May 15, 2013

Nighttime Ninja Wins Award!

Thank you, everyone! What an honor!

From Publishers Weekly:

The winners of the sixth annual Children’s Choice Book Awards were announced May 13 at a ceremony in New York City hosted by the Children’s Book Council. Book of the Year awards went to: Nighttime Ninja by Barbara DaCosta, illus. by Ed Young (kindergarten to second grade); Bad Kitty for President by Nick Bruel (third to fourth grade); Dork Diaries 4: Tales from a Not-So-Graceful Ice Princess by Rachel RenĂ©e Russell (fifth to sixth grade); and The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (teen). Jeff Kinney was named author of the year for Diary of a Wimpy Kid 7: The Third Wheel, and Robin Preiss Glasser was named illustrator of the year for Fancy Nancy and the Mermaid Ballet, written by Jane O’Connor.

March 3, 2013

Nighttime Ninja Finalist for Awards: Vote Now!

The prolific author James Patterson started a children's literacy project called Read Kiddo Read, and Nighttime Ninja is a picture book finalist among this year's books! You can vote here.

Nighttime Ninja is also a finalist for the Children’s and Teen Choice Book Awards  the only national book awards program where the winning titles are selected by young readers of all ages, at 30 finalists have been announced in six categories, representing kids’ and teens’ favorite books, authors, and illustrators of the year. Last year, almost 1,000,000 votes were cast, more than doubling votes from the previous year. Young readers can vote at or their votes may be tallied and entered by booksellers, librarians, and teachers into the group ballot at until May 9, 2013. 

December 16, 2012

When Lilacs Last in thd Dooryard Bloom'd

At times of overwhelming universal sadness, as we mourn the loss of so many lives in Sandy Hook, poetry sometimes captures things best:
When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom’d,
And the great star early droop’d in the western sky in the night,
I mourn’d, and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.

Ever-returning spring, trinity sure to me you bring,
Lilac blooming perennial and drooping star in the west,
And thought of him I love....
Walt Whitman's poem, an elegy to President Lincoln, can be found in its entirety in many anthologies, and online at the Poetry Foundation.

December 10, 2012

When Azaleas Last in the Front Yard Bud: An Ode to Global Warming

When azaleas last in the front yard bud,
Last week in an odd early winter heat,
Before the temperature did downward thud,
And snow crunched beneath my feet.

©Barbara DaCosta
December 9, 2012

December 8, 2012

Landfillharmonic--Making Music Out of Trash

Landfill Harmonic movie teaser from Landfill Harmonic on Vimeo.

More inspiration for recycling: "Cateura, Paraguay is a town essentially built on top of a landfill. Garbage collectors browse the trash for sellable goods, and children are often at risk of getting involved with drugs and gangs. When orchestra director Szaran and music teacher Favio set up a music program for the kids of Cateura, they soon have more students than they have instruments. That changed when Szaran and Favio were brought something they had never seen before: a violin made out of garbage. Today, there’s an entire orchestra of assembled instruments, now called The Recycled Orchestra. Our film shows how trash and recycled materials can be transformed into beautiful sounding musical instruments, but more importantly, it brings witness to the transformation of precious human beings." See Landfillharmonic for more information and innovation!

November 20, 2012

Cardboard Mania 3: The Proof is in the Box!

More proof that cardboard boxes are a more evolved species of toy and lead to more brain power:
A Wellington, Ohio schoolteacher opted for cardboard boxes instead of toys, and the kids didn't bat an eye...but instead, actually concentrated more.
"Kids who had trouble separating from their parents in the morning or just were quieter in the classroom, we have actually seen them become leaders and we have seen them grow,” Kaser said. It's not all about racing marbles and role playing; the teachers say that the kids are learning more than just playing with boxes.
"There are negotiations when one person says it's a hotel and someone else says it's a rocket ship, being able to solve those problems and also be flexible,” said Jill Webb, Head of Lower School at Wellington. NBC4

October 15, 2012

Cardboard Mania, Part 2: Cardboard Bicycle!

As if Caine's Arcade wasn't enough, a man named Izhar Gafni has created a cardboard bicycle! Here's a video interview:

September 24, 2012

Nighttime Ninja Meets Cardboard Mania

Maybe you've heard of Caine's Arcade....An enterprising young man with time on his hands and a lot of cardboard created a fun arcade that has spawned a whole empire, including the Imagination Foundation, which is sponsoring a "Cardboard Challenge" this October 6th. The goal is to stimulate imagination and creativity.
Without realizing it, I'd begun my own Cardboard Challenge this fall. It came about as a confluence of two events: the excitement of the release of my children's picture book Nighttime Ninja, and the mundane activity of cleaning house. When I began cleaning, I was a bit depressed to find large stashes of cardboard: boxes, sheets, tubes, you name it, some of it dating back more than thirty years! Why was I saving this? I wondered. What good is it? Why save it any longer? (To be fair, we didn't have recycling thirty years ago.)
Suddenly, it dawned on me.
I stayed up until the wee hours for several nights, getting crafty, creating Nighttime Ninja puppets and more! All it took was a bit of paint, and imagination.
Who knows what will come in handy? That's what I keep telling myself, at least....maybe I'll build a cardboard castle, or a cardboard car, or a cardboard arcade....
Meanwhile, try out the Cardboard Challenge yourself!

July 23, 2012

Nighttime Ninja Available Soon!

Nighttime Ninja is beginning to make its presence known! And what a more splendid welcome than a starred review in Publishers Weekly:

"[Barbara] DaCosta builds her debut on the scaffolding of the suspenseful adventure that turns out to be make-believe....The depth of feeling DaCosta and [Ed] Young give to the boy’s fantasy makes this a standout."

Ed Young and I enjoyed making this book. I hope that boys and girls everywhere (and ninja-like adults) will enjoy our "children's picture book thriller!" Look for it in stores September 18.

---Barbara DaCosta

June 8, 2012

Ray Bradbury, Master Storyteller

I was around twelve years old when I first read a story by Ray Bradbury. His work captured the mysteries of both the familiar and the world beyond. The wind blowing through small midwestern towns, the longing whistle of the train in the middle of the night, the oddities of the circus world, the trips to other planets, all rendered in thoughtful prose that did not call attention to itself. Instead, Bradbury used words to paint a picture, snatch an observation, catch an emotion.
Bradbury would have undoubtedly woven a terrific story out of the dusty copies of his works that I rescued from my parents' basement, books that were among the first that I purchased myself--for a quarter each--at a used bookstore later obliterated by urban renewal.
Were his stories fantasy or science fiction? To me, they were reality always taken a step further, asking  questions that should be asked, giving answers that provoked even more mystery.
Ray Bradbury's many works--Dandelion Wine, October Country, Something Wicked This Way Come, Fahrenheit 451, The Illustrated Man--stand as testament to a life of words well done.

May 8, 2012

Maurice Sendak, Children's Book Genius

The word "genius" should not be bandied about too freely, but it certainly can be used to describe the immense contributions of Maurice Sendak to the world of children's literature. Sendak passed away May 8, 2012.
Born in 1928 to Polish Jewish immigrants, Sendak's childhood was shaped by the external forces of the Depression, World War II and the loss of much family in the Holocaust, and his own struggles with illness.
Sendak captured in his art and writing the knife's edge---the fears and delights that terrify and tantalize. His works are archived at the Rosenbach Museum in Philadelphia. Sendak can be heard interviewed by Terri Gross on NPR's Fresh Air.

April 9, 2012

Rube Goldberg Machine a Winner

The great Rube Goldberg's fantastical inventions were once a regular cartoon feature in the newspaper. Goldberg (1883-1970) had such wild inventiveness that it has lived on among engineering students everywhere, inspiring such creations as for this year's competition: a machine that was required to pop a balloon at the end, and in the process would have made "a piece of toast, juiced oranges, assembled a hamburger, inserted a CD into a CD player, shut off an alarm clock, put a stamp on an envelope, sharpened a pencil, watered a plant and more. And it incorporated multiple energy transfers, including mechanical, thermal and electrical."
 You can watch the process here, and read the full report at Wired. Also, you can visit the official site for Rube Goldberg.

January 23, 2012

Joy of Books---Hooray!

It only took 60 hours for this wonderful video Joy of Books to be filmed. Sean Ohlenkemp, a Canadian ad-man, along with wife, friends, and helpers, created this fantasy of "what happens at night when the bookstore is closed." Moving thousands of books, the team mixed and matched themes, jacket colors, sizes, shelving, doo-dads, and toys in pursuit of the message: There's nothing like a real book.
This video also became a case study in online viral phenomena, going to over 1.5 million views in less than a week as it was passed around between book lovers. I don't know if I skewed the statistics, though, as I've watched it at least a dozen times.

January 22, 2012

Charles Dickens and My Great Expectations

It will soon be the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens, one of the greatest English writers to live.
It will soon be about 200 months since I began to read Dickens' famous novel, Great Expectations, at the suggestion of a young friend who is now no longer quite so young.

Why, you might ask, has it taken me so long to read the book? There are all sorts of excuses: work, life, restarting it several times in order to refresh my memory, switching from my hectic daily life to the leisurely pace of nineteenth-century literature...but the best reason I can think of for my slowness can be found on page two of the book.
"Hold your noise!" cried a terrible voice, as a man started up from among the graves at the side of the church porch. "Keep still, you little devil, or I'll cut your throat!"
A fearful man, all in coarse gray, with a great iron on his leg. A man with no hat, and with broken shoes, and with an old rag tied round his head. A man who had been soaked in water, and smothered in mud, and lamed by stones, and cut by flints, and stung by nettles, and torn by briars; who limped, and shivered, and glared, and growled; and whose teeth chattered in his head as he seized me by the chin.
When I first came to this passage, I stopped. I read it again. I'd never read prose like this, that was so utterly poetic, so filled with rhythm, and which created so evocative a scene. I read it aloud. I  copied it down and posted it above my desk. Later, I memorized it. This one snippet from a scene had grabbed me and so thoroughly mesmerized me that I've been reading that same passage over and over for the last 200 months.
That's my excuse for not finishing Great Expectations
What is your favorite Dickens' work? Why?

December 19, 2011

More Writing Myths for Busting

"How many of us have been held back by myths? ....I’d like to add my own favorite writing myths to be busted. (Whether these are myths or delusions, I’ll leave to you to decide.) 1. You have to be neurotic to be a good writer/poet/artist/actor.
Reality: Health and happiness are ever-so-much-more-pleasant states of being.
You don’t need to be miserable to be a successful creative artist! If, however, you like creating suffering characters, what you do need is empathy. That, plus observational skills. Of course, you’ll still tap into your own experiences to some extent as you write, but you don’t need to go to extremes in your own behavior. All you need is to amplify a quality to make it stand out in a character. In other words, the personality quirk that allows someone to justify stealing a car is not that different from the person who steals a paperclip."
Read the rest of my article at Buried Under Books, then, add some of your own myths that deserve busting!