Tuesday, September 28, 2010

This post is such a joke

[This article is adapted from one originally posted on I.N.K. (Interesting Nonfiction for Kids) on October 15, 2008. At the time, I was doing research for what became this year’s Fall book, My Teacher is a Dinosaur. Only one of these jokes ended up in the book as it turned out. Maybe there needs to be a sequel...!]

For some odd reason I recently began writing riddles and jokes about invertebrates, among other creatures:

Q. Why are anemones so popular?
A. The anemone of my anemone is my friend.

Q. Why are tubeworms so shy?
A. They‘re introvertebrates.

Time travel came up... temporally, at least:
Q. What’s the most common way to time travel?
A. Throwing the alarm clock at the wall!

Q. Why is time travel so confusing?
A. I already told you that next week!

Astronomy tried to take on a starring role:

Q. What do you call a mean meteor?
A. A nasteroid!

Q. How does the Earth say good-bye to the Moon?
A. Later, crater!

If there‘s an award for awful jokes, I hope to win it. It’s been about twenty years since I last grappled with similar material, and then to do just the illustrations for David Adler’s The Dinosaur Princess. So, how do you write a riddle or joke, anyway? Here's one method:

1. Choose a subject, let‘s say mammoths. List words that describe how they looked, their behavior, their habitat, and so on.
trunk trumpet tusk snow ice huge big bones big teeth, etc.

2. Think of rhymes, similar-sounding words, and/or words that contain the word:
scary contrary fairy canary very necessary Larry
go know no slow slowpoke snowflake
junk chunk clunk skunk truncated

3. Use these ideas to write a rhyming, nonsensical, or goofy possible answer:a scary
hairy fairy
a snowpoke

4. Make up a question that gives a hint of the answer:

Q. Why were baby mammoths afraid of losing a tusk?
A. Because of their hairy scary tooth fairy!

Q. How fast did mammoths walk in winter?
A. They were snowpokes!

5. Try variations on classic joke formulas:

Q. How many mammoths did it take to change a light bulb?
A. None because there were no lamps in the Ice Age!

Wording the question and answer carefully will maximize the effect. For a real challenge, once you get good at writing regular riddles, try incorporating one into a poem or limerick. (I’d show a sample, but have to save them for the book.)

One book for kids about how they can write their own jokes is
Funny You Should Ask: How to Make Up Jokes and Riddles with Wordplay by Marvin Terban. He has written over thirty books for kids about various types of wordplay.
I ran across This Book is a Joke by Holly Kowitt in a used book store, and find it especially funny for some reason. It covers a ton of topics from pets to school lunches to the eight types of classmates. Mostly text, it does contain a few delightfully goofy cartoons. Note the award seal on the cover which proudly proclaims: This Book Won Nothing.

The world of nonfiction has a lot of potential gold for the enterprising humor prospector... because you have know some facts about a topic in order to be able to make fun of it. And that’s no joke!

Disclaimer: It’s possible somebody has already thought of some of these jokes/riddles... I came up with them on my own, but people have been kidding around for a long time!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Nonfiction picture books: praise and pet peeves

I just came across this post on The Miss Rumphius Effect from last May, don’t know how it managed to elude me until now. The author of this popular blog, Tricia Stohr-Hunt, has a Ph.D. in Science Education and teaches at The University of Richmond. Nonfiction Picture Books, What I Love and What Makes Me Crazy has very kind words to say about my books and several other terrific authors.

One of the crazy-making issues she mentions is when nonfiction books are lacking...can you guess what?

I’ll give you a hint...or maybe you’ll just have to go read the article. The comments are excellent, also.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

My Teacher is a Dinosaur on I.N.K.

The I.N.K. blog (Interesting Nonfiction for Kids) is back after an August hiatus with plenty of interesting articles about nonfiction books. Please visit this link to read my post, Time for prehistory

I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of “infographics”... it’s pretty much what it sounds like, just simple graphics that visually convey information. Anyway, I used a few simple ones to help make my point, that while there are a zillion books about dinosaurs, what about the rest of prehistory?

Happy reading!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

PW on The Shocking Truth about Energy

I forgot to post this previously, but this book is sure to be a classic, so no worries, right? By the way, take a peek at my fab new favicon. You have to actually be on the blog page to see it up to the left of the URL...it’s a little pile of books and a heart with my initials on top. That’s a lot to fit into a 16 X 16 pixel square(!) In case you’re viewing this in a reader, here it is at 32 X 32 pixels so you can see it:
Anyway, Publishers Weekly included my spring book under the headline Hot Topics!, which highlighted history and science books for young readers.
“This lively picture book stars Erg, a lightning bolt of ‘pure energy.’ Erg shares how energy gets transferred into different forms...describes the effects of global warming, and weighs the pros and cons of solar, wind, geothermal....Personified automobiles and appliances communicate via speech balloons, as easy-to-follow flowcharts make a potentially abstract concept tangible.”
Publishers Weekly

Below is a simple diagram from the book showing how water flowing through a dam makes power. (An earlier illustration goes into more detail about how a power plant generates electricity.)
From The Shocking Truth about Energy ©2010 by Loreen Leedy
I always learn a lot when writing and illustrating a book... this one was no exception! An activity/coloring sheet for this book can be found here. To see a spread from this book, please visit this page on my web site.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Sneak peek #1

I’m working on a dummy for a book that will be available next fall (assuming I get it finished, that is.) Here is a little glimpse of what may be in it (this actual image may change):
 You’re welcome to guess what the topic of the book is, but I can’t tell you yet. : )

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Shocking Truth about Energy activity sheet

The Shocking Truth about Energy “...takes readers on a fast-paced journey, explaining what energy is, its various forms, how they are generated, and the ‘good news’ and ‘bad news’ about each one...a welcome addition on an important subject.” School Library Journal 

For more info, reviews, and a math project idea, see this page on my web site. 

Here is an activity/coloring sheet I whipped up this morning, utilizing some artwork from the book:
Just click on the image, then print out the enlarged view for use in the classroom. The idea is that each item will be marked with a letter according to what type of energy it needs to function. Here is the answer key:
Fossil Fuel: jet and truck
Muscle Power: bicycle and skateboard
Solar: calculator and plant
Wind: kite and wind turbine

If you have any comments or questions, please let me know.

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