Beth Ferry Presents: Crows and Scarecrows.

Fall is the perfect time to think about crows and scarecrows. And today’s post is brought to you by best-selling picture book author BETH FERRY. Her latest book, THE SCARECROW, illustrated by the Fan Brothers, is just released.

Scarecrow cover

Here’s Beth:

Crows and ravens are not the same bird, but they are commonly confused. Ravens are larger, shinier, and are more likely to be found in wilder landscapes, whereas crows are smaller and more often found in urban landscapes. Crows make the well-known “caw-caw” call, while ravens make a sound like a “croooak” or a “gronk-gronk”. This will help you see the difference.

crow vs raven

Crows are considered to be one of the most intelligent birds alive. They have the biggest brain-to-body ratio among all the birds. In 2004, it was determined that they are more intelligent than the Bonobo chimpanzee, which makes them the most intelligent creature after humans. Some scientists call them “feathered apes”. They can communicate, use tools and have great memories.

In Japan, carrion crows use cars to help them crack walnuts. Because they have learned to understand how traffic lights work, they will place a walnut in the road when the light is red and wait for a car to smash it. Then they will swoop down and eat the nut. See it here:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TvTgRmguSq8

There are two species of crows that have been seen using tools and even making hooks to forage for food.

Crows also have great memories and can even hold a grudge. The University of Washington conducted a study using masks and the crows were able to associate certain behavior with the faces on the masks, remembering who annoyed them and scolding and dive-bombing the people wearing those same masks five years later. You can read more about it here: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/uw-professor-learns-crows-dont-forget-a-face/

Like other intelligent creatures, crows are very social and usually live in pairs and mate for life. They are considered the most family-oriented bird in the world.

And it’s impossible to think about crows without thinking about scarecrows.

The word scarecrow is an aptronym. An aptronym is when a name matches the job of its owner and literally means “an apt name”.

The word scarecrow was first used in literature in 1719 in Robinson Crusoe although scarecrows have been around for much longer.

Scarecrows have existed approximately 3,000 years, designed to do exactly what their name suggests – scare crows. They were first used by the Egyptians to protect their wheat fields along the Nile River from flocks of quail. In 2,500 B.C., Greek farmers carved wooden scarecrows to look like Priapus, the son of the gods, Dionysus and Aphrodite. He was supposedly ugly enough to scare birds away from the vineyards to ensure a good harvest. At the same time, Japanese farmers made scarecrows called Kakashis, to protect their rice fields. They dressed them in rain coats and round straw hats, but added bows and arrows to make them look more threatening. In Germany, scarecrows were made out of wood and made to look like witches. They were supposed to hasten the coming of spring. In Medieval Britain, young children were used as live scarecrows or “bird scarers” and would patrol fields of crops, waving their arms or throwing stones at the birds to scare them away.

But, as you’ve just read, crows are so smart that scarecrows are basically ineffective and today used mainly as decorations. The 21st century has seen new scarecrow-like inventions, including the California Scarecrow (see below) which is a solar-powered, mechanical device that has 17-foot arms that wave and twirl and flap mylar strips. It is not quite as picturesque as a real scarecrow.

electronic crow

But although scarecrows are no longer effective at scaring crows, they have become a beloved part of the culture and celebrated during autumn as decorations and during Scarecrow and Fall Festivals.

Lastly, here is a beautiful poem by Robert Frost that highlights the lovely crow.

crow poem

Would you like to win a Scarecrow Pin?    Leave a comment and Darlene will enter your name in the give-away and choose one lucky winner at random from those entered.scarecrow

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Beth Ferry is the author of numerous books for young readers, including Stick and Stone, Ten Rules of the Birthday Wish and The Scarecrow. She is inspired by two main things: word play and the sea. Luckily, Beth is an avid reader who lives close to the beach so inspiration is never far away. In addition to picture books, Beth has begun writing graphic novels. When not writing, Beth can be found playing with her bulldog, Chaucer.

 

 

 

 

 

Banned Books Week 2019: Read a Banned Book.

In this modern era, when so much information is viewed through our phones and the internet, we may think little about books. But books are still important to the FREE ACCESS of information and as a symbol of a free society. There are still parts of the world threatened by the written word and the free expression and sharing of  of ideas. There are still people in our own country (USA) who wish to sensor the books they find fault with.

If you still believe in freedom of the press, read a book that’s has been banned this week – National Banned Books Week – and show the world you will decide for yourself what is worth reading.

For a list of frequently banned books check out the titles above or go to:

https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/1360.Best…

453 books and counting…do you want other people to decide what you can and can’t read?

Barbara Messinger Asks Questions.

Asking Effective Questions in Life As Well As Writing.

                                              by Barbara Messinger

Most of my life I was interested in science and became an RN. I had no real desire to write but that changed when I took a job in pediatric home care and saw firsthand the joy books brought to my patient’s limited world. I was taken in by children’s literature in a big way and gained a strong desire to write picture books (and eventually chapter books), I began learning the craft of writing. And for the first few years I experienced all the frustrations that can go along with the writing process.

One of the key things writers learn along the way is interviewing your main character even if you don’t use the information in your book. It speaks to the importance of questioning. So if we are the main character in our own lives how do we question ourselves. I looked back at the first part of my writing journey and the questions I asked myself. I realized plenty of them were more disempowering than empowering. For example, Why aren’t I further along in this process? Why am I not getting this?

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In nurse’s training there was a brief session on Therapeutic Communication. We learned not to ask the patient ‘why’ questions. Why questions put people on the defensive. When we ask ourselves those kind of questions we keep ourselves stuck where we are.

So I became more conscious and deliberate about asking myself empowering questions. (Which usually begin with how or what) My all time favorite question:

How can I let go of my limited thinking? (about anything really)

How can I let go of my limited thinking about my writing?

How can I let go of my limited thinking about the publication industry?

Or instead of why can’t I seem to get this, I started asking myself:

What is the nature of showing rather than telling?

What is the nature of an emotionally engaging character? A compelling character?

There are an infinite number of possible answers and information that can come to you when you inquire in a way that leaves your subconscious mind wide open to answers.

We live in a fast pace culture that expects answers immediately and I’m not promising you’ll get published any faster if you practice asking empowering questions. I’m still working toward publication. But I can promise it will be a more enriching experience that expands your mind rather than contracts it. Try making up your own empowering questions. Maybe you’ll be surprised by some of the answers you get. IMG_0686

Barbara Messinger transitioned from a nursing career to children’s writing after moving into pediatric nursing care. She saw firsthand the positive effects reading books aloud had on her patients. She enjoys her membership and camaraderie of the SCBWI-NJ. A lifelong shore resident you’ll most likely find her swimming, scuba diving, biking, practicing yoga and, yes, writing somewhere near a beach.

                                   

 

All Colors: by Amalia Hoffman

Today’s blog entry is brought to you by author/illustrator AMALIA HOFFMA, who will talk about her new board book ALL COLORS. Here’s Amalia:

cover

In 2017, I started experimenting with pastel pencils.

I loved the textures that I could achieve and the vibrant lush colors.

After working for a while on a white background I wondered what the colors would look like on black. I ordered a fine black art sand paper and started playing with colors on top. The colors on the black background appeared much more vibrant than on the white.

I discovered that there were so many interesting textures that I could achieve by rubbing the pastel pencils and chalk on the paper. Also, I liked how spattering with a toothbrush, sponging with bubble wrap and combing paints appeared on the black background.

After two months, I had a whole collection of pieces of papers with different colors and textures. I gathered them all in a shoe box and every once in a while, I just played with them, making different arrangements by assembling pieces together on my art table.

Then, the idea came to me. What if the different colors, textures and shapes could actually make the main character in the book?

So began my book journey for All Colors.

My agent, Anna Olswanger, has been encouraging me to create a board book for very young children.

I decided to make a board book where kids would be introduced to colors and textures as they turned the pages. It ended up being a concept book with a message about friendship and diversity.

3 shirt red patch

Anna sold ALL COLORS to Schiffer Publishing and it will be making its way into the world  October 28, 2019. This is my third board book. The first was Dreidel Day (Kar Ben Publishing, 2018.)  The second was Astro Pea (Schiffer Publishing, 2019.)

Creating board books is challenging because you have to tell the story in only a few pages so the word count must be minimal. Dreidel Day has 8 words, All Colors has 9. The author must rely on the illustrations and the concept has to be very clear and simple so a toddler could understand it. At the same time, there’s got to be a narration and procession so it would be a compelling read for the child and the adult who reads the story. The images have to be simple and bright to catch the attention of a very young child.

This concept board book introduces children ages 2-6 to colors and textures while conveying a message about friendship, diversity, and inclusion.

As the reader turns the pages, colors are introduced, creating the image of a boy.

11 brush medium multi patches

Join in the fun as the boy dips his paintbrush in paint splotches and discovers that friends come in all colors.

friends- last page

Here’s a link to a book trailer where I perform All Colors with a very colorful puppet:

http://www.amaliahoffman.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Save Seeds…Save Life…Spread Some Beauty

I’ve been reading a lot lately about the critical importance of SEEDS.  It’s not something we think much about, but our very lives depend on seeds.  Without them, we have no food.  And we all know how important food is.  If you hold seeds in your hand…you hold life.  Monsanto and other companies hold patents on seeds.  Think about this: THEY CAN CONTROL THE WORLD’S FOOD.  If we want to ensure biodiversity and ample food for future generations, we need to preserve seeds and all the abundant varieties of foods they represent.  How can we do it?

Saving seeds was common practice for our ancestors, to ensure that there would be food even during lean times.  As mechanization and hybridization took over farming in the 20th Century, the practice was lost….but thankfully, not forgotten.

SEED BANKS are popping up in an unusual place…your local library.  There are more than 600 seed libraries in North America.  These collections will provide a free packet of seeds, information on gardening and seed saving techniques.  SEED SAVERS is responsible for much of today’s seed library stock.  It has 25,000 varieties – many of them rare or exclusive – dating before WWII. These seeds belong in the public domain and cannot be patented. The goal is to get these seeds into as many people’s hands as possible.  Why not visit your local library and plant some seeds?

seeds

For more information on this important program visit: http://www.seedsavers.org

http://www.libraryseedbank.info

You can spread some beauty in your own backyard by making some wildflower SEED BOMBS. 

http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Seed-Bomb

For more garden crafts visit:  http://www.redtedart.com/garden-crafts-challenge-get-crafty/

Authenticity in Historical Fiction: The Final Chapter.

To conclude this year’s series of posts on writing authentically in historical fiction, I am posting this entry that ran on the blog tour I did in 2014 for the launch of my first book WHEELS OF CHANGE. To celebrate the FIFTH ANNIVERSARY of the book’s debut, I am giving away a signed copy of the book, and – if a teacher wins – a free classroom SKYPE visit for the 2019-2020 school year. Leave a comment at the end of the post and let me know what grade you teach.  Curriculum guides and other goodies will be included with the book.

WoCCover01

Authenticity in Historical Fiction

To create authenticity or believability in historical fiction is just like setting a scene in any kind of writing.  The writer needs to pay attention to details. As a reader, I’m more likely to immerse myself in a story universe that is believable and accurate.  If I want readers of WHEELS OF CHANGE to follow Emily Soper’s adventures, they have to be grounded in the reality of 1908 Washington DC.

            What was life like in the Nation’s Capital 100 years ago?

It was very rural for one thing.  With the exception of Pennsylvania Avenue, the area around the train station, and a few streets bordering 7th Street – the main street of commerce – there was only gas lighting and no electricity. Indoor plumbing was still a novelty. Many roads were unpaved or had cobblestones. There were farms and wooded areas surrounding the government buildings. Most people still rode in horse-drawn wagons, carriages, or buggies.  Many goods were still made by hand. Incorporating these details into the story grounds it and fixes the time and place.

Character is another way to create an authentic story. When a story takes place in another era, the writer has to be sure to use language and sentence structure that rings true. In 1908, children spoke in a more formal style, like their parents. Very little slang was used. Children addressed other adults as Mr. or Mrs. and often used “sir” or ‘ma’am” when speaking to their parents.

A character’s actions and behavior was different than it is today. Expectations for males and females were much more divided and specific. Boys had more freedom to explore and be adventurous. They were expected to roughhouse and get into trouble now and then. Girls on the other hand, were expected to be lady-like and exhibit proper behavior at all times. They were encouraged to excel at the “domestic arts” such as sewing, cooking, housekeeping, and child rearing.

Here are some of the “Rules of Etiquette” young people were expected to follow at the turn of the Twentieth Century.

General Rules of Etiquette for Ladies and Gentlemen

13 Mannerisms to be avoided by all: 

  1. Whispering or pointing in company.
  2. Giving attention to only one person when more are present.
  3. Contradicting parents, friends, or strangers.
  4. Laughing loudly.
  5. Making noise with hands and feet.
  6. Leaning on the shoulder or chair of another.
  7. Throwing things instead of handing them.
  8. Crowding or bumping elbows.
  9. Contempt in looks, words, or actions.
  10. Drawing attention to self with dress.
  11. Lending a borrowed book.
  12. Reading when there is company, or when others are speaking.
  13. Laughing at the mistakes of others.

Manners appropriate for all:

  1. To be gentle and patient with others.
  2. To remember that while speech is wonderful, it is sometimes better to be silent.
  3. Speak with a gentle tone and never in anger.
  4. Learn to deny yourself and put others first.
  5. Give applause only by clapping hands – not by kicking or stamping feet.
  6. Rise to one’s feet when an older person or dignitary enters the room.

 All this makes me wonder: How many of these rules do any of us consider important today?