One Smart Cookie…

Smart Cookie by one of our favorite middle grade authors, Elly Swartz, is yet another fantastic story of emotion, love, friendship and family. We don’t know how Elly does it but once again, just like in her book Finding Perfect, she made us fall in love. We fell in love with the story, the characters, her words, just everything. Elly has this amazing way of making sure that as the reader you experience and step into the lives of her characters. You get so engrossed and involved in their lives you feel you know them personally and become invested in their successes, hardships and their stories. Smart Cookie is all about Frankie finding her perfect family. Since her moms passing it’s just been her dad, her gram and her living at a B & B. She misses her mom tremendously and she wants to feel like a family again but doesn’t think that’s possible without finding a new mom. Throughout the story she realizes what a family really means.

We had another opportunity to interview Elly Swartz about Smart Cookie, as well as ask her some questions about herself.

3 ?s about Smart Cookie

What three words would you use to describe your book?

Family. Heart. Spunk. (And, if I can sneak in a fourth, Secrets.)

We love that you have multiple stories weaved together with multiple layers to the main character. Where did you come up with your ideas for Smart Cookie?  

Frankie’s story is all about family. For me, family is at the heart of everything I do and everything I am. I grew up with a very close family. But when I was thirty, my mom died. She was 55. Her loss opened a great big hole in my heart. And after 22 years, I’ve realized some holes aren’t meant to be filled. Not in the same way. And that is ultimately what Frankie learns. Family isn’t about having all the same pieces in place, it’s about having people in your life who love you unconditionally. And that circle is so much bigger than those with whom you shared a bedroom, a childhood, a name.

Frankie’s friend Elliot’s ghost hunting was sparked by my youngest son and one of his childhood friends. When they were eleven (now 22), they went ghost hunting, and, as the story goes, they found a ghost!

Frankie’s snow globe collection was inspired by my oldest son. He collected snow globes when he was little. When I was writing this story, I found the box marked ‘snow globes’ and shared them with Frankie. She loved them!

And Frankie’s pets, Lucy and Winston, came to the page right from my home. Lucy, my beagle, is all spunk and love. Just like Frankie. And, Winston, was inspired by my youngest son’s African Pygmy Hedgehog named Hippie.

So while it wasn’t the plan going in, seems there’s a lot of my life tucked into these pages.

Do you have any “Frankies” in your life?  Is she based off of anyone you know?

Frankie is a blend of many people in my life. I think she’s equal parts spunk and heart. I love her courage, wit, strength, and strong sense of caring for those she loves the most. Gratefully, there are many strong girls and women in my life who share these qualities.

3 ?s about You

What is your “go-to” kidlit book to give as a gift and why?

I have a few. I love Happy Dreamer by Peter Reynolds, I Wish You More by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. And, I Love You, Stinky Face by Lisa McCourt and Cyd Moore. New to this list are Love by Matt de la Pena and Loren Long and Be Kind Pat Zietlow Miller and Jen Hill (out 2/6). All of these books are filled with heart. Not sure there could be a better gift to give.

If you could have a dinner party with three people (dead or alive), who would you invite and why?

My three guests would be my mom, Judy Blume, and Michelle Obama. Three incredible, strong women.

My mom has been gone for twenty-two years. There is not a day that passes that I don’t wish to have one moment with her. To tell her I love her. To say thank you. To listen.  

Judy Blume, well, she’s one of my writer heroes. I want to know how it felt when Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret? came out. What she’s reading. The advice she’d give. And, what she learned along the way.

Michelle Obama, she truly embraces the strength and intelligence, kindness and empathy, and sense of family that I so admire. I’d love to hear what’s important to her now, what matters most, and what is in her TBR pile. Then we could go to the gym together and work-out.

Honestly, three amazing women who I would love to learn from and be inspired by over a glass of wine and dinner. 

What has been your most memorable “author” moment since Finding Perfect has been released?

There have been many wonderful author moments, but the one that resonates most, was a letter from a student who I’d connected with. This letter began, “I just wanted you to know that you changed my life.” Honestly, that moment melted my heart and has stayed with me. To know the words I wrote, the story I told, made a difference is truly everything.  

And a few extras…

Smart Cookie Activity and Curriculum Guide

http://ellyswartz.com/smart-cookie-book

Links to order Smart Cookie:

http://amzn.to/2v0pWU9

http://bit.ly/2uRCWL1

http://bit.ly/2vT5YXJ

Once again, thank you so much Elly for answering our questions and sharing such powerful stories with the world! To learn more about Elly, check out her website or follow her Instagram and  twitter.

Keep an eye out for her third book, Give and Take in 2019!

Elly Swartz loves writing for kids, Twizzlers, and anything with her family. Her debut novel, FINDING PERFECT (FSG 2016) is about twelve-year-old Molly, friendship, family, OCD, and a slam poetry competition that will determine everything. In her second book, SMART COOKIE (Scholastic, 2018), you meet the spunky and big-hearted Frankie. Frankie’s all about family with a dash of mischief and mystery! And then in 2019, say hello to Maggie in GIVE AND TAKE (FSG). Elly lives in Massachusetts with her family and beagle named Lucy. If you want to connect with Elly, you can find her at ellyswartz.com, on Twitter @ellyswartz or on Instagram @ellyswartzbooks.

Take a trip to the Amazon Rainforest: Let’s Celebrate Multicultural Children’s Book Day

Bom Dia! Good Day! We want to join in celebrating multicultural day by sharing a wonderful travel series!

Thank you to Janelle, a Medallion Level Sponsor for sending us the book, Mystery of the Troubled Toucan by Lisa Travis, illustrated by Adam Turner to review and enjoy. Thank you also to Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom for raising awareness for multicultural books and for celebrating diversity! All opinions are our own.

The book Mystery of the Troubled Toucan is an adventure travel series for ages 6-9 called A Pack-n-Go Girls Adventure, this book takes place in Brazil and is the first in the series. It is about two girls, Sofia and Júlia, who develop a friendship when Sofia comes from Florida with her dad to visit the Amazon Rainforest. Along with the new experiences the rainforest brings she meets a new friend, Júlia.

It’s a mystery that involves a danger signaling toucan, pink dolphins, poachers and two girls who want to save the animals of the rainforest. Not only is it a story about the beautiful country of Brazil but Lisa does a wonderful job of embedding a tricky family situation for Sofia. Her parents are going through a divorce and she is constantly worried throughout the story about what her family will look like when she returns home. Meanwhile Júlia doesn’t seem to worry about too much and often says, “nao se preocupe”, don’t worry when Sofia starts to get upset or worried about something. The friendship the girls build throughout the story is heartwarming. We especially enjoyed the ending of the book when Sofia is on her way home and sees from the airplane the area where two bodies of water meet and she realizes that this is just like her family will be, “separate but not together”.

Lisa writes with such imagery you feel you’re in the rainforest as the girls experience various animals, plants, food and even the Portuguese language. Reading the story made us want to read more about Brazil and get on an airplane to experience it all ourselves! As a bonus feature at the end of the book there is a place with various lists of interesting facts about Brazil like: the history, government, a map, food, weather, Portuguese/English word translations and a travel journal for those that end up going to the country.

Check out the Multicultural Children’s Book Day website for more information about the wonderful event and their mission to spread the diverse book love!

 

Flashlight Press: A Giveaway

Flashlight Press is a generous picture book publishing company that publishes books about various family situations. Their authors and illustrators do an amazing job of helping tell the story of some tricky issues kids face on a daily basis while making them light-hearted and discussion worthy. Thank you to Flashlight Press for sending the Storymamas some great books to review! We’ve enjoyed reading and sharing with our own children as well as the students we teach. Here are just a few of the books they publish that we were so kindly gifted to review. All opinions and reviews are our own.

No More Noisy Nights by Holly L. Niner and illustrated by Guy Wolek is an adorable book about Jackson a mole who moves into a new house. After unpacking and getting settled in he starts to hear noises. Each night he hears a different noise ranging from a ghost, a boogey monster and a piano pixie (a fairy). Every time he hears a noise he can’t sleep and wakes up exhausted. We loved the hilarious mistakes Jackson makes after a long night of no sleep and the detailed illustrations show just how exhausted he is. These mistakes will for sure give the reader something to giggle about! After recovering from his exhaustion, Jackson decides to confront each noise maker and try and problem solve so that he can fall asleep that night. We love that Jackson not only faces his problems head on but that he also problem solves to make the next night better. Not to mention the noises are perfect onomatopoeias for all those littles in your life to repeat again and again! At the end of the book he still hears noises but only small, comforting noises of all the creatures living in his house with him and to top it off they all become friends! This is a great book for all those sleepers that can’t fall asleep at night as well as for those who move into a new house and are showing a bit of worry. You could even use in the classroom during writer’s workshop to share how a character has a problem and finds a solution and as a lesson on word choice with those wonderful onomatopoeias. Perfect for ages 4-8 to use in a classroom and at home.

Ever wonder what would happen in a daddy-daughter day when you each trade off picking the activities?! Hammer and Nails by Josh Bledsoe illustrated by Jessica Warrick is just that story. When Darcy’s play date gets cancelled, her whole list of things to do gets ruined, or does it? Darcy’s dad swoops in and promises to do her whole list, even dress up in a tutu, if she helps with his daily list. Darcy agrees! The story follows them in and around the house as they enjoy each other’s company and end up learning so much about each other and themselves. I think it will hit home with dads who get to read to their daughters, but truly this story is great for anyone reading with your little one and can encourage great conversation about both of you wanting to try something new the other enjoys.

Hey, That’s My Monster by Amanda Noll and illustrated by Howard McWilliam has you laughing and squirming from start to finish. This is a fun story about a boy, whose monster, Gabe, leaves him because he feels someone needs him more. It turns out it’s his sister who might need Gabe more. The boy is determined to find his sister another monster, but his sister is not interested. The boy feels he might lose Gabe forever. Or will he? Howard McWilliam has done a great job illustrating and capturing the scenes for the characters, but although the story is silly, We would recommend this book for kids who don’t get frightened easily.

Too Much Glue by Jason Lefebvre and illustrated by Zac Retz is a funny, clever book about a boy, Matty, who loves glue!  One day at school he uses too much glue and winds up stuck on the art table.  After a lot of failed attempts by his classmates, Matty’s dad arrives and finally peels his masterpiece son off of the table.  The family learns their lesson and in the end, trade in their love of glue for a love of tape.

When things don’t seem to go Grace’s way, she does what a lot of little kids decide to do…run away.  The Day I Ran Away by Holly L. Niner, illustrated by Isabella Ongaro, is a spot-on story of a little girl who decided to run away after getting in a disagreement with her mother.  Grace packed up her toys in her wagon and after realizing she cannot cross the street, she runs away to her yard.  Her anger fades, and she realizes that being at home with her family is where she belongs!

Did you know, ‘one out of every five kids in the United States is at risk of having an empty fridge?’ A story of reality for many children, Maddi’s Fridge by Lois Brandt, illustrated by Vin Vogel, shares the topic of childhood hunger in an age-appropriate way. It’s the story of a sweet friendship between two girls, Sofia and Maddi, who love playing with each other, but when it’s time to get a snack Sofia realizes just how lucky she is that she has a ton of food in her fridge while her friend Maddi has hardly anything. Maddi decides to help out Sofia and her brother and bring food to school the next day so they will have something to eat. But Maddi and Sofia soon realize that some foods like fish and eggs aren’t the best for backpacks, even though they are great for kids to eat. We liked how the text on the page is set up in different ways in order to make the reader explore various types of page layouts and word play. The bright illustrations and humorous pictures make the topic just a little bit less scary. A wonderful book to share with all the kids in your life to give a different perspective and start the discussion of helping out others, charity and sharing a serious issue with an adult even if a friend asked you not to tell anyone. A bonus last page of the book gives you ideas about how to help friends who don’t have food in their fridge.

Head to the Flashlight Press website to peruse the many other books they publish as well as get activity guides for the books, see an upcoming calendar of events with their authors and illustrators and check out their catalog.

****To enter our GIVEAWAY please do one or more of the following****

  1. Follow Flashlight Publishing and Storymamas on Instagram
  2. Repost our review of No More Noisy Nights on Instagram
  3. Follow Flashlight Publishing and Storymamas on Twitter
  4. Retweet our review of No More Noisy Nights on Twitter

This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only and the winner will be drawn at random. Contest closes at 11:59 central time on January 25th. This giveaway is not affiliated with Instagram or Twitter. By entering, you confirm that you are 18+ years of age, and that you release Instagram and Twitter from any and all responsibility, and agree to Instagram’s and Twitter’s terms of use.

Meet Pig and Chick: An Early Reader Chapter Book

Thank you P. Marin for sending us Pig and Chick: The Birthday Wish That Got Away to review and for answering our questions. All opinions are our own.

Pig and Chick: The Wish That Got Away written by P. Marin is an adorable story of friendship, kindness and generosity. It’s Pig’s birthday but he doesn’t really understand what birthday wishes are all about because all he’s ever wanted is a friendship with Chick and he already has that. So being the kind and generous Pig that he is, he decides to give his birthday wish to Chick. Have you ever had a birthday wish that got away? Well that’s how Chick feels when the candle melts into one big pile of wax and she isn’t able to wish for a donkey so they could play pin the tail on the donkey. But then Chick sees a donkey and gets excited that maybe her wish will come true. However, things go awry and once the wish is fulfilled she realizes that she already has everything she wants in her friendship with Pig.

Wonderful for ages four to eight this early reader chapter book will spark discussion about friendship and kindness. Don’t miss the other books in the series Pig and Chick: Stuck and Pig and Chick: Pigcasso.

3 ?s about Pig and Chick

What are three words you use to describe your book?

charming, funny, endearing

How did you decide to have Pig be the kind and patient character?

I first met Pig and Chick when I was doodling.  They showed up in my sketchbook.  They were sitting at a rundown bus stop.  I had no idea who they were or where they were headed; all I knew is I wanted to buy a ticket and get on that same bus.  So I tucked that sketch into a drawer and went about my daily business.  Sometimes as I washed dishes or went for a walk, a thought would cross my mind and I’d say to myself, “Oh, that’s something Pig would say.” Or “That’s something Chick would do.”  When that happened, I’d jot down notes on scraps of paper.  It was in that process of jotting down random thoughts that I discovered who they were.  Pig, the patient, more thoughtful one – the one I aspire to be like – and Chick, the impatient, child-like one who I already am.  

How did you come up with the story idea?

In Pigcasso, Pig is determined to be the next artist extraordinaire.  When I was growing up I loved to write and draw.  In fact, every week in fifth grade, my teacher wheeled in a television set. He’d turn it on and there would appear local artist Bruce McIntyre. Alongside Mr. McIntyre, we’d draw.

For me, it was the highlight of elementary school.  Toward the end of fifth grade, my teacher announced that Mr. McIntyre would be visiting our classroom – in person – and if we brought five dollars that day, we could buy a copy of his book. I began saving immediately. On the big day I arrived to school early with sharp pencils and no money. I was devastated. At the end of the presentation, Mr. McIntyre walked up to me. He handed me a copy of his book and said, “Your teacher thinks you’re going to need this.” Turns out I did.  But it took me nearly three decades, and a bunch of jobs that made it hard to get out of bed, before inspiration struck and I realized how important our dreams are.  Luckily, unlike Pig, I didn’t have to get run over by a donkey to create my first work of art.

3 ?s about You

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

There is this quote by Poet Galway Kinnell.  It says, “Sometimes it is necessary to reteach a thing its loveliness.”  It’s a terrible thing to forget how wonderful you are.  So if I weren’t a writer, I’d be a teacher.  The kind that shows people their loveliness.

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

Adult book:  Walden by Henry David Thoreau

Children’s book:  Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad

To me, they say the same thing.  Keep life slow and simple and don’t forget to appreciate the things that matter most.

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

Worms.  What they say about me is this:  I love our son, who is affectionately known as the Domestic Zookeeper, very much.  Because there are a lot of compelling reasons not to keep worms in your refrigerator.  But there is also one compelling reason why I do.  Love.  Love for our son and love for a boy’s dream.  I hope it’s that kind of love you’ll find in my books.  

To learn even more about P. Marin, please visit her website or follow her on Instagram

A Holiday Tradition: #holidaybookaday and #kindnesscalendar

If you’ve been following our blog since the very beginning you may remember that I posted around this time last year about starting a holiday tradition with my boys called #holidaybookaday and the #kindness calendar.

The premise is instead of opening a small gift every day in December to count down the holidays we open a holiday book (it could be about any of the December holidays including Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah and New Year’s Eve) and we also open a small piece of paper with an activity that promotes kindness. For example some of the kindness activities we did last year were, ‘candy cane bombing’ a parking lot, bringing teachers coffee, holding open the door for others, drawing a picture for someone, making a list of polite words to use, etc. We had such a wonderful time reading holiday books and being kind to others that I can’t wait to continue these traditions this year. With so many great new books to add to our list I know this month is going to be just as special as last years!

Here is a list of some of the books we will be reading:

CHRISTMAS

The 12 Days of Christmas by Greg Pizzoli

Pig the Elf by Aaron Blabey

Christmas Makes Me Think by Tony Medina illustrated by Chandra Cox

Fly Guy’s Ninja Christmas by Tedd Arnold

Pick a Pine Tree by Patricia Toht illustrated by Jarvis

Gingerbread Man Loose at Christmas by Laura Murray illustrated by Mike Lowery

Olive the Other Reindeer by Vivian Walsh and J. Otto Siebold

A Piñata in a Pine Tree by Pat Mora illustrated by Magaly Morales

HANUKKAH

The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming by Lemony Snicket illustrated by Lisa Brown

Sammy Spider’s First Hanukkah by Sylvia Rouss illustrated by Katherine Kahn

How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Chanukah? by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague

Bright Baby Touch and Feel Hanukkah by Roger Priddy

KWANZAA

Seven Spools of Thread by Angela Shelf Medearis illustrated by Daniel Minter

K is for Kwanzaa by Juwanda G. Ford and Ken Wilson-Max

Here are a few others that I still need to wrap…

Stayed tuned for more wonderful holiday books in the month of December including some great ones to celebrate New Year’s Eve and the coming of a new year!

All the Answers: Guest Blogger

Today we have 11 year old guest blogger, Leila Deal. Leila is one of my nieces and an avid reader. I have 5 nieces and 3 nephews and ever since they were babies I bought them each a book for every birthday and Christmas gift. Since the day each of them were born I’ve stressed to each of my three siblings the importance of reading to a child from the very beginning. Out of the 8 of them my sisters two daughters are the only ones who are book lovers. They come to my house and scour our library for a new book or even to reread an old favorite, they ask only for books from me whenever it’s time to get them a gift…these two girls love reading! Unfortunately my other nieces and nephews, no matter how hard I’ve tried, have never been excited about reading. Thankfully my sister has always been a reader and loves to share her book love with her daughters. When I asked Leila to write up a review for a book she recently loved reading she sent me a text with a picture as we were face-timing! That’s how often she reads and can chat about a book because she always has another one she can’t wait to chat about! As a sixth grader herself, currently experiencing middle school, she connected to this book. Here is her review of All The Answers by Kate Messner

I love this story because it is magical. It is about a girl named Ava and Sophie and find a magical pencil that tells her the answers she o every question she asks… but the pencil has a rule that you can’t ask a free will question. She learns that a magic pencil can help you through the ups and downs of middle school.

This or That…

The Storymamas have enjoyed sharing so many books with our readers and we wanted to start a new once-a-month tradition of sharing with you connections we make between books. As readers we know you do this too before, during and after reading a book; you think of another book you’ve read that reminds you of that book or an experience you’ve had. When you’re helping a child pick out the next book they will devour, maybe you will find this helpful to have some direction and ideas. So take a look at our latest book connections:

Bee & Bird by Craig Frazier and Zoom by Istvan Banyai are wordless picture books that take you on a journey through close up illustrations. As you turn the pages the illustrations pan out to be something new to discover. We’ve had a great time playing the guessing game with the bright and cheery illustrations in both books. These two are also wonderful to ask inferring questions using the clues in the picture.

The Bad Guys series by Aaron Blabey is about Mr. Wolf who recruits other ‘bad guys’ like a Mr. Shark, Mr. Snake and Mr. Piranha to finally change and be good guys and help others. In the first book the plan is to make their very first ‘good guy’ impression by breaking out two hundred dogs from the Maximum Security Dog Pound. Carnivores by Aaron Reynolds, illustrations by Dan Santat is a hilarious picture book about some more ‘bad guys’, carnivores who just want to be seen in the world as loving and friendly animals. They try and change their ways of tearing through other animals as meals and become vegetarians. Both books have characters that try and battle between the good ol’ good vs. evil debate. Will these seemingly terrifying animals change and be seen as the heroes they so desperately want to be? A great connection between picture book and chapter book, kids will love these hilarious stories!

A triple connection between three books, Todd’s TV by James Proimos, Tek: The Modern Cave Boy by Patrick McDonnell and Doug Unplugged by Dan Yaccarino, are all about technology. A TV, a cave boy and a robot who are always plugged in remind us that sometimes we need to turn off the technology and experience the world. These three funny books give us some direction when our own children are too plugged in and need a break (and even us as adults too).

Breakfast food…who doesn’t love silly stories about breakfast food?! Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast by Josh Funk, illustrated by Brendan Kearney and Everyone Loves Bacon by Kelly DiPucchio are hilarious stories about some very boastful breakfast foods: bacon, Sir French Toast and Lady Pancake. Will these breakfast foods realize that they aren’t all that and friendship and kindness are more important than being the best?

Meet The Bobs and Tweets series by Pepper Springfield, illustrated by Kristy Caldwell and Gaston by Kelly DiPuccio, illustrated by Christian Robinson both have characters who are different from their families. Both books explore the relationships the characters have with the families they’ve been born into but each of the characters, even in their differences, are able to find a connection to a character in the family that is completely opposite then them, showing how even if you feel so very different from others you can always find your connection and your place somewhere in the world.

What connections can you make to books you’ve read recently? Feel free to comment below or post to our Twitter or Instagram to add to our list!

Open If You Dare-Interview with Dana Middleton

If you’ve been following our blog for awhile, you’ve read about Dana Middleton’s first book, The Infinity Year of Avalon James (and if not take a look at the link). Even though Open If You Dare takes on a whole different genre it was just as good and couldn’t keep us from turning the pages. Dana graciously agreed to another interview with us and once again after the interview we decided that yes, in fact, we want to be friends with Dana and the characters she writes. Open If You Dare comes out tomorrow so pre-order today so you can read this awesome mystery, the perfect fall book!

3 ?s about Open If You Dare

What three words would you use to describe your book?

Mysterious, suspenseful, nostalgic. Not that nostalgia even exists for my target readers, but it was nostalgic for me.

Which character do you relate most to Birdie, Ally or Rose and why?

I relate most to Birdie, some to Ally, and not at all to Rose! Birdie is most like me. We like mysteries, we’re weirdly brave sometimes, and also sometimes selfish. And we’re very loyal friends. I played fast pitch softball so I was a little bit of a jock like Ally but definitely not as tough. Rose is an alien life-form to me. I have no idea where she came from and I think I’d be a little scared of her if we met in person!

This book is a mystery, was your writing process different than when you wrote The Infinity Year of Avalon James?

Yes! Because it was a mystery how it was going to happen! And I mean that on many levels. First, I wrote The Infinity Year of Avalon James without the pressure of a publisher waiting for it. Open If You Dare was different because I’d never written on a deadline before. I figured out quite quickly that I had to show up to the page almost every day or I might fail completely and never do it. Also, I’d never written a mystery before (and it turned into quite a strange mystery) so I hope readers will go down that path with me. Afterwards, I swore I’d never try a mystery again but lately, I’ve begun to think it might be fun to attempt another one. Funny how time lets us see things differently!

3 ?s about You

What is your “go-to” kidlit book to give as a gift and why?

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. I love time travel. I love mystery. I love strong girl characters. This book is challenging to the reader and it’s real in a way that makes you want to read it again and again.

Now that you’ve written a mystery and realistic fiction/fantasy (depending on the reader) books, is there another book genre you’d like to explore and possibly write next?

I’m working on that other book now. It’s steeped heavily in the realistic fantasy camp. And I’ve got a science fiction story up my sleeve that might come after that.

What does your workspace look like? 

My work space is everywhere. I share an office with my husband but I rarely write there. I’m often at our dining room table or at a local coffee shop tapping away among other writers. That’s one thing I love about writing. I can do it anywhere!

Thank you Dana for taking the time to answer our questions! To learn more about Dana Middleton visit her website.  Or follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Sparkle Boy Shines Bright

Author Lesléa Newman contacted Storymamas about her newest book, Sparkle Boy. We were so excited to get this one in the mail and share it with our own kiddos as well as the students we teach. A little boy, Casey, loves all the sparkly things his sister is wearing: her skirt, her bracelet, her nail polish and he wants to wear sparkly things too. But her sister doesn’t agree and claims that boys can’t wear sparkly things. We love the adults in the book who fully support Casey’s interests. Eventually once Casey’s sister hears other kids making fun of him she sticks up for him and believes he can be whoever he wants to be and wear whatever he feels comfortable wearing. It’s a story of acceptance, kindness, sibling love and the freedom to be who you want to be! We love the beautiful, textured illustrations and know that this book will be one that makes children believe they can also be themselves and free to break the gender stereotypes. Lesléa was so kind to answer some questions for us about her book, read on to hear about her writing process and a little bit about her as a person!

3 Questions about Sparkle Boy

What was your inspiration for writing Sparkle Boy?

All the “sparkle boys” in my life, young and old! I have a good friend who loves to dress up in silky nightgowns and matching peignoirs. He only feels safe to do so in the privacy of his home. I have thought a lot about that. Then one year, I attended family week in Provincetown and met many little boys who love to wear tutus. One boy’s father said, “I wish he could dress like this all year instead of just for one week.” I thought a lot about that, too. I wrote SPARKLE BOY in hopes of expanding these “safety zones.” The entire world should be a safe place for any one of us to dress as we please without fear of ridicule or harm.

What do you hope children take away after reading this book?

I hope children will take away the idea that we all deserve to be who we are, and that skirts, nail polish, and glittery jewelry have no gender. They are for everyone who wants to wear them. I hope the book relays the message that everyone deserves acceptance and respect, and that diversity enriches our world.

What was your process for writing Sparkle Boy?

I wrote SPARKLE BOY the way I write all my books: by longhand in a spiral notebook. I wrote the first draft quickly, without looking back. Then I read it over and revised it. Then I read the new second draft and revised it. After I did this about twenty times (really!) I showed it to my spouse, who is an excellent reader, to my writer’s group which is made up of extremely smart women, and my wonderful agent. After I got their feedback, I revised and revised and revised. Then when the book was ready, my agent sent it out and I was lucky enough to have it accepted by Lee & Low, which is a fabulous children’s book press whose mission is to fill the world with diverse children’s books. Then my editor gave me notes and I revised once more. And then the text of the book was done and ready to be illustrated by the fantastically talented Maria Mola.

3 Questions about You

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

Ooh, this is a hard question. I would want to work with animals because I am such an animal lover. But I can’t stand the sight of blood (I pass our easily!) so I could never be a veterinarian. I would love to be an animal therapist and bring dogs and cats to nursing homes and hospitals. When my dad was recently in the hospital, he was visited by a collie named Alfie and it cheered him up so much. But I think I will stick to being a writer (and continue to write books about animals, such as Ketzel, The Cat Who Composed and The Best Cat in The World).

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

Oh, there are just so many, it’s hard to pick just one. But if I had to, it would be Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl which taught me more about human nature than any other book I have ever read.

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

There is always some form of dark chocolate in my refrigerator. My beloved grandmother, who lived to be 99 years old always ate a tiny bit of chocolate every night so “life shouldn’t be bitter.” I am proud to carry on this tradition!

 

BONUS Question

What does your workspace look like? 

I actually have two work spaces, one at home, and one away from home. At home, I have a big room with a couch and a desk and chair and lots of bookshelves. My desk faces a wall and on the wall, among my awards is the only painting I have ever done: a portrait of my dog, Angus who came to live with my family when I was 12. Outside of my home, I work at a writer’s collective called The Writers Mill where I share a room with 3 other women. Our motto is “Industry Loves Company.” I have also been known to write in coffee shops and hotel rooms, and on planes, trains, and buses. That’s the beauty of writing: all you need is a pen and notebook and an open heart and mind and you can do it anywhere.

The wall of awards and her first painting!

 

Thank you Lesléa for writing such an important book and making it entertaining, adorable and one that all kids can connect to in some way.

How Will You Make Your Mark?

33 days until…

A book and a day dedicated to discussing with kids how to make their mark on the world…one of our favorite days to celebrate as educator moms! This year Dot Day is on September 15, 2017, are you celebrating? If you’re either an educator or a parent, or both, celebrating this day is important, it’s fun, it’s exciting, it’s international. So if you are planning on celebrating share with us your ideas in the comments below and take a look at some of our ideas too! Parents and educators are great at “stealing ideas”, well maybe let’s say getting inspiration from others, that seems less negative and after all Dot Day is all about positivity!

To get started on Dot Day you have to find a copy of the book by the infamous Peter H. Reynolds, The Dot. Did you know that the book has been published in so many different languages, even the website about International Dot Day doesn’t quite know the number of languages! (The book is that good!)

After acquiring the book (I suggest buying because you’re going to want a copy for yourself) we have some ideas that would work in a classroom or at home or even both. As our readers we know you are very creative and could adapt any of the activities below to something that will work for you and the children you are around.

VIDEOS/OTHER MEDIA:

We like to show the following video of “The Dot” song by the famous children’s book singer, Emily Arrow and author/illustrator, Peter Reynolds. Be warned though it’s pretty catchy so you may be singing it way beyond Dot Day! 😉

And here’s another version of the song without the book images and Emily’s smiling face

Something that children are often intrigued by (and let’s be honest, adults too) is learning the story behind the creation and idea of a book. So here Peter Reynolds talks about the beginnings of The Dot. It’s about 2 minutes and 45 seconds long so short and sweet.

ACTIVITIES:

  • Wonderopolis

If you haven’t used Wonderopolis in your classroom or at home, it’s time to start! It’s an informative and interesting collection of wonders from science to history to How Do You Connect the Dots, which is perfect for Dot Day!

  • The 30 Dot Challenge

Using this sheet create a collaborative piece of dot art. First make sure children have a variety of writing utensils (pencils, crayons, markers). Give each artist 3 minutes to fill in as many dots as they can by drawing something different in each circle. Some ideas are patterns, doodles, shapes, animals, plants, words, or create something using more than one circle. This is really for the artist to challenge him/herself to draw using the dot as the guide. Anything goes, but try not to give too much direction and let the children be creative. After the three minutes is up you can have the kids share their favorite, the most challenging, the one that took the most time, whichever dot they would like. To make it collaborative you can cut all or a few circles out and glue onto one big sheet of paper so everyone’s dot is represented, everyone has put their mark on the art piece.

USING TECHNOLOGY:

  • Watch Your Dot Come to Life…

This activity takes a little pre-work as you need to make sure you’ve downloaded the free app Quiver3D on a device.Then you need to make sure you have enough copies of this Dot Day free download of the specific paper you will need. Then let the kiddos create their own special dot using the paper. The app will make the dot come to life and you and the kids will be enthralled and amazed at what you will see. If you’re in a classroom setting or at home you can take a screenshot of the alive dot to save it. Here’s one that I did a few years back when the app was called ColAR but it’s the same idea.