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Planet Omar: Accidental Trouble Magnet, with illustrations by Nasaya Mafaridik

You might recognise Omar, he was originally published as The Muslims by small, independent publishing house Sweet Apple, and I wrote a post about how much I loved it (not long after it won the Little Rebels Prize). Now, with new illustrations, Hachette are taking him to the mainstream into his own series of books. I enjoyed reading the proof copy I was sent (thanks Hachette) and noticed that although the story has changed slightly, the humour and everyday touches that I loved remain, and I was very happy to be able to ask author Zanib Mian a few questions about it:

Hi Zanib, thank you for agreeing to undergo the Third Degree!

You’ve written a number of picture books but this is your first book for older readers, what prompted you to write a longer story?

My writing is often inspired by my own children, so when they were younger, I wrote a lot of picture book stories. When I started writing the book that is now Planet Omar, my son was nine years old. He was growing up, which meant there were so many more dimensions to his often hilarious personality. I was compelled to write a character like him! But I wasn’t quite sure what kind of story I would write, until I began to notice how much young children were suddenly politically aware – discussing Trump in the playground and often overhearing adults discussing the news (usually involving Muslims!). The NSPCC reported a surge in faith-based bullying in playgrounds. Primary aged children were being called ‘terrorists.’ This was all very upsetting and the inspiration behind the book. I thought it was time that the world met a regular Muslim family, like Omar’s.

Why do you feel that it was important to include so many details about the everyday actions of practicing Muslims?

I feel that prejudice arises from a lack of awareness. People may not understand our reasons for doing certain things – they are completely alien to them. For those people who don’t have any Muslim friends and are reluctant to ask questions, the book gives a nice insight into why we do things like fast during Ramadan, or wear hijab. It also includes lots of comical situations that go on in Muslim households that are related to our practices.

I loved Science Sundays! What made you decide that both his parents should be scientists?

That was easy! I am a Molecular Cell Biologist, who loves all things Science. I thought it would be a great way to inspire children towards the subject and show them how ‘cool’ and fun it can be. Making both Mum and Dad Scientists meant that I could really trickle it through the pages, as with Science Sundays, which I very much enjoyed doing!

‘Planet Omar’ was first published as ‘The Muslims’ by Sweet Apple publishers. When you were re-editing it for a larger publishing house did the process feel very different?

Yes, it did. It was the first time I worked with a larger publishing house, so it was very a very different, but hugely positive experience to when I publish books under Sweet Apple. My editor, Kate Agar, wanted to expand the book in areas where I had already felt needed more work, so I was happy to jump on it. Her suggestions and prompts were very inspiring, allowing me to imagine more scenes (just like Omar imagines!) and bringing out the best in my writing.

How did you feel about the illustrations being replaced? Were there any parts you weren’t happy with and asked to be redone?

The illustrations were actually the hardest part of the transition, at first. That’s because, as the book had had a life of its own, I had images in my mind of the characters as they were in The Muslims. Especially for Omar. Seeing him change completely was a bit of an adjustment! The creative team at Hachette were wonderful about getting my input and thoughts. I really have enjoyed working with the whole team there and was really touched by how much they valued my opinion on the artwork and cover. I asked them to make Omar’s face cheekier and the Mum a bit more quirky. They came back with more drafts until I was happy and now I’m in love with the end result!

Do you enjoy visiting schools to talk about Omar?

Oh yes, visiting schools around the publication of Planet Omar. I love seeing the children giggle in complete relation to Omar and his family antics. They seem to be very intrigued and inspired by Omar’s imagination, which is fabulous! One of the schools I visited had already read the book, so their line of questions at the end was very specific. I was extremely warmed by their concern that I might have written the book because I had myself been bullied or suffered a nasty neighbour. I reassured them that it wasn’t the case!

What are you reading at the moment and who would you recommend it to?

I am reading Charlie Changes into a Chicken by Sam Copeland, because I want to read all the awesome books by my author friends. It’s hilarious. I’d recommend it to any kid who wants to have a laugh and likes poo jokes. For some adult reading, I’ve dug into Jonas Jonnason’s Hitman Anders and the Meaning of It All – I love this author’s unique writing style. Makes me smile all the way through.

What’s next for Omar, and what’s next for you?!

Planet Omar is a series! Book 2 will be out in Febuary 2020, where you can read about more of his shenanigans! I’ve loved writing for middle grade and had a blast writing Planet Omar book 2.

Zanib Mian

Planet Omar: Accidental Trouble Magnet is out now!

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Today marks the 13th Birthday of Teen Librarian Monthly, it is at times hard to believe that it lasted as long as it has! The very first issue of Teen Librarian Monthly was two pages in length; the last one (in its current format) is five pages.

It has not really changed much over the years – the layout has changed, I started using a new header although I have reverted to an improved version of the original for the anniversary issue. I think my writing has improved over the years.

The decision to call time on TLM was not an easy one, I am hoping to resurrect it in a new format using one of the many online newsletter services that have grown up over the years.

I will be testing them out over the upcoming months to see how they work and decide which one (if any) meet my needs for a simple email newsletter service.

If anyone has suggestions on what they would like to see in a future TLM please do e-mail me or comment below.

The full archive of Teen Librarian Monthly is accessible at https://teenlibrarianmonthly.wordpress.com/

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Planet Omar: Accidental Trouble Magnet, with illustrations by Nasaya Mafaridik

You might recognise Omar, he was originally published as The Muslims by small, independent publishing house Sweet Apple, and I wrote a post about how much I loved it (not long after it won the Little Rebels Prize). Now, with new illustrations, Hachette are taking him to the mainstream into his own series of books. I enjoyed reading the proof copy I was sent (thanks Hachette) and noticed that although the story has changed slightly, the humour and everyday touches that I loved remain, and I was very happy to be able to ask author Zanib Mian a few questions about it:

Hi Zanib, thank you for agreeing to undergo the Third Degree!

You’ve written a number of picture books but this is your first book for older readers, what prompted you to write a longer story?

My writing is often inspired by my own children, so when they were younger, I wrote a lot of picture book stories. When I started writing the book that is now Planet Omar, my son was nine years old. He was growing up, which meant there were so many more dimensions to his often hilarious personality. I was compelled to write a character like him! But I wasn’t quite sure what kind of story I would write, until I began to notice how much young children were suddenly politically aware – discussing Trump in the playground and often overhearing adults discussing the news (usually involving Muslims!). The NSPCC reported a surge in faith-based bullying in playgrounds. Primary aged children were being called ‘terrorists.’ This was all very upsetting and the inspiration behind the book. I thought it was time that the world met a regular Muslim family, like Omar’s.

Why do you feel that it was important to include so many details about the everyday actions of practicing Muslims?

I feel that prejudice arises from a lack of awareness. People may not understand our reasons for doing certain things – they are completely alien to them. For those people who don’t have any Muslim friends and are reluctant to ask questions, the book gives a nice insight into why we do things like fast during Ramadan, or wear hijab. It also includes lots of comical situations that go on in Muslim households that are related to our practices.

I loved Science Sundays! What made you decide that both his parents should be scientists?

That was easy! I am a Molecular Cell Biologist, who loves all things Science. I thought it would be a great way to inspire children towards the subject and show them how ‘cool’ and fun it can be. Making both Mum and Dad Scientists meant that I could really trickle it through the pages, as with Science Sundays, which I very much enjoyed doing!

‘Planet Omar’ was first published as ‘The Muslims’ by Sweet Apple publishers. When you were re-editing it for a larger publishing house did the process feel very different?

Yes, it did. It was the first time I worked with a larger publishing house, so it was very a very different, but hugely positive experience to when I publish books under Sweet Apple. My editor, Kate Agar, wanted to expand the book in areas where I had already felt needed more work, so I was happy to jump on it. Her suggestions and prompts were very inspiring, allowing me to imagine more scenes (just like Omar imagines!) and bringing out the best in my writing.

How did you feel about the illustrations being replaced? Were there any parts you weren’t happy with and asked to be redone?

The illustrations were actually the hardest part of the transition, at first. That’s because, as the book had had a life of its own, I had images in my mind of the characters as they were in The Muslims. Especially for Omar. Seeing him change completely was a bit of an adjustment! The creative team at Hachette were wonderful about getting my input and thoughts. I really have enjoyed working with the whole team there and was really touched by how much they valued my opinion on the artwork and cover. I asked them to make Omar’s face cheekier and the Mum a bit more quirky. They came back with more drafts until I was happy and now I’m in love with the end result!

Do you enjoy visiting schools to talk about Omar?

Oh yes, visiting schools around the publication of Planet Omar. I love seeing the children giggle in complete relation to Omar and his family antics. They seem to be very intrigued and inspired by Omar’s imagination, which is fabulous! One of the schools I visited had already read the book, so their line of questions at the end was very specific. I was extremely warmed by their concern that I might have written the book because I had myself been bullied or suffered a nasty neighbour. I reassured them that it wasn’t the case!

What are you reading at the moment and who would you recommend it to?

I am reading Charlie Changes into a Chicken by Sam Copeland, because I want to read all the awesome books by my author friends. It’s hilarious. I’d recommend it to any kid who wants to have a laugh and likes poo jokes. For some adult reading, I’ve dug into Jonas Jonnason’s Hitman Anders and the Meaning of It All – I love this author’s unique writing style. Makes me smile all the way through.

What’s next for Omar, and what’s next for you?!

Planet Omar is a series! Book 2 will be out in Febuary 2020, where you can read about more of his shenanigans! I’ve loved writing for middle grade and had a blast writing Planet Omar book 2.

Zanib Mian

Planet Omar: Accidental Trouble Magnet is out now!

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Today marks the 13th Birthday of Teen Librarian Monthly, it is at times hard to believe that it lasted as long as it has! The very first issue of Teen Librarian Monthly was two pages in length; the last one (in its current format) is five pages.

It has not really changed much over the years – the layout has changed, I started using a new header although I have reverted to an improved version of the original for the anniversary issue. I think my writing has improved over the years.

The decision to call time on TLM was not an easy one, I am hoping to resurrect it in a new format using one of the many online newsletter services that have grown up over the years.

I will be testing them out over the upcoming months to see how they work and decide which one (if any) meet my needs for a simple email newsletter service.

If anyone has suggestions on what they would like to see in a future TLM please do e-mail me or comment below.

The full archive of Teen Librarian Monthly is accessible at https://teenlibrarianmonthly.wordpress.com/

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NASA

NASA Selfie App: available for iPhone & Android https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?feature=7220

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory education website: https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/edu/learn/

 Straw Rockets: https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/edu/teach/activity/straw-rocket/

NASA Image & Video Library – free to download & use: https://images.nasa.gov/

NASA Kid’s Club: https://www.nasa.gov/kidsclub/index.html

Apollo 50th: https://www.nasa.gov/specials/apollo50th/

European Space Agency

Education: https://www.esa.int/Education

European Space Education Resource Office https://www.stem.org.uk/esero

Music & Songs

Zar and the Broken Spaceship by Dino O’Dell 

Zar and the Broken Spaceship - YouTube

Trout Fishing in America – Alien in my Nose

Alien In My Nose - YouTube

Lyrics: https://www.flashlyrics.com/lyrics/trout-fishing-in-america/alien-in-my-nose-41

Space Day Camp Song Sheet: https://ftclatsopbsa.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/2011-space-day-camp-song-list.doc

Science Experiments

Steve Spangler Science: https://www.stevespanglerscience.com/lab/experiments/

Science Kiddo: https://www.sciencekiddo.com/

Science Bob: https://sciencebob.com/category/experiments/

Science Sparks: https://www.science-sparks.com/category/science-experiments-for-kids/

Imagination Station Toledo: https://www.imaginationstationtoledo.org/educator/activities/

Activity Ideas

Two Book Geeks site: www.twobookgeeks.blogspot.com

Fun with black light flashlight – tide liquid soak glows in uv light https://sciencenotes.org/list-of-things-that-glow-under-black-light/

Post-it note 8bit art https://8-bitart.com/

Glow in the dark slime https://www.thebestideasforkids.com/glow-in-the-dark-slime/

Pre-Kinders Space Activities: https://www.prekinders.com/space-theme/

Nebula in a Bottle: http://www.pbs.org/parents/crafts-for-kids/diy-nebula-jar/

Straw rockets: https://buggyandbuddy.com/straw-rockets-with-free-rocket-template/

Hoop Glider: https://sciencebob.com/the-incredible-hoop-glider/

Stories       

Constellation Legends: http://tcoe.org/scicon/instructionalguide/constellations.pdf

Star tales: http://www.ianridpath.com/startales/contents.htm

Other Resources

CSLP Facebook page – for ideas and links to resources: https://www.facebook.com/cslpreads/

Herschel Space Observatory: http://herschel.cf.ac.uk/education

National Schools’ Observatory: https://www.schoolsobservatory.org/

GAIA in the UK: https://www.gaia.ac.uk/education

National Space Centre: http://education.spacecentre.co.uk/information/learning-resources

Astro Science Challenge: http://www.astrosciencechallenge.com/

UK Space Agency STEM Resources: https://www.data.org.uk/for-education/secondary/uk-space-agency/

Kid’s Astronomy: www.kidsastronomy.com

Rocketry for Kids: https://a2zhomeschooling.com/explore/astronomy/rocketry_kids/

RosCosmos: http://en.roscosmos.ru/117/

Scouts & the UK Space Agency: https://fundraising.scouts.org.uk/ukspaceagency

International Literacy Association: https://www.literacyworldwide.org/blog/literacy-daily/2019/03/05/blast-off!-space-exploration-and-litera

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I have been looking forward to Pen&inc. since it was first announced in the CILIP Diversity Review of the Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Awards report!

Now it is here! If you are a CILIP Member you will soon receive a physical copy in the post with the latest issue of Information Professional.

If you are not a member of CILIP – do not fear! You can still read a copy of this fantastic publication online!

It is essential reading for anyone interested in equality, inclusion and children’s literature!

Just click on the cover image below and you will be taken to the digitcal edition.

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The first two Narwhal books by Ben Clanton

These graphic novels are a brilliant introduction to the medium for young readers, written and drawn by Canadian Ben Clanton they are short and simple but wonderfully silly, about the adventures of best friends Narwhal and Jelly. The first two books are out in the UK now!

Narwhal and Jelly meet for the first time in the first story

I literally laughed out loud at the banter, the stories are just joyful and so much is said in very few words. I can’t imagine anyone of any age, from 5+, not loving this series (book 3 is due in September). They tackle friendship, embracing difference, and all sorts of emotions, and they’re totally adorable and really funny. For information lovers, there are pages of facts about creatures mentioned in the stories.

Yes, that is a narwhal and a jellyfish enjoying waffles on the other page!

When Egmont asked if I’d like review copies for the blog I jumped at them (thankyou for sending them to me), because the glimpse of the comic strip on the press release immediately brought to mind another underwater character that I love, who could really do with a Narwhal and Jelly in her life: Lucy the Octopus by Richy K. Chandler. He’s visited two of my schools to do comics workshops and all of the students have had a great time with him, I highly recommend getting him in. When he visited my current school a couple of years ago he gave us a couple of printed volumes of the webcomic (still available to buy), but there is now a hardback graphic novel you can buy for your library to bring cheer to the lives of all your anxious (& possibly bullied) faves (recommended to age 9+)

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A fairly simple idea using origami fortune-tellers (also known as cootie catchers, chatterboxes or whirlybirds) as a passive activity for library patrons to choose books or authors that may be diffrent from their usual tastes. I have included a craft element for patrons that wish to learn how to make their own fortune-tellers to take away. The instructions on how to make and use fortune-tellers can be found below.

Download (PDF, 321KB)

Download (PDF, 316KB)

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