For Parents

Finding Needles in the Haystack

Information.

It’s everywhere.

It’s all-encompassing.

We are knee deep and rising in the Information Age.

We are surrounded by it every minute of every day of our modern life.

We are writers and readers and teachers and librarians and we are all well aware of this information wave. I can’t count on all my fingers and all my toes the numbers of times just in the past month I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole of information while doing book research. You know what I mean, right?

Case in point. A certain, not-to-be-named kidlit author researches the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library website looking for a reaction quote from Ike in response to the Soviet launch of Sputnik and several hours later, discovers he’s “accidentally” read through the entire Eisenhower archived collection on Sputnik I.

As important as the information is, though, it’s as critical we are able to store and access that information. The difference between success and failure of an assignment or a project often lies in the ability to find the exact clear and concise data we are searching for without losing time chasing interesting, yet irrelevant information.

The library of humanity grows exponentially each passing day. We are swamped with data and overwhelmed by information. How each of us learns to store and retrieve information has become an important part of daily life. Digital data storage, for example, has evolved as fast and as far as anything else in the technology sector.

From the punch cards of mid-20th-century computers to today’s cutting-edge cloud storage options available to practically everyone, we have seen massive improvements in the past 50-years. We rely on thumb drives and smartphones as much or more than we mature folks used to rely on our 5-1/4” floppy disks.

Hannes Grobe/AWI [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)]

The future of data storage looks incredible. There was a paper published in 2012 about using DNA to store digital information. Digital information which can be coded, carried, copied, and preserved in the genome of a microbe. We could possibly one day stream 2001: A Space Oddessey for the family get-together after retrieving the stored digital copy from the bread mold strain we keep in our pantry. An entire encyclopedia of knowledge stored in the philodendron on the window sill of your office? Maybe, just maybe.

Storing information is one thing. Retrieving it is another vital piece of the information pie. We need to be able to find the data we are looking for fast and accurately. Google, the Queen Mother of Internet Search Engines, uses crawling and indexing to find information—even those funny cat videos. And to make myself sound completely ludicrous, how about the magic of Boolean Search

Personally, I still have a soft spot in my digital heart for the old school search engine found in a library card catalog. There’s still something magical about sliding out the wood drawer of the cabinet, finding the book or topic you want, and scribbling the call number with a stubby pencil onto a piece of lime green recycled scrap paper. Then the moments of investigative anticipation while walking the stacks until you find the physical book on the shelf right where it belonged.

Information nerd heaven.

Enokson from Alberta, Canada [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]

Okay, folks. In case you were beginning to wonder why I’m rambling on about information storage and retrieval, here’s the meat and potatoes of this post. Today, I have the honor of introducing a new feature for the From the Mixed-Up Files STEM Tuesday posts. When the other STEM Tuesday members said, “Hey, wouldn’t it be so helpful to teachers, librarians, readers, etc. if they could quickly search a topic for past STEM Tuesday posts?”, I said, “NO! It’s more fun to make everyone search blindly and wander around the entire blog archive for days and days! (Insert evil laugh)”

Needless to say, the STEM Tuesday team told me to shut up and go write an introductory post for the new feature. Ladies and gentlemen, here is the new feature:

A searchable database of STEM Tuesday content!

Thanks to programming and webmaster brilliance, we now have our own portal to assist teachers, readers, writers, and librarians sort through the STEM Tuesday library of past book lists, classroom activities, writing craft & resources, and author interviews. We hope this search tool makes it quicker and easier to find that one helpful piece of information.

So, without further delay, the STEM Tuesday Search Tool is live! Visit the STEMtuesday.com page and select a topic from the drop-down screen. Searching for MG STEM book info has never been easier.

(BREAKING NEWS! Next month, we’ll announce a contest to celebrate the STEM Tuesday Search Tool. We’re calling it The STEM Tuesday Search Party contest. Details are being finalized for the contest so I can’t tell you any specifics yet, except we already have a fabulous cache of prizes to offer. Stay tuned for the STEM Tuesday Search Party announcement on February 21, 2019!)

And remember, back up those files! Information is the currency of the digital age. Take care of your data!

No data storage system is perfect; even if it’s Tom Brady’s DNA we’re talking about.

 

 

 

January’s New Releases


Happy 2019! It’s the beginning of a new year and hopefully many new and wonderful middle grade books to read! Here are some top releases for this month, including two in the Second Chance Ranch series by From the Mixed Files’ very own Laurie J. Edwards (pen name Kelsey Abrams). Start the new year right . . . with one of these new middle grade reads.

Llama Drama by Kelsey Abrams, illus. by Jomike Tejido

Life at Second Chance Ranch becomes hectic after Grace offers to take in animals from a petting zoo. Even though her impulsiveness earns her the responsibility of taking care of the big Berkshire pig, Daisy, she is happy that the llama, Harry, is also under her care . . . that is, until she discovers his ill temper. Still, she decides to train Harry as part of her science project. But spitting llamas don’t care if a hypothesis is proven or not. Can Grace pull off the best science project ever? At Second Chance Ranch, the Ramirez family cares and works to find homes for all kinds of animals on their 200-acre ranch in Texas. Sisters Natalie (12), Abby (10), and twins Emily and Grace (9) all do their part to help out and give each animal the second chance it deserves.

 

Buddy Blues by Kelsey Abrams, illus. by Jomike Tejido

When Buddy, the class rabbit, goes missing, Emily is distraught. It was her responsibility to take care of Buddy over spring break, and now he is gone. The angry glares from her classmates don’t help her blues either. The only bright spot is her new friend Oliver. But as Emily’s friendship with Oliver blossoms, the possibility of finding Buddy withers away. Can Emily recover from the loss of Buddy? At Second Chance Ranch, the Ramirez family cares and works to find homes for all kinds of animals on their 200-acre ranch in Texas. Sisters Natalie (12), Abby (10), and twins Emily and Grace (9) all do their part to help out and give each animal the second chance it deserves.

 

Two new books will come out this month by Jenni L. Walsh in the She Dared series. They are:

Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai always knew she wanted to become a doctor someday. But a new extremist group in her home country of Pakistan wanted to stop girls from going to school. Malala knew what was important, and so she spoke out. Even after she was attacked on a bus for her views, she persisted. Learn about Malala’s incredible recovery and her journey to becoming a world-famous advocate of girls’ rights and education — and the youngest-ever Nobel Prize winner.

 

Bethany Hamilton

Growing up in Hawaii, Bethany Hamilton loved to surf. But one day, she was in her favorite place, out on the waves, when a tiger shark suddenly attacked. Thirteen-year-old Bethany lost her left arm. As she fought to recover, Bethany wondered: Would she ever surf again? Follow Bethany as she got back on her board and fearlessly chased her surfing dreams. With the strength of her family and faith behind her, Bethany knew she could become not only a professional athlete, but a champion and a role model.

 

 

Lizzy Legend by Matthew Ross Smith

A basketball-loving girl makes a wish to never miss a basket in this charming middle grade novel that pushes girl power to the max! Lizzy Trudeaux loves basketball. She doesn’t have much by way of money, but she has access to the community court, a worn ball named Ginger, and she practices constantly. After fighting to join the boy’s team at her school, Lizzy is finally given the opportunity to show off her hard-earned skills. When she answers what she believes is another bill collecting phone call, Lizzy receives a magical wish: the ability to sink every shot. Pure Swish. Now eviscerating the competition in the boy’s league is small potatoes—she has the skills to dominate in the NBA. With the help of her BFF Toby and some viral video action, Lizzy goes all the way to the Philadelphia Bells’ starting lineup, making history and taking names. Then, just as she’s about to go face to face with her hero, the best player on the planet, things begin to fall apart. But Lizzy isn’t a quitter and she’ll play her hardest for the love of the game.


Meena Meets Her Match by Larla Manternach, illus. by Rayner Alencar

Graduates of the Ramona Quimby series will adore Meena Zee as she navigates the triumphs and challenges of family, friendship, and personal secrets in this charming middle grade debut. Meena’s life is full of color. She wears vibrant clothes, eats every shade of the rainbow, and plucks eye-catching trash from the neighborhood recycling bins. But when Meena’s best friend, Sofía, stops playing with her at recess and she experiences an unexpected and scary incident at breakfast, nothing can fight off the gray. That’s when Meena comes up with a plan to create the BEST and most COLORFUL Valentine’s Day Box in the class. With the help of her cousin, Eli, and her stuffed zebra, Raymond, Meena discovers that the best way to break through the blah is to let her true colors shine.

 

Ultraball #1 by Jeff Chen

Enter the exhilarating game of Ultraball—fly over pass rushers and explode into slingshot zones—through Jeff Chen’s dazzling future world on the moon. Here Ultraball is life, and survival is all that matters. Perfect for sci-fi and sports fans alike. Strike Sazaki loves defying gravity on the moon in his Ultrabot suit. He’s the best quarterback in the league, but while Strike’s led the Taiko Miners to the Ultrabowl three years in a row, each one has ended in defeat. This year, Strike thinks he’s finally found the missing piece to his championship quest: a mysterious girl who could be his new star rocketback. But Boom comes from the Dark Siders, a mass of people who left the United Moon Colonies to live in exile. And not all his teammates are happy sharing a field with her. When rumors surface of a traitor on the Miners, Strike isn’t sure who he can trust. If Strike can’t get his teammates to cooperate and play together, they’ll lose more than just the Ultrabowl. The stake of the colony’s future is on his shoulders.

 

I have three books coming out in the Cutting-Edge Space Exploration series: Breakthroughs in Mars Exploration, Breakthroughs in the Search for Extraterrestrial Life, and Breakthroughs in Planet and Comet Research. All three books explore the latest technology involved with space exploration and the breakthroughs scientists are discovering using them, like: Saturn’s sixty-plus moons are covered with icy methane oceans, the resources on Mars astronauts could use to live there, and technology that searches for signs of life on exoplanets.

 

 

Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee

This space opera is about thirteen-year-old Min, who comes from a long line of fox spirits. But you’d never know it by looking at her. To keep the family safe, Min’s mother insists that none of them use any fox-magic, such as Charm or shape-shifting. They must appear human at all times.
Min feels hemmed in by the household rules and resents the endless chores, the cousins who crowd her, and the aunties who judge her. She would like nothing more than to escape Jinju, her neglected, dust-ridden, and impoverished planet. She’s counting the days until she can follow her older brother, Jun, into the Space Forces and see more of the Thousand Worlds.
When word arrives that Jun is suspected of leaving his post to go in search of the Dragon Pearl, Min knows that something is wrong. Jun would never desert his battle cruiser, even for a mystical object rumored to have tremendous power. She decides to run away to find him and clear his name. Min’s quest will have her meeting gamblers, pirates, and vengeful ghosts. It will involve deception, lies, and sabotage. This sci-fi adventure with the underpinnings of Korean mythology will transport you to a world far beyond your imagination

 

 

 

And…Touchdown!

Recently a fellow writer started a discussion about how we can get children more motivated to read. My answer was that the experience had to be organic. If we don’t have to push kids to read, let’s not. But…it sure helps to have books lying around that catch their eye and match up with their interests.

Jauerback [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], from Wikimedia Commons

My eight-year-old son has now shown an interest in football. He’s watching it. He’s collecting and sorting football trading cards. He’s throwing a ball around the house. He wants to play it. Unfortunately, I don’t understand downs or scoring and can only name players from the 1986 Super Bowl—winning Bears (go Gary Fencik!). But my son’s interest made me realize it was time: time to find out what books are available on that sport.

Here is my starting line-up of books with football themes. And, like an experienced sportscaster, I noted the highlights of each game…I mean book.  (Be sure to check out the nonfiction titles listed at the end.)

 

MY FICTION ALL-STAR FOOTBALL BOOKS

Back to Pass: A Choose Your Path Football Book by Lisa M. Bolt Simons
You’re the main character, and you’ve played football for most of your life. But without any parents, you’re not only off the team―you don’t go to school anymore. You don’t even have a place to live. When your uncle takes you in, will you get your life in order? And when the local team’s quarterback gets injured, will your skills save their season? Back to Pass isn’t like other football books for kids. With an interactive format, your choices affect the story’s outcome.

Crash by Jerry Spinelli   Cocky seventh-grade super-jock Crash Coogan got his nickname the day he used his first football helmet to knock his cousin Bridget flat on her backside. And he has been running over people ever since, especially Penn Webb, the dweeby, vegetarian Quaker kid who lives down the block. Through the eyes of Crash, readers get a rare glimpse into the life of a bully in this unforgettable and beloved story about stereotypes and the surprises life can bring.

Pop by Gordon Korman
When Marcus moves to a new town in the dead of summer, he doesn’t know a soul. While practicing football for impending tryouts, he strikes up a friendship with a man named Charlie, the best football player Marcus has ever seen.

Coach Hyatt Is a Riot! by Dan Gutman
It’s Pee Wee Football season, and A.J.’s new coach is crazy. She wants the boys to do push-ups in the mud. She wants them to pick up a car. And worst of all, she wants to put girls on the team! You’ll never believe in a million hundred years what happens in the big game.

Million Dollar Throw by Mike Lupica
If a million dollars was at stake, could you make the throw? Nate Brodie is nicknamed “Brady” not only for his arm, but also because he’s the biggest Tom Brady fan. He’s even saved up to buy an autographed football. And when he does, he wins the chance for something he’s never dreamed of—to throw a pass through a target at a Patriots game for one million dollars.

Football Genius series by Tim Green
Twelve-year-old Troy White has a phenomenal gift: He can predict football plays before they even happen. Any position. Any player. Any team. When Troy’s single mom gets a job working for the Atlanta Falcons, Troy sees this as an opportunity to show what he can do.

MVP #3: The Football Fumble by David A. Kelly
The MVP kids can’t wait to play in the big football game. That is, until they catch a glimpse of their opponents! The team from Hamilton Elementary School seems bigger and—even worse—just plain mean. Taking on a tough opponent is never easy. Will this bully blitz keep the MVPs off their game? Or can they find a way to huddle together and win the day?

 

TIME OUT!

I must mention two MVPs of football books for middle graders: authors Jake Maddox and Matt Christopher. And as we all know, it’s better to have a whole team of books ready for a pumped-up reader.

Jake Maddox books
Home-Field Football
Running Back Dreams
Quarterback Sneak
Quarterback Comeback
Touchdown Triumph
On the Line
Linebacker Block
Punter’s Pride

Matt Christopher books
Football Double Threat
The Great Quarterback Switch
Catch That Pass!
Touchdown for Tommy
Tough to Tackle
QB Blitz
The Team That Couldn’t Lose
Long-Arm Quarterback
Football Nightmare
Undercover Tailback
Halfback Attack
Football Fugitive

Matt Christopher’s Football Jokes and Riddles
Football bloopers, puzzlers, fun facts, and wacky stories — Matt Christopher, the number-one sports writer for kids, scores a touchdown with this zany collection for fans of pigskin-tossing, gridiron-hitting action!

 

MY NONFICTION ALL-STAR FOOTBALL BOOKS

Super Gear: Nanotechnology and Sports Team Up by Jen Swanson
Take a close-up look at sports and nanotechnology, the cutting-edge science that manipulates objects at the atomic level. Nanotechnology is used to create high-tech swimsuits, tennis rackets, golf clubs, running shoes, and more. It is changing the face of sports as we know it.

What Is the Super Bowl? by Dina Anastasio
With over 110 million viewers every year, the Super Bowl is one of the most watched television events in the United States. The final showdown between the two best football teams in the NFL attracts some of the biggest musicians to perform at the half-time show. But the Super Bowl is more than just a spectacle – it’s a high-stakes game to win the championship and claim a place in history.

John Madden’s Heroes of Football by John Madden
Illustrated with photos, sidebars, and analytical charts, the story of football is told by the man who defined the game.

The Science of Football with Max Axiom, Super Scientist by Nikole Brooks Bethea
Snap! The quarterback throws it deep into the endzone. With the leap of a receiver, the team earns six points. What’s behind it all? Science! Let Max Axiom, Super Scientist, explain the science behind the perfect punt, the right way to throw a football, and much, much more.

Football Superstars 2018: Facts & Stats by Simon Mugford
It’s a touchdown! With plenty of photos and facts about football’s finest, this book is the perfect gift for any young fan of the sport. It covers 20 players across the NFL.

Football: Then to Wow! by The Editors of Sports Illustrated Kids
See how all aspects of football have evolved in this highly visual book filled with history and trivia about the game. You’ll see a football transform before your eyes from a melon-like ball crudely stitched together to the aerodynamic pigskin it is today.

It’s the fourth quarter, and the clock ticks down. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. The game is up! Enjoy this list of winning football books!