Texas Bluebonnet List 2016-2017

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Hi Guys, Aidan here!

Do you remember how much I raved about Echo earlier this year? Well, I just found out it made the Texas Bluebonnet list for 2016-2017. Congratulations to Pam Munoz Ryan and also to Austin writer, Chris Barton and illustrator, Don Tate, for their picture book, The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch, a fabulous book for younger readers.

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Diving Buddies!

Hi Guys, Olivia here with the second in the series, ‘So You Think You Can’.

Aubrey (14) and Maia (13) have been best friends since listening to Nicki Minaj’s “Starships” together at the USA Diving Regionals in Fort Lauderdale in 2012.

12 AMaia was adopted from Yiyang, Jiangxi (which is the town where Tess is from) and Aubrey is originally from Hangzhou in Zhejiang and has a younger sister, Alison, also from China. Both Maia and Aubrey now live in Florida.

Aubrey was 9½ when she started diving and Maia was 8. Both girls train for at least a couple of hours four to six times a week. Both girls have won many local titles and Maia placed 2nd on her three meter dive for East Nationals and Aubrey finished sixth on her one meter tower at AAU Nationals.

Diving has also enabled the girls to travel, having both been to Georgia, Iowa, Wisconsin and Maryland, plus a bunch of other States, as well as traveling all around Florida.

I was full of questions like – how deep is the pool? A. Eighteen feet. And do your ears ever pop? A. Only if you go right to the bottom after diving off the tower. It turns out that both girls prefer springboard and I don’t blame them. To be honest, diving off towers seems intimidating – even to me. (Maia admits the tower can be scary and Aubrey has broken her ankle twice and popped a membrane in her ear – yikes!) So, I asked them a little about how they got into the sport and what they like most about.

3 M & AO  – What are you thinking when you stand at the edge of the diving board? ‘

A – Don’t die, (jokes Aubrey). And then I think relax, you’ve got this.

M – I think about the correction my coach gave me. Plus relaxing and remembering to breath is always good!
O – Have you ever got to the edge and thought – no way?

M – Going up to seven meters was hard – I was like – no! But I soon realized it wasn’t that bad.

A – A couple of times. I once got on the board to do a back dive tuck and thought no way and it happened again on my front 2½.

O – I asked the girls what’s the hardest dive they can do and Aubrey asked if I meant physically or emotionally, which I hadn’t given much thought to. I have no idea what these mean, but they sound pretty impressive!

4 M & AA – The hardest dive for me both mentally and emotionally is (105B) front 2 ½ somersault pike of a seven meter platform. Physically the most difficult dive is (522D) back, which is 1 somersault 2 ½ twists on one meter.

M – On springboard, my hardest dive is a (5235D), which is a back 1 ½ somersault 2 ½ twist free on 3 meters. On tower: It’s a (405C); inward 2 ½ tuck on 7 meter high.

O – What is the hardest thing about diving? You know, other than not hitting your head and freaking out?

M – You need to overcome the mental game. You can be physically ready for a dive, but if your brain won’t let you do it, then you won’t.

A – The hardest thing for me is making sure you have a good attitude and keep a positive outlook on everything.

8 M & A9 A & MO – What do you like best about diving?

A – In diving there are no limits, you can always get better. The sport is always pushing you to stretch yourself.

M – I like the exhilaration of getting a new dive.

O – Who is your favorite diver?

M – I like Patricia McCormick because she executed dives that weren’t allowed. Plus she won gold medals in two consecutive Olympics.

A – The Olympic Gold Medalist, David Boudia. He is inspirational. He took the time to talk to me about his diving experience and even showed me how he used to draw out his dives to overcome his fears. I also like Steven LoBue because he is small like me!

10 AcAubrey

O – what is your advice to children thinking of taking up diving?

A – I would tell them, don’t let anything stop you. Sometimes you will feel frustrated with the process or have a smack – get up and try again. I have made friends all around the country that I would have not met outside this sport. I have been blessed to have amazing mentors who have become role models. I feel like this diving community is small and even though we don’t see each other at school we still are connected and support and encourage each other. Diving has taught me a lot about myself. It has given me courage to overcome my fears. It has also taught me life skills like the confidence to try new things, be in front of a crowd, to set goals, to be social, to work hard and to prioritize my time in order to accomplish my dreams.

11 MMaia

M – Diving is a fun sport that you will enjoy and you can make great friends from all over that you may not have met otherwise. It teaches you a lot about yourself and being able to put in the hard work to achieve your goals – big or small. You have to be fearless or learn to overcome your fear in order to achieve your goals. Additionally, you have to love twisting and flipping.There is also the opportunity to participate at the High School level in addition to AAU and/or USA Diving competitions.

14 A15 AO – It is so fun to find a sport that you both love and excel at. When I asked the girls where they see themselves in five years they both said they want to train for the Olympic Trials and hope to participate in USA Diving Synchro Nationals. Both girls intend to dive during college and Maia is hoping diving will help her receive a college scholarship. I wish them both well – good luck, girls!

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So you think you can ….

Hi Guys, This is Olivia bringing you the first of a series of interviews called So you think you can … featuring adopted children who excel in sports or academics.

I’m starting the series with a girl named Lily from Massachusetts who I met while in China. Lily is fourteen and just started High School this fall. She lives with her parents and has three older siblings. Lily was adopted from Ruijin in China when she was a baby and will be learning Chinese in school this year. Lily says her favorite subjects are math and science and lists traveling, watching movies and hanging out with friends as the things she likes most.

But Lily is not just an ordinary schoolgirl, having been skating since she was three years old. To keep in top physical condition not only does Lily skate every day, but she also takes conditioning classes, runs four to five times a week and takes ballet. Lily has won medals, competitions and is ranked in the top ten in New England for her level. She recently competed in the 2015 Boston Open, winning gold in the long program and bronze in the short.

Last month I sent Lily a bunch of questions about her chosen sport and this is what she told me.

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Olivia: What made you decide to take up ice-skating?

Lily: I first tried skating with my friend, Cade, when we were really little. I don’t even remember why I started. I guess my mom signed me up since she knew I would end up loving it and being so good at it! I actually tried hockey first but refused to go as I didn’t like the brown skates!

Olivia: Who are your favorite skaters?

Lily: I really like Mao Asada (Japanese Olympic Silver Medalist), Ashley Wagner (American three time National Champion and Olympian)  and Gracie Gold (American Olympian and 2014 World Junior Silver Medalist).

Olivia: What is the hardest thing about ice-skating?

Lily: Three things. It is very much something you have to do by yourself. You have coaches and family and friends supporting you, but you have to get on the ice by yourself to compete. I am always in the spotlight, which I love, but there’s nowhere to hide if things aren’t going well. You also have to be totally perfect. Every hand movement, edge, takeoff position matters and influences whether a move will be successful. And if it isn’t, you fall! Finally, skating is a really hard sport. I practice every day and it’s hard to take time off from it as jumps are so sensitive. You have to be in great condition physically and it’s really demanding of your body and of your mind.

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Olivia: What do you like best about ice-skating?

Lily: I love the feeling I get on the ice when I’m jumping. It’s as close to flying as I’ll ever get. I also  love the girls I train with.  We are like a family and there for each other. We root each other on and console each other on hard days. Oh, and I am so lucky to have great coaches. They inspire me and make me work really, really hard. I know I can go to them with any problems I have. My skating group is like a second family.

Lily8Lily’s Family: mom, dad, brother and two sisters.

Olivia: What would you like to tell other children who are interested in doing what you do?

Lily: I definitely would encourage them to skate since it is the thing I love most.  But they need to know it is a big commitment and you need to love it.  In order to succeed in skating, you have to fall a lot of times first, so you need to make sure it’s something you like enough that it’s worth it.  To me, it is, without any doubt.

Olivia: How long does it take to learn a routine?

Lily: I learn each of my programs over the course of a few months. I work with my choreographer once or twice a week, and we do a little bit more each time. I practice a lot outside of my lessons, so I always remember what I learned. The programs are always changing and being made more difficult and expressive, so they’re never really done until the end of the season!

Olivia: What’s the hardest move you can do?

Lily: I just got my double axel. This was really exciting since it’s a move that all of the top senior ladies compete with. I’m working on my first triple right now too!

Lily5Olivia: What would you like to be doing in five years?

Lily: In five years I want to be skating on a college team and still training, hopefully for the 2022 Olympics! I also want to be studying medicine so that I can be a doctor.

Olivia: Thanks, Lily. This was really great information for any girls or boys interested in becoming an ice-skater. Cagney, Aidan, Tess, Lissy and me all wish you the best of luck and make sure you save some front row tickets for us when you get to the Olympics in 2022!

If you are interested in being interviewed for So you think you can … by Olivia and featured on the Five Cousins website please email me at 5cousinsinaction@gmail.com and let me know what it is you excel at!

CIA – Operation Jewel Thief

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As most of you probably know, the third book in the Cousins In Action series takes place in England! Today my aunt got the cover art for CIA – Operation Jewel Thief (drawn by her friend Han Randhawa who I interviewed a few months back), so I wanted to share it with you. I just love it – the fire, the corgis, the expression on Cagney’s face! Check back soon for details of the release date. Lissy Puddleton.

Echo!

EchoHey, guys! Aidan here. Lissy asked me to write a book review for a story I recently read: Echo By Pam Muñoz Ryan. I’ve read it – and it’s really cool! Sure, it’s a big book, but it has vivid characters and nice classical pieces, like Rhapsody in Blue (my aunt loves that piece). Set in World War II in Germany and America, the book follows Frederick, Mike, Ivy and a harmonica through different and difficult periods of history. I read it for my summer reading project, and it was perfect! I recommend it to those that have those kind of projects, once you start reading this- you can’t stop! Well, that’s all from me. Bye!

Women In The News!

Hi Guys, Olivia here. IMG_6812ac

It was really great to see two women make history last week when Captain Kristen Griest and First Lieutenant Shaye Haver became the first two women to graduate from the U.S. Army Ranger School.

This is pretty amazing. To graduate, the officers (already a military police platoon leader and an Apache helicopter pilot), had to complete a really tough course including completing a twelve mile foot march in under three hours, carrying full military load, participate in three parachute jumps, four air assaults on helicopters and twenty-seven days of mock combat patrols, plus many other tasks too many to list. At the end of the course they then walked the distance from New York to Boston wearing heavy packs. Wow!

The only issue is, that unlike the men who complete this course, neither Grist or Haver are able to apply to join the elite 75th Ranger Regiment, as currently it is restricted to men. Regardless, I want to say congratulations to these two amazing trailblazing women.

Summer Book Recommendations – Chained

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Hi guys, Aidan here with the first of my summer reading recommendations.

Chained, sounds like it might be sad, especially when you see the picture of a young Indian boy standing by a small elephant on the cover, but it is a book about friendship, courage, kindness and not giving up.

We are introduced to ten-year-old Hastin when his sister is sick and his mother is forced to work for a family that is unkind to her. To free his mother Hastin takes a job far from his family as an elephant keeper.

I felt the author did a good job of bringing both the marketplace and the jungle to life and really liked the way she gave descriptions an Indian twist, like “it feels like a python is squeezing my chest” and “she grows smaller and smaller, her face just a dot of cinnamon.”

I also liked that the author gives you lots of interesting information about elephants. While we were in India we learned a lot about elephants, including their teeth wearing down and also, of course, all about the tiger trade. I think it’s great that there are books like Ms. Kelly’s who help bring these issues to the attention of children and do so in an entertaining way.

There are some chapters that are hard to read, but the relationship between Hastin and Nandita and Hastin and Ne Min made me want to keep reading. In fact, I read the entire book in one day, it was that good.

If I had any criticism, it would be that I kept wondering if this was set now or in the past as it was hard to tell. I also wish I knew what part of India Hastin came from originally – a part that had desert and camels. However, I highly recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in India, or anyone who enjoys a story about a boy and his elephant.

http://www.amazon.com/Chained-Lynne-Kelly-ebook/dp/B007XSNB5S/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1434554333&sr=8-2&keywords=Chained&pebp=1434554341355&perid=0KNDWJGWVFT9409E2J8J

You May Not Know!

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Something you may not know about us cousins is that we are all musical.

Cagney sings in the school choir, Aidan plays the guitar. Olivia plays the flute, Tess the clarinet and they both play the piano. I play the violin. See Tess’ drawings above.

At Christmas we got together and played Christmas carols, which was actually more fun than it sounds!

Happy February, my friends. Hope you are all staying warm and dry – Lissy.

Swashbuckling Alien Adventurer – Han Randhawa

han_photo2 Han3Hello Folks, Lissy here. Today I have the great pleasure of interviewing Mr. Han Randhawa, who is the talented artist who draws the cover art for my aunt’s books. Han is originally from England but has lived in the States for ten years.

Originally from Birmingham, Han has lived in California, Texas and now lives in Washington State where he works for a small up-and-coming company called Microsoft! Han’s main job is to oversee the creation of video games and can often be found flying back and forth to Japan. Cover art is just something he does for fun!

LP How old were you when you realized you wanted to be an artist?

HR    My earliest memory of art was at Wattville Infant school in Birmingham UK, I was probably six and I made a side view of a car out of rolls of plasticine( English Play-dough) and was fascinated by its 3d-ness and 2dness! I remember painting bright colours about the same time and I recall the summer breeze through the open windows. Then later about when I was nine my dad got me  a comic book called ‘SUPER FRIENDS’, it had superman, Batman, Aqua-man, Wonder woman and these twins who had super powers.  Read that comic book a billion times and I spent hours copying the awesome dynamic poses. I didn’t realize I wanted be an artist till much later maybe fifteen or sixteen. I didn’t know how or if it was even possible.

LP    Where did you study art?

HR:    I went to St.Philip’s Sixth Form in Birmingham to study my A Levels, but I really got going when my teacher recommended I go to Bournville College of Art and from there I went to Liverpool John Moores University to complete my BA in Graphic Design and Illustration. But I’ll tell you a secret, I learned most of what I know from drawing from that Super Friends comic book and following my face concept artists who worked on Star Wars. I used to draw all day from TV or books. I think this was the most important part of my studying. THE DOING!

LP    What is the most challenging part of drawing cover art?

HR    Probably getting the likeness of the characters. It’s such a tough thing to do. Also getting the lighting to look right.

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LP    What do you like most about designing video games at Microsoft?

HR    I get to learn a lot about how Japanese Game designers work and how other Art Directors create the game visuals. I get to work with a whole bunch of different artists, from 2d concept guys, 3d modellers, animators, graphic designers. Plus, I get to increase my art skills by applying all I’ve learned these years. The stuff I apply in video games is pretty much the same stuff I apply when making book covers, colour, composition, visual storytelling.

LP    What kind of games have you designed?

HR    Mostly Science Fiction and Fantasy. I worked on games like X-men, StarTrek, and also I’ve worked on a lot of non-movie games, I was the art director on Darksiders 1&2.

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LP    What words of wisdom would you give to an up and coming artist about following their dreams?

HR    First: Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t. If it’s your dream, keep on making art! I had so many people tell me I couldn’t get anywhere doing art. Somehow I carried on!

Second: Make Art! Every time you have some time spare, keep a little sketchbook and pencil. I even keep a wad of PostIts and a tiny IKEA pencil just in case I have 10 mins to spare. Draw people, draw ideas, draw anything! Paint, sculpt whatever you need to.

Third: All artists are scared of showing their work, because we are worried that people might not like our art. Remember it’s okay if people don’t like your art, ask them why? This is how we learn to make our art better. You won’t learn anything if everyone told you it was awesome all the time. Its even better if you ask other artists they may see something you missed!Hana

LP    If you weren’t an artist, what would you be?

HR    Wow tough one. Traveling the Galaxy swashbuckling with aliens and adventuring across planets! Maybe make music in a band? I actually quite like being an artist, one thing I would add to that would be storytelling! I’m inspired by Sam and I want to tell stories that make you laugh, cry and jump up for joy!

https://twitter.com/hanrandhawa

http://darksidersdungeon.net/wiki/Han_Randhawa

Christmas Traditions

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Christmas Traditions

Hello folks. This is Lissy. We have a large extended family that get together for the holidays. We exchange gifts, but we also do so much more, things that don’t cost money and that have become yearly traditions. Take advantage of having friends or family around and, instead of sitting in front of the TV, try the following.

  1. Play games, Our family is big on games Apples to Apples, Curses and HeadBanz are just a few of the games we play on a regular basis and that are fun for both adults and children.
  2. Sing carols or better yet, go caroling.
  3. Walk or drive around the neighborhood and look at the light displays.
  4. If you are lucky to have snow – have a snowball fight, make snow angels or build a snowman.
  5. Volunteer at a shelter or charity. This will make you feel better than all the rest put together, plus it helps others and reminds us to be thankful for all we have.
  6. Roast marshmallows over an open fire, or an indoor one if it’s freezing outside.
  7. Tell funny stories of Christmas’ past.
  8. If you live in a cold climate – go ice-skating on your local frozen pond. If you live in a warm climate – go for a hike along your local Greenbelt. Helps get rid of some of those turkey calories.
  9. Read ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas’ – my dad does this every year before we head to bed on Christmas Eve and everyone gathers around the fire to listen.
  10. Take photos. Always a good time to take lots of group shots of you and your cousins, aunts and uncles which will be fun to look back on when you get older.