When Sue Met Sue-The Inside Scoop & **Giveaway!**

Happy Dinosaur Day!! We are doing a giveaway to celebrate! Dinosaurs are fascinating to young children and let’s be honest, everyone really. When Sue Met Sue by Toni Buzzeo, illustrated by Diana Sudyka is the perfect nonfiction read for dino enthusiasts and it’s out today! Thank you to Abrams Books for sending us the book and for providing one for our giveaway. All opinions are our own.

“Never lose your curiosity about everything in the universe-it can take you to places you never thought possible!”

Sue Hendrickson

The fact that all of the Storymamas have at one point lived in Chicago (2/3 of us still reside in Chicago) and have seen Sue the T. Rex, who lives at The Field Museum, we knew this was going to be a book we would love. Author Toni Buzzeo tells the fascinating, empowering story of Sue Hendrickson, the explorer and fossil collector who discovered the skeleton of the largest and most complete dinosaur to date-a T. Rex. Toni does an amazing job of telling the story behind this fascinating woman. A curious yet shy child, Sue began to collect and discover things around her. After she visited the Field Museum as a child she wondered if she could become a treasure hunter like the ones who found all the beautiful artifacts she saw. As Sue got a little bit older she traveled around the world discovering tropical fish, extinct prehistoric butterflies, whale fossils and finally making her way to dinosaur fossils. Toni’s beautiful details and Diana Sudyka’s gorgeous illustrations show Sue’s journey of discovering.

We love how Toni and Diana showcase Sue’s determination and hard work, empowering young children, especially shy children, that you can do anything and follow your curiosity. Check out our interview with Toni for the inside scoop of When Sue Met Sue.

3 Questions about When Sue Found Sue

What inspired you to write When Sue Found Sue?

I want to inspire young people by sharing stories about outstanding adults who, like them, were once children with their own unique personalities and talents and gifts that led them to the adult lives they are choosing to live. In particular, I want girls to know that science is an EVERYONE field, not just a place for boys and men to excel.

So, after I wrote A Passion for Elephants: The Real Life Adventure Of Field Scientist Cynthia Moss, I went in search of another woman scientist. When a fellow school librarian mentioned Sue Hendrickson. I was excited by the suggestion because I’d seen Sue the T. rex long before and also the replica of her at O’Hare Airport many times. The opportunity to explore Sue’s life was too enticing to pass up! And it was a delicious research journey.

How did you research the story of Sue Hendrickson?

I began my research by reading some articles online about Sue. Of course, the focus of those articles was primarily about the discovery of Sue the T. rex, so I soon learned a great deal about the momentous event as reported at the time of the discovery. I built that knowledge by reading many more articles published in newspapers and journals. There was a wealth of information about Sue Hendrickson, the dinosaur finder.

But when writing a picture book biography, the gold is really in learning about who the subject was as a child. The readers of such early biographies are so young themselves and want to be able to see themselves in the subject of the book, want to be able to imagine that they might grow up to do the grand things that the subject has done. Published interviews with Sue helped so much, because journalists would often ask her questions about her past, and she was very honest about the very shy, curious child she had been who was always an outsider. In all I consulted more than thirty sources, though because Sue herself is so reclusive, I wasn’t able to interview her.

What do you love about dinosaurs? (question from a 5.5 year old)

The thing I love most about dinosaurs is the mysterious nature of them. Yes, we’ve learned so much, especially through the work of paleontologists like Sue Hendrickson and the many others who have devoted their lives to finding the fossils. But even when we reassemble the bones, even when we have a nearly-complete skeleton as we do with Sue the T. rex, we can’t really know what it would have been like to see them in action, living their lives, locating food, raising their babies, navigating an environment that may have been radically different from ours. In that way, they are still a mystery!

3 Questions about You

If you weren’t a writer, what would you want to be and why?

I suppose the answer depends on whether I can choose what I would be with my current talents and skills or whether, by magic, I could obtain new talents and skills. If I would be limited to the talents, skills, and loves I already have, I would dedicate my life to working with fiber and fabric. It’s what I now do as a hobby. In particular, I would love to make original creative landscape quilts. However, if I could magically take on new talents, I would be a visual artist, particularly one who paints. Wouldn’t that be amazing?

What is one book that has stuck with you since you’ve read it?

In 1995, Patricia MacLachlan published a short middle grade novel entitled Baby. That book touched my heart so deeply because it spoke to my own childhood experience. I remember closing the book and sobbing almost without control for a very long time. In the story, young Larkin discovers a baby in a basket near her home. The baby has a note tied to her wrist saying that the baby’s name is Sophie and that her mother will someday return for her. Larkin’s family takes the baby in and loves her, knowing they will one day have to let her go.

In some ways, it is quite similar to the story I told in my first book, The Sea Chest (Dial, 2002) in which a baby washes ashore in a sea chest and the main character’s family, the lighthouse keeper’s family, takes her in and adopts her as their own. Only in my story (a retelling of a mid-coast Maine legend) the parents are lost at sea and so there is no returning of the child. But in my very real life experience, my foster sister lived with us for nearly a year and then was placed in a permanent adoptive home. The loss was so painful and Baby recaptured it for me.

What is one item in your refrigerator that tells us about you?

I suppose I ought to mention the stack of dark chocolate bars. I allow myself 1 ounce of dark chocolate a day because 1) it’s delicious and 2) it’s health food, right? Alternately, I could talk about the big jar of minced garlic because an Italian gal should never be without garlic even if she’s used up the fresh cloves.

Thank you to Toni for answering some of our questions about the book and yourself. For more information about her books visit her website or you can follow her on Twitter. Check out illustrator Diana Sudyka’s work as well through her Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

This Book is Spineless-Inside Scoop & Author Interview

Thank you to author Lindsay Leslie for sending us this hilarious book. All opinions are our own.

We can’t get enough of This Book is Spineless by Lindsay Leslie illustrated by Alice Brereton. It’s hilarious and so entertaining! We love how the book is personified as a scaredy cat and doesn’t want you as the reader to turn the page because you may just stumble upon a very frightening experience! YIKES! But we can’t stop turning the pages! The gorgeous colors of the illustrations make you want to jump in the book and help it move past the anxiety it’s feeling. They are the perfect match to the words! This book for sure will get any child (and adult) giggling and feeling a little bit comforted by the fact that others share anxious feelings towards things! We can’t wait for her next book, Nova the Star Eater, coming out May 2019. Lindsay was kind enough to give us the inside scoop on how she came up with the idea for the book and answer a few fun questions for us!

Can you give us an inside scoop that we wouldn’t learn from reading your book?

Ooooo, the scoop! The biggest scoop is my inspiration for THIS BOOK IS SPINELESS, which has two parts. I came up with the title of the book when I walked into my youngest son’s messy room and stepped on one of his picture books. I don’t remember exactly what happened in my brain, but I can imagine it was thinking something like, “I stepped on a book. I hurt the book. I broke its spine.” Then I shouted out, “This book is spineless!” My second inspiration wasn’t quite so in-the-moment. I have always dealt with anxiety — from a young child to even now. This title gave me the perfect vehicle for a story that could show an anxious moment to a child in a palatable, silly, even endearing way, and how even a scaredy-pants, fraidy-cat book could face its biggest fear. The last bit of scoop is I wanted to make sure the book wasn’t completely resolved of all its anxiety, as that is not reality for those of us who live with more than our fair-share of anxiety and not the reality I wanted to convey.

If you weren’t a writer, what would you want to be and why?

This is difficult to answer, because writing has been a part of every career I’ve ever had. Maybe a therapist? I do like to help people work through their issues. It also helps me to reflect on what I could be working on, as well. Maybe a clown? I do like to goof around and make people laugh. Maybe a clown therapist? Zoiks. But I could not imagine a life where I don’t write as part of what I do day to day.

What is one book that has stuck with you since you’ve read it?

OK, I’m going to break the rules. I’m going to give you two books. One adult, one children’s. I’m going to have to say Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood because of its structure and approach to storytelling. It was a liberating and inspiring read for me and made my mind explode with possibilities. It was the book that convinced me creative writing was an option and I should explore it.

The second is The Book With No Pictures by B. J. Novak. I love the rule-breaking, envelope-pushing spirit of this book. It creates the best engagement between the reader and audience. No one gets away from that book without a big laugh and a shared experience.

What is one item in your fridge that tells us about you?

Jalapeno hummus.

Thank you again to Lindsay Leslie for sending us the book for review and for the interview. If you’d like to learn more about her check out her website, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

The Inside Scoop: Be a Maker

 Thank you Lerner Publishing for sending us a copy for review; all opinions are our own.  We love this book! The rhyming and catchy text take you on a making journey. The reader is challenged to be a maker from creating a tower to a rhythm to making a difference. The question at the end brings it altogether, “are you proud of what you made?” The illustrations are beautiful in color, detail and diversity. A wonderful read for classroom bookaday or really anywhere/anytime. After reading you will be inspired to make something! We were lucky enough to get the inside scoop from author, Katey.

Can you give us an inside scoop that we wouldn’t learn from reading your book? 

I’d love to! BE A MAKER actually started as a list of ways we use the word “make” in English. I was comparing it to other languages, thinking about how broad a meaning that one word carries, and how confusing that could be to non-native speakers. You could make a sandwich, and you could make a face, and the actions involved are so very different. Why would we use the same word?! When I switched from thinking about the verb “to make” and instead considered the noun “maker” – it all seemed so much more intuitive. A maker has the power to add something to the world that wasn’t there before, to change something that isn’t working, to affect others’ lives.  I asked my kids and scout troop what the word “maker” meant to them – and so many of them immediately thought about robots and computers and engineering. “Maker” and “Makerspace” had such strong tech vibes in their experience that they didn’t really think beyond that. I wanted to find a way to broaden that image in their minds to include all sorts of creative endeavors – and BE A MAKER began to take shape. 

Thank you Katey for giving us the inside scoop! To learn even more about Katey, please visit her website. Or follow her on Instragram and Twitter.

Read STEAM: Children’s Literature & Lessons to Help Support Your Classroom Learning

We shared about all of these amazing books at the Illinois Educator Conference (ICE) in Chicago. Some of the below titles scream STEAM while others take a bit more out of the box thinking to create a STEAM experience for your children/students.

The Inside Scoop: What If…Then We and a GIVEAWAY!

Thank you so much to Boyds Mills Press for sending us What If…Then We to review and to Rebecca Kai Dotlich for giving us the inside scoop! All opinions are our own.

We fell in love with dynamic author/illustrator team, Rebecca Kai Dotlich and Fred Koehler awhile ago when we first got our hands on One Day, The End. Check out our interview with Rebecca about the book here and our interview with Fred about his debut chapter book, Garbage Island here

We are so excited to share with you Rebecca and Fred’s latest, What If…Then We.

The book takes you on an imaginary ride with polar bear friends thinking up “what if” scenarios. What if… all the crayons in the world melted, we couldn’t find our way home, something really big and scary happens. Following the same format as its’ companion book One Day, The End with minimal words telling the story but so much meaning and creativity you can read this one over again and again and still feel like you’ve read it for the first time! The illustrations are beautiful and add so much depth to the words. It was hard to pick a favorite illustration but my five year old and I loved the detail on this one because we noticed the reflection of one polar bear in the water and the other polar bear painting the same picture.

We asked Rebecca Kai Dotlich for the Inside Scoop as she wrote this beautiful book… 

When I began to brainstorm the “possibilities” and “what ifs …”  in a tiny blue notebook, I was loosely envisioning a parent/child relationship — but as soon as I told that to Fred Koehler, my fabulous and creative illustrator, he said “I see them as friends.”  And I thought for a moment and said “cool.”  And that’s how it became about friendship, woven with the idea of imagination and possibilities. (Also, Fred had the sketches of his little polar bears on his phone and shared them with me over hot chocolate and we both felt immediately that the words of the story and the polar bears were a match.)

What can you imagine?

We were imagining the endless possibilities and teachable moments that could happen while reading. I read it with my five year old and I kept asking him to answer the what if questions. He loved sharing with me where his imagination was taking him. As we turned from page to page he started thinking about what we could create together to go beyond the book: use paper to make origami animals, birds, boats and waves; build a spaceship with cardboard boxes and use crayons to draw all the buttons and finally write our own version of what if…then we. We can also see using this in a classroom to inspire children to imagine various scenarios, to show that sometimes we don’t need lots of words to make a story interesting and captivating and to have discussions around friendship. What possibilities can you imagine, discuss, create and build while reading?

What if the book never ended…then we would be so happy and do a book dance! But for now let’s do a GIVEAWAY!

***GIVEAWAY INFORMATION**** Thank you Boyds Mills Press for sharing the book with us! They were kind enough to donate a copy to one lucky reader! Here are three ways to enter, (US only: Giveaway closes on Wednesday, 2/13 @ midnight ET).

  1. Follow our blog and comment on this post
  2. Follow us on twitter @storymamas and retweet
  3. Follow us on Instagram, like the post, and tag a friend

Thank you Boyds Mills Press for asking us to be a part of the blog tour for What If…Then We. For more blog posts check out the other blogs on the tour!

Our #holidaybookaday titles…

Every year the Storymamas and our children get excited about the December tradition #holidaybookaday where we wrap books about the December holidays to open throughout the month. This year is no different and our excitement has already begun. Our children anxiously await the book(s) we get to unwrap each day and are filled with joy as we see old favorites and new books. This year we decided to share our booklist with all of you! We hope some of these titles are new! If you have any others we don’t have on our list that are ‘must haves’, please let us know! Stay tuned for more in depth reviews of a lot of these books as the month goes on! Happy holiday reading!

Remember to support your local bookstores and libraries whenever possible!

Hanukkah

The Great Latke Cook Off, The Borrowed Hanukkah Latkes, How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Chanukah?, Meet the Latkes, Mrs. Greenberg’s Messy Hanukkah, Sammy Spider’s First Hanukkah

Christmas

Miracle on 133rd Street, The Christmas Eve Tree, Presents Through the Window, The Best Christmas Ever, Christmas is…, The ABCs of Christmas, It’s Christmas David!, The Not Very Merry Pout-Pout Fish, Olive the Other Reindeer

Llama Llama Holiday Drama, The Gingerbread Man Loose at Christmas, The Smallest Gift of Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, ‘Twas Nochebuena, Snowmen at Christmas, The Polar Express, Little Blue Truck’s Christmas, Fa La La

Bugs at Christmas, Red & Lulu, Fly Guy’s Ninja Christmas, I Got the Christmas Spirit, The Little Reindeer, The 12 Sleighs of Christmas, Walk this World at Christmas Time, A Christmas Advent Story, Ninja Claus

Clark the Shark Loves Christmas, A Piñata in a Pine Tree, Gingerbread Baby, Where’s Santa Claus?, The 12 Days of Christmas, How Santa Got His Job, Pig the Elf, Bear Stays Up for Christmas, The Night Before Christmas

Santa Bruce, Pick a Pine Tree, How Do Dinosaurs Say Merry Christmas, If You Ever Want to Bring a Pirate to Meet Santa, Don’t!, Pete the Cat Saves Christmas, Under the Christmas Tree, Christmas Makes Me Think, Mrs. Claus Takes the Reins

Hanukkah/Christmas

The Trees of the Dancing Goats; The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming; Dear Santa, Love, Rachel Rosenstein; Boris and Stella and the Perfect Gift

Kwanzaa

Seven Spools of Thread, My First Kwanzaa

The New Year

The Stars Will Still Shine, Hap-Pea all Year, P. Bears New Year’s Party, Squirrel’s New Year’s Resolution, Something Extraordinary

NERD ALERT! (Author Interview)

Enginerds is a hilarious story of a battle between boys and robots and it will make you laugh to the nerd degree! A group of boys who call themselves the EngiNerds, who are mostly friends, are all incredibly smart and most definitely nerdy, find themselves fighting bots who shoot food combustibles out of their butts (what’s not to love)! Ken, the main character, encounters a robot named Greeg in a box full of parts. He begins to put him together but doesn’t have time to finish and the next thing he knows, there is a walking, talking, 90 mph fart-blasting robot walking around his house! He has no idea where Greeg came from and after the initial excitement over finding his very own robot, he realizes he needs to figure out what to do with him and where he came from. Once he realizes a fellow EngiNerd has designed, built and delivered robots around town he’s faced with a new challenge: to save the world from their destruction! We can’t wait for the next book, Revenge of the EngiNerds coming February 2019! Thank you to author, Jarrett Lerner, for making us laugh and for taking the time to answer some questions about your book and yourself!

3 Questions about Enginerds

What are three words you’d use to describe your book?

Friends. Food. Farts.

What literary character would Ken and Greeeg be friends with and why?

I like to think that Ken could be friends and have fun with just about anyone, but I REALLY like to think about what might happen if my characters somehow got mixed up with the kids (and adults, and clown-snakes, and lobster-monkeys) in Rob Vlock’s SVEN CARTER series.

And as for Greeeg — I like to imagine him meeting WALL-E, and hopefully learning a thing or two from the little guy!

Besides peanut butter on popcorn, were there any other bizarre (but yummy) food references that didn’t make the final draft?

No. But I’ve got a friend who often eats pickles with his ice cream. I’m sure I’ll work that into a book sooner or later!

3 Questions about You

If you weren’t a writer, what would you want to be and why?

A donut-taster. I don’t think that’s really a job, but since we’re in the world of hypotheticals, I’m making it one. And WHY would I want to be a donut-taster? Because I’d get to taste donuts all day!

What is one book that has stuck with you since you’ve read it?

Come on, Storymamas — you should know that, when asked a question like this, a passionate reader can never just name ONE book. How about I limit myself to three? Here I go: Ann Braden’s THE BENEFITS OF BEING AN OCTOPUS, Kelly Yang’s FRONT DESK, Yuyi Morales’s DREAMERS, and Derrick Barnes and Gordon C. James’s CROWN: AN ODE TO THE FRESH CUT. Okay, fine — that was four! We better hurry up and move on to the last question before I name a fifth (which would probably be Thyra Heder’s ALFIE or Michael Ian Black and Debbie Ridpath Ohi’s I’M SAD or maybe Christina Uss’s THE ADVENTURES OF A GIRL CALLED BICYCLE.)

What is one item in your refrigerator that tells us about you?

A large jar of yeast.

 

If you’d like to learn more about Jarrett Lerner and his nerdiness visit his website or you can find her on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Author Interview with Rebecca Kai Dotlich

Thank you Rebecca Kai Dotlich for sending us your books to review. All opinions are our own.

As parents and educators, The Knowing Book touched our hearts. It is one that will give you all the feels; love, happiness, sadness of time going by too fast, change and saying goodbyes. The perfect book for so many of life’s milestones, including the beginning of a new school year with it’s positive and uplifting message. A simply beautiful book in story and illustrations!

One Day, The End is a wonderful book with minimal words but so much story. Reading the book is a fantastic way to help facilitate language and looking closely at illustrations. After reading children will be inspired to write their own stories. We love the creativity of this book and all the children we have read it to have really enjoyed the short and simple words and the detailed illustrations which help to complete each mini story .

3 Questions about Your Books

What was your first experience with poetry and when did you know you wanted to make a career out of writing?

When I was young, my knowledge of poetry was in the lilting rhymes of golden books and song lyrics.  A few lines from Jack and the Beanstalk captivated me: “Fee-fi-fo-fum/I smell the blood of an Englishman/be he alive or be he dead/I’ll grind his bones into my bread.” Shivers. And then there was The Gingerbread Man: “Run, run, as fast as you can, you can’t catch me, I’m the Gingerbread Man.”  I loved it.  My brother played small, colorful plastic records, and from his room I heard (and sang along with) “Take me out to the ballgame/take me out to the crowd/buy me some peanuts and cra—ker—jacks/I don’t care if I ever come back …” and there were nursery rhymes that we sang (“Oh, do you know the Muffin Man?”) and I always felt very grown up and worldly by singing Frere Jacques.  I didn’t even know of course that Dor mez vous meant Brother John; I assumed it meant something much more french-fascinating.

I didn’t know many true poems when I was young. I do remember reading one poem by Robert Louis Stevenson about going to bed in summer: “In winter I get up at night/and dress by yellow candlelight…”.  My first real experience with poetry would have been in High School. Mrs. Bradford read poetry to us and I was drawn to the poetry of William Wordsworth, Edna St. Vincent Millay and others.  When I decided I wanted to be a writer is a fuzzy line.  I was writing poetry and stapling paper together to make little books, and even writing dedications when I was about 15.  I started writing pretty bad poetry about love and war at about 16-17.  In college I studied song lyrics and creative writing.  When my children were babies I truly decided I wanted to write for these little amazing humans.

The Knowing Book is such a heartfelt and beautiful book, it’s one of those books that you want to gift for so many special occasions, what was challenging and what was easy about writing this one?

This is the only book I didn’t write in the traditional way (with a picture book text in mind.) It came from life and it was almost like a letter of comfort to myself and any child or grown up reader that might be struggling in their life.  There were so many things I wanted to say about being sad and confused, about hope and love and choices and the universe.

What does your workplace look like?

Messy.  Full of practical things like a printer and my computer and a laptop, and wonderful things like wall-to wall-bookshelves and the desk my father used years ago, and small things (I am obsessed with small things) like tiny globes, books, cars, toys, jars of marbles, keys (lots of keys) of all shapes and sizes, and clay castles and turtles that my children made when they were small.  I have stacks of journals and notebooks and coffee cups with colored pens and cork boards with photos of my grandchildren and notes I’ve received from children … tiny white lights are strung up and around my bookshelves that hold lots and lots of poetry and picture books and books from when I was young.

3 Questions about You

If you weren’t a writer, what would you want to be and why?

I would say a song writer, photographer or artist.  I’m happiest when I’m immersed in creativity, color, making things, fitting words together . . .I’ve always been fascinated with the mix of words and the creative visual experience.

What is one book that has stuck with you since you’ve read it?

Prince of Tides.  Because of Pat Conroy’s poetic language.

And 1 more: The Glass Castle because Jeannette Walls was amazing at showing us her (broken & dysfunctional) family in fine detail.

What is one item in your refrigerator that tells us about you?

Leftover lasagna.  Or would it be the plums.

To learn more about Rebecca Kai Dotlich, visit her website or follow her on, Twitter, or Facebook.

Maggie & Abby’s Neverending Pillow Fort

 

I don’t know about you but building forts was something I loved doing as a child and quite honestly still love doing with my own kids (especially when I can fit in them). We came across the title of this book via Twitter and instantly contacted author Will Taylor to see if we could get an ARC. Thankfully Will agreed and we got to read this wonderfully magical book. Two best friends who were separated all summer in both distance and experiences come together to discover an entire world of pillow forts. Through their own forts they realize they can enter into other kid’s pillow forts. They travel through the pillow forts and meet new friends and have experiences full of danger and excitement. If you have couch cushions and blankets in disarray all over your house you and your child will love this book! This book is the first in the series so watch out for book two coming early summer 2019!

Will was kind enough to answer 3 questions about the book & 3 questions about himself!

3 ?s about Maggie & Abby’s Neverending Pillow Fort

What three words would you use to describe your book?

Ooo! Okay: Tangled. Awesome. Friendships.

How did you come up with this magical idea and at what point in writing did the good deeds rule for entry evolve?

The idea was based on an image from Dan Simmons’ sci-fi novel “Hyperion”, in which rich people have houses with rooms on different planets, linked together through portal doors called farcasters to look and feel like one house. I got to wondering what would happen if their kids started building pillow forts in that setup, and the idea just came to life.

The good deeds rule for entry was one of those pieces that fell into place on its own. The story was in need of a ticking clock, and getting into NAFAFA had to be difficult somehow, so I went with a classic fairytale-style challenge. It was super fun exploring what Maggie and Abby could come up with using the resources and opportunities of their immediate world, guided by their differing characters.

Why/how did you decide on adding in history tidbits?

As a kid I was obsessed with palaces and old buildings and the idea of grand, theatrical history, (my family watched a lot of Masterpiece Theater) so I wanted to tap into that in the book. So much of this book is me geeking out on the page about things I loved when I was around ten. Like Uncle Joe, my bedroom was once plastered in pictures of whales! Getting to invent new historical details like le Petit Salon let me basically become Maggie, making up secret rooms and hidden doors and ancient mysteries that need solving. Basically, I was just having fun.

3 ?s about You

If you weren’t a writer, what would you want to be and why?

A garden designer/landscaper. I grew up with garden-happy parents, and I volunteered at the Seattle Arboretum in high school and worked at a nursery through college. I’m pretty obsessed with plants, especially trees, and I think garden design would be almost as a good a place to explore magic and emotion and storytelling as writing is.

What is one book that has stuck with you since you’ve read it?

Oh, “Listen, Slowly”, by Thanhha Lai! Absolutely one of my top five books ever. The gorgeous writing, the humor, the family love, the heartache, the relationship between the main character and her grandmother, the food, all of it. It is one of the most perfect middle grade books I’ve ever encountered. And due to a particular turn of phrase near the end, I think about it every time I feel a breeze. Every single time. Recommended for everyone, forever!

What is one item in your fridge that tells us about you?

Hahah! Oh wow, I’m not sure. I live near a grocery store, and I’m one of those people who doesn’t tend to keep much food around. Honestly I think it might be my compost bucket. I keep it in the fridge because it completely prevents smells and fruit flies, which are always a problem otherwise, even with airtight tubs. The actual tub is left over from the chocolate shop I work at, and in its previous life held five pounds of incredibly high quality Venezuelan chocolate shavings. I feel like that juxtaposition is sort of a good representative of me. I like things with history behind them 🙂

Thanks for chatting with Storymamas! We loved you answers! 

To learn more about Will and his work. Please visit Will’s website and Twitter.

The Way to Bea

When you open a book and then find yourself ignoring the world, and before you know it you have finished the book, you know you’ve experienced something special. That’s how it was from the moment we met Bea and we thank Little Brown School & Library for sending us an advance copy of the book.

In the The Way To Bea by Kat Yeh, the main character, Bea is a girl in middle school, navigating everything that is hard about life..family, friends, school, and trying to figure out who she really is. Bea has a hard time adjusting to middle school, as she’s had a falling out with her best friend over the summer. When starting school she becomes quiet and reserved as she adjusts to the changes that come with middle school, as well as the big changes that are happening at home. Bea finds comfort in writing notes and poems with invisible ink, and hides them in what she thinks is a secret spot in the woods. Her secret pen-pal, combined with new friends Bea has made, help her truly understand herself and what it means to be true friends.

Kat paints a wonderful picture and shows readers how our talents and creativity can be outlets when dealing with life’s troubles. For example, Bea is a talented poet and Bea’s mom is also a well respected artist. Kat’s characters are memorable, her story is engaging and we hope you will take the time to read, meet and fall in love with Bea!

Kat was kind enough to answer 3 questions about the book & 3 questions about herself!

3 ?s about The Way To Bea

What are three words you use to describe your book?

Poetic

Adventurous

Hopeful

Tell us more about the inspiration for the characters. Were they based on anyone from your own life?

The Way to Bea is about Beatrix Lee, a twelve year old girl who loses her friend group at the start of 7th grade. Something similar happened to me in 9th grade. My best friends and I began to grow apart. We started hanging out with different crowds and just didn’t have the same kind of time together that we’d always had before.

When I started writing this book, I thought a lot about how different that experience would have been if i had been 12 and in 7th grade (like Bea) instead of 14 and in 9th grade. And what if…instead of a gradual growing apart, there had been a dramatic incident that forced the breaking up of the friendship. What would that have been like? While Bea’s story isn’t quite mine, she is very much like me. Thinking about poems, drawing and scribbling and making up stories and day-dreaming all the time.

When my daughter read the book, she thought that Bea’s parents were very much like me and my real life husband, Peter — she laughed and thought it was hilarious how lovey-dovey they were. So I guess that’s a good thing 🙂 Though when I was writing, I pictured Bea’s father as a combination of my brother in law, who is a very fun and goofy guy and Gene Yuen Lang, who is a wonderful author and graphic novelist (just like Bea’s dad!). I did add some physical elements to some characters based on friends. But mostly, the other characters came out of my imagination with just little hints of people I know.

What was the the original pitch that led to this book? How did it evolve over the drafts?

I was nervous when I pitched this book. I had loved writing my first novel, The Truth About Twinkie Pie. The story and the characters came so naturally to me. And i just didn’t know how to begin this next book. So, I started with the idea that If I had an emotional connection to the story, I would fall back into that wonderful place where the words just flowed. I thought back to my 9th grade year and the changing of friend groups. But I knew I needed something more. Here is the pitch that I sent my editor.

“For 13 year old Dandy, the start of her freshman year in high school feels like she’s on a ride she has no control over. Everything around her is changing and shifting faster than she can handle: her best friends start hanging with a different crowd and she just can’t figure out who she is and how she fits in anywhere — for now, all she wants is to just blend in and disappear. But nothing about Dandy blends into a crowd. She’s different. From being a year younger than everyone in her grade — to the way she looks — to her famous and infamous family — to her talent in the arts which she considers squashing to prevent drawing even more attention to herself. And if that wasn’t enough, in her confusing search for a place to fit in, she finds the person she is spending the most time with is new student David – a boy with Asperger’s who is obsessed with drawing mazes. When Dandy starts leaving torn pieces of paper with her feelings written on them tucked into secret places around campus, she is surprised when she starts receiving responses. LITTLE GIRL IN THE MIDDLE is a story about navigating the painful twists and turns of changing friendships, figuring out how to accept the things that make you You, and then finding the bravery to let the world see.”

As you can see, the initial pitch a little different from the final book. I actually knew nothing of the plot when I wrote this. I liked the idea of hiding pieces of paper with messages on them and receiving answers, but I didn’t know who was sending the messages to her yet. And I remember that I just kinda threw in that David was “obsessed with drawing mazes.” I always liked mazes and thought that would be an interesting thing to write about. Plus I just felt like I needed more detail in this proposal. I wanted to sound like i knew what I was talking about! I had no idea that mazes and labyrinths would become a central theme to the book.

As I worked with my editor, we decided to make Dandy younger and I set her at 12 and in 7th grade. I also changed her name several times! She was Dandy for a long time. Then Tomie. I played with a few other names and then realized that she was definitely a Bea. A Bea trying to figure out how to Be. And that led me to realizing that David was actually Will. Someone who was making small changes – and determined to be a better friend. I liked the future promise of the word Will (I will, you will, he will) and it just had to be his name. After their friendship started shaping for me, I knew that this story would be about life as a maze. And being brave enough to work your way through.

3 ?s about You

If you weren’t a writer, what would you want to be and why?

I’d love to be an artist. I haven’t had a lot of time to paint and draw since I’ve started writing novels and picture books and I really miss that part of my life. I have a beautiful studio that I’ve never set up because we moved into this house just as I started writing my first novel. My easel and flat files and all my art supplies are all just lying there, waiting for me to have time again.

When I think about art and the creation of art, I feel the same way I do when I think about writing. It’s all about finding deep truths, expressing them, and (hopefully) connecting. Both writing and art are such very personal things. I hope to always create in a very honest way because I truly believe this is how you find your people. And how they find you.

What is one book that has stuck with you since you’ve read it?

There are so many books that could fit into this answer. I think I’ll say WATERSHIP DOWN by Richard Adams. I read it in 6th grade and it was my first really BIG novel. I remember thinking about how fat the paperback was and how tiny the type was. It looked like a grown-up book with a serious cover. But the second I started reading, I was transported.

WATERSHIP DOWN is the story of rabbits in search of a new home when their warren is destroyed by humans. I still love and reread this book often. The rabbits have their own language and history. They have legends and stories. They love and take care of each other and argue and fight. And through their story and adventure, they show us that strength is not just about size. That bravery shows up in the smallest of us. And that you can be little and different and strange and still be someone who can make a true difference for the ones you care about. Oh, I love this book. And now I want to go and read it again.

What is one item in your fridge that tells us about you?

Right now, it’s a fruit drawer overflowing with Ruby Red Grapefruit – though, that will be changing soon. Which tells you that I become obsessed — completely and utterly obsessed—with whatever is seasonal and delicious. And then I eat and eat and eat it until the next seasonal thing pops up. I can’t wait for Spring veggies. Baby artichokes and spring peas and asparagus.. The funny thing is that 99% of the time, it’s fruit and veggies that I become excited about EXCEPT for one thing that comes into season late Fall. Mallomars. This always cracks me up. Mallomars are seasonal, because their delicate chocolate coating would melt in the summer 🙂 so it’s always exciting when the first boxes show up in the Fall.

Thanks for chatting with Storymamas! We loved you answers! 

To learn more about Kat and her work. Please visit Kat’s website, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.