Monday, June 28, 2010

Michigander Monday: Elizabeth Raum

Today I'm pleased to welcome Elizabeth Raum to Michigander Monday!

Debbie:  Elizabeth, please tell us a little about yourself.

Elizabeth:  I grew up in Vermont and planned to be a teacher. I had hoped to teach elementary school, but discovered that to do so I’d have to sing a solo in front of a college music class. Yikes! Hopes dashed! So I became a 7-12 English teacher instead. After a few years teaching high school English, I realized that the students didn’t enjoy reading, so I decided to become an elementary school librarian. Maybe, if I met them sooner, I could promote reading. School library work was terrific! But when my husband transferred to a new state, I couldn’t find an elementary school job. I became a college reference librarian.
Writing has always been my secret passion, and I was lucky enough to have a few pieces published while working at other jobs. After yet another move, I began writing full-time. I write mostly nonfiction, so my reference experience has come in handy. In fact, I staff the reference desk at Grand Rapids Community College from time to time.

Good libraries are essential to my work. Michigan has excellent college and public libraries. Since I moved to Michigan in 2007, I’ve written over two dozen nonfiction books on topics like immigration, poetry, toilets, the Pledge of Allegiance – well, you get the idea. I love what I do, and I’m happy to be doing it in Michigan!

Debbie:  What an amazing array of topics!  And I definitely agree with you about Michigan's excellent libraries.

In addition to your nonfiction, please also tell us about your latest book.

Elizabeth:  I write fiction, too. My newest is a picture book, Cedric and the Dragon, published June 2010 by Alma Little and illustrated by Nina Victor Crittenden. It’s the story of an unlikely hero – a little prince who prefers hugging to fighting. When he meets a fire-breathing dragon face-to-face, he has to find a way to save himself – and the kingdom.

Debbie:  And do you have other books and projects on the horizon?

Elizabeth:  Currently I’m working on books about storms, diseases, and Colonial America.

Debbie:  How about upcoming appearances?

Elizabeth:  I’ll be at Rockford Reads on August 7 in Rockford, Michigan. In October, I’ll be leading a nonfiction workshop at the SCBWI Michigan conference.

Debbie:  Your favorite place in Michigan?

Elizabeth:  I love visiting the towns along Michigan’s “west coast” and wandering along the shoreline. There’s no more relaxing or inspiring way to spend a sunny day.

Debbie:  That's such a beautiful area of the state.  How about your favorite Michigan event or happening?

Elizabeth:  The county fairs are terrific! Last summer my husband and I went to fairs in Ottawa, Allegan, and Barry County. At Barry, we saw two large litters of newborn piglets and a surprisingly good karaoke contest (featuring humans, of course, not the pigs!).

Debbie:  Though karaoke cows would definitely be fun to see!  Sounds like a great children's book idea...

Elizabeth, tell us about a few fun Michigan people we should all know about.

Elizabeth:  I’ve met some terrific writers here in Grand Rapids through the Michigan chapter of SCBWI. You probably know them: Sue Thoms, Kristin Nitz, Nancy Hull, Shirley Neitzel, and PJ Lyons. I hope everyone will go out and read their books if they haven’t yet done so. What fine writers they are!

Debbie:  I agree with you on that:  Michigan has such a great concentration of children's book talent!

For our out-of-state readers, tell us something you'd like a non-Michigander to know about Michigan.

Elizabeth:  I keep telling my Vermont family that we have beautiful fall foliage right here in Michigan, and in the spring, the flowering trees are gorgeous!

Debbie:  Agreed!  Finally, some residents of Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders; others Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally: Are you a "Michigander" or a "Michiganian"?

Elizabeth:  I’m proud to say I’m a Michigander!

Debbie:  Elizabeth, thank you so much for being here today!

To learn more about Elizabeth and her books, click here for her web site.  You'll find book information, school visit information, a biography, and more.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Some new and forthcoming children's books by Michigan authors and illustrators

I’ll be on the radio Monday evening, speaking with Bill Castanier about children’s books. I’ll be a guest on Lansing Online News’ weekly radio talk show on LCC's WLNZ. The program starts at 7 PM and I’ll be on at some point, probably around 7:45.

I’m not an expert on children’s literature, but I look forward to the chance to highlight some recent and forthcoming books by Michigan authors and illustrators.

Here are a few that come to mind as I start to work on this list – please chime in in the comments section about others I’ve inadvertently left off.  I’ll be adding to this list as well as incorporating links to the various titles and authors as time permits.

Here goes with the start of it:

Later this summer, Ruth McNally Barshaw’s third Ellie McDoodle book will be out:  Ellie McDoodle: Best Friends Fur-Ever.

Over At The Castle, Boni Ashburn’s follow-up to Hush Little Dragon, came out this spring.

Hope Vestergaard’s newest, Potty Animals: What To Know When You’ve Got To Go, is now out.

Sue Stauffacher has a new book series, Animal Rescue Team.  The first book, Gator on the Loose, is available now, and the second, Special Delivery, comes out this summer.

Shutta Crum's Thomas and the Dragon Queen will be out in July.

Buffy Silverman’s Can An Old Dog Learn New Tricks? and Other Questions About Animals is now available for curious young minds.

Kelly DiPucchio has two new books:  Alfred Zector, Book Collector and The Sandwich Swap.

Lisa Wheeler’s latest book Dino-Soccer is currently available, and Ugly Pie will be out this summer.

Amy Young has a new book, The Mud Fairy.

Leslie Helakoski, of Big Chickens and Woolbur fame, has a new one, Fair Cow, which will be out later this summer.

In addition to these new and forthcoming books, the national “Make A Splash” theme for this year’s Summer Reading Programs at libraries lends itself well to books by Michigan authors. (Afterall, we’ve got the Great Lakes, plus 11,000 inland lakes, and more than 36,000 miles of streams. If that doesn’t inspire water-related literature, nothing will!) A sampling of some of the children’s books by Michigan authors, past and present, that touch on splishy-splashy themes:

Do You Know About Fish and Do You Know About Amphibians, nonfiction by Buffy Silverman
A Drop of Rain by Wong Herbert Yee
Good Knight by Lynda Rymill
L is for Lobster by Cynthia Furlong Reynolds
The Legend of the Petoskey Stone and The Edmund Fitzgerald and others by Kathy-jo Wargin and illustrated by Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen
The Little Fish That Got Away by Bernadine Cook.
Memoirs of a Goldfish, by Devin Scillian
Nugget on the Flight Deck, illustrated by Aaron Zenz

Rub-A-Dub-Dub: What’s In The Tub? by Mary Blocksma
Sand Castle by Brenda Shannon Yee
Sea Dogs: An Epic Ocean Operetta and Sailor Moo: Cow at Sea by Lisa Wheeler
Seabird and Paddle to the Sea by Holling C. Holling
Sheep On A Ship by Nancy Shaw
Shell Crazy by Tracy Gallup
Spike & Cubby's Ice Cream Island Adventure by Heather Laurie Sellers and illustrated by Amy Young
Thunder-Boomer by Shutta Crum
Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco

A longer list of Michigan-related “Make A Splash” titles (that list, too, is still a work in progress – your suggestions are welcome!) is available here.

So, Michigan, what else have we got? Let me know, and I’ll get it added.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Mr. Fish on YouTube

The wonderfully talented and funny Dan Hanna has created a book trailer for our forthcoming book The Pout-Pout Fish In the Big-Big Dark.

Click here revised link here to go see it.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Copy & Paste the Logo, and Then Pass the Word: A Good Excuse to Stay Up Late Reading!

Your "To Be Read" pile is towering over your bedside, so why not make a plan to stay up late reading?  Bonus:  By doing so, you'll help raise awareness of the New York City Libraries budget situation.

Like many libraries, the New York City Public Libraries are facing budget cuts.  The current city budget proposal for FY11 lays out some pretty staggering figures.  According to this article:  "The NYPL has confirmed that all three of its systems (Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn) are up against a 30 percent reduction in funds for the next fiscal year. A full third of staffers are expected to be let go, with a whopping 40 branches facing the ax, not to mention devastating cuts in service hours and programs that the jobless, Internet-less and book-loving turn to on a daily basis."  More details are available here.

So what's a librarian to do?  The librarians in NYC are bringing attention to the budget situation in a creative way:  by staging a 24-hour "read-in" June 12-13, on the steps of the Central Library in Brooklyn's Grand Army Plaza.

Can't be there in person to show your support?  Just add the graphic shown here to your blog or web page (either in a post or in a sidebar, or both) and then plan to stay up late reading on June 12!

(Copy/Paste of the image above will probably work.  If not, head over here for the original.)

Poetry Friday

I’m not quite sure

What a poem really is;

But I’m pretty sure its opposite

Is an automated sprinkler

Running in the rain.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Thursday This and That

This and that...

  • This year's Michigan Reads selection is now posted.  The book is The Runaway Garden, written by Midland resident Jeffery L. Schatzer and illustrated by Jeffrey Ebbeler. The book is published in Ann Arbor by Mitten Press.  Congratulations!

  • As barefooted, bad-tempered babies know, a protest crawl is a very effective form of civil disobedience. But let us not forget about the sit-in. Or, in this case, the read-in. NYC librarians have an all-night read-in scheduled for June 12-13 in support of the New York City Public Library systems. As the librarians say, "We Will Not Be Shushed!"


  • I was on the radio the other day, on WILS-AM 1320.  I was no doubt rambly and ridiculous-sounding, and I don't plan on going back to listen to it; but if you'd like to hear it, it's here.  Jack Ebling, the host of the show, was very nice.

  •  New favorite way to learn new words:  Shay's The Word videos on the Maria's Bookshop blog.  Get started with "aleatoric" here.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Wednesday Workout Review: Yoga Meltdown

I checked out Jillian Michaels' Yoga Meltdown through Netflix recently.  I can't truly recommend it, and yet I give it a qualified recommendation.  Bear with me as I explain.

Here's the thing.  There are two major issues I have with Yoga Meltdown.

1.  Yoga?  Hardly.  I think the most you could honestly say is "yoga-inspired."  That is, some of the exercises in this DVD bear a passing resemblance to some yoga poses.  Beyond that, this is in no way Yoga.  It feels a bit more like Jillian Michaels showed up at the gym one morning and said, "Hey, I'm gonna do a yoga DVD.  Quick, someone give me a half dozen poses to work with!"  And, in fact, at one point in the DVD, she says, "I'm new to this, too."  Yeah.  We noticed.

2.  I know Jillian Michaels is a mega-celebrity and well-known trainer, but prior to watching this DVD, I'd never seen her before.  Here's me coming to her cold:  she's a bit much.  She's got a definite onscreen persona, a rather over-the-top tough-love/empathy combo, to an extent that this DVD seems almost like a parody of exercise DVDs.

That said, these are balanced against two other points:

1.  The over-the-top persona?  Though certainly guaranteed to be grating in large doses, it does have a certain charm.  Variety is the key to sticking with exercise, and variety of instructor personality does factor into this.  In short, Jillian Michaels grew on me a bit after a few viewings.

2.  Yoga Meltdown is actually an effective work-out, and even more importantly, it's an effective 30-minute workout.  When you get right down to it, what ultimately matters in an exercise DVD is if the DVD works.  This one does.  (Qualification:  I didn't do the beginner segment, just the Level 2 workout.)  In addition, it runs 30-minutes.  In the realm of exercise DVDs, there are any number of mix-and-match 10-minute workouts available; a goodly number of 20-minute options; and lots of 40-, 45-, or 50-minute workouts.  Sadly, 30-minute workouts don't seem to be the norm.  Personally, I think they're ideal, and I wish there were more of them.

So...  Campy or not, this exercise DVD will be added to my mix as an "occasional."  You might try it for a bit of variety in your own exercise routine.

Other reviews here and here.