Thursday, September 29, 2011

2011 Texas Book Festival Children's and YA Programming [Updated 10-20-2011]

Update:  Updated to include recently-announced moderators and room numbers

Update 20 Oct.: Updated to include Sunday's To Timbuktu panel

Here's a rundown of the children's and YA sessions at Texas Book Festival this year.  Most are in the Capitol Extension.  Note that times are subject to change.

The event runs from October 22 through October 23.  Check the official schedule for final times and room assignments. 

Book signings are immediately after the sessions.  Adult and Young Adult Authors sign in the Book Signing Tent on Congress between 10th and 11th Streets.  Children's Authors sign in the Children's Signing Tent at 13th and Colorado.

Note also that the Children's Read Me A Story Tent has picture book presentations all day on both Saturday and Sunday.


10-11: Making Art for Picture Books, mod. by Nancy Roser
with Eileen Christelow, Marla Frazee, and Paul Zelinsky
Capitol Extension E2.010

10-10:45: Jack Gantos, mod. by Susan Wofford
with Jack Gantos
Family Life Center (1300 Lavaca)

10:30-11:30: The Secrets Girls Keep, mod. by Margo Rabb
with Jill Alexander, Rosemary Clement-Moore, and Jennifer Ziegler
Capitol Extension E2.014

11:15-12:15: Playing with Your Fiction, mod. by Jennifer Brown,
with Louis Sachar and Meg Wolitzer
Family Life Center (1300 Lavaca)

11:30-12:30: More Than One Way to Read: Graphic Novels, mod. by Vicky Smith
with Barry Lyga and Cynthia Leitich Smith
Capitol Extension E2.010

11:30-12:15: Kadir Nelson, mod. by Don Tate
with Kadir Nelson
Capitol Extension E2.012

12-12:45: James Dashner, mod. by Greg Leitich Smith
with James Dashner
Capitol Extension E2.014

12-1: Books Between Us, mod. by Carmen Oliver
with Heather Vogel Frederick and Nancy Tillman
Capitol Extension E2.016

12:45-1:45: Laughing Through Your Fears, mod. by Topher Bradfield
with Adam Gidwitz, Keith Graves, Jon Scieszka, and Clete Barrett Smith
Family Life Center (1300 Lavaca)

1:30-2:15: Toys Come Home, mod. by Sharon O'Neal
with Emily Jenkins and Paul Zelinsky
Capitol Extension E2.016

1:30-2:15: The Tomas Rivera Award, mod. by Minda Lopez
with Alex Sanchez
Capitol Extension E2.026

1:45-2:45: To Ban or Not to Ban: What is the Question? mod. by Judith Platt
with Jessica Lee Anderson, Jay Asher, Ellen Hopkins, and David Levithan
The Sanctuary at First United Methodist Church (1201 Lavaca)

2-2:45: Rosemary Wells, mod. by Suzanne Wofford
with Rosemary Wells
Capitol Auditorium E1.004

2:00 - 3:00: Zombies, Odd Girls, and My Other Middle School Classmates, mod. by Bethany Hegedus
with Mac Barnett, K.A. Holt, René Saldaña Jr., and Jo Whittemore
Family Life Center (1300 Lavaca)

2:15-3:00: William Joyce, mod. by Marika Flatt
with William Joyce
Capitol Extension E2.010

3:30-4:30: Sarah Dessen and Libba Bray in Conversation, mod. by Sarah Pitre
with Sarah Dessen and Libba Bray
Family Life Center (1300 Lavaca)

9:00-9:45 PM: A Convergence of Souls, mod. by Kathleen Houlihan
with the Festival's YA authors.
Texas State Cemetery


11-12: Newbery Award-Winning Authors, mod. by Jennifer Brown
with Kate DiCamillo and Rebecca Stead
Capitol Auditorium E1.004

12:45-1:30: To Timbuktu: Nine Countries, Two People, One True Story, mod. by Jennifer Ziegler
with Casey Sciezska and Steven Weinberg
Capitaol Extension 2.012

2-3 PM: Kids Read Nonfiction, Too, mod. by Anne Bustard
with Elaine Scott, Chris Barton, and Jeanette Larson
Capitol Extension E2.012

2:45-3:30: Kenneth Oppel, intro. by Greg Leitich Smith
with Kenneth Oppel
Capitol Auditorium E1.004

3:00-4:00: Don't Let the ___ Get You Down, mod. by Varian Johnson
with Joe Schreiber, Sheila P. Moses, David Rice, and Joe R. Lansdale.
Capitol Extension E2.026

Sunday, September 25, 2011


That's advanced reading copies, natch.  They arrived Friday:

And, when I shelved these guys, I noticed something:

If all you had to go on was colors, which books do you think are Cyn's and which are mine?  I wonder if it means anything...

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Writers and Dinosaurs: Jo Whittemore, Jessica Lee Anderson & P.J. Hoover

Jo, Jessica, and PJ pose predatorially
Texas Sweethearts Jo Whittemore, Jessica Lee Anderson, and P.J. Hoover recently sent me this hilarious photo.

Jo Whittemore was born in Kentucky on Halloween and moved to Texas while in sixth grade.  She writes fantasy and contemporary humor for middle graders and is an Aggie.  She is the author of THE SILVERSKIN LEGACY trilogy (Llewellyn); and FRONT PAGE FACE OFF and ODD GIRL IN (Aladdin MIX).  Her next novel, D IN DRAMA, is forthcoming from Aladdin MIX in August 2012.

Jessica Lee Anderson was born in Phoenix, Arizona, and grew up in a lot of places (her father was in the air force), including Hawaii and Texas.  She writes contemporary young adult fiction. Her novels include TRUDY (winner of the Milkweed Award) and BORDER CROSSING (Milkweed).  Her latest novel is CALLI (Milkweed 2011).

P.J. Hoover grew up in Virginia, holds electrical engineering and history degrees from Virginia Tech, and can solve a Rubik's Cube in under two minutes.  She writes fantasy for middle grade and teen readers.   She is the author of THE FORGOTTEN WORLDS trilogy (CBAY Books) and SOLSTICE (CreateSpace 2011).  P.J. was previously featured on WRITERS AND DINOSAURS here

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Paleontologist Interview: Mike Everhart

Mike Everhart
One of the resources I used when I was writing CHRONAL ENGINE was Mike Everhart's Oceans of Kansas (Indiana University Press 2005), covering the flora and fauna of the Western Interior Seaway.

Michael Everhart is the Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology at the Sternberg Museum of Natural History in Hayes, Kansas. He also maintains the Oceans of Kansas web site.  Recently, he graciously agreed to answer a few questions.

1. How did you become/what made you decide to become a paleontologist? Any words of advice to those who might want to pursue such a career?

Being a paleontologist is actually my third career. I worked in the environmental area of public health (12 years) and the aerospace industry (17 years) before becoming a paleontologist. That said, I've always been interested in paleontology and have been collecting fossils from the Smoky Hill Chalk for more than 40 years.

It is a subject that I've been fascinated with from at least the 5th grade when I read a book by Roy Chapman Andrews called "All About Dinosaurs." Actually, the book wasn't all about dinosaurs. There were two chapters describing the marine creatures from western Kansas, mosasaurs, plesiosaurs and pterosaurs. Somehow that stayed with me until I was able to make a trip "out west" during my senior year in college, and I was hooked.

Author hard at work.
The best advice I can give to anyone wanting to become a paleontologist is to study hard in school, especially in the sciences and mathematics. Do well in English because you will need to read and write scientific papers. Paleontology isn't just about going to exotic places and digging up bones.  It involves knowing about what you are collecting and being able to describe it to others.

There are two general paths to becoming a paleontologist: geology and biology. You should plan to get either a geology or a biology degree as an  undergraduate in college. From there, you can specialize in to different fields of paleontology in graduate school. But on either path, you need to get as much education in the sciences as you can because paleontology is becoming more and more technical as we acquire the tools to study fossils.

2. You’re adjunct curator of the Sternberg Museum, which is associated with Fort Hayes State University. Can you tell us about the museum and what you do there?

The Sternberg Museum of Natural History in Hays, Kansas was more or less established by George F. Sternberg in the late 1920s. He was the director of the museum for many years. After he retired, the museum was called the "Sternberg Memorial Museum." When we moved to our new building in 2000, the museum was given its current name in his honor. 

Xiphactinus and prey, Sternberg Museum
While well known for the fossils that are exhibited there,including the famous "Fish-within-a-fish," the museum has an extensive natural history collection. I work in the vertebrate paleontology area, primarily with marine fossils from the Late Cretaceous seaway that once covered the state. Mostly, my job involved collecting preparing Kansas fossils, studying them, and describing them.

3. You’ve written extensively (and have a great web site) about the creatures of the Western Interior Seaway (mosasaurs, sharks, plesiosaurs). What draws you to it (them)?

I am interested in these marine fossils because they occur here (I don't have to go halfway around he world to collect them), and because they have generally been ignored for a long time. It's not likely that I can go to Montana and find a new dinosaur, but I've already named two mosasaurs from western Kansas. 

Mosasaurus maximus, Texas Memorial Museum
Marine vertebrates, in spite of being the first major fossils discovered in Europe in the late 1700s, 50 or so years BEFORE the word "dinosaur" was invented, they have been largely overlooked since about the 1820s. Dinosaurs have had the better press since then.

The fact is, however, that during the Late Cretaceous, the earth was even more of a "water world" than it is today.  There were no ice caps, and the oceans covered about 85% of the Earth's surface. 

Marine reptiles greatly outnumbered the ground-pounding dinosaurs who were squeezed on to the remaining land surface. The Mesozoic should be called the Age of Sea Monsters, not the age of dinosaurs.  Besides that, marine reptiles are very interesting creatures, evolving rapidly from small shore dwelling lizards into giant animals that were as well adapted to the ocean as are modern whales and porpoises.  Fascinating creatures!

4. Recently, there has been controversy about whether to make Xiphactinus or Pteranodon the state fossil of Kansas. Without taking sides, can you make the case for both (and explain what either has to do with Kansas)?

Pteranodon, UMich. Natural History Museum
Both suggestions have a basis in the early history of paleontology in Kansas. Here is what I have told a legislator.

While I am supportive of anything that would generate interest in (and a better appreciation of) our fossil resources here in Kansas, I'm not sure that a big fish that looks like a  "Tarpon on steroids" [ed. note: see photo above] is the best choice to represent Kansas as the State Fossil.  Xiphactinus audax is certainly one of the best known fossil of a fish in the world, given all the attention that Sternberg's famous  "Fish-within-a-fish" specimen has generated since it was discovered in 1952 (e.g. one of the most photographed fossils in the world). That said, Kansas is also the home of a number of fossils that have been collected here, and are nearly unique to the state. Both the Sternberg Museum and the University of Kansas Museum of Natural History have examples of large mosasaurs on exhibit.

Tylosaurus proriger, Sternberg Museuem
Tylosaurus proriger was first described from Kansas by E.D. Cope in 1869, based on a large skull found near Monument Rocks in western Gove County, and spirited away to the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology. But we've found lots of them since....

We also have a giant turtle (coincidentally our state reptile being the Box turtle) called Protostega gigas -- as large as a small car -- that was first found here first in 1871. (Still mostly found in Kansas.)

Hesperornis, National Mus. Nat. Hist.
The first examples of a flying reptile (Pteranodon) and a large marine bird (Hesperornis) were collected here by O.C. Marsh (Yale) in 1871. Pteranodon was initially described with teeth (it has none), and Hesperornis, being a bird, was naturally assumed not to have them.  

The discovery a Hesperornis specimen near Russell Springs with a skull in 1872 showed, in fact, that it did have teeth, but another fossil bird, Ichthyornis dispar, discovered in 1872 by Professor Benjamin Mudge (1st State Geologist / professor at the Kansas Agricultural College, now K-State), is recognized as the first known bird with teeth.  

Ichthyornis, Sternberg Museum
Each of these were discovered first in Kansas and are almost unique to the state, with small numbers occurring elsewhere.  Personally I think Pteranodon longiceps would make the best state fossil: It's big (24 foot wingspan), it is everyone's favorite flying  "dinosaur" and is nearly instantly recognized by every child (and adult) in the U.S. 

Pteranodon has appeared in dozens of "adventure" movies (mostly bad likenesses), from The Lost World to King Kong, through Jurassic Park and most recently in National Geographic's IMAX movie Sea Monsters.  

Almost ALL of the known specimens come from Kansas (limited numbers of poor quality material from Wyoming and South Dakota).  Some of the best, most complete specimens have come from Lane County, Kansas, both of which, unfortunately, were shipped off to museums in Canada.

In any case, I would pleased to provide whatever technical support for naming a state fossil that I can.

5. On your web site, you state that you were science advisor for the National Geographic IMAX movie SEA MONSTERS. Can you tell us what that entailed?

I went to National Geographic in November of 2001 with the suggestion that a discovery by Charles Sternberg of a mosasaur that had eaten a plesiosaur would make a great documentary for TV. The specimen had been described in 1921 and acquired by the United States National Museum where it is on display today, but the stomach contents and their implications had been largely ignored by subsequent paleontologists. I came across Sternberg's note and went to Washington to see the specimens.  Then I wrote a paper on it.

National Geographic thought it was an interesting idea and planned to do a magazine article, a TV documentary and later a movie version.. The magazine article came out in December 2005 and was really a disappointment, even though I had been involved as an adviser. The TV project got shelved for unknown reasons, and the first attempt at getting NSF funding for the theater version was turned down, but National Geographic went back, got funding approval and the race was on. 

My Oceans of Kansas book was just out (June 2005) and doing well. NG hired a film company to do an IMAX feature film and they put together a script.  I sat down with them and discussed what could and could not be done realistically with their proposed portrayals.  From there, the script matured and several of us (paleontologists) were brought on board as science advisers to the film company.

The film company hired animators and started putting together the reconstructions of the animals we were going to show.  We met several times a week over the Internet discussing the various reconstructions and how they would have looked, moved, acted, etc.  We got to see the movie scene by scene as it was being assembled.

In June 2006, the film company came to Kansas and shot almost all of their historical scenes in the state (interesting because the movie shows discoveries in The Netherlands, Israel, Australia and Texas).  Later that year, I got a contract to write the book (Sea Monsters) for the movie and everything started to come together.  The movie opened worldwide in October, 2007 and I was able to attend several of the openings.

6.  Thank you for taking the time and sharing your experiences!

Photos of Dr. Everhart, Xiphactinus, Ichthyornis, and Tylosaurus proriger are courtesy of the Mike Everhart, Oceans of Kansas Paleontology.   

Monday, September 19, 2011

The intercostal clavicle! Or something like that...

In the 1938 Howard Hawks movie, BRINGING UP BABY, Cary Grant plays a paleontologist with a number of problems:  first, he's trying to get ahold of the last piece of his "Brontosaurus" -- the (fictional) "intercostal clavicle" bone.  Second, he's trying to solicit a big donation from one of his museum's prime benefactors.  Third, he's about to get married.  Fourth, he runs across a ditzy heiress played by Katherine Hepburn and who has decided that she wants to marry him (her aunt happens to be the one considering the big donation).  Throw in a leopard (actually a jaguar), a dog that runs away with the bone, another jaguar, and a trip to the suburbs, and there's considerable mayhem...

I bring this up because a story about the type specimen of T.rex that just came to light.  It seems that when the skeleton (the first T.rex ever discovered) was sold by the American Museum of Natural History to the Carnegie Museum in the 1940s, it was missing a piece.  This was not discovered until recently, when a rib bone bearing the identification of the Carnegie T.rex was found in storage at the American Museum.  So the folks from the American Museum gave it to a guy with a back pack and sent it on its way...No word on whether any leopards were involved.

Oh, and apropos of nothing, in the movie NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM, Rexy, the T.rex skeleton, plays fetch with a rib bone.  Just saying.

Here's a link to the story on NPR.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


THE SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON, by Johann Wyss (orig. pub. 1812)(Pictured cover is from Yearling 1999 edition). 

What I remember:  A Swiss clergyman and his wife and four sons are stranded on a (really big) desert island when their ship crashes onto a reef in the middle of a storm.  There, they survive alone for a decade, encountering an extraordinary array of flora and fauna, build a tree house, and generally bring civilization to the antipodes. 

The rest of the recollection:  This was one of my favorite books as a kid.  I remember taking it out of the library in third or fourth grade and never wanting to return it.  Just the idea of having to make do without modern conveniences was intriguing.  And it actually hit fairly close to home, since many members of my family grew up without many of the basics (plumbing, electricity, cable TV) we take for granted today.

I also found interesting the details on how they went about building the tree house, installing the plumbing, etc.  The animal and the botany lectures were also fun, although even than, I knew that certain, er, liberties were being taken. 

And now:  It's still an absolutely terrific adventure and worth the time.     

Finally, I always wondered why the family's last name was "Robinson," since they were Swiss and all, and it wasn't until recently that I discovered it (probably) wasn't.  The title was a reference to the fact that the book was a robinsonade, a Robinson Crusoe-type adventure (Back in the day, it was apparently the name of an entire genre, much like "science fiction," etc.).      

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Writers and Illustrators and Dinosaurs: Carmen Oliver

Carmen Oliver is the Assistant Regional Adviser for the Austin Chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. Born in Manitoba, Canada, she lived for a while in Calgary before moving to Austin.  She has published numerous nonfiction articles for both adults and children.

 The photos were taken at the home of Stephen Mooser, president and co-founder of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.

Friday, September 16, 2011


WITCHLANDERS, by Lena Coakley (Atheneum 2011)(ages 12+).  For as long as he can remember, all Ryder has wanted to do is leave his family's remote farm and go to sea.  But now that his father is dead, it's up to him to keep the hicca crop and protect the family. 

As for the witches in the coven on the mountain that they -- and everyone else in the village -- have to tithe to each year?  They're worthless.  And he should know, because his mother left the coven many years ago and that's what she says.

When his home is attacked, Ryder knows who's to blame -- the magic wielding Baen across the border.  The ones who started the last war.  Ignoring the witches' warnings, he sets off on a quest for vengeance, and perhaps something more.

In WITCHLANDERS Coakley offers a well-wrought world, engaging characters, occasional bits of humor, and plenty of action.  Ryder and his family and enemies are believable and sympathetic.  The plot twists and intrigue are compelling, ultimately satisfying and, in some ways, thought-provoking.     

Saturday, September 10, 2011


MOONSHADOW: RISE OF THE NINJA, by Simon Higgins (Little Brown 2010)(10+).  In this historical fantasy based on medieval Japan, the orphan Moonshadow has been raised as a ninja warrior spy by the members of the Grey Light Order to serve the shogun and preserve the peace against fractious warlords.

In addition to being a master of stealth and swordsmanship, Moonshadow possesses the "eye of the beast," the ability to see through the eyes of animals.  Now, on his first mission, he must put all his skills to the test as he goes in alone to the the castle of a rebel warlord who wants to overthrow the shogunate...

MOONSHADOW: RISE OF THE NINJA is a thoroughly fun, action-packed yarn.  Altogether, an engaging story of friendship, honor, and belonging.

First in a series, originally published in Australia as MOONSHADOW: EYE OF THE BEAST.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Book events September-October


Please join Cynthia Leitich Smith for a discussion and signing of Tantalize: Kieren's Story (Candlewick, 2011) at 7 p.m. Sept. 22 at Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston.

Note: "This event is free and open to the public. In order to go through the signing line and meet Cynthia Leitich Smith for book personalization, you must purchase Tantalize: Kieren’s Story from Blue Willow Bookshop. A limited number of autographed copies of Cynthia’s books will be available for purchase after the event. If you cannot attend the event, but would like a personalized copy of her book, please call Blue Willow before the event at 281.497.8675."

Also, illustrator Ming Doyle will be signing Tantalize: Kieren's Story at 2 p.m. Oct. 2 at Brookline Booksmith (279 Harvard Street) in Brookline, Massachusetts. Guests are invited to participate in a vampire/werewolf costume contest. See another interior illustration from the graphic novel from her blog.


The Austin Teen Book Festival is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 1 at Palmer Events Center in Austin. The event is free! No need to register, just show up! Students do not need to be accompanied by an adult.

Cynthia will be on the panel Supernatural Suspense.  Go check out the entire slate of authors!

TEXAS BOOK FESTIVAL.  The 2011 edition of the Texas Book Festival will be held October 22-23 at the Texas State Capitol  (Cynthia will be on a panel about graphic novels with Barry Lyga!  And I will be introducing James Dashner.). 

The complete list of 2011 authors is here.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011


I am delighted to present the cover art for CHRONAL ENGINE.  The cover, like the (equally awesome) interior illustrations, was done by Blake Henry.  Higher resolution pics and more information about the book can be found at the CHRONAL ENGINE page at the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt web site.

Monday, September 05, 2011

A weekend at the lake and fire and brimstone...

Cynthia and I just got back from a weekend in Kingsland, on Lake LBJ (We celebrated our anniversary and did our own personal writing retreat at the lake house of writer Donna Bratton -- she rents the place for writing retreats, so check it out).

How can you not relax with a view of a private cove:

We had a nice romantic time and got some good writing done and had dinner at the Junction House Restaurant,which is where a certain slasher movie was filmed:

(Food Friday was absolutely terrific -- we went back for brunch on Sunday, which was also terrific.).

We had a burger one day at the Sonic, where they have dinosaurs on the menu.  Or something:

We were pretty much off the Internet and made sure not to catch the TV news until this morning.  When we were scheduled to come home.  And our route home along Highway 71 was blocked due to wildfires... 

This is just stunning, and not in a good way...The pic comes from the Texas Interagency Coordination Center (if you click the link, you can see the whole state).  The angry red flame at the lower left is Bastrop, about twenty miles or so east of here, where around 476 more than 500 homes have been destroyed (including the  home of a friend of ours :-(), and half of Bastrop State Park is, well, charred.  It's a beautiful area and where I set the contemporary scenes in CHRONAL ENGINE.

The American-Statesman has some pretty good up-to-the-minute coverage on its blog here.  The Bastrop County Office of Emergency Management has a Facebook page here.  KXAN covers it here.

Fortunately, no one seems to have been hurt yet.  But our thoughts and prayers are with everyone involved.

Friday, September 02, 2011


MASON DIXON: PET DISASTERS, by Claudia Mills (Knopf 2011)(ages 7-10).  In this first of a new chapter book series, nine-year-old Mason Dixon likes his belongings ordered, his food simple, and his socks brown.  He does not want a pet, but his parents insist he needs one.  But fish, hamsters, and cats just aren't his thing.  When he and his best friend Brody adopt a dog, though, he discovers that, just possibly, having a pet companion isn't so bad after all.

MASON DIXON: PET DISASTERS is a winning tale of friendship, pets, and summer art camp.  Full of heart and humor, PET DISASTERS will have readers eagerly awaiting the next installment.  Illustrations by Guy Francis are equally fun and expressive.

Thursday, September 01, 2011


DARTH PAPER STRIKES BACK, by Tom Angleberger (Amulet 2011)(ages 8-12).  In this this sequel to THE STRANGE CASE OF ORIGAMI YODA, a darkness has descended upon Tommy's middle school.  Harvey, determined to prove that Origami Yoda is merely a hoax, brings his own Origami creation: Darth Paper, who is strong with the Dark Side. 

It's not long before Dwight gets suspended and all the good Origami Yoda did last year appears to be unraveling.  Can Tommy and friends save Dwight and Origami Yoda?  Or will Harvey and the Sith prevail?

DARTH PAPER is a fun and satisfying follow-up to Origami Yoda, poking gentle fun at middle school angst, school bureaucracy, and the magic of finger puppets.

Note: Cyn and I had the chance to see Tom Angleberger speak at BookPeople last week.   Here are a couple pictures:

Tom poses in front of store display

Tom unpacks the paraphernalia

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