STEM Tuesday

Feeling Lucky with Author Heather Alexander

Welcome to MUF, Heather Alexander, author of The Good Luck Book: A Celebration of Global Traditions, Superstitions, and Folklore (DK Children), out November 2023. Heather Alexander is the acclaimed author of more than 70 books for children, and she also works as a children’s book editor, packager, and literary scout. Here, she talks to MUF contributor Andrea Pyros about luck, her research process, and why we really cover our mouths when we yawn. 

Mixed-Up Files: Tell us a little bit about The Good Luck Book. Where did the idea for this come from?

Heather Alexander: THE GOOD LUCK BOOK is a large, illustrated, middle-grade nonfiction book that explores fascinating traditions and superstitions from all over the world. Kids will discover how and why they started, why people still do them today, if they hold up to science, the good luck charms we share, and the unique ways we wish for good fortune. All my nonfiction titles spring from my curiosity of the world around me or from articles that spark my interest. This one originated very close to home. You see, I generally pride myself on being very logical, but then I realized how many little superstitious rituals I do without thinking. They range from the typical, like crossing fingers or wishing on shooting star or blowing out the candles on a birthday cake, to the more personal, like knocking the side of an airplane before I enter. It got me thinking about lucky numbers, lucky foods, lucky animals–and when the list went on and on, I knew there was a book there.

The Good Luck Book by Heather Alexander

MUF: What was your research process like? How did you find all the different traditions and beliefs about luck?

HA: I always scour libraries and used bookstores, both in person and online. And for this book, I looked at a lot of university folklore websites and even checked out international message boards on the topic. Everything I found was then cross-referenced for multiple sources. There are sooooooo many superstitions and lucky charms throughout the world so I tried to focus on the more popular ones. Also, there are a myriad of variations on similar rituals, depending on where you live or where your family is from, so the one I ended up choosing may not be exactly way the reader has heard it.

MUF: How did you and your illustrator work together? What was that like? (The art looks great!)

HA: I know, right? The art is stupendous! It was created by four different artists: Ruth Burrows, Teo Georgiev, Sonny Ross, and Sarah Walsh. Usually, I only have the honor of working with one illustrator on a book, but because there was so much to illustrate in a relatively short time Stefan Georgio, the art director at DK, decided the more, the merrier–and the faster. While I didn’t interact directly with the talented artists, I did give art notes through Vicky Armstrong, my editor, and Stefan.

MUF: We’re sure you learned all sorts of fascinating things during your research and writing journey on The Good Luck Book. Can you tell us a few facts that really surprised you?

Author Heather Alexander

HA: It’s hard to pick a few! How about:

• Covering your mouth when you yawn comes from a very old superstition. Your hand was there to block spirits from coming out of or going into your open mouth!
• “If birds fly low, expect rain and a blow,” is a popular saying. Can birds predict “fowl” weather? It seems so! Most birds have a Vitali organ. This is a special receptor in their middle-ear that can sense a drop in atmospheric pressure, and that drop means a storm is on its way.
• Many shops and homes in India hang seven chilies and a lemon from a thread on the door. It’s an old superstition meant to keep away Alakshmi, the goddess of misfortune. She likes eating sour and hot things, so if she’s happy with the treat, it’s believed she won’t enter to bring bad luck. But, it turns out, this is actually a supersmart natural pesticide. When the cotton thread pierces the chilies and lemon, a pungent and sour odor is slowly released, and this stench helps to repel flies and mosquitoes!

MUF: What do you want readers to know about the concept of luck?
HA: Lucky charms can be fun and superstitions interesting to learn about, but the most important thing is to make smart choices and search for real answers. We each have the power to decide what we believe and what we don’t, what we let scare us and what we don’t, what wishes we send out into the universe, and—most of all—what kind of luck we bring to ourselves and the people around us.

Learn more about Heather at her website or on Instagram @halexanderbooks.
The Good Luck Book: A Celebration of Global Traditions, Superstitions, and Folklore by Heather Alexander, illustrations by: Ruth Burrows, Teo Georgiev, Sonny Ross, and Sarah Walsh.

STEM Tuesday: Snow and Ice– Book List

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kids of all ages wonder at the world of snow. Listed here are some great resources to learn more about it. From blizzards to ice ages, these books have something for everyone fascinated by snow and ice.

Curious About Snow (Smithsonian) - Kindle edition by Shaw, Gina. Children Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.

 

Curious About Snow

by Gina Shaw

The very basics of ice and snow. With great photographs, this book starts with the basics, right from what ice is, how it is formed, what snowflakes are, right up to blizzards and snowstorms and how people have fun in the snow!

 

 

 

 

Ice: Chilling Stories from a Disappearing World - DK: 9781465481702 - AbeBooks

 

Ice: Chilling Stories from a Disappearing World

by various authors (DK publishers)

This beautiful big book full of stunning photographs is a deep dive into the frigid regions of our earth. It gives readers a complete picture of our icy world, from prehistory, to the geography of these lands, to the flora and fauna, and how humans have adapted to living in cold regions.

 

 

 

 

 

Meltdown: Discover Earth's Irreplaceable Glaciers and Learn What You Can Do to Save Them: Sanchez, Anita, Padula, Lily: 9781523509508: Amazon.com: Books

Meltdown: Discover Earth’s Irreplaceable Glaciers and Learn What You Can Do to Save Them

by Anita Sanchez (Author), Lily Padula (Illustrator)

This kids’ guide to glaciers is packed with information to give readers an exciting overview of glaciers and how important they are. With graphs, charts, photographs and more, this book will dive into the secrets of glaciers, teach readers how to become climate activists, and share ways to save the glaciers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mission: Arctic: A Scientifc Adventure to a Changing North Pole: Weiss-Tuider, Katharina, Schneider, Christian: 9781771649568: Amazon.com: BooksMission: Arctic: A Scientific Adventure to a Changing North Pole

by Katharina Weiss-Tuider and Christian Schneider

 

Until now, the world of the Arctic was a mystery. This guide follows the 2019 MOSAiC expedition whose mission was to let their vessel freeze in the sea ice and drift to the north pole. Why? To study how the Arctic is changing. Featuring photographs, facts, diagrams and more; the thrilling world of the Arctic will come alive as readers discover its secrets.

 

 

 

 

 

What Was the Ice Age? by Nico Medina and Who HQ

 

What Was the Ice Age?

by Nico Medina

A part of the “What Was” series, this book is a look at our world 20,000 years ago when glaciers and ice covered most of our planet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Explore The Ice Age!: With 25 Great Projects: Blobaum, Cindy, Stone, Bryan: 9781619305816: Amazon.com: Books

Explore The Ice Age!: With 25 Great Projects

by Cindy Blobaum (Author), Bryan Stone (Illustrator)

What exactly is an ice age? How do organisms and ecosystems deal with them? How do they affect the Earth? Explore the Ice Age illustrates with activities what happens during and after such an event. Filled with illustrations and fun facts, this book will be a welcome addition to your library.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Out of the Ice: How Climate Change Is Revealing the Past: Eamer, Claire, Shannon, Drew: 9781771387316: Amazon.com: Books

 

Out of the Ice: How Climate Change Is Revealing the Past

by Claire Eamer and Drew Shannon

A fascinating look into how unexpected things have been emerging from ice melting due to global warming. The book  discusses glacial archaeology, a scientific field in which researchers study these finds and discover new things about our past.

 

 

 

X-Books: Weather: Snow

Snow (X-books: Weather)

by Bill McAuliffe

Take a look at the five most devastating snowstorms recorded and discover fascinating information about the wonders of snow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blasted by Blizzards Book by Jill Keppeler | Epic

Blasted by Blizzards (Natural Disasters: How People Survive)

by Jill Keppeler (Author)

 

Want to learn the basics of blizzards? Blasted by Blizzards focuses on why they occur, what happens afterwards and what to do to prepare for a blizzard-shaped disaster.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ice! Poems About Polar Life Book Review and Ratings by Kids - Douglas Florian

 

Ice! Poems About Polar Life

by Douglas Florian

With poetry, wordplay and lots of humor, poet Douglas Florian introduces children to animals that live in the polar region, and also explores scientific concepts like global warming, animal adaptations, and much more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Susan Summers is a wildlife enthusiast and an author. Contact her at: https://susan-inez-summers.weebly.com/

 

 

Shruthi Rao is an author. Her home on the web is https://shruthi-rao.com

 

 

 

Book #5561: A Case Study

On July 13, 2022, at 6:46 PM ET, Otto the Poolboy minted a tokenized book.

A tokenized book can be thought of either as an NFT linked to literary content or as a book with blockchain-enhanced features. In the Summer of 2022, the NFT market was on the decline and has since been declared dead, so this case study will take a book-centric approach.

In Web3 publishing, books are “minted” from a smart-contract that serves as a metaphorical printing press. The smart-contract allows an author or publisher to define the conditions under which book-linked tokens can be minted, transferred, or burned. When the proper conditions are met, the minting process forges the first link in a chain of provenance that will follow a tokenized book throughout its lifetime on a ledger that can’t be retroactively changed.

The book Otto minted was token #5561 in what would ultimately become an edition of 14,889 token-gated copies of Bored & Dangerous by Neil Strauss, published by Tally Labs on the Ethereum blockchain.

Web3 publishing smart-contracts can be programmed to release their books in phases, each applying a separate set of rules for a set period of time. Minting rights can be limited to the holders of a mint pass as a way to reward to early supporters, or may be limited to specific wallet holders on an allow-list that includes contest winners.

Otto minted Book #5561 during Bored & Dangerous’s raucous pre-public mint phase, when minting was only available to select insiders, including members of the Jenkins the Valet’s Writers Room, contest winners, and licensors of character IP. Although this phase of the mint was closed to the public, copies started popping up on secondary marketplaces at an initial floor price of around 0.23 ETH (US ~$250) apiece.

Valuation will be a major topic in the unfolding story of Book #5561. Tokenized books, like all things that can be owned, have a value governed by the rules supply and demand. The ultimate purchase price is whatever amount a buyer and seller can agree upon.

Because tokenized book transactions are accounted for on a blockchain, sellers and prospective buyers have equal access to market listings, bids, historical sales, and other data points useful in setting a fair market price. The floor price of a collection is one of these data points, representing the lowest-cost entry point into an edition at any given moment.

The floor price also helps determine the market cap of a collection, which is found by multiplying the floor price by the total number of items in the collection. Market cap is a useful shorthand measure by which the value of entire collections can be compared or tracked over time.

With a floor price of 0.23 ETH, the Bored & Dangerous book collection would have had an initial market cap of around $3.7 million as the full print-run of books was minted.

Another consideration of value for some Web3 books is the presence of a desirable trait. Some Web3 book traits provide metadata about a book’s author, genre, language, publishing date, and other useful information. Other traits may identify variant covers, alternate content, or randomly assigned features with varying levels of rarity.

The cover of each Bored & Dangerous book is an animation of a spinning book against an illustrated background set to one of three music loops determined by a trait. Around 5% of the books minted with the “Jenkins the Vallet” trait and its associated loop, around 20% of the books minted with the “Great Ape Society” trait and loop, and the remaining 75% of the books minted with the “Money Train” trait and loop.

As a “Great Ape Society” variant, Book #5561 could command a premium from a subset of collectors who valued that trait above the collection’s general floor price.

On July 20, 2022, at 10:25AM ET, Otto the Poolboy sold Book #5561 to a user named More Than Ever for 0.579 ETH (US ~$880).

Through the balance of July and into August of 2022, the Bored & Dangerous book collection experienced a steady rise in its floor price amidst heavy trading. Thousands of ETH, representing millions of US Dollars, changed hands. At its peak, the floor price exceeded the ETH equivalent of $1000 per book, with the Bored & Dangerous book collection achieving a market cap of around $15 million, establishing a record for tokenized book collections.

As a Web3 author, I watched these jaw-dropping sales with mixed feelings.

On the one hand, this level of hype and exclusivity wasn’t part of the book future I had been working toward for most of the previous year. My interest was, and still is, in advancing the development and adoption of next-generation publishing. As a practical matter, having to pay four figures to access a novel would price nearly all readers out of the market.

On the other hand, I was glad for the attention Bored & Dangerous was bringing to the nascent Web3 book market. Although blockchain tokens can be linked to all kinds of digitized content, NFTs had become conflated with JEPGs in the public imagination. Tokenized books, representing a greater technical challenge to create, had gotten a later start and were still relegated to an obscure niche.

The Bored & Dangerous book release represented a new hope for the future of Web3 publishing, a rising tide that could lift other book projects and platforms. The success of Bored & Dangerous brought us closer to a world where collectors’ editions might provide a living wage to authors while subsidizing free or nearly free mass-market editions for readers.

The technology that had tokenized Bored & Dangerous books had also tokenized the platform of their creation. Before minting books, TallyLabs had minted shares of a studio. Four tiers of access tokens granted governance votes, royalties, and early minting rights, and token-gated access to Jenkins the Valet’s Writers Room.

Jenkins was an Ape mascot who served as the debut book’s main character. If Tally Labs had aspirations to become a Web3 Disney, Jenkins was to be their Mickey Mouse.

When I first heard about the Jenkins and his Writers Room, entry-level valet tickets had a floor price of a couple hundred dollars apiece. I’d passed on that opportunity, and watched from outside as the project snowballed. Tally Labs secured millions of dollars in VC funds, talent representation for Jenkins, and a top-tier agency to shop film rights around Hollywood. During pre-release development of Bored & Dangerous, which took the best part of a year, the floor price of a valet ticket rose into the thousands of dollars.

Tally Labs built a community around their writer’s open studio, where members could provide input and peek in on the drafting process. To tell the story of Jenkins, Tally Labs had enlisted ten-time New York Times bestselling author Neil Strauss. Although not known as a novelist, Strauss had already become a legend in the Web3 publishing world for the 2021 release of Survive All Apocalypses, also known as LIT Project One, which was held in high esteem by prominent collectors. No other author had stronger publishing credentials combined with such a demonstrated commitment to Web3 publishing.

In addition to securing Strauss as an author, Tally Labs had licensed some of Jenkins the Valet’s fellow characters from the iconic Bored Ape Yacht Club. The Web3 twist was that this intellectual property wasn’t licensed from that project’s creator, but from individual holders who had been granted rights to any characters derived from the unique images they held. The process ensured a book that leveraged one of the most widely recognized brands in the NFT space while securing the active participation of BAYC community members.

I’m one of those people who see Bored Apes as irredeemably ugly and cartoonish, but tastes are subjective and many people seem to enjoy the collection’s simian aesthetic. A talented enough author could definitely craft even this lot into a stable of compelling characters. Was Neil Strass a talented enough author? The book was gated, accessible only to token-holders, so only they could know for sure.

Aside from its fiscal performance, iconic branding, and presumptive literary merits, the Bored & Dangerous collection also represented a historic advance in technical innovation. Its smart-contract provided holders with a choice between keeping their books or irrevocably “burning” them to buy into the next project in the Tally Labs pipeline, Azurbala, which would license original characters called Azurians for an upcoming multimedia franchise.

Although a “book burning” evokes hateful events in history, burning is the common term for a transaction that takes blockchain tokens out of circulation, making these book burnings a demonstration of self-sacrifice rather than one of censorship. Passage to Azurbala required an act of faith, permanently destroying a finished work of exceptional value in order to receive a stake in an unfinished and untested project that was being built from the ground up.

Each Bored & Dangerous token provided a gateway to the finished novel, but could now be traded for what lay behind Door Number 2, a second gateway to what might someday become a massive franchise.

Most holders opted for Door Number 2. During the burn period, the number of ownable Bored & Dangerous books fell from 14,889 to just 5,225. This not only provided momentum for the next project but, with all other market forces held constant, constrained supply and sustained demand should have sent the value of Bored & Dangerous on an upward spiral into the stratosphere.

Except that the surrounding crypto climate was already in decline, rocked by scams, scandals, and regulatory uncertainty. The NFT market was already slipping by the Summer of ’22, and was heading for a prolonged crash. Overall trading volumes, floor prices, and enthusiasm across the Web3 space fell by orders of magnitude as a stubborn bear market stretched from late 2022 into 2023.

On January 22, 2023, at 10:19AM ET, a user named MacxD bought Book #5561 for 0.11 ETH (US ~$175).

As values trend downward in a bear market, a collection’s floor price may experience a race to the bottom. Holders who want to jettison their assets undercut other listings and the floor shifts from being a cost of entry to a salvage value for sellers.

Buyers become increasingly discerning, bargain-hunting in major collections while letting minor collections languish. If a collection has no buyers for an extended period of time, market listings will expire until none are left, giving the collection an effective floor price of zero.

A September 2023 report by research group dappGambl found that of 73,257 NFT collections identified by the authors, 95% had become essentially worthless. Even among the top 8,850 NFT projects tracked by CoinMarketCap, the functional equivalent of an NFT market index, 18% had a floor price of zero.

In many corners of the media, NFTs were officially declared dead, but things may not actually be as bleak as they may appear.

For example, the NFT crash had at least one silver lining for tokenized books. As the overall NFT market declined, Bored & Dangerous values plunged into a range that ordinary folks would consider reasonable for a book that’s actually meant to be read and enjoyed for its content.

On September 25, 2023, at 11:25PM ET, I bought Book #5561 for 0.013 ETH (US ~$20).

I’m thrilled to have picked Book #5561 off the floor for the price of an ordinary hardcover. Since then, the floor price in Ethereum has slipped even further and may very well drop to zero in the near future. But whatever its price and whatever its literary merits, this book’s place in literary history makes it a treasure.

Bored & Dangerous could only ever have been written and published in a very narrow window of time that it uniquely embodies.

The recent floor price for the Bored & Dangerous collection has been hovering around 0.01 ETH (US ~$18).

Tally Labs’s Azurbala project seems to have gone into hibernation, despite the development of a next-generation writers room. Out of 9,656 copies of Bored & Dangerous that were burned to become Azur Roots, only 5,196 have so far been minted into Azurians that might yet become characters in an upcoming project.

A second-hand Azurian can currently be had for about $27, a price that’s up from a month ago, but which may also drop to zero.

Despite the death of NFTs, the tools and platforms that underlie blockchain technology have continued to evolve toward lower transaction fees, better security, more regulation, and environmental sustainability. New book formats are still being developed with the potential to benefit authors and their reader communities.

That story is still being written.