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July 2011 Archives

"The right thing to do..."
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foulball.jpgHere's a story you may have seen on the news, especially if you're a baseball fan: A 12-year-old Arizona Diamondbacks fan named Ian McMillan catches a foul ball in his cap that a player tossed into the stands. He's really psyched for a few seconds, then he notices a younger boy who was also trying to get the ball, really disappointed and being comforted by his mom. Without seeming to even think about it, Ian runs down and hands the ball to the other kid.

What Ian didn't know is that his act of generosity was caught by TV cameras covering the game, and the announcers were blown away by it. The happy and grateful look on the younger boy's face, and the good feeling of having done something incredibly, randomly nice, was probably reward enough for Ian. But his kindness came back to him many times over; the announcers game him a baseball bat autographed by his fave player, Mark Upton, and the team invited him to come back and throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the next game.

When interviewed, Ian said he just thought it was "the right thing to do" to give the ball away, and the experience has taught him that "if you do good things, good things will happen to you."

We totally agree! (Thanks for the reminder, Ian!) You can watch more about the story and Ian's interview at ABC News. So now we want to know from you IML'ers: Have you ever done something simply because it was "the right thing to do"? Even if you didn't really want to or it meant giving something up for yourself? Tell us on our You Said It page!

Meet tween ballroom dancers Ivan & Madelyne
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Thumbnail image for ivan&madelyne.jpgWe seem to be in a dancing state of mind over here at IML. Maybe it's the heat, or maybe it's all the great summer music out there, or maybe it's another great season of "So You Think You Can Dance." Watching the show's latest episode, we were reminded of some other talented dancers we met and interviewed last year. In case you missed them on the blog back then, here they are again...because they're that awesome.

Madelyne and Ivan are just 9 years old and have been dancing together for 3 years. They placed 1st the last four times they competed. What's it like to be dancing the Samba and Rumba and Paso Doble -- and winning medals for it -- before you're even out of elementary school? Read on!

IML: It was exciting for us to first meet you in the practice room at the USA Dance Nationals, then watch you compete, and then see you win first place! What did it feel like when you won?

Ivan: When there's two couples left, just you and another one, and they call their names for second place, you know you've won first place. We were happy before we even got our prize!

IML: How did you first get started in ballroom dance, and how did you get paired up together?

Ivan: I started when I was 4. I was pretty much with different partners every single day in my dance studio. Everybody else was lower or higher in level and age than me, and then I met Madelyn and she was the perfect age and height. Our birthdays are only 20 days apart!

Madelyne: I got started in ballroom dancing when I was 3 years old. When I was 4 or 5, I was dancing with a boy named Robert who was taller than me so I only danced with him for a little bit. Then the dance studio put Ivan and me together to try it out and practice together, and finally we decided that we could be partners.

IML: When you first started dancing together, what did you think of each other?

Madelyne: I really didn't know him at first. I wasn't sure if he would be a good dancer or a bad dancer...then I saw him and his partner dance together and he was really good!

IML: It seems like you have a lot of fun dancing together, which is important. Do you ever have arguments?

Ivan: No, never! Not even one time.

IML: Glad to hear it! Do you spend time together outside of dance?

Madelyne: Yes! Last year we went to the same camp so we were there together. Sometimes we have playdates together.

IML: Do your parents dance, too?

Ivan: When my mom was a little kid, she danced. I have three reasons why I like to dance. The first reason is that I was born to dance. My second reason is that I've always had the feeling that I want to dance. The third reason is because my mom danced and her hobby went to me when I was born.

IML: Does it feel special for you to share this hobby with her?

Ivan: Yes, definitely!

IML: Madelyne, does your older sister Michelle give you advice?

Madelyne: It's really cool to share dance with her. When I need help with something or if I want to get better at something, she's there for me. 

IML: Do each of you have a favorite dance style?

Ivan: I have more than just one. My favorites are Waltz and Paso Doble.

Madelyne: I like Rumba, Paso Doble, Waltz and Quickstep. In Quickstep I like to run and it's really fast, so it's like running but you're not running. And I like to dance Waltz because it's a very slow melody and I like the sound of it. With Rumba, you've done these other dance styles that are very hard but Rumba kind of relaxes you. I like Paso because you have to try really hard, and I like putting a lot of effort into my dancing.

IML: How much time do you spend dancing?

Madelyne: We dance Monday through Saturday, every week.

IML: And you never get sick of it?

Ivan: No!

IML: Dancers in the older age groups get to wear fancy dresses, and Madelyne, we watched you collecting lost sequins off the dance floor after they performed. Do you do that at every competition?

Madelyne: Yes! I collect sequins for when we get older and I can make a nice costume! I want to put some things on a dress to make it prettier. And I like to see how they sparkle.

IML: What's the funniest thing that ever happened to you during a competition?

Madelyne: Once I was at a competition regional. We were doing Samba and my partner forgot the whole routine, so I had to basically do all the steps by myself. It was really funny because you could see that we were messing up. We still won first place!

Ivan and Madelyne are proof that when it comes to being really dedicated, hard-working, and talented at something, age doesn't matter.

Check out Ivan and Madelyne dancing their way to first place at the USA Dance 2010 National DanceSport Champtionships. One of the things we found interesting about ballroom dancing for kids is that there are strict rules about what they can wear in competition, which puts an emphasis on what's appropriate for certain age groups.

Best Bones Forever! Let's Dance Contest
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soccerplayer.jpgWe talk about a lot of "body" related topics on IML: puberty, food smarts, eating disorders, drug and alcohol abuse, smoking, and sports. We've covered a decent amount of ground there, but one area we haven't covered yet is Bone Health. Sound boring? Doesn't have to be!

It's hard to care about a part of your body that you don't see. But building strong and flexible bones when you're a tween is super-important and sets you up for overall general health and fitness for the rest of your life. Eating foods with lots of calcium and Vitamin D, along with bone-strengthening physical activity, will do the trick.

A new U.S. government-sponsored campaign called Best Bones Forever aims to get tween girls in the know about bone health and how easily they can get it. One great bone-strengthening activity that you might do all the time: dancing. The campaign has teamed up with the pop group Savvy to run a contest called Let's Dance. It's open to girls ages 9 to 14 and offers the chance to appear in a Savvy music video!

We urge IML'ers to check out these links, learn about bone health, and spread the word. Someday, when your grandchildren ask you how you manage to be so old and still so strong and active, you can pass on the advice to them too...

Book Review and Author Interview: "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children"
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missperegrine_cover.jpgIn the new bestselling book "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children," by Ransom Riggs, 16-year-old Jacob has the adventure of several lifetimes. After a devastating family tragedy, he finds himself headed for a remote island off the coast of Wales and what remains of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, a mysterious place that has, until now, only existed in his grandfather's bedtime stories. Who were these children? What made them peculiar, and why were they sent here? And are they really gone from this place?

We enjoyed this book a great deal, partially because it feels -- and looks -- different than most fantasy novels written for tweens and teens. The story uses vintage photography that's both unsettling and very cool. We think IML'ers will find this one a great summer read full of suspense, mystery, and weird pictures you'll want to show your friends.

Ransom took some time recently to answer our questions for curious (and perhaps peculiar) IML readers!

IML: Can you tell us a bit about the evolution of the book? Do you remember the initial spark that inspired the story?

Ransom: Absolutely.  I've been an amateur photographer since I was a kid, but a few years ago I got interested in another kind of photography -- found photography.  That is: old pictures that used to belong to people but don't have homes anymore.  You can find them at garage sales and second-hand stores and on eBay, and the more I saw of them, the more old pictures I found that I thought were really beautiful.  So I started collecting them.  

One particular kind of old photograph that interested me was pictures of kids -- many of which seemed sort of creepy, with the kids not smiling, wearing old, weird-looking clothes, and having crazy-looking hair.  I started wondering about them, what their stories were.  I couldn't know the truth, of course, since I had no idea who they were. So instead I made up stories about them, one after another, and those were the seeds of the characters -- the peculiar children -- that Jacob meets in the book.

IML: The photographs are pretty fascinating. Where do they come from? What can you tell us about the process of finding them and working them into the story?

missp.jpgRansom: Almost all of them come from flea markets and antique stores.  Many were lent to me by other photo collectors -- people who've been searching for cool old pictures for ten, twenty years, and have really amazing stuff. Working them into the story was the fun part -- but also a challenge.  Sometimes I would come across a photo I really liked as I was writing, and I would find a way to change the story enough so that I could work the photo into the book.  Other times I knew I needed to tell the story in a certain way, so I went out looking for photos of specific types of people or events, to fit what I had already written.  So it was a strange, organic process where the photos influenced what I wrote and what I wrote also influenced the kinds of photos I was looking for.

IML: Usually, you don't see any kind of "visual aids" in books for tweens and teens -- like readers are supposed to outgrow them at a certain point. What do you think they add to the experience of a book?

Ransom: They say that a photograph is worth a thousand words, but I think there are things about really great photographs that you can't describe with even a million words. They're sort of like the soundtrack to a film.  You can take away the music that's playing during a movie scene, and it doesn't really change the meaning of the scene -- but it's hard to argue that good music doesn't add something to the viewing experience. At the same time, just any music won't do. If the music feels wrong, it'll be jarring and mess up the scene. It's the same with photos in a book. The wrong photos would be distracting and mess up the reading experience. If I describe a scene or a person in words and then show you a picture and it's absolutely nothing like what you were imagining, it's like bad music in a film. It takes you out. But a picture that gels with the text can add all sorts of layers and details that would take forever to describe in words.

IML: You're also a filmmaker. How is the process of writing a book different from the process of making a film?

Ransom: You write books alone. You can't make a film without lots of people helping you: actors, cinematographers, editors, sound designers. They're all writing the movie along with you as you make it. So you have to be really open to collaboration. When you write a novel, you're only really collaborating with one person: your editor. And in this brave new Internet age, you may never even meet that person!

IML: Who were the authors and what were the books you loved when you were a

Ransom: I loved the Chronicles of Narnia.  John Bellairs's young adult mysteries were great, and super creepy.  Ghost stories and Sherlock Holmes mysteries were great.  And I had a major soft spot for those Choose Your Own Adventure books.

IML: There's a big (but good) "creep out" factor in this book. Why do you think it's so fun to be "creeped out" when you're reading?

Ransom: I think creepiness is directly related to the unknown, and things that are mysterious (and a bit dark), and wondering about those things is fun and fascinating.  What's buried in the lost tomb?  Are aliens real?  Was it a ghost that just knocked over the picture frame in my room? What makes zombies get up and walk around when they're supposed to be dead? Creepy is better than just plain scary, because you can't look away from creepy -- you want to know the truth!

IML: Definitely! Thank you so much for letting readers know a bit more of the "story behind the story."

You're welcome!