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Author focus: David Baldacci answers our questions

The UK’s Reading Groups for Everyone – an organization with a mission to get more people reading more – asks best-selling crime author David Baldacci about his reading habits, his love of libraries and his charitable work in America. Read the interview here.

Exploring Ontario with Carolyn B. Heller

1. What is the best time of year and the best way to visit Niagara Falls?

Niagara Falls is spectacular any time of year, but it’s especially beautiful in the fall, when the surrounding foliage turns brilliantly gold, yellow, and red.

To see the Falls, start by simply standing on the sidewalk above Horseshoe Falls and feeling the spray. Then, take the Maid of the Mist boat tour to the base of the Falls—and, yes, you will get wet!

Make time to see Niagara’s other natural attractions, too. I’d recommend cycling the Niagara River Recreation Trail, taking a guided hike at the Niagara Glen Nature Centre, or riding the Whirlpool Aero Car across Niagara Gorge.

Pedestrians line up against a rail to watch the falls spill over on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls.
On the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. Photo © yelo34/123rf.

2. What are some great kid-friendly places to visit in Ottawa?

Kids of all ages enjoy the changing of the guard ceremony that drums and drills across Parliament lawn on summer mornings.

The Canadian Museum of Nature has a kid-friendly combination of animal skeletons, sea creatures, and interactive exhibits. Don’t miss the “animalium,” with its creepy collection of live tarantulas, hissing cockroaches, and giant snails. And inside the Canadian Museum of Civilization, where you can learn almost anything about Canadian history and culture, is a Children’s Museum.

In winter, take the family skating along the Rideau Canal (the world’s longest skating rink) and stop for a BeaverTail, Canada’s classic fried-dough treat.

3. What are some food and drink specialties of Ontario?

Ontario has a strong “eat local” movement, with restaurants featuring Great Lakes fish, meat from nearby farms, and locally-grown produce. Ontario’s fruits, from summer strawberries and blueberries to apples harvested in autumn, are especially delicious. In late winter, visit eastern Ontario’s “maple country” where “sugar shacks” produce maple syrup and serve up tasty pancake breakfasts.

For wine tasting and touring (Ontario is Canada’s largest wine-producing region), head for Niagara, Prince Edward County, or the north shore of Lake Erie. Pair your wine with local cheeses, too.

For dessert, I’d suggest a butter tart. You’ll find these sweet gooey pastries at bakeries across the province.

4. Where is the best place to visit for those looking for an outdoor getaway?

Among Ontario’s many spectacular outdoor destinations, my favorites include the Bruce Peninsula National Park, Georgian Bay Islands National Park, and Killarney Provincial Park, all on Georgian Bay, as well as Lake Superior Provincial Park on the shores of the largest Great Lake.

A seaplane takes flight from Parry Sounds in Georgian Bay.
Arrange a flight-seeing tour in Parry Sound for the most thrilling way to take in Georgian Bay’s 30,000 Islands region. Photo © Elena Elisseeva/123rf.

Algonquin Provincial Park is a popular getaway for hiking and canoeing. Explore other provincial parks, too, from the sandy shores of Pinery or Sandbanks to the more rugged beauty of parks like Frontenac or Bon Echo.

Even in urban Toronto, you can get outdoors with a quick ferry ride to the Toronto Islands—for beaches, bicycling, and the city’s best skyline views.

5. What are a few historically significant sites worth a visit?

Sainte-Marie among the Hurons, an intriguing living history museum in Midland, recreates Ontario’s first European settlement, where French Jesuits lived with the native Wendat (Huron) people in the 1600s.

In the 1800s, slaves fleeing from American plantations traveled along the Underground Railroad, a network of “safe houses” that led north to freedom in Canada. The Buxton National Historic Site and Museum, Uncle Tom’s Cabin Historic Site, and the John Freeman Walls Historic Site tell the fascinating story of how many of these former slaves established new lives in Ontario.

Many battles that shaped Canada’s history were fought in Ontario during the War of 1812. Events commemorating the war’s bicentennial are continuing now through 2015, especially in Toronto, Niagara, the Thousand Islands, and Southwestern Ontario.

6. What are some of your favorite summer festivals?

I’d definitely recommend visiting Ottawa for the annual Canada Day celebration (July 1), where the concerts and other special events culminate in a fireworks extravaganza on Parliament Hill.

Toronto Pride Week ranks among the world’s largest gay and lesbian pride celebrations, with 10 days of parades, marches, and entertainment, as well as a street fair and family activities.

If you love movies, don’t miss the Toronto International Film Festival in early September. It’s one of North America’s major film fests, screening more than 300 movies and drawing celebrities from around the globe.

7. Where can a visitor learn more about the aboriginal culture?

The Great Spirit Circle Trail, an aboriginal tourism organization on Manitoulin Island, offers visitors a rich variety of hands-on cultural experiences, from First Nations dance to cooking to a hike where you learn to identify traditional medicinal plants. You can even stay on a First Nations reserve—in a teepee if you like! The best time to visit is during an annual powwow celebration.

Another option? Ride the Polar Bear Express Train north to the predominantly Cree First Nations town of Moosonee. There, and on nearby Moose Factory Island, you can experience modern life in a remote aboriginal community. Tour the local cultural center, and stay and eat at the Cree Village Eco Lodge, where the kitchen creates contemporary dishes using traditional aboriginal ingredients.

8. What wineries would you recommend visiting?

The Niagara peninsula is Ontario’s largest wine-making region. You’ll find a friendly mix of small and more established wineries in Niagara-on-the-Lake and in the nearby Twenty Valley. Ice wine, a sweet dessert wine, is a Niagara specialty.

In Eastern Ontario’s Prince Edward County, the wineries tend to be smaller, so you’re more likely to chat with the owner or get an up-close view of the wine-making process. “The County” has a vibrant restaurant scene, with many eateries featuring local foods and wines.

To discover Ontario’s newest wine district—without big-city crowds—visit the up-and-coming wineries along the Lake Erie North Shore.

9. What are three must-see cultural highlights in Toronto?

It’s hard to choose only three highlights in a city as culturally diverse as Toronto! I’d start with the Art Gallery of Ontario, both for its extensive collections of Canadian and international art and for its striking, Frank Gehry-designed building.

Another highlight is the quirky Bata Shoe Museum. Not only does it showcase footwear belonging to everyone from Chinese laborers to A-list celebrities, but it also traces cultures around the globe by exploring what people wore on their feet.

Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto.
Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. Photo © macfromlondon/123rf.

If you’re traveling with kids, or if you’re interested in natural and cultural history, visit the massive Royal Ontario Museum, which exhibits dinosaurs, mummies, and thousands of artifacts from ancient and recent civilizations.

David Baldacci clues kids in to Smithsonian’s treasures

Over 17 years, through 25 novels, David Baldacci has taken his adult readers on a roller-coaster ride of suspenseful stories packed with politicians, assassins and government agents. On March 5, he’s changing gears and taking the kids for a spin, leading a virtual field trip through the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Read more here.

Two Travel Contests Worth Mentioning

A Kennedy Space Center Tourbus with the launch platform visible in the distance.
Photo © Carl & Peggy Backes.

People all around the world dream of traveling to exotic destinations. Even those who live in enviable places—such as Hawaii, Paris, New Zealand, and Costa Rica, just to name a few—probably long to see other cities and landscapes that are markedly different from their own. For instance, I might be from New Orleans—a town that many people include on their travel wish lists—but while I appreciate the uniqueness of this place, that certainly doesn’t keep me from dreaming of other locations, from Ireland to Japan.

So, it’s no wonder that the Internet is rife with travel contests, sweepstakes, and giveaways of all kinds. In fact, just this afternoon, a random Google search netted several disparate results, from Virginia’s “I’d LOVE to Go There!” Vacation Sweepstakes to the Cook Islands’ “Win a Romantic Week for Two” offer to the Travel Channel’s Trip of a Lifetime.

On any given day, the list of available travel contests could go on and on. I recently discovered two, however, that I thought my fellow explorers my appreciate.


NASA’s “Why Space Matters?” Video Contest

It’s no doubt that space exploration has inspired and challenged the human race for more than five decades, spawning everything from satellites to medical devices to better versions of Velcro. To celebrate this fact—and the possibility of space exploration in the future—the Coalition for Space Exploration and the NASA Visitor Centers Consortium have launched an expanded version of the Coalition’s existing “Why Space Matters to the Future” video contest. In essence, the contest urges U.S. residents (who are 13 years or older) to envision what life would be in like 10, 25, or 50 years if humans continue to explore the vast unknown and push the boundaries of space travel.

“Some people think the U.S. space program is ending,” said George Torres, chairman of the Coalition, “which couldn’t be further from the truth. This contest engages the public during an important time, giving them a powerful voice to our nation’s leaders.” After all, according to the Coalition’s website, “NASA and the space industry are currently developing technologies, systems, and strategies to explore space beyond Earth’s orbit.”

To enter the contest, you simply need to submit a short video (of one to two minutes) that encapsulates your reasons for why space exploration matters and how it will benefit future generations, from the ability of humans to migrate onto other planets to the development of as-yet-unseen technologies. In other words, consider how space has influenced or inspired you, outline the values and benefits of space exploration, and justify our continued efforts to explore the endless vastness beyond Earth’s orbit.

Entrants can upload their videos and share them online from now until April 7. Public voting will then occur April 8-14, so it’s important that entrants ask their friends and relatives to vote. A panel of judges will use several criteria, including the number of votes accrued, to determine three winners on April 17. Beyond the fact that the winning videos will be shared with the public as well as national leaders, the three winners will each receive a VIP trip for four people to one of three of NASA’s visitor centers: the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida, the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Alabama, or the Space Center Houston in Texas. The prize includes travel and accommodations—not too shabby for a die-hard space lover.


My Destination’s Biggest, Baddest, Bucket List

As the name indicates, this is one doozie of a contest. Dubbed the “ultimate travel competition,” My Destination’s Biggest, Baddest, Bucket List invites travel lovers of all shapes and sizes to vie for a chance to venture around the world for a whopping six months (from June to December 2013), during which the lucky winner will experience more than 25 destinations (of his or her choosing) on six continents. Not only is this “trip of a lifetime” of the all-expenses-paid variety (meaning that all flights, accommodations, food, and activities will be taken care of, up to $50,000, which, incidentally, includes $10,000 of spending money), but the winner will also receive a $50,000 cash prize once the trip is over. As a bonus, it was recently announced that 10 lucky finalists will enjoy an all-expenses-paid, weeklong trip to the United Kingdom, where they’ll meet the My Destination team as well as guest judge Ben Southall (the winner of Tourism Queensland’s 2009 “Best Job in the World” campaign). From this pool of fortunate finalists, the grand-prize winner will be chosen.

To enter the contest—which, besides My Destination, is co-sponsored by Hotels.com, Travelex, and Viator—you simply have to prepare a short video (of up to three minutes and with you featured) about a destination for which you’re passionate (whether you live there or not), write a brief tale (between 200 and 500 words) about a memorable travel experience, and provide three photos to accompany said tale—and do all that by March 31. For all of the above, passion, enthusiasm, and originality happily matter more than technical prowess. The only “catch” is that the winner will be required to write blog posts, take photos, and film short videos about his or her experiences in each destination, from riding in an Austin rodeo to learning to surf in Bali to visiting a Bollywood movie set in Mumbai; lots of Tweets and status updates are also encouraged.

But, seriously, that’s more than a fair price to pay for such a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, and what’s even cooler is that the winner doesn’t have to travel solo. Besides the fact that he or she will be meeting new friends along the way, it’s also possible for the winner to bring along a partner or spouse—whose accommodations will be taken care of and whose other expenses (such as food and local transportation) can be covered, in part, by the $10,000 spending money and/or the $50,000 post-trip cash prize.

As I said, the application process closes on March 31, after which 10 finalists will be selected by April 8. In what I consider to be a pretty fair method, five of these finalists will be chosen by the contest judges and five will be based on the most top-rated videos—so there’s a chance that people could win a finalist spot even if they don’t rally votes from every person they’ve ever met. The finalists’ week in the U.K. will begin on April 20, and the grand-prize winner will be announced on April 26, after which he or she will start planning their own personal “biggest, baddest, bucket list.”

Both contests, while obviously very different, could lead to some amazing experiences. If you’re interested in entering either or both, just check out the websites noted above for more details and caveats. Seriously, what are you waiting for?

Find Your Next Thrilling Book Club Book

We want to make selecting your next book club book a little easier by sharing with you our Mulholland Book Club collection on Scribd. In this collection, you’ll find reading group guides for our paperbacks and exclusive Q&As with the author. Our hope is that this extra material removes some of the mystery (pun apologetically intended) around how to inspire your best book club conversation yet.

Currently in the collection are guides for Dan Simmon’s The Crook Factory, Joe R. Lansdale’s Edge of Dark Water, and Brian D’Amato’s Beauty. Bookmark us on Scribd to stay current on our book club books!

Coastal California Road Trip: The Sights of Big Sur

Big Sur is both the name of the town and of the coastal region along Highway 1 south of Carmel and north of San Simeon. Soaring cliffs dropping to sporadic white-sand beaches exemplify the Big Sur coastline made legendary in film and literature.

From north to south, the Pacific Ocean changes from slate gray to a gentler blue, and the endless crash of the breakers on the shore is a constant lullaby in Big Sur’s coastal towns. The region is explored via Highway 1, also called the Pacific Coast Highway, a road that hugs sheer cliffs and passes several state parks, resorts, and restaurants like Nepenthe, seemingly perched on the edge of the world.

map of Big Sur
Big Sur

The Big Sur Coast Highway, a 90-mile stretch of Highway 1, runs atop jagged cliffs and along rocky beaches, through dense redwood forest, over historic scenic bridges, and past several parks. Construction on this stretch of road was completed in the 1930s to connect Cambria to Carmel. You can start out at either end and spend a whole day winding your way along this road. There are plenty of wide turnouts on picturesque cliffs, which makes it easy to stop to admire the glittering ocean and stunning wooded cliffs.

Old Coast Road

Easily found on the left side of Highway 1, about 13 miles south of Carmel and just before Bixby Bridge, the Old Coast Road cuts high into the Coast Range of Big Sur. There are steep grades with areas of chunky quartz, slick muddy sections, tight turns through the redwoods, and narrow ledges. It is a little more than 10 miles to the end of the road and Andrew Molera State Park. The road is passable in dry weather, but in wet weather there are many flood-prone sections in the forest and steep loose grades. Most vehicles can handle the drive when it’s dry. The road has a handful of drainage pipes that are somewhat bumpy; like large speed bumps, low-clearance vehicles should traverse these with caution.

Bixby Bridge

You’ll probably recognize the Bixby Bridge when you come to it on Highway 1, about 18 miles south of Carmel. Among the world’s highest, Bixby Bridge is over 260 feet high and more than 700 feet long. The cement openspandrel arched bridge is one of the most photographed bridges in the nation, and it has been used in countless car commercials over the years. The bridge was built in the early 1930s as part of the massive New Deal government works project to complete Highway 1 and connect Northern California to the south along the coast. Today, you can pull out at either end of the bridge to take photos or just to view the attractive span and Bixby Creek flowing into the Pacific far below.

Point Sur Light Station

The Point Sur Light Station (Hwy. 1, 0.25 mile north of Point Sur Naval Facility, 831/625- 4419, tours 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Sat.–Sun. Nov.–Mar., 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Wed. and Sat.–Sun. Apr.–June and Sept.–Oct., 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Wed. and Sat.–Sun., 10 a.m. Thurs. July–Aug., adults $10, children $5) keeps watch over ships navigating the rocky waters of Big Sur. First lit in 1889, this now fully automated light station still provides navigational assistance; keepers stopped living and working in the tiny stone-built compound in 1974.

To tour the light station, check the tour times online. Parking is off the west side of Highway 1 by the locked farm gate. Tour guides meet here to take a limited number of visitors 0.5 miles up the paved road to the light station. Once at the station, you’ll climb the stairs up to the light, explore the restored keepers homes and service buildings, and walk out to the cliff’s edge. Be sure to dress in layers; it can be sunny and hot or foggy and cold in winter or summer, and sometimes both on the same tour. Tours last three hours and require more than one mile of walking, with a bit of incline and more than 100 stairs. Take one of the moonlight tours (call for details) to learn about the haunted history of the light station buildings.

There is no access to the light station without a tour group. Tour schedules can vary from year to year and season to season; call ahead before showing up. For special assistance, call 831/667-0528 as far ahead as possible to make arrangements. No strollers, food, pets, or smoking are allowed on the property.

Big Sur Spirit Garden

A favorite among local art lovers, the Big Sur Spirit Garden (47504 Hwy. 1, Loma Vista, 831/238-1056, daily 9 a.m.–6 p.m.) changes a little almost every day. The “garden” part includes a variety of plantlife, while the “spirit” part is modern and postmodern fair-trade art from nearby and as far away as India. The artwork tends toward brightly colored small sculptures done in exuberant naive style. The Spirit Garden offers educational programs, community celebrations, and musical events.

Big Sur Station

Pull in at Big Sur Station (Hwy. 1, south of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, 831/667-2315, daily 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m.) for maps and brochures to all the major parks and trails of Big Sur; there is also a small bookshop. Several of the smaller parks and beaches (Limekiln, Garrapata, and Sand Dollar) have no visitor services, so Big Sur Station serves visitors traveling to one of those less-visited spots. You can also get a backcountry permit here for the Ventana Wilderness.

Henry Miller Memorial Library

Henry Miller lived and wrote in Big Sur for 18 years. He began to cultivate this region as an artists colony in 1944, and his utopian 1957 novel Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch put his Big Sur dream on the map. Today, the Henry Miller Memorial Library (Hwy. 1, 0.25 mile north of Deetjens, 831/667-2574, 11 a.m.–6 p.m. Wed.–Mon.) celebrates the life and work of Miller and his peers in this quirky community center, museum, coffee shop, and gathering place. You can flip through the collection of literature, be entertained by local performances, attend short film festivals, and more. The library is easy to find on Highway 1—look for the hand-painted sign and funky fence decorations.

The thin stream of McWay Falls takes backseat to the dramatic rocky cove studded with pines.
McWay Falls at sunset in Big Sur, California. Photo © Andrew Zarivny.

McWay Falls (Moon Recommended)

A popular photo op is breathtaking McWay Falls at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park (831/667-2315, daily sunrise–sunset, $10). A ribbonlike stream spews out of Anderson Canyon and falls some 200 feet to the pale beach below. The waterfall flows year-round, with heavier volume in winter and early spring. The hike is less than one mile and offers stunning views of the Big Sur coastline. The trail begins at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, where the rolling hills drop dramatically to the sea and redwood forests protect the inland reaches. The trail ends at the ruins of the McWay Waterfall House, during the 1920s the home of Lathrop and Helen Hopper Brown. Today, a decaying foundation of the terrace is all that remains.


Esalen Institute

The Esalen Institute (55000 Hwy. 1, 831/667-3000, fax 831/667-2724, by reservation only) is a retreat from the world. People come from all over to this haven, sometimes called “the New Age Harvard,” for lengthy courses and classes, but massages and use of the bathhouse are available to nonguests.

Esalen isn’t a day spa. You must make an appointment for a massage (75 minutes, $150), which grants you access to the hot tubs for an hour before and an hour after your session. If you just want to sit in the bathhouse’s hot tubs, you have to stay up late—very late. Access to the Esalen tubs (831/667-3047, $20) is by reservation and is only possible 1–3 a.m.

A round stone tub and pillar holding towels looking right over a misty oceanscape.
The round tub at Esalen Hot Springs perched right above the ocean. Photo © Lewisha Jones, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

The bathhouse, a motley collection of mineral-fed hot tubs with ocean views, is located down a rocky path on the edge of the cliffs overlooking the ocean. Once you’ve parked and been given directions, it’s up to you to find your way down to the cliffs. You can choose the Silent Side to sink into the water and contemplate the Pacific, or the Quiet Side to get to know your fellow bathers. Esalen’s bathhouse area is clothing-optional. You’ll have to find your own towel, grab a shower, and then wander out to find a hot tub. Be sure to go all the way outside, past the individual claw-foot tubs, to the glorious shallow cement tubs right out on the edge of the cliff.

Limekiln State Park

There is plenty of outdoor action and good camping at 717-acre Limekiln State Park (Hwy. 1, 52 miles south of Carmel, 831/667-2403, $8). Besides the historical lime kilns, there are deep-woods hiking trails and beach kayaking, fishing, and swimming. Squirrels, deer, foxes, and raccoons are often seen, attracted by the two creeks in the park. Mountain lions, bobcats, and ring-tailed cats are much more elusive but are known to roam the area. The day-use parking is limited to 12 spots, but you can park in the pullouts along Highway 1 just above the park. Day-use activities include picnicking, good shore fishing, and kayaking from the beach. Three hiking trails start just beyond the Redwood Campground. The Limekiln Trail (0.5 mile) is a hike to the cluster of historic lime kilns. The Falls Trail branches off the Limekiln Trail and leads to a 100-foot waterfall; be prepared to get your feet wet. The Hare Creek Trail is an easy hike through the majestic redwood forest alongside the rushing water.

In the thick redwoods and along a sheltered cove are campsites (summer by reservation, winter first-come, first-served, $35) that can accommodate tents and RVs up to 24 feet. The three sections of the campground are the Beach, Lower Creek, and Redwood Campgrounds.

Piedras Blancas

Six miles north of San Simeon is the Piedras Blancas Lighthouse (15950 Hwy. 1, 805/927-7361, tours 9:45 a.m. Tues., Thurs., and Sat., adults $10, children $5, under age 5 free), named after the white rock outcropping just off the point. It was completed in 1875, and the original tower was 110 feet tall. The beach around the lighthouse is a favorite resting spot for elephant seals. If you plan to take the tour, you may want to arrive early to ensure a spot, as space is limited. Tours meet at the old Piedras Blancas Motel, 1.5 miles north of the lighthouse.

The vista point with a parking lot just beyond the Piedras Lighthouse is a famous location to view elephant seals at the Northern Elephant Seal Rookery (Hwy. 1, 805/924-1628, daily sunrise–sunset, free). Home to roughly 15,000 giant northern elephant seals year-round, you can witness them molt, breed, give birth, and— their favorite pastime—rest. Much of the time the elephant seals are quite calm, but occasional sparring matches with deep guttural growling provide the best action. Be careful not to get too close to these creatures; remember that they are wild animals and can therefore be unpredictable and dangerous. A large parking area just off Highway 1 is alongside the beach, where you can view these impressive animals.


Excerpted from the Sixth Edition of Moon Northern California.

Loki’s Wolves

Loki’s Wolves

The Blackwell Pages

By K.L. Armstrong and M.A. Marr

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

Curriculum Subjects: Adventure: Magic/Fantasy, Folk Tales/Fairy Tales/Classics: Magic, Personal Development: Friendship

Grade: 3-7

 

[button link=”http://www.blackwellpages.com/”]Visit website[/button][button link=”http://media.hdp.hbgusa.com/titles/assets/reading_group_guide/9780316204965/EG_9780316204965.pdf”]Educator Guide[/button][button link=”https://www.hachettebookgroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/PR3804-Lokis-Wolves-Common-Core-Ready-Guide-PDF_Email.pdf”]Common Core Guide[/button]

“The runes have spoken. We have our champion…Matthew Thorsen.”

 

Matt hears the words, but he can’t believe them. He’s Thor’s representative? Destined to fight trolls, monstrous wolves and giant serpents…or the world ends? He’s only thirteen.

 

While Matt knew he was a modern-day descendent of Thor, he’s always lived a normal kid’s life. In fact, most people in the small town of Blackwell, South Dakota, are direct descendants of either Thor or Loki, including Matt’s classmates Fen and Laurie Brekke. No big deal.

 

But now Ragnarok is coming, and it’s up to the champions to fight in the place of the long-dead gods. Matt, Laurie, and Fen’s lives will never be the same as they race to put together an unstoppable team, find Thor’s hammer and shield, and prevent the end of the world.

 

In their middle grade debut, K.L. Armstrong and M.A. Marr begin the epic Blackwell Pages series with this action-packed adventure, filled with larger-than-life legends, gripping battles, and an engaging cast of characters who bring the myths to life.

 

PRAISE

“This smart, fast-paced, action-packed novel…offers readers a solid adventure story that still manages not to skimp on character.” – The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

 

“Norse mythology brought to life with engaging contemporary characters and future volumes that promise explosive action; ideal for Percy Jackson fans who want to branch out.” – Kirkus Reviews

 

“These authors are no strangers to weaving a compelling tale. Once the story moves past the background, the plot picks up quickly and the adventure doesn’t disappoint.” – Library Media Connection

 

“Rousing, fast-paced adventure.” – Publishers Weekly

 

Loki’s Wolves brings Norse mythology to the modern world…The background and explanation of the legends are clear and a natural fit to the story and dialogue, bringing life to lesser-known Norse mythology.” – School Library Journal

The Dark

The Dark

By Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Jon Klassen

Genre: Picture Book

Curriculum Subjects: Fears, Emotions

Grade: P-1

 

Laszlo is afraid of the dark.

The dark lives in the same house as Laszlo. Mostly, though, the dark stays in the basement and doesn’t come into Lazslo’s room. But one night, it does.

This is the story of how Laszlo stops being afraid of the dark.

With emotional insight and poetic economy, two award-winning talents team up to conquer a universal childhood fear.

 

PRAISE

 

Charlotte Zolotow Award Winner

 

★ “In its willingness to acknowledge the darkness, and the elegant art of that acknowledgment, The Dark pays profound respect to the immediacy of childhood experiences.” – Booklist

 

★ “Kids comfortable with delicious shivers will find this an enjoyable thrill.” –BCCB

 

★“Fresh, kid-savvy and ultimately reassuring.” –SLJ

 

★“While it might not combat fear of the dark, it’s an ingenious introduction to horror movie-style catharsis, and a memorable ride on the emotional roller coaster that great storytelling creates.” –PW

The Lineup: Weekly Links, Hit Me Edition

Contrasted ConfinementLawrence Block’s instant New York Times bestseller HIT ME has only been out for a handful of weeks, but the coverage has been extensive–perhaps in part because it very well may be Larry last novel ever.

Lawrence Block discusses the future of his career and his latest book in a profile for the New York Daily News. Don’t miss it.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel raves if HIT ME is Block’s “then it’s a fine finale for a writer who never stopped growing, and who allowed some of his series characters the same privilege of changing.”

Book Reporter says, “HIT ME does not disappoint. For his legion of fans, Block is working at the height of his powers … [a] true noir for our times. Do not miss this great read.”

“It’s a mark of Block’s storytelling skill that he can make lengthy philatelic interludes as fascinating as cloaks and daggers … It’d be a shame to hear no more from one of the most entertaining and unusual characters in the history of crime fiction, now that he’s back on the job,” says The Times-Picayune.

The Globe and Mail calls HIT ME “one of his best books ever…The plot is as tight as Jessica Simpson’s Spandex. Welcome back, Mr. Block.”

The Associated Press review, picked up widely in the Washington Post and much moresays, “In the hands of a lesser writer, the philately passages would be insufferable, but Block makes them interesting in their own right as well a window into the soul of a hit man who can dispatch innocent bystanders without remorse but won’t cheat on his wife and insists on being scrupulously honest.”

Marilyn Stasio raved in the New York Times Book Review‘s crime column, “Despite claiming he’s retired, Lawrence Block can’t seem to resist taking a few swigs from the poisoned cup … Aside from their ingenious methodology, what makes these amuse-bouches so delectable are the moral dilemmas Block throws up to deflect his philosophical anti­hero from a given task.” A review in The Columbus Dispatch concludes, “Block plays like a master on the consciences of his readers, raising moral dilemmas and then whisking them off behind a diverting bit of dialogue or drama.”

So what are you waiting for? Go pick up your copy now!

Environmental Issues in Puerto Rico

A green parrot perches on a branch and spreads its wings.
Endangered Puerto Rican parrot ceremonially released at the new flight cage of the flight cages at the Iguaca Aviary. Photo © Tom MacKenzie/USFWS, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Because Puerto Rico is part of the United States, local industry is subject to the same federal environmental regulations and restrictions as in the United States.

[pullquote align=”right”]Puerto Rico’s greatest environmental threats concern its vanishing natural habitat and the resulting impact on soil erosion and wildlife.[/pullquote]Puerto Rico’s greatest environmental threats concern its vanishing natural habitat and the resulting impact on soil erosion and wildlife. Reforestation efforts are under way in many of the island’s national parks and forest reserves, and organized efforts are under way to protect and rebuild endangered wildlife populations, especially the Puerto Rican parrot, the manatee, and the leatherback sea turtle.

Many of the island’s environmental protection efforts are overseen by the Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico, whose headquarters is based in Casa de Ramón Power y Girault (155 Calle Tetuán, San Juan, 787/722-5834, Tues.-Sat. 10 a.m.-4 p.m.), where visitors can peruse exhibits and pick up printed information on its projects.

In Vieques, the biggest environmental concern surrounds the ongoing cleanup of the grounds once occupied by the U.S. Navy, which stored munitions and performed bombing practice on the island. After years of protest by local residents, the Navy withdrew in 2003, but much of its land (18,000 acres) is still offlimits to the public while efforts to clear it of contaminants and the live artillery that still litters the ocean floor are under way. The cancer rate in Vieques is 27 percent higher than that of the main island, and many blame it on the presence of unexploded artillery leaking chemicals into the water and the release of chemicals into the air when the artillery is detonated, which is the Navy’s way of disposing of it.

Read more about the Puerto Rican parrot on the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service website.


Excerpted from the Third Edition of Moon Puerto Rico.

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