Tuesday, July 31, 2012


CREATURE COUNT: A PREHISTORIC RHYME, by Brenda Huante, ill. by Vincent Nguyen (FSG/Macmillan 2012)(ages 3+).  In a prehistoric take on "Over in the Meadow," Huante and Nguyen deliver Pleistocene mammals and an array of creatures -- dinosaurs and pterosaurs -- from the Mesozoic.  A fun take -- with exuberant illustrations -- on a classic rhyme.  An author's note provides additional context.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Play's the Thing...

This weekend, Cyn and I indulged in some theater with some members of the writing community at two of our favorite central Texas venues: the Kleberg Stage at the Zach Scott Theatre and the Barn at Winedale

Photo by Kirk Tuck, courtesy Zach Scott Theatre
First up -- with Salima Alikhan, her husband Sam; Nikki Loftin and her husband Dave -- was XANADU, an absolutely hilarious spoof on the Olivia Newton John film.  I haven't laughed that much in a long time.  The acting, singing, costumes and sets were absolutely spot-on.  A terrifically fun jaunt back to 1980 and the era of roller disco.  Check out the official photo gallery here.

Next up was A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, one of the three plays being presented this season by the students at Shakespeare at Winedale. (It's been a while since Cyn and I have been out there -- it used to conflict with Cyn's VCFA residencies; this time, we went with a gang from the Austin children's writing community).

The performances were, as always, outstanding, especially since the performers are non-theatre majors.  (If you've never heard of the program, in a nutshell, every summer, fifteen non-theatre UT students go and live at Winedale and learn three Shakespeare plays, and then perform them in July and August.  The program's been going on for 42 years and still going strong). MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM has never been one of my favorite Shakespeare plays, but the troupe was engaging and funny and brought a nice verve to the play.  Afterward, there was a chance to have lemonade and chat with the performers.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012


ROBOT ZOMBIE FRANKENSTEIN! by Annette Simon (Candlewick 2012)(ages 4+).  Robot meets Robot, which leads to a hilarious game of one-upmanship.  Zombie!  Frankenstein! Pirate! Until one of them introduces the quintessence of the confectionary arts...

ROBOT ZOMBIE FRANKENSTEIN! is a fun, brightly drawn take on a universal experience, proving once and for all that everything's better with pie.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Saving Apollo 11

It's the 43rd anniversary of Apollo 11!  

I did a guest post for the IRA blog (International Reading Association) a few months back called "The Timeless Draw of Dinosaurs and Space" with some ruminations about CHRONAL ENGINE and LITTLE GREEN MEN AT THE MERCURY INN.  One thing I talked about was the fact that children (and young readers) can make scientific contributions and queries in these fields on their own, for example discovering fossils and asteroids.

Along these lines, a few days ago, I came across this great story on the CNN web site about "The 10-year-old who helped Apollo."  It's about Greg Force, a 10 year old boy whose father worked at the tracking station in Guam at the time.  It seems that, at the last minute, as the capsule was returning to earth, a bearing in the station's antenna failed.  Because it would've taken too long to replace the bearing, Greg was enlisted to lubricate it, which only he could do -- the access opening was only two inches wide...Anyway, check out the whole story at the link.

And for a gorgeous picture book account of the moonshot, check out Brian Floca's book: 


Friday, July 13, 2012

Happy Friday the 13th!

Dates are interesting things.  This year, of course, marked the 100th anniversary of the sinking of Titanic and the 60th anniversary of the accession of Elizabeth II to the Crown.  Here are a few more...

150 years ago, USS Monitor fought CSS Merrimac at the Battle of Hampton Roads.

100 years ago, Arthur Conan Doyle published THE LOST WORLD.

100 years ago, Piltdown man was presented to the Royal Society.

75 years ago, the Hindenburg crashed in New Jersey.

70 years ago, the U.S. defeated the Japanese navy at the Battle of Midway.

60 years ago, Ray Bradbury published "A Sound of Thunder."

50 years ago, John Glenn became the first American to reach orbit

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Writers and Illustrators and Prehistoric Beasts: Lisa Wheeler

Lisa Wheeler is the award-winning author of more than twenty-five books, including DINO-BASEBALL, DINO-SOCCER, DINO-HOCKEY, and DINO-BASKETBALL, all illustrated by Barry Gott (who also illustrated Cyn's HOLLER LOUDLY); and MAMMOTHS ON THE MOVE, illustrated by Kurt Cyrus.  Originally from Pennsylvania, she now lives in Michigan.

Below, Lisa poses with a mammoth femur cast at the Mammoth Site, Hot Springs, South Dakota.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Writers and Illustrators and Dinosaurs: Gayleen Rabakukk

Gayleen Rabakukk is a freelance writer living in Edmond, Oklahoma.  She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Central Oklahoma and an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts

She has a nice review of CHRONAL ENGINE at her blog.

Below, she poses with a replica Apatosaurus femur that marks a former fossil quarry in the Oklahoma panhandle – the setting for her latest manuscript.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Independence Day, Summer Movies, and Fireworks!

Happy Independence Day, everyone!  If you haven't read the Declaration of Independence lately, go check it out at the National Archive web site here.

Good news: after a hiatus last year because of the drought, this year, fireworks in Austin are back on!  And if you're in Round Rock, go check out Frontier Days and the Sam Bass Shootout, where Tim Crow provides the narration.

In addition to Fourth of July celebrations and picnics, when I was growing up, summer meant movies!  And this year, Cyn and I have seen a lot more movies than usual.  I'm not sure whether it's because they've gotten better or whether there are just more that we've been inclined to see (It could also be that movie theatres have gotten better).  At the very least, this summer seems more blockbuster-y than usual.  Here's the current run-down:

The Hunger Games
The Avengers
Snow White and the Huntsman
Dark Shadows 
Men in Black III
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
The Amazing Spider-man

 Of these, my definite favorites were The Hunger Games, The Avengers, and The Amazing Spider-Man. 

The Hunger Games was, in general, a successful translation of the book to the screen.  Cyn and I saw it twice and it was interesting to see audience reactions:  The first time, a pair of adults came in with a group of kids.  At certain of the more, err, brutal parts, we heard the adults gasp aloud (the kids -- who I assume had read the book -- seemed fine with it).    

The Avengers is terrific fun overall and it's great seeing the ensemble together.  Whedon also does his trademark good job of bringing out character with individual tags.  And it's got a flying aircraft carrier.

I went into The Amazing Spider-Man wondering if we actually needed to see a re-boot so soon.  If anything, though, I enjoyed it more than the first movie franchise.  The characters were likeable and felt more real somehow.   

Overall, Marvel has done a great job with translating its comic books into movies.

Up next: The Dark Knight Rises!

Monday, July 02, 2012

Bastrop Public Library event report

Last weekend, Cyn and I went to Bastrop to speak at the public library (Bastrop is where the contemporary scenes in CHRONAL ENGINE are set).  We had a great time talking about CHRONAL ENGINE and the TANTALIZE series, and went out afterward with a group of the librarians.


We also checked out the state park, which was severely affected by the fire last September.

Finally, if you're in Bastrop later this month, the library is holding a tween event featuring CHRONAL ENGINE!
Thanks, guys, for your support and hospitality!

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Hogle Zoo

In addition enjoying natural history museums, I've always loved zoos -- I grew up going to the Lincoln Park Zoo a lot when I was a kid and Cyn and I try to check out the zoos in most of the places we go to.  (They were also helpful in getting a feel for live animals -- both large and small -- when I was writing CHRONAL ENGINE).   

So, when we were in Salt Lake City for WIFYR last week, in addition to the Natural History Museum of Utah and the Museum of Ancient Life, Cyn and I checked out the Hogle Zoo.   

It hosts a very nice collection of animals in a clean, modern facility.  Here are some pics:
African elephant.
Big kitties like to sleep in the shade
So do little ones.
Avian dinosaur of the spoonbill variety
Armadillos.  Not were-armadillos.
More avian dinosaurs.
Ostriches.  They're bigger than you think.

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