Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Austin Dinosaurs: Sarahsaurus, the Dino Pit, and the Hartmann Prehistoric Garden

Last October, I ran a post about the Texas Memorial Museum, UT's natural history museum. But that's not the only place in town for dinosaur-related activity:

The Hartmann Prehistoric Garden (Austin, TX) is an entire garden in Zilker Park devoted to Mesozoic plants that have survived to the present. You can get up close to cycads, gingkos, magnolias, cypresses, dawn redwoods, and more ferns than you can shake a stick at.

The Garden was inspired by the discovery of ornithomimid footprints on the site in the early 90s, so they decided to run with it (pun intended). It's a pretty spectacular experience, beautiful and oddly strange, when you think about the fact that these plants have been around for hundreds of millions of years. Also, the pond you see above has gar and other fish that trace their ancestry back to the Mesozoic, as well.

And it sits in the shadow of Mopac Expressway. Although you can't see the cars, you can hear them, which makes for an interesting juxtaposition.

Right next door is the Austin Nature and Science Center, which has its own Dino-Pit, an outdoor paleontology exhibit where kids can "dig" for their own fossils. They'll "find" casts of fossils from the Pleistocene, the Cretaceous, and the Permian.

Oh, and what's a Sarahsaurus? It's this guy:

It's a sauropodomorph found by University of Texas paleontologist Tim Rowe in Arizona. It's from 190 million years ago (early Jurassic), when dinosaurs were just getting started...And it's named after Sarah Butler, the Austin philanthropist who was instrumental in raising funds for the Dino Pit.

Here's a nice article in the Statesman. And here's a link to a PDF of the official paper, from the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Photos were taken by me; Sarahsaurus graphic is from the Statesman.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Holler Loudly! It's an Alien Invasion! And that's the Truth with a Capital T!

Save the date! At 2 PM, Sunday, November 14, 2010, at Book People, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Bethany Hegedus, and Brian Yansky are having a Texas-sized launch party for their Fall 2010 releases, HOLLER LOUDLY, TRUTH WITH A CAPITAL T, and ALIEN INVASION AND OTHER INCONVENIENCES:

Flap Copy: Holler Loudly has a voice as big as the Southwestern sky, and everywhere he goes people tell him to "Hush!" From math class to the movies and even the state fair, Holler's LOUD voice just keeps getting on people's nerves. But Holler can't help himself—being loud is who he is!

Will Holler ever find a way to let loose his voice—without getting into trouble?

"With prose as loud as its protagonist...this effervescent collaboration...has sass aplenty." -Publisher's Weekly.

"A rambunctious, can't-lose read-aloud no one will want to hush." -Kirkus Reviews

Flap Copy: With grace and humor and a heaping helping of little-known facts, Bethany Hegedus incorporates the passions of the North and the South and bridges the past and the present in this story about one summer in the life of a sassy Southern girl and her trumpet-playing adopted Northern cousin.

"[A] nicely drawn cast of characters with depth and dimension." -Kirkus Reviews

Flap Copy: Brian Yansky takes readers on a journey filled with humor and courage, where one teenage boy has to figure out what exactly it means to be human.

"Alien Invasion is nothing if not action-packed, and yet it is provocative, profound, and wickedly funny as well." -The Horn Book

Monday, October 18, 2010

Texas Book Festival 2010 Recap [Updated]

Capitol of Texas, undergoing renovation.

Well, the 15th Texas Book Festival is in the bag and, once again, a tremendous celebration of authors and literature from around the nation, and fund-raising for Texas libraries.

Friday night, Cyn and I picked up Heather Brewer and Andrea Cremer from their hotel and took them to the children and YA author reception at Clay Smith's. It was a festive occasion, with catering from Maudie's and a frozen margarita machine on the patio. We ran into Austinites Don Tate, Varian Johnson, Brian Yansky, April Lurie, Emma Virjan, Jennifer Ziegler, Chris Barton, K.A. Holt, Margo Rabb, Liz Garton Scanlon, Jo Whittemore, and P.J. Hoover. We also chatted with Ingrid Law, Laurie Halse Anderson, Cinda Chima, Matt de la Pena, and others.

Saturday morning, we attended the panel "Century Before Last: Three Novelists Channel the 1800s," with Deborah Noyes, Robin Oliveira, and Ann Weisgarber. We learned about how the three research the past and dive into their respective eras.

We also hit Ann Angel's session on Janis Jolin: Rise Up Singing, introduced by P.J. Hoover. The session was entertaining and provided new insights about the Austin icon.

Finally, that afternoon, we attended the panel, "True Grit: Kids with Chutzpah," with Carolyn Cohagan, Lisa Railsback, and Sara Pennypacker, and moderated by Bethany Hegedus. The discussion focused on giving characters attitude and courage, and was lively and informative.

Carolyn, Ingrid, Me, Brian, and Cinda.

The panel I moderated, "Portals to Imagined Worlds," with Brian Yansky (Alien Invasion and Other Inconveniences); Ingrid Law (Scumble); Carolyn Cohagan (The Lost Children); and Cinda Williams Chima (The Exiled Queen: A Seven Realms Novel), got Sunday off to a terrific start. The discussion was fun and funny and substantive; and the room was packed. Among other things, it was established that none of the panelists outline, although they do try to get character and voice first.

Later that afternoon, Cyn performed HOLLER LOUDLY in the Read Me a Story tent while I introduced M.T. Anderson. He talked about the perils of writing about the mysterious interior of Delaware and how he, himself, is not much of a traveler.

M.T. Anderson and Liz Garton Scanlon.

After signing, we wandered down Congress Avenue where we ran into Jennifer Ziegler, Matt de la Pena, April Lurie, Varian Johnson, and Amy Rose Capetta and had a drink at the Stephen F. Austin. And then we crashed.

Many thanks to everyone who's worked to make the book festival a success all these years!


For more recaps: Cynthia Leitich Smith; Jennifer Ziegler; Don Tate.

Also, check out the article in the Dallas Morning News!

Monday, October 11, 2010


SOAR, ELINOR!, by Tami Lewis Brown, ill. by Francois Roca (FSG 2010). Debut author and licensed pilot Tami Lewis Brown tells the story of Elinor Smith, who rode her first plane at the age six, in 1918, and fell in love with flying. A decade later, Elinor was the youngest licensed pilot in the country, and up for a challenge: to fly a plane underneath all four of New York's East River bridges. Could she navigate the treacherous wind currents and the shipping and do what no one had ever done before?

A fine story of inspiration and hope and accomplishing one's dreams, Brown's elegant prose and Roca's beautiful two-page spreads capture the thrill of flight and make this book soar.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010


I've been busy these past couple weeks preparing for Texas Book Festival - reading the books the authors will be presenting and preparing questions for the panelists - so I haven't had much time for blogging.

But, I did want to mention that ARCs (advanced reading copies) of BLESSED are now out in the real world! Christina at INSERT BOOK TITLE HERE is doing a giveaway and has posted a very nice review. P.J. Hoover is likewise having a giveaway, so go check out her blog, too.

Finally, the first review of the season for HOLLER LOUDLY is out! Kirkus Reviews says "[t]his original Southwestern tall tale has an easy rhythm, and repeated phrases and playful type make reading aloud a pleasure ... A rambunctious, can't-lose read-aloud no one will want to hush."

Oh, and you see dinosaurs in the darndest places: the LEGO tyrannosaur in the picture is on display at Downtown Disney in Orlando.
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