GHOST TOWNS OF THE WEST

Ghost Towns of the West by Phillip Varney and Jim Hinckley blazes a trail through the dusty crossroads and mossy cemeteries of the American West, including one-time boomtowns in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. The book reveals the little-known stories of soldiers, American Indians, settlers, farmers, and miners. This essential guidebook to the historic remains of centuries’ past includes maps, town histories, color and historical photographs, and detailed directions to these out-of-the-way outdoor museums of the West.

Plan your road trips by chapter–each section covers a geographic area and town entries are arranged by location to make this the most user-friendly book on ghost towns west of the Mississippi.
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Does Adventure Call Your Name? We hope so!

Guest Post by Janet Fogg and Dave Jackson

co/authors of Misfortune Annie and the Locomotive Reaper

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If adventure does call your name, pull up a horse for a wild ride with Misfortune Annie—the fastest draw in the 1880s west—at age 15!

What’s compelling to us is that a hero like Misfortune Annie truly could have existed. The real Annie Oakley fought amongst the toughest of wranglers and bested many a man in shooting contests. In fact, while still a teen, Annie Oakley earned enough money to pay off the mortgage on her mother’s farm.

To properly tell the origin of our Annie, we should travel back to the initial spark—George Lucas and the Indiana Jones series. It’s widely known by many Lucas fans that a rugged archaeologist character first showed up in old matinee serials, and George dusted him off for a new generation of movie lovers. When hoping to develop a story concept and character that could give Indy a run for his money, we found ourselves pondering the cowboy genre. Roy Rogers, the Lone Ranger, Gene Autry—they were huge! Perhaps our new star should have a catchy name and signature duds. He would wear a ten-gallon hat and Levi jacket. But fate threw in a wildcard.

On Christmas vacation several years ago, nearly asleep behind the wheel through flat old Kansas, Dave passed a sign that boasted, “Annie Oakley Museum.” Jolted awake, he realized he had our new hero, a tough and tenacious teen, a cowgirl known by a memorable moniker.

Not only could we hopefully create a memorable hero, one to delight the young and the young at heart, we intended to focus on a somewhat lacking niche in middle-grade/YA fiction—an action hero for girls.

As storyboarding for the first book progressed, we carefully considered our villain. The era of the Wild West merges well with and complements Steampunk, so our villain evolved into a mad scientist, a mechanical engineer bent on revenge. Research into the technology of the 1880s—blimps and electricity—sealed the Locomotive Reaper’s powers.

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Q&A with John Martin and Scott Seegert Creators of SCI-FI JUNIOR HIGH #SciFiJuniorHigh

A look at the authors who wrote the book Sci -Fi Junior High- you can also enter to win a copy HERE.

1. Collaboration between two artists, especially a successful one, is a rare partnership. How did the two of you meet? What inspired you to collaborate?

Scott: We met the same way all great literary duos throughout history have—through our daughters playing travel softball together. When I discovered that John had all the same childhood influences I did, and could actually draw, working together on children’s books seemed like a no-brainer. Which is perfect for us.

2. What is the inspiration behind Kelvin and SCI-FI JUNIOR HIGH? Did one or both of you always dream of going to school in outer space?

John: I had no dream of going to school in outer space. However, when I was a kid, I created a comic strip of a martian borrowing sugar from his astronaut neighbor in space. Scott and I wanted to collaborate with a middle school concept. For SCI-FI JUNIOR HIGH, I suggested the story title and a basic premise that involved many types of creature students. Then Scott went to town developing the story alongside some of my character sketches. I do believe that our inspiration for Kelvin and his family is based slightly on the Robinson family in Lost in Space. Throw a bit of Charlie Brown and Looney Tunes into the mix, and voilà: SCI-FI JUNIOR HIGH.

Scott: We like creating stories filled with as many bizarre creatures, strange locations, wacky gizmos, and oddball characters as possible, because that’s what we couldn’t get enough of when we were kids. Our first book series, VORDAK THE INCOMPREHENSIBLE, dealt with the superhero/supervillain world, which fit the bill perfectly. SCI-FI JUNIOR HIGH takes that up another notch, what with the entire universe and its contents at our disposal.

3. What are your writing and drawing routines like? Do you work together, separately, or a combination of both?

Scott: John’s studio and my office are located right next to each other in an eclectic old former electric trolley power station. We even have a “secret” door between our two spaces, allowing for top-secret middle grade book concepts to be passed back and forth away from the scrutiny of prying eyes. The close proximity really allows us to work as a team, more so than a lot of other duos, I would assume. We’ll brainstorm the main points of emphasis, and then I’ll begin the writing process and

John will work on character concepts and creating the feel of the world. Sometimes, I’ll have a specific look for a character or device in mind and John will sketch it up.

Other times he’ll show me some crazy thing he came up with and I’ll work it into the story. It’s a pretty loose system. There was one character I particularly liked—a bunny wearing goggles and a jetpack. We turned him into a plushy and made him the book’s villain.

John: Scott has named most of the characters, with a few exceptions, such as our main villain, Erik Failenheimer, who is based on a suggestion of mine. I changed our bully’s character design look based on Scott’s name. We even have a few co-named characters in the book.

4. What do you hope children will take away from this story?

Scott: Two things: first, don’t worry about trying to impress everybody. It’s okay to just be yourself. People (or, in this case, six-eyed aliens and giant talking slugs) will still like you—at least the ones worth having as friends. Secondly, we hope kids just have a blast reading it. We try our best to have something exciting or ridiculous or weird to read or look at on pretty much every page. We want even the most reluctant reader to keep turning the page to see what absurdness comes next.

John: We also feel that James Patterson is a perfect partner for us. He is “dedicated to making kids readers for life.” Hopefully this crazy-zany story will be a big part in making that happen!

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WIN Set of Kids National Geographic Books

National Geographic Kids Books is featuring SIX new titles that are perfect year round or for giving as gifts.  They are big, bold and beautiful hardcovers; cater to book enthusiasts and reluctant readers alike; and are fun, inspiring AND educational (but don’t tell your kids that last part!).

How Things Work (ages 7-10, $19.99) – Discover the secrets and science behind bounce houses, hovercraft, robotics and everything in between in this book that provides both the quick answers AND complete explanations for all things high tech, low tech and no tech (how DOES glue work???). Detailed diagrams, revealing photos, hands-on activities and and fascinating facts all help to demystify many common items — like how a microwave works, how an eraser makes pencil marks disappear and how an iPad or tablet can do so much —  and also delves into the more futuristic — but very real — inventions like bionics, invisible cloaks and  tractor beams.  “Tales from the Lab” and profiles of talented engineers, inventors and scientists provide plenty of inspiration.  How Things Work is perfect for the kid who thinks “just because” isn’t a REAL answer.  Several spreads from How Things Work can be found by clicking here.

Ultimate Oceanpedia (ages 7-10, $24.99) – Perfect for the ocean-obsessed, this book is the most complete ocean reference ever! Ultimate Oceanpedia is overflowing with amazing facts, photos, art and diagrams that take the reader on a journey through the ocean. Whales, dolphins, porpoises, turtles, sharks, fish, crustaceans, sponges — from the weird to the wonderful — they are all featured in breathtaking photographs with easy to read captions. Wild weather, underwater exploration and tips and pointers on how to help keep our oceans thriving round out this thick, keepsake volume.

Tales from the Arabian Nights: Stories of Adventure, Magic, Love and Betrayal by Donna Jo Napoli (ages 8-12, $24.99) — “A brilliant tapestry woven not of yarn but of stories, both fresh and faithful to its historical routes” — starred review, Kirkus
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“Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls” children’s book

great books for girls

“Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls” is a children’s book packed with bedtime stories about the life of 100 extraordinary women from the past and the present—from Queen Elizabeth I to Serena Williams, Frida Kahlo to Julia Child, Ruth Bader Ginsberg to Amelia Earhart—and illustrated by 60 female artists from all over the world.

Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo realized that 95% of the books and TV shows they grew up with, lacked girls in prominent positions. They did some research and discovered that this didn’t change much over the past 20 years, so they decided to do something about it.

Instead of waiting for their princes to come like the women in typical fairy tales, these game-changing women are influencing the world themselves.

Relocating from Milan, Italy to California, Elena Favilli had been working as a journalist and Francesca Cavallo as a stage director and playwright. Their entrepreneurial journey made them understand how important it is for girls to grow up surrounded by female role models. It helps them to be more confident and set bigger goals.

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The Tuttle Twins and The Road to Surfdom

We recently read the book “The Tuttle Twins and The Road to Surfdom” by Connor Boyack. I was intrigued, as I don’t think schools do a very good job on educating children about history, the government, or civics- and heck, most don’t offer civics or geography at all. It was replaced a few decades ago by the blanket “Social Studies”,  and as a result Americans are terrible at geography, world history, domestic history, and civic issues. Many don’t include much (if any) real information on how our government works, certainly not enough that most American children have any kind of grasp of how things work or what is involved. I am always excited to see anything to help educate children about these issues.

However, I found this book to be very heavy handed, biased, and repetitive. It also focused on a strange topic- building a new road and the unintended consequences that occurred for an imagined beach town- to portray how terrible it is to have any government involvement in life. Government is necessary, in my opinion. We just need better control of it- which would start with better educated Americans/children who know what the government is and does, and how and why it works they way it does. These super gung-ho kids and their just-happened-to-be-InternetFamous (and suited up at the beach) Uncle were there to spend their vacation interviewing shop owners and farmers who all morosely agreed on the same sad opinion. Bad ‘ol road.

Where things like that can indeed be disastrous to people, and proper planning is a must- does the author thing we should build no new roads? Not relieve traffic congestion? Do away with government agencies like the EPA and the FDA for example? The answer is yes. After visiting his site, he’s really down for very little government involvement- much less then I feel is appropriate for the world we live in.
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Piper Was Afraid – Kids Book and Plush Toy

kids book

What’s better then a cute kid’s book? One that comes complete with a stuffed animal of it’s hero, of course. Piper, an Irish Wolfhound, was afraid. Of other dogs, of storms- of pretty much everything. Big a dog as Piper was, he was just a scaredy cat. What will Piper do?

“Piper Was Afraid! Piper is the main character of the children’s book Piper was Afraid. He is a cute and cuddly companion that helps children be brave… especially at bed time. Piper comes with an adoption certificate as well as instructions on what to do if Piper gets scared! “Piper was Afraid” is based on a real Irish Wolfhound named “Inspirations Bagpiper of Blackwatch” or Piper for short. He is a rescue dog and was adopted by the owners of The Inn at Willow Grove in Orange, Va.”
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Win @fodorstravel #FodorsOnTheGo Prize Pack! #ad #Travel

Disclosure- This post is brought to you in partnership with Penguin Random House.

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Hit the road this summer with Fodor’s Travel and Listening Library!

Summer is right around the corner and planning your family vacation has never been easier thanks to Fodor’s Travel. For 80 years Fodor’s has been a trusted resource offering expert travel advice and in celebration of the National Park Service Centennial in 2016, their experts unveiled a new suite of online tools and updated guidebooks to help travelers plan an unforgettable family trip to America’s incredible natural wonders. Throughout 2016, all parks, including the venerable Yellowstone and Yosemite, will celebrate the centennial with activities and initiatives that allow visitors to revel in their natural, historical, and cultural splendor.

There’s no better way to explore a national park (or a few!) than to hit the road and let’s face it, picking which parks to visit and what scenic routes to take can be overwhelming. Fodor’s National Park Road Trip Itineraries, found on Fodors.com, include the most road-trip worthy adventures to parks across various states. And that’s not all you’ll find – National Parks 101 tells you everything you need to know about planning a trip to the national parks, including booking, budgeting and packing tips; and National Parks Finder helps you find and compare national parks based on activity, region or season. When you use these tools with Fodor’s National Parks of the West, on sale May 10, which includes completely updated coverage of the best sites, dining, and lodging in and around each park, you’re sure to have the best summer trip yet.
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