Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Batman trivia for kids quarantined in their personal Batcaves

Due to social distancing to reduce the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus), so much of the world is simultaneously experiencing something many authors are used to: staying home all day, day after day.

That can be fun, that can be comforting, and that can be frustrating.

Which is why so many people, including many authors of books for young people, are doing what they can to share daily, fun, meaningful activity

One of my publishers, Charlesbridge, is posting new videos by various authors. Many are read-alouds...so mine isn't. 

Mine is a quiz...actually, two quizzes: one for kids who have read my nonfiction book Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman, and one for kids who have not.


And there are prizes!

This is your chance to show off your Batman knowledge, your power of deduction/guessing, or both.


The questions:


Answers must be submitted from the form at this link by 4/15/20, but if you're seeing this after that date, you can still test your knowledge.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

A bad time in general, but a good time for a new game

My friend Jason Schneider is the VP of Product Development for a highly imaginative company called Gamewright.

Last summer, he asked me to help write a fast-paced trivia game called Hit List. I love trivia, games, writing, and Jason, so I said yes.

Today, I received my author copies (or whatever they're called in the game industry); with families everywhere currently staying home due to COVID-19 (coronavirus), one might say perfect timing. 

I posted to my neighborhood list serv that I put outshrink-wrappedgames for the taking.


All were gone in less than 45 minutes. 

Your move, cabin fever!

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Fun, easy, home-based activities for kids

Schools worldwide are closed in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus).

It is heartening to see author/illustrator friends and children's book publishers sharing free content online to help kids keep brains/bodies active during homebound days:



Here is my small contribution.

Twenty years ago, I wrote a now out-of-print book called 365 Adventures (later repackaged as 365 Things to Do Before You Grow Up).



Starting with the first day my own kids were out of school, I began adding one entry a day to this post (newest at top; not in book order). You are, of course, free to copy/share.

Disclaimers:


  • Some minor references may now be outdated. But that gives you a secondary activity: look up those references.
  • Some activities require friends. When social distancing is in effect, substitute "friends" with "people who are currently in my house/apartment." (Or perhaps you can do some activities with friends by FaceTime or a similar program.)
  • As the title suggests, there are 365 entries. World, don't make me post them all.

Any questions? Want activities more than once a day? Post in the comments or email me (see "contact" link at top right of blog).

Another suggestion: to start a discussion with kids ages 9 and up about social justice, primary source research, intellectual property/copyright/creators' rights, 20th century history, persistence, and/or speaking up for others, show them the feature documentary Batman & Bill on Hulu. It's the first film based on a nonfiction picture book (Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman). Warning: it's a tearjerker!



The activities:

day 21 - wear a new hairstyle - posted 4/5/20

day 20 - run a family quiz show - posted 4/4/20

day 19 - recreate famous images - posted 4/3/20
(NOTE: the Getty Museum of Los Angeles has done
something similar, and that's where the similarities between 
the GM and MTN end)

day 18 - splatter a shirt - posted 4/2/20
(NOTE: requires a yard or other private outdoor space, 
a plain solid-colored T-shirt or sweatshirt, and fabric paint; if you do not have 
some or any of this on hand, you'll have to get [even more] creative)

day 17 - change hands - posted 4/1/20
(NOTE: not for the whole day as it suggests; 
start with 15 minutes and see how much longer you can go...

day 16 - make and take Rorschach test - posted 3/31/20


day 15 - rescue a bug - posted 3/30/20


day 14 - act out the dialogue from a film - posted 3/29/20
(NOTE: "tape" and "VCR" are the medieval forms of Netflix)

day 13 - make a house of mirrors - posted 3/28/20

day 12 - take an animal census - posted 3/27/20
(NOTE: though we're mostly staying at home at the moment,
you can do this by looking out the window!)

day 11 - know your blood type - posted 3/26/20
(NOTE: forget the self-test; just ask your parents!)


day 10 - compare news stories - posted 3/25/20

day 9 - celebrate another country's holiday - posted 3/24/20

day 8 - draw your great-grandparents - posted 3/23/20

day 7 - recite a famous speech - posted 3/22/20

day 6 - toss a rainbow salad - posted 3/21/20
(NOTE: you can also use fruit/nuts/other healthy food)

day 5 - put inventions in chronological order - posted 3/20/20
(NOTE: you don't have to use sticky notes; just make a list)


day 4 - go sled bowling - posted 3/19/20

day 3 - list the Seven Wonders of Your City/Town - posted 3/18/20

day 2 - make a string path - posted 3/17/20
(NOTE: you don't have to start at the front door)

day 1 - hold a no-laughing contest - posted 3/16/20

Sunday, March 15, 2020

The historic route Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel ran in 1933 (time-lapse)

Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman came out in 2008. The year before, I had made my first trip to Cleveland (where Superman was born) for a four-day research binge. That publication year and the next, I made several trips to Cleveland to speak at schools, museums, community gatherings, and other venues. The last was in 2010—until last week, when I returned for a school visit in Warren, OH, about an hour’s drive from Cleveland.

If you told me then that nine years would pass between visits, I would have found that hard to believe, given how often I was in Cleveland from 2007-2010.


The biggest change since then was not unique to Cleveland: this trip will end up being my last by plane for at least a month, if not more, as communities nationwide accept the severity of COVID-19, the coronavirus, and begin self-quarantining. The mood at the school and the few other places I went (namely restaurants) seemed status quo, at times even upbeat, but I was sensing an underlying societal anxiety everywhere I went (even though I was keeping my distance!). Even in rural Warren, store shelves that once displayed disinfectants were barren.

Special thanks to the school, Champion Middle, and especially Andrea Baer and Sandy Amoline, for being such gracious hosts under these uneasy, ever-changing circumstances. Years ago I switched from high-fives to fist bumps, and now it’s elbow bumps, or sometimes no bumps. Everyone understands. Same camaraderie with none of the contact. 

Sandy and her crew went all out decorating to welcome a Superman and Batman junior ambassador. A glimpse:



The other highlight of this short, strange trip was returning to the historic neighborhood of Superman’s genesis, specifically the former house of writer Jerry Siegel and the site where artist Joe Shuster’s apartment stood when these two teens dreamed up the world’s first superhero in 1933. 

Both locations have had a new sheen put on since I was last there, thanks to money raised largely by fans in 2009. Jerry’s house got a major renovation (restoring it to how it may have looked when Jerry lived there) plus a couple of spiffy signs on a front fence. The site of Joe’s apartment is now commemorated by a blown-up version of the first Superman story placed along a corner fence. Both addresses are in the Glenville neighborhood, which used to be predominantly Jewish and is now predominantly black.

 10622 Kimberley Avenue,
where Jerry lived in 1933

 10905 Amor Avenue (AKA 998 Parkwood Avenue),
where Joe lived in 1933

 less angled view of the beginning of the first Superman story,
from Action Comics #1 (1938),
as exhibited at the site of Joes former apartment

 street signs on one side of Jerry’s street

  street signs on other side of Jerry’s street

  street signs on one side of Joe’s street

 street signs on other side of Joe’s street

 950 Parkwood Avenue, which is a few doors down
from Joes former building (immediately below); both were
clearly built by the same developer (note the white squares)


 former synagogue that is now a church

 note the Hebrew on right

 In January, I had a layover in Cleveland, where I saw for 
the first time this Superman mini-museum in baggage claim.
(It was installed in 2012.)

Jerry and Joe...thanks for the hospitality.
And, you know, for Superman.

Now for the best part.

The legend goes that Jerry was up most of a summer night documenting visions of the character who would become Superman; the morning after, hyped up, he ran from his house to Joes apartment to ask his artist friend to draw what Jerry saw.


He would have taken one of two routes: Parkwood Avenue (9.5 blocks, which is about a sixth or a mile) or East 105th Street (eighth of a mile).



Because the Parkwood route is slightly shorter, I suspect he went that way.

And so did I, taking what is probably the first-ever time-lapse of the Jerry Siegel Run.


At the Cleveland airport, I asked the gate agent for my inbound flight if I could get a seat with no one next to it. She said “You already have one”—without asking for my seat number or looking at a screen.

The new abnormal.

Truth, justice, and the worldwide way…

Stay safe, all.

Friday, February 21, 2020

The daughter of Nobuo Fujita from "Thirty Minutes Over Oregon"

The children of the girls whose story I tell in Fairy Spell: How Two Girls Convinced the World That Fairies Are Real kindly posed with their copy of the book.

Similarly, the daughter of Nobuo Fujita, Yoriko Asakura, and her husband have graciously done so with their copy of Thirty Minutes Over Oregon: A Japanese Pilot's World War II Story.


Sunday, February 9, 2020

Joaquin Phoenix’s Oscar for "Joker" is also a distinction for Bill Finger

Joaquin Phoenix just won an Academy Award for Actor in a Leading Role for playing the Joker in Joker, as Heath Ledger posthumously did (Actor in a Supporting Role) for The Dark Knight in 2009.


This is only the second time in history that two actors have received an Oscar for playing the same character. The first: Mafia boss Vito Corleone. Marlon Brando won Best Actor for portraying him in The Godfather in 1973; Robert De Niro won Best Supporting Actor for The Godfather: Part II in 1975. (Interestingly, De Niro is also in Joker.)

Bill Finger helped conceive the Joker’s appearance and in 1940 wrote the first Joker story, which means he is one of only two people to write the debut of a character who has earned this rare honor. 



This coincides with the first time Bill’s name has been said/appeared on screen at the Oscars:


Of the many social media responses I saw, this was my favorite:


Alas, he removed his tweet later that night.
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