Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Hammacher-Schlemmer 20 foot animatronic Triceratops

Animatronic dinosaurs in museums and other places of public display go way back.  I understand that the 1933-1934 Century of Progress exhibition in Chicago even had them.

Today, thanks to Hammacher-Schlemmer, you can have an animatronic Triceratops of your very own.  Per the catalog copy, this "20' long animatronic triceratops...responds to onlookers with lifelike reactions and fortissimo bellowing."

I'm very glad the bellowing is "fortissimo."

It's all your for a mere $350,000.  Shipping not included.

Click here to order, or just see the full description.

H/T to Erin Murphy, who sent me the link back in August.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


DANGEROUS WATERS: AN ADVENTURE ON THE TITANIC, by Gregory Mone (Roaring Brook, March 13, 2012)(ages 9-12).  Thirteen-year-old Patrick Waters has managed to secure a job as a steward aboard RMS Titanic in a highly unconventional manner.  There he befriends a young book collector who carries with him a copy of Francis Bacon's Essaies that just might hold the key to alchemy.

Also aboard are a stowaway and his partner, who are trying to secure the volume and the formula for turning base metals to gold for themselves.  Can Patrick uncover the plot and divine the secret of the Essaies?  Or is he destined to go down with the ship?

In DANGEROUS WATERS, treachery and adventure abound as readers are offered a glimpse into a bygone era.  In short, DANGEROUS WATERS provides a fascinating look at the most famous shipwreck of the 20th Century, with an appealing protagonist, a richly-drawn setting and, yes, an iceberg.  

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Cretaceous Christmas Feast

1/10 scale T.rex skull on antique clock
Merry Christmas, everyone, and best wishes for the New Year! This year, Cyn gave me the above-pictured T.rex skull, so displaying it on her great-grandma's antique clock seemed appropriate :-). 

I thought I would make it a "Cretaceous Christmas" this year, using foodstuffs that were around during the time of CHRONAL ENGINE (Yes, Cynthia and our guests for the evening are very indulgent and forgiving).

So, here's what I'm planning:


Lox and bagels with cream cheese, red onions, tomatoes, and capers.  Obviously, there is no such thing as Cretaceous cream cheese (no cows), and probably no recognizable red onions, tomatoes or capers, either, but their ancestors may have been present.  Salmon likewise wasn't around, but salmon are teleosts, which have been found in the Mesozoic.


Chicken and lobster in a pot. (Lobster fossils have been found in the Cretaceous, and chickens are birds and therefore dinosaurs).

Crab and heart of palm salad with tomatoes, onions, and pine nuts (Crabs, like lobsters, go way back. Hearts of palm can come from palmettos and other palms, which apparently were around in the Late Cretaceous. Pine nuts are from pines which, like other conifers, formed a significant part of the Mesozoic ecosystem).

Roasted corn soup. (Corn probably wasn't around in the Cretaceous, but it is a grass and some grasses have been found in the Cretaceous, although there probably weren't large meadows or grass steppes :-)).

Green bean casserole with alligator jerky garnish.  (Okay, I have no idea about when green beans evolved, but one of the key ingredients in green bean casserole is cream of mushroom soup.  And mushrooms were extant during the Cretaceous.  So were alligators.).

Cheese, apples, and grapes.  Again, no cheese and probably no apples or grapes. 

Currie & Padian (ed.), Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs, Academic Press (1997), p. 426 (pines).

James O. Farlow et al., The Complete Dinosaur, Indiana University Press (1997), p. 610-11 (teleosts).

Fraiije, The Oldest In Situ Hermit Crab from the Lower Cretaceous of Speeton, UK, Paleo. 46 (1): 53-57 (2003)(crabs and lobsters).

Hibbett et al., Fossil Mushrooms from Miocene and Cretaceous Ambers and the Evolution of Homobasidiomycetes, Jour. Botany 84(78): 981-989 (1997)(mushrooms).

T.S. Kemp, The Origin and Evolution of Mammals, Oxford University Press (2005), p. 156 (tubers).

Prasad et al., Dinosaur Coprolites and the Early Evolution of Grasses and Grazers, Science, Vol. 310 (November 2005), p. 1177 (grasses).

Schwimmer, King of the Crocodylians: The Paleobiology of Deinosuchus, Indiana University Press (2002)(alligators).

Vega et al., Fossil Crabs (Crustacea: Decapoda) from the Late Cretaceous Cardena Formation, East-Central Mexico, J. Paleont. 69-2 (1995), pp. 340-350 (crabs).

David B. Weishampel et al., The Dinosauria, University of California Press (2d Ed. 2004), p. 220 (birds are dinosaurs).

Wing et al., Implications of an Exceptional Fossil Flora for Late Cretaceous Vegetation, Nature 363: 342-344 (1993)(palmetto or cabbage palm).

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Cretaceous Christmas!

It won't come as a surprise to anyone that our Christmas tree has felt the impact of CHRONAL ENGINE research, although dinosaur ornaments are not the most common.  (The tree itself, being a conifer, is representative of types that were extant during the Mesozoic).

  Above is a Sue ornament from the Field Museum.

Above, a large, nefarious-looking T.rex looms over the Millenium Falcon.

 A theropod of indeterminate species with the infamous "bunny hands."

And, finally, just to show that not all of the fauna was dinosaurs, a turtle:

Merry Christmas, everyone!


Thursday, December 22, 2011

CHRONAL ENGINE and other news!

Two things about CHRONAL ENGINE:  First, I am delighted to announce that CHRONAL ENGINE is going to be a Junior Library Guild selection for March-September 2012!

Second, if you're going to be in Austin on March 24, 2012, stop by the official CHRONAL ENGINE launch party and signing at 2 PM at BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar.  

And a bit of Austin news:  On December 21, NPR did a story titled "Great Books to Give your Little Ones", highlighting books by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve (THE CHRISTMAS COAT), and Austinites Cynthia Leitich Smith (TANTALIZE series), Don Tate (DUKE ELLINGTON'S NUTCRACKER SUITE), and Jennifer Ziegler (SASS & SERENDIPITY)! 

Go check it out here!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Hill Country Christmas at LBJ State Park

This year, Cynthia was invited to sign HOLLER LOUDLY at the Annual Lighting of the Christmas Tree at LBJ Ranch State park in Stonewall, Texas.  Since we were so close to Fredericksburg, we thought we'd take in the Christmas Gemutlichkeit (Being, among other things, the birthplace and hometown of Admiral Nimitz, Fredericksburg is home to the National Museum of the Pacific War): 
Nimitz Hotel and museum entrance
  After a nice German-Texan lunch, we headed up to the LBJ Ranch.  There, we saw deer and livestock:
We also took the tour of the Texas White House, which had its own airfield:
At the signing, they seated us next to the ladies selling the Keep Texas Beautiful ornaments. The lighting itself was attended by Santa Claus and Lucy Baines Johnson:
 Other activities that evening included tours of the Sauer-Backman Farmstead, decked out in early 20th century Christmas cheer; demonstrations of spinning and other crafts; a live Nativity scene; ornament making; and Christmas music by a German brass band and choir.

Frohliche Weihnachten, y'all!


Friday, December 16, 2011

Writers and Illustrators and Dinosaurs: Elizabeth Law

All right, this one features neither a writer nor a dinosaur, but a children's literature professional and a prehistoric mammal.  But the photo (below) was too good to pass up.

So, henceforth, I am expanding the feature to include all children's literature professionals, including teachers, librarians, editors, agents, book designers, etc., as well as authors and illustrators.  But I'm still going to call it "Writers and Illustrators and Dinosaurs," because "Children's Literature Professionals and Prehistoric Beasts" is too unwieldy.  Be warned :-).

So if you're in the business, drop me a pic at greg AT gregleitichsmith DOT com.

And, now, the featured guest:

Elizabeth Law began her career in children's publishing as an assistant at Viking Children's Books, leaving eighteen years later as associate publisher of both Viking and Frederick Warne imprints.

After nearly four years as vice president and associate publisher of Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Elizabeth joined Egmont USA four years ago as its publisher.

Above, Elizabeth Law poses with Broadway star Anthony Rapp in front of a proboscidean at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

HAUNTED LOVE free e-book!

"Haunted Love," a short story by Cynthia Leitich Smith is now available for free download from Barnes & Noble (U.S.), Books on Board, (U.S.) and (U.K.). It will be available from additional e-retailers soon.

From the promotional copy:

Spirit, Texas, is a town of secrets, and as the new owner of the local haunted movie theater, Cody Stryker is juggling more than his fair share. 

When a mysterious new girl comes to town and runs afoul of the ghost that lives in his theater, Cody’s caught in the middle and needs to figure out exactly who he can trust.

"Haunted Love" is a short story by New York Times Bestseller Cynthia Leitich Smith -- featuring new characters and set in the same Gothic universe as her novels Tantalize, Eternal, Blessed, and Tantalize: Kieren's Story, illustrated by Ming Doyle.

This story includes a sneak preview of Cynthia Leitich Smith’s upcoming novel, Diabolical (Jan. 2012), which unites heroes from the previous three novels in the Tantalize Series along with a fascinating cast of all-new characters for a suspenseful, action-packed clash between the forces of heaven and hell.

Monday, December 12, 2011


DIABOLICAL by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick, 2012):

When “slipped” angel Zachary and his werewolf pal, Kieren, are summoned under suspicious circumstances to a mysterious New England boarding school, they quickly find themselves in a hellish lockdown with an intriguing assortment of secretive, hand-picked “students.”

Plagued by demon dogs, hallucinatory wall decor, a sadistic instructor, and a legendary fire-breathing monster, will they somehow manage to escape? Or will the devil have his due?

Best-selling author Cynthia Leitich Smith unites heroes from the previous three novels in the TANTALIZE series — including Zachary's girl, Miranda, and Kieren's love, Quincie — along with a fascinating cast of all-new characters for a suspenseful, action-packed clash between the forces of heaven and hell.

On sale Jan. 2012 | 978-0-7636-5118-3 | Candlewick Press | Hardcover | YA Novel/Fiction | Interior Design Elements | 368 Pages | Ages 14-up

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Remember the Alamosaurus!

Alamosaurus is one of the latest sauropods to be found in North America, coexisting with Tyrannosaurus rex.  Previously it had been thought to be kind of a smallish sauropod, only 60-70 feet long.  Turns out, it's probable the specimens that were used to make the size estimations were based on juvenile bones.  A recent papers reveals Alamosaurus was around the size of Argentinosaurus, one of the biggest dinosaurs ever.

Here's a link to the news release, and here's one to the actual paper.

Being a Texas, I kind of like the fact that it's called Alamosaurus, especially since specimens have been found in Big Bend (Consequently, several make an appearance in CHRONAL ENGINE).  Unfortunately, however, it's named after a site in New Mexico, not the mission in San Antonio.

Anyway, in other Texas dinosaur news, the Austin Children's Museum is hosting the exhibit "Dinosaurs: Land of Fire and Ice," for a limited engagement through January 16, 2012.  As part of it, they're sponsoring a "Dino Costume Contest" through January 10, 2012 (The activities and displays seem focused on ages 3-10).

Also, I seem to have just missed the 21st Annual Fossil Fest, sponsored by the Paleontological Society of Austin.  Wait til next year!

Finally, I was just at the web site for the Dinosaur Park in Bastrop, just west of the town and across from the Hyatt Lost Pines Resort.  We haven't been there for a while, but it seems they have added a bunch of dinosaurs, including a 45 foot tall Brachiosaurus

And, finally (really, this time), yesterday Carmen Oliver delivered more than 1000 books for the Friends of the Bastrop Library outreach.  She blogs about it here.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Writers and Illustrators and Dinosaurs: Kelly Milner Halls

Kelly Milner Halls grew up in Texas, went to high school in California, and now lives in the Pacific Northwest.

She is the author of numerous nonfiction books for young readers, including the RANDOM HOUSE DINOSAUR TRAVEL GUIDE, DINOSAUR PARADE, DINOSAUR MUMMIES, and TALES OF THE CRYPTIDS.  Above, she poses with Pentaceratops.   

She is the editor of, and has a short story in, the forthcoming GIRL MEETS BOY (Chronicle, January 2012), a young adult anthology that features story pairs by Chris Crutcher & Kelly Milner Halls; Joseph Bruchac & Cynthia Leitich Smith; James Howe & Ellen Wittlinger; Terry Trueman & Rita Williams-Garcia; Terry Davis & Rebecca Davis; and Randy Powell & Sara Ryan.

Monday, December 05, 2011

GREGLSBLOG Picks of 2011

This year Cynthia had two books out, BLESSED and TANTALIZE: KIEREN'S STORY, which are of course my favorites. My wife, however, insists that it is dorky for me to list them as such (as I have done in the past). So, this year, here is my list of favorites books that I have recommended over the course of 2011 that were not written by someone related to me.  My rules are the same as in previous years, although I suppose I should be explicit that these are stand-alone titles.

Picture Books

MINE! by Shutta Crum, ill. by Patrice Barton.  Nearly wordless, yet expressive.

NOODLE AND LOU, by Liz Garton Scanlon, ill. by Arthur Howard.  A sweet tale of friendship.

NAAMAH AND THE ARK AT NIGHT, by Susan Campbell Bartoletti, ill. by Holly Meade.  A lyrical lullaby, and who doesn't like the story of Noah's Ark?

THE THIRD GIFT, by Linda Sue Park, ill. by Bagram Ibatoulline.  A lovely Christmas story.

LITTLE OWL'S NIGHT, by Divya Srinivasan.  A great bedtime read.

Middle Grade/Tween

WORDS IN THE DUST, by Trent Reedy. The dramatic and heartwarming story of a young Afghan girl.

THE GRAND PLAN TO FIX EVERYTHING, by Uma Krishnaswami.  Hooray for Bollywood!

WILD LIFE, by Cynthia DeFelice.  A survival story, of sorts, featuring a boy and his dog.

Young Adult

BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY, by Ruta Sepetys. A fifteen year-old and her family survive Stalin's gulag.

STRAW HOUSE, WOOD HOUSE, BRICK HOUSE, BLOW, by Daniel Nayeri.  A collection of four quirky and compelling novellas. (Daniel's my editor, but I don't hold it against him :-)).

Saturday, December 03, 2011


THE DRAGON'S TOOTH (Ashtown Burials, Book 1), by N.D. Wilson (Random House 2011)(ages 10+).  Twelve year old Cyrus and his sister Antigone have been living with their older brother Dan in a decrepit motel in Wisconsin for the past two years, their father dead and their mother in a coma.

Then a strange old man shows up and gives Cyrus a mysterious artifact and set of keys, the place is burned to the ground, and Daniel goes missing.  To get him back, Cyrus and his sister are drawn into the machinations of the mysterious Order of Brendan, jailers of semi-immortal villains and caretakers of powerful mystical objects...

THE DRAGON'S TOOTH offers a well-constructed and gripping fantasy with high stakes and adventure.  Cyrus and Antigone are likeable and believable as siblings and as they come together to face a world in which legend has become reality.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Writers and Illustrators and Dinosaurs: Kathi Appelt

Kathi Appelt is the author of more than thirty picture books and the novels THE UNDERNEATH and KEEPER.  THE UNDERNEATH was a finalist for the 2008 National Book Award and a 2009 Newbery Honor Book.

Kathi was born in the front seat of her father's Ford and grew up in Houston.  She currently lives in College Station, TX, with her husband Ken and four cats.

Here, she poses with a Tyrannosaurus rex figurine at the hostess's station at Threadgill's in Austin, Texas.

Thursday, December 01, 2011


LITTLE OWL'S NIGHT, by Divya Srinivasan (Viking 2011)(ages 3-5).  Little Owl loves the night, visiting his nocturnal friends and feeling sorry for the ones who are up all day and never get to see the stars.  Even as he falls asleep at dawn, though, he wants to know what the day is like...

LITTLE OWL'S NIGHT is a quiet celebration of night, the break of day, and curiosity.  Illustrations are bold and expressive.  Altogether, an excellent choice for bedtime reading.   

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


BREAKING STALIN'S NOSE, written and illustrated by Eugene Yelchin (Henry Holt 2011)(ages 9-12).  Ten-year-old Sasha idolizes his father, whom Comrade Stalin himself awarded the Red Banner, for his work with State Security.  And tomorrow, when Sasha will finally be allowed to join the Young Pioneers, his father will tie his red scarf around his neck.

But that night, Sasha's father is arrested as an enemy of the people, which means Sasha is an enemy, too.  He will never be allowed to become a Young Pioneer and the safe world he thought he knew is gone forever.

BREAKING STALIN'S NOSE exquisitely portrays Sasha's awakening to the corruption and oppression in Stalinist Russia while retaining a convincing child-centric point-of-view.  Chilling, fascinating, and at times horrifying.

Sunday, November 27, 2011


STRAW HOUSE, WOOD HOUSE, BRICK HOUSE, BLOW, by Daniel Nayeri (Candlewick 2011)(ages 14+), offers a quirky, compelling, and often funny quartet of novellas, across a disparate range of genres and voices.

In Toy Farm, Sunny, a young straw man, must defend his home -- a toy farm where the toys grow from the ground -- against an interloper bent on disassembling them to determine how the Farmer gave them sentience.

In Our Lady of Villains, a girl must save the world from a corporation's impending release of nanotechnology that would turn the entire world into a "nano hotspot," where everywhere is wifi.  Only it all plugs into your brain.

Wish Police presents a world in which wishes manifest as reality and it is the job of the Imaginary Crimes Unit to prevent the worst from coming to fruition.  Saul, his partner Ari, and their new colleague Mack must stop a spoiled boy's wish on a star for the death of his family from coming true.

Finally, Doom with a View is a dryly funny tale told from the point of view of an oddly preppy Death about his interactions with and on behalf of a pair of star-crossed lovers.

I keep thinking of this book as "Stephen King's Different Seasons meets The Three Little Pigs." :-).  On the whole, it's a collection of page-turning, fascinating, finely wrought, and occasionally thought-provoking reads that will leave readers wanting more.

Go check out the videos for each of the stories.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

CHRONAL ENGINE research, Paradise, Zombies, and More

A post I did for the ALSC Blog on research for CHRONAL ENGINE, titled "It Started with a Picture Book," is now online!

A couple weeks ago, Publishing Perspectives had a nice article about the Austin YA scene, titled "Is Austin, Texas Paradise for YA Authors?"  Check it out here.

Author K.A. Holt (BRAINS FOR LUNCH and MIKE STELLAR) has a "how to dress up as a zombie" post here.

Author Bethany Hegedus (TRUTH WITH A CAPITAL T) has a post on meeting Gandhi's grandson, and author Liz Garton Scanlon (ALL THE WORLD) has a post about being the author of a Caldecott Honor Book.

Holiday Tree Lighting and Author Signing at LBJ State Park! Join Cynthia Leitich Smith for the tree lighting ceremony at LBJ State Park from 4:30 p.m. Dec. 18. Cynthia will be signing Holler Loudly, illustrated by Barry Gott (Dutton, 2010). Lucy Johnson will be speaking briefly at the event, and Santa may make an appearance, too. See more information.

Writers and Dinosaurs: Chris Eboch

Chris Eboch’s novels for ages nine and up include THE EYES OF THE PHARAOH, a mystery in ancient Egypt; THE WELL OF SACRIFICE, a Mayan adventure; and the Haunted series, which starts with THE GHOST ON THE STAIRS. She is also the author of ADVANCED PLOTTING, a guide for helping writers fine-tune their plots.

The picture above was taken while she was fossil hunting with friends in New Mexico.  Embedded in the rock is what is believed to be a fossilized dinosaur bone.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving Dinosaurs!

Turkey, from Wikipedia
Happy Day-After Thanksgiving, everyone!

This year, Cynthia and I hosted a bunch of writers and illustrators for Thanksgiving dinner.

What does that have to do with dinosaurs?  Well, birds are dinosaurs (check out this nifty page at the University of California Paleo Museum), which means that our main course (Meleagris gallopavo) is, as well.  In particular, it is a saurisichian, theropodan, tetanuran, maniraptoran dinosaur.  Check out this graphic for even more Thanksgiving turkey paleo-geekiness.

Chris Barton (THE DAY GLO BROTHERS, SHARK VS. TRAIN, and CAN I SEE YOUR ID?) and I joined Don Tate (dinosaur post)(DUKE ELLINGTON'S NUTCRACKER SUITE, IT JES HAPPENED: WHEN BILL TRAYLOR STARTED TO DRAW, and many more) for the annual Turkey Trot.  Now, I'd never done the Turkey Trot before, but I usually sneak in a three-mile run the morning of Thanksgiving, just because it makes me feel better :-).

All in all, it was an enormously fun event -- well organized and a picturesque route up and around downtown and near west Austin.  I discovered, however, that I am woefully out of shape :-).  

After the race, it was time to stuff the turkey! 

I do a traditional giblet and bread stuffing and cook the thing in the oven.  On occasion, I've been tempted to try frying it or even grilling it, but we're still under a burn ban.  And, besides, this way I get stuffing, which is almost my favorite part of the meal.

The bird was from Whole Foods and the bread was from Randall's.
So here's the rest of the menu:  to accompany the traditional turkey and stuffing, I made potato salad (this is my mother's recipe and I haven't made it in years), spinach dip (for pre-dinner vegetable snacking), and cheese spread (an approximation of the Win Schuler's Bar Scheeze (alas, without the stone crock)).  Once the turkey came out of the oven, Cyn made green bean casserole, and I made cauliflower mashed potatoes.  We also had frozen sweet corn (off the cob).  Traditionally, Cyn likes shoepeg white corn, but you apparently can't get that here. 

In addition, folks brought the following:

Chris Barton brought corn bread.

Author-illustrator Salima Alikham (THE PIED PIPER OF AUSTIN) and her husband Sam brought some thin sweet potatoes.  We never had these when I was growing up, so I never make them, but I like them and they're a nice tradition.  They also brought a decadent pumpkin cheesecake. 

Author Jenny Moss (WINNIE'S WAR, TAKING OFF) brought a vegetable platter to go with my spinach dip. 

Author-illustrator Divya Srinivasan (LITTLE OWL'S NIGHT) brought oatmeal cookies.

Author Anne Bustard (BUDDY: THE STORY OF BUDDY HOLLY) came with her family's traditional and also awesomely-decadent macadamia nut pie (which is like pecan pie, but with macadamia nuts). In honor of her providing the dessert, here's a link to a great article about the Great Bustard (also an avian dinosaur).

Inasmuch as birds I dinosaurs, I was going to post a few pics of our intrepid guests and our dinner.  Unfortunately, those pics did not turn out.  Sigh.

So here's a shot of a dromaeosaurid and some birds at the Houston Museum of Natural Science:


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Remember that Book: CAPTAIN OF THE QUEENS


What I remember: Harry Grattidge was one of the last captains of the RMS Queen Mary and RMS Queen Elizabeth, once the premier ocean liners in the world and the pride of Britain's Cunard Line.  CAPTAIN OF THE QUEENS tells Grattidge's story from his days as a lowly cabin boy aboard a sailing ship, his coming of age at sea, and his rise to the highest rank at Cunard.

The rest of the recollection:  I read this in a volume of Readers' Digest Condensed Books and recall being completely captivated.  I don't remember exactly when I read it, but it would probably have been around 7th or 8th grade.  I was fascinated by ships and airplanes and spacecraft and really cool acts of engineering in general.

Queen Mary in 1945, in troopship livery
 A couple details stood out, though, that had nothing to do with the engineering itself.  The first was an anecdote about how the captain of a ship has to be on top of every detail, even those that seem the least important.  To illustrate this, Grattidge related a story of how he had to change the chaplain's Sunday hymn selection when the Duke and Duchess of Windsor were traveling aboard Queen Mary.  The hymn that got axed?  Crown Him with Many Crowns.

The other was on the order of "don't get cocky kid:"  On his first voyage as captain of Queen Mary, he ran her aground in harbor...

And now:  Still a fascinating and captivating read of a bygone era, telling Grattidge's life story wrapped around an account of his last voyage in 1953 as captain of Queen Elizabeth.  Although written for adults, I think it would still appeal to young adults who enjoy history or historical fantasy of the steam and diesel eras.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Writers and Illustrators and Dinosaurs: K.M. Walton

K.M. Walton is the author of TEACHING NUMERACY: 9 CRITICAL HABITS TO IGNITE MATHEMATICAL THINKING and her fiction debut, the forthcoming CRACKED (Simon Pulse, January 3, 2012).

An elementary and middle school teacher for more than ten years, she now writes full time, is married to her college sweetheart, and has two sons.

Below, she poses with her three year old nephew Alex, who is "crazy about dinosaurs."

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Writing Community and Bastrop

You'll recall the wildfires that devastated Bastrop in early September.  Here are a couple pics along US 71 from when Cyn and I drove through later that month.

If anything, the photos understate the damage. That time of year, all the trees should be fairly lush and green.

It turns out that the Bastrop Public Library was hard hit: while the building itself didn't burn, many books were checked out and in children's homes which did burn down.  So, the Friends of the Bastrop Public Library and the Austin Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators are planning an outreach. 

During the Bastrop Public Library Open House, to be held December 10, the Friends will be giving each child who attends two books, tied with a ribbon.  In addition, the FRIENDS will be accepting monetary donations in pursuit of its mission to promote and advocate for the Bastrop Public Library. 

To assist, the Austin SCBWI is collecting money and book donations for the giveaway, through December 8.  Books can be anything from picture books to young adult novels. 

Details here.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The AIRBORN trilogy

The AIRBORN trilogy, by Kenneth Oppel, comprising: AIRBORN (HarperCollins 2004); SKYBREAKER (HarperCollins 2006); STARCLIMBER (HarperCollins 2009)(ages 12+).

At fifteen, Matt Cruse is the youngest, smallest cabin boy aboard the airship Aurora.  Beyond anything else, it is his dream to someday captain a vessel like the Aurora.

On one fateful trans-Pacificus crossing, the airship rescues an off-course balloonist, who babbles about seeing beautiful creatures in the sky, before he dies.

Some months later, Kate DeVries, the balloonist's beautiful and wealthy granddaughter, embarks on the Aurora, to see if she can track down the mysterious creatures and prove to the world her grandfather was not a madman.

Matt is more than willing to lend a hand, and the two begin to develop a tentative friendship, when the Aurora is attacked by a dirigible belonging to the notorious and murderous pirate Vikram Szpirglas...

AIRBORN is a rousing, swashbuckling adventure  and coming-of-age story.  The alternate steampunkish Earth, where dirigibles are the basis for air transportation and airplanes don't exist, is convincing and richly detailed.  Matt and Kate are believable and their relationship is complex and compelling.

Their tale continues in the equally terrific SKYBREAKER and STARCLIMBER.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Chicago Dinosaurs: Field Museum of Natural History

In honor of NCTE/ALAN being in Chicago this year, I thought I'd toss in a post about Chicago dinosaurs. :-).  If you have the time, check out the Field Museum:

Tyrannosaurus rex (background) with (unidentified) Homo sapiens.

The Field Museum of Natural History (Chicago): My hometown museum, still one of the best in the world. The Field Museum is part of a lakefront museum campus that includes the Shedd Aquarium and Oceanarium and the Adler Planetarium. Just up Lake Shore Drive is the Lincoln Park Zoo, and a short drive south is the Museum of Science and Industry.

The Field is home to Sue, one of the largest, most complete Tyrannosaurus rex skeletons ever found, as well as a Daspletosaurus and a host of other, less carnivorous dinosaurs (like Parasaurolophus and Diplodocus).

Sue is prominently placed in the Stanley Field Hall (the main hall), with the elephant diorama and the big totem poles. On the balcony above the skeleton is the actual skull (the real one being too big to mount) and a mural depicting what Sue would've looked like in real life.

Sue close-up
Upstairs is the Evolving Planet exhibit, which takes you chronologically through the eras of life on earth. Dinosaurs on display include Triceratops, dromaeosaurs, stegosaurs, sauropods (including a juvenile Rapetosaurus), and hadrosaurs, such as Parasaurolophus. The classic Charles M. Knight murals still adorn the walls.

Triceratops and T.rex  face off
And sometimes in Chicago, you see dinosaurs in the oddest places: be sure to check out the brachiosaur at the United Terminal at O'Hare Airport (a duplicate of the one outside the Field).

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Writers and Illustrators and Dinosaurs: Lita Judge

Lita at age 15 on a dig for the Royal Tyrell Museum
Lita Judge was born in Alaska, spent summers as a child in Wisconsin, and has a degree in geology.  She volunteered for two summers on a dinosaur dig in Canada (above) and is the author/illustrator of, among other books, BORN TO BE GIANTS: HOW BABY DINOSAURS GREW TO RULE THE WORLD.   

Lita sketches at the American Museum of Natural History
Lita's latest release is RED SLED.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Comic Con Austin recap

A few months ago, Cyn received an invitation for a complimentary table at Artists' Alley at Austin Comic Con.  This past weekend, Cyn and I manned the table...

Of course, we weren't the only members of Austin's youth literature community with a presence.  Jeff Crosby and C.S. Jennings also had tables in Artists' Alley.

In the exhibitors area, the Writing Ninjas of Texas had a booth, did some cosplay, and sold their books through The Book Spot.

Clockwise from top right: Madeline Smoot; Jessica Lee Anderson; P.J. Hoover; Joy Preble; Cory Putnam Oates; Mari Mancusi; P.J. Hoover; K.A. Holt; Joy Preble; and Jo Whittemore.

On the whole, there seemed to be quite a bit of steampunk, as well as a lot of DC and Marvel comics, and the occasional Star Trek and Star Wars among the costumes.

And, we sat across from Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca of Star Wars)!

Check out Cyn's report here.
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