Author Spotlights: If You like Tom Clancy, You will Like Mark Greaney

Author Spotlights: If You like Tom Clancy, You will Like Mark Greaney

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Tom Clancy

In the 1980s the Cold War was nearing its end, though no one knew it then. Into this backdrop of geopolitical tension and rivalry, Tom Clancy, an insurance agent from Maryland, published his first book. With brilliant and heroic CIA agent Jack Ryan working to help a Soviet submarine captain defect with his state-of-the-art sub, The Hunt for Red October became a bestseller. Promoted by no one less than the Book Critic in Chief, Ronald Reagan, Tom Clancy embarked on a second career as an author, turning out book after book that kept him at the top of the best seller lists for decades. Several of his books also became hit movies, starring the likes of Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck, Alec Baldwin, and Chris Pine.

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Tom Clancy dominated the literary world like few others, from 1984 until his death in 2013. With iconic characters, sharp dialog, and technical accuracy, he shaped the genre of wide-focused geopolitical thrillers. Multiple conspiracies, nefarious political actors at home and abroad, bold action by our enemies and too often dithering and indecisiveness on the part of the US set the stage for crises that fortunately could be resolved at the end by Jack Ryan, John Clark, Rainbow Six, and the rest of his ultra heroic ubermenschen. His heroes did not have super powers, but they had few physical, mental, or moral weaknesses and never needed (nor ever received) oversight or punishment for overreach.

 

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Clancy could tell a story. To his credit, he often shared that story with others. He partnered with other writers during his life, and his estate has continued to do so since his death.  One writer to pick up his mantle is Mark Greaney. Greaney co-wrote Clancy’s last three novels, Locked On, Threat Vector, and Command Authority.

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Following Clancy’s death, Greaney has written four more novels in the same world: Tom Clancy: Support and Defend, Tom Clancy: Full Force and Effect, Tom Clancy: Commander in Chief, and Tom Clancy: True Faith and Allegiance.

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Mark Greaney

Greaney is also known for his Gray Man series of novels. These novels feature a disavowed CIA Agent who has become the best assassin for hire in the world, but one that holds to a moral code that prohibits him from killing “innocents” or good guys. You could hire him to kill your drug dealing rival, but not your ex-wife (unless she was a drug-dealing rival). As the novels progress, Court Gentry (the Gray Man) works out his differences with the CIA, but continues to hew to his own moral code even when it interferes with his agency missions. This usually means he is in a position where he is opposed by all of the competing parties in the novels, most of whom want him dead. Fortunately, the skill set and tenacity of the Gray Man allows him to walk–or at least limp–away at the end.

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There will never be another Tom Clancy. But in the world of high energy, world traveling, politically intriguing, death-dealing heroes, Mark Greaney fills the void.

 

Book Review: Redshirts, John Scalzi

Book Review: Redshirts, John Scalzi

Celebrate First Contact in the Star Trek Universe, April 5th

Book Review Science Fiction: Redshirts by John Scalzi

Along with spin-offs, movies, toys, and inspiration to generations of scientists, Star Trek has given us something almost everyone can relate to: the “red shirt” joke.

Star Trek red shirt meme
Star Trek red shirt meme

Several episodes of Star Trek involved a minor or bit character getting killed. Disproportionately it seems, these extras who were in the script only to die, were wearing a red uniform shirt. Thus a joke was born that has inspired comedians and those who think they are for fifty years.

This joke is at the heart of John Scalzi’s novel Redshirts, a 2012 science fiction novel that blurs the line between author and audience, past and future, and invites readers to share in the love of and amusement at Star Trek. Andrew Dahl is a newly appointed ensign aboard the Universal Union’s flagship. Soon after arriving aboard, though, he discovers that the honor is, for many, short-lived. The Intrepid goes through young ensigns fast. Every away team has a victim (or victims). Avoid decks 6-10, especially if everything is going well. And try to stay away from one of the five key officers–although their presence may save you randomly, you are more likely to die in gruesome and improbable fashion in order to save one of them.

Dahl and his friends must discover why the body count is so high before they become part of it. The question, of course, is whether they can promote themselves to main characters before they become victims of the redshirt phenomena. When you’re not writing the plot of your own show, hijacking someone else’s show leads to a very strange and yet funny end.

Redshirts

Also, Other Books by John Scalzi

Fuzzy Nation

A reboot of the classic science fiction novel Little Fuzzy by H. Beam Piper. Jack Holloway is put on trial for murder, for defending a Fuzzy under attack by a human. When an entire planet’s ecology and indigenous species is on the court docket, the case will be determined by answering the question — what is sapience, are Fuzzies only cute animals or beings with rights?

Old Man’s War

The first book in a five book series.  Here’s the deal, at age 75 after you retire, you can fight for the Colonial Defense Force; if you survive, after two years you will be given a homestead on a colony planet.  Any takers? At age 75, John Perry decides to join the army.

For more on John Scalzi see

https://whatever.scalzi.com/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Scalzi

Of course, Celebrating First Contact Day in the Star Trek universe wouldn’t be complete without a Star Trek marathon featuring Star Trek – First Contact.

Be sure to serve cheese pirogies (a Voyager episode said these were Zefram Cochrane’s favorite)!

For more on Star Trek see

http://www.startrek.com/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Trek

Also see  — Book Review: Lock In, John Scalzi 

Share how you plan to celebrate Star Trek First Contact Day with your favorite Redshirt moment here:

 

Booklist: If You Like Peter Rabbit… Bunny Books for Shared Reading with Children

If You Like Peter Rabbit…

Booklist: Bunny Books for Shared Reading with Children

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When I first heard of the 2018 live action movie of Peter Rabbit, I must admit to being worried, because I adore Beatrix Potter’s detailed and delightful watercolor illustrations. Peter Rabbit, himself is also an irrepressible trickster with that balance of naughty and nice that makes him so lovable. Of course, ending one’s adventures or rather misadventures with a soothing cup of chamomile tea is a perfect precedent to continue.  Whatever your thoughts on the movie, take time to read the original inspiration as well as some of Miss Potter’s other works.

 

For more about the author/illustrator Beatrix Potter see the 2006 PG movie Miss Potter https://www.commonsensemedia.org/movie-reviews/miss-potter

 

Before Shared Reading: Establish a Reading Routine

A reading routine can be soothing for children and help them focus on the story. Examples of routines include time and place of shared reading – before bedtime and in bed or a comfy chair. Include in your routine a way to introduce the book which includes highlighting the title, author, illustrator, and some story clues (blurbs from the back or dust cover flaps of books). This routine will help your child by building anticipation as well as listening skills.

 

During Shared Reading

Make the reading relevant to your child, by pointing specific character traits and behaviors. The lead characters in this booklist are all rabbits that act like people in both positive and negative ways. In folklore, rabbits often take on the role of the trickster, a clever character who can circumvent typical behaviors for their own positive outcome, for example, Uncle Remus’ Brer Rabbit or even Bugs Bunny. While reading, highlight naughty or nice behaviors that fits the rabbit  in the story into the trickster role.

 

After Shared Reading

Children often enjoy characters that they can relate to, even if they are being naughty, such as Mo Willem’s Pigeon who whines and wheedles in order to get his way. Talk about what your child likes or doesn’t like about the behaviors of the rabbit character. Are they relevant to your child? Is the rabbit a good or bad model of behavior? Would they want to be friends with a person or character with similar behaviors.

 

Depending on the dialog and action, use homemade (finger, stick, or sock) puppets or even stuffed plush toys to dramatize favorite scenes from the books. Reenacting the story plot helps build reading comprehension skills.

 

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If You Like Peter Rabbit…

Booklist: Bunny Books for Shared Reading with Children

 

White Rabbit’s Color Book

Words and Pictures by Alan Baker

Board Books Infants and Toddlers

White rabbit experiments with the paint pots and has a colorful adventure. If you find a paperback or hardback edition read that edition as the detailed full page spreads are easier to view. Also see by the same author/illustrator, Black and White Rabbit’s ABC

 

Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present

Words by Charlotte Zolotow

Pictures by Maurice Sendak

Caldecott Honor Book

Mr Rabbit helps a little girl find a present for her mother who loves colorful things.

 

If You Plant a Seed

Words and Pictures by Kadir Nelson

Picture Book Ages 4 – 8

Rabbit and mouse plant a garden and wait patiently for harvest, however, when it’s time to gather their carrots and cabbages unexpected visitors arrive. Gorgeous paintings by an award winner illustrator paired with a lovely story about friendship and cooperation.

 

Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale

 

Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity

Knuffle Bunny Free: An Unexpected Diversion

Words and Pictures by Mo Willems

Picture Books Ages 2 – 6

Knuffle Bunny Caldecott Medal

The adventures of Trixie and her cuddle buddy, Knuffle Bunny, from toddlerhood through preschool years will delight your family. Include The Velveteen Rabbit, words by Margery Williams and pictures by William Nicholson, during a reading session to extend the theme of rabbit shaped toy friends.

 

Bunny Cakes

Words and Pictures by Rosemary Wells

Picture Book Ages 2- 6 Part of the Max and Ruby series

Max wants to make grandma a cake with worms, but bossy Ruby wants to make an angel cake with icing. Which sibling will be in charge of the baking in the kitchen?

 

The Little Rabbit Who Lost Her Hop

Words and Pictures by Jedda Robaard

Board Book Ages 2 – 4

On the way to a party, little rabbit loses her hop – how will she get to her family’s celebration? Let children lift the flaps to see how she will get to the party on time.

 

Watership Down

Richard Addams

Fiction Fantasy

The classic tale of rabbits in search of a new home due to building on their former field. This would also be a good audiobook to listen to on a road trip. You might want to introduce younger children to the plot by viewing the animated adaptation from 1978, for more on the movie, see  https://www.commonsensemedia.org/movie-reviews/watership-down 

 

 

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The Tale of Hill Top Farm

Susan Wittig Albert

First in the Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter series

Fiction Cozy Mystery/Fantasy

Including real people and locations, this cozy mystery series brings a lighthearted look at the complexity of village life including the point of view and side stories of the animal inhabitants. Grown-up fiction which is approachable for older elementary and middle school readers.

 

So, what do you think? Peter Rabbit — movie or book? Share your thoughts below.

 

Quote: Never trust anyone who has not brought a book. Lemony Snicket

Quote: Never trust anyone who has not brought a book. Lemony Snicket

Never trust anyone who has not brought a book. Lemony Snicket, Horshradish
Never trust anyone who has not brought a book. Lemony Snicket, Horseradish Quote

Quote: Never trust anyone who has not brought a book. Lemony Snicket

Also see

Booklist: LOL Books to Laugh Out Loud with Your Children

Booklist about Books for Shared Reading with Children

Share your favorite book or reading quote here.

Quote: Sleep is good, he said, and books are better. George R. R. Martin

Quote: Sleep is good, he said, and books are better. George R. R. Martin

Sleep is goo he said, and books are better
George R. R. Martin Quote

Quote: Sleep is good, he said, and books are better. George R. R. Martin

For more on George R. R. Martin see

http://www.georgerrmartin.com/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_R._R._Martin

Share your favorite book or reading quote here.

Quote: You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough…C.S.Lewis

Quote: You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me. C.S. Lewis

You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me. C.S. Lewis
C.S. Lewis Quote

Quote C. S. Lewis, You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.

For more on C. S. Lewis see

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C._S._Lewis

http://www.cslewis.org/

 

Share your favorite book or reading quote here.

Quote: Sometimes, you read a book…John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

Quote: Sometimes, you read a book…John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

Quote: Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book. John Green, The Fault in Our Stars
Quote: John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

Quote: Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book. John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

Share your favorite book or reading quote here.

Quote: Neil Gaiman on Books and Reading

Quote: Neil Gaiman on Books and Reading

The simplest way to make sure that we raise literate children is...to show them that reading is a pleasureable activity. and that means finding books that they enjoy, giving them access to those books, and letting them read them. Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman quote on books and reading:

“The simplest way to make sure that we raise literate children is…to show them that reading is a pleasurable activity. And that means finding books that they enjoy, giving them access to those books, and letting them read them.”

— Neil Gaiman

Also see

Booklist about Books for Shared Reading with Children

Booklist: LOL Books to Laugh Out Loud with Your Children

Share your favorite book or reading quote here.

Author Spotlight: Sandra Boynton!

Author Spotlight: Sandra Boynton

April 3, Happy Birthday, Sandra Boynton!

 

Sandra Boynton’s board books were some of the first books my boys looked at, teethed on, played with, and listened to during shared reading times as babies and toddlers; and my granddaughters are carrying on the tradition. Her books are engaging, whimsical, and clever — a delight for children and their grown-ups.

 

Before Reading: Set the Stage

Hold your baby on your lap when your baby is calm; get cozy and cuddly so your baby can see the pictures. Remember proximity is important during shared reading it fosters a positive experience.  

 

During Reading: Capture Interest

Engage your baby’s attention, if it looks like your baby’s attention is drifting — tap on the book with your finger and comment on the words and pictures. Also, encourage your toddler to help you turn the board book’s pages for simple engagement. Boynton’s creatures have expressive faces, try to copy those faces and adjust your voice to show the emotion.

 

After Reading: Encourage Play

Board books are sturdy.  Let your baby hold and manipulate the pages, in order to get used to the open/shut motion of the pages. Extend that practice to other objects with hinges, such as old CD/DVD cases, to further exercise their hand-eye coordination.

 

Five Favorite Sandra Boynton Books

 

Doggies (Boynton on Board)

All kinds of doggies, and just when you think you know what to expect there’s an amazing plot twist — surprise!

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The Going to Bed Book

All the animals on the ark get ready for bed and so should the readers. A lovely way to review common bedtime routines.

 

Barnyard Dance

Classic board book fun for everyone. Encourage  your toddler to move around like the animals.

Moo Baa La La La

Another classic baby board book. Have fun making all of the animal noises and get your child to do the same.

Fuzzy, Fuzzy, Fuzzy!

The cute critters of Boynton plus a variety of textures to feel on the pages make this book extra interactive for the littlest ones. Also, this is a Pennsylvania Center for the Book recommendation for family literacy books.

OK, I fibbed, have to include Blue Hat, Green Hat because the turkey is too funny. I always cheer for the underdog, even when he is a turkey. I can read this book a dozen times in a row (yup, I have) and still chuckle in the right spots.

If you like this post you will like

Booklist LOL: Books to Laugh Out Loud with Your Children

April 3, Happy Birthday, Sandra Boynton!

To find out more about author & illustrator Sandra Boynton check out her website http://www.sandraboynton.com/sboynton/index.html

Share a birthday greeting (but skip the monsters) via Twitter @SandyBoynton