book talk and beyond: Children and teachers respond to literature. Newark, DE: International Reading Association. Trostle-Brand, S. L., & Donato, J. M. (2001). Storytelling in emergent literacy: Fostering multiple intelligences. Albany, NY: Delmar.
On the Blog: ARC Read & Review 2012! We have the following titles available for anyone who wants to read and review them for the McConnell Center blog at http:// youthlitmatters.wordpress.com/ New Books in the Center: Juvenile Fiction The Peculiar by Stefan Bachmann Seraphina by Rachel Hartman Young Adult The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson
A vital gathering place for books and ideas, the McConnell Center is committed to identifying excellent literature for children and adolescents and to bringing this literature to the attention of those adults who have an academic, professional, career, or personal interest in connecting young readers with books. We maintain two main, non-
Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
In the Center: Join us for the McConnell Center Board Game Night!
Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn
Our next event will be a Board Game Night on October 13 at Anderson 7:00 p.m. Find us on Facebook to A Confusion of Princes by Garth RSVP for this event. http://bit.ly/ Nix McConnellBoardGame Picture Books In the Land of Milk and Honey by Joyce Carol Thomas, illustrated by Floyd Cooper Everything Goes in the Air by Brian Biggs
circulating collections: Our Current Collection includes all books sent to us for review by publishers during the current year. The Permanent Collection is several collections of books maintained in the Center as a resource for students and librarians. It includes the Basic Collection, the Awardwinning Collection (Caldecott, Newbery, Printz, Morris, Pura Belpré, Sibert, and Orbis Pictus Awards), the Kentucky Collection (notable Kentucky authors and books about Kentucky), the Reference Collection, and the Periodical Collection. Our Fall 2012 hours are Monday & Tuesday 10 p.m.–3 p.m. and Wednesday & Thursday 12 p.m.–5 p.m.
You can find the McConnell Facebook Group here: http://on.fb.me/ McConnellReadingGroup You can now RSVP for Center Events via the following form: http://bit.ly/McConnellRSVP
Please visit our website for more information: http://cis.uky.edu/lis mcconnellcenter