Monday, January 31, 2011

Mentor Monday: Voice, Part I

One of the more difficult concepts for writers is the idea of “voice.” This topic was one of the many things our “writer’s thread” presenter, Emily Lockhart, spoke about at Kindling Words this weekend. Emily’s own inimitable voice filled our mornings with laughter and provoked some intense reflection and revision in a lot of people’s works-in-progress.

This is a broad subject, so I will return to it in future posts.

We use the term “voice” to describe a couple of different aspects of a written work, which can be confusing, but the aspects are in fact connected and so the multi-faceted term is actually appropriate. And working on one aspect will help to strengthen the others in your writing. The “voices” we most often refer to are the characters’ voices, the narrator’s voice, and finally and most amorphously, the author’s voice.

The first “voice” to consider is probably the easiest to describe, and that is the voice of your characters. It is obvious, when you think about it, that different people speak differently. You can generally tell with your eyes closed whether you are listening to a child or an adult, a teenager or an elderly person, a man or a woman. Often a person’s voice reveals their ethnicity, their social standing, their education. On the occasion that you open your eyes and discover you’ve drawn an incorrect conclusion, the shock is quite striking. In addition, we all vary our speech depending on our circumstances, our emotional state, and our audience. Our “voice” is a combination of the unchanging characteristics of our speech and the variables we choose, consciously or unconsciously, in response to our changing world.

We tend to become writers because of a fascination with language, so these observations are probably not earth-shaking to you. What can you do with them?

First, listen. Eavesdrop on the people around you in the elevator. Hang out in the food court at the mall. Shelf-read in the children’s room at the library when it’s full of preschoolers. Notice and absorb the voices. Not just the words people use, but their tones, their cadences, the way their voices change when they speak with their peers or their superiors (bosses, parents, elder siblings).

Next (and actually, this should be ongoing), read. Read current books in the genre you’re writing in, and read classic books by great writers. As you read, pay attention to the voices of various characters. How does the author allow you to hear that character speaking? Take notes – or try to imitate what they have done (create a scene that’s not in the book, between characters who are – like fan fiction). Compare different books by the same writer; and books for similar audiences by different writers. Some suggestions – Lois Lowry writes both “light” and “serious” fiction – compare the voices of Anastasia and her family with those of the Tates, and then with the families in A Summer to Die and Autumn Street. Then listen to the voices in Katherine Paterson’s books: Jip and Lyddie, Takiko in Of Nightingales that Weep and Muna in Sign of the Chrysanthemum.

Next, practice. Begin with yourself. Pick something exciting that has happened to you, or that you’ve done. Write a scene in which you describe that event to your best friend. Write it again as if you’re telling your aged mother about it. Write it again, as if you are reporting the event to the newspaper – or the police. Notice the changes in your word choices, the details you highlight or downplay, the way you describe your emotions and reactions.

Try this exercise again, using a fictional speaker – a child or a teenager. Give your character an exciting experience to relate – to friends and to foes, to parents and to authorities. Now give that fictional speaker something sad to talk about, again to different listeners.

Now look at your current work-in-progress. In fact, don’t look at it, read it out loud. Do your child or teen characters sound authentic? Do they sound like the kids you were eavesdropping on at the mall or the library? People don’t always speak in complete sentences, or with perfect grammar.

Can you tell your characters apart in dialogue by their speech patterns? If not, can you find a way for their speech patterns to reveal something about them, either who they are or how they’re feeling?

Have fun!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Poetry Friday: Starfish


This is what life does. It lets you walk up to
the store to buy breakfast and the paper, on a
stiff knee. It lets you choose the way you have
your eggs, your coffee. Then it sits a fisherman
down beside you at the counter who says, Last night
the channel was full of starfish
. And you wonder,
is this a message, finally, or just another day?

Life lets you take the dog for a walk down to the
pond, where whole generations of biological
processes are boiling beneath the mud. Reeds
speak to you of the natural world: they whisper,
they sing. And herons pass by. Are you old
enough to appreciate the moment? Too old?
There is movement beneath the water, but it
may be nothing. There may be nothing going on.

And then life suggests that you remember the
years you ran around, the years you developed
a shocking lifestyle, advocated careless abandon,
owned a chilly heart. Upon reflection, you are
genuinely surprised to find how quiet you have
become. And then life lets you go home to think
about all this. Which you do, for quite a long time.

Later, you wake up beside your old love, the one
who never had any conditions, the one who waited
you out. This is life's way of letting you know that
you are lucky. (It won't give you smart or brave,
so you'll have to settle for lucky.) Because you
stopped when you should have started again.

So life lets you have a sandwich, and pie for your
late night dessert. (Pie for the dog, as well.) And
then life sends you back to bed, to dreamland,
while outside, the starfish drift through the channel,
with smiles on their starry faces as they head
out to deep water, to the far and boundless sea. 

"Starfish" by Eleanor Lerman, from Our Post-Soviet History Unfolds. Buy a copy at Sarabande Books.

Drift over to Elaine Magliaro's Wild Rose Reader to see what other great poems await you on today's Poetry Friday.

Our Post-Soviet History Unfolds won the 2006 Lenore Marshall Award from the Academy of American Poets. Students from Coloma Middle School South put together this video for Starfish:

Monday, January 24, 2011

Mentor Monday: Word Count Counts

It's easy to believe that writing is all about words words words, but that is not the case. So much of publishing depends on numbers, too.

Friends are astonished when I tell them most magazines pay by the word. A smart writer knows this and works to the publishers' word count guidelines. Publishers have these guidelines because they need to make all the editorial and advertising fit. Fit is important to the bottom line. 

How words (and how many words) fit in a book is very important in children's book writing, too.

General word count guidelines on each type:
  • Early Picture Books -- zero to 500 words
  • Picture Books -- 1,000 to 1,200
  • Early Chapter Books -- 500 - 3,000
  • Chapter Books -- 20,000 - 45,000
  • YA -- 40,000 - 60,000
Figure out the category where your manuscript fits, and then read other books that fit that same category. 

It's actually kind of fun. You can do this research, for minimal cost, at libraries and book stores. This is also why you have friends with kids with books (hopefully they have quality books!). 

I tend to read the story first, and then investigate. You can ask these questions, among others: What's the layout of the text and illustrations? How is the text situated on the page? Where do the page breaks occur? If there are illustrations, how do they enhance the text? How does this sound being read out loud? Is the pov first person or third? Why did the author go with this?

I've started to keep a three ring binder holding the notes I take on books I've read. Those notes include word counts.

You don't have to tally every word yourself. It's easy enough to find this information at Renaissance Learning, where you can also find other statistics about a wide range of children's titles.  They've done a bang-up job providing great info: Interest Level, Book Level, Genre, and Word Count. You can search by Author, Title, or ISBN.

Each book's page list awards, and also state lists and reading lists the book has made. 

(Interest level is based like this:  LG = Lower Grades (K-3); MG = Middle Grades (4-8); MG+ = Middle Grades Plus (6 and up); and UG = Upper Grades (9-12).  )

It's a pretty cool place for statistics.

It's easy to tell yourself it's okay to go over suggested word count limits -- books that don't follow these guidelines still get printed. But that's a rare exception. Except for very compelling reasons, you should talk yourself out of exceeding word count guidelines.

Writing to word count (or imposing your own minimal word count) helps you eliminate those words not pulling their weight. An editor will appreciate your tightly and skillfully written piece. When editors appreciate your work, this usually figures very big for your bottom line.



Friday, January 21, 2011

Poetry Friday: The Little Dogs Day

In searching for the perfect poem to round out my Margaret Wise Brown Blogapalooza this week, I came across The Little Dogs Day by the incredibly gorgeous Rupert Brooke. (His gorgeousness was attested to by William Butler Yeats who, if you believe Wikipedia, called him "the most beautiful young man in England." If this picture does Brooke justice, I'd say Yeats was spot on in his judgment.)

Brooke was a British poet writing during the World War I years. The Little Dogs Day was written in 1907, three years before Margaret was born. Brooke was 20-years old at the time, and would be dead within eight years. 

His and Margaret's lives took somewhat similar paths in their choice of careers, lovers, and death dances. They both died young in French hospitals. Brooke actually died on a French hospital ship moored off the coast of Greece. He'd developed sepsis from an infected mosquito bite. Margaret died in a French hospital in Nice following abdominal surgery to remove an ovarian cyst and her appendix. She was just about fully recovered and ready to be discharged. To prove how great she was doing, she did a can-can kick, dislodging the embolism that had formed in her leg. She died almost instantly. Talk about crazy death dances.

And so, I wanted something to tie in with Margaret. I'd thought maybe to do a poem on dying young, but I wanted something jollier for Margaret. Margaret was crazy about dogs, so I searched out dog poems. I loved The Little Dogs Day right off the bat. I couldn't find the image of this little dog making like Frank Sinatra and doing it his way more appealing.

The Little Dog's Day

  All in the town were still asleep,
  When the sun came up with a shout and a leap.
  In the lonely streets unseen by man,
  A little dog danced. And the day began.

All his life he'd been good, as far as he could,
And the poor little beast had done all that he should.
But this morning he swore, by Odin and Thor
And the Canine Valhalla--he'd stand it no more!

So his prayer he got granted--to do just what he wanted,
Prevented by none, for the space of one day.
"Jam incipiebo[1], sedere facebo[2],"
In dog-Latin he quoth, "Euge! sophos! hurray!"

He fought with the he-dogs, and winked at the she-dogs,
A thing that had never been heard of before.
"For the stigma of gluttony, I care not a button!" he
Cried, and ate all he could swallow--and more.

He took sinewy lumps from the shins of old frumps,
And mangled the errand-boys--when he could get 'em.
He shammed furious rabies, and bit all the babies,
And followed the cats up the trees, and then ate' em!

They thought 'twas the devil was holding a revel,
And sent for the parson to drive him away;
For the town never knew such a hullabaloo
As that little dog raised--till the end of that day.

  When the blood-red sun had gone burning down,
  And the lights were lit in the little town,
  Outside, in the gloom of the twilight grey,
  The little dog died when he'd had his day.
[Footnote 1: Now we're off] [Footnote 2: I'll make them sit up.]  
Join the pack at Tara Smith's A Teaching Life for Poetry Friday.
Then go out and high kick your way through the kind of day you want to have. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Women of Wednesday: Margaret Wise Brown

If you read my Mentor Monday post this week, you know I've been working on a biography of Margaret Wise Brown for Apprentice Shop Books. I jumped at the chance to write about this person whose words I've been reading to preschoolers for the last 31 years.

I'd bought Margaret Wise Brown: Awakened by the Moon by Leonard S. Marcus a few years ago, but never got around to reading it. This was the perfect excuse to pull it off the shelf. Brown was born the second of three children in 1910. Her paternal grandfather, Benjamin Gratz Brown, had been a Progressive leader during the Civil War and Reconstruction years. A vocal opponent of slavery, he was elected both a governor of Missouri, as well as a United States Senator. In 1872, he was New Hampshire's own Horace Greeley's vice-presidential running mate on the Greeley/Brown ticket.

Margaret's father, Robert, was the youngest of 9 children, and never really knew the "glory days" of the Brown family. Benjamin died when Robert was 9-years old. By that point, the family had fallen on hard times. Benjamin had neglected his law practice and personal finances to pursue public service. Robert was the first Brown man NOT to attend Princeton or Yale. Through family connections and hard work, Robert was well-employed and provided nicely for his family.

Margaret proved to be a storyteller from an early age. Before little sister Roberta was able to read to herself, she'd ask Margaret, two years her senior, to read her stories. Whatever she read, she'd twist it up in some way to suit her own tastes. If the story featured three children, she'd make the middle child the heroine. If it was scary, she'd make it even scarier. I checked out some of the fairy tales she would have read. They were positively gruesome as written. Here's what "Little Red Riding-Hood" (from The Blue Fairy Book, edited by Andrew Lang) sounded like in 1905 before Margaret went all Wes Craven on it.

"The wolf, seeing her come in, said to her, hiding himself under the bedclothes:

'Put the custard and the little pot of butter upon the stool and come and lie down with me.'

Little Red Riding-Hood undressed herself and went into bed, where being greatly amazed to see how her grandmother looked in her night-clothes, she said to her:

'Grandmamma, what great arms you have got!'

'That is the better to hug thee, my dear.'

'Grandmamma, what great legs you have got!'

'That is to run the better, my child.'

'Grandmamma, what great ears you have got!'

'That is to hear the better, my child.'

'Grandmamma, what great eyes you have got!'

'It is to see the better, my child.'

'Grandmamma, what great teeth you have got.'

'That is to eat thee up.'

And saying these words this wicked wolf fell upon Little Riding-Hood and ate her all up."

That's it. End of story. There was no wood-cutter coming to save LRRH. I can't imagine how little Margaret made this even scarier to Roberta.

Margaret's childhood wasn't all fairy tales. She loved animals, especially dogs and rabbits. She didn't appear to be terribly sentimental about them, however. When one of her pet rabbits died, she skinned it herself, and announced she was going to be a "lady butcher" when she grew up.

She took up beagling as an adult. It's like fox hunting, except you are chasing after rabbits. And by you, I mean "you." You and your dog chase after and hunt down bunnies. Margaret collected a pile of rabbit feet and kept them as trophies from the hunt.

Robert was reluctant to send Margaret to college. He figured she'd just get married and not put the education to any use. Margaret's mother insisted Margaret go to college, and she did. Margaret never did get married, although she was engaged to a Rockefeller 14 or 15-years her junior (I believe they'd call her a "Cougar" today) at the time of her death in 1952.

As a child, Margaret and Roberta set fire to a neighborhood woodlot. When questioned about it, they denied any involvement. As an adult, Margaret set the world of writing for children on fire. There's no denying that.

(Sorry. I gotta do this.)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Mentor Monday: Zotero is the Way to Go

I recently found a new (to me, at least) way to keep track of my research. I'd been reading about Margaret Wise Brown for a biography I'm writing, when I stumbled across Zotero. According to the Zotero website, "Zotero [zoh-TAIR-oh] is a free, easy-to-use tool to help you collect, organize, cite, and share your research sources. It lives right where you do your work—in the web browser itself."

I've been using a wiki to collect and organize my research at PBworks for years, and I love it. I was intrigued by Zotero, however, and decided to give it a try with my Margaret Wise Brown research. One word describes my experience. OMG! I didn't think I could love another research tool as much as I loved my wiki, but I was wrong. (It's just like when you have that second baby and you're afraid you're not going to love it as much as that first baby and then when you have it you're all, "OMG! I love this baby, too. Maybe even more." That's what it's just like.)

Zotero is a Firefox add-on, so if it's not already your browser, you'll need to download it. (Firefox is great, by the way.) I'm not going to get into the how-to specifics of using Zotero. The folks at Zotero do a fine job explaining their own product.

The thing I like best about using Zotero is my ability to take notes within the window I'm viewing. Here's an example of how it worked for me. I wanted to quote the first few lines of "Little Red Riding Hood" from The Blue Fairy Book edited by Andrew Lang and published by Stitt Publishing Company in 1905. I found the book at Google Books, and dragged it into my Margaret Wise Brown Zotero library. Once it was logged into the library, I opened up a little notepad which I positioned directly next to the text I was reading at Google Books. Next, I clipped and copied the opening lines of "Little Red Riding Hood," pasted it into the note, and attached it to the citation in Zotero. I saw that the punctuation didn't clip and paste. Because the note was directly next to the source, it wasn't a problem to quickly type in the punctuation where it appeared in the original text. It was, in fact, easy like Sunday morning.

While doing my research, before I'd start reading a new source, I'd drag it into my library and open up a notepad. If I found something I thought might be useful, I'd pop it directly into the note, which would attach to the citation in my library. If I found I wasn't going to use the source, I'd simply delete it from the library before moving to the next one.

Zotero sits quietly at the bottom right of your computer screen. When open, it takes up as much or as little space across the bottom of your screen as you designate. If you want to take notes, you put the notepad exactly where you want it. You're the boss. It's ready when you are, and it totally obeys you.

There are piles of how-to videos out there, but I picked this one for two reasons. First, the guy's a total smarty pants, which lends credence to the Zotero thing. Second, I like his accent.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Poetry Friday: Think How Fast a Year Flies By

I’m feeling a bit nostalgic. 2010 whizzed by. Also, in the last week, two friends lost their mothers. One death was expected, one, not so much.

Coming as they did at the very beginning of a new year, I was reminded that no matter how much time we get to spend with those we love, it’s never enough.

Children's Poet Laureate Mary Ann Hoberman’s poem seems to put it all in perspective.


by Mary Ann Hoberman

Think how fast a year flies by

A month flies by

A week flies by

Think how fast a day flies by

A Mayfly’s life lasts but a day

A single day

To live and die

A single day

How fast it goes

The day

The Mayfly

Both of those.

A Mayfly flies a single day

The daylight dies and darkness grows

A single day

How fast it flies

A Mayfly’s life

How fast it goes.

Before this year is too far gone, fly over to Laura Salas’s blog and read some of this week’s other share poetry.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Women of Wednesday: Patricia Reilly Giff

The Write Sisters are always amazed when we meet people who claim to want to write for children and yet do not read children’s books. Would you trust a physician who never picked up an anatomy text? Would you fly with a pilot who’d never studied aeronautics?

I just finished reading Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff. If you are a beginning writer and want to study an interesting technique, I urge you to pick up the book. Giff uses an alternating chapter technique to tell the story of a foster child, Hollis Woods.

The foster child/orphan character often is used by writers because the story has an immediate problem that needs solving: who will care for and love this child? It’s been used in many books: The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson for example, or Linda Sue Park’s A Single Shard. The foster child/orphan story is popular with the Newbery committee. (Go through the list and see how many of the winners feature this type of character.)

Giff’s use of the alternating chapter technique is not new either. Many authors use it, especially to present two points of view. Giff makes her story unique by alternating the chapters in Hollis’ present and past. Her past is told through descriptions of Hollis’ detailed art work. The details in her art hold the key to her future. Read this book for its story but also read this book as a writer and dissect the techniques the author uses.

Patricia Reilly Giff has written many great books for children. After finishing Pictures of Hollis Woods I was curious to know more about her. Her publisher, Random House, has a short biography posted on its web site. The following paragraph tells us where Giff’s skill with words came from:

“Reading and writing have always been an important part of Patricia Reilly Giff's life. As a child, her favorite books included Little Women, The Secret Garden, the Black Stallion books, the Sue Barton books, and the Nancy Drew series. Giff loved reading so much that while growing up, her sister had to grab books out of her hands to get Giff to pay attention to her; later, Giff's three children often found themselves doing the same thing. As a reading teacher for 20 years, the educational consultant for Dell Yearling and Young Yearling books, an adviser and instructor to aspiring writers, and the author of more than 60 books for children, Patricia Reilly Giff has spent her entire life surrounded by books.”

So follow the lead of this Woman of Wednesday. It has been said that writing begets good writing. Reading begets good writing, too. Read what Patricia Reilly Giff has written, then read the books she read.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Mentor Monday: More on the Power of a Single Word

A few weeks ago, I wrote about cutting words and the importance one word can have on a story’s trajectory. I thought it would be fun this week to look at some of the ways one word might have changed some popular novels.

I’ve substituted a word in each quotation. If you’re familiar with any of these books, you might pick out the change immediately. If you haven’t read a particular book, I’ve repeated the quotation correctly in the second part of this post. Notice how much one word can change your opinion of a character or the expectations you have for the story:

1. “Where’s Papa going with that sandwich?” said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast. (Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White)

2. “When Mary Lennox was sent to Misslethwaite Manor to live with her uncle everybody said she was the most beautiful-looking child ever seen. It was true, too.”
(The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett).

3. “They say Maniac Magee was born in a cabin.” (Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli)

4. “There is no dock at Camp Green Lake.” (Holes, by Louis Sachar)

5. “When May laughed, Ob came back to the trailer, got out of his good suit and into his regular clothes, then went and sat in the Chevy for the rest of the night. (Missing May by Cynthia Rylant).

6. “Gilly,” said Miss Ellis with a shake of her long blonde hair toward the passenger in the back seat. “I need to feel that you are willing to make some brownies.” (The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson.

I’ve picked 6 books that are either considered classics and/or were Newbery winners or honor books. When you re-read these quotes again, you get a sense of how carefully the author chose each word in his/her story.

1. “Where’s Papa going with that ax?” said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast. (sandwich vs. ax—which word adds more tension?)

2. “When Mary Lennox was sent to Misslethwaite Manor to live with her uncle everybody said she was the most disagreeable-looking child ever seen. It was true, too.”
(beautiful vs. disagreeable—how do you feel about Mary when you’ve read each version?)

3. “They say Maniac Magee was born in a dump.” (cabin vs. dump—is your curiosity aroused about this child?)

4. “There is no lake at Camp Green Lake.” (dock vs. lake—what’s the big deal? Don’t you want to know?)

5. “When May died, Ob came back to the trailer, got out of his good suit and into his regular clothes, then went and sat in the Chevy for the rest of the night. (laughed vs. died—how does this one word change your emotional perception?)

6. “Gilly,” said Miss Ellis with a shake of her long blonde hair toward the passenger in the back seat. “I need to feel that you are willing to make some effort.” (brownies vs. effort—Lifetime movie about the Food Channel or a story about a difficult child?)

All of these quotes are opening lines. Each sentence sets the tone for the story the author plans to tell. One different word can change the reader’s expectation of the kind of story that’s about to be read. One word can make us like or dislike a character and also make us want to learn why we have such strong feelings.

Look at your own work. How does your story open? Is there one, better, word that you can use to hook your reader?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Poetry Friday--"Mother to Son"

"Mother to Son" is a poem by Langston Hughes. My bet is, it is frequently studied in elementary schools since its "meaning" and its metaphor are so simple and clear. Hughes spells it all out for the reader, tacks, splinters, and all.
Mother to Son

Well, son, I'll tell you:
Life for me ain't been no crystal stair.
It's had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor—
But all the time
I'se been a-climbin' on,
And reachin' landin's,
And turnin' corners,
And sometimes goin' in the dark
Where there ain't been no light.
So, boy, don't you turn back.
Don't you set down on the steps.
'Cause you finds it's kinder hard.
Don't you fall now—
For I'se still goin', honey,
I'se still climbin',
And life for me ain't been no crystal stair.
Yale University has scads of a/v format material with Hughes performing his poetry, including "Mother to Son." Click here.

In this New Year, keep climbin', all you poetry-lovin' honeys! Take the stairs to
Live! Love! Explore! with Irene Latham, where you'll find this week's Poetry Friday Round-Up.


Photo by scottnj

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Women of Wednesday--Eponymously Yours

Eponymous = the lending of one's name to something, for example, the Ferris Wheel is named after its inventor, George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr. There are not as many things named after women, as there are those that have been named after men, but, there are a few. I'll start with the letter "A" today, and in future posts, I may tackle other letters and women creator/inventors.

The Apgar score has been helping newborns since the year 1952 when Dr. Virginia Apgar proposed a simple measurement to be taken one and five minutes after birth to determine the wellness of the child.

Dr. Virginia Apgar (1909–1974), an anesthesiologist, was the first woman to head a department at the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons. At the age of 29 she was named head of the newly formed division of anesthesiology.

The Columbia News explained Dr. Apgar's development of the evaluation system for which she is famous: "In the delivery room, she noticed there was no systematic assessment of newborns during the first critical moments of life. In answer to a medical student's question about how best to evaluate neonatal viability, she used a napkin to sketch the easily observable components of what became the Apgar score..."

In 2001 the New England Journal of Medicine reviewed the test and declared, "The Apgar scoring system remains as relevant for the prediction of infant survival today as it was almost 50 years ago." Below is a chart that simply explains the Apgar score.

The factors being scored, Activity (muscle tone), Pulse (heart rate), Grimace (reflex irritability), Appearance (skin color), and Respiration, make the APGAR score not only eponymous but also acronymous!

Dr. Apgar's career took another path when she developed an interest in birth defects. She spent the last years of her life working with the March of Dimes.


Photo courtesy Profiles in Science, National Library of Medicine
Chart courtesy Boston Children's Hospital

Monday, January 3, 2011

Mentor Monday--Help for Researching

The Extreme Searcher's Internet Handbook: A Guide for the Serious Searcher, 3rd edition, by Randolph Hock (CyberAge Books, 2010) is a goldmine for people who are a little uncertain about their research skills.

You'll find explanations of terms that you may have heard, but didn't quite understand such as "the deep web," directories, portals, Boolean searches; there's a decussion of the major search engines, Google, Yahoo, Bing, some lesser known ones, and, the new visualization search engines; places to find images, audios, and videos; and news resources. The chapter that, as far as I'm concerned, is worth spending $24.95 (list price) for is Chapter 6, "An Internet Reference Shelf." Lots of great places to visit, and to bookmark for future projects.

The best part of the book is at the end where there is a "URL List." It is arranged by chapters and simply lists all the web addresses of the various sites discussed in each chapter. How convenient is that? Rather than having to read a chapter all over again just to find a site you had read about earlier, all you do is turn to the "URL List"--easy peasy.