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I just got an invitation to speak at an international Children’s Media Conference overseas (yay!), and walking to my studio this morning was thinking about the subject, which involves working in and presenting children’s content in new media and multimedia. It occurred to me that many of my children’s author/illustrator colleagues who do print books work in much more media than we think….most of us disseminate content crossmedia whether we realize it or not.

For example, I belong to a group of about three dozen established nonfiction children’s books authors called InkThinkTank. Some of these authors are in a division of the group called Authors on Call – they do live videoconferencing, teaching in schools all over. That’s new media. Some also participate (including me) in The Nonfiction Minute – a neat and very timely idea: a fresh new post with lively engaging content is available on the web free every school day to any school, comprised of a 400-word text piece on a particularly interesting nonfiction subject, an audio recording of the text by the author, and several relevant visuals, available for downloading. Again, multimedia – taking content across several platforms.

Another cool new (less than a year old) project in which many authors, illustrators, librarians, publishers, and others in the children’s book industry talk about their work and distribute content is KidLitTV, which also has a YouTube channel and a robust social media presence. So the author or illustrator not only shows the physical print book, they may read from it, do a sketch or another activity, and talk about and expand upon the book’s subject. They are distributing information via media other than print.

I have some print books adapted to or converted to interactive apps – that’s crossmedia. And I work with a publisher doing giant child-size walk-in and desktop-size fold-out picture books (K.I.W.i. Storybooks), with custom-built apps (as well as curriculum) for each of nine subjects. Again – more than one media.

If you have a blog or a website, or do videos or Skype, in which you share content, ideas, or activities, you are working in multimedia. You are also when you do school visits or lectures using PowerPoint or Keynote. Some authors and illustrators put interesting content from their books on their social media sites…again, multimedia.

So, it’s not just making apps and other fancy electronic (or not) creations. Most of you are more involved in new media and cross-platform content distribution than you may think.

Links:

K.I.W.i. (Kids Walk-in Interactive) Storybooks: http://www.kiwistorybooks.com/
InkThinkTank: http://inkthinktank.com/
Authors on Call: http://inkthinktank.com/authors-on-call/
The Nonfiction Minute: http://www.nonfictionminute.com/
KidLitTV: http://kidlit.tv/
YouTube KidLitTV: https://www.youtube.com/user/KidLitTV

So, kind of like when a person finally gets a diagnosis – a name – for an illness, this is a great relief.

Sometimes I have had moments of doubt when trying to categorize my own books. Usually I call them nonfiction – they’re about real things. My nature/science (birds, bugs, snakes, and dinosaurs) and biography books fit snugly into the basic nonfiction category. But some others, for example the lift-the-flap paper-engineered books, like Go! Go! Go! (about transportation), Circus, Rodeo, and Doors (you learn about what’s in a doctor’s office, horse barn, boat, train, mechanic’s garage, space station, etc), are a little quirky and are occasionally even considered “novelty” books. They don’t fall neatly into the nonfiction category. And books like Market Maze and Ecomazes: 12 Earth Adventures use “gamification” and educational devices not typical of nonfiction books. Some are concept books (for instance, Mazeways: A to Z – an alphabet book that shows real-life things and their environs, like an airport, boatyard, highways, etc). Then there are nonfiction ideas that are wrapped around a finding/counting/naming format, like Desert Days, Desert Nights and Ranch.

Turns out there’s a name for these works… Informational books!

You could call informational books a subset of nonfiction. Nonfiction includes any content or text that is factual. However, not all nonfiction is considered informational. The main purpose of informational texts is to inform or instruct the reader in some way.

Informational text often teaches about the social and natural world (and frequently, in my case, the man-made world). A biography is a classic form of nonfiction; it teaches us about an individual’s life, and certain points in history, but it is not considered “informational.” A procedural or how-to text tells one how to do something; it doesn’t convey information about a particular topic. Other forms of nonfiction may be narrative (like a memoir). Informational text differs from other types of nonfiction in purpose, features, and, often, format.

There are many benefits, besides learning facts, to children when they are exposed to informational books. Understanding new words is one. From So Much More Than the ABCs: The Early Phases of Reading and Writing by Judith A. Schickedanz and Molly F. Collins:  “Because informational books contain many sophisticated technical words and explain them explicitly, reading this kind of book helps children learn higher-level vocabulary.” The illustrations, and sometimes charts and other imagery in informational picture books, enhance learning, thinking, and contribute to increased comprehension… they can be a form of visual cognition for some children.

Informational books often address children’s specific interests and questions about the world. Librarians tell me that these are the books most often asked for; their young patrons want to learn about and understand how things work, are built, what they look like, where they come from. The various ways in which writers and illustrators create these informational works make for some engaging books which enlighten and inform children, often in lively, accessible, and fun formats.

Here’s some more info:

http://www.naeyc.org/books/so_much_more_than_the_abcs/excerpt

http://www.teachersfirst.com/exclusives/moreless/librarian/fuss/q2.cfm

 

I’ve been wondering what this new 3-D printing thing is all about. Well, in keeping with its name, the 21st Century Children’s Nonfiction Conference, which just concluded in New Paltz at the State University of New York, had a cool demo of it. SUNY has state-of-the-art 3-D printers. Daniel Freedman, the Dean of the School of Science and Engineering, gave a brief luncheon talk about it. Sally Isaacs and Lionel Bender, conference co-chairs, wanted a faculty member for a demo, and after the Dean’s talk, asked me if I’d volunteer to model for it.

Sure, says me. I’ll try anything once. So a couple hours before the demo I wander over to the table in the registration area to observe the machine. It’s a glass-enclosed rectangular box about 15” high. Okaaaay, I thought. Gulp. I guess I stick my head in that box and get it scanned, kind of like a MRI. A little undignified, but anything for science. Or is that, anything for art? Either one.

Main concerns: (1.) Will it fry my brain right away, or will the damage show up in 20 years; (2.) Will the head come out looking like those little shrunken heads we were so repelled and fascinated by as kids.

1.nonfiction_74 copyAt the appointed time I show up, as does the professor, his nice assistant, and a bunch of conference attendees. Ah! Great relief. The box is where the “printing” occurs, not the scanning. I sit on a chair, super still, and they’ll use a hand-held scanner. Scanning goes on for about 1-1.5 minutes, with the lady scanning sides, top and front of my head in maybe 2-3 passes, with the scanner held about 30 inches away.

2.nonfiction_87 copy4.nonfiction_90 copy6.nonfiction_93 copySoon, the glass box starts to make some noise and comes alive, and slowly, over about 30 minutes, in thin layers, prints the “image.” I had a choice of red or white for it. Chose white –  red would be too creepy. The white material, a kind of light-weight poly substance, was wrapped around a spool behind the machine – it was like thick  thread (diameter maybe 1/8”). Lots of substances can be used, including gold (for jewelry!). Apparently, this technology is already being implemented to make crowns for teeth. And you CAN actually make a gun, but after a couple of shots the heat and action distorts it. But, hey, a couple bullets may be all that is needed. :-((

nonfiction_96 copy8..nonfiction_103 copyThe tiny Roxie “sculpture” has a flat back, where it was lying on the bed of the printer, and was built up from there – ending on the nose. (Although, you can see below that the nose was a little cut off…) The 3-D print can be made larger, but that takes longer. The larger it is, the better the quality, up to almost full head size; then as you make it even larger, quality decreases.

Roxie_Munro_3-D(Thought we should have two largish ones made and they could be used as Roxie bookends. Or a big one for a doorstop. Except they are really lightweight – there is a honey-comb interior.)

Roxie-Munro 3-D

So this was a bit of an adventure – no harm done (“…yet,” she says grimly), and we learned a lot. Very cool of the Nonfiction Conference folks to have arranged this.

I’ll have a more extensive report on the Conference, which was totally fabulous!, in another post.

Authors all over are playing tag.

Someone came up with the idea to have a “blog hop”– a writer answers a few questions about his or her work, then tags two other authors in the post, and then they post and tag two other people and so on. Last week I was tagged by Mina Javaherbin, the award-winning author of Goal and The Secret Message. Her wonderful books are multicultural…she is interested in the “new global village way of life.” Mina and I met up in New York a couple years ago, and connected immediately – she is brilliant, vibrant, and involved. Please check out her websitehttp://minajavaherbin.com/ ) and her great books!

So on to The Next Big Thing questions for me:

1. What is the title of your work-in-progress? Slithery Snakes

Roxie Munro

2. Where did the idea come from? It evolved from a series of nature books I’ve created: Hatch! (about birds); Busy Builders (bugs); EcoMazes: 12 Earth Adventures (ecosystems); Desert Days, Desert Nights (desert habitats).

3. What genre does your book come under? Nonfiction, or informational, children’s picture books.

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie?  Sir Hiss from the animated “Robin Hood” movie, the viper in “Kung Fu Panda,” Nagini in “Harry Potter”?

5. One sentence synopsis for your book? Brilliantly painted snake skin patterns, and some fun facts – try to guess the snake species; turn the page to see the answer, with the snake in its habitat.

6. Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency? Out in August from Two Lions, Amazon Children’s Publishing.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? Six months.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? Hmmmm – maybe books by Lynne Cherry or Mia Posada.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book? I think certain aspects of nature can be stranger than anything you can dream up!

10.What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? The vibrant colors and patterns, and some fun and wild information about snakes!

And now, I am tagging two wonderful children’s book folks:

Pat Cummings (website: http://www.patcummings.com/ ) has been an artist all her life. She speaks at conferences, teaches, cohosts “Cover to Cover” (a talk show about the children’s book industry), and works with CBBC (Children’s Book Boot Camp). She’s also involved with PEN and SCBWI. Pat’s fabulous books, many of which she both writes and illustrates, have a strong graphic look …powerful and compelling.

Joy Chu has worked with books most of her life, as a designer and art director for many major publishers. She now runs Joy Chu Designs, as a graphic designer and publishing consultant. Her work has been cited by AIGA, BookBuilders West, the Society of Illustrators, National Book Awards, Print, Step-by-Step, and Publishers Weekly. She’s active in SCBWI, teaches, and writes the popular Got Story Countdown blog. (http://gotstorycountdown.wordpress.com/ )