Thursday, April 29, 2010

My spring book: The Shocking Truth about Energy

With a bolt of lightning named Erg and a gaggle of appliances, toys, and gadgets, get ready to find out about energy! Explore how electricity is generated plus sources of power from fossil fuels, nuclear, wind, water, solar, geothermal, and biofuels. For a longer post about it, please check out this post on the I.N.K. blog. And here is the book’s page on my web site.
Some good reviews have come in already, which is always a plus!

Erg, a cartoon energy-bolt, narrates this electrifying introduction to the basics of energy. A spread is devoted to each of the many types of energy, how they are harnessed, their uses and their pros and cons: Fossil fuels, nuclear, solar, wind, water, geothermal and plant-based energy are all discussed. Leedy presents difficult concepts in a way that even younger readers can understand, encapsulating the key essentials and leaving the complex details for older readers’ texts. Additional pages explain the generation of electricity, address the problem of global warming and educate readers about how they can help save energy. Throughout, the watercolor-and-digital artwork cleverly illustrates the concepts presented in the text with cartoons, diagrams and sketches. The author’s whimsical anthropomorphized electrical outlets and devices keep readers’ attention and provide further information. Backmatter includes more energy facts and ways to save energy as well as additional cons against fossil-fuel usage. What Anne Rockwell and Paul Meisel’s What’s So Bad About Gasoline? (2009) did for fossil fuels, this book does for energy as a whole. (Informational picture book. 5-8)

An imaginary bolt of pure energy appropriately named Erg introduces energy basics: its varied forms, the principle that it can be changed but not destroyed, how we get and use the power of fossil fuels, good and bad news about old and new power sources, and the importance of conserving energy to save the earth. The author begins with the role of food in human bodies, a sure way to draw young readers in. The exercise of imagining human muscles pushing a car easily explains our use of other power sources. Leedy’s experience selecting facts that are most relevant and engaging for young readers is evident, and the information is eminently digestible. The design moves from energetic to near-frenetic. Her brightly colored mixed-media illustrations are filled with animated appliances, bursts of information, and decorated fonts. Three final pages of sensible suggestions for energy saving are followed by three more pages of helpful supplemental information and suggested Web sites, including a source for science fair projects.
— Kathleen Isaacs

Monday, April 19, 2010

Read my lips...the UCF book festival was excellent!

Especially considering it was their first year, everyone involved in presenting the 2010 UCF Book Festival deserves a big round of applause. From the army of student volunteers that helped out all day to the informative full-color program to the yummy sandwiches in the author waiting area, everything was well-conceived and executed with no glitches that I was aware of. There was a teensy problem with the sound system that produced some unusual reverberations, but that seemed to be taken care of quickly. 
Held in the UCF Arena, there were over 50 authors that spoke and signed their books, free book appraisals, many activities for children, books galore from Scholastic, Barnes & Noble, and several smaller outfits, and if you looked closely, even an astronaut wandering around. Several characters from Star Wars were also in attendance. It was particularly funny to see Darth Vader posing for a photograph with a cute baby girl dressed in pink.
My brother Robert’s double booth looked wonderful and he was pleased with sales at the show. Leedy’s Books is located near Fashion Square Mall in Orlando and carries used books (primarily nonfiction) and also my new children’s books, naturally. We made a couple of suggestions in the exhibitor survey, the main one being that 2 days would be even better for next year’s festival. We heard that it was definitely under consideration, so keep your fingers crossed! 

This was one of those events that made you think, “Why hasn’t this been done before?” Well, now it has been and promises to be even better in the future.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

UCF Book Festival is this Saturday!

The University of Central Florida will hold their inaugural book festival this coming Saturday April the 17th, and it looks like they’ve done an excellent job pulling it together. Here is the link to the festival’s home page. Admission and parking are free with events running from 8:45 until 5:30. I will be on the author panel Adventures in Children’s Books from 10:30–11:20 in Cypress B (The Venue). The author forum schedule is here

I’ll be signing Missing Math and The Shocking Truth about Energy afterwards in the exhibit hall. My brother Robert will have a booth for his bookstore, Leedy’s Books, and has most of my other titles.

If you like Carl Hiaasen (columnist and author of Hoot, plus many more titles), he’ll be speaking from 9:15–10:00, so get going early and come on down! 

Friday, April 9, 2010

Scanning turtles

In the early ‘90s I wrote and illustrated a book about sea turtles, entitled Tracks in the Sand. It was named an Outstanding Science Trade Book by the National Science Teachers Association and many people have told me they really loved the artwork. It’s been out of print for awhile, but with the ebook technologies now coming online, I’ve been thinking it might be a candidate for reissue in digital form.

With that in mind, and because three framed pieces are due to go into an exhibition, I’ve been disassembling the frames and scanning the spreads. The page just fits into my scanner... since it’s for a digital version, there is no need for bleed, I’m assuming. 

This little guy is under the sand in the nesting chamber breaking out of his shell... he looks a tad grumpy at the moment.

The artwork was rendered using Caran d'Ache Neocolor ll aquarelle crayons and is scanning nicely. I am having to piece the pages together in Photoshop, which isn’t too difficult, fortunately. Not sure at this point if the artwork will need to be in single page or spread form, but I’ll figure that out later.

One issue is that the paper is somewhat wrinkled towards the edges in places, so that is going to have to be dealt with a Screen or Hard Light layer to counter the shading.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Color improvisations in Photoshop

I like to start with reality then alter it a little or a lot. In digging through my Photoshop how-to books, it seems that I’ve neglected some fun ways to play around with color. This post on Gloria Hansen‘s blog has a photo of boats that she altered that really appeals to me (scroll all the way to the bottom to see her results.)
My hubby Andy and I have been hiking quite a bit lately, enjoying the lovely spring weather and fresh green leaves. Though I shoot quite a few photos, somehow they don't capture the vision in my mind’s eye. This typical image was taken on the oak hammock trail at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. I like the shape of the twisty oaks, but the color is pretty ho-hum. Photoshop to the rescue!

You may be interested to know how this was done... it’s impossible to give a step-by-step formula because each image has its own issues. Basically I added a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer to every image, then tweaked individual colors if needed. A filter was run on a copy of the image (it’s always nice to have the original underneath to refer to), either Paint Daubs or Palette Knife. Or try the Surface Blur or Smart Blur. 

All of these have a Curves Adjustment Layer and possibly a Channel Mixer and/or Brightness/Contrast, too. Since they're Adjustment Layers, you can continue to tweak them until you’re happy. 

You also can combine the best of two Layers by masking out part of one. It sounds harder than it is once you’ve memorized that little procedure.

Here are a couple more:

Whether I’ll use these images as inspiration to throw some paint and/or fabric around is hard to say...I definitely find them much more compelling this way.