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Posts Tagged ‘kids’s books’

I have been nominated for the Liebster Award. This award is given to new blogs or blogs with lower follower counts, to encourage new bloggers and widen the blogging community.
liebster_award
Liebster is a German word meaning kindest, nicest, dearest, pleasant, lovely, valued, welcome. I’m glad that anyone thinks I’m all those things, and I appreciate the nomination from Princess of Dragons.

In her blog, Princess of Dragons covers gaming (table top and live action), reading/writing and — dragons! So feel free to wander by and check her out.

Now I must answer ten questions posed by Princess of Dragons. To whit:
1) What is your preferred cheese? Parmesan.
2) If you could own any animal (including fantasy animals) what would it be? I live in a suburban area with a small yard, so that precludes large animals such as dragons. No, wait! I do have room for a Pernese fire lizard. A blue would be nice. I’d ask him to keep the neighborhood cats from using my vegetable garden as a litter box.
3) Mention one thing that’s on my Bucket List. Visiting the Grand Canyon.
4) What color do you think your soul is? Seafoam green.
5) If you could try any job for a day, what would it be and why? I would work in a greenhouse because I love gardening and plants.
6) Name one good thing that’s happened to you today. Sleeping well and with no nightmares.
7) What’s your Meyer Briggs profile? I had to go take the test over, as it had been several years. ISTJ is the current result.
8) Quick! Pick your weapon of choice. Pepper spray.
9) When was the last time you cried? I was disagreeing with my husband over how to discipline our unruly teenaged son. (I wanted to be tougher. My husband said I was already being too tough.)
10) What would you call a novel about your life? The Gadfly.

Next, I must share 11 random facts about myself. So let’s see…
1) I am the third of my family to be involved in a teaching career.
2) I have nothing against dogs, but prefer cats.
3) But when I was a kid, I preferred horses.
4) For fitness, I do yoga and ride my bike.
5) When donations are required, I’m usually the first to pony up.
6) Cherries are my favorite fruit.
7) Oblivion is my favorite video game, followed by Morrowind, then Skyrim.
8) Until I had kids of my own, I was not at all fond of children.
9) I graduated from college with a degree in English Literature. Despite what you might hear about English Majors, I use my degree every single day.
10) In high school, I lettered in Marching Band.
11) The writer I admire most is Rachel Carson. Her book, Silent Spring, changed my generation’s view of the environment and how people can be injured by the consequences of careless development.

Finally, here are my nominees to pass the Liebster torch along: Annette Drake and Jessica Rising are two fellow Northwest writers. So is S. A. Bolich, whose blog addresses the often incorrect portrayal of horses in literature. Maugryph’s Blog showcases the artistic process of a fantasy illustrator. Stars and Splats gives reviews of genre movies. I hope you’ll check a few of them out.

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Who’s ready for a complete change of pace? I’ve been covering the serious drama of Harry Potter, so now to some sweet silliness from the author/illustrator of Captain Underpants!

Dragon Tales is a chapter book for kids just learning to read. The title character is a little blue dragon who feels lonely and searches for a friend. (This is Dav Pikley, so the pun is definitely intended!) Due to the prank of a mischievous snake, Dragon thinks a lowly apple has agreed to be his friend. The plot is too simple for me to say any more without giving away the ending, except it will bring a smile to children’s faces.

This is a fun read with cute, cartoon-style illustration. The vocabulary works for the task of building reading skills, and the concepts are good for the age of the reader. Some fans of Captain Underpants may find this book lacks that naughty spark. Others may appreciate its lack.

If you have kids or grand-kids in Kindergarten or First Grade, this is a good choice for you.

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Through the first volume of the Harry Potter series, we get lots of interesting and amusing tidbits about dragons. That dragon hide gloves are a required piece of equipment at Hogwarts. That dragon liver fetches a certain price. But the dragons really come alive with the introduction of Norbert.

Now, the common wisdom in Wizarding circles is that dragons are too fierce to ever be tamed. Nevertheless, there’s apparently a recognized trade in dragon eggs. The business is well enough established to provide cover for the wicked Professor Quirrell. Posing as an egg trader, Quirrell tricks Hagrid into telling him about other impressive animals he’s taken care of. Allegedly this is to prove that he can take care of a dragon. In truth, Quirrell wants to know the secret of getting past Hagrid’s guardian beast, Fluffy the three-headed dog.

Even besotted as he is with the idea of owning a dragon, Hagrid knows people aren’t supposed to keep them as pets. He hides the egg, but is found out by Harry, Ron and Hermione. From these passages we learn that baby dragons need a diet of brandy and blood, and that even baby dragons are vicious. Everyone around Norbert seems to get bitten!

Alas for Hagrid, this biting habit led to Norbert being discovered after Ron was poisoned by a bite. (In the movies, it was that sneaky Drako Malfoy who ratted them out.) Dumbledore orders little Norbert sent to one of the dragon reserves, to live among his own kind. In one of the more bizarre Hagrid scenes, our half-giant friend weeps and wonders, “What if the other dragons are mean to him?”

During the remaining books, we get periodic updates on Norbert, courtesy of Ron’s brother Charlie, who is a Dragon Keeper. At last mention, it had been discovered that Norbert was actually a female dragon and had to be re-named Norberta.

Check back next time for a few more dragons who played important roles in the Wizarding World.

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Do you ever tell people about your writing? I hope so. You’ll have a hard time building an audience if you don’t. Even more important, do you tell people about your work in a way that slights or insults yourself? “Oh, it’s just a hobby of mine.” “I’m not very good at it.” “It’s a little poem/song/story I wrote. Really bad, isn’t it?” If any of these phrases sound familiar, you’re a victim of the evil dragon Self-Minimization.

I often hear other writers minimize themselves. Sometimes men, but more often women. Our culture has this thing where we teach men to stand up and speak for themselves while women are taught to sit down and be quiet. But, as writers, we simply can’t afford to sit quietly.

Naturally, we all have moments of doubt. The competition is intense and rejection hurts. Minimizing ourselves can be a way of deflecting pain. It can also be a chain that holds us back. If your spouse said to you, “Why are you wasting your time with this?” you’d be pretty upset. You’d probably defend yourself. But when it’s your own voice saying, “You’ll never sell anything,” self-defense is that much harder.

Yet, it’s because the competition is so intense that we must slay this dragon. No one ever sold a story without submitting it first. Self-minimizing can be as much a habit as a reaction to stress. Begin to train your brain for the battle. “Yes, I’ve been writing for ten years.” “I’m getting pretty good at this.” “It’s a poem/song/story I wrote. Isn’t it great?”

Funny thing is, most people will take you at your word. If you say you’re a poet or author, they’ll believe you. Once you fight off that self-minimizing dragon, you’ll see how high you can fly.

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This is a picture book for kids aged 4-6, with charmingly simple illustration by Daniel Salmieri. It starts with that simple statement, “dragons love tacos,” but then weaves in a caveat that builds gentle tension. Dragons might like tacos, but they don’t want anything spicy. In fact, spicy food makes them flame uncontrollably.

The text weaves in several important threads. Parties! Everyone loves parties. Spicy foods? Not so much. Many kids will empathize with the dragons who can’t stand any spicy foods.

More than that, kids at the target age are just becoming social. Learning that you can invite friends over is a big expansion of horizons, yet it also makes you take the emotional leap to understanding that another person’s wants and needs may not be exactly the same as your own wants and needs.

Even if you don’t have young kids or grand-kids, check this out at your local library to see how Rubin creates drama without getting bloody and nasty. Recommended for kids 4-6.

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As a chance of pace, I’m taking part in the Writing Progress Blog Hop, which I was introduced to by indy writer Charles Yallowitz. As in most blog hops, you’re supposed to “tag” a few additional participants, but I’m going to follow Charles’s lead and leave this open to any who wish to take part.

So first, I want to thank Charles for having a great blog on writing and the writing life. It’s well worth your while to check out his blog, Legends of Windemere.

Then, I have to answer four questions. And here they are:

1) What are you working on? I just finished the third draft of The Grimhold Wolf, a gothic-style werewolf novel, about a woman who is turned into a wolf by her evil ex. The ex takes their kid, and Our Heroine strives to rescue him while trapped in the form of a wolf and dodging an obsessed, werewolf-hunting priest.

While I wait for critiques to come back, I’m doing a total overhaul of my web site. I also have a couple of projects I’ve completed one or two chapters on, and I’ll be trying to carry those forward.

2) How does your work differ from others of the genre? Most of my books end up having to do with family relationships. For instance, in The Grimhold Wolf, Madeline is trying to rescue her son Charlie from his father, Alexander. So although there is a werewolf, there isn’t the big romance component that urban fantasy fans might be looking for. In most of my other books, the main characters are siblings. Again, not the basis of a traditional romance.

So I guess you could say that I don’t follow trends and break as many genre conventions as I follow. I also expect that my readers are willing to think a bit and not just consume my books like popcorn.

This could be why I’m not a famous best-selling author.

3) Why do I write what I do?
The short answer is, for fun. I’ve never wanted to write anything but fantasy. Even when I write for kids, there’s almost always a fantasy element. I just love fantasy!

4) How does your writing process work?
I have a notebook for every novel I’m working on. Some are just spiral-bound and some are pretty, fancy journals that I picked to match the feeling of the project. I carry these around with me, and if I get an idea while I don’t have my notebook, I write it down and tape it inside the notebook later. That way, I have all my notes together if I need to look back at something.

I do pencil drafts at lunch, when I’m able. (I work on call, and it’s different every day, but I take my notebook with me.) These are very rough and sketchy. After dinner, I take the notebook to my computer and put together a more finished text. After more than 10 years, I have my family pretty well trained that this is my time and anything less urgent than the house catching fire will just have to wait. I don’t even have to shut the office door any more.

I work Sundays through Thursdays. Fridays I have a gaming group and Saturdays I leave open for doing stuff with my family. Major holidays and vacations are exempt, but I do pack my notebook, just in case.

My goal is 4 pages a day — this allows me to complete a chapter in a week — and I always hope to finish my novels in 6 months but usually end up taking 9-12 months.

Here’s where I tell you I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer rather than an outliner. I know where I’d like to go with the story, but keep things loose to provide for spontaneity. Honesty, to me, is the most important part of the story, followed by surprises. Maybe that’s why I can never follow formulae.

So that’s it, fellow authors and bloggers. If any of you would like to carry the tour forward, that would be great. Next time, I promise, there will be less “me” and more dragons!

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I mentioned that most of the world’s largest states are Buddhist figures spread around Asia. Perhaps it isn’t surprising that one of the world’s largest dragon statues is also placed on that continent. It is, to me, the most beautiful of them all.

Sanggar Agung is a Chinese style temple constructed as part of the Pantai Ria amusement park, in Surabaya, Indonesia. Yes, another dragon in a retail destination! This one is clearly designed to appeal to Chinese tourists. Despite the location, this is a working temple for followers of Tridharma (a descendant of the ancient Tao faith).

Sanggar Agung Temple is built by the sea and surrounded by mangrove swamps, since Tao emphasizes unity with nature. The grounds act partly as a wildlife sanctuary, and some Buddhist worshippers come there for a Fangshen ritual that includes releasing animals into the wild.

The most prominent feature of this temple is Heaven Gate, which includes a large statue of the Buddhist saint Kwan Yin, several companion sculptures — and two heavenly dragons. The entire gate is either 50 or 60 feet tall, depending on which source you believe. Each dragon is 18 feet long, giving the total gateway a width of perhaps 40 feet including the space between the two dragons.

The dragon figures are extremely impressive, of course. They are bronze, one highlighted with blue and the other with yellow. Between them, a fiery golden pearl is attached to the gate’s lintel. With the sea beyond them and greenery all around, the whole of Heaven Gate is simply stunning. Despite the theme-park setting, it would be just incredible to see.

You can click here for several images of these beautiful dragons and other temple features.

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I’m doing a signing today for my latest book, The Seven Exalted Orders, so I’m short of time, but here’s a recap of the ten most-viewed posts from 2013.

10. A Real (Dead) Sea Monster, 10/16/13
09. Quetzalcoatl Part 2, 9/4/13
08. Lindworms Part 3, 2/12/13
07. Legend of Yamata no Orochi, 5/14/13
06. Sheet Metal Dragon, 9/11/13
05. Just For Fun 13, 1/22/13
04. Chicken Naga Curry, 4/30/13
03. Just For Fun 14, 3/28/13
02. Wings of Fire by Tui T. Sutherland, 1/4/13
01. Eight Immortals Cross the Sea, 10/26/13

If you missed some of these, or want to see one again, here’s your chance to check it out. Enjoy!

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Recently I posted about Avatar the Last Airbender, a show where, as part of the series background, dragons were hunted to extinction. I mentioned how odd this seemed, that mere humans would be able to wipe out such a mighty race of creatures.

After all, these are very large animals, with heavy scale armor and terrible breath weapons. Fire breath is the current archetype, but poison breath was also widely ascribed to dragons in ancient times. Further, depending on the storyteller, dragons may also be very smart and long-lived, with the cunning and experience this entails. In some legends, dragons could change shapes and disguise themselves. Some writers even give dragons magic and spell-casting powers!

But, as I think about it, there are many books and stories where dragons have nearly been eradicated. This is especially true in children’s books, where a kind-hearted child character will take it upon him/herself to save the last dragon. In books for adults, hunting out dragons may be a way to switch around the stereotype of the rapacious dragon and create “sympathy for the devil,” if you will.

The question remains, how would some relatively puny humans manage to hunt and kill dragons? Or, as I quipped in my Avatar post, why wouldn’t the dragons just fly away?

So this will be my topic as we close out 2013 and start 2014. Any ideas and suggestions from you, my readers, will be gladly accepted. Especially if you can give examples (preferably author and title) where dragons are successfully battled to the death.

Also, since my next post won’t be until New Year’s Day, let me take this opportunity to thank everyone who’s followed my draconic flights of fancy. I so enjoy this community of writers and fantasy fans we’ve built on WordPress. Happy new year to all of you. May your muses be kind in 2014!

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Babymouse is another popular graphic novel series for young readers, similar to Ursula Vernon’s Dragonbreath series, which I mentioned earlier this fall. The creators here are a brother-sister team, Jennifer Holm and Matthew Holm, who have won multiple awards and sold zillions of copies all over the world.

Babymouse, the title character, is an excitable and dramatic young girl who copes with school and peer relationships through her vivid imagination. She reminds me a lot of Ramona the Pest, a first grader who stars in her own series of early readers. The cover copy says Babymouse in junior high, but she reads a around 5th grade to me. This is mostly because the books I’ve seen deal with issues of popularity but not dating. Also, she has only one teacher, and by junior high, kids go from class to class.

Dragonslayer is book #11 in the series. We find Babymouse day-dreaming in school, imagining herself confronting a terrifying dragon — only to have the dragon turn into her teacher, who is handing back a math test. Are we surprised that the grade is equally terrifying? After a few snickers from bullying classmates, Babymouse is presented an even more grueling quest. Her teacher assigns her to join the Mathletes team!

Babymouse dutifully goes to meetings and even makes a few new friends. She goes through fantasy sequences quoting Lord of the Rings, Naria, and more. Does her math improve? Well…

This was actually an issue for me. Babymouse doesn’t solve her problems by learning the math. And why would any teacher assign a failing student to the Mathletes? I’d think some other form of tutoring would be preferable. The other issue is that we only see the titular dragon for a few pages and it isn’t a real character in the story. But that’s just me.

I’ve enjoyed the Babymouse books I read, although they are definitely graphic novels on the lighter side. Don’t look for deep exploration of meaty issues here. Just relax and enjoy this silly and sweet graphic series.

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