November 2015 Archives

Circus Mirandus

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

circusmirandus.pngCircus Mirandus (Dial Books, 2015) by Cassie Beasley is a wonderful story of a grandson's love for his grandfather and their stories, separately and together, in search for magic. It's also a story of friendship.

Micah Tuttle's Grandpa Ephraim, who has raised him, is dying. Great-Aunt Gertrudis is keeping Micah away from her brother. She talks about the "silliness" that Micah doesn't need "stuffed between his ears," which references Circus Mirandus. It's just stories. But Grandpa has told Micah the stories are all true and that the Lightbender owes him a miracle. Micah is sure the miracle will save his grandfather's life.

This amazing story is the author's first book. Read more here.

The book has also been published in England. About that version, Cassie Beasley says she's been "Anglicized."


Dragon Slippers

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

dragon-slippers.jpgI love finding new-to-me authors who have multiple book series. Recently I recommended another of Jessica Day George books--this time it is Dragon Slippers (Bloomsbury, 2007). I love the humor in this story, which you'll see right away in the opening paragraph:

"It was my aunt who decided to give me to the dragon. Not that she was evil, or didn't care for me. It's just that we were very poor, and she was, as we said in those parts, dumber than two turnips in a rain barrel."

Meet Creelisel Carlbrun whom even a dragon doesn't want, even if she is a virgin. Read how with embroidery thread Creel seeks her fortune in the king's city. There are plenty of surprises along the way and a satisfying ending.

My husband enjoyed the book, too.

dragon-flight.jpgRemember I said series? The author didn't intend to write a sequel to this book, but . . . Read here to see why she did. Dragon Flight is the next book. And Dragon Spear is the final book in the trilogy.dragon-spear.jpg


Resizing Photos for Use on Websites

kitten headshot.jpgI find fellow writers (and illustrators) who struggle with getting their book cover images and pictures of themselves in the correct format to upload on websites. In fact, they might have as much of a startled look as this little guy does.

Here's a how to...

GENERAL GUIDELINES

or WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW FIRST

  • Determine what formats are acceptable. Most common ones are: jpg (jpeg), png or gif. (This is the ending after your file name.) Most pictures out of a camera will be .jpg. When scanning an image, you can usually choose your format.
  • Check to see the required size for the document or website. Often this will be listed in k or mg (thousand or million). It may be listed in pixels. For example on the SCBWI.org website for book covers or profile pictures, it says: "(must be less than 4MB and a jpg, png, or gif)."
  • Save your picture with a new name (or duplicate and rename) and work on the copy, so you don't lose the original high quality image. VERY IMPORTANT!
  • Crop your picture if necessary before resizing. For a cover image, crop to cover only. For an image of you, it depends what the image is for. Many times you'll want a head and shoulders shot, versus the whole body.
  • After you resize save your picture under the new name again.

FOR MAC USERS

Cropping on a Mac

  • Using FINDER open your duplicate picture in PREVIEW by double-clicking on the copy of the image you want to change.
  • Choose EDIT on the menu bar.
  • Click on SELECT ALL. (dotted lines will show around the image)
  • Sometimes my computer lets me use the mouse pointer as a double-headed arrow to drag the image from corners or sides. Other times, I have to follow the next two steps below. (I'm sorry I don't why it is different at different times!)
  • Choose TOOLS on the menu bar.
  • Click on CROP and use your mouse to click and drag a frame around the portion of your picture that you want to keep. (The icon for your mouse pointer will be a plus.) You can move the frame in or out by the dots on the sides or corners.
  • When satisfied, go back to TOOLS and click on CROP. Your picture will be "cut down" to the image you want.
  • Happy with your cropping? Go to FILE on the menu bar and click on SAVE. If not, go to FILE and click on REVERT TO and choose the older "new original" file.

Resizing on a Mac

  • Using FINDER open your duplicate picture in PREVIEW by double-clicking on the copy of the image you want to resize.
  • Choose TOOLS on the menu bar.
  • In the popup window click on ADJUST SIZE.
  • You'll see a FIT INTO ___ PIXELS drop down arrow at the top of the new window. Click on the arrow. Choose 640 x 480 or 320 by 240.
  • Near the bottom of the window a message will flash saying "Calculating Size." It will tell you how big the picture was and how big it is now. If too small, choose a larger dimension of pixels.
  • Happy with your image size? Click OK to save.

FOR PC USERS

Cropping on a PC - using Microsoft Office Picture Manager
(If you have Microsoft Office products, you probably have Microsoft Office Picture Manager.)

  • Open your duplicate of your picture in Microsoft Office Picture Manager either by opening the program and locating the copy of the image OR using FILE EXPLORER (windows explorer on older PCs to navigate to the copy of the image and right click so you can choose EDIT which will probably open your file with MS Office Picture Manager.
  • On the TOOLBAR at that top click on EDIT PICTURE.
  • In the popup window on the right, choose CROP.
  • Drag black line icons from corners or from each size to crop image. You can move these in or out.
  • Click OK.
  • Happy with your cropping? Go to FILE on the menu bar and click on SAVE. If not, click on UNDO and start over.
  • Resizing on a PC - using Microsoft Office Picture Manager
    (If you have Microsoft Office products, you probably have Microsoft Office Picture Manager.)

    • Open your duplicate of your picture in Microsoft Office Picture Manager either by opening the program and locating the copy of the image OR using FILE EXPLORER (windows explorer on older PCs to navigate to the copy of the image and right click so you can choose EDIT which will probably open your file with MS Office Picture Manager.
    • On the TOOLBAR at that top click on EDIT PICTURE.
    • In the popup window on the right, choose RESIZE.
    • In the new popup window you can choose, PREDEFINED WIDTH X HEIGHT (or Custom width x height or percentage of original width x height)
    • Using the dropdown arrow choose WEB - LARGE or WEB - SMALL, E-MAIL (large or small). After you select one, look at the difference between the old size and the new size. It will show you in pixels!
    • Click OK.
    • Happy with the size? Go to FILE on the menu bar and click on SAVE. If not, click on UNDO and start over.

    ANOTHER PC PROGRAM

    Windows 10 will open a program when you click on a photo that also allows cropping, but I don't see resizing. You can get to it by going to Windows icon in the left bottom corner, then clicking on PHOTOS.


    AN EASY ONLINE PROGRAM

    • As before, make a copy of your original picture first!
    • Go to website. http://picresize.com/
    • Select picture by clicking on browse to find the picture on your computer.
    • Click continue.
    • In the new window you can Crop if needed.
    • After you've cropped, rotated, etc., you may make your picture smaller in Resize Your Picture by clicking on the drop down arrows.
    • I wouldn't recommend Special Effects.
    • Click on I'm Done, Resize My Picture!
    • Now you can View Image or Resume Editing your picture.
    • When happy with it click Save to Disk - you will not get a chance to rename your file, which is why it is so important to have a copy of your original file first.

    There are also YouTube videos on how to do this.

    LAST NOTE
    The absolute easiest way to get a good picture of your book cover, is to go to the publisher's site, or Amazon or Barnes & Noble, and copy the picture from the site. Right click on the picture (PC) or Control click (Mac) and choose Save As. Put the picture where you'll know to find it.

    cropped photo courtesy of morguefile.com


Being a teenager usually sucks

Being a teenager usually sucks. It's hard and confusing and few adults have the guts to talk about it honestly. That's my job.
Laurie Halse Anderson

I like stories that feel

I like stories that feel right in the ear--stories that are meant to be whispered in the dark
Kelly Barnhill

sewingstories.jpgSewing Stories: Harriet Powers' Journey from Slave to Artist (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2015) by Barbara Herkert is a delightful picture book biography. The warm illustrations are done by Vanessa Brantley-Newton. Read the illustrator's comments about the book here.

The story takes Harriet from slave child watching the adults quilt to becoming a free woman, quilter and artist. When I read it, I almost cried when Harriet has to sell her story quilt. Besides the lyrical text of the story, there are patchwork boxes with extra information on each spread.

The back matter is very interesting in this book, too. It includes explanations about her quilts, tells more of her story, and even shows a picture of Harriet.

If you are a quilter or love quilts, this is a "must have" book. But it's also a good story for kids to understand that even when life is hard, there can be joy and beauty.

Barbara Herkert had another artist biography come out last month as well: Mary Cassatt: Extraordinary Impressionist Painter with illustrations by Gabi Swiatkowska. Other books are in the works; read more on the author's site.


Mr. Pusskins: a Love Story

Mr. Pusskins.jpgMr. Pusskins: a Love Story (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2006) by Sam Lloyd obviously isn't a brand-new picture book, but I only discovered it this year* and I love it! I love the humor, the illustrations, and the satisfying ending. No wonder it was a New York Times Best Seller!

Mr. Pusskins' owner Emily loves him. But he thinks his life is boring and runs away. Of course, running away creates new problems. Will he and Emily get back together?

If you haven't read this book, you should. :-) There are two sequels: Mr. Pusskins and Little Whiskers and Mr. Pusskins Best in Show and board books: Mr. Pusskins Feelings and Mr. Pusskins Opposites.

Author/illustrator Sam Lloyd is a prolific writer and illustrator. Check out her many books here.

*Thank you, Stephanie Shaw, for introducing the book to me.

I cant tell you how

I can't tell you how to succeed. But I can tell you how not to: Give in to the shame of being rejected.
Kathryn Stockett

Prisoner 88

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

Prisoner88.jpgPrisoner 88 (Charlesbridge, 2013) by Leah Pileggi is an amazing story of a boy put in prison for murder. This historical novel was inspired by an actual ten-year-old prisoner who was held in the Idaho Territorial Penitentiary.

Ten-year-old Jake Oliver Evans figures he can pretty much take care of himself. He's not happy about being named Prisoner 88, as if he's just a number. But when he finds out he'll get to eat a big meal every single day, he can hardly believe it. He wonders if he's in heaven, not prison. Of course, a punishment of bread and water soon make that clear. And so does having to learn to read and write.

Leah Pileggi has taken what could be an unsympathetic character and made me care about him. At first, all I knew was that Jake had shot someone, but as I read on what happened is revealed bit by bit until . . . But I don't want to spoil the story for anyone else.

This book had won a number of awards--read about them on the author's site.

Tuesdays at the Castle

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

tuesdays-at-the-castle.jpgTuesdays at the Castle (Bloomsbury, 2011) by Jessica Day George is the first book in a series about a castle that changes on it's own. Unwelcome visitors end up in bare rooms that move far away from the throne room and welcome visitors in luxurious rooms that move into desirable locations. Rooms change size, too. And when the King and Queen disappear, the castle helps the Prince and Princesses defend themselves against those who want to take over.

The opening lines (and the cover) show the sense of fun in this book: "Whenever Castle Glower became bored, it would grow a new room or two." Here's what the author has to say about how she came to write the book: http://www.jessicadaygeorge.com/#/tuesdays-at-the-castle/. It has been published in the UK and in French in Canada.

The sequel, Wednesdays in the Tower, came out in 2013. It also has been published in the UK, in French Canada and in Spain.

In 2014, Thursdays with the Crown came out and finished up where book two left off.

Coming in February 2016 is book four: Fridays with the Wizards! (Cover reveal here.) I need to catch up my reading before then.

All four books were illustrated by David Hohn. See more of his work here.

But, wait! Jessica has more books! See them all on her site.